Posts Tagged ‘Arizona’


Western Diamondback

“Rattlesnakes are attracted to beer and tattoos.”

— Poison Control Center worker overheard at a party a few years ago commenting on the fact that guys in their teens and twenties account for most rattlesnake bites and that — how did you ever guess? — alcohol is often involved. Not coincidentally, almost all Gila Monster bites involve the same demographic.

(Just in case you’re wondering, the above is a Western Diamondback, the most common type of rattler here in the Sonoran Desert.)


Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are here in Arizona, up in Wickenburg at The Meadows, a very expensive ($58,000 for 45 days) 12-step treatment program.

This is ridiculous on more than one count, most importantly that Spacey and Weinstein are not afflicted with “sex addiction.” Rather, they’ afflicted with power-over-others “addiction,” and the abusive behavior that results from it. Give people power over others, and it’s a safe bet that a great many of them will abuse it.

Second, “sex addiction” is not a recognized disorder in the standard handbook on mental disorders, the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (5th ed.). It’s a pop culture term dating from the 1980s, whose roots seem to lie in the anti-sexual attitudes of conservative Christians and in the authoritarian, prudish feminism of figures such as Andrea Dworkin. It’s more of the “same old same old” pathologizing of sex that’s been such a dreary part of American life for centuries.

Third, the type of “treatment” Spacey and Weinstein are receiving for this trumped up malady is 12-step treatment, which is ineffective across the board. (See “Alcoholics Anonymous is Not Effective” for info on the granddaddy of and model for all subsequent 12-step programs; see also the authoritative Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches, by Reid Hester and William Miller.)

So, Spacey and Weinstein are receiving (insofar as it’s 12-step based) ineffective treatment for an imaginary addiction, while their real problem — their willingness to use their positions of power to exploit and abuse others — goes unaddressed.

In the end, it seems that all they’ve done is find a convenient way to remove themselves from the spotlight, while giving the appearance of doing something about their awful behavior. They’ll emerge from rehab in January, their PR flacks will proclaim them rehabilitated — and they’ll quite probably go back to business as usual, insofar as they can get away with it.

That’s a shame for both Spacey, Weinstein, and their victims, and for the rest of us, because sexual abuse by the powerful has wider than individual implications. It’s a symptom of the sickness at the heart of our current authoritarian, hierarchical political and economic organization that gives some vast power over others. This whole affair could have spurred much needed discussion about that sickness. But it hasn’t, and likely won’t, especially as it’s being addressed as a matter of individual failure rather than pervasive sociopolitical failure.


Howdy from Tucson, where the final day of Spring came in at (depending  on which forecast you believe) somewhere between 112 and 114 degrees F (45 degrees C for you furriners). (Update: it was actually 115 F.)

It’s supposed to be even warmer tomorrow (make that in a few hours). (Update: It was warmer: 116 (47 C) ; in Phoenix it was 119. As I write, the high today was a mere 115, and we’re in for a major cooling spell this weekend, where the highs won’t get much above 110.)

About three weeks ago, after our first string of 100+ degree days, one of the local weathermen (Kevin Jeanes on KOLD — and sorry for the political incorrectness, that should be “weatherperson” or “person of weather”) with, shall we say a dry sense of humor, commented that the temperature was “all the way down to 99, and it’ll be even cooler tomorrow at 97.” (Again, for those of you who use a rational temperature scale, that translates to 37 C and 36 C.)

For those who haven’t been paying attention to U.S. climate models, they predict that this region, the desert Southwest, will be the hardest hit of the “lower 48.” And indeed it has been. We’ve been in a prolonged drought for nearly 20 years (broken last year by “normal” rainfall), and two of the last three years, 2014 and 2016, were the hottest on record. We just experienced the second warmest Spring ever, with the hottest March (high and mid 90s temperatures starting around March 1).

So, yeah, global warming is a “hoax.” We need to burn more coal. Donald Trump is an intelligent, honest, compassionate human being. And the unfettered greed inherent in capitalism isn’t a death sentence for the planet.

Things seem bleak, but we’re not totally screwed. There are things we can do individually and collectively to adapt and to counter global warming.

