Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Are You Glad to Be in America?

This Thursday's program on KSFR, streaming from www.ksfr.org from 1-3 pm Mountain Time, is a birthday tribute to Ronald Shannon Jackson, with recordings of RSJ spanning 1975's Body Meta with Ornette Coleman, '78-'79 with the Cecil Taylor Unit and then on to The Decoding Society, with pieces from Nasty, Eye on You, Decode Yourself, and Texas and a little bit of James Blood Ulmer thrown in. Thanks to my friends at Destination Out for the heads up on RSJ's birthday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Echinomastus madness

Two-month old seedlings of Echinomastus erectocentrus "acunensis" CR137, seeds probably from the population I've been visiting since November.
A young plant of Echinomastus erectocentrus "acunensis" in the most northeasterly known population, growing in the usual situation: out in the open on weathered granite, on a slightly south facing slope.
A very old Echinomastus erectocentrus "acunensis", with uncommon branching near the base.
Echinomastus erectocentrus "erectocentrus" in southeast AZ. Some students of these plants see the "acunensis" population above as an intergrading form, with certain characteristics of "acunensis" and other characteristics of "erectocentrus." The type location of Echinomastus erectocentrus "acunensis" is about 150 miles from the above population and in the somewhat more dry and warmer Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Echinomastus johnsonii "lutescens", backlit by sunset, in more northwestern AZ. Some students of cacti see Echinomastus erectocentrus "acunensis" and E. johnsonii as "hardly distinguishable." In some ways, I can see why. But the plants seem rather distinct to me. Of course, some botanists have eliminated the entire genus Echinomastus, adding all of the plants that were in it to Sclerocactus. I don't think this will be accepted over the long haul.

Spine clusters from Echinomastus erectocentrus "acunensis" (L) and Echinomastus johnsonii "lutescens" (R).

It's a strange experience, going out to hunt for these obscure, well-camouflaged and somewhat remote plants. A lot of the time is spent scouring the ground with one's vision, looking for little color and texture anomalies that are the clues to the plants' presence. Periodically, you look up and see things like this:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Great Outside

Sunrise, New Year's Day, Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California.

The Baja trip, with nearly 100 photos (warning: mostly cactus porn!) is somewhat memorialized on good old photobucket.

The palapa on the beach in Bahia de Los Angeles with "8 dlls" painted on the side, but no one ever came around to collect. The walk all the way along Punta la Gringa to the other side of the hill, crashing surf of El Mar de Cortez. 20 fish and shrimp tacos in two days. Playa El Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, which maybe should be renamed Playa La Basura...cockroaches boldly advancing out of the bushes as we whipped up pancakes on our single burner camp stove. Scorpion hunting with The Poet's handheld blacklight flashlight; a couple of fierce looking buggers on the rock foundation of an abandoned and trash filled building. Endless hikes up the rocky hill at the south end of Playa El Coyote. 20 pictures of the same species of Mammillaria, Mammillaria dioica, all of which I took for different plants.

Christmas Eve in San Ignacio, buying a pack of Marlboros from Arnoldo's Abarrotes after which Arnoldo closed up shop and headed to mass at the 18th century mission down the street. Dinner at a restaurant, our hearts set on mariscos, the waiter awkwardly trying to talk us into the Christmas dinner special of "pavo y papas," the Americans in behind us asking what pavo was ("Is that sheep?" and the waiter knowing enough English to say "no, no, not sheep, turkey. Pavo es turkey.")

Driving to Loreto from Bahia Concepcion just long enough to stop at the mercado there and buy fresh potatoes.

Squeezing every possible minute out of the trip by leaving Bahia de Los Angeles New Year's Day, driving to Tecate, and then home from Tecate the next day. Tecate bitter freezing cold and windy, and our bad Spanish not only trying to get a room for the night (for the ridiculous price of $54) but also trying to ascertain with certainty that the shower would have hot water at all times. Reassured that yes, there would be hot water, we slumped exhausted into the room...and of course there was no hot water. Okay, sure, maybe I'm a spoiled rotten Gringo, but there's also being freezing cold and not having bathed for 10 days.

