Saturday, April 30, 2011

Question: Are We On the Edge of Another Economic... Shock?

I ask because there appears to be some shuddering in the Economy due to the sharp rise in commodity prices, ie: food and energy. Things that people need, you see.

Just like 2008, when gasoline prices last got this high -- and predictions now are for $6 a gallon by summer, with continuing rises in food prices -- people cut back, stop buying, bring the economy more or less quickly to a halt, and if factors are dire enough, put it in reverse.

Of course an economy that relies on bubbles for "growth" is one that cannot be sustained for very long. Unfortunately, the American Economy has been relying more and more on the Bubble to carry the load ever since the days of Reagan, and it doesn't seem to be working any more.

So are we stuck? Are we going back into reverse? And is there anything to be done about it?

What happens when gas is too expensive and food is too expensive? What do people do?

Millions upon millions of Americans have been forced into poverty since this Endless Recession began and Disaster Capitalism became the operating principle of our rulers. Most of them will never get out of poverty again. Most have already adapted to their new, reduced circumstances, and they've already cut their spending back to the nub. They don't have anything more to be pillaged and plundered by the High and the Mighty.

The effects of higher energy and food prices on them will be severe, because for most of them, there are no options: it is either pay the price or go without, or both. Both is what is happening: they pay for what they must and they go without for everything else. Their physical and emotional situation deteriorates. Their lives become more and more cramped and crabbed, and their sense of despair for the Future becomes consuming. Faith may be some comfort in their distress, but there will likely be no relief for their suffering from the material world.

But there is still a large middle class to plunder, large enough anyway to make the Powers Who Rule Us salivate with the contemplation of the opportunities before them. Thus the persistent and concerted efforts -- rather successful efforts even in the face of massive opposition -- to "curtail" pay and benefits for the largest blocs of the remaining middle class, that is public employees.

And of course we can't neglect to mention the assault on the benefits for the elderly and disabled. Raising the retirement age, when it should be lowered, and cutting Social Security benefits, when they should be substantially increased, is a form of pillage by the Owners. Transformation of benefits that have been pre-paid by their users into partial subsidies to the Marketplace is a form of plunder.

The irony is that this assault on what remains of the social contract and the American Way of Life, if you will, doesn't help the Owners in mid and long term. In fact, it does just the opposite.

They've been busy stealing from one another as a kind of sport for years. Now they're plundering the rest of us, and so far, as each sector has been depleted, they've been able to move on to the next. It's all quite mindless. While there is some actual cruelty involved, mostly it's just automatic behavior. But they are running out of sectors, and once they have taken everything they can grab from everyone else -- including their peers and rivals -- they are left in the condition of Latin American grandees in the 19th Century. "Rich" by comparison to the poverty they have created all around them, but as rotten and backwards as any aristocracy there ever was.

Or think of what happened to Rome when the system of plunder and impoverishment had run its course.

That's the path we're on.

And another Economic Shock will do nothing but accelerate the process.

Individuals will have to take matters into their own hands to stall or reverse the process, and that's a task more and more Americans seem willing to take on.

The results from this application of the Shock Doctrine just might surprise us all. I know I've said that before.


[Traveling today and tomorrow, going back to California after a very active couple of weeks in New Mexico]

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Huh. Who'dathunk?

Mark Ames and Yasha Levine drop a bombshell over at Alternet, claiming -- with abundant evidence -- that the whole TSA Porno-Scan and Junk Touching Hysteria last November was manufactured by the Rightist Radicals in charge of the Republican Party so as to... prevent TSA employees from unionizing.



Those People would do a thing like that? How could it be?

Of course Ames and Levine are notorious for probing deep and long into the machinations of the Oligarchy in this country, just as they were notorious for doing so in the Oligarchic Russian Federation. Their probes got their Russian publication, the Exile, shut down by the Putinist Authorities. So now they operate on line, and... it's a Good Thing.

That the Oligarchs who rule us would go to such elaborate lengths to stymie efforts to organize TSA workers borders on the insane when you think about it. But when a kind of inverted "liberationist" ideology takes hold, as it has among so much of the Ruling Class, insanity is the rule not the exception.

"Liberation" yes, but only for the Rulers. The ruled -- that would be the rest of us -- are to submit... or, at least in theory, perish.

What Ames and Levine have put together about the hysterics over TSA Porno Scans and Junk Groping last year is a fascinating read. There's always something else again going on behind the scenes, and it makes one wonder at just how easily Americans can be duped. Even the most highly educated, informed, and educated.

The Truth May Be Out There, but in the meantime Believe Nothing.

What a way to live.

There's got to be a better way....

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

So, How Fares Teh Revolution?

Stalled again?

I would despair, except that this his kind of how these Revolution thingies go in this country. Historically and such.

The Founding Revolution, for example, was hardly a case of overthrow of the existing regime, eighteen days and we're done. No, it went on and on and on, with sporadic fighting and sputtering "progress," for years. 1776 (well, it started well before that) to 1783, with periodic renewals by the British until at least 1814. Its predecessor in Britain, the various English Dynastic and Civil Wars, lasted well more than a century.

The Civil Rights Movement in this country took forever and a day to accomplish its main objectives, and the other liberationist movements before and since (Suffrage Movement, anyone?) seemed to get nowhere -- forever. But the key was persistence, dogged determination, and not a little gall.

So the slow-down and near stoppage of the revolt against the Midwest Misrulers is to be expected. Yes, Misrule is Triumphant for now, and some of what has been done will not soon be undone. In the meantime, however, righteous anger combined with determination to succeed has made the Rebels a force to be reckoned with, sadly but necessarily somewhat like the TeaBaggers were back in the day.

The TeaBag Rebels demonstrated that a loud and vocal minority, an obnoxious bunch of malcontents, can be assembled at almost a moment's notice (the TeaBag Rebellion began on essentially the day after Obama won the Presidency) and can be motivated to press policy changes favorable to an even tinier minority. The Ruling Class in a word.

The TeaBag Rebels also demonstrated that almost all the rebellious spirit in this country is concentrated on the right. I know I've been making that point for many years, through the entire Bush Regime, and prior to that, during the Gingrich Revolution. This has been a Radical Rightist dominated period the like of which we haven't seen since the close of the Civil War.

The corporatist triumph then was as absolute as anything today, moreso perhaps, because there were so few remedies, none at all in many cases, to the abuses of the Rightists and Corporatists who ruled the roost.

What there was then, and there isn't now, is an escape valve: the West. The Westward Push after the Civil War was the basic survival plan for many of those who either were pushed out of or couldn't stand the miserable exploitation of life Back East.

So. Be a Pioneer. Go Out West. Make your way and make your fortune, and many millions did.

Yeah, the Indians and the buffalo lost, but someone gained. And that was the main thing. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if there had been no West to relieve the pressure on the Ruling Class in the East.

Something tells me there would have been more and ever more revolutionary movements to redress the very real grievances of the working classes under the corporatists and capitalists of the day. The escape valve of the West prevented that from happening, even though there were many, many Workers' Movements prior to (and even some after) the Progressive Revolution that succeeded in the early 1900's and consolidated under FDR -- and that is now being unraveled.

As it is, we feel pangs of sorrow for the suffering of previous generations, though it is hard for us to imagine just what their lives were like, and what and how they fought their condition. Or did they submit?

