Saturday, July 13, 2013


Many people asked us why we would move to Phoenix when we lived in a semi-retirement town in the cool country of Arizona.  Our answer was: for the culture.  We have been fulfilling our desire for culture in many ways since we returned to the desert that we left 28 years ago. Today was a visit to the MIM - the Musical Instrument Museum.

Now we had been there once before, for the Iris Dement concert.  But that was in the evening after the museum except for the theatre had closed.  So today we went for the exhibits.  And to mark Bastille Day (which is actually tomorrow).  The MIM was taking two days to celebrate, with special French meals being served in their cafe and French music at various times during the two days.  We were treated to a short performance by a Phoenix-based gypsy jazz band - Zazu.

Marvelous to hear the musical styles of Django Reinhardt and other French bistro songs. Talking with the musicians after the concert gave truth to the old expression - you can't make a living playing jazz.  The excellent bass player is also a general contractor.  The young man playing the white guitar said this was his last gig because he's starting medical school. Sad that these talented musicians can't support themselves with an art they are so good at.

But on to the museum.  This is the only museum of its kind, devoted to music of all kinds and types from around the world.  There are instruments on display like the world's first Steinway piano.

And an early harpsichord.

There are drums . . .

. . . and in the Experience Gallery, youngsters and adults can have a hands-on experience of their own.

There are drums and rattles and bells and gongs and chimes and everyone is invited to "chime" in!  The kids love it!

Oh, I forgot to mention there were face-painters on hand and this young lady is also wearing a French rosette that she made herself to commemorate the day.

Here's another example of the face-painter's art.  Looks like a Lion King to me.

But, once again, back to the museum.

There are guitars galore.

Including some famous ones.

Many of the exhibits feature video screens with short clips demonstrating the art as part of the display.

In the artist gallery there are exhibits highlighting performers from Pablo Casals to Elvis Presley.

That last one is the belt and holster Elvis wore in his movie, Charro.

I'm wondering now why I didn't photograph Casal's cello, or the yellow legal pad sheet that has Roy Orbison's printed lyrics to Pretty Woman.

So what else is there?

A display of Zildjian cymbals, the world's best . . .

. . . and, speaking of drums, one of the drums that opened the 2008 Beijing Olympics . . .

. . . a huge organ in the mechanical music gallery . . .

. . . a four-horned instrument of some kind or another . . .

. . . a display of bowed instruments . . .

. . . one on the beginning of an orchestra . . .

. . . instruments from seemingly every country in the world.

And costumes from musical celebrations from countries far and wide.  (above: Sardinia)

There is much, much more to see.  I haven't even begun to show you the galleries from Latin America or Africa or Oceania.  My feet, frankly, wore out.  But I'll be back, again and again.  And when the weather cools off, there's a delightful outdoor gallery to rest in.

Friday, July 12, 2013


What it's like to live in a golf course community.

Every night.  The sprayers come on.  Never mind that Arizona is in a decade-or-longer drought.  Spray-spray-spray.

I have also seen the sprayers doing their work in the daytime, under the hot Arizona sun.  So why is that?

To keep those lush fairways and greens . . . green.

I definitely have mixed feelings.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


There is not much I like better than vanilla ice cream.  (This is purported to be crushed vanilla bean.)

Sorry about the blur.  I was trembling.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


So we return you once again to the Phoenix Art Museum.  

There is a cowboy art gallery but I didn't know one could take photos when I went through it.  I was struck to see an Alexander Calder drawing leading it off.

In the Western America gallery, there are some beautiful sculptures of Native Americans on display.

There is also a model of the famous sculpture by artist Auguste Rodin - The Kiss.

Among other pieces that caught my eye was a painting - The Leek Seller - by the Polish/French artist Alfred Swieykowski. (gesundheit!)

One work in the Latin American collection couldn't be ignored.  It is a huge three-panel work with brilliant colors.

It shows a scene, presumably in a church in Mexico, where a man portraying Jesus is about to be hung on a crucifix.  The combination of modern-day dress and historically costumed figures is fascinating.  I sat and stared at this for quite awhile.

