Saturday, December 30, 2017

Year End Review



What a goon show.

And yet, all the signs say it is a show and the show is obscuring what's really going on. We see that behind the scenes our neoLibCon rulers are accelerating their plunder of the common rabble. Death and destruction beyond measure has filled their many war theaters with blood and ruin (rarely acknowledged let alone mourned unlike the relatively few drone murders of the Obama regime), and climate change is wreaking havoc while the ruling clique celebrates.

The world of hurt is growing and spreading, and they are laughing. "They" as in Our Rulers.

Something might have been done about it before the inauguration, but nothing was done. The Russia Thing is silly but it keeps attention away from the decisions and effects of the ruling clique. As long as that's the case, and as long as it works, so long will it continue. The spiral down becomes a slide, and there appears to be nothing We, the Rabble can do about it.

We need to consider our options.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

At Mabel's Place For Christmas

One of our principal destinations in Taos is "Mabel's Place," Los Gallos, the rickety old adobe house on a little ridge at the end of Morada Lane. Mabel Dodge Luhan and her husband Tony built it on 12 acres bordering Taos Pueblo land at the edge of town (well, it was then) starting in 1918.

The Big House, "Los Gallos"
The welcoming portal at Mabel's

Mabel lived there or in one of the smaller houses built on the property till her death in 1962. Tony died shortly afterwards. I understand the Big House and the various little houses the couple had built on the property were neglected until Dennis Hopper bought the complex in 1971, christening it The Mud Palace where he hosted a free-form counter-culture get together for the next three or four years.

The place was neglected again until a Santa Fe educator, George Otero, bought it in 1976 and began rehabilitating and expanding the deteriorated facility. He ran workshops at Mabel's Place for the next twenty years and continues to return annually with educational workshops.

My understanding is that the size and the scope of the rehab project turned out to be more than Dr. Otero could be responsible for, and so he sold it to the Attiyeh Foundation in 1996. The foundation continues the work Dr. Otero started. They operate the facility -- which includes the Big House and a number of ancillary buildings, some dating from Mabel and Tony's time, some built since -- as a bed and breakfast hotel, a conference and workshop center focusing on the arts and healing, and a center for the community.

The Big House was designed and built largely to house Mabel's and Tony's guests when they made the arduous trek up to Taos from wherever in the country or the world they'd started from. Nearly all were artists, writers and philosophers, some of whom were already famous, others were "up and coming."

There are numerous bedrooms -- eight or nine I think -- plus a series of reception rooms, a large dining room and a kitchen. Mabel had a room on the second floor just behind the deep porch in the photo above. The bed that was built for her in the room is still there. The windows in the bathroom next to Mabel's room were painted by D. H. Lawrence in 1924 to provide her with some privacy when she went to the loo. They say he was scandalized when learned that Mabel would do her business in front of uncurtained and unobscurred windows  in full view of everyone inclined to look.

But enough of the history of the place. There's plenty of information available online and in books for those who may be curious.

Our association with Mabel, such as it is, began through D. H. Lawrence surprisingly enough. Ms. Ché directed a Tennessee Williams one act called "I Rise in Flame Cried the Phoenix" years ago. The play is about D. H. Lawrence and his Brunhild-esque wife Frieda (a close friend of Mabel's as was Lawrence off and on) near the end of his life. The play centers on the disastrous exhibition of Lawrence's erotic paintings in London in 1929.

Those paintings were on display at the La Fonda on the Plaza in Taos the first time we visited the town more than 30 years ago and I took the opportunity to pay the small fee to have a look at them. Ms. Ché herself took a pass on the exhibit as she was indisposed. We'd been driving all day and into the night, having come from Meteor Crater in Arizona where we'd stopped that morning for a look-see.

I saw the paintings and couldn't quite figure out what all the fuss was about. They were not technically well done, and their eroticism was as much in the eye of the beholder as in the paintings themselves. Art and sex did not combine well in these supposedly scandalous works. But at least I saw them.

