Sunday, September 24, 2017

Simple Things: "The Garden"

Over the years, we've tried growing things here with middling success. It's a challenge. This is the high plains/high desert after all. Drought. Altitude. Highly alkaline soil and water. Limited growing season. All this and more interfere with growing things.

Yet just down the road from our place is a very successful 160 acre farm known far and wide for its excellent sweet corn and pinto and bolita beans. Corn, supposedly, can't grow at this altitude, but somehow they manage to do it. Their beans are widely recognized as "the best." They also grow squash, pumpkins, melons, onions, potatoes, berries, beets, and other vegetables, some more successfully than others. Though their corn and beans are spectacular, their other offerings vary in quality. Despite the success of their farm, they face many of the same challenges backyard gardeners do in this area.

This year I set out a lot of tomato plants and some wild flowers, all of them in containers. Though there were losses, all in all, it's been a pretty successful season. We've had tomatoes every day; the flowers are not as abundant as I hoped, but they are doing OK. It's been very dry this season with too little rain. Overall, for the year, rain totals are pretty good, but the monsoon season was less than ideal.

Consequently, the plants had to be watered every day, even on days it rained. That's fine if you can do it and you have the water, but many people can't and don't.

Our tomato losses had to do with several problems one ordinarily has with tomatoes:

  • 1) blossom end rot, which some say is due to inadequate water. Others suggest it's due to overwatering. Who knows? As a rule, only a few tomatoes were affected -- if any were -- on any given plant, and even those that had blossom end rot were edible after the rot was cut away. (Ew! But actually it works fine.)
  • 2) hoppers. This year we had somewhat fewer hoppers than in previous years, but still there were many of them. They hatched in waves. Most of the young-uns died before their first molt, but there were plenty of survivors. At first, they didn't notice the tomatoes. There are "sacrifice" plants in front (I don't know the name of them, but they grow wild and have small orange flowers -- and the hoppers love them). Once they noticed the tomatoes, though, they came over to the plants and nibbled. They were acting very protective of them, at least from my point of view. They would nibble on the leaves and sometimes on the fruit, but mostly they just seemed to stand guard. The damage they caused the tomatoes was, overall, rather slight. So we didn't fret too much over hoppers. I didn't use NoloBait this year, so we may wind up with a lot more hoppers next year. Quite a number of preying mantis came to call and were seen feasting on the hoppers, too. Nature's balance, eh?
  • 3) tomato hornworms. They actually did only minor damage this year. I managed to pick them off one by one before they could do too much mischief, and there weren't that many in any case. They don't just eat the foliage, they eat the fruit, too, so we lost some -- maybe half a dozen tomatoes -- to the pesky green caterpillars.
  • 4) leaf curl. It can be deadly, but so far it hasn't been. I managed to trim off most of the affected leaves before the condition consumed entire plants.  I'm just now noticing mosaic virus on one plant, and it can turn into a severe problem too.

It's getting late in the season though, so I'm not too worried about the mosaic. The plants can't survive freezing conditions, so when we get the first freeze-- probably in October sometime -- that will be it. We have had an abundant crop, really quite remarkable for us. Most plants have had plenty of fruit, and we've eaten tomatoes every day for over a month. We even had some delicious fried green tomatoes and will probably have more before the season ends. Ms Che even wants to try pickling the unripe tomatoes.

I tried different ways of growing them. They're all in containers, but the containers differ considerably. Some are large. Some are small. Some are deep. Some are shallow. Some have one plant, others have as many as six.

They are all growing in Miracle-Gro potting soil -- which actually might be a bit too rich for them. It took eleven large bags to fill all the containers so we're talking a bit of expense for soil. Once the plants die back, I'll empty the containers and ready them for use with new potting soil next year.

I wish we could successfully compost here, but so far we haven't been able to. No worms for one thing, and it appears there's very little active soil bacteria. We had a compost pile going for a couple of years, but all that really happened was that its contents petrified. Oh, and the seeds that were supposedly being composted germinated and for a time, before the hoppers got them, lush melon plants covered the pile. It was pretty funny. In other words, there was no decomposition at all.

I'm intrigued with  the potential of humanure, using human excrement in the compost. Needless to say... it's challenging just to think about. But those who do it swear by it. The problem may be with the apparent lack of soil bacteria. If there's nothing in the soil to break down the excrement and sawdust -- or whatever other organic material is included in the compost -- one must wonder at the result. If there is one -- other than petrefaction.

The Garden is sort of randomly placed this year. Containers are scattered on the west and north and I can't say that exposure has had much of an effect on the plants. I started growing some things on the south side of the garage, but they didn't last. The hoppers got the shoots and the few pitiful survivors dried out one hot day and never recovered. Some neighbors grow everything under shade, and that may be the way we have to approach gardening on the south side. One neighbor has a wonderful hoop house, but said that the heavy plastic covering wasn't enough to protect the plants from the sun, and they had to cover the top part of the house with green tarp material, and even then, it was too bright for some plants.

I've found  that growing multiple tomatoes in one large container is the best way. They don't have tomato cages, but they have simple frameworks that help support the plants and the plants themselves help support one another. I assume that's how they might grow in the wild.

The plants in tomato cages actually didn't produce very well at all. The plants that bent under the weight of the tomatoes actually produced very well and I found a number of ways to keep the fruit off the ground -- including using the seedling cells as supports as well as bent wire fencing pieces we had lying around the place.  In a couple of cases, the bent branches broke away from the main stalk. As long as there was some connection remaining with the stalk, I supported the branch with a stick or what have you and the tomatoes were fine. One time the entire branch broke from the stalk, so I put it in a gallon jug of water. So far, it with its budding tomatoes is doing fine, but it is the one showing signs of mosaic virus. I keep it well away from the other plants.

I have most of the materials I need for a mini-greenhouse, and I expect to get it done sometime this fall. If I'm able to, I'll try to start seeds again next March and we'll start again.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Simple Things -- Tiny House Thoughts

Tiny house marketing on the teevee and in books and magazines likes to present relatively large, relatively expensive models over and over, models that are anything but "simple." They are often far more elaborate technologically and in every other way than they need to be to function. And of course when the price approaches or exceeds $100,000 one is understandably suspicious of the concept. Just what is going on here?

As I've suggested previously much of the "movement" is about a certain kind of almost entirely Anglo American individualism and showing off; much of the rest of it is pure marketing, hype and salesmanship. We're dealing with what amounts to an aging, formerly disruptive start up "industry". With a product that at best has a limited appeal. At worst, it's simply vanity.

And yet the tiny house idea began as an alternative to traditional urban/suburban American housing, the consumption society, an alternative that has Hippie roots, and one that was intended to become a feature of alternative lifestyles. You can still see early tiny houses, before there was a "movement," in some of the remaining communes from back in the day. Newly formed intentional communities also have unostentatious tiny houses. They tend to be self-built or community built and relatively simple, more like frontier-pioneer cabins than the current phase of the tiny house you find on television or on the proliferation of tiny house websites and in books and magazines.

Our home here in New Mexico began as a frontier "cabin." It is largely self built of adobe dug on the site, and it appears to have started with two rooms around 1900, each about 15x15. Not exactly tiny house standard, but not very big either. Additions followed much the same standard. Rooms continued to be added until the 1950s when the current ground plan was finalized (at least we haven't enlarged it. Yet.)

To me, that represents organic growth over decades, and living in this house now, with all its many quirks, seems quite natural. Sure, there are things we think about doing, improvements and even enlargements, but if they don't happen, the house is fine for us as it is. We don't think we need granite countertops and recessed lighting in every room.

Finishing The Studio presents certain challenges, the first of which is finding someplace else for the things stored in there. Some of it is reusable in The Studio -- things like the Deco tables mentioned in the previous post, a bookcase saved from my childhood, a chair or two, an old electric heater that works well, some cushions, etc. -- but much of the rest, including a wheelchair, walkers, paintings and frames and other things need other homes. We'll find some other place for them, but for now strategizing what to keep and what not to is taking some doing.

What it boils down to is "what do we really need?"

Up the road from us lives a Navajo family. They live on a ranch in a fairly large double wide as many Navajo families do, but they built a hogan too. If you've ever been in a family hogan, you know they're not very large, consist of one multi-sided room with a heat source (usually a wood stove) in the center and enough space around the heater to accommodate four or five people. The door faces east. There may or may not be windows.

The wood stove in the center can be used for cooking; there is usually no indoor plumbing-- but a washing-up area is provided for. If there is no bathroom, there is probably a chamber pot or other receptacle for human waste. There are beds that double for seating along the walls, sometimes bunks, and various storage shelves and containers. There's not much else. But not much else is needed.

