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, 2014

What a weird country

Seriously folks, is it just me or has El Norte gone completely nuts?
"Corporations are people, my friends."  "Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi."  Just like the old SNL skit.  No matter what you want, you know what you're gonna get.... or not get if you are thinking birth control, living wages, unions, etc.

Believe me, if the Mexican courts did stuff like this people would be in the streets, which they do do and they are.... not that it makes any difference.  Their beliefs outweigh the facts.  We must acquiesce to our betters, our overlords, the 1% and now, even more, corporations.  We would not want to hurt their feelings. 

This Supreme Court, uh... er.... thank God, they are not activists.  I know they all wrote about the danger of activist judges, so it can't be them.  They would never undo years of legal precedent.  They're merely "umpires," right?

Irony has had a miraculous recovery, as ISIS simultaneously established a caliphate, you know, where religion tops all.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bouncing back

I recently wrote about bouncing back and forth between the two cultures of Oaxaca and Boston and how enjoyable it is, albeit somewhat jarring at times.  This time, this return to Oaxaca, has been sweet.  While I was in Boston, there must have been tons of rain, because not only have all the plants exploded with greenery, but my 15,000 liter cistern is almost full.  That's a lot of rain.  The weeds have grown over 1.5 meters in just three weeks and are threatening to take over the lot I planted over the dry season.  However, I love to weed and all of them will be compost shortly.  Things look quite spectacular, but I will wait to clear the weeds before posting pics.
Over at Casa Colibri, Shannon posted about her return to Oaxaca (we happened to be on the same flight from Houston) and awakening to the sound of the bells.  However, out in el campo, it is a bit different.  Last night the winds howled for a while and clean, fresh air filled the house.  I awoke to these vistas.  You can see how lush everything is.
This is over at the church in Reyes Etla, one of my favorite views.  Today, the scene was tranquil, but in just a couple of weeks, there will be dancing on that cement circle as the guelaguetza commences.  And just where those goats are, the annual feria de queso (cheese fair) will arise and I will be there drinking in the dance, food and ambiance.  One of the best weeks of the year!
Really, I was out to get food, so I hit my market in Etla.  Ain't nuttin' like the real thing. 
I so missed this while I was in Boston.  And I sure as hell missed all of this good food while I was north.  I was staggered by the price of food there.  Now look at this display of goodness.
From bottom to top: tortillas, tasajo (beef), onions, six rolls, quesillo (cheese), four tomatoes, two guayabas, two mangos, three avocados, three calabasitos (squash), bananas, a big bag of carrots and potatoes and three cups of pre-cut fruit, mango, papaya and pina.  If you can believe it, all of this cost under $20 US.  I am so spoiled!  And so happy to be back.  Time to eat!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Si, claro! Dim sum!

I love my dim sum in any language.  The China Pearl in Chinatown was the destination for all my walks. 
I would jump off the train in Kenmore and hoof it all the way, just taking in the sights and avoiding all temptations.
 At last.
"I'd like some more, please..."
Just looking at the pictures makes me hungry.
Hmmm... one more day... I could/should....

Follow the bouncing ball

I have been bouncing between Boston and Oaxaca for quite a few years now and each arrival/departure is unique, different. 
House maintenance is always at the top of the agenda and I feel like I am a traveling handyman/gardener just doing what needs to be done to keep both places running well.  It's a good life and I enjoy it.  I try to take advantage of the best of both places.
 I love looking at the layout of the city, the architecture.  Yes, iconic Filene's
I was last here in Boston in February and the weather was typically brutal, super cold and icy.  I loved it, a taste of winter and cabin fever.  Then back to the dryness of Oaxaca and the ongoing wait, the anticipation of the rains finally arriving in May or June.  May is normally the hottest month of the year in Oaxaca, but this year, it was pleasant and the rains arrived right on time, ending my struggle to get young plants through the dry season.   Ahhhh...
The rains come and I head north. 
Let's face it, June in New England is about as good as it gets and I thoroughly enjoyed my long walks through the city.  Ain't no place like Beantown.
Love that dirty water... so to speak.
But I am so ready to head south.  My neighbor wrote me and said that all those seeds I had scattered everywhere months ago had come up and that there flowers were everywhere and that the place looked beautiful.  I can't wait to see, but will have to wait until Thursday, more like Friday morning.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


I remember going to Seoul a few years ago and it seemed as if everyone had a cell and they were all tiny.... uh, the phones, not the people.  Well, it would appear we are catching up.  This shot from the Green line yesterday.  I was the only one on the car without a phone.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The ethics in photography

Let's face it, most of the the photos we see have been tweaked in one way or another.  In the digital age it is different, but back when it was all on film, photographers had lots of tools to use in the darkroom.