While I wasn't fond of his paintings, I was almost overwhelmed by his novels. Lawrence became my literary hero, in part because I thought he captured something in his characters that only I knew about from my own family and life experience. It was through these novels, but particularly "Sons and Lovers," that I began to suspect that my mother wasn't Irish like she seemed to think but was of English descent, for the Lawrence characters based on his own mother were so much like my mother they could have been sisters.   Later, I would discover that my mother was in fact mostly of English descent, but her English ancestors arrived in New England, New Jersey and New York in the 1600s. She had no recent connection with England at all. Of course, I had red hair and a beard (in those days) like he did, too. So far as I know, I wasn't tubercular then or later, but I'm currently being treated for pulmonary fibrosis, so...
[Edit to add: My mother's paternal grandmother was a Lawrence, but her paternal ancestors came to America from England some time in the 1640s and she probably had nothing to do with D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence, although she was married to a D. H. (David Henry)]

Ms. Ché attended a poetry writing workshop at Mabel's Place several years ago, and that workshop was part of what spurred her to go ahead and get a degree in creative writing that she's working on now. She should graduate next May. Perhaps their oldest graduate, but what the hay! It's what she wanted to do.

She said that Mabel's Place and the spirits of Mabel and Tony and the many hundreds of artists and writers who have spent time there over the last nearly 100 years affected her deeply.

I felt much the same sense of the place on my own brief visits.

This year we decided to spend a Christmas overnight at Mabel's Place, as a kind of R&R and renewal.

Christmas at Mabel's is a simple affair. A large tree is set up in one of the living rooms, and smaller trees are in other rooms. Simple wreathes are put on some of the doors, and I understand that luminarias were put out on Christmas Eve but they were gone by the time we arrived on Christmas Day.

Christmas tree at Mabel's 
The Big House is stretched out like open arms. Staff is welcoming and serene as always. And so we return.

We've had no snow this winter at our home south of Santa Fe; it's been too warm, too dry, another La Niña winter. And it didn't seem like there was any snow in Taos, either, but as we explored, sure enough, there were patches of snow here and there, left over from a brief storm several days ago. 

Just enough to remind us that sometimes winter in Taos is just that (and also the title of one of Mabel's books.)

We had the Dasburg room for our stay. This is the one Ms. Ché wanted. It's in the Juniper House, a newer building -- but not that new, it's 40 years old -- with eight guest rooms and a conference room. We knew that it had a view of the sacred Taos Mountain, but we didn't know it had a little outdoor terrace (actually the roof of the room below) from which to watch the Mountain.

Juniper House at Mabel's Place, shadows of your correspondent and Ms Ché in the foreground.

The Mountain from the Dasburg "terrace"

Mabel's Place was full up on Christmas Eve. Many guests were attending the dances and Christmas Eve feast at the Pueblo. We were otherwise occupied on Christmas Eve as that is Ms. Ché's birthday. But Christmas Day was an ideal one to settle in. 

Up a steep set of stairs in Juniper House, we found the Dasburg room, named after  one of Mabel's artist guests, Andrew Dasburg, one of Ms. Ché's favorite New Mexico artists. We almost bought one of his drawings last year, but we decided to put it off for now, and it is probably for the best, as Ms. Ché was involved in that wreck in January of this year and I've been contending with the co-payment costs of very expensive RA treatment. While the price of the Dasburg drawing was certainly fair, it was a heavy expense for us at the time, and we would soon have some other expenses we didn't anticipate. cough.

I was disappointed there was no Dasburg work in the room, though there was a Georgia O'Keeffe (another of Mabel's friends). I sketched out an image of the Mountain while I was there, terming it "after Dasburg", intending to leave it in the room when we left, but I forgot. Sigh. Well. We'll just have to go back, won't we? (Smile.)

The Mountain smiled on us the whole time. It's hard to put into words the effect Taos Mountain has on us. In its own way, the Mountain has a kind of protective-watch-over energy. We can see and feel it. The Mountain is there as both the dominant element of Nature and as a stern and strong 'person' -- hard to explain.

