Monday, December 29, 2008
Pay for Play Book Scams
Drawing parallels between selling books and selling senatorial seats has led me to certain conclusions, since "Play for Pay" exists in both instances. When it occurs in the political realm, it creates Moral Outrage, and justly so. But when it occurs in selling books, it never causes indignation, for it's simply seen as Good Marketing. Yet, it seems to me, that anyone interested in making sure that good candidates and good books rise to the top of the charts will conclude that Pay for Play does society a disservice.Walk into any of the chain stores and you will find up-front tables and counter space filled with large displays designed to catch the eye of wandering customers. "These are the worthwhile books," is the implication. Well, perhaps that might be true on occasion, but much more often than not, these titles are prominently displayed because the publisher "pays to play," by paying money to Borders or Barnes & Noble. This is a significant expense and forecloses exposure for titles published by any small press (of which there are thousands) who, if they are lucky enough to have a book in stock at a chain store, will have it on a shelf, spine showing, under whatever category it fits into.The moral outrage frequently found in the book business usually has to do with how the chains have forced independent booksellers out of business. Or how Amazon.com has also put pressure on all bookstores. But I would like to offer a different point of view, namely applause for both Amazon.com and the independent stores for leveling the playing field, and welcoming the fact that Borders is close to bankruptcy and hoping that Barnes & Noble, which is also facing financial pressures, will not be far behind. Nothing would please me more than seeing a consumer boycott of these chains to hasten this process. It would also help restore the ailing independent bookstores that now account for less than 25% of book sales, where a few decades ago they accounted for approximately 75%.When a book buyer goes to Amazon.com and hits a button for a book they've heard about, there is no pile of up-front competing books to distract them, nor are they tempted to buy something else because Amazon always has stock of titles that are not widely known even if they are well and widely reviewed. Also, the independents--members of the American Booksellers Association--are far more likely to cater to a more demanding clientele, reflecting the taste of both owners and staff. The "Indie's" have also set up their own program to bring quality books to the public through their Indie Next List (earlier called the Book Sense Picks List)--titles chosen from pre-publication copies made available to these stores from which they select 40 books a month from the hundreds submitted.For the past 30 years we've been publishing one book each month, and in that time have earned as many honors per book as any publisher in America. Since October we've had a series of six excellent reviews in Publishers Weekly--the bible of the book business. Three were for novels already released: Roccie Hill's tale of the rock scene in the early 70's, Three Minutes on Love ("A wonderful debut"), Lucia Orth's starred review set in the Philippines, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop ("A stellar first novel"), M.F. Bloxam's eerie The Night Battles, set in Sicily ("Fine literary horror") and for three yet to come: Efrem Sigels tale of the parents reaction to the disappearance of their fourteen year old son, due out in February, The Disappearance ("A powerful and elegantly crafted novel"), Daniel Klein's The History of Now, due in March ("A charming philosophical lesson of destiny and history colliding"), and Ivan Goldman's The Barfighter, due in April ("Brings to life the sleazy underbelly of professional boxing"). You are not likely to find them in Barnes & Noble, however, for we haven't paid that piper his fee for playing. But you will be able to see them and order from Amazon.com and, perhaps, your local independent, or read about them and order directly from The Permanent Press website http://www.thepermanentpress.com/And here is my take on the economy: Last week the Federal Reserve said they would be printing money, as much as needed, to stimulate the economy. This goes beyond borrowing through bonds or from China, for why would anyone lend money to a country that is constantly increasing its astronomical deficits and whose politicians insist on tax reductions that only worsen the situation?The problem with this latest "fix" is that it's reminiscent of what happened in the Weimar Republic in Germany between the two World Wars, where printing money without real reserves led to hyper-inflation, with citizens having to take wheelbarrows full of German marks to the grocery story to buy a few bags of food. Or, more currently, the run-away inflation in Zimbabwe. This printing of money without backing-up its value is fraught with danger. If one dollar in today's currency will be valued at $500 some time in the future, it's easy for the government to pay back its loans: $200 dollars--value-wise--in today's currency would have a face-value of $100,000, an easy way to pay off debt. But it will be hell for those citizens who thought their money was safe if they put it in a bank as opposed to buying securities.One can only hope that the incoming Obama administration will do something to rectify this situation as, for all the talk about our being in recession, the fact of the matter is we seem to approaching the cusp of the next "Great Depression."Marty Shepard
Posted by the book stops here at 10:30 AM 2 comments
Labels: Pay for Play Book Scams
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
LONE WHAT? … The Cone is a cinder plug that floated to the top of the magma heap like a big cork & over the millennia has shed its mantle of surface rubble to reveal the basement rock from deep within the paleocore – above timberline steep scree slopes of fractured igneous, often wreathed in clouds around the storms that buffet its mother mountain peak … As graceful a Grand Teton as Mother Earth provides, but up close a shattered skeleton of slippery stones … I live on Wright’s Mesa, looking south to Lone Cone, as one of my wives used to say.
