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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Up Bear Creek / 22mar25012

Remembering the rain

San Francisco (artwork by Tom Killian)

SAN FRANCISCO … It’s been a delight to be back in the City of my birth, hanging out with my street poet friend, Kush. I’m with a film crew from the Czech Republic, thanks to the interest and generosity of Pam and John Lifton-Zoline. We are beginning to film a documentary with a very express purpose. We want to find a home for Kush’s incredible archive of videotaped poetry performances in the Bay Area over the last 40 years, plus a more than generous helping of rare books and literary artifacts. It’s an incredible collection. Weighty tomes and ephemeral broadsides, most signed by the authors – Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsburg, Michael McClure, Phil Whalen, Kenneth Rexroth, Diana DiPrima. And one-of-a-kind tapes of poetry readings, including the voices of long dead masters – Lew Welch, Bob Kaufman, Jack Kerouac, Lenore Kandel. It’s more extensive than any university archive. And precariously located in a second-floor flat in a seedy part of town, stacked floor to ceiling, the paint peeling from the fire-scorched walls … If any record of America’s literary past deserves preservation, this collection does. 
Kush in the Cloud House on Franklin St.

But Kush has refused to sell out his treasure for fortune or fame. He has a vision of a living museum of exhibits and installations that will make these seminal works come to life. And so far he hasn’t been able to connect with any group willing to make that happen … So, a few of the friends of Cloud House – as he calls his visionary endeavor – have been working to see if we can help that happen before disaster strikes and the collection is lost. The urgency is all the stronger hearing of what happened to psychedelic guru Terence McKenna’s books and papers – all lost in a fire in Santa Cruz just last year … So, I flew out to meet Austrian Alexander “Sascha” Stipsits and Bosian Ćazim Dervišević – intrepid filmmakers -- to see if we could coax a moving story out of Kush and his invaluable collection. Working with visionaries is no easy task. But it’s been a lovely wild ride. Participating in a “cultural occupy” demonstration in front of MOMA – San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art. Hanging out and doing film interviews in Vesuvio’s legendary bar in North Beach. Spending hours talking and looking through the apartment-turned-warehouse where Kush lives with him 90+-year-old mother and a collection that takes up all but a small path between bed, bathroom and kitchen … 
Filming a "Cultural Occupy" demo at the Yerba Buena Center downtown
There’s no room for visitors at Kush’s place and our budget is tight, so the filmmakers found a cheap hotel nearby and I’ve been couch-surfing. Which has really been a blessing. I’ve been able to connect with many old friends from different periods of my life – seminary buddies, old lovers, poetry colleagues and newer mushroom festival friends. And free of the automobile, I’ve been using public transit, which in San Francisco is marvelous. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) whisks one back and forth across the Bay and down to the Peninsula. MUNI (the City’s Municipal Railway) gets one conveniently from one neighborhood to another. And being a senior, I ride the Muni for a mere 75 cents (wonderful to finally take advantage of being an oldster). Plus, for a City, the downtown is very compact and walking from Chinatown to North Beach to Polk Gulch has been enjoyable and fascinating (just the energy and sights are invigorating) … 

Filming Kush on Corona Heights

Only one thing has marred the experience. The rain. Just our luck, it seems Pacific storms have been hitting the coast non-stop after a long dry spell, and it’s rained almost every day we’ve been here … As wonderful as the City is, as intriguing the culture and connections, the weather reminds me why I moved to Colorado and why it’s unlikely I would ever move back to the coast … I hope we can find Kush’s archive a home. I’m glad to be part of this endeavor, but I have to admit – I can’t wait to get back to the sunshine of Lone Cone and the Wilson Range.

Sunshine on the San Juans
SAN JUAN COUNTY … Following in our footsteps of limiting development in the fragile high country, Commissioner Pete McKay was able to convince his two conservative colleagues into adopting new land use regulations that limit cabin sizes to 750 square feet above 11,000 feet, with the possibility of an additional 250 sq. ft., if they can meet viewshed, materials, height and siting criteria. The new rule addresses the 3000 patented mining claims in the alpine area of their county that could be developed, although only about 1,100 are actually buildable, due to geology, avalanches and other hazards … However, a more ambitious limitation that would have downsized house sizes below 11,000 feet to 2000 square feet maximum snagged multiple objections, in spite of a unanimous endorsement by the county planning commission. Both Commissioners Ernie Kuhlman and Terry Rhoades weren’t comfortable with that regulation, and so it didn’t pass … But San Juan County’s new cabin size limitations in the high county, like our own San Miguel County regs, are a great start for preventing the other side of our alpine region from being heavily developed with outsize trophy homes.

