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Phoenix Arizona

 

Arizona is remarkable for its spectacular landscapes.   Driving around Phoenix it's easy to be distracted by the views from the elevated expressways, not wonderful given the traffic that can go from 80 mph to nothing in seconds.  We were staying out of the main city in the middle class suburb of Scottsdale that features an old town and new shopping mall and museums to satisfy us both.  We were to be here for several days so we decided to go out to Sedona that was said to be even more spectacular.   We weren't disappointed and decided that almost an entire day of driving was worth the effort.

 


Arizona Landscapes - Click on this picture to see more

 

But one of the best things about Scottsdale is that it's close to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West.   I mentioned Frank Lloyd Wright in the chapter on Chicago.  He's perhaps the most famous of all 20th century American architects.

He got his start when Chicago was being rebuilt after its 'great fire' had destroyed most of what was becoming one of the country's richest cities.  Soon the Chicago exhibition would shout it's modern achievements like skyscrapers and Ferris wheels (invented for the exhibition) to the world.  Wright was always a force unto himself disregarding his client's wishes and grossly overshooting his budgets but he managed to reinvent commercial architecture and particularly domestic architecture.  His influence in America spread to the world.  One of Frank Lloyd Wright's associates in his Oak Park, Illinois, studios was Walter Burley Griffin who with his wife Marion would become the designers of Canberra and of Castlecrag in Sydney as well as the architects of many other iconic buildings, for some reason particularly incinerators, in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.   Thus many of Australia's and increasingly Europe's modern 'Grand Design' domestic dwellings owe their heritage to Wright.

Taliesin West is the last of several Taliesins.  Wright applied the name (Welch for 'brow') to a number of his homes.  By the time this one was built as a summer retreat by his apprentices, effectively acolytes, he was 70 years old and the 'grand old man' of American architecture.  Yet iconic buildings like the Guggenheim Museum in New York were still ahead of him.  He was either loved or hated but never ignored, Marilyn Monroe (her again - see Dallas above) was among the celebrities who travelled here to sit at the great man's feet.  And a trip it was.  At that time Taliesin West was way out in the desert, 70 miles from civilisation and 'off grid'.  To achieve this oasis he first required water.  To achieve that a contractor was hired but not paid until he struck water.  It was said to be the deepest private water bore in the US, perhaps the world.  Water features in many Wright designs.  One of Wright's most famous and influential private residences, Fallingwater at Mill Run in Pennsylvania is built over a waterfall.  In 1937 Fallingwater led to even greater fame. Indeed it was that fame that led to commencing Taliesin West that same year. 

In the past 80 years Scottsdale has closed in on Taliesin West. As a result of Wright's ongoing fame it's now a National Historic Landmark. And it still functions as the Taliesin School of Architecture

The great man's ashes together with those of his last wife are built into a garden wall here.  Interestingly he was originally buried with his beloved murdered mistress, according to his wishes, in a small graveyard near Taliesin North out of Spring Green, Wisconsin.  But his last wife, Olgivanna, controlled the Taliesin Fellowship with an iron will and she left instructions for her death.  So it was hers that prevailed.  Frank was to be surreptitiously dug up by members of the Fellowship and cremated so his ashes could mixed with hers and built into the wall here.  

 


Taliesin West - Click on this picture to see more

 

Of course Frank, who was not religious, was dead, so it was of little moment.  Like everyone who is dead he had no knowledge of any of this.  But he lives on in spirit in buildings around the globe.

Phoenix, risen from the ashes or not, also boasts a fine art museum well worth the, otherwise dubious, effort of a dedicated drive into town.

 


Phoenix Art Museum - Click on this picture to see more

 

On the night of Oct 1st we were in Scottsdale in our hotel when the TV news reported a shooting in Las Vegas, our next destination.  Friends we were to meet there messaged us to check that we weren't in Vegas already.  Over the following days the mass shooting dominated the news: 58 people dead and 546 injured.  Most were attending a country music festival, so we would have been pretty safe, keeping well away. 

Nevertheless we seemed to be following close behind one disaster after another, first it was hurricanes and now this.

 


PS

Since we've returned to Australia there's been another mass shooting, in Texas this time, with 27 killed and 20 injured.

It seemed to me that there'd been quite a few this year so I looked it up.   Read more...

I was amazed. Could this be true?  This year there have been a staggering 308 mass shootings in America.  And there are still two months to go. 

You are more than twenty times more likely to be shot in America than in Australia.  Even Canada, that has more in common than we do, has less than a tenth of the gun violence of their southern neighbour.

It seems quite a high price to pay for the Second Amendment right to bear arms.  Even if, as in 1861, it does allow citizens to put up quite a good fight if invaded by Northerners or when the Government gets too big for its boots. 

And as Bob Dylan sang there's always those Russians to worry about: "If another war starts; It’s them we must fight; To hate them and fear them; To run and to hide; And accept it all bravely; With God on my side..."


 

 

 


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Travel

Darwin after Europe

 

 

On our return from Europe we spent a few days in Darwin and its surrounds.  We had a strong sense of re-engagement with Australia and found ourselves saying things like: 'isn't this nice'.

We were also able to catch up with some of our extended family. 

Julia's sister Anneke was there, working on the forthcoming Darwin Festival.  Wendy's cousin Gary and his partner Son live on an off-grid property, collecting their own water and solar electricity, about 120 km out of town. 

We went to the Mindl markets with Anneke and her friend Chris; and drove out to see Gary, in our hire-car, who showed us around Dundee Beach in his more robust vehicle. Son demonstrated her excellent cooking skills.

 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Bonfire (Cracker) Night

 

 

We children were almost overcome with excitement.  There had been months of preparation.  Tree lopping and hedge trimmings had been saved; old newspapers and magazines stacked into fruit boxes; a couple of old tyres had been kept; and the long dangerously spiky lower fronds from the palm trees were neatly stacked; all in preparation. 

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Opinions and Philosophy

Whither Peak Oil

 

 

The following paper was written back in 2007.  Since that time the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) struck and oil prices have not risen as projected.  But we are now hearing about peak oil again and there have been two programmes on radio and TV in the last fortnight floating the prospect of peak oil again. 

At the end of 2006 the documentary film A Crude Awakening warned that peak oil, ‘the point in time when the maximum rate of petroleum production is reached, after which the rate of production enters its terminal decline’, is at hand. 

Read more ...

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