Musical Instrument Museum Tuesday, Nov 27 2012 

Gajdy

Gajdy

On Sunday we revisited the Musical Instrument Museum in order to look and listen to the exhibits in the Europe and United States/Canada galleries.  The following notes are taken from informational signs.  Though most commonly associated with Scotland, we learned that the bagpipe is found throughout Europe where it spread and flourished between 1100 and 1700.  Musical instruments in Latvia were originally considered functional tools.  Instruments such as natural horns, flutes, and bagpipes were used by herders for signalling or to accompany social occasions.  Folk music eventually became a tool of resistance and a way to preserve Latvian culture during the 1940-1991 Soviet occupation.

In the Ukraine, highly trained blind minstrels performed Christian tunes and epic poems on lutes and hudy-gurdies until Soviet rule in 1917.  Blindness was thought to provide a link to the spiritual world.

Hardingfele

Hardingfele

In Norway, the popular violin, or fiddle, has long dominated rural and urban instrumental music for both listening and dancing.  Compared to an ordinary violin the unique hardingfele fiddle has a shorter neck, flatter bridge, and sympathetic strings that sit underneath the bowed strings, adding resonance.

Boes

Boes

Sardinia is well known for its pre-Easter festival, the Ottana Carnival, which takes place from January 17 to the eve of Lent.  Shepherds (Merdules) wield ropes and sticks to manage the Oxen (Boes), while the Oxen resist.  The Shepherds believe they control the Oxen, but in reality the control is reversed; the Oxen’s health and cooperation determine the Shepherd’s livelihood.

After lunch at the Cafe, we toured the United States/Canada gallery.  Several exhibits featured Native American music.  Of course, jazz plays an important role in American music. I learned that there was a strong connection between military bands and college marching bands and their uniforms.  Iconic American manufactures such as C. F. Martin & Co., Fender Musical Instruments, and Steinway & Sons are prominently featured.  I also learned about the Arizona connections of several musicians and groups.  For example, Stevie Nicks, a member of Fleetwood Mac and a soloist, was born in Phoenix.  Linda Ronstadt, who defies genre boundaries with country-rock and pop in the 1970s and Latin and jazz pop in the 1980s, was born in Tucson.  Alice Cooper, which started in Phoenix, sported black makeup and featured outrageous costumes and stage sets.  Waylon Jennings moved to Phoenix in 1960 where he regularly played at JD’s nightclub.  The Musical Instrument Museum is well worth more than one visit.

Phoenix Zoo Visit Saturday, Nov 24 2012 

Black-tailed Prarie Dog

Black-tailed Prarie Dog

We discovered that not everyone was shopping on Black Friday.  The parking lot at the Phoenix Zoo was filled when we arrived around 1 p.m.  In order to find a parking spot we followed a group who had exited the zoo to their cars.  Once in the zoo we took advantage of two offers when we renewed our membership last year.  First, we each sat atop a camel for two quick turns around their pen.  Second, we visited the stingray pavilion.  It was not feeding time and we didn’t choose to pet them, but it was fun watching the stingrays circle around their tank.  The flamingos appeared unusually white.  Perhaps they need more shrimp in their diet.  The Marabou storks strutted menacingly in the area where we usually see zebras.  A rabbit poised for a picture with a pronghorn.  The black-tailed prairie dogs enjoyed the 85 degree November day.  The temperature was warm enough for me to cool down with a cherry flavored snow cone.  We observed one of the elephants, Reba, leave the exhibit area so that another female, Indus, might have some outside time.  A Galapagos tortoise and an Aldabra tortoise munched on their food.  A rhinoceros iguana stretched out menacingly near the edge of its pen.  Another interesting zoo visit.

