Tabebuia Impetiginosa Friday, Mar 30 2012 

Tabebuia Impetiginosa

Tabebuia Impetiginosa

An arborist identified the tree in our front yard as a Tabebuia impetiginosa, commonly known as a pink trumpet tree.  According to Wikipedia it can be found from northern Mexico south to Argentina.  Our tree is about twenty feet tall and presently in bloom.  The funnel-shaped magneta flowers have a canary-yellow streak.  Interestingly, it loses its leaves when blooming.  We are enjoying the spectacular display of color.

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Fort Whipple Tuesday, Mar 27 2012 

Fort Whipple Museum

Fort Whipple Museum

On Saturday we visited the Fort Whipple Museum which is part of the Fort Whipple/Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  The Fort is named after West Point graduate Amiel Weeks Whipple who in 1853-54 commanded the Pacific Railroad Survey through northern Arizona along the 35th parallel.  During the Civil War, Whipple rose to the rank of brigadier general.  On May 7, 1863 he died of wounds received at the battle of Chancellorsville.  In December 1861, the Confederate Congress recognized the Territory of Arizona.  After the California Column skirmished with Confederate troops near Tuscon, President Abraham Lincoln made Arizona a territory on February 24, 1863.  Later in 1863 gold was discovered by Anglos on the headwaters of the Hassayampa River and on Lynx Creek.  On October 23, 1863 General Carleton issued an order from his headquarters in Santa Fe to establish a military post to be known as Fort Whipple.  It was initially established at Del Rio Springs, north of present day Chino Valley.  Governor John Goodwin used it as his base while he visited the territory to determine where to place the capital.  The site of future Prescott was announced in May 1864 and the fort was moved closer to the mines and the site of the territorial capital.  From its founding until the end of the Indian Wars in 1886, Fort Whipple was a tactical base for operations against the Yavapai and Apache.  A telegraph from San Diego to Prescott was completed in 1873.  The first message notified George Crook, who was assigned to the Fort a couple of times during his career, that he had been promoted to brigadier general.  Crook made use a Apache Indian Scouts in his pursuit of Geronimo.  General Nelson A. Miles, who was responsible for capturing Chiricahua Apaches who had fled to Mexico, made use of a heliograph netork as a means of commincation with troops in the field.  The heliograph used mirrors to direct rays from the sun in any direction and by means of a shutter a message could be sent usinh Morse code.  Miles was responsible for shipping all Chiricahua Apaches, including the Scouts who had helped the Army, to Florida in 1886.  He then transferred the departmental headquarters to Los Angeles.  Fires in 1883 and 1878 claimed several Fort Whipple buildings during a period where some training took place and protection of the Atlantic & Pacific Railway from strike agitators in 1893.  During the Spanish-American War the post was used to muster troops.  Some rebuilding of the fort took place during the early years of the twentieth century.  However, there was pressure to close it before World War I.    In May 1918, the surgeon general established General Hospital Number 20 at Whipple Barracks.  Funds were appropriated to make Whipple a respiratory treatment center.  In the 1920s the hospital was formally transferred first to the U.S. Public Health Service and later to the U.S. Veterans Bureau where it became known as one of the most complete tuberculosis sanatoriums in the country.  In the 1930s the Veterans Administration was created and Whipple transferred to this new organization on March 3, 1931.  Throughout the years, there have continued to be organizational changes and adaptations to the health needs of veterans.  Fort Whipple plays an important role in the history of Prescott, Arizona, and the nation.  One last interesting factoid: Fierello LaGuardia, mayor of New York City from 1933-45, spent his youth at Fort Whipple where his father was bandmaster.

Cactus League: Oakland Athletics vs. Chicago Cubs Thursday, Mar 22 2012 

Phoenix Stadium MLB Spring Training Game

Phoenix Stadium MLB Spring Training Game

My first spring training game provided an entertaining experience.  Thanks to my sister-in-law we got great seats in the shade behind home plate for a Cactus League game pitting the Oakland Athletics against the Chicago Cubs (split squad).  Phoenix Stadium, built in 1964, has convenient parking ($5) and a beautiful setting with the sandstone buttes of Papago Park behind left field.  More than 5,000 fans attended this Tuesday afternoon contest that started promptly at 1:05 p.m.  The Cubs wasted no time in jumping out to a two run lead in the first inning.  Lead-off batter left fielder Tony Campana showed his prowess with a 4 for 5 hitting exhibition.  Designated hitter Jonny Gomes, however, homered in the ninth inning to start a three-run Oakland rally which tied the game at 5-5.  First baseman Kila Ka’aihue also had a great game going 2 for 2.  A tenth inning was played but the game ended as a tie as neither team scored.  The Oakland Athletics are leading the Cactus League standings after this contest with 14 wins and only 4 losses.

