Saturday, January 20, 2018

Refugees

While doing some random pondering the other day, I came upon a news item saying that the regime had cut the number of admissible refugees from 100,000 a year to 20,000 and suggesting that the real number let in this year would probably be less than that.

This in a world of displaced people -- most of them victims of the various wars of aggression instituted, supported and maintained by our dauntless civilian and military warriors -- numbering upwards of 65 million and growing thanks to the effects of climate change.

Well. How special.

As we know, the immigration fight, including the admission of refugees, is part of the budget impasse that has resulted in yet another "government shutdown" which may or may not get resolved some time soon. Ya never know with these things, but every time there's been a "shutdown" something else appalling is integrated into the formulas for budgeting and operating the government of These United States. With Shitball in the White House, you can bet a whole raft of Awful will emerge with the restoration of government function (probably some time in March) and few will be the wiser. So it goes.

Meanwhile, I was thinking about the plight of refugees in general and particularly how some of my ancestors were themselves refugees from the policies of Great Nations and Empires which found it useful to scapegoat, starve, and run out of their homes certain segments of their own populations and those of nations, empires and imperial conquests they went to war with -- thus creating any number of refugees in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The practice never really ended, did it?

I learned recently of the Huguenot French heritage of my mother's father and his paternal ancestors. They were refugees driven out of France during one of the intolerances of the 1600s and wound up in England where they weren't exactly welcomed and assimilated. So about 100 years later, they emigrated to America, winding up on the Frontier -- such as it was -- first in Virginia and then Kentucky, moving on to Indiana in the 1830s. That's where my mother was born and that's where some descendants still are.

I've known about my Irish ancestors for some time, but I wasn't told the truth about them when I was growing up. An elaborate fiction was created connecting them with a prominent colonial family in Maryland and their arrival in America between 1688 and 1705. Or so.

But there is no connection between my ancestors and that family. There may be a distant connection in Ireland well before then, but there's none now.

Instead, it looks like my Irish ancestors were in fact Famine refugees who arrived in America between 1848 and 1854.

The Famine was never mentioned in the family lore I heard. Nor was the journey from Ireland to eventual settlement in Iowa ever detailed. Over time, I've learned a little bit about it, and how anti-Irish/anti-Catholic sentiment in Ohio, where my ancestors first tried to settle in America, drove them out and set them on a long route across the Mississippi River to take up homesteads in Iowa's Scott County.

Not only were they refugees from Ireland, they were among many internal Irish and other domestic refugees in the US.

Meanness was endemic among some Americans then as it is now.

I'm still trying to find out more details about my German ancestors. There are some indications they might not have been ethnic Germans at all. Indeed, there is family lore that they were Jewish conversos, and some of the DNA evidence suggests they came from somewhere in Eastern Europe, possibly from territories of the Russian Empire, likely some time in the 18th century. They settled in Baden and in the Palatinate and converted to Catholicism. But it seems their settlement was uneasy at best.

In 1850, my father's German grandmother's large family all left Koblenz for America, almost immediately heading west to Iowa where many of their descendants still are. They settled as farmers and merchants and their descendants are now found all over eastern Iowa.

Were they refugees? I don't know, but I suspect they were. During the 1840s and '50s what would become united Germany in the 1870s was wracked with rebellion and revolution. Some of the victims included Jews and conversos who were subject to all manner of discrimination and sometimes death presaging in part the later Nazi anti-Jewish programs.Those who could get out did so -- sometimes under compulsion by authorities or the mob.

I think something similar might have happened to my father's German grandfather Reinhold. But there was a twist. He left his town in Baden in 1854 -- when he was 14 (or maybe 16 or even 17, records suggest he was not truthful about his year of birth. He said it was 1840, but it was probably 1837 or 1838). He was not the first of his family to leave. His older brother left in 1852, his parents would leave in 1856, and his younger siblings would leave shortly thereafter. Ultimately, the entire family emigrated to America.

Reinhold went to France and sailed to New York in 1855. He stayed in New York apprenticed to a book binder in Brooklyn until 1863 when he went out to Iowa. Some of his relatives were already there. Shortly after he joined them, he married my father's German grandmother, and over time, they  had many children, including my father's mother Elizabeth who was the great beauty of the family, though she was deaf.

Thinking about when Reinhold left Baden and then when he left New York, I find a common thread: the military draft. If he was 17 when he left Baden, then he was of draft age. There were military campaigns throughout the region against rebels in those days, and so it's quite likely he sought refuge from the draft. There were draft riots in New York during the Civil War, and I can well imagine he went out to Iowa to escape the draft in New York.

Refugee? It's possible he felt the sting of antisemitism in Germany that was part of the revolutionary fervor of his youth, and it's likely that he wanted no part of military service in either Germany or the United States.

But it's as likely that he was descended from refugees who escaped pogroms in the east.

And then there are my English ancestors, all of whom arrived in America between 1620 and 1640. They settled in New England and New Jersey which suggests to me that they were probably religious dissenters, but I haven't found any details to confirm it one way or another. Religious dissenters of the era were in many cases refugees, and some of them, when they got to America, became refugees from persecution by earlier arrivals. There was little respite.

But the point of going through this is that were it not for refuges like America and the US many of my ancestors probably wouldn't have survived the conditions they faced in their homelands, conditions created by forces beyond their control. Their situation was in some ways comparable to the refugee crises of today.

The US has had both "open door" and "closed door" policies toward refugees. When the door has been closed, as it was during WWII and its lead-up, millions of people were sacrificed abroad so that nativists at home could feel protected from their taint. It was a shameful display of racial, ethnic, and religious prejudice that we seem to be headed into once again. Since 1924, the immigration door has been either closed to "undesirables" (ie: non-Northern European Christians) or cracked open just a little bit.

The lie is that the US has had an "open door" immigration policy at any time since 1924. It's false.

Asylum for refugees has always been limited since 1924 as well.

Now it looks like immigration and asylum will be further restricted. There may be reasons to do so, but the anti-immigrant and anti-refugee campaigns are full of lies and deceptions and should be rejected as unworthy of the nation's best qualities.

On the other hand, "open door" immigration -- which enabled many refugees to immigrate, survive and prosper in the US -- had a deliberate and devastating effect on Native Americans, a topic to explore in another post.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Hostiles"

We went  to a movie screening in Santa Fe last night. The picture was called "Hostiles" and it's set for release in Santa Fe tomorrow. This was a special screening sponsored by IAIA to benefit its cinematic arts department.

I'd read a bit about the movie, and I didn't care much for what I read. It was said to be a western and a very violent picture about the travels and travails of a Native Cheyenne family from captivity in New Mexico to their home place in Montana under the escort of a military company led by a captain who despises Indians and who had killed many, including some of the warriors, women and children associated with Chief Yellow Hawk, the dying Indian who wishes to return to Montana with his family before the end. Going Home.

In some ways the story is formulaic, in others it's a modest step beyond Hollywood formula westerns, a genre repeatedly raised from the dead.

The picture is essentially an allegory and as an allegory it is as formulaic as practically any western I saw on television as a child. Through hard lessons, warriors on both sides of the pony soldier/Indian divide learn respect for one another and eventual peace -- though most of both sides have to die first.

So here we go again.

Starts off with an isolated pioneer family, the Quaids, being massacred and burned out by some wild Comanches, who kill and scalp the father, and kill the three children as they are running away with their mother -- who is the only survivor. Barely. Comanches in the audience were already on edge at their depiction in this movie, and at the end, some complained. There's a long, long history of Comanche/Pueblo interaction in New Mexico. Memories are long, and forgiveness can be tough to come by. I won't descend into Both Sider-ism. Comanches have an earned reputation for cruelty among the local tribes. But they were and are also long-time trading partners and sometime marriage partners between Pueblo people and Comanches. It's complicated.

But.

