Thursday, March 31, 2016

RA update

Not really. We're still in the early stages of figuring out what to do about this apparently permanent and debilitating condition. My primary care physician is assigning me to a rheumatologist for treatment. Interim care essentially is limited to prescription anti-inflammatory medications which come with some fairly alarming potential side effects -- increased risk of heart attack and stroke among other things -- and at least at times, they don't much work anyway.

At least there's this: so far actual joint damage is minimal, and treatment will aim to keep it that way. There's no cure, any more than there's a cure for Ms Ché's diabetes, but maintenance over the long term and prevention of further damage become the primary objectives.

Meanwhile, one learns to live with it.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


I'm coming to grips with an impending diagnosis of early stage rheumatoid arthritis as soon as my doctor gets around to coordinating and evaluating the avalanche of test results that have come in this week.

It's hard to state coherently how much pain I've been in for the last several months, but it has periodically been severe and debilitating. Joint pain. It began with two episodes of general joint pain -- involving practically every joint -- last summer, pain which did not respond to pain relievers -- aspirin and naproxen -- that I had been taking. My doctor recommended that I try ibuprofen, which I did, and sure enough, it seemed to help. On recommendation by a relative, I tried turmeric curcumin which also seemed to help.

After the second episode of general joint pain, the problem became one of a pattern of periodic joint pain that would center in one set of joints after another. Ibuprofen continued to control the pain until mid January of this year when the inflammation and pain seemed to concentrate in my hands and wrists and the pain was nearly constant no matter how much ibuprofen I took. I was up to as much as 2400 mg per day, and still would wake up in the middle of the night needing more.

I'd stiffen up during the night so much it would take hours for me to unstiffen enough in the mornings to even brush my teeth.

Finally the pain became so bad and so constant that I tried an old left-over prescription of Tylenol and codeine that I'd gotten years ago for back spasms. I hated taking it then, and I didn't want to now, but something had to be done. It controlled the pain long enough for me to get some sleep, so that was good. The side effects were still unpleasant, though, and I didn't want to rely on it for pain control.

So it was time to see the doctor again. After hearing what I had to say about what had been going on, the doctor ordered a raft of blood tests, x-rays, and suggested this was probably an auto-immune issue, not osteoarthritis that is caused by degeneration of joints.

She also prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac -- which I'd never heard of -- which she said I must not take with ibuprofen. In fact she said over 800 mg a day was ineffective anyway. Oh, well. I beg to differ, but that's another issue for another day.

The anti-inflammatory helped right away. I'd s say the pain in my hands and wrists was 60% controlled almost immediately, and by the second day of taking it, the pain was almost gone for most of the day, though there was still a good deal of stiffness and swelling.

Then the test  results started coming in. At first they were ambiguous, suggestive of an auto-immune issue, but not clearly pinpointing it.

Then results came in that confirmed a  diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis with an possible other autoimmune component on top of mild osteoarthritis.

Understanding what it is is taking me a while. My sister had lupus for the last 20 years of her life, and I really never knew what it was. She was periodically in intense pain, but she seemed to be getting along reasonably well at other times. Medication helped, and after the first few episodes, the pain seemed to diminish though it kept coming back.

My doctor tested for lupus, and that's the other autoimmune component that appears to be confirmed.

I'm noticing that the anti-inflammatory's effectiveness appears to be diminishing. From 60% control, it's down to about 40% and overnight stiffness and pain seems to be returning in force.

I'm not the world's best patient, so this is going to be an interesting time.

I'll try not to be too self-pitying!

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Some time back I posted an opinion that this year's presidential election may turn into something like 1964's blowout for Lyndon Johnson. The 1964 election was bizarre in part because of the circumstances -- coming off the assassination of President Kennedy only a year before, perhaps the most traumatic single event in the nation's 20th century history; and the selection of arch-conservative Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater as the Republican standard-bearer.

LBJ was roundly criticized and despised in the aftermath of the assassination (some suspected him of having a role in it.) He was satirized unrelentingly, demonized, and held in wide contempt by Democrats and Republicans alike. His election to the presidency was by no means foregone. He had "acquired" the Presidency by misfortune, and it was not his office by electoral incumbency.