I'm old enough -- and my parents were old enough -- to have heard stories of what went on from the 1870's into the 1940's, and what my parents and their parents did (if anything) to redress their political/economic grievances. As I think I've said, both my parents were dyed in the wool Democrats, neither of them necessarily revolutionaries, but both of them instinctive rebels against the Ruling Class (although my father could, I think, be considered part of the Ruling Class. Just not an important part!) My mother was from the Working Class. Very much so.

Right now, it seems that historians will look back at this period and wonder at the surprising acquiescence of the masses to the increasingly harsh rule of the Plutocrats and Oligarchs. Yet this sort of thing is common enough in United States history, let alone the history of the World.

Fighting back is the anomaly, not the rule at all.

But there was a rebellion in the Middle Western States earlier this year, one that is not by any means concluded. Right now the matters at issue are submitted to the courts and in the by and bye will be submitted to the voters in recall and other elections throughout the region. The polls are showing very little popular support for the depredations under way in the states and in Congress, so little support in fact that the only way the Ruling Class can realistically have its way is by main force -- the way they did back in the post-Civil War period.

But we have seen little of that so far. The Cossacks remain stabled for the time being.

So, we can only await developments, publish our samizdat, and engage in what minor acts of resistance and sabotage we can.

While Teh Revolution is On Hold.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nicho de Santos

Above is a picture of our Nicho de Santos in what we call "The Jesus Room" in New Mexico.

I was up before dawn coloring eggs, and then at dawn I lit candles in front of the nicho as a sign of respect for the sacrifice Jesus and the Resurrection.

Being of the Highly Lapsed Persuasion, I should be embarrassed to say any such thing. I can hear the cat-calls of "Hypocrite!" loud and clear.

Yeah, well. Faith is not really about following the dictates and strictures of the Holy Catholic Church -- or any church for that matter. I have posted before on my belief that the practice of Organized Religion -- no matter the denomination -- is a matter of predators and prey. Predatory behavior is built in to the power structure of Organized Religion. There is no way to separate it out. And those of us who don't want to -- or perhaps can't -- play that way would be hypocrites to stay within the Bosom of the Church, whatever Church one might choose.

That doesn't mean I necessarily disrespect people of faith, priests and holy men and women, or the laity in faith. In fact, I have a very high regard for most of them and have said so. I consider myself a Person of Strong and Abiding Faith, despite my inability -- or is it refusal -- to bend to the will of the Church.

The Nicho de Santos is a feature of many private houses in New Mexico, often in the case of adherents to the Santa Fe Style (which we've been discussing tangentially for some time now) as a matter of "style" rather than Grace. The "style" is to have Santos in your home, bultos or retablos or preferably both, hand carved by the Most Famous Santeros and to display them proudly with your Crucifixes decorated with the most intricate patterns in straw, and so on and so forth. Whether you're Catholic or not, whether you're lapsed or not.

Newer Santa Fe Style houses have one or more plaster nichos where anything at all may be displayed -- or nothing at all, as the case may be. Authentic "old" New Mexico houses typically have deep nichos built into the adobe (as the one in our house is) with carved wooden doors to close them when not in use. In fact, the nicho in our house was once a window -- the window itself is still there -- but it was covered over about fifty years ago when the siding was put on over the crumbling stucco on the exterior. Given that it is on the north side of the house and the room where it is I suspect was once the kitchen, I have little doubt that this nicho was intended to be and was used as a refrigerator back in the day.

Why not?

Later, what had been a fairly substantial kitchen was subdivided into two bedrooms and various closets and storage areas. In addition to the nicho, what we now call "The Jesus Room" also has a built in wooden cabinet with a drawer that was probably once used for storing kitchen supplies. It is clearly home-made and charmingly primitive.

Whether this nicho was ever used previously for the storage and display of santos I have no idea. I wouldn't be surprised though.

The santos that we have collected over the years are varied, to say the least. In fact, none of them are "New Mexican." No works by Famous Santeros. Not a one. In fact, I've resisted acquiring any -- though I love the look of them -- because they are essentially "style" notes. Any sort of santo will do to remind one of faith. It doesn't have to be stylish.

Perhaps the chief santo in our house and our lives is that of St. Francis of Assisi that graces the front porch. We do love our animals! I'd like to get one of St. Clare, but so far, have not had any luck. We do have a ceramic light-up version of Mission Santa Clara in California. Not the same, I know.

In The Jesus Room, though, there are lots of curious santos, including paintings, bas reliefs, plates, prints, and small statues. There's a deep-relief pressed tin image of Our Lady of Lourdes in her Grotto that is quite spectacular. A paint by numbers picture of Jesus in the Garden. There's a photo of the very statue of Our Lady of Lourdes that stands in her Grotto, crowned, that was taken when the statue went on an American tour some years back. Many images of the Virgin and Child. Some of St. Joseph, some of Mary. There is a delightful tin multi-picture -- it's cleverly formed so that when looked at straight on, it is an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, while from one side it is the Annunciation, and if seen from the other side it is the Resurrection. There's a huge Last Supper in an elaborate gold frame, and there is a much smaller one in a plain wooden frame. There are numerous Jesuses, most of them not "Catholic." There are crucifixes, but only one shows Christ on the Cross, and it's for a reason that I won't get into here. There are way too many Catechisms.

And anyone could see this display and scream "Hypocrite!!!!". And yet every bit of it is there as a reminder of faith. A Catholic friend who came to visit said, "Where's your kneeler?" Well, it's in storage. There isn't room for it in this tiny space!

This is a day of joy. And our santos are meant to help us express that joy.

And our Christmas tree is up and lit all year long, too.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Journal of a Mud House, a continuation --4

[Illustration from "The Journal of A Mud House" by Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, Harper's Magazine, April 1922]

Like many other areas where the Spaniards went a-conquering, New Mexico is blessed with an abundance of penitentes who go about on pilgrimage, flagellating themselves, praying, and at one time nailing one another to crucifixes in imitation of the Passion of Christ. (Rumor has it, they still do that in their secret rites, but I wouldn't know.)

In fact, I'm not much into the Passion. It's a frankly ugly story that relies on credulity and faith to be transformed into... "beauty." Yes, yes, I understand about suffering and redemption and all that. Taking on the sins of the world, forgiveness, resurrection, choirs of angels at the right hand of the Father. Yes, yes, yes.

But what has happened with this story is that the Suffering of Christ to Redeem Mankind has been used as a sort of global justification for Believers (not just Catholics by any means) to impose such suffering as they wilt on Believers and Non-Believers alike if not in Imitation of Christ, then certainly in His Sacred Honor.

And that's disgusting. Immoral. Wrong.

It was this Imposition of Suffering -- by Men of God as well as civil authorities -- that in due time led to the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 here in New Mexico, the only time Indians successfully rebelled against the Conquest. Not only did they successfully rebel, they expelled the Spanish colonists and their hypocritical, devilish priests.

Of course, there was a Reconquista, there always is, isn't there? But in returning, the Spanish, wonder of wonders, were chastened and chastised and they promised to reform. Strangely enough, they weren't lying. They wanted to make peace with the Indians, promised to respect them and their culture, promised further that the Church would be restrained, the burdens of conversion lightened, encomienda ended, and cooperation between the peoples ensured. And so, more or less, it was.

Because of this rebellion and change of heart, both the Spanish and the Indians were surprisingly successful in maintaining their cultures here, while intermingling all the time, right up to the American Conquest.