North Mountain National Trail Saturday, Nov 24 2012 

Transmission Towers

Transmission Towers

On the day after Thanksgiving we hiked the North Mountain National Trail #44 which is a designated National Recreation Trail.  We ascended from the Quechan Ramada on the narrow, steep, and rocky path to the top of North Mountain, elevation 2,104 feet, which houses transmission towers.  Smog limited visibility of the City of Phoenix.  This 1.6 mile loop felt like it had more than a 614 feet elevation gain. The return on North Mountain Road was much more heavily populated with hikers as most people go up and return on this paved road.  An informational sign informed us that from the late 1920s through the 1940s this area, then known as Indian Campground, was used by pupils attending the Phoenix Indian School and their families.  In 1955 Maricopa County acquired the land from the U. S. Department of the Interior for use as a park.  On July 8, 1963 the City of Phoenix received the deed.  The North Mountain National Trail is another interesting Phoenix hike.

Pima East & Pima West Loop Trails Saturday, Nov 24 2012 

Phoenix Cityscape

Phoenix Cityscape

South Mountain is the nation’s largest city park.  With 16,500 acres it is 11 miles across.  And, it is close to our Valley of the Sun home.  We have made it a tradition to hike on South Mountain on Thanksgiving.  This year we headed to a parking area near 40th Street where we hiked out on the Pima East Loop Trail and returned via the Pima West Loop Trail.  There are good vistas of the City of Phoenix and surrounding landmarks such as Camelback Mountain.  Others were enjoying South Mountain hiking and mountain biking.  A steady stream of golfers were finishing their round on the Arizona Grand, adjacent to our trail.  After cleaning up we drove to Tempe where we enjoyed sister Dianne’s cooking a Thanksgiving feast.  We completed the day seeing Mao’s Last Dancer, a moving story with themes related to family ties and some scenes filmed in China.  A memorable Thanksgiving!

2012 Arizona Senior Open Monday, Nov 19 2012 

The 2012 Arizona Senior Open chess tournament was held in Tucson this past weekend.  My record of 3 wins and 2 losses included losses to John Irwin, who took first place with a 4.5-0.5 record, and Morry Holland, who finished second with a 4-1 record.  I started the tournament ranked number 5 out of 16 players and finished tied for 5th-6th.  Seniors are defined in this tournament as they are for U.S. Chess Federation events as being 50 years of age or older.  There were 6 players in their 50s, 8 in their 60s, 1 in his 70s, and 1 in his 80s.  I won the plaque for top senior 60 plus.  This event used a small conference room at the Palo Verde Holiday Inn.  Most of the larger ballrooms hosted a tournament bridge tournament.  My rounds ended early.  This allowed us to dine Saturday evening at the Old Pueblo Grill and to have brunch at Chaffin’s Diner Sunday.  An early departure from Tucson gave us the opportunity to enjoy the magnificent sunset on the drive back to Phoenix.  Unfortunately no picture.  Reds and yellows dramatically posed among serrated clouds as the sun set.  Before and after the literal sun setting the entire sky was a palette of pastels.

Badger Springs Trail Monday, Nov 12 2012 

Badger Springs

Badger Springs

Our eighth trail for this year’s “Take a Hike!” introduced us to the Agua Fria National Monument.  The Badger Springs Trail, about 41 miles from Prescott, starts at an elevation of 3,150 feet.  The trail follows the Badger Springs Wash on a gentle, sandy slope for only 0.8 miles.  A water hole can be found in the canyon, elevation 3,050 feet, where the Agua Fria River flows.  Interesting petroglyphs are evident on nearby rocks.

On January 11, 2000 President William J. Clinton proclaimed 70,900 acres as the Agua Fria National Monument.  According to the proclamation, “The windswept, grassy mesas and formidable canyons of Agua Fria National Monument embrace an extraordinary array of scientific and historic resources.”  At least 450 prehistoric sites have been identified with four major settlements.  The area supported pueblo communities between A.D. 1250 and 1450.  This is also an important bird area where some 194 bird species have been observed. We are fortunate to have such an area close to us.

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