Wednesday, August 29, 2012

When is a Lake Not a Lake? When it is Ken's Lake, Moab, Utah

Fishing enthusiasts, boaters and hikers recreate at Ken's Lake in April 2012 - Click for larger image (

When is a Lake Not a Lake? When it is Ken's Lake, Moab, Utah

In 2012, a continuing drought on the Colorado Plateau created a meager spring snowpack in the Sierra La Sal. When I visited Ken’s Lake, near Moab, Utah in April 2012, I was encouraged by the volume of water that I saw behind the dam. Although I did not know it at the time, there was more water present than in any April for the past five years. As a casual observer, I saw what looked like a good water year for both irrigation and water sports on the lake.

In August 2012, the Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency (GWSSA) issued its summer status report on Ken’s Lake. According to the document, the Ken’s Lake water level has dropped from April’s 101% of average to a mid-August thirty-five percent of average. Using the first two charts in the document, I was able to determine that Ken’s Lake currently held 1000 acre/feet less water than it did on a normal year.

At Ken's Lake near Moab, Utah, rain showers move from right to left across this image - Click for larger image (, I looked down at the five-year storage chart. Again, the results were alarming. With just over 400 acre/feet of water currently impounded, Ken’s Lake was heading to its lowest August levels in the past five years. With that trend, it was obvious that Ken’s Lake was destined to become Ken’s Lake Puddle again this year.

Some will say, “So what? It is a human made water storage reservoir. If all of the water gets used up every year, then it is serving its purpose”. Although that may be true, Ken’s Lake is also the largest recreational lake in the Moab area. When the reservoir goes dry, there is nothing of consequence to attract campers, hikers or wildlife. The lake is also a bellwether for drought conditions throughout the Colorado Plateau. If the towering La Sal Range gets little snow and has a fast spring runoff, few other places will fare much better. The regional drought seems likely to expand and become more prevalent in the Four Corners states.

After a weather front passes Ken's Lake, the Moab Rim glows in indigo light - Click for larger image ( behooves the stakeholders and managers of Ken’s Lake to act now and prevent it from becoming a permanent eyesore. The easiest way to save the lake is to stop allocating water for alfalfa farming and other water-intensive crops. If a farmer is actually growing fodder for his or her own livestock, the GWSSA could make an exception. Instead of alfalfa, if each stakeholder planted grapes or fruit trees, the Spanish Valley could rise again as a tree crop and viticulture area.

If Spanish Valley and Moab Valley Farmers and environmentalists work together, Ken’s Lake may well remain a beautiful body of water, enjoyed by all. If not, will the entitled stakeholders pretend that there is no problem, or will they accept responsibility for the outcome?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Going to The Back of Beyond in Downtown Moab, Utah

The Other looks at the 4-WheelDrive logo on a vintage Willys Jeep pickup truck in Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (

Going to The Back of Beyond in Downtown Moab, Utah

On April 17, 2012, I departed the Moab Rim Campark, taking U.S. Highway 191 North. After a two-mile drive, I stopped in the parking lot of the Gearheads Outdoor Store, at 471 South Main Street. There, in the parking lot I saw the shadow of the Other, examining an old white Jeep pickup truck. As I approached the little truck, I could see that its frost-white and pale green paintjob was new. With a bed full of patio furniture, this was a work truck, not a show truck.
To me, it looked similar to the Jeeps and Jeepsters that I remember from the early 1950s. Below the chrome, 4-Wheel Drive logo, bits of Moab’s red dirt clung to the body. During an extensive internet search, I found other examples of Willys Jeep pickup trucks. The front end of a 1950 model that I The distinctive grille of a 1950 era Willys Jeep 4-Wheel Drive pickup truck, parked in Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( was identical, right down to the eight-by-four grill opening.  While standing there, I decided that this classic model Jeep Truck was where it belonged – in Downtown Moab, Utah.
After admiring the vehicle, I jumped back into my own truck and headed for Downtown Moab. After parking on Main Street, near the Moab Information Center, I walked across the street and entered the Back of Beyond Books. For the past several years, I have provided the hardware and the remote internet server for a Moab Books live webcam, installed at the back of the shop. Today, it was time for a webcam tune-up, which consists mostly of blowing a lot of red Moab dust out of the computer fans.

