Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inside Outside Southwest magazine ceases publication after 11 years

Time of death: 5 p.m., August 23, 2010.

After more than 11 years of exploring, reporting, celebrating, and defending the Four Corners country from its home in Durango, Colo., Inside Outside Southwest magazine joined the ranks of publications that have drowned in its attempt to find a piece of ground to stay afloat on in the new media economy.

And the Four Corners lost its voice -- for no other publication covers this economically, ecologically, geographically, and politically linked region as a whole.

Read editor Jan Nesset's farewell here. 

The final issue will the September issue, to be released next week.

While Inside Outside  really found its voice and carved what seemed a solid niche in the past several years, under the editorship of Jan Nesset, I'm honored to have been the publication's first managing editor, for its first year and a half of life, from 1998 - 2000. It was a damned fine time.

Here you can read a collection of my favorite excerpts from Inside Outside's early years (from the magazine's 10th anniversary issue).

Below is a brief history of Inside Outside's start-up days that I wrote for that 10th anniversary issue.

The Way It Was: A brief personal history from the (former) Editor
Publications, like wars, are sacred causes.  -- Charles Bowden
In the summer of 1998, I was approached by two men who had a business idea: a free, alternative magazine for the Four Corners. They sought my thoughts because – or maybe despite -- I already had been failing at something similar for several years.
Since 1993, some friends and I had been publishing the San Juan Almanac, which we smugly tagged, “Your cattleguard on the information superhighway.” In that guerilla spirit, we did our journalistic dirty work in my house on a budget drawn mostly from handouts, a few kind benefactors, and change found under sofa cushions. After five years, we decided we had done our karmic duty to the literary culture of the Four Corners, and accepted the fact we were as much businessmen as the Bureau of Reclamation are conservationists. We, though, knew when to quit.
Regardless, Phil Lauro and Daniel Esper thought I could offer some useful insights when they sought to launch Inside Outside Southwest, which they envisioned as a journal of entertainment, culture and recreation bonding the entire Four Corners area. Business-wise, all I could do was giggle. But they had start-up money, by gods! So, I offered to write stories, do some editing, and contact writers I knew from the Almanac days.
Six months later, my dream of a regional publication, like Jason, like the Colorado Rockies, like Al Gore, was somehow alive again after logic, experience, and common sense insisted otherwise. I did some editing and wrote the lead feature for the premier issue – a brilliant (ahem) intimate literary portrait of the reclusive Stone-Age hunter and author David Petersen – which then led to my taking a fifty percent cut in salary from my “real job” to become Inside Outside Southwest’s first Managing Editor.
Dreams are cheap, but following them isn’t.
Underway, we settled into the restored principal’s office in the former Smiley Middle School building, in downtown Durango. His partner already had fled, so Phil sat behind a big desk playing Publisher (think: “Rosebud …”); I wrote, edited, planned issues, and lined-up writers; and graphic-arts genius Todd Thompson was brought on board as art director. (One late night, Todd brought to life the vague notion I'd had about a crossed monkey wrench and pen as an iconic logo for our mission ...) We had computers, space, views, some money to work with, and a refrigerator stocked with an endless supply of Ska Brewery beer (keep it local!).
So began the glory days.
Mostly it’s a blur. Putting out a magazine, especially a start-up publication, is like rowing into a steady headwind in low financial flows. But we made it, for a while, and, I like to think, with style – subtly subversive and vocally local. Each of our issues was chock-full of well-written stories (partly to take up the space where the ads should have been) by both local and nationally renown writers. And, thanks to Todd’s dedication and skill, our pages looked as good or better than many “glossy” publications.
We had our moments. We scored exclusives with some big-name writers, including John Nichols – who premiered a chapter of a new novel in our pages -- Ed Quillen, Will Hobbs, and the aforementioned David Petersen. We enlisted a few outstanding columnists – Art Goodtimes, Rob Schultheis, and David Feela (a holdover from the Almanac who still writes in Inside Outside Southwest). We had some fun provoking our new readership: Shultheis’s “Moron of the Mountains” column drew raging hate (and love) mail; and if that didn’t, Phil’s many pseudonyms under which he wrote stories and letters (Victor Lazlo, Artimus Vark, et al.) did.
We even had a special “Edward Abbey” issue that garnered national attention, sporting a cover drawn by artist Bryan Peterson and featuring a “lost” Abbey short story that no one, not even Abbey’s wife, had seen since the mid-1950s.
Mostly, though, I remember just doing the magazine. Late nights (and early mornings) poring over paste-ups and tinkering with layouts with Todd while chipping away at those six packs of Ska … breaks out on the roof of the Smiley Building, overlooking downtown Durango … day-time breaks tossing a Frisbee on Third Avenue … and quick breaks sitting in the hallway watching the participants arrive for the dance class in the room next door.
And we always looked forward with great anticipation to the crazy “issue release” parties Phil would throw at local bars to stir up interest in the magazine. And the wacky visitors alternative magazines attract … whew.
But, as happens to most start-ups, after a year and a half of glory days, the headwinds finally outstripped our ability to row toward financial security. Fortunately, though, for Inside Outside Southwest – and for readers in the Four Corners – there’s a happy ending to this story. In 2000, Phil sold out to The Durango Herald, and Inside Outside Southwest was, like Jason, the Rockies, and Nobel-prizing-winning Gore (!), given a new life. And that life, under the steady hands of its later editors – Pete Pendegrast, and now Jan Nesset – is still beating, and growing stronger.
Long live crazy dreams.  

