Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Strange Kind Of Limbo

Waiting for the carpet to be installed at work. Working on a limited, slow computer now.

"The Return" by Christy Newman

When I was in Albuquerque in early November, I met my sister Marra and brother-in-law Ken for a quick lunch at a restaurant. They were smiling and eager, and pressed a copy of "The Return" by Christy Newman into my hands. Christy is the daughter of Gordon and Kimberly Newman. Gordon is Ken's brother, so Christy is my brother-in-law's niece, which means extended family. It's been a number of years since I've seen Gordon and Kimberly, so I met Kimberly as a little girl, if I met her at all. Ken and Marra explained that Christy and her sister have taken to writing books in recent years, and are getting good at it.

Christy is about fifteen now, and largely-wrote "The Return" when she was twelve. Identical to the manner I self-published my recent "Guidebook to Breaking Bad Filming Locations" in April of this year, she also publishes via CreateSpace on Amazon.com. "The Return" was published in September, 2014.

Christy and her sister have interesting, and laudable, work habits. Both Christy and her sister isolate themselves in separate bedrooms in the family home and shoot messages back and forth via Internet chat as they write manuscripts, encouraging each other, and making suggestions. Writing can be a lonely pursuit, but it is much less so if you have a close confidant and confederate.

Since the family lives on the farthest-flung edge of the Albuquerque area, they are able to keep and ride horses, so the most-notable parts of Christy's writing are excellent descriptions of horses and horse life, formed from many hours of direct experience and observation. Teenage girls love horses, in general, but it's even better if you actually have horses.

Today, I read "The Return".

The story is an all-but-in-name Christian salvation tale: Cain-vs.-Abel meets medieval fantasy:
There was a time when the world of Terion was ruled by the Valdari, who brought peace and protection to all. Then a great darkness crept over the world. The stories say after many years of war, the Valdari met the Shirak in one last great battle, in their own capitol city, Tayon Valdar. In the height of the battle, the Valdari sacrificed their lives to destroy the Shirak. It left their once beautiful city in ruins. Their sacrifice did, however, bring peace for many years. Then the darkness once more began to steal over the land. The legend tells of a day when the Shirak will return and the hope of the people will fade. All would seem lost. A mighty red stallion would appear and find his master, and they would restore peace to Terion. However, in order to do that someone must first convince this mysterious master the land cannot be saved any other way.
Two brothers with advanced Valdari powers vie with each other: the patient, peace-loving younger brother Cade, and the wraith-like embodiment of evil, older brother Ryden. The protagonist, young teenage rider Mildana, journeys with Cade and fellow rider Terik to save her family, which had been kidnapped in the Shirak advance, and to save the world from evil.

I was on the lookout for specific indications of New Mexico landscapes, but there was none of that. The landscape was well-known medieval fantasy Europe: Middle Earth, basically. There was one interesting thing, though. Her adventures start when she ignores the voice in her head telling her not to travel to the city of Namwen. Danger lurks on that road! Unbeknownst to her, the voice comes from a telepathic horse, the mysterious Red Stallion. Plus, Namwen is Newman, backwards. Curious.

There are many journeys in this book, often told as flashbacks, as Cade and Ryden struggle over each other's souls, but the specific motivations for these journeys rarely seemed clear in my mind. The point seemed to be that they were journeying, seeing the world, and making themselves vulnerable in the process. The trips, not the destinations, are all that mattered.

Plus, great descriptions of horses and how they think.

I found the use of language curious, and sometimes clunky. It was best not to dwell on usage and simply hurtle along with the tale. I think maybe things just look different from a teenaged girl perspective. Some sentences caught my approval, like:
"Their angry opponent rushed backwards, now having no weapon but his power, which was still quite powerful in and of itself."

To my surprise, the variety of Christianity under discussion was less emotional and more stringent - kind of a Covenant or Puritanical strain:
Cade shook his head saying, "'All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.' As it is written, 'There is none righteous, no, not one'." At that, Milana and Terik looked at each other, and then back at Cade. "Then how will we be saved?" Milana asked quietly. "Salvation is by grace, or in other words, undeserved mercy... 'For of yourselves: it is the gift of the Lord: Not of works, lest any man should boast', he informed them. "You mean we don't have to do anything...?" Milana's voice whispered. "Only this... 'Trust in HIM with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding'," he said simply.
Good advice for saving Ryden from his misery!