The near-certainty that LBJ would be elected president in 1964 came after the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater. By today's standards, Goldwater was a "moderate" but in those days he was seen as a radical, borderline crazy, and deeply, fundamentally dangerous to the future the nation and the world.

The nation wasn't ready for anyone like Goldwater in the White House with his finger on The Button.

LBJ has a mixed legacy: Civil Rights for the disincluded, Medicare and other Great Society programs are to his credit; the appalling war in Vietnam which he expanded exponentially, and the uprisings in the inner cities and on college campuses nationwide, not so much.

Ultimately, LBJ chose not to run for a second term and Nixon was elected in 1968 (after several more traumatic assassinations and a police riot at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago) only to be forced out of office in turn in 1973 upon discovery and disclosure of his many high crimes and misdemeanors that would have led to his impeachment if he hadn't resigned.

Presidential politics has been a roller coaster ride ever since.

More and ever more, the Presidency has become the public face of a shadowy Neolibcon control apparatus, keeping the masses entertained and tame while wrack and ruin, plunder and destruction, rape and rapine are loosed around the world.

More and more the public's say in who shall sit in the Big Chair is reduced to irrelevance.

Comes now a likely contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for the prize -- the Big Chair, the Throne, the White House -- in November. Neither has been officially nominated yet, but the signs and portents strongly suggest that they will ultimately be the contenders.

If so, Hillary wins in a landslide, no? Of course, many are trying to make it not so, through various stratagems to Stop Trump. But they seem to be failing monumentally. On the other hand, a suspicion has arisen that the Trump candidacy is a ratfuck.

Oh. My. Goodness. Could it be? Yes, it could.

Whether it is, I don't know. But the signs are interesting.

Who actually is behind this ratfuck, if it is a ratfuck, is something of a mystery, but supposedly, the Clintons and the Trumps are best buds, and supposedly, Trump is doing this to enhance Hillary's likelihood of electoral success -- also to cripple the Republican Party for a good long time, a "revenge ratfuck" you might say.

Perhaps those who control the world are  simply fed up with the Republicans and their chronic tomfoolery. Who knows.

Trouble is, there are at least some signs that Trump could beat Hillary in a head-to-head (though I doubt it.)

Now that would be something. If it were to happen somehow, I suspect the election results would be invalidated by strategy (one that's being tested now through voter suppression and other means), and who can say where that would lead.

Uncharted waters yet again.

Ain't politics grand?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


During the last couple of years, I've done a fair amount of genealogical research and I've posted some of my findings under the tag: "Who Are These People?"

I thought I knew plenty about my ancestors, but I found out I didn't know much at all. This was especially true about my mother's ancestors -- particularly on her father's side -- but I found I didn't know much about my father's side, either. At least not as much as I thought I did.

One of the enduring mysteries on my father's side had to do with Ohio. In family mythology, Ohio was named as a stopping point on my paternal ancestors' journey to Iowa where I was born and my father was born and where his father was born. My father's grandfather and all but one of his grandfather's siblings, however, were born in Ireland. That wasn't the story I was told, as I was told very little, but it was the story in the records I found. There was a surprising amount of information about my ancestors available online.

The records indicated that my father's paternal ancestors emigrated from Ireland in 1850 or thereabouts. It's not entirely clear where in Ireland they emigrated from -- some possibilities include Counties Tipperary and Offaly (called King's County prior to Irish independence from British rule.)  I choose to think my ancestors' Irish home-place was in County Offaly because that was the historic seat of the family clan dating back into the dimmest mists of time. Tipperary borders Offaly, so it's certainly possible that the ancestral origin was in County Tipperary as I'd been told by my father, but he never mentioned a specific location within Tipperary.

The records indicate that by July of 1850, part of the family was living in or near Springfield, Ohio. The missing part is my father's grandfather James. James's father Alexander, mother Mary, brother and sister in law Charles and Anna, and sisters Mary and Sarah are all there, but James is not, nor is his brother John. This suggests to me that they had not left Ireland yet.

