Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top 13 Crunchies of 2014

(Yes, it was hot)
Rock Art in Meyers Springs,
Lower Pecos Canyonlands,
Far West Texas
I generally get the most readers for my "cyberflanerie" posts and I'll admit, those are the most fun to write-- they're just lists of  my finds. Herewith, for your surfing adventures, the crunchiest of my other posts for this blog in 2014:

4. The Secret Ingredient in My Writing Process

Easy said, rarely done

>>Your COMMENTS are always welcome.

Besides blogging, what else was I up to? I brought out the new book in both English (Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution) and Spanish (Odisea metafísica hacia la Revolución Mexicana), survived the Texas Book Festival, plus posted 3 "Marfa Mondays" podcasts. Marfa Mondays podcast #16, an interview with photographer Paul Chaplo, author of the stunning Marfa Flights, will be available for download in the next few days. 

One big change in 2014 was that I only gave one workshop, a one day on Literary Travel Writing at the Writer's Center. Looks like I'll be giving another one in April 2015. (Schedule here.) 

Oh, and thanks to some input from two hour consult via Skype with writers' guru Jane Friedman, I reorganized and redesigned my webpage, adding new subpages "For Readers & Explorers," "For Mexicophiles" and "For Creative Writers." 

For updates, plus podcasts and more, I invite you to subscribe to my free newsletter. It's automatic opt-in / opt-out, your privacy assured by the to-tal-leeeeee-ee-ee bodacious

Monday, December 15, 2014

Top 10 Books Read 2014

#1. Finding George Orwell in Burma
By Emma Larkin
A splendid, intrepid, and thoroughly original marvel of a travel memoir. Most interestingly, in this day & age of facebookesque over-sharing, Emma Larkin has no web page nor author "head shot"-- such is the nature of her work. Dear reader, if you don't know who George Orwell is, get your 1984 here.
P.S. Emma Larkin on pen names

#2. The Courage to Remember: 
PTSD- From Trauma to Triumph
By Lester Tenney
This may not qualify as a "literary gem," but it takes stupendous guts and a heart as big as the world to offer up such a gift as this author, now elderly, did with his memoir. I would go so far as to say, don't depart Planet Earth without having read this book. 

#3. River of Ink: 
Literature, History, Art 
By Tom Christensen
It was an honor to be able to give this one a pre-publication blurb:
Truffle-rich, cumin-exotic, from Mutanabi Street to Céline's ballets, Gutenberg and the Koreans, a winged sphinx and an iron man and Nur Jahan--  oh, and a beturbaned Sadakichi Hartmann-- these world-trotting essays make one groovy box of idea-chocolates.
#4. Demon of the Waters: 
The True Story of the Mutiny on the Whaleship Globe
By Gregory Gibson
Read my post about Kindles and the Kindle edition of this extraordinary travel memoir / history, which has the strangest ending of any I can think of... (no worries, I won't give it away).

#5. Struck by Genius: How A Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel
By Jason Padgett and Maureen Seaberg
Deeply, wonderfully weird. Actually made me nostalgic for high school geometry, college calculus, and linear algebra, too.

#6. The End of the Sherry
By Bruce Berger
Read my post about this five star memoir of a soon-to-be Baja bohemian in Franco's Spain.

#7. Texas People, Texas Places
By Lonn Taylor
If you don't love Texas and Texans, you will at least be thoroughly charmed (I mean, "thuruhleh chahmd") after reading Lonn Taylor's latest collection of columns for the Big Bend Sentinel. Plus, he's knee-slappingly hilarious, in a southern-gentleman-historian kind of way.

#8. The Last Frontier: 
Exploring the Afterlife and Transforming Our Fear of Death
By Julia Assante
As those of you who have been following my blog know, I've crunched through a heap of Afterlife literature in researching my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual I read Assante's book too late to include it in my bibliography, alas. If you're willing to explore this subject (and I know not everyone is) I would suggest that you first read Eban Alexander's Proof of Heaven: A Scientist's Case for the Afterlife, then, highlighter in hand, Julia Assante.

