Bluegrass Festival Monday, Jun 28 2010 

Headline Bluegrass Band

Headline Bluegrass Band

The 29th annual Prescott Bluegrass Festival, which claims to be the largest “free” bluegrass event, was held over the weekend.  The stage was placed in the middle of Gurley Street facing the Yavapai County Courthouse.  Like other members of the large crowd, we found spots in the shade for lawn chairs or blankets to listen to the music.  We listened to a set by the Headline Bluegrass Band and the Bladerunners and part of the sets by Fire Ridge and Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie.  Characteristic of this music genre, the banjo, bass, guitar, and mandolin each played their part along with an occasional violin added to the mix.  Sweet sounds of the country.

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Arcosanti Monday, Jun 21 2010 

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti, located three miles from the Cordes Junction off I-17, is an experiment in urban architecture started in 1970.  Designed by Paolo Soleri, born in Italy in 1919 and living in Arizona since 1956, and funded through various grants and royalties from the sale of Soleri bronze and ceramic windbells, Arcosanti currently has about 60 residents with hopes of housing 5,000 on 25 acres within a 4,000 acre preserve.  Windbells are produced here and at a Scottsdale location called Cosanti.  Soleri, who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright after receiving a Ph.D. in Italy, coined the term “arcology” to describe the concept of architecture and ecology working together.  Given the limited development of the existing earth-formed concrete structures over the past 40 years, it is hard to imagine this ambitious project ever being completed.  Our visit corresponded with the 12th Annual Juneteenth Festival co-sponsored by the Prescott Jazz Society.  Juneteenth celebrates when Texas slaves learned about the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19th, 1865, a year and a half after its original announcement by President Abraham Lincoln.  Art and food booths were strategically placed above the Colly Soleri Amphitheater, named after Soleri’s late wife.  We found seats in the shade and enjoyed the music of The Cunninghams.  Don Cunningham was particularly talented singing and playing saxophone, xylophone, and different drums.  His wife, the pianist, and bass were capable of keeping up with Don while the brass section needs more work.  An interesting outing.

National Trail Saturday, Jun 12 2010 

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove

To enjoy the moderate June temperatures in Phoenix, we decided to hike the National Trail and Mormon Trail on South Mountain between 48th Street and 24th Street.  Lots of other people had the same idea.  Spring flowers are gone for another year, although white-winged doves were enjoying saguaro fruit.  The sky over populated areas was hazy.  Lots of smoke spotted near the University of Phoenix stadium.  Probably the last Phoenix hike until the fall.

Museums of American & Natural History Wednesday, Jun 9 2010 

The National Museum of American History depicts the cultural, technological and political development of the United States.  “America on the Move,” sponsored in part by AAA, featured several factoids of interest to me as part of its history of transportation in the U.S.  The first family car that I remember was a Studebaker.  This was one of the first auto manufacturers to introduce completely new styling after World War II.  Inspired by airplanes, the Starlight Coupe had an ultramodern look.  A vignette on the “Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon” documented the move of businesses from downtown to suburban strips.  Also, Portland, Oregon was one of 18 shipyards that built Liberty ships during World War II.  My mother worked for the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation which built 322 of these ships.  In Oregon’s earlier history, Chinese workers beheaded, cleaned, and cut salmon into pieces on the Columbia River after 1872.  An expert cutter could clean 1,700 fish a day.  Later, Chinese workers were not allowed to immigrate to the U.S.  Finally, an exhibit on current technological issues had two pictures of Ohio Wesleyan University alum and Nobel Prize winner F. Sherwood Rowland, who with his colleague Mario Moliva, published in 1974 their theory that intense solar radiaition in the upper atmosphere would break CFCs (chlorofluocarbons) apart.  This destruction would set loose chlorine atoms, known as “free radicals,” which would in turn break apart ozone molecules.  Each free radical of chlorine, they said, could start a chain reaction that would destroy 100,000 molecules of ozone.  In another museum exhibit, a 13th century Spanish painting shows two turbaned Muslim noblemen playing chess as a musician plucks a 14 string harp.  Lots of interesting tidbits for lifelong learners.

The National Museum of Natural History is devoted to understanding the natural world and our place in it.  The Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals showcases a collection of gemstones, including the 45.52 carat Hope Diamond, and minerals as well as a section about mining and plate tectonics.  Some 7,500 individual gemstones are on display.  I learned that the blue pigment in azurite reacts with water to become green malachite.  Bisbee, Arizona and the Copper Queen mine were featured in the mining area of the exhibit.  In 1905 Bisbee was Arizona’s largest city.  From 1881-1975, in the age of electricity, more than 8 billion pounds of copper were removed from this area of Arizona.  Silver, gold, lead, and zinc were also mined.  The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins presents scientific evidence of human evolution.  One of the most popular attractions was a booth where your picture was taken and then changed to more closely represent a Neanderthal.  This picture could then be e-mailed.  Some scientists could be seen doing their work in the public eye.  For example, in the Fossil Café a scientist was cleaning a leaf using a laser while looking at the specimen through a powerful microscope.

