Sunday, January 25, 2015

Agua Caliente Hits the Spot

Are you tired of the desert?  Do you relish a small pocket pond ringed by huge exotic palms?

Do you crave a cadre of ducks and other water fowl swimming languidly about?  

If you do, then visit this oasis in Tucson’s Agua Caliente Park.  A natural spring has created this water filled anti-desert right on the outskirts of Tucson. It is also a bird filled environment that can be enhanced by taking one of the Audubon Society walks that are scheduled weekly.  

Try it, you'll like it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

TIS A HARD TALE The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg


Just finished another novel by Camilla Lackberg called  The Stonecutter.

The action is once again centered in the seaside Swedish town of  Fjallbacka where the semi-functional police department labors to solve the death of a seven year old girl.  We open on the finding of a body in the sea and then shift to 1923 where a stonecutter in a local quarry finds himself in a sexual relationship with the conniving daughter of his boss.   

Lackberg alternates these two seemingly disconnected and time separated events until they coalesce in the present for the surprising finish.  Almost immediately in the present day plot we discover that the young girl did drown, but the water in her lungs was fresh thus pointing to a murder rather than an accident. The lead investigator, Dectective Patrick Hedstrom, struggles to find a motive for the killing and while doing so we meet up with a ragged assortment of dysfunctional families—including his own.  This may be socialized Eden Sweden,  but the suspects all suffer from a broad gallery of physical ills and psychic disturbances ranging from extreme religious conservatism and autism to child beating and pedophilia.  Under the idyllic exterior sits a seething caldron of dystopic fury.  

Initially it is hard to see how the title of the book fits into the murder investigation, but slowly you do begin to see that the stories of the multiple families all demonstrate what happens when hardened attitudes rule.  Stone has no give; it must be hammered and split.  In Lackberg’s world human behavior hardens to rock and when it breaks it releases unforgiving  cruelty, vengeance, and violence.   Her villains seem to have monsters locked in  their skulls and the victims pay and pay by suffering at first and then returning the suffering to new generations.  

Put this together with the cold bleak Nordic landscape and you have a chilling story that is only partially redeemed by the discovery of how important parental love is to the family and the body politic.   


Monday, January 19, 2015

Sabino Canyon Mementos

We are currently snuggled less than five minutes driving time from Sabino Canyon.  Our morning walks generally begin in a bit of a chill but by 9:30 or so the AZ sun has warmed enough for jacket shedding. Last week, during Ned's Nature Walk, we had the uncommon pleasure of seeing the canyon in a heavy fog and it changed the view remarkably.  First a fairly normal view.
Now what it looked like last Wednesday morning as we set out.


About an hour and a half later it started to lift and we were soon back to normal.

It was quite an experience.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Digging for Richard III by Mike Pitts

“Who would have thunk it?”  Certainly the professional archaeologists did not really expect to find the undisturbed grave of an English King waiting contentedly for them in the first trench they dug underneath a parking lot in Leicester, England.  The story of the discovery and ultimate DNA confirmation that “skeleton 1”  under that tarmac was most certainly that of Richard III, looser of the Battle of Bosworth Field,  is told by journalist and archaeologist Mike Pitts in a nicely balanced  way that removes some of the interpersonal infighting and media hype while retaining the narrative core of the search.  Pitts gives you enough history to set the scene and enough archaeology to put perspective on the science. At the end he fairly notes that finding the grave may add little to history as a whole, but does personalize Richard in a way that adds to our appreciation of his story.  It certainly continues to fuel the age old debate on how accurate Shakespeare’s portrait was and may even prompt some directors and designers to take these findings into consideration when casting and producing the play in the future.    

I have a few quibbles for publishers Thames and Hudson. The type face used was too small and this made the footnotes even smaller.  I finally had to resort to a magnifier to peruse them.  Saving paper is environmentally important, but a few more pages using larger type in this reasonably slim volume would have been appreciated by this aging pair of eyes. I was also disappointed by the limited number and quality of the illustrations. Most of the pictures are in black and white and often lack contrast.   Perhaps permissions for better pictures were restricted by other copyrights, but since there was considerable media filming throughout the entire process it seems strange that the illustrations accompanying the text were so few and so lackluster.

On the whole it still remains a stimulating and rewarding read for a history buff or theatre historian.  I give it 3 ½ stars.