Sunday, April 30, 2006

Enter the Marshalls

Today was a sleeping-in day, a BBC Doctor Who day (the return of Sarah Jane Smith!), and a day when I should have done more cleaning than I did. I just got the second installment of The Jace Letters posted, updated the sidebar of my fiction blog, and set up my entry template for the Jace and Sandy emails instead of the Heirs of Mâvarin excerpts. Now it's after 2 AM, so as usual I'm short on time to write tonight's Outpost entry properly. Oh, well.

On Monday, April 24th, I drove from Socorro, New Mexico all the way back to Tucson, Arizona. But I didn't do so right away! For one thing, I overslept; for another, I was determined to have one more adventure before arriving home. I decided to so see the Very Large Array radio telescope, roughly 60 miles west of Socorro on U.S. 60. Halfway there, I stopped off for lunch at a little town (probably a village, technically) called Magdalena. From what I've read, it's named after a rock formation on one of the nearby mountains, which looked to someone like Mary Magdalene. I have no idea how a mountain can remind you of the physical appearance of a woman who wasn't visually described much in the Bible, but that's the story.

Anyway, Magdalena is the only settlement of any size between Socorro and the VLA. Beyond that is Datil, and then Pie Town, and hundreds of miles later, Show Low, Arizona, I think. I didn't go home that way, but I'm pretty sure that's what I saw on an atlas later in the day.

The first thing I noticed about Magdalena, aside from the reduced speed limit and a couple of possible places to eat, was an historical marker, just one of many along this stretch of US 60. This one was about a nearby ghost town called Kelly. (More on this tomorrow night.) After I checked that out, I returned to Magdalena and took some pictures. Here's the sight that really got my attention:

Yes, it's the marshall's office, looking pretty much exactly as it may have looked a century ago or more. The main difference now is the marshall and deputies park their cars in front of it instead of their horses.

After photographing the marhsall's office, I decided to check out this place on the other side of the main drag (U S 60):

Obviously, the town's bank was here once upon a time. If the marshall's office was always where it is now, that must have been pretty handy for deterring robberies. As I took this picture, I heard one of the marshalls (or deputies, or whatever) pull over an SUV for speeding. I guess the marshall's office is still in a convenient location for the work these guys do!

Even more interesting to me than the word Bank on this building were the words "cafe" and "FOUNTAIN." Was I interested in having lunch at a soda fountain? You betcha! I parked on the side street, missed the main entrance, walked past the front window and entered at the kitchen. Oops!

Inside, just as I'd hoped, was a lot of old junk from the little restaurant's history, or at least the town's history. I won't swear to you that none of the old soda bottles, local photos and clippings, Coke trays and other old stuff were collected from elsewhere, but it seems clear that this cafe, in one form or another, has been in the old Bank building for quite some time, perhaps half a century or longer.

The kid who served me was very modern, though, just slightly Goth and wearing a lip stud. I ordered a tortilla burger with chili. It was very good, but I must have misread the menu. What I got was a tortilla with a hamburger on it, plus a little cup of sliced chile peppers, not chili con carne or chili with beans. I don't eat chiles, ever, but it was in interesting mistake to make!

A couple of minutes after I sat down, two marshalls' vehicles parked next to mine, thus proving that I apparently had parked legally. I'd been a little nervous that I might not be. Three marshalls (or deputies) came in, looking like any other sheriff's deputies. They sat together a few tables away, and the kid with the stud immediately waited on them. I was ready for my check, but didn't mind waiting while the KWAS took care of the local law first.

Back outside, I noticed something aboout the cafe and former bank building that I'd missed before. It should have been obvious. Only the small part of the building where the cafe is remains an intact, working building. The rest is a boarded-up facade with no roof, open to the sky. I'm grateful that even part of the building yet survives!

Tomorrow: the road to Kelly.


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Friday, April 28, 2006

Office Visit

Once again I've spent the entire evening reading an incredibly long thread on Making Light, in this case broken up with two viewings of the excellent "Father's Day" episode of Doctor Who, plus the reading of a long debunking by Michael A Stackpole of anti-D&D propaganda. So now it's very late and I'm very tired, and tempted to skimp on tonight's entry. But if you read this blog on a regular basis, you know that I'm not at all good at keeping things short around here, no matter how tired I am. So let's just see how it goes, shall we?

