Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Oral Histories from Michael Crouser's Mountain Ranch

This week, Michael Crouser is taking over the Smithsonian Magazine's Instagram feed with images from his book Mountain Ranch. To honor the ten years he spent shadowing and photographing cattle ranchers in the mountains of Colorado, we're excerpting two oral histories from the Heritage section of Mountain Ranch. Crouser writes in his afterword“The men and women I have met, photographed, and become friends with in Colorado are often fourth-, fifth-, or even sixth-generation ranchers. And I find it amazing and nearly unbelievable that a young rancher can step out of his or her front door into the brisk morning, with snowcapped mountains ringing their view, saddle a horse, and set out to ride among the cattle, knowing that their great-great-grandparents, people they never met, had the exact same experience on the very same piece of land.”

Follow the Smithsonian Magazine on Instagram at @smithsonianmagazine!

Punch George

Oak Creek, Colorado

They call me “Punch,” is what they call me. I used to help everybody with cows and whatever, you know, punchin’ cows. That’s how I got that name. I think I was about nine when I got that name, and it’s been with me ever since. You come here now, and somebody asks for Otto George—that’s my real name—nobody knows him. It’s always Punch. I was born in Bailey, Colorado, on the other side of the hill, in 1925. I’m eighty-nine, just about ninety. We lived on a ranch over there, but right after I was born they moved up here, to Oak Creek. Course they brought me with ’em. I quit school in the eighth grade. I met my wife in the third grade, and we stayed together all that time.

Andy Maneotis, he was the biggest sheep man around here then. He was a Greek fella. And I worked a lot for him, helping him dock and gather his sheep, till I got a little older. Seemed like the war broke out too soon, or something, and I went right into the service, into the Marines, when I was seventeen, in 1942. They sent me right over there to the South Pacific. I was over there for over three years. Then I come back to the States, and it wasn’t too long after I got back that the war ended. And then I married my wife, the one I met in the third grade. She waited for me, and so we went that route.

Before that, I was working at anything I could get, really. My dad moved to Salt Lake, and I lived here all alone since I was eleven. I lived in an old shack in Oak Creek in an alley, which was all right. But there was no water, no nothin’. And that’s where I lived. You know, I didn’t have no help when he was here, ’cause there was no work then, you know; we’s just comin’ out of the Depression. I can’t say that I remember anything about Christmas or holidays when I was a kid. It was just another day. I guess ’cause I was on my own and there was nobody around, ya know, so I just worked. Everybody burned coal, but a lot of them lived upstairs, and that’s what I done, packed coal upstairs. Get it for ’em and things like that. And I even racked pool balls in a pool hall one time.

We used to go over there to Burns all the time to go rodeoin’. I didn’t rodeo myself. I just
messed around, is all. I never did get good. And besides that, I had too much work I had to do. Just before ya get to Burns Hole, ya start down that steep hill and cross the Colorado River; right on top, before ya start down, is where the rodeo grounds is. We was over there a couple three weeks ago, my daughter and I, and their rodeo grounds is all caved in. A lot of it’s still standin’, but it’s pretty shabby.

I didn’t claim to be a cowboy, but I liked to think I was. I had a lot of horses when we got on the ranch. I liked draft horses awful well. We had around four thousand head of cattle that we loaded on the train, and they hauled ’em to Nebraska, but it took ’em four days to get there. No feed, no water. And when Mom and I got there, we couldn’t recognize our own cattle. They was all ganted up and hungry and dirty and . . . oh, geez, it was terrible.

I never will forget this one time, we was drivin’ our cattle up to Yampa, and they’d all be on
the road, and here’d come the traffic, and this guy come up and couldn’t get through, so I had a guy back there to tell him, “Well, just hang on till we get two or three more cars and I’ll take ya through.” Well, this guy pulled out that big ol’ pistol and said, “We’ll go through right now.” And they took him through. That’s the things that happen to ya, that’s all. Lotta experiences on the ranch.

Margie Gates

Burns, Colorado

I was born on Wolcott Divide, and I was a home birth, on November 23 of ’31. I was born in the Depression, of course, and jobs were few and far between. My father had been on the ranch in Radium that his father had homesteaded back in the 1880s, and he had to sell the ranch because his brothers and sisters in California were needing money. This left him kinda without a place to go, so he worked for the McLaughlin family, at State Bridge. He more or less managed the ranch for Mrs. McLaughlin. The ranch was up on the Wolcott Divide, and that’s where I was born. We lived there in a little two-room cabin.

My first memories are from when the McLaughlins decided they were gonna sell that ranch. That meant he had to find another job. So he went to Alma, Colorado, where there were jobs in the Lincoln mine. And I can remember—I was about three years of age—I can remember that the first summer we were there, we lived in a tent. And I remember my daddy making little stools out of a sign, for my brother and I . . . little stools for us to sit on. And I remember the man coming by, looking for his sign! My parents were wonderful. I was a daddy’s girl, and I sat on my daddy’s lap every morning. My mother’s cooking was wonderful. She could always cook meat, whether it was wild meat or whether it was tame. Chicken, pork, turkey, or ham.

