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Thanks to my loyal readers (and my loyal opposition!), I have come to realize that my plan to become the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee in 2020 will be utterly derailed if I allow myself to appear as a total wuss.  And so I have taken matters into my own hands.  This morning, before driving Jamie to day camp—indeed, before breakfast—I rummaged around in the garage, found a nice sharp kaiser blade (some folks call it a sling blade, I call it a kaiser blade), and took apart that fallen limb, limb by limb.  You can’t see the full extent of my handiwork here; that would require an aerial photo, because the yard is now half-full of tree limbs, and it’s a big yard.  But I lopped off eight major subsidiary branches (by “major” I mean “greater than four inches in diameter,” for you accuracy hounds), dragged them to one end of the yard, and then sawed twice through the main branch where it was seven-eight inches in diameter, leaving a stem or a root or whatever you call it, ten inches thick and about nine feet long.

I would just like to see Jonah Goldberg or David Brooks try this shit.

Thank you to everyone who helped out with hilarious comments, handy tips, and scorching ridicule on Wednesday.  I am now ready to accept your nomination. 

I’ll be back with a breaking news story later on—I hear that Christian groups are planning to try to block John Roberts’ nomination to the Supreme Court—but in the meantime, here’s a fun short poem from Cornelius Eady’s first book, Kartunes:

Success

I will stop dreaming now
now that I’ve finally made it.
outside I can hear the wind
rustling through the leaves of trees.

I own those trees.

Posted by on 07/29 at 09:34 AM
  1. I would just like to see Jonah Goldberg or David Brooks try this shit.

    Did you do this before or after your latte?

    Anyway, Michael, why didn’t you tell us it was a silver maple? You coulda used a bread knife.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  07/29  at  11:20 AM
  2. Why didn’t I tell you it was a silver maple?  Because I don’t know jack shit about these things, that’s why!  You could tell me it’s a cherry banyan and I’d believe you.  Chris, don’t you know I was raised in a parking lot?

    After the latte, by the way.  It was a vanilla latte with whipped cream.

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  11:27 AM
  3. I am, unlike Chris, duly impressed with your Paul Bunyan activities at home.

    With you and PZ Myers, I think a trend is developing:  “He man” activities by scholarly types.

    I too am part of this trend.  For I, the stereotypical Jewish, thin, bald-headed guy with glasses, am preparing to go hiking with my son and his local Boy Scout troop where we will live off the land for an entire...weekend.  I have the bills from REI (the camping co-op) to prove it, too!

    Posted by Mitchell Freedman  on  07/29  at  11:27 AM
  4. "He cuts up trees, he skips and jumps
    He likes to press wild flowers.”

    Posted by corndog  on  07/29  at  11:34 AM
  5. Now that is a campaign photo if I’ve ever seen one. We had all those shots of Reagan clearing brush and now, look, its morning in America again. Berube is cleaning house. I feel safer.

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  11:35 AM
  6. Dude, “raised in parking lot” = “only has to learn two trees.” One of them is silver maple, and the other one is <a href="http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/aial1.htm “>the one that Grows in Brooklyn.</a>

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  07/29  at  11:40 AM
  7. Stipud kiyboard.

    ... the one that grows in Brooklyn.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  07/29  at  11:41 AM
  8. Chris - if he’d told it was a silver maple, and you’d told him to use a breadknife, then just think of the catastrophe that the campaign photo op would have become. I mean, we might’s well put an apron on him and relocate to the kitchen at that point!

    Now there’s cause and effect for you.

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  11:52 AM
  9. I take it back. You’re not a wuss.  The tree, on the other hand, is a wuss.

    Now, having got over my grumpy fit for the time being, I am coming out of my room.  I have an answer to your question about children’s book authors (from July 18) and I’m going to reward your hard work by posting it here.  It’s off-topic but I promise it’s interesting.

