Thursday, December 31, 2009

staying up with chili-and-garlic... wife is fighting off a recurrent cold, in mother--flew in from the East coast last night, asleep downstairs...and I, slightly insomniac, am trying to stave off a head-cold. We went to a Korean restaurant earlier tonight and had pre-emptive boiling garlicky bowls of red soup...

So, this is how 2009 will end and 2010 will begin for us here in Tucson...


Last week, after a rainy night, I went for a morning hike in Ventana canyon, and sure enough, the peaks above had got a dusting of snow the night before:

...on the trail in, I had a little scare--I surprised a herd of a dozen or so musky-smelling javelinas. (My first sighting 'in the wild!') I couldn't help but think of the Dutch tourist a while back who got his calf muscle 'shredded' by the tusks of a not-so-little javelina. (Click here to read the article) Fortunately, the critters ran away from me, and I didn't see any parental-protection-charge-inducing babies...

( ...and this photo 'made the paper again' the other day! ;-) )

...this past weekend, we drove over to CA to visit some friends...I'd never been COLD in L.A.before--but on my morning run in the Verdugo mountains on Saturday, there was frost (!)...At the Saturday morning farmer's market in La Cañada Flintridge (odd compound name for a tony town, eh?), we got to chat in French with a baker, a pâté-maker, and a tablecloth-vendor...and in Korean with several produce-sellers--fresh Asian pears, chirimoya (!), samples of jujube (Chinese date)-tea...

And we also got to visit, briefly, the Huntington Library and gardens in San Marino, near Pasadena. I had been once, twelve years before, but it was my wife's first time...We had only a couple of hours, so we concentrated on the large-scale 18th-c. British portraits in the main house, and the cactus and succulent gardens...A few photos:

...a beautiful place to stroll around, before driving back across the bleak Mojave desert...


...and to sign off tonight, this just got e-mailed to me, and so I include it below:

January 1, 2010
Yearly Review

Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the forty-fourth
president of the United States and ordered the detention
center at Guantanamo Bay closed within a year. George
W. Bush gave his final press conference. "Abu Ghraib was a
huge disappointment," he said. "Not having weapons of mass
destruction was a significant disappointment." A federal
appeals court in Texas ruled to permit the sacrifice of
goats. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael
Steele announced an "off the hook" Republican publicity
campaign, targeting "urban-suburban hip-hop settings." "We
need to uptick our image with everyone," Steele said,
"including one-armed midgets." When asked about the state
of the Republican party, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty
said, "It's kind of like asking whether the stock market
has bottomed out." Thirty-nine million Americans were on
food stamps, 54 percent of graduating U.S. business majors
lacked job offers, and two gunmen robbed a man of one
dollar in the parking lot of an Ohio Wendy's. A top
Pentagon official said that "cutbacks at Best Buy" made it
easier to recruit better-qualified young people for the
military. The war in Iraq turned six; the war in
Afghanistan turned eight; SpongeBob SquarePants turned
ten. In Afghanistan, where the Taliban threatened to chop
off the fingers of anyone who votes, the government passed
a law allowing men to starve wives who refuse sex.

Sea levels continued to rise, and a 40-yard-wide asteroid
just missed the earth. The Mediterranean Sea was plagued
by blobs. Pope Benedict XVI visited Africa; in Angola he
warned against witchcraft, corruption, and condoms. Papal
archaeologists in Rome authenticated the bones of Saint
Paul the Apostle, and Jesus Christ was dismissed from jury
duty in Alabama. Toxic-mining wastes in Idaho were killing
tundra swans; a man in Munich received a two-year
suspended sentence for beating another man with a
swan. Highly aggressive supersquirrels were menacing gray
squirrels in England, where the Law Lords were replaced
with a new Supreme Court whose justices wear no wigs, and
where cosmetic nipple surgery was increasingly popular. A
London taxi driver tied one end of a rope around a post
and the other around his neck and drove away, launching
his head from the car. Anglican hymns were sung at
Darwin's tomb. Two Yellowstone National Park workers were
fired for peeing into Old Faithful. Sarah Palin published
a book, and Sylvia Plath's son hanged himself in
Alaska. Scientists in San Diego made a robot head study
itself in a mirror until it learned to smile.