IRREGULAR? … Was hoping to make this more regular than it’s been (just one column back in November). But still recovering from my father passing, and the campaign hullabaloo. Happily, Obama won in D.C., and I won a fourth term in San Miguel County … Hoping to share my three-dot style of journalism a wee bit more often than once a quarter.
YOUTH VOTE … For the past seven years the Southwest Colorado Chapter of the Green Party in Montezuma County has been sponsoring a candidate forum at the Montezuma-Cortez High School. This year they asked me to moderate, which meant guiding students through a morning civics class in American democracy … I did an intro, and got to do a short summation on the importance and responsibility of voting at the end. But most of the two-hour special program for civics class students from MCHS, Dolores High School and SouthWest Open School got taken up with a roundtable give-and-take directly among students and candidates. Each candidate took a seat at one of eight tables, and the 100 or so kids were parceled out in small clusters of a dozen or so. Candidates included 58th Colo. House District candidates Noelle Hagan of Montrose and hometown favorite Scott Tipton of Cortez; Montezuma County Commissioner candidates Fred Blackburn and Alfred Hughes (incumbent Larrie Rule called in sick and candidate Paul Young was a no-show); 22nd District Attorney candidates, incumbent James Wilson and challenger Mac Myers; and members of the League of Women Voters talking about the many bond issues. Students spent a half-hour with one candidate, and then moved to a second table for the second half-hour … Since I know Commissioner Rule and have attended meetings with him, I took his table, and tried to explain his political philosophy, as best I could, although he is a very conservative Republican. That was an interesting exercise, but soon the kids were more interested in getting my reactions to their questions --- “Do you believe in gun control?”, “Should schools be run democratically?” and a long discussion led by one young woman about Amendment 48 and how making zygotes persons could lead to far more teen pregnancies … It was gritty stuff. Good stuff to be discussed. And I spoke at the end of how democracy only works if we get involved, informed. How voting was a responsibility of a citizen, and how important and precious it was to be able to make our choices known, and to have our choice be honored to represent us … The more I reflected on the afternoon, the more sense it made to offer this kind of program for our young people. And the prouder I was of the Southwestern Colorado chapter of the Colorado Green Party. What better way to further the key value of grassroots democracy than by hosting a forum for youth about to be given the franchise of voting?
NORWOOD … Okay, the t-shirt logo “NorwoodStock” may have been over the top, but the Norwood Arts & Music Festival back in October was one helluva party, with kickass bands and wild women & wild men, dancing & partying. Plus, there were great booths, private parties and the kind of mingling that you don’t see up in Telluride as much anymore – Rastafarians & bikers right up along side ranchers & framers … ‘Course, my fav performance was hearing the illustrious Joan McKinney tinkling the ivories in the old Log Cabin. What a gifted pianist, and she doesn’t read music, does it all from ear. She had many of us, old and young (a category that’s becoming increasingly fuzzy for this paleohippie), entranced or moved to sing along … The first annual NAMF put Norwood on the map as heavy on the happening and short on the once-familiar snores. It was a rock-em sock-em Saturday night along the Gurley Ditch and out back beside the fire station … Huge kudos to everyone connected to this marvelous first timer, but I want to single out Jim and Steve Dabal, Margie Huebner, Pirate Rob, Anatasia Turner and Kristina Stellhorn for all the work they did in getting the event off the ground … It was nice to have the entire Lower Basin community involved – Nucla to Norwood Hill. There may be imaginary county boundaries separating the San Miguel Basin, but it’s all one watershed on the ground … Two Candles and the Livery are GREAT venues, and the Log Cabin is about as historical as it gets beyond Telluride’s mining camp Victorians … So, forget the old nickname, Snorewood. Things are changing on Wright’s Mesa, and Grand Avenue is a happening place at last.
MONTHLY QUOTA … "Republicans believe in socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor." –John Kenneth Galbraith … You know, as a political progressive, passionately interested in social justice since I left the Catholic seminary 40 years ago, it’s embarrassingly ironic to watch a Republican administration propose a bailout, which is really a buy-out, which is really the state taking control of private financial institutions. A textbook case of socialist policy – nationalizing the means of production … It’s hard for me to understand how anyone with the Republicans could claim to be a conservative (no matter how much lipstick you put on the pig) when their highest elected official has chosen socialism (not the free market) to deal with our current financial crisis … No wonder I’m a Green.
-for Bill Hickey
Too damned old & leonine?
No, I’m bolder & wiser,
Hold bedrock values
in spite of the rainbows I wear.
Share citizens’ trust.
Truth is, this job makes you
change your mind
like teens change clothes.
Learn from whatever
you bump up against & can’t move.
Yes I sometimes roar.
about the People’s work.
Parse a certainty
for the lie it may be.
Sniff the wolves in sheepskin.
the best can be done
on bleeding arteries.
Like Vincent St. John knew.
Like Harvey Milk knew.
