Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cyberflanerie: Michael Ventura, Macaulay Library's Coyote Calls, John Wells' Field Lab blog, Sam Quinones on the Dinastia de El Hamlet

3D printer du jour
The Revolution Will Be Printed, according to Austin Chronicle columnist Michael Ventura, by which he means 3D printed. Buckle up, it's going to be a Mr Toad ride! (So when people don't have jobs anymore, what will they do? Why, what people without jobs have always done! Some grow potatoes and stuff, while others glue themselves to the sofa and watch TV, while others give elaborate dinner parties featuring piles of foie gras! Only it will be printed foie gras, I guess.)

PS Get your 3D printer here.

Via Delia Lloyd's Real Delia blog's Friday reading links, Cornell University's Macaulay Library of sounds, an uber-amazing archive of bird and animal audio. (Love the selection of coyotes.)

Over on his Field Lab blog, John Wells once-upon-a-time-of-New-York-now-of-Terlingua offers his one wise cent. P.S. Catch his podcast interview on Tiny Revolution. PSS Related: H20 Rainwater Harvesting Community.

One of my favorite writers writing on Mexico, San Quinones, offers this fascinating blog post about the dynasty of "El Hamlet."

(Coming soon: printed burgers and robot waiters?)

>Comments off due to spam, but your comments via email are always welcome.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West by Rubén Martínez

What is the West? That cross-borderly mashup of music, footwear and haberdashery known as “cowboy cool”? Or is it indigenous? The Big Empty, healing refuge, Hispano, Chicano, Mexicano? Or is it now found in the scrim of “underwater” water-sucking tract houses? What is this landscape, if not seen through millions of different eyes each with its own needs, lusts, filters and projections? And how is it changing? (Radically.) In Desert America Rubén Martínez tackles these immense and thorny questions in a narrative of multiple strands masterfully braided into a lyrical whole. . . 

CONTINUE reading C.M. Mayo's review in the Washington Independent Review of Books

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lulu Torbet, Ghostwriter, To Tell All

Lulu Torbet
Indeed that is the title of her talk, "Ghostwriter Tells All," for PEN San Miguel at the Teatro Angela Peralta this Tuesday February 26 @ 6 pm, tickets at the door.

Lulu Torbet, a noted artist, has also had an impressively accomplished and varied career as a ghostwriter. This promises to be a fascinating talk for anyone interested in the process of book writing and publishing. Open Q & A to follow.

Tickets to benefit PEN, an organization which supports freedom of expression around the world.

>Visit Lulu Torbet's blog

>Listen to my recorded talk, "Visit to Swan House," from last month's PEN San Miguel event, a reading from my work-in-progress, World Waiting for a Dream: A Turn if Far West Texas.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Marfa Mondays #10: A Visit to Swan House

Listen in to the podcast here of my lecture for PEN San Miguel on January 29, 2013 in San Miguel de Allende's Teatro Angela Peralta, about literary travel writing in the digital age and-- starting at about 15:00--  "A Visit to Swan House," my article in the current issue of Cenizo Journal, about adobe visionary Simone Swan's mysteriously beautiful teaching house near Presidio, on the US-Mexico border in Far West Texas.

"A Visit to Swan House" is #10 in the 24 podcast series.

#9 Mary Baxter, Painting the Big Bend

#8 A Spell at Chinati Hotsprings

#7 The Marfa Lights: We Have Seen the Lights

#6 Marfa's Moonlight Gemstones

#5 Cynthia McAlister, the Buzz on the Bees

#4 Avram Dumitrescu, An Artist in Alpine

#3 Mary Bones on the Lost Art Colony

#2 Charles Angell in the Big Bend

#1 Introduction and welcome

Want to be notified when the next podcast is available? Sign up for my free newsletter which goes out about 3 - 5 times a year (opt in or out or back in automatically anytime).

***UPDATE Jan 2014: "A Visit to Swan House" is now available on-line.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cyberflanerie: Return of the Dead Edition

Julia Pastrana comes home to Mexico at last, thanks to the persistent efforts of a Mexican artist and Mexican diplomat. A story that says so much about humanity in all its facets.

Liz Castro's excellent blog, Pigs, Gourds and Wikis, covers the reality of gatekeepers in "We're not the media if we depend on Google (or Amazon)." Yep.

