Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Getting Doctored

I'm still in the early stages of evaluation by a host of specialists trying to get a handle on my condition(s). This will probably go on for at least another 6 months or so, possibly indefinitely, because there is no cure for what ails me, and keeping watch is the best they can do.

I've been getting lots of xrays and blood and urine tests to keep tabs on what is going on. A new test or follow up essentially every week for the time being. Certain markers show up regularly that indicate this or that condition, but nothing is severe enough to warrant alarm. Yesterday, the oncologist, for example, declared me non-cancerous for now, based on those tests which show the presence of a condition to be monitored (MGUS) but nothing else.

Major problem is rheumatoid arthritis and its effects which seem to be spreading and are only marginally under control. This is proving to be a challenge to say the least. I take prednisone which usually controls the pain and inflammation, but sometimes doesn't. I also take leflunomide, which doesn't seem to do anything. Previously, I was taking sulfozine, which also didn't seem to do anything. The rheumatologist is trying various medications, starting with the least expensive, to see what works. We haven't quite hit on anything except prednisone, which supposedly is dangerous over the long term even at the low dose I've been taking (10-15mg daily).

In addition to joint inflammation and pain, I experience extraordinary levels of fatigue regularly. RA is also suspected to be causing or worsening lung inflammation which contributes to fatigue in a vicious cycle, round and round.

Then there's COPD which is diagnosed independently of RA for which I need to see a pulmonologist. Next time for that is October when more tests are scheduled to see just how bad it is.

I was looking through some notes I kept as this journey continues, and it seems that I was doing better in May than I am now. I'd say there's been a slow-but-steady deterioration since then. The pain is mostly controlled, my range of motion is relatively good, but my overall ability is declining. Day-long activity is simply not possible any more. 20 minutes at a time is about the most I can manage and then I must rest for at least as long.  Naps are essential. I limp from sciatica from years ago but it's been getting worse. I get out of breath with almost any activity of more than a few minutes. Though I've tried not to, I've been gaining weight again -- a side effect of prednisone they say. That just makes things more difficult.

And so it goes. At one point I asked one of the doctors, don't remember which one, "What's going on? Why is this happening?" The answer: "You're getting old, and what's happening is more the consequence of old age and genetics than anything else. Compared to a lot of people, though, you're doing well. Just keep that in mind."

I do. Of course I have friends who say if I hadn't had such a wild youth, more'n likely I wouldn't be having all these issues in my dotage. It all comes from my bad living when time was. Then there are the others who are convinced it's all karma, results of things I did or didn't do in previous lives together with my own actions in this one...

Genetics (a form of karmic debt I suppose) enter into it, especially with regard to RA, because my sister had lupus, which is a related auto-immune condition. I assume the propensity came from our mother, though as far as I know, she didn't suffer from auto-immune conditions herself. She had thyroid issues and mental health issues, however, which may or may not have been related. She died of emphysema after a lifetime of smoking. She never quit.

I quit smoking 20 years ago, but I've been diagnosed with "mild" emphysema along with COPD, so I haven't escaped that consequence of smoking tobacco.

Both my sister and brother died of pulmonary embolism, both at a relatively young age: my brother at 32, my sister at 59. I'm not sure of exactly the cause of my brother's embolism, but the indications I got from his care givers and his death certificate are that he lapsed into a coma an was taken to the hospital where he died a few days later. The clot was probably due to his inactivity/paralysis.

On the other hand, my sister's embolism followed knee surgery that in turn followed injury in a prison/mental hospital where she worked. She died as a consequence of the injury and surgery. No doubt about it.

As for cancer... my father developed melanoma which he refused to have treated, and he died within a year, age 67. My mother's mother died of what I was told was stomach cancer, age 52. Her mother died at age 76 from uterine cancer. I've recently learned that from her death certificate. Previously, I didn't know what had happened to her, and from accounts by my sister, who claimed to have met her great grandmother when she was about 7 or 8 years old, I had always thought that Ida (my mother's grandmother) had died after 1940. Turned out, though, she died in 1935, and so my sister could not have met her as my sister was born in 1933 and wouldn't have remembered her if she did meet Ida -- which I strongly doubt. I wonder who she met who she thought was Ida...

My mother's father died in a railroad incident when he was 38; he didn't have time to develop killer diseases and conditions, I guess. As his mother died in 1918, I suspect it was from the Spanish flu. His father died in 1921, and it may have been from the same cause, though I don't know.

So those are some of the histories I'm dealing with. As I've noted before, a lot of my relatives died at a relatively young age, and right now, I'm older than most of them when they died -- wild youth or no.

This actually gives me pause. If I have lived longer, perhaps there is a reason.

On the other hand, I never thought I'd live past 30. So every year since then has been kind of a bonus, no?

Quien sabe...

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Houses [Edited -- Again and Again]

[I realize this post has nothing at all to do with politics, and that's the way it goes these days. I was yakking with  some friends at a get together yesterday, and while they were eager to see Trump and his Trumpistas go down in flames, they were by no means enthused by Mrs Clinton's re-arrival to the Oval Office. It's just a dismal choice this year. Not the first time, nor will it be the last, but it is what it is. Of course what We, the Rabble think about all this hoo-hah is essentially irrelevant.

This post is about memories. In part, it's a memory exercise for me. As I get older, I feel as if my short-term memory is vanishing, and my mid- and long-term memories are turning to mush. It hasn't become a major problem yet, but unless I do something, it could be. So this post is an effort at clearing up some of my own confusions about a place and a time long ago and far away, yet formative to who/what I am now.

The real estate listing photos I've included have actually helped a great deal. I wonder how I might have proceeded without them....]

[Noting further: for the most part, I did the memory exercises to recall various aspects of this house and living here before I found pictures to illustrate these memories. The pictures helped trigger some additional memories, and then I would search for other pictures to illustrate those. In addition, sometimes the pictures (like that of the brown house below) would startle me with how closely they resembled my memory.]

From the Google Street View c. winter 2015

This house is where I lived during my adolescence and early adulthood.

It was built in 1957 and my mother bought it in 1962. As I recall, the price was $17,000.  She paid $500 cash down and financed the rest with a VA loan* at 4% [possibly 5%].  Payments were about $120 a month. Houses in this area currently sell for about $250,000 +/- $30,000. By no means high-end in this part of California. Closer to low-end.

[* Now that I think about it, it may not have been a VA loan, because she bought a house in suburban Los Angeles in 1954 on a VA loan -- and essentially walked away from it in 1959 on the advice of her real estate broker who said he couldn't sell it for what was still owed -- well under $10,000 at the time. I seem to recall that she couldn't qualify for a VA loan again after that, and she may have bought this house in 1962 on an FHA loan. But my memories of the transaction details were always spotty and incomplete, so this may have to be an unrecovered memory for the foreseeable future as it's something I was never all that clear about.]

I lived there until 1968 and returned to live there when my mother moved to another city to work in 1972. When she returned in 1974, I moved elsewhere. During the time I lived there in the '70s, I did some substantial repairs and renovations. My mother sold this house in 1984 and moved to a mobile home near my sister's place in Susanville. Her health was failing, and ultimately one of her granddaughters became her caregiver, staying with my mother until her death in 1987.

As far as I know, the same family has lived in this house since they bought it more than 30 years ago. Its appearance hasn't changed since they moved in. They painted it white, in contrast to the dark brown original paint job it had when my mother bought it and the (avocado) green I painted it later.

Below is a picture of another house in the neighborhood that has the same floor plan only reversed. I reversed the picture to match the layout of the house I lived in. Of interest to me is that this house is the same dark brown as our house was when my mother bought it. The owners of this house have painted the garage door white, but it is the original garage door. You can just make out the rectangular trim on the door. Similar trim is found between the windows on the front of the house.
A different house but the same floor plan -- reversed. The image has been reversed to match the layout of the house I lived in
In fact, I was quite startled when I reversed the photo, because the picture is now the spitting image of the house I lived in when we first moved in -- with the exception of the huge tree in front, the wider driveway, the white garage door,* and the modified window of the hall bathroom visible to the left of the front door.

[*Now that I think about it, it could be that our garage door was painted white (off-white) as well. The difference might have been that the trim on our garage door was painted brown. At any rate, when I look at the picture of the brown house, memory triggers are very strong. That is (almost) what our house looked like until I painted it green...]

The people who bought my mother's house made a few visible changes to the exterior besides painting it white. They put on a new garage door and replaced the windows and roof. I think they installed a different front door.  It appears from an overhead view that they remodeled part of the house by extending the living room into the back yard, much as I once thought of remodeling the house myself.

It's not a large house, only 1250 square feet. There are three bedrooms and two baths. There is a large living room with room for dining at one end. The living-dining room features a wall of glass anchored by a floor to ceiling used brick fireplace with a raised brick hearth. The ceilings in the entry hall and bedroom hall are dropped about a foot in order to allow space to run HVAC ductwork. This dropped ceiling effect is used as a feature at one end of the living room by the fireplace where there is what could be a lighting cove. In our house, there were no lighting fixtures in the cove, but in others of the same model there are. [Also in our house, the end wall of the living room by the fireplace wasn't paneled as it is in the picture below.]

