Friday, July 27, 2007

A Personal Altar

In the past year I've read about or seen a variety of personal altars. These altars represent a way for (usually) women to collect, recollect, and reflect.

According to Nancy Brady Cunningham, "an altar can be used in many ways: to say thank you to the powers that be, to celebrate Mother Nature in all her guises, to seek spiritual wisdom, to honor the ancestors, to offer up struggles, to receive creative inspiration, to dialogue with the deeper part of her being, or to honor her body."

Personal altars are common in Hispanic cultures, in Feng Shui, and in goddess and/or pagan worship. Mine came about as a combination of Feng Shui, the altar described in Sue Monk Kidd's The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, and a collection of items I wasn't sure where to place in my new home. The heavy influence of spirituality in Santa Fe was certainly a factor.

My altar pays homage to all the key influences in my life. Let me tell you what's there.

At the left in the back row is a picture of my Dad, a physics professor at an Ivy League university, and a huge influence on my life in so many ways. In the center is another photograph of me with my mom--I was an only child until I was 6, and my Mom and I spent a lot of time together--this photo is from that era. At the right is a framed "Lessons from Geese", which was presented to all the faculty/staff at the college I used to teach at when the president retired (which happened to coincide with my own "retirement"). Sample: "The geese flying formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, production is much greater." The 9 years I spent college teaching were an incredibly formative period for me--I learned so much about my discipline, and from my students and colleagues.

In the center, to the left, is a clock that was presented to my by a former client--this represents my years in the corporate world. The stemmed glass in the center has the logo of my undergraduate college on it. Many friends from my college years are still a close and important part of my life. A small framed poem was presented to me by a Brazilian woman I used to tutor, and concludes with the message: "These words show what you were in my life and what you mean to me. God bless you always." To the right is a photograph of me with my brother, 2 sisters, and sister-in-law (third sister!) at my brother's wedding. My siblings are a huge and constant part of my life and support system.

In the front row is a small glass apple that was given to me by my colleagues when I won a major advising award at the college. To me, it represents both the work I did to win the award, as well as the value of supportive co-workers. Next to that is a brass "1", which I won in a road race at the Executive Park where my office used to be located. It represents the value of fitness and sports (especially running) in my life.

Over the bookcase where my altar lives is a retablo which I purchased in Santa Fe in 2002--several years before I moved here. It is by the artist Arthur Oliva, whose family has lived in New Mexico for hundreds of years. It is an image of "Nuestra Señora, La Divina Pastora", which translates as "Our Lady, The Divine Sheperdess." After growing up in an East-Coast Catholic culture, and seeing so many identical representations of Mary as a white lady always dressed in blue and white Renaissance robes, I was charmed by this image which shows her wearing a red wool gown, a black brimmed hat, and a tunic made of lambs' wool. This represents both my Catholic heritage and my life in Santa Fe.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Intercollegiate Bollywood Competition

Found this video on Yahoo about intercollegiate Bollywood dance competitions, featuring teams at a California competition. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Epilogue to Deathly Hallows

Since finishing Harry Potter 7, I've perused postings on a few fan and book review sites, and there seems to be a lot of unhappiness about the Epilogue. General complaints are that there is not enough information given, that too much time has elapsed between the end of the book per se and the Epilogue, that the ending is too trite/boring, that J.K. Rowling couldn't possibly have written it because it's so unlike the rest of the series, etc.

I'd like to say a few words in defense of the Epilogue!

First of all, I think it does what Rowling needed to do in the series, and that's truly close the door on the story. By implying that Harry has had 19 years free of nasty incidents, she makes it difficult to impossible for any other author (or even a tempted self) to carry on the story from the end of book 7.