Newspaper circulation in the United States declined to its
lowest level in 70 years. It was revealed via Twitter that
President Obama called Kanye West a "jackass" and that a
coyote ran off with Jessica Simpson's maltipoo. The Taco
Bell chihuahua died of a stroke, and Sonia Sotomayor was
sworn in as a Supreme Court justice. Walter Cronkite,
Merce Cunningham, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy died, as
did Michael Jackson. Ariel Sharon was still alive. Hamas
and Fatah held peace talks in Cairo. Israel approved the
construction of 900 more settler homes in East Jerusalem,
and ten Florida middle schoolers were suspended for
participating in Kick a Jew Day. Chicago rats fed a diet
of bacon, cheesecake, Ho Hos, pound cake, and sausage
began to behave like rats addicted to heroin, and a
Minnesota man pleaded guilty to driving a La-Z-Boy while
intoxicated. China created a small black hole, and NASA
revealed that a mysterious streak of light spotted by
onlookers in the night sky above North America was a
fortnight's worth of astronaut urine. Physicists said
that the aural jitters picked up by a German
gravitational-wave detector may indicate that we all live
in a giant and blurry cosmic hologram. The United States,
searching for water, bombed the moon.

Permanent URL for this column:

Copyright 2010 Harper's Magazine Foundation

...and now, on with MMX

Friday, December 18, 2009

from the recycling bin:
an example of borderlands bi-illiteracy...

It's the end of the semester...Grades are done (!) and I'm getting ready for the new semester to begin in I'm tidying up the classroom...
and I come across a note, unfolded, face-up in the recycling bin...
Immediately the spanglish catches my eye, and, so, yes, I pick up the note--written in two distinct 'hands,' an on-paper 'conversation' between two of my students (I do not know who, exactly)--and I read it.
(It's reproduced below.)

Purely academic curiosity. (Maybe a bit of teacherly verbal-voyeurism? does that sound bad?)
Well, okay--not 'purely' academic...but I had fun 'analyzing' it.

An 'academic' title of a linguistic analysis might be something like:
Adolescent bilingual code-switching:
The influence of spanglish texting on written informal discourse
in other words--an excerpt of Hispanic-teenage-girl-note-passing. be read outloud--ah, spanglish...

...k me preguntaste eso
ohh okaii well I wish we wur pero no c I dont talk to him cuz I chicken out! :(
y a silviano dise nada
de k ?
De ke te gusta
no she just talkes about him in my face like omg he is so cute
or like he has a nice body n like he was walking with me.. I get
pissed of she tryz to mack me jelouse
pues it's working cause you get mad nomas ignorala
well yea X nose y he know le podran desir k im nervous of going up to him and talking to him. y k c el puede ablar con migo! :D

============================ I exagerrating when I talk about 'bi-illiteracy'?
Hmm...maybe 'semi-literacy' is more accurate than 'illiterate;'
so, 'bi-semi-illiteracy' then.

Friday, December 11, 2009

...flowing again...

..after several months of being reduced to a few pools between long sandy stretches, Sabino Creek is finally free-flowing again!

Yesterday afternoon, as I went on my run into Sabino Canyon, I heard a strange 'new' noise--ahh! rushing water! I peered down to the creek bed--full of little rapids. The rain and mountain snowfall earlier this week has trickled down...

So today after work, my wife and I went on a little hike...(camera in hand...)

The ear's hunger for the sound of running water can be forgotten,
then instantly summoned...and satiated.