SWMBO was caught studying a piece in the Modern Art gallery.  She probably liked the colors but was at a loss to explain the painting's meaning.

She was probably more oblivious of the work on a wall behind her.

It's an immense work composed of lines of paint.  Sort of like a prism.  It's pretty but . . .?

Speaking of being confused, the next two photos show a work built from charred pieces of wood that came from a church after it was struck by lightning.  They are suspended on filament from the ceiling in a cube-shape.

The pieces of charcoal drift slowly creating a shadow pattern on the floor.  It is fascinating but confusing.  Perhaps created just to make one think.

Also in this area a work by the artist Chuck Close.  

It resembles a photograph but is actually a weaving of thousands of strands of thread of only eight colors.  Close is an artist of infinite patience as is shown by this work and by other huge portraits he has created with dots of paint.

One of SWMBO's favorites is the Thorne Rooms collection.  The Phoenix museum owns some 20 of them.

They are miniature rooms, some duplicating rooms in actual houses, created mainly by an Indiana native, Narcissa Niblack Thorne.  She had created miniature pieces during her travels and began creating rooms to house them.  In her creations, one inch equals one foot.  They are intricate and lovely.  I particularly liked this art deco room.

We have seen them many times over the years but we always return.

And one of my favorite areas of the museum is the Asian Collection with a rotating display of works.  I love Oriental art.  (I have my own collection of inexpensive Buddha statues.)  But the works in this collection are truly stunning.

So ends this visit to the Phoenix Art Museum.  I hope you've enjoyed the tour.  If you are in the area, you should visit in person.  It's a treat for sure.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


It occurred to me that some of you faithful readers may have thought my last blog post (STELLA WHO?) may have been a bit "girly".  So let me set you straight.

I have just returned from Chase Field in downtown Phoenix.

The baseball bats should tip you that this is the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team.  If they don't do it, this should.

The shirts were worn by a couple perhaps about my age.  They were among many worn by over twenty-thousand fans leaving the park after today's game.

"Our" Diamondbacks won, incidentally, completing a sweep of the Colorado Rockies. In three games the Diamondbacks out-scored the Rockies 22 to 2 and presently reside in first place in the National League West with a 4-1/2 game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will begin a three-game visit to Phoenix tomorrow.

It was a pleasant afternoon in an air-conditioned stadium with my friend and benefactor, Steve.  

A manly sort of afternoon.


One of the exhibitions in the Phoenix Art Museum currently is titled Digital Print Fashion, showing in the Ellman Fashion Design Gallery. It demonstrates how advances in digital technology allow designers to place digital images on clothing.

There are some 40 different garments by designers such as Alexander McQueen on display.

One of the garments is this digital printed silk coat by a young British designer.

In the event you don't recognize the designer's name, here's a picture of her with her dad.

Talent apparently runs in the family.

(By the way, if you're in Phoenix and want to see the exhibition, it will only be there until July 14th.)

Saturday, July 6, 2013


We ain't in the tropics and our trip to a place billed as a Tiki Bar proved it this week.  'Course it may have been because we were there in broad daylight and the huge windows were open to a lot of light.  But SWMBO described the place as tacky and I had to agree.  It wasn't Don the Beachcomber's or Trader Vic's by any stretch of the imagination.  But the drinks were tasty on a hot day in Phoenix.

Mine (on the left) was described as a Blood Orange Martini and was concocted of vodka, blood orange liqueur, orange juice and cranberry.  SWMBO went for a drink of let's say many years ago, the Zombie, comprising cruzan rum, passion fruit, pineapple and lime juice, and dark rum.

One each was enough for we dodderers.

Friday, July 5, 2013


After my post from the Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale recently, I began to think the butterflies were tracking me down.  We visited and joined the Phoenix Art Museum Wednesday and what was the first thing we saw upon entering?

You guessed it.  A wall covered with black butterflies!

Well actually they are paper and meant to represent black MOTHS.

It's an exhibit titled Black Cloud created by a Mexican artist, Carlos Amorales.