Sad. It hurts. But, it was a damned fine run.

And now the question is: What's next, Four Corners writers, reporters, and readers?? 

Monday, August 23, 2010

#1 Skyhawk Soccer season is here!

The World Cup is over, but if you're still hankering for some soccer, then it's time for Saturday afternoons on the pitch.

The #1 ranked and 2009 NCAA Division II national champion Skyhawk Soccer team began its quest for a third national title on Saturday when the 2010 team faced off against former Skyhawk players in the annual alumni exhibition game.

A couple of hundred fans passed a lovely August afternoon at Dirks Field -- perhaps the most scenic soccer pitch in the world (but I'm biased) -- as the varsity squad squeaked by, 4-3, an alumni team that fielded several players from last year's and 2005's national championship teams, including former MLS player John Cunliffe.

The Skyhawks open their campaign at Colorado School of Mines on Sept. 3, and play their home-opener against rivals CSU-Pueblo at Dirks Field at 1 p.m. Sept. 19.

To get you stoked for this season, below are two videos Fort Lewis produced last Spring  (and which I had the pleasure working on) to celebrate the program's second national title and the "hooligan" fans who make an afternoon at Dirks Field even more entertaining than the outstanding play already does.

Enjoy! And see you at the pitch ...

Watch a review of the 2009 National Championship season here.

Watch a humorous profile of the Skyhawk Soccer "hooligans" here.

Read Durango Herald coverage of Saturday's alumni game here.

Learn more about Skyhawks men's Soccer here.

You can purchase a DVD that includes these shorts as well as a documentary on the history of the program and more here. Sales support the Skyhawks men's Soccer program. Learn more here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Abbey lives! in new documentary

Well, it's looking like a movie version of The Monkey Wrench Gang isn't going appear anytime soon -- even though Ed Abbey's eminently popular modern-Western classic has been on retainer somewhere in Hollywood ever since shortly after it first appeared some 35 years ago.

But that doesn't mean The Gang hasn't been completely overlooked by filmmakers.

A documentary about the people who inspired the infamous characters who star in The Monkey Wrench Gang is set to be released later this year. Lines Across the Sand promises to profile the real-life Doc Sarvis, Seldom Seen Smith, Bonnie Abzug, and George Washington Hayduke, while also exploring the effect the book -- as well as  Jack Loeffler, John DePuis, Ingrid Eisenstatder, Ken Sleight, and Doug Peacock -- have had on the Western enviironmental movement.

Also, acknowledging the tribal nature of Abbey's followers -- and the grassroots-generating potential of the internet -- the makers of the film, through the International Documentary Association, is soliciting online for financial support for the film's production.

Watch the trailer for the film here:

Watch a documentary about the film below and here.

Donate to the project here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This is your brain on silt ...

We all who crave the river understand: Things are different out there on the water. Especially after several days on the river.

"Things," of course, don't actually change -- but our perceptions of things change after a few days of floating. Our views of the world, both the real physical world, and the "world" we construct in our minds with our daily living. That's one of the reasons we go on the river -- especially for long river trips: to not only get out there in the real "real" world, but also to change the way we see the cultural/social/economic worlds we live in most of the time.

Because those changes in our psyches wrought by the rio are, we know from experience, real and valuable and better than the way we perceive things after having been submerged in our daily at-home worlds. That's why "re-entry" after a long river trip is sometimes such a hard and jarring affair.