Artists have been captivated by it for generations, and many thousands of paintings, drawings, photographs and prints have tried to capture its essence. I don't think any have quite succeeded. You have to see it for yourself. And then hope that your lines and colors will at least convey a partial sense of what the Mountain is in the flesh -- as it were.

The view is blocked by the Big House and Juniper House and the many trees bordering the property so that from most locations at Mabel's you can't see the Mountain at all, or at best you only have glimpses of it. Even in winter when the trees are bare, you only see bits of the Mountain through the branches from ground level.  From the second floor, you can see it better if you're in the right place, and from the third floor solarium, you have a 360° view of the whole property and well beyond.

We were in the Dasburg room on the second floor of Juniper House with an expansive view of the Mountain and its companions on either side. It was breath-taking though not quite as heart-pumping as the view of the Mountain from the Pueblo of Taos itself. There you are in the presence of... the ineffable.

Andrew Dasburg drew and painted the Mountain many, many times. This is an image of a more or less generic Dasburg mountain, but it's obviously based on Taos Mountain.

New Age types come to Taos and often settle there to infuse themselves with the Spirit of the Mountain. I don't know that they get what they come for, but oh well. It's not for me to judge...

I had the thought of doing some sketching with pastels while I was at Mabel's this Christmas, and so I did. It was both relaxing and inspiring to get out my pastels and have at it. Fun, actually. For years, I couldn't -- or alternatively didn't want to. Just the thought of drawing or painting made my joints ache, and it was better for me not to think about it.

But I've been getting used to the fact that I can do things now that I daren't even think of when time was. Even climbing the stairs at Mabel's is possible now though not necessarily easy. There was a time when climbing stairs was an almost impossible struggle for me. Holding a pencil was sometimes likewise challenging. So much of that struggle is over thanks to the treatments I've been given for RA. Even breathing in the rarefied though somewhat smoky winter air of Taos is... possible.

Simple things mean a lot.

I was most grateful to be able to enjoy Mabel's Place with Ms Ché without worry or fear of being unable to negotiate this or that problematic area that is obviously not handicapped accessible. The only areas that were difficult to manage were difficult for both of us.

Some areas of the Big House have low doorways on which tall people hit their heads, and there are tricky steps between one level and another which can trip you up if you aren't careful. Ah but slow and easy does it, and even if you hit your head on one of the doorways as I did, it's laugh-inducing rather than an Owie.

A pointed arch doorway at Mabel's Place -- watch your head, watch your step!

Ms Ché saw our Christmas at Mabel's  as an opportunity to renew and refresh after a very intense school year. She had put in so much time and energy that a break of this sort was essential. To take a break at Mabel's was invigorating. Even if it was only for a day -- this time.

A friend in California says we're in "Disneyland," meaning these sorts of experiences we're having aren't really "real" -- are they? Well, I guess it depends on your point of view, doesn't it?

After a wonderful breakfast in the dining room of the Big House, we packed up to leave, we really didn't want to. The daytimes and overnight we spent at Mabel's have stayed with us so strongly, though, we feel we haven't really left.

Breakfast isn't quite ready

It was a Christmas to remember!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Comes But Once A Year

Shiny Brite wreath

Today is Ms. Ché's birthday. She was a Christmas baby and throughout her life she's had two celebrations at Christmas time. She said when she was young, she thought all the Christmas hoo-hah was for her and I suspect she still thinks that.  Heh.

This year, we'll be going out to dinner this evening at Los Poblanos in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, then tomorrow we'll head up to "Mabel's Place" (Los Gallos, the Mabel Dodge Luhan House) in Taos. We'll try for Christmas dinner at Doc Martin's, but I dunno. The town gets packed at Christmas time, and we may have to settle for a couple of Lotaburgers at Blakes. One makes do... ;-)

We were concerned about the weather when we made reservations a month or so ago. It looked like and it felt like we might have some snow for Christmas (always nice but not good for traveling), but no. Not even a hint of it. Sunny and dry and usually very warm day after day. They say there's a La Nina underway, but this is the driest and warmest December I can remember in New Mexico. Earlier this week, the prediction was for very cold overnights and mornings -- below zero in both Taos and our place about 100 miles south -- but no.

