Saturday, December 19, 2009

Discipline and Punish and the US Parking Slotted Pay Box

Texas plated cars with expired state inspection stickers receive a ticket, while the owners receive a court date. If for some reason there is need to reschedule, due to unforeseen events, a form (from an attorney) will abate the court appearance. Either fax or take the form to the Municipal Courts building on Overland Street, and pay the clerk 10¢ for a copy (she’ll give you a receipt for the money.) Parking availability in front of the building is nil due to all the reserved spaces for police vehicles and consulate cars (the Mexican Consulate is around the corner on the not so ironically named San Antonio Street.) Therefore, if a member of the public has business to conduct within the courts building, they must park their car at the US Parking lot across the street.

In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault explains how certain spaces work together to form areas which discipline, punish, and control public behaviors. These change and shift over time and by location. While a community designs their towns in certain ways over time, such collections of formations will create such barriers and constraints, which the public never sees or feels. The layers of buildings, torn down, others built in the same place, lanes widened, streets change to one-way, all result in outcomes never originally planned. In a painless but effective formation, such changes will punish and discipline. Whether these are designs and buildings situated to perform those particular outcomes, as with prisons and schools, there are also more subversive and invisible spaces that discipline those of us who willingly walk into a space and follow the implied or written instructions meted to us. I found one such space this week and was shocked when Foucault’s theory met with the place where I stood—in a parking lot across from the Municipal Courts building on Overland Street.

Most of the US Parking facilities are simple blacktop lots with diagonal lines and numbers to denote a space, along with a simple metal box at one entrance that accepts your coins and bills. In the case of this location, US Parking charges $4 to rent such spaces (0-12 hours). On a slow day, as this was, this means I paid for about 15 minutes of space rental time. What makes parking there so byzantine and punishing is not merely the amount you must pay, but how you pay. To pay for a space, put money into the corresponding slot cut into that red metal box attached to a signage pole. On the day I went, a pink piece of paper taped to the sign above the box politely asked people to pay in “cash, no checks please.” It is not so much the price of the parking lot space because this is America and the need and lack of choice drive space rental.

Yes, it is four dollars because hey, they want to see if you will pay with a $5 bill because you are in a rush or do not have change. It is also because the box with its slots work together with this location in a manner where you will pay; that is punish and discipline. The box disciplines by making you cram the money into that box, which you would not have had to do if you had had your car inspected on time. The slot punishes because you must stand and roll your bills so tight that you think about your grandfather rolling his own cigarettes with Bugler Tobacco. It punishes by making you remember that you miss him even though he died in 1975. Before you finish, you must make sure the money drops inside, so you cram the money into the box with a metal shive attached to the box with a chain. Overall, geography can and will discipline and punish, through this place, those spaces, and the box—across from the courts, as no parking is available on the street. Your money, the metal shive, the street, the courts, and the red box—that is discipline and punish.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mobile Post :: Prada Marfa reflections with child

The Judge at Prada Marfa the weekend after being vandalized following its public installation ceremonies, October 30, 2005.

Mobile Post

Stencils. MJ and his sister Ellen in the Maxwell Street house, El Paso, Texas.
Stencils. MJ and his sister Ellen in the Maxwell Street house, El Paso, Texas.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Snows: Cotton candy sunset

One of the things I love (and have to be ready for) is sundown after snowfall. From my home, the mountains face southwest and usually after it has snowed, the following evenings sundown will be as pink and rose colored as could ever be imagined. It is as if a carnival came to town and wrapped the mountains in a pink soft blanket confection. It does not look real. But you must be ready to grab your camera and run to the closest available vantage point. I was slow this time, but did capture a few shots from my backyard.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Snow day

Snow day
Originally uploaded by chacal la chaise.

Snow came and claimed its spot on the radar of all in town and beyond. The schools had to give it its due, even if this is the last week of regular classes. Schools, including UTEP, opened at 10:00 AM. At 10, the mountains were completely shrouded in a misty fog and rain mixed with snow continued until 1:00 or so.

Taking a break around 3:00, I drove up to the foothills to snag a few shots before running back home to work on a paper due tomorrow. (Like I should be writing this now, right?) No matter, I love the mountains and the time away from the screen was good for the soul and eyes.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yesterday was a fine day for touring on Shadow Mountain Drive.