And when the Americans came, they didn't know what to make of what they found here.

Americans had been coming down the Santa Fe Trail for a generation before the conquest, and most of those who made the trek were inclined to tolerate if not exactly favor the ways of the strange peoples who lived along the Rio Grande Valley, if only for the money they could make from them. Well, money such as it was.

These were poor people. Even the Grandest of Grandees in New Mexico was a poor man by American standards; even by Mexican standards. This was a backwater where people had to do for themselves or do without. They lived as simply as possible, sufficient unto their needs first and foremost, but within that stricture, they were surprisingly creative, artistic, and -- at least from time to time -- happy.

The story of the Spanish Conquest of these parts is complicated. Coronado came through in 1540 or so, and he made an unholy mess on his travels in search of the Seven Cities of Gold. Murder, rape, pillage, plunder, disease and destruction were all integral to his exploratory technique. The Coronado Monument up by Bernalillo is a pretty good representation of what his expedition left in its wake. It's a ruined pueblo on the banks of the Rio Grande, obviously a very fine place at one time. There is little left of it but some tumbled walls and a mural-painted kiva that astonished archeologists who excavated the ruin in the 1930's.

The theory is that Coronado stopped here in 1540, demanding supplies, killing and plundering at will, taking hostages and women, and otherwise behaving like a rampaging beast. The Indians were not amused.

Soon after Coronado moved on, perhaps as soon as the next spring, so the theory goes the pueblo was abandoned and fell to ruin. Where the people went is hard to say, but there were many other pueblos along the Rio Grande and elsewhere, so there was no lack of potential destinations. Eventually, the ruin was "discovered" and became what it is today.

In 1598, Don Juan de Oñate went on an expedition of Conquest, during which (as was the style of the Spaniards of the day) he committed numerous atrocities, perhaps the most egregious of which was the amputation of one foot from each of the adult male survivors of his reduction and conquest of the Pueblo of Acoma.

This was but one of his atrocities, but it came to symbolize just who these Spaniards were, and what they would do if they didn't get what they wanted.

It took some time to get over the shock, but more to the point, it took time to adapt the Spanish new arrivals to the rhythms and patterns of living in this harsh but beguiling land. As they adapted they imposed their own spiritual rhythms -- a very harsh form of Catholicism built from the practices of the Church Militant during the Reconquista of Spain from the Moors -- on the local Native Peoples. Up to a point, the Native Peoples were willing enough. But when the Church Militant commenced to destroy all the Native spiritual elements, as was their common practice throughout the conquered realms, the Indians resisted and eventually rebelled. Successfully.

Coronado was bad, Oñate was bad, the Padres could be horrible.

And at least in my view, much of their badness was a result of their peculiar understanding of religious faith and what it justified them to do.

It took centuries and centuries to correct.

In the meantime, plenty of peculiar practices became inculcated into the Ways of the People in these parts, one of them being the Penitente Pilgrimages at Easter time.

Here we are.

And you know, as long as they don't try to impose their beliefs and practices on others, there is no problem and their should be none. But it took so many centuries for the notion of Live and Let Live to penetrate the minds of many Euro-Americans.

I was clearing brush this morning, specifically a frost bitten thorny pyracantha, and I thought for a time over saving some of it to make a Crown of Thorns in remembrance of Good Friday.

But what would I do with it?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Journal of a Mud House, a continuation --3

[Illustration from "The Journal of a Mud House" by Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, Harper's Magazine, March, 1922]

The Edge of Santa Fe, hm? It still looks something like that -- the Edge is just farther out than it was in 1922 or whenever that picture was taken. The houses are probably fancier, though not necessarily (depending on which Edge you're looking at), and the area will probably be criss-crossed with telephone and electric lines. Other than that? Not a whole lot has changed.

I'm not sure exactly where this picture was taken, but while her house in Tesuque was being renovated -- or at least made habitable -- Sergeant and her "pardner" (as she was referred to by José who did much of the work on the Tesuque house) Gertrude lived in what sounds like a furnished casita on the Camino del Monte Sol, which runs more or less north and south from Canyon Road to the Old Santa Fe Trail. It is full of historic compounds, some of them dating back to the 18th Century, many of them very luxurious now. The picture above may have been taken from or just above Sergeant's digs in Santa Fe.

I remember the first time I was in Santa Fe, 1982, it was opening of Opera season, and there were many parties going on, all of them seemingly at guarded adobe walled compounds, armed guards no less in some cases. The compounds generally consisted of a main house and one or more guest houses, scattered at random over the property -- of perhaps an acre or so -- where very luxurious people lived (sometimes only in the summer) and entertained their guests. And this was "in town."

Many of these luxurious Opera lovers owned exquisite art and artifacts, much of it, of course, Native American, but certainly not all. There was plenty of contemporary work by artists who lived and worked in the area, there were paintings by some of Los Cinco Pintores and others from the early days of the Taos and Santa Fe artists colonies, and there was more than a smattering of Impressionist landscapes from as far away as such exotic locales as California and France.

When an artist friend moved out to New Mexico from California around 1990 he settled first in Albuquerque because he said he couldn't take the pretensions of the Santa Fe art patrons -- to say nothing of their petty obsessions and rivalries and feuds. Well. Yes. Where do you think you are?

He was eventually convinced to resettle in Santa Fe when some of his patrons found him appropriate digs -- a really nice though rather cramped compound not far from the Plaza -- where he could entertain the way he wanted to, which was very open, unguarded, and absolutely (well, maybe not absolutely) without pretension. He was a Native American artist (but of completely, and sometimes hilariously, mongrel ancestry) and he grew up living very simply. Even when he became Famous, he always stayed grounded in simplicity. He found, I think, the underlying simplicity of Santa Fe living, much as many artists before him had done and many still do, and he could watch -- and even play with -- the pretensions of the High-Style Art Lovers who proliferate in New Mexico to this day.

I've mentioned that Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant was part of the Taos Artists Colony which was spreading toward Santa Fe (actually, it had started from Santa Fe) when she was working on her little Mud House in Tesuque. But Santa Fe was then, as it had been for hundreds of years, a working town, not an Art Haven at all, and though it was the Capital of Nuevo Mexico under the Spanish and the Mexicans, and then under the Americans Capital of the Territory and later the State of New Mexico, its political status had little impact on most of the people who lived and worked there. In those days, Tesuque, which is now a suburban enclave for the very fancy indeed, including some of those (like the Stedmans) who regularized and popularized and continue the Santa Fe Style in the 1920's and '30's and now, when Sergeant was re-doing her Mud House, it was as it had long been a ranching outpost, a Spanish village and an Indian Pueblo. All of that heritage is still there, but it is overlain now with much of what Sergeant and others from Back East brought with them: a deep admiration for arts and letters and an abiding sense of Place, as in: This is the Place.

I've also mentioned that people in New Mexico have private libraries (we certainly do!) and they read. Many write, too. In addition to the plethora of visual artists, performing artists, and would-be artists, Santa Fe, Taos and other parts of New Mexico boast all kinds of literary artists. The stories that this place has to tell! Well, the tales, anyway.

I think "true fiction" was invented here in New Mexico. I could be wrong of course. Much of Elizabeth Sergeant's story rings absolutely true, for example, and then parts of it don't. You just don't know. And the locals are well-known for, shall we say, "embroidery." Why not? There's no real harm done, and the record can always be corrected later. If need be.