The Hawk at the Window

A hawk turned up today on a light pole, just outside the second floor window of the Unnamed Largish Company accounting department. The first person to spot it guessed it was a "crow," the second thought it was a Red-Tailed Hawk. It was a Harris' Hawk, probably my favorite of the hawk species around here with its rich two-tone coloration of chocolate and chestnut feathers. The photos I got today unfortunately don't capture the colors properly, because of backlighting and the polarized, mirrored windows. The chest should not be that blue!

The mirror effect seems to have been a problem for this particular hawk. Co-workers situated closer to the windows than I was said they heard or saw the bird fly THUNK! into the plate glass, repeatedly. I heard a few of this "thunk!" sounds myself. I can only suppose that the polarized(?) glass reflected the sky, disguising the its solidness from the hawk. Still, I would have expected the bird to catch on pretty quickly to this, especially given a raptor's excellent eyesight.

It didn't. All this went on for about an hour, I estimate. The hawk would hang out at the top of the pole, take off, hit the glass, land on a ledge, get its bearings, fly again, and return to the pole. It may have gone after some prey in there somewhere, but I saw no particular evidence of this. I did see it "buzzed" by a hummingbird, though!

There was also something odd about the hawk's cry, shortly after one of these incidents, just before it flew away for good. I can't really explain, save to say that I've never heard a hawk sound quite like that. It sounded "wrong," somehow. My co-worker said it sounded unhappy.

I suppose I'll never know what was up with this hawk. I did notice from the photos that it's a banded bird, though. It's possible that someone from Arizona Game & Fish or Tucson Audubon Society has a whole history of this bird recorded somewhere. But I'll never know that for sure, either. Still, I wish the hawk well, preferably far from deceptive window glass!

Tomorrow: Enter the Marshalls

In which I discover the charms of an old mining town in Southwestern New Mexico.


Update: I've done a bit of research this afternoon. Some bullet points that may be of interest:

  • John James Audubon himself called the bird Harris' Buzzard, after a friend of his, Colonel Harris, who was with him when he discovered it. Audubon's painting doesn't look much like the bird at all.
  • The species is called Harris's Hawks, Harris' Hawks, Harris Hawks and, for some reason, Bay-Winged Hawks.
  • I found a few recordings of the Harris' Hawk cry. The first one was similar to what I heard, but I really think "my" bird sounded more annoyed or in pain for something. The second one gives a whole range of hawk sounds. Listen to the bit at the beginning. That pretty much matches my memory.
  • Harris' hawks hang out together more than other hawk species. This is good and bad. The tendency of the dominant individual to perch higher than the others results in a lot of electrocutions on the unsafe parts of power poles. Tucson Electric Power (TEP) has been working with Tucson Audubon Society to reduce the high Harris' Hawk mortality rate from power poles. The good news is that a damaged bird can sometimes survive in the wild, due to the Harris' Hawks' tendency to hunt cooperatively and share food.
  • Females are larger than the males, but similarly colored. I suspect the one I saw was female.

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Um, CDs?

Weekend Assignment: What are some of the most recent music albums you have bought? Name up to three. Note that I said "bought" -- I want to know what music you've liked so much that you've actually shelled out cash for them.

Extra Credit: Did you buy these albums on CD, or did you get them online through iTunes or another music service?

This will be one of my rare short-answer entries. (Well, that was the plan, anyway.)

The only strictly music "album" I remember buying in the past three years or so is the soundtrack CD of the Buffy music episode, Once More With Feeling. I've also bought it in book form, and on DVD as part of Season Six of BtVS. When I was still at Worldwide Travel, I played the CD so often that a co-worker begged me to stop.

Nowaways I have it on my iPod, excluding the orchestral bits from three other episodes that round out the CD. This was strictly a matter of being out of room on the iPod, not the result of disliking the music from "Restless," "Hush," and "The Gift."

Oh, come to think of it, I bought Judy Collins' In My Life at about the same time. This was one of my favorite LPs in college. (Hi, Howard!) The title track is a Beatles song, of course, but that's not the point. Judy does cool versions of songs by Bob Dylan and L. Cohen, Farina, Brel, Brecht, and all sorts of folks here. I'm especially fond of Pirate Jenny and Liverpool Lullaby. Pirate Jenny is a hoot, as the hotel maid plots the death of all the guests at the hands of her imaginary pirate minions. Katie Specks would not approve, I'm fairly certain, but it's a fun song.

