Friday, December 13, 2013

parallel lives

Two extraordinary leaders have been in the news this week: Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, and José Mujica, the current president of Uruguay.  Mandela's accomplishments at this point seem mostly of an inspirational nature given the poor performance of his ANC successors.  Mujica's leadership initiatives could still be undermined by financial and political chicanery as were Mandela's.  Whatever, happens, though, both men's accomplishments and integrity will be remembered and celebrated.  Both stood up to thuggish regimes, suffered years of imprisonment, and came out of the experience stronger than when they began.  Mujica, in a a recent interview reported in the Guardian, expressed a view of history that Mandela would surely have found compatible:

"The world will always need revolution. That doesn't mean shooting and violence. A revolution is when you change your thinking. Confucianism and Christianity were both revolutionary." 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Smithsonian X3D

The Smithsonian has initiated the X3D viewer, accessible via the web, to display 3D models of specimens from its collection of 137 million objects.  The viewer was developed by Autodesk and its operation will look familiar to anyone who has played with 3D drawing software.  The model may be manipulated and zoomed with the mouse controls, and the viewer also permits custom view settings including light controls.

The source images for the digital models are produced by drawing, laser scanning, photogrammetry and micro-ct scans.  In addition to making the images available through a web brower, there is also a possibility of supplying files in formats permitting the production of solid models with a 3D printer.

The Smithsonian site contains interactive models, and explanatory videos showing the digitization techniques and brief lectures about the potential of the idea for educational outreach.  There is also a conference planned for November which will be streamed live from the web site.
The X3D application is pretty resource intensive.  One of our home computers is an older Dell running XP, and it really cannot even support a small iframe running the the Autodesk viewer.  My Dell Precision 690 has more RAM and a faster CPU which does ok with X3D.  I'm wondering how people with tablets and similar platforms are doing with this technology.

Friday, November 15, 2013

historia de una foto

1.  Cuenta la historia de esta fotografia en 200 palabras:

Había visto antes la foto, pero no le presté mucha atención.  Mi impresión inicial era que representaba una escena del Carnaval, quizás un hombre en disfraz de pirata.  Al mirar más detenidamente la foto me di cuenta de que era una foto sacada durante una protesta política en forma de teatro callejero.  En el fondo hay una línea de policías con los escudos levantados. Las letras grabadas en los escudos identifican la unidad y la ciudad: Polícia Militar do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (PMERJ). La figura de enfrente, desafiante y amenazadora, probablemente representa un guerrillero de la rebelión de Canudos en el fin del siglo XIX, descrito primero  por Euclides da Cunha, y después en forma novelística por Mario Vargas Llosa.  

Hice una copia de la foto con mi escáner fotográfico, y la cargué al buscador de imágenes de Google.  Resultó que la imagen apareció muchas veces en la red, y que era una foto hecha por el fotoperiodista japonés, Yasuyoshi Chiba, de la Agence France-Presse.  El fotógrafo estaba sacando fotos de una manifestación de protesta grande en Rio de Janeiro relacionado a las políticas económicas del gobierno Brasileño, incluyendo recortes a la educación y gastos de millones relacionados a la visita del Papa.

Al caer la noche, subía el nivel de la violencia.  Con su cámara, el periodista documentó la pelea entre manifestantes y policías, durante la cual alguien arrojó una bomba de fuego, quemando un policía.  Inmediatamente después de sacar aquella foto, el periodista fue agredido por un policía quien le dio un golpe fuerte en la cabeza con el bastón, causando una herida sangrante.  Se llevaron el fotógrafo al hospital, pero no sufrió graves lesiones.  El periodista hizo una denuncia de las acciones del policía después, apoyada por el testigo de varias fotos de la agresión sacados por asistentes a la manifestación y documentado mediante Twitter.
This was my response to an assignment in the Spanish course I am taking at the National Hispanic Cultural Center under the able guidance of Fernando Gimeno Hermoso.  The most significant thing I learned from this exercise was the awesome ease with which one may find specific images on the web through Google's image search engine.

Friday, November 1, 2013

20 weeks

Wednesday morning was cool and clear.  I got on my bike an rode down 12th St. to Menual and then up a couple blocks to the early voting location near 6th St. where I cast my vote against the proposal to restrict abortions in the City of Albuquerque beyond the twentieth week.  I can't say I'm very optimistic about the outcome of this special election.  Democratic party spokespeople have encouraged the idea that a successful election outcome for the anti-abortion proponents will not survive a court challenge.  However, that outcome currently looks shaky given the recent appeals court decision upholding the anti-abortion election effort in Texas.

The local pro-choice position made its debut in the media only days ahead of the early voting launch date.  The full ad makes a pretty good case, but what gets aired in most instances is a truncated version that really doesn't get across the terrible burden that the 20-week ban puts on women who are found at that point to be carrying an unviable fetus.

A more thorough look at the issue is provided by an article by Geoffrey Plant in the Alibi.  He suggests, for instance, that the probable conflict of the proposed ban with state and national laws is a double edged sword.  The proposed law could get stopped locally by a legal challenge, but the proponents would then be given the opportunity to push the issue into higher courts which are quite likely to be sympathetic to overturning Roe v Wade.  The obvious strategy for pro-choice supporters is to defeat the Operation Rescue effort now in the polls.

Also, an article at Salon provides some insight into the organizational tactics behind the Albuqurque election intiative, and points out that this is the first time such an effort has been undertaken in a major city.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

on screen

Thanks to Alternet I came across this interesting brief interview by Bill Moyers of Sherry Turkle.

Sherry Turkle on Being Alone Together from on Vimeo.

Turkle was promoting her latest book, Alone Together, in which she examines the phenomenon, particularly evident in the young today, of always being electronically connected.  It is a familiar topic for about anyone, but Turkle's thoughtful examination provides some insights into what it is, how it has developed and where it may be taking us.

I found particular resonance in Turkle's comments about the early years of the development of the internet and on-line networking.  Like her, I was optimistic about the potential of the medium for expanding access to information and achieving more effective self-realization.  However, as she points out, some of the early success and optimism was reliant on the fact that people were accessing the on-line world through stationary computers.  After the information was gathered and digested, people had the opportunity to turn off the machine and take their new information out into the real world.  Now, the machine is very often always with us; there is less opportunity for reflective consolidation and there is also a degradation in performance due to the toll taken by constant multi-tasking.