This story is taking place in 1892. Supposedly. The frontier had closed. The Indian Wars were supposedly over. Comanches specifically had been "pacified" for decades. Renegades? Maybe. But the premise is that these were known Comanche raiders just like raiders of old, and the isolated pioneer family were just like isolated pioneer families of old... The whole set up is an anachronism which might have had a point, but it didn't really. In 1892 it was almost unheard of for pioneer families to be out in the Nowhere by themselves. What the Quaids were doing there, I have no idea. They didn't have a farm, nor did they have cattle. They had a corral with horses, and the horses are supposedly what the Comanche raiders wanted -- besides satisfying their simple savage bloodlust, of course.

So the Quaids are massacred and their log house (it's much grander than a cabin) is burned and the horses are absconded with. Rosalie Quaid alone survives by running into the hills and hiding under a rock while clutching her dead and bloody baby to her bosom. For plot purposes, the Indians can't find her.

She returns to the burned out homestead and we will meet her there again soon.

Meanwhile at Fort Berringer, NM, after rounding up some Apache no-goods (a young couple and their son), Captain Blocker (Joe), notorious Indian fighter, is ordered by his colonel, with authorization from the president, to escort dying Chief Yellow Hawk and his family back to their ancestral lands in Montana. He is to do this against his will in order to secure his military retirement pension. Or something.

Joe says no. Colonel says, "You will." It is explained that Yellow Hawk and Joe have history of mutual slaughter. Joe will not be party to escorting and freeing the savage. "No punishment is 'too much' for Yellow Hawk" and his people. After some tussling over the role of a warrior pony soldier in conflict with the savages and mention of the many atrocities on both sides, the soldiers' atrocities always justified, of course, Joe reluctantly agrees to the colonel's order. That pension figures prominently.

The expedition to Montana is organized. Yellow Hawk, his son, grandson, daughter and daughter in law are put on horses for the long journey north, escorted by a rag-tag band of soldiers, and they set off.

Joe is filled with anger and rage, and as soon as the party is out of view of the fort, he orders Yellow Hawk to take up a weapon so he can kill him. Yellow Hawk refuses, so Joe has him and his son placed in chains and the women humiliated ("take out the bitches' braids") and they continue on until they come upon the burned out Quaid place where they find Rosalie and her dead children inside. "Shh, they're sleeping," she says. Wesley Quaid is dead and scalped outside.

After some struggle, she is persuaded to part with the dead so they can be buried, but she insists she will do it herself. It doesn't go well. Eventually her husband and children are buried nevertheless, and Rosalie joins the party heading north, though she is initially terrified of the Indians she will be riding with.

As one of the consultants to the picture remarked afterwards, they're ALL PTSD. Oh yes.

I don't think I need to detail the rest of the plot except to say they make it to Montana, Yellow Hawk succumbs to his cancer, and every body else dies either along the way or in a shoot out at the Montana burial grounds, except for Joe, Rosalie and Yellow Hawk's grandson. The three of them make their way to the railroad at Butte. They get on the train for Chicago.

The end.

Well, I didn't want to see it and I wasn't very happy that I did.

While I wasn't happy about it, I did get some story ideas for a dramatic approach to the continuing problem of police abuse and murder in the US, a problem which is closely related to our various imperial wars of aggression, and is more distantly related to the original sin of Native American genocide.

I'll contemplate that for a while, and then...

We'll see.

---------------------------------------------------
A well-crafted and insightful review of the movie:

https://screenrant.com/hostiles-movie-reviews/

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Hiatus

I've got at least four pending posts, but I haven't been able to finish any of them. Events keep intervening. All I can say is that the rocky national road we've been on for so long now looks to be getting a lot rockier this year than it was last year.

As if more bumps and jolts were needed.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Year End Review

Ha!

Wrech.

What a goon show.

And yet, all the signs say it is a show and the show is obscuring what's really going on. We see that behind the scenes our neoLibCon rulers are accelerating their plunder of the common rabble. Death and destruction beyond measure has filled their many war theaters with blood and ruin (rarely acknowledged let alone mourned unlike the relatively few drone murders of the Obama regime), and climate change is wreaking havoc while the ruling clique celebrates.

The world of hurt is growing and spreading, and they are laughing. "They" as in Our Rulers.

Something might have been done about it before the inauguration, but nothing was done. The Russia Thing is silly but it keeps attention away from the decisions and effects of the ruling clique. As long as that's the case, and as long as it works, so long will it continue. The spiral down becomes a slide, and there appears to be nothing We, the Rabble can do about it.

We need to consider our options.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

At Mabel's Place For Christmas

One of our principal destinations in Taos is "Mabel's Place," Los Gallos, the rickety old adobe house on a little ridge at the end of Morada Lane. Mabel Dodge Luhan and her husband Tony built it on 12 acres bordering Taos Pueblo land at the edge of town (well, it was then) starting in 1918.

The Big House, "Los Gallos"
The welcoming portal at Mabel's


Mabel lived there or in one of the smaller houses built on the property till her death in 1962. Tony died shortly afterwards. I understand the Big House and the various little houses the couple had built on the property were neglected until Dennis Hopper bought the complex in 1971, christening it The Mud Palace where he hosted a free-form counter-culture get together for the next three or four years.

The place was neglected again until a Santa Fe educator, George Otero, bought it in 1976 and began rehabilitating and expanding the deteriorated facility. He ran workshops at Mabel's Place for the next twenty years and continues to return annually with educational workshops.

My understanding is that the size and the scope of the rehab project turned out to be more than Dr. Otero could be responsible for, and so he sold it to the Attiyeh Foundation in 1996. The foundation continues the work Dr. Otero started. They operate the facility -- which includes the Big House and a number of ancillary buildings, some dating from Mabel and Tony's time, some built since -- as a bed and breakfast hotel, a conference and workshop center focusing on the arts and healing, and a center for the community.

The Big House was designed and built largely to house Mabel's and Tony's guests when they made the arduous trek up to Taos from wherever in the country or the world they'd started from. Nearly all were artists, writers and philosophers, some of whom were already famous, others were "up and coming."

There are numerous bedrooms -- eight or nine I think -- plus a series of reception rooms, a large dining room and a kitchen. Mabel had a room on the second floor just behind the deep porch in the photo above. The bed that was built for her in the room is still there. The windows in the bathroom next to Mabel's room were painted by D. H. Lawrence in 1924 to provide her with some privacy when she went to the loo. They say he was scandalized when learned that Mabel would do her business in front of uncurtained and unobscurred windows  in full view of everyone inclined to look.

But enough of the history of the place. There's plenty of information available online and in books for those who may be curious.

Our association with Mabel, such as it is, began through D. H. Lawrence surprisingly enough. Ms. Ché directed a Tennessee Williams one act called "I Rise in Flame Cried the Phoenix" years ago. The play is about D. H. Lawrence and his Brunhild-esque wife Frieda (a close friend of Mabel's as was Lawrence off and on) near the end of his life. The play centers on the disastrous exhibition of Lawrence's erotic paintings in London in 1929.

Those paintings were on display at the La Fonda on the Plaza in Taos the first time we visited the town more than 30 years ago and I took the opportunity to pay the small fee to have a look at them. Ms. Ché herself took a pass on the exhibit as she was indisposed. We'd been driving all day and into the night, having come from Meteor Crater in Arizona where we'd stopped that morning for a look-see.

I saw the paintings and couldn't quite figure out what all the fuss was about. They were not technically well done, and their eroticism was as much in the eye of the beholder as in the paintings themselves. Art and sex did not combine well in these supposedly scandalous works. But at least I saw them.

While I wasn't fond of his paintings, I was almost overwhelmed by his novels. Lawrence became my literary hero, in part because I thought he captured something in his characters that only I knew about from my own family and life experience. It was through these novels, but particularly "Sons and Lovers," that I began to suspect that my mother wasn't Irish like she seemed to think but was of English descent, for the Lawrence characters based on his own mother were so much like my mother they could have been sisters.   Later, I would discover that my mother was in fact mostly of English descent, but her English ancestors arrived in New England, New Jersey and New York in the 1600s. She had no recent connection with England at all. Of course, I had red hair and a beard (in those days) like he did, too. So far as I know, I wasn't tubercular then or later, but I'm currently being treated for pulmonary fibrosis, so...
[Edit to add: My mother's paternal grandmother was a Lawrence, but her paternal ancestors came to America from England some time in the 1640s and she probably had nothing to do with D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence, although she was married to a D. H. (David Henry)]

Ms. Ché attended a poetry writing workshop at Mabel's Place several years ago, and that workshop was part of what spurred her to go ahead and get a degree in creative writing that she's working on now. She should graduate next May. Perhaps their oldest graduate, but what the hay! It's what she wanted to do.