Velocity Basin in San Juan County (Photo by Pete McKay)

POSTCARD POEMS … Here’s a delightful retro practice for those of you old enough to remember the correspond-dance of snail mail (as it’s now diminutively known in the Cyber Era). This week’s Talking Gourd is from a poet friend who sends me postcards with little poems on them. And, tag – it’s my turn to reply in kind.


Dear Wild

If only I, too, could get out into that
awesome wilderness more. Winter is
stealing my breath & making me small.
I need to heave off this backpack of
great sadness – it’s too big for snow.
But then, that too melts with little kiss
promises, & golden sun bits, & patches
of green light in my thick fur – it’s still
the time of cold waiting

-Galaxy Earth Dancer

Ophir's season of cold waiting (Kandee DeGraw photo)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Letter to the Editor / 23mar25012

Striking the best balance

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012 6:08 AM CDT
Dear Editor,

I was a bit surprised to read Wilson Mesa homeowner and mushroom festival compadre John Sir Jesse’s premature letter castigating county government for trying to take away property rights.

Without going into all the legal complexities, the county is discussing the problematic, resort-community issue of short term rentals and we have decided to review the current policies for the Telluride Region and possibly the entire R-1 School District. To that end we’ll be adding this matter as an agenda item to a future regular public meeting (usually scheduled on Wednesdays) in the Miramonte Building west of the courthouse. Public input is a right government reserves to the people, who are the ones who really hold power in a representative democracy.

Prohibitions are a possibility. The commissioners have discussed the results of a preliminary staff survey of homeowner associations, which appear to be unanimously opposed to allowing short-term rentals.

Personally, in this down economy, I’m worried and want to give homeowners as many options as possible to pay off their mortgages. So I sympathize, some, with Sir Jesse’s rant. But we have to weigh both the individual homeowner benefits with overall community impacts. And then see what balance is best to strike for the county’s east end.

Neither the county planning department nor your county commissioners have made up our minds on what policy to pursue. If you want to weigh in on short-term rentals and find out when the hearing will be scheduled, please contact 970.728.3844.

Home from San Francisco,
Art Goodtimes in Norwood

Copyright © 2012 - Telluride Daily Planet

Up Bear Creek / 15mar25012

Taking a hard look 
at nuclear energy

Moab, Utah  (photo by Goodtimes)

PIÑON RIDGE … Sheep Mountain Alliance’s Jennifer Thurston is right. The $11.6 million bond the state has set for the new Canadian-based Energy Fuels mill cleanup in Paradox Valley is way too low. What are state regulators thinking? Have they already forgotten the state’s financial disaster with insufficient bonding at Summitville? … The old uranium mill-site downstream of Naturita cost $86 million to clean up (taxpayers footing most of that). The Slick Rock mill-site cleanup, in our own county, cost $50 million. And Grand Junction’s mill-site cost $500 million … 

Paradox Valley (photo by Sue Williamson)
 There’s a hidden subsidy for you, all to the benefit of the One Percent’s uranium industry (whose production in Paradox will be sent overseas as export, not for our domestic energy needs). Imagine if we put just the cost of just those three cleanups into solar or wind? We’d have alternative energy for the whole Western Slope … And we’re just talking mill-sites. The hundreds of mines and adits still leaking radioactive elements into our watersheds would take many, many billions more to clean up … Which is why I’m so fried with the Democrats. They’re advocating subsidies for the uranium industry, just like the Republicans. And we haven’t cleaned up the messes from the last uranium boom … Want a campaign issue? Ask Obama and Udall and Bennett when they’re going to get off the “safe nukes” bandwagon, and stop making bundles of money for the likes of the Blues Brothers and their General Atomic investors.