    You asked if there had ever been “a children’s/ fantasy author who’s had to deal with the frenzy of anticipation” induced by the Potter books. The closest in English might be the mother-daughter team of Bertha and Florence Upton and their Golliwogg series of thirteen picture books, published in England between 1895 and 1909.  The first of these was called “The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls,” and featured a black-face minstrel doll called “The Golliwogg,” described as very ugly but noble in character – energetic, fearless, clever, and cheerful.  (A “Dutch doll” is an artist’s wooden figure, articulated at the joints, that can be posed as a model for drawing.) The Golliwogg was an instant sensation, and the Uptons went on to write a book a year in time for Christmas:  The Golliwogg’s Bicycle Club, The Golliwogg’s Circus, The Golliwogg’s Fox Hunt, and so on. The plots involve some little unpleasantness that the Dutch dolls, who are sisters, get into, and that the Golliwogg gets them out of.  The books were eagerly awaited across Europe every year, as part of the spreading custom of the child-centered English Christmas with gift-giving and trees, and Golliwogg books and dolls were found in every middle-class nursery.  Nabokov wrote about his in “Speak, Memory.” Sir Kenneth Clark recalled him as a chivalric figure “more persuasive than the unconvincing Knights of Arthurian legend.” Debussy was inspired by his daughter’s to compose “The Golliwog’s Cakewalk.”

    Upton’s Golliwogg was a gallant fellow, but other writers – particularly Enid Blyton – stole the name and used “golliwog” to describe a race—there’s no other word for it—of shiftless, Sambo-like caricatures who had little in common with the Golliwogg except his color.  Blyton’s golliwog books were popular in England into the 1980’s.  You can see pictures of Blyton’s golliwogs, and of Rupert Bear with a golliwog in a 1946 illustration, at this extraordinarily obnoxious website:
    http://www.sterlingtimes.co.uk/POLITICALLY_INCORRECT5.htm
    and read about him at this much more interesting one:
    http://www.ferris.edu/news/jimcrow/golliwog/
    and also here:  http://www.daisy.freeserve.co.uk/wog_faq.htm
    and excerpts from an Upton book here:  http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/jshoaf/Jdolls/jdollwestern/illustrations/golly/

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  11:52 AM
  10. Not a bad point, Rob.

    But we still have to beat this guy. Maybe if The Heretik could take the shades from the masthead photo and Photoshop them into the saw one?

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  07/29  at  12:33 PM
  11. Dr. Kurtz I presume?

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  12:34 PM
  12. Chris Clarke: If you’re reading this, could you write to me?  I have an urgent question about that beautiful silver maple, whose life may be in danger.
    Janet

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  12:39 PM
  13. Good thing I stopped in for one last visit before heading for the desert! Check your email, Janet.

    (I was a little worried that, with me away for the weekend, the median commenter intelligence here would rise dramatically. I was relieved, therefore, to read that Mitchell was takng off as well. That should keep things on an even keel.)

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  07/29  at  01:01 PM
  14. You are ready for office with that terrifically staged photo: although the silver maple leaves artfully hide your appendectomy scar, you still manage to loft your kaiser blade jauntily skyward.

    Posted by George  on  07/29  at  01:06 PM
  15. Why do I find this photo sooooo disturbing?

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  01:19 PM
  16. Why do I find this photo sooooo disturbing?

    Maybe because I don’t have my sunglasses on?

    Posted by Michael  on  07/29  at  01:20 PM
  17. I know you’re, like, an adult and shit but… white shorts?!??

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  01:30 PM
  18. So, with another “Lefty” now posting, I’m not that anymore.  As though it matters, I suppose…

    Apparently, it’s “Pennsylvania-based academics with good senses of humor and funny beards try to use power tools and keep their digits” week.

    http://weblogs.swarthmore.edu/burke/?p=67#comments

    Congrats to both of you for, so far, succeeding…

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  02:06 PM
  19. Silver maple?  I don’t know.  Those leaves look mighty suspicious.  I think what we have here is the world’s biggest pot plant.  No VP for you, you hopped up beatnick.

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  02:17 PM
  20. Lilac?!?

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  02:30 PM
  21. I can post as Lefty II.

    Hell, a little weed won’t disqualify Michael for VP. Coke (and a lot of it) didn’t disqualify a certain someone from the Big Job (oops, that’s right, those rules don’t apply to Republicans).

