Saturday, August 06, 2016

Cryptoquotes, matchbook covers, and where the puzzles went: A remembrance on the occasion of their son's birthday

In the garage on his workbench, Lucille stacked his to-dos. There were the crossword puzzles and cryptoquotes she saved for Stanley while he recovered from joint or pacemaker replacements. The saving stopped the morning after he went by ambulance to Sierra. He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while his aide dressed and attended to his feet.

He loved a well-ordered garage and puzzles of all kinds. Lucille bundled and secured Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens magazines tied with twine into neat bundles. The inside of the pantry door held neat paper bags saved from the commissary. The magazines were worthy of safekeeping because they interesting knitting patterns and recipes. Each side to the marriage reflected a life of service, whether to family, church, or country in an orderly way. His was of service in the Army, at work in telemetry at WSMR, and at the VFW hall having beers with his sons. He taught them how to care for the home and vehicles. He propagated geraniums for school fundraisers, and stood guard with fellow Knights of Columbus for the departed faithful (also known as the
Knights of Columbo by one particular granddaughter). Lucille’s service was keeping the home, sewing prom dresses, presiding as deanery president, baking for church and school fundraising bazaars, and crocheting and knitting afghans and sweaters that we all still use and wear. The warmth of Lucille's skills remains scattered across the Pacific to Hawaii, up north to Minnesota and Colorado, across the country to Brooklyn, and remained here in El Paso.

Next to the workbench on Skyline in Northeast El Paso, a funky pine nightstand once stood. The small chest had three deep drawers. One drawer held a plastic bag of matchbooks, acrylic 3-D puzzles popular during the 70s, a Rubric’s Cube™, and a small green cover with "Bridge"  embossed in gold script to hold score pads. The matchbooks were the kind restaurants and bars once given freely to customers. Another drawer held cassette tapes of Big Band music Stanley had recorded. He played the tapes on a small cassette player kept on top of the bench. Part of a bedroom set used by more than one child, the nightstand now sits, stripped of lavender paint, and next to a small teak desk in our bedroom. We kept one puzzle we liked best along with the often-solved Rubric's Cube™, and the matchbook collection. A favorite matchbook is from The Iron Tender where VED once worked. It was well-known for its steak soup. Before the steakhouse closed, a family friend appealed to the newspaper to reprint its recipe and that clipping how holds a place of honor on the kitchen bulletin board.

Recycled newspaper rubber bands help keep the clear acrylic puzzles fixed and complete until they dried out and failed. Elastic rubber band pieces collected at bottom of the drawer—short, pale green worms. Miraculously, the puzzles continued to remain solved and refused to fall apart in solidarity for the five years between their deaths. In one case, however, masking tape continues holding our favorite puzzle together—a diabolical apple. Except for the transparent fruit, all the puzzles went to the originally named Crisis Nursery for its thrift shop.

Founded by Mary Russell around 1977, I recall her first appeal for support. Since it was after Fr. Vonder Haar's sermon, it must have happened anytime excepting summer. That priest never could give sermons as he feigned an aversion to the heat for the parishioners. But we knew better—he being from a wealthy Philadelphia St. Louis family. He kept a large number of parakeets in the parish front office, and co-officiated my parent’s wedding at Cristo Rey in Smeltertown. He instructed, baptized, and confirmed my father.

But on that cool Sunday, morning after his sermon, Mrs. Russell began her appeal by explaining that there was a need in the community for a nursery. The need was both great and personal for her—a grandchild was blinded in one eye due to child abuse. She explained that a child crisis nursery acts as a go between for emergency after hours care, how the children and infants would be found and accepted into temporary care. She next asked for both monetary and volunteer help.

Blessed Sacrament Church and the diocese lent use of a house that had long been used for storage. It was around the corner nearer to the parish grade school. A standout memory was how an old donated buffet held diaper, baby bottle supplies, blankets, and onesies. I used to volunteer after mass on Sundays and initially took Michaela with me to play with the toddlers and babies being cared for over the weekend until they could be transferred to Child Protective Services. That was the case, until Mary told us that a recent child was found to have lice. Perhaps it would be best that we kept our children home while we volunteered, she suggested.

