Monthly Archives: May 2012

Worthy of the Displayed Petroglyphs

I don’t know much about art, except knowing what I wouldn’t want to fall on me.  Most artists I’ve known were just doing it for the same reasons I write things down.  They mostly just did it without wondering why.  And I’ve always suspected most of them secretly hoped some piece of it would survive them.

Probably the same is true of the people all over the backassed places who scratched things on rocks or painted pictures a person today often has difficulty understanding.

But sometimes in the heat of the moment those artists pulled off coups leaving no doubt what was being said, why it was being said.  Messages speaking of events in their lives still able to increase the heartbeat of a viewer looking from another world.  Another reality.  Another time.  For instance, of the hundreds of petroglyphs I’ve seen in my life, a couple come to mind that satisfy that description. 

One’s in the desert east of Socorro, New Mexico.  Under a cliff overhang 50, maybe 100 yards long someone a long time ago painted [yeah, I know.  Not a petroglyph per se] a series of scenes of people wearing jockstraps pulling men in armor off horses, beating them to death, stabbing them, generally giving them whatfer. 

I’m only speculating on this, but I’ve always suspected that scene depicts a piece of action took place with scouts or the rear-guard of the Spaniards retreating from New Mexico fleeing the Terrors.  The Revolt of 1690.  The route passed within a few miles of there, some maybe right across it.

The other is in Frijole Canyon a few miles upgrade from Bandera.   Three guys in jockstraps surrounding a bear ten times their size and a dozen times their ugly.  The two on the sides have spears in positions to thrust.  The third is in front of the bear, close, spear broken, bear paw with claws outstretched on the way to adjusting the future to contain one fewer human being.

But I’ve digressed. 

Modern art’s more subtle and a lot of it probably won’t last so long.  To clarify the message, modern artists frequently add words.  Not everyone’s able to just look at a painted likeness of a horney toad and recognize the underlying action, profundity, statement about the human condition represented.

 

A lot of people might, for example, glance at this and assume they’re seeing an automobile with red headlights belonging to some wealthy person, ready to toodle off to the hair dresser or enjoy a $5.00 cup of Latte somewhere.

But the reality is somewhere else entirely.  That steel plate depicts a piece of modern life most folks never get around to acknowledging.  KEEP TEXAS WILD is the only way the artist managed to convey the work has a deeper meaning.

Because what you’re seeing is men in Texas living behind bars, being gang raped by their fellow prisoners.  Being forced to join White Aryan Brotherhood, the Crips, other prison gangs as an alternative to constantly having the crap beaten out of them, being forced to perform oral sex on the competing ethnic group, experiencing growth experiences of the anal sphincter.

You’re seeing prosecuting attorneys increasing their power, their office space, their staffs.  You’re seeing opportunities for advancement to judgeships.  You’re seeing money allocated to new cars, sophisticated weaponry, better copshops. 

You’re seeing legions of defense attorneys wallowing around in money Scrooge McDuck-like, circulating the product through the system.

And you’re seeing corporate America at its best, building and operating private prisons.  Discovering a new product while it was sending all the others outside US borders to be manufactured.  A product able to be used over and over to feed the necessities of the artists:   private hotels for the artists and guards to admire their work.

And a plea to keep Texas wild.   Wild enough to need more of the same.  Wild enough to keep the money rolling in.  Wild enough to keep things interesting while the products enjoy brief interludes outside with the rest of us.

Seems to me overall that’s a pretty decent piece of art.  Even though it’s obviously one of a numbered series.

Old Jules

Escape Routes and Hideyholes

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

Gale had himself an appointment with the kidney-marble specialist yesterday to find out what they might do about getting it out of there.  Haven’t heard the outcome yet.  But what I’ve seen of him from the time they turned him out of the hospital until now leads me to think he’s going to be slow getting back into peak performance any way a person might view it.