Since I don't read many novels, in general, I worried whether I'd have sufficient attention span to read this particular novel, but as it turned out, the story moves along quickly. It isn't a difficult read at all, but consistently entertaining.

Check it out!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Theory of Everything



Saw the biopic of Cosmologist Stephen Hawking at the Tower Theater. As part of teaching my Astronomy class I quickly read "A Brief History Of Time - From the Big Bang to Black Holes", and was pleasing to hear the ideas in that book being clearly and concisely repeated in the film.

A very English movie, focusing on the crucible of English science, Cambridge University. Eddie Redmayne is a good actor, but I was most-impressed with Felicity Jones' portrayal of Jane Hawking. She's the true center of this movie, dealing with the various stresses imposed by Stephen Hawking's ALS. So brave! So young! And Felicity Jones is so pretty!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cobra Starship: Never Been In Love ft. Icona Pop

Marty Ralph Explains About Atmospheric Rivers



I used to be the lab TA in a meteorology class Marty took. It's nice seeing him in his element.

A Little Ahead Of Average

So, at Sacramento Executive Airport, they received about 5.91" of rain for December, so far, and that is above the average of 3.25". We were a bit behind for November, but still, it means we are ahead of average now. And there are more storms coming this month too. During the winter, the baseline regarding what counts as average shifts quickly, so nothing is settled yet, but at least we've got a good start to having at least a normal winter. The current drought is so bad - the worst in 1,200 years, researchers say - that it's going to take years to undo the damage, even if it's possible.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley - Set Up Shop

At the Laure Courtellemont workshop on Friday, in Session 1, she taught a dance to this music:




Here she is, in a yellow cap in Moscow, doing the dance she taught.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Friday, December 05, 2014

TNR Mass Exodus

TNR sold their souls two decades ago.  In recent years, they tried to backtrack a bit from the vileness of 2004, but their god Satan is a jealous god, and they couldn't pull away from neoconservatism. And now they are in collapse. As they should be!:
There is a mass exodus underway at The New Republic, with more than 30 editors resigning from the distinguished liberal institution on Friday.

The resignations were prompted by Thursday's big shakeup. Longtime editor Franklin Foer and literary editor Leon Wieseltier each announced that they were leaving their posts amid some sweeping changes at the century-old magazine.

Guy Vidra, a former Yahoo News executive who was hired as TNR's CEO in September, announced in a memo that the magazine would cut its publication schedule in half, going from 20 issues per year to 10. Vidra also said that the Washington institution would relocate its headquarters to New York City.

It's a watershed moment for TNR and its owner Chris Hughes, the Facebook co-founder who bought the magazine in 2012. Hughes has made no secret of his digital-centric vision for TNR. In an interview with the New York Times last month, he said he no longer refers to TNR as a magazine, instead describing it as a "digital media company."

The moves, and the way Foer and Wieseltier were reportedly treated by Hughes and Vidra, have angered many veteran TNR contributors.

According to The Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove, Foer didn't discover he had been replaced as the top editor by Bloomberg Media's Gabriel Snyder until Gawker reported the rumor on Thursday afternoon. After seeing the Gawker post, Foer called Hughes to get confirmation.

On Friday morning, ahead of a scheduled 10 a.m. ET staff meeting, 10 contributing editors, including New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait and The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, submitted their resignations to Hughes.

There is a mass exodus underway at The New Republic, with more than 30 editors resigning from the distinguished liberal institution on Friday.


The resignations were prompted by Thursday's big shakeup. Longtime editor Franklin Foer and literary editor Leon Wieseltier each announced that they were leaving their posts amid some sweeping changes at the century-old magazine.

Guy Vidra, a former Yahoo News executive who was hired as TNR's CEO in September, announced in a memo that the magazine would cut its publication schedule in half, going from 20 issues per year to 10. Vidra also said that the Washington institution would relocate its headquarters to New York City.

It's a watershed moment for TNR and its owner Chris Hughes, the Facebook co-founder who bought the magazine in 2012. Hughes has made no secret of his digital-centric vision for TNR. In an interview with the New York Times last month, he said he no longer refers to TNR as a magazine, instead describing it as a "digital media company."

The moves, and the way Foer and Wieseltier were reportedly treated by Hughes and Vidra, have angered many veteran TNR contributors.

According to The Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove, Foer didn't discover he had been replaced as the top editor by Bloomberg Media's Gabriel Snyder until Gawker reported the rumor on Thursday afternoon. After seeing the Gawker post, Foer called Hughes to get confirmation.

