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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Literary Travel Writing: Notes on Process and the Digital Revolution

Confession: After I snapped this photo with my iPhone I checked my email
-- just to see if I could! Alas, I could.]]

The aim of literary travel writing was-- and remains-- to bring the reader to deeply notice, that is, get out of her head and into the world of specific sounds, smells, tastes, textures, colors, ideas, histories, geographies, geologies... In the words of Kenneth Smith, "You have to open space, and deepen place."  >> CONTINUE READING AT MY MAIN BLOG, "MADAM MAYO"

Monday, August 29, 2016

Cymru & Comanche: Cyberflanerie

So "Cymru," the name for Wales in the Welsh language, is pronounced kum-ree. (Whodathunk?)

I have finished reading the excellent albeit doorstop-esque The Last of the Celts by Marcus Tanner. If you have been following this blog, you know that I am at work on a book about Far West Texas, so you might be wondering, why the interest in the Celts? Of course, many Texans are descendants of Celts-- Scotch, Welsh, and Irish, above all. 


But it's more than this.

Sometimes one's thinking, stuck in a cultural rut, needs to unlimber.  Reading into deep and/or lateral history gives one a freshly off-kilter look at what it means to be human, and it highlights forgotten or overlooked connections among now diverse peoples. Such as among, oh, say, Texians and Comanches.


>> CONTINUE READING OVER AT MY MAIN BLOG, "MADAM MAYO"

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.

Extra-crunchy.

"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:







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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

THE COMANCHE EMPIRE
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


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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:

PEYOTE AND THE PERFECT YOU: NOTES

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]

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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