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:

http://tinyhousetalk.com/the-nugget-micro-house-on-wheels/#more-67953

"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.

Eek.

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.
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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.

Oh.

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.

Interesting.

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.

Etc.

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.

Ahem.

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




"YOU. WILL NOT. REPLACE US!!!!!"

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.

"YOU WILL NOT REPLACE US!!!"

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.

BE NOT AFRAID.

UPDATE:

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:

http://www.tmz.com/2017/08/13/charlottesville-car-attack-terrorist-white-supremacist-rally/

Nevertheless, BE NOT AFRAID.

STAND UP, FIGHT BACK.

As an antidote: DON'T BE A SUCKER

Thursday, August 10, 2017

No.

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.

Damn.

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.

Priorities.

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?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Health-X Update

The roller coaster continues, but it's on the slower part of the ride right now. Good.

It's been just about two months since my second Rituxan infusion, and so far, so good. I still get joint pains regularly, almost clockwork for early morning pains (3:00am, sometimes 4:00) but they're not as frequent as they were, and they are never as painful as they were. I call it a "3" instead of a "10" or higher. The pains last a few minutes to an hour and then they're gone. I spend most of every day almost pain free. Last time I saw my rheumatologist, I told the nurse my pain level was "0" -- almost unheard of in that office.

So, this is all very positive.

Of course the cost for the Rituxan treatment was/is breathtaking, incomprehensible. $42,000 for two 50mg infusions? (According to the prior authorization, however, I'm supposed to get 2000mg over the six months of treatment. Not sure what the deal is with that...)

When I finally got a more or less comprehensible bill, I found I was charged 10% of the approved cost of the Rituxan for each infusion, ($9,492 x 10%= $949 x 2= $1,898.) I wasn't charged for anything else connected with the treatments.

I made something of a stink because this wasn't anything like what I was told the charges would be. Because I wasn't given accurate information, I wasn't able to prepare.

I applied for financial assistance through the hospital, and after some back and forth over income documentation, it was granted: 50% reduction in all my costs associated with the hospital and my providers for the 240 days prior to my application.

Ergo, $949 for the two treatments. Somewhat more than I was prepared for, but not outrageous. I guess. Well, how can one know? Still trying to understand what I actually owe, as the charges for the Rituxan treatment have been reduced by some of the out of pocket charges I've paid for doctor visits and tests.

I am told that I will need another two infusions in October  or November, and I will have to reapply for financial assistance at that time, but it will most likely be granted. So my ultimate cost for the four infusions of Rituxan should be $1,898. More than I was anticipating, but still within a manageable amount. Much more than that, though...

Which brings me to medication costs. I've been in the notorious Part D "donut hole" since last month, My prescription for mycophenolate alone is now costing $450 a month out of pocket. Add in Spiriva, Albuterol, Plaquinil, and miscellaneous other meds, and we're  looking at about $1,000 a month out of pocket for the next four-five months. OK. How do we pay for that?

I checked online, and discovered a source for mycophenolate at $106 a month, such a deal. I don't use Spiriva or Albutertol unless I need them, and I rarely need them. Hardly ever. So I still have them from months ago. The other meds I take are relatively inexpensive, so if I can get the cost of mycophenolate down and can continue not using Spiriva or Albuterol, drug costs will be more or less manageable as well.

I'm supposed to see a pulmonologist at UNM today for an assessment of my lung condition which was becoming quite severe. Recent CT scan indicates that the condition has stabilized and has not progressed beyond the damage noted almost a year ago when I started taking mycophenolate. I still have some breathing difficulty but I don't use oxygen or inhalers any more.

And I'm able to get around and do things with far less difficulty than before.

It's the New Normal. Slower, more deliberate and careful, as if Old Age were settling in.

Ms. Ché is facing a whole raft of issues of her own, most of them consequences of diabetes and most of them more or less under control. I urge her to slow down. She won't, but still I urge her. She'll be going back to IAIA full time next month, three more semesters she says before she gets her degree in Creative Writing. Getting through it is somewhat more of a challenge than she was anticipating, but she's as determined as ever, come what may. And she has a lot of support. From the administration, from the faculty, and from fellow students. She may be an "old broad" as she calls herself, but she feels perfectly at home among the young pups. Sadly, we don't have the money to buy more of their art.

I know so many people are in much worse shape than we are, and I'm grateful for what we have and what we are able to share. Some of what's been going on, particularly since Ms Ché's wreck in January, has been a shock no doubt. But we carry on.






Monday, July 17, 2017

Galisteo

Image of Galisteo Basin from this real estate listing


We're lucky to be able to pass through the Galisteo Basin when we go to Santa Fe. It helps make the fifty mile or so drive an adventure, something we look forward to rather than dread.

