Sunday, June 29, 2008

between the eyes_gun control

Poachers kill deer by shining light between their eyes; then shooting them between the eyes. In dear hunting 101 this is defined as shining and described as illegal. Deer hunters can be law-abiding, responsible citizens or poachers. The decision to poach is not made when the gun is purchased, it is made when a passion is activated that overcomes respect for laws natural and man-made. The decision to kill deer is made when the gun is purchased. Decisions and passions are always at play in determining the effects of guns.

Since the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling suggesting that there is a constitutional individual right for law abiding citizens to keep a loaded handgun at home for self-defense I have been in a dissonant limbo. I have been trying to discern how my experience can contribute to the discourse, what I truly believe about the Constitution, lessons of history, the value of discourse and the significance of grammar in the discernment of intent in authorship. Like the 27 words and 60 some amicus briefs the conclusions have not been matter of fact. However,facts have been substantive.

Starting with my shallows: I was relatively certain I believed in the idea of a living constitution, that the spirit of liberty guarantees discussion not rightness and history; it is essential to interpretive context. Exploring these assumptions I relearned that Jefferson felt the strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. That the Minutemen 'worldview' is a substantive context for interpretation of the Second Amendment but arms and the consequences of their proliferation have changed more than government. As a child I was inspired by Justice Holmes through stories heard while touring the homestead . There ideas were rooted like
we must interpret our Constitution "in the light of our whole experience and not merely in that of what was said a hundred years ago."

The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas [and] the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market
I was reminded that DC voting rights have yet to be secured. Ironically, the right to handguns have now been. But the strongest lesson was the from the day in my VISTA service that I was to role-play Patty Hearst in a Police SWAT Training having my own American Experience. That day remains with me as does this understanding: the decision that you can kill is made the day you acquire a gun not the day you use it. Gun use is rarely rationale. And while the lives lost that touch my personal story are many and none have been by gun - all have been by passion.
So did I reach a conclusion: VT and DC represented the gun law extremes. Law-abiding people can disagree. And I will not knowingly befriend anyone who finds it necessary to own a handgun. Accidents happen. And today it is the dissent of Justice Breyer who argues for balancing public safety against individual rights that speaks truth to me, In my shallows I favored gun control in 1979. However, on S.W.A.T. Police Training Day it took only 4 hours to turn me into a killer of men. The solid grammar arguement aside:
One can, rationally, sensibly, logically read “shall not be infringed” as taking TWO, DISCRETE antecedents: (1) “A well regulated Militia being necessary” and (2) “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” — so that the amendment precludes infringement of TWO SEPARATE things (a) A well regulated militia and (b) “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”Thanks Loup-bouc

The living constitution can change through interpretation. A living constitution will have well articulated dissent.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What we value enough to copy

In conversation came the reminder: To be a storyteller you need a story to tell. I have been sitting on a story that was kindled during my vacation now several weeks back. As I start pealing the memories associated with the story I know only the following: It seems to be about outrage, heritage and what we value enough to copy.

The mangled roots of this ‘blog-journal’ begin at the turn of the 20th century. And, this story will be transformed by how the global economy challenges tourists to value authenticity; and, how and why culture is preserved by Native Americans and the purveyors of our nation’s history in this century. And in the world of the Internet this story can be informed by comments of others.

My personal part of this story starts with stops at roadside booths in Arizona and Nevada, to appreciate and purchase authentic Indian jewelry. Before this story started seeping into my purview, I would not have described my personal shopping for native jewelry as shopping for something authentic. I was trying to be about low impact discovery. My goal was to learn to relax and enjoy – to vacation.

I was the quintessential child in a candy store looking for a special treat. I was mesmerized by how similar, yet naturally different, the crafted-work was on the same table or in the booths of several Indians gathered flea market style. I learned that the stone was often named after the area it was mined, that some areas are now barren and that in Bisbee, the seasonal rains wash the turquoise into the roadside basins. I was told that the bevel side is up. Much of the strung, cut and polished gem stones crafted into jewelry used newer string technology which meant that clasps are no longer essential. Most importantly, I sensed that the business of making and marketing jewelry is a family affair. And I was surprised to find an Antique Indian Jeweler at the Boulder City Jamboree.