She said that Mabel's Place and the spirits of Mabel and Tony and the many hundreds of artists and writers who have spent time there over the last nearly 100 years affected her deeply.

I felt much the same sense of the place on my own brief visits.

This year we decided to spend a Christmas overnight at Mabel's Place, as a kind of R&R and renewal.

Christmas at Mabel's is a simple affair. A large tree is set up in one of the living rooms, and smaller trees are in other rooms. Simple wreathes are put on some of the doors, and I understand that luminarias were put out on Christmas Eve but they were gone by the time we arrived on Christmas Day.

Christmas tree at Mabel's 
The Big House is stretched out like open arms. Staff is welcoming and serene as always. And so we return.

We've had no snow this winter at our home south of Santa Fe; it's been too warm, too dry, another La Niña winter. And it didn't seem like there was any snow in Taos, either, but as we explored, sure enough, there were patches of snow here and there, left over from a brief storm several days ago. 

Just enough to remind us that sometimes winter in Taos is just that (and also the title of one of Mabel's books.)



We had the Dasburg room for our stay. This is the one Ms. Ché wanted. It's in the Juniper House, a newer building -- but not that new, it's 40 years old -- with eight guest rooms and a conference room. We knew that it had a view of the sacred Taos Mountain, but we didn't know it had a little outdoor terrace (actually the roof of the room below) from which to watch the Mountain.

Juniper House at Mabel's Place, shadows of your correspondent and Ms Ché in the foreground.

The Mountain from the Dasburg "terrace"

Mabel's Place was full up on Christmas Eve. Many guests were attending the dances and Christmas Eve feast at the Pueblo. We were otherwise occupied on Christmas Eve as that is Ms. Ché's birthday. But Christmas Day was an ideal one to settle in. 

Up a steep set of stairs in Juniper House, we found the Dasburg room, named after  one of Mabel's artist guests, Andrew Dasburg, one of Ms. Ché's favorite New Mexico artists. We almost bought one of his drawings last year, but we decided to put it off for now, and it is probably for the best, as Ms. Ché was involved in that wreck in January of this year and I've been contending with the co-payment costs of very expensive RA treatment. While the price of the Dasburg drawing was certainly fair, it was a heavy expense for us at the time, and we would soon have some other expenses we didn't anticipate. cough.

I was disappointed there was no Dasburg work in the room, though there was a Georgia O'Keeffe (another of Mabel's friends). I sketched out an image of the Mountain while I was there, terming it "after Dasburg", intending to leave it in the room when we left, but I forgot. Sigh. Well. We'll just have to go back, won't we? (Smile.)

The Mountain smiled on us the whole time. It's hard to put into words the effect Taos Mountain has on us. In its own way, the Mountain has a kind of protective-watch-over energy. We can see and feel it. The Mountain is there as both the dominant element of Nature and as a stern and strong 'person' -- hard to explain.

Artists have been captivated by it for generations, and many thousands of paintings, drawings, photographs and prints have tried to capture its essence. I don't think any have quite succeeded. You have to see it for yourself. And then hope that your lines and colors will at least convey a partial sense of what the Mountain is in the flesh -- as it were.

The view is blocked by the Big House and Juniper House and the many trees bordering the property so that from most locations at Mabel's you can't see the Mountain at all, or at best you only have glimpses of it. Even in winter when the trees are bare, you only see bits of the Mountain through the branches from ground level.  From the second floor, you can see it better if you're in the right place, and from the third floor solarium, you have a 360° view of the whole property and well beyond.

We were in the Dasburg room on the second floor of Juniper House with an expansive view of the Mountain and its companions on either side. It was breath-taking though not quite as heart-pumping as the view of the Mountain from the Pueblo of Taos itself. There you are in the presence of... the ineffable.

Andrew Dasburg drew and painted the Mountain many, many times. This is an image of a more or less generic Dasburg mountain, but it's obviously based on Taos Mountain.

New Age types come to Taos and often settle there to infuse themselves with the Spirit of the Mountain. I don't know that they get what they come for, but oh well. It's not for me to judge...

I had the thought of doing some sketching with pastels while I was at Mabel's this Christmas, and so I did. It was both relaxing and inspiring to get out my pastels and have at it. Fun, actually. For years, I couldn't -- or alternatively didn't want to. Just the thought of drawing or painting made my joints ache, and it was better for me not to think about it.

But I've been getting used to the fact that I can do things now that I daren't even think of when time was. Even climbing the stairs at Mabel's is possible now though not necessarily easy. There was a time when climbing stairs was an almost impossible struggle for me. Holding a pencil was sometimes likewise challenging. So much of that struggle is over thanks to the treatments I've been given for RA. Even breathing in the rarefied though somewhat smoky winter air of Taos is... possible.

Simple things mean a lot.

I was most grateful to be able to enjoy Mabel's Place with Ms Ché without worry or fear of being unable to negotiate this or that problematic area that is obviously not handicapped accessible. The only areas that were difficult to manage were difficult for both of us.

Some areas of the Big House have low doorways on which tall people hit their heads, and there are tricky steps between one level and another which can trip you up if you aren't careful. Ah but slow and easy does it, and even if you hit your head on one of the doorways as I did, it's laugh-inducing rather than an Owie.

A pointed arch doorway at Mabel's Place -- watch your head, watch your step!


Ms Ché saw our Christmas at Mabel's  as an opportunity to renew and refresh after a very intense school year. She had put in so much time and energy that a break of this sort was essential. To take a break at Mabel's was invigorating. Even if it was only for a day -- this time.

A friend in California says we're in "Disneyland," meaning these sorts of experiences we're having aren't really "real" -- are they? Well, I guess it depends on your point of view, doesn't it?

After a wonderful breakfast in the dining room of the Big House, we packed up to leave, we really didn't want to. The daytimes and overnight we spent at Mabel's have stayed with us so strongly, though, we feel we haven't really left.

Breakfast isn't quite ready




It was a Christmas to remember!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Comes But Once A Year

Shiny Brite wreath


Today is Ms. Ché's birthday. She was a Christmas baby and throughout her life she's had two celebrations at Christmas time. She said when she was young, she thought all the Christmas hoo-hah was for her and I suspect she still thinks that.  Heh.

This year, we'll be going out to dinner this evening at Los Poblanos in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, then tomorrow we'll head up to "Mabel's Place" (Los Gallos, the Mabel Dodge Luhan House) in Taos. We'll try for Christmas dinner at Doc Martin's, but I dunno. The town gets packed at Christmas time, and we may have to settle for a couple of Lotaburgers at Blakes. One makes do... ;-)

We were concerned about the weather when we made reservations a month or so ago. It looked like and it felt like we might have some snow for Christmas (always nice but not good for traveling), but no. Not even a hint of it. Sunny and dry and usually very warm day after day. They say there's a La Nina underway, but this is the driest and warmest December I can remember in New Mexico. Earlier this week, the prediction was for very cold overnights and mornings -- below zero in both Taos and our place about 100 miles south -- but no.

Right now, about 6am, the temperature outside here is 42; even in Taos, it's 27. Not "cold" by New Mexico winter standards at all. It feels odd. But because of Climate Change, I'm expecting it to become the New Normal. Actually, we've been having more frequent and more intense droughts for years now.

Drought is what drove many people out of New Mexico time and time again. The three big pueblos on the back side of the central mountain chain were abandoned in the 1670s due to drought (among other reasons, the Spanish padres and their delight in suffering being one), but there are ruins and remains of many other pueblos scattered through the east mountain area, most of them abandoned during earlier droughts. Some were reinhabited, but most, once abandoned, were not rebuilt or returned to.

