Today the BP posted Isao Hashimoto's visualization of the nuclear detonations between 1945-1998 with the caption, "The World Has Already Ended." It actually illustrates one of his pet points, that we are already living in what is essentially a post-apocalyptic landscape. Certainly one that has been irrevocably altered by the presence of humans.

It actually dovetails nicely with several things I've already got going on right now:

Read more... )

Anyway, you've probably noticed I haven't been posting much. I'm toying with the idea of giving up LJ altogether. But before I go, in honor of the time I've spent here, and in honor of those who have read, or are still reading, I'd like to clear out my 'notes' file where I've squirreled away unwritten posts, unposted comments, or tidbits that felt they needed an extra bit of imagination. By the time I get to the end of those files, I should have a better idea of where this grand adventure is taking me next.

Join me.
Does it ever feel like Johnny Depp is now doing the Big Budget versions of films he already made in the 90s?

Essayist and activist Terry Tempest Williams will be speaking at Tattered Cover Lodo June 14 @ 7:30. I will be attending. You are welcome to join me.

Here is a 2011 interview:

Her meditations on politics, family, the American West, and what she calls 'sacred rage' have always resonated strongly with me.

Related Jana Richman's The Last Cowgirl:

Both radically changed my thinking about the American West and the place of women (& religion) in it.

"I don't think civil discourse is enough... how do we really find a more meaningful conversation? It's not enough to get a smile from your enemy. What I want to know is what you're really thinking, what you're really feeling, and how did you come to that knowledge?" - Terry Tempest Williams
Finally, this op-ed about Nuns on the Frontier opened a whole new world of imagination for me. Not exactly Death Comes for the Archbishop, nor Two Mules for Sister Sara (which, despite its many failings, has a very sexy arrow removal scene. Go Clint!) But a sincere wish that Timothy Egan was writing better pieces on his West beat... His writing since Worst Hard Time have been somewhat disappointing. This article by Western scholar Anne M. Butler (whose work I've hit before) is more like it.
I've got a lot going on this morning, but because I have so many chores that need to be accomplished within a specific time frame I'm not free to sit and write. Instead, I'm offering link to two provocative lectures I listened to this week:

Germaine Greer at the Free Thinking Festival 2011 offers a provocative (and somewhat libertarian) interpretation of Freedom especially as relates to whether we will be able to live with the potential outcome of Arab Spring. I recognize the controversial nature of the lecture and the woman who gives it, and offer the disclaimer that I do no claim her or her philosophy for my own, but I thought it was worth a listen. Weirdly, I will be sending it to my mother in defense of the veil:

One of the interesting stances she takes issue with is Rousseau's notion that "Man was born free..." She does not include the second half of the quotation, "...and he is everywhere in chains. Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they," but does address the problem in her lecture.

Also, from the same Festival, this lovely lecture on "the crisis of commitment" from the Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser, formerly the Canon Chancellor at St. Paul's Cathedral charged with contemporary ethics and engagement with the City of London. He resigned in October due to his stance that anti-capitalist protestors on the steps of the Cathedral should not be removed by force. This lecture --- which uses The Magnificent Seven as its primary illustration on the difference between being "a gunslinger" or "a farmer" and the different types of commitment these stances entail --- is very Xtian in tone, but does offer some really lovely glimpses into the possibility of a Xtian ethics as separate from the faith. It also defines in many ways the struggle I have found myself a part of in engaging with an adult life:

I particularly like his defense of the specific or the local.

Both address the topic of freedom as "the condition of moral action," something very close to my heart. Though the BP would no doubt take issue with the idea of "choice" in this context, instead focusing on the "intimacy of coexistence." He describes compassion as a kind of compulsion in which we are forced to act out of intimacy with other objects, not because it is right, not because it is ethical, but because we are all in this sh*t together. (Against the Grain @ 33:00-38:20) (Enter the Non-Human 44:00, "Viscosity is what compels us, what puts us in the zone of 'the imperative.' (Alphonso Lingis) In this zone choice is not the theatre of moral action....")
The best laugh I've had all weekend:

Cowboys & Aliens: Someone's been mutilating the cattle, again!