My eyes were on vacation. My brain was being delighted by the handiwork of others. But this rare get-a-way experience was sensing an undercurrent. I came to understand the livelihood of Native Americans artisans involved jewelry making passing from generation to generation and putting sons and daughters and self through college. It is prideful. It is full of tradition and inspiration. It is essential to the culture and it is being stamped upon by the flat world. One proud native mother expressed her outrage about fakes saying "Jewelry with .925 is not Indian". I bought from the work of her son for mine, and her for me and took away in some distant space in my brain her outrage. I was trying to be in some ideal place called vacation.

Ironically, this Indian mother’s story was further revealed to me in a place of mimic and replication - my primary vacation destination: the Grand Canyon. [1]

At the Grand Canyon National Park Desert View Watchtower Gift Shop, a sign above strings of silver feathered turquoise necklaces read: Authentic non-Indian jewelry. This sign above jewelry is the significant picture I failed to take. If I had thought journalistically, this image could have informed much of this story. The sign spoke awkwardly of the economic based invasion of Native Americans by replica jewelry Made in China and machine stamped .925. [2]

The watchtower, a mimic of Anasazi Indian watchtowers, is infused with storytelling both figuratively and literally. The design of this national park building completed in 1933 was commissioned and awarded to Mary Colter. This five-story site to see is on a promontory overlooking the Grand Canyon at the eastern end of the south rim.

The architecture informed by archeology, ethno-history and the work of Indian mural artists, including Hopi Fred Kabotie embodies the value of copying, storytelling, and preservation of Native American Culture. Authenticity is reportedly at the core of the architect’s work. The replica design was informed by turn of the century southwestern archeology. On its walls the tradition of storytelling in rock art are copies rendered by artist Fred Greer. These copies may be the only existing record of the original story painting found at an Abo, New Mexico Archaeological site.

Ms. Colter’s designs were commissioned by Santa Fe Railway and the Fred Harvey Company which launched the Native American souvenir business. This company’s transformation includes becoming the concessionaires of National Parks. The souvenir and concession business began by leveraging the traditions and skills of local artisans. This leveraging spawned tradition based Navajo, Zuni, Hopi and Pueblo family businesses that have now supported several generations of displaced Native Americans. So the ability of this outraged Indian mother to market to tourists, culturally based jewelry and crafts, is directly tied to the business that is now the target of her rage. In civilizing the southwest, trinkets were mass produced by artisans supplied sheet silver and pre-cut turquoise by the Harvey Company.

This story, in all its hyper-parts, evolved because of an undercurrent of injustice I sensed but for which I had no context to take a position. The outrage of the Indian mother is now in context. I believe that if committed to practicing integrity and quality, National Park Gift Shops should not be selling Made In China Indian jewelry. My research,subsequent to vacationing, reveals that this act of selling imports as Souvenir is not out of character for the legacy company. And the new company, that gets access to 5 million visitors a year, is following a common practice. But, souvenirs for the Las Vegas are different than souvenirs from our National Parks. I concluded that Indian Crafts sold at our National Parks should be authentic not imported reproductions.

1) Most visited natural wonder on the planet. 5 million visitors a year with up to 30,000 visitors per day in peak season. 2) Sterling Silver objects are stamped with either the word "Sterling" or ".925" which refers to 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper.

Some take-a-ways:

  • Sometimes transformation obfuscates purpose, and often transformation is economically based.
  • Philanthropy has a role to play as an underwriter of efforts to transfer tradition knowledge.
  • Goals can be in conflict therefore resolutions must be value based.

Postscript: At the AMERIND MUSEUM, the ‘Traditions in Clay’ Exhibit depicts a history of pottery making and ‘a competition experience’. The results of the competition were expressive in several ways and copying was part of the participant experience. A museum collection interprets. This interpretation coupled with the story of the tradition transfer made me tear-up yet I hold no details in my memory about the pottery or tribe. I only have this sense of gratitude that this experience was available and that I had a moment to connect.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Really productive serendipity

When I selected serendipity as one of my labels, the voices in my head said blogs can breed LIKEthink and this label will be a reminder that your intentions include making chance connections that could influence your destiny in actions or words. I do not associate or bond well. My people interaction is based on in-common stuff: work, certain interests, life circumstances. In this I am not alone. And in this in-common I do select bonding levels – most often shallow levels. I tend to focus on the tasks, prefer observation and often lead out of frustration. I have good friend qualities for emergencies but no one calls me just to chat. No one. To blog is to let the voices in my head chat and it kicks up the dust on dopamine the feel-good neurotransmitter. Maybe it will improve my conversational skills. There are bloggers I have come to enjoy thru their words (Amy) and actions (Jason). There are others that will be revealed as I work the RSS technology of this world.