They don't show up in the record until the 1856 Iowa state census.

1856 is actually an earlier date for their arrival in Iowa than I had previously thought. The stories I'd heard and read said they'd arrived in Iowa in 1857 or 1858. Yet here they were in Pleasant Valley, Scott County, Iowa, in 1856.

Something had happened to cause them to leave Ohio within six years of their arrival. It wasn't just my father's direct ancestors who left Ohio, either. Another branch of the family that had settled in the Piqua area of Ohio -- forty miles or so north and west of Springfield -- in the 1830s also left for Iowa at about the same time -- mid 1850s -- as my father's ancestors. The other branch settled in LeClaire, Iowa nearby my father's ancestors (LeClaire borders Pleasant Valley) and the records get confused from that point because both branches used many of the same given names, and of course they shared the same surname. Figuring out just who is who is a challenge I haven't yet mastered!

Meanwhile, the chief mystery remained: what happened in Ohio that made them leave en masse like they did?

There were no stories about it that I recall hearing.

The record is scant. There is only the 1850 census stating who among my ancestors was in Ohio and where they were and what kind of work they did -- and how long they'd been there and where they'd come from (a year or less, and Ireland). There was also a listing in the 1840 census for the head of the other branch of the family -- which showed him with a household of 60, most of whom were young men, none named. Was this a monastery? I don't think so. More likely, it was a canal-building crew of Irish immigrants. By 1850, his household was reduced to 15 and included a number of named Irish immigrants.

By 1856, all of them were in Iowa. Both branches of the family were in Scott County in neighboring townships, essentially on neighboring farms, but my father's great-grandfather Alexander was listed as a "farmer" while his brother and neighbor Edward (assumed relationship) is listed as a "contractor." In other words he assembled and supervised work crews for others. That's essentially what he'd been doing in Ohio as well. It's not entirely clear what Alexander and his family had been doing in Ohio, as the only indication is the 1850 listing of Alexander and his oldest son Charles as "laborers" in Springfield.

As I say, there were no family stories about the Ohio sojourn. All that was said was that it happened. And then they moved on to Iowa.

In a history of Scott County that included members of my father's family, it was noted that "opportunities were better" in Iowa -- compared to "more thickly settled" Ohio. I got to thinking about what that could mean in a historical sense.

Edward had been in Ohio in the Piqua area since the 1830s, probably arriving from Ireland in 1836 or 1838. The area had recently been "cleared" of Indians, though there were still some there, and if I understand correctly, Indians still live in the area, descended from those who didn't move west when the rest of their tribes were forced out under the various Removal acts.

Not only were there still Indians in the area, there were also free Blacks, brought to colonize the area from Virginia.

The leading citizen was named John Johnston, a Scots-Irish immigrant who was styled "Colonel" and who had been made Indian Agent for the region. He held many other positions as well. It is my understanding that he was a primary recruiter of immigrants from Ireland and elsewhere to the region around Piqua. My assumption is that Edward and Johnston were working together to recruit Irish immigrants and put them to work on projects -- land clearance, road construction, canal building and the like.

It's possible that Alexander's intention was to go to Piqua and join his brother when he emigrated to America, but he only got as far as Springfield. My suspicion is that he ran out of money, and given the tenor of the times, it's possible that what little money he was able to bring with him from Ireland was stolen.

By the 1850s anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment had reached fever pitch in much of the settled country. Ohio was no exception. There were many incidents of violence against Irish immigrants (and others) throughout the period of Know-Nothing political control of the state. Violence against the Irish included destruction of (Catholic) churches and other property and the robbery and murder of Irish settlers. It was an ugly time, and for the most part there was no recourse at law. The law, such as it was, favored the mob and their terror and violence against the Irish. Needless to say, the Irish were not the only victims, but they were most definitely preyed upon by the dominant white "real" Americans.

Something happened to my Irish-American ancestors during this period to convince them to move on to Iowa. I don't know what it was but it had to have been pretty awful, especially for Edward and his family. They'd been living and working in Ohio for decades.

One generally doesn't pull up stakes without a reason.