While I mostly agree with Turkle's take on the current state of the networked society, I think there is probably more to the issues than was apparent in Moyer's interview.  Some of the downside she sees seems likely to be a generational issue.  It would be interesting to see her ideas shared in a forum with some bright teenagers, some social networking promoters and maybe an anthropologist.

I came across an opposing view of technology and networking in a recent review by Walter Isaacson of Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson in the New York Times book reviews.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Decyphering Marinaleda

There is a fine new article at Design Observer about the Marinaleda rural cooperative of southern Spain by the journalist, Dan Hancox.  The author spent enough time in the place and talked to enough people living there to provide a more comprehensive view of the place than I have seen to date in other reports.  In addition to sorting out some of the generational issues of the residents, he also provides a good look at the challenges posed for the community by its connections to the wider world.

Hancox mentions a book about Marinaleda by the anthropologist, Félix Talego, Worker Culture, People Power and Messianic Leadership.  It looks to be worth a read, but I haven't yet found a copy available.  I did locate a student paper which references Talego's book and it can be accessed on line in pdf format:
MARINALEDA: UNA APROXIMACIÓN A SU ANTROPOLOGÍA ECONÓMICA Y POLÍTICA., by Silvia Mateo i Puente of the Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat de Geografia i Història.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Conocer el arte de Antonio López García

Las evaluaciones criticas más comunes de artistas contemporaneas aparacen en la forma de breves introducciones a las obras de los artistas durante las presentaciones en galerías y museos.  Tales resúmenes críticos, que aparecen en los diarios, revistas y sitios web asociados pueden ser guías útiles para los amantes del arte que tienen la oportunidad de visitar las exposiciones y hacer sus propias decisiones acerca de la exactitud y pertinencia de las observaciones del crítico.  Sin embargo, para aquellos de nosotros tratando de aprender algo de un artista a una distancia desde el trabajo real, opiniones críticas acerca de exposiciones contemporáneas pueden ser a menudo engañosas.

Un buen ejemplo es un artículo que apareció en El Cultural por Guillermo Solana, el director del Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza de Madrid en el momento de la última exposición española grande de la obra de Antonio López García en 2011. No hay ninguna razón para poner en duda la autoridad de Solana, y sus comentarios sobre diez de las pinturas, dibujos y esculturas son concisos y bien expresados.  El problema inicial de esta presentación crítica es el título del artículo periodístico, "Las 10 mejores obras de la exposición de Antonio López".  Aquella frase es una manera simplística de estructurar la evaluación de una exposición retrospectiva integral, y un insulto al artista.  Más probablemente es la invención de un editor del periódico en lugar de la del director del museo que patrocina la exposición.

El otro gran problema con el resumen de Solana es la pésima calidad de las reproducciones fotográficas que acompañan al comentario.  Como López García trabaja principalmente en un estilo figurativo/realista, las reproducciones pequeñas y de baja resolución de las pinturas y dibujos  parecen imágenes fotográficas mal mostradas.  La primera pregunta que viene a la mente de alguien no familiarizado con la obra del artista es: por qué no usó una cámara fotográfica para sacar las imágenes, en lugar de sufrir la molestia de pintar a mano un facsímil foto-realista de las escenas retratadas?  Esta senda equivocada de pensamiento critico podría haberse evitado fácilmente mediante una visita personal para ver las obras de arte originales, pero dos años después de la exposición hay que buscar otras fuentes de información para las percepciones más precisas y evaluaciones del valor artístico de la obra de López García.

Afortunadamente, las grandes exposiciones retrospectivas a menudo van acompañadas de catálogos de exposición con reproducciones de alta resolución de las obras de arte.  Tales catálagos  pueden ofrecer mucho mejores conocimientos sobre habilidades particulares del artista, además de suministrar evaluaciones de profundidad técnica y perspectivas históricas de la importancia del artista.  Un catálogo de esta clase fue producido por el Museo de Bellas Artes de Boston junto con la gran exposición de López García, que tuvo lugar allí en el año 2008.  Titulado Antonio López García, el libro contiene un extenso recorrido cronológico ilustrado de la carrera del artista escrito por Cheryl Brutvan. El resto del catálogo está dedicado a una sección titulada "Obras Maestras" de Miguel Fernández-Cid, con 45 páginas de reproducciones de alta calidad, cada uno con una página adyacente de valoración crítica.

Antonio López García dibujos es un libro publicado en el año 2010 por Tf. Editores en que presentan casi todos los dibujos del artista realizados desde el año 1949.  En un ensayo introductorio, López García relata su desarrollo inicial como artista bajo la guía de su tío, el pintor Antonio López Torres.  El siguiente capítulo de 38 páginas por Francisco Calvo Serraller sitúa la obra del artista en el contexto de las tradiciones occidentales del dibujo y movimientos artísticos más amplios, y traza sus influencias y el desarrollo de toda su carrera.  Los últimos dos tercios del libro están dedicados a las ilustraciones a toda página de los dibujos, sin comentarios a excepción de anotaciones de la fecha, el título, el medio artístico y el tamaño de la obra.  Muchos de los dibujos fueron hechos en la preparación para la producción de pinturas y esculturas, y son útiles para la comprensión de los procesos conceptuales y de diseño que conducen al arte final en aquellos géneros.

Algunos de los dibujos reproducidos en el libro de Tf. Editores se acompañan de una página siguiente, con vistas de detalle a tamaño real que revelan las técnicas de dibujo que subyacen a los efectos extraordinariamente naturalistas que caracterizan a la mayor parte de la obra del artista.  Lo que se puede ver en estos ejemplos es que los efectos hiperrealistas no son el producto de un intento de retratar las texturas subyacentes a nivel micro de los objetos retratados.  Más bien, el artista está haciendo uso de matices de la línea y la sombra para crear una ilusión de la interacción de la luz y las superficies que en realidad sólo existe en la mente del espectador.  Una mirada cuidadosa de los dibujos - y muchas de las pinturas también - revela el largo proceso de desarrollo evidente en toda la obra de López García.  Contornos ligeramente esbozadas de las figuras a menudo muestran el reposicionamiento de los elementos de la composición, así como los cambios en punto de vista y perspectiva.  Así que mientras el naturalismo y el realismo son esenciales para la aproximación expresiva del artista, sus divergencias de un estilo figurativo son de igual importancia para la comprensión del arte de López García.