Don Lancaster's cult classic The Incredible Secret Money Machine is now available from the author as a free PDF download (hat tip to Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools blog). Though it's severely outdated and  aimed at computer and craft entrepreneurs, it provides some wise advice for writers of today.  Plus it's a hilarious read chock full of quotables, e.g.:

The worst information sink, of course, is television. It puts you in a passive, comatose state. It spoon feeds you drivel. It is in total control of what it gives you. It makes you expect the instant and certain solution to everything in precisely half an hour. It lacks subtlety, degree, option. It averages you in with the Epsilon minuses. Worst of all, it rents your bod out to the highest bidder, something that the civil war purportedly decided was a no-no.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Los viajes de Maximiliano en México (Maximilian's Travels in Mexico) by Konrad Ratz and Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan

Amparo Gómez Tepexicupan
Co-autora de Los viajes de Maximiliano en México
Herewith (below), my comments for the presentation of Konrad Ratz and Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan's Los viajes de Maximiliano en México (Maximilian's Travels in Mexico) in Mexico City's Chapultepec Castle yesterday. A magnificent, meticulously researched and beautifully designed book, Los viajes de Maximiliano en México is a major contribution to our understanding of not only his government but the period, and as such it deserves to be in any and every collection of Maximiliana.

(For those of you not familiar with Mexican book presentations, these tend to be rather formal affairs with three to as many as five speakers, a podium with microphones, and so on.)

Querida Amparo; compañeros comentaristas; Señoras y Señores:

Antes que nada, quisiera agradecer la muy amable invitación para participar en la presentación de este magnífico libro, sin duda en un inmejorable escenario. Para mi tiene un doble significado este evento: primero, es un tributo a los autores, a quienes respeto profundamente en lo profesional y personal, y aprovecho este instante para mandarle mis mejores deseos al Dr Ratz , quien no ha podido estar presente aquí por motivos de salud; y segundo, por la profundidad con que se aborda el tema mismo del libro.

Como dice el refrán, nunca es tarde si la dicha es buena. Pero esto no quita que hubiera apreciado inmensamente haber tenido a mi disposición este libro, investigado meticulosamente y documentado e ilustrado maravillosamente, cuando estaba en el proceso de escribir mi novela.

Como saben todos quienes se meten a estudiar este periodo, el Segundo Imperio o Intervención francesa, fue un episodio de la historia mexicana verdaderamente transnacional: ahí tenemos al archidique austriaco, el ejército francés, tenemos empresarios y banqueros ingleses, norteamericanos, todo tipo de mexicanos, tanto condes como indígenas y belgas y húngaros y hasta la reina Victoria y el Papa... Para poder investigar a fondo, uno tiene que leer cartas, informes y libros no solamente en castellano, francés y alemán, sino también en inglés y en ocasiones sería deseable—y en mi casi no fue posible— en portugués, italiano o húngaro. Aparte de esta Torre de Babel, las costumbres, filosofias e incentivos de tan diversos protagonistas, tanto mexicanos como extranjeros, son muy dificil de tomar con seriedad. Nada más para dar un ejemplo entre cientos, para quizá cada uno nosotros, nacidos en el siglo XX, ciudadanos de una república, ya sea Mexico o en mi caso, los Estados Unidos, cuando leemos el tomo escrito por Maximiliano y Carlota durante su traslado a México, nuestra inclinación natural es de reír. Estoy hablando del Reglamento y ceremonial de la corte en el cuál se especifica hasta el color de los calcetines de los meseros, a quién le toca un cojín de terciopelo en tal ceremonia y a quién no. No obstante, en el contexto del mundo de esta pareja, es decir, el Europa de aquel entonces en donde los rituales monárquicos, con su énfasis en demostrar y hasta intimidar con su riqueza, orden y poder, dicho reglamento tiene un perfecto sentido.

A esta complejidad más que bizantina de este periodo añadimos el hecho de que Maximiliano y Carlota viajaban casi constantamente. . . .  CONTINUAR

>>For much more about books, documents and sundry items pertaining to this tumultuous period of Mexican history, I invite you to visit my other blog.

Lisa Carter's Intralingo Blog

I'm very honored to be the featured translator today over at Lisa Carter's excellent blog, Intralingo. In the interview I talk about getting started with literary translation, translating Mexican writers Agustín Cadena and Mónica Lavín, and tackling Francisco I. Madero's secret book of 1911.

Thank you, dear Lisa.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Super Simple Tally Trick to Zap the Backlog and Find the Joy (Yes, Joy) in Email

Star Wars notebook
Available from Paper Source
Really! I am not kidding!