Right now, about 6am, the temperature outside here is 42; even in Taos, it's 27. Not "cold" by New Mexico winter standards at all. It feels odd. But because of Climate Change, I'm expecting it to become the New Normal. Actually, we've been having more frequent and more intense droughts for years now.

Drought is what drove many people out of New Mexico time and time again. The three big pueblos on the back side of the central mountain chain were abandoned in the 1670s due to drought (among other reasons, the Spanish padres and their delight in suffering being one), but there are ruins and remains of many other pueblos scattered through the east mountain area, most of them abandoned during earlier droughts. Some were reinhabited, but most, once abandoned, were not rebuilt or returned to.

The last long and severe drought in our area was in the late 1940s and into the 1950s. Old timers say it was worse than the Dust Bowl years, and that was bad. Most of the few people who lived in this area left for greener pastures. If they could find them. So it has gone throughout the centuries in New Mexico, so even as worrying as the situation is now, most folks are at least somewhat prepared for the worst.

So this Christmas with no snow and balmy temps will stand out in our memories, even if it wasn't Ms Ché's significant b-day (she's... drum roll... 70).

Taken at Christmas 2010? I forget. The scene is down the road from our place.

Best Wishes to all, and to all a... better New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ten Years -- And The Apocalypse

[Today marks the tenth anniversary of the start of this blog.]

[Props to lea-p who's been commenting here from day one and with whom I've had some fine conversations. Yay!]

A couple of months ago I was thinking about doing some kind of commemoration of the tenth anniversary of this corner of Blogtopia (h/t Skippy) but somehow it passed my mind and I forgot all about it as often happens the older and not necessarily wiser I get.

Yes, ten years ago, 21 Dec 07, I wrote and posted my very first ChéWhatYouCallYourPasa entry, and thousands of posts later, I'm wondering if "progress in the face of the Modern American Imperium" is possible any more. Or if it ever was.

Have we been fooling ourselves all this time? What a question.

Before I started this blog ten years ago, I was an occasional commenter on a number of sites, at the time primarily at Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory, now archived somewhere on the farthest corner of the intertubes, and later his postings at Salon. If I had to say anything, I attempted to approach it with humor, not very well executed, but not in a hurtful or negative way. Sometimes -- well, often -- I had a contrary opinion to this or that, but I looked at it as merely adding to the ferment and froth of the topic, not trying to take away from anyone else's point of view.

Ah, the Old Days!

Glenn hosted an interesting group of regulars. I see that some are still with him at The Intercept, but most have long since departed for whatever reasons. Because Glenn tends toward Libertarianism (and denies it, or used to) many of his regulars were Libertarians spouting Libertarian cant while presuming to take on the mantle of the weakened or absent Left. It was in that environment that I realized a political Left no longer existed in the United States, and the rhetorical or philosophical Left was so weak it probably should have been put out of its misery.

To me the idea of Libertarians presenting themselves as The Left was appalling.

But it was a needle Glenn wanted to thread back in those days, and some of his "regulars" wanted to go along with him.

I had chosen an ironic online name Ché Pasa some time before I started commenting at Glenn's Place, and some wag had appended "what you call your" between the Ché and the Pasa, and I liked it. At least he or she seemed to get the irony. I've tried to explain it as reference to something that is happening and yet has passed. Che is an icon of the Left, of course, but he's gone. Murdered in Bolivia ages ago. Ché itself is a Belgian "men's magazine" (do they still have those? I don't keep up.) more ironic, humorous, and biting than Playboy or what have you.

But what's in a name anyway?

I didn't see myself as an avatar of The Left, but that's how I was interpreted by some of Glenn's regulars and by Glenn himself. We'd tussle now and then, but mostly from my perspective I was pointing and laughing in both directions, at The (so-called) Left and at the often very rigid Libertarianism trying to claim the "unclaimed territory" of the disintegrated Left.

