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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Living with a Conservative in a Liberal Town

Karen Gans and Larry Buchanan, co-authors of "The Gift of El Tio." Photo by Christopher Briscoe

I’m often asked by my liberal friends how I can live with a conservative.  As a matter of fact, our conflicting perspectives influenced our decision to write our memoir, The Gift of El Tio; I being opposed to mining and my husband, Larry,an exploration geologist, seeing it as a way to alleviate poverty.

It’s 2004.  Larry and I position two signs on the front yard, one campaigning for Dennis Kucinich and the other, for George W. Bush.

“Liberals are intolerant,” my conservative husband says, “especially in this town.”

“That’s ridiculous.  Tolerance is the axiom of liberal thought,” I counter.

The next morning only one sign remains – Dennis Kucinich.

“See? They can’t stand different opinions.”  My husband gloats as if he’s won the debate.

“Maybe there’s a prankster, but I don’t think one incident proves anything.”

That night, Larry places a second sign (he seems to have an endless supply) for George W., proclaiming that this one will probably be stolen by morning.

“Nonsense,” I say.

Next morning, George W. has disappeared again, leaving a lone Dennis Kucinich.

“Watch,”  he says, now apparently enjoying the proof that my liberal cohorts certainly do not tolerate free choice in presidential preferences.

After the third disappearance of George W., doubts about acceptance of differing opinions in our town edge their way into my mind.  But these abate when the fourth George W. Bush sign remains throughout the primaries and election.

“See?” I grin.  “It was just a single prankster who gave up.”

Larry just smiled and said, “Oh, really?”

As I approach the George W. sign one day, I receive an electrical jolt.  Puzzled, I ask Larry what could it be.  “Just some pipe,” he quipped. “Sometimes they do that,” he went on, taking advantage of my ignorance of physics.

We all know the outcome of that election.  As time passes, even Larry begins to question whether or not George W. is the right choice for president.  And with more time passing, both of us become even more disillusioned with our parties, promising to register as Independents.

One day, I ask Larry, “Whatever happened to that pipe that gave me a shock?”

Sheepishly, he replies, “That wasn’t a pipe.  I electrified the George W. Bush sign.”

“Guess that’s one way to deal with intolerant liberals.”

“You bet,” he says.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Gift of El Tio: How Our Memoir Came to Be

Karen Gans and Larry Buchanan, co-authors of "The Gift of El Tio." Photo by Christopher Briscoe

 

 

 

 

 

 

When people hear about out memoir, The Gift of El Tio, they usually ask the same question:  “How did you discover the nearly $70 billion in silver?”

The quick answer is, “It was easy, perhaps too easy.”  But it was much more complex than that.

On a crystalline cold day in January of 1995, I was prospecting with two other company geologists, Jon Gelvin and Carlos Murillo.  We hiked over the desert ridges of the San Cristobal Range, down near the triple-point where Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia meet, a hard four hours from the nearest bar, bed, or restaurant. Shadows stretched across the canyon walls while we chipped about 100 samples from cliff faces and rock exposures.

The silver deposit lay on the surface, mineralized ledges cropped out everywhere around and below a little indigenous village of rock, adobe and grass thatch, called San Cristobal.  The cobblestone streets were paved with silver-bearing rock.  The rock walls of the houses literally were laced with silver veins.  You couldn’t take a step without touching silver.  But somehow it had been overlooked by everyone.  The four hours or so we spent sampling were enough for us to realize we were standing atop what would turn out to be the largest silver discovery of the century.  It was that easy.

A lousy four hours and we had recognized what centuries of explorers had failed to see.  How was that possible?  We weren’t any smarter than those others who had searched these hills; we certainly didn’t work any harder.  Most people figure we were just lucky, but I think it was more than that.  We had a Quechua god on our side.

The Quechua culture of southwestern Bolivia is one of multiple gods and spirits, one with a profound respect for the earth in general and curiously, for rocks in particular.  They believe rocks are their direct ancestors, living souls that speak, think, feel emotions, and have distinct personalities.  Most are benign, never failing to offer good advice when consulted; others come alive at night to cause grievous harm.  Every mountain is a mallku, a wise god; every cliff, a demon or spirit; every rock, an ancestor.  Most familiar to the outside world is the Pachamama, their goddess of the earth, but there is another we came to know, a particularly cruel and peevish one named El Tio, who lives in the black interior of mountains, guarding his precious veins of gold and silver.