Next time you are in Moab, be sure to visit the Antiquarian Section, at the back of the bookstore. In my experience, it is the best source for Moab, and Colorado Plateau antique books anywhere. Spending an hour in the Antiquarian Section is like a baptism in the Grand River, or its later incarnation, which is the Colorado River. While you are in the store, look up and locate the small flashing red light. Every ten seconds, that webcam transmits a digital image of the bookstore to the worldwide web. Once you locate the webcam, it is acceptable to make faces or even to smile at the Early 1950's Willys pickup truck parked in Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( Just remember that there are over 600 million Chinese online now and most of them are probably watching you as you make a fool out of yourself. Before you leave, please tell the staff that the webcam brought you in that day.

At the rear of the store, I went into the staff area, which is off-limits to customers. My approved plan was to blow the dust from the computer, adjust the camera, check its timer and be back on the road as soon as possible. In front of those café doors, the customer sees the results of careful book selection by Andy Nettell and his capable staff. Behind those swinging doors, I found the spirit that makes Back of Beyond Books such a special place.

Kokopelli discovers a clue to the identity of Seldom Seen Smith in the backroom at Back of Beyond Books, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( has it that many years ago the Monkey Wrench Gang met in the back room of the bookstore. “Back of Beyond”, itself is a reference to their mythical hiding place. From there, this country’s proto eco-terrorists planned their sometimes mythical and sometimes actual plots. On the other hand, was the gang’s association with that particular backroom just a story in itself? Soon, I would have more clues than I could process.

As I looked up from my dusty work, Kokopelli appeared above me. His multicolored blush told me he was up to something. As I stood up, I could see that he had found an old sign, which he had propped up on a nearby laptop computer. As I read the words printed on the sign, a chill ran up my spine. The magnetic decal sign read, “Back of Beyond Expeditions, Jos. Smith Prop., Hite, Utah”. Had Kokopelli stepped into another Edward Abbey time warp? On the sign, I saw the name, occupation and locale of the fictional character, “Seldom Seen Smith”. Edward Abbey featured Seldom Seen Smith in his classic novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang. While looking at the sign, I wondered if Smith might indeed be a real person. After a clandestine meeting in that backroom, perhaps he had rushed out the back door, leaving the famed magnetic sign behind.

The concerned countenance of Edward Abbey stared at me from a wall in the backroom of Back of Beyond Books, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (, from behind me, I sensed that two piercing blue eyes were staring at me. Turning to look, I saw a watercolor painting that captured the feeling of the redrocks around Moab. Standing before the Arches he sought to protect, was the Bard of Moab himself, Edward Abbey. Displayed next to his intense, if not worried countenance were the words, “Abbey & Friends”. Below that was the French phrase, “Livres Disponibles en Francais”. While looking straight into my soul, Abbey silently, yet dispassionately said; “You are going to do the right thing, aren’t you?” It was more of a statement than a question. I almost blurted out, “Yes, of course I will”, but somehow I managed to remain silent.

Years before, I had asked the Spirit of Edward Abbey to accompany me to Sunset Campground at Navajo National Monument. In his first classic book, Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey had decried the supposed destruction of the monument in the late 1950s. At that time, the federal government paved the access road and upgraded the campground to contemporary standards. In spirit, he could see that not all the changes to his own personal “Back of Beyond” were harmful. If visitors could not access and enjoy these sacred places, his spirit realized, there would be no one ready to defend them from future harm. Now, from his perch in the backroom of Back of Beyond Books, Edward Abbey still had the power to startle visitors and readers alike.

Author's Note - December 2012: Thanks to filmmaker ML Lincoln, we shall soon hear again from the spirit of Edward Abbey in her new feature documentary, titled "Wrenched". For a synopsis of the movie, click HERE.

Plush Kokopelli is a big fan of Back of Beyond Books in Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( the time I left the bookstore, Kokopelli had already reappeared on a bench outside. Behind him, window signage advertised “Rare Books” and “Moab Earth Day”. For me, it felt good to take a deep breath then a walk across town that afternoon. I remembered purchasing a Signet Paperback First Edition of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” novel at the ABC & Beyond Bookstore across the street. I headed toward that shop to see what paperback treasures they might have on hand for me that day. For only two dollars, I found a small book that contained all of the “Utah place names”.