#9. A Gathering of Fugitives: 
American Political Expatriates in Mexico 1948-1965
By Diana Anhalt
As a long-time expat living in Mexico City, I especially enjoyed this one. For those who know little about Mexico, this beautifully written memoir / group biography lights up some murky corners of Mexican and U.S. history. (It went at once onto my list of recommended books on Mexico.)

#10. A tie between

The Last of the Nomads
By W. J. Peasley
This is one of the most powerfully moving books I have ever read. It tells the true story of the 1979 rescue of an elderly couple, Warri and Yatungka, the last of the Mandildjara people, marooned in the vastness of Australia's Gibson Desert, starving and slowly dying of thirst. 


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: 
The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. 
By Marie Kondo
A one-time Shinto shrine maiden, Kondo bases her "KonMari" method on the assumption that one's house and all the objects in it have consciousness but, boy howdy, even if you're a die-hard materialist, follow her method and you'll zoom to a wiggy new oxygen-rich level of tidy. I am not kidding. 

Your COMMENTS are always welcome.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

In Which Ilán Stavans Explains the Cultural Mega-character that was Chespirito: Roberto Gómez Bolaños (1929-2014)

Screenshot from Wikipedia

This piece in the NYT is must reading for anyone interested in Mexico.

P.S. This blog doesn't cover contemporary politics, but for those of you looking for a good source in English for what's happening in Mexico, I recommend signing up for the free emails from the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute of links to major articles in a variety of media.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Gifts of the Ancient Ones: Greg Williams on the Rock Art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands

Marfa Mondays Podcast #15 is now live. Listen in anytime to my interview with Greg Williams, Executive Director of the Rock Art Foundation. Though the Rock Art Foundation's tours and website have been spreading the word, it still seems a well-kept secret that some of the most spectacular rock art in the world is tucked into the nooks and crannies of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of Far West Texas (and into Coahuila, Mexico). I had the great privilege of being able to view some it, specifically, the rock art at Meyers Springs, through the tour offered by the Rock Art Foundation. My interview was recorded in the Meyers Springs Ranch house kitchen, just after the four hour tour (and target shooting had commenced).

Recommended reading:

Painters in Prehistory: Archaeology and Art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, edited by Harry J. Shafer

Rock Art of the Lower Pecos, by Carolyn E. Boyd

Your COMMENTS are always welcome.

> Listen in anytime to all the Marfa Mondays podcasts here

Monday, December 01, 2014

Cyberflanerie: Who's In Charge? Edition
Today one of my favorite blogs, my daily dose of bloggy wisdom, Seth Godin's, features "Doing More, Giving More, Who's in Charge?" (Who's in charge? Hey, Hamlet, that is question.)

More cyberflanerie:

Rare books and Iceland: Nancy Marie Brown's blog, God of Wednesday, has a scrumptiously crunchy post about the Fiske collection of Icelandia at Cornell. (I adored Brown's The Far-Traveler, about Gudrid the Far-Traveler of Iceland, and often quote from it in my literary travel writing workshops.) 

Totally heart SlowFactory's space scarves Carina Nebula and Dust Devil Lines in the Sand.

In the Globe and Mail: "When a Car Becomes a Cathedral."

For the artist-in-charge: Gumroad Resource Center
(Check out my lil' gumroad shop here.

Eew, Frankensteiny: A worm's mind in a lego body

Soon your robot can put your seatbelt on for you: Kevin Kelly on The 3 Breakthroughs that Have Finally Unleashed AI on the World

Guerrilla mosaic artist in Chicago fills in potholes. (Potholes in Chicago can get so bad... when I lived in Hyde Park there was one year we started calling my section of University Avenue "Iwo Jima.") 

Human energy expert Rose Rosetree explains the deeply weird attraction to unwrapping stuff on YouTube.

