Monday, December 31, 2012

AZ to GA and back...(and "Ted?")

I just flew back into Tucson after spending eight days in GA,
visiting family and friends...and packing.
My mother is planning to move back out west next year; 
it's been thirty years that she's been in the South, now...
The process of sorting and storing is just starting...

It's a curious thing, boxing up the china, crystal, and curios that, for an entire childhood, constituted the 'do not touch' section of the living and dining rooms. Pieces collected from Germany, England, from friends and family, platters rarely used and teapots reserved for 'special company'...And deciding what furniture to keep, what to sell or give away...

Things that remind of places changed and people gone...

...and that's how 2012 is ending.

But it wasn't as if every item I wrapped made me pensive;
some things were just puzzling.
Take, for example, "Ted."
Yes, look carefully:

Why is this German tennis-playing-gnome named "Ted?" And why is he posing Asian-style? And WHY does my mother want to keep him?! Creepy...but 'collectible'...and a gift from a dear friend. So. Ted will make the move. (My conscience wouldn't allow me to 'disappear him'...)

On another visual note: 
for twelve scenes of the past year, 
one shot per month--
mostly landscapes, all iPhone photos--
I've updated the other blog.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Revelations of symmetry: the hidden surreal...

As I wrote about in last week's post, I took my iPhone with me on my weekend morning run--glorious autumn in Sabino Canyon...

...Later that evening I was playing around with a couple of the scenes--turned one into a black-and-white, and then thought it might be fun to 'mirror' the black and white version, lining it up with the original color photo; below is the result:

A bit trippy; I was pleased with how it turned out.

So, the next day, while on my lunch break, I thought I'd play around with 'mirroring' another photo--from a recent trail-run into Bear Canyon. When I finished flipping the photo and placing it next to the original, I was surprised by what I saw staring back at me:

Symmetry brings out unforeseen patterns;
the brain wants to impose sense;
faces and anthropomorphic figures pop out.


So then--back to a reflective landscape from Sabino Canyon--
cottonwoods glowing under the desert sun...
I was floored by the result: 
That face at the bottom...
With its enigmatic Mona-Lisa-smile--
serendipity of underwater undulations in the sand and gravel...

Onto a monsoon downpour over the desert--
 vague notions of a UFO in the sky;
weather marching ominously over the saguaros:

 From the Sonoran desert to Seoul--from landscapes to architectural details--the roof of the Throne Hall of Gyeongbok Palace--flipped on its side and mirrored:
 --fractal, almost...

And then from the traditional to the post-modern, still in Seoul--Daniel Liebeskind's "Tangent" (HQ for Hyuundai Development Company), "cubed:"

...back to landscape.
Can you recognize where this melting scene comes from?
 (Is that a rock-star's face in the middle?)
Mt. Rainier.

The idea of faces--I went back to my Sabino Canyon landscape with the eerie face--decided to triple it:

Without getting overly theological,
it's interesting to see a trinitarian head appear where,
in nature, there's nothing...

Back to Seoul:
a floating roof, 
guarded by two 'haetae:'

More architecture--the Loreto Chapel's 'miraculous' spiral staircase in Santa Fe, NM...
the spiral becomes the infinitely impossible:

 Radial symmetry can be hypnotic.

Some sculpture--the 'tree of hearts' on a jetty jutting out into the Sea of Japan,
in Sokcho, along the NE coast of S. Korea:

St. Louis' Gateway Arch becomes a gaping celestial maw:
The 18th-century San Francisco de Asis adobe church in Taos, NM
transforms into an evocation of a moai head from Easter Island, no? 

And now, back to Tucson for something from just a few hours ago. 
With some out-of-town friends, we went for an evening walk in Sabino Canyon...this time, my eye looking for shadow-and-rock jutting into the sky, wondering what symmetry will reveal...Below, a before-and-after comparison of a mountaintop:

And here's a close-up of the cropped-copied-and-rotated end-result:
 Vaguely Mayan?
A carved bar of gold?
Eagles? Foxes? Jaguar heads?

To conclude,
a couple more scenes from Seoul--
Korean architecture just seems to lend itself to 
this kaleidoscopic treatment: 
--one of the stone 'haetae' (mythical fire-eating dragon-dogs) guardian statues in front of Gwanghwamun gate, the main ceremonial entrance to the Joseon-dynasty-era Gyeongbok Palace, in the center of Seoul. 

And finally, more intricately painted eaves, coming at you from the night sky...

What's coming at you? What do you see?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November morning in the canyon...

Fall is subtle in most of the Sonoran desert; saguaros don't exactly have leaves that erupt into color. But in the riparian canyons, where cottonwoods line the creeks, there are corridors of autumn foliage to be found. 

I took my iPhone with me this morning on my run in Sabino Canyon, on the NE edge of Tucson. The cottonwoods are just beginning to turn...

The summer monsoon rains are a distant memory now, and the winter rains are still a few weeks off, so the creek has mostly dried up--but a few reflecting pools remain...

...about two-and-a-half miles into the Canyon:

...we haven't had a hard freeze yet, 
so a few summer wildflowers are still blooming: the mid-morning sun, reflection of cottonwoods beneath "The Acropolis:"

There are still a few weeks left to enjoy the desert canyon autumn--the sycamore and ash haven't really begun to turn yet; most years, peak color along Sabino creek is isn't until late December.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

From the Santa Catalinas to San Diego and back

October is almost gone; having visitors at the beginning of the month, and then going to California last weekend has made the month fly...