The last long and severe drought in our area was in the late 1940s and into the 1950s. Old timers say it was worse than the Dust Bowl years, and that was bad. Most of the few people who lived in this area left for greener pastures. If they could find them. So it has gone throughout the centuries in New Mexico, so even as worrying as the situation is now, most folks are at least somewhat prepared for the worst.

So this Christmas with no snow and balmy temps will stand out in our memories, even if it wasn't Ms Ché's significant b-day (she's... drum roll... 70).


Taken at Christmas 2010? I forget. The scene is down the road from our place.

Best Wishes to all, and to all a... better New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ten Years -- And The Apocalypse

[Today marks the tenth anniversary of the start of this blog.]

[Props to lea-p who's been commenting here from day one and with whom I've had some fine conversations. Yay!]

A couple of months ago I was thinking about doing some kind of commemoration of the tenth anniversary of this corner of Blogtopia (h/t Skippy) but somehow it passed my mind and I forgot all about it as often happens the older and not necessarily wiser I get.

Yes, ten years ago, 21 Dec 07, I wrote and posted my very first ChéWhatYouCallYourPasa entry, and thousands of posts later, I'm wondering if "progress in the face of the Modern American Imperium" is possible any more. Or if it ever was.

Have we been fooling ourselves all this time? What a question.

Before I started this blog ten years ago, I was an occasional commenter on a number of sites, at the time primarily at Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory, now archived somewhere on the farthest corner of the intertubes, and later his postings at Salon. If I had to say anything, I attempted to approach it with humor, not very well executed, but not in a hurtful or negative way. Sometimes -- well, often -- I had a contrary opinion to this or that, but I looked at it as merely adding to the ferment and froth of the topic, not trying to take away from anyone else's point of view.

Ah, the Old Days!

Glenn hosted an interesting group of regulars. I see that some are still with him at The Intercept, but most have long since departed for whatever reasons. Because Glenn tends toward Libertarianism (and denies it, or used to) many of his regulars were Libertarians spouting Libertarian cant while presuming to take on the mantle of the weakened or absent Left. It was in that environment that I realized a political Left no longer existed in the United States, and the rhetorical or philosophical Left was so weak it probably should have been put out of its misery.

To me the idea of Libertarians presenting themselves as The Left was appalling.

But it was a needle Glenn wanted to thread back in those days, and some of his "regulars" wanted to go along with him.

I had chosen an ironic online name Ché Pasa some time before I started commenting at Glenn's Place, and some wag had appended "what you call your" between the Ché and the Pasa, and I liked it. At least he or she seemed to get the irony. I've tried to explain it as reference to something that is happening and yet has passed. Che is an icon of the Left, of course, but he's gone. Murdered in Bolivia ages ago. Ché itself is a Belgian "men's magazine" (do they still have those? I don't keep up.) more ironic, humorous, and biting than Playboy or what have you.

But what's in a name anyway?

I didn't see myself as an avatar of The Left, but that's how I was interpreted by some of Glenn's regulars and by Glenn himself. We'd tussle now and then, but mostly from my perspective I was pointing and laughing in both directions, at The (so-called) Left and at the often very rigid Libertarianism trying to claim the "unclaimed territory" of the disintegrated Left.

Someone suggested I "start my own blog." This is typically the online equivalent of purging a commenter whose point of view isn't welcome at some site, but in this case, it wasn't like that. My comments tended to be infrequent but they were often long, and in some ways they were more suited to stand alone posts. I had so little free time in those days (work and travel kept me very busy in meat-world) that I couldn't see making enough time to blog more than intermittently, but during December of 2007 I had a break, and thought why not try it?

The Blogger software was free and relatively easy to navigate. Both Digby (where I occasionally commented) and Atrios (where I had sometimes commented but stopped when the comment section became a surreal pudding bath) used Blogger as did Glenn's Unclaimed Territory, so it couldn't be too hard, and sure enough, it was pretty simple to put something together and publish it. Whoo-hoo!

Why this blog launched on the winter solstice, 21 December 2007, I don't remember. I know I had two, maybe three weeks off that December (whew!) and the time off may have begun the week before. Whatever the case, it launched with a generally positive perspective on what was possible in the face of what had become a soul-crushing empire and the farcical politics of the day.

We were living in interesting times. Bush2 and Cheney had put us and many others through several roiling nightmares.

I had had a couple of previous blogs starting back in the mid-'90s (oh my, dial up was the best, wasn't it?) but I couldn't stick with them due to the press of other responsibilities. One dealt with Mars exploration, another was a sort of Random Notes type thing. I don't think I realized how dedicated you have to be to keep a blog going. I found out to my chagrin, and blogging on dial up was a pain anyway.

DSL made it easier and faster, but it still took more time than I had available.

In 2007, while I was still working and traveling a lot, I had periodic breaks, and so it was possible to think about blogging again, and once I started up this little corner of Blogtopia (h/t Skippy), it was easier to keep up than I thought.

So here we are, ten years on, and what's changed?

Personally, I'm retired now, so I have plenty of time -- or so it would seem. We moved from California to New Mexico in 2012, which for us was a very positive change in environment. We still have lots of connections in California, but New Mexico is very definitely our home-place now, and we're glad it is.

Ms. Ché and I often remark on how this part of New Mexico is very evocative of our more or less rural California childhood homes (me on the Central Coast, she in the Central Valley.) California was very different then and much less crowded and crazy-making. We live in the country now. Well we're a couple of miles from a very small town that was founded as a railroad pit stop around 1900. When Route 66 went through in the '30s, the town relocated north and today is an Interstate pit stop, with three truck stops, and plenty of ancillary hoo-hah, but at heart this is farm and ranch country, like we knew when we were young, the kind of environment we were initially socialized in.

Cowboys, ranchers and farmers are our soul-kin.

This is a portrait of former NM governor Bruce King at his ranch not far north of our place. It's really evocative of where we are and of people who inhabit this region. Tip o' the hat, ya ol' galoot..


We're an hour from Santa Fe, forty-five minutes from Albuquerque so we can, when we want, share in their urbanity and sophistication -- if you want to call it that. We don't have a ranch or farm ourselves, in fact our place is more like a quirky suburban (without the urb to sub) outpost. We're two miles from "town" -- such as it is -- but our house is in a cluster of residences built mostly in the 1950s when 'progress' came to the area. Our house (started around 1900) was originally a hand-built two room adobe ranch house on about 160 acres but the land was sold for development, and so here we are. We have views of the mountains when the trees are bare on the west and north and there are mesas on the east and south. The Interstate is a few miles north and we're only a half-mile from the state highway that runs north and south and connects us with Santa Fe, Taos, and so on.

Rural living is simpler, much simpler, and it's taken us some time to de-compress from the hurly-burly of urban California. But we've done it. At least I think so.

Living where we do and associating with the kinds of people we do has had an effect on my perspective. I no longer have that much interest in changing/reforming things, nor of making headway against the Imperium. I'm more convinced than ever that if Progress is to be made -- if it can be -- it will be small scale, localized, and to the extent possible, independent of the national government.

Putting Trump on the throne and protecting him there has, I think, irredeemably sent the national/imperial enterprise off the rails and perhaps directly into the long-awaited Apocalypse.

How that happened is something to be pondered, but the details are not as important as the bigger picture. The Despairing White Working Class is not the reason why. Something else is going on, and I doubt it is healthy for children and other living things. We are ruled by nihilists who seek the End, and they just might get it.

I've always tended toward optimism, but it's harder and harder to maintain a positive point of view. We (collectively) haven't been able to reverse the trajectory of the Empire since the failure of the anti-Iraq War demonstrations in 2002-3. I think that failure was a turning point, and I think it was an engineered failure as well. It was meant to shatter what was left of the anti-war movement and to inspire hopelessness and despair among a wide range of activists who thought they were getting somewhere against an implacable foe. It worked to some extent.

As time has gone on, it is more and more up to the Black Clad Anarchists (who get themselves arrested) and the Pussy Hat wearing WimminFolk (who don't), the disabled, the disadvantaged, and the persecuted to take to the streets against the depredations of the High and the Mighty, but even they are tiring of this game. The victories are few and far between, and the prize turns out to be tin.

