Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Sierra Madera Astrobleme (What's an Astrobleme?)

[This is a mirror post from my main blog, Madam Mayo.]

[[ Sierra Madera Astrobleme. Photo by C.M. Mayo. ]]
As those of you who have been following this blog know, I am at work on a book about Far West Texas and, apropos of that, hosting the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project. So in addition to reading about Far West Texas and related subjects, and interviewing artists and many other interesting people, I've been doing a heap of driving all over the place out there. 

Driving east or west on I-10 or I-20 or 90 is to barrel along with the steady flow of big rigs, pickup trucks, RVs and SUVs; driving north-south, on the other hand, it gets very lonely, very strange, very fast.

Here is a photo* I took with my iPhone through the windshield while heading south on US-385 from Fort Stockton to Marathon. That jumble of hills over to the left is the Sierra Madera, which sits on the vast La Escalera Ranch, one of the largest ranches in Texas. Although I did not know it at the time, the highway was about to blaze me right through the Sierra Madera Astrobleme.

[*Normally I would never fool around with my smartphone while driving, but I had been driving out here for sometime and not seen a single vehicle, in either direction. I daresay I could have taken got out of the car and taken a siesta in the middle of the road.]

[ Sierra Madera Astrobleme ]

[ Sierra Madera Astrobleme, 
off US-385 etween Fort Stockton and Marathon, Texas ] 

The Sierra Madera is indeed on Google maps, but neither of the maps I carried with me that day, the AAA and the Geological Highway Map of Texas, noted it, so I was wholly unprepared for the sight, on the open plains, well before the Glass Mountains, of the strange-looking huddle of the Sierra Madera off to the east--  and all bathed in the golden-orange glow of sunset. Alas, my photo does not do its stunning gorgeousness a shred of justice. 

It turns out that the Sierra Madera is an extremely rare "cryptoexplosion structure," in this case, a crater with a central mountain range raised not by volcanic or tectonic forces, but by the rebound from the impact of an unknown extraterrestrial object. The mountains and the approximately 6 mile-in-diameter crater, so eroded over some nearly 100 million years that I did not recognize it as I drove through it, are together known as the Sierra Madera Astrobleme. 

An astrobleme is an eroded remnant of a large crater made by the impact of a meteorite or comet. The term, first used in the mid-20th century, is from the Greek astron, star, and blema, wound. 

What was that object that slammed into the earth those nearly 100 million years ago? I have been searching the literature and have yet to come upon any description beyond "approximately spherical."

What was going on at the time? This would have been the Late Cretaceous or Early Tertiary, when Tyrannosaurus roamed and Quetzalcoatlus northropi, a pterosaur the size of a small jet airplane, cast his shadow from overhead. 

The literature has a great deal of detail on shatter cones and various types of rock, as well as gravitational and magnetic anomalies. But as for a description for the layman, or shall we say, the average Tyrannosaurus Rex, of what the impact might have sounded like and how it might have affected the atmosphere, no dice. Undoubtedly, the blast was analogous to some flabbergastingly large quantity of TNT.

Dear reader, if you have more information about the Sierra Madera Astrobleme, please do write.

Informative links:

University of Texas of the Permian Basin webpage on the Sierra Madera Astrobleme

All the crunchy geology. Plus the hypothetical reconstruction of the event.

>  "Hydrocone Modeling of the Sierra Madera Impact Structure" by Tamara J. Goldin et al. Meteoritics and Planetary Science, 2006.


"Geology of the Sierra Madera Cryptoexplosion Structure, Pecos County, Texas" by H.G. Wilshire, et al. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper No. 599, 1972.

Extra-extra-crunchy with shatter cones.

United States Meteorite Impact Craters: Page on the Sierra Madera Crater

Good variety of photographs and information by Robert Beauford, PhD. He writes: 
"This is one of the largest impact craters in the United States, and even after having worked on 4 to 5 km craters for several years, I found it challenging to take in the scale of the structure.  It defines the shape of the vast, open landscape in every direction."
Purdue University's Impact Earth! Famous Craters page. 
Alas, it does not include the Sierra Madera Astrobleme. But fascinating nonetheless.

Astronaut's Guide to Terrestrial Impact Craters by R.A.F. Grieve, et al. LP Technical Report Number 88-03, Lunar and Planetary Institute, NASA, 1988

(See Sierra Madera, p. 13.)

P.S. Wiggy synchronicity du jour: Given that the Sierra Madera Astrobleme is near the Glass Mountains, it raised my eyebrows, rather somewhat, to come upon this webpage with the Ames Astrobleme Museum and the Gloss Mountains of Oklahoma:

> Your comments are always most welcome. Write to me here.