Someone suggested I "start my own blog." This is typically the online equivalent of purging a commenter whose point of view isn't welcome at some site, but in this case, it wasn't like that. My comments tended to be infrequent but they were often long, and in some ways they were more suited to stand alone posts. I had so little free time in those days (work and travel kept me very busy in meat-world) that I couldn't see making enough time to blog more than intermittently, but during December of 2007 I had a break, and thought why not try it?

The Blogger software was free and relatively easy to navigate. Both Digby (where I occasionally commented) and Atrios (where I had sometimes commented but stopped when the comment section became a surreal pudding bath) used Blogger as did Glenn's Unclaimed Territory, so it couldn't be too hard, and sure enough, it was pretty simple to put something together and publish it. Whoo-hoo!

Why this blog launched on the winter solstice, 21 December 2007, I don't remember. I know I had two, maybe three weeks off that December (whew!) and the time off may have begun the week before. Whatever the case, it launched with a generally positive perspective on what was possible in the face of what had become a soul-crushing empire and the farcical politics of the day.

We were living in interesting times. Bush2 and Cheney had put us and many others through several roiling nightmares.

I had had a couple of previous blogs starting back in the mid-'90s (oh my, dial up was the best, wasn't it?) but I couldn't stick with them due to the press of other responsibilities. One dealt with Mars exploration, another was a sort of Random Notes type thing. I don't think I realized how dedicated you have to be to keep a blog going. I found out to my chagrin, and blogging on dial up was a pain anyway.

DSL made it easier and faster, but it still took more time than I had available.

In 2007, while I was still working and traveling a lot, I had periodic breaks, and so it was possible to think about blogging again, and once I started up this little corner of Blogtopia (h/t Skippy), it was easier to keep up than I thought.

So here we are, ten years on, and what's changed?

Personally, I'm retired now, so I have plenty of time -- or so it would seem. We moved from California to New Mexico in 2012, which for us was a very positive change in environment. We still have lots of connections in California, but New Mexico is very definitely our home-place now, and we're glad it is.

Ms. Ché and I often remark on how this part of New Mexico is very evocative of our more or less rural California childhood homes (me on the Central Coast, she in the Central Valley.) California was very different then and much less crowded and crazy-making. We live in the country now. Well we're a couple of miles from a very small town that was founded as a railroad pit stop around 1900. When Route 66 went through in the '30s, the town relocated north and today is an Interstate pit stop, with three truck stops, and plenty of ancillary hoo-hah, but at heart this is farm and ranch country, like we knew when we were young, the kind of environment we were initially socialized in.

Cowboys, ranchers and farmers are our soul-kin.

This is a portrait of former NM governor Bruce King at his ranch not far north of our place. It's really evocative of where we are and of people who inhabit this region. Tip o' the hat, ya ol' galoot..

We're an hour from Santa Fe, forty-five minutes from Albuquerque so we can, when we want, share in their urbanity and sophistication -- if you want to call it that. We don't have a ranch or farm ourselves, in fact our place is more like a quirky suburban (without the urb to sub) outpost. We're two miles from "town" -- such as it is -- but our house is in a cluster of residences built mostly in the 1950s when 'progress' came to the area. Our house (started around 1900) was originally a hand-built two room adobe ranch house on about 160 acres but the land was sold for development, and so here we are. We have views of the mountains when the trees are bare on the west and north and there are mesas on the east and south. The Interstate is a few miles north and we're only a half-mile from the state highway that runs north and south and connects us with Santa Fe, Taos, and so on.

Rural living is simpler, much simpler, and it's taken us some time to de-compress from the hurly-burly of urban California. But we've done it. At least I think so.

Living where we do and associating with the kinds of people we do has had an effect on my perspective. I no longer have that much interest in changing/reforming things, nor of making headway against the Imperium. I'm more convinced than ever that if Progress is to be made -- if it can be -- it will be small scale, localized, and to the extent possible, independent of the national government.

Putting Trump on the throne and protecting him there has, I think, irredeemably sent the national/imperial enterprise off the rails and perhaps directly into the long-awaited Apocalypse.