During the last several years, I've had some serious health problems (primarily rheumatoid arthritis) that caused me to be less and less active due to intense joint pain. Only in May of this year was I given treatment that seems to be working to relieve the worst of the symptoms and pain. I have infusion treatments every six months or so and I take heavy doses of immunosuppressants in addition, The combination seems to be effective. I'm grateful for that, but it was a long road to get to this point, and I'm pretty sure the medication has affected more than the pain. Of course some of the changes I've noticed are clearly due to age as well.

What a drag it is getting old...

During the worst of the Period of Pain, I wasn't prescribed any serious pain medication at all. Prednisone was supposed to be sufficient, but even in high doses it was not. The situation was getting worse and worse, and just after I started infusion treatment with Rituxan, I was given a prescription for Tylenol-3 -- hydrocodone and Tylenol -- to have on hand if the Rituxan didn't work. I've never taken it, and I'm not sure it would have worked prior to Rituxan treatment anyway.

This is as close as I've gotten to an opioid treatment for pain. And I had to be in extremis for my doctor to prescribe it at all. I only mention it to note that despite the hoo-hah over opioids these days, at least in my experience, doctors are extremely reluctant to prescribe opioid pain relief if there is any alternative -- even if the alternatives clearly aren't working.

It often seems like the last ten years, indeed the last twenty or more, have been catastrophic for the nation and its people and for far too many people around the world. I think of the devastation that's been wrought in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia -- but not just in those places -- as a consequence of the Imperial hubris with which our governing classes have been afflicted for far too long. Dozens of cities have been destroyed, millions of people have been displaced and at least hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the Forever Wars undertaken against the ever-present and ever fluid "terrorist threat." In some ways Vietnam may have been worse, but this new-ish Forever War has led to so much murder and destruction with no end in sight. Blowback has been constant (not so with Vietnam) and I can't help but think that the consequences have only begun to be felt domestically. The destruction wrought abroad is bound to circle back to its source. We''re in for some nasty times ahead.

Why haven't we been able to stop it? What impels Our Rulers to such slaughter and destruction?

Millions of Americans were forced into poverty by the Financial Unpleasantness of 2007-10. Many of those who survived are still in poverty, and there they shall remain until the End. While we are supposed to hail the "booming" economy today and the historically low unemployment statistics, that won't solve the problem of those too old or too beaten down to take advantage of it.

Our Rulers truly don't care. It doesn't matter which team they're playing for. We are as dust to them.

And so one of the worst examples of the type has been sent to the throne to rule over us in majesty, and it's an ugly thing to witness, but that's where the recent past has led us. Maybe it was inevitable. I don't know. But I don't think it can end well.

I'm not as optimistic as I was. We can still learn to live simpler lives, advocate for peace and the downtrodden, lift up the good and shun the worst, but the road forward is rough and potholed. New Mexico hosts many examples of those who have tried alternatives to whatever disaster/horror has confronted them. Most have failed, some spectacularly. But there are survivors.

The Pueblos, for example, derive directly from the collapse of the Anasazi era signified by the Chaco Canyon and other ruins that dot New Mexico and the Southwest. They not only survived the collapse, they survived Spanish invasions, conquest and massacres, and later American ones. They aren't what they were, they've adapted and grown in wisdom, but despite all, they're still here, and their influence is profound.

A few of the hippie communes that were established in the late '60s and into the '70s are still functioning though on a somewhat different basis than previously. They are not communes so much as business enterprises derived from communitarian ideas and ideals. But that's how they've survived and in some cases flourished.

"Alternative lifestyles" and artistic interpretations of being here are constantly tried, and some survive for the long haul.

Those survivors will be around long after whatever happens to the Imperium.

In another ten years, I'm pretty sure we'll know what that will be.

Strap in, the wild ride continues.

Cheers,

Ché

"Let the Sunshine In"







We starve, look at one another, short of breath
Walking proudly in our winter coats
Wearing smells from laboratories
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy
Listening for the new told lies
With supreme visions of lonely tunes
Somewhere, inside something there is a rush of
Greatness, who knows what stands in front of
Our lives, I fashion my future on films in space
Silence tells me secretly
Everything
Everything

Manchester, England, England
Manchester, England, England
Across the Atlantic Sea
And I'm a genius, genius
I believe in God
And I believe that God believes in Claude
That's me, that's me, that's me

We starve, look at one another, short of breath
Walking proudly in our winter coats
Wearing smells from laboratories
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy
Listening for the new told lies
With supreme visions of lonely tunes
Singing our space songs on a spider web sitar
Life is around you and in you
Answer for Timothy Leary, dearie
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
...

Friday, December 15, 2017

Norms


The special Senate election in Alabama to replace Jefferson Beauregard Sessions was won by the Democrat Dave Jones last night [This was started Wednesday] turning the world upside down once again. No Dem has won a Senate seat in Alabam for ages, and it was widely thought impossible for Jones to win even against an accused child molester and Biblical freak like Roy Moore.

After all, everyone knows that norms were shattered  with the election of Trump last year, and there can be no going back -- right?

I noticed the news coverage was all about Moore, almost nothing about Jones, and I thought it must be strategic that way. By focusing almost exclusively on Moore and his supporters in Alabama and elsewhere, including the White House (ie: Trump) and Breitbart (ie: Steve Bannon) the freakishness of Mr. ("Judge") Moore was spread around. The Moore Taint as it were.

Of course, the video of Moore attempting to ride his horse "Sassy" pretty much sealed the deal. What a maroon! You'd think if he were so incompetent a horseman, he'd have the good sense NOT to ride in such a public setting.


Note: I haven't been on a horse in decades, and I'm not sure I can get on one anymore because of a bum left leg, but were I to try, I'd make it a point to do it out back where only selected individuals could see -- and I could watch them point and laugh.

In other words, Roy Moore's very public horsing around (the poor horse!) was a major judgment fail.

As much as "norms" were overturned by the presidential election last year, and a New Normal was initiated, apparently even notoriously reactionary Alabama wasn't ready to throw all sense of sanity and decency to the winds in order to stick it to somebody they believe is inferior -- like the Libtards and Nigrahs.

Sticking it to somebody has been one of the consistent (new) norms since the advent of Trumpism, and the whole point of putting up freaks like Roy Moore is to be able to nyah-nyah at the hated Other.

Norms of the Bygone Era say that's impolite.

But being strategically impolite is one of the hallmarks of the New Reactionaries. Moore, Trump, Bannon, the White House personnel in general (oh my, Sarah, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne, and many more, though some have been dismissed or replaced...) are impolite a a matter of course, daily hurling their anathemas and insults at their many enemies, demanding their outbursts be accepted by the masses as "normal." It's what they do. It's who they are. And if there's a problem it's yours, not theirs.

Of course this is what arrogant bullies have done for time immemorial, and all these people are doing is showing us who and what they are -- as if we didn't already know.

Believe me, we do.

Know, that is.

Moore became a kind of red line for the Norms of BeforeTrump, beyond the which the Good People of Alabama would not go -- apparently. In California, we had a good friend who was from Alabama. She was black, and she'd moved to California to go to college back in the '60s, and she got her degrees and had a career, and she retired to do her art and enjoy herself.

Last time we saw her around the late '90s, she said: "I'm moving back to Mobile."

What? Are you insane, woman?

"Oh no," she said. "Far from it. I have a lot of friends who moved back South, and they've been saying 'you ought to come; it's better here.'"

"Better than what?"

"Than it used to be. There's still racism, of course there is, it's the South. But people are more honest with you."

"You mean than they are here?"

"Yah. So many white folks in California seem to have no idea how racist they are, how condescending, how cruel --and how much they really hate and fear black folk. At least in the South you know where you stand with them. And if they are so racist they don't want you around, they'll let you know. Here you don't find out until they stab you in the back. Or worse."

"Did something happen?"

"You bet. It's been going on for a long time, and I'm tired of it. At least if I go back home to Mobile, that kind of thing won't happen. At least I hope it won't."

She wouldn't tell us exactly what happened, but we knew she'd recently broken up with her white boyfriend, and we suspected that was a major factor in her decision.