New "Safe" Confinement structure under construction at Chernobyl
CHERNOBYL … And the true costs of the nuclear industry are never taken into account for “black swan” events, like Chernobyl, Fukushima or Three Mile Island … Lebanese-American risk management expert Nassim Nicholas Taleb identified a “black swan event” as one that is very rare, comes as a surprise to the observer, has massive impacts and is only rationalized as possible after the fact … 
Cover of Taleb's book
Right now in the Belaurus, French construction company Novarka is building the world’s largest movable structure – a steel rainbow taller than the Statue of Liberty – to slide over Chernobyl Power Plant’s Reactor #4. The temporary sarcophagus placed over the ruins of the reactor after it exploded in April of 1986 is falling apart. The new structure, designed in part by the Battelle Memorial Institute at the cost of $2.1 billion, is only expected to last 100 years. It’s needed to clean up the highly radioactive dust that is still contained within the deteriorating sarcophagus … Some 29 countries are paying for this new steel rainbow. While Belaurus estimates the black swan event at Chernobyl has cost that country $235 billion. But in the U.S., should such a black swan event happen at any of the 104 existing nuclear reactors located at 65 nuclear power plants (not including the two new Japanese reactors being built near Atlanta, Georgia, recently awarded an $8.3 billion loan guarantee by the Obama administration), the lion’s share of the liability for the event would be covered by U.S. taxpayers. Companies actually responsible for the disaster would only be liable for the first $12.6 billion, thanks to the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Liability Act (renewed for 20 years in 2005). After that, it’s up to Congress to come up with the money. And you know that this august body, dominated by industry lobbyists, will force U.S. taxpayers to pay the nuclear piper – one of the many “hidden subsidies” for nuclear power that’s rarely discussed in comparing the costs of nuclear energy versus other energy sources … In speaking of black swan events, we’re not even talking about “routine” accidents that you rarely hear about in the U.S. media, like radioactive tritium leaking into groundwater as happened at the Vermont Yankee plant two years ago last month at a cost of $700 million in property damage. According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 43 of the 65 nuclear plants have already leaked radioactive tritium into groundwater, inflicting billions of dollars in property damage … It’s hard to fight against jobs for folks in the West End of Montrose County who only see value in a renewed uranium industry. But when looked at critically on a world stage, nuclear power is very dangerous game that’s likely to cost our children’s children trillions of dollars in property damage and untold suffering and illness. Is the nuclear industry’s so-called “clean energy” really worth it?

SHORT TERM RENTALS… Some folks outside the Telluride Region were concerned that the discussion of imposing some new county rule limiting short-term rentals would apply to them. If we’re talking about the Wright’s Mesa and West End Zone Districts, the answer is no. I made sure of that before we even started the discussion a couple weeks ago at the county … However, if you live Downvalley or on the Mesas, the answer is maybe. A number of homeowner associations have said they do NOT want short term rentals happening in their subdivisions. I think we have to respect that … At the same time, as I argued in the county’s initial discussions on this issue, these are hard times. Within this capitalist system, every private property owner ought to have as many tools as possible made available to prevent further foreclosures – and I see short-term rentals as one of those possible tools … Short-term rentals will definitely be available in Norwood and our West End, but they may not be in Placerville and elsewhere in the R-1 School District. So, whichever way you come down on this issue, it’s important that your voice is heard at the county in the next couple months.


Photo by B. Thomas

Moss Spring

billowing clouds of cumulus
backlit in the moonlight

Jupiter chasing Venus
across a star-struck

Cloud Acre’s eye meal
of amaryllis
takes the breath away

So we talk more
this world and I
Blackbirds newly back

to Wright’s Mesa
The storm wind’s hurl & spin
flapping plastic

Six of us
hungry for bon mots
& lyric chatter

Inhaling margaritas
& sunshine
around a winter table

Friday, March 9, 2012

Up Bear Creek / 8mar25012

 Evan Greene at Barthell shrine with V. St. John  (Martin)

Hollywood comes to Telluride
to do a film, not just watch ‘em

THE LABOR TROUBLES … Smoke from a tramway bunkhouse still billows into the Bullion Tunnel. Shouts, hot embers and buckets of water spill across the sloped snowy ground, as miners struggle to douse the spreading flames. Nov. 20th, 1901, and Western Federation of Miners Local 63 President Vincent St. John has just made it up Tomboy Road from town. He dashes into the Smuggler-Union mine portal, heedless of his own safety, and starts helping pull men out … Just the summer before St. John had raced up Tomboy Road to almost single-handedly broker a cease-fire after a deadly skirmish at the mine. Union member John Barthell, unarmed and just 24 years old, had been shot down by the Smuggler-Union’s armed guards in Marshall Basin when armed union members came up the hill looking for scab workers …

