Jackie Sereno: The Medford Remains–Book Review

With The Medford Remains Jackie Sereno has put out her second “Circling Eagle Mystery,” after her debut novel “Breaking Ground.” Her second volume of the family saga tells us about the making of a murderer, a Native American boy breaking free from the foster system. This story with a real twist unfolds on two time lines. Richard Circling Eagle investigates his father’s mysterious demise and his mother’s unexplained disappearance. The Medford Remains is an incredibly rich and suspenseful murder mystery and family saga playing in Northern Wisconsin. For all of you who like Tony Hillerman stories, Jackie Sereno very well matches that in-depth research.

I had the great pleasure to help Jackie with the pictures for her Medford Trailer. Actor Cainan Thomas from Fort McDowell (AZ, Yavapai) was the model for the key pictures of the story. It was such a nice adventure to set up for the shots at my friend Renate Mousseux’s house in Fountain Hills. As his former teacher, Renate has know Cainan and his family since his childhood. Cainan is an actor who has played Native American characters in movie productions.

The pictures (below) turned out great. Here is the gist of the story: “Decades after Thomas Circling Eagle’s suicide, his wallet is discovered buried in an abandoned barn. That puzzling fact intrigues his now grown son Richard, especially because its contents contradict the suicide assumption and include a reference to mysterious human remains uncovered in the wilderness near Medford, WI.”

That sets Richard on a quest for the truth.

A long forgotten wallet with troubling clues inside.

NOW ON AMAZON: Jackie Sereno, The Medford Remains


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Re-Cycling Isn’t a Real Cycle

Do you know what’s a cycle? Not a bi-cycle. Not an orb. Not the menses. I am talking about another natural cycle. The water cycle. I found one of the best examples, which every fourth grader must know, painted on a trash can during a Scottsdale (AZ) festival season. No natural resource is more important for Arizona (and the world) than the water (and air).

Water cycle painted on trash can in Scottsdale, AZ

Isn’t this a fabulous illustration? And it’s painted on a recycling can. So much more meaningful as an invitation for recycling. These images are fairly old, but I fell in love with the educational art and kept the snapshots for a reason.

The water cycle goes round and round, no saying where the start is: precipitation, collection, evaporation, condensation, precipitation . . . back to the beginning. The water has an infinite loop. Nothing gets lost.

Not so re-cycling (what’s in the blue trash can, not what’s painted on it). As I am spending time in a recycling-bound country, Germany, an idea popped into my head: as hard as we may try, recycling is not a true cycle. At best, it’s a loop. Why?

Plastic bottlesTake plastic, for example. First we pump mineral oil out of a well from the earth. This goes to a refinery, to a plastic factory, which makes the plastic bottle. From there, the plastic bottle goes to the beverage manufacturer (maybe as throw-away water bottle), to the distributor, to the store, to the consumer (us), to the blue barrel, to the sorting & recycling company, to the shredder, to the melter . . .  and then WHAT?

We can’t put that darn plastic back into the ground, not as a liquid anyway, maybe bury it in a dump. We can’t pump the oil back down there. The Jack is out of the box. And, no way, Mike Wisausky, we can’t “put that thing back where it came from.”

Duh. What’s new. We know that already, you may say.

But the plastic has a re-cycle, right? Let’s take a look. Where does the recycled plastic go? Melted into some other containers. Again and again. How long? Hard to say. Until it floats in the ocean as either bottles or micro beads and enters the unavoidable process of the food chain. It’s been said, how sad, we all eat plastic now. Eat your plastic, kid!

Reutberger BierRecycling, is not a true cycle, but it is still the best we can do. We humans are ignoring the Sorcerer’s Apprentice problem all too often. We do things just because we can. And for the money. We say, let’s deal with the consequences (of plastic) later, or not at all? Let the kids deal with it?

Avoid the plastic where you can and recycle the rest. America has much room for improvement recycling-wise. In Germany, most beverage bottles (plastic & glass with a deposit) go straight back to the store. Any other glass (wine bottles, jars, etc.) must be dropped at the glass collection station sorted by color. German beverages, in the first place, come in crates (12 or 20 bottles), also with a deposit on them. These bottles are washed and refilled.

How about that, America? Put that thing back where it came from. At least return all your bottles to the store. The merchants have to take them back! They made money off of them. Ditto! The bottles are their responsibility.

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Helmut Buchner’s New Sculptures

There is something in everything, depending on how you look at it

Photos by Joe Jaworski & Edda Buchner

What’s behind a rock, a root, a shell, or a time-proven fence post? Maybe nothing. But you can always make it “something.” Just by looking and thinking. Art objects are all around us. Nobody knows that better than silversmith and “Macher” (maker) Helmut Buchner from the Bat Cave Ranch by San Antonio.

Helmut has a very deliberate way of talking. Each sentence, no matter how obvious the content, clearly captures a deep thought. And that also applies to the stories behind his sculpture park on his ranch, which grows steadily. I will try my best to do our conversation justice with my English interpretation of some of his new, money-free objet d’art.

