El Portal’s Web Feature for May 2015

We apologize for the short period of inactivity. In April, we were unable to post excerpts from the most recent edition of El Portal due to technical issues. However, this month we have a special treat for our readers. Alexandra Itzi has put together an interview with Kayleen Burdine, who will serve as El Portal‘s editor starting in August 2015.

This interview will conclude the web features until August 2015. Our new reading period for monthly web features will run from August 2015 to May 2016. If you would like to submit a piece for El Portal‘s monthly web features, please consider e-mailing the editor for more information.

Any questions about El Portal or Kayleen’s role as editor can be sent to el.portal@enmu.edu.

We here at El Portal hope you have a wonderful summer. We know we will.

Thinking West: Campfire Coffee Recipe

El Portal has decided to publish its own recipe of a western favorite: campfire coffee. Campfire coffee is an art and a science, despite what many city folks might believe. Moreover, coffee is just as important to the cowpokes of the range as it is to the business folks of the city. Unlike those city slickers who visit Starbucks or some upscale coffee joint, inhabitants of the West prefer to make their own coffee, using only a few ingredients, a crude coffee pot, and hot coals. Western coffee recipes vary from one family to the next. Regional recipes are known to circulate the West. Agua Dulce, the name for a coffee made in the northern mountains and valleys of Nueva México, is one such example. Agua Dulce is known for its sweeter side and is often served with dessert or after hearing good news. Campfire coffee recipes are often handed down from one generation to the next, with few modifications made to these family recipes. It is also rumored that some campfire coffee recipes have spurred range feuds between competitive families. In some well-known cases, campfire coffee recipes have even served as dowries for many a range wedding.

What you’ll need:

  • (x1) Metal coffee pot
  • Coffee grounds (rough grounds; finer grounds won’t work)
  • (x1) Metal spoon
  • Hot coals
  • Water (enough to fill your coffee pot)

Optional ingredients (after coffee is brewed):

  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Cilantro
  1. First you’ll need to make your fire. You will not be using the flames to brew your coffee. You only need to use the hot coals.
  2. Put water in your coffee pot. Place your coffee pot on the hot coals. Allow for the water to boil inside the pot.
  3. Once the water has boiled inside the pot, remove the pot from the coals and remove the pot’s lid. With the lid removed, add between 6 and 12 tablespoons of coffee grounds to your boiling water. (The more coffee grounds you add to the boiling water, the stronger the coffee will be.) Stir in the coffee grounds. As you stir, the coffee grounds will start sinking to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Place lid back on pot. Allow the coffee to sit for at least 5 to 10 minutes. This will allow for the coffee to brew and the remainder of the coffee grounds will sink to the bottom of the coffee pot.
  5. Pour yourself a steaming hot cup of campfire coffee. Add sugar and whatever else you might like in your coffee. However, unsweetened and untouched campfire coffee is the best, according to many inhabitants of the West. As one cowpoke put it, “It tastes like burnt motor oil, goes down like drain cleaner, warms you like a fire would, and wakes you up like a cold shower might.”

Thinking West: The Pineapple Express (Weather)


Animation of atmospheric river event, December 2014. (CREDIT: NOAA/ESRL Physical Sciences Division)
Animation of atmospheric river event, December 2014. (CREDIT: NOAA/ESRL Physical Sciences Division)


In December 2014, many Americans watched news coverage of torrential downpours in California. The torrential downpours, still occurring when this post was written, came at a time when California had been in the midst of the worst drought in its history. (Ironically NOAA claimed that California’s drought was not man-made but naturally caused that same month.) Where is the rain coming from? Did the skies suddenly open up to release a bounty of needed rain over California? If not what brought this unexpected (yet needed) deluge?

For those unfamiliar with meteorology, the rain storms in California seem like some cosmic form of deus ex machina. However, it’s a bit more complicated than that. It was the Pineapple Express that brought this much needed moisture to the U.S. west coast. Moreover, it was the moisture brought, and continued to be brought, by the Pineapple Express, culminating in those rain storms that California desperately needed. What exactly is the Pineapple Express? Where does the Pineapple Express originate? These are questions that can best be answered by examining information provided by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research explains that the term Pineapple Express is “[a]n informal name for the flow of low- and mid-level moist air, driven by the subtropical jet stream, that sometimes extends from the region around Hawaii (hence “pineapple”).” NOAA’s description of the Pineapple Express meteorological phenomenon adds to this rather vague yet convoluted UCAR definition. NOAA describes the Pineapple Express as “a type of strong AR [Atmospheric River] that can hit the U.S. west coast.” What exactly is an Atmospheric River (AR)? Again, we must delve deeper into the field of meteorology to find our answers. Nevertheless, NOAA provides an excellent (and brief) definition of this fascinating meteorological phenomenon:

Atmospheric Rivers (AR) are relatively narrow regions in the atmosphere that are responsible for most of the horizontal transport of water vapor outside of the tropics. While ARs come in many shapes and sizes, those that contain the largest amounts of water vapor, the strongest winds, and stall over watersheds vulnerable to flooding, can create extreme rainfall and floods. These events can disrupt travel, induce mud slides, and cause catastrophic damage to life and property. However, not all ARs cause damage – most are weak, and simply provide beneficial rain or snow that is crucial to [the] water supply.”

[A more detailed explanation of ARs can be found here.]