One thing damn near everyone can do is to plant trees. If done on a mass scale, this can reverse desertification. Even on an individual scale, it’s one of the best things we can do.

Gardening is another individual approach that makes sense. It involves far less expense than transporting food for thousands of miles, and involves far less waste. It also yields health benefits via relaxation, if nothing else.

Another individual approach, in arid regions, is to use xeriscaping, using native plants and a carpeting of rocks in place of lawns and non-native plants. This saves water — a lot of it, and it looks better than lawns.

Then there’s water harvesting — again, something damn near everyone (at least every property owner) can do at reasonable cost that will be amortized in a relatively few years. Even if you’re just channeling rain water from your roof and patio into wells for your fruit trees (as I am), it helps.

And then there’s passive solar heating (just think big picture windows facing south with an overhang that cuts off the sun in the summer months) and solar hot water heating (ultra easy — I built a solar hot water heater out of two old hot water heaters painted flat black [stripped of their external metal jacket and insulation], plumbing fittings, an old window, and scrap plywood and 2X4s about 20 years ago — a friend is still using it).

Then there’s ultra-insulation. Think straw bale and rammed earth construction. These energy-saving approaches can be used almost anywhere, and will often result in extremely energy-efficient dwellings.

To go even further on the individual scale, basements make a hell of a lot of sense in desert areas. Temperatures in them are a good 25 degrees F below surface temperatures, and there aren’t even seepage problems in deserts. The only reason they haven’t been adopted on a mass scale in the sprawlopalises  of the Southwest is that land, historically, has been so damn cheap that builders have foregone them in place of slab construction, which yields better short-term profits. If you’re having a place built in this area, think about adding a basement.

As for societal approaches, they’re so obvious that I’ll mention them only in passing. First and foremost, a direct tax on carbon emissions — screw carbon “offsets”: they’re a recipe for fraud; massive public investment in clean energy; energy-efficient transport and appliances; mass investment in public transit, including bicycle projects; tree planting on a mass scale; and subsidies for individual clean energy projects, passive-solar retrofits, water harvesting,  and energy-efficient construction.

Why do I think all of this is important? There are a couple of reasons.

One is that if adopted widely all of this would help save the planet (or at least make the lives of our children and their children better). The other is that it would keep people involved, and at least marginally hopeful. People without hope are easy to control and manipulate. Real, positive change is possible only when people have hope.

If you haven’t already done so — even on the smallest individual scale — please join those of us trying to create real change, please join those of us creating hope.

 

 

 


scottsdale

(For those fortunate enough to never have set foot in the place, Scottsdale is one of the most loathsome suburbs of Phoenix: rich, nearly all white, right-wing, snootier than hell, and spreading like a cancer on what used to be a beautiful part of the Sonoran Desert. Thanks to fellow refugee from Phoenix, Al Perry, for passing on this completely-nails-it graphic from his co-conspirator, Hashimoto Nukeclear.)


I just watched the last couple of quarters of the Cardinals – Seahawks game with my neighbor, Fernando. Both he and his brother Memo were racially profiled and harassed this weekend.

Fernando went down to some kids football event held at Fort Huachuca with his girlfriend, and was stopped on his way in by an MP, “some white girl I guarantee isn’t from around here.” She checked IDs, had no problem with the two white folks he was with (who had exactly the same ID — Arizona drivers licenses), but told him to go into the checkpoint for further ID checks. He went in, and, surprise surprise, everybody in there was either Mexican or Indian. He told the MP, “This is bullshit,” when her supervising sergeant, a Mexican guy, arrived, and told everybody there they were free to go. One hopes he subsequently chewed out the racist creep under his command.

That was Friday.

On Saturday, Fernando and his brother Memo (Guillermo) got off work at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet, closed up shop, and around midnight were at the QT (local equivalent of 7/11) on First Avenue about a half mile from here on their way home. Due to a malfunctioning automatic transmission, their mom had accidentally screwed up the passengers’ side door when she put the truck into what she thought was “park” but was actually “reverse,” and hit the fence with the door a few days ago. That left the door functional, but requiring a fair amount of force to open and close it.

