Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Force is With Our People

When I was in Flagstaff two months ago, I stopped at the Museum of Northern Arizona to have a look around.  It's a wonderful museum representing the history of the northern half of our state.  However, I was especially drawn to a special exhibit called "The Force is With Our People".

The exhibit features works of art by a variety of Native American artists that have all been influenced by the Star Wars narrative.

The two carved and painted wood creations above were made by Mavasta Honyouti, a Hopi.

To the left is a Stormtrooper Figure created by Rod Velarde, a Jicarilla Apache.  The storm troopers uniform is intricately painted with Native American designs.

This piece was one of my favorites in the exhibit.  I think it's beautifully done.  This one is also by Mavasta Honyouti and is also painted and carved wood.   It's called "Droids in Walpi".

Another beautiful piece is this painting by Ryan Singer.  Ryan's statement about this piece was very interesting, it reads:  "...when I did Tuba City Spaceport, the idea was parallel universes, so there is like a Start Wars Universe here and a Navajo Universe here....these two are somehow connected and are interacting in a sort of 19th century period....They're coinciding and interacting with Star Wars characters from the first movie."

I borrowed the above photo from the NPR web site.  They recently did a story about this exhibit and hearing it reminded me that I had these photos.  It features artist Duane Koyawena with his custom R2D2 unit.  He and friends are standing in front of the museum.

To the left is the photo I took at the museum of this life-sized figure that has all the bleeps and buzzes of the original R2D2.  I stood listening to him for a long time wishing I knew his language.

It really is a fascinating exhibit and well worth a visit to the museum if you are in the area.  The exhibit is up through March of 2020.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Holiday Experiences in London

I've been to London twice in late November when the city is just starting to show it's holiday colors.   Every year there is a beautiful carousel on the grounds of the Natural History Museum.

The carousel is located right next the ice skating rink.

Burlington Arcade is dressed in its holiday finest.  It's a perfect place to do a little window shopping.

The last time I was there during the season, I took a Sunday morning stroll through Leadenhall Market where small Christmas trees were leaning out above the shop windows and one big tree was sparingly decorated at one end.

The big Christmas Markets weren't quite open yet but I did find this small market sponsored by St. James Church.  I browsed the stalls....

...and came away with a colorful antique necklace that I still wear today. It's one of those little treasures that I can't imagine parting with.

Another little treasure came home with me when I decided to take one of the "tube" lines all the way to end and then explore.  The village I ended up in was called Amersham and I walked along the high street and went into a small shop that had Christmas items in the window.  That's where I found this rather unique little Santa.  I fell in love with it and it has decorated my home during the holidays ever since.

Looking at these old photos always makes me wish I was in London during this colorful season.  London does Christmas beautifully.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Red Rock Country

About 115 miles north of Phoenix is the town of Sedona located right in the heart of "Red Rock Country".  The area is dominated by beautiful red sandstone formations that make it one of the most beautiful places in the state and the country.

When you visit Sedona you will always find cars pulled off to the side of the road while their passengers get out to admire and to photograph their surroundings.  My car was just in front of the one you see to the left.

I was stopped there so I could get a photo of one of Sedona's most well known sites, the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  I happened to be there on a Sunday so getting close to it was almost impossible.  In fact, I got to a certain point and wasn't quite sure how I was going to turn around to get back down.

So I had to settle for the parking spot down below the chapel and then walk a little way to get my photos.

The chapel was completed in 1956 and stands 70 feet high out of a 1000 foot red rock cliff.

After maneuvering my way around the road to the chapel, I found another spot where there was a view point and some hiking trails.  It was a perfect spot to get some photos of the beauty of this area.

There were gorgeous views in every direction.

I could see all the way across the valley and see the chapel I had just been to.  You can see it in the far right lower corner of the photo above.

I zoomed in so you could see it more clearly.

When I first moved to Arizona, the chapel sat almost all alone in this gorgeous setting.  These days it is surrounded by houses all around it in the valley below.  But, you can only see a hint of those homes from up high like this.  That is one of the nice things about this area.  The bastions of civilization don't detract from the scenery around you.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Real Italian Villa

When I was in Italy last May, my friends treated me to three nights stay in a real Italian villa on Lake Como in the village of Varenna.  In the top photo you can see it to the left.  It's the tall one.