Off to the SE: the remaining snow on the upper slopes of the NW flank of the Rincon mountains, seen from the cottonwoods along lower Sabino creek:

...the sycamores and cottonwoods are just reaching their peak fall color along the lower stretch of Sabino Creek, finally a flowing creek again after months of being just a sandy wash:
...a still pool, here and there among the new rapids:
...desert evening sky, always a balm...
Our friend/next-door-neighbor has had to leave the country suddenly; his elderly father's health has taken a turn for the worse...I end up thinking back to my father's last few months before his death just before I finished college...I wonder what it's like to have your father around, to talk to, fully adult-to-adult, all through your 20's...your 30's...into your 40's...
I'm half-way through a short novel right now, "The Cellist of Sarajevo" by Canadian author Steven Galloway...(click here for the 'book jacket')...As I read the harrowing account of the Balkan war in the early 1990's, I think back to the few conversations my father and I had about the experiences he had in the Korean war forty years prior to that...When I was in college, we'd regularly have coffee together in the afternoons, and he'd begun to talk about some of the things he'd seen; he'd been a very young soldier in the latter part of the war, having left Maine to join the army...
...and I think of my grandmother, in Korea during that same time,already widowed and worrying about her eight children (my mother was the youngest) while the U.S. and UN troops and the North Korean and Chinese troops marched back and forth across the country, flattening and re-flattening everything...Time (she died right after I finished high school) and language (I'm still not fluent in Korean) have precluded my talking with her about those years...
So many stories.
So many words...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A column in today's Washington Post...

...lunchtime reading, and I came across
this column in today's Washington Post
re: freedom of press, belief, religion in Russia...'s the link

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

evening, Sabino Canyon, reflections

On last night's run, I noticed a few spots in Sabino Canyon where there are still some clear pools in the creekbed, untouched by the summer drought...

...and even though the calendar says 'December,' it's technically still autumn, and the fall colors are just now peaking down along the creek...

So, after work today, I took the camera and raced into the canyon against the setting sun;
here are a few photos:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

treadmill--fr/sp musings...moonrise

With all the varieties of English today, that word seems relatively constant--in the UK, the US, in the South, the NW, etc. etc.--'treadmill' is universally understood.

A student, though, was trying to explain 'running on the treadmill' in French...
but the expression she used, to my ears, is more often used when referring to a 'moving walkway' or a luggage caroussel in an airport...I tried to verify, but multiple dictionaries confirm multiple usages...
"Tapis roulant" vs. "tapis de jogging" or "tapis de course..."
Also--Canadian-French usage? or European-French usage?
ay ay ay...

Variety is the spice of life...but consistency is nice sometimes, too, no?

And then, curious--I looked up the Spanish expression.
The commonly used word in the U.S. coincides with the commonly-used-in-Mexico "caminadora."
But, note these variations:

molino de rueda de andar
plataforma rodante
faja ergonométrica estacionaria
"el treadmill" (seriously)

tapiz rodante
cintas de correr

Teachers and translators argue over these terms, you know...
So. Treadmills.

I've rarely used them... much nicer (weather permitting) to run outdoors...

earlier this evening: two deer,
young does, crossing my path... ,
full moon rising over the canyon's reddish ridge,
saguaros silhouetted against the lunar surface,
cottontail rabbits dashing under nopales in the twilight...

Now I can face the punks, er, I mean, my dear students, again tomorrow...

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Black Friday" hike...

Far, far from the madding crowds of malls, today...
the day after Thanksgiving is a day for me to avoid the crowds of consumers...
(at least, this year, so far, I've not heard of anyone dying in a Wal-Mart stampede...)

So, like last year, today, a hike...

...into Pontatoc canyon and then up the ridge, in the middle of the southern face of the Santa Catalina range, Tucson's 'backyard.'

After parking at a trailhead parking lot in the shadow of ritzy desert-'palaces', you hike behind the backyards of those privileged foothills-homeowners, and then, officially behind the 'wilderness line,' you descend into the canyon, looking up at distinctive Finger Rock... crisscross the boulders of the seasonal-creek-bed, then begin to climb the backside of the ridge to reach the sunny southern side, from where all of Tucson spreads out, (surprisingly green), below:

...A couple of miles and a couple of thousand feet later, you reach the end of the trail, about 5000' high.

Much quieter than the mall-parking-lot on this last Friday in November...