Also, Warrior's Way: "Damn... ninjas."

Which reminds me, I should probably cave and see Sukiyaki Western Django, but I've been avoiding the whole KungFu Western sub-genre---especially anything attached to Quentin Tarantino---and I'm not sure I want to go it alone. However, this preview owes an enormous amount to Sergio Leone, so maybe I should take the plunge. After all, it took samurai movies to get me to finally grok the Western.

The above look like truly dreadful amusements, but it's the Coen Bros doing True Grit that I really can't wait to see. I've been waiting on this one all year. It looks like they're going classic, but the Coen Bros can't resist fiddling with their homages, so I'll have to wait until I get through it to make a judgment call.

This is a FOUR deadline week with everything due by Tuesday. I am well and truly burnt out.

Dog-sitting next week.

And then, I'm getting a PIANO! So excited.
The documentary film corps that filmed the Bomb:

I've recently wondered at the fact that no one seems particularly concerned about the Bomb, anymore. As though the threat went away with the Cold War.

There were two key moments of consciousness re: the Bomb in my life.

Read more... )
Brother sent me a recording of the following, because the opening theme from Ennio Morricone's score for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly caught his attention and made him think of me:

Toumani Diabate is an internationally known Malian kora player. You've probably heard his work before, but don't know it. He's worked with Bjork, among other artists.
Gary Cooper: American Icon.

I also <3 Gary Cooper, but my favorite Cooper is probably the greeting card writing, tuba playing Gary Cooper from Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. That scene where he gets the butler to hoot like a freight train in the hall cracks me up every time.

Nevertheless, I feel like I need to link to this recollection from Roger Ebert about John Wayne's self-confessed liberalism.

Brother would be likely to say that Cooper, like Wayne, is a 'sandbox': like the place where children play they stand for whatever we want them to be.
The Southern Ute strike again...

(Here is a link to a previous article with an absolutely marvelous slide show.)

Why is it that I always hear about these things in the NYTimes first?

Also, the Slate piece on American Indian casinos is a little self-indulgent, but ultimately offers a fantastic overview of some incredibly complex issues. I am particularly fascinated by tribal law. The idea that there are sovereign nations within our sovereign nation and the legal problems this entails is fascinating to me.

This is not strictly a Western issue, but it's relevant, and the casinos the author visits are located in the Californian desert.
I caught a reprint of this piece in the Squaresville newspaper earlier this week and only after I read it did I realize the author was the legendary Western writer Craig Childs. Federal agents busted an illegal ring of southwestern antiquities hunters and dealers based in the Four Corners area. Most of the people busted were respected elderly members of the community. One man, a doctor, freaked out and killed himself.

Click here for the complete story.

Childs is clear about his stance: "Pulling artifacts from the land without documentation and adding them to private collections is a form of archaeological genocide, erasing a a record of a people from a place. He thinks, "... illegal digging has decimated one of the richest archeological regions in the United States, putting thousands of years of human history in private hands."

Read more... )
I love this piece on John Wayne that Ebert posted in his blog, today. I am finding I have growing affection for the icon, who, hilariously, describes himself in this interview as a liberal. Definitely some insight to Red Family/Blue Family here. And some interesting commentary on the Western.

Also, Ebert on JCVD, which I saw last night. It's a genre-buster, with a hilarious opening sequence (really, the best part of the movie.) I can't say I recommend the film, which doesn't stand up to the opening sequence, but it's still an interesting experiment. Rating: on an airplane, if there's nothing else to watch. I highly recommend Ebert's review, which is funnier than the movie itself, and I love the list of aphorisms at the end.
While I'm at it, another link to a different review of the "Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West" show at MoMA, this time from Slate. I have no idea why they let these people do commentary when there are so many other interesting things say about these pictures. The commentator keeps going on about whether or not these pictures are 'real' without ever acknowledging that the landscapes that look empty or primitive have an element we're not seeing: the photographer, and one that may have a donkey-load of equipment, at that.