Mona Lisa came together just for fun. There was a river rock laying around for years. It had the shapes of a beautifully formed woman, no relations to the Kardashians (maybe Picasso or Gaugin). And then there was also the tree stump of an old cedar tree. That tree had been in conflict with an oak. Every time when I have to cut down a tree, I leave a stump as a memorial. It could be used for something later. That tree offered itself to install something on it. The other two things had been waiting in the grass for a while. So I put all three together, set the rock on the stump, and installed the metal frame around it. The stone, steel, and wood enhanced each other quite naturally.”

Covid-19 Man: “I made that at the beginning, when we started to realize how threatening and aggressive Covid-19 was. For the first time it happened in my long life that we had such a worldwide epidemic. For me, the woodblock face demonstrates the anguish of a patient screaming from pain and terror. We’ve had the ball made of sea shells for a long time and it offered itself as a Covid virus symbol encompassing the entire globe.”

Bird Happiness: Helmut stands at the bottom of 40-foot-tall bamboo pole. It has a weather vane at the top, a bird with a long ribbon tail. The “Windvogel” sways in all directions, depending on how the wind blows. Unfortunately, storms repeatedly tore the sculpture off its mount. Helmut’s solution? He made a bamboo man to help support the structure. “The golden-haired bamboo guy holds up the pole so that the bird won’t fly away,” Helmut says. So how is this working out? Time will tell.

Himmelsleiter-Stairway to Heaven: A bicycle without a saddle is parked at the bottom of a bamboo ladder leading up into the air to who-knows-where? This sculpture, one of Helmut’s oldest, is thoroughly weathered. Visitors are fascinated by it, a stairway to heaven. “I figured that the ladder alone won’t get you to heaven, but I had a lot of people thinking that it might,” Helmut says with a wry smile on his face.

Nothing is accidental about Helmut’s sculptures. They are built on careful observation, selection, and artistic vision. A lot of thought goes into them. Helmut’s next sculpture could take a while or happen spontaneously. It starts with the idea, then the collection of materials, and finally comes the technical problem solving. The organic part is undeniable. These sculptures, exposed to the elements, change and mature over time—intentionally. They are in constant dialog with the maker and spectator. And nature.

“I don’t want to convert people to anything. Everybody should make up his or her own interpretation. Friends brought visitors over to show them the sculptures. I am always surprised about their comments. Everybody gets to think what they want. And that is the way it should be.”

Another piece is in the works, called Kama Sutra, aka a bunch of large, gnarly cedar roots arranged together. “At this time, I am working on the enlightened lovers,” Helmut says.

What will people think about that?

Whatever they want. Like me. Mea culpa, Helmut! I had thought that man with the sea shells was playing beach volleyball: shells = beach, white ball, get it? Perhaps some wishful thinking there. We all could have done so much better without the Covid.

Maybe some objects are also crying out to you for the art inside of them? Just look around! Elevate your vision for the not-so-ordinary.

There is more. Helmut is also an excellent silversmith-jewelry maker. His life partner Edda Buchner will be showcasing his jewelry together with the sculptures in a book. Helmut has also built a Zen garden, a labyrinth, and a tipi on his Texas home turf.

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The War on Plastic

War on Crime, War on Drugs, War on Poverty, Star Wars, Price Wars,  –  Why not have a War on Plastic—NOW? We need one more good war!

We splurge in unnecessary plastic all the time. Where does the waste go?

Refuse, reduce, recycle that plastic!

I confess, I use plastic still too much. Most of it is totally avoidable.

Regardless how judicious you may be, you will have committed one of these 10 Plastic Cardinal Sins. Aren’t we lazy! (Or is it short-term memory loss?). So, let’s restart.

The 10 Cardinal Plastic Sins

  1. Single-use water bottle: It should have been legally restricted or taxed by now. Some schools and organizations have banned them. Bring your own refillable water bottle. Water in tin bottles available now.
  2. Plastic shopping bags: Yeah, what’s your problem? Bring your own bags, or a basket. Ask for paper bags. Don’t trust the “recycling” of plastic bags in the stores. Or hopefully the store makes you pay for a plastic bag.
  3. Take out containers: In the US, it’s still a world of plastic and Styrofoam. Avoid restaurants that serve you tubs of plastic that could be aluminum or paper. Plastic take-out containers were banned in some European countries.
  4. Online purchases: Hell, no! Get your items from the store, because the shipping material refuse is insane. Peanuts and bubble wrap galore. Leave that stuff to Santa!
  5. Beverage bottles: Get your drinks in a can, glass bottle, or from the faucet, not plastic! This would be my NEW LAW: Stores must recycle plastic bottles, return them to the manufacturer. Let the Coca Cola deal with the plastic!
  6. Liquid detergent: The utmost insanity of all! Haven’t we always used washing powder? It gives you the same results. Listen up, Tide & Co.: Take your jugs off the shelves right now! We can shake up our own soapy sauce.
  7. Body wash & hair shampoo: Just use bar soap. Even hair shampoo and conditioner are available as solid bars these days.
  8. Body lotion: Easy fix. Use fragrant, essential, natural oils—in glass bottles. Oils have fewer ingredients than lotions and may be more beneficial than lotions overall.
  9. Juice & milk jugs: Tropicana switched to plastic carafes. Why?? Other juices still come in cartons. Buy those! One gallon milk jugs can still be recycled in our town. But you may just as well get milk in 1/2 gallon packs.
  10. Egg “cartons” ???: Why should plastic egg “cartons” even exist?