Another house with the same floor plan

Showing the wall of glass and the dining area at one end of the room

Furniture in our house was arranged similarly -- at least at various periods. Change was fairly frequent during my residence.

This room is about 13x24.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Trump Is An Example of His Class; Hillary Is An Example of Those Who Serve His Class

To the extent I've been paying attention to the hot mess that is the current state of the presidential campaign, I guess I've been witnessing through the class war lens of some kind of unreconstructed Marxist.

It's so obvious to me that the top of the ticket of both major parties is occupied by class warriors intent on preserving and expanding the pre-eminence, wealth and power of the now iconic 1% at the expense of everyone else.

Trump is the embodiment of the 1%; Hillary embodies those who serve them and ensure their success.

Kaine and Pence also serve in their own way and would be quite capable of continuing the elite class war on the masses should anything untoward happen to one or the other of the principals.

It is so obvious to me, and yet it seems to be completely out of the realm of consciousness or possibility to partisans on either side. They simply don't -- and possibly can't -- get it.

To place a loudmouthed bully like Trump in the White House would be an interesting experiment from a technical, sociological and scientific point of view. The last example of a member of his class in the White House was FDR.

FDR was Old Money, of course, and represented long, long years of government service by the time he was elected to the presidency. His initial opponent, Herbert Hoover, was as rich if not richer, but he was New Money with a very different kind of service background. For  example, he'd coordinated relief efforts in Europe during and after WWI. He'd done it as a volunteer, and at the time, his efforts were considered remarkably successful.

FDR ran to the right of Hoover in 1932, and there was very little or no inkling of the soon-to-be implemented New Deal in his campaign. Whether it was already in the works, I don't know. On the other hand, Hoover was no slouch when it came to innovative ways to deal with the dislocation and distress of the early years of the Depression.  He instituted any number of programs at the Federal level to relieve suffering and expand the economy, but he was hamstrung by his Republican Party orthodoxy and his belief in the limitations of federal power.

FDR initially shared many of Hoover's beliefs about government authorities and the necessities of balanced budgets, etc. In fact, he campaigned as if Hoover was just too radical.

When he got into office, of course, he practically did a 180 and became much more radical in addressing the Depression -- which caused Hoover to condemn him and the New Deal for the rest of his life.

According to the Hooverite belief system, what Roosevelt did prolonged the Depression and may well have contributed to the outbreak of WWII.

We hear plenty of echoes of that belief system today, although it is actually in service to a different ideology.

Both Hillary and Trump are campaigning well to the right of Hoover, and neither has any interest in reviving the solutions to economic and social problems that FDR eventually undertook. Hillary offers a modest economic stimulus package, but apparently only because Bernie "forced" her to.

Trump offers nothing, insisting that tax cuts, trickle down, and immigration control are the only things that "work" to elevate the masses.

Literally neither has any interest in the ultimate well being of the masses. They are both fully focused on the well being of the 1% at the expense of the masses.

Trump would do it by bulling his way, steamrolling opposition and demanding obedience through the force of his personality. Hillary would do it by the usual means of government -- bribery, persuasion, quids-pro-quo, etc. But those means primarily apply to the High and Mighty -- ie: Trump's class, not to the rest of us. We are to be exploited and disposed of.

Her campaign, after all, initially got going with the motto: "No you can't!" and her outlook really hasn't changed a whole lot since then. Trump's campaign is little more that "I am the One!" repeated over and over again -- with a dollop of "I will set you free!" to sweeten the pot for his white-male constituency.

Neither offers anything but more of the same little bit or less to the rest of us, and it's because we really don't count in their equation of what's important and what's necessary.

I can't be bothered with either of these candidates. On the other hand, Bernie wasn't much of an option either, and as many suspected, he was sheepdogging for Herself and will probably continue to do so as his so-called "political revolution" is institutionalized.

Trump, though, as an example of the crudity and meanness of his class seems to be perpetually able to get away with almost anything because of his entertainment value. The idea that the way he is is the way most of those of his class are is barely recognized. Somehow his behavior and beliefs are considered aberrant,  but they aren't. They're typical. Trump has rougher edges than most of his class, but that's about the only difference.

Hillary's interest in serving his class is also not widely recognized.

I'm at a loss to how to break this cycle.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Not Much Interested

Can't say I've been following the campaigns or the conventions with anything like the interest and involvement I once had. No, not at all.

It's not so much the sham and charade of it all as it is the fact that at some point you learn that the spectacle has a particular purpose: to keep the Rabble amused and distracted sufficiently -- divided and at one another's throats if need be and possible -- to enable the continued exploitation and looting by the privileged elites.

It's a basic principle of rule.

Whatever else goes on, the Rabble must never be allowed to express their own interests and govern their own lives. Ever.

I have essentially no interest in either of the two major candidates for the presidency of the United States, for example. They may be a tremendous contrast to one another (or maybe not), but neither has shown a determination to enable the People's liberation.  Instead, they both show a strong tendency to want to order and command the Rabble to extract the most power from them. The idea of self-governance doesn't occur to either of them. It's more a matter of who can assert dominance over the masses "better."


Of course the electoral process was irreparably damaged when the Supreme Court lawlessly intervened in the 2000 election, handing the presidency to George Bush the Lesser and his enforcer Mr. Cheney.

I'm old enough to remember some other lawless interference, including the assassination President Kennedy in 1963, and numerous subsequent assassinations, upheavals, bewildering government behaviors (such as wars and what have you) and constant economic exploitation and social and political repression.

But the election interference by the Supreme Court in 2000 was unprecedented, and it essentially put the lie to the whole idea of "elections." If they don't produce the "correct" result within a certain time frame, then they will be canceled and the Supreme Court will decide the outcome.

In the interim since then, we've seen, over and over again a plethora of electoral outcome shenanigans, from outright voter intimidation/suppression, to fungible machine counts, constantly off kilter polls (ha!), and media collusion for desirable outcomes. The Supreme Court hasn't had to interfere again, so that's good, I guess. But the mask came off, and I think more than a few people understand that if the outcome isn't satisfactory to the PTB, then the Court can and will intervene again. But it's almost impossible to imagine that the outcome cannot be remotely manipulated to produce the desired result so as to obviate direct intervention.

So. Don't think your vote really matters. It doesn't.

Besides, we've been given such dismal choices this time around. At least Obama had charm and grace. Neither of these two -- Clinton or Trump -- have either. Many have speculated that if Obama could run again, he'd be elected in a heartbeat over either of these two, and that's probably correct.

Can't say that Bernie has/had much charm or grace, either.

Of course, this has nothing to do with policy. It has everything to do with personality, and that's what our elections for president have been running on for practically ever. It's not about the policy. It's about the personalities on offer.

Those of us who try to keep things on a policy plane (heh) say that really, neither of the major candidates has anything to offer the Rabble besides more pain, suffering, and exploitation, and it appears from the signs and portents that one of them, Mrs. Clinton, is eager to get her war on, while the other, Mr. Trump, may wish to delay it for a bit, until the US itself is "cleansed." Yeek. Neither is really a palatable option in my view.

I will say that it was obvious to many of us during the 2000 election that Mr. Bush and his familiar Mr. Cheney were more than eager to gain the White House and get their war on. I remember online bets being taken over how long it would be before Bush-Cheney involved the US in a major armed conflict. I said "6 months," and of course lost because it actually took 9 months to get things started.
But that war started so long ago now, many young people who will be able to vote in the 2018 congressional elections (if they want to) can't remember a time when the US wasn't at war abroad and at home... It appears to be a permanent state of war -- which is what Bush-Cheney wanted apparently -- that the Rabble can do nothing about.

Trump wants to expand the imperial wars against Muslims, whereas Clinton seems to want to expand the Empire -- by any means necessary including nuclear confrontation -- to absorb/dismantle both Russia and China.

Whichever one succeeds in gaining the White House, they are both mad, and their warmongering policies are utter madness. But that's where our governing class is these days -- delusional, insane, dangerous, mad.

There is this notion that Clinton is somehow the consummate E-Ville of All Time, and Trump is not, but this is silly. They are both products of a corrupt and evil system, only one is slicker at it than the other, and one will be slightly sly-er at accomplishing the ends that system desires than the other. The system itself is evil, if you will, and it will only produce choices-candidates who fit the interests of the system. Don't fool yourself that one is uniquely evil and the other is not. They are parallel products of the same system. Both equally nasty.

So what do you do?

Clearly, the system is not self-correcting. If anything, it's getting worse. The option many have chosen is to withdraw and build a better -- but separate -- society that exists outside the parameters of government and rule.

That may be sufficient over the short term, but the long term looks pretty bleak. There is no escape from the vicissitudes of climate change, for example, and it looks from the evidence that the Empire will grind on like the Juggernaut it is, rolling over everything in its path in perpetuity. In other words, there's no permanent escape from the Juggernaut of Empire, either.

Stopping the Juggernaut will take some doing, and so far, nothing has proved effective against it. On the other hand, you never know what will be effective until you try it.

We are in such interesting times, no?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Killings

Once again we are awash blood. I used to say that Los Angeles suffered from a Killer Culture, but in fact, the Killer Culture pervades the United States, has done from the beginning, and every now and again the blood-baths and deaths break out domestically and abroad. Shooting and killing at home, assassinations and wars of choice abroad.

