Mending Walls

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”


- Robert Frost


You Can’t Take the Sky From Me: A Review of Firefly


When all of your geek friends are telling you to watch a TV show, you know you need to do it. Last year one of my friends recommended I watch Joss Whedon’s ill-fated TV show, Firefly, but with Sherlock and Doctor Who going on, I didn’t get to it. After enough friends told me to watch it, I realized this needed to be a higher priority. Plus, with Doctor Who on hiatus till August and Sherlock on hiatus for who knows how long, I figured this would be a good time to get into another series.

Firefly. I didn’t really know what to expect. By the middle of the first episode I realized it was basically a space western, including a western ballad theme song. Sounds weird, or impossible, right? Well, somehow Whedon did it. And did it very well, I might add. The series takes place a few years after a failed revolution against the Alliance, the central government ruling the civilization parts of the galaxy. Nathan Fillion plays Captain Mal, who decided to go into black market transportation business after losing the Battle of Serenity Valley during the revolution. He purchased and renovated a Firefly class spaceship (similar in shape to a firefly) and named her Serenity. His crew includes Zoe, a compatriot from the revolution, Wash (Zoe’s husband, and Serenity’s pilot), Inara, Jayne, and Kaylee. During the first episode they take onboard the doctor,  Simon Tam, his sister River, and Shepherd Book.

In the following episodes, the crew and passengers encounter a multitude of adventures. It is discovered that Simon rescued his sister—a genius—from the Alliance after he found that her boarding school was a coverup for government experimental medical procedures. She was targeted for these experiments because of her advanced mental abilities. Simon gave up his promising career as a doctor and risked his life to rescue River and take her to the outer planets hoping to elude the Alliance’s search. No one knows why Shepherd Book, a religious figure, decided to leave his religious community and travel on Serenity.  If Firefly had lasted more than one season, there’s no doubt his backstory would have been revealed.

The series is very nicely wrapped up in the full-length movie, Serenity. I did feel there was some discontinuity between the characters in the series and movie. For instance, at the beginning of the series I really didn’t like Captain Mal at all (well, who did?) but by the end, I was growing quite fond of him. Then I felt like he had to go through that development all over again in Serenity. He started out the movie as quite the jerk, and it wasn’t until the very end that he redeemed himself.

Anyways…I really love the libertarian themes running through the series and movie. Though this small crew faces a lot of challenges, most are somehow related to the Alliance. Captain Mal takes Serenity out to the border planets where the Alliance’s power is weaker. Nonetheless, they are relentlessly pursued by the Alliance, either for the sheer pleasure of abusing the “little guy” or to recapture River who could be an invaluable asset to the Alliance. Between encounters with the Alliance, the crew of Serenity have to deal with the dangers of black market trading. Mal comments in the episode Shindig, that, “My work’s illegal, but at least it’s honest.” But with no recourse to a structured system of law, it is pretty rough being honest in an illegal market. In one episode they’re faced with an unnerving dilemma. They are contacted by a businessman, Niska, who also happens to be a sadist. During their meeting with Niska, he proudly shows them the tortured body of his wife’s nephew. This is his warning to him of what would happen if they fail to successfully complete the job for him. This job turns out to be stealing some boxes of cargo off a moving train. With some close calls, they get the items, but then discover the boxes contained desperately needed medicine for a community suffering from a deadly disease. So Mal is faced with either the guilt of knowing he would be at least partially responsible for the deaths of those villagers—or he could return the medicine and face the wrath of Niska. This is one of my favorite episodes because Captain Mal does the right thing despite any possible consequences. Indeed, Niska sends some of his hitmen to Serenity in order to recover the goods, but the crew manages to take them out. The medicine is delivered to the town, and all ends well. Except that Niska eventually catches up with Mal, and it doesn’t go well. But this is all in a day’s work for Serenity. 

Captain Mal isn’t really a conformist. To say he has a hard time following rules is an understatement. One of the most famous quotes from the series is Captain Mal, “I aim to misbehave.” As the failed rebellion of Serenity Valley demonstrated years earlier, there is little room in civilized country for an individualist like Mal. He’d far rather find his way in the border region—a place where there is no state, but little guarantee of justice either—rather than be subservient to the Alliance. This is no anarcho-capitalist paradise, and in the absence of any law structure (state-imposed or voluntary) it can be pretty unpleasant. But sometimes the thirst for liberty is powerful than our desire for safety. While perhaps some people would prefer safe tyranny to dangerous freedom, I would guess that most of us would give up a life of submission for the chance to be free.


Monday Night Adventures

A few weeks ago, at the Transform Rockford event I attended, I ran into someone who is involved with Rockford Hip Hop Congress. This was really cool because this was about the time I started really getting into slam poetry and was wondering if there was any local slam events going on. As it turns out, Rockford HHC does host slam poetry events, among other things. This week is “All Elements 2014″ for Rockford HHC. They basically have some kind of hip hop event every day this week. Tonight was the only night I knew I could attend, so I decided to check it out. Tonight they had “beats & chess” and a local film fest at the Nordlof Center, formerly the Sullivan Theatre. So I watched most of the films, which were either filmed in or produced by artists from the greater Rockford area. After that I hung out in the lobby area where there was music and chess.

It was actually a really cool kind of thing, I really liked the vibe of playing a game of chess with some chill background music. It was like, “hey, let’s just slow down and spend some time playing a game.” I think we’re used to such fast-paced entertainment that this was a very enjoyable contrast.

So here are a few photos I took…and if this really interests you, check out their website for a schedule of this week’s events.






The Problem of Property

There’s been a lot of controversy about the Bundy Ranch situation, and like basically every other high-profile news event, there’s an awful lot of hype associated with it. I’ve been following the story, but I haven’t dug into all the details. However, this article from the Mises Institute is a thought-provoking exploration of property rights in the West.

While the 19th century “Wild West” was in some ways an excellent example of anarcho-capitalism, this freedom was eventually overshadowed by the federal government’s intrusion into the West and its claim on much of the land. Just as one could point to the railroads as a prime example of entrepreneurship, the story is much more complicated. Most of the railroads in the Midwest and West were subsidized by the federal government and turned out to be black holes of inefficiency and waste. Libertarians have done a good job reclaiming the heritage of the free West and demonstrating that the absence of extensive government intervention did not result in chaos and mayhem—contrary to Hollywood’s portrayal. But the West certainly was no libertarian paradise, considering that 93% of federal land is in the 13 Western states. Just like the railroad tycoons welcomed government subsidies to give them advantages over potential competitors, those with larger ranches and businesses welcomed government ownership of land as a way to keep their smaller competitors from expanding.

The issue of property simply becomes very complicated when it is public land. From controversies over carrying firearms on public property to grazing cattle on state land, there is no end to the controversies over land usage. It is almost deceptively simple—and yet revolutionary—to propose that all land be privately owned. I think few people recognize the lack of ownership as the root cause of so many problems in our day, and so it seems irrelevant to suggest private ownership as the solution.

But I suggest this: The next time you hear about a disagreement or politically charged situation, consider what would happen if every square inch of land in America was owned by individuals. My guess is, you’d  be surprised at how many problems this would eliminate. Of course, there are a lot of implications and questions about how it would work for land to be privately owned, but the first step is to recognize the philosophical soundness of the idea. As the story goes, when a free market economist met with a Communist dictator, the dictator asked him to predict how many shoes would be produced if his country became free. We laugh at the short-sightedness of this question, realizing that no one can decide the future this finitely. In a similar way, it is important to embrace the principles of liberty and let the choices of free individuals determine what our future looks like. That’s really what freedom is all about.