SOL Literary Magazine is out from San Miguel de Allende and I am delighted to mention that it includes an excerpt from the opening chapter of my latest book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. That's in the nonfiction section with some excellent company, including Joseph Dispenza, Gerard Helferich and Michael K. Schuessler. Thank you, Eva Hunter and Cazz Roberts and all who work to make this beautiful literary magazine possible. It is an honor indeed.
A documentary film about border collies and sheepherding that I really want to see (splendid trailer!): "Away to Me" by Andrew C. Hadra.

Jenny Redbug's top 5 favorite books for this year (!!!)

My own top 10 list of books read 2014 will be posted shortly.

Your COMMENTS are always welcome.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 2014 Newsletter

My November newsletter chock full of articles, podcasts, events, workshops, and more, has just gone out into the ethers of email via the ever-fabulously silly Mailchimp. (The best part is the chimpy high-five when you hit the send button.) 

Read the November 2014 newsletter >here<.

And you are very welcome to sign up for the next one right >here<.

In progress: three podcast interviews, all fascinating, Rose Mary Salum for Conversations with Other Writers, and Greg Williams and Paul Chaplo for Marfa Mondays. Look for them next month.

Your COMMENTS are always welcome.

Emailed Newsletters: 

Marfa Mondays # 8:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cyberflanerie: Naomi Shihab Nye, Chinese Chicken Pop, Ye Olde Checkers, Cool Tool for Creating Timewealth, Clay Shirky, Susan J. Tweit

Wang Rong Rollin does the chicken thing
Whatever has befallen you, you will feel better when you read Naomi Shihab Nye's "Gate A-4"

Soup or silly: Chinese Chicken Pop (does anyone remember the days of Mao pajamas? I visited in 1982 and now it seems like a surrealistic dream.)

From south of the border, pues si, amigos y amigas, dear readers, and all cockerspaniels gathered 'round, Nixon's Checkers speech has been Fukushimaed.

Speaking of Mexico, and how very weird things can get, Heribert von Feilitzsch blogs about the Hindu-German conspiracy.

No need to drink coffee, just watch Jason Silva.

An anti-zombie-shuffle fix, aka "cool tool" for creating "timewealth": my guest-blog for Kevin Kelly's Cool Tool blog on the Filofax Personal organizer.

Frank Chimero on What Screens Want.

The brilliantly insightful Clay Shirky on Publishing and Reading.

(Note to self: first shovel snow for 12 hours) Susan J. Tweit's lavender rosemary scones.

A gorgeous sample of four: Guarding the Air: poems by Gunnar Harding, translated by Roger Greenwald.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Lifting the (Very Heavy) Curtain on the Leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution

November 18, 2014
Though the recent protests in Mexico City's historic center have made it impossible to continue the lecture series on Francisco I. Madero as originally scheduled in the National Palace, the lectures continue at the same day, same time, right next door in Museo de la SHCP / Antiguo Palacio del Arzobispado, Moneda 4. 

I am quite sure the long-ago resident Achbishops must be a-rollin' in their graves, for the topic of this conference is:

(Francisco I. Madero: From Spiritist to the Bhagavad-Gita and Other Esoteric Influences)
Free and open to the public
(en español, por supuesto)

This is an watershed of a conference. For those of you foggy on your Mexican history, Francisco I. Madero was the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution and President of Mexico, 1911-1913. He was also a Spiritist medium, a leading Spiritist organizer and evangelist, and as "Bhima," the name of a Hindu warrior, the author of a secret book, Manual espírita. A handful of Mexican historians, including Enrique Krauze, have written about Madero's Spiritism and how it was the source of his political inspiration and platform. Yet, incredible as it may sound, most historians of the Revolution, apart from a lickety-split footnote, have almost completely ignored it. As I noted in my talk for the American Literary Translators Association, I believe one reason is that most historians, who know next-to-nothing about it, consider Spiritism mere superstition and so beneath their notice. In my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution, I have much to say about cognitive dissonance and the rich esoteric matrix from which Madero's version of Spiritism sprang.