And dared to do.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
From his site, if you stretched your neck around the bend, the glint of the San Juan River, sliding by like a brown snake, can be seen. It’s rare for a crew to be so close to water. A Southwesternist spends most of his or her time in desert territories where water is a secret to be deciphered. If that can occur, you might just get a handle on how the ancient peoples lived here, how the Ancestral Puebloan navigated, in their ships of corn and adobe and pots, this desiccated place. At Mesa Verde, east of the site by twenty miles as the crow flies, the secret is behind the rock shelters that housed the people for their last hundred years – there the shale interrupts the slow drip of rain-time through sandstone, and the water is forced to come out, breaking the rock as it freezes and thaws, freezes and thaws, eventually forming the shelters themselves, and seep springs in the back of them. The rest is just human manipulation, age-old tricks of check dams and a few feeble reservoirs, and perhaps, when John is dreaming up stories at the onset of storms, the hurried footsteps of women with enormous ollas putting them out at the pour-over line, where a good rain will curtain off the top of the mesa and over the rim of the rock shelter.
At Wupatki, cradled in the shadow of Sunset Crater, the secret was the volcanic soil. Things could look bone-dry on the surface, but scratch the knobby cinders and the color of wet would greet you less than an inch down. At the site he has run from, with the bones and residues of blood, two miles down the drainage lies the San Juan. An easy source. A place where, when conditions are just right, say, in early August when the light switches ever so subtly to autumn, the water and the sun do a dance of a thousand winks, and he thinks: So this is joy...
Monday, December 22, 2008
Hopefully these direct actions will help put a damper on these atrocities and raise the question of what we truly stand to lose by destroying these lands.
My hat goes off to you Tim. There is something to be said for acting on an ethical whim-for seeing a situation to make a difference and taking the chance. I only hope that more action will be taken in the months to come to defend these wild places, and that the upcoming administration will do its part to protect wild lands for future generations. I know I'll do my part-how will you choose to act? Check out the video in the blog below or at Democracynow.org
Keep to the low and wild places!
Patrick Shea, a Clinton-era head of the Bureau of Land Management, has offered to represent DeChristopher in any legal actions, and though at this point he lacks the $1,700,000 it would take to claim his winning bids on 22,000 acres, this act of very civil disobedience will delay any re-auctioning of a few pieces of Utah's canyon country until after January 20th. DeChristopher further explains his action on the One Utah blog, where you can thank him, and donate to a legal fund.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Dock Ellis hath passed. Long may he throw celestial strikes. With sparks trailing the pitches ...
Hear Dock tell the story himself:
Friday, December 19, 2008
For myself, that means a few strategic maneuvers: letting the faucets and toilet drip in the downstairs bathroom, so they don't freeze; throwing a big fatty log in the woodstove before heading up to bed; moving the mailbox down to the tree along the walkway so the mailman doesn't have to scale the glacier that bulges on our front step in midwinter (it is, I am fairly sure, the only glacier on Earth that is advancing).
Beyond that, though, I'm looking forward to it. I like to fully inhale the breath of winter's breadth, and now that I've had some nice deep gulps of snow (three most glorious powder days at Purgatory this week -- now that's the way to start a ski season!), I owe winter its depth of cold. Bring it on.
Of course, here on the southern flank of the Southern Rockies, even in the depth of winter the cold is pretty shallow. A few degrees below zero, maybe, for a week, maybe. Last year, if I remember correctly, winter managed to plunge us to double-digits below zero; still, though, for self-anointed mountain folk, Durango's so-called cold is a mere splash in a puddle.
For real submersion, you need to head to the deep end of winter's pool. There you'll find folks throwing blankets over the hoods of their cars, or plugging in electric heaters attached to the blocks of their cars' engines, or pulling their car batteries into the bedroom with them where they will hopefully awakened warm, refreshed, and ready to crank over a crankcase full of sludgy-cold tranny oil in the morning.
I learned those tricks and many more during the several years I spent living in the Fraser Valley, in northern Colorado, in the 1980s. In the Fraser Valley (which includes the town of Fraser, the self-proclaimed "Icebox of the Nation," even though the town lost a bitter trademark dispute with International Falls, Minn., over that moniker), an unusual geologic feature creates what is essentially a high-altitude sink where the cold pools in a fierce, dense, frigid pool that frequently submerges the towns of Winter Park, Fraser, and Tabernash in temperatures of 40 degrees below zero and lower.
The coldest temperature I, myself, experienced was in Tabernash, when it hit 62 degrees below zero. While I hitchhiked to work that clear, crystal, still morning, smoke from nearby chimneys snaked down off roofs and crawled to the ground, and snow fell from my breath.
After that, Durango feels tropical, and its week of single-digit sub-zero temps a cute little anomaly in an otherwise lovely climate.
Well, what Durango is to the Fraser Valley, the Icebox of the Nation -- whichever one you really believe deserves to be billed as such -- is to Oymyakon. Located in Siberian Russia, Oymyakon holds the record for the coldest temperature for an inhabited place in the northern hemisphere: -71.2 degrees Celcius.
In Oymyakon, according to the news segment below (recorded in 1996), birds freeze to death in flight, but the residents are tough as nails. It gets hard to breath at around 60 below zero, reports the grinning town "weatherman." And even the kids are resilient: At the Oymyakon school, students have recess until 40 below zero, and school isn't called off until the temperature sinks to minus 52.