My dad leased property up Gypsum Valley, and we lived on what they used to call the Congdon Ranch up there. He leased it, and we did haying and had cattle, milk cows, some sheep. I was just starting high school in Gypsum, and I herded sheep every day, and I learned very early on that you can stay out as late as you want to, but you’re gonna be at the breakfast table, and you are gonna eat breakfast. And then by eight o’clock you had to be out with the sheep, gettin’ ’em up on the mountain to eat for the day. And I’d bring the cows in every night before Daddy got home so he could milk ’em.

I rode every day, and I remember having a runaway. My brother, he wouldn’t saddle my horse for me. He said I had to learn how to saddle my own horse. He was five years older than I was, and he kinda thought he was my boss. Anyway, one day I went out to the corral, and his horse was saddled, and I thought, “I’m gonna ride that horse” rather than saddle my own. So I got on the horse. He saw me get on it, and he said, “Don’t go out the gate. You stay in the corral . . . don’t go out the gate.” Well, what did I do? I went out the gate! And the horse took off. I rode him all the way and finally got him turned around. I was on the main road, and luckily I didn’t run into any vehicle comin’ at us. But I had him stopped and turned around and comin’ back by the time my father and my brother got to me. And I didn’t get spanked!

I married Bud before I got out of nursing school. I met him when he came out to Gypsum to go to high school. I was in elementary and he was in high school. Bud was raised with girls, and so he knew how to talk to girls . . . give ’em a hard time, and all that kinda thing. And he’d walk along the fence there at the school, and we’d all—you know, silly girls—we were all out there lookin’ or doing something. And he was just really nice and smiley and fun to talk to. And I fell in love with him. That’s it. I was twelve. Yeah, I’ve loved him ever since I was twelve. You know, that’s the way it is. And that hasn’t changed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Photographer Nancy Rexroth on the Republication of her Classic Book 'IOWA'

In August of 2017, the University of Texas Press will be republishing IOWA, Nancy Rexroth's long out of print preeminent exemplar of Diana camera work, a cult collection of dreamlike, poetic images of "[her] own private landscape, a state of mind." The following contains Rexroth's current writings on IOWA, along with excerpts from her interviews with
Russell Joslin (from a 1998 SHOTS magazine interview) and Blake Andrews, discussing the Diana Camera and the meaning behind "Iowa."

"Since its publication in 1977, Nancy Rexroth's book IOWA has become an underground classic. Shot in the small rural country of Southeastern Ohio using a Diana camera with a plastic lens {cost = one dollar}, and named after her childhood memories, the book is mysterious on many levels" (Andrews, 2011).


"I was in graduate school at Ohio University in 1969. The courses were very technical for me, and we were studying the Zone System. I was so frustrated with it ALL, all things technical. An instructor {Arnold Gassan} had discovered the Diana in Chinatown, New York, and brought it back for use in the beginning photography classes. I saw him use the camera, and I realized that he had somehow loosened up. . .and he was almost silly while using the camera. . ."(Andrews, 2011). While observing him, I think that I saw from his reaction to the Diana that there was perhaps a magic there, an unlocking of the mind, when using such a basic toy camera. . .

"I bought a Diana camera, experimented for two weeks or so. I made a number of unremarkable photographs with it. At one point, I made an interior photo of a woman’s bed. After that image, I just got into a groove of feeling, with the camera..." (Andrews, 2011). "The photographs seemed to come from that one spot. That one feeling. It was like I had crawled through some kind of secret closet or trap door and found this place, and I mined that territory for the next six years. I continued because I loved it" (Joslin, 1998). 

"It really was a wonderful time to be a photographer because photography had just begun to be regarded as a respectable art form {the early 1970's}. It was starting to become a "good investment" also, which pushed things forward nicely. In graduate schools, things were still very technically oriented - "boy art" as a friend of mine called it. There were only one or two women in each graduate photo class. I felt alone, but used this to my advantage. You know, an, "Oh dear, I'll show you" attitude - an adrenaline thing. This helped because the guys in the program weren't always civil with me. The whole notion of feminism was just starting to be known. I toughened, and saw myself as a "female ambassador," who would make things better for the ladies that were to follow" (Joslin, 1998).


"I photographed in many small towns of Southeastern Ohio, all very sad and unpopulated places. Sometimes, I would just knock on doors and ask to photograph inside. I was pretty trusting back then to have done that. Nowadays, I would feel the possibility of never leaving one of those houses. Perhaps I would receive the blow of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" coming down on my head. . . and not take that chance" (Andrews, 2011). "I liked the scary aspect of those places; they were so different from the suburbs I grew up in. I like the fact that photography is an excuse to go somewhere" (Joslin, 1998).