While walking back to my truck, I spotted another interesting Jeep pickup truck. This one was easier to identify than the 1950’s era Willys pickup I had seen earlier that day. After later searching the term “Jeep CJ Truck”, I found this Jeep truck with ease. With its removable half-cab and longer wheelbase, this was a 1981 – 1984 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler, 2-door pickup truck. During its four year production run, Jeep sold less than 28,000 CJ-8 trucks. With its special Early 1980's Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler parked in Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (, red & white paintjob and taped graphics, the Jeep looked almost original. Only a pair of lift-brackets beneath the front bumper indicated that this CJ-8 now ran with a higher ground clearance.

As I drove back to the Moab Rim Campark late that afternoon, I paused to think about the day’s activities. I had seen two classic Moab 4-Wheelers, updated the Back of Beyond Books webcam and discovered clues to the onetime whereabouts of the Monkey Wrench Gang. In all of that time, I had seen only one other human being – Edward Abbey, or was it the Spirit of Edward Abbey? A visitor never knows what they will see or who they will meet in Downtown Moab, Utah.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Majestic La Sal Range Overshadows the Desolation of "Poverty Flats"

The La Sal Range, as viewed from the Spanish Valley in April 2012, with fresh snow clearing - Click for larger image (

The Majestic La Sal Range Overshadows the Desolation of "Poverty Flat"

On April 15, 2012, I spent my day to revisiting special locations in and around the Spanish Valley, near Moab, Utah. By midday, I had completed an ecological survey of Behind the Rocks, ten miles south of Moab. After lunch, I depart the Moab Rim Campark, heading south on U.S. Highway 191. Although I did not know exactly where I might find it, I was looking for an unobstructed view of the La Sal Range.

Near the eastern end of the Spanish Valley, I turned left on to a rough gravel road that leads to Pack Creek. With jagged gravel the size of golf balls, the road was not favorable to travel with my fully inflated road tires. Limping along at a slow pace, I finally found an unobstructed view of the La Sal Mountains. There, in midafternoon, the sun shone down on the mountains and reflected off fresh snow that fell the previous night.

Power poles stand like energy beings, stretching from Price, Utah to the Spanish Valley and beyond - Click for larger image ( pausing to photograph the mountains, I turned my attention to the power lines that hung overhead. From earlier discussions with Moab residents, I knew that these high voltage lines originated at a coal fired power plant near Price, Utah to the north. From where I stood, I could see what looked like a series of energy beings carrying the electrical cables up the valley from Moab. After passing overhead, the lines continued their climb up the Spanish Valley and then over the mountains of San Juan County. Where they ended, I had no idea.

Here I shall explain the difference between the Moab Valley and the Spanish Valley. Other than there being a name change near the San Juan County line, there is no geographical difference between the two valleys. Anywhere near Moab, residents call the drainage the Moab Valley. To the east, in its upper reaches, most people call it the Spanish Valley. The most beleaguered area of the valley, around Ken’s Lake also carries the historical name, “Poverty Flat”.

Pueblo Verde Estates in the Moab Valley, near its transition to the Spanish Valley, Utah - Click for larger image ( experienced the most prolonged overgrazing of any area near Moab, Poverty Flat is apt moniker for that area. Today, it supports only sparse seasonal grasses and a particularly thorny species of cactus. With a large swath of the valley teeming with cactus spikes, no one would dare to graze cattle there now.

Even for a hiker the Poverty Flat landscape is like an ankle-high low forest of knife blades. Consequently, the area just west of the Ken’s Lake Dam is now a no man’s land, bereft of greenery and populated only by the hardiest desert dwelling species. In the 1890’s, grass in the Moab and Spanish Valleys grew so high that it hid from view horseback riders who approached town on the Old Spanish Trail. Current visitors to the Spanish Valley realize that the area near Ken's Lake is an inhospitable place, but most have no idea that just over one hundred years ago, this was a Garden of Eden, not the current rock and cactus garden.