Last weekend, an out-of-town friend came to stay with, of course, we went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, where 'raptor free-flights' are currently going on; this Harris' hawk hadn't yet had time to adjust its wings upon landing:

Truly impressive--one of the only birds that hunts collectively in family groups.

And Harris' hawks (native to South America, originally) are actually relative newcomers to the Sonoran desert--about a century ago, they began following ranchers, since they have water tanks for their livestock. With those reliable water supplies, they were able to 'settle' in the desert, then finding riparian environments with other water sources, learning to hunt the local prey--reminds me of the now ubiquitous (but no less beautiful) cattle egrets--successful avian 'colonizers'.

The mountain-lion habitat is always one of the most popular sights; these cougars must be the most-photographed cats of their kind:

...gotta love that face, eh?

...and a semi-random quote I came across the other day, by Albert Camus:
L'automne est un deuxième printemps où chaque feuille est une fleur.
(Autumn is a second spring when each leaf is a flower.)

Joli, non?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coatimundi!...after San Diego, another local canyon...

"Coatimundi?" you ask? Yes, "coatimundi," as in the tropical racoon-relative.
(Click here for more info.)

But first, closer to home:

Ouch! Poor birdie...from the 'wingprint', I think it was a desert white-winged dove. As you can see, it's not as if our living-room window is even particularly clean...I wonder where the bird wanted to go...I found no carcass, so I think the dove recovered and flew away...

More birds, different time of day, outside the same window:

...for the past couple of weeks now, early to mid-morning, we've been having what my wife calls 'quail parties;' we've taken to throwing Paquito's 'leftovers' out the back door when we feed him each morning, and sure enough, a couple of hours later, local Gambel's quails show up to breakfast on parrotlet-seed-rejects in the mesquite shade...

...Far from home, now:
...Last weekend we drove over to San Diego--seven hours across the occasionally interesting and often booo-ring desert through Yuma, AZ and El Centro, CA...a quick trip to see some friends, and to wake up for a beach-run...ahh, the salt air...


And now, to a decidedly ocean-free locale--Pima Canyon, just a few miles from where we live in Tucson:

In the over-two-years that we've lived here, I've driven by this canyon so many times, but from the main road you just don't notice the entrance...and since we live, now, near to Sabino Canyon, I'd never thought about going to the 'trouble' of driving a few miles to the western end of the Santa Catalina range, especially since it juts out between the built-up Catalina foothills and the suburbanly-sprawling Northwest side, where the towns of Oro valley and Marana continue to grow...

But yesterday, having the day off from work, I thought I'd check it out, and it turned out to be a great day-hike--once you drive up through the neo-Tuscan-'palaces' of the foothills and then hike between their 'no trespassing' signs protecting their infinity-edge pools, you finally end up in designated wilderness and the sounds of traffic disappear as the desert blends into riparian habitat. For southern Arizona, the canyon is 'lush,' thick with jojoba, cottonwoods, and unusually tall mesquite-trees...

And there is where I saw, for the first time in the wild in Arizona, a pair of coatimundis!

Forgive the boring photos; I was on my way out of the canyon and not expecting to see substantial wildlife...I turned a corner on the trail and heard a couple of 'squeets,' thinking it was birds in the creosote, when these guys trotted in front of me and up into some shrubby rocks. By the time I fumbled and got my camera ready, face-shots were impossible...but still! coatimundis! It made my morning...

(Here's a slightly better view of a coati:

This was my first coati-sighting ever, when my wife and I were in Tikal National Park in Guatemala a few years ago...)

Back to Pima Canyon. The seasonal creek has been dry for a couple of months now, but the cottonwoods are substantial--proof that enough groundwater exists in the canyon year-round, even if it doesn't flow on the surface.

If we get good snows this winter, the snowmelt will make the creek flow for a few weeks or months again...

Before I spotted the coatis, I saw this:

Amazing color, eh? This dried-out seed-pod contains 'desert coral beans,' poisonous but pretty...

