Rambling


I just found this treasure at a local used bookstore: The Petroleum Dictionary, by Lalia Phipps Boone.  Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950.  

The Last BarrelWell, the heyday of Texas-Oklahoma well drilling is over, although you can still drive by and find those workhorse pumps attempting to get that last drop out of the oil sands below the prairie.  Mature oil fields: but back in the day, the oil patch developed its own Americanized language, which took from the world of cowboys and machinists, and then gave the language back again.  It is a language of common sense, sweat, and romance: people in love with their jobs and the way of life it represented.  And you’d have to be in love with it: it was loud, dangerous, and dirty work, in every sense of the word.

One tradition that I think derives from cowboys is the contempt for farmers: farmer’s oil, for instance, is ‘a worthless black substance resembling oil that comes from blue shale’ and farmer’s sand, is “the productive sand which allegedly would have been reached if a dry hole had been drilled further.  No doubt those farmers contemplating oil leases would have preferred those Texas oilmen to drill all the way to China.  Heck, I think today that all of the U.S. would be inclined to agree with the farmers, given that 20/20 hindsight. 

Miss Rita of BeaumontGusherMs. Lalia even mentions one pimp and two madams in her book: the gentleman is named Ben Hogan of Pennsylvania, the “Wickedest Man in the World”; the ladies, “French Kate” (of course, French) but also “Lizzie Toppling”.  So you can just imagine what she left out–in particular, the madams of Texas and Oklahoma.  I wonder who the wickedest man in Texas was?

However, you can find other sources:  for instance, this deathless oil painting decorated the Dixie Hotel in Beaumont–an establishment run by Miss Rita of Beaumont, as a matter of fact.  The painting is by Aaron Arion, and combines the 1880’s with a small nod to the flatness and vistas of Depression era muralists such as Tom Lea and Thomas Hart Benton: Spindletop Viewing Her Gusher

We don’t allow this kind of thing these days: gushers, I mean.  Once the sign of success, we have now decided that it Wastes the Product.  We don’t allow human trafficking either, but somehow that’s been harder to change with advanced technology.

Here are some excerpts from the Foreword:

To spud in, which originally meant to indicate initial drilling operations, has undergone extension to designate the beginning of any activity.  If one is starting a meal, a job, a game, or a drink, he is spudding in.

Now you also have to think that this term was a joke about planting potatoes at one point.  Sort of a way to contrast the Drill and the Shovel in the scale of human enterprise.

The nouns roustabout and bird dog have also undergone generalization.  Originally roustabout was the name applied to the laborer who assisted in the loading and unloading of river craft in the United States.  In the oil field the term is applied to several different kinds of workers.  . . .   In drilling, he may be either an unskilled laborer or a skilled one.   . . .   Needless to say, he aspires to be a tool dresser or a roughneck.  The activity of any roustabout is roustabouting.

A bird dog is a field geologist: the person who can smell out the oil and point those roughnecks in the right direction.  Nowadays, we use technology. 

What I’d love to hear, from others: what’s the slang in other languages and other states?

Fiction about the American Oil Patch:
♦ Honor at Daybreak a Western by Elmer Kelton, about Central Texas, the spudding of wells, the fights, and the human trafficking during the not-so-great Depression
♦ Mean Spirit, by Linda Hogan, about oil, fraud, and the Osage tribe in Oklahoma, set in the Harding Years of the U.S.

Photo: columbia.edu; texasescapes.com

Well, there is no way to re-start and gain impetus without apologies first.  I’d like to think it was a deep dark cyberwar but I doubt I’m that important: My computer broke, and after several emergency procedures, I had to give it up.   Support personnel were very supportive, but there’s only so much you can do by phone.  Yo, I do not pass the computing I.Q. test.  I did pass the manners test, though: I have been polite to everyone, even though I wanted to grab someone’s collar and yell out my frustration.  However, wisely these poor support people know better than to put their collars in anyone’s vicinity.  It’s got to be tough though–being on their end of the phone.

So, I lost it all–all of it recovered or okay to lose, except: addresses and passwords.  Cut off from my community!  It’s been bad.  For the last few days I couldn’t access this account, kept getting a password loop.

But that’s more than you want to hear: suffice to say, I’m back, and

if I have inconvenienced anyone, I humbly beg your pardon.

A friend of mine in Costa Rica showed me this video:

and I thought it was great.