Second, the Epilogue tells us what it needs to about Harry--that he is living a happy, family-centered life. This is all he ever wanted! He is clearly a good and thoughtful father and husband, a good brother-in-law, a good friend, and a good godfather to his nephew Teddy. Family was always the thing that was missing from Harry's life--Hogwarts, the Weasleys, Dumbledore, and Sirius were the closest approximations for him, and all but the Weasleys were taken from his life way too early. He often mused about what his life would have been like if James and Lily had lived, or if he'd truly been able to connect with Dumbledore on a deeper level, or if Sirius had not been in prison and had been able to fill the godfather role to Harry for his whole life--instead of just for that brief period.

FInally, I read all sorts of comments that wanted to know what kinds of jobs Harry, Ginny, Hermione, and Ron had, what happened to other characters (Luna, the rest of the Weasleys), what happened in the intervening 19 years, etc. It seems to me that no amount of detail would make every reader happy, other than an entire additional novel (that would still leave questions). We know everything we need to know. Remember, folks, this is a work of fiction! Use your imagination and decide what kind of life you think they have lived up to now, and where (at a quite young 37) they will go from here.

Finally, Rowling does give us one intriguing clue that I have not seen mentioned in other Epilogue discussions--both Harry and Ron drove cars to the station to bring their children to the Hogwarts Express. This seems to me to imply that they have both adopted a more Muggle-friendly (if not oriented) lifestyle. Perhaps they are living "on the economy" as they say of military folks who live off-base.

I loved the series, loved the last book, cried numerous times, and felt that the Epilogue was the perfect ending.

And, since I have spent the last 6 weeks rereading the 3,341 pages of the first 6 books, and then spent pretty much two whole days reading the 7th book, I am also glad to return to the Muggle world myself. Places to go, things to do, people to see!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

When Harry Met Mimi

Last night I went to the Santa Fe Opera to see La Bohème, and by parking in the remote lot was able to make it back to Borders on Zafarano Drive by 11:45 p.m. to see the Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows release event "Grand Hallows Ball". What an evening!

The Santa Fe Opera is a fabulous venue, roofed but open to the outdoors. How especially appropriate to this production where you can see the stars in the sky over the garret, or in the background of the cafe/village square scenes. It was beautifully sung with a wonderful orchestra, and the sets were astonishing. The garret was on a mechanized platform, and when it was time to move from garret to street, the garret--which had been diagonally open to the audience--folded in on itself and moved back to become part of the walls of the village square. When it reopened in between the third and fourth acts, there was applause from the audience!

Another striking feature of the Opera is the prevalence of tailgating parties. Throughout the parking lot there are people sitting on lawn chairs and blankets (or on the picnic tables in the groves around the parking area) enjoying meals and wine with varying degrees of sophistication and presentation.

The story involves these four chums--Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny--no wait, Rodolfo, Mimi, Marcello, and Musetta--in Bohemian Paris. It's cold, they suffer for their art, they reject bourgeois society, they fight and make up.

Click here to see a short video of opening night this summer--which includes a brief scene from La Bohème, and gives you a taste of the experience.

The Harry Potter event was also quite the occasion--when I got to the shopping center, the parking lot was nearly full, and the line inside the Borders wound around every book shelf in the store. The coffee shop in the store was doing a land office business, and customers ranged from sleeping babies in strollers to grandmothers wearing witches' robes and hats.

There were lots of lined cloaks and Hogwarts robes, as well as T-shirts bearing slogans such as "Weasley is My King", "July 21, 2007, Who's Going to Die?", and "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." A man pushing a woman in a wheelchair explained that "we're both Slytherin". A mother and daughter in beautiful forest green floor-length cloaks swept by--the daughter had a "Tonks" name tag and pink hair. One college-age young woman was wearing a black formal gown and carrying a Beatles tote bag.

The manager of the store was dressed as her ususal manager self, complete with bluetooth headset, but had a pale red zigzag scar on her forehead.