I believe the reason that drove my Irish ancestors to come to America was a desire for land -- something they -- as Catholics -- couldn't own in Ireland.

Alexander and his family had only been in Ohio for a few years, but it's my suspicion that they found that no matter how hard they worked and saved, they could not acquire land of their own because they never had enough money to buy it. They couldn't own land in Ireland, either, because the British had seized almost all of it and forbade Catholic ownership of what was left.

Why stay in Ohio where the land situation was similar -- or even more difficult -- and where routine violence against Irish immigrants went unpunished by the law?

There were homesteads available in Iowa for the claiming. Claim the land, improve it, live on it, and it was yours. No one could take it from you simply because you were... Irish.

And so they moved -- dozens of them -- to Iowa, where "opportunities were better" in a land "less thickly settled."

They acquired farms in Scott County -- in LeClaire, Pleasant Valley, McCausland, and Princeton. There may have been others I'm not aware of. I know that later they would also acquire farms in neighboring Clinton County. My uncle Vincent painted this scene of the Princeton farm when he was 11 years old (c. 1912):

The Princeton farm stayed in the family at least until my grandfather died in 1941.

Family members did not actively work the farms after about 1880 or so. They were either left fallow --- especially during the Depression -- or they were worked by tenants. But the land and ownership of the land were very important to members of my family even after their active farming lives ended.

Equally important -- if not more so -- was the law and government.

In my grandfather's generation, all the boys became lawyers. I thought that was also true of the boys in my father's generation, but I found out recently it was not so. In fact, my father was the only attorney in his generation. So far as I know, there are no attorneys in my generation, but some in the generations to follow have expressed an interest in the law.

The law became so important to members of my family, I believe, because the law did not protect them in Ireland -- just the opposite -- and they soon found it did not protect them in Ohio, either. Coming to America may have been the adventure of a lifetime, but it was not a solution to their problems.

My grandfather and his brothers formed a law partnership in about 1894 with branches in Davenport and Clinton, Iowa. It appears to have handled general law and -- importantly -- real estate law. My father became a partner in the firm founded by his father and uncles, and then -- after their deaths -- he was the sole owner and proprietor. And his focus, from that point on, was abstracts of title and real estate law.

Back to what might have happened in Ohio, I've been unable to find any evidence that my ancestors owned and worked their own land either in Springfield or in Piqua. As I say, there's not a whole lot of evidence that they were there at all, but there is some, and what there is indicates that Edward in Piqua assembled and supervised work crews for others as a contractor, and Alexander and his boys worked as laborers on others' properties in and around Springfield.

There is no indication that they owned their own property in Ohio.

In Iowa, on the other hand, there's quite a lot of evidence of my ancestors owning and working their own land in Scott and Clinton Counties at least until the 1880s.

According to one account I read, the "Famine Irish" refused to take up land for farming in Ohio, even though farmland was available at almost no charge in the Western Reserve.

This is somewhat hard to believe but it may be true.

Those of my Irish ancestors who arrived in Ohio in 1850 would -- I have little doubt -- be classified as "Famine Irish" even though, from what I've been able to find out about the famine situation in the central part of Ireland, they likely did not suffer from starvation or disease - or eviction for that matter.

The Third Earl of Rosse was the British lord of the region, and according to contemporary accounts, he was a great defender of the Irish and he assured that the Irish in his domain would not -- and did not -- starve. He was almost alone in his sense of responsibility for Irish welfare. But he did what he could.

The Irish left Lord Rosse's domain anyway.

It was a terrible time for Ireland, and the Great Famine will forever remain one of the (many) black marks on the British Empire.

Once in America, the Irish faced many hardships, most of which were the result of poverty. Most Irish arrived in the United States penniless or deep in debt to whomever had paid their fare out of Ireland.

Opportunities to make a living were scant, and there were multitudes of "real" Americans eager to exploit Irish poverty and naivté to enrich themselves. While some Irish, like my ancestors, came to America specifically for freedom from oppression and for land, others came for no other reason than to survive.

One history I read suggested that the Irish grossly exaggerated the discrimination they faced in America, and to the extent they faced any discrimination at all, it was their own fault.