Interesting that the identified shooter in Dallas is said to have served in Afghanistan, yet another victim, I'd say, of that Killer Culture that sees all defined Others as expendable and worthy of death. US official killing sprees, domestically and overseas, have been with us from before the beginning. It's an identity thing. 

The identified killer in Orlando was a trained security guard who wanted to be a cop so they say.

Two black men were killed by police a few days apart, essentially because the police were... scared. Not for any other known reason. Say "gun!" in the presence of a black male suspect and that's it. Bam bam bam. Dead.

Hundreds and hundred of Americans have been killed by police so far this year, killings that are on pace to exceed the death rate from police action in 2015. An average of three or more a day, dead at the hands of police, year in and year out.

That's the norm. Three a day, day in and day out, year after year, and if somehow the target is missed over a period of days, our valiant boys in blue make up for it with a spate of killings all in a row.

The wonder is that something like the Dallas shootings of police officers hasn't happened before now. Except something like it, without the dead officers, did happen. In Dallas. Just last year.

A man bought a de-commissioned Dallas PD SWAT van, loaded it up with weaponry and went over to the DPD HQ and commenced firing. Oh yes. Shot the place up good he did, but it was late at night and there weren't a lot of people around. He is said to have placed bombs, too. There was a shoot out down the road, and according to accounts the perp was... dispatched when one of his bombs blew him up. Or something. The denouement was never entirely clear.

The incident was considered bizarre at the time, but now it seems to fit somehow. A prelude, let's say.

But the wonder remains that attacks on police officers and police stations are exceedingly rare. No more than a handful of police officers have been killed in the line of duty over the last few years. In fact death from heart attack, car wrecks and so on are far more prevalent among officers than death by perp.

Yet cops kill more than a thousand civilians every year, and they almost always get away with it  -- by saying the magic words: "I feared for my life and the safety of others."

In most cases, that's all they have to say, no matter what the objective facts of the situation, and they are home free.

How anyone can live in that kind of constant fear, I don't know. But because black and brown (and homeless and mentally ill) victims are targeted and killed by police disproportionately, one can or should understand that these segments of the population live in constant fear of the police, no?

The killings must stop, but nothing seems to be done to stop them in the aggregate. The rate of killings -- both by police and homicides among civilians -- seems to be a constant, baked in. How odd, but there you are.

And so we are led to mourn, to offer up "thoughts and prayers," to express our impotent rage, to march and to hold vigils.

Nothing more.

Nothing more.

How strange. How bloody and strange.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


I started a post yesterday in which I attempted consideration of US Independence Day vis a vis the Current Crisis of Britain as a consequence of the Chaos following the Brexit vote -- seen through the lens of my newly found British ancestry. Well, not surprisingly, it didn't work and I never completed the post. It may languish in draft form for the foreseeable future, or maybe I'll just delete it.

This post will take something of a different tack.

Today marks my father's 115th birthday. He was always very proud that he was born on the 5th of July (1901), as that made him a patriotic child of the new century. His birth, he thought, marked the transition from what used to be to what would become -- the Future in other words.

My father considered himself to be Irish-American through and through. His father was the son of Irish immigrants who arrived in the United States in 1850 -- or thereabouts. This date contrasts with the story I was told about them, but that's another story...)

Actually, I haven't found the immigration date of my father's grandfather James, but James's parents (Alexander and Mary) arrived in 1850 along with several of their children and in-laws. James is not listed among them, nor are a couple of other of their children. I'm assuming they were still in Ireland and came over later, probably in 1852 or so. Family histories are murky about dates and such. At any rate, James, my father's grandfather, got to the US somehow at some date, and after settling into Iowa (his parents and siblings, after a relatively brief sojourn in Ohio where there were uncles and cousins, moved to Iowa in 1856), he acquired farms and land in Scott County, outside of Davenport. James married Alice (also an 1850s immigrant from Ireland) and they started a family on the farm. Alice died shortly after my grandfather's birth in 1869). James married again three years later, to a woman named Margaret -- who was also an 1850s immigrant from Ireland -- and they had one son together. As time passed, James retired from farming and moved upriver to Clinton, where his son (my grandfather William H) had a law office and James's daughter Katherine (also spelled Catherine) had lived for some time with her husband -- who was also descended from Irish immigrants.

My father's mother was German-American. Her mother, Veronica, was said not to have spoken English. Her father, Reinhold, did speak English, though his accent was said to be heavy. My father never knew Reinhold, his grandfather, because Reinhold died in 1901, two weeks after my father's birth. My father had little to say about his mother Elizabeth Veronica. She died in 1940, about a year before my father's father William H died, so I never knew either of them as they were long dead by the time I came around (in 1948). I heard some things about Elizabeth, my grandmother, specifically about how she faced prejudice during WWI, because of her German ancestry. My father indicated that her family were well-off enough to get through that difficult period, but he seemed to resent the fact that his mother had had to face the cruelties of American xenophobia at all. It seemed to affect him, though, in that he essentially buried his own German-American ancestry, rarely mentioning it, and typically focusing on the fact that he was Irish-American, and that's what he passed on to me. I therefore was Irish-American as well.

Yes, well... but what about my mother?

She claimed not to know much about her ancestry, but from what she did know of it, she claimed an aristocratic lineage. What she liked to say was that she was "a direct descendant of Marie Antoinette!" With a toss of her auburn haired head to express the exclamation point. Well, no, I don't think she was actually the sad French queen's descendant, but when I looked into her ancestry, I found it led back -- and back and back -- to the Drakes in England. Through the Drakes, she may indeed have had some tiny fraction of English royal blood, though I found no direct connection with English kings and queens.

I had long thought that her grandmother Ida was an immigrant from England. This was because my sister had had one encounter with Ida when she came out to California to visit from her home in Indiana -- where my mother had been born in 1911.

My sister said she thought that Ida was British because she spoke with an accent and had "that demeanor" about her.

Well, it turns out that Ida was not from Britain. She was born and raised in Indiana. Her father was from New Jersey, though, where his family had been since the 1600s. Their ancestors, in turn, were from England and it is through them that I found the connection with the Drakes.

There was also a connection with a New Jersey character named "Princess Snowflower," the daughter -- or perhaps the sister -- of "King Nummi," the "last of the Lenni-Lenape Indian chiefs of Cape May, New Jersey." Princess Snowflower was -- apparently -- my mother's grandmother's great grandmother. Got that? Good.

There is some dispute over whether "Princess Snowflower" was actually an Indian Princess at all, however. Some accounts say that the story of "Princess Snowflower" was made up in the 19th century to romanticize the history of a girl -- who was actually a descendant of someone who came over on the Mayflower. You would think her actual ancestry would be romantic enough, but apparently not.

I don't know what to believe about it. It's just another data point. At any rate, through her female line, I found nothing but English ancestry -- except possibly for "Princess Snowflower."

My mother's father's side provided some roadblocks, however.

My mother didn't know much about her father as he was killed when she was five years old, and she was raised by her mother and step-father. They didn't have a whole lot to say about her biological father.

I was able to find out a lot about him through Ancestry.com and various newspaper archives, none of which provided a flattering picture, but I ran into a roadblock tracing his ancestry. I could find nothing regarding his paternal ancestry prior to his grandfather who was apparently born in Virginia in 1798. Where the parents came from is something of a mystery. Possibilities include England, Ireland, Scotland, France or even Spain.

My mother's father's mother, however, was much easier to trace, as she was a descendant of the Lawrences of New England -- which would make her heritage English quite solidly.

If my mother's mother was (mostly) British, and my mother's father was (mostly) British, that would make me at least half British wouldn't it? Kind of puts the kibosh on my Irishness, no?

It's definitely disorienting.

I never had much regard for the British, and the current hoo-hah over the Brexit vote is kind of funny, actually. My Irishness makes me instinctively suspicious of British motives and actions -- there is little reason to believe much of what is presented as "truth" by the British because they lie. It's part of the culture. Who knows, maybe it's genetic.

Consequently, much of what we're told by the British is probably false, and the spectacle surrounding the Brexit vote is likely mostly phony and for show. That Tony Blair is being resurrected to explain is a sure sign of duplicity at the least.

There's also been some chatter-- yesterday at any rate -- that proposes the American Revolution was somehow a "mistake." Would things have been better if it had never happened? Possibly, who knows.

But it did happen, and here we are.

So many things that might have been never were and won't be because of what actually happened.

There is more and more speculation that Britain will not actually leave the EU, but that the kingdom itself may break apart. The breakup of the British Isles into component parts is somehow pleasing to an onlooker like myself, almost as if it were inevitable like the break up of the Soviet Union and so much of Europe following the collapse of the world that used to be. The EU has not been a pleasant replacement, far from it. So the EU may collapse as well. Led by the Brits.

If that were to happen, it would eventually mean the end of the USA as we've known it, wouldn't it?

Ah, that remains to be seen, but if it happens...

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Random Notes

I've been on a surprisingly long hiatus -- partly due to health issues, partly because of the surrealness of the passing scene. Sometimes I wonder if we have all tumbled down a rabbit hole from which there is no turning back.

