Saturday, August 30, 2008

In which I go on a slightly insane political tangent

Those damn Obama kids.  Could they be any cuter?  Just keep bringing those kids out, its like having a panda.  No one can resist the cute.  Vote for me!  Look!  The Cute is on my side.  But  it  is a little sad, kids in the spot light, their every move judged.  Talk about an interrupted childhood.  Being a president's kid is a very strange situation.  I thought I was going to make a list of all the president's kids, like I did with all the presidents, but, oh my god, there are way too many of them.  (And somebody else already did it, and did a much better job) Pretty much all of the presidents had about thirteen kids, except for George Washington, who was too neurotic, and James Buchanan, who was probably gay.   So I decided to just find some highlights.

Most Kids Ever: John Tyler, tenth president of the united states, had eight kids by his first wife, and then seven by his second.  Mary, Robert, John Letitia, Elizabeth, Anne, Alice, Tazewell, David, John, Julia, Lachlan, Lyon, Robert and Pearl.  I really feel like he was running out of ideas in the middle there- Lachlan? Really?  Not feeling like their were enough players on the family softball team, he had a couple more illegitimate children with some slaves. 

Weirdest nicknames: Definitely a tie between John Adam's daughter, Abigail, AKA "Nabby" and James Garfield's daughter, Eliza, AKA "Trot."  Maybe they could start a band or something, get Abe Lincoln's kid on the drums!  Nabby, Trot and Tad.  Nabby, Trot and the American Way. Or, White House Wedding!

Worst parenting style:  Goes to Thomas Jefferson.  He pretty much missed all of his kids being born, and then, missed their deaths too.  To give the man some credit, most of them died about 15 minutes later.  And those are only his legitimate children! Who even knows about the rest of them.

Most Bad Ass Babe:  Hands down, Alice Roosevelt.  During her white house adolescence, she set off fire crackers on the front lawn, was caught gambling, took unchaperoned joy rides in the presidential car, danced the shimmie, and smoked in the oval office.  When TR forbid her from smoking inside, she went on the roof, and would take playful shots at pigeons and telegraph workers with her rifle.  She was the first ingenue to jump in a swimming pool fully clothed.  And you have to remember this was the eighteen dippity doos where women could be stoned to death for showing their ankles.  Basically, she knew how to party.  Armed with a quick wit and a hot body, she pretty much partied her whole life.  Here's a review of one of her biographies, which gives a good taste for how rocking she was.   

Best Pet:  The Carter family seems to be in touch with a ludicrous and scary side of nature.  When not dodging attacks from swimming rabbits, Amy Carter named her cat Misty Malarkey Ying Yang.  She also gets cool points for being arrested at a protest when she was in college.  

Best Rebel:  Bleeding heart liberal Patricia Ann Reagan very publicly disagreed with Ronald about almost everything, voted (gasp!) for the democratic party, and wrote books exposing him as a negligent father.  She also posed for play boy.  Like you do.  She's so liberal, she married her yoga instructor, and then got divorced.

Well, that's all I have.  Republicans really seem to have a monopoly on family drama, don't they? John McCain seems right in line with history-- two wives, a football team of kids.  I felt pretty bad for his adopted daughter, the only not white person at the republican convention.  And Bristly Brush Palin with her teenage pregnancy.  But, we can't forget, just a few years ago Bill Clinton showed the world that democrats, too, knew how to womanize!  Messy, messy lives that shouldn't have any effect on how you vote, but for some reason, seem to.  Makes you miss the old days of whiskey and hacksaws.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Book Report!

I'm in the middle of reading The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion That Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest, by David Roberts. He seems like a delightfully macho flakey-hippy guy: "A day spent contemplating the ruins of an ancestral village, all but lost in the forest on top of a high plateau, conveyed to me the integrity of Pueblo life before the Spanish came better than some dry ethnographic report." Aww.

The most striking thing to me about this book (so far) is the destruction both sides wrecked on the other's sacred religious spaces. The leader of the revolt, Pope, had his reasons. "Pope had been one of forty-seven "sorcerers" arrested by Otermin's predecessor, Governor Jaum Francisco Trevino in 1675. For obstinately continuing to practice their "idolatry" (i.e. the Kachina religion, instead of the Catholicism that had bathed their souls in Christ's mercy) the medicine men were imprisoned in Santa Fe and severely flogged. Trevino hanged three shamans as an example to others; a fourth committed suicide by hanging." (Page 17) White man's destruction of sacred land has been well documented, and in August of 1680, the united pueblo tribes got their revenge. Burning churches as they came to them and murdering every priest in New Mexico, their 'hatred and barbarous ferocity went to such extremes that ... images of saints were found among excrement...there was carved crucifix with the paint and varnish taken off by lashes. There was also excrement at the place of the holy communion table." P 26

One of the first conquistadors to bumble and trample his way through New Mexico was Don Juan de Onate y Salazar. He pretty much destroyed the Acoma pueblo, and everyone he didn’t massacre, he sold into slavery, usually after chopping off one of their feet.