Another history, specifically dealing with Irish immigrants to Ohio, also blamed them for their own problems and misery. The Irish were said to be "uncivilized," "ignorant," "dirty," "violent," and often drunken.  They were lazy, contentious, immoral, and illiterate. Their Catholic faith was little more than a superstition. On and on. Any sort of stereotype you can think of was being cited in a current history of Ohio to justify the mal-treatment of Irish immigrants in the 19th Century.

Apparently, to this day, Ohioans have little regard for Irish immigrants of long ago, especially not for the "Famine Irish."

And yet the Irish experience and memory of discrimination and mob violence against them is "exaggerated."


Apparently anti-Irish prejudice and Know-Nothing-ism was not as strong in Iowa as it had been in Ohio.

I've wondered why my Irish ancestors didn't press on to California and the Gold Country when they finally decided to leave Ohio. The Gold Rush was going full blast when Alexander and his family (my direct paternal ancestors) arrived from Ireland in 1850. Emigration to California was still under way when they left Ohio for Iowa in or about 1856. The lure of the Gold Rush must have been strong, and yet it wasn't strong enough to get them more than a few miles across the Mississippi River. What kept them in Iowa was the land.

The land situation in California was complicated by the unsettled condition of the numerous Spanish and Mexican land grants -- grants that were supposedly guaranteed to the grantees in perpetuity by the treaty of Guadalupe-Hildalgo ceding California and the rest of the Southwest to the United States. That isn't quite how it worked in practice, but that's what it was supposed to look like. So there wasn't really much land available for homesteading in California, and gold-finding was not what it was cracked up to be.

In Iowa, on the other hand, once the Indians were forced out, there was abundant land for the taking. Homesteading was possible, and if land had to be purchased, costs were apparently within reason.

Once they had land, my paternal ancestors could begin to build a future.

Apparently, too, the law in Iowa was on the side of the settlers, even if they were recent immigrants from Ireland.

There is also a German side to my paternal ancestry, but we'll not deal with that here.

My sense is that land was not available for my paternal Irish ancestors in Ohio, there was an increasing level of anti-Irish prejudice, discrimination and violence in Ohio, the law did not protect the Irish in Ohio, and Iowa beckoned.

The road from Springfield and Piqua, Ohio, to Scott County, Iowa, was a long one, but it was taken around 1856, and from that point on, the story of what happened to my ancestors in Ohio was forgotten-- or at least never spoken of --  much as the story of what happened in Ireland fell into the mists of time.

But whatever it was, what happened in Ohio helped make them who they were.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Spring Is Nearly Here

Had a wonderful day in Santa Fe Monday enjoying the weather and three of the museums in Downtown Santa Fe I dearly love: The New Mexico Museum of Art; the New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors; and the Museum of Contemporary Native Art.

Santa Fe (or "Fanta Se" as the City Different is sometimes known) can cause a lot of tittering among the cognoscenti -- I titter about it myself from time to time. It's also called "Adobe Disneyland" -- and for good reason. There is a certain artificiality about it, a certain belief that "what you see is what it was meant to be -- but it was never really like this, and it isn't really like this now." Not real.

It's a stage set for tourists. Even though it's not high season, and there's still a nip in the air (they say there might be snow by the end of the week) the tourists are assembling in their multitudes. Oh my yes. They come from all over. Yesterday, I encountered  tourists from the South, some from Germany, some from Japan.

They come from all over, they do.

Once there in Santa Fe some are enchanted, some complain. Well, the altitude (7,200 ft or so) affects people differently.

Ms Ché and I tend to take the Old Pecos Trail which leads to the Old Santa Fe Trail into town. The historic route. The road gets narrower and narrower the closer you get to the Plaza, but interestingly -- at least to me -- it doesn't go directly to the Plaza. Instead, it jogs on Water St. a sharp 90 degree turn, then another sharp turn on what's now Washington, and even then, where it ends at the corner of La Fonda Hotel, the trail is just off the Plaza. How supply trains maneuverered through that maze -- or even if they actually did -- I have no idea. I have a hard time imagining that a fully loaded supply wagon pulled by a team of mules, horses or oxen -- six, eight, or ten strong -- would even attempt it.