Health: My condition (rheumatoid arthritis) is stable, I guess. But word came yesterday that the rheumatologist suspects I have another complicating condition that needs treatment as well -- but she won't say what she suspects, just wants me to see another specialist. Sigh. What I can say is that there have been periods recently when I've felt... strange. Almost out of body. I attribute it to medication, but I'm not sure. At any rate, just remembering to take all the medications I've been prescribed is something of a challenge. They seem to work well enough, but there are so many, it's sometimes more than I can manage to remember them all and remember to take them in the right sequence.

Costs are starting to climb as well. So far, the cost is not crippling, but it's surprising just how much of my treatment and prescriptions are not covered by the Medicare Advantage plan I signed up to or are covered at such a low percentage of cost that I pay almost full price.

Brexit: Jeebus. What a clusterfuck. Watching the utter meltdown of Our Betters following the vote was/is entertaining, I suppose, but there is something curious about all the sturm und drang and garment rending that strikes me as completely phony. Things are not what they seem. There is a strong element of Show Business, in other words, that leads me to believe that in the end, Britain will not leave the EU, and the voters will learn that their vote really doesn't matter. These things are not to be decided by plebiscite. Very little is to be decided by the Rabble in the end.

Anyone who's watched what's happened to Greece, among other places, should have learned that by now. The People are to have as little say in matters of state and importance as is possible. Going forward, they should not expect to have any say, or if they have one, they should expect their decision to be ignored -- if it contradicts the decisions of Their Betters.

We'll see, but I'm not convinced -- at all -- that The People will have their way in Britain any more than they have had their way most anywhere else lately.

Clinton v Sanders v Trump: OK. It's always more important for neoliberal Democrats to attack and if possible destroy their left flank. The Left is considered an existential threat to the neolibcon program and must be crushed. Consequently much more energy is devoted to suppression of the so-called Sanders "Political Revolution" than has gone into "fighting" Republicans.

More and more it appears that Trump will not be the Republican nominee, assuming the Republicans want a contest for the White House (not entirely clear). The Rs seem to be happy enough with Clinton, almost as if they would have nominated her if Sanders had become the Democratic nominee.

The important thing for both Clinton and Trump is to keep the Sanders Wing from any kind of power no matter what else happens. The spectacle is typical but largely uninteresting.

That's just me, though...

Houses: On a completely different note, while pondering the world my parents grew up in -- so different from our own -- I've thought a bit about the houses where they lived. Those houses, I think, had a shaping influence on them, just as the houses I grew up in have shaped who I am.

My father was born in Iowa in 1901, the second son of a prominent Irish-American attorney and his German-American wife. The family lived in a series of Victorian houses on one street, actually one block of one street. These houses were not that big, they certainly weren't fancy, and even the biggest of them and the fanciest was relatively modest compared to the mansions of the town's wealthy just a couple of blocks away.

As the family grew, their houses got bigger. There were eventually eleven children, nine of whom lived to adulthood. They did not have electricity, however, until about 1913. They had servants -- a cook/nanny/housekeeper and a man to take care of the yard and drive the car. Ultimately, my father inherited one of his father's houses on that block and he lived there the rest of his life.

It was an old and very small house, though it was two stories. I remember it well, even from a very early age. The earliest memories I have of it are of the smell of the coal furnace in the basement and the rough feel of the wool rugs against my skin. There was nothing fancy about this house. Parts of it dated back to the 1840s or 50s, very rough and simple. Additions were made in the 1870s and 1890s, and my father remodeled some of it in the 1940s and 50s. But even though it grew, the rooms were small, some of them were actually tiny. The house still stands. It's been remodeled and expanded again, but I imagine it's still small and plain.

My mother was born in Indiana  in 1911 and lived the first five years of her life with her mother, grandmother and aunts in a house that no longer stands. It was replaced in about 1915 with a fire station. The family moved next door into a house that still stands, a simple Victorian place that is deceptively large. In 1917, however, my mother, her mother, and her step father moved to California where lived in a pretty typical California bungalow that still stands, though it has been heavily remodeled over the years. The bungalow was something like this. In fact, I think it was a lot like that. I think that house had a strong influence on my mother when she was growing up.

In Sacramento, we lived in a neighborhood that was filled with Arts and Crafts bungalows, and I became familiar with some of them. What struck me about so many of them is that they were dark, dark as caves, and nothing at all would brighten them up. I think it was because they were so dark that owners painted the woodwork white. Arts and Crafts aficionados, of course, are passionate about stripping the paint from bungalow woodwork, and then they wind up with a dark house once again. But I guess they like it.

Bungalows were considered progressive compared to their Victorian predecessors. It's a rather strict style, floorplans tend to be standardized, and for the most part, bungalows are compact. There are exceptions (like the Gamble House in Pasadena) but the house my mother grew up in was small, tight, dark (I'm assuming) and she probably felt confined.

How that influenced who she became is a topic for another post...

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

As More Is Reported...

[Caveat: Who knows whether the reporting is truthful or accurate? Reporting on the American tradition of mass murder is typically/traditionally sketchy at best, and it is always, always driven by narrative...]

So the Orlando killer, they now say, was a conflicted gay man who regularly went to a gay bar in Orlando two hours away from his home on the east Florida, where on Sunday during Pride Week he slaughtered dozens of patrons and wounded dozens more just after last call. Speculation is that he knew any number of those he shot; at any rate, quite a few survivors have come forth and said they knew him. Oh yeah. They knew him all right, and from what's been reported, it seems they did not like him at all.

But he was a regular nonetheless. It's a four hour round trip between Port St. Lucie and Orlando. They say he drank heavily at the bar, and he would get raging drunk while he was there, so the drive home must have been challenging to say the least. Or did he spend the night in Orlando? Did he spend the night with anyone he met at the bar? Or...?

Some observers and commenters have been skeptical about this whole self-loathing gay theory, not so much because it's not plausible as there seems to be so little evidence that he was actually a gay man, and not simply someone who was... curious -- apparently lethally so.

They want evidence that he ever had sexual relations -- or even a casual encounter -- with another man. So far, there's been none.

All that's been reported is that he was married twice. He was very abusive to his first wife, and she left him within a few months. His second wife apparently did not suffer that way. He fathered children. He frequented the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. He used gay-oriented online chats. There is a report that he asked a fellow student at the police academy out on a date but the fellow declined.

And fairly consistently the reports suggest that nobody liked him, not at his job (as a security guard at the local courthouse) and not at the gay bar.

They didn't like him because he was volatile, mercurial and filled with anger. Among other things no doubt.

In other words, he was a frightening character that many people wanted to stay well away from.

He was reported to the FBI by his co-workers because of some of the things he said about being involved with terrorist groups. The FBI interviewed him several times over a period of over a year and determined there was nothing  actionable about what he had said or done.

He went to the Pulse bar in Orlando on Latin Night, the culmination of a week of gay pride celebration in Orlando. Somehow he got past the uniformed off-duty policeman working security at the door, got past him with his guns and ammunition. Reports suggest that he had a few drinks, chatted with some folks, and then... started shooting. He somehow shot more than 100 people before retreating to a restroom where he holed up with hostages and started an hours-long "negotiation" with authorities, using his cell phone for communication.

Ultimately, the "negotiations" failed, and the authorities decided to blast their way into the restroom where he was holed up, but that failed the first time they tried. They sent in a robot bobcat (IIRC) to knock a hole in the wall. The wall was breeched, and the hostages, according to reports, escaped. The killer emerged after the hostages and engaged in a gunfight with the police. He was killed in the gun battle.

End of incident.

During the "negotiations" the killer apparently said he had explosives and was prepared to blow himself and the hostages up, and that was the excuse given for taking aggressive action.

He is also said to have declared his loyalty to a number of Muslim terrorist groups.

He was born in New York, the son of Afghani parents who emigrated to the US after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. From appearances at any rate, his parents were/are very well off, and one would assume he grew up comfort or even luxury. From reports, it appears he was not religious.

Reports suggest he had fairly severe mental health issues, specifically "bi-polar disorder." Given his age and behavior, he may have had incipient or full-blown schizophrenic issues. Anger management was apparently not his forte.

The question then arises, how was he able to get and keep a security officer job with one of the nation's premiere mercenary contractors (G4S -- ask Jeremy Scahill about it) for nearly 10 years, despite his apparent record behavioral and psychological issues? How was he able to get all the clearances and gun permits and so forth? This is odd, it seems to me, unless it is somehow typical.

This was a man who should not have been allowed around any weapon at all, and yet he was a long-time employee of one of the top mercenary outfits, working as an armed guard at a fricking courthouse, even though he was recognized as a... potential danger to himself or others by his own co-workers who reported him to the FBI. The FBI that investigated and claimed to find nothing "actionable."

Well, I'm sure the conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this one.

Something isn't right.

By doG no.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Massacres Will Continue Until Morale Improves and Everyone Gets With the Program


Yet another mass killing, this time -- they say -- with the largest number of casualties of any single incident of mass murder in the nation's history.

Well, actually, no. If we're measuring massacre casualties accurately, we have to go way back into American history and start with the New England immigrants, Pilgrims they were, who came here and started killing right off the bat. If we want to go back further, we need to go back to the Spanish adventurers in the Southwest who killed Natives with abandon -- though many of their accounts may be false.