Tiny houses, on the other hand, more and more tend to do their uttermost to resemble high end urban apartments or suburban houses or fantasy cabins in the woods and feature the most expensive appliances, finishes, and design ideas imaginable. There are certain "must haves" in tiny-house kitchens these days. Kitchens are generally the center of the newer model tiny house. They must have: granite or marble countertops, expensive faucets and sinks and a dishwasher, top of the line cooking stoves; a full-sized or nearly full-sized refrigerator  -- stainless steel of course. A combo washer-dryer, the more costly the better to fit under the stairs. Stairs instead of a ladder, stairs with clever storage compartments under the treads. Copper or stainless steel surfaces are required. Clever low voltage lighting. Custom made cabinets. On and on. The more complex the furnishings and storage, the cleverer the design of the house, the more there is to satisfy the need for spectacle, the better. The flooring should be exotic hardwood or a reasonable imitation; again, the more expensive it is the more the senses are satisfied. A mini-split heat/AC system has become de rigueur for many tiny houses, along with the most expensive "composting" toilet. Mini-splits are to be supplemented with marine-style propane heating stoves. There must be two lofts, one at each end, both with ceilings nearly high enough to stand up under. The thought of reusing or repurposing materials (which was fundamental to the early tiny houses and still is on the margins) is considered gross. Everything must be new, shiny bright and as costly as possible.

Fit and finish must be precise. No gaps anywhere, no irregular areas, nothing make-do, no improvisations. Why is this? Well, obviously, people with a lot of money are paying a lot of money for... a folly, in the traditional sense of a "folly" -- something you have that is not necessary, but is intended to be possessed and to show off, preferably against a bucolic setting on your own estate or on someone else's where you've taken it or had it built for display. These tiny houses are not meant to live in. They are meant to look at and wonder.

And of course, the traditional folly was in some ways the precursor to the contemporary high-end tiny house anyway, wasn't it? That and the pleasure yacht.

The Nugget micro house mentioned in the previous post looks like a very modest Sears or other catalogue house, shed or garage from the early 20th century -- actually, more like a shed from the era than a house. The wheels, of course, show that it is transportable. But otherwise, its exterior is about as plain and nondescript as can be. Nothing ostentatious about the Nugget!

Yet at $36,000 it is obviously a high-end folly. Something you'll need a trust fund inheritance to purchase.

The interior is as modest appearing as the exterior, but the kitchen has custom cabinets, a butcher block countertop, silestone undermount sink, copper finished faucet. There is an undercounter refrigerator -- but it's a high end three-fuel one. There is said to be a two burner portable cooktop and a convection/microwave oven hidden away, but who knows.

The extraordinary cost of this portable tiny house is said to be due to its off-grid capability including solar electric system (not visible in the photos) and extensive provisions for water. Neither solar nor water systems are visible in any of the many photos of the Nugget I've seen.

A contrast is provided by the Salsa Box (plans only). Essentially the same floor plan as the Nugget, the Salsa Box is considerably less expensive: perhaps $8,000 for all new materials, $15,000 to build complete, minus solar electric system. (Actually, I suspect all new materials would run closer to $10,000 and the completed build would be in the neighborhood of $20,000).

Costs might be reduced with reclaimed, recycled, and repurposed  materials and equipment, but -- and it is a big but -- actual costs to purchase and reuse reclaimed materials can be as much as double new materials and equipment, and even when you can pick up materials and equipment free or nearly so, reuse can require so much extra work that the economic benefit of using reclaimed materials and equipment is lost.

This article goes into some of the costs associated with tiny house building and living. As does this one.

One of the major dilemmas of tiny house living is that in many jurisdictions, tiny houses are not legal dwellings and cannot be made legal. This is why many are built on trailers and have certain electrical and plumbing features of RVs. Still, in many areas, they are not considered legal dwellings, and are only allowed in RV/mobile home parks -- which often forbid the placement of any "tiny house."

Even on one's own land, a tiny house, whether or not on wheels, may face permitting obstacles, just as an RV used for living quarters on private land may not be permitted by zoning and building codes.

In many ways, the Tiny House (writ large) makes no logical sense at all, but it can be emotionally fulfilling, a deeply personal statement, or a necessary project for an individual in need of something to do.

That last would be me, I guess.

In our county, the authorities are not terribly particular about RVs and accessory buildings on one's own land as long as residents don't make a spectacle of themselves or their alternative living spaces  -- and as long as accessory buildings are no larger than 160 square feet (*until this year, the limit was 400 sq ft without a permit*). So I'm not terribly worried about the conversion of The Studio into a tiny house... of sorts. More than likely no one would care. Those who did care might find it charming or at least entertaining.

On the other hand -- apart from needing a project -- I have to ask myself why. The point, of course, has always been to give Ms. Ché a place to write where she can be unbothered by the animals, the phone, or other interruptions, and where she can have a view of the garden. (Potential garden, still have a lot to do on that project!)

As I say, she has a space of her own in the house, a small room we call The Library, currently filled with books, but it has a phone that rings far too much, and the cats love to find her in there and demand her attention. There's a window which faces west -- heat build up in the daytime, wind whistling in the winter. She has a desk and chair and a casual chair the cats tend to sleep in, but no place to stretch out. The Library is at one end of the house, the bathroom is at the other. If she wants coffee, she has to go to the kitchen, another hike though not as far. Same if she wants to go outside for some air.

It would be nice to have everything in one convenient place -- though it's by no means a necessity.

The Studio was intended to be that place.

And so maybe the time has come.

Re: Ken Burns' 'The Vietnam War'

No. Just no.

Many who lived through the era are boycotting it. I'm one.

No apologies. No regrets.

Just. No.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Simple Things -- Tiny House Time ?

We call one of the outbuildings at our place 'The Studio". I bought it from Weather King just before we moved here from California so that Ms. Ché to use as a writing retreat. It's not as if there is no space in the house; there's plenty, and surprisingly (or not) the room she uses now is about the same size as "The Studio" -- 8 X 11 (room) vs 8 X 12 (studio).

Of course "The Studio" has never been used as such. My intent was to finish the interior over a year or so, but that never happened for one reason or another, and the building quickly filled up with items we had no room for or need for in the house. Extra chairs, the many, many stuffed animals Ms. Ché has collected over the years, a couple of French Art Deco tables we'd used as for desks in California, picture frames and paintings, etc., some of her mother's things. Lots of stuff -- some of which still is useful, a good deal of which probably needs to find a new home.

I've been thinking about finishing the structure lately, though -- now that I'm able to get around better and do things once again -- finishing it as more of a Tiny House than strictly as a studio/retreat. Thus, multi-use rather than singular.

I've been intrigued by tiny houses for a long time, but I didn't really think of an 8 X 12 structure as large enough. We had a travel trailer that was 8 X 21, and it seemed cramped as heck. A building that was barely more than half that length surely couldn't serve as a "house" could it?

Some friends from the Navajo Nation came to visit one day. One had been to Standing Rock where any number of tiny houses had been built to house the demonstrators. She saw "The Studio" and said, "Oh look, a tiny house!"

And I thought, "Why not?"

Why not indeed?

I've looked into some of the 8X12 tiny house designs at Tiny House Talk, and most of them are unsatisfactory for one reason or another. If they have a bathroom, too much space is dedicated to it, sometimes almost half the floor space. Ridiculous. Kitchens tend to be either inadequate or overproduced and too large. Lounge areas tend to be poorly thought out. Sleeping is almost always in a loft, and a lot of people don't like lofts, they can't climb ladders, they're claustrophobic, and they dread the heat trap so many tiny house lofts become.

But here's one 8x12 tiny house without a loft, with a bathroom and kitchen, that has inspired more than a little interest and controversy:

"The Studio" is quite different. It has two 4X8 lofts with 4' ceilings that could accommodate mattresses though I'm not convinced that would be the best solution to the question of where to sleep.

The Studio

No, properly designed, there's plenty of room on the ground floor of The Studio for a sofa type seating area that can double as a single bed, one of the French Deco tables can be used as a desk, there's room for a chair -- even two -- and  a bookcase (for example the one I've had since I was a child would fit at the end of the sofa-bed.) The other Deco table could serve in a kitchenette as a countertop on which a few appliances -- coffee maker, toaster oven, maybe even a tiny refrigerator -- perch. A tiny bathroom can be put in a corner. A ladder and bridge can make the lofts accessible and usable for something if only for storage.

Cost was a major issue with the Nugget 8x12 tiny house referenced above. As delivered, the Nugget was priced at $36,000 which seems absurd, but it was what the client was willing to pay for a transportable off-grid capable tiny house. So long as people are willing to pay so much -- and some will eagerly pay even more -- for their tiny house, so long will such places be built and sold.

As I said, I've been intrigued with the concept of tiny housing for years, and when the movement started up in earnest more than a decade ago, the idea seemed to be finding ways to provide alternative affordable temporary and/or permanent housing for those who can or want to "downsize" from the ever-larger suburban house that has become standard in the US.

Prices for custom built tiny houses have increased exponentially as buyers desire and will pay for ever more costly features and architects become ever more skilled at designing extraordinarily clever contemporary "small spaces."

