Painting with Lights from the 18 Hours of Fruita Race

Through the icy blackness, riders circled Highline Lake in Western Colorado for the 18 Hours of Fruita mountain bike race. Starting at midnight, the racers in teams of four, two or solo road the seven mile course their headlamps blazing little tunnels of light burning a path through the night down the single track trail. With the slow lifting of the dark six hours later, the most visually compelling part of the race was over, but only the first third of their adventure was completed.

All photos created during the hours of midnight and six AM at the 2010 18 Hours of Fruita Mountain Bike Race by Dave Grossman.

Victimocracy: Everybody’s a Victim of Everyone Else

Dr. James A. Forbes, the retired senior pastor of New York’s Riverside Church, is preaching today at the National Cathedral in Washington. (the full sermon can be found here.) He’s a friend, and he asked me to look over an early draft. I haven’t been the same since, and I told him so. “That’s a sign of a good sermon,” he said.

Forbes can preach. Newsweek named him one of the twelve best preachers in the English-speaking world. When he headed off to New York in 1982 to study at Union Theological Seminary, his mother gave him two books: the King James Bible and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Stride Toward Freedom. His compassion is legendary. Bill Moyers, who wrote the forward to Forbes’ new book, Whose Gospel, praises the depth and power of Forbes’ ethical vision.

Still, I didn’t expect Forbes’ sermon on “the spirit of victimization” to so unsettle me. I was prepared to agree with him that we are in danger of becoming a nation of victims. Arizona Anglos see themselves as victims of brown-skinned immigrants. Some bigoted whites think they are being selected for extinction by an African-American president. We are all under the sword of Islam, according to Glenn Beck and Dick Cheney. At least it seems to have momentarily taken the heat off those white Americans used to call “the heathen Chinee.”

What Forbes did was force me to think about how I was a little too familiar with the spirit of victimization. Didn’t I think George W. Bush happened to me? Listen, it’s hard to be a liberal in Texas and not feel a little victimized now and again. And there are, let’s leave no doubt, victims aplenty in America, victims of cruelty, violence, prejudice and enforced poverty. The ongoing struggle for social justice is all about reducing their numbers. But Forbes points out that there’s a big difference between being a victim and living with desperate passivity as a victim.

Continue reading “Victimocracy: Everybody’s a Victim of Everyone Else”

Why I Don’t Live in L.A.

Metamorphosis: a visionary live art exhibit. 99 High Art Gallery. Venice, California. Photo by Mary Lowry.
99 High Art Gallery. Venice, California. Photo by Mary Lowry.

While I was visiting LA last week, my friend Diego invited me to go down to 1st Friday, an event in which galleries on Abbot Kinney in Venice showcase art. “It’s kind of like 1st Thursday on South Congress,” Diego explained.

Though I avoid the throngs swarming SoCo on 1st Thursdays the way farmers try to avoid locusts, I told Diego I was game to go. But when I emailed my friend Dille to see if he wanted to come along to Abbot Kinney with us, he emailed back an apt warning: “1st Friday is a shit show.”

Nevertheless, a gang of us (including Dille) ended up at 1st Friday, wading through the crowds of stylishly clad gazelle-like women with hair, makeup and clothes directly out of the pages of magazines designed to give female readers an inadequacy panic attack, followed by the unquenchable urge to buy something. At least some of these gazelles must have had male dates, but leave it to the non-descript nature of the average westside LA male compared to the picture perfect beauty of the average westside LA female to explain that none of the men remain in my memory.

My friends and I stopped on the sidewalk in front of the 99 High End Gallery, which was exhibiting a show entitled Metamorphosis: a visionary live art exhibit. This oh-so-visionary exhibit included a woman, naked but for pasties, panties, white gogo boots and a giant wig, standing in the front window of the gallery. Directly behind her was a canvas painted with butterfly wings. As the giggling, oogling audience watched from the sidewalk outside, a non-descript man with glasses painted the lovely naked woman green, ostensibly completing her metamorphosis into the body of the butterfly.

“High smut!” Diego said gleefully.

As the man with glasses set to work painting the crotch of the woman’s panties, my friend Meredith noted, “She looks like she’s enjoying that a little too much.”

We laughed and moved along down the sidewalk in search of a bar without a line of gazelles wrapped around the block, waiting to get in.

High art, indeed.