Getting to Santa Fe from Albuquerque on I-25 might be a little quicker, but the drive is horrid and it's often a mess either due to weather or more frequently due to wild drivers causing wrecks. This is  New Mexico, after all.

The other alternative, the Turquoise Trail (Highway 14) from Tijeras north, is scenic in parts, but it also tends to be heavily trafficked, and once at Madrid, traffic slows to a crawl. It's not a pleasant drive, and it seems to take forever.

Our preferred drive is lightly trafficked Highway 41 to 285 through El Dorado and into town via Old Pecos/Old Santa Fe Trails if the destination is in town; turn off at Camino Los Abuelos in Galisteo beside the church (Highway 42) to Highway 14 and thence past the State Prison ruins to Rancho Viejo and (eventually) to IAIA.

The village of Galisteo is the midpoint of our journey; the road through the Galisteo Basin constitutes one third of the trip.

Lucy Lippard's magisterial 'Down Country" traces some of the Native Pueblo history of the region and touches a bit on the Spanish history, but it leaves out much of the contemporary history including its use as a kind of refuge from the intensely competitive artists' environment in Santa Fe.

Movies have been made there for decades -- it was once a more popular location than it is today, partly because today's locals are not so keen on the intrusion. There is a movie set just outside of town behind a ridge (so as not to interfere with the village's pristine adobe-ness.) Almost all the few hundred residents are artists of some kind (including writers like Lucy Lippard) or related to artists. A huge ranch, the Bar S Ranch, comes right up to the edges of Galisteo on the south while the Galisteo Basin Preserve and the Flywheel Ranch provide some protection from development on the north and west. The general absence of development is part of what makes the area so appealing to artists and travelers (and movie makers) alike.

If you're going to live in Galisteo, it definitely helps to have money. Lots of it. While some properties are available for less than a million dollars, many are priced well north of that. There seems to be a fairly constant churning of luxe and not-so-luxe properties in the area, partly because people die off when they're old, even if they're rich, and partly because some people move out to Galisteo--  for whatever reason -- little realizing how much work it is to live there.

Everything is more difficult than it would be in the city.

There are no services in Galisteo, for example. There used to be, but there are no longer any places to get groceries or gas or supplies.There is a historic church:
Church, Galisteo, New Mexico
From WikiMedia Commons, Tom Harrington - originally posted to Flickr as Church, Galisteo, New Mexico


and a sala -- used as a community art gallery-- and that's about it. Ruins of the past are found all over the village and in the country-side.

Though electricity and propane fuel are available through the usual means, it's wise to have your own generator because you never know when the power will go out or how long it will stay out. Better yet, have some solar panels installed, just make sure they're hidden from view and don't disturb the pre-industrial ambiance of the place.

Learn to slow down.

That's the basic lesson of places like this and throughout New Mexico if you listen. Learn to slow down. 

Some of the ricos and famosos who chase their dreams to Galisteo or other fashionable parts of New Mexico may never learn that lesson. They won't hear the call to ease up a bit. Things will (usually) work out one way or another.

The road that winds through the Galisteo Basin is an invitation to slow down. It's posted at 55 miles an hour, which is certainly fast enough to get you where you want to go. Through the village, it's 35mph, to me almost too fast. There's not a lot of traffic which is one of the pleasures of the drive through the Galisteo Basin. Nature isn't unsullied, but there is wildlife like pronghorn antelope, rabbits, scurrying voles, ravens and hawks patrolling for road-kill, buzzards afloat on the updrafts, horses, cattle of various breeds. When the monsoons come, the roadsides are awash in wildflowers, but this year, while the monsoons came early, they've been infrequent, and the wildflowers are sparse.

For months, I couldn't take the trip north through the Galisteo Basin -- too much pain, discomfort, distress. There were times I could hardly walk, could not even imagine sitting in the car for the hour it would take to drive to Santa Fe. I really missed it. When we've recently gone to Santa Fe through the Galisteo Basin I've felt rejuvenated.

It brings joy to these tired old bones and joints.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

As The Russia Thing Continues to Metastasize

This long ago got boring I know, but the Russia Thing continues to grow and flourish on the internet and throughout the media firmament; it is this summer's sharks and missing white women story on steroids.

Of course no matter its ever broadened net, no matter how many Trump or Clinton campaign advisors and staff it ensnares, ultimately it appears there will be no there there for the simple reason that it's not meant for a denouement, it's meant to keep the Rabble (and some of their Betters) entertained and distracted while the serious business of neoLibCon looting and pillage and slaughter continues relentlessly.