Just before midnight, with the crowd chanting "Open, open, open!", the boxes of books, each sealed with "Do not open until July 21, 2007" tape, were unloaded from a cloth-covered area behind the counter, and a carton passed down to each of four register stations. At the appropriate time (which wasn't quite soon enough for the beer-bellied dad at the front of the line who was complaining that they were a minute too late), the staff opened the cartons and each held up a copy of the book. Great cheering, and then after that it was pretty orderly, with hundreds shelling out $22.64 (plus 7.875% New Mexico sales tax) for their regular editions. The manager was trying with some difficulty to cross everyone's name off her pre-order list (Q: Why didn't they do this BEFORE? A: It's Santa Fe.) Leaving the store there were lots of "ohmigod"s, and "don't touch it"s.

I left the store about 12:30 Potter-less; my copy is due to arrive from Amazon and UPS today. Trying to get my chores done before the book gets here, since I've cleared the decks to get the book read in the next 48 hours--before I see a spoiler by accident.

Mimi dies at the end of La Bohème ; don't know yet about Harry.

In Nairobi, photo courtesy of Antony Njugana/Reuters

In Boston at the Braille Institute, photo courtesy of Brian Snyder/Reuters

In Sydney, photo courtesy of Will Burgess/Reuters

In Berlin, photo courtesy of Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

In Tel Aviv, photo courtesy of Eliana Aponte/Reuters

Monday, July 16, 2007

Santa Fe International Folk Art Market

This weekend (July 14-15) the fourth annual Folk Art Market was held on the grounds of the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. I spent a chunk of the day there on Saturday--under a beautiful blue sky and surrounded by a riot of color, sound, and wonderful food smells! I bought a few Christmas presents (from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Vietnam), an Afghan shawl (which I'm using as a table runner), a Mexican embroidered pillow, and a Haitian steel drum wall hanging. I listened to wonderful Afro-Latin music, ate Frito pie (a local favorite), and took lots of pictures!
This young woman from Afghanistan (holding my new table runner) was representing a group called Afghans for Civil Society, and over 300 women from Kandahar who work in their homes to create this beautiful embroidery. The technique is called khamak, which involves fine, delicate stitching. Young girls in Kandahar learn this technique at an early age, since their future in-laws will judge their suitability as a wife in part on their khamak skills. According to the hangtag, "Many of the participants of this project are widows, most are desperately poor, living in houses made of hardened mud, with no running water or electricity, and too many children for the available quantity of food. For many of the women, this work is their family's only source of income."

The organization was founded by Hamid Karzai's brother, Qayum Karzai, who is a Baltimore restaurateur. I met Qayum's wife, Pat, who volunteers as US coordinator for the organization, at the market, and we talked about the family's restaurant business--which also includes a wonderful restaurant called Helmand which I used to frequent in Cambridge. When I lived there, the Cambridge Helmand was managed by Hamid Karzai's sister; at the time, she was thinking about going back to Afghanistan.
This photo is of Winzor Gouin, who made the metal wall sculpture I purchased. Winzor is from Croix de Bouquet, Haiti, and is one of a number of Haitian artists (usually male) who convert oil drums into art. The artists remove both ends of the oil drum, reserving those pieces for smaller sculptures, and then create 4x6' metal "canvases" for larger pieces from the flattened remainder of the drum. After the oil residue is removed with burning straw, the designs are drawn on with chalk, and then created with a hammer and chisel. My piece, which is round, comes from an end.
Many of the artists are sponsored by non-profit organizations, individuals, and art dealers. In 2006, a UNESCO grant sponsored a two-day workshop prior to the market which helped artists learn to promote their work, build their incomes, and create a community with the other world artists. One of the new twists of this year's market was the incorporation of an internship program to help four cultural entrepreneurs from southern Africa learn how to put on folk art markets in their own countries by 2009. Sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the program will run for three years. Click here to read more about the program as described in the Santa Fe New Mexican, and here to read a summary that appeared in Business Week.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Chili Festival Flops

Illustration courtesy of

As I mentioned in my last post, Connecticut promoter Ron Phillips had planned a "Chili Festival" in Madrid, modeled on the Chili Festival in Wild Hogs. Initially envisioned as "the next Woodstock", the festival had been planned to include motorcycle, food, and music events in Madrid on July 7, and a "Rock 'n' Rally" in Santa Fe. In late June the Santa Fe concert, which was to feature the Marshall Tucker Band, was called off, but Phillips announced he was moving ahead with the Madrid Chili Festival. The event was to include a chile-cooking contest sponsored by the International Chili Society, carnival rides, horseback/walking/motorcycle tours, and a concert with Gregg Rolie, the original lead singer for Santana.

