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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tee Time... more shirts

Yesterday, rather than shoot on the sly, I just went up to these people and said I really liked their shirts and asked if I could take a picture.  They all said yes... and they all had the look in their eyes that maybe we should humor this guy, he might be crazy.

Jesus da Man. Turning water into wine since 33 A.D
 This nice Hendrix image on a Swiss tourist.  Jimi lives!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Shot of the day...

This was the most beautiful moment in an altogether beautiful day.  As I was walking back up Alcala to my car, I saw this young girl, a street musician that I recognized, and an old man sitting next to her.  She was working the bellows on her accordion and he was singing and playing the keys.  He was teaching her a song and she had the sweetest shy smile on her face.  The music and the singing were beautiful, but it was the tenderness of the moment that made it so magical.
I don't know if you can see it, but the brand name on her instrument is "Child Prodigy"  made proudly here in Mexico, they informed me.

Am I missing something?

 I'm sorry.  Maybe you have to in country to understand the wisdom of this, but from the outside, it just looks crazy.  Too much for this pobre campesino, who is going outside to shovel abono, real manure, instead of this BS.

From McClatchy (emphasis added)
America's growing drone operations rely on hundreds of civilian contractors, including some, such as the SAIC employee, who work in the so-called kill chain before Hellfire missiles are launched, according to current and former military officers, company employees and internal government documents.
Relying on private contractors has brought corporations that operate for profit into some of America's most sensitive military and intelligence operations. And using civilians makes some in the military uneasy. At least a dozen defense contractors that supply personnel to help the Air Force, special operations units and the CIA fly their drones are filling a void. It takes more people to operate unmanned aircraft than it does to fly traditional warplanes that have a pilot and crew.
The Air Force is short of ground-based pilots and crews to fly the drones, intelligence analysts to scrutinize nonstop video and surveillance feeds, and technicians and mechanics to maintain the heavily used aircraft. "Our No. 1 manning problem in the Air Force is manning our unmanned platforms," said Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, Air Force vice chief of staff. Without civilian contractors, U.S. drone operations would grind to a halt.
About 168 people are needed to keep a single Predator aloft for 24 hours, according to the Air Force. The larger Global Hawk surveillance drone requires 300 people. In contrast, an F-16 fighter aircraft needs fewer than 100 people per mission.
With a fleet of about 230 Predators, Reapers and Global Hawks, the Air Force flies more than 50 drones around the clock over Afghanistan and other target areas. The Pentagon plans to add 730 medium and large drones in the next decade, requiring thousands more personnel. The Air Force is rushing to meet the demand. Under a new program, drone pilots get 44 hours of cockpit training before they are sent to a squadron to be certified and allowed to command missions. That compares with a minimum of 200 hours' training for pilots flying traditional warplanes.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Read this

Sister blogger, spixl, has a great post over at Casita Colibri with a link to an article that you just must read.  It's a good one about indigenous life and goes into some depth and explains why Oaxaca remains one the best places on earth. 

For instance:
Precolonial Oaxaca was a complex linguistic and cultural map marked by multiple distinct languages and multiple dialects within each language. At least sixteen of these prehispanic languages – along with the unique worldviews they embody – have survived and evolved in the centuries following the conquest. Today, these languages make Oaxaca one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the world, and this remarkable linguistic diversity serves as a testament to the cultural survival of a vast array of indigenous communities.

With over 350,000 speakers, Zapotec is the most prevalent indigenous language, sustained by the descendents of the ancient Zapotec Empire. Even among Zapotec speakers, however, there is a significant diversity of dialects, and speakers of one dialect may find it difficult or impossible to communicate with speakers of another. This tremendous diversity makes language an important marker of cultural identity. In Oaxaca, one’s home village may be the only place in the world where a specific dialect is spoken.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sure Signs

The signs of Oaxaca can be pretty interesting, often artistic. 
It's a clothing store.
But sometimes they are just strange.
They could fit into a sidebar along my ongoing tee shirt series called, "Do they really know what they are wearing?"
Dreams of Wood?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Noche Buena - Christmas Eve

While the light show was being projected on the cathedral. processions were snaking their ways through the streets, which were packed. 

The 24th is the end of the celebration known as Las Posadas, a nine day event.  As they do each year, various churches groups paraded into El Centro with nativity scenes mounted on flatbed trucks. Each was led by a band and followed by people carrying candles and lanterns. 

There were firecrackers and pinwheels galore. 

The Three Kings were there.

The only problem was that the light show made getting into the zocalo impossible,  Normally, the groups enter the zocalo and keep going around until the place is packed with bands, floats, trucks, fireworks, people, all in a wonderful cacophony. 

This year, I don't think there was any plan at all.  We would see one group coming towards us and then turn around and see another group on a different street going in a different direction.  We ran around and had a blast, but no one in the crowd had a clue as to where to go.  Watching the cops direct traffic through it all was a total trip.

Of course, cute kids ruled the night. 

Grrr.... they always do.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Light Show on the Cathedral

They are showing this absolutely amazing bit of digital magic every night in the zocalo.

Each section is ten minutes long.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas Card

This fine quilt hangs just outside Amate books.  A perfect holiday postcard...
I confess to photoshopping the two atm machines out of either side of the bench, but I mean, what does money have to do with Christmas?
Here is the name of the person who created the quilt, but the more I looked at the font, the less clear what the name was.