The Juggernaut must not be interfered with in any way.

Barring the Who-Knows-What, it won't be.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Counterculture Day (for us) in Santa Fe

We don't get up to Santa Fe (fifty some odd miles north) as much anymore, partly because school's out for another month and so and for now Ms. Ché has fewer reasons to go, and partly because my health has made it difficult/impossible for me much of the time to make the trip or to stay for very long if I got there.

You could argue it's always Counterculture Day in Santa Fe; after all, it is the City Different...  and doG knows the city is littered with reconstructed and a few unreconstructed hippies. There is art and alternative healing everywhere. On the way up we pass through Galisteo, a tiny, historic hamlet chock a block with artists and QiGong practitioners. Oh yes, the Counterculture has evolved and is present in bits and pieces or in whole throughout Northern New Mexico, where it arrived like an alien invasion some fifty years ago or more.

2017 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love, though, and all this summer there have been celebrations and exhibits and lectures and so on and so forth to mark the occasion.

There's something happening here and we might have forgotten what it is.

We'd been planning for some time, Ms. Ché and I, to head up to town yesterday to check out the Counterculture exhibit at the History Museum and go see the remastered "Monterey Pop" at the Center for Contemporary Arts. She also had some business to take care of at IAIA with regard to her retreat at Idyllwild.

Counterculture was a mode of expression for some people of our generation, but not by any means for all of them. Looking back, I'd say most of my generation stayed well away from anything that smacked or smelled of hippies, peace, love, flowers and patchouli. 

Those who did partake, for the most part, did so on the margins; Counterculture was not a way of life.

It couldn't be; it was not possible for an entire generation  to tune in, turn on, and drop out (from the mainstream) and still survive.

That's what I felt was missing from the large and very intriguing exhibit at the History Museum co-curated by Jack Loeffler. There seemed to be little or no recognition that the Counterculture of the '60s really involved very few individuals at any given time and place, and by the time it got to New Mexico, in the later '60s and '70s it had become quite a different thing than it had started out to be.

Assuming it had any point of origin as such.

I thought it was interesting -- and wrong -- that Loeffler pegs the "origin" of the Counterculture on the poetry reading at 6 Gallery in San Francisco on October 7, 1955, at which Allen Ginsberg premiered his magnum opus, "Howl." Now wait. No. Just no.

But Jack was there, you see, and he remembers, and so, that's where and when it all began -- for him. And if the Counterculture began for him there and then, then it must have done so for everyone.

No.

It didn't.

Jack is confusing influences with origins. Of course the influences -- such as "Howl" and Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder and Michael McClure, all of whom were present at the seminal poetry reading in 1955 -- were important. Loeffler mentions "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac as a moving influence, as it certainly was, but he casts it as a phenomenon of the '60s when it was published in 1957 about a road trip in 1949. Hello? What "On the Road" is describing is people and events in the immediate Post War era, and to me it harkens back to "Cannery Row" (published in 1945) which was about people and places (in California) in the 1930s.

This didn't originate any Counterculture at all. Instead, literary voice was given to part of the margin of the mainstream.

Which when you boil it down is what the Counterculture of the 1960s really was: an expression of the margins of the mainstream -- commercialized and marketed to death.

Already in 1966, "hippies" were becoming a commercial phenomenon, and some of the original hippies in San Francisco got together in October of 1967 to stage the Death of the Hippie ceremony that was supposed to put the commercial phenomenon to ultimate rest. It didn't of course, but the statement was made by some of those who were there at the beginning that the idea had climaxed and it was time for something else again.



Was I there for this ceremony? You know, I might have been, but I'm not quite sure. There was so much going on that summer and fall, it's a kaleidoscope of impressions now, and actually where I think I was on or near that date was at the Oakland Induction Center coughing on the remnants of tear gas used to clear the way for the inductees.



(Actually that was a couple of weeks after the Death of the Hippie ceremony, so maybe I was there; I don't know anymore.)

The draft and the war fueled the Counterculture for many, and there was a small corner of the exhibit that dealt with the Protests and Movements. One of my strongest impressions of the exhibit was that corner where an elder fellow (my age) sat crying while listening to first person accounts of the anti-war movement and the slaughter in Vietnam through headphones. I couldn't hear  what he was hearing, but I knew why he was crying. It was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears myself.

At least Loeffler acknowledged that the war and the movements had something to do with the origin and persistence of the Counterculture, but I'm not convinced he understood how critical they were to it. I think it's possible he didn't see it the way I do in part because he's ten or more years older than so many of those who were caught up in the Counterculture and he served in the armed forces when it was relatively safe to do so.

