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Monday, September 30, 2013

Something entirely different

I can't paint, but I sometimes have the urge to do so. I make up for it by taking photographs and digitally altering them to look kind of like paintings. I'm messing with some Stanton Englehart inspired stuff right now, using photos I took when I lived in Boulder and tweaking tweaking tweaking until they start to look right. Which they never really do. But then, that's art for you, no? They're kind of like this:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Images from a road trip: Winslow, Hopi etc.

For Labor Day weekend, my family and I hit the road, headed south. The harsh blue skies and dry, dusty land had given way to towering thunderheads and monsoonal rains and mud and green and tall, tall grass. It was part vacation and part work: I was reporting on a story about Winslow, Ariz., and another one about running in Hopi (coming soon). We're heading back down this weekend for more reporting, this time of the very cool art on rails project called Station to Station. Worth checking out if you can. This is a collection of images I captured during the trip. I love the way the light plays with the clouds and the land during the monsoon.

Amtrak conductor and train. Winslow, Ariz., Aug. 2013.

Picnic Area, Little Painted Desert, Ariz. Aug. 2013.

Amaranth and La Posada. Winslow, Ariz., Aug. 2013.

Lydia and the approaching storm. Little Painted Desert, Ariz., Aug. 2013

Moenkopi corn field. Sept. 2013.

Storm near Hopi. Aug. 2013.

All Star Krew and distant butte. Little Painted Desert, Ariz. Aug. 2013.

Rest Area, Little Painted Desert, Ariz. Aug. 2013.

Pigeons. Winslow, Ariz. Aug. 2013.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Movin' on up in the oil patch

This is an important story, I think, that I wrote for High Country News. It's about how oil fields are one of the last bastions of upward mobility. A lot of folks took it as a pro oil and gas piece, but it really isn't. If anything, it's an indictment of the rest of our economy and the income ladder in general, which happens to be missing a lot of rungs. Yup, the rich are getting richer and the rest of us, well, we're not.

Imagine a child born in or near Gallup, N.M. "Jonny" is an average, healthy kid, but life's not easy. His single mom works at a mini-mart and makes about $16,000 per year, putting the family in the state's lowest income bracket. At school, Jonny's underpaid, overworked teachers tell him that in the United States even poor kids can prosper if they work hard. Upward mobility, the collective rags-to-riches momentum, distinguishes us from the rest of the caste-confined world. It is, they tell him, the American Dream.

Yet across the nation it's getting harder to climb the income ladder. And in the Gallup commuting area, which stretches into Arizona and spans much of the Navajo Nation, the American Dream is all but dead. Jonny and other poor kids here have about a 6 percent chance of ever making it into a household in the top income bracket (earning more than $90,000 per year), according to data recently released by the Equality of Opportunity Project. The Project, headed by four prominent Harvard and Berkeley economists, ties geography to income mobility. And the picture it paints of Western places like Gallup, Albuquerque, Tucson and Phoenix isn't pretty: For the most part, kids who are born poor in these areas stay poor.

There's some hope for Jonny, however. If his family can afford to move to Vernal, Utah, or Williston, N.D., or Gillette, Wyo., his chances of reaching the top of the ladder by the time he's in his 30s increases fivefold. These are among the areas that are not only the most upwardly mobile in the West, but in the nation. And the common thread connecting them is energy extraction: They are all hotspots for coal, oil or natural gas production.
Read the rest of the story at