The Yahoos Will be With You Always

“He goes to the riverside —
Not hook nor line hath he:
He stands on the meadows wide —
Nor gun nor scythe to see
. . . .
Knowledge this man prizeth best
Seems fantastic to the rest.”

(Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Wood Notes,” 1840)

I took my two sons to the river the other day.  They fished without success, and later wrestled in the chattering water on the shoal. I sat on the river bank, dry and toying with neither “hook nor line,” only refreshing myself with “a green though in a green shade.” Continue reading

The Philanthropic Sneak

If there are graduate students two hundred years from now, and if one of those graduate students sits down to write a dissertation on the morbid mentality of our times, he will have to devote a chapter to our curious combination of broadmindedness and bigotry. “In the early twenty-first century,” he may write,

“most men and women in the West were marvels of complaisance and clemency.  They smiled on conduct that would have caused their grandfathers to call the police, and their critical faculties were so strictly curbed by moral modesty that their motto might have been: Who am I to judge!”

Continue reading

The Geography of Orthosphere Readers

“I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” Jeremiah 1:5.

I do not wish to make grand or impious claims for the providential purpose of the Orthosphere, but would like to show you some indications of our international reach.  This site has been operating for six years, and in that time has had the good fortune to find readers in all but five of the world’s sovereign states.  Our readers are, to be sure, preponderantly Americans, but we also enjoy a substantial international public. Continue reading

Incivility and its Discontents

You do not need me to tell you that American political discourse is being soured by extraordinary discharges of vitriol, rancor and spleen, or to explain that these discharges are occurring because of tectonic shifts in the deep structure of American politics.  Both of the political parties have lost control of their constituencies, the established teachers (i.e. journalists and professors) have lost control of public doctrine, and a great many plebeians are, in consequence, as touchy as a beehive and looking for a fight. Continue reading

“By the Murmuring Mexic Sea”

Much of our geographic nomenclature is highly unsatisfactory. There are features for which names are needed that have no name; there are names that are not needed; and almost all of the coinages of the past century have been the work of prosaic scientists, fatuous hucksters, or political lickspittles. This is not simply a geographer’s lament, since we cannot think clearly if we lack names for the features that really matter, and we cannot dwell comfortably if the names that we have are drab, preposterous, or grating. Continue reading

Freak Creep

The sideshow of an old-time circus often included tents wherein one could take a gander at a bearded lady or a tattooed man. It is undoubtedly a boon of progress that those days are over, so that one may nowadays enjoy both of these spectacles on any sidewalk in America, free of charge. Like an orange in one’s Christmas stocking, or song from a man who could sing, the treats of our ancestors are the everyday blessings of today. Continue reading

Holy Men in the High Country 1

The Rocky Mountain Biology Laboratory occupies the site and surviving buildings of Gothic, an abandoned mining camp that grew up in the shadow of a mountain of the same name. I had not known of the Laboratory until yesterday morning, when I rounded a corner on a backcountry road and beheld a dozen gangling men and women in canvas hats prancing across a meadow with butterfly nets. Ah, I thought to myself, Scientists. Continue reading

On the Dusty Rolling Plains

I drove over the rolling plains of central Texas the other day, crossing the dry washes that run down to the Red River and stopping for red lights in the dusty, derelict towns. Here is everywhere evidence of desertion.  In the tired towns and on the dreary downs, abandoned houses rot in various stages of ruin. Their rooftrees sagging, their walls unplumb, their rafters exposed like the ribs of an animal that is dead and partly decayed. People have been leaving this land for ninety years and the prospect for the remnant is not bright. Continue reading