Since it first opened that year and thereafter to its new constructed facility on Stevens, it sadly has never gone vacant. However, children remain safe, and over time, many uninitiated parents have been allowed short respite. Mrs. Russell, as my in-laws and parents, were children of the Great Depression. In them was instilled the life of service, daily acts of faith, decency, and love for family and country. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A bird for Valentines Day

Valentine Pyrrhuloxia
Who says only English sparrows, grackles,
and doves wing here. Female Pyrrhuloxia,
the Desert Cardinal (Cardinalis sinuatus)
shows otherwise. She and her guy feast on sunflower
seeds and corn outside the courtyard door.
To be in love
Is to touch with a lighter hand.

In yourself you stretch, you are well.

You look at things
Through his eyes.

A cardinal is red.

A sky is blue.

Suddenly you know he knows too.

He is not there but
You know you are tasting together
The winter, or a light spring weather.

His hand to take your hand is overmuch.

Too much to bear.

You cannot look in his eyes
Because your pulse must not say
What must not be said.

When he
Shuts a door
Is not there
Your arms are water.

And you are free
With a ghastly freedom.

You are the beautiful half
Of a golden hurt.

You remember and covet his mouth
To touch, to whisper on.

Oh when to declare
Is certain Death!
Oh when to apprize
Is to mesmerize,
To see fall down, the Column of Gold,
Into the commonest ash.

by Gwendolyn Brooks

Monday, March 23, 2015

Advice to a friend

This modified post is based on an email I sent to a friend, and focuses on drawing and writing. Not all encompassing, it is a short explanation on how I see beginning a creative project. It is meant to get both of us out of the funk we are in now.  Onward to better days.

Everyone can draw, or doodle if you must. I free draw, meaning it may turn into an identifiable animal or object, or it may not. It just IS. Any drawing (for children) does not need to be anatomically "correct," just appealing and fun. Cats and dogs are fun to draw because they are made up of several overlapping circles and ovals.

Free writing connotes similarly. Yet, we often encourage students to brainstorm, free write, and draft. These activities are not the same, but all encourage creativity without the prospect of having a finished document at the end of a day's writing. But, their outcomes are neither valueless nor the results of time wasted. Any time devoted to a quiet or quick period for writing or drawing helps keep the brain elastic, the senses quick, and reflexes warm.  
Drawing does not need to be perfect or “correct.” You just need to relax and have fun. The more you draw, the easier it may get. For cats and dogs, start by drawing ovals and circles. Here is a beautiful and old-fashioned step-by-step collection of images from les animaux tels qu'ils sont, kindly scanned by pilllpat (agence eureka) on Flickr.

Hyènes & Chacals
from les animaux tels qu'ils sont
Write and draw as much as you can, when you feel the need or encounter inspiration. Practice stories in your head, and write those in a notebook. Start in the middle, think of how it ends, and write that first if you want. Write down the funny things as they happen with your pet or things you see around town or school. Recall odd or funny things that happened in the past. Think about writing your pet's life story from her or his perspective. If you have a female cat, say, do you know where she came from? Think about when she was a kitten. Think about any other cats you have owned. All cat stories combined into the Le Petit Chat Pour Les Enfants/The little cat for the children. Write for your child, niece or nephew. Think about Beatrix Potter. She wrote for the children in her family. Children were her first audience.

Draw your pet using whatever tools you have now. Strike while the iron is hot. Use grocery paper bags opened up and go to town with crayons. You will work best when you want to work. Later, you try different papers, pencils, charcoal (sticks or pencils), and even ink with a pen with a Crow Quill fine line nib. Speedball Crow quill pens are very inexpensive and flexible.

If you are fortunate to have Blackwing 602 pencils, or the newer Palomino, they should be soft for sketching and blocking. However, if an older pencil seems too hard for sketching, filing in, and details, then try it for blocking in shapes.
I hate it when you can't change the dream channel
©carolyn rhea drapes 2015. 
Prismacolor markers and Micron .005 pen

Lightly sketch and then switch to another pencil for shading or detailing with another pencil you like. This is when it pays to get yourself to an artist supply store to try out the products. Finishing pencils should be softer to allow for fewer streaking and better, consistent coverage. The lower the number, the softer the pencil.