On Friday morning, ahead of a scheduled 10 a.m. ET staff meeting, 10 contributing editors, including New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait and The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, submitted their resignations to Hughes.

...By Friday afternoon, the number of reported resignations had swelled to 45.

A Lot Riding On This Winter

The 3.49" of rain Sacramento received is the largest storm seen since the 4.40" received early in December, 2012, which is good, but the San Joaquin Valley didn't get much rain. It's still below average everywhere, but much better than last year's catastrophic shortfall. I just hope some of these birds and fishes can hold out long enough to benefit. The tri-colored blackbird, which used to number in the millions at one time, and was still the most-common bird in the Woodland/Davis area 20 years ago, was granted emergency protection a few days ago, because there are virtually none left (145,000 in scattered groups), and if we don't get adequate precipitation, NOW, it's going to go extinct.

Maybe some optimism.


Strange Things Did Happen Here

It's astonishing when the oldest style of Appalachian lament debuts at No. 12 on the Billboard charts!

A Breaking Bad/ Las Humanas Analogy

(draft)

Vince Gilligan may have used dark episodes of Native American history as sardonic commentary on the follies of his own anti-hero, Walter White. If Gilligan's choices weren't necessarily conscious choices, they nevertheless seem to fit a pattern.

(This is an extension of the same line of thought regarding my Breaking Bad/ Anasazi analogy post).

In Season 5b, episode 15, "Granite State", Walt flees Albuquerque for an isolated refuge in New Hampshire, where he slowly wastes away under the assault of cancer. The law is hot on his trail.

In time, he decides to reestablish contact with his family, and journeys to a bar in a small town eight miles from his refuge and makes a pivotal phone call to his son Flynn.

The bar chosen for the filming was the Ponderosa Bar, on Highway 337, about five miles northwest of Chilili. Thus, the filming takes place just within the realm of Las Salinas, the salt lakes of central New Mexico, east of the Manzano Mountains. In the 1600's, the Franciscans based 25 miles south of Chilili at Quarai had a sporadically-visited visita at Chilili, so the region of the Ponderosa bar was just within the Spanish orbit.

Like the Anasazi relied on their trademark blue turquoise, the Native Americans at Quarai and neighboring locations also relied on the mineral trade, but the mineral was white salt. Salt was a vital commodity, especially necessary for preserving buffalo meat, and sought by traders throughout the region. A variety of languages were spoken in ancient times in this area - Tiwa, Tano, and Tompiro - with Tompiro dominating (Kessell, 2011). There were likely Las Humanas (sometimes spelled Jumanos, or Xumanas) tribal influences as well.

The color theme of "Granite State" is also white (but from snow).

Even though the Tompiros at Las Humanas (Gran Quivira Pueblo) received visitors from over a wide area, there are indications they were unusually-resistant to adopting changes in material culture. Their pottery, for example, displayed designs and methods that were several hundred years behind potteries in the neighboring Rio Grande Valley and San Juan Basin. This conservative bias may have been born from the general conservatism of Puebloan peoples, plus their unusual isolation, plus the likelihood Las Humanas had incorporated in prior centuries Jornada Mogollon peoples from the south, who adopted the Puebloan ways, but appear to have resisted new innovations from their Puebloan cousins in the Rio Grande Valley.
But the mingling of diverse elements does not necessarily produce a virile strain. From a cultural background similar to that of other Tanoan speakers in the Rio Grande valley, the Jumano had developed a direction, a "slant," or cultural personality that was akin to that of the Rio Grande up to 1300. During this same period the people of the northern Jornada had become increasingly Puebloan in some aspects. The mingling of these two groups resulted in stagnation of the Jumano. The Jumano were henceforth Pueblo in material culture and architecture and largely Pueblo in the socioreligious use of the kiva. On the other hand, they contained regressive factors—traits that had limited the Mogollon to transmitters of culture, however important these may have been; traits that led them to adopt an increasingly Pueblo aspect and which finally permitted their disappearance as a cultural entity.

