Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Wall of Truth

December 29, 2011

Deena Bean got me five yoga sessions for Christmas and I attended my first one in a long time. Debbie Payne met me at the door with open arms and we hugged. The studio is about a block from the True West World Headquarters so that is sweet. Really felt good to go again.

We had a big pow wow on Tuesday regarding our Wall of Truth. Here are my notes for the meeting:

The Wall of Truth

• What we do is not a science, it is an art. And some of it is counterintuitive. A cluttered cover drives those of us who appreciate clean design crazy, but we have to learn what sells because it can mean an extra $6K to our bottom line, just by adding the right headlines to entice new readers. This is a first: the review and the trading up of better copy on the cover. Amazing. Thank you.

• This is a wall where the best ideas win. I believe when we all contribute and master the elements on this wall (what works, what doesn't), we will achieve market superiority and we will all succeed.

• All of us are smarter than each one of us. Everyone here can do something I can't do. Stay on task, for example.

• Warren Buffet ascribes his wealth to less than ten decisions he has made in his career. I can pretty much sum up my success at True West the same way. The first good decision I made was to hire Carole Glenn. And the second was to hire Robert Ray. And the three of us are responsible, directly, or indirectly, for all of you being here. These sound decisions i also believe are why we have survived all the bone-headed moves we have made in the past 12 years.

• The biggest predictor of happiness is a network of good relationships. And as long as we are talking to each other, trading good ideas and allowing the best ideas to win, we will be, productive and happy.

• The biggest problem all companies have is that we are all mildly delusional. The most successful people are mildly delusional status inflators. We think we're better than we are, we minimize our minuses, thus eliminating paralyzing self-doubt. It is important that we own this.

• 95 percent of American men believe they are in the top 50% when it comes to social skills. Women are more likely to be status deflaters. Women underestimate their IQ scores by an average of about five points. People not only overestimate what they know, they overestimate what they can know.

• We all seek limerence. The moment when we grasp a situation, solve a problem, or master a task, there's a surge of pleasure. It's not living in perpetual harmony that produces the surge. If that were so, we'd be happy living on the beach all our lives. It's the moment when some tension is erased. So a fulfilling day has its recurring set of rhythms: difficulty to harmony, difficulty to harmony. And it is all propelled by the desire for limerence, the desire for the moment when the inner and outer patterns mesh.

• This drive, this longing for harmony, is a never ending process—model, adjust, model, adjust—guiding us onward. Two-thirds of the decisions we make are going to be wrong. That's why it's important to keep correcting errors and learning. It's like walking. You throw yourself forward, which puts you out of balance, then your thrust your opposite leg out to counterbalance it. That's how we move forward, and more importantly, that's momentum (see below)

• There will still be frictions and conflicts, but if everyone feels like they have a voice, and if I have anything to do with it, you will, then the best ideas will win out. And the odds are in your favor that your ideas will be up here on the wall and in the finished product.

The Magic of History

"A feeling of immediate contact with the past is a sensation as deep as the purest enjoyment of art; it is an almost ecstatic sensation of no longer being myself, of overflowing into the world around me, of touching the essence of things, of through history experiencing the truth."—Johan Huizinga, historian

Car Experts

December 29, 2011

I'm going to run this photo in my editorial for the next issue of True West. Here's what I know about the photo. The driver is my grandfather Bob Guess. His wife, Louise, is in the back and the baby is my aunt Sadie Pearl. She was born in September of 1915 and her daughter, Tap Lou thinks Sadie looks to be about six months old, so the photo possibly was taken in 1916. The location of the photo is also up for grabs but Tap told me her mother was born in Lordsburg, New Mexico (as was my mother) and that they lived near Steins Pass (there is a truck stop east of Steins and Tap thinks they had a home near there).

Now for the automobile. Does anybody know the make and year?

"It happened on the strip where the road is wide. . ."
—"Shut Down", The Beach Boys

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dire Warnings

December 28, 2011

I woke up at midnite last night mulling an idea. As sometimes happens to me, I finally got up at two and went out to the studio to write the idea down. Actually, I typed it out in an email to myself at work.