Another fascinating seedpod is the doubly-wicked 'devil's claw:'

...and there are even signs of pre-columbian human habitation in Pima Canyon: about three miles in are these grinding-holes, metates, in the stones: They were probably started by the Hohokam people, up to 1300 years ago--they most likely harvested mesquite pods in the canyon, and used the local stone to process the legumes into flour on site...

Coatis, seedpods, metates...a nice change of pace...

On the way back out, heading back to the trailhead parking lot in mid-afternoon--looking off to the suburban west; you can make out a golf course in the middle distance:

...and one of the uncommon 'cristate' crested saguaros--this one looks vaguely like it's doing a gang-hand-sign, no? (Maybe I spend too much time around urban teenagers at work...)

...and that's the latest...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sabino Canyon: to the END!...and fun with accents...

Finally, a Saturday morning with time and the built-up 'training' to run the 'entire length' of Sabino Canyon...actually, just the paved trail part: 3.7 miles...(I know, I know, it's not a marathon or anything, but just a local 'landmark'-goal for me)...I'd thought it was four-miles...but still makes for a nice 7.4 mile round-trip jog...

I must admit, though, that the last half-mile was too steep to run, so I walked it...a mile-walk in the middle--not 'race-worthy,' but a beautiful way to spend a late-October morning--in the chilly shade almost the whole time, though, since the sun is low enough now that the canyon doesn't see sunlight until mid-morning...Sabino creek is dry in spots, but still sports a few little waterfalls here and there...

(photo from last December, taken near the end of the road)

And now--perhaps some of you have seen this; it's making the e-mail circuit...but since my entire childhood was colored by foreign accents of different kinds, I just had to post this.

(warning: if you're overly politically-correct, read no further...but come on; remember I'm 'having fun' here, not 'making fun.')

It's a pretty good approximation/amalgamation/transcription of Asian and Hispanic English, to my eyes/ears at least:

(By the time you read through this YOU WILL UNDERSTAND "TENJOOBERRYMUDS")

In order to continue getting by in America we all need to learn the NEW English language! Practice by reading the following conversation until you are able to understand the term "TENJOOBERRYMUDS". With a little patience, you'll be able to fit right in.

The following is a telephone exchange between
maybe you as a hotel guest and a call to room service
somewhere in the good old USA today......
MUST be read aloud:

Room Service: "Morrin. Roon sirbees."
Guest: "Sorry, I thought I dialed room-service."
Room Service: " Rye . Dis Roon sirbees...morrin! Joowish to oddor sunteen???"
Guest: "Uh..... Yes, I'd like to order bacon and eggs."
Room Service: "Ow July den?"
Guest: "......What??"
Room Service: "Ow July den?!?... pryed, boyud, poochd?"
Guest: "Oh, the eggs! How do I like them?
Sorry.. scrambled, please."
Room Service: "Ow July dee baykem? Crease?"
Guest: "Crisp will be fine ."
Room Service: "Hokay. An Sahn toes?"
Guest: "What?"
Room Service: "An toes. July Sahn toes?"
Guest: "I... don't think so."
RoomService: "No? Judo wan sahn toes???"
Guest: "I'm sorry; I feel really bad about this,
but I don't know what 'judo wan sahn toes' means."
RoomService: "Toes! Toes!...Why Joo don Juan toes?
Ow bow Anglish moppin weet bodder?"
Guest: "Oh, English muffin!!! I've got it!
You were saying 'toast'...Fine ...Yes, an English muffin will be fine ."
RoomService: "Weet bodder?"
Guest: "No, just put the bodder on the side."
RoomService: "Wad?!?"
Guest: "I mean butter... just put the butter on the side."