It's not uncommon to see custom built tiny houses priced at $70,000 to well over $100,000. Somewhere along the line, the point of the movement was apparently lost in pursuit of profit.

Class issues enter into it as well. The more you pay for your tiny house, the higher your status, no? The more it resembles a high concept contemporary suburban house or a Victorian cottage, the better, yes? There's more than a little element of showing off among some of the adherents of the tiny house movement. "Look what I've got -- and you don't!!" Oh well, if that's what's important to you, go for it. Please.

I paid a little over $2,000 for The Studio in 2012. That included delivery and set up on our property. Of course it's not on a trailer. In fact, it's placed on pressure treated 8X8s placed directly on the ground and shimmed to level. To get it from the delivery truck to its current location, a set of temporary wheels was placed on one end and a motorized mover on the other and it was easily transported to its set up location. It didn't even take half an hour to get it from the truck to set up, leveled and ready at the opposite end of the property.

The Studio isn't insulated -- it's just a shell -- nor are there any windows in the lofts or anywhere other than the front. There are ventilators in the lofts, but they're so small they don't really ventilate all that well. When the windows are open, though, the lower part of The Studio remains comfortable except in the hottest weather. We haven't checked it out when the weather is cold, however.

There's much to think about, much to do.

[to be continued]

Monday, September 11, 2017

Simple Things -- Growing Tomatoes in Central New Mexico

Tomatoes by the shed

[I know it's September 11 once again and the whole wide world seems to be in a state of Apocalypse what with all the hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, solar flares and what have you. It's a mess for so many survivors; but so many don't survive. We're all living on the edge. For now, at any rate, some of the simple things mean more than ever.]

Early in the spring I started some Cherokee Purple heritage tomato seeds. I could barely walk due to the joint pain of rheumatoid arthritis, but I desperately needed a project. I couldn't stand the idea of being unable to get around or do anything useful for the rest of my life for one thing, and for another, I felt the need to do something positive, no matter how difficult my personal situation might be.

This project turned more fraughtful than I ever thought it would. And more rewarding.

I've never tried to grow tomatoes from seed in New Mexico and I had no idea what would happen. I've grown tomatoes from plants started in nurseries here with varying success. One year we picked a tomato or two from several plants before they gave up the ghost; another year, the whole crop might have amounted to seven or eight tomatoes. And we considered that excellent. One year, nothing.

I ordered the seeds (1000 of them) from Johnny's in Maine.

When they didn't come after a week and I got no email that they'd been shipped, I became a little concerned and emailed their customer service. Next day I got an email saying the seeds had been mailed, and sure enough, when I went to the post office later, there they were.

What to do now?? I could barely move, and it was still cold, so I decided to wait until I was in better shape before I did anything with the seeds. In a few days, I was able to get around without too much pain, so I picked up several seventy-two cell seed starter trays and an armload of peat pots and starter soil. Then I had to wait another week before I could get the trays ready and plant the seeds.

That day was glorious, sunny and warm and an excellent early March planting day. Or so I thought.

When everything was set up outside--planting trays, water can, bags of soil, bowl of seeds -- I set to work, planting two or three  seeds in each cell, one cell after another, water after planting, and I thought things were going well until a gust of wind came up and the seed bowl overturned into the dirt and gravel next to my work table. I'd planted a hundred or so seeds by that point. The rest of them wound up on the ground.

It took some strategizing -- I couldn't bend down very well, and if I did, it would be difficult to unbend -- but I figured out a way to get most of the seeds along with plenty of dirt and gravel into a larger container, and I set about with tweezers picking the seeds from the dirt and debris.

It took the rest of the day, but I managed to rescue about 350 seeds. The rest of them had disappeared.

I figured that would be enough in any case. What would we do with a thousand tomato plants? We planned to give away several dozen plants and keep maybe a hundred for test purposes.

So over the next few days, I got the rest of the starter trays planted, and I set seeds into numerous peat pots. The laundry room and kitchen would be serving as hot houses for immediate purposes, but I needed an outdoor greenhouse for the longer term.

A fellow in town has one that would be just right but I had no way to transport it, and neither did he. Besides, he wanted $1000 for it, and that was more than our budget. Way more. So I decided  on improvising something with shelves and plastic drop cloths -- the heavy kind.

It seemed to work pretty well, and after I got the improvised greenhouse put together the starting trays and peat pots went outside, only to be brought in again when the temperatures were slated to fall into the twenties.

That only happened a few times after planting, but with my mobility issues, getting the plants inside the house from the greenhouse took some... doing. But it got done.

Most of the seeds sprouted by the end of April -- seemed late to me, but oh well -- and after they grew tall and sturdy, it was time to transplant to peat pots from the trays of cells. Supposedly, only one plant from the two seeds was to be transplanted; the other was to be composted. In some cases, I transplanted both plants to the same peat pot just to see what would happen.

Ultimately we had about 175 peat pots, some with two or sometimes three plants, close to three hundred plants altogether.

Some didn't do well, and those wound up in the compost. Many did very well, and I had to think about the final transplanting to containers. We've learned not to grow anything in the ground around here, though I suppose we could. It would just be more difficult. We'd have to heavily amend the soil, correct the pH, fertilize, etc, and even then, there would be no guarantee. The farmer up the road has his own wells and says he even has to acidify the water (using vinegar!) in order to make it suitable for irrigation.

At any rate, we use containers and pots and Miracle Grow potting soil for our tomatoes. We have a lot of pots of varying sizes and kinds accumulated over the years. This year, I picked up more, including several galvanized tubs.

We also bought two Cherokee Purple plants from Bonnie. As a test.

The Bonnie plants were put in large terra cotta pots with tomato cages, the rest were put in different sizes and kinds of pots and containers with as many as six plants per container. We're always told to put one tomato plant per pot or container but that's all. I decided to try for more to see what happened.

The Bonnie plants set fruit first toward the beginning of July, but after the first blossoms, there were no more fruits on those plants until mid August. The plants from seed didn't set fruit until the end of July and the beginning of August, but there were abundant tomatoes on the  plants, and most of them are still setting fruit this late in the season. The Bonnie plants are not. Each had about six tomatoes (some with blossom end rot) and that was it. The others have had anything from one to ten tomatoes each so far and most are setting new fruit daily.

We gave away about 45 plants and have kept about 50.  We had more than 60 but some became ill with various tomato scrofulae, so I pulled them out and threw them away. The ones that have done the best, interestingly, are those that were planted six to a container. They don't have tomato cages, though four containers have simple frameworks that can help support the plants. The plants, too, help support one another.

Other containers don't have frameworks, and the plants have curved down with the weight of the tomatoes, but that doesn't seem to be a problem as long as the tomatoes are kept off the ground -- which seems to be easy enough to do.

We've harvested about 30 tomatoes so far. I pick most of them green and let them ripen off the vine, but some were left to ripen on the vine, and truthfully, I can't tell the difference in flavor between vine ripened and those picked green.

One has been gnawed by hoppers

We've given away about half the ones we've harvested. That will probably be the case through the rest of the harvest season.

We haven't seen any tomato worms this season (they may be there, we just haven't seen them) but we do have grasshoppers, and they seem to enjoy munching on tomato leaves -- especially fresh growth -- and they have completely eaten two young tomatoes. Yes, they ate the whole things. They have chewed on a few others, but the damage is very slight, so we're not worrying too much about them. As anyone who's tried to knows, grasshopper control is very difficult. We've used NoloBait repeatedly and the numbers of grasshoppers have declined but there are still plenty of them. I think they're wise and refuse to eat the NoloBait.

Tomato plants take a lot of water, and I think that's something people attempting to grow them don't fully understand. They say that tomatoes grown in containers need more water than you think -- about a gallon a day under "normal" conditions (little wind and relatively high humidity -- 30% +)  Under dry and often windy conditions such as is "normal" in Central New Mexico, a full grown container tomato plant can require two gallons or more water each day. Sometimes our plants -- which are watered no less than once a day -- get dry and wilty. The problem, I've found is that even a heavy watering may not penetrate all the way down the container and the lower parts may be almost completely dry. If the plants dry out, the tomatoes may be susceptible to blossom end rot. A few of our tomatoes were afflicted, but even then, the un-rotted parts were edible.

After my second Rituxan infusion in May, I was able to get around much better, and that made caring for the tomatoes a joy. While the season isn't over yet, I'm very happy with the results so far, and I'm thinking that if I am able to do this again next year, I'll grow as many as I can for my own enjoyment and to share.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Oven Bread

In New Mexico if you go to a Pueblo Indian event, you're bound to encounter the delicacy known as oven bread, rounds of fresh-baked white bread with a very distinctive texture and flavor unmatched by any other bread product I've had. You know it's oven bread by sight, texture and taste, and there's nothing else like it.

Yesterday we picked up some oven bread at the Acoma Pueblo feast day celebrations at their mesa-top Sky City village, Haak'u, one of the oldest continuously occupied Native American sites in North America.