Historical "Poverty Flat", near Ken's Lake Dam, Spanish Valley, Utah - Click for larger image ( it once held the Old Spanish Trail, I believe that early visitors, ranchers and miners referred to the entire valley as the Spanish Valley. Later, as Moab became a more prominent feature, residents and outsiders alike began calling the lower, western reaches the Moab Valley. Today,  the Google Map of the Spanish Valley as the portion of the greater valley inside the border of San, Juan County. Given the importance of Moab and the remoteness of the eastern part of the valley, Google’s dual designation of the Moab Valley and the Spanish Valley seems like a good one to me.

After viewing the extreme environmental destruction in the Spanish Valley, I headed for the human made creation called Ken’s Lake. You may read about that visit in my next article.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Behind the Rocks at Moab, Utah

The author's Nissan Titan truck at Behind the Rocks, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (

A Springtime Visit Behind the Rocks Offers Some Surprises

On April 15, 2012, I drove from Moab, Utah to Behind the Rocks. There, for one long weekend each year, that area is the hub of activity for the 24-Hours of Moab off-road bicycle race. It had been six months since my October 2011 visit to the event. Half way between the two races was a good time to assess the environmental impact of annual off-road bike racing Behind the Rocks.

Behind the Rocks is a sandy-soiled mesa ten miles south and two miles off-road from Moab, Utah. In spring, summer and fall, since the 1890’s, cattle Highly eroded area at Behind the Rocks, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( grazed Behind the Rocks. Before its first ecological breakdown, the fragile mesa endured decades of overgrazing. Only its 5500-foot elevation has kept the area from cactus infestation, as happened in the upper section of the nearby Spanish Valley. Under the trampling hooves of range cattle, indigenous cryptobiotic soil deteriorated and blew away. Whatever natural vegetation may have existed prior to a century of grazing, the mesa now supports a combination of weedy and grassy areas.

Kane Creek provides the main runoff channel for the entire mesa. Although the spring flow can be intermittent or nonexistent, summer thunderstorms sweep huge amounts of soil down Kane Creek. Increased movement of soil amplifies streambed erosion. Where small watercourses once meandered, sandy arroyos with straight-sided banks now stand. Some areas have lost all their soil, leaving expanses of bare rock.

Multiple vehicle tracks on a sand dune at Behind the Rocks, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( the past seventeen years, hundreds of off-road bicycle racers and fans have camped, played and ridden Behind the Rocks each October. Each year, self-appointed guardians of the local environment lament supposed damage done by the 24-Hours of Moab Race. Some hike cross-country in order to photograph a few bicycle tracks that stray from the designated course. The real issue is not only about damage by errant bike racers. It is also about the monitors tramping across a fragile landscape in order to “get their shot”.

Driving across the deserted landscape that day, I could not locate the bicycle race venue. Without its tents and bicycles to identify it, I drove on by. Soon, I came across an open area eroded by off-road vehicles. Along the fringes of the area, I could see how vegetation had once held the soil. Within the eroded area, there were only traces of native vegetation. Although I saw no off-road vehicles Behind the Rocks that day, evidence of vehicular traffic was everywhere. One nearby sand dune had hundreds of tracks leading to its summit.

The author, Jim McGillis at Behind the Rocks, with the La Sal Range in the background - Click for larger image ( out of my truck, I surveyed the 24-Hours of Moab Race venue and the La Sal Range beyond. Admittedly, there was little vegetation where the main tent had stood. Only after leaving my vehicle did I realize the damage that I was causing. Looking down, I saw that the wide tires on my truck had crushed whatever soil-crust had formed since October 2011. Otherwise, the race venue looked quite similar to much of the surrounding landscape.

During my earlier discussion with 24-HOM race promoter Laird Knight, he had told me about their environmental amelioration techniques. Each year, after all trash, facilities and vehicles depart; Knut & Sons roll their enormous water trucks around the empty venue. A generous sprinkling of water turns fields of dust into fields of mud. As the sun dries the mud, it forms a crust almost as strong as natural cryptobiotic soil. Unless churned by wheels, hooves or feet in the off-season, Laird said, “Racers and visitors to the next 24-Hours of Moab Race can expect to see the area look much as it has for the past eighteen years”.