She sold her condo and indeed moved to Mobile where we lost track of her, but Ms. Ché did an internet search a couple of years ago. She'd stayed in Mobile about 10 years and then moved back to California, She had set up her art studio in Mobile and taught art to young people of color, but for whatever reason she decided not to stay.

It may have been money. When she came back to California, she set up the same kind of program and apparently received a lot of grant money to fund it which I'm pretty sure she didn't get in Alabam.

Does money and at least the appearance of support cancel out the deep-rooted and often masked racism in California? We didn't have a chance to ask her because we didn't know she'd returned. And we left ourselves shortly afterwards. She passed away the same year we moved to New Mexico.

Roy Moore's campaign of course featured liberal doses of typical cracker racism, but the media focus was ever and always on the charges he'd been soliciting young girls for dates and more when he was a young-ish DA. A pedophile. A molester. A... well, somebody tried to explain his penchant for underage females in Biblical terms. Patriarchs in the Bible were always seeking young females. It was the only way to assure their "purity" and as long as the parents agreed, there was no problem. And too, in the South, at that time, the age of "consent" was lower, much lower. While he could still be criticized, there was a (sort of) rational explanation for Moore's behavior.

M-Kay.

Never mind he was a freak even by Southern standards and his opponent wasn't.

Well, at least not that we know of.

There were many reasons not to vote for Moore. The violations of norms of behavior certainly figured into the reasons why the majority of those who voted in the special election voted against him, but I'm sure it's more complicated than it superficially appears.

Roy Moore's freakishness has been well documented for years, and it is very deeply ingrained in his character and behavior. Don't forget, he's been removed from the bench twice for defiance of judicial rules, norms and the constitution. He used his judgeship to promote his own particular version of Xtianity, the Devil take the hindmost. Like many Dominionists, he refuses -- even now -- to acknowledge the constitution's secular nature. He denies the validity of much constitutional law, and has even suggested the constitutional amendments beyond the first ten should be repealed.

His level of defiance of those norms in particular is off the charts, and his intent is clearly to stick it to anyone who disagrees.

While I'm not sure that should disqualify him or anyone from serving in public office, it is certainly reason to censure and remove a judge, and to vote against him for any office he chooses to stand for.

He's called on God to undo the election and put him in office no matter what the voters said.

We'll see.

Meanwhile, norms of the past are in jeopardy all over the place. Some of them are worth jettisoning, just as "Victorian Morality" once was. On the other hand, "sticking it" to opponents as the foundation of the New Normal is a Pandora's Box of grief.

Is this was what we really want or need?

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Franken Thing

This is one reason Show Business personalities should not be elected to public office.

You'd think Minnesotans would have learned their lesson with Jesse The Body Ventura.

But no.

Actually, I'm given to understand that Minnesotans weren't consulted about whether or not Mr. Franken should become a sacrifice, it was pretty much entirely a matter of Senate Democratic colleagues demanding and getting his resignation, but the fact that he stood for election and was elected twice despite a rather marked unsuitability for office -- something he even alluded to -- is what's telling.

Minnesotans, though, didn't have much of a choice.

That's a deep seated problem for our faulty and anachronistic electoral system. Franken shouldn't have had to run, but he did because at the time there were few viable options.

But isn't that the case in most elections? Indeed. It is so by design.

Meanwhile Franken's forced resignation over things that a low comedian like him would be expected to do as part of a gag or not was happy-making for some people, definitely not so for many others. The backlash against Gillibrand and the dozens of other Senators (not all of them Democrats) who participated in the mob action against Franken has been pretty intense. What were they thinking?? That they would gain cred among women in general or among a specific demographic (suburban white women) who they long to appeal to? Don't know. I'm not sure they do.

If this were really about ending sexualized aggression against women (and men) by the rich/powerful men who rule us, then Franken would not be a likely target given what he was accused of.

No. What he was accused of was pretty much what almost any low comedian would be expected to do when he's "on." Viz: the Marx Brothers as historic (and very randy) examples. There are many more.

Some women now claim they were offended/assaulted by Franken when he was being a low comedian, and their claims were too much for a significant portion of the Senate to handle and they called for his ouster.

Go back in time and look at the Marx Brothers in action with the many Sweet Young Things and Margaret Dumont in their movies or watch Groucho ogling and even touching girls and women on his television show. Was that sexual harassment or assault? Well, some people would certainly think so.

Times change, and that sort of thing certainly isn't allowed now.. Or it shouldn't be. Particularly among high government officials. Ergo, Franken had to vamoose.

Right?

Well, he said he would step down, so I guess so. Make an example of him. Right?

(As for Conyers, he's old and needed to retire anyway, right?) (Who?) (Another target of the witch hunt, that's all.)

But what I keep going back to is that Franken should never have been in office, should never have felt he had to run. The fact that he really did believe in the necessity of his candidacy and service -- while still being a comedian -- put him and the people of Minnesota in a jam.

Much the same has been the case with other show business personalities who have run for office and won, including Ronald Reagan, Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Donald Trump.

All have some kind of sexual indiscretion in their backgrounds, and none of them were/are particularly suited to office.

I've noticed that show business executives ("suits") rarely if ever stand for office, but performers rather often (too often in my view) do. I think about that and the absurdity of it and I ask myself what kind of reflection that is on the electoral system itself.

Oddly enough, actors and performers in the Show Business are not autonomous individuals who are free to do as they wilt on stage or screen or in the ring. They are more like product shaped and socialized by many others behind the scenes including those suits who most of us never see.

Oddly enough, the show business environment is highly (some might say "hyper") sexualized. The notion that show business personalities are somehow (or should be) monk-like in probity is silly. On the other hand, I've been informed that elected government officials are even less monkish.

Ultimately the issue is consent. The women complaining about Franken's behavior claim that they didn't give their consent for what he is accused of doing, including holding one by the waist during a photo op. Indeed, it's credible. It's likely he didn't even think to get permission before acting in a touchy-feely or even boorish way toward these --and no doubt other -- women during his long career as a comedian. Permission was implied.

To say now that they didn't give or imply their consent is jejune to say the least and they are now Outraged!®. On the other hand, Franken was clearly targeted for other reasons than his alleged misbehavior, and once targeted, he had no means to escape punishment. 

If this is about ultimately getting to Trump and forcing him out of office, I don't think it will work. It's already backfiring. Trump's sexual improprieties have "already been litigated," and it's not likely that any accusation of sexual impropriety against him will cause his removal in the future. Maybe some women will think twice about reelecting him, but what -- if anything -- will get him out of office in the meantime remains to be seen.

If on the other hand the objective is to ensure that going forward there will be no physical or sexual contact between individuals without express permission and consent and none at all between adults and minors with or without consent, then it's possible we'll enter into that New Society more or less soon. We've been painfully inching toward it for a long time.

If the objective is to precipitate general equality between men and women, then nah. This isn't the way.

But maybe in the short term show business personalities will think twice or three times before standing for office, and that might be a good thing.




Thursday, December 7, 2017

California On Fire -- Again





Fire Season seems to be perpetual in California these days. I can't think of a recent period when there weren't any fires burning somewhere in California.

Something's going on, that's for sure.

Climate chaos is part of it. Over population in certain sections of the state contributes to the problem of wild fires. Poorly thought through fire suppression makes the fires that break out all that much worse.

Other factors include the natural results of dry hot winds (the Santa Ana) blowing through the mountains and canyons of Southern California in conflict with poorly maintained electric utility rights of way which makes wild fires inevitable. Houses are built right up the hillsides into the heavy brush and chaparral and they burn.

I have a cousin in Ventura. He reported that initially he didn't even know there was a fire because he didn't see it. The electricity was off though, and he wasn't able to get back to his apartment because of the evacuations. His place wasn't burned as of yesterday, and he was allowed back for a little while to pick up some things. He said the place smelled like barbecue, but other than that, he saw no damage. Then he had to get out again. Wound up in a hotel in Thousand Oaks. He was able to go to work yesterday in Ventura. Not much more to say about it.

I'll say: What a mess.

People are so adaptable though...

