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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lila's got a new look

Our favorite oaxaqueña singer, Lila Downs, has a new look. Photograph by Elena Pardo.

Ciudad paralizada

Well, there you have it. The entire city was shut down. Blockades were set up on all the major roads and intersections. The actions extended to many critical routes including the airport, bus stations and the toll roads to Mexico City. There were protests and blockades throughout the state.
The city is half empty with no public transportation.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A letter from Henry

Yesterday there was an attempted robbery at the AU Bus Terminal. A soldier, who had just bought his ticket, tried to stop the assault. Gun fire killed him and wounded one of the robbers. The soldier’s daughter picked up her father’s gun and shot the other criminal dead. She covered her father’s lifeless body with the blanket she brought for his trip.

The two assailants turned out to be police for the state justice department. Typical! The corrupt people who are hired to protect us are the biggest danger to our life. The police are often just thugs to do our “elected” officials dirty work. Their greed and impunity creates, and protects, criminal activities to rob the citizenry. Since they control the police, and the courts, what can one do?

This is the same department that in the light of day and with an officious face said that the person in the pay of the State, with the gun pointing at Brad Will, didn’t shoot him, but the colleague, by his side, shot him point blank. They hold and collect all the evidence. They make up the story they want and arrest his friend instead of the assassin. There is no punishment for perjury. Usually the person who makes up the best story wins. There is a tremendous advantage when you can create, lose, and change evidence.

Sometimes, I am not too happy with the teachers. Sometimes I question their motives. Sometimes, I reflect on their own internal corruption, but until the government starts working within the laws, this is about the only avenue for bargaining that exists against the omnipotence of government. Citizens must wake up and work together to demand responsible government.

This is why it is important that Obama prosecute all those who broke the law in previous administrations. If we are not a country of laws how can we move forward with respect and honesty? If people can break the law with impunity (especially the justice department), then what can we expect for the future?

Sorry for the soap box. But the photo of this young girl beside her dead father was more powerful indictment of the evils of bad government than the hundreds of teachers in the Zocolo.

How can this be happening and yet Oaxaca such a beautiful place to live?


Defend this

Maybe it was all those years spent in the front of the classroom or conducting an orchestra or leading a band, but one develops the ability to cut through a lot of stuff and see people for what they are. It is pretty hard to hide when you are immersed in playing music. In the classroom, one has to be able to scope out the scene and come up with answers or at least good questions. They may be, “Who said that?" or "Who has that horrible aftershave on?” or “Now that you have so obviously messed up, what are you going to do?”

Teachers get good at recognizing, knowing people, if they are doing it right. We all fit into some sort of type or personality. I bet a good second grader teacher can spot the culprits of any prank easily.

And so can most of us.

Roundabout way of saying, “What the hell is going on?” Are we actually having a debate about torture? Not a great sign as to how well we are doing, would you say? I keep thinking of all the civilizations that have preceded ours and feel like… shit.

Well, in a couple of hundred years, they can assess how we did confronting the problems that brought so many other cultures down.

And the characters seem as transparent and obvious as those pesky second graders. The banksters, politicians, media, the left and the right are all acting like caricatures. Cheney? Newt Gingrich lecturing the nation about truth and virtue? And the media finds them credible and serious? Please.

From the London Telegraph (full story)
At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

Just to be clear THIS is what the torture advocates and apologists are defending. I have seen the rape and abuse photos. They are beyond the pale. This was done in our name.

There is no defense.

If you wish to see them hit the link. Warning! They are graphic.
These are not new photos. They have been around for years. We just didn't want to deal.

Iconic Boston

I am getting my last shots in before heading south in a few weeks. Walking up from South Station through Chinatown, the former Combat Zone, Downtown Crossing, the Common, the Public Gardens, up Comm Ave, Newbury Street, to Copley Square, such a pleasant an easy walk. Great to be in such a walkable city and the cleanup and restoration of the waterfront and downtown is really quite remarkable. I notice gardens and walkways in places that were formally seedy or vacant.

Striking Teachers Occupy Banks, Offices in Mexico’s Oaxaca

From the Latin American Herald Tribune

OAXACA, Mexico – Teachers in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, the scene three years ago of a months-long uprising against a widely despised governor, occupied banks, shopping centers and government offices at the beginning of a 48-hour strike.

Besides a pay raise, the teachers are demanding the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz, just as they and a coalition of grassroots groups did in 2006 during a conflict that ended only with a federal occupation of Oaxaca city

full story

Thursday, May 28, 2009

La Lucha - The Struggle

I keep watching the Virgin Islands and Oaxaca along with all the other global stuff. Both places have serious problems and solutions seem almost impossible. Both rely on tourism that has dried up and the effects are wide reaching and severe. I am struck by how they are directly affecting my friends and me.

And it will get worse before it gets better.