He wasn't drafted. He volunteered. Played in the band. At nuclear weapons tests in Nevada. Interestingly it was soon after that seminal reading at 6 Gallery in 1955 which he claims started the Counterculture.

All in all the exhibit was fascinating, though I have my quibbles. The Ram Das elements made me smile, though I wasn't altogether sure why. I've never been much of a fan of Ram Das, but the hand-printed posters and book box inside the geodesic dome from and based on the Lama Community  were an unexpected treat.

Sadly we only had an hour before the museum closed so we didn't get to explore the exhibit quite as much as we might have liked.

After a bite  at Santa Fe Bite, successor to Bobcat Bite, we headed out to to the Center for Contemporary Arts, one of the few local museums we don't belong to, to get ready to see "Monterey Pop" in full, in a movie theater, for the first time in many years.

"Are you here for 'Monterey Pop'? Sorry, it's sold out. But we'll have more showings Friday and Saturday."

Right. Sold out? What the actual hell? "If you'd like, we can give you a 'Queue Card' and you can wait until showtime; we'll release tickets that aren't picked up at that time, and you may get a seat."

OK. We take the "Queue Cards" and wait. Others join the Queue, some rather annoyed that they weren't told that the show was sold out, nor were they informed that there would be additional showings on the weekend (while  we waited, an additional Sunday showing was added.) Nor, in fact, did they know they could buy tickets in advance. I heard many of the same stories while we waited. Then, of course, there were the patrons with extra tickets to sell to those waiting. It became quite a scene in the lobby. Reminded me a bit of the scene outside the fairgrounds at Monterey in 1967, where people were selling -- scalping? -- tickets to get inside. We didn't have that worry then, for we had tickets to all the shows but one, and that one we chose not to attend because nobody we wanted to see was performing.

Those were the days. Not sure how much the tickets cost. Depended probably on where you sat.

We had box seats for Friday and Sunday evening. arena seats for Saturday.

So we waited in the lobby where things were getting tense until showtime yesterday, and sure enough, our Queue numbers were called and we got in just in time, so it seemed. Front row seats, too, wow.

In fact, it looked like everyone who waited got in. So.

The movie was introduced by Lisa Law, whose archive of photos provided nearly all the pictures for the exhibit at the History Museum --and who took some pictures at Monterey between setting up the trip-tipi at the fairgrounds and taking care of her puppy.

Listening to her brought back a  lot of memories.

She said she'd just come back from the 50th Anniversary Monterey Pop Festival where Michelle Phillips sang "California Dreamin'" (and it was so beautiful!) and oh... it was... well.... you'd have to be there.

And she asked how many of us had been to the original Monterey International Pop Festival. Five hands went up, two of them ours. And I was shocked. Everyone in the audience seemed old enough to have attended, but only five of us did. Which is an expression, I think, of how few of my generation actually participated in the events of the era. I say 25,000 or so attended Monterey Pop, but others suggest 50,000 or more. I don't know. But it wasn't a lot in the vast eternal scheme.

Sold out, but still...

And then there was the movie. "Hand held Pennebaker shit." Bless his heart. He captured so much, but he left out a whole lot. Lisa Law said the picture was groundbreaking, and I suppose it was. But then I'd been seeing "groundbreaking" movies at the midnight movies at the Towne Theatre for a long time, so the Pennebaker shit wasn't all that new to me. I loved watching it again for the first time in many years (I think I first saw it in 1968, and maybe once again in 1973, and I haven't seen the whole thing since.)

Brought back lots and lots of memories, but what Pennebaker left out (many of the performances, for example) and what he changed (the order of performances among other things) struck me this time whereas it really didn't seem to matter before.

There were allusions to the cold and the damp, but they were minor elements. Yes, it was cold much of the time, and yes it was damp. I wore a heavy wool army jacket, but still shivered sometimes. The arena seats (yes we had chairs to sit on) were wet with fog and dew. There is a scene in the movie where a pretty young thing is wiping off the chairs. "Just lucky I guess" she says. But they got damp again.

Airplanes are shown flying in to Monterey with the artists, but what isn't shown is that the airport was/is right next to the fairgrounds, and the planes land and take off right over the rodeo arena where the festival performances were held, and time and again, the roar of the planes drowned out the performances. That's not in the movie at all, not even hinted.

There were other interesting omissions. But there were things I flashed on, too, such as the wall of posters that I didn't remember until I saw them in the movie.

All in all, seeing the movie again was a heady experience. When we left, it was starting to rain a little bit, and that, too, was not unlike the Monterey experience.

There's much more I could say about it  -- both the movie and being there -- but it was 50 years ago.

Does any of it matter now?