31 July 2012

Native American Murals in Albuquerque

You never know what you might find in Burque's South Valley, but I have to admit I wasn't expecting this...
Or this....

This is La Plazita Institute, a nonprofit grassroots organization that helps link Native American high-risk youth to their traditional values.

In progress....

I'm deeply impressed by their murals, but don't know much about them. There's more at http://laplazitainstitute.org/.

All photos by Heidi Utz.

28 July 2012

24 July 2012

Bridge of Light

Exploring with the new Nikon.
The twinkle of periwinkle and the midnite blues... 

Another view:

Thank you, my dear Maggie!!

22 July 2012

Better Download That Breastfeeding App—I’ve Got a Meeting

Each week I read the Sunday New York Times and quickly realize why the world is so screwed up. It seems there’s always at least one article classifiable as “what neurotic New Yorkers believe is a good idea.”

Two weeks ago the Times ran “Where Apps Become Child’s Play,” a dee-lightfully titled feature about how Fisher-Price was hard at work designing web applications for 6-month-olds. Yes, SIX-MONTH-olds. Because of course you’re never too young to jack into the matrix—the one that’s making us all so happy, personable, considerate, selfless, healthy, and kind. The one that’s keeping us so grounded in reality that we go into a movie theater and spray the audience with 4 different weapons. Yeah, let’s get the kiddos on board with that program, stat.

As the childless middle-ager, I try to maintain a civil tone with those of my friends still breeding. But I have to admit I lost it a bit when one posted a photo of her 2-year-old with his very own laptop. Presumably running his own dot.com startup when mommy wasn’t changing his diapers. I exclaimed some sort of guttural shriek or howl, followed shortly by a small internal tirade, “Why do we have to make them adults at the age of 2? Can’t children have their childhoods in peace anymore?!”

But apparently Fisher-Price, Hasbro, Crayola, LeapFrog, and all the other corporations champing at the bit to make money from your infant simply can’t wait that long.  Infants are merely unexploited assets, like that beachfront property your pesky relatives refuse to sell to those well-intentioned developers.

And, come on, folks, we can do this! One Fisher-Price employee noted, “We see 6-month-olds batting at the screen, 9-month-olds swiping, and 12-month-olds pointing out objects to see.” So heck yeah, why not take advantage of the fact that their itty-bitty fingers have the physical capacity to execute these moves? Let's use it to make fat stacks from parents who know that their kids’ ability to perform such parlor tricks makes them exceptional in some way. And yes, entrepreneurs are getting rich off parents' egos. This week, the "genius baby industry" saw the exit of the Your Baby Can Read Company, due to the astonishing fact that...your baby can't read. Thousands of its customers were paying $200+ for a video that would ostensibly teach 3-month-olds to read. In the words of PT Barnum, a newborn's sucker of a parent is born every minute.

And the gloom gets even darker. In this business some folks are even selling apps to replace such patently nondigital acts as teething. The article quotes one such marketeer, Jason Root: “We used to talk about kids being the first generation of digital natives… Now we have a generation of newborns who are going to be weaned on touch devices.” Indeed. There’s even an iPad case that doubles as a teething toy. And coming soon, an Amazon Kindle that will give birth for you: 99-cent download, automatic upgrades.

Unfortunately, this ridiculousness seems to be catching on among parents—most likely the ones who believe that 2 weeks’ maternity leave is much too much (see below). According to the article, in the last year 3 million yahoos downloaded Fisher-Price’s Laugh & Learn apps for their weensy cybercitizens. By 2013, LeapFrog expects to have 325 apps at its online App Center--enough to keep your child unaware of the noncyber world from now till he loses his milk teeth.

Reporter Nicole LaPorte has created such a puff piece for Fisher-Price that nary a developmental psychologist was brought in to suggest anything to the contrary. A short graf from a lone pediatrician from Austin is the only voice of reason. “Infants learn best from real people and playing with real toys,” says Dr. Ari Brown, author of Baby 411. Really? How very…quaint.

Today the Times did it again (perhaps preparing for their "Creative Child Abandonment" supplement, on newsstands Sept. 1!), with the equally infuriating “Maternity Leave? It’s More Like a Pause.” Here, reporters Elissa Gootman and Catherine Saint Louis present a flock of new mothers who are soooo very important that they have barely even bothered to take time off around the births of their children. These workaholic nightmare mommies from hell  seem to have no clue that bringing a human being into the world is anything more important than developing an app or closing a big deal. As one rationalizes, “I’m the CEO of a company. This ‘child’ depends on me to run, to exist, really.” How very special.

The parade of digital crack mommies continues with another Very Important Person who sent a doubtlessly Very Important email…when she was in labor.

Of course we’re not talking about blue-collar parents who actually can’t afford to take much time off. We’re talking about mothers who have big salaries and the means to afford an army of nannies and babysitters. Those who could easily take several years off, if their own egos weren’t telling them how the world would crumble without them. Let’s hope that in 6 months Fisher-Price has developed the “Children of Narcissists” app for their babies’ itty-bitty iPhones.