Friday, December 23, 2011

La Noche del Rabanos - Night of the Radishes - 2011

Whew.  I'm just back from this year's Noche del Rabanos and it was better than ever.  How could you have missed it?  Where was your head??
This is the annual comeptition that takes place in the zocalo on December 23 and involves creating works using three different media: dried flowers.
corns husks
or radishes.
With Oaxaca's fame in the folk art world, the pieces are often amazing.  Some of the dried flower pieces take months to assemble.  The radishes are pretty much a one day thing.  They start to smell by the end of the day.  One has to get there early to watch the assembling and setting up.  By afternoon it is way too crowded.  And en la noche?  No way!  The place is packed. 
There are so many shots to go through, but I thought I would throw a few up quickly, with more to come tomorrow or the next day, which is, I believe, Christmas.

Some beautiful work
The piece from above and the artist, who is from nearby Etla.
Sometimes, it all comes together.  Color and subjects agree.
And the people, the artists, are so great to watch and interact with. 
More in a bit.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shot of the day...

This street musician with his Ramones jacket.  more specifically, a Johnny Ramone jacket.
 How cool is that?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


This shot is taken from directly in front of the entrance to the plaza leading to the zocalo.  What a beautiful woman.  She makes riot gear look good.  I love how her perfect nails are resting on her automatic weapon.

 She was such an imposing presence.  It made me think about the complexities of living here in terms of gender and the constant police and military presence.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christopher Huck - Opening in Teotitlan

There are many things one can do and see in Teotitlan del Valle.  There are the dancers, the processions, the weaving, the food, but going to an art opening? Now that's a rarity.  Yesterday, just before the last curve to enter the village proper, was just such an event.  And it will be the first of many as Christopher Huck and his wife, Laura Fisher, both talented artists, plan on following this initial gallery opening with one every three months.  They live in the village, but this little fiesta was at their gallery.
The art speaks for itself, filled with vibrant color.
Here's a link to this body of work, but his is extensive, as he is a very accomplished blacksmith with amazing metal work.  Check out some of it here

It was an interesting setting.  Girls from the village, in traditional outfits, served food and drinks.  The neighbors came, as well as people from the village, so there was a touch of Zapotec formality.  There were also visitors from the city and beyond.  And even some normal crazy artist types.
All were treated to quite a wonderful show.
We talked at some length about how living here has effected our art.  Hey, it effects one's whole perspective, so it would only make sense to have it infused in his work.  And the magic is sure there.

Those of you here for Navidad have to go check it out.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

La Virgin de La Soledad

 Today, December 18, is a very special day for oaxaqueños as they celebrate la Virgen de la Soledad. 
She is the patron of Oaxaca and usually she is inside the church behind the altar, but today she is carried out into the sunlight surrounded by thousands of people.  I have a hard time keeping all the saints and virgins straight but here is her story.
In the 17th century, devotion to Our Lady of Solitude increased when an unattended, heavily-laden pack donkey staggered into Oaxaca, Mexico and died.  No one knew where it had come from, who owned it, or what it carried.  When the people examined his pack, they found a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Solitude.  She wore a crown of diamonds with a huge drop pearl in the middle, and a black velvet robe.  The people decided that as the donkey had died at that spot, they would build a church there to house the little statue.  Since then devotion to Our Lady of Solitude has grown,  especially in Latin America. 
It was quite an event, but not the only thing happening today.  More in a bit.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Occupy This

Hey, El Norte!  It's everywhere. 

"I read the news today, oh boy"  Am I reading this correctly?  The US can now arrest its citizens without charges and hold them indefinitely?  I thought the rest of the world was supposed to stop doing these sorts of things and follow our example.  I did not think it would work the other way.

The whole world is watching.... in stunned amazement.
Time's Person of the Year is everywhere, too.
 "People, get ready.  There's a train a comn'."

Alejandra Robles

Last night, in the park near the baseball stadium, Alejandra Robles put on a wonderful concert.  She is a originally from Puerto Escondido, the costa chica part of Oaxaca.  She proudly represents her Afro-Mexican roots in her music and dance.  She also sings classically.

The event was the opening of the opening of the winter fiesta complete with ice rink, toboggan slide, all sorts of action.  The governor was there and lots of press.  It was a big deal when he rode down in a toboggan and then there was a thirty minute figure skating show.  So the 7 pm listed starting time was pure dreaming.  Try 8:30 and it was cold and blowing - perfect for a winter event.... a concert, not so much.

Of course, I am in love with her... I mean, her voice and stage presence.

And her band was top notch, some really nice players.  The sound was good, but not perfect, which it should have been, given all the tech they had and the amount of tweaking time.  The lighting and video did not work the way they should have.  They had an led screen behind her and the band, so basically, she was a silhouette most of the time, hard to see well and really hard to shoot.  It did make for some interesting shots. 

This one has a Lady Day sort of feel to it.

A classic pose.

And in the end, said as one who put on and performed in hundreds of concerts, most of the magic that happens in concerts comes from the audience. 

Yes, the performer generates it, but the crowd must feed on it and then give it back.  That's what does it. 

And it just wasn't there for this one.  I think it was just too cold and the crowd too small to push it into that realm. 

It sure was not for trying.  She was wonderful.