But there were rumblings of discontent that grew louder all week. According to the June 30 Santa Fe New Mexican, Phillips said that Harley-Davidson of Santa Fe was sponsoring some events, but "a spokesman at the Santa Fe shop said he is hesitant to participate because of Phillips' last-minute changes." Phillips also announced he was receiving some "hate mail" from Madrid residents. Here comes the quote I love (a cross between self-inflation and protective pre-blaming against the town): "Madrid's a diamond in the rough. And to have an opportunity to have your town publicized in a favorable way with millions and millions of people, there's thousands of towns that would die for that. . . . The first step starts with an attitude of welcoming newcomers with different views . . . and I think Madrid is in that period of adjusting to their new role of being gracious hosts."

By July 5, Phillips had taken off the gloves and was heavily lambasting Madrid for what he termed sabotage and harassment. "This is like a Wild West town in Birmingham, AL. . . The prejudice is unbelievable. If your IQ is more than two numbers or your net worth is more than three numbers and you don't have blinders on for vision of the future, you get jammed in this town." (OK, now we're not only blaming Madrid, but we're dragging in the whole history of the South in the US.)

On July 6, Phillips announced that the Madrid event would not include a chile-cooking competition, (Q: Can you have a Chili Festival without chile? A: Apparently so.), but would still include the concert (although only two bands instead of four).

In the July 8 New Mexican, a report on the festival entitled "Chili Fest gets chilly turnout" claimed that there were only about 85 people at the festival when the music started. There were, however, 150 patrons at the Mine Shaft Tavern where the band Tenkiller Twins played for ten hours. (The Mine Shaft Tavern, liquor sponsor for the Festival, was clearly playing on both sides of the fence here!)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Art, Life, and Madrid: Hogs, Dogs, and Chile(i)

During the summer of 2006, the Disney movie Wild Hogs was filmed in Madrid, New Mexico. (Just so you get into the rhythm of this right away, the name of the town is not pronounced Ma-drid', like the Spanish city, but Mad'-rid.) Madrid is a town of about 400, a flower-filled art colony with everything on one main street, and there was a lot of controversy in the community about the filming. Traffic was perennially blocked, and many businesses suffered--especially the art galleries for which the town is currently known.

I feel as if I have been dancing around Madrid and this story since I first heard about the movie filming, which was in June, 2006--before I moved to Santa Fe. My son had driven down from Colorado to spend some time working on a few projects in my house, and one night while he was here in Santa Fe he and his girlfriend went for dinner at Los Mayas. There they spotted a group of movie people which included William H. Macy and Ray Liotta. He recounted this story to me on the phone the next day, I googled Macy, Liotta, and Santa Fe, and read about the movie that was being filmed. End of part one.

Part two--you know this part. The movie comes out, is panned critically, and garners $165 million (to date) at the box office.

Part three--I take a part-time job at a local theatre. In June, 2007, we present a playreading series which includes a play by Carol Carpenter entitled Wild Dogs, set in Madrid during the filming of the movie. In the play, the citizens of Madrid are, by and large, visibly unhappy with Disney and the invasion of the Hollywood types (and their skinny half-caf coffee demands). "The values of the town of Madrid in the movie are in polar opposition to the actual town of Madrid, and that's what rings so false about the film," says Carpenter in a Santa Fe New Mexican article.

