Friday, January 24, 2020

Last Week In the Desert

We had some rain this week. For a while our mountains literally disappeared. Then they came back to life

Out at Sabino Canyon we saw puddles and some interesting reflections
We also saw that more rain and snow in the mountains had an effect on the bridges over Sabino Creek. 
Some inconvenience for tourists and walkers is of course one sign that spring is already underway here,  Everywhere we walked this past week we could see small  signs that moss and ground cover were starting to green up.
In previous years, from my sheltered position in the mid west, I generally thought the desert was a dry and monochromatic place.  Now I rejoice in the various color stages of the prickly pear

or the bright flowers of the Barrel Cactus 

or the splendid march of a line of Saguaros,

Birds are not too evident yet but some are making their presence known.



I mostly try to avoid fiddling with the color of photos though I do often crop an image to help focus its central point of interest.  Below is a color image that I turned into a B&W.  It's my favorite image of the week.

What do you think?

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Moby Dick: A Play Review

A review of the 2020 Rogue Theatre production of Moby Dick as adapted by Cynthia Meier and Holly Griffiths


How does one comment on a play that so audaciously attempts to distill the essence of arguably America’s greatest novel, Moby Dick, into about two and a half hours.  Suffice it to say that this production doesn’t cover all of the hundreds of pages of the novel, but it sure gives it a run for its money. Let me say upfront that it is totally engrossing, intense, dense, inventive,  visually entrancing, and acted with the kind of total conviction that only a close knit and dedicated company can provide.  


The adapters, Cynthia Meier (also the director) and Holly Griffith chose to give us a good deal of Ishmael’s narrative in a straight forward stage manager style and then allow the dramatic scenes to flow seamlessly into focus. The novel is pretty much devoid of female presence, but Meier and Griffith come up with a trio of women to enhance the theme as well as portray multiple characters, sound technicians, and invisible stagehands in the Japanese Noh tradition.  The women are personified as the Three Fates of Greek mythology, who spin the threads of human destiny. In antiquity Clotho spun the “thread” of human fate, Lachesis dispensed it, and Atropos cut the thread (thus determining the individual’s moment of death).  In this production they are called the Severer, the Spinner, and the Measurer. Meier notes in the playbill that the word “fate” appears 23 times in the novel and the inclusion of the Fates as characters in the play seemed true to the spirit of Melville’s thinking about free will vs determinism. From my point of view this decision was crucial to the success of the drama on stage since it turned a philosophical argument into visible theatrical conflict. While opening the cast to more female players, it also led to many of the most moving visual effects. To Meier and Griffith go the accolades for coming up with this vehicle.


Like many of the audience who have read the novel, my exposure to Moby Dick dates to an undergraduate literature course some fifty years ago. A more recent memory is of the movie star Gregory Peck standing at a mast and raging at the elements like a mad King Lear.  The Ahab of this production, as portrayed by Joe McGrath, was a more compact physical presence and definitely not wildly attacking the universe or his nemesis the great white whale at every moment.  McGrath’s Ahab seemed more reserved, more cool, more rational, more practical in his pursuit. “Make me a new leg” he says to the carpenter and let’s get on with it. Finally, though, he still wants his revenge at all costs and like many tragic heroes before him he finds the cost to be fatal. I must admit to being not quite so happy with Aaron Shand’s Ishmael.  I wish he had brought a more nuanced basket of vocal shading to his narrative. Was he expecting too much from the music and lighting to deepen the emotional coloring in his narrative?  He held the ground, but I was not feeling a compulsion to listen to him.


While speaking of music let me give Russell Ronnebaum’s musical direction and composition  a large shout out. Accompanied by percussionist Paul Gibson the live  music provided a constant underscoring that helped to merge the voices, the choreography, and the music into an operatic whole. We were seated right next to the musician’s visible position and can attest that they literally became cast members.  At one point Ronnebaum was timing the live action while tapping a drum cradled on his chest with his left hand and also playing the  piano with the other hand.  Stupendous!


Among other members of the cast, I found Ryan Parker’s Starbuck and Jeffrey Baden’s Queequeg to be particularly worthy of mention.  And Owen Saunders, as the youngest member of the ill fated crew, made me shed a tear as he was enclosed in a sad but loving embrace by Patty Gallagher’s Morta.  Though not given many lines a good deal of the fluid choreography of Daniel Precup  fell to the movement patterns executed by the three fates-- the Ms’s Gallagher, Booth, and Griffith. The Oriental theatre and Mary Zimmerman once again provided the impetus for the striking use of billowing fabrics together with lighting to manufacture the illusion of giant whales  entrapping ropes, and the seething  ocean.  These effects, although produced by minimalism,  easily embodied the profundity that Melville was intending.   


