JACKSON, Wyo.—The rapper Kanye West released his newest album, Ye, last Thursday night at a private "listening" party at a ranch resort about 72 kilometres north of Jackson.
Kanye made sure the event was well chronicled, flying in music journalists and assorted others from New York City on a private 70-seat jet.
Chris Rock was there, making jokes about moose and using words that the New York Times could only hint at. And there were digs at Wyoming's reputation for conservatism. "Hope you enjoy the bonfire tonight because tomorrow night it'll be a cross-burning," said Rock
Kim Kardashian West was by her husband's side, and as horses grazed in the distance, cameras all around videocast the event to those who wanted to partake vicariously.
The Jackson Hole News&Guide said that rumours had spread through the winter and spring that Kanye and collaborators had been flying in for sessions. Among those in the valley for recording sessions were Chance The Rapper, Pusha-T, Kid Cudi, Nas, and Travs Scott.
Isa Jones, the paper's entertainment editor, who was not invited to the big party, said she's unsure what attracted the rapper to Jackson Hole. However, there's precedent, she noted, as Kanye spent about two years in Hawaii in other sessions.
With his superstar status, anything faintly controversial that Kanye says is news. He's been saying a lot. He announced he admires Donald Trump, something of a heresy in the black community. He also said that submitting to slavery was a choice.
"This is what he represents to us now all at once: a symbol of unparalleled wealth and power who is still somehow provocative on issues of race and class and gender," wrote a scribe for the website Pitchfork after flying across the continent to divine further meaning of Kanye.
But the writer's best lines may have been his description of Jackson Hole. Like many before him, he confused the town of Jackson with the valley called Jackson Hole, but the Pitchfork writer got some of the economics right.
"It is certainly a moneyed place, a fancy ski resort with cowboy stores as well as shops advertising Swarovski crystals. It seems like the kind of place where you go to spend a lot of money to feel rustic without having to be rustic."
That description doesn't square with how residents of Jackson see their community. As the News&Guide's Jones pointed out, 30 per cent of the town is Hispanic, just one of many ways that the New York writer didn't get below the surface.
One of the valley's icons is the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, located along the town square in Jackson. Jones described it as the first stop for tourists and the last stop of the night for locals. After the bonfire on the way to Yellowstone, the rappers returned to Jackson to party at the iconic bar. Kanye had tried to rent the bar at the last minute, but it was too late. The band had been booked to play.
And that's what the reporter for the New York Times saw as the entourage from the bonfire of Kanye's vanities arrived. "A bluegrass band was playing for a few dedicated dancers and after a little scene-sniffing—with both locals and visitors looking on warily—dozens of Mr. West's friends burst onto the dance floor," the Times recounted.
The situation was "surreal and also deeply unremarkable, this intermingling of crowds," said the Times. "On this night, in this room, America looked like it might be something great after all."
Why we need to ratchet down building energy use
CARBONDALE, Colo.—For all the extravagant wealth and luxury of Aspen the Roaring Fork Valley, there's another side to the valley that is parsimonious, even stingy.
In the modern era it became evident when a Cambridge-trained physicist named Amory Lovins arrived and built a house near Old Snowmass, about 24 kilometres from Aspen, and promptly began growing bananas using little more than the native sunshine coupled with good building designs and materials.
Since then, Lovins had shown a steady procession of visitors his banana crop. The take-away is that profligate burning of fossil fuels is unnecessary to stay warm or, for that matter, grow bananas at 2,100 metres in elevation.
The lesson has been slow to take hold. Buildings remain perhaps the most significant challenge in tackling the greenhouse gas emissions. Ed Mazria, a Santa Fe-based architect, recently told a conference in Carbondale that buildings are responsible for 40 per cent of global energy use. Of that energy use, 75 per cent is provided by burning fossil fuels.
The symposium was organized by two groups form the Roaring Fork Valley with overlapping missions of nudging along the energy transition. At the end of the day, a panel of speakers consisting primarily of elected officials said they thought it was time to accelerate action.