Whoops! One more. Last year I bought Elton John's Madman Across the Water. I've loved it ever since I won the LP from WOLF back in eighth grade. I've often fantasized about making a short film (later, a music video) based on the title track. The hits, such as they were, consisted of Levon and Tiny Dancer, but I really like the whole album. Even Indian Sunset, which is about as culturally inaccurate as the Raiders' Indian Reservation and even more sentimentalized, is a very pretty and powerful piece of music. (Try saying that ten times fast.)

Aside from that, I bought a Stones compilation a few years ago, but let John talk me into returning it, on the grounds that we have most of the material elsewhere. I bought a Pirates of the Caribbean CD at Disneyland in (I think) 2004, but that's partly spoken word. And John gave me the other three CDs in the picture above, plus Brian Wilson's Smile. Sad to say, I found the two Wilson offerings a little disappointing.

Fact is, there's very little music recorded since 1982 that means anything to me. We already have every legitimate Beatles CD except retread compilations, every Clash CD, some Harry Chapin, and lots of other stuff. So I end up buying very little music. I've got the music the matters, thank-you-very-much. I'd like a few more Talking Heads CDs, and Simon & Garfunkel's Bookends, but that's about it.

Yes, I've become a stodgy old music snob. But the more John and I probe the question, "Are we missing something extraordinary?" the more we come up with the answer, "No, not really."

Extra Credit: The above are all CDs, obviously. My one iTunes purchase was a spoken word item, a Robin Williams / Harlan Ellison dramatization of Harlan's "Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman."

Must sleep now. Good night!

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Holy Exhibit B: Los Alamos

Here's the second part of my Round Robin entry for the topic "Holy," posted just a little late. I could have gotten it in sooner, but instead I got caught up reading a long thread about fanfic on Making Light. Sorry! Onward....

Last night we looked at Sedona, Arizona, and the way a red rock mesa can inspire people to very different paths in considering what is holy, the how, the who and the why. For some people, all that beauty is nothing more than the happenstance of faulting and folding. Others see a Maker behind the process, operating directly or indirectly. Still others imbue the rocks themselves with mystical properties.

The exterior of Jacob's church pays tribute to
natural beauty with a man-made waterfall.

People in Los Alamos, New Mexico, by and large, seem to take a more orthodox approach to such things.

Exhibit B: Los Alamos, Then and Now

As you may recall, the reason for my trip to New Mexico last weekend was to witness my 9-year-old godson's First Communion in the Roman Catholic Church. Yes, I extended the trip a bit so I could hack around a bit on the way there and on the way back. But really, the point of the exercise was to see Jacob for the first time in about four years, and to fulfill my role as his godmother.

Jacob (left) prepares to receive the Eucharist for the first time.

So I bought Jacob a few little things at the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, and headed out to Los Alamos. Jacob's reaction to the little religious cards and medal was classic: "I have just the box to put these in!" Good thing I brought the Aragorn figure as well.

Jacob and his certificate, memento of the day. The pastor reported
that one child hoped to stop sinning after receiving Communion.

Anyway, Sunday morning came, and I struggled to get to the church on time, having been up most of the night. Jacob's parents had given me a map and directions, though, and I thought I could make it in the fifteen minutes I had to get there. Unfortunately, map reading is not my strong suit, because I have trouble following spatial relationships. So I got within a block of the Catholic church, which is within a block of the Methodist church and the Episcopal church and probably at least one more similar site. I stopped in front of the Methodist one, parked, stared at the map, stared at the other buildings in every direction (except where I should have been looking), and went over to the school parking lot next door to ask directions.

"It's right across the street," a coach and one of his students told me. "Follow the cars that are turning in."

This made sense. After all, I had just followed another car all the way from White Rock, guessing that one church or another was the other vehicle's destination. And it was true: there was a line of cars across the street, turning in next to a church building as modern-looking as the new St. Ann's church building in Manlius when they first built it in the late 1960s. I got in line with the rest of the cars and SUVs, drove into the parking lot, and looked for a parking space. There were none left! I ended up parking on a bit of dirt just above a cliff, and arrived in church just a minute or two late.