> Newsletter goes out soon-ish. I welcome you to sign up here.

Monday, August 1, 2016

THE COMANCHE EMPIRE by Pekka Hämäläinen

(This is a mirror post from my main blog, Madam Mayo.)

Book Review by C.M. Mayo
August 1, 2016

by Pekka Hämäläinen
Yale University, 2008
ISBN 978-0-300-15117-6

The cover of Pekka Hämäläinen's The Comanche Empire, of a ghost-white warrior with a trio of blood-red slashes down his cheek, is as arresting as the argument that, as it opens, the Comanches' was "an American empire that, according to conventional histories, did not exist."
In the United States public discourse conflates wildly heterogenous groups into easy categories— Native American, white, black, and so on and so forth— and then, with school board-approved narratives as mortar, we construct colossal political edifices. In their shadows, alas, many of us are blind to the complexities in our society and history. The complexities are riotous. And when we shine a light on but one of them— as Finnish historian Hämäläinen has in this brilliant study of Comanche hegemony— suddenly our easy categories and well-worn narratives may look strange, deeply wrong.

As those of you who follow this blog well know, I am at work on a book about Far West Texas, that is, Texas west of the Pecos River. Anyone who heads out there, especially to the remote Big Bend, hears about Comanches, e.g., they crossed the Río Grande here, they watered their horses there. But the Comanches, an equestrian Plains people who hunted the buffalo, were latecomers to the Trans-Pecos. They did not settle there; they trekked through it on the Comanche Trail (more aptly, network of trails) on their way to raid in northern Mexico. They returned driving immense herds of horses and kidnapped Apache and Mexican women and children in tow, for markets up north around Taos, New Mexico, and Big Timbers on the Arkansas, which garnered them metal tools, cooking pots, corn and other carbohydrates, textiles, and above all, guns and ammunition.

The Comanche were raiding south of the Río Grande as early as the 1770s, but their large-scale raiding in northern Mexico commenced in the 1820s, plunging deep into Chihuahua, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Durango, Zacatecas and, in the 1840s, as far as Jalisco and the major central market and manufacturing city of Querétaro. This systematic "mass violence" which left the northern realm of the Mexican economy crippled and its people demoralized, turned it into what Hämäläinen terms "an extension of Greater Comanchería." Hence, by the late 1840s, when the U.S. Army invaded Mexico, what they were really invading was, to quote Hämäläinen, "the shatterbelt of Native American power." But this is to get ahead of the story. >>> CONTINUE READING

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.
> Newsletter here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Peyote and the Perfect You: Notes

I'm still working on podcast #21... stay tuned... listen in to the other 20 anytime here. Meanwhile, over on my other blog, Madam Mayo, a new post:


Far West Texas, an area approximately the size of West Virginia, includes a goodly patch of the territory that stretches deep into Mexico where peyote, or lophophora williamsii grows... oh so very... very... very... v-e-r-y... slowly. 

A runty, dull-gray spineless cactus with wispy white hairs, when found, peyote-- an Anglicization of the original Nahautl name, peyotl-- is usually growing in clusters. What certain indigenous peoples have done for an eon is slice off the tops-- the "buttons"-- and eat them. Calories and dietary fiber are not the point; apparently the taste is puckerlips nasty. But adepts claim that this humble-looking plant is no less than "the divine cactus," and eaten as a sacrament, as "holy medicine," it can bring one's mind into a mystical realm where psychedelic visions can help one see across time and space and heal one's thoughts about oneself and the cosmos. As one participant in a peyote ritual reported, echoing so many others, he found "profound gratitude for his life" as it was. [>>CONTINUE READING]

Comments? I welcome your comments anytime. Write to me here. 

Newsletter? I welcome you to subscribe here.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Top 13 Trailers for Movies with Extra-Astral Texiness, Texiness Hereby Redefined

Over on my main blog, Madam Mayo:

Extra-Astral Texiness: Definitions
First, what do I mean by "astral"? I don't mean "of the stars," but the old-fashioned esoteric concept of the imaginal realm. Yes, I am a mite old-fashioned, and apropos of my most recent book, about the secret book by the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution, I plowed through a sizable library of antique books on various aspects of the astral. So that's a word I like to sling around! Whether you, dear reader, believe in the astral or not, I think you will agree that (1) everyone has an imagination and (2) the imaginal realm, aka the astral-- or whatever you have a notion to call it-- includes works of fiction and movies. Imagine those works, if you will, floating like little bubbles through the ether. (Well, porquoi pas?)

