Monday, December 11, 2017

The Franken Thing

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

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

But no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Thursday, December 7, 2017

California On Fire -- Again





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

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

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

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

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

I'll say: What a mess.

People are so adaptable though...

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

As for me, I never got used to it.

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

And of course there's this:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

News and Notes

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

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

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

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

I also understand that many were disappointed as we were.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idiotic s putting it charitably.

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll have to go back one day.

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

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

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


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Why All the Lies?

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

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

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

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

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

How does it end?


Monday, November 27, 2017

The Odd Thanksgiving



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Witch Hunt

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

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

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

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

What is really going on here?

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

Hm.

Curious.

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


Monday, November 20, 2017

"Larry"

[Note: My mother's birthday was November 14. She would be 106; my how time flies...]

[Further Note: This is a long one, so I've split it at what may be an inappropriate point...]

The only picture I've ever seen of my mother's father
"Larry" was my mother's father. His name was Lawrence, and in fact, I don't know that he was ever called "Larry," though there are a few hints in the record that he was known as Riley, his middle name and the maiden name of his grandmother on his father's side.

When I researched the family history, I found that his grandfather Robert (a hatter, and probably quite mad) was married twice and both wives were named Mary Riley. How odd and interesting thought I. The one was about 20 years older than the other, and it appeared that Mary Riley the Elder died about a year before Mary Riley the Younger became Mrs. Robert. But -- and this is where it became interesting -- Mary Riley the Younger had lived in the household since she was a child. I've been in touch with some of "Larry's" other descendants, and the suspicion among them is that Mary Riley the Younger was Mary Riley the Elder's daughter by another man, and she was probably illegitimate. The alternative explanation was that Mary Riley the Younger was a serving girl recently arrived from Ireland who just happened to have the same name as her household mistress.

At any rate, she was the mother of Larry's father, David, and of two other children. There were four children by Mary Riley the Elder. Big families were the norm in those days.

Larry's paternal ancestors were (according to lore) originally French. They were Huguenots driven out during one of the Intolerances, and they wound up in England in the 1670s. About a century later, a branch decamped for America, settling first in Virginia, then in Kentucky, then, finally in Indiana in the 1840s. Descendants still live there. I of course do not and would not. Perhaps it's due to too much history.

Larry was born in 1878 but he claimed to be much younger than he was. His third wife, Marie, claimed he was 32 when he died horribly in 1916. He was actually 38. The likelihood is that he lied to her about his age, just as he used a false name on his marriage license to Marie.

I suspect he used a false name on the license because he was still legally married to my mother's mother, Edna, who had sued him for divorce in 1912, but that divorce may never have been granted. The record isn't clear.

On my mother's birth certificate issued in 1911, Larry lists his age as 31, and my mother's mother is listed as age 22. Neither is correct. Larry was 33 and Edna was 21.

At any rate, Edna claimed to be a widow-woman when she remarried in 1917. And before that, she claimed that Larry was a bigamist when he married Marie and fathered their daughter Helen in 1914.

For years, my mother claimed to have been born in 1914. She knew about Helen and she told me that Helen was only two years old when she, her mother, and Larry's St. Louis wife and daughter attended Larry's funeral in 1916. My mother was herself barely five at the time.

To put it charitably, Larry lived a brief but checkered life. He was the second youngest of six sons born to Caroline E. and David H. in Lebanon, Indiana, where David swanned about as Civil War veteran and newspaper publisher. Which was the more important aspect of his life is not entirely clear, but later, when most of the family moved to Indianapolis, David's veteran status helped him to secure a number of patronage positions with the state and federal governments.

So far as I can tell, the family's status was "solid middle class" -- neither poor nor rich -- and David's government service was the reason why. He seems to have made enough money to take care of his family well if not lavishly.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Health Update Month

Most of November, at least weekly, I'm being checked, drained, infused, walked, PFT'd and otherwise followed up on treatment for RA mostly to see whether what's been done is working. So far, so good.

This series of tests, evaluations, infusions, medications and visits with the doctor(s) should wind up by December 1, and the results so far indicate that I may -- stress 'may' -- be going into "remission with medication". In other words I will have to continue taking pretty high doses of immunosuppressants but that most symptoms of RA will be in abeyance for the duration.

The surprise yesterday was with my consulting pulmonologist and the tests leading up to seeing her.  She wanted a six minute walk and a pulmonary function test to compare with previous tests I'd had in April and July of this year. I did the walk with very little strain at all. The only real issue was high-ish blood pressure, but the technician said it was actually "not that bad."

I dreaded the PFT (pulmonary function test). I call it "torture." I'm sure it's nothing compared to what the various targeted prisoners in our various foreign and domestic gulags face on a daily basis, not even close, but it's definitely uncomfortable for someone with pre-existing breathing difficulty.

So there I am in The Booth of Doom chatting with the technician who says she's been doing this for 40 years and yadda and yadda, and she starts the tests, and... gee, it seems much easier on my end. So we chat some more and she points out that the test equipment as well as the Booth itself are somewhat different between hospitals. Yesterday I was at UNM Main Hospital in Albuquerque whereas the other tests were done at Presbyterian's Kaseman Hospital.

We go through the rest of the series of breathing tests and I tell her this time it seemed to go much easier for me. She prints out the results that I'm to hand-carry to the consulting physician, and as it happens, I have the previous results with me so I compared and contrasted over lunch. No, I don't know how to read the print out medically, but I could compare numbers line by line, and it was surprising to see that some of the lowest numbers in the past were now significantly higher.

When I saw the doctor that afternoon, she said that as far as she could tell, my results were mostly either within normal range or nearly so. Which was a great improvement over previous tests. The only worrisome number was lung capacity which is still low -- but not as low -- and she said that was due to scarring that had already taken place from RA, scarring that couldn't be reversed. However, it wasn't getting worse, and there was a slight improvement in capacity over time, which she said was due to medication preventing further progress of the lung damage.

I told her I no longer use Albuterol inhaler, don't use Spiriva, don't use oxygen, and haven't done pulmonary rehab. She said the improvement is therefore due to the effectiveness of the medications I'm taking  and that it may be possible to reduce the high doses I've been on slowly over time, but that I will have to be monitored fairly often to make sure there's no relapse.

Finally, she asked if I'd been diagnosed with COPD. I said yes, before the RA diagnosis. She said, "If you have COPD, it's very mild. In fact, you may not have it at all."