Since our return the only activity I'm actually motivated to undertake is wandering around in the deserts of Arizona. Everything else is like extracting molars with fishing line.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Meet the New Boss

So it seems I haven't muttered a single blog-like sound since frikkin' November 27. These things happen. No real reason, except that I haven't felt the need to say anything. As Harry Partch says bitterly in The Dreamer That Remains, "No messages, too many messages, no messages." On the other hand, "a little message won't hurt," so let us loiter together and know one another.

Of course the year end frenzy of top ten lists, recapitulation, re-assessment, best ofs and so on has already rumbled through most digital presses. When I look back at 2007, it's a wild ride of a year for me personally. So much went down that I'm really incapable of articulating a lot of it. Early sobriety is like that, for one thing. Stunning how much can happen in so short a time. This April 11 will mark merely four years of no booze. Imagine the possibilities if I could just quit smoking, or eating for that matter. Hell, why not get rid of sleeping and breathing. Just music and cacti. Out in a different kind of blaze from the one I was fomenting, the archetypal alcoholic pathos, a boring, infinitely repeated exit involving painful obscurity and liver failure.

It was the first full year of doing the two hour radio show once a week on KSFR in Santa Fe. I'd heard people say that "media devours content," but it's only after doing Inside Out for a while now (17 months in all) that I realize how much devouring is involved. One imagines a two hour show once a week as a piece of cake, but really, it's easy to run out of threads, music, stuff to play, stuff to say. My budget for grabbing new/used material went way down over the summer. Even with the windfall of more than 100 albums from my friend Emery, it's been challenging lately to keep Inside Out fresh. With the perspective of a programmer, one comes into contact with one's collection of music in new ways, with new perspectives. I have way more Miles Davis than I realized, for example. I'm actually a real stick in the mud traditionalist, in many ways. Woefully untutored in contemporary releases. Of course, Inside Out is promoting a basic idea: the music people still insist on calling jazz is neither mainstream nor avant garde but just amazing, when it's good. Making the exact same point every week for two hours has gotten a bit stretched, even for me, demagogue that I am.

So the vast majority of what really got me, musically, was performed and recorded prior to about 1990 or so. My ears have tuned much more sharply. I'm hearing everything for potential airplay. I thought I knew certain things but discover whole new aspects when I listen again, listen differently. Booker Little. Herbie Nichols. Archie Shepp. Duke. Monk. Mingus. Ornette. Cecil Taylor. Miles. Bill Dixon. Sonny Rollins. Roscoe Mitchell. David Murray. Oliver Lake. Henry Threadgill. Max Roach. Alice Coltrane. James Blood Ulmer. Ronald Shannon Jackson. A whole new/old universe. Jelly Roll Morton. Fats Waller. Fletcher Henderson. On and on. It's too much to wrap my head around, even a little bit.

Highlights include interviewing Jane Ira Bloom, Roscoe Mitchell, Sonny Rollins, Oliver Lake, JA Deane.

As a musician, the Duologies have been great. 18 duets in the can, so to speak. Also working with Chris Jonas on Rrake and getting 7 drummers together for High Mayhem to do Traps. Also performing with Ruth Zaporah. Lots going on.

At the same time, moving to Tempe Arizona has been something of a trial. Recently I've noticed a level of irritability, restlessness and discontentment and the light bulb went off: I know! Maybe it would be a good idea to work some kind of program again, eh what? Linking up with some people here will be good. Currently not happening.

But the cactus thing has gone full tilt mad. The fantasy is to chuck everything and start a cactus farm. I know myself and the nursery business well enough to know the pros and cons of that. I think it's a fine idea but might just be the End of the World Hermit Madman settling in for a visit too.

2007 began in a funny little mobile home/"cabin" at a motel in Ajo, Arizona while three feet of snow fell on my adopted hometown of Santa Fe NM. 2008 began on a beach near Bahia de Los Angeles in Baja California, about 400 miles south of Tempe. More about the Baja trip in an upcoming post.

And I haven't forgotten about JAZZ the book, Rex Harris's interesting artifact from 1952. I haven't forgotten about anything really, despite appearances to the contrary.