A life-size crucifix dominates the church's modern interior

Now, the point of all that explanation is this: Jacob's church, Immaculate Heart of Mary, is a rather large church for such a small city, certainly larger than St. Michael's here in Tucson. It's one of more than thirty religious institutions in Los Alamos. New Mexico almost certainly has a relatively high percentage of Roman Catholics compared to other states, but one would not necessarily expect that in Los Alamos. Los Alamos is essentially a town of researchers and government contractors, with a bit less of an Hispanic influence than is seen elsewhere in the state.

More than that, Los Alamos is a town of scientists and their families. It's a town of physicists and engineers, a geek town, where the attendees of a post-Eucharist picnic have all heard of Doctor Who. I dare you to match that sf geek quotient at church socials elsewhere! This is a town where everyone works at the lab, or in some service or support capacity such as retail. Even in the Mass I attended, the pastor told an engineer joke in the course of his sermon.

"So what?" you may be asking. "What has any of that to do with being holy?"

To which I answer: remember what happened in Los Alamos in the early 1940s. This was the home of the Manhattan Project, were Robert Oppenheimer et al developed the atomic bomb. The Los Alamos National Laboratory, where Jacob's dad works, is essentially the same facility that was started for that purpose, all those years ago. Nowadays the research is more diverse and less problematic, but I'm sure that some ethical dilemmas remain, as they do everywhere. Did the original scientists at "Site Y" need their churches and synagogues to maintain their perspective, and avoid feeling the opposite of holy because of what they were doing? I don't know the answer, but I'm guessing that this may have been true for some of them.

As for today's physicists and engineeers and the rest, they certainly don't seem to be straying far from the religious mainstream with their Catholic and Methodist and other well-attended churches. Oh, there may be some atheists, New Agers and Wiccans in the mix somewhere, but that's not the impression I got, driving around Los Alamos on a Sunday morning. Here are people who do all sorts of cutting edge scientific stuff, and then go off to church, send their kids for religious instruction, receive Holy Communion and so on. I'm sure that if I'd been there early on a Friday evening, I'd have seen the same basic behavior from the lab's Jewish contingent and their families.

Jacob and some of the other kids after Mass.

What does it prove, if anything? Empirically, nothing at all. But it does show that for many people, science and religion are not mutually exclusive, and that traditional religious expressions can be as important a part of life as the scientific method. I think that's as it should be. As I read somewhere recently, science and religion don't have to be in conflict, because they are there to answer different questions. Science is about what and how. Religion is about who and why.


See the entry below this one for an updated linking list to this Round Robin Photo Challenge.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Holy, Holy, Holy

Here we go with the latest Round Robin Photo Challenge, as suggested by Robin (Gannet Girl) of Search the Sea. The topic is "holy." It's a word that can mean a number of things, some more obvious than others. At its heart, though, it refers to something or someone we consider transcendent, important, "good" in the highest sense of the word - capable of producing awe and reverence and deep meaning.

Problem is, we can't seem to agree on who or what that is. Even if we narrow it down to God, we can't agree on the particulars. Whether we accept or reject the traditional interpretations, follow a religious leader or build our own belief systems from the cultural Lego blocks, we seek answers that resonate with us. This is true for the Baptist and the atheist, the Episcopalian and the Wiccan, and every other flavor of spiritual seeker.

Thus: Sedona and Los Alamos.

Exhibit A: Sedona, Arizona

Sedona is unequaled in its association with "New Age" beliefs. Its red rock mesas are allegedly imbued with harmonic convergence, vortexes and pyramid power; its streets are lined with shops that sell crystals and other "metaphysical supplies." I think Maryanne (see comments) is right about the New Age fervor not being as strong as it was six or seven years ago, but it's by no means gone. A new shop opened just this past weekend, called Enlightenment.

Apparently you have to wait for enlightenment -
at least until 1:30 PM

Century-old cottonwoods greet visitors to this house of alleged psychics.

Amazing natural beauty, crystals and vortex information.

But the same Pink Jeep and other tours that ferry visitors to red rock vortexes also take them out to this place. It's the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Roman Catholic chapel built into the side of a mesa. In the 1930s it was one woman's dream that the place be built. Decades later, with the help of many, that dream was fulfilled.

People can worship God and look at a particularly
glorious bit of geology at the same time.

The architecture was designed to harmonize with the
mesa - and provide adequate parking.