Dire Warnings

To heed, or not to heed

The warnings were dire. Airplanes will fall out of the sky. Elevators full of people will plummet to their deaths. Remember the Y2K hysteria of 1999? That was the year we bought True West magazine and we were losing money. A lot of money. I picked up a trade magazine and it said, "This has been the worst year in magazine history."

What to do? We had to cut costs.

I sought the advice of a circulation consultant with the improbable name of Nina la France. She had just left Arizona Highways and was about to start work on a new magazine in San Francisco called Red Herring, already the darling of the dot com world.

We met at a fancy restaurant on Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix. I bought. Nina's advice was equally dire: 'You are a monthly, do not go below 12 issues a year. You may save some money in the short term, but the odds are you will never go back to 12 issues."

My partners and I decided we had no other choice and we cut down to 8 issues a year. Then came 9•11. We clawed our way back, adding two issues and then another. Still, as we sat stalled at 11 issues a year, Ms. France's dire warning haunted me.

The restaurant on Central is long gone as is the magazine Red Herring, a victim of the dot com crash.

Today, 12 years later, once again, the warnings are dire. The Mayans predict doom in 2012. Airplanes will fall out of the sky.

My prediction: the doom and gloom predictors will be wrong until they are right, and at some point they will be right. In the meantime, here is our 12th issue of the year in the 12th year of the millenium. It's a bonus. Subscribers will get it for free. There's a moral in here somewhere.

"Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, December 23, 2011

Family Face Time

December 23, 2011

The Deen is flying in tonight with her fiance Mike. They're landing at 11 from LA, getting out to the homestead at midnite. The Boy, Thomas Charles, will be picking them up and bringing them out. Great to have the family together for Christmas.

Of course, I miss my mom and dad and grandparents at this time of year. Here's another photo from the Tap Lou Duncan Weir collection of my mother Bobbie. Photo is from about 1940.

The dog's name is Bob, as in Bob Dog—named by Tap Lou by the way.

What's funny about this pic is that my daughter Deena got my mother's dimples and in this pic they resemble each other more than I realized.

And speaking of family, Charles Richard Waters turned 64 yesterday. He and I go back to third grade at Manzanita Grade School in Kingman. Here we are in a fifth grade class photo on the front steps of Manzanita.

And, I mentioned I have long used my kids as models. Here's proof, from a layout I did for New Times in the early eighties. That's Deena at bottom (the top image was taken from a Carson Mell photo).

"There are no strangers on Christmas Eve."

—Adele Comandini

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Guess Clan Treasures

December 22, 2011

Just got some great photos of my my grandparents from my cousin Tap Lou Weir. This is my grandfather, Bob Guess, his wife, my grandmother, Louise and their first born daughter Sadie Pearl at Steins Pass, New Mexico. Love the hat.

And here's my mother, Bobbie Guess, stylin' beside a car on Jefferson Street at the foot of what would later become Radar Hill.

If you look closely, you'll see a kid running around the back of the car to the left of my mother. That, I believe is the future World Champion Steer Roper Billy Hamilton. He was trained by my grandfather Bob Guess. Here is a photo of him with my cousin Donna Duncan.

Donna led a tragic life and died much too early. There was a great sadness about her and a troubled mystery that no one in the family talks about. Donna was the first born daughter of Sadie Pearl, the baby in the first photo.

"Home is the one place you go where they have to take you in."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Puzzling Cover Success?

December 21, 2011

For some reason our December issue is outselling anything we have done in years (in some outlets we are selling double what we normally sell). Many on our staff didn't like the cover (too busy). Why, do you think this nondescript image of a gunfighter did so well?
"Personally, I think it's because you used Bob McCubbin's name on the cover under the headline 'Scalp Hunter.'"
—J. Weddle

Monster Growth Cactus Metaphor

December 21, 2011

We've got a kid who is getting married in March. This person of interest plans on using the back yard for the ceremony so Kathy got the landscapers out this morning giving them all orders to trim and clean. One of the things that is going to get pruned and cut down to size is a cactus that has totally gotten out of hand.

We planted it in 1986, or so. Here I am with my daughter Deena, with our dog Dusty standing next to it (actually, that's it behind us, at right):

The dog's long gone, the girl grew up and moved to LA and the cactus, well, the cactus grew and grew. Here I am standing next to it this morning. Wanted to document it before the landscapers took it down to size:

I think you'll agree, that is one monster cactus that got totally out of hand. A living metaphor, perhaps, for my interest in all things Western.