RoomService: "Copy?"
Guest: "Excuse me?"
RoomService: "Copy...tea..wid meel? chooger?"
Guest: "Yes. Coffee, please... and that'll be all..."
RoomService: "One Minnie. Scramah egg, crease baykem,
Anglish moppin, weet bodder on sigh and copy ... rye??"
Guest: "Yes, yes-whatever you say."
RoomService: "Tenjooberrymuds."
Guest: "You're welcome"

(Remember I said "By the time you read through this YOU WILL UNDERSTAND 'TENJOOBERRYMUDS' "
......and you do, don't you!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

NY "London" Times...on aging and national stereotypes... (Or, Europe as an allegory on aging)

...on the way home from work today, I stopped for a cup of coffee...
Leafing through a prior drinker's left-behind New York Times, I came across the editorial page's presentation of sayings and conceptions about aging,
including this blurb, taken from The Times of London this past July:

"I've often thought that Europe is an allegory for the ages of man.
You're born ITALIAN. They're relentlessly infantile and mother-obsessed.
In childhood, we're ENGLISH: chronically shy, tongue-tied, cliquey, and only happy kicking balls, pulling the legs off things or sending someone to Coventry.
Teenagers are FRENCH: pretentiously philosophical, embarrassingly vain, ridiculously romantic and insincere.
Then,in middle age, we become either SWISS or IRISH.
Old age is GERMAN: ponderous, pompous and pedantic.
Then finally we regress into being BELGIAN, with no idea who we are at all."

(found on the editorial page of the New York Times, 19 Oct., 2009)

My apologies, condolences, and 'appreciation' to all who resent and/or resemble these remarks...

Friday, October 16, 2009

actually about Nicaragua...

Well, it's been a while since I've posted something directly about Nicaragua. It has been over three years now since we moved back to the States...but this afternoon I was looking up something online, and I happened upon a NY Times article about Nicaragua...which led me to this: Click HERE for the New York Times travel resource page on Nicaragua--
many cool slide shows, video presentations, other practical links...
...including THIS video about 'volcano surfing:'
Crazy, eh?
And yet I know that volcano well--I didn't 'surf' it, but my wife and I, along with a few other friends, spent the better part of a day around, on, and in Cerro Negro, in January of 2006:

...and one last Nica-photo for tonight:

(...this one, of my bike against a doorway in León, taken when I was on my way home
from running errands, was featured on the online edition of today's Tucson paper.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A couple of Sunday links...

To get an idea of what some of the social conditions
are for Tucson's urban high-school students, especially
refugee-kids, here's a link to an article in this week's
local paper: click HERE.


And...another Sunday-morning published (!) surprise...although this time,
I did submit a photo specifically for the newspaper's request:
(The photo's from last summer, one evening when Sara and I drove out to Gates Pass, just west of the city...)

For the whole article, click HERE.
...for a larger photo,
click HERE.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday: two--Swiss Alps & Peru!

...sleeping in a bit this morning,
and S. wakes me up with
"there's a surprise in this morning's paper."

A pre-coffee 'huh?,' followed, a few minutes later, by a how-about-that 'huh!'

Another Vamos-section 'gallery' publication,
this time the theme being 'mountains of the world.'
Among others' photos of the Himalayas and the Rockies, the photo-editors picked two of mine:

--a scene from Switzerland (along the "Heidiland" trail not far from Chur):

and a photo from Peru--the El Misti volcano, 19,100 ft. high over river-valley farm fields near Arequipa:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall!...rhetoric re: our overly spectacle-obsessed society...a Brit's description of Korean food...

With the sunrises creeping later and later, I finally switched to going for my run AFTER work today; I went just before sunset, and the heat had already died down...

...bats filling the shadows in Sabino Canyon, cottonwoods just beginning to get patches of yellow leaves. Fall's arrived right on schedule here--an afternoon and an evening in Tucson WITHOUT the a/c on! (ahh, time, at last for those monthy power bills to start coming down...)

It's still in the 90's in the afternoons, but the nights are beginning to dip into the 60's and tomorrow morning might be in the 50's...

S. flies in tomorrow afternoon...Yesterday morning she was salmon fishing with her parents off Neah Bay, WA--the Northwesternmost tip of the Continental U.S....rough seas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca as they headed back in midmorning, she said...but in her luggage will be some vacuum-packed, frozen silver coho salmon that she caught!