A couple of weeks ago, I drove up to the top of the Santa Catalina Mountains one afternoon after work--the forest was alive with fall color, an unexpected change from the cactus-studded lower slopes around Tucson...These scenes are from 'Bear Wallow,' around mile 22 up the Catalina Highway:

Above 8000 ft., there are a couple of little valleys whose soil and microclimate are just right to support deciduous woods more reminiscent of a Northeastern forest...Drive up high enough in Arizona, and you will find autumn at the top of a 'sky island' in the desert.

Driving back down at sunset, about halfway down,
looking out over Thimble Peak and the Tucson mountains beyond...

Last weekend, in California...

Some of the underwater faces at the Birch Aquarium in San Diego:
Placing my iPhone right up against aquarium glass 
and then waiting for something to swim into view--some fun shots...
clockwise from top left:
weedy seadragon, moray eel, 
a shrimp, and then--
can't resist, must say--"found Nemo"

...watching surfers from Crystal Pier:

...dozens and dozens, calmly waiting...meditative...

While in CA, took advantage of the dining possibilities 
in one of it's 'Asian ETHNOBURBS,' 

Inland southern California may lack the glam of the Pacific Coast, but its culinary reality is no less 'Pacific Rim.' No need to venture into urban Los Angeles for a taste of Chinatown or Koreatown--East Asian restaurants full of East Asian families are part of the scene in what have come to be called the 'ethnoburbs' of 21st-century suburbia.

If you find yourself passing through Chino Hills east of L.A., check out "Young Dong Tofu." Korean BBQ is becoming ubiquitous, ('it's the new Thai'), but "soon-du-bu" is still off most non-Koreans' radar. Snicker if you must at the restaurant's name, but it's named after a district in Seoul. And inside this unpretentious strip-mall-eatery, you can imagine yourself in the Korean capital.

Complimentary pancakes wih soy-scallion sauce greet you as you contemplate the Eng./Kor./Chinese paper placemat menu. Resist the bbq temptation and go for one of the boiling red bowls of 'soondubu' tofu soup--Korean comfort food. (Don't let the color scare you--it's not THAT spicy.) Your side of rice will arrive in an oven-heated 'dol-soht' stone bowl, along with a mini-buffet of 'bahn-chahn' side-dishes; the kimchi is awesome. The bowl of raw eggs is not a mistake, nor is it a health-hazard--they're meant to be broken into your soup, which will arrive still bubbling--the egg will be quickly poached in your fiery mini-cauldron.


A few days ago, after work, I decided to go for a trail-run into Bear Canyon,
at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains--
such a contrast from the evergreen-and-deciduous forest at the top:

About a half-mile in, there's a natural arch up the eastern wall:

Overlooking the entrance of the canyon:


 And, from just a few hours ago, tonight--moonrise over the Santa Catalinas:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

faces, food, landscapes

The first week of October was a vacation-week for me. (The school district I work for tried something new this year: after the first quarter, a week off--a welcome break for students AND teachers.) Good timing, as we had an out-of-town friend and family reunion at our home in Tucson...which led to walks in the desert and eating out...

So, a few local highlights for this posting.

First, some Mexican folk-art faces, on the walls and floating above the tables in Elvira's, down in Tubac, about an hour south of Tucson.
And, from what is truly one of the best restaurants in southern Arizona, 
downtown Tucson's Café Poca Cosa:

Close to home--a bloom on a cactus in the backyard:

--and now, from the kitchen. My mother, who is Korean, has been showing us some things.
Here's "goh-sah-ree" (also spelled 'gosari')--technically 'bracken fern' but also called 'fiddleheads'--'têtes de violon' in French. (I've seen them in the frozen section of grocery stores in Québec.)
Soaked, then steamed and sautéed with garlic, sesame, and green onion--
gosari is one of my favorite things to eat--
one of those Proustian childhood-memory-inducing tastes...
If you've never had it--
it's simultaneously redolent of asparagus, mushroom, and beef...

...and, speaking of beef:
"Kalbi!!!" Korean-style beef short-ribs. Mmm mmm.
I almost never order them in a restaurant, because
Mom's recipe is always better. 
The link above is to a simplified recipe, but you'll get the idea.
Get the ribs cut 'flanken style'...
For the soy/sesame-based marinade, add a purée of garlic, ginger, onion
Asian pear (for tenderizing) and--a modern touch for tenderness and tang--some kiwi.
Let the beef marinate up to overnight before grilling or broiling. 

...out of the kitchen, into the desert...

The other night, on the way to some friends' for dinner, I just had to pull over to get this phone-shot--check out the 'double-helix' cloud on the right:
...and then as the sunset continued to 'ripen,' the strands got taller and pinker:

--from down in Tumacácori, the Santa Cruz Chili Co., across from the old Spanish mission.

One of my new favorite apps on my iPhone is ColorSplash; I used it on the above cactus flower and chili sign are a couple more photos edited with it--fun with selective desaturation:
--seeing the landscape through my wife's eyes, 
Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River, just south of Page, AZ 

...and back in Tucson; reflection of autumn color (which peaks in December) 
along the creek in Sabino Canyon