Throughout this production Meier’s stage pictures are varied and masterful. These include among many  “Thar she blows” shouted from the crow’s nest to the crew below and the remarkable illusion of a thrown harpoon delivered to the hands of a Fate and then carried off stage toward an unseen target.  I was also taken by the progressions from day to night to dawn while the crew becomes ever more weary under the pressures of heat and hunting.  The ensemble was king here. Their focus was supreme. Each pull on an oar, or rope, or their laying down to sleep, or their freezes to shift back to the narrative seemed impeccable. Their physical control and their concentration came right down to tiny manifestations like a mouth open suspended in the midst of a word, a hand held high with finger pointing, a body tensed and held caught in the action of pulling on a rope.


We are left to think about all that has befallen Ahab and his crew. The biblical parallels are both telling and ironic. We experience the tale of Jonah and the whale at the beginning and complete it with a flood that drowns all but the survivor who floats to salvation on the coffin of a non-Christian. There are many  threes to think about. There are the three Fates and the  three chances to spear the mighty whale.  I was also reminded of the three witches in Macbeth which allows us to end with a full complement of the tragic ironies that befall the obsessed from Oedipus to Macbeth to Ahab. At the end their hubris sucks them all down. At the deadly yet beautiful end of this production  Ahab and crew surrender to the enfolding billowing arms of the sea. Nothing remains but a bleached white carcass on a far flung shore. 


Jim De Young

January, 2020



Friday, January 10, 2020

Our Winter Nest

Welcome to the Villas at Sabino Canyon

It is a small mixed residency gated community where we have chosen to lay our heads for those days when the Midwest can be cold and icy. You punch in the enter code and make a quick right turn.

When the gate opens you just drive straight ahead, but watch out for the speed bumps.

Parking for permanent residents and long term guests is under a shaded ramada. 

                                               The moutains are almost always in view.

Our unit is on the ground floor. An identical apartment is on the floor above. 


The unit contains two BR's,two Baths, a living room/dining area, full kitchen, and a small semi-enclosed balcony that looks out over the mountains. Below is the living room with the
dining area off to the right.


                                                                  Here's the kitchen.

The rest of the rooms are accessed from a central hallway.  To the right is the master bedroom, and the folding laundry doors. To the left is the 2nd BR. At the end of the hall is the 2nd bathroom.

                The master bedroom has a queen bed and large windows that open onto the balcony.

This bedroom also has a large walk-in closet, a sink, and another room with the private stool and bath/shower beyond.

The second bedroom is smaller, but can sleep three.This room has an in-the-wall closet and  storage area with sliding doors.

The second bath is at the end of the central hall and contains a sink, stool, linen closet and a bathtub/shower.

           The central hall also contains the laundry area that can be shut off by folding doors.

                                  All units pick up their mail at this little kiosk near the front gate.

The heated pool and hot tub is accessible by key to all residents. There are a number of chaise lounges and small tables around the pool and also a shaded ramada that can be used for picnicking.

The prime units face north or east and have fine views from their windows and balconies of the   Santa Catalina mountains. This is our balcony and it is shady most of the time.


But it looks out on the mountains each afternoon and each day seems to present a slightly different look of color. Sunset gives you the best display and that can be augmented by a refreshing cocktail.

Sunrise also can present some varying colors. 


On one occasion last year we had a surprise snow fall that really changed the view.

The interior units generally have entrances on the parking or road side, but their main windows and balconies open onto one of two landscaped interior spaces. The one below is a desert environment.

The other interior area has a lawn.

The Villas are just about a five minute drive from Sabino Canyon and there are plenty of restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, and a nice branch library within easy driving distance. We have been here for for five years now and have found that it meets all our needs.


Sunday, January 05, 2020

Return to Sabino Canyon

We are starting our fourth winter in Tucson and today as the temperature reached into  the 70's we took our first short walk of 2020 in Sabino Canyon.  I must admit we do love that place. It's five minutes from our comfy condo and there we can almost immediately be transported to a land of incredible natural beauty. Welcome to the desert--an environment I had never thought I would find appealing.

We headed off past the Ramada where tram riders wait for mechanized transport up the canyon and almost before we could catch our first glimpse of the roadside trail, a friendly Roadrunner gave us a nice hello.

In another fifty feet we were on the trail proper and spied a hummingbird at rest.

A hundred yards further along  the machine gun rat a tat tat of the Cactus Wren filled the air.

When the wren vacated his perch, old man moon moved in and took his place.

And always Sabino Canyon surrounds you with the majestic Giant Saguaro.

This was only a fifteen minute late afternoon walk, but it demonstrates why it is so easy to fall in love with this spot?

Of course it's also why we hurried back to our condo where we could look out of  our living room and sip a cool drink while watching the Santa Catalina Mountains turn red in the setting sun.