Modern-Day Saints

As a young girl, I loved the Virgen de Guadalupe. Not the Virgin Mary — not that I had any issue with her, as she seemed like a very nice lady; but I loved la Virgen, specifically. While obviously kind and saintly, the Virgin Mary seemed like a woman who would faint a lot — pale and quiet-tempered, truly chaste, as her name suggests, and not much like anyone I knew or could relate to. She seemed sad, as if she had long since despaired of getting whatever it was that she desired.

La Virgen de Guadalupe, on the other hand, seemed so festive, so vital, glowing amidst a riot of color and bursting rose blooms. Like Mary’s, her expression was one of repose, but there was still a liveliness, a sense of humor, a hint of sexuality, a certain je ne sais quoi about her that spoke to the riotous, fiery color I felt blooming inside of me.

Unfortunately, not being Latina or having grown up Catholic or even Christian, I felt I had to adore la Virgen in private. It seemed disingenuous to adopt her as my non-Latina, non-religious own. But love her secretly I did, in part through regular pilgrimages to the saint candle aisle at Fiesta Mart. I was drawn especially to the La Virgen candles with pink wax that gave off the faint scent of roses, which represented how I wanted my life to look and smell: sweet, colorful, flowery, busy and, yes, exalted, but in a friendly, accessible way.

(I am reminded now of a Spring 2007 trip to Puebla, Mexico, where I was enchanted by pictures I saw everywhere of what I called “Approachable Jesus.” Of course I had seen all sorts of representations of Jesus, ones in which he looked saintly or holy or concerned or even beleaguered. But in these pictures all over Puebla, on the walls of restaurants and for sale in the mercados, his expression just looked so friendly and approachable, like a guy you would want to sit down and have a beer with, and talk over your problems. Viva Approachable Jesus!)
Continue reading “Modern-Day Saints”

Haiku Friday

We had a such a great response on our first Haiku Friday we’re giving it another go.

We’re asking readers to go to the jump and write their own haiku.

The rules of haiku are simple. Three lines. First line has five syllables. Second line has seven syllables. Third line has five syllables.

Often nature makes an appearance in haiku. And the last line sometimes has an unexpected twist.

city of angels
barbed wire smog traffic douche bags
roses like melons

Now it’s your turn readers!

Bales of Cocaine

The postings on DogCanyon the past few days have been–appropriately–content heavy and focused on the BP oil spill. But we all need a little levity now and then, even in the darkest of times.

So here’s a video from Dallas’s own, the Reverend Horton Heat, which takes us back to 1982, a simpler time when great fortunes sometimes came raining down unexpectedly on humble Texas farmers.


“HORTON, THAT’S SOME BLOW!”

The Oil Spill and Political Paralysis

bp explosionThe debate surrounding the tragic British Petroleum Gulf rig explosion and economy-wrecking oil spill has already spun off into an ideological wrestling match that’s got nothing to do with protecting us and everything to do with protecting wealth and the will-to-power.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry suggests the explosion was an act of God. He means that no one at British Petroleum should be held accountable and that no additional safety measures with regard to offshore drilling are needed. Tell that to Louisianans and other Gulf Coast (and ultimately, maybe, East Coast residents if the oil gets in the Gulf Stream).

It is really difficult to adequately describe the Right’s belief in a divine order that places them at the top of the Great Chain of Political Being. They are immune from the law. Accountability and responsibility are for those below them. They believe this like you and I believe we are all responsible for the consequences of our actions.

One of the consequences of the extremist takeover of the Republican party is that our state and national political conversations have become thin, morally bankrupt contests of will and little more. Witness the Right’s obstructionism in Washington. Never mind the sick when it comes to health care reform. The only thing on their minds was political exploitation of the issue to enhance their future power.

In the contemporary media age, sad to say, this gives advantage to those who act only out of their will-to-power. They are better at playing to the media’s need to appear “neutral.” It’s far easier to appear neutral if you cover politics as a wrestling match and avoid any mention of the practical or moral stakes. Of course, this leads to paralysis, and paralysis leads to weakened levees that destroy a city or unsafe drilling rigs that take lives and destroy economies.

When no one is accountable, no one is safe. You can conclude that those who avoid accountability at all costs don’t give a tinker’s damn about your safety.