Acoma is the second-best known pueblo in New Mexico, second only to Taos.

I'd never been to Acoma before, but learning about it and what went on there is something that you do in New Mexico, in large part because Don Juan de Onate's nephew Don Vicente de Zaldivar's merciless slaughter of some 800 Acoma and the enslavement of 500 more in January, 1599, as punishment for their resistance to his conquest of their mesa-top city and as revenge for their defensive killing of Onate's nephew (Zaldivar's brother Juan) and about a dozen other Spanish soldiers the month before. And we learn about Onate's order to amputate the right foot of every captured male over the age of 25. Everybody hears about the Acoma Massacre, and to this day, Onate is considered a monster everywhere except in the New Mexico Spanish  community where he is regarded highly as the "last conquistador."

Oven bread is one of the many other legacies of the Spanish conquest in New Mexico, one that has been preserved and continues.

While we hear about the Acoma Massacre, little is said about an analogous episode at Taos Pueblo and surrounding areas in 1847 carried out by American conquistadors. Hundreds were killed, dozens were hanged in the plazas of Taos and Santa Fe, San Geronimo Church and most of the Pueblo of Taos was destroyed, and the entire town of Mora was burned to the ground -- among other atrocities.

But because it was the Americans doing the dirty work of killing and burning, of course little would be said about it. Much as is the case in California where the massacres went on and on and on, but today hardly anybody knows about it.

Acoma on Feast Day is crowded, crowded, crowded. We got there relatively early, traveling from Albuquerque in a van with a bunch of Cherokee elders and a 9 year-old granddaughter of one of them. It seemed already crowded when our driver was hunting for a place to park the van, but little did we know how crowded it would get before we left.

We stood in line at the cultural center at the base of the mesa to wait for the shuttle to take us up to the village, but many others made the climb on foot. I was reminded a bit of the Tome Hill pilgrimage on Good Friday (Ms Ché did it a few years ago) that is a tradition among the Hispanos and Catholics of the region -- as is the much longer pilgrimage to Chimayo.

Well, this was Feast Day at Acoma, San Esteban being the patron saint, though I didn't see him mentioned except at the mission church on the mesa. This was to my eye an all-Indian event. There wasn't even a hint of Catholic observance that I saw.

Ms. Ché said she encountered a number of her friends from other tribes at Acoma, and of course she's Cherokee as were most of those we traveled with from Albuquerque. So it wasn't just Acoma natives celebrating their feast day. Oh no. Indians from all over were there as were a sprinkling of Anglos. Fewer than I expected at any rate.

We've visited a few pueblos but not on feast day, and nearly every visitor at those times has been Anglo. But on Feast Day, I'd say a good 80% or more of those in attendance were Native, Anglos were a distinct though not unwelcome minority.

Especially if they were spending money. There were many, many booths for food, drink, jewelry and pottery sales, and many had wonderful things things to buy and offered easy credit card purchases. The only problem was that there was no wi-fi or cell phone service at the mesa top, and so it was functionally impossible to make credit card purchases. Unless you came with a bunch of cash, you were out of luck. Oh well!

I had enough for a big round of oven bread and a couple of slices of "pie," but that was about it.

Hundreds and hundreds of Indians arrived fully dressed for the celebrations and most eagerly joined the dances through the streets, It was a spectacular vision, and yet... solidly grounded in culture, history, and spirituality. Sometimes these dances are performed specifically for Anglo audiences. I don't want to say that robs them of their spirituality, but in a sense it does. The dancers go through the motions so that the Anglos can say they've been to an Indian dance... but they haven't really.

We've had several opportunities to "really" experience Pueblo and Apache dance as guest observers of Indian friends not participants, where the dances are performed ceremonially for/with other Indians, not as a show for the white folks.

Yesterday was one of them.

There were so few white folks while we were there, I'm sure I stood out among the attendees.


Nobody pointed and laughed though...(that I know of) -- whew.

The Acoma Pueblo "Sky City" was largely destroyed by the Spanish in 1599 but it was very quickly rebuilt and reoccupied. The stories of the Acoma Massacre suggest a nearly complete extermination and enslavement of the survivors, but it apparently wasn't quite like that. Not all the Acoma lived on the mesa-top; in fact, most didn't. The defenders of the mesa were vanquished and survivors were punished, but most Acoma were not involved in the fight, and apparently they were left more or less alone. They returned to the mesa after the Spanish went back to their seized pueblo they called San Gabriel and the Acomas rebuilt the village by 1601.

In 1629, construction started on the enormous San Esteban del Rey mission church which dominates a corner of the mesa.

It is said that the church was built over the main plaza of the village and the round kiva that was within it. Could be. Spanish were frightened of kivas and native beliefs and tried without success to stamp out every sign of native religious practice. In the abandoned pueblos near our place in Central New Mexico, mission churches were built near kivas, and the kivas were used as trash dumps. In others, the kivas were burned and filled in. Very few pueblos maintained their kivas, and Spanish padres forbade their use for ceremonies. This would be a precipitating factor in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

Acoma participated in the Revolt, and both priests at San Esteban were martyred. Unlike many other pueblos in New Mexico, however, the San Esteban Mission Church at Acoma was not destroyed. Instead, they say it was proudly preserved by the Indians as an example of their remarkable work of building on the top of the nearly inaccessible mesa.

Acoma provided a refuge for Indians escaping the Revolt as well as those escaping the Spanish on their return to New Mexico in 1692-3. With the help of many allies, Acoma held out against the Spanish until 1698, and even then maintained a fierce resistance to Spanish impositions.

But we weren't there yesterday so much for history -- although I did want to visit San Esteban and I did -- as we were there for a contemporary experience of a thriving (well...) Indian Pueblo community.

They say there are five or six thousand Acoma today, and I swear they must all have been atop the mesa -- they and all their friends and family too. Nearly all the houses were occupied, and nearly every Dodge Caravan in New Mexico had been commandeered to transport families with trays and boxes of food up the newly built (1950's) road to the turn around at the top of the mesa.

As we were waiting for the shuttle back down, a trio of Franciscan padres appeared -- I assume they hiked up from the valley below.Would they be conducting services at the church? Would they lead the procession of the saint through the streets? I dunno. We didn't stay to find out.

When we left we went down to the Sky City Casino for lunch. And contemplation.

Today we had oven bread for breakfast.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Horst Wessel Lied

("Horst-Wessel Song")

As always, a little history is in order.

It may be apparent that there is another of those gawd-awful "national conversations" going on about the recent (re-)emergence of Antifa, the active anti-fascists who aren't afraid of mixing thing up and physically fighting the rightists, fascists and neo-Nazis in street brawls that have gotten a bit of attention among the "news" media.

Yes well.

Horst Wessel was a Nazi who wrote the lyrics to a song that became the anthem of the Nazi Party in 1930 and of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. Some say he wrote the music, too, but it's too close to the well-known hymn "How Great Thou Art" for that to be true.

Host Wessel became a Nazi martyr after his murder by a Communist in Berlin in 1930. Joseph Goebbels masterfully parlayed his death to enhance the Nazi Party and denigrate the Communists. They were, after all, arch enemies throughout the interwar and WWII periods.

For some reason, they're arch-enemies again. "Antifa" you see, are today's "Communists." The "Alt-Right" however you want to define it, are today's Nazis (some are literal Nazis, most are cosplayers).

Street brawls between Nazis and their opponents were a feature of the Late Weimar Republic in Germany. The authorities tended not to intervene (not unlike Charlottesville) and let the boys have at one another as they chose. Horst Wessel was one of the brawlers, but he was killed over a personal money matter between him, his girlfriend, and their landlady. Or so it would seem. The truth of the matter is subject to scholarly dispute to this day. Overlay the politics of the day (then and now) and there's no there's no telling what really happened.

It appears that the rightist media in this country is attempting to turn a fellow named Keith Campbell into a Martyr for the Cause (Horst Wessel?) because he was seen being beat up on camera in Berkeley. Antifa did the deed. Video clips I've seen show him running away from several black-clad dudes who catch up to him and start wailing away as he curls up to protect himself. A black man runs to his rescue and stops the beating while a crowd gathers, some threatening, others attempting to stop the violence. Eventually, the crowd disperses and Campbell is led away, shaken but ambulatory.

According to the reports I've seen, Campbell is a well-known white rightist provocateur who sees his mission as "defeating the left" by any means necessary. Yes well, that always turns out well, right?

As a provocateur, of course, he's more than a little interested in provoking his leftist/Communist/Antifa enemies into a fight, and so when it happened on camera in Berkeley, he gained cred and cachet both with the rightist and mainstream media as a poor little white boy being mercilessly beaten by "Antifa thugs."

Thus a narrative was established about the "violent left," versus the "peaceful right."

Of course it's not true, but that's another issue altogether.