It isn't often I get the opportunity or the time to drive-by shoot images these days. Yet this drive-by was too good to pass up. On the way to class, I caught up to this antique Bentley (possibly from the mid- to late- 1930s) near Mesa Street on Shadow Mountain Drive. I photographed two images while we were stopped at the light. We started up again and It turned left, as did I. Although I tried to get another shot of the beast from my rear view door mirror, I soon lost it in traffic.

I've always thought Bentley's were supposed to be too "cool" for a hood ornament. I also heard a Bentley was a Rolls-Royce without the hood ornament. (These are myths because in the case of this beauty, it had the Bentley marque on the rear near the license and a winged "B ornament on the bonnet. In any case, it was a delight to see on such a beautiful day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A moleskine page from The Judge's freshman year at MSU

Given FB cannot publish "notes" from more than one blog, I thought I would republish this entry originally posted to a new Moleskiners blog. To me, Moleskiners throws too much in its interface of multiple horizontal menus with a heinous orange and green default color scheme. 

That said, it did make me go and collect my thoughts and write about something that occurred recently. And although not specifically about El Paso nor was the image taken in El Paso, it was created by someone from here; it also tacitly covers issues concerned with education and parenting. 

We've been told that The Judge is not the only student from here who currently attends Michigan State, but sometimes it seems she is. However, there are many more students who do leave home every year to attend college away from El Paso. This is something from one parent with one student who has left home for the past four years.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Two rediscovered Ukrainian Easter eggs

This picture is of two Ukrainian Easter eggs I made over 20 years ago. I found them while hunting for some beeswax for the Judge. She wanted to dye a pair of shorts black and wanted a way for a few small areas of the garment to resist the dye. I found the beeswax and with it over 12 hollow hen eggs in a carton and two duck eggs ready for pysanky dying, along with special the dyes needed to color them all.

I became fascinated with this art form when it was featured in a story in the April 1972 National Geographic Magazine. Titled Easter Greetings from the Ukrainians, it told of the Orthodox Easter customs in both Ukraine and here in the Minneapolis area. I still have my copy, but have never scanned the article. However, this web page includes several images from that article and provides all information on how to make them. If memory serves, the article referred to the Ukrainian Gift Shop in Roseville, MN, a Minneapolis suburb that has a large Ukrainian immigrant population. Two women owned the shop, published books about the eggs, and sold all the supplies needed to create them. I was hooked and promised myself that one day, I would learn how to create those eggs. Around 1983, I got my wish when we drove from Santa Fe, NM to Minneapolis, MN one summer to visit my sister-in-law and her sons. We located the shop; I bought an egg made by the owners, their books, dyes, and other supplies. I could not wait to get home and start making Ukrainian Easter eggs in June.

True eggs dyed in the Ukrainian fashion are actually whole to allow for the best coverage of the dyes. Over time, the contents of the whole eggs should eventually dry and turn to dust. However, until that happens, do not crack or break the egg because the house will smell of rotten eggs! Once I tried dying the whole egg. It was red with accent colors of green, orange, yellow, and white. I think I either gave or sold the egg to a woman who was my supervisor. It sat on her desk for several months; it was very similar in design to the egg on the left. However, one day, something slipped and toppled the egg over off its special stand. Consequently, we had to keep the back door open to our work area for a while. The egg had become sufficiently ripe and gooey.

These eggs in this box could have started out wholly died, and been just fine all these years. With no cracks and kept in the dark they are perfect. For years, they remained in a box in the hall closet along with all hollowed chicken and goose eggs and dyes, patterns, and beeswax needed to transform their white surface. Perhaps I will finish those eggs one of these days. In the meantime, the LearnPysanky site also provides more information and offers all the supplies needed to make Ukrainian Easter eggs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mockingbird feeding time

Mockingbird feeding time
Originally uploaded by chacal la chaise.
In the case of this blog, change is always good. However, sometimes it takes a while to move towards that change, whether writing about something, thinking about writing, or having something you think would produce joy in the world by writing about it and presenting a particular picture about your town. In this case, I found a perfect image that sings joy for me. The birds work hard and entertain me greatly.