The islands are stuck with the most inbred and inefficient system and infrastructure one can imagine. The wheels have come off of almost all the carts. It’s a microcosm, a study of how, even in paradise, things can get completely messed up. Each problem has many levels and complications because everything and everyone is so interconnected. For instance, the hospital on St. Thomas, which is recovering from huge embezzlement and mismanagement scandals, does not pay it electrical bills, which of course, the government does nothing about because they don’t pay their bills either. Consequently, the electrical system is broken and inadequate with daily outages and ridiculous prices. And that is barely scratching the surface of the problems there. Yes, there are complaints and attempts to change things, but the system is stacked to fail on almost every front. A lot of it has to do with people’s attitudes. For many of them, they have been too long on a very small island. If hubris were heavy, the place would have sunk long ago.

And people say, “That’s the way it is, learn to roll with it.”

The problems in Oaxaca are different. It is in another social/economic convulsion. The lack of tourists has added to the entrenched poverty. To be sure, there is the same ineptitude and corruption, probably worse, but at least the electricity is always on. However, oaxaqueños attitudes are much different. If there is one thing Oaxacans know how to do, it is to organize and protest. The teachers, in their annual display, are planning on shutting down all the major roads for 48 hours. APPO has taken over the zocalo. The villagers in San Luis Potosi are standing up to mining companies that have been violating laws for years. They just got tired of being taking advantage of. It’s a battle with casualties, but Oaxaqueños are very politically and socially active. They don’t take things lying down.

It’s La Lucha – The Struggle, in both places. Long and difficult.

However, there is an easy and lighthearted solution. Take all the Virgin Islanders to Oaxaca and let the oaxaqueños come spend some time in paradise. The folks from Oaxaca, besides enjoying the beautiful beaches, would immediately fix the infrastructure with sheer grunt work and ingenuity.

The Islanders, besides enjoying the dramatic and wide-open spaces, would immediately set about collecting and saving every drop of water that fell from the sky. They would put up dumpsters for all the trash. The place would be clean.

Both would get to observe the pride of a different and ancient culture. And both could better share in the knowledge that it’s a big world out there and many are suffering much worse. But let’s face it, this ain’t gonna happen. Both places are suffering, but is there a quick way out? Doubtful. It is a big, bad world of hurt out there these days and we are all six degrees away from Kevin Bacon, right - we are all interconnected. It is easier to see the faults and flaws in other cultures and other people than in ourselves.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Situation Heats Up

There are different sides to the story but here is today's from Narco News

Situation Heats Up in Oaxaca Prior to Teachers' Union Decisions
Tensions are High as Resistance Groups Organize and Plan Their Next Move

By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca
May 26, 2009

The Oaxaca zócalo has resumed all the signs of battle. Banners flew on Saturday and Sunday, the weekend of May 23 as the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, in its Spanish initials) supported vendors who sat on the sidewalk alongside their Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO, in its Spanish initials) counterparts. The table of Denunciations, the Committee in Defense of the Rights of the People (CODEP, in its Spanish initials) table and the APPO table all were occupied with people and print-outs.
read entire story:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Very Cool!

I could play with this all day. Make some music, dude.


Viva Sonia Sotomayor! That's change we can believe in. We are just shooting for equity, right? So I guess the next hundred Supremes should be women, too.

Monday, May 25, 2009


As for many others, movies are an important part of my life. If you think about the whole process from the screenplay to the storyboard, casting, lighting, etc. to it going in your eyes, to the fact that these artistic collaborative endeavors end up messing with our minds, often changing them profoundly... well, as Martha would say, "It's a good thing."

The messing with the mind can be serious or funny. Try watching Spike Lee’s “Kings of Comedy” and not saying “mo’fo.” I learned that the hard way after watching it on a long flight. “Take off my shoes? Say what, mo’fo?” Not good.

Then there was that crazed time when I thought that almost every situation could be answered by a line from “Apocalypse Now.” Try it. It’s true. Like in reference to today’s world “the bullshit piled up so fast… you needed wings to stay above it.”

But today it is Andy Dufresne from the Shawshank Redemption "Get busy living, or get busy dying."

Party on, Garth.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I was just thinkin'

Yes, I am still here. Sometimes one must live and bag the bloggin'. A few days to contemplate and observe. And as for putting it all into words, I am speechless (for the moment). I continue to follow the action in Oaxaca (it ain't good,) the Virgin Islands (it's worse,) the local scene (dire economy and the Celtics & Bruins are done for the season,) and the national scene (don't get me goin')

So the next obvious and logical step is graffiti.
First this seer Virgin from last May complete with face mask, foreboding the swine flu. A detail from the above. "You and I met on that terrible night......"

Sunday, May 10, 2009


If you know the fragrance of lilies-of the-valley, you will know that this bouquet will fill a large house with their scent. There are thousands in bloom now and the air is heady. They are incredibly tough plants with root systems that will go through concrete and not much to look at after they finish, but for the two weeks they are flowering.... ambrosia.
Ring the temple bells and take a deep breath.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Hot, hot, hot in Oaxaca. May is one of the hottest months of the year and people look to the skies to see if the rains are coming. Soon.