Tensions were still high, although the WFM Local 63’s first strike had been settled favorably for the union. The tragic fire that fall -- a direct result of the Smuggler-Union’s new Boston-based owners’ failure to install iron doors like “the majority of mine entrances and tunnels” had – left deep wounds among workers and a number of widowed families … 

Stories like these are what first intrigued Recording Academy executive (the Grammys) and screenwriter Evan Greene. “I fell in love with Telluride as a student at CU Boulder 20 years ago,” said Greene. “And I’ve dreamed of respectfully bringing Telluride’s amazing story alive ever since” … 

St. John jailed unjustly
One Bluegrass he let his friend drive home alone and he took the dog and a tent and lived up on Firecracker Hill, back when camping was an allowed forest use in these parts. Five years ago he brought his family to the 4th of July Parade and “bought every book I could find” about Telluride’s history. Three years ago he let historian MaryJoy Martin of Montrose take him on a tour of the region and its historical sites. “The more I learned the deeper I got into the project,” he explained … 

Greene bought the screen rights to Martin’s The CorpseOn Boomerang Road (Western Reflections, Montrose, 2004) and her manuscript Undesirable Citizen: A Biography of Vincent St. John. Then he wrote a script for a full-length feature film. “It’s a great story about humanity,” Greene said. “It’s almost a perfect good versus evil story. A wealthy industrialist hires his son-in-law who’s failed at everything to take over a mine. An iron fist is the only kind of management Bulkeley Wells knows” … 

Finally, after years of research and preparation, Greene has partnered with Elbow Grease Pictures, a Hollywood film and television production company, to tell Telluride’s labor tale -- about the struggle between the workers and the capitalists, between the Western Federation of Miners and the Mine Owners Association, between Vincent St. John and Bulkeley Wells. They’ve laid out a $11.6 million dollar production package, and are planning on doing a companion documentary, suitable for television, to stir interest. The partners are raising production funding, and are open to involvement from the Colorado investment community …

 “The story of the fight between U.S. workers and their employers that Evan Greene has discovered yearns to be told,” said Elbow Grease producer Marcus Avery. “He has crafted a magnificent depiction of the triumph of the human spirit in the face of almost insurmountable adversity that will captivate audiences everywhere” … Greene himself is just as upbeat about the film they are calling Undesirable Citizens. “Given the issues that are prominent in our cultural dialogue right now (union relevance, mining accidents, the battles between workers and management, the greed of big business), “ he said, “this subject – especially since it drove labor relations forward and gave birth to many of the worker protection laws we now take for granted – could not be more topical and timely” … 

Telluride's own "Stuntman", Tim Territo

If all goes according to plan, Telluride will gain more than just publicity from the movie. According to Greene, “The partners feel strongly that the film should be shot in Telluride and Colorado.” They’ve contacted Colorado Film Commissioner Donald Zuckerman, and they’ve engaged as director Michael Schroeder, who has shot a feature film and several commercials in Telluride already. To Tim Territo of the Telluride Film Commission, this was good news. “People from the whole area will benefit from this project,” he noted. Actors, carpenters, extras – there should be plenty of jobs to go around once production gets underway.

Lone Cone (photo by Megan Kozey)

DONALD MCKEEVER … Another Norwood legend slips away. “Popcorn” was such a gentleman. Tolerated us newcomers. Even enjoyed visiting with us, on occasion. Always good for a story or a joke ... His bones had been hurting a bunch as he moved into his eighties. Made him a little grumpy, although he’d still make you laugh in front of the post office … Didn’t like government much. But he let us pols put our lawn signs up on his lovely main street property. One of Norwood’s best community folks, to my mind. He leaves us all sad and missing his laugh … Requiescat in pace