Part four--my sister comes to visit me for a few days. Without understanding its significance, she sees Wild Hogs on the plane here. I tell her we have tickets to Wild Dogs and explain about the relationship between the play and the movie. We decide to visit Madrid for an afternoon before we see the play reading--I have not been there yet, and we are eyeing this as research.

Part five--we go to Madrid. It's about a half hour drive from here, and is like a charming little 60s hippie town dropped into the mountains.

Photo courtesy of Kathy Weiser

It has a fascinating history, starting with Native American mining of the local turquoise 1,500 years ago. When the Spanish arrived, they forced the natives to work in silver mines in the area. The modern history of the town, however, started with the development of its coal mines in 1899.

According to the web site, "the story of Madrid is the story of one Oscar Huber. Madrid was a coal-mining town owned and operated by the Albuquerque and Cerrillos Coal Company. Huber worked for the company beginning in 1910 and became superintendent after a few years, eventually buying the company. . . He paved the streets, built new homes on lots made vacant by fires, constructed a six room hospital and made arrangements for unlimited use of electricity . . . Its Christmas display of the nativity and other lighted Biblical scenes created a display the like of which had never before been seen in New Mexico. All miners received free electricity generated by the company's coal, and minor league baseball games were played at the first lighted stadium in the West, also built by Huber." During Prohibition, the company even furnished a location where citizens could distill illegal liquor.

But when coal mining declined, so did the town, and it eventually became a ghost town. In the early 1970s, Oscar Huber's son Joe, who owned the land, began to rent or sell a few of the old miners' homes to artists and craftspeople, and its modern day incarnation as an art community was born.

During our visit to Madrid we stop into The Johnsons of Madrid Gallery. My sister buys a hand-painted silk top there, and we have an interesting chat with Diana Johnson, the feisty proprietress. Mrs. Johnson and her husband, an artist, were among the first arrivals in the 1970s, and she says they are the the oldest "Madroids". We tell her about the play reading, and she decides to come with her granddaughter.

Part six--we put on two performances of the playreading. The "black box" theatre in which we perform seats 90. We sell out for both performances, with about 25% of the adult population of Madrid in attendance. During the talk-back with the author, director, and performers after the show, we learn that a new controversy has overtaken Madrid.

Part seven--a Connecticut real-estate investor by the name of Ron Phillips has planned his so-called Madrid Chili Festival for July 7. If you saw the movie, you'll recall that John Travolta et al arrive in town during such a festival. But there has never been a chile festival in Madrid, and the townspeople are quick to point out that the town is known for turquoise, silver, coal, and art--and never for chile. According to a report in the Santa Fe New Mexican, "We're all totally against this," says Madrid resident Gail Snyder. "Apparently this is all fallout from the Disney movie last summer."

And Carol Carpenter, author of Wild Dogs, adds: "Now we're seeing the outgrowth of that leading directly to this festival which is inauthentic in that it's coming from the film, inauthentic in the sense that Madrid doesn't have chile and never has grown chile, inauthentic in a sense that it's even spelled chili, as in Texas chili."

While the Madrid Landowners Association reluctantly allowed Sharp to rent the ballpark (remember, first lighted park west of the Mississippi!), they limited him to one day, instead of his requested three. Our friend Diana Johnson is quoted in the same article: "The consensus was the movie was hard enough on us, and we don't need somebody trying to just make dollars off our town."

Another local business owner concludes: "This is the most obnoxious and regrettable fallout from Wild Hogs, which was probably the worst thing that every happened to this town."

Stay tuned for further updates on this story!!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Gas Prices

Photo courtesy of

According to a price survey released this week, New Mexico has the second highest gas prices in the nation--just behind Hawaii!

And, just to make it really special, Santa Fe has the highest prices in New Mexico. Current price here for a gallon of regular unleaded is $3.20 a gallon. . . I don't even want to tell you what I pay for premium gas. . .

Of course an investigation has been launched (and naturally we're waiting with bated breath).