A minor adventure:
I’ll be posting this week and weekend (and so forth), but my regular readers might find the schedule to be off here and there, because I’m on a month-long tour into the Spanish language.  I’m so close to being bilingual, and yet: I’m not.  So I’m taking my fate and my frustration with the word ‘almost’ and packing it into a suitcase along with my shoes, my verb book, and my toothbrush.

La Profesora, la Bruja
That's her.As far as U.S. language education is concerned, I think I’ve had most of the problems and some of the benefits.  One semester out of eight I had a native Spaniard, but Dios, that was high school, ages past; in one university semester I had a very good speaker who had traveled all over the Spanish-speaking world.  Two semesters I had the witch from hell, who quite frankly knew little Spanish at all.  The poor woman was ninety years old and her feet hurt, so I don’t blame her–much–but on the other hand, she was wasting time . . . . I learned no Spanish from her except how to say “the devil himself”.  Hmmm.  Wonder why that stuck.

The rest of the professors had exceedingly diminished expectations of our spoiled, Amer-anglicized students (yes, the students from hell, or at least, Purgatory).  Almost all of them are in it to endure only, because we try to keep Spanish-speaking people on the other side of the border around here.  Oh, don’t get me started on that one.

Las frases mas ridicula
Another problem I find with U.S. language instruction: I always learned how to say things I would never say in normal conversation.  My brother has a joke about this: he says, that in Spanish he learned to say “Tengo un lapiz muy grande” which is, “I have a big pencil”  and then we both just laugh.  Pues, quisiera a decir mas que esta, y en la semana que viene, lo empezare’.  (I want to say more than that, so next week, I will get started on it). 

How my coworkers have suffered
uh, Que sufrio’ mis colegios,
(I think).
So, I have spent a lifetime making attempts at the workplace to engage Spanish speakers in conversation, with some good results.  We shall see how it goes. 

So, perhaps upcoming:
Por eso, los que vienen:
La LoteriaOne great thing about going now is I’ll be able to report some different kinds of news than usual.  Some really important issues for my own home state (the U.S., if you haven’t figured it out by now) are obscured by celebrity nonsense, Congressional scandals, next years’ Presidential elections, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. 

But there are more immediate issues just to the South.  New/upcoming issues in Latin America include some important referendums for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), at least one new Chinese consulate in Latin America, new rulings at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).  Who knows what else I might find out–once I can talk like a sensible person–but more importantly, listen with understanding.

Photos: Witch from easleys.com; JohnTunger, with La Loteria game piece.

That word would be corruption:

Over at FPA Central Asia, I’ve been tweaking noses concerning the way that Western media reports upon emerging country politics.  The clear, transparent, and honest standard should apply everywhere as a matter of principle, and of course it’s right to take emerging states to task over this significant barrier to safety, progress, and prosperity.  But it would be nice if “the emerged” could also own up to their problems when they start shaking their heads and pointing their fingers.   

Recent news items in the U.S. press appear to confirm that there is no monopoly on corrupt or misleading practices in emerging markets.   

A. In this story by the Washington Post, Karl Rove, soon-to-be-former White House strategist, marshalled adminstration officials, their national visits, and  government projects to aid Republican legislative incumbents, particularly in districts that did not have clear-cut Congressional races.  This would be in contrast to a system that awarded projects according to need, or ease of distribution, or economy of cost.

B.The NYT reports that Wikipedia entries concerning major corporations have been edited by those self-same corporations to either remove blemishes on their record or change the wording to something more favorable.  This link also has examples of corporate edits.  Along the same lines, Mr. Mikkelson at Reuters preceded the NYT by giving examples of edited CIA and FBI edits of Wikipedia entries.  BBC is reporting on Australian edits to Wikipedia entries on Australian issues, and Vatican edits to Wikipedia entries of Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein.

C. And in the U.S., land of the free press, the following: On July 10, Richard Carmona, former Surgeon-General of the United States, testified to Congress that he has been warned to suppress knowledge in the public interest on public health concerning mental health, stem cells, and emergency contraception.  The Federation of American Scientists notes that “political pressure on scientists is not new” but decried the scope and degree of this new pressure from the Bush II Administration.  This also fits in with a story about NOAA, the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which suppresses  study results on global warming, first in the Washington Post in February of 2006.

D. Former U.S. Senators are allowed to use their campaign chest to further legislation on behalf of their business interests.

Quite frankly, it’s C. the suppression of scientific information/information in the public domain that I consider to be the most pernicious.  Because knowledge is power, and when you can’t access it, or can’t trust what you access, it causes one to operate in a pre-determined ignorance.  I’m just so appalled by it, and by extension, the hypocrisy that determines that “the other” needs to clean house while the self-righteous self sits in the sty.

