1. As if all the whithering here wasn’t bad enough in terms of website productivity, my free writing time has been dramatically curtailed after I was seated on a jury earlier this week. I can’t say anything about that situation other than (1) I’m on a jury, and (2) I’m likely to be on a jury until March 4th. So if I’m slower than usual to reply to anything sent my way, here or elsewhere, that’s likely why.
2. Some years back, I wrote a piece here called A Modest Proposal: Halve the Full Grassley. The gist of the narrative was that my then-home State of Iowa had way too many counties (99) given its population and its geographic size, and that since county seats don’t need to be closer than one day’s ride (round trip) by horseback in these our modern times, culling that unruly map would be a great boon to the State. Reader and cartographer Liz Cruz actually took me up on my request to draw a more sensible map, and I shared her brilliant work here. Tragically, Iowa’s elected leaders have not acted on her sound recommendation. I guess that’s understandable, given how busy they’ve been in recent years empowering authoritarians and dehumanizing meat-plant workers and poisoning the drinking water and trying to make people sick in the name of freedoms and liberties and such. That’s hard work, for sure!
Anyway, I bring this up today because, interestingly enough, I now find myself living in the State of Arizona, which has exactly the opposite problem. Among the Lower 48 States (and excluding the District of Columbia), Arizona is the fifth largest state by area and the 14th largest state by population. But we have only 15 counties! That gives us the highest average county area in the Lower 48, by a long-shot, and the third highest average county population (trailing only California and Massachusetts). My jury duty highlights the challenges this creates: I have a 63 mile one-way drive every day to my county seat. Others in other parts of the state likely have even longer drives. My initial reaction to that situation was to say “A-ha! Time for Another Modest Proposal: Double the Full Goldwater!” But then I read about this immodest and immoral proposal, this week, in the real world. Which makes it clear that such county subdivisions in Arizona would be used to advance partisan electoral outcomes via carefully gerrymandering county lines, and that those currently empowered to enact such proposals would do so to advance mostly loathsome (to me) social and political objectives. So I guess in this case, I just conclude “It is what it is,” suck it up, and drive a long way to do county business, thankful that I don’t have to use a horse.
3. I have had an interesting view on my way to jury duty over the past two mornings, with a nearly full moon setting by daylight right over the roadway before me. Phone cameras do terrible jobs of capturing the moon, as most know from frustrated experience, but this is the general gist of the view, as best I could capture it . . . it’s quite mesmerizing in real time . . .
4. And then, what’s this?
The blue binder at the bottom of the pile is the complete manuscript of the book I’ve been writing with a collaborator over the past year. We are awaiting one additional photo, and I expect to be able to upload all of the materials to the publisher this weekend for editing, type-setting and layout. Exciting! The two black folders are two other book length manuscripts that I’ve written over recent years, one short fiction, one a philosophical treatise. Once the current book flies away (and jury duty ends), I’m going to get to work on trying to place those other two pieces with a publisher. If anyone has any good leads on publishing houses or creative representation, you know where to holla, even if I’m slow to respond due to my duly-sworn duties as a law-abiding citizen of my County, State and Nation.
5. I wrote an obituary for Pat Fish (The Jazz Butcher) a couple of months back after his untimely death from cancer. Just after he flew away from us, a tremendous career-spanning compilation of his work called Dr Cholmondely Repents came out, and it was a bittersweet joy to hear so many great singles and B-sides and “seasides” (as he dubbed the deeper cuts) from years long gone. Last week, the Butcher’s final studio efforts were released as a new album called The Highest in the Land. It is also a bittersweet joy, a lovely collection of songs played and sung well by Butch and a crew of long-time collaborators, most notably the great Max Eider. I highly recommend the new studio disc and the career-spanning retrospective for your consideration. There’s brilliance there, by the bucketfuls.