    And yeah, shades might help.

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  04:07 PM
  22. I always wondered what Jason looked like.

    Posted by Roxanne  on  07/29  at  04:14 PM
  23. Lefty?  It’s all yours.

    And as far as VP-2020, I would think that chopping down some weed would actually be a plus.  (You know, that other abstract concept with which we are at war.) The pic might be a negative, though—combined with the BillyBob Thornton joke.

    Some people call it a sling blade; unnnh-hunnh.

    LLR

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  04:28 PM
  24. Actually, due to circumstances beyond our control, the Obama/Berube ticket is being asked to move up the date of their candidacy to 2008.

    Posted by Bulworth  on  07/29  at  04:37 PM
  25. That picture would be perfect for a book jacket in the tradition of manly photographs on literary theory books such as Frank Lentricchia.  We are not wusses.  We are men.

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  05:39 PM
  26. some folks call it a sling blade, I call it a kaiser blade

    Did you eat some of them french fried taters before you used it?

    For some reason, now my throat hurts…

    Posted by NTodd  on  07/29  at  06:44 PM
  27. I still think you should have used dynamite.

    Posted by bellatrys  on  07/29  at  06:47 PM
  28. I’d vote for anyone who gets their blog post ideas from S.J. Perelman. “Acres and Pains” anyone?

    Posted by Mooser  on  07/29  at  07:35 PM
  29. If G.W. won because he’s a Texan who can clear brush, I should have the 2020 election tied up.  I can clear brush, and, unlike the President, I am not afraid of horses.

    Posted by Amanda  on  07/29  at  09:33 PM
  30. unlike the President, I am not afraid of horses.

    I’m sorry, but the skeptic in me wants to see a picture of you feeding a sugar cube to a horse before I vote for your ticket.

    As an aside, our dog used to be deathly afraid of cows and horses.  Now the horses at the ranch where my wife works on weekends have accepted Cairo as an honorary pony, and she runs with them in the paddock and in the fields and woods.

    Posted by NTodd  on  07/29  at  09:42 PM
  31. Anthony:  I know you’re, like, an adult and shit but… white shorts?!??

    Off white.  Like my latte.

    Njorl and bellatrys:  do you think maybe if I use dynamite I can smoke some of this shit before the Borough of State College comes to put it in the chipper?  (Nick and I have just hauled it around to the front of the house.)

    Steve:  apparently the manly-photograph-on-theory-books is part of the problem.  First Lentricchia thinks he has to outdo Whitman, then D. A. Miller thinks he has to outdo Lentricchia, and before you know it, the author of Criticism and Social Change has declared he’s not all that interested in either.  Go figure.

    Roxanne, thanks for the Jason reference, but I would never wear a goalie mask.  I’m a scoring forward.  I have my pride.  Amanda, I will be happy to serve as your VP, just as I did in last year’s Best New Blog competition (OK, that was assistant VP behind you and Wolcott).

    And jeff Boatright:  yeah, lilac.  You got a problem with that?  I got your lilac right here.

    Posted by Michael  on  07/29  at  10:00 PM
  32. Chris, as long as The Heretik doesn’t get confused and shop a pair of Ali G’s shades on Michael, then he should be well ahead of the resident cowboy wannabe.

    As far as el Prez and horses, I’m not sure that he should confine himself to being afraid of them - bicycles would seem a wise addition.

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  10:26 PM
  33. I have absolutely nothing witty to add, because I am currently devoid of wit, but this is all quite amusing.  And reminds me of all the different apartments in graduate school in which I had to install cat flaps in solid wood doors using a hand drill and a teeny-tiny 8” saw.

    Posted by bitchphd  on  07/29  at  11:50 PM
  34. I came,
    I saw,
    I sawed.

    Posted by  on  07/30  at  01:51 AM
  35. O, mi sono fatto una sega!

    Posted by  on  07/30  at  01:58 AM
  36. That’s not a kaiser blade or a sling blade; it’s a pruning saw--so-called because its intended use is cutting up prunes. In other words, it’s not a tool, it’s a utensil!