Many of the complaints of tourists today have to do with getting around and finding this or that attraction in Santa Fe -- once you find the city different itself. Or rather, its historic district. It's not exactly hidden, but it's not on the freeway, either, and the signs that seem to point you toward it aren't necessarily helpful. Unless you know your way around -- or have the patience of Job -- you're bound to get lost and frustrated, annoyed and even angry. I've seen it happen.

It must have been similar in the old days. Except in the Old Days, Santa Fe wasn't really a city at all. It was barely a settlement. There was  cluster of adobe buildings huddling around the Plaza and a big old adobe church -- the Parroquia -- a block off the Plaza, and that, pretty much, was "it." The rest of what constituted the town was a smattering of scattered farmsteads and haciendas extending north and south along the superlatively named Santa Fe River (which then and now was an intermittent creek.) At most, the area population amounted to a few hundred families, Hispano and Indio in several combinations. There were also a few Anglos from early times, but the demographics weren't like California's where the Anglos seemed many.

Santa Fe was more like a frontier garrison in the Old Days, with the Presidio dominating everything. A small remnant of said Presidio, grandly styled the "Palace of the Governors" remains across from the Plaza today. Although some of the building is "historic" -- ie: contains elements that were built in the 17th, 18th or 19th Centuries -- nearly all of it is a recreation. And the facade which greets tourists today and the portal under which the Indians sell their wares dates from 1913. It has not changed since 1913. When the Palace was being used for government and military affairs -- as opposed to being a museum -- the facade was regularly changed and the building was continually modified to suit whatever necessity or desire its proprietors envisioned. It was a living building. It hasn't been "alive" since it was re-skinned with a heavy beamed portal in 1913. And its mummification is one of Santa Fe's many peculiarities.

Josef Diaz, a curator of the History Museum, took us on a "backstage" tour of the Palace on Monday-- actually it was "on stage," and he was explaining how the set would change over the next few years. I've been to the Palace many times, but I saw rooms Monday that I've never seen before. I also saw rooms lit by natural light that had always been dim and shrouded in darkness in the past. One of the persistent frustrations of Palace exhibits is that they were so dimly lit, you could barely make out what was on display.

Now some rooms have been opened to daylight for the first time in decades, and Josef said that many more rooms will be. So. That's good. I'm all for it.

He also said that many of the current exhibits in the Palace will be removed and allowed to "rest." Some of them have been on display for 20 years or more and they are deteriorating. Others, he seemed to think, don't belong in the Palace, and they will move to the History Museum behind it. Or they duplicate what's already at the History Museum and they'll be retired. What they want to do with the Palace is focus less on New Mexico history per se and more on the actual history of the building itself -- particularly its period as governors' offices and residence -- and its role in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680-92. Well, now, there's an idea, I thought.

During the Pueblo Revolt, I've read, the Palace -- or rather the Presidio of which the Palace was a corner -- was transformed and rebuilt into typical pueblo housing  and at least one kiva was built in the Plaza. There may have been other kivas in the Presidio courtyard as well.

After the return of the Spanish, the Indian pueblo aspects were removed and the Presidio/Palace was restored to what it had been -- more or less -- before the Revolt, much as the churches that had been destroyed during the Revolt were re-built more or less like they had been prior to the Indian uprising. But exactly what the Indians had done to modify the Presidio and Palace was never entirely clear -- though there is a good deal of evidence of it remaining -- and there was very little on display in the Palace that made sense of that period at all.

Josef said that the plan was to turn over an entire room to the Revolt, and to open up many of the floors and cover them with glass that could be walked on so that the buried elements -- both Spanish and Indian -- can be seen more fully and clearly.

That's good, too. I'm all for it.