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Spidey, Inc.—Great Power and Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

By Matt Yockey, editor of Make Ours Marvel: Media Convergence and a Comics Universe 

Due to corporate machinations—which, from the outside, can seem as arcane as any supervillain plot to take over the world—Spider-Man, one of Marvel Comic’s flagship characters, didn’t make the leap to the Marvel Studios fold when the company took on translating its stable of comic book titles into hugely successful blockbusters beginning with 2007’s Iron Man. Having licensed Spider-Man to Sony in 1999, Marvel’s enduring “web-head” existed in his own universe in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), and Spider-Man 3 (2007), and in yet another spider-verse in Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). While these films combined for well over a billion dollars in domestic box office receipts, Marvel itself got only a small percentage as their cut. And while the company was left out of this financial windfall, Marvel fans themselves were deprived of seeing one of the company’s most iconic characters rub shoulders with his super-powered compatriots, as he so often has in the comics. 
If a Marvel Cinematic Universe seemed incomplete without Spider-Man (and certainly the introduction of second-string characters such as Ant-Man couldn’t quite fill the gap left by Spidey’s tenure at Sony), Marvel took steps to correct this by reacquiring the film rights to the character and introducing him into their cinematic world in last year’s Captain America: Civil War. As played by Tom Holland (who was 19 when shooting began), this Spider-Man rings truer as an earnest high school geek than a then 27-year old Toby Maguire did in 2002 or the more conventionally handsome Andrew Garfield does in the Webb films. What’s perhaps most fascinating—and different—about this latest movie Spider-Man is how he’s ushered into the MCU. As the Avengers fracture internally, a beleaguered Tony Stark turns, apparently, to YouTube for help and discovers a red and blue-clad super-being caught on cell phone footage fighting crime in New York. Stark corners Peter Parker in the Queens apartment the high-schooler shares with his Aunt May and applies his passive-aggressive shtick (“So, you’re the … Spiderling? Crime-fighting Spider? You’re Spider-Boy?”) to win him over. This meeting between the two is funny in part because the dynamic—like that of a big brother catching his younger brother with a well-worn copy of Playboy—is both embarrassing and flattering to Peter. He has a secret that he desperately doesn’t want his aunt to know about but which also makes him quietly proud of himself (in this case, for actively fighting bad in the world). As he stutters to Stark rather uncertainly, “I’m Spi-Spider-Man.” He is in fact a boy hoping to become a man and the longstanding appeal of Spider-Man has been that, unlike, say, Batman or Superman over at DC, he is always in the process of growing up. Thus, his everyday struggles (he initially rejects Stark’s offer to jet to Germany, incredulously asserting that he has homework) have always distinguished him as one of the most identifiable superheroes ever.

All of which makes his tutelage under Tony Stark in the MCU all the more significant. In his previous movie iterations, Spider-Man had a vexed relationship with corporate America. Oscorp was the source of both his powers and his adversaries, marking the corporate enterprise in distinctly ambivalent terms. By recasting Peter Parker as a kind of ward of Tony Stark, the MCU-version of the character is much cozier with corporate power. Stark gets him a new suit and, perhaps more importantly for Peter, a place at the grown-ups’ table. Peter belongs and he immediately has the approval of the coolest guy in the room, who also happens to be the richest. Of course, as a symbol of corporate America, Tony Stark individualizes corporate power, making it both familiar and flawed (his smarmy charm is as much a weakness as it is a strength). Audiences embrace Tony Stark in these films because he seems to be constantly learning the same lesson that Peter is learning: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

As a perpetual teenager haunted by the death of his uncle and tasked with caring for his aunt, Peter Parker balances the taciturn grimness of Batman with the enthusiastic naiveté of Robin and the result is greater than the sum of its parts. He is at once determined and self-doubting, and in that emotional mix of civic and familial devotion with private insecurity, Peter Parker represents the best—and most human—qualities of all of us. His credo “With great power comes great responsibility” is as relevant to a teenage science nerd as it is to a billionaire playboy superhero (or as appropriate to the average movie-goer as it is to a world leader). It’s an ethos that in recent superhero blockbusters has been questioned (Captain America: Civil War ponders the exact nature of that responsibility) or, for a fatal moment, forgotten (in Zack Snyder’s 2013 Man of the Steel). If Spider-Man’s integration into the MCU seems to require the oversight of that world’s richest but perhaps most emotionally impoverished character, we are being asked to recognize the necessity of the Everyman at the heart of the fantastic world of both superheroes and global corporate power. Just as Stark needs Peter, Marvel needs its fans and our encounter with Spider-Man this summer in Spider-Man: Homecoming reassures us that in the midst of an increasingly polarized economic landscape, it’s the little guy who still counts the most.

Make Ours Marvel is available now from your favorite bookseller, or purchase directly from the University of Texas Press here.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How Austin, Texas, Became the Live Music Capital of the World

Before Austin, Texas, was the "Live Music Capital of the World," a rollicking music hall run by a bunch of hippies threw open the doors for fans to enjoy a new blend of country music and rock. Over its ten-year lifespan, the Armadillo World Headquarters hosted thousands of high-profile musicians—Willie Nelson, Frank Zappa, Bruce Springsteen, Taj Mahal, AC/DC, Charlie Daniels, the Ramones, Roy Buchanan, and Bette Midler, to name a random few. The Armadillo helped define the Austin lifestyle, culture, and identity, setting the stage for successors such as the SXSW music festival, PBS’s Austin City Limits, and the ACL festival, which have made Austin an international destination for music fans.

In the newest UT Press podcast, Armadillo co-founder Eddie Wilson shares stories from behind-the-scenes of the beloved temple of "Redneck Rock." Below we've transcribed some of the best bits from the interview, but be sure to tune in and turn on to the whole thang!

We ask Eddie Wilson how he discovered the building that eventually came to house the Armadillo World Headquarters:

UT Press: You did some urban parkour to find the building, right?

