Saturday, December 30, 2006

Cockfighting in New Mexico

Photo courtesy of

Governor Richardson has decided that he is ready to support legislation to criminalize cockfighting. New Mexico and Louisiana are the only two states in the US that have no laws against this bloody "sport". There has been intense lobbying in recent years to criminalize cockfighting here, but Richardson has declined to support them. Now that he is anticipating running for the Presidency, I guess he's decided he can't afford to not back these efforts. Hopefully his support will make a difference!

While it is estimated that 2/3 of the NM population is in favor of such a ban, the pro-cockfighting cadre has a lot of backers in the legislature, and several anti-cockfighting bills have gone down to defeat in recent years. These supporters say that cockfighting is part of the state's Hispanic culture, and that it's natural for roosters to fight.

Here is what the ASPCA has to say about the "it's natural" argument:

In nature, a rooster may fight another rooster over territory or over a mate, but these fights are usually brief and don't involve serious injury. In organized cockfights, however, the roosters' natural instincts are exaggerated. Through breeding, feeding, training, steroids and vitamins, the roosters become killing machines for people's entertainment. Before a fight, a bird may go through several months of training, which may involve running long obstacle courses or even treadmills, and practice fights with other roosters.

In the fighting ring, the roosters often wear artificial spurs-long, sharp, daggerlike attachments-that transform their natural spurs into knives for maximum injury. These steel blades are sharp enough to puncture a lung, pierce an eye or break bones. A referee is on hand to supervise the fight, which can last anywhere from a few seconds to 15 minutes. While the rules usually do not require one or both birds to die in order for a winner to be declared, death is often the outcome, due to the severity of the injuries.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Robert Mirabal Concert

Last night, on the occasion of the Winter Solstice, I went to the Robert Mirabal Christmas Concert in the St. Francis Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts. Mirabal is a flute player (and also composer, actor, artist, flutemaker, etc.) from the Taos Pueblo, and he appeared with his brother Patrick and an incredible cellist from the College of Santa Fe named Michael Kott.

Last year on the Winter Solstice I attended Christmas Revels in Cambridge, and this made me think about the journey I have been on this past year, and how these two events were, in a way, symbolic of my transition. Revels is a very "Cambridge" kind of event--takes place in the Sanders Theatre, a block from Harvard Square. Almost everybody who goes knows the rituals of the occasion ("Welcome, Yule!", singing "Dona Nobis Pacem" as a round, dancing out into the lobby at intermission to the "Lord of the Dance"). Seating is on hard, cramped pews, every seat is filled, and the audience includes students, seniors, families, and lots of granola-types and native (or wanna-be native) Cantabrigians.

The Mirabal concert is a very "Santa Fe" kind of event--took place in the Museum of Fine Arts, a block from the Santa Fe Plaza. Many people had obviously been to numerous Mirabal concerts in the past, and recognized various pieces of music from the opening chords. Seating was on hard, cramped pews, every seat was filled, and the audience included students, seniors, families, and lots of granola-types and native (or wanna-be native) Santa Feans. (More turquoise, but just as many Birkenstocks....)

For those of you not familiar with Mirabal, click here to listen to a brief clip. Choose "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" to experience the terrific playing of both Mirabal on the flute and Kott on the cello. One of the interesting things about performing historical western music on the Native American flute is that each flute can only play in one key--about an octave and a half. So throughout the evening, Mirabal uses different flutes to perform different pieces of music, and there are significant musical challenges in transposing each piece of music so it can be played in its entirety on a single flute. The concert also included some traditional native music and spoken word pieces. He also introduced each piece of music by stating when it was composed, what year it was first published in the US, and what (mostly bad) treatment of Native Americans occurred that year.

Altogether a beautiful and inspirational evening!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Appearing Today in the New Mexican!

I sent a slightly different version of the preceding post on drinking and driving as a letter to the editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican and it was published in the December 19 paper. The coolest part was they led with my letter and used their headline for it ("Poor-taste holiday tunes add to DWI") as the headline for the whole Letters section. In fact, it was the largest-type headline on the page (beating out "The miracle of Mel Gibson's remarkably brief exile"). Take that, Mel!

By the way, the New Mexican states on its masthead that it is "the West's Oldest Newspaper", publishing since 1849.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Drinking, Driving, and Rock 'n' Roll

I was recently horrified to hear two songs receiving airplay on an Albuquerque oldies radio station. One was entitled “Christmas in Jail” and the other “Police Stop My Car” (sung to the tune of “Feliz Navidad”). Both told the tales of drivers who had too much to drink and were “in the wrong lane, feeling no pain” or blowing a 2.1 on the Breathalyzer. The songs made light of the issues, and in a way glorified the drunk drivers.

New Mexico has a huge problem with drunk driving, and there have been several high-profile cases recently (including the death of 5 out of 6 members of a family in a collision caused by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the interstate). The state has initiated yet another commission to look at the problem and recommend solutions.

So I find it in extremely poor taste (at best) for this station to be playing these songs (or others like them). I don't know whether the songs are new this year, or they're just staples of New Mexico airplay--but I never heard them in the East.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It's Always Good to Get Away

Just got back from a few days in Novato, California (north of San Francisco). I had gotten an email from Travelocity pitching a cheap Albuquerque to San Francisco flight and then USAir sent me a threatening note that my frequent flier miles would be taken away if I didn't fly with them by the end of January. The cheap flight was on USAir--so how could I not go? I felt like the universe was sending me a serious message! So I called my friends Joan and Wally and invited myself for a visit.

We spent one lovely day in San Francisco at the recently renovated deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park--saw the Gee's Bend quilt exhibit which I had seen previously in Boston and loved enough to want to see it again. (The quilt in the photographto the left was made by Mary Lee Bendolph in 2003.)

The photo below was taken from the observation tower at the museum--fabulous 360 degree views of San Francisco. Here you see the Trans-America Building to the right and what I believe is part of the University of San Francisco to the left.

Then a day shopping--having discovered upon my move to New Mexico that NONE of my favorite stores have branches in the state (Crate and Barrel, Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Container Store, Hold Everything, etc.) So Joan and I went to the Corte Madera shopping center and satisfied my cravings! Thanks Joan! And a special thank-you to Wally who prepared a "welcome to San Francisco" dinner including salmon with Chambord sauce, asparagus, fresh popovers, and key lime pie made from the limes on the tree in their back yard. Wow!

Friday, December 01, 2006

The 1st of December

We had about 5 inches of snow on November 29, just in time for my December 1 post. We also had some serious cold weather--it went down to 2 degrees on Wednesday night, and probably close to that on Thursday night. Today it was a bit warmer, and already the snow is starting to disappear. But here is a picture of my house in the snow--the green rosebushes against the side wall look a little incongruous, don't they?

Christmas in Santa Fe is (according to all reports) a spectacular season. So in addition to the "yes there really is snow in Santa Fe" picture, I've also included a couple of images from around town. You'll see the beautfiul courtyard at the Indian Museum--complete with holiday greenery and snow, a couple of images of workmen dangling in front of the Cathedral window with a big wreath that wasn't quite in place yet, and a shot of farolitos, paper bags with sand and candles (though there are electrified versions--like giant Christmas tree lights--that are heavily used these days.)

Apparently in some parts of New Mexico these bags/candles are known as luminarias, but the purists in Santa Fe use that term to describe small bonfires instead. The farolitos are typically placed on the parapets of flat-roofed houses, though you may also see them along walkways.