It was not unusual for hundreds -- even in one case, thousands -- of Natives to be killed at one go. So no, the Orlando Massacre is by no means the largest number of mass-murder casualties in the nation's or its colonial history. Not even close. Some are beginning to say that it is the largest mass murder toll since Wounded Knee, but even that might not be accurate.

Still, it's a shocking and terrible thing and deeply traumatic to Orlando and the gay community. It has shaken the Hispanic community as well since almost all the casualties were Latin men, it being Latin Night at the venue.

Ultimately, this mass killing has shaken the nation, but... well, there have been so many of these incidents over the years, so very many mass shootings at various sites -- schools, shopping centers, movie theatres, churches, bars and clubs, etc., etc. It's an American tradition by now.

The victims of these incidents are almost always ordinary folk, people going about their ordinary business or recreation, bothering no one, at least not intentionally. The routine is that some "lone wolf" with issues targets a particular site where random people gather and starts shooting more or less randomly until the shooter is dispatched by the overwhelming firepower of authorities -- or surrenders or escapes to be captured later.

What never happens in these incidents is that the High and the Mighty are targeted and slaughtered one by one and in batches. Never.

The targets are always perfectly ordinary people doing perfectly ordinary things with others of their kind.

The pattern is almost always the same: the shooter with his weapons and ammunition goes to a site where he knows people will gather, he makes his way in with little or no difficulty, he sets himself up and starts shooting while watching his targets panic and cower or run in fear. He kills and wounds however many he can before police or others intervene. He may or may not be killed on the spot, with or without a gunfight. But shooter does essentially the same things no matter when or where the incident takes place. No matter the motivation.

This is the exact pattern followed in nearly every mass murder incident in the nation's recent history. I'm so old, I remember what's considered to be the first of these incidents, at the University of Texas in 1966.  It was a shocking and appalling incident, unprecedented, bloody and awful. It was considered an aberration at the time, a gross anomaly, but it set the pattern that nearly all incidents of the type have followed ever since.

And so it was in Orlando.

So it was in San Bernardino, too.

Despite the fact that these two recent incidents are widely considered to be Islamist "terrorist" incidents, they follow the precise pattern of mass killings that has become the tradition in the USofA.

There's long been a suspicion that these incidents are not really random. The pattern is too similar, the victims too ordinary, the chosen sites too commonplace, the response too nearly identical. (More thoughts and prayers, please.) Most obviously, these incidents induce panic and fear in general population.

In addition, these incidents all depend on ease of access to firearms. Our political class absolutely refuses to restrict access to firearms, citing the Sacred Second -- the only provision in the Bill of t that politicians and their sponsors seem to recognize and care about.

Panic and fear. More panic and fear. Futile calls for gun control. Official disinterest. More gun sales. And still more panic and fear as there is no place safe from the lone wolf killers seeded among us. No place at all.

Except that if you are rich enough or important enough, you will never be a victim of one of these lone wolf killers seeded among us. Nope, not a chance.

Isn't that interesting?

However, Gabby Giffords, an elected member of Congress was a victim -- who survived a mass shooting in Arizona. Interestingly, after she was shot, the usual calls for gun control were issued, and Congress in its wisdom and majesty refused to  do anything. Not their problem. Even though one of their own was a victim. It didn't matter. Too bad so sad. Tough luck, Gabby. At least she survived.

What's going on? Why is it impossible to do anything to control access to the weapons that make these incidents possible? Not just possible but certain?

The lack of action is often blamed on the NRA and its lobbying prowess. That's a traditional response. It's their fault. Blame it on the boogy-man.

But what happens is that Congress and state legislatures and local authorities refuse to act. They cite the constitution and court decisions which they claim prevent them from acting, but those excuses fall flat. The simplest explanation is that they are satisfied with the way things are even if, from time to time, one of their own is shot by a mass murderer. They gain some kind of benefit from keeping the Rabble endlessly fearful of attackers. It's almost as if they believe the survival of the Nation depends on keeping the masses constantly fearful and filled with dread.

The fact that some of the international terror groups like to congratulate the killers or take responsibility for encouraging them should be a red flag. There's something very odd going on. The Powers That Be seem pleased enough, as whatever is going on doesn't affect them directly at all. But it does help keep the riff-raff in line.

I have no way to know what the motivation of the Orlando killer was. Speculation has focused on some mental issues (possibly untreated bipolar disorder)  and inchoate rage at gay men. That may be. I don't know. His supposed ISIS affiliation would be interesting if true, but there's no sign yet that it  is (though it will be flogged forever). The fact that he was able to get into the club with his weapons and ammunition, past a fully armed and uniformed off-duty cop who was working security for the club, is evocative of something, but I don't know what. From reports, he started shooting soon after he entered the club, he shot and killed or wounded over 100 patrons, and then he retreated to a restroom where he barricaded himself with a number of hostages and started making phone calls. He was in contact with police for hours. During that time, there was no help for the wounded. How many bled out while the shooter was barricaded in the restroom is anybody's guess. But it was probably a significant number.

Eventually, the police forced an opening in the wall of the restroom where the killer was barricaded. According to reports, the hostages then escaped, and the killer emerged. There was, they say, a shootout and the killer was killed. End of story.

But was at 5am after a long and grisly night. It's right to ask how many of those who died were victims of friendly fire or neglect. And was there really a shoot out? Who can say and will we ever know for sure?

These mysteries and many more will compound over time. An official story will be promulgated and we will go on. Till the next time, and the next and the next and the next.

The massacres will continue until morale improves...

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Hillary?? Hillary. Hillary! (We're supposed to say Yay!)

The way I understand it, Hillary was not to have serious/significant primary opposition. She was to be granted the Democratic Party Presidential Nomination by Right, on a Silken Pillow, after a not-too-strenuous primary season that would be abbreviated thanks to all the other primary candidates dropping out by mid-March if not sooner.

It would be a cakewalk for her compared to the brawl on the Other Side.

Bernie was either not to run at all, or if he did run, his numbers would be so low (cf: O'Malley -- who?) that he would see the writing on the wall and disappear back to the nether reaches of the People's Republic of Vermont and the Senate where he came from.

Didn't work out quite that way. Not quite that way at all.

I voted for Bernie here in New Mexico, and my county's Democrats went for Bernie over Hillary ... two votes. I don't know whether anybody will call for a recount. Interestingly, the more rural counties tended to favor Bernie while the more urban counties were Hillary strongholds. Hmmm.

Same thing seemed to happen in California.

Hillary won New Mexico's Democratic Primary by a small margin, less than 7,000 votes state wide out of 215,000 or so cast (turnout was pitiful.) In California, the margin was greater, but still.

Bernie was not supposed to do so well. He wasn't really supposed to run at all. He's a crabby old man, after all, and who wants that in the White House? Yuk.

Not just old and crabby, but a fricking Socialist to boot. Eeek! Run away!

But no. He piled up victory after victory defying expectations and the polls, and toward the end his rallies seemed to get bigger not smaller.

Herself had the Machine and Wall Street and the Dem Party backing; Bernie only had the frustrations of the masses backing his campaign -- and that little birdie, of course.

It was remarkable in every way that Bernie could come as close as he did to the nomination given the political disabilities he started with. I'm sure he was as astonished as Hillary was.

The depth of anger and despair at the shenannigans of the high and the mighty is much greater than Our Rulers ever imagined. As Bernie's numbers grew and grew, the Overclass got more and more alarmed ... and pissed off.

Don't let's fool ourselves. There will be hell to pay for this mini-rebellion. Hell, I say.

I've never had a great deal of regard for the Bernie campaign, for the simple reason that you can't conduct a genuine revolution from the Left from within the Palace. Ain't -- ever -- gonna happen. That Palace is so locked down and securitized, and the Left is so marginalized, even to the point of complete absence, that there cannot be a Leftish rebellion/revolution from within. It's designed that way. It works to prevent the Left from acquiring power and implementing policies and programs on behalf of the People. It's always been that way, even during the supposed hey-days of the supposed Left in government (FDR, LBJ, etc.)

Nothing that Bernie proposed was radical or particularly Socialist. In fact, to Old Farts like me, a lot of it was pretty familiar. What he proposed was basically a restoration of the social and economic trendlines of the pre-1980 era. Ie: Before Reagan dismantled all that.

While I wouldn't object, the problem with his program was that it was locked in the past. And we can't go back, much as we might like to. We can't pick up in 1980 and go forth as if the intervening eras never happened, but that was what I was feeling Bernie was offering in his stump speechs and campaign.

We need something new. And that is not what Bernie was offering. He offered a kind of reversion to Better Days -- which is nice to hear -- and specific relief to suffering segments of the population, but there wasn't enough in that program to attract the Dems in sufficient numbers to gain the nomination -- something I don't think he ever in his wildest dreams thought he could do anyway. It was a campaign of ideas to be sure, but not ones that he thought would get him the nomination.

Hillary's campaign has been predicated on motto "No you can't," Many people are comforted by what  they and others are prevented from doing. If the Left is prevented from acting and the Rightists are confined to a narrow set of actions, then the status quo is mostly preserved; the only real political movement under those circumstances is ever-further rightward, and that's always pleasing to the NeoLibCon Masters of the Universe.