Speaking of Texas-sized astral bubblies, apropos of my book in-progress about Far West Texasof course my horse (as they say in Mexico) I have a long list of "to dos" that includes grokking Giant, that Rock Hudson-Elizabeth Taylor-James Dean mashup filmed in Marfa and parts thereabouts-- I have watched it and read the Edna Ferber novel it was based on, too. And now I've finished reading Don Graham's Cowboys and Cadillacs: How Hollywood Looks at Texasin which I first came across the term "Texiness." [CONTINUE READING]

P.S. I am still working on podcast #21. Listen in anytime to the other 20 posted so far here.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Notes on Xavier González & etc.

Podcast 21 is (ayyyy) still in-progress. Meanwhile, a note from my other blog, Madam Mayo:

Notes on Xavier González (1989-1993), "Moonlight Over the Chisos" and My Visit to Mexico City's Antigua Academia de San Carlos, the Oldest Art School in the Americas

It was in 2012, when I first started on my still in-progress book about Far West Texas, that I first encountered the paintings of Xavier González in the Museum of the Big Bend on the Sul Ross University Campus in Alpine, Texas. I was there to see "The Lost Colony," an exhibition  of works by painters associated with the summer Art Colony of the Sul Ross College (now Sul Ross State University). The works were from 1921-1950; the Art Colony, formally so-called, spanned the years 1932-1950. >>>CONTINUE READING

Monday, April 25, 2016

GIFs of Santa Elena Canyon, Pecos High Bridge, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Guadalupe Mountains

This is a repost from my other blog, Madam Mayo.

More fun with GIFs... This one is made from my video taken just inside Santa Elena Canyon in the Big Bend National Park (with a glimpse of Charles Angell, owner of Angell Expeditions-- highly recommended). 

This GIF (below) is of the Pecos River high bridge just past Comstock at the US-Mexico border. When you're driving on highway 90 you don't see the gorge until you're just about about over it-- one of the wiggier driving experiences to be had in all of Texas.

A GIF of the Big Bend Ranch State Park entrance:

Finally, a simple GIF, two shots of the Texas' other national park, Guadalupe Mountains, from who knows how many thousands of feet:

Hmm for some reason this GIF isn't working. Here's a good jpeg:

I'm working on my book about Far West Texas, and apropos of that, the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project with 20 of a projected 24 podcasts posted to date. Listen in anytime here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Marfa Ghost Lights

Stay tuned for podcast #21 in the projected 24 podcasts of the "Marfa Mondays" series-- it is still in production. 

Meanwhile, one of my verily ancient podcasts-- #7 -- has been whipped and snipped into shape as a stand-alone guest-blog post for my amigo, author and Metaphysical Traveler John Kachuba. Herewith that article which will, in one form or another, end up in my book in-progress, World Waiting for a Dream: A Turn in Far West Texas.


by C.M. MAYO

If you've heard of Marfa, you've probably heard of the Marfa Lights, which are sometimes called the Marfa Ghost Lights.

If you haven't heard of Marfa, let me fill you in on the basics. Named after a maid in a Dostoyevsky novel, it's a speck of a cow town in the middle of the sweep of Far West Texas, part of an area the Spanish called the Tierra Despoblada, and, later, somewhat frighteningly, the Apachería. Even today with the railroad and the highway, and the recently internationally famous art scene, not many people live in Marfa. But it seems almost everyone who does has seen and has a shiver-worthy story about the Marfa Lights.

When I first visited Marfa in the late 1990s, I made an arrow for the Marfa Lights viewing area, a pullout on the highway between Marfa and the neighboring town of Alpine. About 9 miles out of Marfa, it was just a parking area with, as I recall, a couple of sun-bleached picnic tables. There was an RV parked to one the side and standing on top of one of the picnic tables, a burly man in shorts and a T-shirt, his knees bent like a quarterback about to grab the football. There was no one else there.

It was still light out, though the sky had paled and beyond the expanse of Mitchell Flat, the mountains to the south, the Chinatis, loomed a dusky purple. I don't recall that man turning to look at me, but he must have heard my car pull up behind him, for as I opened the door, he pointed toward the mountains and began to shout:

As I set my shoe on the dirt, I saw that it was surrounded by a scattering of something silvery: quarters. I have found many a penny on the sidewalk, and few dimes over the years, but this was several dollars worth of quarters. I gathered them up.

"OH MY GOD!" The man was bellowing. "OH MY GOD!!!" I would have thought him barking mad except that, I too saw the lights and they were unlike anything I had ever seen. [...CONTINUE READING]