This entire health event episode has hardened the realization for me that if things had played out differently I might have had to jump ship from this place with whatever cats I could take along, almost no lag-time.  Got to devote some attention to pounding a hole in the wall of the Universe that includes something besides hitching out and finding a bridge to live under, minus felines.

If the Coincidence Coordinators allow it, that 1977 Bluebird school bus might provide the answer.  I figure it’s going to take a month of stopping by there when I’m in town and nobody else buying it during the interim, but I might be able to beat him down enough eventually to be able to swing it.  But if it works the price will have allow me to fit in buying tags and liability insurance coverage.  Plus a tank of gas, cat food and a little for me to last the rest of the month from when it happens.

Once it’s out here I can work on it to make it capable of the cats and me living in it, while still working on the various things need doing on Gale’s place that he’s not going to be able to do for a while.  The wildlife management plan he promised the county he’d do includes thinning the cedar, erosion control mitigation, etc., and there’s heavy lifting with me being the only one here able to do it.

I’m fairly determined to get his first year promises done before I leave here, provided he’s alive to need them done.  If the bus works out, once I sense something complete in it, I’ll feel free to box up me and the cats and head for the sunset.

I’ve got a lot of stirrings in me churning around, telling me I need to be somewhere with more interesting rocks than a person can dig up here, the trees aren’t dying like flies, and the rivers empty into the Pacific Ocean..

The guy from up the hill told me when he was here that they’re crying for backhoe operators in the country between Uvalde and the Mexico border.  Oil field work.  So a stop out there a while to garner my resources on the way west might fit into the plan if the Coincidence Coordinators think it’s a good idea and the cats will agree to it.

Old Jules

Real Smart Cookies, Hermits and Shadow Cats

I’m having a rough time gearing up to do any outside work and my brain’s too fuzzy to try sorting out the maze of computations and comparisons on the offline comp.  I’ll be able to clear my conscience in a little while by waving the bloody flag at some other shadows, but for the moment I’m at loose ends.

A couple of days ago I was sitting in the swing bench hanging out of a dead tree when I heard a vehicle approaching down the hill.  Almost never happens, this is maybe the second time in several years, except Gale, who honks at the top of the hill as he approaches.  Simple country courtesy to a guy who’s made no secret of the fact he often runs around buckassed naked except for a pair of shoes during hot weather.

Me, since summer’s not hardened into anything desparate yet, sitting on that swing in a pair of jockey short skivvies and tennis shoes.  Naturally the sound of an approaching vehicle made me want to dress up a bit for who the hell ever it might be.

If this were December, no problem.  I’d have been spiffy as hell, ready with a joyful tapdance.  Or if they came by air later in the summer, maybe an orange jump suit.

So, I ran indoors, threw on my cleanest pair of work-dirty britches, hoisted up my galluses and re-emerged on the porch in time to see the new neighbor pull up in front of the cabin.  Likely just bored and felt like talking to someone a while.  He’s not used to living in a place where people don’t necessarily seek out company with any frequency, don’t yearn to fill the gaps of self-conversation with answers to the question, “What is this thing?” referring to a maze of wires, coils, magnets connected to a solar collector, a parabolic dish and radioesque antenna stretched across the meadow.

And not knowing what to make of the answer, “I ain’t saying!”

But we sat a couple of hours, anyway, pleasant hours, talking about this and that.  Heavy equipment.  Land.  Animals.  How many different big machines he’s got up there and how well they do the jobs.  How it was in Korea when he was there in 1959 compared to how it was when I was there in 1963.

During which time his dog slinked in, hair standing on end, bristling.  The dog got loose up at his place and  followed him down here, turned out.  He got up, scolded it gently and put it in the cab of the truck.  I didn’t learn until later during the head count when I put the chickens in the fortress that one was missing.  The Communist Americauna hen.

He’d come down here once before, you might recall, immediately after he bought the place, and we talked briefly.