Bars for BP

As oil continues to gush out of the wellhead more than five thousand feet below the location where the Deepwater Horizon floating drilling platform exploded April 20th, the nation is working fervently to deal with the worst oil spill in US history. There are still many unknowns about the disaster, but some important details are being revealed; BP and Transocean Ltd. drastically underestimated the risk and consequences of an oil spill on the rig, BP chose profits over safety and did not install any remotely operated shut-off switch in case of disaster, the regulatory agency responsible for oversight failed in its job and BP has a history of breaking the law by failing to file and maintain crucial safety and engineering documents. The result is that eleven workers lost their lives, four were seriously injured and the Gulf of Mexico is now experiencing a devastating disaster that will impact the region for decades if not permanently.
Although BP and its partner Transocean Ltd. were drilling offshore of one of the richest marine fisheries on the continent and the source of employment for much of the residents of the Southern US, the oil companies did not see the risk of an oil spill to be of much consequence. In a report to the Minerals Management Service that oversees offshore drilling BP stated, “unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities.” This despite multiple spills and fires specifically on the Deepwater Horizon. The Coast Guard had issued citations for those spills eighteen times in the short nine years the Deepwater Horizon was in operation and the drilling rig was involved in a 2008 incident where it almost sank. Clearly BP was irresponsibly cavalier about the operation of the Deepwater Horizon and the risk of a spill.
The consequences of this spill are made much greater because the complexity of the drilling location and the fact that BP chose not to install a remotely operated shutoff valve called a backup blowout preventer. The deadman switch system BP has stated had installed on the wellhead did not function properly. Without a backup system, the wellhead is spewing oil into the Gulf at an estimated rate of between 1,000 and 100,000,000 gallons of oil a day. Although backup blowout preventers are required by most countries that allow offshore oil drilling, was not installed on the Deepwater Horizon to keep costs down and profits high.
Backup blowout preventers are not required by the US because the the Minerals Management Service (MMS) is weak and has been systematically corrupted by the oil industry it is supposed to oversee. A 2008 investigation of the MMS Denver offices revealed the oil industry was in bed with the agency, literally. The report details drug fueled sex parties with extravagant gifts and tickets to sporting events and travel. Federal employees were improperly paid by oil companies and awarded themselves government contracts for hundreds of thousands of dollars. A 2006 investigation revealed that companies like BP that drill in the Gulf of Mexico negotiated leases that allow them to avoid paying billions of dollars in royalty payments and prevented the Interior Department from auditing them. The oversight of the oil and gas industry has been corrupted through industry efforts in the same way the mining industry has weakened their regulatory agencies. The results are the same; dead workers.
But in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, there is also a massive oil spill to contend with. According to a recent former BP employee and whistleblower, the Deepwater Horizon’s explosion isn’t the only BP deep water drilling operation that has significant issues. According to the whistleblower and the early results of the resulting investigations is a pattern of misconduct and illegal activity. If substantiated, the evidence will show BP has failed to maintain safety and engineering documents that are intended to provide a document trail for the proper construction, maintenance and operation of the BP Atlantis, the Deepwater Horizon’s sister rig. The result brings into question the construction of the well as well as the operation of the well and may have something to do with the explosion, sinking and oil spill we are now facing.
From one disaster I propose we look back to another disaster to structure our response. Although there are many important lessons to be learned from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill that still impacts Alaska, the disaster I am referring to is the January 21st, 2010 decision by the US Supreme court, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This landmark ruling greatly expanding the definition and scope of corporate personhood effectively blurring the line between flesh and blood people and corporate entities. Since the Supreme Court has so narrowed the difference between a corporal person and a corporate person, I propose that our legal response should likewise be narrowed. If the difference between a person and a corporation is almost indiscernible, the corporate headquarters of BP, its refineries and its service stations across the country should be arrested and jailed for the deaths of the eleven workers and for the ongoing oil disaster.
The privilege of being a person in the United States comes with the responsibility of consequence when people break the law. When Major Nidal Malik Hasan was identified as the accused perpetrator in the 2009 shooting deaths of 13 people at Fort Hood Army Base, he was taken into custody where he remains awaiting trial. I see no reason to treat BP and its corporate business operations differently. Obviously the process of putting a service station, much less the hundreds of refineries and administrative building that make up corporate BP, behind bars in our already overcapacity prison system would be impossible. But why we can’t bring the bars to BP? In response to the disaster that is impacting the lives of the residents of the Gulf of Mexico as well as the lives of the families of those slain on the Deepwater Horizon, citizens should demand that their local District Attorneys arrest and take into custody the person responsible; corporate BP.
Deepwater Horizon on Fire
Deepwater Horizon on Fire

As oil continues to gush out of the wellhead more than five thousand feet below the location where the Deepwater Horizon floating drilling platform exploded April 20th, the nation is working fervently to deal with the worst oil spill in US history. There are still many unknowns about the disaster, but some important details are being revealed; BP and Transocean Ltd. drastically underestimated the risk and consequences of an oil spill on the rig, BP chose profits over safety and did not install any remotely operated shut-off switch in case of disaster, the regulatory agency responsible for oversight failed in its job and BP has a history of breaking the law by failing to file and maintain crucial safety and engineering documents. The result is that eleven workers lost their lives, four were seriously injured and the Gulf of Mexico is now experiencing a devastating disaster that will impact the region for decades if not permanently.