When you sketch and draw, many times you may find that you can go directly to a finished product without guidelines, but other times you need to lightly sketch and then use softer, darker pencils. Blackwing pencils could be good for that. If you want to add color, try Prismacolor or Pantone markers. They offer a variety of point shapes and sharpness.

Rotring Art Pen, fine point and catridges
For pens, I prefer Microns, but they will run out of ink quickly. Rotring has a great cartridge art pen that comes in various widths.

Currently, I have two Rotring art pens in fine point. Its cartridge system allows for a very fluid line and the ink is long lasting, even though I live in the desert.

For color, DESIGN Spectracolor pencils were once the gold standard for intensity, blending, and softness, but have been out of production since 1999. For excellent pencils now, Derwent offers several styles of color pencils with a wide range of colors.

Books and online resources
Try practice drawing your cat from life and by copying pictures of cats that look like her. Try drawing other animals, too. I used to do this, and am still trying to find the little cat book i liked the best. But there are many drawing books you can use.

Back in the day were two books I loved, gendered of course, entitled Sketching and Drawing for Girls and Sketching and Drawing for Boys. I replaced mine a few years ago and now, the book has been combined and retitled to, Sketching and Drawing for Children. Combined book includes the same pages and content as the two original books. One simple change, great results.

Here are a few terrific Pinterest pages about drawing cats.
When I was very young, my father bought me a couple of portfolios, which were marked $1 for 10 or 12 large prints of dog and cat portraits by Gladys Emerson Cook’s
"X" ©carolyn rhea drapes 2015
Pantone markers and micron black pens.
pastel drawings of cats and dogs

I hope to soon locate these portfolios, as I don’t think I would have given them away. They are lovely and an excellent example of how evocative and affective simple tools like pastels, colored papers, and the animals themselves create an excellent subject to capture.

All too often, doodling is considered as wasting time or dumping your daydreams onto paper. Many see them as not being true drawings or art, whatever that means. The attitude toward such creativity is condescending; and, similar to saying that improvisational music is not real music. But, to get to the improvisation some practice is necessary. Whether doodling is an end unto itself or practice towards a goal is up to you. In either case, drawing, drafting, and writing for yourself can be relaxing and fun.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Teletype, Scotch® tape, X-ACTO® knives, and laser paper: Adventures in old school news clipping services for corporate decision makers

Note: this was originally began and then saved from 2013.

On October 4, 2013, NewspaperTree reported results of an inquiry to the Texas Legislative Reference Library (LRL) on how it selected articles for its Daily Legislative Clipping Service (DLCS) news briefing and if it had documented its selection process. What impact does the DLCS have on El Paso/Juarez region (including Fort Bliss) news and information state elected officials? Sounds simple, right? It should have been, yet the Tree encountered umbrage, drama, and delaying tactics after its initial questions were rebuffed, which then led to an open records request, which led to bargaining by the LRL. With all that you'd think they didn't want people to know that the DLCS,
  1. Exists at all.
  2. Holds no written documentation about its selection process or its policies and procedures.
  3. Overlooks or unconsciously ignores borderland (and its constituents') stories, articles and issues.
  4. Receives undo influence outside the LRL to select only news affecting a small group of large cities and/or topics that will only affect specific people, interests, and groups. 
Common sense dictates that we should understand how DLCS chooses its news articles. Yet, judging from the blowback received and information finally obtained, one has to wonder why the Tree encountered such obstruction and digital drama from the good people at LRL. In their article, "Out of sight, out of mind: Capitol news clips keep El Paso stories below the fold" the online weekly notes that,
On August 13, 2013, Newspaper Tree submitted an open records request to the library seeking any documents reflecting its policies on their clipping service. (Legislative Reference Library director, Mary) Camp responded to the request by phone, saying she would only talk on the record if Newspaper Tree withdrew its open records request. 
Newspaper Tree declined to withdraw its request.

Under the Texas Public Information Act, responses to requests must be made within 10 business days. Ten days following Newspaper Tree’s request, Camp responded by mail with a $51.80 invoice for the requested materials. Her letter arrived on September 3.

The LRL refused to provide an invoice via email to expedite the payment process.

The responsive documents were mailed to Newspaper Tree on September 9 and arrived September 11—nearly a month following the initial request.
NewspaperTree rightly investigated how DLCS articles are being selected and distributed to politicos in Austin and beyond. As the Tree is part of the fourth estate too, it has a right to know why or why not their stories are selected for the daily briefing.