Los dos libros citados anteriormente están disponibles en la Biblioteca de Bellas Artes UNM.

Artículos y Entrevistas con Antonio López García en El País

Antonio López García exhibit at the Marlborough Gallery in 1986, from the NY Times

El Sol del Membrillo, película documental de Victor Erice, en youtube

Obras de López García en El Museo de Bellas Artes, Boston

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta is underway this morning.  I think the wind was a little too brisk for a proper mass ascension, but we did see several go over our neighborhood close to Old Town.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

El Valle de Oro

(haz clic para aumentar el tamaño de las imágenes)
El 28 de septiembre es El Día de Tierras Públicas Nacionales.  Voluntarios en 1.900 lugares de todo el país condujeron eventos para honrar el día.  En la ciudad de Albuquerque, Nuevo México, durante el mismo día también se celebró la inauguración del acceso público al nuevo Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre, Valle de Oro.  En la ceremonia de apertura la directora, Jennifer Owen-White, habló de los orígenes históricos del sitio, y también de los planes del desarrollo en el futuro.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Valle de Oro, el primer refugio silvestre urbano nacional en el suroeste del Estados Unidos, antes era una granja lechera grande (de 570 acres) situada cerca de la orilla oriental del Río Grande, cinco millas al sur del centro comercial de la ciudad de Albuquerque.  Cuando la empresa lechera puso la granja a la venta a mediados de los años noventa, una coalición de organizaciones gubernamentales y grupos pro-ambientales recaudaron los fondos necesarios a adquirir la propiedad, una cantidad cerca de los 10 millones de dólares.  Con la propiedad la coalición también recibió los derechos legales de una cantidad sustancial de agua de riego, lo cual permitirá el desarrollo del refugio, además de la posibilidad de contribuir al mantenimiento de niveles críticos de agua en el río para la sobrevivencia de especies acuáticas como el pececillo de plata (Silvery Minnow) en peligro de extinción.

Actualmente no hay vacas en los pastos de la antigua granja lechera, pero mucho del terreno permanece dedicado al cultivo de la alfalfa.  Una gran parte del terreno seguirá siendo cultivado como es ahora, en parte para proveer de una fuente de alimentación a los pájaros migratorios, los cuales visitan la región en números grandes durante los meses otoñales.  Dada la disponibilidad de los fondos de desarrollo, una gran parte de los pastos se convertirá en humedales intercalados con bosques de vegetación nativa, incluyendo los grandes álamos que originalmente cubrían la mayor parte del sitio.  Senderos se desarrollarán para dar cabida a los observadores de aves, excursionistas y ciclistas.  Los programas de investigación y educativos proporcionarán información interpretativa para los visitantes que se esperan en un gran número porque el refugio se encuentra en la región metropolitana mayor del estado, y a solo 30 minutos en auto para la mitad de la población del estado de Nuevo México..


Monday, September 23, 2013


I was pleased recently to see a picture from one of my old film cameras featured in a presentation on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico was speaking out against the disasterous cuts to the federal food stamp program which the Republicans have proposed.  I worked in the program in San Francisco during the time of the Nixon/Ford administrations and recall many of the same bad arguments being made then about how the poor were the cause of the country's economic woes.

Paul Krugman's Sunday column presents a nice dissection of the Republican arguments against the food stamp (SNAP) program.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Victor Jara

There have been a lot of articles appearing lately about the the 1973 coup in Chile which took place 40 years ago yesterday.  The one I found most affecting appeared today in El País describing an appearance by Bruce Springsteen in Santiago.  He honored the anniversary of that terrible event with a tribute to the Chilean singer/songwriter Victor Jara who was executed by Pinochet's thugs.  As was the case with the killing of García Lorca, by murdering a gentle poet the dictator only  helped to ensure that the voice of his victim would remain strong for generations.

There is also a good over-view of the literature of the period available in the "Cultura" section of El País.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

90 miles

We had lunch today at the Albuquerque Aquarium restaurant.  The Reuben sandwich is highly recommended.

(I'm not sure why the video does not show up properly in this post.  If you reload the page, it may appear.  You can also try clicking the following link to see if that gets you there:

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Syria Update

From Le Monde:

Nearly two in three French (64%) are opposed to military intervention in Syria,
an international coalition including France, according to a BVA poll for i-TéléQED and Le Parisien Today

The popular majority in France, as in the UK and U.S., opposes a military strike against Syria.  At the same time, the political establishment of the three countries permits military actions by executive decision without any immediate approval, be it congressional, parliamentary or popular.  Perhaps by miscalculation, David Cameron signaled that he would abide by Parliament's will in regard to Syria and he saw his proposal to support the U.S. initiative defeated.  France's Hollande has not made the same mistake and has dispatched a frigate and a submarine to support the U.S. forces now standing off the coast of Syria.

The Brit defection from the war plan probably will not stop France and the U.S. from bombing Syria.  However, it likely has delayed execution of the plan.  Obama has pushed Kerry out in front to make the case for intervention, but the longer the situation drags on without decisive action, the more skeptical people become about explanations from an Administration with very little credibility left.

Critical assessments of the likely long-term fallout from a strike against Syria are beginning to appear in the Press.  A roundup of skeptical opinion is provided in today's NY Times by Anne Barnard and Alissa J. Rubin from Beirut.  It is notable that none of the considerations regarding the likely effects of  a strike on the larger region are being dealt with in any serious way by any of the Administration's spokespeople.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


It seems that if there were one thing that history might have taught us over the past century, it should be that the proximate reasons offered for going to war never explain anything of consequence.  Sometimes, the identified enemy helps along the decision process as was the case of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  More recently, our leaders have offered up only the flimsiest of excuses with no basis in fact such as the Gulf of Tonkin incident that justified Johnson's expansion of the war against the Vietnamese.  Bush's WMD scare tactics are widely seen now as something of a joke.

