Here's the Deal. In Which I Launch An Experiment, Don a Barker's Hat, And So Forth

Been awhile, eh? I've not abandoned ship. Not even thought about it.

Rather: I'm responding/reacting to deep change (as in: in-the-brain change) (*A) (*B)

Toward the end of the meat book process (the "end" being about 18 months long, cough cough), the book absorbed all my attention.

Now, however, with book out of my hands, I can return to my manic blogging pace.  --- But!


There's always a but.

I stumbled out of the book cave and back into the world, nearly blinded as I ascended from darkness into daylight. ("Oh! Zombies haven't killed everyone yet. The rest of the world's still here. Sun's out! There are people! There are ideas!") and . . .

. . . recognized (again) that this digital moment is extraordinary. One like no other in [recent] human history. (As you know, coming from me, those are strong words).

For example: thanks to digital media, I can embed my view of the world in a permanent yet accessible manner.

In an earlier age, I would have churned out reams of journals or notebooks, jottings as I pondered my work. But who would have seen those?

The philosopher

Answer: no one unless I left them to an archive and then "no one" would expand to include "a jot in the vast ocean of humanity."

But now? Oooooh, weeee! (*C) I could "work" online.

So I’m thinking about how to use this website/blog --- this virtual desk --- as a repository for the stuff my brain generates while I'm "working."

As in: I read a bunch of primary sources and learn the gist of a particular thing/idea/event (eg, communes or the beer wholesaling business or the ins/outs of cattle ranching).

Over time, that knowledge coalesces into little opinions in my head, and my brain works out the implications of those opinions. Eventually I arrive at a new state of knowledge.

Then I read more primary sources, and those act as gyroscopes: my existing "state of knowledge" flips and flops and twists and turns --- into something different.

Dandy. What if I try to capture some of those building-block moments in words rather than in synapses formations? What if I work out some of these ideas online rather than in my brain alone?

I’d like to try that. [See? That's what I'm doing right. here. now.]


Then there’s the problem of the structure of this website. For months I’ve wrestled with how to use this blog as a forum for two quite different kinds of content.

On one hand, I need to write Important Pieces About Serious Stuff Relating to Meat. I need to woo potential “customers” and persuade them to buy/read my book. I’m a carnival barker, touting my wares. I plan to “bark” in the form of formal, structured posts.

Barker at the grounds at the Vermont state fai...

On the other hand --- well, as those of you who’ve spent time here know, I love nothing more than a rambling rant about whatever grabs me, from dumbasses to e-books (god! remember how obsessed I was about that?) to what I'm cooking to whatever.

But: How to manage both kinds of posts? It’s almost like I need two different sites, you know?

I’ve concluded that this is a design problem: I need a website design that allows me to “feature” content and, more important, to visually categorize content so that someone dropping by can figure out what’s what here.

Why does that matter? Because as many of you know, I regard this site as a virtual home and the blog as my online living room. Regulars here know my house rules and all’s cool.

A family at a living room

But once the meat book comes out, a bunch of “strangers” may start stopping by for a visit and how the hell do I explain quickly, visually, that, no, I’m not a raving lunatic?

You see my problem. Which, sigh, means I’ve gotta do more tinkering with the site’s structure and design. To which I do not look forward. At all. Hate that shit.


So that’s what lies ahead.

In the immediate future, however, I gotta barker the meat book. I've posted a couple of related pieces lately (Smithfield/Shuanghui and meat-in-the-lab c. 1894).

(You may have noticed that I've also published these long pieces in their entirety, rather than breaking them up into a "series" as I've done in the past. Hmmm. Do I now trust that some of us have learned the ability to read for longer stretches while engaging in what used to be called surfing the 'net? [So if we're not surfing, we've . . . dropped anchor? Constructed rafts/boats/etc. and can drop anchor if we want to? We've come ashore?])

Also coming soon: a Q&A series featuring people involved in "food politics." The group is eclectic: an ag economist, a couple of meat scientists, a communications expert, a journalist, a historian, a couple of entrepreneurs. Ranchers and farmers.

All of them engaged in the business of food politics.

And make no mistake: food politics has become a business. Our topsy turvy economy, gyrating madly as digital tentacles has roiled its stability, has fueled all manner of new industries, including one devoted to social and political change via the engine of food.

Then there’s the new book I want to write. I’ve finally figured out what it’s about. Hooray!

A historical foray into the front lines of the "new" capitalism. A history of recent “alternative” economies. Sort of. Constructed around the framework of the craft brewing industry.


So. Much to ponder. Much to figure out. Much to do.

I’ll close by saying this: As a historian, man, it's a fucking gold mine out here. Indeed: this is a gold rush era. (There's a potentially weird but useful project idea: what makes a gold rush a gold rush?)

I'm hoping you'll stick around. It won't always be as meandering as this. And yes, this very post is an experiment: how many layers of content can I add to a blog without the layers turning into an inedible mush? I'm trying to build a blog terrine: distinct layers composed of different ingredients.

Grilled Summer Vegetable Terrine and Hazelnut ...

Okay. Okay. Yes, now I'm truly rambling on. Q&A coming up. Also am trying to pull together a beer thing.

So. Thanks. Hope you hang in there.


*A: I wonder how much age has to do with this. I "feel" my age in the sense that I'm fully aware of my current stage in the path of the life, and I don't know that I ever experienced this kind of awareness when I was younger. If I did, I don't remember it. "Age" is now my constant companion and I enjoy its comfort and presence. (I’ll be sixty in two months.)

*B: Footnotes. As soon as I get five minutes free, I'm gonna learn the code for creating page "jumps." I want to insert live links so you could jump from the note number -- eg, *1, *2 --- to the note itself and then back. I just gotta learn how to do it.

Now: if only someone would figure out how to do that for digital books, but minus the number. If you've read my books, you know that I don't like the disruption of note numbers on the page itself. When I see note numbers, I get anxious: oh, man, stop reading and find out what the note says. I don't want to impose that on my readers.

But thus far, no one seems inclined to create the code needed to hook code to text/note, but do so invisibly and yet in a way that readers could find it if they wanted it. Like: you'd have to run a cursor over it, but we don't use cursors in e-books. But we do tapping with e-books. I read kids' book often and those are quite clever with mobility functions that aren't highlighted. So, okay. Long detour. See? That's why we have footnotes!

*C: Oooooh weee! That's an Iowa hog caller thing (sometimes "soooooo weeee!"). It's August as I write this and in summer, especially deep summer, we Iowans feel more earthy than at others times of the year. Hogs are nuthin' if not earthy. And where, exactly, has this summer gone?