Fact is, he and I are both so hard of hearing it’s fairly obvious each of us is mostly only hearing our own half of the conversation.  Which is probably why he came to visit, I reckons.  More personable than talking to a television set or radio.

Old Jules

The Great Divide Separating the Two Political Parties

Party #1

Party #2

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.  Some of you might have noticed the lady who administers this blog hasn’t been around for several days.  Fact is, she’s taken off from her two jobs in Olathe, KS, gone on a road trip. 

I asked her on the phone before she left to watch for bumper stickers during her travels.  This dearth of bumper stickers in Texas during a major election year has me puzzled and I’m wondering if it’s happening everywhere.

Last I heard from her about it, she’d gone from Olathe, KS, to Tucumcari, New Mexico without seeing a single bumper sticker.  Something unprecedented in my experience and observation.

Maybe people have just lost track of the abyss separating the two major parties in the US.  Maybe they’ve noticed, no matter which party they vote for, it always turns out the same no matter which one’s elected.

This has to be a big blow to the bumper sticker industry, which might be the only industry left on US soil.  Something needs to be done quickly to save the situation, and I’m going to do my patriotic duty to try to help.

Since there’s not a nickle’s worth of spit other than rhetoric separating the two parties, it’s time to get what difference there is out where people can see and understand it.

So here I am, doing my tiny part to help it along.

Old Jules

Black Eye for Conventional Wisdom

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

Back when  I was a real smart cookie I knew all manner of things needed doing to straighten out this country and this world.  I used to sit around with others whom I allowed to be real smart cookies, too, telling one another how stupid everyone who disagreed with us.  They thought they were real smart cookies, too, which proved how stupid they were.

During that general time period Their Majesties, Gerald Ford, then Jimmy Carter, were telling us we needed to turn down the thermostats, drive slower, become energy independent as a nation.  Find alternatives to the conventional energy sources.  I think my group of real smart cookies agreed with this, though I don’t recall anyone liking it much.

But one thing we did agree on.  Nuclear energy needed to be developed and used a lot more than was happening at the time.  Seemed the only thing that might fill the bill until something else was developed.  Gradually we got so hardened in our opinions about it we made excuses and apologized anytime anything happened suggesting we might re-examine our opinions and debate points.

Along came Three Mile Island, and naturally we didn’t need to know much about it to agree among ourselves it was just a shrill scare thing.  Hanoi Jane Fonda came out with a movie named “The China Syndrome” and a lot of monkey wrenches got thrown into the mix, people opposed to more nuclear plants. 

Then that plant in the Ukraine went sour.  Spewed all manner of radioactive crap into the sky for a longish while.  We real smart cookies saw that as an indictment, not of nuclear power, but rather of Soviet technical, engineering and construction skills.  Another indictment of Communism.

Somewhere back there I quit thinking about all that, didn’t bother knowing so much about it as I became less smart with the years.  I sort of lost track of the whole issue, had no idea whether they were still building, not building, using, not using nuclear power plants.

About a year ago my friend, Rich, started telling me about a tsunami hit Japan, did all manner of damage.  Some included nukes on the Japanese coast.  I suppose I didn’t think a lot about it.  Just another disaster somewhere for people to tell one another about while they waited for the coffee to perk.

But Rich kept updating me and the Japan nuclear part of the tsunami and earthquake began swelling into something trying to rattle how smart I used to be.  Japan was letting a lot of ugly into the Pacific and into the sky.  “Man, they need to do something about that crap!” I declared to Rich.  “I feed my cats a lot of fish that might be coming out of the north Pacific.”

Would you rather feed them fish out of the Gulf of Mexico?  Fish coming out of there are loaded with carcino-whatchallits from the emulsifiers they used from the BP oil spill.”

I thought about that a while and decided I didn’t need to track down an instrument to measure the gamma radiation in the cat food.  Trade a headache for an upset stomach, more-or-less.