"I realize we are just kind of chipping away at the edge, and we need to be much more aggressive about what we're doing. I think the political will is there, citizen advocacy is there," said Aspen City Councillor Ann Mullins. She added that she believes she'll push net-zero building codes, particularly for new construction.
Energy use across the developed world has flattened in recent years, but in Aspen it has flattened despite continued building.
"The fact that our energy consumption is flat is very significant," said Stephen Kanipe, the chief building official in Aspen.
Aspen, he explained, has probably doubled its building stock, maximizing use of existing buildings, with a rapid growth of economic activity.
"For the last seven years we have averaged US$250 million to US$300 million of construction valuation annually," he said. "We inspect about US$1 million of construction a day."
Mazria has been campaigning for better buildings for most of his adult life. His 1979 book, The Passive Solar Energy Book, made the case for better architectural practices to reduce the need for artificial heat or cooling.
In 2005, recognizing the immensity of the challenge of climate change, he formed Architecture 2030. The premise of the group's advocacy is that the United States and other developed countries must reform themselves while helping the rest of the world develop more sensibly. Architecture 2030 focuses on cities, where the world's population growth will be concentrated.
New buildings must be designed in ways that effectively eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions. Building codes commonly adopted by local jurisdictions have become significantly more rigorous in the last 15 years, but Mazria's group envisions deeper cuts yet.
"We need a zero-net carbon national and international building code that is easy to adopt," he said. The code must apply to new buildings and also for major renovations. His group recently issued a proposed net-zero code. California is adopting a similar code.
Ski area gets second Stoke designation
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev.—At Diamond Peak Ski Resort, located in the bowl of a mountain overlooking Lake Tahoe, customers this winter saw more water fountains and also had the opportunity to buy reusable water pouches.
You can still buy single-use plastic water bottles, but the alternatives seem to have paid off. The resort reports a 34-per-cent reduction in water-bottle sales.
That's one of the initiatives that enabled the community-owned ski area to get certified by the new Stoke standard. It's the second to be so certified, following Oregon's Mt. Ashland Ski area.
The Lake Tahoe News explained that Stoke is the world's first sustainability certification body with standards built specifically for surface and ski tourism operations. Diamond Peak scored 78 out of a possible 100 across four categories of sustainability performance.
Growing tilapia year-round
BELLEVUE, Idaho—A 2,000-square-foot greenhouse has begun operating at Bellevue, down-valley from Ketchum and Sun Valley, with the goal of producing 360 to 408 kilograms of tilapia annually as well as vegetables.
The greenhouse is designed as a nearly closed system that recycles water and uses fish waste to fertilize plants, explained the Idaho Mountain Express.
"We're trying to supply the Wood River Valley with healthy food, using no pesticides or herbicides," said Matt Moran of the solar-powered greenhouse and fish farm. He previously had a career in pharmaceuticals.
Long-dead conquistadors get booted
ESPANOLA, N.M.—Espanola, located near Santa Fe and at the foot of the mountain where Los Alamos is located, has put an end to a long tradition.
That tradition was a reenactment of the arrival of the Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate. The pageant and carnival will be left to an independent group. It includes a costumed procession of an armoured Oñate on horseback with a coterie of soldiers, royalty, Christian friars, and Indian scout.
The Associated Press explained that Oñate is both celebrated as a Hispanic founding father and reviled for brutality against Native Americans.
Wikipedia explained that Spanish administrators in 1595 tasked Oñate with exploring and colonizing what is now New Mexico. A few years later, Oñate's men demanded supplies from the Acoma pueblo and were refused, with the result that 11 Spaniards were killed.
In retaliation, Oñate ordered a siege of the pueblo. An estimated 800 to 1,000 Acoma died, and all men and women older than 12 were enslaved for 20 years. In addition, men older than 25 had one foot amputated.
The AP said Santa Fe has a similar controversy about an annual re-enactment. The conquistador Don Diego de Varga and the Spanish returned to Santa in 1692, 12 years after the revolt of Pueblo Indians at Taos. The re-enactment has been met with increasing numbers of protestors in recent years.