Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thought For The Day





This native American quote by Shawnee Chief Tecumseh about fear and death inspires you to make this life count, to pursue noble undertakings, and live to the fullest  having used all your talents and have no regrets.


“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.
Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

~Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief


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Friday, September 12, 2014

The United States of Amnesia


I know, I know... I'm way behind on reporting about the last days chez nous Taos and the trip back East, and all that blah blah blah. Know what? don't care. It's one of those days I could care less how far behind I am on anything, and it's a damn good thing the sun decided to show its face here in Maine this morn as yesterday, chilly, grey and rainy, left me cringing with sudden loathing for my location, In a "charming cottage" the size of a tissue box, sunk among the trees (you wonder how early settlers hacked living in these teeny things without killing themselves or each other), and ill-equipped to deal with the weather given a suitcase full of weightless summer cottons suitable to dry New Mexico heat.   

I've come to loathe the automobile, hence my in-town location. Here, as in NM, I have to walk a half mile or so to get a 'long view' to anything like a field or body of water; relief from that sense that I'm being entombed, one nail at a time.  I escaped to the cavernous relief of the local theatre and Woody Allen's new film yesterday, cinematically enchanting, but you gotta wonder what's in the guy's head anymore. It felt overacted, going for the witty repartee of an old Kate Hepburn movie, perhaps, a period feel, but Colin Firth, bless 'im, is by nature a slower burn than that, and what'sername from The Help alarmingly wide-eyed and unconvincing in her role. Still, a passably entertaining few hours (despite frequent squirming in my seat), if only for the pleasure of seeing delicately embroidered, diaphanous women's clothes and gorgeous Provence scenery.

Today I read about the difference in how America and Europe raise their chickens, market their eggs,  inner resistance flares as the longing rises from somewhere deep in my soul for a long view out to sea, another lifestyle, a more open minded populace... cheap wine and produce, real pastry, free health care. I was searching my blog archive for a video I thought I'd posted long ago about the resveratrol content of a sencha and jasmine tea combo to send a friend when I came across this video from back when I had more fire in the belly for politics (currently at a low disgusted ebb). It reminds me that there's a price to pay for cowardice, for the willful amnesia to which we as a nation have succumbed.  I wonder what in the end will be the ultimate price of that cowardice, as we fail to hold accountable those who, at our expense, violated their oath, flat out lied to the public, launched Shock and Awe, destroyed our credibility abroad,  sowed the seeds that destroyed  our economy, are in essence responsible for the ISIL mess now, and who the media still pretend are worthy of respectful attention.  

I once saw Robert F. Kennedy, JR., speak on the subject of restoring the nation's rivers.  He is no less eloquent here.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Civilized Zoo

From Harper's Weekly this week:

At a zoo in Crimea, a foal named Telegraph was born to a zebra and a donkey. “Such things don’t happen,” said a spokeswoman for a zoo in Moscow, “in civilized zoos.”

no doubt.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Have You Seen The Walking Woman?

So, here's the deal. A woman bereaved, veiled in black, a veteran of the US Armed Services (according to the BBC), decides there's nothing for it but to go for a long walk. Her reasons for doing so are personal and private. Nobody's business but her own. Were she a lucky resident of France, say, or Wales, she might have chosen to set out along any number of their routes sentiers – long, unpaved quiet pathways through pastoral, often private, property through which the public is entitled to pass unmolested,  winding through countryside or along the seacoast – engendering little or no public notice. But being as how this is Amerka, where no such unending peaceful pathways are easily accessible to the public (apparently none are considered essential), the only walkways long enough to suit her need in this Age of Wheels are public byways, roads; so she took to the highway. Were she riding around in a car or bus, no one would noticed. But because this woman is simply walking as though she had every right to do so, as though walking were a normal choice, destination unknown, and publicly wearing her sorrow, she is a media phenomenon in the US. Our very own Forrest Gump come to save us from ourselves for a brief sensational internet moment.



Consider this:

A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business. -Eric Hoffer, philosopher and author (1902-1983) 

Aside from the occasional long-haul perambulator whose purpose is to call attention to moral or political issues, the folks who end up walking America's roads are the have- nots, folks without cars or busfare, much less planefare, to get where they're going. Objects of passing curiosity, or pity, possibly scary oddities to be avoided. Hitch-hikers are rare today. We notice those who walk the highways as something odd, forgetting the story of slow westward settlement in our rush to get somewhere fast. Early pioneers walked for hundreds of arduous and dangerous miles behind heavy mule-drawn wagons, operating under the assumption that their own two legs were the most reliable mode of transportation, that their reasons for doing so were sound. No explanation needed.