I'll take Durango -- or even Tabernash -- any winter's day.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
that 90% of all colon procedures
identify cancerous growths.
So it’s also true that being 50
gives you only a 50% chance
of finding polyps in the tract
where men (mostly) suffer
the indignities of being
probed for alien life.
Nothing, it seems, is conclusive
except that final breath
where all the fiber you ate
makes no difference
and the trouble you’ve feared
sneaks up from behind.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Think you know how to avoid the rush, and crush of an avalanche? Here's a terrain quiz, from csac.org.
Want to know more? The Silverton Avalanche School started enrollment for their 2009 classes today. According to the website, there are still open slots.
Can't wait to start learning more? Here is a reading list, suggested by the folks at the Avalanche School. Shop indie, and find your bookstore here.
Can't wait to get started? Check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center for snow conditions, before you pack that gear and hit the backcountry, beyond the beacons and safety nets.
Welcome back to winter, gang.
Monday, December 15, 2008
...MAJOR WINTER STORM WILL IMPACT THE REGION THROUGH WEDNESDAY...
.ANOTHER STRONG STORM SYSTEM WILL MOVE INTO THE REGION THIS AFTERNOON
AND TONIGHT ACCOMPANIED BY A POWERFUL UPPER LEVEL JET WHICH WILL
MOVE OVER THE FOUR CORNERS THIS EVENING. INCREASING PACIFIC
MOISTURE...COMBINED WITH COLD TEMPERATURES AND INSTABILITY WILL
LEAD TO ANOTHER ROUND OF HEAVY SNOW FOR THE MOUNTAINS OF EASTERN
UTAH AND WESTERN COLORADO THROUGH EARLY THURSDAY MORNING. THE
HEAVIEST SNOW WILL FALL ALONG SOUTHWEST FACING SLOPES...ESPECIALLY
ACROSS THE SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS IN SOUTHWEST COLORADO. STRONG WINDS
WILL ALSO ACCOMPANY THIS STORM.
TRAVEL ACROSS WESTERN COLORADO AND EASTERN UTAH WILL REMAIN HAZARDOUS
FOR MUCH OF THE UPCOMING WEEK.A WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 5 AM MST THURSDAY.
A POWERFUL WINTER STORM WILL MOVE INTO THE AREA THIS AFTERNOON AND
EVENING. SNOW WILL BECOME WIDESPREAD BY THIS EVENING AND CONTINUE
THROUGH THURSDAY MORNING. THERE WILL BE A PERIOD WHERE THE
INTENSITY OF SNOW DECREASES TUESDAY NIGHT...BEFORE ANOTHER SURGE
OF HEAVIER SNOW MOVES BACK IN WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON. TOTAL SNOWFALL
ACCUMULATIONS FROM 2 TO 3 FEET ARE EXPECTED BY EARLY THURSDAY
STRONG SOUTHWEST WINDS FROM 20 TO 35 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 60 MPH
WILL ALSO CAUSE WIDESPREAD BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW WITH LOCAL
A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW ARE
EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. STRONG WINDS ARE ALSO POSSIBLE. THIS WILL
MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS OR IMPOSSIBLE.
Also, a warning for those (us) skiers licking their chops
over this big dump:
A skier was killed in an avalanche at Snowbird Ski Resort
on Sunday after the area had received a foot of snow
over the weekend -- this even after avalanche control
had been done on the area. Watch the report here.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
|From Purg 14 dec 08|
And it was a good day to go: although only the front-side six-pack was open and only a handful of runs were open, the skiing that was there was excellent. Employees reported the area had at last received a foot and a half of light, lovely snow.
|From Purg 14 dec 08|
We spent most of the day hitting Paradise and Hades, and at midday patrollers opened Lower Pando and Lower Hades -- and we were lucky enough to be standing at the rope when they opened lower Hades, which led to a glorious back-country quality float trip down Hades' steep uncut face.
Changes at Purg? Well, the base area looked quite nice. The wide entranceway courtyard has a nice, cozy, throw-back ski-area feel to it, with it brick cobblestone
|From Purg 14 dec 08|
|From Purg 14 dec 08|
But, rest assured: other stuff that classic Purgatory haven't changed. My favorite personal gripes were left in tact:
- It was still that familiar unmanaged chaos at the six pack loading area - people trying to figure out how to merge the entrance lines, and six-seater chairs going up with one or two people while dozens wait below -- while at the loading area three employees, oblivious to the line-mess behind them, rake the snow and watch people load.
- The lifts and base area are still aurally sterile -- devoid of the festive music that imbue powder-day spirit at the base area and the tops and bottoms of lifts at most ski areas. Even the soundtrack to Purgy's restaurant of was the indecipherable mumbling from the TVs broadcasting two different football games.
And today, it would've been hard to improve the skiing.
|From Purg 14 dec 08|
It has begun ... Check out the slide show:
And more snow is a'comin' ...