This poor mockingbird mom (?) and one of her two fledglings hang around our backyard. These two babies can now fly, but cannot yet feed themselves. Instead, they sit on the fence, fly around the yard, and generally run their mother ragged with their constant begging for food. She brings them red ants, which is something I’d never thought of as bird food. Mimus polyglottos, or the Northern Mockingbird, according to both Peterson's Bird Guide of the Western U.S. and the Cornell Bird Lab, note that the state pajaro de Tejas eats insects and berries. We have—ants, scorpions, and all sorts of beetles, as well as, pyracanthea berries, and mulberry fruits. This year, the family has chosen to nest in a forest of orange trumpet vines (very attractive to ants), desert sage, and another bushy desert plant that grows way too fast for me to keep it cropped and suburban presentable. In other words, we have an unkempt forest of greenery to shelter birds, but is fairly choking my roses.

In years past, parent Mockingbirds would pitch royal fits when Pumpkin no Tail was outside and sleeping on a patio chair. I guess the birds didn't know that this domesticated feline eats only dry cat food. When Inky was in her prime, the yard was fairly littered with Mockingbird feathers. However, now that she is 15-6 years old, she rarely goes outside to hunt; instead, she chooses to watch the Mockingbird action from our bedroom window.

The funniest result of all this songbird opera is that when Buddy II is outside on the patio, the birds don't seem to mind. Evidently, they believe he can neither hunt nor hurt them. (Or, they see the scars on his face and know he cannot fight worth a damn.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

ASARCO will not reopen plant; facility to be demolished

I cannot tell you how happy I was when I read the news that ASARCO will not reopen its El Paso plant. Yet, I am melancholy at the same time knowing its parent company will tear down the facility. No doubt the razing of the red and white tower will become a big media event. In fact it already has. Posing questions, wondering who is rejoicing, who is not. This whole situation signals a final erasure to come for the physicality and space that once held a tiny culture and community that stood beneath the stacks. It was called Smeltertown--a place where my mother's family lived that will soon disappear forever. My abuelo and several of his sons, my tios, and a couple of cousins worked for the company and it was because of ASARCO that the family immigrated from Aguas Calientes, Mx, the site of another ASARCO plant.

Smeltertown was a "company town" and had a life embodied in the families. Well over 7,000 people were born, lived, and died within the tiny hamlet. Inside their home, my grandmother gave birth to 13 children of which 12 survived to adulthood. The burned twice and was rebuilt each time.  Several years ago, a distant cousin wrote her dissertation about this community, which was once just as attached to the plant, as families and friends were to one another.

My parents were married at Cristo Rey, the Smeltertown's tiny Catholic Church, and in there, I crowned the statue of Mary for a May crowning when I was about six years old. I have stood inside the red, white striped tower while it was constructed, and my father took the elevator to the top when the last of the continuous pouring of cement was complete.

Now all in this community with connections to this place can start a new chapter of in the history of this city, this land. Yet while the tower may disappear, the stories of the lives and events enacted there will remain embodied in the stories and the ancient photographs we share with the world. I think I am no longer attached, but I remember.
smell the fresh tortillas as they
cook on the fire

feel the hot silt sand that
scorched my summer tanned feet.
see tiny rivulets of tears on my cousins’
silt-covered faces or juice cans
marcy buried in the ground
to practice his birdies and eagles.
taste the acrid sulphur that once
burned my lungs when we played outside.
hear the hollow and forlorn
sound of whistles that
signal the 2:00 a.m. shift

they said it was
la llorona coming for us.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sin and Saints: Elm Street Guadalupe

Several weeks ago, (or, as the silly always say, way back last year) Jim Tolbert posted a lovely photo of the Elm Street Guadalupe on his blog. And as I am in the business of seeking and photographing all things OL Guadalupe here in the land of the lost, the Judge and I went to locate this Guadalupe so that I too could photograph it. We wound our way around the central El Paso neighborhood until we discovered this gem. I particularly love how the artist used metallic paint for her aura/hallowedness and that the wrought-iron fencing is painted to match her and the background.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I am not the best at writing on a daily/weekly basis. In fact, after I publish I continue to edit my blog entries. However, I can explain what I have been ruminating about recently, which is about how several iconic mural/graffiti images in El Paso were destroyed in 2008, which happens to adjoin what Jim has been blogging about lately (tagging.)

