Thursday, September 27, 2007

William Cronon and Manufactured Landscapes

These are two dfferent topics. I fulfilled my role as a good academic person man, and attended a film and a lecture this evening at UNL.

Cronon (who reminds me of that bad guy from that Kevin Costner movie The Postman--what's his name?) had a very interesting, if very long, book project in the works I imagine he won't finish until his last breath. Very extensive, the environmental and social history of Portage, WI. It is interesting how he defines history as environmental / ecological and as social story: history is story. Or, history is part fiction. Meta fiction, I'd venture, Tim O'Brien but with much more fact. Story creates place, and I'll extend it cuz you know where I'm going, creates passion / interest for the preservation of place both culturally and environmentally. Or, let's both place historical markers AND rebuild marshes drained for agriculture. Interesting.

Makes me think about a poetry collection / nonfiction book I'd like to write about my Germans from Russia immigrant heritage. Why can't truth be fiction? Isn't truth fiction? If story saves us--spiritually and physically--and it DOES save us--why can't it be false? Oral tradition is myth, right? Myth based on some construed fact? Myth with a moral or ethical imperative? Right? Story gets at us deeper than "this is right, this is wrong." Yes? YES. I told my 101 students this today, and tell ALL my students this. If you gotta lie a little to GET to us, do it. Essayists are coming to kill me. I am a meta nonfictionist. Everyone is, people.

And the documentary film tracing some photographer dude who's name I forget in Asia looking at what industrialization is doing to the land and culture, especially in well documented China. Boy. China has problems (duh), and one has to feel bad for them--catching western privilege at a time when our privilege (oil based) is coming to an end. When China's economy faulters due to petroleum byproducts not being made, I fear what'll happen. Wars start this way. I'm just saying.

Startling pictures of LOTS of coal, computer parts across the village lands (this is where our computers get "recycled" folks), and thousands of workers in very clean and super organized HUGE HUGE HUGE assembly-line factories wasting their lives. It seems to me. All monochromatic. All homogenized. And yet not. And yet so personally powerful and moving in their dreams et cetera. I wax. On and off. Daniel son. Are we any different? It's just scale--me teaching instead of writing, and them making irons that rotate eerily and ghostly above the factory floor. "Do you like working here?" "I get paid." "Do you feel proud working here?" "It's to help the country as we grow." "Do you like working here?" "I'm sorry, no more questions. Turn the camera off."

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