Eddie Wilson: Well, the bathroom was broken at the Cactus Club, and so there wasn't anything to do but go out back. And there was this giant wall looming up with broken windows way up top. It was 25 feet tall at least, and so, I knew that there had to be a giant room on the other side of a construction like that. I went around the building and managed to pick a flimsy lock--I watched James Garner a lot--but, uh, I was awestruck. I pulled my car in it, reached in and flipped on the lights, and almost had a heart attack. I think I turned them off as quick as I could. And it was just this huge room. And then we made it bigger by tearing out all of the rooms that were inside of that room.

UTP: And it had a stage?

EW: It had a concrete riser. If I had known at the time that Elvis had played on it, I probably would have kept it like it was. But he played there in '55.

Co-authors Eddie Wilson and Jessie Sublet discuss one of Frank Zappa's visits to the Armadillo World Headquarters and his introduction to local musician Blind George:

EW: Zappa was such a professional, he wanted a three-hour rehearsal--the contract read three-hour rehearsal, an hour off for supper, and then an hour for, uh...

Jessie Sublet: Sound check?

EW: Yeah, just the sound check, I guess it was. Anyway, his equipment got there about a half-hour before the show was supposed to start. We waited and waited and waited all day long. It was really nerve-wracking. And when it got there, he got to see the crew, who were at their very best; everybody just hustling and setting up, building that mountain of speakers that he was hauling and hauling. And, uh, he got a seventeen-minute sound check, and I figured he was going to keep on going until he was satisfied. Well, he got seventeen minutes and his road manager Marty Perellis ran his finger across his throat, and Zappa stopped immediately. And we opened the doors and they just came flooding in. Zappa, he uttered some excuse for a sound check, so I tried to disarm him a little bit with my Blind George story:

We had an entertainer in town named Blind George McClain, who was not just blind but close to deaf and crippled and twisted. He had a little board under his feet on the piano that he would stomp back and forth on for his rhythm. We had just found a videotape of him doing at least about 20 verses of "Tennessee Stud" at an outdoor benefit.

JS: Cool!

EW: Really good black and white [video]

JS: He had good hair though, didn't he?

EW: (Laughs.) Oh ho, yeah. Yeah, that was a great--I remember he did the nastiest version I've heard of "Cherry Pie."
. . .

So, Zappa was in a bad mood, it seemed to me, and I hadn't spoken to him yet. . . . "Let me try and disarm you," I thought. "Would you like to meet your opening act? He's deaf, dumb, and cripple." He said, "What does he do?" I said, "He plays the piano, stomps on a board, and sings Ray Charles and, uh, George Jones." And he said, "I want to meet him right now."

We went up the stairs and over to the office, and George was kind of crushed down in his terrible, cripple sort of way with black sockets, you know, just dark dark caverns where his eyes would have been. And I whispered to Zappa as we approached him. I said, "Remember he's kind of deaf." And [Zappa] was so stunned when he saw him that he just kind of mumbled. And George said, "Huh?" And he said (louder), "Did you hear our sound check?" George bellowed back, "Yeah, you were too damn loud!"

Jason Mellard, author of Progressive Country: How the 1970's Transformed the Texan in popular Culture (2013), talks to Eddie Wilson about the fateful Thanksgiving Day in 1972, when Jerry Garcia decided to invite Leon Russell to jam at the Armadillo World Headquarters:

EW: Jerry Garcia wanted to go on stage at the free jam that we had on Thanksgiving Day in 1972. . . The only reason that I was pushing was because we had no advertising; we had nothing to let anybody know that we were going to be open on Thanksgiving Day. And I did one of those--one call to the radio station --and I couldn't say who because I didn't know who was going to show. But as Garcia was leaving the auditorium, Palmer, the night before, after we fed him at the Armadillo, Jim Franklin and Leon Russell were coming in the back door, comin' down from Tulsa because Leon wanted to meet Willie Nelson.

And so Jerry Garcia looked up and saw Leon Russell and said, "Why don't you come over and jam tomorrow at the Armadillo?" He hadn't wanted to tell me what time because he had committed to doing it around the meal--that was going to be too much detail, and he was above detail. And when Leon [asked] what time, Garcia kind of looked at me and gritted his teeth, and I said, "How about 3 o'clock?" They agreed, 3 o'clock.

So, of course, at 3 o'clock the next day, I was just a nervous wreck. Who's going to really show? Garcia was there early and then Leon finally showed. So okay, guys, you know, let's do it. Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead) was on bass and a lot of the best local pickers were all--

Jason Mellard: Yeah, I think, was it Furman, formally of the Elevators, was there?

EW: Benny Furman, he had a fiddle there; yes, he did.

JM: Sweet Mary Egan (Greezy Wheels)?

EW: Yeah, yeah. Hank Alrich (Tiger Balm).

JM: Jerry Barnett (Shiva's Headband), I think also?

EW: He did a lot of drumming. And, uh, Jim Finney also played some drums. But, Garcia said, "Let's just wait until Doug [Sahm] gets here, he needs to be the bandleader for this thing. He knows at least 1,000 songs." And Leon said, you know, not long before he died, he came through town and we had a good visit; and he actually said to the audience in our beer garden, he said, "I played Armadillo World Headquarters with the Grateful Dead, and it was the worst performance of my career.