And yet, we find ourselves once again preparing to engage in acts of war in circumstances that are justified by explanations which seem to lack a substantial connection to provable facts.

And, if it is proven that Assad is the responsible actor for the gas attack on the Damascus suburb, is proceeding to drop bombs on the country a rational response?  A hundred thousand people have been torn to pieces in the country by bombs, artillery and machine guns.  More have now died as a result of the apparent use of nerve gas.  It is an atrocity. But, how certain is the identity of the perpetrators, and how is U.S. bombing going to shift the conflict toward a resolution favorable to Syrian and long-term U.S. interests?

It may be true, as a NY Times headline blares, that "Momentum Builds for a Military Strike in Syria."  However, it is worth asking where that momentum is originating -- it is apparently not coming from the American people, only 9 percent of which believe that such a course is a good idea, according to a recent Reuters poll.  It also isn't coming from Congress; there is some doubt that Obama will even take the time to ask for opinions from that quarter.  Not that it would matter, of course, as the House and Senate have given up their powers to declare and support hostilities.

If we are really looking to save lives, a more productive strategy might be to pay attention to the million-and-a-half (two million and rising) Syrian refugees that are currently only getting minimal help in surviving.  Their presence in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq is destabilizing the whole region, and it seems quite possible that bombing Syria is mostly going to put more pressure on those areas.

It could be a few days yet before the Administration can justify commencing with hostilities.  In the meantime, would it be too much to ask what the support and delivery of all those cruise missiles is going to cost in actual dollars, and what else might be accomplished by other means on the ground for the same amount of money and effort?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Congratulations to Liz and Linda

Associated Press in Albuquerque, Tuesday 27 August 2013 12.16 EDT
Nice to see New Mexico out in front, thanks to people like this couple, as well as State District Judge Alan Malott.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

apples and oranges

Paul Krugman looks briefly at some of the implications of the pending Ballmer resignation in a recent column, "On the Symmetry Between Microsoft and Apple".  As he admits up front: "I am not a tech industry maven...".

What Kruman says in the article isn't really wrong, but I think he does ignore the elephant in the room when he does not bring Apple's ad skills to the discussion. This particular asymmetry between Cupertino and Redmond really explains a lot more than the design and performance of their machinery

Take a look, if any are still airing, at the tv ads for Microsoft's tablet.  They feature a bunch of business-attired twenty-somethings juggling Surface tablets around a conference table while doing a loud, hyperkinetic breakdance routine.  It is the silliest damn ad campaign I've ever seen.  I knew at a glance that the Surface was going nowhere.

By comparison, Apple's ads for its mobile devices feature the same age set, but dressed casually.  They are shown snapping pictures of their lives, listening to popular music and doing social networking  -- in short, the kind of things that people actually want to do with mobile devices.

No contest, really.

I think a more interesting case for symmetry can be made between Microsoft and Kodak.  Both enjoyed virtual monopolies based on an appeal to a previously untapped mass market, along with products which could fit into and support a great range of offerings from many other corporate producers.  Kodak's model worked well for about a century, but ultimately failed to adapt to an evolving market.  I'm doubtful that either Microsoft or Apple will be corporate centenarians for many of the same reasons that led to Kodak's demise.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Chile, far and near

Having struggled through a few Cortázar stories recently, I decided to give myself a little break with some contemporary Chilean novelists, Roberto Ampuero, Sebastián Edwards and Alberto Fuguet.

¿Quién mató a Cristián Kustermann? by Roberto Ampuero was the first in a series of detective stories featuring his character, Cayetano Brulé.  That effort was a great success, translated to many languages, as were his subsequent books.  The style is formulaic 40s/50s noir, with a plot revolving around an over-the-hill detective based in Chile and with roots in the U.S. and Cuba.  I got the light entertainment I was looking for, so I can't really complain.  I would not expect much more from the author, except that he has led an interesting life that has given him a rich source of material.

Ampuero joined the Communist Party as a teenager and soon thereafter had to flee the country after the Pinochet regime came to power in 1973.  He went first to East Germany for a time, and then on to Cuba where he completed his undergraduate work.  More years in Germany led to disillusionment with the institutionalized Left. He pursued graduate studies at the University of Iowa beginning in 2000 and subsequently taught there until recently when he accepted the post of Ambassador to Mexico.  In May, he was appointed by Chile's current right-wing president to be the Minister of Culture.  His tenure in the ministerial position is likely to be short as the left-winger, Michelle Bachelet, seems a shoe-in for the November presidential election.

Un Día Perfecto is the second novel from Sebastián Edwards, and like his first, El Misterio De Las Tanias, was a best-seller in Chile.  The novels have not yet appeared in English translation, but I will be surprised if they do not soon show up in versions in English and other languages as well.  Much of the first half of Un Día Perfecto is devoted to a blow-by-blow account of a 1962 soccer match in Arica, Chile, in which Chile unexpectedly bested the Soviet Union.  Having thoroughly disliked popular spectator sports all my life, it came as quite a surprise to me that I could enjoy such a story.  Of course, the match is really just the scaffolding for the development of the characters, but I'm still impressed with Edwards' skill at making the details of the sports event seem compelling.

The story of Un Día Perfecto is primarily about two brothers and the wife of one who sort out their complicated relationships in the course of the day of the World Cup quarter-final match.  Edwards tells their story in short, punchy chapters which easily sustain interest and curiosity about how the triangular encounter will end.  The sub-plot in the second half about a journalist, a soccer referee and a Soviet player is told with economy too, but not so convincingly, I think.  The referee and the Soviet athlete are characters based on real people who were involved in the 1962 match; I suppose they are introduced to give some historical dimension to the story, but their motivations and actions seem lacking in substance compared to the main characters.

Edwards is a close friend of Roberto Ampuero, but unlike him, Edwards remained in Chile after the Pinochet take-over, and he completed his studies at the Catholic University in Santiago in 1975.  Edwards got his M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Chicago and went on to a distinguished academic career, writing many books about economics.  He was also Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean  at the World Bank from 1993 to 1996.  Interestingly, none of that personal history enters into the stories he tells in his novels.  Both of those literary efforts are anchored in the Cold War period, with flash-backs to the WWII era.

