Monday, March 25, 2013

Raptor Free-flight at the AZ-Sonora Desert Museum

Fun news on a Monday: 
this photo/highlight ("Up close at the Raptor-Free-Flight") was just chosen as one of the week's finalists in the AFAR/Vayama "Catch the World" Contest!

(Thanks, AFAR!)

...which got me thinking about some other scenes from the Raptor Free-flight, which only has a couple of weeks left for this year's season...Check it out NOW, or you'll have to wait another six months.

It really is one of the coolest things to see/do in Tucson--no, in all of Arizona. 

Six years ago, (already?!), when my wife and I visited, before deciding to move here, we spent a day at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum--this shot of an owl is from that day:
It may be 'just' a barn owl, but still...way cool...
Over the years, we've been several times--almost every out-of-town visitor who stays with us agrees that it's one of the highlights of a stay in Tucson. So--a few more 'postcards' below...

Harris Hawks--one of only two raptor species that hunt as a 'pack'...

(I can't remember exactly what species this one is...such a great face...)
Not so pretty, perhaps, but Chihuahua ravens are BIG...and smart...

Ahh, kestrels...check out those big brown eyes...and the blue 'eye-shadow'...

Docents frequently have some of the raptors, such as this owl, out-and-about; up close and personal: 
(Do NOT watch Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS before going.
This last caveat's for you, L., dear amiga up in Seattle...
Alas, ornithophobia...)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

books, tortoise, wildflowers: beginning of spring in Tucson

This past weekend started with snow on the mountains and a literary tent-city at the University, and ended with my first in-the-wild sighting of a desert tortoise.

...beginning with the Tucson Festival of Books, one of the largest book festivals in the country:

The Festival of Books--so much more than just books--more of a vast fair (on the campus of the University of Arizona--hundreds of organizations and vendors spread out on The Mall) that distills the literary tastes and cultural possibilities of an entire region. Authors from all over the country, cooking demonstrations, national park docents, a food-court-restaurant-village, readings, signings, science-for-children, SW Native American arts...

 Some Tohono O'odham basketry--by artist Della Cruz...

...and Apache flute-playing, in one of the Western National Park tents:

I had a Sonoran hot-dog for lunch, under a palm, 
while face-painted children, holding their parents' hands, paraded by...

Tents and tents of books. Find your author.

I got to meet an author I've admired for years: Chang-rae Lee, incidentally!
His most recent novel, "The Surrendered" won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize
and was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize--it's haunting and harrowing,
dealing with the Korean War and its aftermath...
 (Here's the New York Times review.)

Bookish factoid:
only Miami, The Library of Congress in Washington DC, 
and Los Angeles have bigger book festivals than Tucson.

And of course, what would a public event on a university campus be,
without some provocative (offensive?) 'free-speech:'


Sunday afternoon, perfect for a long run on the loop-road in Saguaro National Park East
Hard to believe the place was snow-covered just a couple of weeks ago, now that the first spring wildflowers are coming up--some fairy-duster among the prickly-pear, and desert bladderpod (member of the mustard family) on the ground--lots of edibles for desert tortoises...


Last week, in Sabino Canyon, was when I noted the first wildflowers of the season--a few Mexican gold poppies beginning to appear in the lower canyon...


...ending with a shameless request.
Check out
It's a locally-sponsored photography contest with a substantial cash prize.
I'd appreciate your vote!

(Vote for "on the path to spring in the Sonoran Desert;" it's cropped weird on this page, but I hope you'll think the photo is worthy...)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Whimsical or Voyeuristic? An Afternoon in Palm Springs...

This past Monday, as my wife and I were driving back to Tucson after a quick trip to Southern California, we decided to get off I-10 and spend a few hours in Palm Springs. We'd driven by it many times but had never stopped. So--a ride up the Swiss-built aerial tram to Mt. San Jacinto, then lunch and downtown-pedestrian-browsing before driving the remaining hours across the desert...

This stopped us in our tracks:
More about Marilyn in a moment...

Not far off the freeway, you drive up into Chino Canyon, where you can take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to the snowy and forested Mt. San Jacinto wilderness...

From the lodge at the top, a view over the Desert Cities 
across the San Andreas Fault 
to the low mountains of Joshua Tree National Park...

So, back to downtown,
at the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way:
Twenty-six feet tall, seventeen tons of steel, aluminum and paint--"Forever Marilyn" by artist Seward Johnson, inspired by this famous photo from the film "The Seven Year Itch."

Monumental? Kitschy? 

A celebration or an indictment of celebrity-worship? 
Sympathetic or exploitative? 

(And no, we did not pose for our photo under 'her' legs...)

...and I couldn't resist this shot--the triangle of the toddler, reclining guy positioned just so, and the statue's (whimsical? voyeuristic?) backside: the toddler (whose face I've respectfully blurred) seemed to be staring at the guy lying on the lawn, accusing him: "really, dude? You're napping right there, staring at the statue? Kinda creepy..."

Incidentally, the new issue of The Atlantic has an insightful essay on Marilyn Monroe's celebrity-hood... 

(For the rest of the iphone-photos from Palm Springs, click here...)

What's your verdict on this statue?


...and back home in Tucson, after last week's snow, it's already back into the 80's...
--looking over Bear Canyon, on a trail run the other evening: