Tuesday, 06 July 2021
Written by John Hood
I see you’ve written another book. What’s this one about?”
“It’s called 'Mountain Folk.' It’s a historical-fantasy novel set partly in North Carolina during the Revolutionary War.”
“It’s a what?”
I’ve had some version of this conversation many times in recent months. Having spent most of my journalism career writing about government and politics, and authoring books of economic and political history, people assume any new project of mine would fall into the same category.
When they learn I’ve written a novel — and particularly when they discover it doesn’t just have an historical theme but also includes dwarfs, elves, magic, and monsters — they grow concerned. Am I having a midlife crisis, or indulging some childhood whim?
Not at all. While I greatly enjoyed writing "Mountain Folk," and hope that my readers will enjoy it as a rollicking tale of frontier life and high adventure, I admit there is more than just simple escapism going on. Perhaps it’s just because I was in the 4-H Club growing up, but I believe I can summarize my reasons for writing the novel in four words: History, Heroes, Heritage, and Humanity.
First, I hope to encourage a greater understanding of and appreciation for our country’s history. According to one recent survey, only a third of Americans possess enough historical knowledge to pass the U.S. citizenship test. Most can’t say which countries were on which sides in World War II, or why Americans declared their independence from the British empire.
Second, I want to rescue, refresh, and expand the concept of American heroism. Yes, historical figures such as George Washington, Daniel Boone, and Abraham Lincoln were imperfect in real life. We should come to know as much as we can about them, warts and all.
But we can and should still admire the important contributions these old-school folk heroes made to the growth and development of our country, even as we properly integrate a broader variety of tales into the story of America. In "Mountain Folk," one of the main characters is a Cherokee heroine named Nanyehi who as a young woman led her people to victory in battle but later in life became a legendary peacemaker.
Third, I use elements of history and folklore to explore what it really means to be an American. Our country is different from most others in a key respect: we do not share a common ethnic heritage. During centuries of migration — some voluntary, in search of a better life, and some involuntary, the consequences of removal or the slave trade — America has become a dynamic, sprawling, sometimes-brawling society encompassing many different peoples, religions, values, and cultures.
The resulting diversity can be vibrant and powerful. But Americans still require a common creed to unify us, and a common set of institutions to convert abstract principles into practical governance. Freedom is central to that common creed, or so I argue in the pages of "Mountain Folk."
Finally, although my novel has many non-human characters, I actually use them to illustrate the inescapable realities of human nature. We are all fallen creatures. We yield to temptation. We make mistakes. Even the best of us, if entrusted with great power, may end up abusing it, insisting all along that our noble ends justify ignoble means.
“We always have a choice — a choice whether truly to live according to our principles, or simply to survive by abandoning them,” one of my fairy characters says towards the end of the book. “With that freedom to choose comes the responsibility to accept the consequences. I accept mine. I will not submit. I will not be complicit to tyranny. If that robs me of my home forever, so be it.”
Now, "Mountain Folk" is hardly a history textbook or a philosophical treatise. There are heroes, villains, thrilling rescues and epic battles. Daniel Boone even fights a giant, fire-spitting salamander! But there’s a serious purpose underneath — a fact that should come as no surprise to longtime readers of my column.
Tuesday, 06 July 2021
Written by Pitt Dickey
Do things seem a bit odd to you lately? Do you find yourself being a chip off the old blockchain? Confused? Puzzled by the latest developments?
Well, Bunky, you have come to the right place. Mr. Science is here today to explain life to you. After both of my faithful readers finish this column, all will be understood. As Alex said in “A Clockwork Orange,” the meaning of life will be “As clear as an unmuddied lake. As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer. You can rely on me, friend.”
Let us begin by noting a couple of recent curious art world events which in the first blue light of morning seem unrelated and hard to understand. Life is controlled by the Prime Directive that there are no coincidences, everything is related to everything else. The Prime Directive, like gravity, is not just a good idea, it’s the law.
Herein lies the tale of when Beeple met MetaKovan. An artist named Beeple sold an NFT for $69 million. This was good news for Beeple and the Christie Auction House which handled the sale. Right now you are probably asking yourself, “Self, who is Beeple, what is an NFT, and who paid $69 million for a JPEG computer image?”
As Samuel L. Jackson said in "Pulp Fiction," “Allow me to retort.” Beeple turns out to be the nom de plume of Mike Winkelmann who lives just down the road from us in Charleston, South Carolina, which incidentally is also the home of the world-famous Purple Buffalo night club. Beeple is a computer geek who is also an artist.
He created the digital artwork called “Everydays: The First 5000 Years” as a Non Fungible Token, which abbreviates into NFT. An NFT is essentially a picture on the internet similar to cats playing the piano on Facebook. But unlike the musical cats which anyone can copy, an NFT original only shows up in one place on the owner’s computer screen. The original digital image uses the same magic that Bitcoin’s block chain uses to keep track of who owns which Bitcoin. Mr. Science does not understand how Bitcoin works. It just is, at least for the time being until it vanishes into the digital ether.
The new proud owner of Beeple’s masterpiece is an art patron named Vignesh Sundaresan who also goes by the superhero name of MetaKovan.
MetaKovan made his money in the crypto currency market which is where “Everydays” was born. MetaKovan explained he would have paid even more for the “Everydays” JPEG as it represents the first digital art asset which will become a part of art history. So now you know about NFTs. Aren’t you glad you stuck around? But wait, there is more in the bonus round below.
Also, from the Art Desk comes the news that over 15,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org urging Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to buy and eat the "Mona Lisa."
The petition is quite simple: It says “Nobody has eaten the 'Mona Lisa' and we feel Jeff Bezos needs to take a stand and make this happen.” Why you might ask, should Jeff Bezos purchase and devour the "Mona Lisa?"
Signers of the petition have offered a number of reasons: “Who else is gonna eat it?," “I’m signing to draw attention to how ridiculous and dangerous this level of capital accumulation is. No one should be that rich," “It should be rolled up like a froot roll up and swallowed whole”, “There are billionaires in Asia who can’t even afford to eat a de Kooning, and here is the richest man in the world refusing to eat a perfectly good da Vinci," “Come on Jeff, you know you want to," “Mona Lisa is just the appetizer before the Sistine Chapel," "I believe this will truly help the world."
This list goes on and on. There is a ground swell of support for Jeff to eat the "Mona Lisa." The USA Today article estimated Jeff has a net worth of $201 billion and the estimated worth of the "Mona Lisa" today is about $850 million. Mere pocket change for Jeff. It is definitely doable if the French government will cooperate. If France won’t sell, Jeff can just buy France, allowing him to own the "Mona Lisa." Then it’s break out the Texas Pete hot sauce and chow down on the
To the untrained eye, these events may seem insane. However, consider what Deputy Barney Fife said when Andy and Helen got trapped in a cave. Barney told Thelma Lou the reason he didn’t like caves is because of bats.
Barney: “Bats. Do you know what they do? They fly in your hair and get tangled up in there and lay their eggs and you go crazy. You want a head full of bat eggs? Well, I don’t.”
Clearly what has happened is too many people have been going into caves. They have gotten their hair full of bat eggs. Barney was right all along. The world has gone crazy.
Today’s lesson: Wear a hat. Avoid bat eggs in your hair. Remain calm and save the "Mona Lisa."