I have been using Photoshop since it came out and I used to do more "artistic" stuff, but now I do as little as possible, adjusting levels and maybe one or two other things and that's it.  Sure, I occasionally fix certain images with a variety of techniques, but in truth, I use about .001 percent of the program's capabilities.

I do, however, follow and love lots of the current work by the world's photographers, especially the ones that push the limits of these programs.  And just as in my music software, Logic Pro X, these products have long eclipsed what were my wildest imaginings years ago.  I feel like I have died and gone to nerd heaven.  Of course, there is a bit of a learning curve that comes with these ever expanding capabilities, but there are tutorials on youtube for virtually everything and anything... Japanese T-shirt folding, you know what I'm talkin' about? (If not, check it out).

I just downloaded some filters from Nik (a Google product) and can see it will take some time to explore all the new capabilities.  I am watching lots of tutorials and getting on top of it.  It is really amazing what one can do to photos these days and I guess, that's where the ethics come in.

Obviously, there have been lots of instances where photographers have gotten busted for manipulating and/or adding/deleting stuff.  And there is the current meme of Photoshop FAIL, but I am talking about the gray areas.

Here's the original with nothing done to it.  Yes, it is a little dark.
Now look at these two versions of the same shot.  The first with my normal tweaks.
These one a beginner's use of Nik.

Again, I am a beginner and was not going for subtlety here, just exploring, but the results are interesting, doncha think?  Will I go to H-E-double hockey sticks-O for this??

Ch ch ch changes...

Remember this shot from last February?
Well, this is what it looks like now.  It has been a good year from rhododendrons and peonies.
Things look perfect.
Wait a second... that beautiful lawn is.... plastic.
Hmmm.... I have to say, it looks pretty good and no weeding.
I am psyched to be heading south to see the wonderful crop of weeds that awaits me after three weeks of good rain.  Each year, this is the time of year when the plants explode

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Irony died...again.

The Onion threw in the towel today and Jon Stewart retired, muttering, "There is nothing left to say."
From The WSJ

The Collapsing Obama Doctrine

Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Look though any window

Finally a beautiful day in which I don't have much to do except enjoy Boston.  I ran errands and then ran for the commuter train and I mean, ran, because it was just pulling in when I hit the top of the stairs and I still had a couple of hundred meters to go.  As I ran, unbeknownst to me, my apple shuffle came off and fell somewhere onto the track bed.  I noticed it as soon as I was on the train, but it was too late.   Bummer. 
However, I get to Copley and jump off and head into the city for a quick bite at my favorite dim sum place, The China Pearl. 
It is a beautiful day and the city is packed with lots of tourists, but boy, they sure look different from  Oaxacan tourists.  It is probably a couple of miles to Chinatown and one goes through a lot of Beantown getting there:  Copley, Boylston Street, The Public Gardens, The Boston Common, Downtown Crossing, the financial district and finally Chinatown.
The whole time, I bummin about the shuffle and wondering if maybe, somehow, it might still be there and I can find it.  After all, it is only a little tiny shiny glittering perfect square.  Who could notice it?
So I plot a strategy. There are no commuter trains coming or going in the interim, so maybe, it actually might be there.  If I can be first off the train....  no, better yet, I can take the green line to Riverside and get there before the commuter train arrives if I am lucky.   Which is what I do and hustle up the hill from the T station and then across the bridge and down the stairs to the commuter stop.  I look everywhere, but it's a fool's errand.  Someone must have found it.  I am bummed, but it would have been a miracle....

There was only person in sight, a young man in his 20's, with tats, long shorts, hat down low, you know the look.  He was going the other way and I paid no attention to him.  While I was looking along the tracks, he headed up the long flight of stairs and was gone.  I give up and head home.   Bummer.

But as I reached the top of the stairs, he is there and says, "I saw you were looking for something.  Was it this?" and he holds up my shuffle, which he immediately hands to me.  We slapped hands and hit fists, the same handshake as Oaxaca, and I thanked him profusely.  As he walked away, I called after him,  "That was a very cool thing to do."  He just waved. 

Human beings, gotta love 'em.  "I have been released..."

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Culture clash

It is always fun to bounce between Oaxaca and Boston.  One never knows what one will find.  One year it was sixteen (16!) squirrels in the attic.  This year it is lush in both places as the rains have come in Oaxaca and it is a normal early June in New England, one day beautiful, the next cool, gray and rainy.
While I'm here, I'm trying to update all my little devices and get the latest versions of my music and photography software.  Download speeds are too slow in Oaxaca, so I always do it here and Wow!, technology keeps speeding up making the learning curve lots of fun.  New techniques yield new results.  Boston at its finest
 A slightly different vista from last week, Oaxaca at its finest.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Midas touch

Glad to see I still got it... uh, sorta.  When I was performing and doing a lot of composing (as opposed to what I am doing now, decomposing)  I garnered some mighty fine reviews from around the world.  Hmm... there was that one that said I "should leave town and never write music again" or the one that said I was "too stupid to realize I should have been embarrassed."  Oh sure, there was one that said my "music was better than sex," but it was from a music critic, so I knew they had no reference point.