Oh. My.

I told her I felt like the treatments since May have been nothing short of miraculous.

I have another Rituxan infusion (the 4th) next week, then to the eye doctor and my primary rheumatologist the following week. Whew.

We'll see.

Meanwhile, busy-busy-busy with more and more daily activities including boosting Ms Ché's performing and academic career. Here she is with a couple of other indigenous women performing "Stop! In the name of Love" at the  Indigenous Liberal Studies talent show the other day.

Stop! In the name of Love
Yes, I know, the lighting is bad, it's fuzzy as heck, and they're all wearing one dress. Of course. But oh my such hooting and hollering from the audience. Fun!

And before you wonder how 'indigenous' the choice of music was, all three performers are indigenous women, and therefore the performance is by definition indigenous. At this particular art school, the question gets raised periodically -- "What is Indigenous Art?" The answer was provided long by former instructor Fritz Scholder

Monday, November 13, 2017

On Binge Watching Star Trek and the 100rh Anniversary of Red October

[Note: this post is taking much longer to write than I thought it would. By the time I publish it, "this week" might really be "last month"!]

This week marks the 100th Anniversary of the Bolshevik October Revolution (Russian: Октябрь (Десять дней, которые потрясли мир) ("October, Ten Days That Shook the World");
I've watched Eisenstein's movie several times, going back to one of my history of film classes in college in the mid/late '60s. It was a hell of a movie and a hell of a time.

Rather than publicly commemorate the anniversary -- I've seen scant mention of it in the mainstream -- two of our broadcast teebee stations (we don't have cable or satellite in our house) are running episodes of Star Trek, one episode from each of the series (TOS, TNG, DS9, Voy, Disc Ent) back to back every night starting at 6pm. We've seen many of them.

Back in the day, I was quite a fan of the original series. When the other series came along, though,  I rarely saw any episodes as I was generally working until late into the night. I saw very little television back in those days (and thus never felt the need or desire to hook up to cable.)

Turns out that we know or knew many of those who appeared on screen and worked behind the scenes, especially in TNG, DS9 and Voy. It's like Old Home Week watching some of these episodes.

Must feel somewhat similar to those who have been commemorating the October Revolution wherever they are doing so around the world. The commemoration isn't just watching the movie made in 1927 to commemorate the 10th Anniversary. Outside the US and the rest of the Anglosphere, there has been a widespread re-evaluation of the revolution and its makers and a renewed appreciation for its accomplishments -- despite its many errors.

I know from my own interviews of Soviet "refugees" -- well, eye of the beholder and all that -- that nostalgia for the Old Days and the Soviet Union was strong among the over 60 crowd; still is. Not so much among the young, but still, there is more appreciation than most Americans would know.

Star Trek was considered revolutionary in its own way, and it was as Utopian as the visionaries who led the Soviet experiment and wrote so glowingly about it almost up to the moment of its collapse.

There's been a lot of hoo-hah over Hillary's self-serving book "What Happened," but at this point -- a year on from the election -- I don't much care about what she thinks "happened," and the focus Dems have put on the Russian interference angle borders on absurd. It's obviously obscuring something else, something more important, but what? Red baiting is something I've never abided, not since my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Beamas, was rounded up as a "suspected Communist sympathizer" during one of the periodic Red Scares and Panics that swept the land back in the Idyllic '50s.

Whether he was or not didn't matter to me and his classroom's other students; he was a good teacher. One whose work stood far above that of most elementary school teachers, even at my "advanced" and "experimental" school at the foot of what were then known as the San Jose Hills in the San Gabriel Valley. (I think they're now known as the South Hills -- because they are south of the San Gabriel Mountains? I don't know. Been away a long time!)

The Utopianism in Star Trek was always being countered of course by some alien force or other. Some of those forces were obvious parallels to people and interests that have long bedeviled visionaries and Utopians for just about ever. Situations paralleled many aspects of American history, too. While not all the episodes were very good -- some were atrocious -- many had a lesson and a message for watchers, one that could bore deep: "You can have and make a better world."

Yet all these years on, is that what we've done?

Space exploration has mostly vanished from our consciousness. Little of it is being done any more, and what is being done is almost too esoteric for common understanding and consumption. We attend most of the space focused Science Cafés put on by New Mexico PBS simply because we're interested,but we notice that most attendees are, like us, retired in our 60s and 70s. "Space, the Final Frontier" was a Big Thing to us, and it still is. Not so much for today's young people I guess.

The disappointment at the ambiguous Viking findings on Mars in 1976 and 1977 I think had a good deal to do with it. The ambiguity of those findings (that suggested biology on the surface of Mars and yet simultaneously prohibited it) may have been deliberately (and politically) engineered at the time, a very stressful time for the US government, thanks to the lingering aftereffects of the Vietnam War and the implosion of the Nixon Regime. "Return to Normalcy" was the theme. Announcement of the finding of life on Mars might throw a spanner in the works. I don't know that's how the thinking went, but Gil Levin, one of the life science experimenters with the Viking science team thought so -- and has said so sometimes quite forcefully. In his view, life was found on Mars in 1976 -- most probably -- and yet the scientific community at the time (on the Viking mission and throughout the planetary science field) almost universally denied it. Most of the field still does.

And so, ever since, there's been a lack of public interest in the continuation of Mars exploration and by extension the continued exploration of the Final Frontier itself, as well as a lack of much ability to envision a Better Future brought to us via discoveries in Space.

Instead we get "products" -- Teslas and IPhones and endlessly replaceable junk and cutesy devices that are actually ideas in Star Trek and other space adventure operas, or they are useful tools of the Future but communicators and electric cars and such are not "must haves" in the Future that Once Was, they are simply there. One uses them for the purposes they were intended. It would be an inconvenience not to have them, and yet, on some worlds we know they don't work or don't exist and the space travelers have to make do without them. Somehow they manage.

In our world, though, they become coveted objects of desire. Almost like high end jewelry. In other words, they're products from which their makers expect to acquire a handsome profit by selling them to an exclusive (or would-be exclusive) clientèle. They are not considered necessities for the masses, probably because they aren't, but also in order to maintain strict class divisions between them that has and them that ain't.

Which brings us back to the whole idea of the Russian Revolution when time was. Why did they do it? Well, like all revolutions there were many reasons "why," and it depended on who you asked and what their position in life was.