Las películas de mi vida by Alberto Fuguet is built around a list of popular U.S. films, mostly from the 1960s and '70s.  The narrator, Beltrán, recalls the times, the events and the people he associates with seeing the films.  It seems like a somewhat slender gimmick for structuring a novel, but it works very well to produce a story that seems more like a real memoir than a made-up fiction.  Much of the book's chronology clearly does have some direct relation to the life of Fuguet who spent his childhood in Los Angeles before being taken back to Chile by his parents when he was about thirteen and Pinochet was a couple years in power.  Just how much his real friends and relatives resembled the book's characters is hard to say, but they all seem very real.  All are pulled in different directions by the complicated economics and politics of the times; the main protagonist spends half a lifetime sorting out both his cultural origins and his relationships to his family.

Fuguet's life followed a trajectory which was the opposite of the two previously discussed authors.  It was not his choice to return to Chile and he held on to his attachment to U.S. popular culture, but at the same time he pursued a full life in his own country, learning the language, growing up and getting and education as a journalist at a time when Chile was under the thumb of a dictator.  Fuguet does not directly deal with the political climate in Chile of that time, but his characters do reflect a rather dismal environment similar to that which was described by the post-war Spanish writers like Laforet and Martín Gaite (though with a much lighter touch).  Fuguet's style has a marked cinematic quality, and not surprisingly his latest efforts have turned to film making.  In fact he has said: «Nunca quise ser escritor, siempre quise ser cineasta. Y creo que ahora lo logré».(I never wanted to be a writer; I always wanted to be a film-maker.  And I believe I have now accomplished that.)  I read the 2003 Alfaguara edition.  There is also a 2005 English version from Harper Collins.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Death by a Thousand Cuts

A local anti-abortion group supported by Operation Rescue has rounded up enough signatures to add a ballot measure to the upcoming October elections in Albuquerque aimed at prohibiting all abortions beyond the twenty-week pregnancy period.  The proposed ban, which would allow for no exceptions, seems unlikely to survive constitutionally-based legal challenges if passed.  That is unlikely to discourage the measure's promotion, however, as proponents will see either an up or down outcome as an opportunity to bring the issue to the fore at the state-wide level.

Local pundits are predicting that the anti-abortion issue will swamp out other issues in the City's upcoming election, including the race for mayor.  It also seems likely to complicate life for the incumbent, Richard Berry, a Republican who takes good advantage of the officially nonpartisan status of the mayoral election.  He will have a hard time ducking the partisan questions that the anti-abortion ballot measure raises this time, however.   Berry appointed city councilor, Janice Arnold-Jones, to a vacant seat recently;  she'll be shooting for winning the seat in the October election, and she is an enthusiastic backer of Operation Rescue initiatives.  There is also sure to be a very large amount of out-of-state money available to raise the issue to a high decibel level.

"Twenty weeks", "fetal pain", and "abortion procedure safety" are the buzz words that the Operation Rescue people are seeking to inject into the local race.  We are likely to hear the whole right-wing litany laid out, of course.  As Bill Barrow noted in a recent AP column,

"From statehouses to Congress, Republicans have advanced a range of ideas: banning nearly all abortions beyond the 20th week after conception; making abortion clinics follow regulations for surgical care; mandating that clinic physicians have admitting privileges at local hospitals; requiring women to get ultrasounds before terminating a pregnancy..."  and

"...According to the Guttmacher Institute, which works on reproductive health issues including abortion-rights, states this year have enacted a least 43 new laws that restrict or further regulate abortion.  That comes after more than 120 new laws, several held up by the federal courts, the previous two years."

Another popular Operation Rescue theme likely to raise its head in the Albuquerque election is a proposed prohibition on abortion motivated by sex selection, usually aimed at females.  The anti-abortion radicals, in regard to this issue like to attach the terms, "feticide", "femicide" and even "infanticide" to spice their argument.  Getting traction for this initiative in the U.S. or other economically well-off countries is tricky for them as such societies tend to exhibit quite stable ratios of female to male births of around 50:50.  As a result, the Operation Rescue folks tend to target Asian immigrant groups which they allege are prone to female de-selection via abortion.  Of course, that in turn raises the issue of racial profiling, but that never seems a serious obstacle for the right wing parties.

Female to male ratios of newborns are a real issue in some societies in East and South Asia.  A Wikipedia table shows that in nine Indian states as of 2011 there were less than 900 females per thousand men.   The across-India response to this serious imbalance has primarily focused on the passage of a law that prohibits abortion for sex selection.  There is also a movement toward limiting access to gender-revealing ultrasound procedures.  Neither of these approaches seems to be making any appreciable dent in the problem, but that does not seem to discourage advocacy for the establishment of a bureau of demographic rectitude as the right's main weapon in regard to the gender equality issue.

A good example of the legalistic approach to limiting sex selection is provided by Sabu M. George who has been an indefatigable proponent for twenty years.  He presents the problem as one primarily of law and ethics, often in quite over-the-top terms:

"...Given the context of genocide happening today can we wait till the Indian society starts loving girls? The relentless promotion of sex selection by the medical profession over four+ decades has to be stopped. Therefore without recourse to the “Pre conceptional and Pre natal diagnostic techniques law” the spread and intensification of sex selection cannot be stopped. Companies including Google which have been advertising sex selection technologies domestically and encouraging sex selection tourism from our country should be held liable for the violation of global human rights conventions and grave violations of Indian law. We cannot allow the UN or global population control lobbies to ignore the history of introducing and promoting sex selection for population control in India. Neither can we forget the ways multi-national corporations have profited from their participation in the genocide of millions of missing Indian girls."

Setting into motion a vast bureaucracy to interrogate every Indian woman contemplating abortion in regard to the issue of sex selection would entail costs that are hard to imagine.  One has to wonder if Sabu George has ever considered the possibility that taking the same amount of money and giving it to women as a reward for giving birth to female children might not have a considerably greater degree of success.  I don't know what the real prospects for that would be in India, but there are a good many other practical objections to the course advocated by George and the Operation Rescue people.