When I was a kid I lived a few miles south of the San Gabriel Mountains. I'd sit on my back fence and watch the mountains burn every Fire Season when the Santa Anas blew. One year, the fires were burning in the mountains, and another fire started in the hills just down the street from our house. Neighbors were panicking and trying to wet down their roofs with garden hoses. As the fire crested the hills and started moving downslope toward our neighborhood, fire trucks appeared on the street and headed up the dirt track up hill. Within a few minutes the fire was stopped and our houses were saved.

As for me, I never got used to it.

----------------------

And of course there's this:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

News and Notes

I'm almost ready to start painting again. I mean "art" rather than painting the house or something like that.

I gave it up a couple of years ago due to joint pain that made it so difficult to do much of anything.

But I've been re-animated thanks to being almost pain free almost all the time now (how amazing is that?)  and since I've been able to get around better, I've been going to exhibits that I couldn't do before.

The New Mexico Museum of Art celebrated its 100th Anniversary the other week and we went amidst crowds and crowds of mostly elderly people who wanted to enjoy the festivities before they shuffled off their Mortal Coils. Well, I understand. Believe me.

I also understand that many were disappointed as we were.

The Museum has an extraordinary collection of Santa Fe and Taos Colony art as well as a Contemporary art collection that can be mind-blowing, some of which was on display, but a lot of it must have been still in storage or on loan to some other museum. There were few pieces on display that everyone hadn't seen before... many times. And taken as a whole, the 100th Anniversary exhibition was ... sparse.

The greatest disappointment was in the contemporary gallery where few things stood out or even held any interest. And there wasn't much anyway. A stack of Horizon magazines was momentarily intriguing, but you have to be Of a Certain Age to even know what they are. We have a fair-sized collection of them (as well as a larger collection of American Heritage magazines) all of which we're quite fond of but have never done anything with except keep them on the shelves and pull them out for reference now and then.

And here was an artist who had glued a dozen or so issues together and glued a magnifying glass on top of the stack and the assembly was on display at the New Mexico Museum of Art with a prominent sign reading PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH!!

OK then. Somebody's cred in the museum world must have been at stake. I dunno. Reminded me a bit of an earlier exhibit of "art" that included a couple of sawn 6x6s laid on a low platform and labeled "Wood," as well as several pages from a lined notebook each with a splotch or two of watercolor, lovingly framed, called something I don't recall because it was so... limited.

There had to be an Agnes Martin in the Contemporary gallery, and there was. In context, I rather like her minimalist pieces, but the context needs to be full in order for her stripes or boxes or whatever stand out. There was no context to the painting on exhibit. Sigh. Sadly, it was boring.

Perhaps the most annoying piece was a white wall on which the artist -- don't know who, don't care -- had drawn all over serpentine shapes that you couldn't see unless you were A) very close or B) standing at just the right angle but not too far away. Casual passers by wouldn't even know it was there...

Idiotic s putting it charitably.

Contrast that with the energetic exhibits at the Albuquerque Museum. Oh my. I'm still breathing a bit heavily.

"When Modern Was Contemporary" is a touring exhibit that's been there for a while, but I hadn't seen it yet until I decided to check in at the Museum on "doctor day," December 1, when I had a gap between the Eye Doctor and the Rheumatologist.

I happened into the exhibit while the Albuquerque curator Andrew Connors was taking some Santa Fe ladies on a tour of the exhibit, and he just added to my astonishment and joy. Andrew is quite a personality in town, and his absolute thrill at hosting this exhibit was infectious. The Santa Fe Ladies were captivated. So was I. This was a wonderful exhibit, and I'm only sorry the Museum doesn't have more of it online. Andrew mentioned that he hoped the Santa Fe Ladies would check out the "Common Ground" exhibit that he curated as well, but I somehow doubt they did.

I didn't have time that day myself, but I came back a few days later and took in "Common Ground" as well as taking another look at "When Modern was Contemporary".

Here's one of several videos of Andrew introducing the "Common Ground" exhibit:



I'd seen many of these works before, but never so many displayed in so concentrated an exhibit. It was almost overwhelming.

The contemporary selections were outstanding, and they were in context, and they were inspirational:



This is the kind of contemporary exhibit I wish the New Mexico Museum of Art had done. One of the sad things about the failure in Santa Fe was that some of the same artists were on exhibit in Albuquerque -- where in context their works shined bright.

Albuquerque is (still) considered something of a rough backwater in the Art World. Oh every now and then somebody says something nice about its "vibrancy" and whatnot, but Santa Fe and Taos are considered "serious." Albuquerque is "interesting." Sometimes.

A painting that struck home in the "Common Ground" exhibit was a portrait of Governor Bruce King at his ranch just up the road from our place. That's one aspect of our common ground. We met Governor King -- wouldn't say we knew him -- and we pass by his ranch all the time. I see a portrait of him in that landscape and feel a deep connection to these people and this place.

Another exhibit I was able to take in briefly was the collection at the Roundhouse, the New Mexico State Capitol in Santa Fe. (Speaking of governors and such.)

It's a stunning collection both inside and outside the building.

A friend who was there at the same time as me said he'd never been there before -- like me -- and he was -- like me -- gobsmacked, never imagining there was anything like this collection in a capitol building.

I've been in quite a few state capitols, most of which have some kind of art in them, but nothing approaches the breadth and depth of the New Mexico Capitol collection.

I'll have to go back one day.

We're planning to do Christmas in Taos at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House -- let's hope the weather holds. Ms. Ché has done writing workshops there and she loves it. Mabel of course is an Icon besides.

The weather. Don't know quite what to say about it. We have not had any precipitation in two months, and November was far and away the warmest in recorded history. We were supposed to plunge into cold weather overnight, but so far, nope. Well, maybe it won't warm up much today. And we'll get a little chill, but week after week of well above average temps for November and December has discombobulated pretty much everyone.

Meanwhile, how about that Russia Thing? Why do I think it's a charade?


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Why All the Lies?

I haven't been following the Russia Thing closely. It doesn't resonate with me. I see it more as Get-Back for previous politically motivated "investigations" over nothing much that is intended to cripple the serving administration. We've seen it over and over again, from Watergate -- which was never all it was cracked up to be (except for the lies, of course) to now.

That said, I really wonder why the Trump crew believes it is necessary to lie about their Russian contacts. So far, nothing more than modestly rotten has been revealed, and what has been unearthed seems more like "biznez" than anything else.

That doesn't mean I approve of any of it; it's mostly gansgster bullshit, and that doesn't please me at all. But it is not materially different than the way the government has long operated. Sadly.

I suppose in that context, the lies are part of the normal process. If something that stinks is going on in government or biznez then you lie about it, pure and simple. It's the way the game is played, and it doesn't much matter what the truth really is. The game is to lie and get away with it.

From appearances, the Trump regime isn't doing very well except with their most devoted supporters. Their lies are transparent.

How does it end?


Monday, November 27, 2017

The Odd Thanksgiving



We've never been much for the myths of Thanksgiving and the mutual feasting by the Indians and Pilgrims giving thanks for making it through the early famine period of English settlement in Massachusetts.

Over the years of course the truth -- at least partially  -- wills out. We find the myth is a sad and damnable lie, that the relations between the English settlers and most of the native peoples of the land was anything but happy and cooperative, and that massacres were perpetrated with some regularity and glee. The settler were not peaceful, they were religiously intolerant, and their response to resistance by the original peoples was increasingly brutal slaughter.

Since I'm of both English and Irish descent (the German component apparently doesn't  register in my DNA) I've had some interest in the issue of English/Irish relations, including the many times the English and Irish went to battle with one another. In the 17th Century, there was a mass slaughter of Irish by the English under Cromwell, really quite terrible. This took place about 20 or 30 years after the Pilgrim settlements in New England, but Cromwell's practice in Ireland was not particularly different from the mass murder and destruction of Native peoples in Massachusetts and the rest of New England. Patterns were set, and they were maintained throughout the period of Anglo settlement of what became the USA. Mass murder, displacement, and seizure of lands and goods was policy. To an extent it still is.