Friday, December 12, 2008
There was no request to discontinue plowing by me. San Juan County informed me they had decided to stop plowing the last .3 miles of the road to save money this year. They actually posted signs as such this October near Gladstone. I simply pointed out that since they had already decided not to plow to the end of the road and we would have to ski further to the shuttle, they could likely add another .5 to it without changing how badly it affected us as we may be able to ski down part of the way until it flattened out about .4 miles north of the ski area.
The lack of plowing would have a negative impact on us as we prefer to drive to the end of the road for emergency reasons and our skiers prefer the shuttle from the end of the road, but I suggested we could groom it to make it more tenable. We would still have to run our shuttle up the road, as there is another .4 miles from the end of the plowing to the base area.
There was no request to stop running our shuttles. This decision to terminate plowing early is all San Juan County’s deal and really has nothing to do with me other than I was trying to help them with their budget woes by being unselfish and cooperative when they told me about it. The lack of plowing will create some hardship for the ski area as we also prefer that they plow the road all the way, but we understand that they have serious budget woes and may need to make some sacrifices.
We all need to make sure San Juan County has enough money for county road avalanche control or the entire road won’t be open much at all, which is not a good alternative either. We pay thousands of dollars in direct payments each year to San Juan County for winter road maintenance to help keep the road open and know how bad their budget for CR 110 is this year.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Aaron Brill has asked the San Juan County Commissioners to not plow Cement Creek road past his lift. He doesn’t want to run the shuttles anymore [don't know any more motivation beyond that]. This would make the approaches to Bonita Peak/Gold King (Minnehaha), Corkscrew/Hurricane, Gwendaland, etc excessively long. The San Juan County Commissioners are meeting at 8am on the 15th and this topic is on the agenda. If you have an opinion on this, please contact the commissioners at the following by tomorrow, Friday at noon!
View Larger Map
Those concerned are urged to contact the San Juan County to ask the county to continue to plowing the and maintaining access public trailhead and ski access at the top of the Cement Creek road.
Email email@example.com or call the San Juan County Administrator, William Tookey, at 970.387.5766
The alert suggests points to make:
1) The parking area/trailhead at the end of Cement Creek Road has been kept open by the state or county plows for many decades. It leads to many backcountry areas used from October to May. Backcountry access is important for the county to maintain as it is what makes the Silverton area so popular with backcountry enthusiasts.You can also contact Silverton Mountain at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) Those who use this particular trailhead do not wish to ski at Silverton nor do they do want to park along the already crowded road near the ski area, which is a half-mile from the current Cement Creek trailhead.
3) Backcountry skiers from Ouray and Durango help support and "grow" the local San Juan economy, by buying gas, supplies, and other sundries in town.
4) The decisions to purchase many homes and properties in San Juan County have been spurred by the county-supported plowed access to higher elevation trailheads.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
(Durango Herald, November 22, 2008)
Church continues serving meals, despite losing use of Manna Soup Kitchen
(Durango Herald, December 9, 2008)
Not so many years ago, I traveled to a ground zero of disaster headlines with bags of clothing, food and a bit of money (all donated), to help spread around supplies that were dribbling in from all over the country. I'll leave description of the specific place to memory and imagination, but will say that the regional food bank was under water, normal methods of distribution and communication destroyed or, at best, intermittent and unreliable. I stayed until money, supplies and my energy gave out, searching out start-up food banks, meal and soup lines; and helping deliver whatever we could find to keep them going a few more days. They operated out of churches, in parking lots, and at private houses. Warming up with a meal revives hope, and a food bank sustains it with a promise of more to come.
Entering the most dangerous season for living on the edge, the two headlines above are storm warning signs for our little corner of paradise. People need food and warmth all year, 7 days each week. There is urgent need to explore and address the problems described in each story, while realizing that helping sustain hope, through seasonal and economic shifts in supply and demand, is up to each of us.
Here are a couple of places to start:
View Larger Map
View Larger Map
Unlike the disaster tale I told above, none of this is a start-up for Durango, and the Women's Resource Center has already put together a list of food resources.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
I left hungrier than ever to get out on my boards -- and happy and chipper and feeling damn fine about the shape of the next crop of ski bums.
Filmed in and around Purgatory, and other familiar local San Juan locales, Point of Interest is imaginative filming of good action melded with cool music and laced with witty humor. Produced and edited by the talented Matt Mulligan, and starring the skiing and boarding of Mulligan and other students, including David VanAtta, Ben Southworth, Cedar Jocks, Aidan Sheehad, Jenna Mulligan, and Derek Macguffie, the film was full of spirit and creativity and good fun.
And it struck me as a good, healthy, mountain-town rite of passage: the kids taking over the terrain -- done watching, and out doing.
The future of the mountain culture, I think, is in good hands.
Check it out:
POINT OF INTEREST (FULL MOVIE) by SHADOW PUPPET PRODUCTIONS from Matt Mulligan on Vimeo.
Friday, December 5, 2008
As a long-time bum (fishing, ski, van, river, desert, mountain, etc. etc.), I've found there are few things in life that are worth acquiring new. And that there are many, many ways -- many underground economies, and even many sources of free pickings -- to get goods that are plenty good. And cheap.