However, it is safe to assume (not really, but follow me here for a bit), that many people, including elected officials and their staffs could simply Google "El Paso," "Juarez," or "West Texas." But, the kicker is that officials (or aids/interns) must first chose to query El Paso/Juarez borderland news and information.

The delaying tactics and reaction to that simple question makes me wonder if the staff fears for their future. Yet, no small an audience can offset its practical, political, and potentially influential effect upon those who could receive the DLCS. On the other hand, Bob Moore, editor for The El Paso Times believes, as do I, that such a service may have already begun its endgame, when he noted that, "The whole notion of a clipping service in a social media world is really antiquated. It’s just not how human beings share information anymore.”

Yet, if certain parties or influential groups are not truly interested in reading about what's going on here, then how likely are they to be persuaded to ask about and understand our issues? Not very, if history serves. What if they could receive something regularly that provides them with news and information about our region? Because if a team of news sniffers and clippers exists, at least for now, the chances are very good that our issues will be acknowledged and read. That is why we should demand that they explain how their selection process works and is implemented. Once received, what were those results and what does it mean for us?

The "back in the day" moment

This made me recall how a small team of women used to prepare and publish a daily new briefing for the mostly male executives at the company formerly known as El Paso Natural Gas Company (EPNG), El Paso Energy (EPEnergy), and in its end days, El Paso LLC (El Paso). Hm. Seems that the closer you get to one's total corporeality elimination fewer keystrokes make up your moniker. But that's a story for another day. Concerning the corporate method of informing decision makers, here is my take on news clipping process and procedure. While we selected from any and all sources of information daily available, I see little bias or politics in how the articles were chosen. If there was any it was slight because our time to gather, cull, index, assemble, print, and deliver was so short. There was simply no time, unless that bias was unconsciously made, which is possible in any case when quick decisions are made.

Daily Newsbriefs

From about 1994 until around 2000, Lee Byrd daily edited and indexed, while I sourced and laid-out (cut and paste from hard copies) the daily Newsbriefs clipping service for the executives at EPNG/EP Energy. Previously, a long-time analyst edited the daily briefing until she retired. Goodness only knows how many years she worked her publishing magic as she compiled the stories herself, indexed, and published with the help of a paraprofessional. After Lee and I departed the company, the clipping service continued, and evolved into a digital service developed by their in-house IT personnel and used until the company was sold to Kidder-Morgan, Inc. (KMI) in 2012.

I must say that my stint as a "clipper" was truly fun and fast-paced as we worked every morning to provide the original from which copies of the executive news report had to be to the EPNG copy center in the basement of the Blue Flame Building no later than 11:15-11:30 each day. The report usually ran approximately 20-35 pages and contained energy industry and general news and stock information (double sided, not reduced in size) each day, depending on how the news went that previous evening until around 9:30-10 am the day it was distributed.

Our daily default sources included Oil and Gas Daily, energy sector stock prices, which for its time included Tenneco, SoCal, PG&E, and the dread company Enron. Due to its specific audience, we rarely included op-ed pieces unless written by someone in the company with a specific persuasive bent. Sections within the briefs included (transmission) rates, public policy, and environmental/science, petroleum/gas engineering and transport articles as well as the occasional think piece covering exploration, the environment, and world energy/political stories from US News & World Report, The Economist, the pink Financial Times, The Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle. Interestingly, we usually did not select stories from Mexican papers, such as El Diario de Ciudad Juárez or other regional papers outside papers in Farmington or the Permian Basin unless a breaking story warranted its selection. In addition, the NewsBriefs was faxed to company executives in its San Francisco, Farmington, Midland, and Houston offices. With that many dispatched pages to so many readers, we committed arborcide weekly.