"There is a fine line between hobby and mental illness."
—Dave Barry

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Westerns Channel Taping Today at Fort Whipple

December 20, 2011

My Westerns Channel producer, Jeff Hildebrandt, met me in front of the True West World Headquarters this morning at eight and we drove up to Prescott in the early morning fog. Here's the conditions at Humboldt, just before we got to Dewey:

We met the director of the Sharlot Hall Museum, John Langelllier, at 9:30 and drove out to the historic Fort Whipple where Al Sieber and Martha Summerhayes and General George Crook spent time:

This is, I believe, officer's row and the house in the foreground has a museum that features The Buffalo Soldiers on the upper floor, second window to the left. Here is the room with the crew setting up the shots. That's Steve, the director of photography on the left and Jeff, the sound man on the right. Yes that is the script in the teleprompter:

And yes, they are both hamming it up. Meanwhile, here I am with the teleprompter techie and the makeup person:

And here I am with the producer, Jeff Hildebrandt:

We taped three True West Moments for Black History Month in February and the spots will run on the Westerns Channel all month.

"I'm Bob Boze Bell and this has been a True West Moment."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Not-So-Gentle Tamer #5

December 19, 2011
Went home for lunch and whipped out the final on Not-So-Gentle Tamer #5.

Utilized the cactus auditions I took yesterday.

"If there is a wrong way to do something, then someone will do it."
—Edward A. Murphy Jr.

I'm So Vain I Probably Think This Post Is About Me

December 19, 2011

Worked most of the weekend on finishing the Not-So-Gentle Tamers painting. I wanted to add some prickly pear cactus in the foreground as a symbol of the toughness of the land and the women who tamed it, so I took a walk to audition cactus.

I like the dead and dying cactus. May save this one for another painting.

This one is even better. Notice how the dying cactus is turning purple. Very cool. There is a virus or fungus that is killing prickly pear in our area. This next one is on my neighbor Muffy's land. Like the disparate shapes.

And this final audition shot is right behind my pickup in the following shot. I like the mix of prickly pear and succulent agaves.

All of these were shot with my iPhone. Pretty amazing (and depressing if you own Kodak stock). Oh, wait, Robert Ray assures me Kodak owns the patents on the digital photography used in the iPhone. Okay, I'm not as depressed.

Kathy gifted me a vanity license plate for my birthday today. I think she said she gave a donation to the centennial historical society. I've avoided getting one for fear of appearing too vain, but now that she bought it for my birthday, well, vain glorious it is!

Yes, I'm so vain, I probably think this post is about me.

Wildcat Watching

You might notice I'm wearing my UofA Wildcat sweatshirt. My son Thomas Charles and his girlfriend Pattarapan came out on Saturday and while she cooked me a Thai surprise for my B-day, T and I watched the Wildcats take on Gonzaga. The Cats lost but it was a good game. Fast forward to Sunday and we were watching the classic episode of Louis CK where he beds Joan Rivers, when Tommy stood up suddenly and said, "Holy mole! There's a wildcat on the patio!" Sure enough we ran to the door and a wildcat pranced across our back yard, easily climbed our five foot chain link fence and disappeared into the desert.

So two Wildcat sightings in one weekend. Not bad for a Medicare eligible senior.

"I was too old to be scared stiff and too stiff to sleep on the ground."
—P.J. O'Rourke, 64, on why he retired from the war correspondent game

Friday, December 16, 2011

Westward Ho Ho Ho!

December 16, 2011

If someone had told me even five years ago that my phone would take photos as good as my Nikon, I would have laughed at them. Well, I'm still laughing, but it is sweet that I can see a scene while I'm driving and snap off a couple phone photos while driving 75 mph (don't tell DPS or Kathy, who was sleeping when the following shots were taken). A week ago I was on the way to Vegas for Cowboy Christmas and as we approached White Hills on highway 93 I was marveling at the late afternoon shadows on a distant range. As you can see, I snapped this off right over the steering wheel:

And through the windshield, with the car jiggling and moving fast. I waited until I got up to the rock outcropping at left, then took a closer shot:

What I wanted to capture is that the shadows on the distant range stop halfway down and you have this blank spot where the washes fan out, leaving the range looking like it's floating above the tundra. This is a four o'clock shadow and I want to capture that effect in my paintings, so now I have great reference. Rather sweet.