How that happened is something to be pondered, but the details are not as important as the bigger picture. The Despairing White Working Class is not the reason why. Something else is going on, and I doubt it is healthy for children and other living things. We are ruled by nihilists who seek the End, and they just might get it.

I've always tended toward optimism, but it's harder and harder to maintain a positive point of view. We (collectively) haven't been able to reverse the trajectory of the Empire since the failure of the anti-Iraq War demonstrations in 2002-3. I think that failure was a turning point, and I think it was an engineered failure as well. It was meant to shatter what was left of the anti-war movement and to inspire hopelessness and despair among a wide range of activists who thought they were getting somewhere against an implacable foe. It worked to some extent.

As time has gone on, it is more and more up to the Black Clad Anarchists (who get themselves arrested) and the Pussy Hat wearing WimminFolk (who don't), the disabled, the disadvantaged, and the persecuted to take to the streets against the depredations of the High and the Mighty, but even they are tiring of this game. The victories are few and far between, and the prize turns out to be tin.

During the last several years, I've had some serious health problems (primarily rheumatoid arthritis) that caused me to be less and less active due to intense joint pain. Only in May of this year was I given treatment that seems to be working to relieve the worst of the symptoms and pain. I have infusion treatments every six months or so and I take heavy doses of immunosuppressants in addition, The combination seems to be effective. I'm grateful for that, but it was a long road to get to this point, and I'm pretty sure the medication has affected more than the pain. Of course some of the changes I've noticed are clearly due to age as well.

What a drag it is getting old...

During the worst of the Period of Pain, I wasn't prescribed any serious pain medication at all. Prednisone was supposed to be sufficient, but even in high doses it was not. The situation was getting worse and worse, and just after I started infusion treatment with Rituxan, I was given a prescription for Tylenol-3 -- hydrocodone and Tylenol -- to have on hand if the Rituxan didn't work. I've never taken it, and I'm not sure it would have worked prior to Rituxan treatment anyway.

This is as close as I've gotten to an opioid treatment for pain. And I had to be in extremis for my doctor to prescribe it at all. I only mention it to note that despite the hoo-hah over opioids these days, at least in my experience, doctors are extremely reluctant to prescribe opioid pain relief if there is any alternative -- even if the alternatives clearly aren't working.

It often seems like the last ten years, indeed the last twenty or more, have been catastrophic for the nation and its people and for far too many people around the world. I think of the devastation that's been wrought in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia -- but not just in those places -- as a consequence of the Imperial hubris with which our governing classes have been afflicted for far too long. Dozens of cities have been destroyed, millions of people have been displaced and at least hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the Forever Wars undertaken against the ever-present and ever fluid "terrorist threat." In some ways Vietnam may have been worse, but this new-ish Forever War has led to so much murder and destruction with no end in sight. Blowback has been constant (not so with Vietnam) and I can't help but think that the consequences have only begun to be felt domestically. The destruction wrought abroad is bound to circle back to its source. We''re in for some nasty times ahead.

Why haven't we been able to stop it? What impels Our Rulers to such slaughter and destruction?

Millions of Americans were forced into poverty by the Financial Unpleasantness of 2007-10. Many of those who survived are still in poverty, and there they shall remain until the End. While we are supposed to hail the "booming" economy today and the historically low unemployment statistics, that won't solve the problem of those too old or too beaten down to take advantage of it.

Our Rulers truly don't care. It doesn't matter which team they're playing for. We are as dust to them.

And so one of the worst examples of the type has been sent to the throne to rule over us in majesty, and it's an ugly thing to witness, but that's where the recent past has led us. Maybe it was inevitable. I don't know. But I don't think it can end well.

I'm not as optimistic as I was. We can still learn to live simpler lives, advocate for peace and the downtrodden, lift up the good and shun the worst, but the road forward is rough and potholed. New Mexico hosts many examples of those who have tried alternatives to whatever disaster/horror has confronted them. Most have failed, some spectacularly. But there are survivors.