David Roberts writes: “That Acoma exists today is a profound testament to Puebloan resilience. It would take thirty years after the carrying out of Onate’s sentence before the survivors and their descendants were allowed to begin rebuilding the pueblo on top of the butte. Under the direction of Fray Juan Ramirez, after 1629 the Acomans were put to work erecting, with adobe bricks, one of the most grandiose mission churches in New Mexico.” (p 90)

Like any good land tromping investigative historical writer, Mr. Roberts pays a visit to the pueblo. “Inside the church, I admired once more the brown and red wall murals that mingled Puebloan rainbow and cloud symbols with Christian crosses, the painting of on buffalo hide of Saint Stephen’s (Estevan’s) stoning. Leo (the guide) mentioned that September 2 was the feast day of Saint Stephen, and then went on to say, ‘you come up and celebrate with us. The public is welcome.’ As if sensing the apparent paradox that stared us in the face inside the mission, now he editorialized (just as all my previous Acoma guides had), ‘There’s no contradiction at all between the two religions.’” P93

For some reason, this reminded me of a passage in another book I just finished reading- The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. Totally different, I know. He’s writing about “America’s National Eating Disorder.” Only he actually uses all capitals. He writes: “…It seems as though our eating tends to grow more tortured as our culture’s power to manage our relationships to food weakens. This seems to me precisely the predicament we find ourselves in today as eaters, particularly in America. America has never has a stable national cuisine; each immigrant population has brought its own foodways to the American table, but none has ever been powerful enough to hold the national diet very steady. We seem bent on reinventing the American way of eating every generation, in great paroxysms of neophilia and neophobia. That might be why Americans have been such easy marks for good fads and diets of every description.” P 299

In this passage, Michael Pollan hits on something that I’ve often felt myself and heard others gripe about- the U.S.’s lack of a cohesive, binding culture. We’re a nastily congealed melting pot, too much old bitterness, fear, and some laziness is keeping us from truly mixing it all together, and tapping into what could be the richest of cultures. I though of something I saw at the Indian market in Santa Fe- a Christmas tree, originally a European pagan tradition, appropriated by Christianity, completely covered in hand crafted traditional pueblo ornaments. Maybe Saint Stephen’s day (Estevan was, by the way, a black man, brought here by the Spanish as a slave) should be a national holiday, where Americans commemorate those massacred at Acoma, and all victims of genocide. We could have a big, locally grown free-range turkey dinner, make offerings to our household Kachina alter, and pray for peace on our prayer rugs. I know it sounds a little silly when I say it like that, but having all these different traditions into our daily life make us more tolerant and grounded.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

To keep us from becoming completely demoralized from over work, the entire costume shop packed up last week and went on a little field trip Los Alamos.   Once the sight of nuclear testing, the city of Los Alamos seems to now have a thriving fibers community.   The exhibit was at the public library, and it was one woman's collection.  In addition to being a nuclear physicist, she has also been traveling the world for years, collecting hand made lace and lace paraphernalia.  She described it as a mania, which it certainly seemed accurate.  The people who must have sat there for years at a time twisting tiny pieces of thread by candle light must have been just a little bit insane.   The way it's made, all the layers and complexity, our maniacal lace collecting tour guide told us, was similar to figuring out complicated physics problems. 

Lace has such an intense history, people got so worked up.  But it seems like nobody remembers the makers.   Our lace collecting docent had obviously taken such loving care of each piece.

She pointed out that in one piece contained the initials "M M" in one of the flowers.  Can you see it?  I love reminders that people, probably people a lot like me made this stuff, their hands and their time.  And history doesn't remember them, because they were women, or because lace just wasn't important enough to be recorded, but they made it anyway.

My photography obviously doesn't do any of these lace bits justice, but it was incredible to see.  Cathy decided right on the spot that she was going to get some bobbins and start working on her wedding dress.

Weird fact about lace bobbins:  they used to make commemorative lace bobbins for public hangings.  So as your sitting, twisting threads, your thinking, "Ah, the day James Banbit was hung for heresy.  'Twas a bright, sunny day, and the children and I had a lovely time in the town square."  ????
  Any way, there was a lovely farmers market right next to the library and we got lunch there.  I also bought two skeins of yarn spun from sheepies right up in the hills of Los Alamos.  This awesome woman gave me delicious bread for only two dollars.  Because I didn't have enough money.

And at the end of the day we drove back right across the bandolier tuff. Which could make your heart stop.