Westward Ho Ho Ho!

I read in the Arizona Republic, that the Westward Ho Hotel in Phoenix opened with a lavish party 84 years ago yesterday. I have some history there. I went to work for New Times there, on the second floor in March of 1978, but just prior to that, in December of 1977, Kathy and I had our first date here, attending the New Times Christmas party where the Southern Tornado performed. I was on drums. The drums have been retired, but the relationship lives on. Here's an ad the Westward Ho ran in the Arizona Days And Ways Magazine, on February 11, 1962 on the 50th year celebration of Arizona statehood:

The Republic semi-centennial publication was a big inspiration for my True West centennial efforts. I looked through it quite often looking for links and stories we needed to cover. I own three of these. I found one in an antique store and was gifted the others. They are in a prominent place in my library.

"Half a hundred years ago, Arizona was granted statehood. It has been less than a lifetime—but more than an era."
—Eugene C. Pulliam, publisher, Phoenix Newspapers Ince, on page 1 of "This Is Arizona: Fiftieth Anniversary."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Centennial Issue Is In The House!

December 15, 2011

Carole Glenn came into my office just before lunch with a big smile on her face and handed me the March 2012 issue of True West, hot off the press from RR Donnelley in Kansas City. Yes, our office copies of the special Centennial Collector's Edition are in the house.

Here's a sneak peek at some of the centennial coverage:

And here's some of the artwork you've been seeing on my blog, being turned into Classic Gunfights:

Subscribers issues should start dropping in mailboxes in the next ten days. Issue goes on the newsstand January 3rd.

In addition to our centennial team here at True West, I have to give credit to our great crew at RR Donnelley. We didn't have enough tip-ons (cover sheets on top of covers to warn of last issue) for the print run, so one of their employees, Todd Spychalla, took it on himself to go xerox enough pages to facilitate the run. Thanks, Todd! Glad you are on our team.

"What one has to do usually can be done."
—Eleanor Roosevelt

The View From the new Pat Tillman Bridge

December 15, 2011

On our way to Vegas last Thursday, we stopped and walked out on the new Pat Tillman bridge and I took this shot looking at Hoover Dam. Love the landscape in that area (what's the name of that butte in the back?). Breathtaking view straight down.

It was on this date in 1928 that the Westward Ho Hotel opened in Phoenix. Kathy and I had our first date there in 1977, at a New Times Christmas party where the Southern Tornado played (I was on drums). That was a few moons ago.

"There are people who take the heart out of you, and there are peiople who put it back."
—Elisabeth David

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Stunning Confession by Marshall Trimble

December 14, 2011

I just received this stunning confession by Marshall Trimble on drinking and driving:

This is a word to the wise for all my email friends. I would like to share an experience with you, it has to do with drinking and driving. As you know some of us have had brushes with the authorities over the years. The other night I went out for drinks. After consuming too much to drink, and knowing full well that I was wasted, I did something I've never done before.

Believe it or not, I took a bus home. Yes, a bus. I arrived home safely and without incident.

This was really a surprise to me since I have never driven a bus before.

—Marshall Trimble

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Clint Still Rocks!

December 13, 2011

Eight years ago today, I woke up in Valencia, Spain (we were visiting my son who was spending a year studying abroad from NAU, Northern Arizona University) and he and I walked to a small restaurant to get coffee. Saw a newspaper with the headline that Saddam had been captured in a spider hole on a farm in the town he was from. Famous picture of him having his teeth examined, which it turns out is an insult to people in the region (having your teeth examined in public) and the U.S. did it on purpose, if memory serves me correct, and it increasingly does not.

Rained most of the night. Still raining. Got up this morning to take a second stab at Clint as a butte. Whipped this out before I came into work.

"Clint Still Rocks." One concept too far?

