Monday, August 30, 2010

Diego Rivera of the Streets?

Here are more murals from the same general area as the ones in the park under the freeway. (Click to enlarge.) It's as if the spirit of Diego Rivera has been channeled through the the civic-minded artists of El Paso. Ana Darcy Méndez, in fact, was impressed by the image of civic consciousness these represent. Such displays are not uncommon on her planet, but not that common here.

If anyone knows of similar expressions of local pride anywhere else in the United States, we'd like to hear about it!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Even MORE Freeway Murals!

Thanks to all those who commented and emailed about the freeway murals on IH10 south of downtown El Paso, where it lies close to the border. For you, and for everyone, here are more. Note the picnickers and the mural commemorating an El Paso activist killed during a demonstration in East Los Angeles. Ana ran right along here. She could have seen any of these!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Kitties! Servals, & a Tiger Cub!

Thanks again to Julie's Jungle for the lovely, fresh pictures of some of her cats and kittens!

The top photo shows a half-grown serval fully involved in play.

The second photo shows a new litter of serval kittens. Adult servals can weigh 30-40 pounds and jump eight feet straight up. They make affectionate, very lively pets. Can anyone identify the non-serval visitor in this pile of critters?

The third picture should be obvious. It's a tiger cub. Julie's Jungle doesn't raise tigers. This cub, which belongs to zoo friends, was just visiting. Notice the size of the paws on this little baby!

Not pictured this time around is one of Julie's caracal cats. A caracal is a character in Distant Cousin: Regeneration. See one of those here.

Serval kittens: 1 2 3 4

A serval and a caracal

Saturday, August 21, 2010

More Freeway Murals

Here are more photos of Interstate 10 through the Chamizal Park section just south of downtown El Paso. (See others here.) These are mostly self-explanatory, but we'll note two things.

First, Mexican culture (which is clearly evident in these photos, as Mexican-American culture) tends to be highly self-aware, proud, and educative. Americans elsewhere in the country are aware of statues of important Americans in parks and public places, memorials, and so forth, but the Mexican idea takes this further. Murals are one obvious example. They are extremely eye-catching and partly designed to educate the young. For example, we were entranced to walk through the beautiful park in the center of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon (Mexico's third-largest city), enjoying similar murals, statues, spectacular architecture...and listening to the music of Vivaldi at high volume over hidden speakers: truly extraordinary.

Second, the Mexican city just across the river from El Paso, Ciudad Juarez, is currently one of the most dangerous cities in the world, due to drug cartels fighting each other for dominance (See Distant Cousin: Regeneration). At the same time, El Paso, literally a stone's throw away, is one of the safest cities in the United States. Chamizal Park, on the border, is popular for celebrations like the Fourth of July, Cinco de Mayo, and other holidays in one or the other nations. (There were none taking place when Ana ran through, however.)

In the top two photos above, the cultural and educational components are obvious: Martin Luther King, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Cesar Chavez are commemorated--note that this is a picnic area. (Click the pictures for larger versions.) These barely scratch the surface. We'll post more soon!

Other Freeway Murals

MORE Freeway Murals

What Ana First Saw

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pictures: El Paso (DC1)

Readers of Distant Cousin might wonder what Ana saw, early in the book, on her run along Interstate 10 in El Paso. Since it was by a freeway, most of us would expect it to be run down, industrialized, trashy, and generally unattractive. Parts of it are like that, but much of it is not.

These pictures show the freeway along the border south of downtown El Paso, near Chamizal Park. Considerable civic pride and artistry are on display.

The top photo shows a "mural" featuring patriotic motifs. The middle photo is of a rendering of La Virgen de Guadalupe, over some roses also characteristic of her story. The bottom is an image of Emiliano Zapata, revered Mexican freedom fighter during the Mexican Revolution.

Note the picnic benches, parking areas, and so forth. This is the way to dress up your freeways!

Other photos:

(More photos in Table of Contents at right)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ana Is Mortal

Of course Ana is mortal. This is not news. She has "good genes," as we know from her stories, she stays in good condition, and she doesn't look her age, but she has the Thomans' respect for all life, which includes the end of life as well. The life span of the average Thoman is a decade or more longer than ours, but they do finally pass on, and those occasions are noted with much ceremony and respect on Thomo.

As an accidental sociologist, Ana has observed funerary customs on Earth with considerable interest. Perhaps the one that struck her the most is the old-fashioned New Orleans-style funeral, with its marching dixieland band. When she first saw one, on television, she was shocked, but then she learned more about it and came to appreciate the feelings of gratefulness and celebration that underlie it.

Ana found this poem about an Irish funeral procession not too dissimilar. This observance, and this poem, struck her deeply. Though simple, there's much to reflect upon in it.

Dublinesque, by Philip Larkin

More poems that make Ana emotional:

(Still more poems in the table of contents to the right)