Which is important when you have built your life around living in the hinterlands of the American West, and around building the time in that life -- generally (at least in my case) at the expense of a more abundant income -- to get out and enjoy it.
Want less; do more. Know what I mean?
Hotchkiss, Colo.-based writer Craig Childs (author of the excellent and engaging House of Rain) knows what I mean. And he waxes philosophic about it -- his own and others' adventures in 21st century scavenging -- in a recent column in the LA Times.
Read Craig Childs' "Man as Scavenger." Then raise a tin-cup toast to hunting and gathering in the modern world!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The deer move as freely through our little city at the foot of the big mountains as do my teenage kids on their skateboards and bikes. We all share this space, even if warily. As do the other longer-term denizens of the Animas Valley, home and byway for wildlife since the glaciers went back to the hills for more rocks 10 millenia ago. Still wandering through our town's alleys and taking residence in our privately-owned backyard pastures are, along the with usual assortment of rodents and varmits, more wild wildlife: bear, elk, coyotes, and mountain lion.
And it's not just here in the remote San Juan Country where this is happening: Wildlife are moving into and squatting on suburban and urban landscapes all over the country. And not without consequence, for both human and non.
The causes and implications of this re-wilding of our urban habitat was the subject of an interesting discussion yesterday on NPR's "On Point," with host Tom Ashbrook. The show looked at the question, "Are animals crowding humans, or is it the other way around? Is hunting the way to solve problems between people and animals?"
Guests discussing the issue on the show were:
- Matthew Teague, a journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, The Atlantic, and elsewhere. His article in the Nov. 24 issue of Sports Illustrated is “A More Dangerous Game: How the decline of hunting is changing the natural order of predator and prey.”
- Doug Inkley, a wildlife biologist for the National Wildlife Federation, specializing in ecology and wildlife management.
- John Rocchetta, a land steward who manages properties on Long Island.
- Brian Vincent, founder of Big Wildlife, an Oregon-based conservation group.
Here, too, is the recent excellent piece on the state of hunting by Matthew Teague in Sports Illustrated.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Red Rock Forests is a Moab-based 501(c)3 non-profit formed nearly 10 years ago, in 1999. Originally called "Friends of the Abajos," the group is now dedicated to the protection of southeastern Utah's unique and fragile high-desert forest lands in and around the Abajo and La Sal mountains.
The organization's staff of six (including Monticello wilderness activist and writer Amy Irvine-McHarg, author of Trespass: Living at the edge of the promised land), with the help of volunteers, is working on several campaigns, including an updated inventory of legal and illegal roads in the Abajo Moutains, monitoring and commenting on Manti-La Sal National Forest management plans and proposals, and an outreach and education campaign on oil-and-gas and mineral development in the Canyonlands area.
They describe themselves thus:
Red Rock Forests strives to protect the sky-island mountains and plateaus above America's Redrock Wilderness in southern Utah, emphasizing the La Sal Mountains, Abajo Mountains, and Elk Ridge in the Canyonlands Basin. We recognize the vital ecological role these ranges play in sustaining Utah's desert wildlife and waterways. For this reason, ecology is our guiding principle, though we use education, public policy, the law, citizen action, and collaboration with other organizations and agencies to achieve protection for these irreplaceable high desert oases.Read more of their "about us" here.
Check out their newsletters and donate to join here.
Contact Red Rock Forests at email@example.com.
Time Magazine just named 2666 the Best Book of the Year. I would argue that it's the most important piece of fiction to come out in the last 50 years... which is just a large blanket statement designed for impact... a statement for which I have no argument or proof.
It's virtually impossible to describe this book. I can say that you haven't heard from me in a while because of it, I've been so immersed and so traumatized by it that my dreams have been infected, and I see visions of unnameable and indescribable...discomfort. There are 5 stories, all loosely connected to the enormous number of rape/murders that remain unsolved in the bordertown of Santa Teresa in the Sonoran Desert. Hundreds and hundreds of women have been brutally tortured and murdered without respite for the last decade and a half. The crimes remain unsolved.
Bolano dances around the issue in the first three parts of the book, but part four... part four. Each woman killed, how she was found, who she was, what they did to her. It's awful. He names them, describes them, and humanizes them enough in a paragraph or two to make each one devastating. the sheer number of them, though, no matter how well we know them, or how personal it gets, we just cannot remember them, and therein lies the genius of this section. Each becomes part of a faceless mob of corpses, and they just keep coming. This is why nothing has been done, Bolano seems to be saying. The sheer overwhelming numbers almost makes each death meaningless in the face of the bigger atrocities.
By no means an easy read, but as Kafka says:
"If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skulls, then why do we read it? Good God, we also would be happy if we had no books and such books that make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. What we must have are those books that come on us like ill fortune, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us."
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
and our famous foursome of Durango breweries: Ska, Steamworks, Durango, Carvers. Holiday "Cheers!" to all brewmasters, in no particular order.
For a fine head of Guinness foam, check out the scene at Durango's Irish Embassy, and give a shout out to Lani or Sarah. If you'd like 12 or 16 inches of pure pleasure with that beer, better give our hometown Home Slice pizza guys a chance to pull one for you.
