Reading List

List Creator

Stephen Willhite

http://cambio.net

Blows Against The Empire

“The winds of change may blow around you, but that will always be so.”

R. Plant


  • Online

    Mexico City: History of the Present

    Places Journal

    Fabulously written. Witty, yet terse and to the point. Excellent presentation of the present. How "profit" and "prosperity" are not the same things. One step away from declaring unbridled capitalism as a mental disorder - the one from which unbridled capitalists are suffering.

  • Online

    Washington Park Cemetery

    Places Journal

    Though I sympathize, I feel it's deceptive (innocently perhaps) to ascribe the racism which plagued this cemetery to current or recent times. How land usage by black people was tolerated post-Civil War (along with its denigrating naming) occurred in a time when people had no idea how large their urban centers would become. White Americans tolerated land well-away from their own towns and villages...budding cities...and in larger cities "across the tracks" using railroad tracks as the demarcation.

    As these cities grew they began to encompass, some wish to say "encroach" on these tolerated zones, and eminent domain became the key rationale and justification for marshaling-in tracts of land for things such as jetports, landfills, larger prisons, and the other accoutrements of urban sprawl. Remember: If you said "urban sprawl" to the people who originated this racially motivated tolerance of "shanty towns", they would have looked at you as if you were from another planet.

    Though the issue addressed by this article is significant, you can't troubleshoot unless you accurately define the problem.

  • Online

    Traces of Traces

    Places Journal

    It's interesting when the line between fact and fantasy becomes blurred. Normally, I'd pass such instances by with a wry smile, but in this particular case it seems comment is required. For, in this instance we have a professor of media studies using pop culture references to cement home ostensibly historic fact.

    The term "cowboy," due to the proliferation of "cowboy movies," (which in the profession are actually called "Westerns") has come to be used as a blanket term for all males inhabiting the North American west, or the "Wild West" from the middle 19th Century until that century's close. However, the historic fact is "cowboys" were only those males who were paid to round-up and drive herds of long-horned cattle from west Texas to rail heads primarily located in the Kansas Territory. The cattle were loaded onto rail cars then shipped to St. Louis, MO and then on to Chicago, IL.

    This practice lasted roughly two years. Firstly, the cattle being driven were strays left by former Mexican ranchers who abandoned their ranches and the cattle largely due to the fact that that part of the Mexican territories was so remote from the more established urban centers of Mexico. There was a limited amount of these cattle roaming wild in western Texas, so it was an eventuality that all available cattle were rounded up fairly quickly.

    Secondly, the introduction of White-Faced Hereford cattle from England also introduced raising cattle in fenced enclosures. Breeding these cattle and rearing them on ranches resulted in the fencing-in of the once open ranges upon which the legendary cattle drives took place. (The Hereford beef was more desirable than that of the longhorn variety.) Thirdly, the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad essentially connected both coasts of North America by rail, and resulting spurs connected the many small towns that would become the cities of the west today. This made driving livestock over long distances obsolete.

    The cowboy only existed for a roughly two-year span of time, and then disappeared. Though these men did settle in the west, they aren't credited with "settling the west" by any stretch of imagination, and they certainly (except for in the movies) did not provide the background of violence the movie industry has so effectively painted as "the truth" we seem to know today. Though some cowboys did carry guns, they were mainly used against such vicious foes as rattlesnakes. Cowboys were not known for their gun handling. They were good on a horse, and could handle a rope, or branding iron.

    So, when the professor says, "A shot-up cigarette ad with riders on horses evokes Richard Prince’s famous reproductions of the Marlboro Man, making explicit the cowboy’s role in the violent settlement of the American West" then tries to tie that factually inaccurate (though quite prosaic) observation into the nuclear tests to come seventy years later, it's more than just a stretch. If we are going to "research" the intersection of landscape and violence, maybe it is wise we do it through fact rather than myth, especially if we're going to announce ourselves as "men of letters" as we proceed.

    It's odd that the undisputed hero of the great American western, John Wayne, died of cancer he's thought to have contracted while shooting a western in Nevada, close to one of these other kinds of "ranges." So did a great many of other notable actors of that era. By the way. Nothing reverberates across the Nevada Desert, except perhaps the lights of Las Vegas.

  • Online

    After The Election

    Places

    I couldn't agree more. I'm happy to see you take the step to put this into the digital record. I would also add, as an aside, I'll never obtain a Facebook or Twitter account, and I find it more than a little strange if anyone with coding skills available and adequate servers including bandwidth, resorts to relying on these two rather pedestrian (and in one case wholly unreliable) "social" media corporations.

    It's very difficult to take the high road from the gutter. However, it can be done.

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