Those are the people Hillary serves. Everyone knows it. Bernie, on the other hand, does not serve them, not directly, but because he has been inside the Belly of the Beast for as long as he has, he doesn't -- and can't -- separate himself entirely from them. He is, as part of the government, their creature just as much as anybody else inside the gates.

That was the other problem I had with Bernie's campaign. He was asserting a kind of fantasy of what you can do from "within" as it were. You can, it's true, get a lot done when you're in charge of the government or even just have a seat at the table. But what you can get done will always be restricted and constrained by the nature of the institutions you are within or part of. That means that you cannot ultimately do anything that the institutional framework (of government in this case) does not enable or foster. In our country, the institutional framework of government is abusive and preventional. It is set up to and operates efficiently to foster and excuse some of the worst actions and abuses we've seen over the course of our long history, and to prevent the People from doing much of anything about it.

The government of the United States serves an elite coterie, not the People. It is institutionally and functionally unable to serve the People without the permission of that coterie. That permission is rarely granted, and when it is, it is often enough temporary and subject to alteration or revocation at any minute. The People have very little or no say in what is allowed, and the only times they have a say is when they object so loudly or rebel so strenuously that the High and Mighty cannot ignore them anymore.

Bernie, even if he had been nominated and elected to the Presidency would have been able to do almost nothing that he proposed/promised unless the PTB agreed and granted permission. That would be unlikely to say the least. So the stalemate-gridlock of the past several years would have continued or worsened.

Hillary, on the other hand, as an annointed representative of those High an Mighty Ones, would be able to do their bidding with relative ease ("Getting things done") and probably would be able to sell it as "Good For You!" even though it's crap.

That's what I think is the next part of her audition: can she sell a Shit Sandwich to the ravening masses and keep them in line the while?

We'll see.

It depends on a number of factors: how much worse things will get for the majority before the election in November, how bad for most Hillary's NeoLibCon policies will be -- assuming they are recognized in the first place; how deceptive her campaign will be in selling this horseshit.

We'll see.

As for Trump, I'm more and more convinced he's a ratfuck. My god in heaven what a political disaster.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Out And About

It's The Season in Santa Fe -- it's The Season pretty much everywhere in New Mexico where tourists flock -- and we try to avoid the crowds as much as possible. Well, it's nice that folks want to come to this rugged corner of the country to see and do rugged or fancy tourist things and all, but the transition from relatively calm and tranquil to super-charged hyper-tourism is sudden -- happening within moments over Memorial Day weekend -- and it is guaranteed to discombobulate.

Ms. Ché and I have been up in Santa Fe and Taos repeatedly this Season, though, and we'll be going several more times before The Season ends, crowds or no crowds. I'm grateful in some ways that I can do it, since I'd been too ill to even think of it within the last few months. Now my various conditions seem to be controlled with medications, and I can get around well enough and for long enough to actually enjoy being out and about.

This weekend we took a group of Cherokee from Albuquerque to the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe to tour the exhibit on Lloyd Kiva New, the co-founder of the Institute of American Indian Arts -- where Ms Ché has been a student for a year now. The tour was led by Aysen New, Lloyd New's widow, a remarkable woman and presence in her own right, who has maintained her late husband's legacy with wit and wisdom and whose tenacity has ensured he will not be forgotten.

There are three museum exhibits currently on view in Santa Fe which detail the life and legacy of Lloyd Kiva New. The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, and the New Mexico Museum of Art are all simultaneously hosting Lloyd Kiva New exhibits through the summer and into the fall. In addition, there is an exhibit at the Institute of American Indian Arts -- the institution he co-founded -- and one of the galleries on the Santa Fe Plaza is offering a number of items created in Lloyd Kiva New's studio in Scottsdale, or created from materials and fabrics he made, for sale to collectors.

There is also a book, "The Sound of Drums," widely available at these exhibits. The book is an edited version of Lloyd New's memoirs which he composed and wrote late in his life. It's beautifully written in an almost magical realist style, by a man who clearly loved his work and lived his life to the full.

Another book, "Celebrating Difference" is also available, though not quite as widely, which uses an interview and essay technique to document the history and legacy of the Institute of American Indian Arts through 2012, the year of this volume's publication.

Next weekend, we'll provide another perspective on Lloyd Kiva New from one of his associates who knew and worked with him in Scottsdale and later came to Santa Fe as an educational consultant and worked with him throughout his tenure at IAIA and afterwards.

I'll report on that in another post later on.

It's been a long time since I've done anything like this. There was a time when we would routinely host receptions, seminars, workshops and what have you as part of our work in theater and the arts in California, but we pretty much gave that up when our theater company closed in 1996. We went off and did other things -- to make money in a word. Theater and the arts are not really money making propositions -- except for the very few at the top, and for them, prominence is precarious. We were able to make enough doing other things to retire in relative comfort, and now that we've settled in to retirement, Ms. Ché and I are both becoming more and more involved as donors, collectors, scholars and participants, in the local/regional arts communities. It's the way these things were no doubt meant to be.

Because of Ms Ché's Native American heritage -- specifically Cherokee -- we've focused most of our attention on Native American creative arts since we moved to New Mexico, but it's not our only interest and focus. Indeed, later this month and then again in October, we intend to focus on one of the major motors for New Mexico's early prominence in the arts, Mabel Dodge Luhan.

Ms. Ché attended a writer's workshop conducted by Jimmy Santiago Baca at her house, Los Gallos, in Taos two years ago. Ever since, she's been taken with Mabel and the stories of her life and work in New Mexico. Her house in Taos has also become a warm and welcoming destination for us. We took Ms Ché's cousin and her husband there on our brief day-trip to Taos when they came to visit just before the Memorial Day tourist inundations. Because it is an important site to us, we felt it was a worthwhile site for them to see and experience as well.

In May an exhibit on Mabel's life, work and cultural influence opened at the Harwood Museum in Taos. The exhibit was co-curated by Ma-Lin Wilson-Powell and Dr. Lois Rudnik, Mabel's chief biographer for many years. We haven't had the opportunity and time to see it yet, but plan to participate in some of the activities surrounding it later this month -- may even get up to D. H. Lawrence's ranch.

When the exhibit moves to the Albuquerque Museum in October, we will no doubt be involved in some of its activities as well. There are plays and even an opera connected with the exhibit, so we have an interest (!).

So our summer and fall schedules are filling up. Ms Ché is returning to IAIA as a student in August. She received the Fall 2016 Truman Capote Literary Scholarship, so it's likely she'll be... busy (in a good way) with her literary work and will likely be promoting the creative writing program at IAIA as well.

She and I are also involved in the development of a new performing arts facility on the IAIA campus. But that's a whole other story for another time.

Meanwhile, the increasingly dreary business of the American Political Classes struggles on. What a deplorable mess -- also another story for another time.

NOTE: Will add links as time allows. UPDATE: Links have been added!

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Anti-Trump Riot in Albuquerque

We got home from our day with visitors in Santa Fe the day before yesterday, turned on the TV to find out what was going on with The Voice (Ms. Ché's favorite won), only to witness several interruptions due to the ongoing protests inside and outside the Albuquerque Convention Center where Trump was holding forth the way he does before a crowd of frothing supporters.

People were outside driving around in cars and trucks waving Mexican flags of all things, and surely that was riotous. Tear gas was being deployed. Horse police were moving the crowd of protesters away from the Convention Center, and resistant women were being kicked and hauled out of the rally by police and private security to the cheers of the mob inside.

Oh it was a melée.

A good deal of the reporting on the Albuquerque Anti-Trump Riot later turned out to be false or inaccurate, but that's how it goes, doesn't it? My initial impression from the selection of video I saw was that that there was no riot (of course), and that those who were protesting most vigorously were not Bernie supporters (as they were initially being characterized) but were most probably part of Albuquerque's substantial anarchist community.

This is what they do, and they are good at it. It's not so much "riot" as it is confrontation with Power, and it can be very effective -- because in this country, Power is typically so out of touch with The People that almost any hostile confrontation will produce results. You can't always anticipate what they will be, but you can be almost certain that something will happen to delegitimize Power's authority.

So, that's why these things typically happen, and it seems to me from observations over years that the folks in Albuquerque who engage in this kind of disruptive confrontation know what they are doing and are pretty darned sophisticated about it.

There were people strategically placed inside the convention hall disrupting Himself's speechifying, doing it in a way that would incite Trump to behave badly, and I think they were partially successful in that -- though I saw very little of the confrontations, and it could be that Trump and his partisans bested the protesters inside.

Based on what I saw and read, the outdoor protests were both more confrontational and ultimately more effective --because they not only made their Anti-Trump points, they also pointed to the failures (once again) in the APD's response.

I read that APD was actually behaving much better in response to the "riot" than they have in previous confrontations with protesters. In a sense, that's true I suppose, but in other ways, you've got to wonder. The report I read in the Albuquerque Journal went on and on about how the protesters threw rocks and "urine bombs" (right, sure) and "molotov cocktail-like" devices (what the hell is that supposed to mean?) and how the police and their horses had been injured, and how awful it was and how This Must Not Stand! -- heads (of protesters) must roll. Pictures of likely suspects were shown (two young Hispanic males, ohhh scary).