When you suffer a cramp or pain – or a tantrum, for that matter – a usual recommendation is, "Just walk it off." Here's a gal who seems to have just felt the need to walk something off. She's not looking for attention, has no desire to explain herself, to "share her pain". (The face speaks volumes.) To the bored American mind this makes her all the more intriguing, as twitterers and facebookers, hooked on a need for the constant affirmation of shared experience, take her picture, video her steps, shout at her, applaud her without knowing why, voyeuristically believing this will somehow unburden her? all the while violating her right to mourn in silence, without explaining herself to anyone. Like Snow White's evil queen, the public stands before that silent dark mirror and hears what it wants to hear, sees what it wants or needs to see, believes what it needs to believe.   There was a time when folks would have left a grieving woman in black to pass quietly unmolested, would have turned away out of respect for her privacy, implicitly understanding that grief is a solitary and private thing.  

No longer.  The public's fascination with and their variously expressed projections regarding this solitary woman are an affront to the very notion of privacy.  Perhaps this is the point she's making, if she's making any point at all.  What makes observers think she, personally, wants or needs their attention? I'm guessing she doesn't.  She grieves. And if nothing else, is a walking question mark for all Americans: What is it we, as Americans, are grieving beneath the veneer of constant titillation? What absolution do we seek as we watch her go? 

Monday, July 28, 2014

July Parades and Wildflowers

glorious chickory

The annual Fiesta Days celebration – shops close, alcohol is consumed, dancing is revived – is meant to commemorate the multicultural heritage of the area including Native Americans (you know - everyone calls them Indians here, including the Indians), Spanish Conquistadores, French Trappers, Mountain Men, the Catholic Choich, etc. It was a low key parade, political banners aplenty. According to the fella next to me, Taos went Democratic 88% in the last election, hence Repugs parade participation was, let's be kind, thin and listless; it comes naturally to them. The kids' Mariachi Band was a hit with me, along with the Sheriff's Posse folks (I think there's a gal in there) from the Rodeo.

These are the dog days of summer, but the heat is nada compared to places like Roswell and ABQ, where it's reaching into the triple digits this weekend. The local news is nightly fraught with tragic report of babies left in cars, window cracked open, while mum runs errands. Say what? So the Health Dept. etc. recommends, so parents don't mistakenly leave kiddies to boil (104 to 107 degrees is all it takes), in their carseats: When you get in the car place your hat in the backseat to help you remember there's a kid there.  So Hat = child ? If you can't remember there's a child on board, how the hell do you expect folks to remember to check the backseat for their hat?  Or even to wear one in the first place? Who gives such people license to procreate?

Nights here are blissfully cool, plenty of ceiling fans, nevertheless by noon one begins to thoroughly appreciate the siesta tradition. It's just too damn hot to stay outdoors. I tried about 40 minutes on the tennis court today at 11 and nearly ended up prostrate on the court. Lotsa water down the hatch and a nice dip in the pool; it's hard to believe they go to the trouble of actually heating the pool it as the couple of days the heating unit was broken I thought the water temp was perfect, certainly much warmer than a day at the beach in Maine!

hollyhocks hang in
The abundance of wildflowers is simply amazing, flourishing in the wake of monsoons. And, to top it all off, who knew sunflowers grew wild here? Towering sunflower plants line every thoroughfare and sidewalk on the verge of  bursting forth a la Van Gogh any day now. What a riot of color that will be.  The hollyhocks are still going strong, a constant and delightful distraction from the heat if I need to runout for something, like the daily Santa Fe paper which daily and weekends runs a syndicated version of the NY Times crossword. And then there's the wild chickory, massive fields of it spread just outside town near the mountains and their color, that French mignonette blue, blankets the fields of grazing horses. Fuschia pompoms, some kind of wild thistle, tall and graceful, hanging in, again growing with wild abandon wherever they can manage to find purchase in this stingy, sandy soil. Today a sea of lavender color, plant unknown, presented itself on the way back into town from the tennis courts. My crap camera couldn't do it. Just a short bike ride from the house are local sheep farms, goats, horses and cattle farms that run along the lush green tree-lined valleys of the Rio Pueblo and Rio Lucero – a short, pleasant and, most important to my mind, flat  ride without too much car traffic if you time it right.

evening stroll

It's Friday, so tomorrow is Farmers' Market, a weekly event I enjoy. Last weekend there, a rather good string band performed a crooning, soulfully Appalachian rendition of "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" that made my day. I came home and spent an hour reading about the history of that tune, looking for original lyrics, etc., generally nerding out about it, humming away all day. It suits my present state of mind; wish I had a guitar with me.