As Sneha Barot explains in a recent Guttmacher policy analysis:

"An even more compelling argument against sex-selective abortion bans is that restrictions on access to prenatal technologies and to abortions can create barriers to health care for women with legitimate medical needs; scare health care providers from providing safe, otherwise legal abortion services; and force women who want to terminate their pregnancies into sidestepping the regulated health care system and undergoing unsafe procedures. Accordingly, the joint UN statement stresses that 'States have an obligation to ensure that these injustices are addressed without exposing women to the risk of death or serious injury by denying them access to needed services such as safe abortion to the full extent of the law. Such an outcome would represent a further violation of their rights to life and health.'"

An update on the issues is available in an Aug. 15 Alibi article.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Marinaleda is a small rural town in the south of Spain with most of the 2700 residents deriving their income from agricultural pursuits.  The town has had the same mayor since 1979, Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo.

At a time when about one in three Spaniards can find no employment, there is no unemployment in Marinaleda.  There is also no hunger, no homelessness, and no police force.

The story of Marinaleda has been told many times over the past thirty years; the most recent account of town's social democratic cooperative governance is related in an article by Sophie McAdam at

Marinaleda has its own web site.

The Spanish Wikipedia page provides a good over-view of the town's characteristics, organization and history.

A story from the NY Times in  2009 looked at Marinaleda as the country was plunging into the depths of the on-going economic collapse.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


We took a nice little ride this afternoon down into Albuquerque's South Valley.  The temps have dropped about 15 deg. F from last week, and the 50 mph breeze was quite nice.

On the way home we stopped off at the National Hispanic Cultural Center to take in the current show in the Gallery:

Arpilleras are hand-sewn three dimensional textile pictures, commonly made in Peru and Chile.  During the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile which lasted from 1973 to 1990, the craft became a symbol of resistance, particularly for the families who had members that were "disappeared" by the regime.  The exhibit at the Cultural Center Gallery contains about seventy examples, some from the Pinochet period, and some from the time immediately afterward.  The exhibit is extremely well documented, and it does a nice job of telling the story of what the Chilean people endured after the 1973 coup.

A good selection of arpilleras can be seen on the web through a simple Google search.

One of the best treatments of the subject is contained in a blog post by Margaret Snook who researched arpilleras in the course of her studies in the early 1990s.  Margaret is an anthropologist currently living in Chile; her blog, Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture, is well worth a visit.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


It is now a half century since the publication of Julio Cotázar's most acclaimed work, Rayuela.  Next year will mark the centenary of the author's birth.  All the publicity around these events reminded me that I had never made a serious effort to read Cotázar.  When I complained to a friend that I had always found Cotázar difficult to read, he suggested I try the short stories.

So, I went to the UNM Library and picked up a couple of the collections of short works by Cotázar, Bestiario and Las Armas Secretas.  They turned out to be good choices, with stories from early and later periods of his work.  The Bestiario stories relate strongly to the author's experience of growing up in Buenos Aires, while those in Las Armas Secretas reflect his later life in Paris.  The latter collection includes Las Babas del Diablo, which became the basis for the famous film, Blow-up, about the accidental recording of a crime in a photograph.  As my friend suggested, the short stories are more accessible to someone like me with modest linguistic skills, and I am encouraged to look now at some of the longer works.

I was also inspired to look more deeply into Cotázar's life story, which is quite extraordinary.  He started writing as a very young child, began an early career as a teacher at age eighteen in Argentina, got a scholarship to study in France based on his first novels, became a Unesco interpreter, and produced translations of classic French, German and English literary works.  Cotázar was tremendously productive in his own original creative work throughout his life.  In later life, he lent his talents to supporting liberation movements throughout Latin America.  Of course, he was also an enthusiastic photographer, which also increases his appeal for me.

Luckily for me, the UNM Library has a complete collection of Cotázar's work, as well as a very large selection of the critical and biographical writings about him, many in both Spanish and English.  For instance, there is a copy of a rare and very fine appreciation of Cotázar  published in 2004; it is entitled Cotázar: Presencias.  The book traces out his life year by year through Cotázar's own words, which are interspersed with reminiscences by people who knew him well at different periods in his life.  Cotázar was greatly admired as a writer and as a man by his contemporaries, and the testimonies to that fact in the book nicely fill in the many blanks which are left in a reading dependent solely on what is available on line.

Here is a snippet from the Nicaraguan poet, Claribel Alegría, about Cotázar's third wife, Carol Dunlop (my translation):

"In 1976 Julio met in Montreal Carol Dunlop, a north american girl who had protested against the war in Vietnam.  In one of many demonstrations at the University, the police went after the students with tear gas. Carol decided to go to live in Canada.  Settling in Montreal, she learned French, married, had a son, divorced and refused to speak English.  Many years later Bud (Alegría's husband) convinced her not to abandon her mother tongue.  English is so beautiful --he said to her-- and it has nothing to do with the criminals that hounded you.  Finally, she relented.  Julio was happy.  He was much older than Carol but they made a delicious couple.  Carol was a writer and a very good photographer.  They wrote a book together, Los Autonautas de la Cosmopista."

Cotázar was a world traveler and a committed photographer long before he met Dunlop.  One of his trips took him to India where he photographed the 18th Century Jantar Mantar Observatory.  Those photos along with an accompanying poetic text were published in 1972 as Prosa Del Observatorio.  I believe it is his only published photographic work; I have it and am looking forward to reading it after I finish with the short stories.

Friday, July 12, 2013


There is something quite magical about the illusion of 3D which can be produced in a 2D space.  A big step toward the portrayal of scenes which seem to mimic reality was taken with the discovery of the techniques of liner perspective in the 14th Century.  That breakthrough may have gotten a boost from technology in the form of the camera obscura which projected an image onto a flat plane, thus revealing spatial relationships in a very transparent manner.

The invention of photography early in the 19th Century incorporated advances in optics and chemistry to allow the instantaneous fixation of the camera obscura's image.  That technological breakthrough did not spell the instant doom of the arts of painting a drawing as was initially feared, but it did take over those aspects of image making concerned primarily with the accurate portrayal of scenes and objects where fidelity of detail and perspective was of utmost importance.

The production of 3D (stereoscopic) photographic images began very soon after photography was invented, and by the end of the 19th Century there was a huge market for 3D photographic imagery produced with double lens cameras and viewed with simple hand-held binocular devices which allowed the optical fusing of two images into a single photographic representation with a startling illusion of depth.  Most such images were produced and consumed for their educational and entertainment values.  However, there were also some practical and scientific benefits flowing from the technology such as in its use in aerial photography.

