ENVIRONMENT OF BORDERS. Homero Aridjis was born in Michoacan, Mexico, in 1940 to two cultures: his Greek father's and his Mexican mother's. This made him a straddler of his own familial border. His poetry and prose illuminate this entwined geography.
He's a writer and teacher, but few know that he's also served as the Mexican ambassador to the Netherlands and Switzerland. As founder and president of the Grupo de los Cien/Group of 100, an international environmental organization of writers, artists and scientists, he explores border regions and the particular role writers and scholars have in environmental issues. Of his work, both on and off the page, poet Alison Hawthorne Deming says he's a "man for whom it comes as naturally to imagine his way into the fervent religious persecutions of the Spanish inquisition as it does to serve as international spokesperson for the rights of wild creatures and their habitats."
If you missed this paragon of artist-as-activist reading at the recent UA Poetry Center's Spring Reading Series, you can still hear his ideas in a panel discussion along with a stellar group of artists, activists and environmentalists, including Deming as moderator. Joining Aridjis on the panel are, among others, David Yetman, research social scientist at the Southwest Center and host of KUAT's The Desert Speaks; Dr. Diana Liverman, director of the Center for Latin American Studies and professor of geography; and Alan Weisman, author of Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World.
The panel gets underway at 7 p.m. in the Integrated Learning Center, Room 130, located on the north side of the UA Mall across from the main library. It's free and open to all. Parking is available in all Zone 1 lots or at street meters--at no charge. Call for details at 626-3765.
FLATPICK THIS. When you go to tonight's concert with the Perfect Strangers, pay particular attention to Peter McLaughlin's fingers.
He's the National Flatpicking Champion. Not many people can boast this title. McLaughlin started out with Flying South, a Flagstaff bluegrass band, in the mid-'80s. In the '90s, he and fiddler Chris Brashear co-founded Frog Mountain and played with Laurie Lewis (seems these guys have a predilection for two-word-named bands). The rest of the group is also top-notch. Grammy-nominee Jody Stecher sings true bluegrass and plays mandolin. Banjoist Bob Black and bassist Forrest Rose are both veterans of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys. The group showcased at the International Bluegrass Music Association this year. They've been meandering through the festival circuit, but their performances still jell into a friendly picking session--like old pals sitting around the living room.
The Perfect Strangers just signed to Rebel Records and perform a rare Arizona concert in celebration of their new CD. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd. Reserved seats cost $17 in advance at Antigone's, Brew & Vine, CD City and Enchanted Earthworks. Or fork over a 20-spot at the door. Call for tickets or more information at 297-9133.
KEEP 'EM OUT! That's the near war-cry of anti-immigrant organizations swooping down south of us, taking matters into their own hands at the border.
The whole thing's complex, devoid of black and white absolutes. Countering the vigilantes is the subject of a community potluck starting at 6:30 p.m. today. The Center for New Community, a grassroots organization based in the Midwest, hosts the event. They may be far from the border, but they adequately, perhaps adamantly, address issues of ideology, organizing strategies of both mainstream and grassroots anti-immigrant groups and the history of this arbitrary, snaky chasm we call United States over here and Mexico over there.
The discussion is sponsored by the Coalición de Derechos Humanos and Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras. It takes place at Armory Park Senior Center located at 220 S. Fifth Ave. $5 is the suggested donation. Questions? Call 770-1373.
TUCSONAN, MUSLIM, FEMALE. As a result of the events of the last year and a half, Muslim women have become a large part of our worldview. Is it ever possible to understand the lives--and social and political rights--of a culture so foreign from the experiences of most of us?
Five women with varying insights on this issue gift us with clarity. Lisa Spray has just authored Women's Rights, The Quran and Islam. A native of Tucson, she's been a practicing Muslim for more than 25 years. Her book reveals a personal travelogue of sorts: a perceptive look at women's rights in Islam from the viewpoint of one who's struggled with the inequities and finally resolved them through Islam's holy book. She cracks the door a bit to explore how polygamy, divorce, inheritance and religious practice affect women.
Joining her to talk about these issues at 2 p.m. today at Reader's Oasis are four other women. Abdullah Arik, Sabah Currim, Lydia Kelley and Lory Sierras have each contributed personal stories to the book; all have ties to Tucson's Muslim community. Spray says the goal of her book is to cement the idea that Christians, Jews and Muslims have much more in common than not. "With equality and respect comes a productive society," she adds.
The bookstore is located at 3400 E. Speedway Blvd. The panel discussion is free and open to all. Call with questions at 319-7887.
I HEAR SLEIGH BELLS. It's been near 80 degrees out there, but suit up anyway (if only in your imagination) for a Winter Festival of Russian Music and Dance.
Arizona Balalaika Orchestra and the Kalinka Russian Dancers perform along with Sons of Orpheus. Charley Rappaport accompanies on prima domra--an instrument he's been playing for nearly 40 years. He's also the founder of the Balalaika and Domra Association. Evgueni Tzygankov performs prima balalaika--he made his debut on this instrument at the tender age of 11 and continues to perform with orchestras internationally. Alexander Tentser conducts the orchestra for the fourth season.