But at least I don’t have to have all the answers anymore, don’t have to know what anyone ought to do about anything.  Takes a lot of weight off, me not having to do anything but concern myself about what to feed the cats and chickens.

Old Jules

 

The 21st Century Through Mirror Sunglasses

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

For six days this Australorp hen’s been sitting on a golf ball and two chalk eggs.  Every day I go out and rob the real eggs from under her, stroke her, talk to her, listen to her grumbles, whines, complaints, leaving that golf ball and the chalk eggs to give her something to hope for.

Highly-bred hens such as this one are somewhat similar to 21st Century human beings in some ways.  They’ve had almost all the instincts bred out of them in favor of, either producing a lot of chicken-meat in the least possible while, or producing as many eggs as their bodies allow.  Australorps hold the world record for the most eggs produced by a single hen during the span of a year.

The cost, from the perspective of the hen, is they’ve mostly lost the instincts required to cause them to go broody.  The instincts required to survive as a  species.  Same’s true of my Americauna hens.  Great layers, lousy instincts.

So I’m prone to have a warm place in my heart for a hen when she goes broody, even though I don’t need any more chickens, don’t want any chicks.  It’s the mawkish sentimentality in me, I reckons.  I feel a lot of sympathy and tenderness for a hen trying her best to hatch clutch of eggs, even if the eggs are chalk and golf balls.

I try to simulate a pair of mirror sunglasses when I go out to lift her off the latest eggs, hers and those the other hens try to sneak in under her to give the species another microscopic shot at survival.

Those imaginary mirror sunglasses mightn’t be necessary to me to get through these final decades of my life, but they certainly make it easier to watch what’s going on around me.  Human beings sitting on golf balls and chalk eggs, allowing instincts to creep briefly into their behaviors occasionally, probably won’t hatch.  But it appeals to my mawkish sentimentality side and there’s no harm in it.

At least no harm that would be neutralized by me not indulging. 

A creature pays his money and takes his chances this lifetime.  Even if the creature’s a hen and the eggs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. 

Old Jules

Gamblers, Gambling and Risk-taking

Previously blogged May 17, 2005

Saturday a recently acquired friend and I revisited one of the sites I spent a lot of time puzzling over during the search for the lost gold  mine.  The place was the focus of the ’98 search  and a good many years prior to that.  Sometimes it amazes me how many times I climbed and unclimbed the west face of that mountain, always finding something new and puzzling.  I spent most of a month camped at the top, friends coming in for a week or so, then heading back to their lives elsewhere without finding what we were looking for, but finding enough adventure, fellowship and mountain air for a while and remember as one of the good times.This was Jim’s first time up there.  We went in mainly to look at a rock pillar that’s peeling away from a cliff face.

It’s a formation that fascinated a man I’ve come to know awfully well by his work; a man I never met, but whom I followed around that mountain puzzling over what he did, how he did it and why he did it.  A man who lived and died 150 years ago, roughly.  A man who knew a gamble when he saw one, went into a canyon spang in the middle of Apache country at a time when the best he could hope for if he was a quick death, or if his luck was bad, hanging upside down over a slow fire.

I’ve been wearing the arrowhead that almost certainly killed him hanging from a leather thong around my neck for a decade or more.  The ruin a few charred logs high, a long-tom sluice he carved with an axe out of a three-foot diameter log, a 400 pound rock he chiseled down to use as an arrastra and a hundred or so signs and symbols he made on rocks, along with his various diggings are all that’s left to tell what kind of man he was.

A gambler, he was, gambling on being caught by Apaches, gambling a broken leg in a place where such a thing was sure death.  A man who believed in himself so thoroughly that in that setting that he pecked away at the base of a 50 ton pillar of rock trying to get at what was underneath until it gives a man the fantods even today to walk beneath it.

One of the things I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating as I watched Orion chasing the Pleiades across the night sky to the background music of wind in the treetops is the thought of how a man of that sort would feel about a world where low-level risk-taking is a criminal offense.