With 3D graphics, this NOVA film reveals how the Allies used
special aerial photos to deal a dire blow to the Nazi rocket program

Moving images in 3D color hit the big screen with a splash in the 1950s.  Audiences were equipped with cardboard-framed glasses with polarized plastic lenses which merged the images from two projectors which seemed to thrust viewers into the midst of the action.  In the films coming out of the 3D studios of that era, the novelty factor generally outstripped other production and literary values.  Projection quality was difficult to maintain given the state of the technology, and interest in producing and viewing 3D films nosedived after a couple years of this first big Hollywood effort in the stereographic realm.

The development of 3D moving pictures continued on after the 1950's in specialized venues such as those provided by IMAX and Disney presentations in the 1980s and 1990s.  By the beginning of the 21st Century, the industry started to ramp up again with many new productions taking advantage of advances in computer technology and digital image processing.  The highpoint of this latest phase was realized in 2009 with the release of the science fiction film, Avatar.  While that film was wildly successful, the industry soon took a downward turn again, possibly in a large part due to the world-wide economic collapse.  A parallel effort to bring 3D technology into home video presentations also began to fizzle at the same time.

While 3D in entertainment venues has thus experienced what seems to be one of its regular downturns, other 3D applications are still being developed at a great rate, with big and small players exploiting the fact that computer processing capacity continues to come close to obeying the Moore's Law doubling prediction every two years.  The big successes have been registered by applications with everyday utility like the on-line 3D maps provided by Google which offer vast, detailed coverage along with putting complete interactive control into users' hands.

 3D modelling in design applications got a big boost from computer advancements which was initially capitalized on by big software companies like Autodesk.  Google also got in on the act for a time with its 3D drawing program, Sketchup.  However, it is noteworthy that Google recently sold off Sketchup to Trimble.  That step away from this area of 3D image production may indicate a recognition of the fact that automated image capture and processing capabilities have caught up to older laborious manual processes and which can now produce 3D imagery very quickly and with a considerable level of sophistication.

Google's support of the Sketchup 3D modeling program was mainly aimed at giving a tool to a vast army of volunteers for producing 3D models of buildings which could be incorporated into Google Maps and Google Earth.  Now, however, some small start-ups have demonstrated the possibility of producing very good 3D architectural models using camera-equipped drones and image-processing algorithms which can produce good models in a fraction of the time required by older manual drawing programs.  It is not hard to imagine that Google may be considering the possibility of augmenting its fleet of camera-wielding mapping vehicles with airborne drones.

The convergence of computer technology from a variety of sources is also leading to the emergence of a new  level of 3D technology which goes beyond the representation of 3D images in 2D space to the actual fabrication of solid objects from scanned imagery.  One demonstration of this new technology has been recently demonstrated by a German company Twinkind in Hamburg which has built a multi-camera photo booth that can create a composite image of an individual in an instant, and then produce a foot-high exact likeness of the person with a 3D printer.  That may be just an expensive novelty item right now, but it points to the possibilities of using similar techniques in manufacturing which hold great promise, not only in rapid prototyping, but also for actual production.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Getting to Democracy

Martin Pengelly at The Guardian recently called attention to a Wall Street Journal editorial which states:

"Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile's Augusto Pinochet, who took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy."

Pengelly asks if the WSJ can get away with such advocacy for brutal dictatorship.  Of course, they can.

Meanwhile, back in Chile the current front-runner in the 2013 presidential election race is Michelle Bachelet who was previously the country's president from 2006 to 2010.  Bachelet, her mother and her father were all imprisoned and tortured by the Pinochet regime along with thousands of other Chileans.

During the first Bachelet presidency, the country made great strides in economic equality, education and public health.  Bachelet, a medical doctor, speaks Spanish, English, Portuguese, German and French.  Prior to winning the presidency, she served as Chile's Defense Minister and Health Minister.  After leaving the presidency, Bachelet became the first executive director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

Bachelet's presidency of Chile overlapped the second term of George W. Bush who spoke English as if it were his second language, and who led his country into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Bush's successor, Obama, has managed to squander whatever good will he built up during the run-up to his election, and is quite likely now held in lower esteem throughout Latin America than was Bush.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

doppelganger economics

I spent two hours yesterday watching a debate between Warren Mosler and Robert P. Murphy.  It was not the best of debates, but it did give some insights into a couple of approaches to economics that diverge from the Keynesian mainstream.  The main problem with the debate was that Mosler is a good deal more articulate than Murphy, so it was hard to compare their two positions based on just this one encounter.

Warren Mosler is probably the foremost proponent of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), originally known as Chartalism.  MMT focuses on the fact that present-day economies use a currency which derives its value from being a government monopoly rather than having  a connection to some valued commodity such as gold.  Mosler is fine with the existance of this unbacked "fiat money", but he is critical of the way that economists, financial managers and politicians manage it.  He asserts that there is no need to worry ever about deficits.  When asked how he would go about fixing the current financial recession, Mosler says he would set the interest rate permanently at zero, have the government provide a minimum-wage job to every unemployed person who was willing to work, and he would place severe restrictions on public banks to do anything other than provide checking and savings services -- eliminating all the complicated financial manipulations that led to the current crisis.  While critical of the bail-out for the big financial institutions, Mosler is in favor of stimulus and feels that a much bigger sustained effort should have been undertaken.

Robert P. Murphy is a representative of the branch of the Austrian School of Economics which basically rejects the Keynesian approach with its emphasis on large, aggregate movements and their analysis through mathematical modeling.  Murphy sees the economy as essentially the sum total of all individual microeconomic decisions.  He would basically eliminate government control a virtually all economic activity, leaving it to be managed by private enterprise.  Prices are the only useful measure of economic activity in Murphy's view, and government efforts to ameliorate the effects of booms and busts only make things worse in the long run.  Murphy, unlike Mosler, worries about interest rates and inflation, and advocates a return to the gold standard as a way of encouraging economic stability.