But I wasn't particularly thinking about that over this year's Thanksgiving holiday. We live in Indian Country, and many of our friends and colleagues are Indians. Ms. Ché is an Indian after all and she's getting her creative writing degree at an Indian art school. We've wrassled with the history for a long time, and in the end we let the past be the past. Indians have their own reasons to mark the harvest season with thanks as they have done in their own way for many thousands of years, but the meaning of the American holiday is quite different for most Indians than many Anglos presume.

No, this year, I was thinking more of the fact that I've survived another year, and this year, at least since May, has been largely pain free. Believe me, I'm grateful for that. Ms. Ché is too. She's been through so much anguish over my condition. There were periods I could barely walk, other times I was in such intense pain and there was nothing she could do about it. This situation actually goes back quite a bit longer than the two or so years I've been diagnosed with RA. It's been tougher for her in some ways than for me.

At any rate, I had the last of four Rituxan infusion treatments this year on the 22 of November; went to the hospital in Albuquerque in the morning, got infused and was released in the early afternoon. I felt OK except I was tired, more tired than I'd been after previous infusions. At least there was no pain.

I had some things I wanted to do while I was in town, but found I was too tired to do it, so I went home. I discussed with Ms Ché that I wasn't really up for a home-prepared feast on Thanksgiving, and asked if she'd like to go out instead. She said, "Why don't we go out this evening? I know just the place." She mentioned a barbecue joint in the Sandia foothills we haven't been to in a couple of years. I said "sure!" and took a nap.

There was an odd chemical smell in the restaurant. I couldn't identify it, but it was noticeable -- except when we were eating, when I didn't notice it at all. When we got home, I felt fine and went to bed at my normal time.

I woke up about 2am. I was nauseous and very dizzy. The room was spinning around me, and I could barely stand up let alone locomote to the bathroom in case I had to expel my stomach contents. By holding on to walls and furniture, I managed to make it, and in the end, nothing came up from my craw.

I sat in the living room for the next couple of hours, head spinning, gorge rising and falling. Went back to bed, slept till about 1pm, and when I got up, I was still dizzy and nauseous, but not as bad.

I told Ms Ché what was going on. She said it might be due to that chemical smell whatever it was, though she said she felt no ill affects. Later, when I could I looked up side effects of Rituxan, and sure enough, dizziness and nausea were among them.

I had not experienced those symptoms after previous infusions. In this case, they seemed to be fading slowly, so I told Ms Ché I would let doctors know I had apparent side effects if they didn't fade by the weekend. I'm scheduled to see the eye doctor and rheumatologist on December 1 anyway.

So Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, was spent in a kind of WTF haze. We did enjoy some home made mac and cheese for Thanksgiving dinner, and we both reflected on what we're grateful for. The list is long and growing.

Of course we're grateful for each other. Every day together is amazing.

This morning, there's a movie on the TeeBee, "Silverado." It was filmed in the Santa Fe/Cochiti/Galisteo area. Galisteo is a few miles north of our place, and the primary location for "Silverado" was on what was then called the Cook Ranch. A western town set was built for the movie, and though it burned down in 1999 when some fireworks used in another movie started a range fire, the movie-town was rebuilt and is still frequently used for filming.

"Silverado" though was the first Big Picture filmed there --other filming location included the Eaves Movie Ranch south of Santa Fe on Highway 14, and at Tent Rocks on the Cochiti Pueblo even farther south of Santa Fe off I-25.

Most of the outdoor scenes feature the views of the mountains and rolling plains toward the west (Jemez Mountains), northeast (Sangre de Cristo Mountains) and south (Ortiz and Sandia Mountains). Practically every outdoor scene features an image we have in our mind's eye, as we pass through the Galisteo Basin, seeing the same views, every time we go to Santa Fe.

This is our home country, and we are extremely grateful to live here. For both of us, it evokes memories -- good memories -- of our more-or-less rural California childhoods. Ranches and farms were all around. Ranch and farm people were and are our family friends. Salt of the earth.

We spent many a year traveling all over the country for work and for pleasure, and we had an extraordinary time of it, but one place and one place only captivated us -- New Mexico. I think we first passed through -- it wasn't even really a visit -- on the way to someplace else (probably St. Louis) in 1983, and we said then, "Someday this will be our home."

And so it is. We can't think of anyplace we'd rather be.

It's full of Indians, and Hispanos and Anglos, sunsets that only happen in other people's imaginations, sunrises that penetrate the soul, challenges and tribulations that you never imagined you'd encounter, let alone get through, and endless spirit-lifting visions, people and experiences. There's no other place like it.

And if you want to see some of what we see practically every day, watch "Silverado" and pay particular attention to the outdoor scenes. Sometimes those sights are dotted with pronghorn antelope, and when they are, we take it as a sign. The antelope, which few people ever see in the West, are more common than deer or coyotes for us. They are our friends, and they, among others, our our spirit animals.




Make no mistake. "Silverado" is a rough story with a lot of violent and unhappy people living violent and unhappy lives -- if they survive. New Mexico is not for everyone, not at all.

The Cook Ranch, Galisteo Basin locations for "Silverado" filming, is no longer the Cook Ranch; it's now called Cerro Pelon ("Bald Hill") after a hill known locally as "The Wave" that's on the 22,000 acre Cerro Pelon Ranch now owned by fashion designer Tom Ford. He's got it listed for sale, if you're interested. Asking price $75 million, including the movie set. the Wave, a contemporary mansion, various outbuildings, a couple of pueblo ruins, and who knows what else. Cowboys negotiable.
The Wave

While all this strikes us as kind of silly, it too is part of our home place.

We're grateful to have a tiny portion of it as our own.

There's much else we are thankful for. Much, much else.

This year's Thanksgiving was a little odd and challenging. But we know where we are. Every day.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Witch Hunt

Of course it's a witch-hunt. The question is why? And why now? And why these targets?

The ever widening net of mostly rich and mostly powerful men caught with their pants down, metaphorically and literally, has shaken some of the complacency of the High and the Mighty that they can do anything they want to anyone they want and get away with it. Something in the air says no, no they can't. Not any more.

Or does it? There's a certain oddness about this particular witch hunt for predatory men of substance and power. For example, despite numerous ongoing accusations against him from dozens of women, going back years, Trump is somehow held harmless as a new-born babe in the current firestorm, whereas Bill Clinton's indiscretions, each of which was aired and paraded back in the day, are once again a Thing, the question being "Should he have been forced to resign?"

Well, maybe. But he isn't in office now, a different sexual predator is in office now, and literally nothing is said about him. Why is that?

What is really going on here?

I'm reminded of the Satanic Sex Cult panic that swept the nation during the Clinton years. Thousands of people were accused, hundreds went to prison, some of them still there, though so far as can be determined looking back on it, there was no Satanic Sex Cult and most if not all of the accused were innocent of the charges against them. It was a witch hunt, yes, but more than that, it was a gross manipulation of law and a misuse of child-witnesses to "prove" things that never happened. This was not just tolerated but sanctioned at the very highest levels of the US government for years, and even now, many prosecutors and judges involved absolutely deny they were caught up in and fostering as fraudulent a mania as has ever arisen in the country.

In this case, however, it's not quite the same because the men accused are for the most part rich and powerful; except for Weinstein, I don't think there is a criminal case being made against any of them, and the Weinstein case is perhaps an outlier due to factors we don't know -- yet; many of the accusations are decades old; and from an objective standpoint, little that is being revealed is all that unusual.

Yet many careers have been halted in their tracks, the long time careers of very prominent men in movies and show business, the arts, publishing, television news and print journalism, politics and on and on and on.

But in the course of this "housecleaning" as some people have called it, certain people (like Trump -- but no doubt there are many others) are allowed to get away with it, no matter what.

Something similar was taking place in the Church for many years. Certain priests and higher ranking clergy were clearly being targeted whereas others -- who may have been just as or more guilty of pederasty or rape or who knows what other kinds of sexual indiscretion or oddity -- were left quite alone throughout all the hew and cry.

Why?

So here we are now, with certain prominent men (and a few not so prominent) being burned at the figurative stake while others continue on in positions of power and influence as if nothing was happening, nothing had changed.

Hm.

Curious.

There must be an explanation, but I don't know what it is.