In the photo to the left, you have a much closer view.

As you can see from the photo, it was four floors so it wasn't for the weak of heart.  There was quite a lot of stair climbing involved, inside and out.

The sitting room was located on the second floor which happened to be at street level.  It was a comfortable place for the group to meet and plan the next day's activities.

The breakfast room and the dining room were both on the first floor which was at garden level.  There was a lovely patio just outside but we only used it once while we were there.

My bedroom was on the third floor and was furnished with antique furniture.  And, in case you were wondering, yes that bed did creak quite a bit.

There was an excellent view from my bedroom window.  I could see the Varenna dock and watch the ferries come and go.

All in all, it was an excellent experience.  A chance to enjoy a historical villa and see what it would be like to live right on the lake.

The villa had a name.  It was called Ca Livia.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Riordan Mansion

While I was in Flagstaff back in October, I took time to visit The Riordan Mansion State Historic Park, another place I had never visited before.  The mansion above is one big house, the top photo showing the left side and the second photo showing the right side.  It was built in 1904 for two Riordan families.  The Riordan family played a central role in the growing Flagstaff community as business leaders and the largest employer in Flagstaff.  They started a successful logging business, the Arizona Lumber and Timber Company.

The Riordan brothers, Timothy and Michael married the Metz sisters, Caroline and Elizabeth and the brothers built this house so both families could live close to each other.  The two residences were separated by one big room called the billiard room.  The two photos above show the separate entrances for each side of the big house.

The billiard room served as a central part of the house where the two families could get together and play games and enjoy each other's company.

The Riordan's had the tree painting commissioned and located in the central billiards room.  It's supposed to represent the first tree they cut for the business.

However, each side was totally separate so that day to day family activities were private when they wanted.  Above is the dining room on one side of the house.

This is the living room on the other side of the house.  Don't you love that hanging porch swing in front of the fireplace?

One thing I found interesting was this display of Timothy Riordan's passport.  I had never seen a passport that was issued on a folded sheet of paper before. I loved the descriptions to the left of the photo.  It has things like:

  • Mouth, Large
  • Chin, Full
  • Hair, White

And so on with other distinguishing marks.

I'm glad they don't do that today.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Lowell Observatory

Two weeks after I made that drive to New Mexico to go to the open house at the Very Large Array, I traveled to Flagstaff with a friend to visit Lowell Observatory.  All the years I've lived in Arizona, I had never visited this famous site.

We took a tour of the site located on Mars Hill just west of downtown Flagstaff Arizona.  Our guide was one of the graduate students who have been working at the site.  

The observatory's founder, Percival Lowell is buried at the observatory in this rather elaborate mausoleum.  He loved working at the observatory so it seems a perfect fit for him to rest there.

One of my favorite things to see was the Clark Telescope.  This is the one that Lowell himself used to observe Mars and Venus.  

In fact, off to one side is the platform and the "dining-room chair" that Lowell used while observing the planets.

You can see a photo of Lowell sitting in the chair in front of the telescope here.  Our guide told us the chair really was one of his dining-room chairs.  

Lowell Observatory is also where the planet Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh.  Our small tour group was given a presentation about how the discovery was made inside the Rotunda Museum.  Hanging from the ceiling in the museum is the Saturn Lamp, a stained glass marvel created by the Los Angeles Light Company.

We also had an opportunity to look at the sun through this solar telescope that was set up by one of the astronomers working at Lowell.  Looking closely I could see the movement of fire and gas around the edges of the sun.  That was a treat.

At the end of the tour we got to see the museum where they had Percival Lowells rather snazzy car on display along with one of the telescopes he carried with him on travels around the world.  

I'll leave you with this wonderful quote by one of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams.  It's perfect Douglas Adams logic (and irony).  One of the buildings at the observatory was surrounded by these quotes from Stephen Hawking, Douglas Adams, Arthur C. Clarke, Rene' Descartes and even Dom Perignon.  They represent a variety of thoughts from authors, scientists and philosophers all relating to discovery.  After all, "Doubt is the key to Wisdom" (Rene Descartes)