So, what is that change that being "out there" induces in our ways of perceiving the world around us? Is it just an environmental thing, a shifting of ideas? Or is it an actual, physical, mental re-wiring of our brain brought on by silt, sun, and time on the water?

That was the question addressed by a group of neuro-scientists recently when the took a five-day trip down the San Juan River earlier this summer (Mexican Hat to Clay Hills). While no answers were uncovered on the trip, the five researchers used the river trip as an environment more condusive to brainstorming -- because of that calmness and clarity of mind found on the river -- future research looking at how the brain reacts to wilderness experiences.

And the trip's effects on the otherwise un-wilderness-y scientists themselves also became fodder for future study. "If I looked around like this at work," one relaxed researcher observed," people would think I was goofing off."

This trip and its questions are chronicled in an Aug. 15 New York Times article "Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain," by Matt Richtel. It's a worthwhile read for those of us who get what the river does, but, well, haven't thought too much about how the river does it.

As a side note, scientists or not, seems ike men, at least, are the same on the river: Talking about the middle of the trip, Richtel observes, "The men drink Tecate beer and talk about the brain."

Now that' a man's brain on the river, eh?

Below is a brief video included with the article. In the video, one of the group wraps his canoe in Government Rapid. When we went down the same stretch in mid-June, a few weeks after the trip described in the article, that green canoe still sat submerged and fully wrapped at the top of the rapid.

Read the article here.

Check out some of our own "brain research" from a June San Juan trip below. There was, shall we say, a lot of drinking Tecate and talking about the brain ...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Only in the Rockies ...

... do you get driving hail, torrential rain, thunder, lightning, flooding -- and sunshine -- all at the same time.

Read more about yesterday's wicked monsoon storms in the Durango Herald here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back from ... Summer!

Okay, I've been a sucky-ass blogger for the past two months. But, hey, I've been away.

Not far away, for the most part. I've done a few forays -- a couple of long river trips, a quick visit to the Midwest, a backpack, some nearby road trips. But mostly I've been around. But I can't really say I've been "here" -- at least in terms of "here" meaning engaging with my normal routines, like blogging. 

But that's Summer, y'know? And Summer, well, it's really important to me. Always has been. In fact, in the spirit of "Dirty Jobs" host Mike Rowe, who proudly proclaims "I took my retirement early and in installments," I've taken my retirement early and mostly in Summers. 

Aside from one foolhardy, fruitless Summer I spent "career building" by commuting in and out of Boston, my Summers since I graduated from college sometime in the mid-to-late last century have been devoted to river guiding and fishing and backpacking, living out of tents and cars, and traveling -- the West, Canada, the East Coast, Europe, Africa. 

Since having kids, my Summers have been spent, well, river running and fishing and camping, spending time around home with the kids, and traveling -- Alaska, England and Norway, British Columbia and Yukon, the Upper Midwest ...

Then, back to nine months of hard labor to finance those Summers. Nine months made passable knowing they make that next Summer possible ... (And, of course, that "career building" has, well, let's say, suffered. Ah, well.)

In my adult life, like my childhood, Summers are sacred. As they should be -- as kids know them to be. Yes, they're fun -- as in getting out a lot. But having kept alive that childish annual ritual of "getting out of school" for the Summer has lent something else to my life. A certain structure that includes a big chuck of unstructuredness that allows me to do an annual restructuring of my life. And even of my Self. 

Summers have always been the time of year, every year, when I explore and re-invent myself. When I disrupt the daily routine that runs most of my mostly-normal lifestyle, and reassess, reconnect, re-evaluate, and ultimately re-vision my living and revise my lifestyle. When I walk away from my routines in May every year, every August I return to them changed, and with a fresh ambition and aim for that upcoming work-year. 

"To die often is to live much," says an ancient Buddhist aphorism. I die and am reborn every year, in the Summer. Because of Summer. 

This Summer has been a little different than most (hey, I don't want routines even in my routine-breaking ...) in that I stuck around more than usual. (Yet still applying that traveling craving 
 to the Four Corners -- still "going," but going at home.) But, as is evidenced in the two-month space since the last MWD post, my not going away hasn't deterred my determined walking away. 

Fortunately only one person noticed that the Almanac had been idle. And he's on my payroll, so I at least know he's been doing his job. 

But, as the pagan poet-philosopher Jono urges in the face of love's and life's many futilities, "Onward! Heartbreak breathlessly awaits!" So the MWD plunges on, shipping dispatches from our little corner of this funky world into the great wilderness of cyberspace. 

Rejuvenated. Renewed. And ready to rock.