EW: He's not a jam guy! He's an arranger. And, you know, it just wasn't his particular bag. Oh, but you couldn't have wanted more.

Click here for more information on Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Remembering Miguel Ravago (1945–2017) of Fonda San Miguel

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Miguel Ravago this weekend—the visionary chef behind Austin’s Fonda San Miguel restaurant.
Miguel Ravago of Fonda San Miguel
Ravago earned rave reviews for his subtle and complex dishes that defined Fonda San Miguel’s menu and brought interior Mexican cuisine to central Texas. From Tostadas de Cochinita Pibil to start, to Carne Asada a la Tampiqueña, and Cajeta Crepes to finish, every meal at Fonda San Miguel was a reflection of Ravago’s passion and his childhood spent cooking at his grandmother’s side.
“I was also curious about cooking,” Ravago wrote for the restaurant’s official cookbook, Fonda San Miguel: Forty Years of Food andArt, “so my grandmother started showing me things like how to fill tamales. By the time I was six or seven, I was helping in the kitchen quite a bit. . . . So even when I was pretty young, I think I knew I wanted to be a chef.”
When Fonda San Miguel first opened in 1971, almost 50 years ago, a restaurant featuring authentic Mexican cuisine was a daring idea in a city where Tex-Mex food reigned supreme. Ravago and co-owner Tom Gilliland won over customers who expected a “No. 1 Enchilada Dinner” to build a loyal clientele of adventuresome eaters who came as much for the romantic hacienda-style décor as the food.
Ravago and co-owner Tom Gilliland
“After thirty years, cooking is still great fun for me,” wrote Ravago. “I especially enjoy the Hacienda Sunday Buffet, which always features four entrees from four different states in Mexico. This gives me a chance to help people learn about the food. If customers tell me they’re planning a trip to a certain region of Mexico, I show them what dishes to taste so they’ll know what kind of food to expect. Sometimes they come back and say the food wasn’t as good as Fonda San Miguel’s, and that’s always nice to hear. . . . I’ve always been curious about food, and I love to see people learn more about Mexican cuisine.”

In the spirit of Ravago’s desire to share Mexico’s diverse regional dishes, click through for a few recipes from Fonda San Miguel, including a tequila toast to a trailblazer for Mexican cuisine in America.

Friday, June 23, 2017

"Rexroth's Strawberries" and the Beauty of IOWA

In the early 1970s, Nancy Rexroth began photographing the rural landscapes, children, white frame houses, and domestic interiors of southeastern Ohio with a plastic toy camera called the Diana. Having discovered the Diana camera while in graduate school in Ohio, Rexroth began experimenting with the looseness and spontaneity of the camera and the images it produced.
Plastic cameras are a simple and loving tonic for those who are frustrated and needing joy in their art work. How can you be at all serious, while using a camera that makes the sound of a wind-up toy every time you advance the film?—Nancy Rexroth, Q&A with Blake Andrews
Working with the camera’s properties of soft focus and vignetting, and further manipulating the photographs by deliberately blurring or sometimes overlaying them, Rexroth created dreamlike, poetic images of “my own private landscape, a state of mind.” She called this state IOWA. Rexroth self-published her evocative images in 1977 in the book IOWA, and the photographic community responded immediately and strongly to the work. Aperture published a portfolio of IOWA images in a special issue, The Snapshot, alongside the work of Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, and Emmet Gowin. The International Center for Photography, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution included IOWA images in group exhibitions.

Forty years after its original publication, IOWA has become a classic of fine art photography, a renowned demonstration of Rexroth’s ability to fashion a world of surprising aesthetic possibilities using a simple, low-tech dollar camera. Long out of print and highly prized by photographers and photobook collectors, IOWA will be republished with twenty-two previously unpublished images, a new foreword by Magnum photographer and book maker Alec Soth, an essay by internationally acclaimed curator Anne Wilkes Tucker, and postscripts by Nancy Rexroth and Mark L. Power, who wrote the essay in the first edition.


Alec Soth, who wrote the foreword, "Wild Strawberries," for the reissued book, said of Rexroth's work: "[Her] images seem not to set the hard facts of place but instead to evoke the world of dreams." He compares her photography to a character in Ingmar Bergman's film, Wild Strawberries, writing: 
"It occurs to me that her delicate and informal way of photographing might be compared to picking wild strawberries. As in Bergman’s film, small delicacies carry larger symbolic meaning. . . . Rexroth’s pictures, her vibration, her wild strawberries: they are a kind of longing. Their inability to be located, the softness of the tones, their simultaneous inclusion and exclusion of time: these combine to create a sort of betweenness, like the sensation of moving toward a goal, like the feeling of seeking."
IOWA—the first photography book to showcase the artistry and beauty of photos taken on the Diana—remains a seminal volume and point of inspiration for contemporary photographers. As renowned photography curator Anne Wilkes Tucker writes in her essay for the reissue, "[Rexroth] preserves moments and scenes others might never notice or reject as unworthy of record: the look of a freshly made bed and of one unmade, the low perspective of blades of grass, and thin shadows of winter limbs snaking across the side of a home. She uses graphic forms with the intelligence of a fine poet. This is a feminine eye and a brave one. She takes a crosscurrent rather than follow the prevailing winds and brings us with her."