I write a free monthly newsletter called The Pipeline, on oil and political economy, which I e-mail to interested parties.

The August issue is now complete: for those of you who are interested, drop me a line.  I’ll add your e-mail to my mailing list. 

Editorial slant:
I don’t believe in blaming oil companies for every crappy thing that happens on this planet, and especially I do not believe in a Vast World-wide Oil Conspiracy, whether on the part of OPEC, oil cartels, or anyone else.  I believe in looking at these things from the standpoint of a political economy, where states interfere (sometimes rightly, more often foolishly) in the global market transactions of this most strategic and liquid commodity.  Most people that know me call me a liberal, that’s not quite right: it usually works out that I am uneasy with whatever the received opinion is in the room.  The real truth is that I am against any self-referential, reductive point-of-view, especially when said received opinion is delivered with some unholy joy or complacent, self-satisfied attitude. 

I think that makes me a rebel or a contrarian rather than a liberal, but I don’t care: the main thing is that in this newsletter you should not expect me to pass lightly over unnecessary/gratuitous negative externalities such as a lack of environmental care. Nor will I ever approve any stupid ways to stick it to world enterprises.

So The Pipeline is my polite attempt to educate readers in navigating the tricky but fascinating shoals of public discourse in regard to energy matters.

August issue:
This month’s issue covers the U.S. Benchmarks for Iraq (which I pretty much studied and figured out right here in this blog), and goes on to talk about the Oil Law, the situation in Basra, and the situation in Kirkuk.  The Iraq Oil Law and Benchmarks Issue, 6 pages.  Usually it’s four pages long . . . usually it includes a book review . . . but not this time.

I’m fairly sure I can get your e-mail from the comments function of the blog software, so you don’t have to put it in publicly.  If you do, I’ll just note the address and then remove it from your comment for security’s sake.

Just in case you check here, (which I highly appreciate, believe me) sorry I haven’t posted for a few days.  I’ve been busy covering the Shanghai Cooperation Organization over at FPA Central Asia.  Posts soon to come on Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Ramblin’ Intelligence will be out probably Sunday afternoon.

So much going on  . . . . and I want to do a good job.

There’s more than one way to satisfy the need to see mankind’s highest and best aspirations, but one way that I most enjoy has been reading and studying poetry.  Over the last two weeks, I’ve been looking at it pretty steadily, with definite purpose.  In the process, I feel happier and rested– almost a vacation from the mundane.

For decades, I’ve always have a blank book dedicated to collected-by-me poems I liked.  Since I write them all out in longhand, some favorite-but-really-long poems never get included (T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, for instance).  No portable anthology could include every poem I like, anyway. 

The first of such books, which I have taken camping, on airline flights, on car-trips, to restaurants, coffee shops, the houses of strangers and families, the post office, etc, etc. has served me well.  That anthology has been taped, re-covered, glued, and all other methods of finite, ad-hoc conservation.  The poor book finally broke beyond repair–its glue, once yellow, then orange, is now brown, and the pages are flying out one by one.  As in the words of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, this book is done for, except as a relic of happy life experiences. 

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Yes, with few leaves still attached in the old copy, I started a new one.  And I’m almost done: this time I decided upon a semi-alphabetical order, and I’ve finally got to Yeats.

The new book I have used is a more expensive type with hand-sewn signatures, so if I don’t douse it in a Wordsworthian brook or lose it in Szymborska’s lost-and-found, I should have it for decades.  Fortunately, though expensively-made, I found this new blank book on a close-out sale.  The real expense was in the time to fill it in: slightly over 400 pages, and I am on page 360-something.  My hand hurts, but that is nothing compared to the words I have been revelling in and ‘Marvelling’ over.

Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball:

The old book versus the new one invites comparisons.  Handwriting: most of the time, my handwriting has devolved into a scrawl, but in this book I’ve managed to contain the careless, sprawling jot-down and come up with something decent, if somewhat more pointed than before.  But so what: what’s really interesting is that so many of the poems I thought important before still seem important to me now.

Observation No. 1: Thank you, Mrs. Reese.
Again, I am forced to acknowledge that  the stuff they forced down my throat in grade-school and high-school English class about poetic tropes like alliteration and assonance are really true.  There is nothing like copying a poem in longhand to make you realize that the word-choices that poets make are really specific and deliberate, and that they help create the engine that drives the message, the feeling, the ecstatics of the art . . .