Plush Kokopelli and Coney the Traffic Cone, Behind the Rocks, with the La Sal Range in the background - Click for larger image ( than seeking to end the one family event that helps to regenerate the environment Behind the Rocks each year, environmentalists should concentrate on overuse by off-road vehicles. The Bureau of Land Management should place an immediate ban on driving in watercourses and sensitive dune areas. If not, the remaining soil on the mesa will continue its slow-motion disintegration down Kane Springs Canyon and into the overburdened Colorado River.

Behind the Rocks combines both fragility and stability in one location. With respectful usage, the mesa will regenerate or at least maintain itself. If scoured down to bedrock, Behind the Rocks will lose its appeal as a place for human recreation. With care and cooperation by all interested parties, Behind the Rocks will remain a remarkable place to bike, hike or even to trail-ride in a Jeep.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Imagine There's No Heaven, but There is Life on Mars

The original Face on Mars image, from the Viking 1 orbiter in 1976 - Click for larger image (

Imagine There's No Heaven, but There is Life on Mars

In December 2007, I wrote about a transit of Mars that brought the red planet close to Earth. Also in that article, I discussed the “Face on Mars” (FOM), first photographed by NASA’s Viking 1 orbiter in 1976.

Since its discovery on low-resolution images from the Viking 1 orbiter, scientists have argued that the FOM is a natural phenomenon. The FOM, they said, was an eroded mesa viewed in oblique sunlight. In 2001 and again in 2003 new orbiters focused high-resolution cameras on that supposed eroded mesa. Again, scientists concluded that the FOM was a figment of hopeful human imagination. Imagine that.

On August 6, 2012, I watched the Olympic women’s gymnastics apparatus finals on NBC. At 10:30 PM PDT, I switched over to watch NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover stick its landing on the surface of Mars. Flipping channels back to gymnastics, I watched as an American woman missed her landing. Although I cannot say which act was more difficult, the Mars landing is more portentous, as it may lead to discovery of life on Mars.

John Lennon live, singing his song, "Imagine" - Click for larger image ( one hand, NASA and other scientists had steadfastly denied any life-connection to the FOM. On the other hand, the same scientists were optimistic that instruments on the Curiosity rover would discover precursors to life on Mars. It reminded me of the 2012 supposed discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN in Switzerland. At that announcement, three hundred mostly agnostic or atheist scientists wept over the supposed discovery of “the God particle”. Suffice to say that scientists are an unreliable source of information on where life came from or even what it is.

Hoping to see a review of the best current and historical English pop music, I tuned in to the London Olympics Closing Ceremony. Although the presentation was a bit erratic, it was full of energy and everyone was having fun. Only later did I discover that a preview of some idiotic NBC sitcom had preempted a live performance by the Who and others. I wonder which brilliant NBC executive made that decision.

John Lennon, the new Face on Mars revealed at the 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony - Click for larger image ( me, the highlight of the London Olympics Closing Ceremony was alive performance by John Lennon. Dead since December 8, 1980, I was shocked to see him singing again, live and in person. As his song played, actors on the Olympic stage began pushing large white blocks all about. Shaped like puzzle pieces, I could not imagine what the blocks might symbolize.

Then, an aerial shot revealed what I had suspected all along. The actors in Olympic Stadium had replicated the famous Face on Mars. That face, of course, was of John Lennon. Presaging his death by almost four years, John Lennon had concocted to place his face on Mars. As John Lennon so aptly sang, “Imagine there’s no heaven, it's easy if you try, no people below us, above us only sky”. Now, almost twenty-two years after his death we see that he has been up there all along.
 And remember, all you need is love.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Koro Levu Village, Vanua Levu, Fiji Islands - Saved in 2012

High tide at noon on Natewa Bay, Vanua Levu Island, Fiji - Click for larger image (