David Brooks has a fantastic analysis of what's wrong with the Republican party using the metaphor of John Ford's
'townie' Westerns.
I have to admit, his descriptions of Westerns are why I always hated them. Clint Eastwood's high plains drifter liberated them for me, to the extent that even 'townies' are interesting to me now.

Body of Western photographer Everett Ruess has been located. He wandered off into the sunset in 1934 and disappeared.
We've been following Xcel Energies bird cams at work. We were all sad to see that the eaglets died of exposure during the storm this past week. Leila also lost a beloved pet. I cried over both. It struck me that so many things in this life are hard just because they're hard. You don't need evil to get suffering.

I had another disastrous interview last week. I have no problem getting an interview, but have about a 50/50 chance of flail once I land the interview. The hardest thing to understand is how to respond to open hostility. My resume is a fairly good representation of my experiences. If you don't think I'm qualified, there's no reason to be mean. Just don't call me.

And for link-of-the-day, here is a site about Plains Indian Ledger Art, which includes scans of full books. Ledger art marked the shift from hides to paper during the late 19C. These books are prized by historians. They are also worth more torn apart and sold to collectors than kept intact, so this project gives people a better sense of context and a way to enjoy the art without ripping books apart. I posted this link in a comment in someone else's journal, but thought it should be more widely available.
Here is an obligatory link to a review of the MoMA exhibit called 'Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West. I must admit it annoyed me. The following observation is useful:

Ms. Respini points out in her catalog essay that the time during which white European civilization expanded into and eventually occupied North America coincides with the invention and development of photography. This is not just incidental. The idea of the West would be informed by machine-made images.

That the medium itself can be used both for empirical documentation and visionary expression nicely mirrors the exhibition’s subject: the American West is real, but it is also a set of fantasies.

However, I am otherwise annoyed by both the review and the reviewer whose tone smacks of a kind of cultural condescension I have come to abhor, especially in his elevation of the past over the present. What he fails to recognize is that cultural fantasies don't just apply to the American West, they also apply to the past. Contemporary images are less appealing to him, not just because of what they portray, but because of the inability to attach the romance of distance (in terms of time, not just geography) to them.

What the West has been struggling to deal with (especially in the non-coastal, arid, portions of the country) is the failure of the fantasy, (which was always just that) or the continued hard-scrabble existence in much of this place, in opposition to the romance of the bootstrap. The tension between opportunism and optimism. The reviewer hits the nail on the head when he observes, "People in one section exemplify a pioneering spirit; elsewhere we encounter portraits of wasted human potential," but loses it later when he calls the subjects in contemporary portraits "ridiculous" or "of uncertain moral fiber":

Such photographs [contemporary portraits] may evoke the West as a place of unprecedented freedom for individual expression and experimental behavior. But the people they portray look pathetic, not heroic. There are no positive role models here.

I hadn't realized that the role of the West was to provide role models. Or that the role of photographers was to capture them. Not to mention the sticky layer of moral sentimentality this reviewer seems to have laid over the images of the past. Obviously, I have not seen the show, so goodness knows what the curator set out for the viewer to see. But I can't help but feel that this reviewer falls for the same myth this show sets out to explore.

For some reason, I couldn't help but think of images in an article about the role of the Southern Ute and the energy boom that ran last year in this paper. See the Ute in a hard hat next to an oil well. Neither pathetic, ridiculous, nor of 'uncertain moral fiber,' but certainly caught in the crossroads of the shifting and complex realities of living in the West today.
I heard this brief mention of a New Deal art exhibit on NPR this morning, and just wanted to give everyone an opportunity to look at the pictures. This sounds like a fascinating show; I would make an effort to see it if I was in the area. Any plans for a tour, Smithsonian?

From the news piece:
"There was a lot of despair ... and shame at being on government relief," says Ann Wagner, one of the curators of the "New Deal" show. For both artists and Americans at large, "these works showed there was plenty to be proud of in their home areas."

Wagner says the program ultimately produced more than 15,000 works, all of them intended for public spaces such as post offices, libraries and hospitals....