I filled the hummingbird feeder with 1/4 sugar to 3/4 water and those buggers came a-runnin.  One of the species migrates all the way from Mexico, up through California and over the Rockies to Taos. That one is mostly orange (there are others as well) and, for its body length, holds the record among all birds for the longest migration.  The orange ones are highly territorial.  I watch from the porch as the other species wait for him to leave so they can approach the feeder (as I cheer them on). Admonitions to share fall on deaf ears. The babies are tinier than your thumb and less watchful than the adults. We hear them all day, from sunup to sundown, whirring across the back yard, making a sound much like circus clown whistles. Temporary pets. I miss the cats.

park Santa Fe
We headed to Santa Fe for grocerias Saturday and to see the annual Spanish art show there. I 've become thoroughly taken with those small enclosed tin altars with religious figures painted in them, nichos, they're called. Sometimes the picture is simply a holy card, but they have utterly conquered my heart. We found a cool place for lunch, been open a year, Chez Mamou, in SF, the owner is French and the food is reasonably priced and authentically francais.  Sat outside on the tiny alley terrace and imagined we were in Nice. (below)



chex Mamou SFe

Last night we tried a friendly mexican resto in Ranchos de Taos, just south of here (a more authentic feel than Taos proper) and stumbled on a gallery tres charmante, stuff the owners had painted or sketched plus an eclectic collection of everything from Indian figurines to Star Wars collectibles,  to, yes, a lovely old nicho I wouldn't mind having. Nice folks there. Weird stuff, I  was charmed utterly. Every now and then you find something around here that has the ring of authenticity, that isn't trying to be something long since lost.  One thing I've noticed: you are much more likely to get genuine and friendly good quality service in restos and cafes with an ethnic (Mexican or Indian) staff than caucasian.
I'm just sayin'...  It's been true much more often than not.

tin altar, Spanish Market SF


Headed to local library today for more Steinbeck and maybe see if Martha's new tome has arrived. My brain is rubbing its hands in excited anticipation.

Oh, please take note: A friend's old beau of many years ago has just published an autobiographical novel that is, today, available on Amazon. It's called Who Quinn Became and I highly recommend it, especially for the Boomer cohort, based on a few snippets I read on his website.  It's third on my list of must reads at the moment. Check it, ya'll.

ciao for now.

Muah!





early morning in the valley

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Of Rodeos, Powwows, and other things...

Rodeo grandstand in background
A couple weeks ago we were looking for something to do that didn't include wandering around the vicinity of the Taos plaza like tourists. A notice in the paper announced the Taos County Sheriff's Posse Rodeo (the word "posse" alone, folks on horseback proceeding swiftly with purpose, got me going, the Wild West still lives I'm told, not always a good thing though) and we were out the door in a flash, headed for the dusty rodeo grounds on the southwest side of town. For a measly ten bucks each we sat in the shaded bleachers and enjoyed an afternoon of skilled calf roping and bronco riding (not real broncs, but tamed horses they tie a tight cinch around that pisses the horse off, and voila! a bucking horse).

You have to admire the rodeo circuit folks. For a fee they enter competitions where the odds are wildly against them and hope to rope a calf or manage to stay on a half mad horse doing his best to throw you airborne; performances are timed and judged, I take it, on style points as well. The thing that impressed me most was the sense of cooperation and the incredible confidence of every participant, from the spangled rodeo queens to the calf ropers, when it came to handling a horse in the arena. I couldn't help think if everyone in the US had their confidence and skill with large animals, we all might be in better shape. The fellas who rope and capture runaway broncs after they throw the rider were the stars of the show; they had that sense I witnessed once on a Wyoming ranch, the basis of which is simply to offer the horse the best possible choice in order to get him to do what you wanted him to do. Much like raising kids.