Koro Levu Village at Vanua Levu, the Fiji Islands - Set to Vanish

This article originally published in late 2007. In August, 2001, I had the privilege of staying at Lomalagi Resort, situated at the head of Natewa Bay, on Fiji’s second largest island of Vanua Levu.  The name “Lomalagi” means Heaven in the Fijian language.  At 600 square miles and over 1000 meters depth at its center, Natewa Bay is the largest deep-water bay in the South Pacific.  
Lomalagi is located 3km off the main island road, via the Salt Lake Road.  Salt Aerial View, Salt Lake and Natewa Bay, Vanua Levu, Fiji - Click for larger image (, to my knowledge is one of only a handful of lakes in the world fed by a bidirectional river.  As the tide ebbs in Natewa Bay, the Salt River flows from the lake to the sea.  As the tide rises in Natewa Bay, the river reverses course and flows “uphill” into Salt Lake.  For the first-time visitor, it can be a bit disconcerting to see a river flowing rapidly in one direction, then a few hours later to see the same river flowing rapidly in the opposite direction.
At the time of my 2001 visit, Lomalagi Resort was the only commercial development on Natewa Bay.  With only six villas on twenty-five acres, my companion and I had “heaven” to ourselves for most of one week. At night, Sunset View of Natewa Bay, From Lomalagi Resort, Vanua Levu, Fiji - Click for larger image ( the small generators in a few of the dozen local fishing villages were turned off, there was not a human made light to be seen anywhere on the bay.  The only motor-driven watercraft on the entire bay were the two small boats owned by the resort.
One day, the proprietor of the resort took us to visit the native village of Koru Levu (Great Town, in Fijian), which he had “discovered” only the prior year, while exploring one of the many rivers that flow into the bay.  If you conduct an internet search on "Koro Levu", you will find no direct links to this little version of paradise.
 Outside, young people; the children of Koro Levu Village, Vanua Levu, Fiji Islands, going to church - Click for larger image (
On our visit to Koro Levu, we found about seventy-five native Fijians living in what once was an English Christian missionary compound.  Although no outside missionaries had visited the place in many decades, the village was still a Christian enclave, but with a native twist.  The still-active church was one hundred years old. 
As the native Fijian minister took us on a tour of the village, he stopped at a fresh looking concrete sarcophagus, which lay half buried, adjacent to the church.  “Last New Year’s Eve,” (December 31, 2000) he said, “the whole village gathered here and buried our sins in this vault.  Since that time we have lived Young Resident of Koro Levu Village, Vanua Levu, Fiji Islands - Click for larger image ( sin”.  By the look in everyone’s eyes at the little village of Koro Levu, living without sin was a happy way to live.
On our last day in “heaven”, I noticed a sport fishing boat blasting across Natewa Bay.  “Development is coming”, I was told by Lomalagi Resort's proprietor.  “Homes are being built overlooking the bay and a large-scale resort is planned adjacent to Salt Lake.”
When I recently Googled “Natewa Bay” to research this article, I found that Pastor Temesia K. and Family, Koro Levu Village, Vanua Levu, Fiji Islands, August 2001 - Click for larger image ( Lomalagi Resort proprietor was correct.  Until a year or two ago, anyone of us could have bought the URL,, but now it is owned by New World Group.  Their planned 550 acre Natewa Bay Resort abuts the tidal river, “offering glimpses of the Hidden (Salt) Lake”.  With its championship golf course, the five-star hotel will “tempt the most particular of guests.  Residential lots are designed to ensure a view of Natewa Bay, the golf course, the Salt Lake or all three.”
Spinner Dolphins frolic near the head of Natewa Bay, in an area planned for artificial resort islands - Click for larger image ( to New World Group and their architects, they plan to “transform over 550 acres on the southern shore of the idyllic Natewa Bay, creating a unique tropical experience for local and international markets by designing a sustainable integrated resort and residential development inspired by the traditional Fijian village”.