IOWA is currently available for pre-order, and will be available from your favorite bookseller in August.

IOWA Nancy Rexroth

Monday, June 19, 2017

Criminal Corporations, Energy, and Militarization in the Age of Trump

By Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera

The rapid growth of organized crime in Mexico and the government’s response to it have driven an unprecedented rise in violence and impelled major structural economic changes, including the recent passage of energy reform. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera’s new book, Los Zetas Inc.
Criminal Corporations, Energy, and Civil War in Mexico, asserts that these phenomena are a direct and intended result of the emergence 
More info
of the brutal Zetas criminal organization and the corporate business model they have advanced in Mexico. Since the Zetas share some characteristics with legal transnational businesses that operate in the energy and private security industries, she also compares this criminal corporation with ExxonMobil, Halliburton, and Blackwater (renamed "Academi," and now a Constellis company).

Combining vivid interview commentary with in-depth analysis of organized crime as a transnational and corporate phenomenon, this book proposes a new theoretical framework for understanding the emerging face, new structure, and economic implications of organized crime in Mexico. Arguing that the armed conflict between criminal corporations (like the Zetas) and the Mexican state resembles a civil war, Correa-Cabrera identifies key beneficiaries of this war, including arms-producing companies, the international banking system, the US border economy, the US border security/military-industrial complex, and corporate capital, especially international oil and gas companies.

Dr. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera is an Associate Professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (Brownsville campus) and a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. We asked her to comment on the effects of President Trump’s border policy on what she identifies as the beneficiaries of organized crime in Mexico, mainly the US border security/military-industrial complex and corporations.

Criminal Corporations, Militarization, and Energy in the Age of Trump

Mexico’s so-called drug war can be characterized, in some way, as a modern war relating to the control of energy production. In the present context, it is possible to identify groups that seem to have benefited the most from a novel criminal scheme (directly or indirectly) introduced by the Zetas organization, the Mexican government’s reaction to it, and the resulting brutality. The primary (or potential) winners of this armed conflict appear to be “corporate actors in the energy sector, transnational financial companies, private security firms (including private prison companies), and the US border-security/military-industrial complex.”[1]

Moreover, Mexico’s violent spiral coincides with strengthened US border security and has had positive effects on the US border economy. Official numbers at the national level show that crime rates in US border counties are relatively low and have decreased in the past few years due to enhanced border enforcement. Similarly, forced displacements in Mexico have modified migration patterns from this country to the United States. Irregular migration flows from Mexico have declined and “a greater number of relatively more skilled and wealthier Mexicans have been legally emigrating from afflicted border areas in Mexico to the United States. Overall, the effects of the war on Mexico-US migration dynamics seem to be positive for the US economy.”

The main losers of Mexico’s new criminal model and severe armed conflict essentially seem to be the country’s most vulnerable people—those who did not have the resources to flee or defend themselves against extortion, kidnappings, and other forms of brutality carried out by criminal groups, paramilitaries, and government forces—and the national oil industry, represented by the once oil monopoly Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). Their spaces are being (or will be) occupied by private companies, many of them transnational and often very powerful. In the recent years, “[f]orced displacements, massive disappearances, and militarization in key parts of the country have emptied strategic lands and left them available for future investments, mainly in the energy sector.”[2]

It is worth noting that disappearances, forced displacements, and depreciation of land values in key areas of Mexico have not halted investment in energy and commercial infrastructure. Energy contractors have not curbed their activities; “the expansion of large investment projects continues despite the high risk posed by organized crime and the large number of disappearances. It is also interesting to observe that while Los Zetas and groups following the same criminal paramilitary model have affected small and medium entrepreneurs [related to] the hydrocarbon industry as well as Pemex, they have hardly touched transnational interests.”

President Donald Trump being sworn in on January 20, 2017 at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. 
In January of the present year, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. His electoral campaign was unique in the sense that it put Mexico, for the first time in history, at the center of the US electoral discourse and foreign policy agenda. Trump asserted that Mexican immigrants in the United States are, “in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.” Therefore, he proposed to build a “big, beautiful, impenetrable” wall, bolster border enforcement significantly, and arrest and deport vast numbers of undocumented immigrants. Trump has pledged to get Mexico to pay for this wall—potentially, he has said, through tariffs. Indeed, the White House communicated that a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico was being considered as a form of payment for the construction of the proposed southern border wall.

Imposing those border taxes would violate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as it is known today. It is also worth mentioning that Trump “ran a campaign somewhat based on NAFTA.” In his quest to “Make America Great Again” and for putting “America First,” Trump pledged in a statement to negotiate "tough and fair" trade agreements with the aim of further generating jobs for the American people. Under this new context, as soon as Trump assumed his role as President of the United States, he signed an order abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the largest regional trade accord in history that once involved the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations and represented roughly forty percent of the world’s economic output. Following this same logic, the new US President has set his sights on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Adapting Cormac McCarthy: Tracking Blood from Page to Screen

Stacey Peebles' new book, Cormac McCarthy and Performance, is the first comprehensive overview of the renowned author's writings for film, theater, and the film adaptations of his novels. Uncovering these oft-overlooked works by drawing on primary sources from McCarthy's recently opened archive and interviews with several collaborators, this book examines titles such as the 1977 televised film The Gardener's Son, McCarthy's unpublished screenplays from the 1980s that became the foundation for his Border Trilogy novels and No Country for Old Men; various productions of two of his plays; and seven film adaptations.
More info

The vice president of the Cormac McCarthy Society, an associate professor of English and the director of film studies at Centre College, Peebles focuses on the emergent theme of tragedy within McCarthy's work, relaying the difficulties of translating his vivid depictions of violence and suffering into the medium of film by giving us a brief look into the unending and often upended saga of adapting 1985's Blood Meridian to the silver screen.

