Monday, February 23, 2009

Nowhere, Somewhere

There was a work of art on diplay once, I don't remember where. Something contemporary. It's a piece that was strangely simple and striking at the time and has stuck with me ever since. It made me think and feel, and it had strange relevance to my life. Still does.

Two stacks of paper sat on the ground in an open space. Large pieces of paper, retangular and poster-sized, each stack 2-3 feet high. One stack contained copies of a white poster, completely white, with the words "Somewhere better than this place" in tiny, black, Times New Roman letters in the center. The other stack was nearly identicle, but contained entirely black posters with "Nowhere better than this place" printed right smack in the middle in tiny, white, Times New Roman letters. Visitors were encouraged to take a poster, or take one of each. A study in human behavior, human needs, human desires, the modern world. The stack of white posters, promting onlookers to think of "somewhere better than this place," or perhaps grumble that somewhere HAS to be better than this place, was almost a foot shorter than its more optimistic kin that proclaimed subtly that nowhere was better than this place.

I took the white one.

The restless poster, the wanderer poster, the malcontent poster. Does "somewhere better than this place" really exist anywhere, wherever you are? I have moved from Ohio to Montana to Scotland to Colorado and through so many places across the world with the poster in mind, with the art, the statement, the study, the taller stack of "Nowhere better than this place"-es in mind, and if I still had it in its physical form, I'd have it framed and put it on my wall. Is everyone looking for "somewhere better than this place?" Are we all just in transit, with our little white posters tucked under our arms, waiting for "this place" to fall to the wayside and to stumble into "nowhere better?"

Or is perhaps "Nowhere Better" the negative poster, the malcontent poster, the pessimistic poster, declaring that nowhere is better because nowhere is good, that every place is just as miserable as the next... And "Somewhere Better" must exist because there is good out there...

It was just... something that sticks with you.

Catching-Up, Part IV

Last shots from our hike up to Homestead Meadows. Lots of ruined cabins being reclaimed by nature, as is the general Forest Service policy toward the management of historic structures. Lots of objects that, should I throw them in my yard, would be considered trash, but for some reason if trash (and graffiti) is more than 20 years old, it is considered "historic" and kinda cool. I dunno, some of my trash is kinda cool...

Friday, February 20, 2009


Controversy over this cartoon has distracted the American public from real politics all week. Boycotts, anger, protesting, Al Sharpton doing what he does best: riling the public. I’m sure an effigy of Rupert Murdoch is burning somewhere (I could make a gruff and cynical comparison between these events and those surrounding the publishing of the Muhammad cartoon in Denmark a few years ago, but why bother?). I looked it over, thought it through, and wondered to myself… if John McCain had won, and that cartoon was published, would there be any outcry? Would anybody think anything, other than that the government is completely ineffectual when trying to help the American people, at first being friendly and sweet and then turning on its friends (much like the chimpanzee who was the subject of the cartoon)? And who was the first person to decide that black people were like chimpanzees in this case, who was the first to make the jump from “chimpanzee” to “black person?” Al Sharpton.

I’m no New York Post or Rupert Murdoch fan (though I am awfully glad Family Guy is back on Fox), but I do think that sometimes, a political cartoon is just a political cartoon and not some underhanded attempt to revive popular racism or invite someone to shoot the president. Both a chimpanzee and a president make easy targets in this country that values free speech.

This brings up the infinite question: can a man be compared to a chimpanzee if he isn’t black? Let’s look at this prime example. In case you don’t want to follow the link, I’ll describe it. I’m sure you’ve seen various versions, but the website shows a series of photos comparing President Bush to a chimpanzee. Side-by-side, face-to-face, mono-e-ape. Gaping mouths, vacant expressions, sharp teeth. The usual. So, based on the logic of protests occurring currently, can I state that these cartoons are comparing Bush to a black man, and therefore it’s saying that all black men are as incompetent as Bush? Can I say that?

Can a chimp ever just be a chimp and a president ever just a president?

Playing Catch-Up, Part III

A couple of weekends ago (I know, that's going back quite a ways for some of you), we had decided to take advantage of the balmy weather (sitting pretty at almost 50!) to spend some time outside. We took a 3.5 mile hike up a ravine to what is called Homestead Meadows, an open area of land once given away by the government to those willing to heed the call of Manifest Destiny. And many did, working and living on this particular tract of land just outside of what was to become Rocky Mountain National Park well into the mid-1900s.

I'll keep this short and split it up into two entries, so as not to overwhelm you, the viewer, with my overabundance of memory card space and itchy camera finger.

A depth of field study using funky bark

Old USFS border marker

More depth of field, only in black and white for added drama

When you focus in on snow, and that snow is white, and you don't adjust aperture or shutter speed, you get a photo that is strikingly (and I would say strategically, though it was a total accident) washed out, which looks like this shot above

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Playing Catch-Up, Part II

I had heard about this when it actually happened last week, but I was too behind to even think about posting it then, but like many others who have spent time in Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park, I'm going to do my own brief Ode to Number 6.

The ginormous bull elk died last week in Gardiner, MT, my old hometown, while trying to jump a fence in someone's yard. He was at least 15 years old (in a world where they only live to be between 13 and 18), and was 725 pounds (less than in previous years, in a world where even the big bulls get to be 700 pounds tops). I had the pleasure of seeing him many times while I lived in Yellowstone, and he even thought about chasing me once, though I was more than far enough away (as any good employee should have been). He attacked people, attacked cars, loved the ladies, and even got to have his antlers cut off twice because of his high energy. I even know the guy whose job it was to keep Number 6 from fighting with his arch-enemy, Number 10, afterward being stripped of his trophy headpieces, because the poor guy thought he still had them.

