“Shade tree mechanic” is rapidly becoming an obsolete phrase.

It’s probably easiest to think about its meaning in terms of the directions you’d get to their place, because the original guys this term described didn’t have a garage on 27th Avenue and Mill Street.

You’d start by taking County Road H a few miles West, right until you got to the dirt road running between the Allen place and the Wilkinson place. You had to be careful because it was right after a bend and you might miss it, you just had to keep your eye out for the shady track where the pasture with its split-rail fence stopped and thicket started up on the other side. Take a left there.

Follow that road for a good bit – maybe a mile and three quarters, maybe two miles. It gets pretty curvy, and Mr. Allen might be bringing his tractor up to the county road, so don’t drive too fast. Not that you can, really, otherwise you wouldn’t need to find him!

But anyway, once you’ve driven down it a bit you’ll see an even smaller track – good thing it hasn’t rained in a bit, can’t even get up the first hill when it’s wet – to your right, across the road from an old willow’s roots. She got blown over in a storm a good five years ago and there ain’t hardly less of her today than there was then.

Up that track a ways and you’ll find Mason’s place. He’ll probably be outside with his dog, settin’ up under that big ol’ shade tree in front of his place. Don’t worry about the dog, he never could get her to return a bird, can’t see her bitin’ into something alive.

Damnedest thing I ever seen, Mason going to get his own bird from the marsh while his dog naps in the blind. Good with cars though. He’ll be able to get you back on the road.

It’s tough to find guys like that any more, and even if you could, they couldn’t fix modern cars anyway. New cars are littered with sensors and computers, constantly monitoring and calculating and changing. You can pull apart a carburetor and see what’s wrong with it, but you can’t do the same with a microchip.

The same technology that professionalized car repair, however, has democratized a huge swathe of academia.

I would say that cultural criticism is just as important now as it was when Foucault was thinking and writing. I would also say that it’s substantially more vital and vigorous. The explosion of blogs on every subject imaginable, the endless terabytes of still images and video posted every day to sites like Deviant Art and YouTube, and the unlimited capacity for collaboration inherent in the structure of the internet have rendered us all cultural critics.

If we want to be, of course.

So I don’t really have any formal training. I’m not going to be limiting myself to “important” subjects. There’s not really going to be much of an academic tone here.

I’m just going to be giving our culture’s tires an occasional kick to see what I can see.


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