But as these conversations occur I do notice that the in-common stuff among people can breed – good and bad. I was reminded in the overheard conversations about politics this week about in-common bad. I will connect an old essay here on this distraction at some point.

Callouts: This past week I had a small victory in the in-common world of Community Access TV and a moment of awkwardness in the in-common world of work. The victory: successfully getting clarification with DPUC docket 08-04-09. For more than a decade, some volunteers were being held hostage by power tactics that included fear of reprisals and threats of underwriting changes. Truth had a small victory. The awkwardness: a public description of me. While it shared that my values and skills have made a difference there was large irony in that few folks will ever have such a lens on my life and work again because of my failure at the basic art of sustained conversation.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Lifelong…then retirement or into retirement

Life-long: what are the benchmarks? Is it duration or duration in relationship to the length of one's life. When must a lifelong relationship, idea, pursuit, regret begin to qualify? Is meaningfulness implied? What are the shades of meaning: continuous until a person's death, continuing through all or much of one's life? This out-of-place meandering began while at a retirement event of a co-worker.

When something is more than 50% of your life and the majority of your daylight it probably qualifies. Family relations most often do. A person’s work can qualify and sometimes that work is at one place of business. This is a phenomenon that is changing. It is one I never expected to be part of but one for which I can now claim a duration maker of more than half of my life.

For my co-worker the years are 36. The retirement is about to start with a summer vacation at the camp of his making with his best friend who is intended to be the rest of lifelong. He practiced retirement for a week before deciding that he was ready. Ready and able are not mutually exclusive but the able part usually comes far later than readiness for most (maybe I am projecting here). If employment is more than making a livable wage then one may never be ready. There are very few positions on 60 Minutes, or tenured professorships in the perfect climate, or artists that can sell enough to sustain daily bread or piano men or living poets with solid indirect income sources.

As I tried to kindle connections I found rhyming words: The batches of rhymes seem to speak to me about passionless day jobs: along phrases are scrape, rush, shove, stretch, play, pull, tag, or come along.

Lifelong is now a learning buzzword. It is something we are all expected to make claim to. I invested in this claim six years ago when I processed through a second graduate program. Sometimes I think it was only proof that I could type ever more poorly with more sleep deprivation. The brain exercise was sometimes fun and challenging enough to make me feel that I was evolving. However, I am not sure that the benchmarks for lifelong learning sited herein.(p.2) were achieved in my personal journey. I am often reminded of the three word marketing rule, as it is often deployed, and the challenges of good tauts. Grad school is where I learned I too could make hyper Connections like one of my most favorite books and made 4 television adventures by James Burke. (And I too have a box and scribble that may become bones or blog entries or remain for future ruminations.)

And then I get totally distracted in the world of connectivity and find bliss.

Monday, June 2, 2008


Well I was not sure I would be remembering the momentary distraction word for today: but in passing it connected and was recallable. Am I evolving, too? Is this buzz word informing or reforming or self-involving? The term infers substantial change. This term reconnected me to something else I wanted to explore: Guerrilla Marketing and the idea of unintended consequences that I anticipate commenting on here after June 5th.

As a business analyst I have always been informed by errors, challenged by defects, and found that gaps suggest opportunities. Are these tools for evolution?

I need to evolve further the potential of FREEMAN PENNY QUINN, the 1st. I need to evolve further the toolkit for citizen journalists. I need to evolve further the daily practices that promote good health (yes I did walk Jake today!).

Evolution is a very busy thing but since it is nearly tomorrow I will need to get busy with it later... (but 1st a bedtime story about the other word of the day to which i can say I am often far from being gruntled ...unless of course, there is word play.
nite cliffy)