Tracking Blood from Page to Screen

Stacey Peebles

American cinema—and cinema generally—is no stranger to violence. In 1903, one of the first one-reelers, Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery, showcased a group of outlaws who didn’t hesitate to shoot innocent bystanders or beat a man’s face in with a rock before tossing the body off the moving train. Later years would pass milestone after violent milestone: Bonnie and Clyde meeting their gruesome and excessively brutal end in Arthur Penn’s 1967 film (a level of graphic realism that audiences were already seeing every night on the evening news about the Vietnam War, Penn implied); Michael Corleone ordering hits on all his rivals to take place simultaneously with his niece’s baptism in Coppola’s The Godfather (1977); Quentin Tarantino blasting his way into the national consciousness with an unsettling mix of violence and comedy in Pulp Fiction (1994); and the development of the 1970s slasher film into the post-9/11 “torture porn” of Saw (2004) and Hostel (2005). Even now, when a glut of superhero films present violence as fantastical or metaphoric, audiences seem ever willing to consider, even test themselves against, spectacular violence in cinema.
From The Great Train Robbery

The Western, the genre which The Great Train Robbery inaugurated into film, may not be as ubiquitous as it was in the 1950s and 1960s, but it remains alive, resurrected from claims of its obsolescence by films like True Grit (2012), The Revenant (2016), and Hell or High Water (2017). Violence is arguably the genre’s fundamental element, and some films take that bloodiness to an extreme, like The Wild Bunch (1969) or The Hateful Eight (2015). And so an acclaimed Western novel from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author like Cormac McCarthy, whose No Country for Old Men was masterfully (and very lucratively) adapted for the screen by the Coen brothers, would seem like a sure bet, brimming with cinematic potential. (And who remembered the fiasco that was All the Pretty Horses, anyway? 2000 was ancient Hollywood history, and blame it all on Harvey “Scissorhands” Weinstein if you need to point the finger somewhere.)

McCarthy’s 1985 novel Blood Meridian is epic in scope, style, and import. It has a narrative focus and sweep that is, as Steven Frye and others have argued, likely influenced by Western films from directors like Peckinpah. The novel’s language is ineffably literary and, at the same time, richly imagistic. After all, this is no Remembrance of Things Past, a deeply internal exploration of memory and the streams of consciousness. Blood Meridian is a story in which action and landscape speak loudest, and though it may be philosophical, political, historical, and theological, it is perhaps most primarily a vivid, disturbing, haunting spectacle. And spectacle is the very language of film. Despite those attractions and advantages, however, the novel has thus far eluded attempts to bring it to the screen—perhaps indicating that, at least as far as violence is concerned, there are still some places that lie off the cinematic map.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Book Recommendations for Father's Day

We have gift recommendations for books that make great Father's Day gifts, including books for guitar gear heads, taco lovers, shutterbugs, architects, swimming hole aficionados, and more. Shop at your local independent bookstore!

* Top Pick for Father's Day *

This Land by Jack Spencer

"'Bang!' went my heart when I opened the photographer Jack Spencer’s powerful
This Land: An American Portrait."

Dominique Browning, New York Times Book Review

This Land
An American Portrait
Photographs by Jack Spencer; foreword by Jon Meacham
Created across thirteen years, forty-eight states, and eighty thousand miles, this startlingly fresh photographic portrait of the American landscape shares artistic affinities with the works of such American masters as Edward Hopper, Grant Wood, Mark Rothko, and Albert Bierstadt.
Hardcover, $45.00
284 pages | 13 x 11 | 142 color photos | ISBN: 978-1-4773-1189-9

Order Now

A Perfectly Good Guitar
By Chuck Holley
Musicians including Rosanne Cash, Guy Clark, JD Souther, Jorma Kaukonen, Bill Frisell, and Kelly Willis pose with and tell stories about the classic Gibsons, Fenders, Martins, and other guitars that have become their most prized instruments.
Hardcover, $34.95

208 pages | 7 x 9 | 91 color photos, 4 b&w photos | ISBN: 978-1-4773-1257-5

Order Now

Rosanne Cash, JD Souther, and Sonny Landreth's Prized Guitars

Rosanne Cash, JD Souther, and Sonny Landreth's Prized Guitars

Watch the video

One More Warbler
One More Warbler
A Life with Birds

By Victor Emanuel, with S. Kirk Walsh
With stories of sighting rare birds ranging from an Eskimo Curlew to the cranes of Asia, one of America’s foremost birders recalls a lifetime of birding adventures, including friendships with luminaries Roger Tory Peterson, Peter Matthiessen, and George Plimpton.
Hardcover, $29.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1238-4

Order Now

The Texanist
The Texanist
By David Courtney and Jack Unruh

The first collection of acclaimed illustrator Jack Unruh’s work, this book gathers the best of the illustrations he created for The Texanist, Texas Monthly’s back-page column, along with the serious and not-so-serious questions that inspired them.