The Pueblos, for example, derive directly from the collapse of the Anasazi era signified by the Chaco Canyon and other ruins that dot New Mexico and the Southwest. They not only survived the collapse, they survived Spanish invasions, conquest and massacres, and later American ones. They aren't what they were, they've adapted and grown in wisdom, but despite all, they're still here, and their influence is profound.

A few of the hippie communes that were established in the late '60s and into the '70s are still functioning though on a somewhat different basis than previously. They are not communes so much as business enterprises derived from communitarian ideas and ideals. But that's how they've survived and in some cases flourished.

"Alternative lifestyles" and artistic interpretations of being here are constantly tried, and some survive for the long haul.

Those survivors will be around long after whatever happens to the Imperium.

In another ten years, I'm pretty sure we'll know what that will be.

Strap in, the wild ride continues.



"Let the Sunshine In"

We starve, look at one another, short of breath
Walking proudly in our winter coats
Wearing smells from laboratories
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy
Listening for the new told lies
With supreme visions of lonely tunes
Somewhere, inside something there is a rush of
Greatness, who knows what stands in front of
Our lives, I fashion my future on films in space
Silence tells me secretly

Manchester, England, England
Manchester, England, England
Across the Atlantic Sea
And I'm a genius, genius
I believe in God
And I believe that God believes in Claude
That's me, that's me, that's me

We starve, look at one another, short of breath
Walking proudly in our winter coats
Wearing smells from laboratories
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy
Listening for the new told lies
With supreme visions of lonely tunes
Singing our space songs on a spider web sitar
Life is around you and in you
Answer for Timothy Leary, dearie
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in
The sunshine in

Friday, December 15, 2017


The special Senate election in Alabama to replace Jefferson Beauregard Sessions was won by the Democrat Dave Jones last night [This was started Wednesday] turning the world upside down once again. No Dem has won a Senate seat in Alabam for ages, and it was widely thought impossible for Jones to win even against an accused child molester and Biblical freak like Roy Moore.

After all, everyone knows that norms were shattered  with the election of Trump last year, and there can be no going back -- right?

I noticed the news coverage was all about Moore, almost nothing about Jones, and I thought it must be strategic that way. By focusing almost exclusively on Moore and his supporters in Alabama and elsewhere, including the White House (ie: Trump) and Breitbart (ie: Steve Bannon) the freakishness of Mr. ("Judge") Moore was spread around. The Moore Taint as it were.

Of course, the video of Moore attempting to ride his horse "Sassy" pretty much sealed the deal. What a maroon! You'd think if he were so incompetent a horseman, he'd have the good sense NOT to ride in such a public setting.

Note: I haven't been on a horse in decades, and I'm not sure I can get on one anymore because of a bum left leg, but were I to try, I'd make it a point to do it out back where only selected individuals could see -- and I could watch them point and laugh.

In other words, Roy Moore's very public horsing around (the poor horse!) was a major judgment fail.

As much as "norms" were overturned by the presidential election last year, and a New Normal was initiated, apparently even notoriously reactionary Alabama wasn't ready to throw all sense of sanity and decency to the winds in order to stick it to somebody they believe is inferior -- like the Libtards and Nigrahs.

Sticking it to somebody has been one of the consistent (new) norms since the advent of Trumpism, and the whole point of putting up freaks like Roy Moore is to be able to nyah-nyah at the hated Other.

Norms of the Bygone Era say that's impolite.

But being strategically impolite is one of the hallmarks of the New Reactionaries. Moore, Trump, Bannon, the White House personnel in general (oh my, Sarah, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne, and many more, though some have been dismissed or replaced...) are impolite a a matter of course, daily hurling their anathemas and insults at their many enemies, demanding their outbursts be accepted by the masses as "normal." It's what they do. It's who they are. And if there's a problem it's yours, not theirs.

Of course this is what arrogant bullies have done for time immemorial, and all these people are doing is showing us who and what they are -- as if we didn't already know.

Believe me, we do.

Know, that is.

Moore became a kind of red line for the Norms of BeforeTrump, beyond the which the Good People of Alabama would not go -- apparently. In California, we had a good friend who was from Alabama. She was black, and she'd moved to California to go to college back in the '60s, and she got her degrees and had a career, and she retired to do her art and enjoy herself.