After the development of Chupadero Black-on-white, a fairly widespread and long-lived local pottery type, the Jumano failed to participate in further ceramic developments spreading from the Rio Grande. At about the time Chupadero Black-on-white came into vogue, a widespread change from mineral paints to carbon paint—a change that had slowly diffused eastward from the San Juan region of the Pueblo area—reached the Rio Grande drainage. The new paint type was adopted there in all but the extreme north and east sections in the vicinity of Taos, and along the tributaries of the Canadian (Wendorf and Reed, 1955: 144). The use of carbon paint, however, was not adopted by the Jumano, nor was it adopted in the Saline area farther north or on the east side of the Manzano Mountains. Also neglected in this general region was the slightly later influence of Mesa Verde decorative style—the employment of heavier design, less use of hatched elements, a tendency toward panel layout, and ticked rims.

By 1300 early glaze paint pottery was making its appearance in the Rio Grande, and while its use spread to the Jumano area, it was not made there; the actual source of Glaze I Red was probably the Rio Grande, and of Glaze I Yellow, the Galisteo region (Shepard, 1942). We cannot date the point at which glaze-paint ware was first made locally in the Jumano area, but it was probably not until the advent of what Shepard calls the Late Group—typical Glaze IV and later, from about 1550. The Jumano were not only slow to adopt glaze-paint ware, but, more important, they also clung to the production of black-on-white pottery as long as they existed as a group. This is in marked contrast to the Rio Grande, where black-on-whites were abandoned with the advent of glaze paint in all areas except Jemez on the western frontier, and among the Tewa north of Santa Fe, where Biscuit Ware was followed by a matte-paint polychrome in historic times.

When Spanish Missionaries arrived, Las Humanas nevertheless cooperated with the Europeans and adopted Catholicism, until 1660, leavened with the kinds of concessions the Catholic Missionaries displayed elsewhere in the New World to ease people's acceptance of the new religion. For example, at the various Las Humanas ruins, kivas can be found, sometimes adjacent to churches. It's unlikely these kivas were used in exactly the old ways, but their presence would surely have been a comfort.

And so, together, the Las Humanas population and the Spanish Missionaries started building churches. Large churches. Barely within their means.

These activities also coincided with the rise of the Apache in the Southern Plains and Southwest in the 17th Century. Increasingly, the Las Humanas way of life fell under direct assault from these raiders, particularly as the Spaniards began exploiting the salt resources to a greater degree and disrupting Apache access to salt (Flint, 2008). Thus, Las Humanas may have had a choice: build fortifications, or build churches.

There is little sign of a focus on fortifications. They chose churches. Their faith was pure and strong.

And they were defeated. Bled beyond endurance, the remaining Tompiro refugees fled to the Rio Grande Valley, with many ending up at Isleta del Sur, near El Paso, and abandoning the region entirely (Bletzer, 2013). (Ironically, the Apache would suffer a similar fate a century later, with their own refugees thronging the canyons of the Manzanos as they fled from the assaults of the rising Comanche.)

Thus, the color white, apart from other connotations of purity, etc., also signifies defeat and surrender, both with Las Humanas (salt) and with Walter White (snow). Both pushed the limits of the possible too far.

Yet, upon witnessing Elliot and Gretchen's gloss on his own history, Walt dug deep and found enough spite to fight back.

Perhaps by abstracting the color scheme further one can make a general statement about instances of use of Native American history in "Breaking Bad".

I've written about how the opening scenes of "Breaking Bad", filmed at To'hajiilee, reflect the history of the Dine Anai (the so-called Enemy Navajo). The general color theme of those episodes is the widespread burnt-orange/ red of the classic Colorado Plateau. The Navajo can't be said to rely on mineral trade in red sandstone, but to the extent the colored rocks have brought tourists to their realm, they've been in position to possibly profit.

Thus:

Blue - Anasazi
Red - Navajo
White - Las Humanas

The kind of coincidence that might appeal to a filmmaker!

References:

La Salina of the Estancia Valley, New Mexico, Richard Flint, New Mexico Historical Review, Vol. 83, No. 1, Winter 2008, pp. 39-55.

'The First Province of That Kingdom' - Notes on the Colonial History of the Piro Area, New Mexico Historical Review, Michael Bletzer, Vol. 88, No. 4, Fall 2013, pp. 437-459.

A Long Time Coming - The Seventeenth-Century Pueblo-Spanish War, New Mexico Historical Review, John L. Kessell, Vol. 86, No. 2, Spring 2011, pp. 141-156.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Caving

Under the weather. So far under the weather I may as well be a spelunker.

Things That Make You Go Hmmmmmm....