A steady stream of visitors fills the four parking lots that lead up to the structure. Sure, they're tourists, but like the people at the mesas at dawn, they're also seeking something holy. People take pictures, but they also sit or kneel and pray. And the gift shop downstairs does a bang-up business in crosses and medals, books and other religious parapheralia. Is this any better than the people buying hunks of quartz a mile away? I like to think so, but the same impulse underlies both. People are spending at least part of their vacation seeking something meaningful. And this is a place for it, isn't it? All that beauty leads people to awe for its sculptor.

They just can't agree on the identity of the artist.

Tomorrow: Exhibit B: Los Alamos


Now go see what everyone else is doing for this challenge!

Carly... Ellipsis...Suddenly Carly Posted!

Robin (Gannet Girl)... Search the Sea Posted!

Erika... Photographs Of My Soul

Tammy... The Daily Warrior Posted!

Jessica... QuickSilver Dreams Posted!

Patrick... Patrick's Portfolio Posted!

Julie... Julie's Web Journal Posted!

Steven... (sometimes) photoblog Posted!

Connie... Connie's Photo Pages Posted!

TJ... Photo Inclusions: Every Picture Tells A Story Posted!

Pat (DesLily)... Here, There & Everywhere Posted!
Pat (DesLily)... Here, There & Everywhere 2nd Ed. Posted!

Tess... First Digital Photos Posted!

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Animal Demonstrations

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Take a picture of yourself (or someone you know) reproducing one (or more!) of moods in the AOL Journals Mood Menu.

Scalzi reminds up that the options are: Happy, Mischievous, Worried, Silly, Surprised, Flirtatious, Silly, Ecstatic, Frustrated, Loopy, Embarrassed, Hopeful, Anxious, Sad, Quiet and Chillin'.

I actually got home at midnight, but silly, me, I've just spent over 2 1/2 hours editing today's 146 photos. Now I've got to rush this entry and get to bed, so I can get up and work in the morning!

Okay: selected moods demonstrated by my new friends in New Mexico, the band of Pronghorns grazing on the plateau that contains the many parabolic dish antennae of the Very Large Array radio telescope:

Flirtatious (or possibly Surprised)

Anxious (to get away from me, anyway)

Chillin' (I hate that term)

And here are a few more, demonstrated by my bunny (Eastern Cottontail) friends at the Very Large Array:

(Vewy Vewy) Quiet

Worried (about the woman with the camera)

To be honest, I've always felt AOL's range of moods is rather limited. Where is Curious? Creative? Tired? Reluctant? Angry? The LiveJournal list is much more extensive, and I use it, when I get around to posting there at all. The AOL one, which I abandoned after about a month, is in serious need of an upgrade. Perhaps it will get one.

Of couse, Blogspot doesn't even have a formal mood system. I don't miss it.

Tomorrow night I do my just post-midnight Round Robin entry for the topic "Holy." As you may have guessed, my photos for it will be from the New Mexico trip. After that, I'm sure I'll have several more entries until I get caught up with it all, featuring

  • a ghost town and abandoned mine
  • a real wild west town with real marshalls
  • a site too big to see (but I tried)
  • a grand river

...and whatever else I happen to think of as I go through my pictures. Good night!


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Monday, April 24, 2006

Interrupting the Crickets

I've been trying for seven or eight hours (in between attempts to sleep) to get Blogger and this lousy AOL dial-up connection to let this entry post. Had I known it wouldn't be possible, I'd have slept in he car last night and saved myself a lot of money.

I had a mostly good day today. I spent the bulk of it with my godson, Jacob, his parents and paternal grandparents. Jacob's First Eucharist went well, and the celebratory group picnic in the park was successful despite the 25 mph winds. We did a few other things as well....

Jacob and Anita tease each other with secret messages,
written with Jacob's spy pen.

Dan and Jacob make their way almost to the edge of
a 1000-foot canyon made by a section of the Rio Grande.

Jacob plans his spy disguise as "Tom Blocher."