Back in 2009, and especially in 2010, I started to fall seriously behind, as in gasping under a Niagara, with my email. Now I know just about everybody who uses email is behind-- it's the phenomenon of our time, as Jenna Wortham's piece in Sunday's New York Times points out, but in my case it was caused by a perfect storm (and, I later realized, my neglecting to keep track of net flows-- more about that in a moment).

In 2009, my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, was out and being heavily promoted (including coast to coast book tour-- it's especially tough to keep up on the road) and then, in 2010, when it came out in Spanish, same story, and all at the same time that my dad fell ill. So not only was that couple of years crammed with traveling and distraction (massive) but my dad managed a high-traffic website about POW research and he had a gargantuan number of correspondents himself, so when he passed away in late 2010, and left a book ready to be edited (by Linda Goetz Holmes, bless her heart) and published (by Naval Institute Press), there fell upon me yet another avalanche of email. All of this is to say that, ayyy, my backlog grew into something beyond gnarly. And it got to the point where I dreaded looking at my inbox and, in coping with the daily inflows, I let slide notes to not only people who wrote kind notes about my dad and/or my books, but even notes from family, and even from some of my most cherished friends.

In 2010, I thought I'd made some progress, and maybe I had, by categorizing the email, e.g., FAMILY; FRIENDS; BUSINESS; etc., etc., but that was akin piling too much furniture into the garage--  it kept me from hyperventilating, but it didn't solve the problem; I still had this huge backlog, I still felt horribly overwhelmed. All through 2010 and 2011, I would sit down and attempt to tackle my email but after an hour or four, I'd just be facing a new deluge-- and an awful a sense of sinking in quicksand. Had email taken over my life? (Heck, was this modern life?) Spam I could delete, no problem, but not the others. No, I did not want to be the kind of person who does not respond to an invitation, a kind word, or news from a friend.

But what to do? I tried focussing on time limits, cramming it all into a certain period, but that did not work. I tried ignoring it. I tried making new categories. I reread David Allen's Getting Things Done. I considered Merlin Mann's "Inbox Zero" (for about 2 seconds-- though, that said, Mann does offer some good tips).  I read what Tim Ferriss had to say about email detox (and considered hiring a virtual assistant for my email -- for about 10 seconds). Meanwhile, the backlog loomed, ever larger...

The solution, which just wafted into my mind one day, turned out to be a blazingly simple two steps-- and it has brought me back the joy, yes joy, of email.

Step 1. Set a specific goal
Mine is, "Inbox 10," that is, to close my email at night with no more than 10 unanswered emails. (I don't think inbox zero is realistic, given that many of my emails require further information or some other good reason for a brief delay.)

Step 2. Tally daily net flows in a notebook-- in other works, track daily progress towards that goal
Because I realized the backlog could not be solved in a day, nor a week, nor even a month, and the inflow of emails-- not just spam, but emails I want to receive and answer-- wasn't going to stop, what I needed was an easy and concrete measure of my daily progress. So I bought a little notebook in which I tally the following:

DW (for dealt with) = number of messages that have been answered, simply read and filed, printed out, whatever, but they have been dealt with. I can either delete them or file them under "ARCHIVE" and adios!! 

DL (for downloaded) = after deleting all obvious spam, this is the number of messages to deal with in some way. In other words, anything I am going to lay my eyes on gets tallied. So as not to lose my place, I note the time of the last message downloaded.

N = New messages generated, not in response to any currently in the inbox.


When the daily net number is positive, it means I'm getting ahead; negative, I'm falling behind.

(I don't count the Ns, or new messages generated, by the way-- that's just for me to see, a sort of a ballpark snapshot of how much time I'm spending on email.)

So let's say, on a typical day I deal with 52 DW and download 50 DL, my net number for the day would be +2

52 DW - 50 DL = +2

Of the 50 emails received on a given day, I might answer 49,  plus 2 from 2012 and 1 from (ayyyyy) 2011. The point is, this net number is the way for me to see clearly whether I am falling behind or getting ahead. And at the end of the day, when I'm about the close the laptop but the number is negative, I might take 5 minutes-- just 5-- to make sure I get that number up to something positive. Maybe I'd answer another email from that same day, or maybe it would an email from yore, it doesn't matter. As I tell myself, just as with writing a book, a little bit every day, that's what gets you where you want to go.