This lecture series, sponsored by Mexico's Ministry of Finance-- which, by the way, has a long tradition of stellar cultural calendar with free book presentation, concerts, theater, childrens' workshops, and much more-- and, among other archives, holds that of Francisco I. Madero-- continues with:

Tuesday, November 25
@ 5 PM
CARLOS FRANCISCO MARTINEZ MORENO will talk about "Masonry, Spiritism and Hinduism: Interconnected Strands in Madero's Trio of Mystic Pillars"

Tuesday, December 2
@ 5 PM
Yours Truly, C.M. MAYO, will talk about my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual [Odisea metafísica hacia la Revolución Mexicana: Francisco I. Madero y su libro secreto, Manual espírita], and IGNACIO SOLARES, an expert on Spiritism, will speak about his acclaimed novel, Madero, el otro [Madero, the Other].

Previous lectures were by Dr YOLIA TORTOLERO CERVANTES, author of the deeply researched and pathbreaking El espíritismo seduce a Francisco I. Madero, whom I had the very great honor of introducing; 

LUCRECIA INFANTE on "Spirits, women and equality: Laureana Wright and Kardecian Spiritism in Mexico"; 

and most recently, last Tuesday, ALEJANDRO ROSAS ROBLES talked about "The Revolution of the Spirits" and MANUEL GUERRA, the lost Spiritist writings of Madero.

Manuel Guerra de Luna is the author of Los Madero: La Saga liberal, and of the screenplay for the excellent documentary film directed by Alejandro Fernández Solsona, 1910: La Revolución espírita. Alejandro Rosas Robles, a prolific and very popular historian in Mexico, is the author of many books and editor of the 10-volume series of the collected works, Obras completas de Francisco Ignacio Madero (Clío, 2000).

Guerra de Luna's talk was especially fascinating for me, as he talked about Madero's Spiritist notebooks. Madero was a writing medium, and so his method of receiving communication was to go into a trance and allow the spirits to use his hand and pencil. We know from the notebooks that as Madero sat down to work on his political grenade, La sucesión presidencial en 1910, he would first channel the spirits' advice. These notebooks were rescued from a fire into which a relative wanted to consign them. They are held in the Francisco I. Madero archive in the Ministry of Finance (SHCP) and transcribed in Rosas' Obras completas de Francisco Ignacio Madero, volume VI, Cuadernos espíritas. [Spiritist Notebooks.]

(Mexican history aficionados will note that Rosas Robles has confirmed that on his birth certificate Francisco Madero's middle initial stands for "Ignacio," not "Indalecio.") 

Madero's channeled writings end abruptly in 1908. Based on a comment in one of Madero's letters, Guerra de Luna believes that at that time, Madero stopped "automatic writing," adopting the method of channeling he considered more advanced: direct telepathic communication. 

Both Guerra de Luna and Rosas Robles appear in the must-watch documentary film, 1910: La Revolución espírita. > WATCH IT HERE.<

One of the points I make in my book is that Madero's Spiritism was based on was very different from that of mid-19th century Spiritists, for by the late 19th century, thanks to various occult philosophers, Theosophists and others, Hindu philosophy and in particular, the Bhagavad-Gita, had become an important influence. In addition, Madero was a Mason and Rosicrucian. Next Tuesdays' talk by Carlos Francisco Martínez Moreno, an expert on Masonry, will be sure to be especially illuminating.

As for the recent political tumult here in Mexico, I steer clear of discussing current politics on this blog, but I will go so far as to suggest that a good source of reporting and opinion in a variety of media in English is via the Woodrow Wilson Center's Mexico Institute. The email signup is on their webpage.

Your COMMENTS are always welcome.

(Transcript of my talk for a panel at 
the American Literary Translators Association 
conference, Milkwaukee, November 2014)

(Madero, Spiritism, esoteric philosophies, history)

Cool Tool for Creating Timewealth:
(A guest-blog on Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools blog)

(book review)

(My essay and a podcast about an adventure in a remote area in 
Big Bend National Park, near the US-Mexico border)