Quartz and Titanium


May 7, 2022- The small peak was still 1.5 miles away, when we first saw it glistening, on this breezy late morning. I had been here, three times before, but this was my Hiking Buddy’s first such visit. Quartz Mountain is unique in this area, and is one of the off-track places I enjoy showing visitors and fairly new residents. It is a moderately difficult hike, though, up and down three ridges of the intervening Wolverton Mountain (not the place made famous by Claude King). There is then a spur trail, that winds around to the west and southwest. Then, we were close to this:

Discretion is always the better part of valour, though, and we headed back, for the sake of HB’s well-being. As I said, Wolverton’s ridges are butt kickers.

The evening was a different sort of affair. A Galactogogues concert starts slowly and lets the energy build, until just when it seems it’s time to call it a night, the foot stomping and staccato hand clapping burns away any fatigue.

Meg Bohrman has been part of the Prescott music scene, as long as I’ve been here. Her family band, Galactogogues, takes its name from the items which help a nursing mother to best feed her child. Meg and family are all about nurturing the community, so the name is perfectly apropos.

The songs and the singers were fierce-unafraid to call out aggressors, both domestic and foreign-misogynists, racists and those who seek to dominate other countries. They included rousing Ukrainian folk dance tunes, for good measure, around a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War”. There was also a pensive offering that looked back on the life of an uncle of Meg’s daughter-in-law, Abi, who is the band’s co-lead vocalist and songs that celebrate life in a nurturing community.

Thus was the day spent surrounded by quartz-and titanium.

They Also Suffer


March 7, 2022- The African students approached the border between Ukraine and Poland. Border guards intercepted them, and told them to head south, to Romania. Being on foot, tired, hungry and freezing-like their Caucasian counterparts, the men and women then spent two hours negotiating back and forth with the Ukrainian guards, until word came from Kyiv that all were to be allowed crossing, regardless of “colour” or ethnicity.

This represents the larger challenge facing ethnically and “racially” homogeneous eastern European countries. They have long admitted people of colour, from all parts of the world, to study at their universities, but at the cost of frequently facing the wrath of those who are not used to seeing people of other nations as anything more than a nuisance. It is not just Ukraine, or Europe, for that matter. East Asians have only recently begun being more open to people of African descent living among them, and people of colour across the Americas have a long way to go, in achieving true equality with people of European descent.

This brings me to Russia, and to the case of Brittney Griner, a star player in the WNBA and an Olympic medalist, accused of being in possession of a controlled substance, whilst preparing to board a plane out of Moscow. Ms. Griner is African-American and a member of the LGBTQ community. The first is said not to matter to the Russian government; the second, matters greatly: Russia officially bans LGBTQ activities. Complicating matters further, however, is Ms. Griner’s celebrity status as a basketball player in the Russian leagues, commensurate with her salary and perks, which are presently much higher than her earnings in the States. It is also complicated by the concurrent imprisonment of two former U.S. Marines, both Caucasian, in Russian jails. There is no easy resolution of any of the three cases, in isolation from the other two. All three pretty much need to be resolved close to the same time, if the flames of partisan rancor are not to be further exacerbated.

Those pushing for the release of the former Marines have so far met with scant empathy from the current Administration; then again, it’s been two years since their imprisonment, and not much was done in 2019-20, either. Ms. Griner and the men will likely sit in confinement for a good while yet.

War brings suffering to a good many more people, in often overlooked ways, than the immediate targets of the aggressor.

The Winter General


February 25, 2022- The message on my computer was unequivocal: “The Russians are in Ukraine to cleanse the area of human trafficking groups and other unsavory entities.” Others have told me that the Far Right’s new “White Knight” is merely seeking to de-Nazify eastern Europe”. These are certainly interesting, unique perspectives on the current situation in that long-suffering region. They have yet to convince me, however, that Ukraine is unique, as a center of human trafficking, or that Russia is squeaky clean in that regard.

There is a widespread attitude, across eastern and central Europe-and in many other parts of the world, that life is cheap, that women and girls are “useful commodities” and that masculinity is affirmed when females are “kept in their place”. Besides that, I know of no country on Earth that is free of human trafficking or other forms of exploitation. Assuredly, our own country has its challenges in that area.

Any time a human being becomes messianic, regardless of the issue at hand, demons appear in his/her mind. For those on the Far Right, anything progressive or to do with the Democratic Party in this country, or Social Liberals elsewhere, is to be rooted out and extinguished-because of reports that so-and-so committed incest or that that certain people in that category are engaged in Satanic rituals. Those on the Far Left do much the same, in disparaging their opposite numbers.

The president of Russia has targeted some questionable entities, in his war of conquest-but they are red herrings, diversions. His true aim seems, to these eyes, to be a wall-building exercise- whose long-term aim is to “restore the greatness of Mother Russia”, by taking one country at a time, as Alexander of Macedon, Chingiz Khan, Napoleon and Hitler did before him. HIS messianic fervour is astonishing in its breadth, but underwhelming in its depth. Those placing their hopes for moral cleansing, in the hands of that particular Winter General, are bound to be disappointed.

Is Life Formulaic?


February 4, 2022- In the 2019 film, : “The Rising Hawk”, a small party of Ukrainians fends off both a much larger Mongolian force and their turncoat Ukrainian allies. This is reportedly based on an old Ukrainian legend, of a heroic fighter who lived into his nineties and his wife and helpmate, who in this telling is the daughter of the turncoats’ leader. It is a somewhat farfetched, and rather formulaic, action film, with people switching sides when convenient for the plot and brute strength displayed at exactly the right moments. It’s also a sign of the cinematic times that the film uses plot twists from at least three other films.

There are a few political movements, current in a few countries-including this one, that seem to be dependent on plot formulas turning in a certain direction, at just the right moment. It is no accident that the leaders of these movements have established their standing with a fair audience by borrowing shopworn tactics of demagogues past. There is a lot of wishful thinking on the part of those who believe that the world ought to unfold in a prescribed and orderly manner, as prescribed and ordered by a certain elite. Life, however, is not formulaic. There is an urban myth that Benito Mussolini made the trains in Italy run on time. Another credits Adolf Hitler with the humming of the German economy, by the late 1930s. Neither tale is true. Economies on a national scale have numerous moving parts, not credible to any one person-or clique. Effective strikes and slowdowns by labour movements can bring even the most hardheaded tactician down to size.

The film itself, ironically, demonstrates the humanity of the tough Mongolian leader, seen crying at the death of his son. There is also enough brutality on both sides-or on all three, if you will, to once again show the futility of war-even as there is a nod to valour. Finally, there is a split-second switch of fealty, near the end.

Is life formulaic? No, as it happens. Free will most often seems to get in the way of the best plot lines.