I started keeping my email notebook back in January of 2012, and immediately I could see that yes, I could handle the daily inflow plus tackle from 2 - 5 emails from the backlog every day. On same days, especially when traveling, I slid behind, say, -14 or -5 or even -27, and I had a few all-star days of +15, but I could soon see that this was not quicksand, nor was it an overpowering Niagara, this was... yes... something I could handle. Soon I was up to +50, then +75, and so on until, now in February 2013, I have hit... drumroll...  +845. My backlog is still there, but it's now whittled down to a number I can actually count: 34. Yes, thirty-four not-yet-dealt-with emails of which... b-b-b-bongo drums... one (yes, one!) is from 2013.

So though I haven't yet made my goal of inbox 10, I'm at inbox 34. Now 34 is a big number, but it's a far sight from that totally gnarly nearly 900. (So gnarly, indeed, that I didn't even attempt to count them at the beginning.)

It feels great to have gotten it down this far and better yet, in recognizing that behind each email is a person, a relationship, I'm getting along better with friends and family and finding some more ease in my writing career as well. Should I ever get the deluge of mail of, say, Margaret Atwood, OK, maybe my legions of fans will have to get a form letter from my assistant. But that day hasn't come, and right now, I sincerely appreciate it when people write to me about my books or related subjects, and I really believe that anyone who writes to me personally (not spam), and sanely and politely, should receive an answer with my thanks. I also appreciate my friends and family, and always delight to hear from them. And I am truly touched when anyone writes to me because they remember my dad and/or his work.

And so, at long last, though I still have those 34 emails to tackle, I can say that I genuinely appreciate email. Let me repeat that, to gamelan bells & snare drum:


The notebook with the daily tally. That's all there was to it. Really. OMG.

P.S. When I switched my email to yahoo last year I did not realize their spam filter was so strong, so I may have missed your email. (I now monitor my spam file every day to make sure I don't lose legitimate email). So if you haven't heard from me, please resend. And if you owe me an email, no worries, I totally understand how overwhelming it is. (But try the notebook trick!)


Friday, February 08, 2013

Los viajes de Maximiliano

On Tuesday February 12, 2013 @ 6:30 pm
I will be on the panel presenting the new book by Konrad Ratz and Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan,
Los viajes de Maximiliano en México
Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
(In Spanish, entrada libre)

Monday, February 04, 2013

Seven Reasons Why EBooks Will Be Big in Mexico or: El Kindle es el futuro

Ebooks are already in Mexico, as are zebras and ice skating rinks, by the way, but I've had this "it's not going to happen" conversation with so many head-in-the-sand Mexican writers and editors (all my age and older), I thought I'd offer my thoughts in more precise order.

Yes, a paper book is splendid thing, and yes, I myself prefer them to ebooks, and I understand why other people would prefer them to ebooks; nonetheless, I say the ebook phenomenon is going to take over the Mexican literary scene faster than anyone here imagines, and for seven reasons:

1. You can see it for yourself, Mexicans adapt-- maybe with a lag vis-a-vis, say, Palo Alto, but fast. Middle and upper class kids in urban areas from Mexico City to Tijuana, Queretaro to Merida, Puebla, Guadalajara, you name it, are all just as addicted to their handheld devices, texting friends and updating their Facebook pages at all hours, as anywhere else. And the Mexican middle class is a far sight more susbtantial than most north of the border would guess. As for middled-aged middle class Mexicans, they've figured out Twitter and Facebook as well as everyone else. (Is there a Mexican pundit / senator / university student without a Twitter feed?) True, Mexicans don't all read books anymore than do their counterparts north of the border, however, there have always been readers, avid readers, in Mexico. It may be small, but Mexico's literary culture is vibrant and thriving.

2. Mexican economists, always with an eye on development, know that putting Wi-Fi in a small town is akin to putting in road-- on steroids. And people in the small towns want to sell good and services. Once the Internet is there, how hard is it to discover that, oh by the way, you can download an ebook?

3. Internet venture capitalists are looking at emerging markets, such as Mexico, as prime targets for investment, especially given the grim outlook in the US and (way gnarlier) Europe.

4. Though Mexico does boast some mighty fine bookstores, they are thin on the ground and rarely well-stocked. It's a heap less trouble to download an ebook.

5.  Ebooks are cheaper than paper books and Mexicans, like everyone else on the planet, prefer to spend less money. This goes for both readers and publishers / self-publishers.

6. There are many great reads in Spanish, from Don Quijote to Cien años de soledad, and more popping out of the oven every season. P.S. Download mine why doncha.