budding cowgirl
Last weekend we spent two days at the Taos Pueblo's annual Powwow, a gathering of various tribes performing in traditional dance and drumming competitions. The color, sound, rhythms, pack a powerful punch in themselves, and the event is held on tribal land spread beneath the shadow of the big mountain. They have to be one of the very few tribes that ended up with nice land for a rez, it's gorgeous out there, only a couple miles out of town.

opening procession
shawl dancer




















At the opening ceremonies each day, tribal elders and folks of note in the tribal community lead a procession followed by all the categories of dancers while about a dozen different drumming groups (six or seven singers in a circle, each with a long padded stick chanting in unison and beating out a rhythm on a giant drum) accompanying them from the sidelines. All I could think was if I was an early settler and heard that insistent chanting and drumming, the thrumming bells and jingles of dancing feet, I'd figure I was a gonner. Standing close to the inaugural procession, its power was something to behold, circling the grounds in a ONE-two, One-two rhythm that mesmerized the audience and dancers alike.  I had my favorites, dancers I hoped would win in their respective categories.
jingle dancer

    I loved the gals with the jingle skirts, made from tin can lids I was told, but she might have been pulling my leg.  I should mention the watermelon iced tea was a big hit with us.    
most awesome
the arena

drum circle chanters

It's monsoon season here, every afternoon serious rain complete with hail, lightening and thunder rolls over the valley, drenching the grateful earth. As a result, wildflowers abound. Hollyhocks, Russian sage, wild white desert poppies, blue hazed fields of chicory, daisies, bachelor buttons, pink thistles in profusion fill the fields. The hillsides seem greener, the sagebrush's grey-green more vibrant. It's the best thing about this place, to my mind. The Farmers' Market is quite good. One tires of the endless exudation of brown houses. I'm sure there are loads of rationales for it, but.. sigh...I sense a wee frisson at the sight of a rare two story house. We haven't ventured very far afield, but plan heading west some, to Farmington, Chama, Abiquiu, eventually.

farmers' market band
The days are hot and the nights fairly cool. Lotsa rain lately. Extreme drought here needs the relief. All the county rescue vehicles are housed only blocks from here, so we hear a fair number of sirens, sort of like you might hear in New York City. But some days it's quieter.

I managed to locate the only real nursery and bought some zinnias for the pots of half dead fleurs on the porch. It's Fiesta weekend this weekend on the Plaza, yesterday we enjoyed an amazingly good Tejano band on the bandstand there.

We appear to have a family of skunks living under the garden shed in the backyard. A mum and five absolutely adorable babies who come out to sun themselves and have a frolic in the afternoon sun, tails aloft as they roll and tumble playfully over each other, I watch from the window. I never thought I'd see the day I found skunks fascinatingly cute.

It's turning out to be a Steinbeck Summer. Can't get enough of him. Glad he wrote so many books.

Still...  I feel quite homesick for a place I can't seem to find on a map.

Nevertheless, I thought this had definite appeal....


peace out

Monday, July 14, 2014

What Does It Mean To Be a Democrat These Days?