As a sidenote, the use of "peaceful" as opposed to "nonviolent" to describe marches and demonstrations is very grating to me. Peaceful implies passive, whereas nonviolent can mean a lot of not very peaceful things at all. But somehow, during the last few years, demonstrations and marches have been categorized as "peaceful" or "violent" depending on whether somebody breaks a window, starts a dumpster fire, wears black or the police use chemical weapons against the demonstrators. It's bizarre. Another issue is the problem of categorizing protesters, counter-protesters, and civilian observers.  And then there are all the infiltrators...

Now that there are brawlers on all sides, it's all a muddle, no?

Anyway, one of the chief efforts of the Overclass during the current time of troubles has been to keep the Left (so-called) "peaceful" by any means necessary -- primarily by invoking Saints Ghandi (sic) and MLK incessantly and often inappropriately.

The fear of an active and muscular left (real or so-called) that fights back is palpable among Our Betters. There is no such fear of a violent right.

In fact, there's tacit and sometimes overt encouragement of it.

The more violence from the right including the Nazis, the better.

Heather Heyer was killed and dozens of "peaceful" demonstrators in Charlottesville were injured by white rightists rallying and going berzerk a few weeks ago. The white right and their allies have killed dozens of people and injured hundreds in the last few years, but it is always, always, always important to keep the Left (what there is of it) "peaceful," passive, and pathetic in the face of the violence both from the white right and the state. Don't forget what happened at Standing Rock and during so many other demonstrations for justice.

And then there's the whole frustrating and largely bogus "free speech" argument that I won't get into for now.

The point, ultimately, is that despite the disgust most Americans have for the white rightists, keeping them on an even or higher plane than the feared Left, and letting them be as unpeaceful as they want to be, while the Left (such as it is) does nothing or less is the received narrative.

So far, Antifa refuses to play.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Be Careful What You Wish For-- the After Labor Day Dread

The media trope that nobody pays attention to much of anything till after Labor Day may be true, I can't say. Summer has never been that much of an "I don't care" season to me, never that much of a vacation, either.

Media's attention, however, is dulled, even absent during the summer. News organizations tend to take weekends off, too, which is why the Friday Night News Dump is so popular among political operatives. Release news on Friday night and no one will see it goes the rationale, and it used to be pretty much true. Something that would be news on any other day of the week isn't all that important news on Friday, Saturday or Sunday because news rooms are shuttered and only a skeleton staff is on duty.

The Russia! Russia! Russia!! Thing has mostly faded away this summer in part, I think, because it hasn't polled well. It's become something of a running joke. I don't doubt there's a there there, and we've already seen a boatload of smoking guns, but they haven't caught on as something to care that much about because ... well, why? Are we just so used to corruption in high places that the in-your-face old-line gangster corruption of the Trump Organization and its collusion with a foreign power for political (and financial) gain in simply taken for granted? Or is it something else.
I've long been of the opinion that Trump and the Trump Organization are not anomalies. They represent a class of people and enterprise that is common among the High and Mighty. This is who they are, this is what they do, and Trump is not categorically better or worse than any of them. They are gangsters, thieves, mountebanks and con artists.

Our political class has always intersected with them, and sometimes -- like now -- has largely been them. There is little or no moral separation between them.

This is true of our political/ruling class in general. It's no better on one side of the aisle than the other.

We, the Rabble, have little choice in the matter. Voting doesn't really change things, though it can accelerate or retard the rate of looting, pillage, and destruction by the Powers That Be, and it can change the personality of the looters ruling over us.

We're in a situation now where the Looting/Ruling Class sees the looming catastrophe from climate and other environmental changes before them and they... worry.

The Rabble may be pretty well contained by their squabbling among themselves over this and that, everything really, that doesn't really matter (eg: the Nazi/Antifa street theater among so many other Things) but the forces of Nature marshal themselves time and again, and they can't be escaped even by the Highest of the Mighty.

The South Texas Disaster is yet another object lesson among so many this season. The floods there are mild compared to elsewhere. And yet it's a disaster nonetheless with long term consequences as well as short term misery.

What will be done about it? Largely nothing. Not for the Rabble, at any rate. But there will be a sorting and selection process among the People Who Matter, many of whom -- if they haven't already - will abandon the region for somewhere higher and drier, where they can put their bunkers and Be Safe.

I expect to see more of them moving to my area of Central and Northern New Mexico. We already have plenty of The Type. I expect we'll get more.

There are plenty of other nicer -- and safer -- places they can go, and I expect they will, but we won't know about it because it won't be reported by our intrepid media. It's not a Thing like Russia! Russia! Russia!! (Sharks and Missing White Women! Nazis and Antifa!! Oh my!) and media moguls and personalities are making their own survivalist preps anyway.

They'd rather not be caught in either fire or flood, yanno?

People who continue to claim that "nothing has been done" about climate change or population control or whatever are silly. Of course "something has been done," it's just not (quite) enough to make that much of a difference. It never is. In some ways, it can't be "enough" no matter what is done.

The thing is, humans aren't totally in control of the situations they (we) face.

Desire for that control is part of the problem.

There is a greater power than we ourselves.


When "we" wish to have power over climate change or population control (of "them" of course, not "us") we're asking for something we can't -- and shouldn't -- have. At least for their part, Our Betters seem to subliminally understand that. However much they see themselves as Masters of the Universe, they self-limit their mastery to money and governing, and they seem to be losing the thread of government.

They don't know what to do. They're too self-obsessed. Ignorant. Uncaring. Mad.

We have to be careful what we wish for. I don't want these monsters ruling us, but at the same time, I haven't seen a better alternative. There are no good monsters, they're all bad each in their own way, and there is no one in the ruling clique that gives a shit about the rest of us. On the other hand, I haven't seen anyone emerge from Below who is capable and brilliant enough to overthrow the ruling clique and do any better.

It's classic rock-hard place dilemma.

Because no one has found a Better Way yet, I'm facing After Labor Day when things get Real again, with an uncommon dread. Our rulers -- especially Himself in the White House -- are itching to prove their bravery -- much as Bush/Cheney back in the day --- and that could only mean war. We're involved in so many of them as it is, and so many die every day under our Imperial Benevolence that adding more death and destruction would seem to be a waste of resources and energy, but it's a target rich environment out there, so Pyongyang or Tehran or wherever better watch out. The itchy trigger finger is on the button, you know?

The street brawls might intensify, though it seems that for the moment, the Nazis are in retreat. We'll see. Meanwhile the mess in Texas gets worse and worse, as flood waters retreat for the moment, and the gawd-awfulness of it all becomes clear. The pollution alone will take generations to clean up -- if it ever is.

And much much more is in store.

If I sometimes go off on seemingly tangential issues, particularly comforting domestic ones, there's a reason. Given everything else that's going on and likely to come, we take comfort where we can.

Be safe, y'all.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Household Hints and Swallows

Last year we had some storm doors put up at the front and side doors. Long ago there were probably screen doors, but they were taken down whenever and were never replaced. We wanted to do the back french doors too, but because of the non-standard size of the opening (it was a window that was enlarged to accommodate french doors to the backyard when we had the house renovated a decade ago) it would have cost thousands to have storm doors custom made. So. We passed on that for the time being.

I decided that screen doors would be adequate -- especially in the summer, keep the bugs out -- but finding the right size proved a challenge. 30" screen doors are not commonly stocked in the big box stores it would seem. Nor are they easily available anywhere else. I went through something like this with the side door as well. Just lucky, I guess, to find one 30" storm door in stock. I wanted to replace the interior door too, but couldn't find what I wanted -- one with and operable window -- and wound up purchasing an antique door in California and hauling it out to New Mexico on one of my many California to New Mexico junkets before we moved here permanently.

Eventually I found two 30" screen doors in stock at Home Depot in Albuquerque at an astonishingly low price, and I figured I could put them up without too much trouble. Sure enough. Given my inability to do much of anything over the last many months -- besides growing tomatoes -- I was pretty jazzed that I was able to do it. Then I built four cat houses for the ferals that would no longer be able to use the french door step for a shelter. Whoa. Actually, they were pre-cut cat houses, so it wasn't too much of a challenge to put them together, but still. I couldn't have done it at all a few months ago.

And the swallows are back -- again. There was a clutch earlier this year nesting in the eaves of the front porch. That nest has been there for years. There used to be two nests, but one day when we weren't here a bad boy who lived across the street came over and smashed one of them. We told him that if he tried that again on the other nest we'd be sure he went to jail as swallows are a protected species, and interference with their nests is a criminal offense. He never came back, and eventually his household moved away. Yay.

So. This is the second clutch of swallows this year. Four chicks each time. Whether they have the same parental units, I don't know.

Swallows are messy. When they nest under the eaves at businesses and public buildings, there's often an outcry to get rid of them. Bird doo-doo piles up under the nests as the parents dispose of their little ones' excrement.

Requires constant attention and clean up.

But the birds are pleasant to have around just the same, and it's a joy to watch the chicks grow and eventually fly away. They'll be back next year once the weather is warm enough.

Late summer pleasures. Simple things.