However, there is much more going on. Times are tough. I think back to the golden times, perhaps ten or twenty years ago, in which tourists flooded the city and tour buses unloaded eager buyers of rugs, ceramics or carvings. It went on for a while and people got used to it.

Who wouldn't?

2006 ended all that. Anarchy led to economic collapse, but people held tough. Slowly, oh so slowly, tourism rose. Then came the global economic crisis followed by the swine flu. Brutal.

However, if people are one thing, they are resilient. The rains will come. The fields will turn green. And if I have to be the first, nothing could keep me away.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ataraxia - Word of the day

Lucky # Slevin is a recent discovery and now one of my all time favorite films. Its cast, plot, direction, simply the best. Mind-blowing fun.

In it, our hero, Josh Harnett, claims to suffer from ataraxia. Of course, in a comic twist, the sub-title misstates it as anorexia. So I am thinking that makes no sense, so I did a little research.
From Wikipedia:

Ataraxia (Ἀταραξία) is a Greek term used by Pyrrho and Epicurus for a limpid state, characterized by freedom from worry or any other preoccupation.

For the Epicureans, ataraxia was synonymous with the only true happiness possible for a person. It signifies the detached and balanced state of mind that shows that a person has transcended the material world and is now harvesting all the comforts of philosophy.

For the Pyrrhonians, owing to one's inability to say which sense impressions are true and which ones are false, it is quietude that arises from suspending judgment on dogmatic beliefs or anything non-evident and continuing to inquire. The experience was said to have fallen on the painter Apelles who was trying to paint the foam of a horse (likely a bit of frothy saliva near its mouth). He was so unsuccessful that in a rage he gave up and threw the sponge he was cleaning his brushes with at the medium, thus producing the effect of the horse's foam.[1]

The Stoics, too, sought mental tranquility, and saw ataraxia as something to be desired and often made use of the term, but for them the analogous state, attained by the Stoic sage, was apatheia or absence of passion.
Word of the day. Word to your mother.
Ataraxia? I think I've got it. Wonder if it is contagious?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Influenza porcina - update

The swine flu is now the influenza AN1H1. In Oaxaca there have been 114 confirmed case and no additional deaths to report. Only five of the cases are listed as serious. Schools are still closed, but should reopen soon. I wish I knew just how extensive the shut down was, for it seems to have worked.

May is the traditional month of protests. Sometimes they last weeks or months. The flu must have put a serious hurt on all of that activity. I wonder if this illness will end up being a calming influence in some way. No matter what, protests, swine flu, all hurt the economy and Oaxaca needs a break in that respect.

And the name change? Well, I am sure it was a coincidence that La Gloria, the village where it all started..... from The Independent

Downwind of Xaltepec – where 15,000 squealing hogs are squeezed into 18 warehouses – residents of La Gloria blame Smithfield, Luter's firm, for an outbreak of respiratory problems that swept the town last month, killing two children. Now with Mexican authorities identifying a four-year-old from the town, Edgar Hernandes, as one of the first-known cases of swine flu, furious residents believe that they are ground zero of a pandemic threatening the world. The very suggestion has sent a shudder through the ranks of campaigners who have long argued that the sort of industrialised pig farming that has turned Smithfield into one of the most powerful corporations in the US, with a market value of $1.4bn, was a disaster waiting to happen.

For Smithfield, the world's largest pork supplier, which processes more than one in three pigs killed in the US and jointly owns the Xaltepec plant and seven others in the region, the spiralling concern in Mexico threatens to become a worldwide marketing disaster – even before anyone is able to test the hunch of the people of La Gloria.

But on the other side, from Reuters

The pork business is in deep muck these days as it fights the fallacy that its meat might contain swine flu. But the industry is also facing a second allegation that has spread as far as the virus: that the new strain started on a factory hog farm in Mexico half-owned by Smithfield Foods (SFD), the world's biggest pork producer.

Bloggers and opinion journalists around the globe are advancing this idea as if it were true or, at least, likely. But nobody knows where the strain came from. Smithfield's farm in Mexico might be the point of origin. Yet it's also possible it all began in Asia, in southern Mexico, in the United States, or just about anywhere else. The media claims are based on mere speculation—and an understandable disgust at corporate pig sties.

Consider the facts. In February and March, a bunch of people got sick in the town of La Gloria, Mexico. La Gloria is where a child was found to be among the first victims of the H1N1 virus—a novel mix of pig, bird, and human influenzas. And the town is near the site of a large hog operation run by Granjas Carroll, an operation that is half-owned by Smithfield. Nobody knows what sickened the other people in the area.

Carnival St. Thomas

Carnival just ended in St. Thomas. While it did not go off without a hitch this year, there was violence that canceled some events, it still is one of the best Carnival celebrations one can find. And it goes on for weeks!!! It ended with Grucci fireworks over the harbor. These are shots for a couple of years ago, but if you listen real closely your can hear the music.