A time when edging the nose of  a vehicle onto the pavement without fastening the seat belt probably won’t get you hurt, but it will almost certainly get you a conversation with an armed pair of mirror sunglasses.  A time when risk is defined in how many years it might take you to get cancer from whatever you’re eating or smoking.  When excessive gambling is betting the grocery money at the blackjack table.

I wonder if he’d have played a wheel, or just picked a few numbers that suited him and bought a hundred tickets with the same six numbers on them, going for broke on something he believed in, the way he did in life.

One of the ways we define who and what we are includes what we’re willing to give up to travel around the sun a few more times.  That guy on the mountain wasn’t inclined to give up much.

Old Jules

A Military Man

Previously posted August 21, 2005:

The man in this picture is my old friend Richard Sturm.

[Note:  I’m going to edit this a bit before I post it to the So Far From Heaven blog, add and subtract a few hindsights and afterthoughts.  Jules]

Richard died in December, 2004, in Port Lavaca, Texas.

Richard was a 100% disabled veteran of the United States Army. From 1964, until his death he spent his entire adult life in and out of Veterans hospitals. When he wasn’t in a hospital he was usually in a café somewhere drinking coffee and being friendly with anyone who’d give him the time of day.

Or he was with me, camping, fishing, seeing the sights, singing, passing the time. That happened less than he’d have liked, probably more than I’d have preferred in a lot of instances. Richard wasn’t an easy man to be around.   

A while back [2011] his brother and I were discussing Richard, and Vic remarked, “You never really saw Richard when he was at his worst.”  I didn’t say so at the time, but I think I spent a lot more time with Richard over the years than Vic did, or than Vic was ever aware I did. 

Aside from Richard, all those Sturms were super-achievers, and although I spent a lot of years from 1965 onward considering Vic among my best friends, he was a busy man.  People sought him out.  If I wanted to talk to him, I called him.  Over all those decades I could count on one hand the times he initiated a contact between the two of us.  “People call me.  I don’t call them,” he explained to me once when I mentioned it to him.   I’d guess that applied to Richard, same as it did to me.

But that’s digression, edited in this May, 2012, with a lot of hindsight.

Before Richard volunteered for the Army he was a patriotic youth, intelligent, dynamic, from a family of super-achievers. He graduated from high school with honors, well liked and respected by his teachers and classmates. A young man with a future. Then he joined the US Army.

In 1964, he was stationed in Massachusetts with the Army Security Agency. Without his knowledge or consent, he was selected for an experiment by the career military men who were his superiors. He was given a massive dose of LSD. He sustained permanent brain damage as a result.

Richard spent several months in a mental ward of an Army hospital, presumably under observation by the powers-that-be, to see what they’d wrought. Then they gave him is medical discharge, released him from service and from the hospital, and sent him home without confiding to anyone what the problem was and why it happened.

Several years later after he’d been examined, had his thyroid removed, given electric shock treatments, everything the puzzled medicos could think of to try and improve this mysterious condition, his brother, an attorney, came to suspect something of what had happened. The stories of events of this sort had begun to creep out of hiding and into the press.

A formal demand was made for release of his records, and finally the story came out.

Richard wasn’t injured defending his country. He didn’t get his skull fractured on some battlefield by enemies. He was betrayed by the career military men of his own country, officers and enlisted men, whom he’d given an oath to obey and defend. He served in good faith, and he was betrayed by his country.

Some have noted on the threads that I don’t have an automatic high regard for career military men. They’re correct. Richard’s just an extreme example of thousands of men who’ve been killed, injured, disabled by irresponsible, insane, and idiotic decisions by men who make a career of blindly following orders without thinking, weighing consequences, not feeling any remorse so long as they were ordered to do it.