In Sergeant's day, Santa Fe was a working town as it had been for hundreds of years, and as it still is in parts. The Santa Fe Trail, of course, terminated at the Santa Fe Plaza, and it was along the Santa Fe Trail that "America" and this distant, exotic land communicated with one another commercially and socially. Prior to the American Conquest, it was a somewhat limited communication, as the Spanish and later Mexican authorities were not particularly kindly disposed to Anglo penetration, but after the Conquest, there was a huge increase in traffic and penetration from the East. Well, "huge." Comparatively speaking.

New Mexico was still very much a backwater until the railroad came, and that wasn't until the 1880's; the Santa Fe itself never did get to Santa Fe, stopping 18 miles short at Lamy on the excuse that it was just too difficult to lay track to the ancient capital. But a spur was eventually built, the trains started arriving, and Modernity arrived. With Modernity came the Artists.

Ever since, the two have wrapped tightly around one another to create the contemporary spirit of New Mexico. It is deeply and permanently ground in the Past -- a Past which is ever-present. The Pueblos and their peoples are still here -- though the ones nearest me were abandoned centuries ago, their residents simply moved over the mountains. Their descendants still live in the Rio Grande Pueblos or the ones further West; or they live in the towns and cities round about or elsewhere in the country or the world. Wherever they live, they carry the spirit of the place they're from with them.

Literature based in New Mexico has had a profound impact on America's sense of the West, more so perhaps than any other Western genre, including that of my own California. In fact, California and New Mexico have long been linked through their shared remote-Spanish culture. But there are other linkages too, including the one of Perpetual Promise. Though linked, the Spirit of the two Places is not the same.

D. H. Lawrence and Frieda came out here in the early '20's and stayed with Mabel Dodge Luhan up in Taos for a season, then set out for a more remote location at what is now the D. H. Lawrence Ranch., a National Historic Site. Aldous Huxley came to call -- after all, these Anglos stick together, especially if they're British! Huxley was profoundly influenced by his sojourn in the remoteness of New Mexico, as can be easily seen in his contrasting perspectives of the Future in "Brave New World." I think he was struck, as so many are, by the sense of permanence of the Pueblos compared to the harried, hurried impermanence of "civilization."

More than anything, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant seemed to be struck by the people she met here, people she'd been "told about" -- in the characteristic superior/inferior context of the day, but what she found was quite different than what she was told to expect from the Natives. That's the way it goes.

What you find, if you are open to it, is not what you imagine, not what you expect. It's not perfect, far from it. People still come from Back East trying their damnedest to make "perfection" here, but my question is always "why?" Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant found she didn't have to push for "perfection" in New Mexico. The reality and the Spirit of the Place was perfectly good enough.

But then, what do you want perfection for?

[Click image to embiggen text]

There you are then.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Journal of a Mud House, a continuation --2

[Illustration from "The Journal of a Mud House", Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, Harper's, May, 1922]

As you can see from the photo above, Ms Sergeant did get her Mud House into habitable condition before she had to leave Tesuque that summer, whatever summer it was, when she bought a couple of acres and its ruined adobe to have a place to stay out in the country.

The wing to the left is her new kitchen that was added to the original three room house at her direction. Well, it was built then torn down then built again because the adobes were set wrong by her main worker, José, who was quite a character if her descriptions are in any way accurate -- which I'm sure they are.

Building and tearing down and building again is fairly routine in parts of New Mexico. It's just what you do, assuming you have the time and the inclination to do something like that in the first place.

Building and abandoning the project is not unknown, either.

Or building and staying a while, then abandoning the project...

You get the picture.

Got to get those ruins to renovate somehow.

Our own project took ten months to get the house into more or less complete enough condition to move in to, quite a good deal longer than Elizabeth Sergeant's project which only took a couple of months over a summer. But then, she only had three rooms plus one added. So it wasn't that much of a job.


It can be hard to get stuff here, which she found out over and over again. I look around this house today, and I consider what it must have been like for the pioneers who built it originally starting right around 1900 when this section of the East Mountains was opened for settlement.

(The court battles over ownership of the land went on and on, and finally, if I recall correctly, the court ruled none of the claimants had a valid claim, so it was open for homesteading. Whoo-hoo! But even then, people knew it wouldn't be easy.)

There was a railroad spur, though, the remnants of which are still visible, and a little town was laid out, and a handful of settlers moved in and built their scattered adobes, most of which are still standing... more or less. Some are ruins.

From the railroad, of course, you could get things to build with. And so it was. Much of what could be got through ordering it from Back East is still visible in our house -- the doors for example as well as some delightful cabinetry in one of the halls (that I'm sure was built on site but from finish lumber that was ordered in); quite likely the floors were made from pine lumber brought in by rail. The baseboards in some of the rooms, and the window casings -- though not the windows themselves in most cases -- also date from the early period and are obviously made of fancy finish lumber from elsewhere. But when I went up in the attics, I found rather randomly placed joists and beams made of rough finished pine which I figured came from more or less local sources, and their rather casual disposition is perfectly "New Mexico" in my view.

This house is obviously self-built, and some of the details are quite fancy. On the other hand, it's quite primitive, too. There was no indoor plumbing originally, no gas for heating (there are holes in the ceilings for the chimneys of wood stoves that would have been in each room though.)

Of course there was no electricity early on, but some of the wiring clearly dates from very early 20th century, and it appears that there was a wind-powered generator on top of what's now the garage.

Over the years, the house was expanded, most of the extensions built with adobe, and sometimes I think of expanding it again by finishing the attics and perhaps adding a new wing on the north to serve as a living room and transforming the current fairly cramped living room into a rather large dining room cum library. I've also thought about reconfiguring the two west side bedrooms (now used as small library and small workroom) into one larger room with a new bathroom. Adding portals.

But not changing the basic Victorian style of this house into a "Northern New Mexico" version of the Santa Fe Style.

That's the thing. Though this is an Old Adobe ranch house, it is frankly and forthrightly in the Late Victorian (simplified) Style, and so it sometimes strikes visitors as an oddity -- because it doesn't follow the conventions of Santa Fe Style, which -- to circle back to our story -- Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant was in the process of helping to create with her renovation of a ruined adobe (that she figured dated from the 1870's) in Tesuque in the early 1920's.

It took ten months to get our place into good enough shape to move into in part because our contractor had so much trouble with his workers. Yes. Understood. They were mostly residents of the East Mountains, too, though the contractor himself lived in Albuquerque. Nevertheless, they all complained constantly about having to go clear out to our place to work on the house. It was so far, don't you know. Travel time took up so much of their day so they could only get so much done. Worse, it was so hard to get materials and supplies out there, and we such demanding owners, constantly wanting "authentic this or that" instead of what could be found or scrounged locally. In fact, I had to order quite a few things online or purchase them in California and have them sent out to New Mexico because there was nothing available locally that would fit the style of the house.

The things I wanted just weren't available locally. Picky, picky, picky!

Also, I was working in California most of the time the renovation was going on, only making periodic flights out to New Mexico to check on progress and get the contractor paid. So ten months was good time under the circumstances.

I have found since then that indeed a lot of things you might take for granted elsewhere aren't easily available in New Mexico, and if you can get or find them, they cost a lot more than they do wherever you're from. Local materials aren't necessarily cheap; in fact, sometimes they are a good deal more costly than "imports." Thus, for example, there are considerable quantities of East Indian imported building materials available -- doors and columns and quaint things of all kinds -- and they are used as substitutes for Old Spanish stuff (which can be had either as antiquities or contemporary re-creations) because they are considerably less expensive than the "authentic" Spanish materials.

