Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cool Not the Prevailing Heads

Recently, Judge Andrew Napolitano asked Ron Paul this question:

When someone defends BP's right to due process, its right not to have the government intimidate $20 billion dollars out of them, that is not a defense of BP's behavior in the gulf, is it? BP should pay for all the damage it caused, but it should pay for it under the law, not some ad hoc system that the president and vice president just concocted for this crisis.

Paul's response:

If you defend the Constitution and you defend the rule of law, it sounds like you’re giving some rights to BP [but] that doesn’t mean that we’re sympathetic to BP; we’re sympathetic to the system. And it may well be that the $20 billion may even limit the scope of what BP has to pay. What I don’t like is big business and big government being in bed together and for some reason I’m very suspicious of some of these agreements because BP is not a free market company. They depend on our military and they depend on us, and they like Cap and Trade and so I’m very suspicious of the whole mess.

If we are no longer a country of laws as outlined by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, what are we?

We are born without eyesight
We are born without sin
And our mama protects us
From the cold and the rain
We're in no hurry
sugar and spice
We sing in the darkness
We open our eyes

I can't believe it
And people are strange
Our president's crazy
Did you hear what he said
Business and pleasure
Lie right to your face
Divide it in sections
And then give it away

There are no big secrets
Don't believe what you read
We have great big bodies
We got great big heads
Run-a-run-a-run it all together
Check it out - still don't make no sense
Makin' flippy floppy
Tryin to do my best
Lock the door
We kill the beast
Kill it!

—Talking Heads

What do you think? Do you think in times of extreme emergency and/or disaster that we should suspend the rule of law that governs our republic? Bush did it with Iraq and Afghanistan—we have, nearly ten years later, yet to properly declare war on either of those nations and so our presence there is illegal under the Constitution. So why not Obama and his crew?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Visual Haiku: Summer Nights

like clockwork they come
monsoonal rains hail and pelt
desert springs to life

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Movie Clip Wednesdays: Worst Remake

One of my favorite movies of all time is the Stepford Wives. Based on the Ira Levin novel and directed by Bryan Forbes from a screenplay by William Goldman, it's a clever mix of war-between-the-sexes social satire and downright creepy thriller, mixed with a dollop of mad 1970s fashion, impassioned Women's Lib-isms, and a gung-ho set of performances by Katharine Ross, Paula Prentiss, and Tina Louise. Not to mention one of the most psychologically horrifying endings of any movie, ever.

The 2004 remake, starring She Who's Forehead Never Moves, is utter crap.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Safety of Objects

My mother once told me I came out of her womb clutching. "Your hands," she said to me, "Were so tiny, but they were so strong. They'd grab on to anything within reach and hang on. I had the hardest time getting you to let go."

Nothing was safe, she said. As an infant it was her hair. The collar of her shirt. The locket she wore most of her life and which I now wear on a regular basis as well. As I got older and started to move around, I'd latch on to whatever happened to catch my attention for that day—a blanket, a book, one of my mother's nicknacks, utensils (apparently I was very fond of spoons) and carry that object with me for the duration of the day, letting go only in sleep, and sometimes not even then. That bear up there, it was the first among many that my father bought me in an attempt to keep me from pilfering his tools.

As I got a little older, I started to collect things. Rocks. Bits of animal bone, wildflowers, and the discarded soda bottles that littered the land surrounding the ranch where I grew up. Once, while walking with my mother, I found the molted skin of a rattlesnake, nearly whole, translucent like rice paper and just as fragile. I begged my mother to let me take it home and she finally agreed. She, too, understood the tug of objects and so I brought it home and put it in the garden where it remained for a few days until my brother came along and ripped it to shreds. My brother was always, always messing with my stuff. He knew it was the one button he could push that would send me nuclear (I eventually lost that bear up there because he tossed it into the fire.) and few things in life gave him quite the same pleasure as sending me nuclear.