...a couple of semi-random excerpts from some of my recent reading:

First, the back-cover of Empire of Illusion; The end of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
Now there's a title for you, eh? And really, it's not dry and academic...rather, acerbic and funny, and right on.
It's by Chris Hedges, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, in the grand tradition of sweeping-yet-articulate rhetoric.
So, without further ado, if you were browsing in a bookstore, this is what you would read on the back cover:

The more we sever ourselves from a literate, print-based world--a world of complexity and nuance, a world of ideas--for one informed by comforting, reassuring images, fantasies, slogans, and a celebration of violence, the more we implode. We ask, like the wrestling fans or those who confuse love with pornography, to be fed lies. We demand lies. The skillfully manufactured images and slogans that flood the airwaves and infect our political discourse mask reality. And we do not protest. The lonely Cassandras who speak the truth about our misguided imperial wars, the global economic meltdown, and the imminent danger of multiple pollutions that are destroying the ecosystem that sustains the human species, are drowned out by arenas full of fans chanting "Slut! Slut! Slut!" or television audiences chanting "Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!" The worse reality becomes, the less a beleagured population wants to hear about it and the more it distracts itself with squalid pseudo-events of celebrity breakdowns, gossip, and trivia. These are the debauched revels of a dying culture.

For more, here's an excerpted chapter at this website (click here).

On a lighter note, a description of Korean food. Ahh...the pungent tastes of my childhood--pungent and piquant, except for a few dishes, la cuisine coréenne is not for the unitiated. (Even the name "Han-guk eum-shik" sounds scary, eh?) Following is one of the best descriptions I've come across--written by an ex-pat British journalist, Michael Breen--but first, to place it in context, he's just written about the 'passionate mix of contradictions that can be difficult for the more ordered western mind to handle:'

This contradiction is nicely symbolised for me by the way in which I grew to like Korean cuisine. The first time I was confronted by a soup in a Korean restaurant, I found it was too salty and too spicy, and full of murky items which for all I knew had been dropped in it by mistake. I was glad my host did not reveal the contents. It came surrounded with small plates on which there were leaves and twigs which we were plainly expected to eat. I picked up a bulging green pepper and bit into it. It was so hot it almost blew my face off. 'You're supposed to dip it in here,' another foreigner said. That's the Koreans, they dip peppers in a salty paste to spice up the taste. The proud master of these side dishes was a tight roll of what could have passed for used bandages. 'Have some kimchi,' my host said. So this was kimchi. I'd heard of this. It was strips of cabbage parts which had been drenched in red pepper juice. This was what smelled on people's breath in the underground. The courses kept coming. The side dishes were all shared. Everyone poked at them with their chopsticks. In the end, it was difficult to measure how much you had eaten, especially as half the food was left. This food was all washed down with beer.
But now I have grown to love this food so much and the socialising that goes with it that in Britain I have withdrawal symptoms. This cuisine is not the kind you admire visually [I must heartily disagree here--I love the in-your-face vibrant colors, like the colors in the traditional architecture; subtle it is not, but there's nothing like it anywhere else in the world.] It's a kind of assault on the mouth, spice and salt, and so tied up in my mind with long nights with friends and sources and fascinating conversations and arguments that I can't be objective about it. For me, it's the best food in the world, after fish and chips. So, too, with the Koreans. They assault you with their fury and nonsense. I reckon if you were stuck on Mount Everst in a prolonged storm, there would be no more reliable and courageous companion than a Korean. The trouble is, he would be a smoker, If the cold didn't get you, the smoke would.

(excerpt from pages 7-8 of the rather prosaically-named but eminently readable The Koreans; Who they are, what they want, where their future lies, written for a primarily UK-audience, in 1999.)

To conclude, then, tonight, a photo of said cuisine.

(I made some copies of family photos while visiting my mother this past summer...)
The winter when I was seven years old, I spent over a month in Korea--my first time there, since leaving the country before I was a year old...and the low tables laden with dozens of RED! and ORANGE! dishes of 'twigs and leaves' and little dried fishies fascinated me--SO different from the Cheerios and ham-and-cheese sandwiches of my transoceanic childhood...