It's quite a sight to see a brand new Santa Fe Style house built with and full of East Indian antiquities. But it would cost a third more or even half again as much to build or renovate your adobe with "authentic" Spanish and/or Spanish style materials. So people go with the East Indian substitutes, which are quite nice in their own right, but seem somehow... foreign!

Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant would never even have thought of doing that. In her day it was possible, "even for a woman" (which was part of what she was writing about) to renovate a house in the truly authentic style of New Mexico, using local labor and materials, and adapting what was needed to what was on hand. She needed adobes, she got adobes -- from a building that had fallen to ruin. Her renovated roof was new-fangled asphalt instead of the piled-on dirt and debris that had been put on top of the authentic vigas and latillas back in the day. She had windows put in, casements no less, still the Style around these parts but harder to get now than they were then. She had a kitchen built and a cast iron stove put in. She furnished her house with locally made furniture and objects, much of it inexpensive by her standards. Anything like it now would cost a fortune.

She had -- and apparently needed -- no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and no heat except for the corner "kiva" fireplaces that were already part of the house when she bought it, and the wood burning cook stove she installed in her new kitchen. But it sounds like she only intended to use the house in summer, and though there might be rain, it's not cold in the summertime in Tesuque. Up in Taos, though, it would be frigid as the North Pole in the wintertime. As the locals there found out again -- if they didn't remember -- when the gas supplies failed during the coldest part of the winter this year.

But her story is about so much more than the house she renovated.

And that's the thing. Ultimately, it's a spiritual journey.

To Be Continued

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Journal of a Mud House, a continuation

[Illustration from "The Journal of a Mud House" by Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, Harper's, April 1922]

Yes, well. Mrs. O'Bryan's porch in Tesuque represents a vision as well as an actual house, c. 1922. One can tell by the somewhat inexpertly handled proportions and details -- particularly the itty-bitty vigas poking through the walls -- that this is not an "authentic" New Mexican adobe house in the then newly fashionable Pueblo Style which would within a decade morph into the still-fashionable Santa Fe Style.

The vision, of course is represented by the scrubby hillside against which Mrs O'Bryan has had her adobe built and by the yard full of flowers in front. In fact, it is still one of the hallmarks of Santa Fe Style housing that there be an abundance of flowers bursting out of yards and spilling out of hanging planters.

It's a vision of Paradise.

Up to a point.

New Mexico is no easy Paradise to be sure. The locals, of course, have known the facts of the matter for as long as there have been locals here -- which could be many tens of thousands of years.

Water is the most problematic supply need in the region. New Mexico is mostly desert after all, some of it -- like the White Sands region -- spectacular sand desert, but most of it is the kind of scrub desert that draws you in. But be careful.

Tesuque has a "river" flowing through it, so it is not quite as dry as many other areas. Santa Fe, too, has a "river". These "rivers" would be classified as creeks or intermittent streams anywhere else, but in New Mexico, any flowing water at all is something of a miracle.

These "rivers" are often diverted by canals called acequias. Through means of these acequias, water is brought to many who otherwise might not have access to it. Control of the acequia water is in the hands of a mayordomo who determines how much water each user can take from the canal and what kind of service and maintenance the acequia requires. The acequias at one time were essential to crops in the region, and you can still see land use patterns based on the locations of the acequias throughout New Mexico, but especially in the Rio Grande Valley.

These days, access to water is considered critical, but reliance on the acequia system is much less as wells and civic and commercial diversions from the Rio Grande itself have made water somewhat easier to get -- and have made a much larger population possible.

The population is mostly concentrated in Albuquerque, though. The city has a population of something over 500,000 with as many as 750,000 or more in the metro area -- which is enormous in New Mexico -- and it is striking to see how the city has been shaped by the landscape and by the Indians.

Albuquerque was founded over 300 years ago near the banks of the Rio Grande at the base of the Sandia Mountains in the vicinity of an occupied -- or was it abandoned? I forget -- Indian pueblo. The Sandias are an astonishing geological formation, basically a section of crust that has been forced up from below. The effect is to present a west face of the mountains that is practically a sheer cliff more than a mile high; the eastern side of the Sandias is a relatively gentle slope. The formation runs about 30 miles north to south, as does the spread of the city.

From the West Mesa of the Rio Grande, you can see the abrupt cut off of the city's spread both to the north -- where the Sandia Pueblo lands are a sharp barrier -- and to the south -- where the Isleta Pueblo lands perform the same function.

Albuquerque has spread as far up the Sandias as it reasonably can; it is a very steep climb up from Tramway. So the only direction Albuquerque has been able to grow of late is to the west, and sure enough, Albuquerque has metastasized onto the high plains and volcanic ridges west of the city.

There is something of Los Angeles in it, but with a very distinctive style. Albuquerque is both older and newer than LA, and it is forthrightly Anglo, Spanish, and Indian, adopting this tricultural image of New Mexico as its own identity, but rejecting the Santa Fe tendency toward kitsch on the one hand and its somewhat irritating historicism on the other. Albuquerque shows a very distinctive and polished contemporary style that may -- or may not -- evoke the past, but which seems to fit the place remarkably well.

Santa Fe, on the other hand, though the capital of the state, is a small town with only about 75,000 people. That's still considered large and quite fancy by local standards, because you can go out to Tesuque where Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant did back in her day, and find a few hundred at best. In Sergeant's day the number was probably no more than dozens, and I'm sure Sergeant knew every one of them.

Or think of Taos, where Ms Sergeant also apparently had a domicile. In those days, it was becoming a prominent artist's colony. Somewhat like Tesuque, it consisted of a scattering of ranches, mostly in Anglo hands, a "Mexican" village (Rancho de Taos) and the famous Indian Pueblo, partially rebuilt after the US Army destroyed most of it during its conquest of the region. (There had been a rebellion by the locals during which the appointed US Territorial Governor Charles Bent was killed along with a number of others, so "punishment" was mandatory. Something like 250 Taoseños and others were slaughtered and much of the pueblo was destroyed in 1847. Captured rebels -- mostly Indians -- were then hanged by the dozen. It's the way things were done in those days.)

Today, there are perhaps 30,000 people in the Taos area, but in the 1920's there may have been no more than 1,500 or 2,000.

Many other towns in New Mexico still have a few hundred or perhaps a thousand or so people living in them. Albuquerque's bloat is practically unique.

Like other adventurous souls looking for Paradise, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant came out to New Mexico from Back East -- in her case, Massachusetts, about as far East as you can get in this country.

A colony of artists and literary lights had formed in Taos and had spread to Santa Fe, beguiled by the history and seduced by the Light -- the incredible Light of this region.

Just as a sidenote, I'm used to arising just before dawn, and yet this morning I decided to sleep in a bit and let the sunrise Light illuminate my bedroom before I got up. Oh. My. What a moment. The curtains in the bedroom don't block all the light, but they do cut the glare signifcantly. There are lace glass curtains and overcurtains of a fairly light weight but dark red cotton. The room filled with both white and red light as the sun rose, really quite joyous appearing against the yellow painted adobe walls. It was beautiful and inspiring. What the Light does around here seems unlike that of any other region, and it is because of what the Light does that so many romantics and artists are attracted to New Mexico.