The stark class divisions of Imperial Russia of course were part of the reasons "why." But they weren't the whole thing. Not by a long shot.

Somewhere among my National Geographic collection, I have a 1917 issue that includes a profile of Kerensky and a long article about the Provisional Government that took over after the Tsar was deposed. The primary interest of the foreign powers observing the collapse of Imperial Russia was that whatever government replaced the rotten Tsarist one, it would maintain Russian troops on the front lines against Imperial Germany.

For his part, Kerensky on behalf of the Provisional Government assured the foreign powers that most certainly Russian troops would continue fighting Imperial Germany on behalf of the Allies. Most certainly!

The troops in question were, of course, the Russian peasantry and lower orders of the urban population, and they were being slaughtered in their multitudes (as were the troops of other countries) in pursuit of who knows what. The bloodbath of WWI was one of the principle tragedies of the 20th Century, but not the only one.

At any rate the Provisional Government's continued participation in the War, together with its violent repression of the Bolshevik/Soviet opposition led directly to the October Revolution which overthrew the Provisional Government and brought the Bolsheviks to power.

Lenin's idea was to dispense with the status quo once and for all and create something new, not so much from the ruins of the past as from the energy of the present.

Kerensky would have preserved the status quo, only without the Tsar and the rotten Romanovs. And even then, some of the Romanovs wormed their way toward acceptability by the Provisional Governmnt.

Who knows. After the end of the War, some version of the rotten Romanov empire might have been restored.

Lenin saw the opportunity to dispense with all of it and begin anew. And that's what happened, but not without immense struggle -- invasion, civil war, famine, etc. etc. --  following the October Revolution. The energy for the struggle came from the belief that "You can have a better future."

That's the principal energy behind much of the Star Trek enterprise, at least as long as Gene Roddenberry was in charge of it.

"You can have a better future."

Star Trek proposed space as the Final Frontier where anything was possible, and for the most part, those possibilities were better than the present -- or rather, better than what was left behind.

Star Trek almost always takes place on a ship in space traveling from place to place with a diverse crew of characters. Very little time is spent anywhere but on the ship, whether one of the Enterprises, the Voyager or the Discovery.

That's the totality of the crew's "real world environment." Every pause at some planet or other disturbs their "real world" and is often threatening to life and limb, but somehow most of the crew survive to travel on (Red Shirts sometimes not...)

The point is the journey.

As we've seen over the years, the Star Trek journey becomes darker and darker, less and less Utopian and more and more dangerous, violent and ambiguous. The outcome wasn't assured. The future wasn't bright. Instead, as their journey continued, though it included many time dilations and much back and forth journeying, the starships, their commanders and crews encountered more and more difficult challenges and situations, more and more of them impossible to resolve.

The journey became less about seeking out strange new worlds and civilizations and more about survival in a hostile and rebellious outer darkness. The Federation wasn't all it was cracked up to be, and its various opponents had cause for opposition, rebellion, and war.

What started out as part of a Utopian vision of peace, harmony, and unity for those who wished to become part of or ally with the Federation became a veritable nightmare for many of those strange new worlds encountered by the various Federation starships. "Peace, harmony and unity" with the Federation was really about submission, exploitation, and cultural genocide.

Meanwhile, the journey of the Soviet Union after so much struggle to survive and prosper under extremely hostile conditions seemed to just peter out. The commisars were bought off or gave up. What started out as a Utopian re-vision of what was possible became a tired and sclerotic quasi-empire facing rebellion everywhere from the outside in. There seemed to be no will to continue, and the Soviet enterprise collapsed.

The vulnerability of the Soviet experiment was, I think, a surprise to the many interests trying to subvert it and bring it down. Nothing had worked until the "Color Revolutions" -- but what was going on with them was never entirely understood. All I can say right now is that things were not what they appeared to be.

As the Star Trek saga continued, the Federation, too, appeared to be surprisingly vulnerable, its vulnerability exposing its rigidity and fragility.

Does that have something to say about our own Neo-LibCon, Neo-Imperialist juggernaut?

Well?

We'll see, won't we?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Joe

Joe was my mother's grandfather. That is, Joe was my mother's mother's father. Joe was murdered by his mistress Ella in Indianapolis in the summer of 1904, seven years before my mother was born.

While my mother didn't know Joe, I assume she knew something about him. She lived the first few years of her life with her mother and Joe's widow, Ida -- my mother's grandmother-- and some of Ida's sisters (all widow-women themselves) in a big rattle-trap farm house on the east edge of Indianapolis. The farmhouse burned down in 1914, or maybe 1913, and though my mother was only three or maybe younger when the house burned down, the image of the fire was seared in her memory for the rest of her life. A firehouse was built on the site in 1915. The family moved to a newer, nicer house next door.

How much my mother knew about her grandfather I don't know. She never mentioned him to me. But then he had been long dead by the time my mother was born, shot in the mouth by his mistress Ella during a drunken lunch at Ella's house which she shared with her husband Frank. The house was not far from the Marmon plant where both Frank and Joe worked as machinists.

What I know about Joe and his murder comes from newspaper reports -- the murder and Ella's trial were covered extensively by the Indianapolis papers. Ida staged a big funeral for Joe, with a procession to the cemetery passing by Ida's big ol' rattle trap farm house where the family were gathered on the porch in mourning clothes. According to the papers, it was quite a spectacle. The Nordyke Marmon company paid for the funeral.

According to the papers, Ella's trial was quite the spectacle too. Ida attended every day along with her widowed sisters and Frank, Ella's husband, as well as friends of both the deceased and his murderer.

Ella was convicted and sent to prison, but she was released to an insane asylum some six months later, and I have found no further mention of her. Nor have I found any more mention of her husband, Frank.

Ella claimed she acted in self defense when she shot Joe. She said she was merely his laundress, not his mistress, and he had threatened her and knocked her down, so she got her gun from the chest of drawers in her bedroom and shot him dead. Unfortunately for Ella, there were witnesses, neighbors who'd come over for lunch and beer with Joe and Ella (Frank had gone back to work at the plant) and they saw what happened.