“Our chief intervention along this northern edge”, they say, “is the addition of a number of small islands encircling the sea around the proposed beachside central facility”.
“An Eco-hotel, drawing its inspiration from traditional Fijian and South Pacific architecture, will offer an environmentally sensitive luxury experience for visitors who wish to enjoy the rich natural beauty of Natewa Bay and its surrounds.”
I could go on, but I will not.
On April 17, 2007, the The Fiji Times Online reported that almost 9000 Koro Levu River/Sewer/Water Supply, Vanua Levu, Fiji Islands - Click for larger image ( living adjacent to Natewa Bay are at imminent risk of catching typhoid from contaminated water supplies.
According to the article, “Tests have confirmed that all water sources in the Natewa Bay and Buca Bay area carry the bacteria that cause the disease.  Health authorities have banned all gatherings of people to try to minimize the spread of the disease which has already killed one man and infected 65 other people. 
The Health Ministry has banned all functions traditional, church or private in the Natewa and Buca Bay areas.  "We have put a stop to all functions because that is one of the major ways of spreading typhoid through food preparation”.
Tests on water samples from three sources and tanks in the twelve villages and forty-two settlements of Natewa Bay and other villages in Buca Bay confirmed the presence of the bacteria. 
A great deal can change in our world in only a few short years.  Six years ago tonight, the residents of Koro Levu Village met in celebration and buried their sins, unknowing that a waterborne bacterium would soon make such gatherings illegal.  From their tiny village, which has no telephone, electrical or safe drinking water service, they will soon be able to gaze across the bay to Natewa Bay Resort.
In only a few more years, as night falls, they will see a dazzling array of electric lights that will dot the newly created land-fill islands where once lay nothing but unspoiled coral reefs.  As if to mock them, the Koru Levu natives will see million dollar versions of their own coconut palm thatched homes.
Pristine tropical reef, abundant with fish, in the area originally planned for landfill by Natewa Bay Resort ( what will the “international investors” get for their money at Natewa Bay Resort?  In addition to a safe-haven enclave, sequestered from their native neighbors, they will get a “seemingly natural harbour”, as well as a luxury-fake version of the quaint and friendly village of Koru Levu. 
What is in a word?  In the Master Plan section of their website, The Natewa Bay Resort proudly reports, “We consider the scheme a great success.”  Where the “New World Group” resides, “schemes” are nothing more than “elaborate and systematic plans of action”.  Where we come from they are a “dodge: a statement that evades the question by cleverness or trickery”.
Wouldn’t it be nice to go to  sometime soon and see that the New World Group has scrapped its plans to destroy the unspoiled coral reefs of Natewa Bay?  Better yet, wouldn’t it be nice to see that they have contributed some hard cash to the protection of the health and safety of Natewa Bay’s native residents and their life-giving water supply?
Author's Note, August 2012 - As of this date, the New World Group has taken their down their above mentioned website. All links to their planned "Eco-Hotel" are gone. Is their plan to landfill parts of Natewa Bay also gone, or just on hold?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Published Biography for Twentieth Century Master, Costantino Proietto (1910-1979)

Photographic portrait of the artist Costantino Proietto (1910-1979) - Click for larger image (

A Published Biography for Twentieth Century Master, Costantino Proietto (1910-1979)

In July 2012, I received an email from Ms. Erin-Marie Wallace, M.A., Director of the Fine Arts Department, America’s Auction Network. While researching an original Costantino Proietto oil painting that was coming up for a televised auction in August 2012, Erin had come across my articles on the artist. At the time, she was pleased to find my original research, but could find little else about C.Proietto on the internet.

As a member of the subscription website, Erin Wallace is able to submit biographical information on any “listed artist”. Until now, most art-related websites list the artist as “Constantino Proietto”. I offered to write a short biography on “Costantino Proietto”, which is the proper spelling of the artist’s name. In order to confirm my facts, I spoke with Nunzio LoCastro, a cousin of the artist. From 1951 until the artist’s death in 1979, Nunzio LoCastro knew “Tino” well.

If you go to today, you will find the following biography of Costantino Proietto, as submitted by Erin-Marie Wallace M.A. and written by James McGillis, “an independent researcher for Costantino Proietto”.

Costantino Proietto (1910 - 1979) – Twentieth Century Italian Impressionist Painter. Born in Catania, Sicily and apprenticed to Prof. Fernand Cappuccio of the Academy of Art, Florence, Italy from 1924 until 1942. During Cappuccio’s restoration of the Basilica of Saint Mary, in Randazzo, Sicily, apprentice Proietto received on-the-job training from the master. In the central vault of the ancient basilica, Proietto’s palette knives restored frescoes and other artwork dating back to the thirteenth century.

Costantino Proietto original oil painting of an alpine scene in the Dolomite Mountains, Northeastern Italy (Courtesy of the Karns family) - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.comDuring World War II, Proietto took the unusual step of emigrating from Italy to Switzerland, to France and finally to Stuttgart, Germany. While in Paris, the artist painted fabric patterns for a commercial fabric house. In 1942, the artist began his independent career in Stuttgart, Germany, where he settled for life. Among local residents and military patrons in Stuttgart, Proietto found a ready market for his self-described “spaddle work”.