...aunts and uncles and cousins all sitting around the table, on the heated floor...snow flurries outside...steamy gingery-garlic-breath inside...and the language that, by the end of my stay, I was semi-fluent in...ahh, the ease with which children's brains pick up words...

Now, in Tucson, in my 30's, after years of French and Spanish, I'm finally deciding that I need to 'master' (as well as I can) Korean, my mother's tongue...uncles, aunts, and cousins I've not seen in years--I can't talk to them! So I'm struggling to fit in Han-guk-o flashcards and bi-weekly tutoring...

I've had three sessions so far--amazing what phrases and words can be 'resurrected'...a bit disheartening, though, realizing how much work it will be to add new vocabulary to my brain's long dormant Korean-section...

Kids, start learning NOW...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Adiós to the monsoon...

S. left this morning for Seattle; she'll be spending a week up there, visiting friends and family.
September up there can be so seductively lovely--
Puget Sound sparkles, Mt. Rainier's glaciers glint under the late summer sun--
you can almost forget that months of endlessly grey spitting-rain skies are about to descend upon the evergreen landscape...But ahh, September in Seattle...I wish I could've gone as well, but this early in the school-year, I just couldn't take a whole week and leave...

So I'm home alone. Blogging. I don't mean to sound mopey. Because I'm not. And Paquito's here to keep me company.

This year's monsoon in Tucson is officially over: little likelihood of rain during the next several months. We only got about half of the usual summer rain this year. So, the Tucson newspaper, this past Sunday, did a photo-spread featuring desert rain...and yeah! I was surprised again--for the third time (!) in the past few weeks, a photo of mine was published in the Vamos! section of the paper:

I didn't care too much for the editorial caption that accompanied it: 'dripping with color.' (Although, I guess it is...) S. and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time for this photo--about a month after we moved here a couple of years ago, we'd taken a Sunday drive up to the top of Mt. Lemmon; on the way down the Catalina highway, we stopped to stretch our legs at a scenic pull-off just as the sun was setting, and this isolated rainstorm just happened.

This past weekend, we went for another drive--a 3hr45min drive up to northern Arizona, to the old mountainside mining town of Jerome. From there, you can look north across the Verde River valley to the red rock country around Sedona, and beyond, the high plateau that leads to the Grand Canyon. It was raining up there:

The permanent population of the town is only four-hundred-something, but its proximity to Phoenix makes it a major weekend hang-out destination, very picturesque--ruins of 19th-century buildings...endless views of open sky and mountains...and a singular combination of stringy-haired Harley-riders, aura-seeking urbanites, jewelry-makers, a handful of b-&-b owners, blown-glass demonstrations, stray cats, the occasional carload of Japanese tourists, a rainbow-stickered-restaurant with crabcakes as their special du jour, and across the street a rough (and decidedly rainbow-free) tavern where no one would be caught dead uttering 'du jour'...À chacun son goût, non?

(The mountains in the background are the volcanic 12,000-ft San Francisco peaks--the highest point in Arizona.)


Last week, S. and I both had Monday off--a we went of town that day as well. S. hadn't yet been down to Madera Canyon, in the Santa Rita mountains, so there we went:
The canyon is an internationally-known birding of the little lodges has a big feeding area, to 'encourage' the less exotic species to entertain the non-hiking visitors, I guess:
Determined squirrel, eh? The finch seems bemused...
Turkeys--never pretty, like, say, elegant trogons, but still...a fun sight...
By mid-day, the peanut-butter sandwiches I'd packed just weren't exciting any more, so we decided to splurge on a restaurant-lunch; about a half-hour away is the little artsy town of Tubac, and from there the view
back to the Santa Rita mountains is this:
Closer to home, now:
Sunday evening, before dinner, S. and I went for a walk in Sabino Canyon, and saw this young buck snacking off a mesquite tree...
Even after living in our new place for a few months now,
we still are thrilled by the fact that we can walk out our front door, and in a few minutes, see stuff like this...