There are 25,000 of them scattered through the museum.  It feels a little creepy at times but at least one museumgoer didn't let them get in the way of her enjoyment of the other art.

I thought once we passed into other galleries of the museum that we had escaped the butterflies at last.  Until we encountered this Chinese scroll from the 18th century.

The scroll was done by the artist Pan Xuefeng and is titled Dreaming in the Xiaoxin Pavilion.  The artwork's description says butterflies were seen by Chinese artists as the soul separating from the human body at death.

The Phoenix Art Museum is huge (as my sore feet could tell you) and is the home of some excellent art works from many different eras and schools.  It also encourages photography as long as flashes are not part of it so I have many more photos to show you in the days ahead.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


SWMBO and I visited and joined the Phoenix Art Museum yesterday.  While there we saw a Gilbert Stuart painting of our first President, George Washington.  So Happy Birthday, George!

Wait a minute.  You say July 4th isn't your birthday?  O.K.  Forget it.

Oh, that's right.  July 4th is the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. Happy Independence Day, Americans!

Wait a minute.  You say we got that wrong, too? 

It was July 2nd, 1776 that the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution of independence from Great Britain.  The next day John Adams wrote to his wife telling her that July 2nd would be celebrated in the new country for years and years, marked with parades and fireworks and watermelon.  Well, okay, he didn't mention watermelon.

Turns out he was off by two days as it wasn't until July 4th that the Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress. Happy 4th of July, everybody.

But wait.  It turns out that most historians believe the Declaration wasn't signed until August 2nd!  Happy August 2nd!

Oh, man, this is getting as complicated as some of my recent Diamondbacks baseball games.

Well here's some things we know for sure about July 4th.  Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died within hours of each other: on July 4th, 1826.  And another of our presidents, James Monroe, died on July 4th, 1831.  The only president that we know of that was BORN on July 4th was Calvin Coolidge, in 1872.

So, what are we celebrating today?

Oh, one other thing.  Remember George Washington?  History says that in 1778, he marked July 4th by issuing a double ration of rum for his troops.  Happy July 4th, George!

Monday, July 1, 2013


In memory of the 19 Prescott, Arizona firefighters who lost their lives in the Yarnell fire yesterday.

Sunday, June 30, 2013


SWMBO and I watched the movie "Quartet" last night.  Another winner, directed by Dustin Hoffman.  IMDB describes it as follows:  "At a home for retired musicians, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean, an eternal diva and the former wife of one of the residents."

Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and Michael Gambon are at their best in this over-the-top farce.  Many of the others in the cast are former musicians at a high level.  Be sure you stay tuned for the credits.

As for the solo, check out this bravura performance by Raul Midon on the David Letterman Show.  Midon has been blind from birth but he displays a great voice and amazing musicianship in this clip.

Midon was in concert at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale last night.  Regrettably I missed the performance.  Next time!

Saturday, June 29, 2013


It's 115 at my house right now at 3:30 in the afternoon.  It got to 115.5, which is the same as 116, I guess.  Official temperature at the airport is 118.

But it's cool enough in the house with air conditioning and ceiling fans so I'm just leaning back and watching the Diamondbacks game from Atlanta on t.v.

Meantime, here's a hothouse flower for the rest of you.

Have a good weekend.

Friday, June 28, 2013


I got up and tried a recipe for Crusty Bread this morning.  Turned out pretty good.

Cut a slice, put some margarine on it, punch it up with a fresh cuppa joe . . . breakfast fit for a king.

As promised, it is very crusty . . . but good.

Recipe: The night before, in a large bowl whisk together 3 cups of flour, 1-3/4 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon Instant or Rapid-rise yeast. Add 1-1/2 cups of water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.  Cover it with plastic wrap and set aside for 12-18 hours.

In the morning heat oven to 450 degrees. When heated place a covered Dutch oven in for 30 minutes.  While heating, pour your dough onto a heavily-floured surface, shape into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and let it set.

After 30 minute heating, drop the dough into the pot, cover it and bake it for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes uncovered.

Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.

You're done!  Easy-peasy.  And yummers!

By the way, it's 11:30 a.m. right now and 109 degrees and rising!