"The world has always gone through periods of madness so as to advance a bit on the road to reason."
—Hermann Broch

Monday, December 12, 2011

Clint Butte Is A Beaut

December 12, 2011

Back from Cowboy Christmas. Had a wonderful time seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Attended the NFR Finals Rodeo on Friday night. Charlie Daniels opened the show and kicked some major patootie. Noticed Hip Hop is creeping into the soundtrack (three different samplings). Inevitable, really.

Lots more to say about Cowboy Christmas, but I'll save it for later.

I mentioned last week that Lew Jones gifted me with a piece of wood off of William Antrim's outhouse in Mogollon, New Mexico. Found this photo I took about six years ago, when the outhouse was a leaning wreck. It's since completely fallen down.

Ever wonder what the first thing I look at in the morning when I wake up? Well, wonder no more. Here's the view from my side of the bed:

Yes, those are all hats from my collection.

Working on a cover idea with Clint Eastwood as a butte. An iconic butte, a la Monument Valley:

Clint Butte

"The principal office of history I take to be this: to prevent virtuous actions from being forgotten, and that evil words and deeds should fear an infamous reputation with posterity."


Highway to Hell

December 8, 2011

Kathy and I are heading out for Vegas this morning. Driving the Old Trails, thru Wickenburg, Santa Maria, Wickieup, Kingman, Santa Claus, Grasshopper Junction and White Hills. Always brings back memories. When we first moved to Kingman for good in 1956, the road to Wikieup was dirt, because the Prescott business lobby didn't want the road paved, because they wanted Mohave County traffic to come through their town (we had to drive to Ashfork on 66, then down to Prescott and from there to Phoenix). it wasn't until we got a highway commissioner from Kingman (Leo Black?), that the road was finally paved, with good intentions.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
—Old Vauqero Saying

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Sneak Peek at Arizona Centennial Cover

December 7, 2011

Well, it won't be out to subscribers for three weeks, but here's a sneak peek at our Arizona Centennial issue:

And here's the finish on Not-So-Gentle Tamers which will also appear in the issue:

"Fangs for the memories."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Durnit And Little Durnit

December 7, 2011

I called my cousin Tap Lou this morning and asked her about Tom Crabtree and she told me all about the Kingman cowboy and the photo I ran of him yesterday.

Yes, it was taken just outside her mother's home on Jefferson Street on Hilltop in Kingman.

Tap told me that Tom Crabtree worked all over Mohave County as a cowboy and that everybody knew him. He was a friend of my grandfather, Bob Guess, and they often visited, and Tap Lou can remember them talking about all sorts of things. She said, "he knew more than I wanted to know."

She also related how he worked out on the ranch with the water tank, near Lone Mountain (the Neal Ranch today). My aunt Jean Linn remembers the horse Tony, the horse in the photo, and also Little Tony. These horses begat a series of big and little names, like Dammit and Little Dammit, Durnit and Little Durnit. Durnit sired Cleo and Cleo is the horse I grew up riding and taking care of.

When we moved to Kingman in 1956, I desperately wanted a horse of my own. And my mother worked out a deal for me to take care of Cleo. I got home from school and fed her and watered her and rode her.

Anyway, it wasn't Tom Crabtree who went on the trip with my mother in 1940. My mother graduated from Mohave High School in 1939, so she was fresh out of school. So the mystery is half solved. Tap Lou seconded Aunt Jean's memory of a trip with a certain cowboy but didn't offer who the cowboy was.

Going to Vegas tomorrow for Cowboy Christmas. We have a booth at Mandalay Bay. Had a blow-up poster made of our Arizona Centennial cover art. Here's Robert Ray and Meghan Saar standing in front of it.

Robert and Meghan worked very hard on this project, making last minute changes, and fixing typos, all day yesterday. It finally went to the printer around five. Great people to work with. They care about getting it right.

Meanwhile, Dan The Man Harshberger came up with a design for our proposed 12th issue, which will come out next year:

"Men are more important than tools. If you don't believe so, put a good tool in the hands of a poor workman."
—John J. Bernet

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Fading Kingman Cowboys & Indians

December 6, 2011

This morning Kathy asked me if I had a box of family photos she could look at, so I went out to the studio and found the nearest box full and brought it back to the kitchen table. Opening the box, I found this photo of a Kingman cowboy.

