The here and now... and what and why

Complacency is a trap. At least that’s what I was thinking when I up and left the comfort of a Yankee prep school gig, where I taught music, amongst other things, for 28 years. There was also that life long career as a composer, musician and artist.

First, it was a year in St. Thomas, USVI, working as a reporter and shooting photography and then, a year in San Agustin Etla, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Time passed.
More time passed and a year back in the Athens of America followed by a hasty return to Oaxaca where it is all happening.
A couple of years in San Sebastian Etla and now, just down the road in San Pablo Etla. Life is good.

Click on an image to see it larger.
For additional photography please visit my flickr page.
You can find my music on Jango (World & latin - Worldbeat) and at iTunes and most online stores.
¡Soy consciente de todas las tradiciones del Internet!
If you are coming to Oaxaca, please contact me for tours or advice.

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo
The view from Corazon del Pueblo

The hereafter re me

My photo
Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico
Musician, photographer, videographer, reporter, ex-officio teacher, now attempting to be a world traveler

Monday, June 30, 2008

It has gone viral-Ha ido viral.

Soy consciente de todas las tradiciones del Internet!

He says it better than I could

As culture shock wears me down, I can't help but think we are in serious trouble, but what to do? I have written about it, but always held off on posting anything. My times in Mexico taught me to stay silent and observe - of course, the fact that I did not have the language skills to say anything intelligent helped in certain respects. I did keep wondering where the outrage was. So when I read this Lee Iaccoca quote from his recent book this morning, it resonated and I am posting it here.

"Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

"Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

"& someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions.

That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

"I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

"I'm going to speak up because it's my patriotic duty & I'm hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don't vote because they don't trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us.

"Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them — or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy.

"And don't tell me it's all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberal Democrats. That's an intellectually lazy argument, and it's part of the reason we're in this stew. We're not just a nation of factions. We're a people. We share common principles and ideals. And we rise and fall together.

"There was a time in this country when the voices of great leaders lifted us up and made us want to do better. Where have all the leaders gone?

"On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. & That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq — a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith-based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will.

"So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership."

UPDATE: It is amazing to me that I am in agreement with Mr. Iaccoca, but I think he has moved more towards me than I towards him.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


The directory of the carvers of San Martin Tilcajete is done and going to print. These are the hands of 85 year-old Zenen Fuentes, one of the old masters and the head of a large family of great carvers. The directory has photos of all the carvers and a map to show you exactly how to get to their homes. They will be happy to see you!

Anyone? ¿Cualquier?

Here is a antique poster I restored. I wonder if anyone has any insights into it? I am sure there are many song references, but I have no idea what they are.I left it nice and large if you want to click on it for closer viewing.

Incidentally, the restoration work that I did in Photoshop was extensive. The paper was full of holes, having been snacked upon by moths or mice and there was lots of discoloration. It was too large to be scanned at one time so I did it in quadrants and then put them together. I am going to shoot it again with the new camera just to make comparisons.

It's On! The Guelaguetza is coming

Book your reservations, if you haven't already, for the Guelaguetza which takes place the last two Mondays in July. The big celebrations are in the stadium overlooking the city, but some of the best times are found just wandering the streets and keeping one's ears in tune with one's surroundings. The city is filled with dance and you can easily get right in the thick of things. It is one of the best times of year for the city.Even though the Guelaguetza is a huge tourist draw, one quickly discovers that the oaxaqueños are doing for themselves. The different regional dances they perform are traditional and the smiles on the faces are all genuine.For most of the time, Oaxacans are not in love with having their pictures taken. It's the "I'm not here for your entertainment" point of view and should be respected. It is easy to ask permission... or use a telephoto. My time taking pics for newspaper publication gave me great experience as how to deal with different situations. However, for the Guelaguetza, everyone is a willing model.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Things I did not see today

but wish I had
however I did get a new Nikon D300 - traded in the D200
and got the final edits for the San Martin Tilcajete directorio
one day closer to my return

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The moment

Earthquakes are really scary and Oaxaca has lots of them. Having experienced several, I can only say that one is instantly overwhelmed by the force of Nature and one's inability to exercise any control over the situation.