Proietto’s photo album included prints of romantic locations throughout prewar Italy and Switzerland. When the War curtailed travel, the artist referred to his photo album for new subjects to paint. Other than one early watercolor, perhaps of his common law wife, Gisela, there are no brushstrokes in any known C. Proietto painting. Having earlier mastered the palette knife, the artist’s impasto techniques brought depth and drama to his many landscapes.

By the 1950’s the word “Kunstmaler”, which is German for “production painter”, appeared on the artist’s business card. Throughout his career, Proietto painted daily at his atelier, which was only a short walk from his apartment. While painting, Proietto wore slacks and a starched white shirt.

Typically, the artist might complete a small painting in a single day. A larger work might take a second day to finish. Such was the speed at which Proietto often worked. Known for his landscapes, the artist featured timeless architecture in every composition. By scraping away or omitting paint on the face of a canvas, Proietto added backlighting to many of his scenes. Although an accomplished portrait artist, Proietto landscapes rarely include more than a tiny human form.

From the early 1940’s, until well into 1970’s, the artist continued to paint six or seven days each week. In the early years, he took off for only enough time to market his works. After the War, he broke from his work twice each year. Loading his automobile with unframed works, he would then tour Germany, selling paintings as he traveled. By the early 1960’s, various Allied military bases in West Germany conducted art exhibitions. At those exhibitions, many U.S. and Canadian service members bought Proietto paintings to take back home.

Costantino Proietto original oil painting of spring in the Dolomite Mountains, Northeastern Italy (Courtesy of Nunzio LoCastro) - Click for larger image ( painting directly from a tube of paint, the artist personally mixed every color that touched his canvases. At times, the chain-smoking artist would flick cigarette ashes into his mix of paint. In the tradition of his cathedral restoration, ashes pre-aged and accentuated the darker colors in his early paintings. In the 1950’s, with the advent of brighter, more durable paint formulas, the artist’s paintings brightened up, as well.

In 1957, Proietto visited the U.S., spending time with American cousins on either coast. By then, he had gallery representation and exhibitions in “New York, Los Angeles and Hollywood”.

In his later years, Costantino Proietto purchased vacation property at Sanremo, on the Italian Coast. With the strap of his 35-mm Leica camera always around his neck, “Tino” Proietto continued to search for new scenes to paint. Some later C.Proietto paintings depict the Italian Coast at Sanremo. Others, both early and late, depict the Capuchin Convent along the Amalfi Coast.

While in his early forties, the artist once told his American cousin, Nunzio LoCastro, “If I died tomorrow, I would regret nothing in my life. I have lived, loved and enjoyed every minute of every day”. True to his word, Costantino Proietto enjoyed each day of his life to the fullest. The artist painted until a year or two prior his death. At age sixty-nine, Costantino Proietto succumbed to an illness caused by toxic lead from his early paints.

Proietto’s career spanned at least thirty-five years. With a conservative estimate of one hundred-fifty new paintings each year, that would bring his career total to over five thousand signed originals. With that amazing productivity, the epitaph of Costantino Proietto might read, “Never a bad day; always a great new painting”.

Costantino Proietto painting of a rural scene in the Dolomite Mountains, Northeastern Italy (Courtesy Jim McGillis) - Click for larger image (http:/ August 6, 2012, I was simultaneously online and on the telephone with America’s Auction Network. Shortly after midnight, EDT, the Costantino Proietto original oil painting came up for auction. After five minutes of furious bidding against another telephone bidder, I placed the successful bid. Until I receive the alpine landscape painting, I have only the photo provided by America’s Auction Network to publish here.

With two similar paintings having surfaced over the past year, we know that my new painting includes rural buildings and the Dolomite Mountains in Northeastern Italy. Of the similar C.Proietto paintings, the Karns family owns one and Nunzio LoCastro owns the other. Each painting features different buildings in the foreground, but the rural pathway and the Dolomite Mountains are their unifying elements. When I receive my new C.Proietto alpine painting, I will publish its image and other details here.