Although BP and its partner Transocean Ltd. were drilling offshore of one of the richest marine fisheries on the continent and the source of employment for much of the residents of the Southern US, the oil companies did not see the risk of an oil spill to be of much consequence. In a report to the Minerals Management Service that oversees offshore drilling BP stated, “unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities.” This despite multiple spills and fires specifically on the Deepwater Horizon. The Coast Guard had issued citations for those spills eighteen times in the short nine years the Deepwater Horizon was in operation and the drilling rig was involved in a 2008 incident where it almost sank. Clearly BP was irresponsibly cavalier about the operation of the Deepwater Horizon and the risk of a spill.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The consequences of this spill are made much greater because the complexity of the drilling location and the fact that BP chose not to install a remotely operated shutoff valve called a backup blowout preventer. The deadman switch system BP has stated had installed on the wellhead did not function properly. Without a backup system, the wellhead is spewing oil into the Gulf at an estimated rate of between 5,000 and 1,100,000 gallons of oil a day. Although backup blowout preventers are required by most countries that allow offshore oil drilling, was not installed on the Deepwater Horizon to keep costs down and profits high.

Backup blowout preventers are not required by the US because the the Minerals Management Service is weak and has been systematically corrupted by the oil industry it is supposed to oversee. A 2008 investigation of the Minerals Management Service Denver offices revealed the oil industry was in bed with the agency, literally. The report details drug fueled sex parties with extravagant gifts and tickets to sporting events and travel. Federal employees were improperly paid by oil companies and awarded themselves government contracts for hundreds of thousands of dollars. A 2006 investigation revealed that companies like BP that drill in the Gulf of Mexico negotiated leases that allow them to avoid paying billions of dollars in royalty payments and prevented the Interior Department from auditing them. The oversight of the oil and gas industry has been corrupted through industry efforts in the same way the mining industry has weakened their regulatory agencies. The results are the same; dead workers.

BP has Blood and Oil on its hands
BP has Blood and Oil on its hands

But in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, there is also a massive oil spill to contend with. According to a recent former BP employee and whistleblower, the Deepwater Horizon’s explosion isn’t the only BP deep water drilling operation that has significant issues. According to the whistleblower and the early results of the resulting investigations is a pattern of misconduct and illegal activity. If substantiated, the evidence will show BP has failed to maintain safety and engineering documents that are intended to provide a document trail for the proper construction, maintenance and operation of the BP Atlantis, the Deepwater Horizon’s sister rig. The result brings into question the construction of the well as well as the operation of the well and may have something to do with the explosion, sinking and oil spill we are now facing.

From one disaster I propose we look back to another disaster to structure our response. Although there are many important lessons to be learned from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill that still impacts Alaska, the disaster I am referring to is the January 21st, 2010 decision by the US Supreme court, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This landmark ruling greatly expanding the definition and scope of corporate personhood effectively blurring the line between flesh and blood people and corporate entities. Since the Supreme Court has so narrowed the difference between a corporal person and a corporate person, I propose that our legal response should likewise be narrowed. If the difference between a person and a corporation is almost indiscernible, the corporate headquarters of BP, its refineries and its service stations across the country should be arrested and jailed for the deaths of the eleven workers and for the ongoing oil disaster.

The Corporate Flag
The Corporate Flag

The privilege of being a person in the United States comes with the responsibility of consequence when people break the law. When Major Nidal Malik Hasan was identified as the accused perpetrator and the sole person in the 2009 shooting deaths of 13 people at Fort Hood Army Base, he was taken into custody where he remains awaiting trial. I see no reason to treat BP and its corporate business operations differently. Obviously the process of putting a service station, much less the hundreds of refineries and administrative building that make up the corporate person of BP behind bars in our already overtaxed prison system would be impossible. But why we can’t bring the bars to BP? I am sure that bars can easily be affixed to the doors and windows of the buildings of BP rendering them incarcerated. In response to the disaster that is impacting the lives of the residents of the Gulf of Mexico as well as the lives of the families of those slain on the Deepwater Horizon, citizens should demand that their local District Attorneys arrest and take into custody the person responsible; corporate BP.