June 11, 2007


Public domain image courtesy of www.moviewallpapers.net.

One dark and story night in Switzerland in 1816, the story goes, a bunch of high strung artsy types decided to write a ghost story. If you were making odds at the time, the smart money would have been on the poetic host, Lord Byron, or his best known guest, the romantic poet Percy Shelley.

Score one for girl power instead. The hands down winner in the eyes of the ages was the work of Percy's young wife Mary, who gave us Frankenstein, which has become the source of many movies, cartoons, comic books, songs, toys, spoofs, etc.

According to Mary, the inspiration came from a waking dream:

I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some power engine shows signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful it must be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.

Maybe one reason why the story of Frankenstein's monster has such (anonymously "donated") legs is that it was a prescient metaphor for modern life, when our own creations and actions sometimes get away from us and do a lot of unintended damage.

At the very least, it ought to help fill up a week's worth of blogging...

SPEAKING OF UNLEASHED MONSTERS, if you haven't already seen Newsweek's "After Bush" item, here is a little sampling:

Today, by almost all objective measures, the United States sits on top of the world. But the atmosphere in Washington could not be more different from 1982. We have become a nation consumed by fear, worried about terrorists and rogue nations, Muslims and Mexicans, foreign companies and free trade, immigrants and international organizations. The strongest nation in the history of the world, we see ourselves besieged and overwhelmed. While the Bush administration has contributed mightily to this state of affairs, at this point it has reversed itself on many of its most egregious policies—from global warming to North Korea to Iraq.

In any event, it is time to stop bashing George W. Bush. We must begin to think about life after Bush—a cheering prospect for his foes, a dismaying one for his fans (however few there may be at the moment). In 19 months he will be a private citizen, giving speeches to insurance executives. America, however, will have to move on and restore its place in the world. To do this we must first tackle the consequences of our foreign policy of fear. Having spooked ourselves into believing that we have no option but to act fast, alone, unilaterally and pre-emptively, we have managed in six years to destroy decades of international good will, alienate allies, embolden enemies and yet solve few of the major international problems we face.

HIGH ROAD OR LOW ROAD? There's been a lot of talk among WV's anti-labor right wing about "unleashing capitalism." I think they are at least 100 years late. Also, I'm not aware of too many people here who advocate for state ownership of the means of production or the collectivization of agriculture (although the possibility of having the goats around here confiscated sounds pretty good at times). The real question is, how can we promote high quality economic development for West Virginia in a way that benefits its people?

The economic royalists want a war on labor, starting with pushing for so-called "right to work" laws, which are more like right to work for less, as I argue here. That would be the low road.

There is a better way, one which might actually work:

West Virginia’s future economy is dependent primarily on one thing — investment in people, said Tom Witt, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University.

“We need to keep an eye on this ball,” he told the Charleston Rotary Club on Friday. “This is going to affect our long-term economic development.”

Investing in people means more education, on-the-job training and health care, so people can become productive in the labor market, Witt said. People must also be encouraged to take part in the economy by actively seeking jobs and/or education, he said.

That would be the high road.



Mary Rayme said...

An excellent blog, sir. WV needs to invest not in MORE education, but better quality education for kids and for adults.

I am a transplant and have found that many here resent education and the educated. I often think of why this is, and I have several theories though none of them relevant.

Perhaps it because many here know the dirth of jobs here and stress learning skills over knowledge as it's own reward. I have heard of local leaders suggesting that High Schools teach an alternate vo-tech that trains miners, as it views these as the only viable form of income.

Teachers are regarded by many in WV as overpaid and under-worked what with that decadent June-July-August vacation. There is so little in terms of financial resources in WV, that people argue over the smallest things, and don't seem to value the people who educate their children.

The reality in my county is that many public school K-12 teachers are transferred or laid off from year to year. Some come back to substitute teach, but after being a full-time teacher this has got to feel like a demotion. There is no job security and in a state losing population, teachers are also losing jobs.

WV-ers need to learn no be more entreprenuerial and to learn to promote themselves via the internet. The geographic challenge of WV doesn't exist in cyberpace. This means WV-ers need to view education as a way of creating an investment in it's own future, and to let people know they and their children don't need to go out of state to find employment.

There is a Small Business admin kind of guy who works in Elkins who is just worshipped by locals because he helps people start businesses. I just don't think he's very good at current technology and has no idea of helping people with creative endeavors, only the well-worn ruts of tanning salons and restaurants.

Where do we begin to improve the quality of education in WV? It is a tangled ball of yarn, El Cabrero. A real Goat Rope.

Love the blog. You rock.

thinkulous said...

Again, looking forward to how you will weave Frankenstein and this week's topics together -- seems rife to me!

I haven't read the book, but my betrothed is a major lover of horror fiction. She has this idea to teach a course at a college: Horror Fiction and the Movies it has Spawned. You know: Frankenstein, Dracula, etc. She took me to see Bride of Frankenstein -- only thing scary about that was how bad it was. (Actually, if you need a laugh, I do recommend it...).

thinkulous said...

By the way, I hope it's OK with you that I blogrolled Goat Rope without asking!

El Cabrero said...

I think you are right about how education is sometimes undervalued round here. La Cabra is a teacher and she rants about the token economy/worksheet mentality which seems to kill the idea of learning for its own sake.

Re entrepreneurship on the web. I agree. One of the best things we could do is have statewide access to high speed internet, preferably wireless.

I did cartwheels when DSL finally made it to Goat Rope Farm.


El Cabrero said...

That would be an interesting course! I remember Bride of Frankenstein very well. I loved the little people jumping around in the jars...