November 25, 2006


Seasoned Goat Rope readers will remember weekend commentator, bantam rooster, and noted free-market economist Dr. Denton "Denny" Dimwit.

It has been some time since the writings of Dr. Dimwit have appeared in Goat Rope and we are pleased to welcome him back.

It is our hope that by providing regular weekend space for diverse viewpoints from talking animals, we are elevating the level of public discourse and countering the tragic polarization of our times.


Crudapatooti! You guys thought you got rid of me, didn't you? Well, guess what, baby--I'm back.

And where did you get those losers you had on here after you kicked me out? That dog talking about literary theory a while back--I got your semiotics right here!

And that goat talking about Greek tragedy--the tragedy was having to put up with that talking goat.

And then there's the crud you run during the week about economic inequality--I've picked through better stuff on the compost pile.

You guys don't appreciate the good side of inequality. Inequality is AWESOME! I can prove it scientistically.

Take a look at that picture. The handsome little guy on the left is me. And see what's next to me.

That's what I'm talking about. That is one BIG hen! And you know what--she's with me.

Talk about inequality--if she sat on me I'd be a chicken nugget. But you don't see me complaining, do you?

That's the beauty of the market.

And that's the truth. You bet your cloaca.


November 24, 2006


Caption: If El Cabrero could write like Agee, he'd even praise famous mushrooms.

Goat Rope hopes you enjoyed the Thanksgiving recipe edition. Please let El Cabrero know if you tried the recipe.

Meanwhile, today is the conclusion of a series of samples from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and photographer Walker Evans. If this is your first visit, please scroll down to the earlier entries (and be sure to save the possum recipe for next year).

It is interesting that a concern for the importance of education has been a major feature of the Appalachian tradition of working for social change going back to the work of the Highlander Center in the 1930s.

This call for education for liberation was also a feature of the methods of popular education as developed by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. For Freire, education was not neutral: it either served the purposes of domination or emancipation

This is also a key concern of Agee in this book. Here are some samples:

‘Education’ as it stands is tied in with every bondage I can conceive of, and is the chief cause of these bondages, including acceptance and respect, which are the worst bondages of all. ‘Education,’ if it is anything short of a crime, is a recognition of these bondages and a discovery of more and a deadly enemy of all of them; it is the whole realm of human consciousness, action, and possibility; it has above all to try to recognize and continuously to suspect and to extend its understanding of its own nature. It is all science and all conduct; it is also all religion.


…let what I have tried to suggest amount to this alone: that not only within present reach of human intelligence, but even within reach of mine as it stands today, it would be possible that young human beings should rise onto their feet a great deal less dreadfully crippled than they are, a great deal more nearly capable of living well, a great deal more nearly aware, each of them, of their own dignity in existence, a great deal better qualified, each within his limits, to live and to take part toward the creation of a world in which good living will be possible without guilt toward every neighbor: and that teaching at present, such as it is, is almost entirely either irrelevant to these possibilities or destructive of them, and is, indeed, all but entirely unsuccessful even within its own ‘scales’ of ‘value.’

Just think what he’d have to say about No Child Left Behind…

And finally, here's a rousing conclusion to this series:

I am not at all trying to lay out a thesis, far less to substantiate or to solve. I do not consider myself qualified. I know only that murder is being done, against nearly every individual in the planet, and that there are dimensions and correlations of cure which not only are not being used but appear to be scarcely considered or suspected. I know there is cure, even now available, in science and in the fear and joy of God.

At any rate, those are a few of the many nuggets in the vast resource and elegant pile that is Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. If you have the time and are looking for a challenging book, you could do a lot worse.


November 23, 2006


Goat Rope interrupts its previously scheduled program for this special holiday message:

Tired of traditional turkey dinners? Dreading the endless leftover casseroles? El Cabrero has your back.

This Thanksgiving, parole the poultry and take a chance on the primeval possum, a veritable relic of mammalian antiquity.

First, of course, you have to find one in the event the possum section of your local store is understocked. I recommend looking where you keep the chicken feed and goat grain.

(I'll wait.)

OK, now that you have your possum, here's what the 1973 edition of The Joy of Cooking recommends:

If possible, trap 'possum and feed it on milk and cereals for 10 days before killing. Clean, but do not skin. Treat as for pig by immersing the unskinned animal in water just below the boiling point. Test frequently by plucking at the hair. When it slips out readily, remove the possum from the water and scrape. While scraping repeatedly, pour cool water over the surface of the animal. Remove small red glands in small of back and under each foreleg between the shoulder and rib. Parboil, page 132, 1 hour. Roast as for pork, page 407. Serve with: Turnip greens.

Obviously, if one is in a hurry, it may be necessary to skip the 10 day part, unless you just witnessed the possum crawl out of a deer carcass, in which case you may want to just proceed with the turkey.

Goat Rope...your source for better living.

Happy Thanksgiving!


November 22, 2006


Caption: If I could write like Agee, I'd praise famous hummingbirds.

This is the third post in a series on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and photographer Walker Evans. If this is your first visit, please scroll down to the earlier entries.