We all had fun looking down into the Rio Grande, and we managed to laugh off a Pizza Hut visit during which

  • Jacob's grandfather was unable to get a beer because nobody working that shift was old enough to sell it to him,
  • It took an hour to get our two pizzas, despite the fact that we were very nearly the only dine-in customers throughout the ordeal, and
  • They ran out of mushrooms and green peppers, key ingredients of both our Supreme and our Veggie Lovers' pizza. And no, that wasn't the cause of the delay. We didn't wait while they bought more. We did without - and still waited forever. They didn't mention the ingredient shortage for the first 45 minutes we were there. They probably weren't out of mushrooms or green peppers when we arrived!
After the pizza and a round of goodbyes, I headed south. I ended up in Socorro, NM, about an hour south of Albuquerque. Tonight's hotel room is a $100 suite, because that's what was still available when I arrived. It's almost identical to last night's non-suite, except for the presence of a microwave oven and some things that are bugs, not features:

  • The only soda machine on this floor of this building won't accept any coins tonight.
  • The room smells of pesticide, which is probably contributing to the asthma attack (caused by cats earlier today) that should be over with by now and isn't.
  • I've picked up two dead bugs off the carpet while trying to get a working combination of power outlets and phone and power cords.
  • The outlet installed on the side of this desk doesn't work.
  • The high-speed access exists for wireless or with a $150 deposit for a "bridge." So I'm on dial-up.
  • And to top it off, AOL, with its one local phone number for Socorro, bumped me three times in two minutes, before I even fully connected.
Oh, and nobody commented between early this morning and late tonight, except on the fiction blog. The comments there today were plentiful, perceptive, and appreciated.

Nevertheless, I'm not in a fabulous mood. So I won't regale you tonight with happy stories. Maybe tomorrow I'll do better. I'm apparently minutes away from the Very Large Array, which should be fun to see, photograph and explain.

That's the plan, anyway.

Good night!


Seven or eight hours later: either the relevant Blogger server's been down, or this AOL connection is incredibly slow, or both. I suspect both. I haven't gotten enough sleep, and the maid keeps ignoring the "Do Not Disturb" to knock on my door. Phooey. It's time to leave, whether this posts or not!

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sedona Pics to Tide Us Over

Pictures tonight. Words tomorrow.

It's the end of a very long, very wonderful day, and I have to be at Jacob's church in a little over seven hours. So I'm going to post a few Sedona pictures now, and start with the 'splainin' tomorrow night. Fair enough?

By the way, if anyone should ever ask you whether it's a long drive between Sedona, Arizona and Los Alamos, New Mexico, reply that yes, it is--very long, unexpectedly long, but also very beautiful, most of the time. Tell the person your friend Karen arrived three and a half hours later than she estimated when she left Sedona - about 10 PM instead of 6:30 PM. An hour of that was daylight time, though.

Oh, and if the subject of Sedona does indeed come up in conversation, feel free to also say that your friend Karen would be hard pressed to think of a more beautiful place in the world, with the possible exception of the Grand Canyon.

These pictures don't do the place justice, but I tried.

This last picture is of the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona. I have it in here as your reminder that the next Round Robin Photo Challenge topic is "Holy." The date to post the entries is this coming Wednesday, April 26th. If you'd like to play along, please RSVP to the topic's entry on the Round Robin Photo Challenge blog. Got it? Good! Good night!


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Friday, April 21, 2006

The Northern Route

I stayed up way too late last night/this morning, slept in, and am now getting a terribly late start on my trip. Monument Valley is too far, and Grand Canyon is too expensive for a half-hour visit, but I've decided to take the northern route to Los Alamos, via Phoenix and Flagstaff. This gets me to Sedona tonight - before dark, I hope! It also adds about two hours to my 600+ mile trip one way.

In the morning I also hope to get another peek at this place: Little Painted Desert Country Park:

Coming back I'll take the southern route, I-10 through Lordsburg. No side trip to Roswell - too far in the other direction. Oh, well. Next time.

Gotta get moving. See ya!

***** Later *****

Here I am in my hotel room in Sedona, watching Doctor Who on cable after a nice relaxing drive and a pleasant Thai meal. What could be better? Here are a few pictures from today.

It took me an hour just to get across Tucson on my way out of town. This shot was taken at the end of that ordeal. Even rush hour traffic on the Phoenix freeways was faster and less frustrating. Yeah, once I was out of Tucson, I was able to relax and have fun.

Sunset Point Rest Area, on I-17 between Phoenix and Camp Verde.
My lens iris must be sticking, because the corner is dark on
all the shots from that rest area and the next one, forty-something
miles father on.

Sunset Point. Appropriately, I was there a little while before sunset.

Eat your heart out, John Scalzi! The view from my
hotel parking lot is spectacular! Okay, so my room
looks out on the pool and jacuzzi, but still!

This little Thai restaurant was within walking distance
of the La Quinta where I'm staying.

Tomorrow: Sedona by day, dramatic clay, red rock mystery, atomic history.