According to the witnesses, Ella's and Joe's relationship was well known and had been going on for at least two years. Frank knew about it and he seemed to approve. However, Joe used a different name in his dealings with Frank and Ella. As if he were living a double life. How much Ida and her children knew about Joe's other life is impossible for me to know now. As far as anyone connected with Ella and Frank knew then, Joe lived with and took care of his invalid mother. His marriage to Ida and the children he had with her (daughter Edna -- my mother's mother -- and son Ralph, my mother's uncle) were apparently not known to Ella's friends. When Joe's invalid mother moved to Chicago to stay with her daughter, Joe attempted to sell her house and things to help support her -- and no doubt himself as well.

Joe had plans. What they were was never made clear, but his plans did not include Ella. At the fateful drunken lunch in the summer of 1904, Joe told Ella that he was done with her, and he wouldn't be seeing her any more. According to witnesses, Ella said that if she couldn't have him, no one could, and she got her gun and shot him. A doctor was called for and then the police. Joe's injuries were too severe -- one account said he died instantly -- and the police took Ella away to jail.

During World War 1, Ralph moved to Chicago with his mother Ida, but Ida moved back to Indianapolis within a few years. Ida lived in Indianapolis with one or another of her widowed sisters, one of whom remarried, until she died in 1935. For his part, Ralph married a prostitute in Chicago. Unfortunately, she was promptly confined to an insane asylum herself. Ralph didn't divorce her and didn't remarry. He stayed in Chicago working on lakeshore tugboats for the rest of his life.

Edna, my mother's mother, married in 1910, and my mother was born the following year in November. As it happened, a half-brother Edna and my mother knew nothing about was born in March of 1911. They had the same father. Different mothers.

My mother's father was arrested for a burglary he insisted he did not commit in May of 1912, and by the end of 1913 he no longer lived in Indianapolis. He'd joined his older brother in St. Louis. In 1914 he married the young daughter of German immigrants in St. Louis, and within a few months, she gave birth to a daughter, Helen. My mother's mother had sued him for divorce in August of 1912, not long after his arrest, but I don't know if the divorce was ever granted.

When my mother's father was killed in a rail yard incident in St. Louis in December of 1916, my mother and her mother attended the funeral (which my mother remembered being in Indianapolis, but it wasn't. It was in St. Louis.) My mother also remembered the Big Scandal at the funeral of her father: the discovery that he had another wife and daughter, making him a bigamist. Yes, her father had another wife and daughter in St. Louis. And his first wife also lived in St. Louis, married to his older brother. There were three children from his first marriage. The daughter had been taken in by another brother, and two sons were coming into adulthood at his parents' house. My mother's mother was his second wife (legally). The half-brother my mother knew nothing about was born to a high school girl in an unwed mother's home.

At least some of the menfolk in my mother's ancestry were... busy.

[I've written several other versions of this story, and I'll probably keep trying until I get it right!]




Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Disconnected

Welp, our phone line (landline) and internet went out on Saturday. There was no fix for it until Monday at the earliest, but we were scheduled to be in Santa Fe for the IAIA Open House, so the soonest we could get the situation resolved would be Tuesday. Harumph.

Cell phones still worked and connected to the internet – but barely. It’s always catch as catch can with them anyway. Ms. Ché was pretty put out though because not only did we have no internet at home but none of her laptops would connect to the internet anywhere else, and she had schoolwork to turn in, all of it on her laptops. Something had gone truly haywire somewhere.

I checked my machine on other networks, and sure enough, it didn’t connect either, at least not till Monday when I was able to get a connection on IAIA’s network, but I only had a few minutes to do some banking and check one or two sites before I had to shut down for the duration of the open house and building dedication (perhaps the subject of another post.)

My, we discovered how dependent we have become on the World Wide Web. We literally couldn’t do anything online, which meant schoolwork wasn’t turned in on time, we weren’t able to pay bills and check balances, we were bereft of moment-to-moment news (I’d call that a blessing!), no emails to sift through (another blessing?) and I couldn’t post anything new or respond to comments in this corner of Blogtopia (h/t Skippy).

So. The phone guy came yesterday, same guy whose been out before when static built up on the lines (he said it was due to bad fuses that were part of a Qwest purchase many years ago, but anyway… we still have a Qwest router for criminy sakes!) and he jiggled this and that in the phone box on the back of the house and as he did, he kept looking down the road where a “new” (old) mobile home has been emplaced on a vacant piece of land, and where trenches have been dug to connect said MH to various services like water and power and so forth.

I told him that I saw a plumber out there trenching on Saturday. He said he’d seen the trenches when he’d come over to our place, and one was really near the Century Link (formerly Qwest) box on the street. Hmm. He said if they cut the phone line it would cost them about $3000 to fix it because they’d have to get a crew out and splice the cable and on and on and on. He would go check presently.

Sure enough. When the phone guy came back he said they’d cut the line. He called the repair crew and he said they’d be over soon. Sigh. I asked him how long it would take to fix; he said not much longer. Once the crew was there, they should be able to take care of it in an hour or so. I would know it was done when things started working again.

And that’s what happened. It took longer than an hour, but the line was repaired and we have (landline) phone and DSL service again. (DSL?! OMG, they still have that?! Whoa!)
Most people out here don’t have landline phones (and have to stand outside in the snow and cold to make or receive cell phone calls!) and have satellite or cable internet, or rely on their smart (sic) phones.

One makes do.

As for the folks who cut the line, I don’t know… They were suppose to call 811 before they dug and they didn’t. Bad ju-ju.

Ms. Ché was able to get her laptops checked and adjusted at the IAIA IT center yesterday and they now connect to the networks at home and school and so on. 

Years ago we might have panicked if something like this had happened. Now? Oh well!

(Today is my third Rituxan infusion. We'll see how that goes... should be interesting.)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

This Will Be The Day, They Say...

The Revolution will finally come, and all the Trumpazoids will be rounded up by AntiFa Zombie-Horde special forces, taken to the AntiFa-FEMA camps and sorted into Re-Education or Execution baskets, and that as they say will be that. Soros will gain his greatest prize and the USA of yore will be no more.

Or something.

Have we really fallen so low that such fantasies have any currency at all? Apparently so.

When I was young -- but maybe not so innocent -- my buddy and I would play out fantasies based on the latest science fiction movie shown at the kiddie matinée in town. If one of us missed the movie for some reason, the other had to tell the story convincingly enough to make our playacting in the dusty schoolyard believable to us both. We pretended in all sorts of ways to battle aliens and spiders and ants and mutants and whatever else we could think of to battle against as we saved mankind and the earth itself from a fate worse than death -- again and again and again. And when we tired of that, we played at Space Adventure. For not everything had to be battled against. We could explore the Moon and Mars and distant Jupiter if we wanted.