    Posted by  on  07/30  at  11:52 AM
  37. Aha!  So it is a butter knife!  Take that, Chris!

    Posted by Michael  on  07/30  at  12:09 PM
  38. At least your wearing white after Memorial Day; we don’t want to see you in those shorts after Labor Day. It is a wimpy “saw”, but it works. I had a similar job to do in January after a tree limb fell during an ice storm. Fortunately, some guy was driving by in a truck and offered to take the logs. Better than waiting for recycling day. Be thankful thelimb didn’t damage your house. I wound up shelling out a lot of moeny, but at least my neighbor fianlly took down the tree (a very diseased oak).

    Posted by  on  07/30  at  12:47 PM
  39. Very manly and, thus, vice-presidential. Just don’t trip while you’re carrying that knife or it will be a brief candidacy.

    Posted by Ancarett  on  07/30  at  02:32 PM
  40. Shouldn’t that last line be “I Pwn those trees"--or some more suitably Infernokrushing verb like “hack up” or “obliterate”?

    Posted by Jackmormon  on  07/30  at  07:06 PM
  41. The photo is an icon of hegemonic cohesion.  The hero, with a blood red shirt, holds up a phallic pruning device with a bright blood red handle.

    Triumphant, standing over the deceased foliage, the hero looks satisfied at a job well done, but not gloating or exuberant about the dead limbs before him.

    Indeed, he seems mildly chagrined that the healthy yet inconveniently placed (I gather) branches of the [insert name here] tree had been sacrificed for human pleasure.

    Monsieur Berube is Thoreau and Foucault all wrapped up in an attractive (albeit appendix-less) package.

    Posted by deb  on  07/30  at  08:32 PM
  42. Uhhhmmmm.....

    Okay, I don’t mean to be a picky English major type here, but the picture seems to indicate that it wasn’t the Blog that cut the tree apart, but you, your own darn bad self. Now, if that had been some sort of server (like an IBM thingie) holding that pruning saw (yes, much like a butter knife), THEN you could possibly type “Blog carves up tree.” But no, it is your own manly self.

    Oh yeah, and if you help me get a job when I finally finish my PhD, I personally will come over and teach you how to use a chainsaw without the loss of life or limb. Then we can turn to the difference between a 16 oz smooth-face finish hammer and a 22 oz waffle-face framing hammer.

    Oh, yeah. Despite earlier posters (pasted to walls near you), the sugar-maple is a wiley tree, dangerous even when apparently down.

    Posted by  on  07/31  at  02:42 AM
  43. No, but you might be able to blow it all over your neighbors’ yards and make *them* responsible for it! Thus achieving the American macho dream of making a Really BIG Mess, and trading on the right-wing stereotype of liberals as avoiding personal responsibility.

    Oh, and we definitely need to photoshop some injuries and fake blood into that picture, so you’ll look more like Rambo, when we use it for your Supreme Dictator Campaign materials…

    Posted by bellatrys  on  07/31  at  08:12 AM
  44. That picture is perfect. You seriously should use that on a dust jacket. If the publishers raise an eyebrow, pitch a hissy fit.

    To change the subject - did you know that Horowitz is still using that long-exploded line about you Fish and Gitlin ‘approving’ his poxy ABR? You all ‘vetted and approved’ it - he said in a piece dated July 29. But Graham Larkin asked you all months ago, and published your answers! So what is Horowitz playing at?

    Posted by Ophelia Benson  on  08/01  at  02:06 PM
  45. Chip:  Okay, I don’t mean to be a picky English major type here, but the picture seems to indicate that it wasn’t the Blog that cut the tree apart, but you, your own darn bad self.

    Grrrrr.  I was using metonymy, dude.  Go back and read Theory Tuesday part trois!

    bellatrys:  Oh, and we definitely need to photoshop some injuries and fake blood into that picture, so you’ll look more like Rambo, when we use it for your Supreme Dictator Campaign materials.

    Very well.  But I promise to relinquish the special powers bestowed upon me by the Senate when this crisis has passed.

    Jackmormon:  Shouldn’t that last line be “I Pwn those trees”—or some more suitably Infernokrushing verb like “hack up” or “obliterate”?