Hardcover, $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1297-1

Order Now

Rewrite Man
Rewrite Man
The Life and Career of Screenwriter Warren Skaaren

By Alison Macor

This lively biography of the screenwriter of 1980s hit movies Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Beetlejuice, and Batman illuminates issues of film authorship that have become even more contested in the era of blockbuster filmmaking. 
Hardcover, $35.00
ISBN: 978-0-292-75945-9

Order Now

T Bone Burnett
T Bone Burnett
A Life in Pursuit

By Lloyd Sachs
This first critical appreciation of T Bone Burnett reveals how the proponent of Americana music and producer of artists ranging from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss to B. B. King and Elvis Costello has profoundly influenced American music and culture.
Hardcover, $26.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-0377-1

Order Now

The American Idea of Home
The American Idea of HomeConversations about Architecture and Design
By Bernard Friedman; foreword by Meghan Daum
Wide-ranging interviews with leading architectural thinkers, including Thom Mayne, Richard Meier, Robert Venturi, Paul Goldberger, Robert Ivy, Denise Scott Brown, Kenneth Frampton, and Robert A. M. Stern, spotlight some of the most significant issues in architecture today.
Hardcover, $27.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1286-5 

Order Now

The Tacos of Texas
By Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece

With authentic recipes, behind-the-scenes stories, and recommendations of where the locals eat, this is the indispensable guide to Texas’s appetizingly diverse tacos and taco culture by the authors of Austin Breakfast Tacos.

Paperback, $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1043-4

Order Now

Armadillo World Headquarters
Armadillo World Headquarters
A Memoir
By Eddie Wilson, with Jesse Sublett, Foreword by Dave Marsh

The founder of Armadillo World Headquarters recalls the lively history of this legendary music venue and its role in launching cosmic cowboy/redneck rock and making Austin, Texas, the live music capital of the world.
Hardcover, $34.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1382-4

Order Now

Project 258Making Dinner at Fish & Game
By Zakary Pelaccio and Peter Barrett

"Project 258 is a thoughtful celebration of the evolution of ingredients that will make you feel hungry and fulfilled at the same time. It’s more about living as a cook than a mere series of collectible recipes. It’s a way of shopping, cooking, and thriving in joy, love, and life! It is inspiring the way reading Thoreau is inspiring."

—Mario Batali, Chef, author, entrepreneur

Hardcover,  $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1225-4

Order Now

They Came from the Sky
They Came from the Sky
The Spanish Arrive in Texas

By Stephen Harrigan
This signed edition presents a spellbinding preview of the inaugural volume of the Texas Bookshelf—a major new history of Texas by the New York Times best-selling author Stephen Harrigan.
Paperback, $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1294-0

Order Now

The Devil's Sinkhole
The Devil's Sinkhole
Two Centuries of American Quilts from the Briscoe Center

By Bill Wittliff; illustrated by Joe Ciardiello
In this engrossing sequel to The Devil’s Backbone, the young man Papa and his cowboy amigo Calley Pearsall confront a legendary killer with a thirst for revenge and a psychopathic boy as the two friends search for the beautiful captive Pela Rosa.

Hardcover, $29.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-0974-2

Order Now

The Republic of Football
The Republic of Football
Legends of the Texas High School Game

By Chad S. Conine
With interviews and stories of celebrated players, including past and present NFL stars, as well as legendary coaches and dynastic teams from across Texas, The Republic of Football captures the standout moments in Friday night lights.
Hardcover, $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-0371-9

Order Now

Eddie Adams
Eddie Adams
Bigger than the Frame

By Eddie Adams; foreword by Don Carleton; preface by Alyssa Adams; essay by Anne Wilkes Tucker
This career-spanning collection of both iconic and rarely seen images celebrates the work of Pulitzer Prize–winning photojournalist Eddie Adams, whose potent visual storytelling ran the gamut from the horrors of war to the lives of the famous and powerful.
Hardcover, $60.00
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1185-1

Order Now

The Swimming Holes of Texas
The Swimming Holes of Texas
By Julie Wernersbach and Carolyn Tracy
Photography by Carolyn Tracy

Full of practical information to help plan your visits and enticing color photos of one hundred freshwater swimming holes, here is the first-ever guide to the best places to swim in Texas.
Paperback, $21.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1297-1 

Order Now

A Pure Solar World
A Pure Solar World
Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism

By Paul Youngquist
Surveying the range of Sun Ra’s extraordinary creativity, this book explores how the father of Afrofuturism brought “space music” to a planet in need of transformation, supporting the aspirations of black people in an inhospitable white world.

Hardcover, $27.95
ISBN: 978-0-292-72636-9

Order Now

Two Prospectors
Two Prospectors
The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark
By Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark
Edited by Chad Hammett
A compelling portrait of a complex, decades-long friendship, these deeply honest letters and candid family photographs offer the most intimate glimpse we may ever get into the life, personal philosophy, and creative process of America’s leading dramatist.
Paberback, $19.95
ISBN: 978-0-292-76196-4

Order Now