Broun points out that Roosevelt once said, "A hundred years from now, my administration will be known for its art, not for its relief."

Well, that's an interesting, if somewhat ironic, note.

Read more... )
Timothy Egan blogs about Wallace Stegner's Centennial: I had the good fortune of discovering Wallace Stegner last year. I have not read his novels, but I am constantly returning to his essays and starting to give to people in the way of an evangelist. His sense of the West as an environmental totality shows not just a complex understanding of the subject, but an undeniable (and I think) American optimism that he entitled: the Geography of Hope.

I cited a lecture he gave on that topic in a write-up I did on one of the best books I read last year, which also happened to be set in the West: Jana Richman's The Last Cowgirl.

From Wallace Stegner's introduction to Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs, adapted from a lecture he gave at CU in 1991, titled The Geography of Hope:

And yet I hope these essays do not say that western hopefulness is a cynical joke. For somehow, against probability, some sort of indigenous, recognizable culture has been growing in western ranches and in western towns and even in western cities. It is the product not of the boomers [speculators] but of the stickers, not of those who pillage and run but of those who settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in....

I believe that eventually, perhaps within a generation or two, they will work out some sort of compromise between what must be done to earn a living and what must be done to restore health to the earth, air, and water. I think they will learn to control corporate power and to dampen the excess that has always marked their region, and will arrive at a degree of stability and a reasonably sustainable economy based on the resources they know how to cherish and renew. And looking at the western writers...I feel the surge of the inextinguishable hope. It is a civilization they are building, a history they are compiling, a way of looking at the world and humanities place in it. I think they will do it. The feeling it like the feeling in a football game when the momentum changes, when helplessness begins to give way to confidence, and what looked like sure defeat opens up to the possibility of victory. It has already begun. I hope I am around to see it fully arrive.

I can't read that aloud without getting choked up.

On a related note: David Brooks on Denver.
An article in American Scholar on the Future of the American Frontier. Lots of interesting stuff here. Must write about it later.

And in the interests of fairness, An article titled: Move Over Thoreau. I am actually in agreement about some of the problems the romantic view of the environment has caused, but this particularly columnist doesn't seem to have a very coherent overview of environmentalism. I would say that it's less a divide than a continuum. And the work of the romantics, like HDT, invited us to view the environment in a different way. There was a time when it was something to be battled, then something to be admired, but always it has been perceived as something separate from we humans.

I can't write coherently about the subject myself, but I have been deeply influenced by the thought of a professor I encountered during my undergraduate years. I've recently rediscovered his lectures on itunes U and will soon be reading his latest book called, Ecology without Nature.

From the book description: In Ecology without Nature, Timothy Morton argues that the chief stumbling block to environmental thinking is the image of nature itself. Ecological writers propose a new worldview, but their very zeal to preserve the natural world leads them away from the "nature" they revere. The problem is a symptom of the ecological catastrophe in which we are living. Morton sets out a seeming paradox: to have a properly ecological view, we must relinquish the idea of nature once and for all.
I thought some of you might be interested in this story, which aired on Colorado Matters, today, about the 10th Annual Healing Run and Walk. People (anyone who wants to run is welcome) start on Thanksgiving and run 180 miles from the site of the Sand Creek Massacre in Kiowa County to downtown Denver. They usually share Thanksgiving dinner with some of the ranchers who live in a nearby town.

I've followed the creation of the Sand Creek National Historic Site over the past few years. I've found the process incredibly moving, not just because of the atrocities of the past, but the way everyone has had to work together to make it happen. I don't think of the conflict of interests occurring in the West to be something from the historic past. To me it's a dynamic part of not just the physical landscape, but the way people think of themselves living in it.

Speaking of Sand Creek, Margaret Coel has a new book that addresses the event, called: Blood Memory. I really enjoy her books, which are mysteries often centered around the Arapahoe Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

On a lighter note, here is a website about highway rest stops in the U.S.:

Have a safe and happy thanksgiving whether you travel or stay at home.



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