Here are some remarkable photos sent by a friend of the earthquake in China as it was happening at the famous 100-year-old Church of the Annunciation in Pengzhou, China. Very early morning May 12, photographer Wang went about preparing to shoot wedding pictures for a young couple, this was the test shot before the shoot...
Bricks fall from the building during the earthquake, which turned Wang from a wedding photographer into a journalist. 'Thank God we were only shooting from outside the church!' remarked a helper.
Pengzhou is located in the Sichuan province. It was morning May 12, 2008. And then it happened.... the earth quake! 7.8 on the Richter scale.

The stunned couple huddles together at the church ground during initial tremors.
'I shouted to people, 'Run! Run!'' said photographer Wang Qiang. "The ground shook and we couldn't see anything in the dust.'
As the dust began to clear, the true extent of damage was only beginning to appear...
A cracked facade was all that remained of the 100-year-old Church of the Annunciation after the quake. Most of the church 'collapsed in 10 seconds,' said Wang, who lives in Chengdu , capital of hard-hit Sichuan province.
Soon after the quake, the people at the seminary set out for a nearby village, but residents warned them the route was blocked. 'We could still hear landslides,' Wang wrote in an online account of the disaster. So they stayed overnight in a tent and made it to the village the next day, thanks to help from a truck driver.

A scarf from a wedding dress lies forgotten in front of the seminary. Wang said he thought the catastrophe would strengthen the bonds of the couples who were there that day: 'Having gone through a life-and-death test, they surely will clasp hands and grow old together.'
No one was harmed at the above location.

The Triquis - No Peace, No Justice

Here is a sad story that gives an indication of the complexities of the region. The Triquis are very distinctive, easily recognized by their wonderfully brilliant red clothing. In the city, they sell woven fabrics and are pushed from area to area depending on who is doing the pushing. They are well down on the ladder and treated poorly.

If you read the story, try connecting all the threads - the history, autonomy, women's issues, technology, corruption, geography, economics and politics - its all there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

El Norte dos

Si, I am in El Norte. First, I want to get the directories printed and printing in the States is far superior to Mexico, better quality and much cheaper prices. Now there’s a business to set up in Oaxaca. Kinko’s, anyone? I have run out of the La Union directories and will double or triple the last printing run. And the San Martin Tilcajete booklet is just about ready and I am excited to finish and get it down to the city.

First impressions – well, I was with a friend in western Mass and watched him pay for gas with a $100 bill and get no change. I am used to seeing oxen and carts and getting a friendly wave on the road. Here I am blown away that everyone is driving big, new sleek cars. Remember that having a car, any kind of car, even a 1970 VW bug limping along at 20 mph, means you are rich in Oaxaca. That is the dividing line between rich and poor in Oaxaca, a car.

When I arrived it was cold and raining. Two days later it was 98(F) and as humid as an armpit in August. Of course, today it is glorious, clear and comfortable - typical ever-changing New England weather.

I was averse to putting in AC, but broke down and put one in the bedroom only to discover that I had the drainage angle wrong and it leaked through the ceiling directly into the piano. I played every day for 30 or 40 years and was so psyched to come back and just sit and noodle. After waiting two years to play, of course, one of my first stupid actions here is to screw it up. It is drying out, but it needs a technician. Maybe I don’t need those notes anyway.

I am sure there is a lesson there…

I am like a fish out of water. Not bad, because it emphasizes that I need to get back to my peeps in Oaxaca.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

La Lucha - The Struggle continues

The annual protests in the zocalo are winding down. I am not sure what they accomplished, but at least they did not descend into the chaos of 2006.
The issues involve retribution and control, and the usual suspects, injustice, economic and environmental problems.
I don't know nuttin' about the solutions (actually, I wrote about them before) but what the city and state need is money. Tourism is the life's blood of the place and it has slowly been recovering. It needs to be nurtured and encouraged. Further, with the global economic crisis, Oaxacans in the States are unable to find normal work and the amount of money sent home has dramatically diminished. There are those who may say this is good, but I ain't one of them. If you know the zocalo, you know Casa de mi Abuela, the restaurant that overlooks the northwest corner. This photo with a woman cooking right at the entrance shows just how different the scene is when the protesters come and stay and stay and stay....

Viva Oaxaca!

He vuelto a El Norte

I have returned to El Norte and culture shock has hit me hard. More in the next post, but first, El Norte, the movie, is one of the most important films of our time. Anyone who can watch it and not change how they feel about immigration is beyond hope. It has been 25 years since it was released and we have regressed on the whole immigration issue.