Making Subzero Ice Cream

Making Subzero Ice Cream

A large beer ($9.50) didn’t seem that large but quenched my thirst on this pleasantly warm Phoenix day.  A hot dog ($4.50) doused with mustard, sweet pickles, and onions was good and long for the bun.  My special treat was my first Subzero ice cream ($5).  I chose cheesecake as my flavor and mix-ins of almonds, graham cracker crust, and oreos.  These ingredients are blasted with liquid nitrogen for about four seconds.  This subjects the concoction to -321 degrees for an instant freeze which is then vigorously stirred for about 15 seconds resulting in a special treat.  A great day at the ballpark!

Lincoln Park Zoo Wednesday, Mar 21 2012 

Sichuan Takin

Sichuan Takin

A bus delivered me to the entrance of the Lincoln Park Zoo which I last visited in 1995.  Because this free zoo doesn’t open in the winter until 10 a.m., I walked the grounds pretty much by myself for half-an-hour.  Just south of the Zoo, a boardwalk over a wetlands offers a panoramic view of the Chicago skyline.  The Sichuan takin is a hulking yet agile animal well suited for the Himalayan mountains and western China.  Its coat is believed to have inspired the mythological quest for the “golden fleece.”

Bactrian Camel

Bactrian Camel

The Bactrian camel can survive 10 months without drinking water and live on stored fat in its humps.  Living in Mongolia and northeastern China, this camel’s wooly coat provides warmth during the cold season that can extend to 8 months of freezing temperatures.  Its feet have flexible toes embedded in fleshy pods that can spread to create a broader point of contact with the ground.  The Bactrian camel can traverse as far as 40 miles in a day.  Quite a feat!

Alpaca

Alpaca

Alpacas, a relative of the llama, ranges in the wild from Peru to Bolivia.  Their fibrous coats are sheared to produce wool or fleece.

Red kangaroos, from Australia, have powerful hind legs and muscular tails.

Kwan, a Gorilla

Kwan, a Gorilla

Kwan, a silverback gorilla, was born on March 1, 1989.  During my visit he systematically collected lettuce.  Another gorilla from the same troop played with a hanging mirror.  Jojo, born April 30, 1980, is a mature silverback gorilla leading another troop within the Zoo.  A DeBrazzas monkey, from central Africa, has an interesting face with an orange crescent-shaped forehead and a distinctive white beard on its otherwise grey body.

The bleeding heart pigeon has a distinctive red marking on its breast.

An African spoonbill was swallowing sardines.

Meerkats

Meerkats

Meerkats eat snakes, scorpions, and insects in addition to looking cute.  Dark smudges under their eyes help reduce glare from the sun which helps them spot hunting birds of prey.

Zoos allow us to see animals we would otherwise not see, and maintain an artificial habitat that enables some creatures to avoid extinction.

Art Institute of Chicago Tuesday, Mar 20 2012 

Vincent van Gogh "Self-Portrait"

Vincent van Gogh "Self-Portrait"

The Art Institute of Chicago displays a remarkable art collection. Although I have visited a couple of other times, on this visit I spent as much time as I cared to in any particular exhibit.  The lower level special photography exhibit introduced me to a new artist, Claude Cahun. This French artist and writer born Lucy Schwob paired with Marcel Moore, born Suzanne Malherbe, were participants in the Surrealist movement.  Their anti-Nazi campaign on the Isle of Jersey is an inspiring story of resistance.

Vincent van Gogh’s 1887 Self-Portrait makes interesting use of complementary colors.  The over-all blue-green tone of the background serves as a foil to the orange-red of the artist’s beard and hair.

Georges Seurat "A Sunday on La Grande Jatta"

Georges Seurat "A Sunday on La Grande Jatta"

The Arthur Rubloff Paperweight Collection is recognized as one of three premier collections in the world.  This Chicago real estate entrepreneur donated 1,200 paperweights to the Art Institute in 1978.