Fast forward to present day. I still clutch and collect. I can't help it. Materialism is as firmly encoded in my DNA as my eye color. Most humans, too, probably. Last time I checked, our species wasn't living in some Star Trek episode, reduced to pure brain matter, our bodies long discarded just like that snake skin, the effluence of a burdensome and ultimately useless organic existence. Last time I checked, we humans remain resolutely material ourselves, as solidly situated in time and space as that rock over there, even though, like the planet itself, we are about 75 percent water. Still, we cannot walk through walls or use our minds to shift objects.

So, I wonder: What are we at this point in our evolutionary history, if not a species evolved to make, to trade, to covet, to collect? And, by extension, what could be more important to our history than the stories told by the objects we make?

Of all the things I have collected over the years, I think this piece tells one of my favorite stories. I bought it two summers ago at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe from Zimbabwe story quilt artist Elizabeth Savanhu.

Because most Weyan quilt artists produce their work as part of a collective, their individual names usually remain anonymous. Elizabeth, however, had for some reason been singled out by the fair organizers. I was immediately drawn to her work and spent quite a bit of time speaking with her. This was her first-ever trip outside her village. In addition to the excitement of the plane ride over, she also got to spend two days in New York City before continuing on to Santa Fe, which she found to be very beautiful, too, but was wondering how two such different cities could exist in one country?

Elizabeth had so many beautiful quilts of all sizes that I was having a hard time deciding which one to buy. Eventually, it was the figure of the dog in this one that made up my mind. He is, Elizabeth told me, her favorite dog out of the three that her family cares for and so she gave him a place of prominence in two of the quilt's panels.

The first thing I did when I got home that evening was hang the quilt on a section of wall in my office, but it wasn't until the next morning that I actually noticed the smell of smoke. Not cigarette smoke, but more like the smell of burnt wood. It took me a few minutes to get it: the smoke smell was coming from the quilt. And it was coming from the quilt because most likely the only light available in Elizabeth's village after the sun went down was from campfires.

That was where she would sit, in the evenings after school and after chores and dinner: in front of a campfire in the middle of Africa, in a place so far removed from my life in America that it may as well be on the moon, making this object of beauty that she carried with her across an ocean and two continents, whose smell of smoke was not the gap between Africa and me, but the bridge, so that I could know and understand the story of Elizabeth and she could know and understand the story of me, always clutching.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Food For Thought

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Respect My Authoritah
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

It's 8 minutes long, so if you need to skip ahead, go to minute 5:43 and watch from there. Priceless.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Culinary Throwdown: Picnic Baskets

Our hostess with the mostest, La Diva Cucina, was the winner of the last Culinary Throwdown and therefore got to choose the theme for this one.

What a lovely idea! Unfortunately, I'm currently spending most of my free time wrangling a manuscript, so I only had time to concoct a single dish. But in my mind, the sweet stuff is always the most important stuff, so here's goes my entry:

Fresh Fruit With Lemon Curd and Meringue Cookies

This is really a no-brainer, which is what you want for a picnic. Everything can be cut up and prepared a couple days ahead of time, stored in plastic containers, carted to the picnic spot of your choice in an insulated cooler, and assembled on site. I recommend serving in those el cheapo Pyrex custard dishes you can get four-for-a-buck at the local Dollar Store, because not only are they retro fabulous cool-looking, they're also tough as nails. You can cart them anywhere.

For the lemon curd, I've used Martha Stewart's recipe for years and it hasn't failed me yet. Easy to make, tangy-delicious, and super duper versatile, the curd works beautifully as a topping for ice cream, a fruit tart filling, or mixed with cream cheese for a kicked up carrot cake icing. And it's delicious slathered on toast first thing in the morning.

The meringue cookies are likewise easy to make. Ingredients:

4 egg whites (use the yolks for the curd)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup superfine sugar (regular ol' granulated will work, too, but superfine makes a crisper meringue)
Your choice food coloring

Beat the whites in a stand mixer on medium high with 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar until foamy. Turn mixer to high and beat in sugar, one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is glossy and sticky-stiff, about 4-5 minutes. Add eight drops your choice food coloring and mix until well incorporated, then pipe or dollop the meringue on a Silpat-lined baking sheet, pop into a 225º F for 1-1/4 hours, turn the oven off, leave cookies inside of another 60-75 minutes, then serve.