When you’re swimming in that river in Egypt, I guess you just keep paddling as the waters get deeper. One new mom, a software app founder, deems maternity leave “a false construct… in today’s fused world.” I wonder if her infant shares the sentiment, or is equally jejune in shrugging it off as fake and old-fashioned, in his delight at living in the “fused” world. While Gootman and Louis manage to present just the facts without judgment, publication in the Times suggests a sense of tacit approval. Wow, look at this rad idea: micro maternity leave! A trendy new way to deny our humanity and that of our children!

American Women have fought for decades to gain larger chunks of maternity leave than the measly 6-8 weeks routinely given in the US. This is less than in most other countries throughout the world. In Norway, new moms get 46-56 weeks (86% of salary paid), and the new dad is required to take 12 (paid) weeks away as well. Ah, enlightened Scandinavia! But in the US, only a few states are required to pay anything at all for maternity leave, a fact that not only carries an economic sanction, but also sends a crystal clear message that giving birth is little valued by the culture. Hey, why spend time bonding with your infant during its most critical time of life when you could be sending yet another text or email? Tweeting a profundity? Becoming a legend in your online mind?

We live in a sick country in which people voluntarily work themselves silly and are left with no sense about anything other than how to relate with technology. A country in which salary and ego mean more to some than cherishing their children. Where teachers often remark that their job today isn’t so much to teach as it is to parent. 

The next time you're walking down the street and pass a mom chatting on her cell phone as she wheels a stroller, take a look at the expression on the ignored child's face. That kid doesn't need an app. That kid needs a parent.

Scenes of the crime:


19 July 2012

18 July 2012

Frida la Bandida

Frida got her gun....Credit: Ana Davis. Brilliante!

17 July 2012

The Walking Wounded: Clay Survivors

Last Friday I banged a right at the Flying Star and landed in purgatory. Well, not literally. OK, it was the back room of Santa Fe Clay, where I was overwhelmed by a pack of skulking sculptural humans, almost without exception mirroring the tenor of the times in their meticulously crafted corpuses. An illustrated Dante's Inferno? Or simply the cumulative effect of recession and depression on us all? In other eras, they might be called grotesques. Today? Merely normal. Hard times are written all over our faces...and all over our art.

All photos by Heidi Utz. Please credit if reusing. Unfortunately I did not write down artists’ names, but they may be available through the Santa Fe Clay website. http://www.santafeclay.com/

13 July 2012

Cheryl Strayed & A Record Thru-Hiking Season in Oregon

This makes me so nostalgic for Ashland and life among my tribe...so happy that they're having a great season. I have to wonder how much of this has been influenced by Cheryl Strayed's bestseller Wild. For my review of the book, please see 5/9 entry.

A record number of thru-hikers are heading toward Southern Oregon on the Pacific Crest Trail

Section hiker Dan Ahlvin, 24, of Corvallis, walks an overgrown section of the Pacific Crest Trail on Mount Ashland. A record number of thru-hikers left the California-Mexico border in April and are beginning to pass through Southern Oregon.
Bob Pennell

July 13, 2012

By Janet Eastman
for the Mail Tribune
Cam Honan arrived at Callahan's Lodge late after a long, wet day. Hungry and in need of a shower and sleep, he learned that all the rooms were booked for a wedding.
No problem, said the 42-year-old Australian. He'll just crash on the lawn.
The Pacific Crest Trail Association, which protects, preserves and promotes the trail, needs more trail maintenance volunteers in this region. Training is provided, so no previous experience is required. Email volunteer@pcta.org for more information.
And he did, as thousands of other endurance hikers traversing the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail have done over the years.
"I will sleep where the wedding reception will be held tomorrow," says Honan, after finishing a beer and a few plates of spaghetti on the lodge's veranda on June 29. "If they need an extra best man and there's a free meal, I'll do it."
Honan, whose trail name is "Swami," pointed to his backpack, an efficient, 7-pound toolbox that holds everything he needs to rip through 40 miles of trail a day for his months-long trip from Mexico to Canada. Right now, his pack is empty of dried beans and other lightweight food.
But also in front of him is a box of provisions he had shipped to Callahan's. Consuming 21/2 pounds of food a day, the lanky hiker will make it to Crater Lake in less than three days, about twice the speed of the average PCT hiker.
In the next several weeks, Ashland will see more "thru hikers," as they are called, arriving in town with scruffy hair, a spare backpack and trekking poles. They will be in need of a computer, washing machine and place to flop. And often a cold beer.
The number of PCT hikers has increased each year since the trail was completed in 1993, says Jack Haskel of the Pacific Crest Trail Association. But because of low snow levels this year, a record number of hikers left the Mexico-U.S. border in April and are heading this way.
"It's the busiest year ever on the trail," he says.