On the Labor Day weekend we're headed out to Acoma Pueblo -- I think I mentioned before. I really hesitated about going because I wasn't sure I could handle the exercise. But we'll give it a try. Why not?

And then, if I haven't already, I'll have to describe what happened there when Onate came to call in 1598.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Late Summer Battle Over White Supremacy

Labor Day is nearly upon us, and once we're past that milestone, I expect this battle will fade away, much like summer stories of sharks and missing white women.

The Hurricane Season will be upon us. A new Imperial war will break out somewhere. The economy will tailspin once more. The poor will rise up and be put down with ferocity and brutality.

Himself will keep the pot stirred and bubbling. Media will be transfixed by it all.

And the questions of Confederate Statues and White Supremacy and Nazis with torches will vanish as if they were never asked.

The white supremacist right has already gone into nearly total retreat. Their efforts to "engage" as it were turned into a nightmare in Charlottesville, and a farce in Boston. The idea that they would show strength by marching and rallying in San Francisco (hahhahhah) went bust when Antaifa said they'd cover Crissy Field, the rally site, with dog doo doo.  Dear me. So impolite.

Dozens and dozens of white rightist rallies have been canceled, it seems, while the white supremacists have been banished from the internet and must find what comfort they can with the pedophiles and freaks of the so-called "darknet."

While the Overclass can't seem to do anything worthwhile about Trump and his gang of thieves and mountebanks, they seemingly can -- and have -- put the kabosh on any more of this Nazi unpleasantness (too bad that girl had to die, they say, but her sacrifice was not in vain.)

Unlike a lot of white kids, I was not exposed to the active white supremacist community until I was old enough to make a judgment of its value. I lived my first ten years in mixed company so to speak, integrated communities and schools where the concepts of white supremacy and separation of the races didn't exist.

Well, except that white supremacy was taken for granted. The default as it were.

We may have lived in an integrated environment, but all civic and higher authority was held by whites, and nobody questioned it. At least not until the mid-fifties and later when Civil Rights became a Thing.

White people were not only in charge, they set all the cultural, educational, governmental, and scientific standards.

For all intents and purposes, it's still that way. And it's not likely to change anytime soon.

There are plenty of chinks in the armor to be sure, and white supremacists including  the tiny Nazi contingent whine and complain incessantly about the suppression of Wypipo by those ever-present hordes of Others -- Brown and Black and Not Quite White Enough -- who always want to rape their women and steal their stuff. Yes, yes, we know.

But the Overclass is not having it. Not this time. No way.


So, they'll go away after Labor Day; Antifa will too. It will all be like a dream as Shit Gets Real once again, and who knows what fresh hell we'll be presented with? Who knows?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

It Couldn't Have Been Plainer

In his speechifying to the troops last night, Trump was laying the groundwork for military rule.

There should be no doubt any more, given his lavish praise of the military and military culture, a culture civilians should emulate.

A culture of patriotism, loyalty and mutual service to one another, to the highest principles of sacrifice, to the Glory of the United States, and to the honor and love instilled through service.


He says a lot of things, of course, and we should have learned long ago not to take any of it too literally or seriously. He's a lawn sprinkler, spewing out in all directions at once, all of it absorbed by his thirsty fans, but none of it meaning much in the end.

Oh yes, much harm has been initiated and caused by his blathering. The terror sweeping through immigrant communities from his unleashing of the immigrant raiders, the fear and anger inspired by unleashed Nazis and white supremacists, the annihilation of whole populations and the destruction of cities overseas, the removal of environmental and safety regulations, the efforts to destroy a tottering health care system, the endless advantages delivered to the meanest of the mean at the top of the pyramid, and on and on.

Everything he touches turns to shit, but... he seems to recognize that his presidency is a failed one, and there is nothing he can do at this point to salvage it. He's lost the thread, along with most of his staff. Stephen Miller is essentially the last man standing, and hardly anyone takes him seriously. [I forgot about Gorka. For shame. For shame. Yeah, he's a winner... ]

What's left? Well, of course, "his generals."

Three of whom essentially run the executive branch in the absence of a functioning presidency.

Pence seems to go around the world explaining to the dismayed foreigners that things aren't really as bad as they appear to be, and that everything will work out in the end, be not alarmed. He seems to carry out his duties as well as can be expected. Loyal to the core, he is.

Meanwhile, Congress is as much of a mess as ever, worse in some ways, in its inability to find common ground between the contending factions of the Ruling Party. It's a bad joke which does nothing and can do nothing to improve the lives of the American people. What's the point of such a body? We have to ask.

Trump's lavish praise for the military is no doubt shared by many, many Americans. In one survey, I recall, the military was the only part of the government that consistently rated a 50%+ approval rating.

And I have no doubt that many -- many, many -- Americans would be happier under military rule than continuing under the current wheezing mess of a government.

I myself have thought for many years that a military government, even martial law, was coming. It would be unavoidable given the advent of the Security/Surveillance State under the Bush/Cheney regime. This is not something that an accountable civilian government can undertake or operate constitutionally. It can only happen as a function of a military government, and ideally only temporarily. But as we've seen, the Security/Surveillance State is permanent. It's not going away. Like everything else in this mess of a government, it's metastasizing.

Trump has already handed immense and unaccountable power to "his" generals in the fields of war and destruction overseas, and to "his" security forces at home. They are not just unaccountable, some of them take pleasure in defying what few constraints there are. This has been going on from day one of the Trump regime, and it's not likely to end any time soon.

I'm no fan of the military for a wide range of reasons, but under the circumstances, I can understand why many Americans might applaud a mild form of military rule, especially as the indications of a looming civil war between the red and the blue factions gain heat if not much light.

Trump has shown himself incapable of rational and responsible rule, Pence appears to be a pawn, the congressional leadership is anything but, and that leaves what?

The generals.

A junta as it were.

While I've never thought the Trump regime would end well, an elision to a military government might be the least bad of terrible alternatives.

Or it might not. Uncharted territory. That's for double damb sure.

I should point out that it would be military rule on behalf of a corporate state, not on behalf of the long-suffering masses.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Junta Time?

The events in Charlottesville continue to reverberate. While Nazi torchlight parades and chants of "Blood and Soil!" are a disgusting display and street brawls are little more than theater -- usually -- the upshot in Charlottesville was the terror-by-vehicle tactic deployed against the so-called counterprotesters (watch how that term is twisted and turned this way and that to normalize the Nazis as the genuine "protesters.")

One was killed and dozens were injured on the ground. Two state police officers observing from above were killed when their helicopter crashed.

It was a debacle for all kinds of reasons.As we inch closer to Labor Day, we need to keep that in mind.

The day did not go well for anyone.

It seems to me this was the tipping point we wondered if it would ever come.

Trump demonstrated clear unfitness for office and inability to lead with his pathetic and contradictory responses to the events in Charlottesville. He was so far out of touch with the zeitgeist he seemed like some alien entity plopped down in front of a teleprompter to say just the wrong things and repeat them, at a time of public mourning and national moral crisis. He failed every  test of leadership.

In normal times, that would mean he's done. In these times, it's hard to say.

But note well that he's effectively installed a military junta to run the country should his regime collapse -- as it appears to be doing.

Mattis at Defense, McMaster at DHS (the key domestic agency -- thanks Cheney!) National Security Advisor and Kelly (ex-DHS) in the White House as chief of staff. There seems to be bipartisan support for these fine fellows, each of whom is practically worshiped by both parties and many in the Overclass. In other words, if the Trump regime goes down, these three can instantly elide from their current positions to ones of executive control, without objection from the People Who Matter.

The US experiment with constitutional self-government will reach its final end.

Though I'm sure the junta, like Octavian in Rome, would say they are protecting and restoring the Republic. Bless their hearts

Events of this magnitude take place after Labor Day, so we have a few days to psych ourselves up.

Ms Ché  and I are scheduled to visit Acoma Pueblo on Labor Day. There is a whole story to tell about what happened there when the Spanish came a-calling in 1598. Needless to say, it wasn't pretty.

Acomans survived it in sufficient numbers that they are still around; the mesa-top village was rebuilt along with the huge San Esteban mission church, one of the largest in New Mexico, and today, the Acoma pueblo and surrounding territory are major tourist destinations. Despite survival, Acoma today is a very different place than it was before the Spanish conquest.

My bet is that the US will become a very different place after Labor Day this year, but I wonder how many people will notice.

There has long been a significant sector of the US population that would prefer military rule to the messy "democracy" that's been teetering on the verge of collapse for a generation.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

On Seeing A Photo of My Mother's Father For the First Time

Until a few days ago, I had never seen a photo of my grandfather Lawrence -- the Black Sheep of the Family and of several counties, indeed of several states. My mother's father had always been a mystery figure to her and to me. He was killed when she was only five years old in 1916; years before, he'd left his family in Indianapolis and moved to St. Louis where he started another family with another wife and daughter.