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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Best Known for...Something Else

Weekend Assignment #108: Show off (or link to) a lesser-known work from a favorite artist. Because there's more to Da Vinci than the Mona Lisa, and more to Van Gogh than Starry Night. I'm thinking of painters, but if you'd prefer to essay a lesser known book from a famous author, or song from a favorite musician, that'll work, too.

Extra Credit: When was the last time you were in an art museum?

the patient and the dogthe doctor reading Playboy.  Note the minor damage to the painting.
Yes, you've seen this before: this is our painting by Xavier Cugat (1900-1990). Although he was best known as an orchestra leader, one of the first and most important Latin bandleaders of the 20th Century, he actually made a living as a caricaturist in Hollywood before his music career took off. Later on, he sold paintings after his concerts. From what I've been reading online tonight, he painted medical subjects a lot toward the end of his life, apparently because he was afraid of doctors. And just tonight I learned, to my dismay, that our Cugat is one of at least two nearly identical paintings. Here's a link to one like ours. Like the one in our front room, the owner found it at a thrift shop. The only major difference between the two, aside from frame and condition, is that the other painting, "Ten Surgeons in Pink Transplant a Liver," has three jars at the bottom. They're labeled "new livers," "used livers," and "chopped livers." Ours has no references to livers, but they're the same ten surgeons, and the same patient, and the same dog. The doctor on the right is even reading the same issue of Playboy! I find this all very disconcerting. After enjoying the heck out of our $28 art investment for over five years, I've suddenly discovered that it's...well, not a fake or a forgery, but certainly less than unique.

Well, I'll get over it. It's still a cool thing to have, this whimsical but obscure work of art by someone who was better known for tangos and mambos than oils and acrylics.

And that's my theme for the night. More than a few artists who make their fame in one medium also have less well-known work in another field entirely, some of it quite respectable. Comedian and tv star Red Skelton was celebrated for his clown paintings. Actress Carrie Fisher writes novels. John Lennon wrote two books of irreverent wordplay, each heavily illustrated with his equally playful drawings. Iconic artist that he was, Lennon's work in any medium can get quite pricey. An old schoolbook of his, with a drawing of a walrus (illustrating Lewis Carroll's The Walrus And The Carpenter, not the Beatles' I Am The Walrus), recently sold at auction for more than £125,000 (about $226,000).

The other artist whose non-primary medium I collect is actor Scott Bakula. No, I don't mean drawings by him. I don't even know whether he can draw. But Bakula has appeared in several Broadway and Off-Broadway musicals, some of which have been released on CD over the years. He's quite a good singer, neither operatic nor of rock star quality, but professionally competent, with a voice suited for musical comedy.

Of his shows, I'm not at all fond of Three Guys Naked from the Waist Down, with its cynical outlook and strong language; but I love Romance/Romance. This was the show he did just before Quantum Leap. Promoted at the time as "Two New Musicals," R/R had two stories in it, set in two different eras but with the same actors and similar themes. The first, my favorite, is the period piece, called "The Little Comedy." It's about two rich, "reasonably handsome" people in Vienna, each bored and looking for romance, without the baggage associated with their own identities. They both go slumming, immediately meet each other, lie to each other, and fall in love. The false pretences lead to hilarious problems before all is revealed for a semi-happy ending.

I'm not as thrilled with the second story, "Summer Share," about two old friends, each married to someone else, who flirt with the idea of having an affair. Still, it's all funny and clever, the music's great, and so is the cast. And I don't just mean Scott.

After Quantum Leap, Scott appeared in a charity performance of Stephen Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle, opposite Bernadette Peters and Madeline Kahn. I have that on CD too, but it's hiding from me right now.

Cover by Jo Fox

All these years later, with the tv series Enterprise over with, Scott Bakula has just returned to Broadway, this time in a revival of the musical Shenandoah. Good for him! I look forward to ordering the CD.

Extra Credit: I forgot it at first in answering this question, but my most recent art museum experience was a visit to a textile museum in Colonial Williamsburg in 2004. My stepmother, Ruth, enjoyed the quilts and such, and I tried to appreciate it all for the historical interest. Really, I did. But I'm sorry. I failed. It was totally boring.

I did better with the Heard Museum in Phoenix around 2002. Built around a formerly private collection, the Heard concentrates mostly on folk arts, primarily Native American. The most memorable part of the museum was dedicated to the experience of Navajo children who were uprooted from their homes and forcibly sent to boarding school, the Indian School in Phoenix, in a misguided attempt at cultural genocide.