    Tell it to Cornelius Eady, man.  It’s his poem.

    Ophelia:  did you know that Horowitz is still using that long-exploded line about you Fish and Gitlin ‘approving’ his poxy ABR? You all ‘vetted and approved’ it - he said in a piece dated July 29. But Graham Larkin asked you all months ago, and published your answers! So what is Horowitz playing at?

    Yes, I did know, and I’ve never thanked you for posting Graham Larkin’s reply to D. Ho. on B & W.  So thanks!  And I believe the name of the game is Lying for Political Gain (Home Version).

    Posted by Michael  on  08/01  at  03:01 PM
  46. My pleasure, Michael. But how irritating to see him repeating something he knows has been contradicted by the very people he’s repeating it about. ‘Stanley and Michael and Todd all think I’m doing a good thing.’ ‘Er - excuse me - ‘ ‘STANLEY AND MICHAEL AND TODD ALL THINK I’M DOING A GOOD THING!’

    Posted by Ophelia Benson  on  08/01  at  09:07 PM
  47. Prof. Berube,

    You have growled at me (at least I think thats what “Grrrr.” means) and I must respond. Well, not really, but it’s late at night, I’ve had a few beers and now it’s time to get myself in trouble. I really need a Breathalyzer (or however that’s spelled) attached to my computer.

    Yes indeed, I erased your metynomy, but only by reading your text. I admit to having a tendency to literalizing things (you know, metaphors, metynomys, etc) because I find doing so makes for really funny things. Come on, a big black box with blinking (metonymically) red LEDs holding a small pruning saw isn’t funny? Where did that arm come from? Hell, what does that arm look like?

    And I did read Theory Tuesday II. I read all your posts. I’m a fan, with all that implies.

    (A brief parenthetical pause just to stop things and to see if I’m writing to seriously. Maybe I am.)

    Anyway, you titled metonymically, yet the picture erased that rhetorical act. A metonymy introduces a gap, a space that in metaphor is covered, bridged if you will, by a preposition.  A metonymy erases that bridge and in its effect generates an erasure, a space. However the Picture you posted erases that gap. The picture once again presents the presence that the metonymy erases. It fills the gap and causes the metonymy to fail.

    Now of course all that I’m typing implies but doesn’t even begin to deal with Jakobson’s argument about images working metonymically, and thats a whole ‘nother discussion.

    However, the offer to teach the fine arts of the chain saw still stands.

    Posted by Chip Beckett  on  08/02  at  05:29 AM
  48. My apologies, I meant Theory Tuesday part III.

    Posted by  on  08/02  at  05:31 AM
  49. you titled metonymically, yet the picture erased that rhetorical act. A metonymy introduces a gap, a space that in metaphor is covered, bridged if you will, by a preposition.  A metonymy erases that bridge and in its effect generates an erasure, a space. However the Picture you posted erases that gap. The picture once again presents the presence that the metonymy erases. It fills the gap and causes the metonymy to fail.

    Chip, you’re quite right.  I not only erased the gap, I arrested the metonymic skid as well.  Dammit, I hate when that happens.  And all because I was so vain as to put up a picture.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  I must’ve been living in the Imaginary.

    Thanks for reading those Theory Tuesdays, by the way.  And don’t take the growling personally—I growl at all both my fans.

    Posted by  on  08/02  at  08:30 AM
  50. I too have a deep and meaningful relationship with my pruning saw. It’s what makes yard work worthwhile.

    Posted by Kathryn Cramer  on  08/03  at  07:20 AM
  51. Re: Jonah -
    Yeah, you can mock him now, but you just wait ‘til he gets back from Basic, pre-Iraq-ship-out. He’ll be tough enough to take you on, mano-a-mano (oh wait, that’s Chimp’s line), with an entrenching tool, a/k/a feather.

    Posted by  on  08/07  at  10:54 AM
  52. Very nice blog. It is very helpful. http://www.bignews.com

    Posted by Pesho  on  08/18  at  10:05 PM
  53. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it smile I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

    Posted by Costa Rica Real Estate  on  03/29  at  09:01 AM

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