So far this year, his organization has issued 835 thru-hiker permits, an increase of 181 over last year. In addition, 578 permits have been granted to long-distance section hikers. Some of the permits cover couples or small groups of people.
Haskel keeps tabs on the progress of the hiking herd by talking to the trekkers, business owners along the route and trail angels, who give walkers lifts to town, shelter and a hot meal.
He says the hikers are fairly well spread out this year. Leaders like Honan are arriving now, and Haskel estimates that most of the group will pour into Ashland from July 20 through Aug. 10 or so.
Some hikers are taking their first trek on the Pacific Crest Trail, considered one of the Triple Crown of American routes along with the Continental Divide Trail and the Appalachian Trail. They are college students on a gap year or retirees who finally have the time to cross the grueling trip off their bucket list.
A few women were inspired by Portland author Cheryl Strayed, whose best-selling memoir, "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," related how an unprepared 26-year-old escaped the pain of losing her mother by walking through California, Oregon and Washington.
Haskel, whose trail name is "Found," says that by the time hikers cross over the Greensprings Highway or near Callahan's Lodge off Highway 66, they are seasoned veterans who have endured the scorching Mojave desert and a 13,153-foot high snowy pass in the Sierra Nevada.
Greeting them on their entrance into Oregon is Ron Bergquist, who owns Callahan's. To help hikers navigate their way through the forest of conifers, he posted a directional sign that reads "First Beer Free."
"They can't be day hikers to get the free beer," he says. "They don't get it unless they smell bad."
Section hiker Dan Ahlvin, 24, didn't qualify for the free beer, either. The former finance worker from Corvallis hopped on the trail at the California-Oregon border on July 6 and is spending the next two months inching his way to Canada.

At the lodge, hikers can shower, do their laundry and sleep on the property for $25. For double that, they also get bottomless bowls of spaghetti at night and an endless stack of pancakes the next morning. Few pay for a room.
Most are watching their budget or the calendar. Staying off the trail, called a "zero day" in hiker lingo, is sometimes necessary but not liked.
Marilyn Northcross looks forward to the PCT hikers every year, and it's not because some stay at the Ashland Hostel, which she owns. "They tell the most fascinating stories," says Northcross, a self-described neat freak who has not hiked the PCT — "I'm not drawn to it as they are," she says — but was given an honorary trail name, "Den Mom."
For $28 a night, lodgers at the hostel get a bunk bed, linens and a place to stash food. But even at that price, they stick around for just a day or so, unless they're sick or injured, she says. Before they go, they organize their resupply boxes in the basement's communal living room, a sight she thinks captures the culture.
Few, however, who will reach Ashland have the hiking credentials of Cam Honan. The PCT is just one part of his 15,000-mile continuous walk across North America. He started July 2, 2011, and hopes to finish by December, "assuming I have any cartilage left in my knees," he jokes.
"Hiking is when I'm happiest," he says. "There are places you can only get to by walking. You experience an awesome fusion of geography, culture, cuisine, music, religion, society. You see places from the inside out."
He started seriously trekking 20 years ago and has gone around the globe, tramping across deserts, jungles and mountains. He says North America is his favorite continent to explore because it's so geographically diverse.
The two luxuries he carries are an iPod packed with audio renditions of 20 plays and 25 classic books and an iPhone he uses to post on his website www.thehikinglife.com.
He planned to stop only once a month to renew himself, but a weird reaction to a poisonous poodle-dog bush sent him to the hospital in Ridgecrest and he lost six hiking days.

Even though he only left the trail when his legs swelled so much that he couldn't put his shoes on, he laments the delay.
"I don't like those off-trail miles," he says. "I won't take another day off until I finish."
This is his second time hiking the entire PCT. He stopped here in 2007, when Callahan's was not rebuilt after the fire. Although he has walked thousands of miles since then, he still remembers the pancakes, omelet and cereal he consumed at the Morning Glory restaurant and seeing "The Tempest" at the Elizabethan stage.
On this second swing through, he left Callahan's early the next morning, after eating countless pancakes for breakfast. But he took the time to date and sign the lodge's thick PCT Hiker Journal: "6/30: Thanks for the wonderful hospitality. Cam 'Swami' Honan."

11 July 2012

Downtown Saturday Night

My wonderful friend Maggie just gave me the awesome gift of her Nikon while she's out traveling the world. I'm still figuring it out but played around a bit downtown last Saturday evening at magic hour. It's refreshing to have a camera that can shoot faster than 3 frames/minute! Thank you, Maggie! xoxoxo

Here is the original shot before I messed with it in Pshop:

09 July 2012

You Can Never Have Too Many Fridas

Photo: SFMOMA/K. Davidson, S. Stein
Photo of the Day
From a 2008 Frida Kahlo exhibition at SFMOMA, many Fridas gathered at Rene Yanez's Pasion por Frida
Frida would have turned 105 last Friday.

04 July 2012

South Valley TKO: The Boxing Chapel!

In Albuquerque's South Valley, at the busy intersection of Bridge Blvd. and Five Points, is the site of a former historic church. NM has many beautiful old adobe churches, and I often stop to admire--and take a photo.

But sneak around front and it becomes something a bit less...holy. More like...Holyfield.

Inside this repurposed church is one of the busiest boxing gyms in Albuquerque. No pews or altar inside, just a ring and some bags. Amateur boxer Marcos "Bad Boy" Hernandez runs the place, as somewhere troubled South Valley kids can go to learn the sport, along with some discipline and respect. I am, of course, KTFO'ed.

Photo: Jose Leon Castillo

More at: http://newmexicoboxing.com/only-good-intentions-for-bad-boy