As mentioned before, this book was the result of an effort by Agee and Evans to live among and write about sharecroppers during the Great Depression.

The book is wildly impressionistic and hard to describe, so consider this series to be a sampler, a reminder to those who have read it before and an invitation to new readers.

Agee’s book is in large measure a protest against what poverty and oppression do to the human potential:

In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again: and in him, too, once more, and of each of us, our terrific responsibility towards human life; towards the utmost idea of goodness, of the horror of error, and of God

His viewpoint ranges from the very concrete to the universal. Here are examples of both:

At one point, he imagines this monologue from a farm woman:

How did we get caught? Why is it things always seem to go against us? Why is it there can’t ever be any pleasure in living? I’m so tired it don’t seem like I ever could get rest enough. I’m as tired when I get up in the morning as I am when I lay down at night. Sometimes it seems like there wouldn’t never be no end to it, nor even a let-up. One year it’ll look like things was going to be pretty good; but you get a little bit of money saved, something always happens.

At another, the viewpoint is cosmic:

Each is intimately connected with the bottem and the extremest reach of time:

Each is composed of substances identical with the substances identical with the substance of all that surrounds him, both the common objects of his disregard, and the hot centers of stars:

All that each person is, and experiences, and shall never experience, in body and in mind, all these things are differing expressions of himself and of one root, and are identical: and not one of these things nor one of these persons is ever quite to be duplicated, nor replaced, nor has it ever quite had precedent: but each is a new and incommunicably tender life, wounded in every breath, and almost as hardly killed as easily wounded: sustaining, for a while, without defense, the enormous assaults of the universe…

Finally, this deep sense of the human potential and the damage done to it under conditions of inequality and injustice forms the basis of his politics:

believe that every human being is potentially capable, within his 'limits,' of fully 'realizing' his potentialities; that this, his being cheated and choked of it, is infinitely the ghastliest, commonest, and most inclusive of all the crimes of which the human world can accuse itself; and that the discovery and use of 'consciousness," which has always been and is our deadliest enemy and deceiver, is also the source and guide of all hope and cure, and the only one.


November 21, 2006


Caption: If I could write like Agee, I'd praise famous peacocks (or peafowl, to use inclusive language).

This is the second post in a series on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and photographer Walker Evans.

If this is your first visit, please scroll down to the previous post.

This book, intended to be a description of life among impoverished Alabama sharecroppers in the 1930s, has become an impressionistic classic. This post and the next few are intended to give a little of its flavor.

It’s hard to describe this book. It’s full of quotations, biblical and liturgical reference, poetry, descriptions, political barbs, musings and random rants. Good though, as Utah Phillips would be quick to say.

To get a sense of the irony, quirkiness and outrage, try this:

‘…this is a book about “sharecroppers,” and it is written for all those who have a soft place in their hearts for the laughter and tears inherent in poverty viewed at a distance, and especially for those who can afford the retail price; in the hope that the reader will be edified, and may feel kindly disposed toward any well-thought-out liberal efforts to rectify the unpleasant situation down South, and will somewhat better and more guiltily appreciate the next good meal he eats; and in the hope, too, that he will recommend this little book to really sympathetic friends, in order that our publishers may at least cover their investment and that (just the merest perhaps) some kindly thought may be turned our way, and a little of your money fall to poor little us.’

‘Above all else: in God’s name don’t think of it as Art.

Every fury on earth has been absorbed in time, as art, or as religion, or as authority in one form or another. The deadliest blow the enemy of the human soul can strike is to do fury honor. Swift, Blake, Beethoven, Christ, Joyce, Kafka, name me a one who has not been thus castrated. Official acceptance is the one unmistakable symptom that salvation is beaten again, and is the surest sign of fatal misunderstanding, and is the kiss of Judas.

(El Cabrero totally agrees about all that public acceptance stuff, provided y'all keep reading Goat Rope and helm me find fresh victims for it.)

Next time: cool Agee rants on education.


November 20, 2006


Caption: If this writer could write like James Agee, he could praise famous goats.

El Cabrero wants to be like James Agee when he grows up. Except for the self-destructive part. I've already got that covered.

To be more specific, I want to be able to write like him. If I could do that, I'd call this blog Let Us Now Praise Famous Goats instead of the Goat Rope.

Like El Cabrero, Agee was a hard drinking, left leaning, cradle Episcopalian writer born in Appalachia. Except he was really good.

It's hard to believe, but he once had a gig working for Fortune magazine under Henry Luce. I don't think the magazine people knew what to do with him. In the 1930s, he persuaded Luce to let hIm and photographer Walker Evans go to rural Alabama to stay among and write about sharecroppers.

The trip didn't make good business magazine copy but it did result in the classic book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Agee being Agee, the book probably does not contain a whole lot of reliable information about the sharecropper's families but it does contain the musings that adventure inspired.

Over the next few days, Goat Rope will feature a Greatest Hits selection from that book.

Oh yeah, the pictures aren't bad either.

Stay tuned.