My mother said she had few memories of him, but I've long thought she didn't have any at all. He was gone from Indianapolis by the end of 1913 at the latest. She would have been barely two. If my mother had any memories of her father Lawrence, it would be a miracle. But the picture I found online -- taken in November, 1915, in Indianapolis -- leads me to question my assumption that she couldn't have had any memories of her father.

On the other hand, she may have remembered her mother's older brother Ralph and confused him with her father. Ralph lived with the "household of women," as my mother described their home in Indianapolis. The household included, in addition to my mother and her mother, her mother's adult brother, her grandmother, two widowed aunts, and the teenaged son of one of those aunts.

My thought is their original home burned down sometime around 1913. It seems to have been a large old farm house, two stories, big porch, drafty, rickety, built on the edge of town before electricity and much modern convenience at all. The fire may have started in a shorted-out electric line since I understand that electric lights had recently been installed. The household moved next door to a more modern and somewhat smaller house, built in 1898, and already equipped with indoor plumbing, electricity and gas.

The new house resembled one featured in the first season of "Good Bones" on HGTV. The episode is called "An Old Victorian House Gets a New Facelift" for anyone who's interested. The show is about rehabs in Indianapolis, though not in the Tuxedo Park neighborhood where my mother's family lived. Ida, my mother's grandmother and matriarch of the household, apparently owned quite a bit of property in Indianapolis, perhaps inherited from her murdered husband or from her father who was a carpenter, and later she would move to another, nearly identical house the next street over to live with her sister. She would die there in 1935.

It's also possible that my mother remembered George, Lawrence's younger brother. George was employed at the same bank in town where my mother's mother, Edna, worked as a telephone operator.

Whatever the case, I thought she didn't have any real memories of her father. The picture makes me wonder.

I've been in periodic contact with Pam, a descendant of Lawrence through liaison he had with a 16 year old girl named Julia. Julia's son by Lawrence, Virgil, was Pam's grandfather.

She's been researching her ancestors longer than I have and she has assembled quite a bit of information about her ancestors in Indianapolis, but she said she had never found a picture of her great grandfather Lawrence and she wondered if I had one.

No. I did not. Until a few days ago, I'd never seen one.

And then, wonder of wonders, as I was following a thread of information Pam had provided me -- a brief family history written by one of Lawrence's nephews provided by one of Lawrence's grandsons -- I found a website maintained by the son of the nephew, a photographer in Indianapolis.

Among contemporary photos taken by David R, the photographer, were excerpts from his great grandfather David H's Civil War diaries.

Among the excerpts was a family portrait taken in 1915 on the 50th wedding anniversary of David H and Caroline L, Lawrence's parents. The portrait includes David H, Caroline L, and their five surviving sons, Frank, Harold, Edgar, LAWRENCE, and George. Their sixth son, Leo Clyde had been killed in a hunting accident some years before.

So. There he was.

I will post his picture here, though I may have to take it down as I haven't contacted David R on whose website I found it.

If he looks rather cranky, I think he had his reasons.

His parents' 50th wedding anniversary was November 21, 1915. He'd have come to Indianapolis from St. Louis with his brother Harold who had moved to St. Louis around 1890. Lawrence had a wife and one year old daughter in St. Louis. He had a wife and four year old daughter in Indianapolis (my grandmother and mother). He also had a four year old son, Virgil, in Indianapolis whose mother, Julia, had not been married to Lawrence. And he had two other sons and a daughter living in Indianapolis. The sons were living with his parents while his daughter Florence was living with his brother Frank.

Got it? It's complicated.

Even more so, his first wife Maud had (apparently) married his older brother Harold after her divorce from Lawrence around 1907-08.

What fun? Nah.

With more than a century's distance from these people, I can be somewhat dispassionate about them and the stories I've found, but still, it's jarring.

When I first saw the family portrait, I initially identified the wrong brother as my mother's father. I picked out Lawrence's older brother Edgar as my grandfather because he had a look very similar to one I was familiar with from my mother.

She would often show this more or less exasperated expression, and the features of Edgar's lower face are very similar to my mother's features when she was about the age of Edgar in the picture (45).

So the family resemblance is there among the offspring, but Lawrence's appearance doesn't remind me of my mother at all.

Here's one theory of why he looks so annoyed, and why my mother might have had a reason to remember him.

What if on his return to Indianapolis for the first time in at least two years, he brought gifts for his wife and daughter Edna and Virginia and went to visit them while he was in town?

That shouldn't seem out of the question, and it was a fairly quick streetcar ride from his parents' house to my mother's and grandmother's place.

If he arrived unexpectedly, I can imagine things got tense very fast, especially if Edna wasn't there but came back while Lawrence was playing with Virginia on the floor.

All holy hell might have broken loose. And it probably did.

In another possible scenario, Edna learned that Lawrence was back in town from his brother George with whom she worked at American Fletcher bank. He might even have mentioned that Lawrence was in town to celebrate his parents anniversary. I can easily imagine Edna and Virginia marching over to the parents' house to confront Lawrence and the rest of the family.

There could be any number of other reasons for Lawrence's crabby look, as his life was "checkered" at best.

Maybe I should stop dicking around and dramatize it.

TV cries out for such family dramas, no? ;-)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Why the "Alt-Right" Is Not All Right

America, we have a problem. A growing problem of rising white rightist reactionaries. The so-called "Left" is in such disarray in this country that there is no effective counter to the organized ideological racist reactionary pressure of the white right/Nazis.

We've seen this before.

The problem is thatwhat passes for a "Left" wants to argue, sometimes even rationally argue, with these violent assholes, when their interests are not at all rational but are deeply seated emotional appeals. There is no effective rational counter to it.

Let me repeat that: There is no effective rational counter to it.

This is why so much of Europe and much of the rest of the world fell under the fascist/Nazi spell in the interwar period of the 20th Century. It was simply easier and more emotionally satisfying to go along with it than to fight it. Besides, fascists and Nazis generally protected corporate interests (so long as the corporations went along with the program) as opposed to what the dreaded Communists were doing.

So. Here we are again.

Even our neo-liberal overlords have no counter to the rise of the right. Some, of course, embrace them. What is better for effective looting and control of the masses than the endless theatrical spectacles the rightists engage in and scapegoating minorities for the losses the white underclasses inevitably endure? Works like a charm, and it works almost every time.

Until it doesn't.

And then it's all hell all the time.

I say stop it now, but the ruling class cannot and will not. They will accommodate themselves to it, just as we've seen increasing mainstream accommodation to Trump in the last six months. "As long as he doesn't go too far, what's to worry, right?"

Nothin' a-tall.

The mess will continue. Even if we get a respite for a while, once this Pandora's Box is opened, it's a bitch to close again.

Strap in or secure your bunker. This won't end soon, and it won't end well.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Butthurt Wypipo UPDATED


Some wag posted on the Twitter Machine: "Jews will not replace us!"

Well, isn't that special.

They are, these butthurt Wypipo, marching in their torchlight multitudes, whining about their loss of privilege-- even though they haven't lost a damn thing -- and complaining about the removal of yet another Confederate hero's statue from the public square.


Yes, well. We'll see about that, won't we?

A great deal is being made about the various torchlight parades by the butthurt Wypipo called the alt-Right -- Steve Bannon's bros, Stephen Miller's compaes, the "Base" as it were-- primarily it seems to me to whip up fears of a Rising by US whites against the brown and black hordes of "Mud People" trying to submerge them in immigrant tides, yadda yadda. And it's all a load of codswallop.

All of it.

And so they march and try to cause a ruckus at the University of Virginia over the impending removal of the equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee (genuflect). Oh well. Put it in museum, eh? Like the statues of Lenin.

It's interesting to me that these butthurt Wypipo have chosen to take their stand in the protected safe spaces of universities and colleges. How clever of them. Assured of lots of coverage. And assured they will be... safe.

Be not afraid of these cowards.



Of course running down the protesters on a pedestrian mall was quite an escalation of the animosity and mutual anathemas between Antifa and the Nazis.

RebelutionaryZ was there and more or less captured it on his live feed (he was pretty rattled, no wonder, and the camerawork was not stable at crucial moments, but slack must be cut):

[RebZ apparently took down his video of the crash because it was being used without attribution or permission by CNN and others.]

So here's TMZ's video:

Nevertheless, BE NOT AFRAID.


As an antidote: DON'T BE A SUCKER

Thursday, August 10, 2017


This must be stopped and it must be stopped now.

The entire mass media is gearing up to cheer on nuclear annihilation -- doesn't matter who gets it -- as a late summer diversion from whatever important thing is going on.

This sickens me.

But there you are.

The depravity of our rulers and their handmaidens is boundless.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Immigration Thing

Yet another summer Shark and Missing White Woman story to distract from what's really going on.


And they trot out that little would-be Nazi -- probably drugged up and excited as hell -- to sell the latest scheme to Make America White Again. Here we go.