One of the Art Institute’s prized works is Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte – 1884 which depicts people relaxing in a park on an island in the Seine River.  Using a technique later called “Pointillism,” he added, after an initial layer of small horizontal brushstrokes, dots that appear as solid and luminous forms when seen from a distance.  A border of red, orange, and blue dots shows this particular element and serves as a transition to the frame.  Docents gathered their tours around this painting and repeatedly implored that no flash photography be used.

Claude Monet "Water Lily Pond"

Claude Monet "Water Lily Pond"

The Art Institute has an impressive collection of Claude Monet’s work.  Water Lily Pond (1917-22) is representative of his intense work after World War I painting a suite of 19 canvases based on observations of his garden.  He also painted 25 canvases of wheat stacks at Giverny 1890-91.  Several of these paintings are exhibited.

Several Auguste Rodin sculptures grace the Art Institute.   My favorite, Eve, poses a flesh-and-blood woman rather than an idealized creation.

Pablo Picasso "Man With a Pipe"

Pablo Picasso "Man With a Pipe"

Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist uses a monochromatic blue palette with flattened forms to portray human misery and alienation, the artist empathizes sympathy for the plight of the downtrodden.  Picasso’s highly abstracted form of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler creates a network of shimmering, semi-transparent planes that merge with the objects around the subject.  Picasso’s Man With a Pipe uses gemetric and fragmented forms to show how an object would appear if seen from multiple angles.  This classic example of analytical cubism explores concepts from non-Euclidean geometry.  Juan Gris uses the cubism style in his Portrait of Pablo Picasso.

Bathers by a River is considered a pivotal work by Henri Matisse.  Originally conceived as a decorative pastoral image, through several revisions, it reflects the artist’s reactions to the teror of World War I.

Franz Marc "The Bewitched Mill"

Franz Marc "The Bewitched Mill"

Giorgio de Chirico’s The Philosophical Conquest presents several still-life objects: classical arcade; a cannon and cannonballs; a clock, chimney, and train.  By juxtapoing incongrous objects it seems rife with meaning yet resolutely enigmatic.

The vibrant colors of German Expressionist Franz Marc’s The Bewitched Mill expresses harmony between human life, represented by the houses and mill on the left, and nature, embodied by the lyrical region of trees and animals on the right.

Francis Picabia’s Edtaonisl (Ecclesiastic) juxtaposes, as the title suggests, the spiritual with the sensual.  The artist portrays an exotic dancer, who practiced with her troupe on deck a transatlantic ship, and a priest, who can’t resist watching the rehearsals.

Maria Elena Vieira da Silva "Composition"

Maria Elena Vieira da Silva "Composition"

Maria Elena Viera de Silva’s Composition, influenced by reading the work of Franz Kafka, presents an abstraction with a sense of strangeness and isolation.

Willem de Kooning’s Untitled XI offers an emotive canvas that transcends conventional definitions of figuration and abstraction.  It is a lyrical and joyful abstract landscape using free-flowing brushwork and sensuous hews to liberate form.  Excavation exemplifies de Kooning’s innovative style of expressive brushwork and distinctive organization of space into loose, sliding planes and open contours.  Aptly named, the composition features his technical painting process – an intense building up of the surface and scraping down of its paint layers until the desired effect was achieved.

Jackson Pollock "Greyed Rainbow"

Jackson Pollock "Greyed Rainbow"

Jackson Pollock’s Greyed Rainbow is an example of Abstract Expressionism by dripping, pouring, and splashing paint onto the large canvas.  This work is predominantly black, white, gray, and silver, however, the artist thinly concealed orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet in the bottom of the canvas.

I paced my visit with lunch at Terzo Piano where I enjoyed a delicious roasted trout accentuated with Matilda, a Belgian strong pale ale brewed by Goose Island in Chicago.  My visit to the Art Institute of Chicago allowed me to feast my eyes on significant works of art.

Before leaving, however, let me share some reflections arising from the 68 rooms featured in the Thorne Miniatures. Mrs. James Ward Thorne required exacting rectitude in each Europe and American room, depicting interior design from the 1300s until the1930s.  The chess table in the English Drawing Room of the Early Georgian Period, 1730s (E7), however, is configured improperly with a dark square on the right.  The pieces were also in a strange configuration. Whereas, in the Massachusetts Drawing Room, 1768 (A5) the chess set and board is correctly setup.  In another part of the Art Institute, Man Ray’s 1927 chess set in brass, silver, and gold is displayed with a Queen’s Gambit opening.  Nearby, Marcel Duchamp’s 1944 pocket chess set is in a glass case with other objects.  Its strange arrangement of pieces is not explained.  Walking back to the hotel, I encountered two African Americans, one in suit, one homeless, playing chess.