Green Politics 101

Toss your hat
not far left of the ring
but into the radical

Up Bear Creek / 3mar25012

Another Norwood legend passes

DARRELL ELDER … The narrow ditches on both of the state highway were jammed. But Rev. Clint Parry had but few words for his friend, Darrell, who didn’t think much of churches, “or ministers”, Parry laughed … It was no mistake that tow trucks led the funeral cortege. Darrell had pulled more than few of us out of ditches for the three decades I’ve lived in the county …  I knew Darrell was still a bit less boisterous from that cancer scare a few years back. But I’d seen him driving around. He’d stop by occasionally … Like the time he parked his pickup smack dab in the middle of a lane on the Cone Road right in front of my house and visited with me for some 45 minutes or more. Talking about local issues and roads and county policies and histories and all manner of curious stuff. He liked chatting and trading stories. A colorful character, dressed in a pair of greasy overalls, looking every bit the working class hero he was. He had his biases, and he didn’t shirk from sharing them. But he also had some good ideas – things he’d wrestle over for a while in his own mind and then surprise you with … ‘Course, when I first came to Norwood, I looked every bit the hippie I turned out to be, and that was not very high on the social totem pole in Darrell’s mind. He could look kind of gnarly, even after you got to know him. So, at first I kept my distance from his place just north of Stinking Springs and south of the county transfer station. But, eventually, a beater car tanked on me, and I tried to take it to D’s wrecking yard for salvage. But he wanted nothing to do with me, or my car. So I had to tow it to Montrose … But that was years ago, when I’d just come into the country. Before I got into office and teamed up with Commissioner Vern Ebert to get rid of building codes in the sparsely-settled West End of San Miguel County, about 15 years ago. After that, D and I had something to talk about – government interference in our lives … I have to say, I really grew to like our visits, even if I never liked some of his biases. But then, I know he didn’t really like some of my biases either. So I think we felt kind of even … Gonna miss you, D … Requiescat in pace

HISTORY CHECK … In recent times, some individuals have tried to finesse the historic spelling of Illium Valley to make it conform to the ancient Greek plains of Ilium in modern-day Turkey. But that’s not historically correct. I was reminded of this error leafing through William Henry Jackson’s Colorado (Pruett Publ., Boulder, 1975 [24975 ANAC]) compiled by William & Elizabeth Jones, while having Sunday brunch and playing ping-pong at the beautiful Two Candles Restaurant & Lounge in Norwood (their library is extensive) … On page 51, hand-lettered in a Jackson photo dating from the 1880’s [24880’s ANAC] is this caption: “Sunshine Peak from Illium Valley.”

MESH NETWORKS … Great article in March’s ScientificAmerican about the increasing centralization in the current World Wide Web through dead-end Internet Service Providers, national governments, closed loop cloud services like Facebook and Google, and how web privacy activists have devised an ingenious low-tech way to bypass government or corporate control, where each individual computer becomes a relay in the system, or a “device as infrastructure” network, as Sascha Meinrath of the New America Foundation calls it … It also has large implications for emergency management communications in case the Internet goes down. And it isn’t very expensive.

ENERGY PIG … Energy use continues to drop at Cloud Acre, along with my carbon footprint. My latest bill shows a total kilowatt hour (kWh) usage for the past 12 months of 10,580 kWh, with a monthly average of 881 kWh. That’s down from August of 25009 when my yearly total was 16,118 kWh and my monthly average was 1,343 kWh, and down from my last bill of 25011 which reflected a yearly total of 11,452 kWh and a monthly average of 954 kWh … That’s a year’s saving of 5,538 kWh – not an insignificant figure.

SUDDEN ASPEN DEATH … There have been lots of speculation on why the aspen have been suffering precipitous mortality recently, and certainly drought and global warming have to be exacerbating factors. But a paper published in the International Journal of Forest Research by Katie Haggerty of Lyons suggests a surprising connection. She links the major changes in the radio frequency  (RF) environment, particularly its anthropogenic increase in RF intensity and complexity, with SAD. “This study suggests that the RF background may have strong adverse effects on growth rate and fall anthocyanin production in aspen, and may be an underlying factor in aspen decline.”



If you would like to come to the party, press 1
If you are already at the party, press 2
If you need to leave the party,
walk out the door.
If you are a third party candidate,
press the issues.
If you have already partied till you dropped,
hang up and try again.

-Mike Olschewsky