The press release from the park is here for those of you who want to know more. There are also various Odes all over the internet. He was a giant of a beast, and he was truly loved by all who knew him. Except Number 10.

That's a car taillight stuck on his antlers, for those of you who can't tell (Photo not taken by me)

Playing Catch-Up, Part I

Just briefly, for your reading pleasure, I have posted some pictures from our second (and just as brief) snow of the year. It snowed overnight, and by the time I got to work after walking the two miles, it was largely fading into pools of misty mountain slop and sloshing down the road behind muddied tires. But it was awfully pretty while it lasted.

Our neighbor's house looking pretty...

Our house looks so much better covered in snow...

I swear, tourist cities should PAY me to come there and drive away any chance of snow or cold weather, as it seems such things are everywhere I am not.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

There was an article somewhere in the news a couple of weeks ago discussing the attempts by the Scottish government to reduce drunken violence. The general suggestion was to implement an aggressive campaign to stop heavy drinking. They’re slowly turning drinking into a social disease, going against the grain of the traditional Scottish pastime and following the path of their more Puritanical (and arguably less fun) brethren Across the Pond.

I suppose this is an okay approach, but I have a better one: how about cracking down on drunken violence?

Example: while I was living in Scotland, there was a violent incident in Edinburgh that had the whole city buzzing. A guy was walking along South Bridge and idly bumped into a drunk dude. He turned to say a brief “excuse me” and the drunk dude and his buddies proceeded to beat the crap of the guy. Weeks in the hospital and thousands of dollars in reconstructive surgery just so he can function properly. And it was ALL CAUGHT ON CAMERA. They stomp on his head. On camera. And what is the punishment for the hooligans? Prison? Noooooooo. The drunk dude is slapped with a steep 500 pound fine, and the other guys are let off the hook.

A savage beating is caught on video, and the perps only have to pay a fine and are free to beat another day.

In Scotland, if you get caught by the police assaulting someone, no matter how severely, you can pay 250 pounds in cash to the officer, who will issue you a ticket, and the crime will simply go away. No arrest, no court, no lawsuit. It won’t even goon your record. So the drunk dude’s mistake was not to leave 250 pounds at the scene of the crime.

So if this is the way Scotland punishes criminals who get drunk and attack people, is drinking the problem, or is the stupid law enforcement the problem? Where is the drunk dude’s motivation to not let his anger run wild and nearly kill someone? How about, Scotland, you start sending violent offenders to jail, or at least tazing them, before you start punishing all drinkers, regardless of violent tendencies...

In other news, I've been watching Rebus, this fabulous British mystery show that takes place in Edinburgh and stars the witless brother from The Mummy (who is most definitely NOT witless in this show). Apparently, in TV Land, Scottish police are notoriously corrupt and hardcore, making the badguys quiver even without guns. It's rather cute.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


We took a short road trip out to Central City and Black Hawk, CO on Saturday. We had heard rumors of a casino town there, and we were not disappointed. Genuinely astounded would be a better phrase, as Black Hawk springs out at you from the mining and forested landscape with a skyscraper-sized hotel. We drove for several miles seeing nothing but hills, pine trees and the occasional abandoned mine, when suddenly we came around a bend and WHAM! There was this set of large, modern hotels, right in them there hills.

The contrast between old and new was phenomenal, with the strange, concrete hotels/casinos (Vegas Style, with names like Fortune Valley and Fitzgeralds) intermingled with Victorian homes built in the 1800s. On the main drag in Central City, only one building that was there in 1860 is no longer there; the rest is all authentic and restored to cater to the bus loads of old gamblers making their ways up from Denver and Boulder. There is a fancy, old-fashioned opera house with a thriving theater company that operates in the summer, a county courthouse unchanged since the 1800s and still in operation, and even a brew-pub with award-winning brews.

Jonmikel was in love instantly, and has decided to move there. It was a little to backcountry for me, but it was still pretty neat to see...

One from Jonmikel... the Downtown of Central City

No idea, but its outside the County Court House

Downtown Central City... notice the big bare spot that is an old gold mine in the background

Kind of out of place in the backcountry of Colorado...

Because everybody needs a donkey outside their courthouse!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII

I hate the Steelers.

Really. And I always will.

Jonmikel and I headed out, with the rest of my office, to our graphic designer's (Paul) place for the Big Game. Paul works for the National Association for Interpretation (who miss us immensely since we moved out of their building) and designs our publications for us. He's a delightful, red-haired Phillies fan with a big TV. We were all invited.

Everybody arrives, and all the men promptly take bets on, no the game, but on how many times they show Kurt Warner's wife on TV; the going bet was 2.5 (the number was 4, I believe, though it could have been 5; we stopped watching when the game was over). She looks freakishly like John McCain's wife...

I was bummed about the Cards' loss, but stoked that they didn't get CREAMED, as was generally predicted. The going bet was for a 7-point spread at least in Las Vegas, so I bet there are some pretty disappointed betters out there. Also important was that there was a cake designer present at our Super Bowl party, who made a pretty impressive foot-and-helmet style chocolate cake. Apparently, last year she made an entire stadium. Yeah, I was impressed.