St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago Monday, Mar 19 2012 

Navy Pier

Navy Pier

A flight to Chicago for business and pleasure found us in the Windy City (nicknamed for its politicians) on St. Patrick’s Day.  Our hotel on the Magnificent Mile found us well situated with a view of Lake Michigan and near interesting sites.  Navy Pier, for example, has had significant developments since a 1995 visit when it was initially being developed.  The giant ferris wheel is a distinctive landmark with historical roots as Chicago unveiled the first Ferris Wheel for its 1892-93 Columbian Exposition which celebrated the 400 years since Columbus’ discovery of the New World and Chicago’s rise from ashes after its devastating 1871 fire.  Navy Pier now boasts numerous restaurants ranging from McDonald’s to Ravi, where we enjoyed fine dining along with the view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.  Another surprise was discovering the Smith Museum of  Stained Glass Windows, 150 religious and secular windows in a permanent installation near the end of Navy Pier in what is called Festival Hall.  Finally, we enjoyed an outstanding presentation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the beautiful 500-seat Courtyard Theater of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.  The acting and staging was superlative.  Navy Pier is not to be missed on a visit to Chicago.

Chicago Skyline

Chicago Skyline

My wanderings down Michigan Avenue took me by the large statue of Marilyn Monroe near the Chicago Tribune Building and across the street from the Wriggly Building.  I explored Millennium Park and especially enjoyed the reflections of city and tourists in the enormous silver bean shaped sculpture.  A separate entry will describe my visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.  North from our hotel I explored the Lincoln Park Zoo, which will also be a separate entry.  However, I will share here a view of the Chicago skyline from Lincoln Park.  My visit to the Chicago History Museum answered many questions about the city.  The name of the city, for example, comes from an Native American word for “wild leeks.”  Native Americans, the French, then British, and finally Americans all recognized this spot as an ideal crossroads with river and lake for transportation.  Interestingly, unlike most other cities, manufacturing never built along the lake.  My visit to this museum brought back earlier experiences in the city.  For example, there is news footage from the 1968 Democratic National Convention where I tasted my first tear gas.  Also, there is a reprint from a newspaper article about the death of the Rev. Bruce Johnson, who was a graduate of Garrett Theological Seminary and who was doing community organizing with the Young Lords, Puerto Ricans living in Chicago.  The museum currently has a special exhibit, “Out in Chicago,” which explores gender, sexuality, and nonconformity by looking at the following four themes: individuals and their bodies, family and home, communities, and political action.  I did not know that Jane Addams and Francis E. Williard each had significant long-term relationships with women.  Another highlight of the visit was an elevator ride to the top (actually the 94th of 100 floors) of the John Hancock Building for views of the city, including the photo above showing Navy Pier.  Along with the observation windows, a small skating rink shares space with a cafe and gift shop.

Green Chicago River

Green Chicago River

Chicago takes St. Patrick’s Day very seriously.  On the eve of the big day, we found a long line at Timothy O’Toole’s Pub, but the wait was worth it.  My corned beef and cabbage was the best ever.  The hosts and wait staff were dressed for the occasion.  A leprechaun dressed bar man circulated selling $3 shots of some kind of green concoction.  Although my spouse chose to drink green beer, I opted for Guinness.  On Saturday we joined the crowds lining the Chicago River to watch as a boat dropped coloring to turn the river green.  We then followed the crowd down Columbus Avenue to reserve a spot to see the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  We waited a little more than an hour leaning on a lamp post with the sun behind us.  The weather in Chicago was unprecedented during our stay.  Going back to 1871, the previous high temperature in Chicago on March 17th was 74 degrees.  This St. Patrick’s Day broke that record with something in the 80s.  We watched marching high school bands, Celtic men playing bagpipes, and a few floats.  Numerous political candidates and their followers took advantage of this campaign opportunity before Tuesday’s Illinois primary.  St. Patrick’s Day is taken very seriously in Chicago!