The police, it turns out, did not use tear gas -- as was erroneously initially reported they did. No, they used smoke grenades. Oh. Never mind then. And yes these grenades were thrown or kicked back at police, a fairly standard response these days.

The horse police were deployed, yes, but not particularly effectively, partly because people are becoming less afraid of the horse police and are very sympathetic to the plight of their mounts.

One horse apparently fell. Not severely injured, but still. I've seen this happen in other confrontations, the officer on the horse unable to handle it carefully enough to prevent a fall on the pavement. This is one reason horse police should not be used on pavement, but who listens to me? Heh. The case can be made that horse police should not be used at all, but I've seen enough confrontations where the presence of horses defuse what might otherwise become an ugly situation, so I wouldn't go so far as to say, "no horses." At least not yet.

At least there seems to have been a recognition that the crowd of protesters was not on the whole -- maybe not even in part -- a Bernie crowd. It was apparently made up of mostly young, mostly male, mostly Hispanic activists who were protesting (rightly I believe) Trump discriminatory statements (which could turn into policies) toward Hispanics, Muslims and other "undesirables" whom he has a penchant for calling "criminals."

You know what? Protesting that kind of crap is necessary, and to be effective, the protests have to be disruptive and impolite.

Trump won no points except among his feverish supporters who would follow him no matter what he said over any cliff he wanted them to. He could not have come to New Mexico thinking he could get away with his anti-Hispanic schpiel. This ain't Texas. Thank you very much.

So this might be part of why the Anti-Trump "riot" in Albuquerque did not get the obsessive wall-to-wall coverage that the Nevada Democratic Convention did -- wherein the Bernie supporters were widely and falsely accused of violence. The Anti-Trump Riot in Albuquerque did indeed become disruptive and at times violent toward Power and Authority. There was one report I saw that claimed the high windows over the doors to the Convention Center were "cracked" by rocks thrown! Yeek.

Just remember, the point is to delegitimize authority and disrupt business as usual. I'd say that goal was accomplished. How much further this can go I don't know.

But it's completely different than what went on in Nevada.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Relations Come to Visit from Way Out West

We've had a few folks over to visit since we moved to New Mexico full-time some four-five years ago. Not a lot, to be sure, but enough to keep things interesting for them and for us.

The past few days, we've been hosting/enjoying the company of Ms. Ché's cousin and her husband from Carson City, Nevada. It's opened our eyes somewhat to our own place in this Land of Enchantment, and it's also reminded us of how much of interest there is to explore, and how the time just flies.

The only places we've been with these most recent visitors are Taos and Santa Fe, showing some of the sights, eating, walking around yakking. One of the things I'm grateful for is that I can walk and actually keep up most of the time. A year or so ago I couldn't have done that due to sciatica, and a few months ago, I wouldn't have wanted to due to the pain and aggravation of RA. Thanks be, I can get around pretty well for a gimpy old geezer, and medication has been effective enough keep me from having massive amounts of pain even after a full day of clamoring about.

We started by going up to Taos the day before yesterday. There was a time I hated going to Taos, because I felt I couldn't breathe there. Well, that time has passed and I actually enjoy it quite a bit now  -- as long as it isn't too full of tourists. And movie stars. And war criminals like Donald Rumsfeld.

We went out to the Rio Grand Gorge Bridge first... It's one of Ms Ché's favorite sights in New Mexico, and we hadn't been there for a while, and we had not actually gone out on the bridge previously.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge outside of Taos, NM. Clickage will embiggen. (Wikimedia Commons)

Well, we did this time and -- oh my. The Rio Grande River flows about 600 feet below in a deep-deep cleft in the plateau under Taos Mountain on which the town of Taos and the Pueblo are situated some ten miles away or so.

You hardly expect the gorge is there until you come upon it, and then it takes your breath away. It's much smaller and less varied than the Grand Canyon, but because you're so close to it -- in fact, you can walk right over it on the Bridge -- it feels almost as stunning and in some ways is more exciting.

Vertigo is a definite hazard -- as is suicide. How many people have thrown themselves from the bridge in the fifty or so years it's been there is something I don't know, but it must be quite a few given the number of padlocks memorializing the dead which have been attached the bridge along its entire length. In fact, when the bridge was renovated a few years ago, it was suggested that barriers be put up to keep people from jumping off. That wasn't done, but suicide hotlines were installed at each of the viewing platforms to help talk down some of the potential jumpers.

The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed every minute there. But we had to leave to go visit the Pueblo. Ms. Ché and I had never been to the Pueblo of Taos, the international heritage site of the room blocks beneath the sacred mountain, the oldest continuously occupied village in North America.

Of course we were familiar with it from pictures and stories from way back, but being there and hearing the stories from our very-well-spoken and informed guide was the experience of a lifetime. We stayed only a couple of hours, but those hours were rich and full, not just with sight-seeing but with a definite sense of shared heritage and humanity.

One thing I was particularly struck by were the ruins of the original San Geronimo church beside the Pueblo. I knew the story of what had happened there in 1847, but seeing it for myself, surrounded as it is by the graves of countless Indians massacred by US militia in revenge for the assassination of Charles Bent, appointed governor of the recently conquered New Mexico Territory, was a moving experience.

(Curteich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone) Vintage postcard depicting the ruins of an old Indian Mission, Taos Pueblo. The back of the postcard has this caption: "The Mission of San Geronimo, built in 1635 by the Franciscan Fathers, was constantly in service under this order until destroyed in 1847 by Col. Sterling Price, who shelled it during the Taos Indian uprising and massacre."
Perhaps 150 were killed in the bombardment of the church -- mostly old men and women and children who'd taken refuge there when the troops came to the Pueblo on a "punitive expedition" after Bent's killing. Another 200 or so rebels and Taosenos were killed in the foothills of Taos Mountan where they'd run off to escape what would certainly be a massacre. Another dozen or so were captured and hanged in the Taos Plaza pour encouragé les autres. It was a bloody mess that still (of course) resonates on the Pueblo, and those who know the history of what happened are taken aback by the violence and horror of it all. But then, Donald Rumsfeld had a vacation time share in Taos, and I imagine he relished the history of what happened in 1847.

We were planning to go to the Taos Art Museum and the Harwood, but time flew the way it does, and after we had a few snacks and looked around the Pueblo for a while, we headed back to town and a brief visit to the Mable Dodge Luhan house where Ms Ché had attended a writers workshop a couple of years ago and then drove back to Santa Fe for dinner at Harry's Roadhouse.

It was more than a full day.

Yesterday, we "did" Santa Fe, starting at the campus of IAIA where Ms. Ché is an Honored Elder and a full-time student. We ran into and yakked for quite a while with some of her friends and with a fellow from Haskell there for a educational conference. He was fascinated with the campus and the whole framework of the IAIA concept and experience. It struck him as very different from the Haskell experience. But their histories are very different, too.

We then went to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture where I was able to introduce our guests to the director, Della Warrior -- who had previously been president of IAIA. We talked a bit about some of the challenges of mounting the current Lloyd Kiva New exhibit and how the Cherokee Nation essentially ignored it -- despite the fact that New, a co-founder of the Institute of American Indian Art, was a very prominent and at one time very well-known Cherokee.

The exhibits at MIAC were almost overwhelming for our guests, and basically we only had time to see about half of what they show -- we skipped the Turquoise, Water and Sky exhibit  altogether.

We had to get to the New Mexico Museum of Art downtown, to check out their exhibits. Then it was off to the Dan Namingha Gallery and then the Allan Houser Gallery where we yakked for quite a while with David Rettig, the general factotum of the Gallery and the Allan Houser art park -- and the keeper of the legacy of the artist.

Finally, it was off for some ice cream and then... home.

Today, our guests are off to Bandalier Monument and then they say they'll be coming by our place in the afternoon. So. What fun.

What we've all discovered is that there is way too much to see and do in New Mexico in a brief visit of a few days. It would take much more time....

We've been exploring New Mexico for over 30 years, and we've barely scratched the surface ourselves.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

World Woman -- Ms. Ché Gets Her DNA Test Results

This is really something, as in "we had no idea."

Ms Ché and I have had our DNA tested through Ancestry.com. For years I think their DNA tests were considered borderline fraud since so often the results were at significant variance with documented family history or seemed wildly wrong for other reasons. Their answers to questions about the tests sometimes didn't provide useful information. And the tests were expensive.

Well, they seem to have refined their efforts quite a bit and they've been much better about providing information rather than deflecting, and so, when the price dropped somewhat, we went ahead with the test. 

Mine came back rather quickly, simple as it was -- comparatively speaking.

I'm mainly British (from my mother), Irish (from my father), and there is a smattering of Scandinavian, Eastern European and Iberian -- Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, etc.

Except for the missing German, it seemed OK. Ancestry DNA tends to explain the absence of German ancestry in my DNA with the claim that 1) my father's grandparents were not ethnic Germans at all (possibly); or the German is masked by and is found within the British and/or Scandinavian elements.

Could be.

Ms Ché's test results took longer.

But then, her ancestral DNA is a lot more complicated than mine. In fact, it spans the globe.