As Ms. Sergeant so rightly put it:

Indeed. "Mere vision." Seeing. Exploring. Abiding.

To Be Continued

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Journal of a Mud House

[Illustration from Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant's "The Journal of a Mud House," Harper's Magazine, March 1922]

Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant wrote "The Journal of a Mud House" for Harper's Magazine which serialized it in 1922, and I was struck on reading it this past week at both how much and how very little has changed in New Mexico ever since.

Not that I know that much about it, understand.

According to the biographies I've found, Sergeant was a wounded war correspondent who went out to New Mexico from her Massachusetts home in 1920, perching up at Taos where she became part of the Taos artist community then becoming a force in the world of both visual and literary arts. D. H. Lawrence and all that.

Well, but this story is about her purchase and rehab of a "mud house" -- apparently it was just a three room adobe ruin -- on a couple of acres in Tesuque, which is just north of Santa Fe, not Taos at all. And very fashionable now Tesuque is too. Even more so than Taos.

About six years ago, we purchased a six/seven room adobe ruin a good deal south of Santa Fe, in what's known as the East Mountains, not at all fashionable -- at least not to those who worry about those things. But then, neither was Tesuque in those days when Sergeant and her friend Gertrude bought their place in the '20's!

No, Tesuque was a handful of scattered ranches, mostly in Anglo hands, a "Mexican" village, and an off-the-beaten-track Indian pueblo back then. All of which, to a greater or lesser degree it still is.

In those days, Tesuque is described as six miles from the Santa Fe Plaza, which ought to have made it very close in, but it was not easy to get around back then. Sergeant bought a Ford to get from place to place on the few graded or paved roads there were, but she also had a couple of horses just in case, and most of the Native people (both Indian and Spanish) used the ubiquitous burros to carry loads; they walked beside their burros most of the time.

So six miles from the Plaza was a much-of-the-day trek out to Tesuque or back into Town. It's now a really nice 45 minute drive on a nearly empty road through some of the most gorgeous high plains and mountain territory on the continent from our place to the Plaza in Santa Fe, or in the other direction (that is to say west) about the same length of time, much of it on the remnants of Route 66, to the Albuquerque Plaza -- which isn't quite as old (a hundred years newer! But still more than 300 years old), which is if anything even more pleasant than Santa Fe's ancient Plaza.

The difficulty of getting from place to place has an effect on the way you see the world around you. In New Mexico, in the 1920's -- as well as long before that -- it was not impossible by any means to move around, to go places, to do things and see the sights. Not at all. On the other hand, it was a challenge to get from here to there, and once you got to wherever it was you were going, it was not an easy thing to just pick up and go somewhere else.

Thus, once you were wherever your destination might be, you tended to stay put. At least for a while. Typically a good long while!

Of course there are freeways and really very fine state highways through New Mexico now, so it's not that hard at all to move around and to see the sights if one wants to and has a car or a truck as the case may be. And can afford gas. Insurance. The usual impediments. But once you get off the main highways, the roads in New Mexico are often unpaved, sometimes barely graded tracks through the wilderness, and in Santa Fe particularly the custom is not to pave the local roads and streets, not even to name them in many cases -- "you just have to know your way around" -- which leads to clouds of dust and puzzled confusion, but also to slow travel, or even staying put, rather than peripatetically driving around. As one would do, say, in Los Angeles. Or most of the rest of California for that matter.

I find myself being rooted in place when I'm in New Mexico. Our place is not on a main road, but it is on a paved street, one that even gets plowed in the winter time (whoo-hoo!) and it is no great distance from the front door to the street on our gravel drive way. Yes, these were all considerations when time was. You grow up in California and you expect certain conveniences.

But then when Sergeant went out to New Mexico in the 1920's, you didn't have a choice. There weren't any conveniences to speak of except for the railroad -- which was of course how you got out to New Mexico in the first place. But once there -- and it wasn't necessarily all that easy to get there even with the railroad, as Sergeant documents from the "Chicago Train" which faces a washout near Pueblo, CO, and so travelers must be diverted through Kansas and Oklahoma and Texas to get to Albuquerque and thence up to Santa Fe. Well, Lamy. And thence the 18 miles to Santa Fe. Good luck!

There's a new train these days called the Railrunner (with a wonderful roadrunner logo emblazoned on its side) that runs from Belen in the south to Santa Fe's Railyard District in the north passing through Albuquerque on its way. There is talk of extending it every which of a way because it is really such a nice ride for one thing, and it is such a Green travel mode for another. But New Mexico is now in thrall to a Republican administration, so the likelihood of doing anything to extend the Railrunner is approximately none for the foreseeable future. But that's as may be. One learns to wait.

To Be Continued

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

But it's taken years, literally years, for the Dawning

[Note: The picture is from New Mexico looking west from the Sangre de Cristos to the Jemez Mountains. So it is actually a sunset. Yet essentially the same view, looking east toward the Sierra Nevada Mountains would be visible from the Coast Range in California at dawn. I've seen it myself. Many times!]

Over at C & L, one of my favorite Drop By sites, there's a post from Suzie that highlights an interview from The Real News Network -- from February -- in which Michael Hudson, Research Professor at University of Missouri at Kansas City, explains that the Masters of the Universe (including their Captive Government) are actually inclined toward Economic Depression rather than Recovery because their "mentality" pretty much requires it.

Their "mentality" is little different than that of the Robber Barons of yore, or indeed of the British Imperial class of exploiters who were absolutely convinced that their own personal benefit could and would only come through the progressive (who would have thought?) impoverishment of the domestic masses.

This is not just exploitation of the masses overseas through colonial expansion. The domestic masses must also be exploited -- and impoverished -- in order to maintain and expand the exploitation of the colonized Natives.

Thus the constant clamor to reduce wages and benefits and the complete indifference to massive unemployment. Among other things.

It's all of a piece. And our contemporary Owners are following the pattern set long ago by the predatory classes: it is the way they think. Almost an identity thing.

Not to blow my own horn too much, but I was pointing out many of these facts years ago. Years. When the economy was on the verge of collapse and unemployment was beginning to burgeon, it was clear that the Bush government, and then the Obama government was completely uninterested in doing anything about it. They were uninterested in preventing foreclosures and in keeping people in their homes. They were uninterested in relieving the immense debt burden the masses were carrying thanks to decades of stagnant and/or falling wages, but they were eager as puppies to carry water for and pay off the gambling debts of the financial class.

All this was a very clear indication to anybody who was paying attention that a Depression is actually what these people wanted and needed to satisfy their own predatory instincts. We were obviously headed into a Depression for the Masses so as to maintain the comfort and convenience of the Ruling Class.

It was clear as crystal -- years ago.

Yet most of the New Media -- by which I mean what passes for the "Lefty Blogosphere" -- missed it. It just didn't occur to them until recently what was really going on and why there has been no economic recovery for the masses -- while the Rich are richer than ever.

My question is, "Why has it taken so many years of suffering by so many millions for the Dawning to come?"

If it really is a Dawn.

It bewilders me...

[Of course, the primary effect of pointing out these things is more Obama Bashing which has the effect of raising the political profile of the Republicans from the constant Near Death.... ]

Monday, April 11, 2011

Some Notes: Ways of Thinking

Currently in Salon is a long and intriguing article detailing the bitter rivalry between Hoover and Roosevelt, and consequently between Hooverites and Rooseveltians for the "soul" of America -- well, at least the economic part -- which, as we know, the Hooverites are winning hands down.