Observation No. 2: O! Innovators!
I am newly grateful to Thomas Wyatt for bringing the sonnet to the English Language.  Three hundred years later, Walt Whitman really opened up the sphere of poetry subject matter: love, death, age, yes; but new details and new approaches to these matters, a different diction.  Again taken up by Pound, and others post-World War I, in terms of subject matter . . . . and Pound also further globalized poetry in the English language.

Observation No. 3: Time changes everything, including tastes
Though I loved Wallace Stevens much the first time, I’m finding him limited and pretentious this time around.  Though many poets got more room in the new book, he received less.  Also receiving less room: Sylvia Plath, who seems more selfish (though still tormented) at my now older perspective. 

Observation No. 4: Those that wrote the best also failed completely
Even the best poet wrote howlers, including Shakespeare.  I found a sonnet (No. 50) in which his love is evinced by the way he maltreats his horse; and a couple of dreadful soap operas in Wordsworth.  I mention these two poets in particular because they were the ones, this time, that also made me drunk on their words.  Excellent, excellent works, and some, like Wordsworth’s “Lines Written at Tintern Abbey” I’ve never been able to read all the way through before, and now want in my hand forever. 

Observation No. 5: More greatness, an expanded world
Better-discovered: Gerald Stern, Siegfried Sassoon, Mr. Coleridge, Sir Wyatt, Jane Kenyon.  Newly-discovered: Wislawa Szymborska, Sir John Harrington, Martial.  Still awe-inspiring: Philip Larkin, John Keats, John Donne, Seamus Heaney, and so many others.

Yes, it’s true love: great poems that grow with one and sustain one.  The beloved ones.  Here’s just a little bit of Tintern Abbey.  If you can, read it aloud:

The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain-winds be free
To blow against thee: and, in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations!

Dear Mr. Wordsworth: indeed I will always remember thee.

Further reading:
Robert diYanni’s Glossary of Poetic Terms at McGraw-Hill

In the quest for better international news sources, I’ve made a couple of changes: first, I removed the InfoBrazil link, since the weekly hadn’t changed in a good long time.  Instead I have added on blog that seems to follow news accounts very faithfully, Bloggings by Boz; and one South American News Agency that covers Mercosur and Latin American news in Uruguay: Mercopress.   I recommend them both to readers and as always, I entertain suggestions.

For those who are interested, more Latin American web sites are available at the University of Texas site.

Little footnote: What is Mercosur?
A little but not much information is available at Wikipedia–Mercosur is an economic integration organization–a collective economic security arrangement between states in Latin America.  It began with Argentine-Brazil bilateral cooperation and continues to expand in importance, providing a foundation for other Trans-American economic communities.
Mercosur Trade Center Web site

Well, I was out of town: and I don’t own a T.V.  So it’s always interesting to see what it is that I miss on a regular basis.  This is not snobbery, that I don’t own one of the televisions.  Anyone who checks out this blog knows I have a penchant for entertaining, low-brow reads, in fact I have at least one mass-market paperback in almost every room of the house. 

So.  First I thought I would check that quality news source, CNN.  I caught some of Wolf Blitzer on CNN and some of Lou Dobbs and I was horrified.  Isn’t news analysis supposed to give you a lot of facts and then put them in a logical progression?  That is not what I heard–what I heard was, say, two unsubstantiated facts, and then a quick, angry conclusion that didn’t necessarily follow from those facts.

After about an hour of this, I switched to some channel or another that featured competitive dance.  Much better: not only could you view the fantastic artistry, but the commentators for the most part elucidated more fully what you could see for yourself.  It seems a shame somehow that dance judges have this process more fully in hand then our political commentators.

Yesterday, C-Span Radio carried the National Press Club speech of Mr. Dobbs, and he made better points among his peers than he made on the network.  Mr. Dobbs: your audience is your peers.  After that, Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein were discussing the “state of journalism” on C-Span and they somewhat diplomatically but inexorably dissed the blog phenomenon.  They also dissed television news.  I’ll go for a blog over television any day–at least, based upon my latest experiences.

By the way, in the dance competition: Germany won, overall; the Italians took ballroom dancing; and the Russians had the Latin dancing completely sewn up.  Your globalized culture at work and play.  And there was a lesson there, too: consistency counts. . . so I’ll get back to work.

Update: found Epictetus on my desk, now unburied, and open to this page:

No. 28: If someone turned your body over to just any person who happened to meet you, you would be angry.  But are you not ashamed that you turn over your own faculty of judgment to whoever happens along, so that if he abuses you it is upset and confused?

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