Smithsonian Castle

Smithsonian Castle

After viewing James Smithson’s crypt, I exited the “Castle” and enjoyed the Enid A. Haupt Garden.  The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery is nearby.  One of their current exhibits, “The Tibetan Shrine from the Alice S. Kandell Collection,” offers a unique encounter with Tibetan Buddhist art in a sacred context.  Works by Situ Panchen, 1700-1774, are also on display and “Gods of Angkor” features bronze work- from the National Museum of Cambodia.

Postscript on Washington, D.C. restaurants:  Our first foray into Georgetown found us checking out the many restaurants on M Street.  We enjoyed Italian food at the Paper Moon on 31st Street.  On a later outing we discovered Georgetown’s delightful Waterfront and enjoyed an outdoor table viewing the Potomac at Tony & Joe’s Seafood Place where I tried the rockfish which was very nicely presented on a bed of fingerling potatoes and artichoke hearts.  In the Dupont Circle area we dined at the Firefly which offers contemporary American comfort food such as pot roast.  The West End Bistro, located in the Ritz-Carlton where we stayed, has many special dishes such as duck.  Also located in the West End near our hotel we had Chinese food at Meiwah and Thai food at Thai Kitchen.  Prices are higher than I’m accustomed to but the quality of presentation and service at these restaurants was consistently high.

American Indian Museum & More Tuesday, Jun 8 2010 

The National Museum of the American Indian, which opened in 2004, features the lifeways, history, and art of Native Americans throughout the Western Hemisphere.  A self-guided tour best starts on the 4th level at the Lelawi Theater.  A rock type structure sitting in the middle of the floor serves as a changing ground cover while four woven white cloths in a square above it along with the ceiling serve as a screen for the film, “Who We Are,” that celebrates the vitality and diversity of Native Life.  Also, on the fourth floor are two exhibits.  “Our Universes” presents Native beliefs such as those expressed by Garry Raven (Morning Star), Community Curator (2000), “To be Anishinaabe is to understand your place in all creation.  We are spiritual beings on a human journey.  Everything in the Anishinaabe world is alive.  Everything has a spirit and everything is interconnected.”  Surely, these are words to live by.  “Our Peoples” tells the Native history of some representative tribes and has interesting displays such as the role of guns in Native American history.  “Our Lives,” on the third level, focuses on contemporary Native life in a few more tribes.  A contemporary arts gallery on the third level features the unusual work of “Brian Jungen: Strange Comfort.”  Jungen is a modern trickster who transforms everyday objects such as Nike Air Jordan shoes into Northwest Coast masks.  Although pricey, make sure to visit the Mitsitam Native Foods Café on the first level to taste food inspired by Native dishes from five regions of the Western Hemisphere.

Ginger Lilies

Ginger Lilies

The United States Botanic Garden, first established in 1820 as a national botanic garden, was a result of the shared dream of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.  It currently maintains about 12,000 accessions including economic plants, medicinal plants, orchids, carnivorous plants, cacti and succulents, mid-Atlantic native plants, and ferns.  A current special exhibit is devoted to the potato.

The National Gallery of Art is displaying “From Impressionism to Modernism” from the Chester Dale Collection.  Upon his death in 1962, the National Gallery of Art received more than 300 works of art from this former board of trustee member.  My short visit also included a quick trip to the main floor to see the small collection of Rembrandts.  A student was painting a copy of “The Circumcision.”  The East Building features an exhibit of “Small French Paintings” from the collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, Chester Dale, and others.  The small gallery rooms where these high quality but modest scaled paintings are displayed simply increases the intimacy of the experience.

Four-Sided Pyramid

Four-Sided Pyramid

The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden had a couple of works that caught my attention, too.  Sol LeWitt created a terraced pyramid in “Four-Sided Pyramid.”  Barry Flanagan substitutes his signature hare for Rodin’s “Thinker” in “Thinker on a Rock.”

The U. S. Capitol sits solidly on the east side of the National Mall with Maryland and Pennsylvania Avenues converging like an arrow at its center.  The architecture points to its important place as one of three branches of our government.  After dinner we walked to the Lincoln Memorial and also circled the Korean War Memorial.  It was interesting to see the Washington Memorial and Capitol building lit up and in reflection.  The biggest surprise was that the crowd was much larger than during the day.

National Air & Space Museum Monday, Jun 7 2010 

Neil Armstrong in front of Lunar Replica

Lunar Replica

The National Air & Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution offers an excellent introduction and overview of aviation history.  The Wright brothers receive a deserved honorary place in the development of early flight.  “Exploring the Planets” provided some interesting comparisons with our nearest neighbors.  The Albert Einstein planetarium offered an interesting exploration of “Black Holes.”  The Apollo missions culminated in man visiting and returning from the moon.  Seeing the space suit of Neil Armstrong poised in front of the Lunar Landng capsule brought back memories of seeing the landing on a small black aand white television in the mountains of central Oregon on Juoly 20, 1969.  An interesting feature of “Beyond the Limits” was the developments of computers and how they assist flight.  “Flight in the Arts” displays some remarkable photography of the moon, planets, and galaxy.  Given the incredible developments of the past century, it is hard to imagine what might unfold in future decades.

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