I recommend reading it because it helps to challenge conventional wisdom and thinking about the differences between the Hooverite and Rooseveltian viewpoints, and it helps to understand that neither president was quite what their caricatures would have use believe.

For example, I've long felt that something "changed" Hoover from the radical activist who had literally saved Belgium and then Europe and then even the newly hatched Soviet Union from starvation during and after WWI, who would let nothing stand in the way of his mission -- to feed the starving masses -- and who was able to act quite forcefully over agricultural policy in the United States during the War, into someone who was indifferent to the plight of the masses during the Great Depression and who insisted it was neither desirable nor possible for him to act on their behalf. What changed him? The article doesn't really say, but it notes the stark difference in his approach to crisis abroad as opposed to his apparent indifference to suffering at home.

And then there is a long and really quite stunning article in Truthout, translated from the French, that essentially re-envisions the world as it ought to be -- or at least could be if we and our leadership and governments had the vision to go forth.

By all means, sit with them, read, review the past, contemplate A Better Future.

We've been in a downward spiral for many a long year, and the Rightists sense the Bottom is near for them too. Their predatory and destructive natures are ruling the roost so to speak. The way forward is not with them -- it never was -- but finding the alternative path is still a work in progress to say the least.

Whatever it turns out to be, it cannot be based entirely on preserving scraps of the status quo.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Second Bill of Rights

Every now and then I mention that the "left's" approach to the situation we face is out of whack when the primary objective seems to be preserving what can be preserved of the status quo in the face of the Rightist Republican onslaught.

Rather than even think of New and Improved policies of their own, the tendency on the "left"* is to argue the demerits of the Rightist proposals, and then lose the argument in Congress and the media, then repeat the process over and over again, and then complain that the debate is always being moved rightward, and it's just not fair.

Well, no. No it isn't. Fair, that is. But I would suggest that the reason why the debate keeps moving rightward is because so many times the "left" never even tries to move it in the other direction. They always fall into an Argument Trap which requires a dutiful reflection and consideration on the Rightist's proposals which always uses the Rightist's premises as the starting point. There may be a routine denunciation or two thrown in, but nine times out of ten, the Argument Trap the "left" finds itself in is inescapable: the Rightists have proposed something which the "left" is then obliged to argue. The "left" rarely proposes anything but is constantly arguing against the Rightist's proposal and in favor of the status quo.

There is no possibility of progress under the circumstances. Reversion is inevitable.

The Rightists seem to know that -- which is one reason they tend to chortle as much as they do at the antics of the "left."

Democratic leaders and online "leftists" never seem to get it, or if they do, they do so on Rightist terms. Which means going along with the Rightists.

It reminds me a little bit of the Civil Liberties struggles that crop up from time to time. The course of events is moving many primary civil liberties backwards at a furious pace. The Bill of Rights is essentially a dead letter, for example. The Constitution itself is under fierce legislative, executive and judicial assault. No matter; the Civil Liberties crowd sees incremental improvements here and there, particularly in gay rights these days, and that's enough to demonstrate "progress." The overall picture of course shows plenty of progress, just in the wrong direction. While valiantly hanging on to what they can of the tattered shreds and remnants of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Civil Liberties crowd is losing the overall and long-term battle for rights and liberties for the masses -- which are being canceled wholesale at home and abroad in the name of "Security" -- aka "Freedom and Democracy." One should be stunned...

That's why The Second Bill of Rights is a necessary way of looking at things; otherwise we will constantly be moving backwards on important economic and political matters without even recognizing there is another way to go.

There are two versions of FDR's Second Bill of Rights speech posted here -- the first is his Fireside Chat from January 11, 1944, in which he details the economic issues the world and the nation will face as the Second World War is brought to a conclusion; in the second film version of the speech, he is focused more on the elements of social/economic justice than the larger picture. It's also pretty plain on film that Roosevelt is showing signs of extraordinary strain and stress.

In his radio speech, FDR mentions the "rightist reaction." Indeed, it is always trying to drive us backwards, and he says that going back to the way things were in the 1920's is a sure recipe for the triumph of Fascism.

Sure enough, here we are.

But unless you are prepared and able to think outside the Reactionary Rightist parameters you are doomed to going backwards -- where they want to take you.

It's not so much the elements of FDR's Second Bill of Rights that I'm focusing on (though they are important basics); it is the way of thinking and looking at problems and issues that's important in these times.

Social and economic justice are not side issues to be dealt with on the margins. They are the primary issues for most people. It's fundamental for opinion leaders in media -- new media included -- and in the ruling class to get that.

But nearly all of them have forgotten -- if they ever knew anything about such icky things in the first place.


Note: Republicans and Libertarians tend to go into fits of incoherent rage whenever the topic of The Second Bill of Rights is raised, or for that matter whenever economic and social justice threaten to rise from the dead and become paramount concerns once again.

One might want to contemplate why Republicans and Libertarians are so threatened by economic and social justice issues, and who they actually represent.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Other Places in New Mexico

As a kind of counter to the Quintessential New Mexico Ranch I posted about the other day, and the number of posts I've made about New Mexico Ruins (which are everywhere)I thought I'd put up something a little less Show Business and a little more "Santa Fe Style."

The house above is at 502 Abeyta Street in Santa Fe, currently listed by Sotheby's for $1,200,000, which is far more than any ordinary New Mexican could ever hope to afford, but it's a fairly typical price for small -- but stylish -- quarters in Santa Fe's fashionable Eastside.

The principal selling point here is the Style.

The soft adobe forms, the huge rough-hewn columns and beams, the turquoise painted carved courtyard gate, the scrap of lawn, the flower containers, the rough brick pavement, the multipaned windows and a multiplicity of French doors. Yes, this house fairly screams, "Santa Fe!!!!"

Inside, the place is tamer than many Santa Fe Style houses. Almost serene:

Nevertheless, there are plenty of kiva fireplaces tucked in the corners of the rooms, merrily burning their pinon wood at all times of the year -- at least when the cameras are there. Pinon has a very distinctive smell which is quite charming in the wintertime, emblematic of New Mexico, much like the aroma of roasting chiles is the emblematic odor of New Mexico in the fall.

The story of corner fireplaces in New Mexico is kind of interesting. They are based on Indian Pueblo designs... sort of. Pueblo peoples built large adobe communal residences, essentially apartment houses, in which several dozens or hundreds lived, worked and stored their things. Many of these pueblos still stand, though they have been rebuilt and altered several times over the centuries, and in some cases their residents have adopted other kinds of housing which they tend to prefer over the traditional pueblo style.

Traditional pueblo rooms might or might not have a fireplace in the corner, but kivas -- ritual rooms generally underground -- never did because they didn't have corners. They were round. Residential rooms in pueblos were not kivas, and they were generally square or rectangular so there could be a fireplace in the corner. Or maybe there would be one in the center of the room. Or maybe there would be none at all.

Here are a couple of pictures of early pueblo corner fireplaces. The first is -- of course -- in a ruin (at Tapacito in Rio Arriba County); the second is of a fireplace in use in 1899, probably at Laguna or perhaps Isleta Pueblo.

