Archive for Books

Along the Borderline…

On our recent Grand Tour of Texas, just upstream from this spot there was a boatman offering to row us across the Rio Grande so we could have our passports stamped in Mexico. It’s a novelty, of course, but the Boquillas Border Crossing is one of the 48 official crossing points on the US-Mexican border.

I didn’t bite on the boat ride or buy a handmade trinket from the young Mexican sitting in the shade of a spindly tree along the trail, but it felt surreal to be there on the dusty edge of the Chihuahuan desert peering into the mouth of Boquillas Canyon while hearing in my head the mean-spirited chatter about rapists, drug dealers, and other criminals swarming toward the US border determined to steal our jobs and destroy our heritage. read more

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The Stars at Night are Big and Bright…

Our Grand Tour of Texas continued last week, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would include a cosmological dialogue about “dark matter,” “dark energy,” and the Magellan Giant Telescope. I had forgotten about Garland’s interest in astronomy and that years ago he and Mollie had given the McDonald Observatory some money to underwrite its operation.

I’ve spoken of this before, but my friend Garland is larger than life. His interests span a broad spectrum that includes Garcia Lorca’s poetry and Bruch’s Violin Concerto, the evaluation of insurance risk and mathematical puzzles like the Collatz Conjecture. He loves Mollie, math, astronomy, cosmology, politics and his beloved Texas. read more

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Marfa, Texas

Following the Civil War, the west was untamed and expanding. On the Texas frontier the saying was “West of the Pecos there is no law. West of El Paso there is no God.” This was the wild west of Judge Roy Bean, the Buffalo Soldiers, and Quanah Parker and his Comanche warriors.

Today, little more than 100 years later, the biggest little attraction in this vast high desert landscape is Marfa, population 1747. Lying 400 miles west of San Antonio and 200 miles east of El Paso, Marfa is a magnet for fans of the cutting edge minimalist art of Donald Judd, the New Yorker who came here in 1971 intent on taking his art out of the galleries and museums in order to implement a larger vision. read more

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Texas – The Grand Tour Begins

The portrait over this bookcase is a good likeness of my friend, Garland Miller Lasater, Jr. It’s a wonderful picture painted by his friend, the artist Scott Gentling, but no painting can begin to capture his larger than life Texas persona. I didn’t stage the photo; I just took what was there but the books beneath the portrait speak clearly to the scope of his interests – art, travel, science, philosophy, nature and other cultures.

What you can’t see in the portrait’s background are a few fine pencil lines of physics diagrams and mathematical formulas – two of Gar’s passionate interests. This is not an ordinary (if there is such a thing) Texan, and though the contents of Jimmy Nelson’s book in the stack on the top shelf has nothing to do with us, Before They Pass Away is an apt description of the reason we needed to get together. read more

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Christian Pretzels…

I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship with Christianity–a sine wave from mandatory Sunday School as a kid to “born again” in college, coffeehouse atheist in the ‘60s, Buddhist flirt in the ’70s, Episcopalian convert in the ‘80s, to unaffiliated quasi-believer in recent years. Not exactly a consistent pattern but it establishes my credentials as a pilgrim. I’m no longer a “true believer,” but the “faith” that remains is tested whenever I hear an evangelical Christian proclaim his or her support for the President who just bribed his porn star girlfriend to keep her quiet. read more

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