7. There are even more maybe not so great reads that haven't been able to land a commercial or university press publisher, and, Whoa Nelly, here they come.

I note that one of Mexico's most award-winning and prolific writers, Agustín Cadena, recently launched his new novel, Maljuna Knabino, not as a print edition but as a Kindle.

I also note that many gringos in Mexico are already quite happily downloading Kindles galore.

I further note that the best way to do that is to forget buying a Kindle and download the free Kindle app for the iPad. iPad rules.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Cyberflanerie: Wingham Rowan, Art Made by Sheep, Geotica, Sweethoots

Wingham Rowan's TED talk on a new kind of job market-- fascinating.

(Speaking of which, because I'm such a fan of Task Rabbit, I thought I'd try But when I had trouble with the sign up only permitted, apparently, via Google or Facebook (ick), I sent a message via their website and three days later they still have not gotten back to me. So I doubt I'll become a customer. Totally heart the concept, though.)

Gene Logsdon "The Contrary Farmer" on Art Made by Sheep
I'd heard of elephant art...

Oooh, another fabulous font... Geotica

Get out your tinfoil hat and watch the whole kit-n-caboodle: Resonance: Beings of Frequency
Sweethoots on

And speaking of hats, I doubt anyone anywhere offers more peculiarly charming chapeaux than Sweethoots. (My fave? It's a toss up between the Noble Gnome and the Pot of Gold Rainbow. Well, the Little Lamb is also pretty good. Ditto Yoda.)

OK, as soon as I'm done procrastinating I'll finish up the latest Marfa Mondays podcast which is my talk about literary travel writing in the digital age and a reading of my essay from Cenizo Journal, "A Visit to Swan House" -- both my talk for PEN San Miguel, recorded live at the Angela Peralta Theater in San Miguel de Allende.

P.S. Thanks, Pat Dubrava, for adding Madam Mayo to your delightful blog's blog roll.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Cyberflanerie: Nonmexicans in Mexico Edition

Patrice Wynne, owner of San Miguel de Allende's Abrazos, did this fascinating podcast interview on living and doing business in Mexico. Patrice has such a beautiful and brilliant spirit. Don't miss this!

Am I the only one who always wondered what happened to Toller Cranston? I note that his San Miguel de Allende compound is up for sale. More about the exuberantly creative Mr Cranston here.

Speaking of Mexico, Good Food in Mexico City blog alerts us to Coyoacán's fabulous mega feria de tamales.

Graham Mackintosh
Ed Zieralski of the Union-Tribune San Diego reports on my amigo Graham Mackintosh's new south of the border adventure. Feliz viaje, Graham!
(P.S. Check out Graham's guest-blog for "Madam Mayo" here.)

Metaphysical Traveler blog tips us to the Mayan leprechauns, the aluxes.
(P.S. I guest-blogged for Metaphysical Traveler recently, about table tipping a la mexicana.)

This February 7 at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington DC, Edward Sullivan will give a talk entitled "Dreamscapes," about art by Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, and other surrealists in Mexico. RSVP here.
(P.S. Listen to my podcast about some of these artists, with author of Villa Air-Bel, Rosemary Sullivan, here.)


Ingo Swann, Bon Voyage


This morning Ingo Swann passed away after a long illness. I never met Ingo Swann but knew many people who had and I probably crossed paths with him in the early 70s without realizing it in Palo Alto, where I went to high school and where my grandfather, chemist Frank R. Mayo, was at Stanford Research Institute when Ingo was there formulating the protocols for controlled remote viewing. Ingo's books-- already highly prized collector's items-- are genuine head-shakers. I think it would difficult for the average educated person to take them seriously, for they're written in a confoundingly baroque style and filled with such fantastic stories and assertions, they seem to orbit a galaxy of their own. And yet, over a period of several years in the past decade, in five of Lyn Buchanan's workshops, I learned the protocols for CRV, most of which, though later modified, were originally developed by Ingo Swann. I have two words for them: breathtaking genius. And though CRV has its practical applications, for me the value of it isn't so much about being able to retrieve information in whatever time and space, it's opening windows and doors and cubbyholes into one's own mind, into exploring consciousness itself. We are, we human beings, so much more than we appear in the material world, so vastly more than mainstream Western culture yet recognizes, and Ingo Swann, eccentric as he may have been, was a consciousness pioneer in the grandest, most courageous tradition.