Interesting facts concerning Atmospheric Rivers (from NOAA):

  • On average, about 30-50% of annual precipitation in the west coast states occurs in just a few AR events, thus contributing to water supply.
  • A strong AR transports an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to 7.5–15 times the average flow of liquid water at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
  • In the strongest cases ARs can create major flooding when they make land-fall and stall over an area.
  • On average ARs are 400-600 km wide.
  • ARs are a primary feature in the entire global water cycle, and are tied closely to both water supply and flood risks, particularly in the Western U.S.
  • ARs move with the weather and are present somewhere on the earth at any given time.

ItNothing (Poem by Alexandra Itzi)


“But I—“

“I said no.”

There was a slam,

a bang,

and then a sigh.


That’s how the story started,

and also how it ended.


She looked down at his body,

at the crooked bend of his neck.

She peeked into the crater of flesh,

at the bored-out hole in his skull.

She sniffed the air,

the gunpowder and smell of





“Fuck,” she breathed.

His old motorcycle jacket

went around her shoulders.

She dropped the gun into

the big triangle shaped pocket,

and then patted the lump of it three times for good luck.


Opened the front door.

Locked it carefully for

No reason at all.

She kicked over their lawn-gnome,


on her way down the cracked foot path.

He smiled sideways at her through

a tangle

of overgrown weeds.


“I had to do it,”

She told herself,

On the bus-ride to Toledo.


“He was ruining me,”

She sniffed,

During a thunderstorm in Vegas.


“It was me or him,”

She bleated,

To her mother is Southern California—

To the queen of Cacti and martini’s,

Of silk scarves and old men with mustaches.


Where she patted the gun three times

For luck,

Her mother patted her

Yves Saint Laurent ROUGE PUR COUTURE


Within a garden,

Of purple desert flowers

And black lacquered chaises.

She told her mother.


And her mother,

Sunglasses perched near the place

Where her nose was

Before she cut it off;

Her mother,

Smiled her peroxide smile,

And said


Thinking West: Robo Novels

JohnnyRobotTechnology and science now act as the modern world’s newest frontier. It is a frontier full of excitement, questions, and its share of dangers. The questions brought forth from this nebulous frontier could shape our world and how technological and scientific progress become part and parcel of our daily lives. As we approach the singularity of technological-scientific development, debates have arisen over the role computers, robots, and artificial intelligences will play in human society. One such debate centers over the production of cultural artifacts by robots or computers. More specifically, academics and futurists have discussed the role robots and computers will play in our literary future. A recent article by the BBC focuses on this debate and how far we are from this reality. It appears that despite considerable technological-scientific progress in the realm of computers and robots, we won’t be seeing novels that are entirely generated by self-aware machines just yet. Furthermore, it is hard to say when robots or computers will generate novels or stories on their own, severing the link between computer and programmer. Such a prospect is both exciting and frightening. Will robots or computers write the next great American novel? Will the next Haruki Murakami or Fitzgerald be a robot or a computer? If so, how will this affect culture and writing in general?  Will human readers even care if a novel or story is generated by a thinking machine rather than a human being?

Check out the Verge‘s article on NaNoGenMo and the world of computer generated novels.

More from Jim O’Donnell

Danube River at Night – My Shot of the Day – October 16, 2014.

More Pictures of Beautiful Bratislava by Night.

We be will hosting two major events while Jim O’Donnell is in Portales:

Reading on Friday, the 23rd at 2pm in JWLA 112

Lecture on Thursday the 29th at 2pm in JWLA 112

Thinking West: Comparative Wests Project

Check out the Comparative Wests Project by Stanford University. Read the small blurbs below and check the project’s website (click on “read more here…”).

The Comparative Wests Project is an interdisciplinary collaboration focused on exploring the common histories and shared contemporary issues among Indigenous populations and settler colonialists in Australia, New Zealand, Western South America, the Western United States, Canada, and the Pacific Islands.”

“The Comparative Wests Project explores the shared histories between Indigenous populations and European colonialists and the common contemporary issues that remain as legacies of contact in the many Wests oriented towards the Pacific. The project is especially concerned with understanding the construction and transformation of environments that emerge from interaction between native peoples and invading settler colonialism.”

read more here…

Call for Submissions (Fall 2013 edition)

Call For Submissions:  El Portal

Attention, all writers, artists, photographers, and poets!  Eastern New Mexico University is accepting submissions for the Fall 2013 El Portal.

El Portal is ENMU’s Literature and Arts Journal. It is published biannually.

El Portal and El Portal awards are funded by a grant from the Jack Williamson Trust. The late Dr. Williamson was a science fiction master, author, ENMU professor emeritus of English, and friend to writers and readers everywhere.  He served as the faculty sponsor of El Portal while he taught at ENMU.

Submissions for following categories are needed:

  • Flash Fiction (500-1500 words)
  • Short Stories (up to 4000 words)
  • Creative Nonfiction Essays (up to 4000 words)
  • Poetry (may submit 3-5 poems)
  • Art and Photography (please submit 300 dpi JPEG)

–Please submit all written work in .doc, .docx, or .rtf formats.
–With the exception of poetry and art/photography, please limit entries to one story or essay.
–Works addressing the theme (above) are preferred but not required.
–Prizes will be awarded to ENMU students only.
–Prizes awarded only in Short Story, Poetry, and Art/Photography categories.

Submission Deadline:  October 31, 2013

E-mail: el.portalATenmu.com

Website:  http://www.elportaljournal.com