Other than that, I probably haven't been inside an art museum in thirty years. That's not John's sort of thing, and it's not really mine, either. When I was growing up, though, I got to the Louvre (for about 20 minutes in 1972), the Rijksmuseum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and, more than once, the Everson Museum.

The Everson?

The Everson is a somewhat avant garde museum in Syracuse, NY. What I remember from my few visits was mostly modern geometric paintings from the Rockefeller Collection, and that they were trying to raise money for a Stuart portrait of George Washington, and catching flack from local prudes for a nude sculpture of boys playing soccer.

But what I mostly remember about the Everson was that it hosted an exhibit in 1975 called This Is Not Here. The artist was Yoko Ono, with guest artist John Lennon. One of the big regrets of my life is that I never took the bus downtown to see it.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Good Day Winds Down

It has been a good day for me here. I'm going to tell you why.

Item One: The Day at Work

Although I still didn't get as much sleep as I wanted last night (I washed my hair instead), I was actually awake and productive today as I sorted out a horrible chaotic mess that I have to do once a month. The interval, and the fact that the information I need is on a bunch of emails, pretty much guarantees that by the next time I do the task, I've forgotten many of the particulars. I therefore waste a lot of time researching what's over with, and what's still current, and what I did wrong before and have to fix now, and what other people think is wrong but it probably really isn't.

Well. Today I broke the long, slightly confusing spreadsheet I work with into three different ones: items generated from a particular, relatively static source; other recurring items, and corrections. The corrections (mostly correcting what other people have done) account for the vast majority of the emails. Then I went through three months of emails, generated a list of which items are over with and which aren't, and got everything nicely organized. I realize you all don't know or care exactly what I'm talking about, but the way I set things up today, I should be able to do the job in half the time from now on, with minimal errors or sorting through email.

I did go back to the office tonight, but only for an hour or two. At the end I was making the kinds of mistakes you make when tired: pasting the wrong week's data into the right week's spreadsheet, or the right week's data into the wrong week's spreadsheet. Still, I got done everything I set out to do and a bit more, except for a few bits for which I need the cooperation of people who weren't at the office at 9 PM tonight.

Here's a bit of industrial espionage for you. Yes, I snuck another picture of this plant in the downstairs hallway, the one that provided the picture of the out-of-focus leaf last week. I think it's kind of an interesting plant - a small tree, really. I bet Mysterious Largish Competitor would love to know more about Unnamed Largish Company's indoor vegetation. But we won't tell, will we? Shh!

And while I'm showing you clandestine pictures from inside our building, here's one that finally gives away the mystery of the star-1 sign.

Kind of a letdown, ain't it? I still say that putting a star next to the 1 on the sign for a two-storey elevator doesn't convey much information. Nobody's going to have trouble figuring out that they're on the first floor, and that it's also the ground floor. After all, there's an exit about 20 feet away.

Item One: The Days Ahead

I was going to run a poll here about what fiction to run next in Messages from Mâvarin, based on a whole list of options I IMed to a friend and then accidentally deleted. It doesn't matter now, because I know what I'm going to do! I had a great idea last night for my next serial, based in part on an old concept I had for a YA novel about diaries. My upcoming trip and the infusion of a science fiction element have transformed it into a pretty darn good premise, I think. All I'll tell you about it for now is this:
  1. It's not about Mâvarin (or JW or Kate), and
  2. The working title is The Jace Letters.
That was the other thing that kept me up a bit later than expected last night. Having already taken down a pace of handwritten notes, I was then forced out of bed by further noodlings. I had to get down another page of notes, this time on the laptop, before I was able to get back to sleep.

Worth it. I'm really looking forward to writing this, week by week, for your possible enjoyment.

The other thing I'm looking forward to is getting the heck out of town - not just once, but twice. A day and a half from now, I'll be driving north and east, with plenty of time to get there. Will I make a side trip to Roswell, or take the northern route through Phoenix? I don't know yet, but I'm having fun playing with the possibilities. And then in May, I get to drive up to Phoenix for the day, to share a meal with a good friend I've known for over a decade and never met. Yes, my friends, I'm finally going to meet one of YOU! So, S., do you like pizza? One of the top 13 pizza places in the country is about six miles from the airport.


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