Now they say there's not a chance in hell this regime proposal will be passed by Congress, not that that matters in the vast eternal scheme. That's not the point of it. The point is to control the conversation about the dreaded incomers, and to force the other side into a defensive (and losing) posture.

Successfully playing to the base while making immigration advocates scramble to defend the incomers on a non-ideological basis. That's been a problem with this immigration thing -- going back many many years -- all along. The reasons why we've had so much immigration over the entire history of the United States and why it's desirable (and for whom)  are never articulated, whereas those who seek to restrict immigration know and can say why (though their arguments might be filled with lies and distortions -- as the little Nazi's arguments clearly were.)

Relying on anecdotes and the Emma Lazarus poem to justify large scale immigration doesn't really work. I don't really know why my ancestors left England, Ireland and Germany when time was, but they did, and they came to the US, made new lives for themselves, and here I am. I wouldn't be here without that. On the other hand, I wouldn't be here without the kindness and forbearance ofthe Native Americans who saved my life, quite literally.

So how should I feel, personally, about immigration?

Personally, I'm relatively neutral about more immigrants coming in. It's neither a good thing nor a bad thing in and of itself. Most of the objections to immigration have to do with who comes and how many and where they wind up. This goes right back to the beginning of Euro-conquest and immigration to North America. The struggle over it is never-ending.

Most of the defense of immigration has to do with a whole bunch of unknown wonders that might accrue. You never know. Right?

I think most Americans have no idea how the current immigration system works or doesn't work. It's a mess by any objective measure, and the regime proposals won't fix that. The problem is that the system isn't set up to handle large numbers of applicants; so millions wait, some of them for many years, while the various steps toward getting a Green Card are undertaken -- or not. It's crazy.

The Emma Lazarus system at Ellis Island was more efficient and comprehensible.

So. What should be done? For the time being, nothing. And that looks like what will happen.

Until immigration advocates get their act together and go on the offense, the notion that anyone can fix what's wrong with the system is silly.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Cowboy: "Punch a hole in the Sky."

Sam Shepard died last week. ALS. I didn't know -- didn't even suspect he was sick. Just old-ish. A bit rough around the edges perhaps from life and drugs and alcohol.

I won't go into a long memorial post about him and his work, some of which had a profound affect on me when time was. He was the only playwright I know of who could accurately capture the spirit and the feeling of life in the hills and valleys east of Los Angeles before the end of the world that it once had been.

Until recently, I didn't know much about his personal life. Didn't care, really. He was a writer, an actor, an artist, and a presence who could -- somehow -- capture the essence of a particular time and place and the people who tried to survive in it, the times and places and people I knew, had lived with, perhaps had been and still was.

When I found out he'd been brought up on an avocado ranch in Duarte, California, in the '40s and '50s, of course it was obvious. This was the why and the how of his ability to capture the essence of what I knew to be true about... that part of the West.

Duarte is less than 10 miles from where I lived from 1954-1959. While Duarte is hard up against the San Gabriel Mountains and I lived on the flatland below, I could see the mountains rising proudly out my living room window, and sometimes I would sit on my back fence and watch them burn as they did practically every year when the weather was hot and the wind was high.

In 1954, the land north of our house, across the concrete drainage ditch that has once been an intermittent stream used by the vanished Gabrielenos Indians, were acres and acres of orange groves protected from the infrequent frosts by strategically placed smoky smudgepots. The avocado trees up in Duarte needed similar protection, though I don't recall Shepard ever writing about it directly.

While I tend to focus on material memories of what it was like back there and then, he was focused on the spirit of the time and place, and its effect. For me, listening, reading, watching and participating in his works when I could -- infrequently, true, but often enough -- was exhilarating and sometimes scary. How did he know?

Unlike many of those posting comments on his NYT obit, I never met him though I was told he came to a rehearsal of "True West" I was working on. For whatever reason, I wasn't there that time.

He was called "Cowboy" -- not that he was a cowboy, just that he knew. We call our next door neighbor "Cowboy," though he's not one, not now anyway, and his name is Kevin. But he reminds me a bit of Shepard, and though we don't have a lot in common, there's enough...

It seems too soon for Shepard to be gone, but not really. He was only a few years older than me, but he clearly had a greater ability to share his inside and insight than I do. Those who sing his praises now that he is gone probably don't quite know what he was really doing. I sometimes wonder if he did.

Vaya con dios, amigo.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Those Who Rule Us

They are really foul creatures.

I've long maintained that Trump and his cabal of gangsters, thieves, white supremacists, and "disruptors" are representative of their class; they are not the highest of the mighty -- far from it -- but they ape them, admire them, want to be like them, and they have been able to seize many of the mechanisms of the government the High and the Mighty control, without more than token resistance from within.

Trump may be a gold-plated con man, but so are many of those of his status and  so are many of those above him.

It is an identity thing with those people.

They thrive on making life miserable for others, looting them, plundering their pelf, tricking them. It's a con, you see. In many ways, it always has been.

It's all well and good to say, "We are many; they are few," a truism if there ever was one. But damb, it's useless without employing the strength of those numbers. We don't do that; we can't, not yet.

Our rulers -- including the Trump cabal -- ensure we cannot unite in strength against their depredations. They are highly, highly skilled at the principle of Divide and Rule. Keeping us at one another's throats over some damb thing or other is a game to them, and we're seeing how effective social media is in maintaining those divisions. The Twitterverse and the rest of the media are ever-useful manipulators of public attention and opinion. Decoupling from it hasn't happened and likely won't.

Not in my (shortened) lifetime, anyway.

Those who rule us are monstrous. Some may once have had the inkling of a social conscience, but none do now. Some of their absence of conscience may have to do with the fact that they understand the consequences of global warming, and they have prepared to protect themselves, not us.

There you have it.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Trans Transition Disruption

My oldest niece (né nephew) is one of those transgender soldiers now (apparently) banned from serving in the military. She retired after nearly three decades of service, transitioning while serving in the California National Guard (c. 2007)

She started her military career -- yes, career -- in the Marine Corps (c. 1976), and after four years, left for a civilian life, only to rejoin the military in the CNG after two years. She stayed in the Guard for over 25 years, retiring as a decorated master sergeant a few years ago.

I don't know many of the details of her service or transition -- at least not in the last few years as we lost contact with her during some other upheavals among the family, and I'm not entirely sure where she is now. Much as I'll bet she's not entirely sure where we are these days.

All I'll add to this right now is that Trump's tweet (whoever wrote it) about banning transgender individuals from the military seemed intended as a disruptive monkey wrench-shiny object, catnip for the media and a vicious blow to a disfavored minority to capture the news cycles while the Senate undertook Repeal and Replace.

It failed mightily.

Anthony Scaramucci put out the idea that Trump was a disruptor operating a start-up the other day. A disruptor yes, but the US Government -- let alone the presidency -- is not a "start-up". Not only will this not end well, I suspect it will end soon.

But then, what do I know? Nuttin'. That's what.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

More Mosul "Liberation"

A few days ago, I speculated that the Mosul "Liberation" cost the lives of 20-30,000 civilians, not the "hundreds" or even the few thousand that was initially claimed. And then word started appearing in some of the foreign press -- not so far as I know in the domestic media -- that the civilian death toll was more like 40,000 -- and rising, as air strikes  continue to "mop up," revenge killings continue, and searches of the destruction of the city turn up more and more rotting corpses.

In any sane world, this would be considered a catastrophe of major proportions, not a liberation at all.

The ISIS rebels may have been cruel and destructive, but they didn't slaughter tens of thousands of civilians, and they didn't destroy entire cities in their quest for their Caliphate, and this will be remembered in the Middle East for ages to come.

The Imperial Storm Troopers their air wings, and their allies, on the other hand, are all about slaughter, annihilation, and destruction of homes, families and entire cities, leaving abundant smoking ruins in their wake and calling it "liberation".

"Liberty?" For whom? To do what?

Given the figure of 40,000 civilians killed in Mosul now being bruited about, I'd venture to guess the actual figure is more like 100,000, but we shall never know, in part because the count will never be complete, and even if it were, the Imperium would never let it be verified.

Do Americans have any idea how many cities in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia have so far faced destruction in the Imperial "Fight Against Terror?" How many civilians have been randomly and/or deliberately exterminated in this futile quest? I would assume not because Americans seem not to care. They have become immunized to the slaughter of brown people and the destruction of their homes and cities. If they know anything about it, it's all a blur, and besides when Trump is acting up, who cares what's happening to brown people far away? I mean, really.


Media Lens did a compare and contrast exercise, The Siege of Aleppo vs Mosul, to show something of how the stories are twisted to fit a prepared narrative. East Aleppo's valiant struggle against the Soviets (damn near) vs the valiant struggle of the West against the perfidious Islamist threat to civilization in Mosul.

The propaganda was constant and heavy and essentially false. That's what we're dealing with, and the more we're immersed in it, the more likely it is that one day -- sooner rather than later -- blowback and karma will come back to haunt the West. Oh my yes.

When will they ever learn?