Bobby and I were eight or nine years old, barely out of our Cowboys and Indians phase. If you'd asked me in 1955 or 56 what my favorite "land" at Disneyland was I'd say Frontierland. By 1957 my answer would be Tomorrowland.

Well, Tomorrow is here and this isn't quite what we bargained for.

Not hardly.

This notion that an AntiFa-Zombie Uprising, engineered by the Clintoons and Obomba and funded by the Other Devil-With-Horns Alien-(read "Jew") Soros is just daft, but it seems to have some currency among the not so bright 40-somethings in the alt-right who never progressed in wisdom beyond their eight or nine year old play-selves. Is this what comes from too much World of Warcraft? I wouldn't know. But something definitely odd has been put in the water, that's for dang sure.

Maybe while we weren't looking, the Rooskies won?

"Commies!!!" was part of our schoolyard play as well. We saw plenty of anti-Communist propaganda pictures at the kiddie matinées, and we were shown plenty of others in our school's cafetorium.
Cafetorium
 Wonder of wonders the cafetorium is still there (courtesy of Google Streetview, May 2017). It hasn't changed, though what was our elementary school is now a charter high school. Makes sense. I guess.

Not only were we shown lots of anti-Communist movies in the cafetorium and at the kiddie matinées in town, we were also treated to plenty of nuclear annihilation movies, the kind that show the test dummies being blown to bits along with their incinerated houses. Made quite an impression, those movies did. We lived only a few miles from an Aerojet plant which we were told would be a prime target when the bombs started falling, and because of the mountain range just beyond the plant, the effects of the nuclear bomb would be reflected right back at us. See those windows high up on the north facing wall of the cafetorium? The plan was that the heavy canvas drapes would be pulled over them when the sirens went off and we, the children, would shelter under the tables and benches and along the walls in the cafetorium if we had time to get there. Otherwise, we'd duck and cover in our class rooms, where one whole wall was windows practically down to the floor and the opposite wall had a high strip of windows. How were we supposed to survive being cut to ribbons even cowering under our desks? There was a sort of plan of pushing all the desks against the wall away from the window wall and then getting us all to shinny under the desk-fort we'd made, but it was a madhouse when it was tried out, so they figured out the best thing would be to have us kneeling against the far wall, backs to the window wall, with desks lined up between us and the windows. On the other hand, I remember teachers shaking their heads during annihilation drills as if to say "This isn't gonna work." Something they dare not say out loud.

One day, one of my favorite teachers was absent and a truly stupid substitute had taken his place. I mean, stupid. We asked what had happened to Mr. Beamas, At first, we got no answers, but as the days wore on and Mr. Beamas didn't return, the class got restless and defiant. Where was our teacher? Was he sick? Was he dead? What was going on? Why did we have to put up with this idiot substitute?

No answer. After a week, though, maybe two, Mr. Beamas was back in the classroom, but he wasn't the same. Like the Body-Snatchers had got him or something.

After class one day, a few of us stuck around and asked him what had happened. Had he been in a car wreck? Was he in the hospital?

He finally opened up a little, but he clearly didn't want to say too much. He said he'd been suspended and reported to the police/FBI (I don't remember which) on suspicion of Communist sympathies. He'd been interrogated about his own actions and about everyone he knew, and about what he'd been teaching in class. Apparently there'd been a complaint from... someone. He didn't know who. About ....he didn't know what.He assumed he was under surveillance and he couldn't say much more.

This is the idyllic world we lived in in the 1950s.
In the schoolyard, c. 1958
That's the schoolyard, and that's me in the white shoes on the monkey bars. The dusty schoolyard, afterwards planted to grass stretches out behind us. My house was just across the drainage ditch from the schoolyard, and for a long time there wasn't a fence between the edge of the schoolyard and the drainage ditch, so it was pretty easy for me to climb my own backyard fence and scamper across the concrete ditch to get to school rather than going the looooong way around. The long way around was so long there was actually a bus that would take me.

After a while, it occurred to me that the safest place we could be when the bombs came was that concrete ditch -- as long as there wasn't any water in it. It was 10 maybe 12 feet deep, maybe 50 feet across at the top, 15 feet at the bottom, and at least a mile long, from the base of the hills on the east to the big ol' culvert under the roads and houses to the west. If we could get to it -- it was pretty far away -- the culvert would be an even better shelter yet. 

I remember  mentioning the ditch as a shelter once during a duck and cover drill and being promptly hushed up. One wasn't supposed to have ideas, after all. Not during a Commie-scare bomb drill. For cryin' out loud.

My buddy Bobby lived near the culvert, though, and he'd checked it out on his own. He said it was pretty hard to get into because of the fencing around it, but he managed to and said it could hold the whole neighborhood. So we made plans to get there when the time came.

But it never came, did it?

That's the thing. Despite all the scares and the drills, the time never came, and eventually the threat of instant incineration was forgotten. Even if NK goes ballistic and annihilates a city or two, we  could hardly care less. Oh well, who really needed Seattle, right? Buncha Leftists anyway. No one even notices the obliteration of city after city in the far-distant lands of our Imperial conquest. They deserve it, whatever, right? You bet.

No, what we're to fear are hordes of Mexicans crossing the southern border to steal our stuff and rape our women. What we're to fear are the hordes of bearded Mooslums itching to blow us to bits or run us down with rental trucks. What we're to fear is Zombies and AntiFa and AntiFa Zombies and Clintoon and Obomba and George Fucking Soros!!!!! Aiyeeeee!

How far we have fallen.

Welp, this is supposedly the Day that They Rise... and round up all the Trumpazoids for final disposition. 

One awaits...


Cheers.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Ongoing Though Largely Ignored Destruction of Lives and Cities Wherever Rebellion Is Detected

The recent Catalonia Thing put me in mind to write in more detail -- such as I can find anyway -- about the ongoing destruction of lives and cities wherever rebellion is detected or found.