It will take years to change the Palace set, and then to populate it with holographic actors might take even longer. Yes, holograms are in the offing, and I'm not entirely sure it's a good idea. Governor Armijo is supposed to offer his holographic greetings in a room off the main entrance to Palace, and Governor Prince and his wife might have their holographic discussion in another restored residential room. This Governor Prince I don't know, so I asked Josef "What about Lew Wallace?" He seemed momentarily startled: "Didn't I mention him? Oh yes, we'll have an extensive display on him. There's a problem getting artifacts from his tenure as New Mexico governor, as they are in other museums or private collections and arranging a long-term loan can be problematical." I said, "Well, wouldn't he make a good holographic subject?" Indeed. Indeed he would -- thus obviating the need for many artifacts it seems to me.

Other things that Josef pointed out would be changed over time are that the Segesser hide paintings would be moved from a dark and narrow corridor to a building of their own which was previously used for storage. Murals that once graced the entrance hall would be restored and replaced and other murals in the building would be restored and better lit. The print shop would -- maybe -- be reconfigured (Tom Leach, Palace Press honcho, is not entirely convinced it's a good idea)  and the entire Palace would be lightened and brightened.

It all sounded great.

They only need $6 million and change to get it all done, and they have a million or so from the State to do the structural repairs. The rest gets to come from "us" -- the public, starting in 2018. OK. The amount of private wealth available in Santa Fe for these sorts of projects can be positively breathtaking.

At the Art Museum, curators took us through the current Alcove Show and the "Stage, Setting and Mood: Theatricality in the Visual Arts" exhibit that was prepared to go along with the (brief) exhibit of a Shakespeare First Folio. The First Folio/Stage exhibit was located in a room beyond the guitar exhibit, and the guitars were the main draw once people learned they were there. The Art Museum had publicized the First Folio extensively, but not the guitars. So when people arrived to see the Folio and had to go through a really extraordinary display of contemporary and historic guitars, including an air guitar, to get to the Folio, they stopped, stunned and intrigued. I bet half of those who arrived never got to the Folio at all, they were so captivated by the guitars.

It happened even on the tour I went on on Monday. The Folio was gone, but the guitars were still there, and about half those on the tour stopped and gawped. The curator for the "Stage, Setting and Mood" exhibit encouraged them to come join her in the next room -- they could appreciate the guitars on the way out. Well, that seemed to bring them into the "Stage" exhibit, but I could see some looking longingly out the archway into the other room.

The curator (didn't get her name -- was it Carmen Vendelin?) had selected works that demonstrated "theatricality" in painting, sculpture, and other media. Most of the items were from the Museum's own collections, and many of them I had seen before. There was no problem in seeing them again and appreciating them this time for their theatricality. But there was one standout work I had not seen before, a painting by William Jacob Hays from the 1860s of a huge buffalo herd on the move that was lent from Tulsa's Gilcrease Museum. As the herd rumbles toward the viewer, one of the animals appears to stop to consider the skull of a long departed buffalo on the ground before it. The moment is compelling, almost otherworldly, and that is one reason why the painting was selected for this show.

Theatrical? Positively Shakespearian!

The Alcove Shows have been a feature at the New Mexico Museum of Art since its opening in 1917. A handful of artists are offered alcoves off the entrance to the Museum proper to exhibit their works for a week. Works in all genres and media are acceptable. The emphasis is on New Mexico artists -- of which there is an inexhaustible supply -- and the frequent rotation of artists and their works is energizing. We saw works by Scott Anderson, Gloria Graham, Scott Greene, Herbert Lotz, and Bonnie Lynch. Media varied from ceramics, to photography, to paintings and mixed media. Whether one "liked" the work or not was beside the point. The point was exposure to it and to its varied point of view. I found myself intrigued by everything shown at this Alcove Show.

Ms Ché and I have long been participants and patrons in the arts, and now that Ms Ché is a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, our participation and patronage seems to be growing. One of the reasons we live in New Mexico in our dotage is the pervasiveness of art and the presence of so many artists, galleries and museums to showcase the work.

It's a never-ending wonder.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


While the Bernie folks are not giving up -- and they shouldn't -- it's looking more and more like the presidential contest will come down to Hillary on the one side and Trump on the other. Who ya gonna choose, huh?

How sane is the American electorate?

We might even see another Daisy Ad that is never aired but everyone knows and talks about.