I found this today on billmoyers.com, one of the best news sources out there. It's nice to know someone sees the forest for the trees out there.
This post originally appeared at the Campaign for America’s Future.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., center, accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, make statements introducing Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., seated at left, to the committee during his confirmation hearing to become secretary of state, replacing Clinton, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), center, accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, make statements introducing Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) seated at left, to the committee during his confirmation hearing to become secretary of state, replacing Clinton, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Over at The Washington Post, the usually sensible Greg Sargent endorses the notion that divisions among Democrats are “mostly trumped up.” The tension between the Wall Street wing of the party and the Warren (as in Elizabeth) wing is an overblown fiction of a press corps desperate for some action.
It’s true that the prior divisions on social issues have dissipated, as liberals have swept the field. Obama’s halting attempts to wean the US from its foreign wars have garnered widespread support. And on economics, Sargent argues that Democrats “largely agree on the menu of policy responses to the economic problems faced by poor, working and middle class Americans — a higher minimum wage, universal pre-K, higher taxes on the wealthy to fund a stronger safety net, job creation and job training — whatever the broader rhetorical umbrella is being used.” Even Hillary says she agrees with Thomas Piketty that extreme inequality is a “threat” to our democracy.
There are differences on how aggressively to go after the big banks or whether to expand Social Security, Sargent admits, and a debate underway about “whether to push the Democratic Party in a more populist direction,” which he declines to define. But generally, he argues, there’s broad agreement that Hillary or any Democratic candidate will run on.
All of this is true except the conclusion. There is a broad agreement on what might be called a “populist lite” agenda — one that has been put forth repeatedly by Obama and frustrated by Republican obstruction. And the reforms — from the minimum wage to universal pre-K — are important and will make a difference.
But it strikes me as bizarre to suggest that there is no serious debate among Democrats when the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in the country and a key power in Democratic circles, has just called for the resignation of Obama’s education secretary. Democratic House and Senate leaders refuse to allow even a vote on fast-track trade authority sought by the president, and a majority of the Democratic caucus lines up against Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. Progressives in both houses demand bold action on jobs, on taxing and investing that the president resists. Democrats revolt against the White House desire to trim Social Security benefits.
In fact, there is a fundamental debate brewing in the party, grounded on very different perspectives that lead in significantly different directions.
On one side are the passive voice populists, which include both Clintons and Obama. They argue that our Gilded Age inequality is the product of technology and globalization, as if these were autonomous forces like the weather. The effects — a declining middle class, stagnant wages, spreading misery — can be ameliorated by sensible policies, like the agenda Sargent ticks off. Most of all, Americans need to make certain the next generation gets better education and training so they can better compete in the global marketplace. Universal preschool is a first step to that. But the largest thrust — driven by the party’s deep pocket donors — is an assault on teacher’s unions and public schools, investment in charters, public and private, and a focus on high-stakes testing to measure teacher and school performance.
Undergirding this is an acceptance that we can’t really afford to do even the minimum in public education or child poverty, so the focus has to be on cheaper ways to make progress. This assumption also fuels the interest in cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits, experimenting with public-private partnerships to raise funds, and so on. All this assumes that we’re close to the limits on taxes, that corporate tax reform should be “revenue neutral,” (that is, companies should not contribute one dime more to our investment or budget needs), and that taxes on the wealthy can’t produce much additional revenue.
The activist-voice populists disagree fundamentally with both the analysis and the prescription. They argue that extreme inequality results from rules that were rigged to benefit the few and not the many. That leads to the demand for structural reforms to change the rules: fair and balanced trade and tax policies to replace those created by and for the multinationals; breaking up big banks and curbing Wall Street’s casino as opposed to accepting banks that are too big to fail and too big to save; progressive tax reforms to create revenue for the public investments that we need in everything from education to infrastructure to an expanded safety net; empowering workers and curbing CEO license to ensure workers share in the profits they help to produce; expanding Social Security and public pensions while moving further towards true universal, affordable health care.
These differences are only now emerging, as the failure of the recovery forces a bigger debate about our economy. The Wall Street wing presses forward with corporate trade deals that are opposed by a growing majority of voters. The bankers bear no accountability for their pervasive frauds and lawlessness, while most Americans are looking for perp walks. Well-heeled lobbies block any sensible tax reform, while polls show Americans strongly want the rich and the corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. Obama has already felt the revolt of the Democratic base against his plans to pare Social Security benefits. Clinton and Obama have been essentially AWOL in the war on labor and collective bargaining, essential elements of any strategy to rebuild the middle class.
Obviously, many of these questions pit the wealthy Wall Street and Silicon Valley donor class against the vast bulk of Democratic voters who are struggling in this economy. It’s not surprising that smart politicians have moved to adopt the populist lite agenda to appeal to the latter without offending the former.
But the divisions are likely to grow because most Americans are struggling in this economy. (Most still think it is in recession.) And with the deck still stacked against most Americans, little is likely to change without a new deal (to borrow a phrase).
And in addition to this is Hillary’s apparent intent to run to the right of Obama on foreign policy — to champion more interventionist and hawkish views at a time when Americans want to rebuild at home. If she pursues this course, it will likely spark a new debate around foreign policy that Obama’s relative caution largely avoided.
Democrats have always been a big-tent party. The divisions between Southern segregationists and Northern liberals were apparent. The battles over civil rights, women’s rights, choice, wars and gays and guns were fierce. Many of these debates now have largely dissipated as liberals have won and the party’s base has evolved. The New Dem scorn for traditional liberals and labor drove big primary fights.
But the new debates over economic direction and the likely battle over policing the world are just beginning to take shape. And if the economy continues to reward the few and not the many, the divisions won’t need to be trumped up.
The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone, and presented here to offer a variety of perspectives to our readers.
Robert L. Borosage is the founder and president of the Institute for America’s Future and co-director of its sister organization, the Campaign for America’s Future.