Of course neither of them resemble the traditional "kiva" fireplace which is so essential to Santa Fe Style. The first one is simplicity itself -- a place for the fire in the corner of the room with a stone shelf above and a small hole in the ceiling for the smoke to get out (recognizable from the small bright square on the floor). The second is more elaborate and includes a hood over the fire and a chimney to get the smoke out more efficiently. But both respect the concept of a corner and both are straight-lined without the roundedness of the typical Santa Fe Style "kiva" fireplace.

The rounded corner fireplaces so typical of Santa Fe Style appear to be based on the "horno" -- outdoor ovens -- that are still widely used in New Mexico by Indians, Spanish and Anglos, especially to bake what's known as Oven Bread.


By translating the horno, or part of it at any rate, to the interior of a pueblo revival room (cf: Wilfred Stedman) one achieves quaintness and style, and nothing is more important to Santa Fe than quaintness and style. And lots of money...

Let's return to the home under consideration at 502 Abeyta St.

At $1.2 million, it's mid-priced by Santa Fe standards, though in the right location it could go for a lot more.

It is just so... charming... after all.

Who could resist a meal al fresco on a porch (known as a portal) like this?

And of course there are shrines and images of Our Lady of Guadalupe everywhere. Even over the toilet.

(furnishings not included)

It's very important to have Our Lady on call in New Mexico, you see. I have no objection, though there are stories that perhaps the vision and portrait claimed by the Church and attributed to Juan Diego c. 1531 near Mexico City weren't quite what they were made out to be. Of all things.

Saints and shrines and nichos to put them in are as essential to the Style as kiva fireplaces and softly rounded adobe walls are.

Some would dare call it Santa Fe Kitsch.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Another "Near Win." Yay!

The Supreme Court campaign is actually "too close to call" in Wisconsin. About 500 votes separate Prosser -- the Walker-man -- and Kloppenburg -- the Lady Person -- with some precincts still to be counted. There will no doubt have to be a recount. So it may be several months before this one is decided.

But it isn't a clear-cut victory and because it isn't, it won't be clear-cut even if Kloppenburg wins in the end. Seems to be how it goes in too many cases when it comes to getting reactionaries out of office and something resembling progressives into office in this country.

Every single one of the Near Wins is claimed to be Important, Even Stunning by the Left o sphere, and most of the few and far between Victories wind up Disappointing to the Internet Lefties because the candidate behaves very differently in office and seems to be more concerned with form rather than substance, doing things Correctly rather than doing what is Right. [ Huge sigh]

Now this has been going on for year upon year, time without end. Cycle after cycle.

Something isn't working here if the goal is to actually have enough "progressives" -- however you want to define that -- in office to make a difference, and actually have them make a difference. If "Near Win" is the standard outcome, then whatever is being done to elect "Better Dems" is failing. Badly. Even when Dems somehow wind up in the majority.

But then, what really is the goal?

Is it, as it sometimes seems, the perpetuation of the Status Quo with endless repeats of the same sort of near victory that is hailed as a Joyous Learning Experience That Punished the Other Side?

Is "punishment" the goal? Is "learning" the goal? Or is it just about keeping the game going however one might?

"Near Wins" are actually Losses.

There's no way around that.


UPDATE: Sure. A county elections clerk with a poor record of elections shenanigans has all of a sudden "discovered" 7,500 votes for Prosser, thus ending the happy spring of Ms Kloppenburg who now -- conveniently -- cannot even call for a recount.

Yes. Well. Are we surprised?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Them That Has Are Slated To Get Even More

Whoo Hoo!

Paul Ryan's 2012 Budget formula is being declared "Bold!" and "Risky!" for taking on the hoary Entitlements of Medicaid and Medicare, essentially gutting both programs and forcing their participants and clients onto the All-Powerful Market to sink or swim however they might.

"Bold!" "Risky!"

Brave Sir Paul, so very Brave and Courageous!


By privatizing -- and subsidizing -- Medicaid and Medicare, of course, Ryan and his ilk are seeking to outdo the Affordable Care Act's profit guarantees to the major stakeholders in the Health Care Industry.

Privatizing Means Guaranteed Profits for selected companies and institutions. That's the whole point of doing it.

When the ACA was passed, it was widely and righteously derided as a profit prop for insurance companies and health care providers -- something that is built in to the private, for profit insurance and provider system. "Single Payer" health care systems limit or eliminate the profit potential of private providers and insurance companies and so are not desirable.

The ACA extends the private health insurance requirement to the 40 or 50 million uninsured Americans, but the Ryan proposal goes far beyond that, ultimately destroying the single payer elements in the current system and transferring the clients to a subsidized private system. Instead of only 50 million new people in the private, for profit system, the Ryan proposal would ultimately put everyone in it.

What's not to like, if you're looking to pump up the private wealth of the very few at the compelled expense of the very many? Isn't that what Government is for?

That and protecting their Constitutional Liberty to steal from you whatever they can however they might.

I posted about the Quintessential New Mexico Ranch to illustrate a point. Because New Mexico has a very small population, economic disparities are stark and highly visible to anyone with open eyes. Even the major ranchers in New Mexico don't live like the residents of Rancho Alegre; they aren't in to that kind of showing off. But some of New Mexico's hyper rich are into showing it off, and Rancho Alegre is as in-your-face about it as just about anyplace in the state. But head up Gonzales Rd in Santa Fe from its foot on East Alameda against the Santa Fe River (such as it is), to its high end at Hyde Park Road. As you climb, the compounds and estates become fancier and fancier until at the top their magnificence -- in the Santa Fe Style, of course! -- is astonishing. These are places held by people with so much money they can pick one of these immense spreads up for pocket change, and then go buy another one for summer.

Where do they get this kind of money in New Mexico -- where it seems that most people are really poor? Those who don't get rich off the Government teat -- and many do -- get their immense wealth from constant financial manipulations, exploiting the Lesser People, and resource extraction (like oil and natural gas) in New Mexico and elsewhere. They benefit from tax breaks and endless subsidies. During boom times, they profit from real estate and commodity speculation. Once established in wealth, most of them are impossible to dislodge.

The show offs like to flaunt it.

Comes now Brave Sir Paul to make sure they will have plenty much more extracted from the least among us to flaunt their status with.

As is often said: "This won't end well."

No. It won't. At least not for Them!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Quintessential New Mexico Ranch

They say the Val Kilmer Ranch on the Pecos is "under contract" for sale. He's been trying to sell it for years, and he has run into more than a little grief from the locals over all kinds of shit he's pulled. The Kilmer ranch is a multi-thousand acre spread in the northern mountains, nice enough, and certainly pricey enough at $18 million, but not all that special.

No, there's another ranch -- Rancho Alegre -- not all that far from our little place in what's generously called the East Mountains that has been on the market for longer than the Kilmer place, at an asking price of $12,900,000 for 175 acres and a remarkable set of houses and outbuildings that practically scream "Hay! Here's a Place!"

New Mexico.

Well, it's listed by Sotheby's and I'm going to lift the pictures, just so folks who stop by here can see the kind of things People With Money have been up to in New Mexico. It might surprise you.

This place is adjacent to the Eaves Movie Ranch, so it obviously partakes of a soupçon of The Show Business, if you catch my drift.

Rancho Alegre doesn't qualify as a large ranch by New Mexico standard, not at 175 acres. Because there are so many multi-thousand acre ranches in the immediate area, the land seems "empty." Very few houses, very little traffic, nothing but tiny towns scattered here and there, some of them half abandoned.

Culturally, I think the area is part of Texas.

But not as crazy.