Take along your favorite bubbly libation and, bam, instant picnic desert without the hassle.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Everyone's a Winner

Usually, I would disagree; however, when it comes to the Valles Caldera Trail Race, then I'm fine with the sentiment. Because everyone who finishes gets to go home with one of these beautiful finishers' medals, hand-made by a Jemez Pueblo potter.

That's S.B.'s on the left—a quail. Mine is a turkey. Coolest finishers' bling, ever.

This was also the most fun I've had on a trail run, even if the course was wicked difficult. We started at 8,000 feet, negotiating the gentle ups and downs of about three miles of forest trail before emerging in the Caldera valley for a full mile of flat running.

The views were so gorgeous and I was feeling so good, I almost forgot that in trail running, what comes down, must go up. In this case, nearly two miles of slog up a section of the mountain that I swear must have averaged a 15 to 20 percent grade. Parts of the run could easily have been a scramble. Suddenly, all those Speedy Gonzales road runners who passed me in the first part of the race started to drop behind me like flies. I knew a lifetime spent hiking and running the Sandia mountains would eventually come in handy. If not in speed, then in endurance. Even if those runners eventually caught right back up to me . . . Stupid speedy people.

Then the best part of the race: another 1.5 miles of straight down hill, dodging roots and saplings and picking out footholds among sheets of scree and talcum-powder sand. I dug in behind one young gal who danced her way down the slope, following her lead to the bottom in what my Garmin told me was a 9-something min. mile pace.

The last five miles took us back through the valley, then up more high-ass hills, then back down another gentle decline to the finish line, where my step dad and S.B. (who'd finished about 30 minutes prior) were waiting to snap photos. My final time was a few minutes under three hours, my goal for the race.

Had Mother Nature not kicked up gale force winds that coated every surface of our bodies—including our eyeballs and the insides of our mouths—with grit, we would have hung out for the post-race festivities. I feel bad for the race organizers, as just about everyone was doing the same thing, but it was nearly impossible to even stand upright in those gusts. Too bad, because with the exception of some decidedly lacking aid stations, it was a great race.

Even better? This is the first Sunday in eight weeks I haven't had to wake up and head out for a long run. Hellllllllloooo, Sunday. I almost forgot what it was like to be this lazy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Everything I Need to Know in Life I Can Learn From the Desert

1. Once you hit temps in the triple digits, there really is no difference between 100º Fahrenheit and 110º. It's all hot.

2. But it's a dry heat.

3. Sweat is nothing but air-conditioning.

4. It's nearly impossible for wild critters to sneak up on you. Unless they swoop down silently from the sky. But that's only bad news if you're a rabbit. Or a squirrel.

5. Stare for 45 seconds at an image of blue skies and red rocks, then look at a white wall. Coooooool.

6. Next to porn, the best way to get rich quick is to appropriate the traditions of our Native desert peoples and recast them as healing remedies for spiritually bereft upper middle class women with revolving credit.

Yah-tah-hey, have you aligned your chi with Great Spirit today?

Happy Birthday, Shamu!

Greetings and best wishes for a wonderful birthday, brought to you by the Great Southern Utah Slick Rock Squirrel. A rare sighting, indeed, because in Utah, squirrels most often go by the name of Hawk Jerky.

Enjoy your special day!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Utah Bound

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars—on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

— Robert Frost

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Overpowered by Funk

It's election day in Nuevo Mexico—primaries for governor being the most importante vote on the docket (seriously, does anyone ever pay attention to who's running for Under Sheriff? Secretary of Tea? Judge of the Court of Knuckleheadedness?)

The Demobrat candidate remains unopposed although the Republitards have put up a slew of candidates, two of which are talking head Party Dolls a la McCain and Palin and one of which needs to still hone his public speaking skills before he trots himself back out in public.

The two remaining candidates I actually believe are truly worthy of the office. Which means they have a snowball's chance in hell of getting elected.

Same as it ever was.

What's up in your part of the world?