It is natural that I would appreciate such a culture.  I am an exploration geologist.  My job is to search the remotest parts of the world for certain rocks, the right types of rocks, those displaying mineralogical clues that El Tio’s precious metals may be present.  My team found plenty of those right types, directly beneath the little Quechua village, three miles high in the Bolivian Altiplano.  We discovered nearly a half billion tonnes of those silver-plated ancestors of the Quechua.

After a year of work, the engineers calculated it contained nearly a billion ounces of silver, enough ore to last seventeen years of intensive mining.  The computer models proved it feasible: the profits would be more than enormous and the mine would become a money-machine.  It was a company maker, a world-class discovery, a perfect setup.  Except for that poverty-stricken little village right on top of it.  If we wanted to make a mine, San Cristobal had to go.

I spent many a cold night on the couch as my wife, Karen, and I argued about the injustice soon to be perpetrated by the company (her words), or the opportunities we were offering the people (my words).  Neither of us would budge from our positions; we just knew the other was wrong.  It was Karen who decided how to resolve the impasse:  she and I had to move to San Cristobal, live there awhile among the people, get to know them, and document what the company was doing to them (her words), or what the company was doing for them (my words).

I thought she was nuts.  But I love her so we did it, and I’ve never regretted it.

Thus developed the structure of our memoir, The Gift of El TIo: we took turns writing the chapters, allowing each of us the freedom to describe events as we saw them without filtering our words and thoughts through each other.

Our two voices tell the story of the village, of the changes it suffered as the mine developed, of its customs, its gods, spirits, and demons, and the rugged, enterprising people we came to love.  We also tell of the unanticipated and life-changes Karen and I experienced, how so many of our deep-seated opinions about justice and fairness, right and wrong, good and bad were proven to be incredibly naive, mere products of our cultural myopia.

And, yes, the details of how I found the silver are in the memoir, but more importantly, after Karen forced me to live in that little town, I came to learn life holds so much more of value than just a few billion dollars worth of silver.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

“Satan’s Chamber” trailer on YouTube!

 

 

 

 

Former FUZE intern Jenny Dunnington crafted our “Satan’s Chamber” trailer that is posted on both YouTube and the FUZE website. James MacIndoe narrates the exciting description of the story. If you haven’t read “Satan’s Chamber” yet we think you will after you view this video! Please take a look.

The “Satan’s Chamber” trailer:

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

THE FIRST WORD

Why Fuze Publishing?

–Because there are too many dedicated writers generating strong new work that is not reaching an audience.

A recent The New Yorker cartoon eavesdrops on a cocktail party conversation in an urban living room, someone asking, “Is there anyone here who isn’t self-publishing a book?” We don’t think that question implies a rise in vanity nationwide so much as a drop in the number of worthy writers being admitted through the gate into mainstream publishing.

–Because after decades of merger mania, book publishing has become a manufacturing industry, strait-jacketed by business models and marketing platforms rather than nourished by cultural and literary values.

In an article entitled “The Long Good-bye,” Elizabeth Sifton, grande dame of literary editors, recalls the 1990s when “the money men” invaded publishing, determined to raise profit margins from the traditional five to 15 percent. Sifton argues that “they had no confidence in books per se and knew nothing about writers or readers.” Increasingly they opted for what Sifton calls “book-like objects,” team-written, celebrity-driven commodities that stole shelf-space, ad budgets, and public attention from actual literature. (The Nation, June 8, 2009.)

In his Clairvoyant Culture, Inc. (Oxford University Press, 1989), Herbert Schiller includes the symbiosis between big publishing houses and national book-selling chains as furthering the commercialization of the book, discouraging subject matter that might be unpopular, unfamiliar, socially critical, or depressing, and thus lowering sales.

–Because the major publishing companies are in the process of demonstrating that you can be too big not to fail.

Did you know Random House, Knopf, Doubleday, Bantam, Dell, and half a dozen other imprints are all owned by the German-based company Bertelsmann? That’s big.

Even before the financial crisis of 2008, which left several imprints suspending acquisitions, mainstream publishing was freezing up, locked into bricks and mortar distribution through nation-wide chains, cold to experimentation, competing to overpay the same safe, popularly-vetted writers.

Dennis Stovall is director of Ooligan Press, the student-run centerpiece of Portland State University’s unique M. A. in Publishing. He thinks this is the perfect time to start up a small press, because everything is changing, “where the book is sold, what it’s read on.” The complete commodification of the book is failing. “I think we’re getting the book back,” he concludes. (www.writersdojo.org/Wells+Stovall+Ooligan)

So that’s why Fuze Publishing. One volume at a time, we want to get the book back too.

Molly Tinsley and Karetta Hubbard, FUZE co-founders

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2011 in Uncategorized