What she knew prior to the DNA test was that her father was from the Philippines and her mother was full-blood Cherokee (Yes, they exist!) from Oklahoma.

That seems straightforward enough, but turns out it's not straightforward at all.

From her parents, Ms. Ché inherited 37% Native American and 37% East Asian (which includes Filipino) DNA. But there's a complication: 16% of her DNA is Polynesian. Eh? How does that work? 6% is African. Oh? Interesting. Then there's Central Asian at 3%. And curiously, a trace percentage is Finnish/Northern Russian.

We're thinking the African DNA came through her mother. Some Cherokees had black slaves, and after Emancipation, many stayed among the Cherokee in Oklahoma. They are called Freedmen and are considered tribal members to this day. One of Ms Ché's ancestors was therefore probably a Freedman or descendant of one.

The Polynesian DNA probably came through her father. Filipinos and Polynesians are distinct, but they are ancestrally closely related. It's possible that Spanish or Anglo colonialists brought Polynesians from the Pacific Islands to work in pineapple or other plantations in the Philippines. But if her father knew of a Polynesian ancestor, he never said. On the other hand, it's possible that we're seeing a genetic echo of the ancestral relationship between Polynesians and Filipinos, something that has long been alluded to.

The Central Asian and Finnish/Russian components are relatively slight, but the fact that they are there at all is a head scratcher. Where did they come from? We don't know, and looking into it is a project for the future. Because the percentage is low, whoever contributed these elements probably did so a long time ago. How long ago, and with whom... is mysterious. It could have been anywhere along the line, on any branch.

Ms Ché saw it as possibly a genetic echo of the Asian and Far North origins of Native American peoples. That would be interesting if true. Central Asia has been identified as one of the loci from which ancestral Native Americans made their way into the Americas. They also went west into Europe. But there were other areas of the Asian continent from which Native American ancestors originated, including the Far North, home today to globe-spanning Inuit and related peoples. Could that be where the trace percent of Finnish/Northern Russian DNA comes from? Interesting if it were, but I'm not sure how we'd find out.

So that's what came through on the DNA tests we both took. They raise more questions than they answer to be truthful. I ask "where's the German?" in my ancestry -- for none is identified specifically or more generally in my DNA. In Ms. Ché's case we're asking how the minor and trace elements from so many different ethnic sources came to be found in her DNA.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

DNA Results, COPD, RA, and Other Things, Oh My

Well, one of Ms Ché's cousins and her husband are coming to visit from Nevada tomorrow, and we're preparing to show them the sights. Some of them, anyway. They've been all around the world, but have never been to New Mexico, and they want a fix of "vibrant art." This is the place, right?

It's gonna be a whirlwind, as it's only two-three days, and we're planning adventures to Taos to see the Mabel Dodge Luhan house and take in the exhibit on her at the Harwood, then to the Fechin house where the Taos Art Museum is located, then out to the Pueblo. Next day, Santa Fe. The Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Native Art, the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, several galleries (we couldn't possibly do more than a few of them) and then out to eat at Harry's Roadhouse (a must-stop-in for all out of town visitors though if it is as crowded as it can get, we'll happily go out to La Plancha in El Dorado.)

Then finally the next day, if we can swing it, out to our place, and the Route 66 tour into Albuquerque and possibly beyond. We live near what I believe is the longest stretch of the Old Route 66 still in use -- at least it's the longest stretch of it in New Mexico -- and while it isn't particularly touristy, it's actually a nice drive, and  when the weather is good, the Mother Road is always a treat.

I'm wondering how much of this I can actually do, however. One of the problems associated with RA -- rheumatoid arthritis -- is fatigue. Fatigue is also a factor in recovery from pneumonia. I've tried to do some work outdoors, catching up a little bit on spring-time chores I wasn't able to do before, and I've found I become fatigued in only a few minutes. Twenty minutes is about the longest I can go at a stretch. Each of these days of adventure next week are going to be long... We'll see how much of it I can do...

Ms. Ché and I did the Ancestry.com DNA test. Until fairly recently, it was considered a borderline fraud, in part because DNA tests are not yet able to state with certainty the specific ancestry of testees. The results obtained give general possibilities at best. Because Ancestry really didn't clarify how non-specific the results were, they got a lot of complaints from people who did the test and got results that appeared to have nothing at all to do with their actual (documented) ancestry.

I got my results back. We're still waiting for Ms Ché's.

Mine were interesting, and I think they are fairly accurate, though they require interpretation to understand.

The surprise was that I show no German ancestry, nor do my cousins who have also taken the test.

It's taken me a while to fathom that because my paternal (their maternal) grandmother's parents emigrated from (what would become) Germany in the 1850s. There's no doubt about it. We know where they came from, we have documentary evidence, yadda yadda, but there is no German ancestry identifiable in our DNA. How can that be?

Well. Could be they weren't ethnic Germans. That's the easiest explanation. It's one that fits some of the stories I've heard that suggest they were descendants of Jewish conversos. Of course, wouldn't you know, my DNA shows no "European Jewish" ancestry, either.

It does show what I take to be an overabundance of British ancestry (67%). That's much higher than I figure it should be because I only inherited British ancestry from my mother (who was essentially of British ancestry all the way down, though her people had come to America starting soon after the Mayflower -- and there are hints that she had at least one ancestor on the Mayflower itself.)

My father, on the other hand, was half Irish and half German. Well, that's what he thought. So I should be a quarter Irish, a quarter German, and half British.

The test showed my DNA was 25% Irish, no German, 67% British, 7% Eastern European, and less than one percent each Scandinavian and Iberian.

Oh. What happened to the German?

It turns out Ancestry DNA doesn't even have a German category. The closest thing it has is "Central European," and if you dig around enough in their articles about the test, they state that the test cannot distinguish between British, German, and Scandinavian ancestry with any certainty. A test report may come back, as mine did, with an overabundance of British DNA, but no Central European ancestry. The "missing German" ancestry may well be folded in with the extra-British DNA. In fact, that's probably where it is.

My cousins, on the other hand, show an excess of Scandinavian ancestry in their DNA, and once again, that may be where the "missing German" is.

The 7% Eastern European ancestry indicated in my DNA is likely from my German great grandparents, and it may be a hint of their Jewish ancestry, but I don't know. As there are no specifically Jewish markers, I'll have to let that rumor rest for a while. There are records in Germany, so maybe one day I'll probe them more deeply and find out, but for now I'll let that ride.

The tiny bit of Scandinavian ancestry indicated in my DNA is probably from my Irish-German father. His Irish ancestors claimed to be "Irish" -- ie: Celts -- but that's likely a crock, as practically everyone in Ireland has some Scandinavian ancestry from the Viking and Norman invasions. Particularly so for red-heads like me whose red-head is a variation on blond, as opposed to the red-heads who may be Celt whose red-headedness is a variation on black hair.

The tiny bit of "Iberian" -- which could be Spanish, Portuguese, French or Italian -- ancestry I attribute to my mother's father. His last name (Olive) is possibly French, possibly Scottish. Could be both given the way the French and the Scots were intertwined at one time (ie: during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots and before).

My mother's father's mother was from Colonial New England stock -- going back as far as I could trace in America and then in England as far back as I wanted to go. My mother's father's father's line stubbed out in Virginia with my mother's father's grandfather who was born c. 1798. That's all I could find out. There was no record before that.

My suspicion is that the original Olive immigrants came from Scotland or Northern Ireland at about that time, settled in Western Virginia, then moved to Kentucky, then, finally to Indiana as the Indians were expelled and the West opened to settlement.

My mother's mother's people were British from the dawn of time.

I had thought my mother was at least partially Irish -- she seemed to think so herself, but she didn't really know, because she didn't know much of anything about her biological father. Then years ago, I saw a film version of D. H. Lawrence's "Sons and Lovers," and I was stunned that one of the very British characters was the spitting image of my mother, both visually and more importantly behaviorally. Wait I thought, was my mother actually British?

Indeed, that's what I found -- at least on her mother's side as well as on her father's mother's side, and probably significantly on her father's father's side too.

Huh. Who'd a thunk? What still intrigues me is that I recognized my mother's character in a movie of a novel by British author D. H. Lawrence, based in part on his own experience and family. Well, how about that?

Oh yes, COPD. Part of the treatment I'm undergoing is for COPD, which I never really thought I had, but apparently I do, thanks to repeated bouts of pneumonia and scarring from emphysema which is a result of smoking. I stopped smoking twenty years ago, and I thought I was doing pretty good at healing my lungs from the Devil Tobacco, but apparently several things have conspired to set me back. One of them is rheumatoid arthritis. Turns out that lung inflammation (like joint inflammation) is a consequence of RA, and lung inflammation can and does make RA patients susceptible to pneumonia.


My doctor told me that the prednisone I take for RA symptoms is an immunosuppressant which may be exacerbating my tendency to get pneumonia, but others say that prednisone actually suppresses the inflammation which makes it less likely that I will get pneumonia. So. Who knows?

We'll see what the rheumatologist has to say about that...

UPDATE: Ms Ché just got her DNA results back, and it is astonishing, practically a book in the making. No time to go into details, but the upshot is that her DNA spans the globe. Literally,