At any rate, I am lying low, off the grid, out of the scene, and yet...  I do one little tiny thing and "bam", the whole thing explodes, I'm right back in the middle of a controversy. (Translated)
A promotional video for the traditional festival of the Guelaguetza in Oaxaca, caused controversy in social networks, after some tweeters and bloggers to postearan comments against the material, since it seemed "racist", "demeaning" and even offering an image of Indians as "merchandise".

In the video are wearing their tuxedos regional indigenous people dancing around tourists, either in the Walker tour of the city or in a Museum, but also as background for two people to take a picture in front of Cathedral and even to make a woman look them while she is lying down in a hotel room.

here is a part in which some indigenous women take pains to offer clothes to a high tourist and of white skin which is up on a pedestal, while two of the women are inclined to fix your wardrobe.
On Twitter, Oaxacan users expressed their dissatisfaction, and some directly called on Governor Gabino Cué to intervene in the matter.

The feast of the Guelaguetza, which means "share" or "offering", is traditional in Oaxaca which is performed for many years in the capital city the last two Mondays in July, and in which representatives of the eight regions of the State, with dancing typical of their communities.

Here the video caused controversy:
 The bold above is me taking the photo, but all you can see is my butt (at 0:21), but it good to see I can piss people off not even being seen.  Ah... that Midas touch.

To some degree, I can agree with the criticism.  There is a perspective that says the government ignores the indigenous all year, except for the guelaguetza and then they promote and exploit them like crazy.  The festival is a huge cash cow and tens of thousands of tourists show and add to the state's coffers.  If this controversy can advance fair and equitable treatment for the huge indigenous population, I say good.  Glad to have pissed people off, if something better comes of it.

Obviously, this was not my project, nor did I have anything to do with its conception.  I just showed up and turned my back to the camera, but I am most reassured.... "I've still got it, Mom."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Guns, borders and prisoner exchanges

Just my humble and worthless opinion, but the whole Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange thing is shining a hideous light on El Norte's current political scene.  I read the comments in today's Guardian (U.K.) and people seemed genuinely aghast at how ugly we appear.  And sadly, I concur.  Oh well....

Here is another story about a U.S. marine currently being held in Mexican jail.  Given the current climate, I can see this one getting hot as it has all the necessary elements.
from the LAHT (emphasis added)
U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, jailed in Mexico in April after crossing the border with several guns in his possession, has tried to escape twice and exhibited violent behavior, officials said.

When the 25-year-old suspect was incarcerated, he “manifested violent conduct, tried to escape on two occasions and inflicted physical harm on himself,” the Attorney General’s Office said Friday in its first statement on the case....

Tahmooressi, a Marine sergeant who served two tours in Afghanistan, was arrested on April 1 when he entered the northwestern Mexican border city of Tijuana from San Diego with firearms, ammunition and ammunition clips that are reserved for the use of the Mexican army.

Tahmooressi did not identify himself as an active member of the U.S. Armed Forces at the time of his arrest and did not provide Mexican customs officials with a permit for importing or carrying the weapons, the AG’s office said.....

Signs warning that it is prohibited to enter Mexico with firearms are “clearly visible” near border crossings, the AG’s office said.

Congressman Duncan D. Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services committee, has made efforts to secure the suspect’s release, arguing that the whole episode was a misunderstanding.

Hunter, a war veteran like Tahmooressi, asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to suspend all military aid to Mexico until the Marine is released from custody.
All I can say is that as someone who is a guest here in Oaxaca, it is absolutely crucial that I play by the rules of my host country and state. This ain't the US and Mexican law is very different and Mexican prisons, I don't want to even think about.

So what do you think?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Michelle Obama on Maya Angelou

There are speeches and there are speeches.  This is pretty powerful.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Don't blink

If you do you will miss my cameo at second :09.

You will recall this post about my appearance in the promotional video for this year's upcoming Guelaguetza.   Yes, that is my fine butt, but you have to be fast to see it.  Ah, well, it is probably just enough to pick up an Oscar or at least a Clio.

"I am ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Travel day

Blogging will be light as I head north.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A face that haunts

Political graffiti here is always on the cutting edge. 
That is el presidente.
And that is one scary look in that mujer'ss eyes.
Rough translation? "We have memory, do not forget,  Fear changes sides."