It's interesting to me that as an article of faith in some of the darker corners of the so-called progressive blogosphere what's going on now, under the Trump Regime, nothing is to be said about the ongoing killing and destruction by the unleashed military -- unless it can be directly blamed on "Obomba" or even better, on The Hag "Clintoon." For some bizarre but unknown reason, Trump and His Generals are blameless, uninvolved, and apparently barely aware of what's going on, and that has been going on under Trump's watch. There are still individuals convinced he's winding down the many wars against rebellion when in fact he's been ramping them up and starting new ones.

One of the primary characteristics of these anti-Rebel actions is the utter destruction left in their wake. City after city, particularly in Iraq and Syria, has been utterly destroyed, their populations massacred or dispersed. Some of the cities have been destroyed for the third or fourth time since the start of the Imperial wars of aggression after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon so many years ago now.

I count at least a dozen cities in Iraq and at least that many more in Syria that have been partially or completely leveled in the last year or so, most of them during the Trump Regime, but not all of them.

Ramadi, for example, was destroyed in May of 2016.

Mosul's destruction began in October of 2016. It was completed, with enormous numbers of civilian casualties (by some counts 40,000 or more) in July of 2017.

Fallujah was destroyed -- again -- in 2016 while Tikrit suffered destruction in 2015 and 2017.

Tal Afar was destroyed in August 2017.

The list of cities destroyed in Iraq -- some in 2015, some in 2016, some in 2017, with the destruction continuing today -- goes on and on. The number of cities destroyed in Syria is nearly endless, Raqqa being only one recent example of many.

Cities are being destroyed as we speak in the Yemen, parts of Africa, and in the far-distant Philippines, and who knows where else that hasn't been reported? "They make a desert and call it peace." Indeed.

As these cities are destroyed, their populations are dispersed as refugees or are annihilated in uncounted numbers. They're killed by the bombs dropped from above by our Imperial forces, they're killed by epidemics, they're killed by street fighting, by death squads; they're killed by starvation and lack of water. They're killed by heat and suffocation and fear and hopelessness. No one hears the dead and no one counts them, either. It is as if they never were.

The toll of death and destruction has been mounting exponentially since Trump assumed the throne of the Empire and unleashed His Generals from the restraints that had chafed them so under Obama. They are now free to kill and destroy at will without "interference" from the White House and without accountability for what they and their allied forces and mercenaries do.

The excuse is the necessity for "Victory" at any cost to please the Emperor. We can argue all we want that this is merely a continuation of anti-rebel policies and actions that have been going on for decades, under Reagan, BushI Clinton, BushII, and Obama. We're supposed to believe there's nothing "new" and so accept the accelerating toll of slaughter and destruction as "normal." Trump himself is not the cause. As if that were the point.

No, what if we don't accept what's going on as "normal" or anything close to it, and what if we didn't accept its prior iterations under previous rulers, either? What if we see this situation for what it is -- murder of indiscriminate targets, total destruction of cities where uncounted civilians are forced to stay or are unable to escape to be slaughtered at will, all to control or kill a relative handful of rebels against the Empire.

The fact that it has been going on as long as it has does not in any way excuse the current occupant of the White House and his current crop of Generals for their actions, and yet that has become the default position of many of those who simply cannot bring themselves to acknowledge what's going on now.And that includes a whole cohort of "objectively pro-Trump" so-called progressives.

I guess the theory is that whatever he does is OK as long as he doesn't do what The Hag was sure to do: start a nuclear war with Russia.

To my mind, this is insanity. But that's how far down the rabbit hole our political lives have descended.

Excusing whatever is going on now (if it's even noticed) as necessary to "heighten the contradictions" and so -- eventually, maybe, could be -- bring down the Empire as if this were Tsarist Russia in the throes of WWI is morally repugnant and it's not likely to work in any case. The contradictions are not being heightened, they being reinforced as is the power of the Empire. This is not the time to overlook the crimes of the Emperor and Empire. This is the time to highlight them relentlessly. If, of course, the objective is to bring the edifice down. But I don't think that is the objective at all.

I'll try to get into that another time.

Meanwhile, Feliz Dia de los Muertos.

Catrinas 2011

Monday, October 30, 2017

"Instead of Dead"


Los Poblanos Organic Lavender from Los Poblanos on Vimeo.

Ms. Ché and I have been celebrating our "50th" this weekend at Los Poblanos (Historic Inn and Organic Farm) tucked away in Ranchos de Albuquerque adjacent to Albuquerque's North Valley, a rich and diverse community of land grants and farms, palatial estates and modest homesteads along the east side of the Rio Grande that date back, in some cases, to Spanish Colonial days.

Los Poblanos has been here in one form or another for more than 150 years (I think, not having the history of the place in front of me.) It became a "model farm and dairy" in the 1930s when Albert Simms and his wife Ruth Hanna McCormick bought it and commenced a major overhaul. They hired John Gaw Meem to build several new buildings and renovate/expand existing buildings to create a cultural center and working farm as well as a rather extravagant home for the Simms.

I won't go into the history of the Simms' tenure, nor detail the story of the restoration of the site by the current owners. It's quite a tale, but it's not for now. (This article in New Mexico Magazine is the short and dirty version...)

Since we moved to New Mexico full time at the end of October, 2012 (it's our fifth anniversary as New Mexicans), we've been to events at Los Poblanos many times and enjoyed their fine hospitality. It''s a lovely setting that often hosts Canada geese and other flyway birds, especially this time of year.We heard cranes overhead not long after arriving yesterday afternoon, and geese were calling later. We were visited by peacocks at breakfast, and one seemed to have followed Ms. Ché over to the Farm Shop afterwards.

Los Poblanos seems remote and out of the way, but it isn't really. It's only a few miles from Old Town down a leafy lane, past the fields of lavender for which its latest iteration has become famous.

We came to have dinner at the highly regarded restaurant, stay the night in the newly built Field room section, and have breakfast in the morning in celebration of our "consolidated 50th" -- fifty years together, 48 married, and five years as New Mexicans.

At dinner last night, we had many thanks for one another (oh yes), and made the comment: "We're here instead of dead."

Indeed.

We've had quite an adventuresome life together to say the least. It's the kind of life that makes people's eyes bug out, filled with oddities, adventure and risk, and simply enough, either of us might have wound up dead by the side of the road almost anywhere along the way.

But we wound up here instead. The way I put it, we're living our lives in reverse. It's a constant wonder to us.