Like good little NAZIs, Japanese, Soviets, Israelies, Americans, Cambodians, British, Africans, Chinese, Cubans, Argentinans and military men everywhere.  Just following orders. 

Support our troops.

Old Jules

2012 note:  During a conversation with Vic in 2011, I mentioned the LSD experiment and Vic replied, “It’s a shame I could never prove it.  Richards records were all destroyed in a fire at the Army Records Holding Center in the late 1960s.”  Live and learn.  Somewhere back there, I must have heard it from Richard, I came to think the records had been uncovered and it was established, official fact.

Sorting Through Eternities

Previously blogged a few years ago:

After the post a few days ago about the meaning of life I found myself pondering a number of things about how most of humanity relates to the subject.  The great majority of folks in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim world believe they know how to get by with doing some heavy-duty ugly during this lifetime and still end up somewhere good.  Assuming they tip their hats regularly to a diety carefully tailored to forgive them their breadcrumb sins.  It’s the hat-tipping, after all, that’s important.

On the other hand, that same body of humanity’s prone to take a lot of satisfaction knowing the people who didn’t tip their hats right have a tough row to hoe.  Many engage in firefights of advance “I told you so!” insofar as how bad those who didn’t believe them are going to wish they did.

It’s not something I need worry myself about, but sometimes my mind drifts there anyway, imagining what it would be like in an Eternity surrounded by the sort of people who spent their lives absorbed in hat-tipping with one hand, and selling used cars with the other.

Old Jules

The Legal Money Raffle Consortia

Previously posted in 2005:

I used to know a guy named Mike, down in Socorro.  A man with a lot of ideas.

During the mid-‘90s, about the time the Internet was cranking up big-time, Mike had the idea it would be cool to start an online raffle.

Mike had some money lying around.  Just about enough to buy a full-sized Harley, and a large RV.  But he thought he could increase the amount of money he had by taking a risk.  He’d sell raffle tickets online for a Harley and a large RV without buying them until someone won the raffle.  If he didn’t sell enough tickets, he’d make up the difference with his savings.  But if he did sell enough tickets, he’d give away the Harley and RV, and pocket whatever extra came in.

It turns out raffles are illegal at almost any level, though the cops and prosecutors look the other way if they feel the cause is a good one, or if it’s just small potatoes.  But item one for Mike turned out to be that if he went online he’d be almost certain to be prosecuted.

Item 2, was the fact he was, in effect, proposing to raffle a motorcycle and an RV that didn’t exist.  The fact he didn’t own them yet compounded the felony he would be committing.

Now what Mike was proposing to do was precisely what lotteries do.  Raffling off something that doesn’t exist…. Money that they plan on earning as interest.

But, of course, when a government-sanctioned, or government-owned administrative entity commits an act that rhymes with something that would be a felony if an individual behaved identically, all’s well with the world.

Unless they happen to have a lot of attention focused on their behavior, which sometimes happens.

Similarly, I used to know a guy named Dan, who had a lot of cash lying around doing nothing.  He dreamed up an online something he called a ‘money club’, or ‘money pool’.  Members, Dan dreamed, would pay $5 per month into the pool.  Every month the total proceeds, minus 10 percent (to Dan as operational and administrative fees) would be handed out to some lucky member by a process known as Random Number Generator…. Something nearly identical to what’s being done by lotteries.  Except it would be private enterprise….. private sector.

Dan figured the payout percentages would be so much better, the odds so much better than any lottery that it would cause players to flock to him.  He might have been right.

But there was naturally a catch.  What he was proposing was and is a herd of felonies at almost every level of jurisdiction.  Even though what he proposed was a lot better for the players involved, than the competition (the government and the various legally recognized mob) could (read ‘would’) offer.

So neither of these ideas ever came to fruition, though each represented the cleaned up versions of corrupted first-cousins we all accept as normal in the lottery systems.

It’s surprising sometimes to see people who claim to believe in free enterprise so blindly support any government monopoly.

Old Jules