Our municipal authority, the City of Mesa, has basically given up on recycling. Only about 5 item categories will be accepted, forget about washing out yogurt cups. Since China does not take our American trash any more, the dumps on the Salt River Reservation and the other one by the Florence prison are growing at horrid rates.

ONE MORE EXAMPLE OF ILL-FATED PLASTIC LOGIC: In my college days I met a lady who had a big heart for animals. She cut up the plastic rings from the soda six-packs. Why? So that no sea-life should be caught in it. WHY would our plastic end up in the ocean in the first place? This was some 30 years ago, and ongoing.

At any rate, plastic should carry a Surgeon General’s warning, just like cigarettes:

SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Plastic Causes Piles of Trash, Harmful Inertia, Intrusion into the Food Cycle, Death of Sea Life, and various types of Cancer. Plastic Overuse by any Human Has Been Shown to Result in Global Pollution, Toxicity in the Food Chain, and the Increase in Morbidity in Humans on All Continents.


Environmental change: California’s new plastics law could force the rest of the nation to cut down on its polluting materials. The legislation mandates, among other things, a reduction in the single-use plastics sold in the state. It also requires 65 percent of plastics to be recycled within a decade—an ambitious goal. Plastics makers will have to foot the bill for recycling. The law could have ripple effects across the nation, but not all recycling proponents are pleased, Laura Parker reports.

Read the full story. (Pictured above, one million plastic beverage bottles are purchased every minute worldwide.)


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Top Five Animated Movies of All Times

If you are an “adult” like me (whatever that means), you may have left most cartoons behind you. But I like an animated movie once in a while. Animations help us to look beyond reality. They punch our buttons, hit us on levels of irony and travesty, where reality just does not reach. Here are my top five animation movies.

Shrek turns all fairytales upside down. I like it so much, because I grew up with a lot of Grimms’ stories in Germany. And Shrek busts our stereotypes once and for all: nothing noble about the steed, a prince turned out short, and an ogre who is a philosopher. There are surprises around every corner. I love how all the characters are mixed up in a paradoxical stew. Best of all is the twist in the end: Be who you are, not who you think you should be. And don’t we all love dragons!

Monsters Inc. shows us the inside workings of a scare corporation–very well done! The monsters are more scared of humans than the other way around. When the monsters march to work, I am reminded of our current political scare tactics. Doors hold a fascination for all of us. Don’t we always want to know what’s behind them? Are we afraid to open them? So cool, how the doors are played throughout. The nice thing about Monsters Inc.: Truth be told, laughter creates more energy than fear.

Wall-e is the most real and scariest animation that I know. I have always had a knack for utopias (Brave New World, Time Machine, 1984). A tiny robot is the only worker left in a post apocalyptic world, when spoiled-beyond-belief humans have escaped on a spaceship. Humanity, all fat like mast oxen, has fallen victim to limitless comfort seeking, subscribing to the Buy&Large, until all life on earth was buried under trash. So what should we do? Go about our business, as the world goes down? Think. Think again. Do something! Recycle, vote, refuse the plastic!

Rango must be counted as one of the best Westerns of all time. It’s up there with Dances with Wolves and Unforgiven, but not only because Johnny Depp is the chameleon. If you’re ever talking “characters” in an animation–it’s Rango. But I like it the MOST for its DIRE dire story line, especially for us in Arizona. A little desert town called Dirt is running out of water–because a greedy corporation diverted it. Similar monster developers and corporations have bought up everything in the Valley of the Sun. When will our Valley run out of water? What can we do to conserve it? Certainly the cancer-like sprawl doesn’t help.

Finding Nemo instantly thrilled me. It had a good story, I can identify with short term memory loss (ha, ha, Dori!), and I have always been fascinated with sea life. At one point, I had wanted to become a marine biologist, reading too much about Jaques Cousteau and an Austrian scientist, Hans Hass. Both swam with sharks and studied their behaviors. They weren’t the blood-thirsty beasts as often portrayed. Imagine:

100 million sharks are killed by us in a year!!

Sharks, in return, hardly kill 10 humans a year. Something is off here. Something is also off at the Great Barrier Reef. It’s dying from global warming.

Thank God for animation! At least we are able to participate in nature vicariously via movies. Although that’s not enough for me. I need a regular, in-person experience with nature to balance me out—not necessarily with sharks, but a good hike on the Rim will do.

So, if you got nothing better to do, watch a movie! I just gave you my top five animations.

There is a lot of good truth to them.

They make you think.

I hope.

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