Well, as they were at the QT, Fernando and Memo went in to buy some shit. Memo came out first, and had to deal with the balky passengers’ side door. While he was doing it, “some random white girl” in her 30s at the next gassing island came up to him, told him not to break into cars, and threatened to call the police — despite seeing him and Fernando drive in and go into the store.  Memo then walked to the drivers’ side, got in and started the truck, as the “random white girl” continued to threaten to call the cops. She had a friend with her who at that point evidently asked her, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” and they drove off.

And some people continue to insist that racism no longer exists in the United States.

What in hell is wrong with them? Why can’t they see what’s right before their eyes? What planet are they from?

Not this one.

 


Arpaio and Trump caricatures

(photo from the BBC)

Caricatures of current (soon to be ex)  Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio and Donald Trump, by an unidentified artist, from a get-out-the-vote event in Phoenix.

Arpaio, an early and ardent Trump supporter, is infamous for his racial profiling activities and his alleged  (must get that “alleged” in there) corruption and use of his office to harass the press and political opponents. He’ll shortly be facing federal criminal contempt of court charges.

No comment necessary about Trump other than that this is a very good likeness, and that it’s particularly impressive given that it’s a blow-up figure. The likeness of Arpaio is even better than that of Trump.


Al

Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know alt-country player Al Perry. Despite his crusty exterior — I’ve always thought that a great country stage name would be “Crusty Sheets” — Al is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Also one of the funniest and most insightful. One thing we have in common is that we’re both from Phoenix, and loathe the place. (Tucson is better — much smaller, more scenic [lusher desert surrounded by 9,000-foot mountains], not quite as hot, better arts and music scene, more politically progressive.)

Al sat in a couple of times with my last band, Pinche Blues Band, at gigs, and I was surprised that he’s a really good blues player in addition to being a great alt-country player, vocalist, and songwriter.

As is typical in modern-day America (“We’re number one!”), Al is not well rewarded. He lives in a shit hole about a mile-and-a-half southeast of me, albeit in a slightly less scary neighborhood (fewer shootings), though with a much greater infestation of UofA students.

Despite a fair amount of acclaim over the years — he’s toured Europe four times — Al’s music income has nosedived since around 2000, as people have simply downloaded his songs for free. He hasn’t shared much in the remaining source of income for working musicians, touring, as he simply doesn’t do it of late. He occasionally plays clubs in L.A. or New York, but that about it: it’s not a significant source of income.

A couple of years ago he told me that his income from CD sales had fallen 75% over the previous decade. Both of his CDs are now out of print, so his income from them is now zero. We’ve talked about starting a label (with our CDs and those of other artists/bands we know here in town and up in the Bay Area), but what would be the point? It’s a dead business model.

One other thing we have in common is that we both hate self-promotion, which in large part accounts for why neither of us have been commercially successful — you have to be damn lucky or very well connected to succeed without an onerous amount of self-promotion. (If you can stand doing it and are assiduous at it, you’ll probably succeed — regardless of your talent, or lack of it.)  Al’s (and my) attitude has always been, “This shit is so good you’d be crazy not to buy it. Recognize it.”

Unfortunately, most people don’t.

You can still catch Al around town (Tucson) occasionally as a solo act, and very occasionally with a full band. Once I get another band going, Al will — I hope — be sitting in with us on a regular basis.

In the meantime, you can catch a lot of his new stuff on Youtube. He’s written a couple hundred songs, the vast majority unrecorded, but he’s  putting up new material on Youtube seemingly every week or two.

Here are a few lines from one of Al’s best songs, “Little by Little”:

 

Livin’ with a crazy person since I’ve been livin’ by myself

Got me a big old house

But it seems just like a cell

Sittin’ alone

Without no reason

To ever leave my chair

Checkin’ out the four walls

With a blank and vacant stare

 

The rest of it is just as funny. The self-mockery in it is priceless.

Al Perry is an unrecognized national treasure.

 

(If you’d like to get ahold of Al, you can reach him at alperry@kxci.org. Speaking of KXCI, catch Al’s unique and wonderful show, “Clambake,” on Tuesday nights at 10 pm MST [05:00 Wednesday mornings UT].)