Lavender fields outside our window in the morning


So the morning is dawning cloudy and chilly, the lavender field outside our patio is touched with dew, breakfast is waiting. We've had our morning french press coffee, and I need to clean up a bit before we venture forth. We'll have some things to do in town, and then head home to our passel of cats,

Instead of dead...

Saturday, October 28, 2017

How Close Are We To Direct Military Rule?

Hard to say. I'm not really up on military thinking (to put it mildly), so I haven't a clue to what The Generals are up to in their own secret realms. I know that they, their troops, their allies and their mercenaries have been killing and destroying up a storm overseas, and they've been organizing disaster response domestically. That can easily -- too easily -- morph into occupation abroad and martial law at home, but domestically it hasn't quite yet (the situation in Puerto Rico may hold the key... they say that crime is running rampant on the streets of San Juan and "something has to be done." Right.)

When Gen. Dunford appeared before the media to clean up the mess of the Niger Operation, I thought, "Well, there's your Emperor-in-waiting."

I've said for a while now that we're one or two catastrophes away from the Apocalypse, and we've had one major catastrophe (the California wild fires) since.

We're very close to the edge.

We've seen over and over how close to nonfunctional Congress is, and when they can do something, it's detrimental to the public good. We've seen over and over how dysfunctional and chaotic the White House is, and when they do something, it is all but certain to bring harm to some segment of the public -- and probably save the favored faction of the gangster rich from harm -- to say the least.

The courts too often reinforce injustice and free the rich from the law.

The public is restive enough that some are taking matters into their own hands; white rightists are on the march, racially motivated murder and assault is on the rise, and nothing is being done about the long term problem of mass murder, except perhaps to encourage more of it.

The White House backs the "good people on both sides" -- whoever they may be -- involved in the mayhem.

This is not sustainable.

The military and intelligence community are already in effective control of foreign policy, international affairs -- and warmaking. Trump freed them from Obama's restraint almost the moment he assumed the throne. I doubt he fully understood what he was doing -- does he fully understand anything, after all? But by doing so, he set up the foundations for the military take over of the government (to the extent it isn't already overseen/directed by the military.) The emergency framework has been around since the 1950s. On occasion, parts have been implemented, starting, so far as I can tell, with the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, or perhaps with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Or maybe earlier.

The point is that both the military and the permanent government in Washington, DC, have contingency plans which can be implemented in a heartbeat should the need arise.

Parts of those plans can be implemented without notice or a backward glance, and it's possible hardly anyone would notice.

Trump opened the door to the seizure of the whole government by the military when he countermanded the restraints on military action imposed by the Obama regime. It may seem like those restraints only involved who got killed and what was destroyed where and when -- overseas. The White House had to approve.

But the military also has a domestic presence and role, and if by chance the chaos of the Trump regime interferes... it can be (and in part already has been) neutralized.

Retired and currently serving generals are scattered throughout the Trump regime, and they head -- or have headed -- the key agencies that can impose rule on a restive population. Experiments and examples are implemented by such agencies as the Gestapo-like ICE which has been unleashed to terrorize brown people and communities.

This sort of thing is easily expanded, but I would suggest that in a military take over, this sort of thing would be reduced or even cease.

The military and their sponsors would want calm and certainty at home so they can more easily and effectively pursue their Imperial objectives abroad -- which apparently involve the wholesale destruction and annihilation of "rebels against the Empire" we've been seeing.

All to what end?

We're not privy to that.

At any rate, I'd say we're closer than ever to the end point of the Republic, and once it comes, a lot of Americans will breathe a sigh of relief.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Losing the Argument

I started a post the other day about the apparently endless flap over the White House response to the death of Sgt. La David Johnson in Niger. Of course the way it has been handled by the White House is appalling to anyone with a shred of decency, but decency is not what it's about.

It's about power and its exercise.

It's not an argument, in other words. It's not something you can rationally consider and come to a conclusion about from an intellectual or even moral standpoint. It's a visceral, immediate, emotional thing, and if you "stand with" the White House and Trump, literally nothing at all will change your mind about it. If you "stand with" the widow, Myeshia Johnson, and with the congresswoman, Frederica Wilson, you won't change your mind, either.

In the end, it doesn't matter. In the end, the one with the most power and the ability to exercise it wins. Period.

The issue I was trying to deal with the other day, however, was not so much that as it was the mechanisms by which power was being exercised in this example.

The White House was exercising textbook gaslighting. It wasn't merely that what they have been saying about it was false, it was that they had the power to say anything they wanted about it and to force you (all) to doubt your own perceptions and sanity in the process.

Trump lied repeatedly about it. It wasn't differing perceptions, it was deliberate lies, meant to put into question the sanity of Rep. Wilson and The Widow, Myeshia Johnson. The White House fabricated and Trump disseminated false stories about what had happened, and the only ones who could correct the record had far less power than the White House and Trump, so their corrections were generally treated as "he said, she said," and as everyone knows, when the President says something, even if it is  wrong or a lie, one must give it due respect.

Not so with a couple of Negro women who can't say anything that a white person is obliged to respect or believe. Everyone knows they... tell tales. Amirite? And that sparkle hat! Who's to believe anybody who wears a sparkle hat on TeeBee? You see? And so it went.

When Gen. Four Star (Ret) Kelly was trotted out to stand at the podium and blatantly smear and lie about the Congresswoman with a purely Gaslighted story about what she said in her dedication speech for the FBI building in Miramar, FL in 2015, it was over. The argument, such as it had been, was lost. It was over.

Here's why: Kelly fabricated out of whole cloth a story of the self-aggrandizing Negress at the dedication who got up, bragged about her prowess in getting the money for the building and for her constituents, and how great she was, and then sat down. It "stunned" the audience, so said Kelly. They couldn't imagine anyone doing such a thing at such a solemn occasion.

Except for the fact that it didn't happen, one might understand his dismay and the dismay of those who were there. How dare she! Right?

Not only was Kelly's description of the event fabricated, a straight out lie as shown in a video of her remarks at the dedication, which did not self-aggrandize at all but celebrated the work of law enforcement and the FBI, and particularly the sacrifice of the agents for whom the building was being named, she never mentioned "getting the money," but only briefly spoke of the request from the FBI  Director that she spearhead legislation to name the building after the fallen agents, a task she took on and which was successfully completed by bipartisan efforts in the House, the Senate and the White House just a few days before the dedication. It wasn't her doing alone, it was the doing of many.