Lee decided the order and which stories, while I pitched non-industry and trendy-type stories that could be of tangential interest to the audience, which was from the President to the director level. The idea was to have the copies distributed during the noon hour so that the (mainly male) recipients had the report on their desks by 1:00 (after lunch). If someone was flying out on one of the Gulfstream jets (as when Bill Wise, another Executive VP, or perhaps a Director/VP combo, we made an effort to publish earlier. This was at a time when the Teletype machine was giving way to Internet published articles. When I worked with the long-time editor before Lee, she had the stories compiled and indexed and I did the paste-up. When Lee and I worked together, I was compiling stories at home late at night just when the NY Times, Washington Post, Houston Chronicle and The El Paso Times were beginning to publish their editions online. I cut and pasted the texts and then emailed the stories to the office. Overall, we had no guidelines, just stuck to industry related stories that affected their work in the Gas Transmission industry. Later I heard that electronic versions were made available, but interestingly, many executives preferred the hard copies, as they were the most portable and sharable with their managers and administrators. Like cash, the Newsbriefs circulated and recirculated within the offices.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Long time, no see

One of the problems with experimenting and writing for social media (from blogs, to microblogs, to inbetweeners like Tumblr) occurs when projects go dark. In the case of my photoblog, this has happened to the extent that I've not posted anything here for a while. That's not to say that I've not wanted to add to the site, but that I have not had the chance to create a new post.

A lot has happened since my last post (which perhaps I'll detail sometime in a blog page here), but here I am on the other side, and wanting to write again. To help with this, I have a new project that I hope can work with this site.

For at least this semester, I want to experiment with the form by adding additional pages to see how such offshoot pages affect navigation and how they function when posting related topics and images off the main blog page. The impetus for this project is so I can show my students how Blogger could work with their e-portfolio project.

I don't know if it will be fully successful, but it is worth a try. Instead of publishing a student paper, I'll post drawings, photographs, short non-fiction essays, and poems.

In this way, I can see if additional pages will work within the framework of the Blogger blog format. For today, and because this is a photoblog, I offer this recent image taken in my backyard. I believe it is a sapsucker and s/he hung out at the feeder all day long last November.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Another one will bite the dust, but not by fire

Sadly, it will take a few of these to disappear and become a blot on downtown and elsewhere in town before people finally become aware of just who and for whom council serves...because it sure doesn't serve historic buildings that's for sure. Note the following blog entry, on the El Paso Development News site. Dated in October after the Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) denied approval for the demolition of the Trost building, the entry provides a good backgrounder on the location of the now fated Muir building (ironic in what the name of another John Muir evokes) and images of its original façade and what it looks like today.

According to the entry on the El Paso Development News site:
The application for demolition was submitted by the Borderplex Community Trust, a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) originally created to facilitate the City's original Downtown 2015 Plan which was announced in 2006. Since then, the REIT has focused on purchasing properties, such as the Wells Fargo and Chase buildings downtown, but has made few moves in terms of revitalization. If approved by the City Council, this would be the first major construction project put forward by Borderplex in El Paso's downtown.
However, today we know the result. And, given the history in this town of developer influence (and their cronies on council, ad nauseum), of REITs, Razing, and Resurfacing for flat parking lots, be on the look out for just that on this space soon. Now be sure to thank the Borderplex Community Trust, et al. for this bright spot on the horizon. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Then and now: Zanis Travels Again to Colorado Bearing Crosses

As near to the site of death(s) as possible, descanso creation and installation will erupt within an hour or so of any sudden tragedy--especially when the dead are young. Especially when the tragedy was senseless. What happened on July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado in terms of the amounts of public mourning and outcry was no exception. Here, the Boston Globe ( documents the labor of love created by Greg Zanis of Aurora. This was the second time that Mr. Zanis traveled to Colorado to place crosses for the dead.
Greg Zanis of Aurora, Ill., carried two of the 12 crosses he made for a makeshift memorial to the victims of the mass shooting at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo. A carpenter by trade, Zanis made the 12 white crosses that were placed near Columbine High School after a mass shooting there in 1999. Zanis said he made these crosses as fast as possible and drove all night across the country to place them across the street from the theater.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Greg Zanis, of Aurora, Ill., writes a name on one of 12 crosses, one for each victim, across the street from the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
From a file photograph. Zanis constructed the crosses near Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. In 1999, the St. Anthony Messenger credited Zanis with creating a touchstone upon which mourners could focus their grief.
This April 28, 1999 file photo shows an unidentified woman with 15 crosses posted on a hill above Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. on April 28, 1999 in remembrance of the 15 people who died during a school shooting on April 20.

While such events probably won't cease, some solace arrives and places of contemplation are created because of the selfless work of people like Greg Zanis.