Posts from Pumpjack Press authors and contributors about culture, books, economic and social justice topics, history and more, with the occasional poem and short story.

Hanford: Reflections on a visit to history’s graveyard

Hanford is located just a few hundred miles from our home in Portland, and they offer public tours throughout the summer. The tours book up quickly. Interest is high. This summer, Kathleen and I finally made it onto the list and we had the opportunity spend a day on a bus touring the Hanford Nuclear Complex. No one is allowed to take photos. Apparently, the disposal of nuclear waste is just as sensitive as the process of nuclear enrichment.

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Elation and grief on the anniversary of the deaths of Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde died on May 23, 1934. Bonnie Parker was 24 and Clyde Barrow was 25—startling young—when they were killed in a hail of bullets on a county road by a hastily convened vigilante ambush comprised of judge, jury and executioner. But what if things had turned out differently? What if grinding poverty had not pushed them into a life of crime? What if they had never died?

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Bunker down: A nonfiction reading journey to (partial) understanding in the age of Trump

These are challenging times for progressives. The policies being enacted are bad enough — placing profits over people, removing environmental protections and quickening the wealth extraction by the elites. But even more troubling to me about the election outcome was the disheartening swell of racism, misogyny and homophobia, of the misdirected anger lingering on the hot edge of violence, that seemed to eclipse the common sense of otherwise rational, compassionate human beings. I want to better understand it, so I’ve been doing some focused reading. Here’s my list of reading in the age of Trump that, taken in order, helped me find some clarity (but no solace) about what is happening in America.

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Where have all the radicals gone?

I sometimes imagine a long-ago unicorn moment when a path appeared that, had it been taken, may have dramatically altered the lives of America’s working class, or what we now call the 99 percent. In the mid- to late-part of the 20th century, the labor, civil rights, environmental and feminist movements were at an apogee, an emerging counterweight to the wealth extraction and concentration grinder of capitalism. Looking back, the potential was breathtaking. And then it all fell apart.

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An anthropocene effect

I collect rocks. Size is irrelevant. I love medium-sized metamorphics as much as barely-there agates and volcanic bombs. Collection criterion is three-fold: an ability to represent provenance geologically, strength (as in an absence of friability; they can’t crumble in my pocket or backpack), and distinctive looks (a little crystal pop, a ruggedly weathered surface, a sharp volcanic edge; all these things attract my eye). These are attributes I’ve typically looked for in men, too. Clark has all three. He’s a very rare find.

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Where is the abstract painting trend in fiction?

This trajectory of the visual arts mirrors (or perhaps was at the leading edge) a centuries-long philosophical evolution about human’s relationships to authority, the concept of individuality, the discovery of atoms, and shifting ideas about the human mind (from the Cartesian spark of God duality through Freud all the way to the mind-is-body model emerging from neuroscience). Why does the novel’s form remain stubbornly fixed despite these parallel cultural, scientific, and artistic changes? Where is the equivalent of the abstract painting in fiction? And what are the implications of its absence?

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Dear Cheese, I have to break up with you

Wait, don’t cry (even though your tears would be delicious little curds), you know its for the best.

Given how close we’ve been for so long, this probably seems like it’s coming out of the bleu (the one side of you I never really “got”) but you have to understand, it’s not because I don’t love you. Just think about all the good times we’ve had together. Some great times, actually.

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