But. Kelly's gaslighting went right round the world several times before the media and the Congresswoman got their pants on. Once the tape showed the General Four Star (Ret) lied, it was too late.

Subsequently, when the White House spox was asked specifically about the General's lies, she doubled down, suggesting that no one should question the word of a Four Star. Of course what she was doing was more gaslighting. She did not and would not address the actual questions about the actual lies Kelly told from the podium. Instead, she was referring to his comments about his son killed in action to deflect from his lies about the Congresswoman, and it seemed as if no one in the media at all, and darned few commenters on the situation, caught it.

From that point, there was mostly just flailing ineffectively.

There really is no defense against gaslighting. I didn't even know what it was until one day I saw the movie from which the term is derived. In it a husband forces his wife to question her own perceptions and sanity through a series of carefully crafted lies and fabrications about his actions and those of others. She witnesses things that contradict what he says, but he says in so many words she's crazy, and what she thinks she sees is not what's going on, oh no not at all. The only defense against the perpetrator is to get away--or take decisive unpleasant action to stop him.

You cannot argue with him.

He will just lie the more, fabricate more falsehoods, and continue to go on about his nefarious business until the bitter end.

And so that's the situation we are in with regard to much more than the fracas over the White House response to the death of Sgt. Johnson.

They get away with it because they have the power to do so.

It's a deeply, deeply dangerous situation for the rest of us.




Monday, October 23, 2017

Ol' Max Evans--The First 1000 Years


Max Evans Iconic 

It's coming up on five years since we moved to New Mexico full time. One of our first literary encounters was with Max Evans, who called himself Ol' Max Evans even when he wasn't particularly old, cause he's a cowboy or was, and that's how ol' cowboys talk, and he's nothing if not an ol' cowboy talker, Ol'  Max is.

He didn't invent the genre, but he had long been the icon of it.

Anyway.

I remember very well first meeting him. He seemed to think I was someone he knew, and he kept circling around and checking me out, and he finally sat down next to me and said, "I'm Max." I said, "Yeah, I know. How you doin'?"

He looked me up and down and said something like, "I'm just happy I'm still around to tell about it; be 89 next birthday, can't complain."

He didn't look a day over 79 and I had no idea how old he was at that time.

Slim Randels had already done a biography of him, "Ol' Max Evans -- the First Thousand Years" which I don't think I had at that time, and if I did, I hadn't read it, but I would eventually. In time.

Ol' Max had a new book out, well ... it was a compilation of some of his animal stories from years ago, and he told about his involved and complex relationships with animals over his long lifetime. NOTE: I think that's what the first time we saw him was about, the release of "Animal Stories", but you know what? I'm not really sure now, because all the times we've been at some Ol' Max event, and there have been quite a few, seem to swirl into a common encounter, not separate at all. I probably wrote about it at the time, but I honestly don't recall.

Anyway.

One animal story in particular stood out for me: "One Eyed Sky". It is perhaps the finest animal story in American literature. There is nothing else that comes close. Ol' Max has repeatedly told the story of writing it in a frenzy up in his studio in his house in Taos, typing furiously over a day and a night of passion for his topic and his story, and coming downstairs in the morning where his wife Mrs. Max (Pat) and her friend were having coffee in the kitchen and they looked at him and said, "My God, all the blood's gone from your face."

And Ol' Max said, "All that blood's right here," holding out his manuscript.

I asked him once, "When did you write 'One Eyed Sky'?" 'Cause I'd never found a date on any of the copies I'd read, and his answer was just, "When I lived up in Taos." Which could have been any time between 1949 and about 1967. Or so.

I still don't know.

Mrs. Max told me it was around 1960, but she wasn't completely sure herself.

It's kind of that way with Ol'  Max. The year a thing happened doesn't matter nearly as much as the thing that happened itself.

He went ashore at Normandy, he says -- and I assume he did -- but when that happened is not what needs to be remembered. It's that it happened. Not when...

And so it goes with Max. You may not get a straight answer from him, but you'll learn more than you ever thought possible from listening to him.

Or reading what he wrote.

We lost touch and I got very worried; I thought I should call Mrs. Max and find out what was going on with him, but then I thought, no, if it was bad, she would have enough to do without fielding calls from near-strangers, and it would be better just to let things go the way they would. I thought Max was probably quite ill, and during that period I was pretty ill myself.

Then one day Ms Ché showed me an article in the Santa Fe Reporter: "Ol' Max Evans -- The First 1000 Years" would be premiering at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival on October 19. Ohhhhh...

The article talked about Ol' Max and the film, a biopic narrated by Peter Coyote and Sam Elliot, but it didn't say where or when it would be playing, much to my and Ms. Ché's frustration, but there you are. When a thing happens is not as important as that a thing happens. Must learn patience, eh?

Anyway.

I did a web-search and found out that the premier would be playing simultaneously in both of the theaters at the Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Fe, and it was sold out. No! Of course it was!

But, come Sunday the 22nd of October, it would be playing at the KiMo Theater in Albuquerque, and it was free, and we said, "Well, we'll go." Just like that, and we did.

We didn't expect Ol' Max and Mrs. Max to be there. He's 90-something. Almost 1000. But sure enough there he was, with Pat and Margo and a whole bunch of friends. We said hello, and his eyes brightened when he saw Ms. Ché for they had bonded years ago, and I think he was just happy to see her.

"Hey, Pardner" he says to me, and there are layers and layers of meaning which I won't get into, but that's all I really needed to hear. I was so glad to see him, and I told him so, and he knew. Yeah. He was frail as heck and had oxygen tubes up his nose (yep, I had to do the same thing for so many months), but he was hail and hearty for a 1000 year old man, and it turned out he could walk on his own and had a grand time greeting friends old and new before the start of the film.

And the film was wonderful. It's the second biopic of New Mexico literary icons we've seen in the last few weeks ("Nasario Remembers" was the first), and we were delighted with it, as was every one in attendance, including Ol' Max who got up onstage and answered questions for a good half hour after the film. He was as crotchety and funny as ever. When it was over, Ms. Ché waited for him to come down from the stage, and they had a... moment.

I'll say no more about that except I think it made his day.

He sure made ours.

Thanks Max. Pat. Lorene. Slim. Ollie. And so many others.