Now, I am a fence sitter on the subject of tagging/graffiti/street/urban art. But I have read enough by sociologists, urban archeologists, and rhetoricians to know that blanket statements such as, "all taggers are gang members" (of a more troubling criminal kind) is incorrect and too black and white. And while I do not like seeing slap dashed tags scrawled by "gangs" of ego-centric energetic "kids," I will say that this is something that happens in urban environments. It also happens in small towns, covered bridges in Madison County, and hidden caves in France. Nor, is this activity specifically an ethnic, gender, or age thing. Suffice it to say, graffiti is an act of writing, an act of opportunity, an act of rebellion, and above all, an act of communication.

Tags, just as billboards, have an audience, with their messages arranged in a particular way for a particular reason. They exist to persuade (mostly anti-establishment, anti-status quo.) Its delivery method, while silent, screams, "Listen to me! I exist! I have purpose and I am here." This is not really so different from the Elm Street Guadalupe, except of course, that a tag is written without permission. Tags are a form of unsanctioned speech where permission to exist was not first given. And as a tangential audience to these speech acts, we may not believe, and we may not approve. We may become angry that a wall supports scrawled utterances. Nevertheless, one or many people exist behind such statements on silent rock and plastered walls. Are we ready to listen to what they have to say?

Selected bibliography on the Visual Rhetoric and Rhetoric of Graffiti

Barack Obama is a work of art [Television broadcast]. (2008, November 5).
Denver: Columbia Broadcast System. Retrieved December 5, 2008, from

Bearman, J. (2008, October). Street cred. Modern Painters, 20(9), 68-73.

Benjamin, Walter. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." Feb. 2005. 25 June 2007.

Chia, Adeline. "Spray paint art." The Straits Times [Singapore] 21 June 2007. 12
July 2007.

"Critical Mass." Visual Resistance. Visual Resistance. 25 Apr. 2007.

Currid, E. (2007). The Warhol economy: How fashion art & music drive New York
City. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

D'Amico, Daniel J., and Walter Block. "A Legal and Economic Analysis of
Graffiti." Austrian Student Scholar’s Conference. Grove City College, Grove
City, PA. 5 Nov. 2004. Art Crimes. 11 Apr. 2007.

D'Angelo, Frank J. "Sacred Cows Make Great Hamburgers: The Rhetoric of
Graffiti." College Composition and Communication 25.2 (May 1974): 173-180.

"Ghost Bikes." Visual Resistance. Visual Resistance. 22 Apr. 2007.

Hermer, Joe, and Alan Hunt. "Official Graffiti of the Everyday." Law & Society
Review 30.3 (1996): 455-480.

Drapes, Carolyn Rhea. "The City :: Urban art, stickers, stencils, murals, and
painted building texts." Flickr. 26 Apr. 2007. 26 Apr. 2007.

MacGillivray, L., & Curwen, M. S. (2007, February). Tagging as a social literacy
practice. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(5), 354-69.

Lachmann, Richard. "Graffiti as Career and Ideology." The American Journal of
Sociology 94.2 (Sept. 1988): 229-250.

McLuhan, M., & Fiore, Q. (1967). The medium is the massage. New York: Bantam.

Montoya, Isaiah. "Graf in Hush Tones." The Border Observer [El Paso] 6 Apr.
2007, sec. American Sprit—Fine Arts: 26-27.

Rafferty, Pat. "Discourse on Difference: Street Art/Graffiti Youth." Visual
Anthropology Review 7.2 (Fall 1991): 77-84.

Schlecht, Neil E. "Resistance and appropriation in Brazil." Studies in Latin
American Popular Culture 14 (1995): 37-68.

Shannon, Joshua A. "Claes Oldenburg's The Street and Urban Renewal in Greenwich
Village." Art Bulletin 86.1 (Mar. 2004): 136-161.

Walker, William. "The Lessons of Guernica." Toronto Star [Toronto] 9 Feb. 2003,
sec. Business: B01.

Sometimes you need to get away from it all.

And sometimes, it's time to return and be part of the larger world.  Between the first of 2023 and February 14, I painted many watercolo...