It seemed to me, based on the debate content, that the theories advocated in both instances were essentially utopian.  Filling either prescription would require massive shifts in the management of government and society which are really unrealizable in the absence of a magic wand.  Mosler's approach basically takes liberal Keynesianism to its ultimate logical conclusions without much analytical underpinning.  The MMT approach doesn't contradict fundamental mainstream economic theory, but people like Krugman are uncomfortable with the idea that deficits never matter.  The fact that Krugman has not engaged in an analysis of MMT postulations in greater depth may be due in part to seeing it as something of a fringe movement, and in part to the fact that the commonalities of the Austrian School and the Chicago School make those approaches a greater real threat.  Both the Austrians and the Chicagoans, for instance, have long insisted that the Fed's monetary policy efforts will ultimately produce runaway inflation and that has added a lot of fuel to the current emphasis on austerity.  Krugman says that battle has been definitively settled, but nobody seems to being paying attention.

Critics of Murphy's economics point to an over-reliance on logic and a disregard for both rigorous analysis and historic evidence.  It does seem to me that Murphy is basically wanting to take us back to an age of gold-hording robber barons..  At the same time, there is little real reason in the absence of magic wands to believe that his propositions are going to be seriously entertained.  The real-world problem that flows from the Austrian approach, it seems to me, is that the simplistic approach to monetary and fiscal policy has some seductive appeal that is encouraged by the Right, and that it also is apt to discourage attempts to reform financial institutions while holding out hope for unrealizable utopian scenarios.

It seemed to me that the two debaters were mostly talking past each other, and the comments of the moderator and the audience were not helpful to me in achieving a thorough understanding of the two points of view. Toward the end, though, one of the final questions to the two men did give a revealing look at basically where they were coming from.  The were asked what political figures they saw to be advocating or promoting the proper economic solutions to the current economic disaster.  Mosler, the MMT guy, said he could not think of anyone at all that was making the right moves toward economic sanity.  Murphy, of the Austrian School, could only come up with Ron Paul.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Variations on a Theme

I keep looking for new sources of information on the state of the Economy, with mixed results.  I was interested recently to see that Bill Moyers was interviewing the Marxist economist, Richard D. Wolff.  That turned out to be quite a disappointment as he seems to me to be a self-absorbed clown.  There may be a modernized Marxist critique of capitalism that is worth reading, but I don't think it is going to come from Wolff.

I was more pleased to see that there are quite a few columnists worth paying attention to in the Economix blog at the NY Times.  They cover a wide range of economic topics from a variety of viewpoints.  Of course, not all of them offer perspectives that I like.  For instance, Binyamin Appelbaum's article, The Rise of Disability, seems to me to be just another variation of the Romney/Republican 47% story about how the lower classes are ripping off America.

"The share of working-age Americans receiving federal disability payments has roughly doubled in recent decades. It rose from 23 of every 1,000 workers in 1980 to 47 of every 1,000 workers in 2011. Put differently, 5 percent of the potential work force is more or less permanently out of action. That’s not good. 

The government likes to describe the increase mostly as the result of two demographic trends. Americans, on average, are getting older, and old people are less healthy. Also, as more women have entered the labor force, the share of female workers with health problems has climbed closer to the male average.

Independent experts, however, see substantial evidence that disability insurance increasingly serves as a safety net for people who cannot find jobs – people, that is, who might still have the ability to perform at least some kinds of work..."

And, here is his conclusion:

"...As the San Francisco Fed note puts it, disability insurance “is likely to keep expanding unless program rules and incentives are fundamentally altered.”"

First off, Appelbaum implies that the "government view" and that of "independent experts" are somehow mutually exclusive, which is clearly not the case.  More importantly, though, the conclusion he adopts from the San Francisco Fed ignores the implications of the facts which Appelbaum deems most significant.

To rephrase the "Independent Experts" view a bit:  when the economy gets bad, any kind of disability becomes a bigger barrier to employment because of job competition.  Appelbaum's prescription in this situation would be to tighten up eligibility requirements so that it is harder to get the benefits.  This seems to me to be just a variation on the Republican effort to pare away Social Security and other safety net measures.  With the economy in its currently depressed state, what that line of action really means is that you would be taking a bad situation and making it worse by applying inappropriate austerity constraints to the most beaten-down segment of society.  It is the same line of thinking that recognizes that there has been a big increase in the food stamp rolls and then goes on to suggest that the proper response is to make program entry more restrictive.  In short, find the people that are suffering the most in the economy and make their situation worse.

Before any kind of safety net programs get slashed in the name of restructuring, it seems like a more appropriate response given the dismal state of the economy is to first make a serious effort to improve the jobs situation.  A lot of the problems people see with government benefit programs disappear when unemployment goes down.  As is the case with concerns about deficits and debt, the time to identify and tackle real problems with anti-poverty programs is during times of prosperity.

Monday, June 24, 2013


I'm going to start today to look for another on-line course.  The Coursera Macroeconomics course I did recently was a useful introduction to the subject and to some of the potential and the problems with on-line education.  I'm thinking what I would like to do now is to find a course that is more mature in terms of development.  I would also be very pleased to find one that deals with some subject in the humanities as an additional way to compare the medium's potential across subjects.

What I would really like would be to find something on Spanish and Latin American literature, particularly one open to non-native speakers such as myself.  I took a sit-down-with-a few-other-warm-bodies-literature-course a year ago with Tony Mares that was very satisfying in many ways.  The course gave me a chance to read some things I probably would not have tackled otherwise, as well as being able to tune into other people's ideas on the subject.  Tony is an inspiring teacher and the course, which was offered at Albuquerque's Hispanic Cultural Center, was well worth the time I put into it.

The course taught by Tony could also have been improved.  With so few students, and none of us native speakers other than Tony, it was difficult at times to overcome disparities in language facility.  I'm sure it was frustrating at times for each of the students as well as for Tony, whose skills could have profitably been shared with a bigger and more diverse group.  It seems like putting the course on-line would have offered everyone a better experience.

Today, I found an excellent discussion about on-line learning at the Los Angeles Review of Books site, entitled "MOOCs and the Future of the Humanities: A Roundtable by Ian Bogost, Cathy N. Davidson, Al Filreis and Ray Schroeder".  The participants are college professors with considerable on-line experience; I was quite a bit more optimistic about the future of the medium after reading their contributions.