On the back it says that the cowboy is "Tom Crabtree on Tony." That's all it says. Like the person who wrote it, assumed everyone would know the rest. Those are the Hualapais in the background and by the look of the street I'd say it's Jefferson Street on Hilltop. I believe that tree at far left was in the Lowry's front yard, which was next of my aunt Sadie Pearl's house. The Lowry's were rarely there, but one time Mr. Lowry told me he was related to the Tombstone McLuarys and that Wyatt Earp was a bastard killer.

I assume Tom was a rodeo cowboy since he has the number 5 on his pants leg. Based on the other photos around it, I'd say this is from about 1940 and taken by my mother (it was in a box of her things).

Another photo in the box caught my eye:

This appears to be a photo of a Navajo sheepherder, although it would make more sense that it was a Hualapai (their res is closer to Kingman), but the land behind him looks to be a little flat for Peach Springs country. As the cryptic notation says, it was taken in July of 1940, but why and what were the circumstances?

Looking through the rest of the photos I found this one:

Is this a companion photo? Did my mother, on a road trip, take a photo of the sheepherder, then turn the camera to catch his sheep? Since there is a shadow of a man with a cowboy hat in the first photo, did a male companion take the photo? When I visited my aunt Jean in Fort Sumner recently, she alluded to a trip my mother took with a certain cowboy. In 1940, this would be five years before my mother married an Iowa farmboy, and my aunt confided to me that my mother was quite popular with the local, Kingman cowboys.

So, where were they going? What were they hoping for? Are any of these subjects still alive? Probably not. Haunting really, as time erases all traces of what was here. We take photos to capture time, to stop the erosion, but, when I'm gone, nobody will know even what I've told you.

And so every family has this dilemma, or struggle. It can't be preserved, it's going to fade, get lost, disappear, just like us.

Wait a minute. Could the cowboy in the shadow be Tom Crabtree? A Kingman cowboy road trip? Hmmmmm.

"When you write down your life, every page should contain something no one has ever heard about."
—Elias Canetti

Monday, December 05, 2011

Snow & William Antrim's Outhouse

December 5, 2011

Legendary Creekers, Lew and Tara Jones (owners of the gone-but-not-forgotten Mineshaft Bar & Restaurant in Cave Creek) came over for dinner on Saturday night. Lew gifted me with a piece of wood from William Antrim's outhouse in Mogollon, New Mexico. It has a plaque stating such and I put it on the wall next to our front door so everyone who visits will know how proud I am of it.

Of course, William Antrim was Billy the Kid's step-father and someone suggested I add a claim to the bottom, that "Billy the Kid sat here." Maybe. Ha.

Woke up to snow this morning, which dusted Elephant Butte north of our house:

Spent all weekend working on cover image for our centennial package. Very ambitious. Lots going on. Sneak peek later.

Sometimes when I hear the horror stories of kids growing up, I feel guilty that my parents were so decent. I have to say I really identify with P.J.:

"My parents also neglected to abuse me. They're gone now, alas. . .I've thought about asking my wife's parents to abuse me, but it seems a little late. I did have a stepfather who bowled."
—P.J. O'Rourke

Friday, December 02, 2011

Size Matters: Tombstone Edition

December 2, 2011

Worked a little on the centennial cover. It's a big sucker and quite intimidating.

Came into the office and whipped out a couple characters for this issue's Size Matters: The Tombstone Edition. Here's the runt of the litter, Texas John Slaughter at five foot two:

And here's Billy Clanton at six feet:

And his blow hard brother, Ike, who got his younger brother killed:

I think I heard Ike was five foot ten. Anybody know? Here's the Earps at six foot (also Doc Holliday was allegedly around six foot):

And here's Sheriff Bob Paul at six foot four:

"When your work speaks for itself, don't interupt."

—Henry J. Kaiser

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Four Arizona Flagscapes

December 1, 2011

Had a little rain this morning. Not much, just right. Worked in the studio before going into work and whipped out four Arizona Centennial Flagscapes. We need a logo for our centennial package and we didn't want a crisp flag look because we are covering the state from the beginning of time to statehood and we wanted a worn out look, with a funky patina. Here is the first one:

Here's number two:

Number three:

And number four:

"Tribes with flags."
—The title of a book about Arab difficulties with cohesion, but it could just as well be used to describe our state.