(Both videos are courtesy Science Friday's online archive, and here you can find a beer science story.)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Today the air thickened and the sky paled with the welcomed sensual early symptoms of an approaching winter storm. And I feel all the better for winter's imminent arrival because I got in a last blast of river season over the weekend.
It was a cool blast, for sure. When the sun was out -- or was shining on the same side of the canyon I was paddling -- it felt like we were really in the desert outback of Utah's San Juan River. But when the sun's low near-solstice slant was sliced by the canyon rim or, more so, when it made its early-evening descent behind the sandstone landscape, the cold grabbed hold and was held at bay only by the thickest polyester shields and the primeval radiant warmth and security of a driftwood fire.
Colors, too, were subdued, robbed of the life of summer -- but offering up a purer, deeper sense of raw bone against the bottomless blue of the November sky. And at night? The stars were ridiculous.
We were too, probably, seven guys away rom work and family and the general demands of the daily business's busyness. But we sucked up every glorious minute of it -- three days of paddling and guitar playing and bocci throwing and beer drinking and talking and sleeping out for two glorious and treasured bonus nights alongside the river.
Remembering yet again why we live here. And love it here. And fight for here.
And now we turn our eyes toward that slow-building proto-river we call the Snowpack ...
Click on the slideshow below for mo' and biggah pics.
When will America wake up and read the calligraphy on the wall?
Local writers, take a stand! Go to every stationary store across the Four Corners and purchase all the ordinary ink pens in stock. If you can afford it, buy the fancy fountain pens, gel tip gliders, graffiti markers, highlighters, mechanical pencils, regular wooden pencils (in all varieties of hardness), and laundry pens. Especially laundry pens.
A bullet only leaves an impression, but a good ink pen can make a point.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Let's not strain anything patting ourselves on the back just yet though, because we're running several decades behind the curve on this one. Many lost ideals ago, I was an operational cog in a couple of free transit systems, in other self-congratulatory paradises far, far away from home...
One system moved a large percentage of 4 million+ yearly visitors from one grand national park view to the next. The buses carried up to 100 people each and ran on propane. The talk was of banning all private cars from park roads in the near future. Then oil prices dropped. The last time I visited, smog from power plants and internal combustion engines clouded the views; and the roads were clogged with cars, SUVs, and tour buses. The free bus system belched diesel smoke, service was reduced to an inconvenience, and the buses ran half-empty.
The other - ah, paradise, at any price! I lived in a cheap trailer slum just outside of a ski town, and drove a free bus for a decent wage. I carried local paupers and self-anointed royals, on my appointed rounds through neighborhoods ranging in price from the low-shelters to the high-exorbitants. An abandoned rail-bed through the valley was on track to become a bike/ski commuter path. We were on the way to post-car craze enlightenment. But housing costs kept rising, chasing job-holding locals down-valley. A few years later, the bike path plan was shelved for lack of interest, the bus system carried mostly visitors, and the 'local' work-force commuted from up to 60 miles away. My 'decent wage' was pushing me down-valley with the rest, so I just kept going.
Now, here we are - fresh from a round of oil industry rapaciousness that pushed Durango-area transit use up 30-some percent over 2007. Our president-in-waiting promises to move us toward alternative energy, and Colorado governor Bill Ritter's statewide focus on renewable energy production seems to be bearing local fruit in last week's announcement of a plan to make oil from algae near Ignacio, and last spring's exploration of solar power farming near the same town. With all this and the promise of free buses to keep us warm, what could go wrong?
Yesterday, I filled my old Subaru up with good old, bad old unleaded gas, and the total on the pump didn't make me cringe. Don't get me wrong, I'm still living in a trailer just outside of town here in our paradise, can't afford $4 gas, and am not advocating the tough love of keeping energy costs at luxury levels. I am pointing out that cost-based conversions are notably temporary. Though there are plenty of reasons (a tanked economy, climate change, trade deficits, etc.) to replace fossil fuels with other means of warming, cooling and transporting our society, faith in change fades with falling prices at the pump. Unless pushed by a committed and vocal citizenry, no administration will be able to convert us to alternative, renewable, sustainable energy production and use.
Though my once high ideals are long tempered by broken promises and the pragmatism of survival, I've lived long enough to prove that change is always possible, so I've been exploring some options lately.
Amping up the ailing auto industry was discussed on radio program Science Friday this week, and here are some avenues for further exploration:
- Plug In America promotes nationwide development of all-electric vehicles. One currently in production goes over 200 miles per 4-hour charge on recyclable batteries. Though the current sports-car model is way, way out of my price range, the Tesla Motors rep revealed that his company has applied for a bit of the guaranteed loans being promised by our government, to jump-start production of a sedan at half the price.