Last time we saw her around the late '90s, she said: "I'm moving back to Mobile."

What? Are you insane, woman?

"Oh no," she said. "Far from it. I have a lot of friends who moved back South, and they've been saying 'you ought to come; it's better here.'"

"Better than what?"

"Than it used to be. There's still racism, of course there is, it's the South. But people are more honest with you."

"You mean than they are here?"

"Yah. So many white folks in California seem to have no idea how racist they are, how condescending, how cruel --and how much they really hate and fear black folk. At least in the South you know where you stand with them. And if they are so racist they don't want you around, they'll let you know. Here you don't find out until they stab you in the back. Or worse."

"Did something happen?"

"You bet. It's been going on for a long time, and I'm tired of it. At least if I go back home to Mobile, that kind of thing won't happen. At least I hope it won't."

She wouldn't tell us exactly what happened, but we knew she'd recently broken up with her white boyfriend, and we suspected that was a major factor in her decision.

She sold her condo and indeed moved to Mobile where we lost track of her, but Ms. Ché did an internet search a couple of years ago. She'd stayed in Mobile about 10 years and then moved back to California, She had set up her art studio in Mobile and taught art to young people of color, but for whatever reason she decided not to stay.

It may have been money. When she came back to California, she set up the same kind of program and apparently received a lot of grant money to fund it which I'm pretty sure she didn't get in Alabam.

Does money and at least the appearance of support cancel out the deep-rooted and often masked racism in California? We didn't have a chance to ask her because we didn't know she'd returned. And we left ourselves shortly afterwards. She passed away the same year we moved to New Mexico.

Roy Moore's campaign of course featured liberal doses of typical cracker racism, but the media focus was ever and always on the charges he'd been soliciting young girls for dates and more when he was a young-ish DA. A pedophile. A molester. A... well, somebody tried to explain his penchant for underage females in Biblical terms. Patriarchs in the Bible were always seeking young females. It was the only way to assure their "purity" and as long as the parents agreed, there was no problem. And too, in the South, at that time, the age of "consent" was lower, much lower. While he could still be criticized, there was a (sort of) rational explanation for Moore's behavior.


Never mind he was a freak even by Southern standards and his opponent wasn't.

Well, at least not that we know of.

There were many reasons not to vote for Moore. The violations of norms of behavior certainly figured into the reasons why the majority of those who voted in the special election voted against him, but I'm sure it's more complicated than it superficially appears.

Roy Moore's freakishness has been well documented for years, and it is very deeply ingrained in his character and behavior. Don't forget, he's been removed from the bench twice for defiance of judicial rules, norms and the constitution. He used his judgeship to promote his own particular version of Xtianity, the Devil take the hindmost. Like many Dominionists, he refuses -- even now -- to acknowledge the constitution's secular nature. He denies the validity of much constitutional law, and has even suggested the constitutional amendments beyond the first ten should be repealed.

His level of defiance of those norms in particular is off the charts, and his intent is clearly to stick it to anyone who disagrees.

While I'm not sure that should disqualify him or anyone from serving in public office, it is certainly reason to censure and remove a judge, and to vote against him for any office he chooses to stand for.

He's called on God to undo the election and put him in office no matter what the voters said.

We'll see.

Meanwhile, norms of the past are in jeopardy all over the place. Some of them are worth jettisoning, just as "Victorian Morality" once was. On the other hand, "sticking it" to opponents as the foundation of the New Normal is a Pandora's Box of grief.

Is this was what we really want or need?

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Franken Thing

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

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

But no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 7, 2017

California On Fire -- Again

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

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

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

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

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

I'll say: What a mess.

People are so adaptable though...

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

As for me, I never got used to it.


And of course there's this:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

News and Notes

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

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

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

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

I also understand that many were disappointed as we were.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idiotic s putting it charitably.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll have to go back one day.

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

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

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

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Why All the Lies?

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

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

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

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

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

How does it end?