I wasn't old enough to vote in 1964, but I was very aware of the presidential campaign that year. You couldn't very well miss it. The nation had been on an emotional and political roller coaster since the assassination of President Kennedy in November of 1963; that singular but by no means unprecedented event had changed everything. The assassination was such a shattering event that it was almost as if the earth's spin axis had been reversed.

The elevation of Lyndon Johnson to the presidency was widely met with contempt and derision -- he was considered a bumpkin at best, a corrupt and dangerous  good ol' boy, and he was considered a stone racist not much better than the big-bellied sheriffs keeping the Negroes down throughout the South.

We forget from this distance how disliked Johnson was in those days, a dislike that crossed political party lines.

Came then, however, the Republican nominee for president, an Arizona senator, one Barry Goldwater, a dyed in the wool conservative-reactionary. My god in heaven.

Goldwater was far more polished than the Arizona senator who ran for president recently -- "Gramps" McCain. He was erudite, calm, with a well developed ideology that had elements of appeal even to some of the more rigid progressives and liberals of the era. His book, "Conscience of a Conservative", had sold millions of copies and was something of a bible to true believers. Goldwater was a known quantity. His intransigence in the Senate on behalf of the conservative-reactionary cause was legendary.

Johnson, too, was a known quantity, and while he might have been widely disliked, Goldwater was feared. Saber-ratting was only the half of it. Goldwater wanted to end the progressive-liberal era in American politics once and for all and restore what he and his partisans saw as the "correct" and constitutional relationship between government and the people. Which meant, then and now, a government that served the interests of the wealthy and powerful and ignored the interests of the people most of the time.

Goldwater -- like many conservative-reactionaries today -- called that "freedom" and "liberty." For whom, though? And to do what?

I've written previously and fairly extensively on how progressivism originated as the Republican response to Democratic populism which was sweeping the country in the late 1800s. While Republicans originated progressivism as a means to stop the spread of populism, the ideas of the Progressive Movement were widely adopted by Democrats by the mid-teens of the twentieth century. Progressivism became the standard governmental operating system under FDR, and there was no looking back.

Well, that is, until Reagan. But we're not there yet. We're still in 1964, and that means that progressivism was still the standard governmental operating system. And Barry Goldwater wanted to dismantle it and substitute... what? What went before? Cronyism? Benign neglect? Wild-west shootouts? What? It was never entirely clear what Goldwater wanted to do, but whatever it was, it would mean harm to many millions of Americans, who -- according to conservative-reactionary thinking -- could just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps the way Goldwater's people had done in the long-before.

By contrast, Johnson was a progressive with a strong Southern populist aura. He may have been considered a bumpkin, but he was a bumpkin in the mold of FDR, and that was familiar and comfortable to many Americans. They may not have liked him, but that didn't matter so much as a kind of continuity that Johnson represented, continuity that was deeply important following the trauma of the assassination.

Those were different times, of course. The present era is not much like it, but many of the same political dynamics are at work.

The continuity candidate is Hillary. Bernie is not likely to win the nomination, but if he did, he would be seen as a wild card to be "stopped." Trump, however, against Hillary is the wild card, darned near a mad man. The likeliest outcome in that contest is a landslide victory for Hillary -- not because anybody likes her, though some do. Not because they think she's the best of the best or what have you. Not even because she's a woman -- though that matters.

It's because she's not crazy and she has shown no inclination to overturn the entire governing apparatus to suit her proclivities the way Trump has.

So is this going to be a replay of 1964? In some ways, I think so, yes. It's not an exact parallel because times and conditions are so much different. President Hillary will not be likely to have a Democratic majority in either house of Congress (yes, I predict the Rs keep the senate, though their margin will be cut). LBJ had an overwhelming Democratic majority -- and so he was able to do practically anything he wanted.

Yet he was undone in the end. Two factors contributed to his undoing: the unending war in Vietnam -- which he expanded exponentially at the behest of his generals -- and the Civil Rights Act which
essentially split the Democratic Party irreparably leading to the eventual triumph of the conservative-reactionaries who hold the reins of power to this day.

Hillary won't mess with that power relation much, anymore than Obama would. Thus continuity.

But what will come of continuity may not be what anyone anticipates.