I was puzzled by what I saw at Target: a fellow wearing "Hello, Kitty!" pajama bottoms. His girlfriend wore a wool "Toy Story" poncho.

Surprised By Rainbows!

Driving to Yuba City yesterday at about noon, I was struck by all the rainbows. Rainbows are scarce at noon. In general, the sun has to be low on the horizon to see rainbows, and noon isn't the time. EXCEPT when you are approaching winter solstice! Then the sun remains low enough in the sky, even at noon, that you can catch glimpses of the peak of the rainbow arches.

Sometimes we are blessed by amazing spectacles in the sky, but we have our heads down and don't even notice.

Can't Praise "Mockingjay - Part I" Enough!

Easily, the best movie of 2014:



I like how they put Lorde in charge of the soundtrack. The girl from Devonport (NZ) is the perfect choice!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Farewell Kathi And Tony Davi!

Bon voyage to New York City, and the reunited family unit (with Melody and Mara)!

Kathi Davi, Jori Gonzales, and Tony Davi

Don't Mess With The Dude In The House

2:40 a.m. Trying to go to sleep Sunday morning, but over the dripping rain kept hearing - noises. Looked out the window and - Aha! - saw some kind of large mammal in the back yard! Went out the back door (trying a quiet approach) and startled three raccoons in the yard! One bolted towards the corner of the yard, where the tree (and safety) were, looking backwards in open distress, tail extended in alarm. I eased out the door onto the back porch, and a second raccoon skulking in the shadows under the porch panicked and chased after the first. I started coming down the steps into the back yard from the porch. Fearing being cut off from safety, a third raccoon, trapped in the garage, fled, and chased after the first two. I followed the raccoons and tried (but failed) to get good photos. If raccoons number four or more, there is a chance they will take a stand and attack, but three could be panicked.

The Uninsured, By County

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Useful Table Of Who Saw What At The Michael Brown Shooting

Produced by PBS.

Heisenberg Hat Drawing

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Heisenberg Hat Drawing

Chandra and the folks at TCP Youth in Los Angeles are having a raffle for a genuine Goorin Brothers' Heisenberg Hat. Hat box signed by numerous Breaking Bad cast members. List price $195; each ticket is $5 (five tickets for $20). Enter often, and win! Drawing to be held at the end of January, 2015.
------------------------------

The Old See The Trivial The Young Ignore

Old people notice patterns young people dismiss. The only obstacle to the natural superiority of old people is the tenden - SQUIRREL!

Buh-Bye Fracking Boom

So, the Saudis are acting to end the American fracking boom and flay the Red States like they did in 1986.
“In 2016, when OPEC completes this objective of cleaning up the American marginal market, the oil price will start growing again,” said Fedun, who’s made a fortune of more than $4 billion in the oil business, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “The shale boom is on a par with the dot-com boom. The strong players will remain, the weak ones will vanish.”

"The Hunger Games - Mockingjay - Part I"

Saw "Mockingjay - Part I" tonight. Liked it a lot! I'm struck how the District 13 assembly place is a slightly-updated version of Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon. I've been thinking a lot about Panopticons lately, so to aid that think I bought a comic book summary of the work of Michel Foucault called "Foucault for Beginners" by Lydia Fillingham (because Foucault's writings on Discipline, Punishment and Panopticons can be a hard slog). Fillingham notes that Foucault would not have approved such a comic book, but he might have approved of Mockingjay, because of the many examples of Discipline.

Here is a nice cover:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Frankie and the Fabletones, Featuring the Fabulous Fuzzy Dice, Performing At The Falls Event Center

I was invited to a private investors' dance party (because, despite my hip hop friends, I apparently swing with the monied classes too), and so I headed out to the brand-new Falls Event Center in Elk Grove on November 22nd, to see a band unknown to me. Turned out to be a doo wop group from Davis, Frankie and the Fabletones, Featuring the Fabulous Fuzzy Dice. One of the Fuzzy Dice turned out to be an old DMTC compatriot and friend, Dianna Craig! Amazing!
The point of the party was to persuade investors to buy into this chain of alluring and brand-new event centers. The place was very nice: it opened in September (and this particular building opened only a month ago) and another event center is going to open soon in Roseville. Made me wonder, though - perfect for weddings, but in direct competition with a variety of well-appointed community centers and church halls. They can charge a premium rate, however, for the great facilities. Next destination for the investment seminars - Salt Lake City!

Capay Valley Wildlife, At Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 27, 2014