Whether vehicles have electric, internal combustion, or hybrid engines, energy has to go into the tanks and batteries. Whether it's pond scum algae, solar or wind generated electricity, gas from grass (corn and sugarcane), or the same old fossil technologies we've loved and hated for several lifetimes - should be up to us, not to the rising and falling fortunes of energy corporations and politicians. If you want more information on sustainable energy and economics, check out a Green Festival near you:
If you still have a few bucks to spend, a Green Festival is coming to Denver next year; but why wait? With the economic wounds of fuel price gouging still bleeding, and more corporate bail-outs blowing in the wind, it's time to press the loan officers known as Congress, Colorado's Legislature, Governor Bill Ritter, and the incoming Obama administration to require corporate business plans that deliver sustainable energy production and use to the masses, rather than continuing to transport massive wealth to self-proclaimed oil royalty at home and abroad. It's long past time to press the political brain-trusts of La Plata and San Juan (N. M.) counties to institute a transit system up and down the Animas River valley, to connect the economic zone that stretches from Purgatory to Farmington. We elect them to represent our interests. Now times are hard again, and it's time they get to work.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Here are some good ones....
When you put in a DVD, how does it know where to find the show?
When are you going to get "real" TV, you know, with channels?
How does a camera work?
Why are we walking through the alley?
When can you get me a turtle?
What does "combination" mean?
Why don't people like John McCain?
Why don't people like Barack Obama?
Have you gotten TV yet?
How does the radio know where to go?
What's a moron?
Anybody that wants to fill in this answers is more than welcome to, I'll relay the information.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Once past a somewhat ill-tuned banjo intro, the good doctor spins a humor-filled tale of revulsion, confusion, defiance, compassion, exploration, conviction, and dedication to an ideal grounded in respect for the physical (and emotional) environment we all inhabit.
Check out some more "ideas worth spreading," on the TED site.
Ed Quillen, writing on High Country News' Goat Blog, says that the idea of selling public lands to help pay off the nation's bloating national debt -- now at more than $10.5 trillion -- is, like chronic heartburn, bubbling up again.
Quillen cites in particular a blog post on Marginal Revolution, in which economist Tyler Cowen argues:
The idea of whoring -- um, liquidating -- public land comes around whenever the Treasury seems in need of a quick and easy infusion of class. And there is some historical precedent for this, Quillen writes. "The only time in American history that the federal government was totally out of debt came on Jan. 1, 1835, during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, and it was land sales that provided much of the federal income that made this possible."
The Federal Government owns more than half of Oregon, Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Alaska and it owns nearly half of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming … It is time for a sale. Selling even some western land could raise hundreds of billions of dollars — perhaps trillions of dollars — for the Federal government at a time when the funds are badly needed and no one want to raise taxes. At the same time, a sale of western land would improve the efficiency of land allocation.
Does a sale of western lands mean reducing national parkland? No, first much of the land isn’t parkland. Second, I propose a deal. The government should sell some of its most valuable land in the west and use some of the proceeds to buy low-price land in the Great Plains.
The western Great Plains are emptying of people. Some 322 of the 443 Plains counties have lost population since 1930 and a majority have lost population since 1990.Now is the time for the Federal government to sell high-priced land in the West, use some of the proceeds to deal with current problems and use some of the proceeds to buy low-priced land in the Plains creating the world’s largest nature park, The Buffalo Commons.
In another interesting instance, Quillen explains why Texas has so little public land:
Texas has very little federal land. That's a result of the Compromise of 1850. Recall that Texas was an independent republic from 1836 to 1844, and ran up some bills. It also claimed half of New Mexico and a strip that extended north through Colorado into Wyoming. In the Compromise, Texas agreed to its current boundaries. In return, the federal government agreed to pay off the old republic's debts, and the public lands inside the Lone Star State were turned over to the state government instead of being retained by the federal government. Texas managed to get someone else to pay off its "national debt," and got title to its public lands -- that's a better deal than we're likely to see if the federal government starts offering land for sale.
And in recent years, there have been similar, very serious (regardless of how preposterous) proposals. For example: The Forest Service planning to sell some 300,000 acres of public land to pay for a federal program; Sen. Richard Pombo’s proposal to sell some national parks to help pay off the national debt; and the Cato Institute, the highly influential free-market think tank, arguing in favor of selling the Grand Canyon to the Disney Corporation.
The reason this can happen today, Quillen argues, is that most people don't understand what public lands are or are for. And one of the reasons for that is that so much of the nation's federal public lands are in the West.
States with highest percentage of state area that is federal land:
- Nevada 84.5%
- Alaska 69.1%
- Utah 57.4%
- Oregon 53.1%
- Idaho 50.2%
- Arizona 48.1%
- California 45.3%
- Wyoming 42.3%
- New Mexico 41.8%
- Colorado 36.6%
- Connecticut 0.4%
- Rhode Island 0.4%
- Iowa 0.8%
- New York 0.8%
- Maine 1.1%
- Kansas 1.2%
- Nebraska 1.4%
- Alabama 1.6%
- Ohio 1.7%
- Illinois 1.8%
This, in my mind, is one of the greatest challenges to the long-term protection of our public lands: Not just fighting the legal and legislative battles, but also giving people -- everyone -- the whys to go along with the whats and hows. We need a re-engagement with the idea of The Commons, and a re-enchantment with the future generations that those Commons are held in common for.
We need to put the public back in our public lands!
More to come on this ...