The show starts at 7 p.m. at Pima's Center for the Arts, 2202 W. Anklam Road and repeats again tomorrow at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for students. Call the box office for reservations at 206-6986 or pick up tickets at Hear's Music or the Folk Shop, both on Campbell Avenue north of Grant Road.
ART, SOUP. SOUP, ART. In my favorite Lily Tomlin skit, a bag lady rummages through her shopping cart, pulls out a can of Campbell's soup and declares it as much a work of art as something hanging on the wall of a museum. Check out the art (or soup) in three galleries at opening receptions tonight.
Metroform Limited offers its monthly One Night Stand--a show that hangs for one night only with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m., showcasing the work of a local photographer. Andrew Kornylak's passion for rock climbing and photography reveals the intimate relationship between the climber and the landscape. "The environment is often fantastic enough to hold its own aesthetically," says Kornylak of his climbing photography. The gallery is located at 27 N. Stone Ave. near Congress Street.
Around the corner at Hotel Congress, another Tucson artist, Catherine Eyde, offers paintings in the hotel's lobby gallery curated by The Museum of Contemporary Art. The show is aptly titled, Chaos of Now! (exclamation point included). Eyde works in a variety of media, including acrylic on wood. Stop by from 7 to 9 p.m. for the reception. The show continues through March 25 and you can view the work anytime. Hotel Congress is at 311 E. Congress St.
At St. Philips Plaza, Campbell Avenue and River Road, Obsidian Gallery opens its doors for its annual jewelry show. Four artists offer both jewelry and sculpture. Michael Boyd's skills in lapidary and metal smithing are evident. Karen Gilbert oxidizes sterling silver and glass to produce intricate chainwork. Thomas Hill is known for his naturalistic wire sculptures, mostly of birds. And Eleanor Moty uses clear rutilated and tourmalated stones to create her jewelry. Check out their work from 6 to 9 p.m. The show continues through March 28. The gallery is open daily.
WHAT WOULD HE THINK? If his life hadn't been so rudely interrupted (guess he should have stayed home from the theater that night), Abe Lincoln would be turning a ripe 194 this month.
Storyteller Ron Lancaster resurrects this towering genius of character. Come hear tales not often told. Experience the humor and the pathos that marked this most beloved man (well, there were a few folks down South who weren't very fond of him). Ron specializes in telling family stories and educating at the same time. His channeling gets underway at 10:15 a.m. at St. Philips in the Hills Church East Gallery at 4400 N. Campbell Ave near River Road. It's free. Call for details at 795-2823.
HOW TO RAISE A WITCH. It takes a village of believers in Wicca, that's how. But it can start on a smaller scale inside your own home.
Senior Corresponding Priestess of Mother Earth Ministries, Ashleen O'Gaea, has just written the definitive book on the subject--Raising Witches: Teaching the Wiccan Faith to Children. Dr. Shelley Rabinovitch is a former Tucsonan who now teaches at the University of Ottawa. She's written The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism.
O'Gaea and Rabinovitch talk about how to bring kids up in the Wiccan faith at a book signing from 3 to 4 p.m. at Borders Books and Music, located at 4235 N. Oracle Road.
For more information, call 292-1331.
JUST FLYING THROUGH. The Santa Cruz River corridor has international importance as a migratory bird freeway of sorts. But sadly, much of its rich riparian area has been degraded or lost over time. How? By human interventions, of course, via groundwater pumping, overgrazing and river and stream diversions.
There are many efforts to restore the native habitat. Tucson Audubon Society's Santa Cruz River Habitat Project is one of them. Staff and volunteers have planted more than 2,500 trees and distributed a ton of seed.
Ann Phillips, manager of restoration projects, and Kendall Kroesen, a permaculture specialist, talk about the society's habitat project along the lower Santa Cruz River west of Marana. You may even glean tips on water harvesting and planting techniques for mini-restoration projects in your own backyard.
The evening starts at 7 p.m. with a brief update of work accomplished by the International Sonoran Desert Alliance. It takes place at Duval Auditorium at the University Medical Center, 1501 N. Campbell Ave. The program's free. Call 629-0510 with questions.
THUMP. THUMP-THUMP. When you sense, in your chest cavity, the percussive, often over-modulated, voluminous bass emanating from a slow-driving woofer-on-wheels, you barely need to look out the window to know that a low-rider is making its way pass your house.
Celestino Fernandez of the UA's Department of Sociology offers a peek into the art and culture of low riding in his slide talk, Automobiles in the Mexican American Community. In addition to his scholarly work, Celestino is herself a composer of corridos--Mexican ballads--and writes poetry in both English and Spanish. His talk is in conjunction with the current exhibit at the Center for Creative Photography that explores Latino life in the United States.
Stop by at 5:30 p.m. for his slides and a lively discussion at the CCP, located in the arts courtyard just east of Speedway Boulevard and Park Avenue. The lecture's free. Call for details at 621-7968.
FAMILY MYTHS. I recall a long-held story in my family that goes something like this: Back in the old country, a young man wanted to avoid conscription in some ridiculous war that would change the name (and perhaps even language) of his hometown, so he decided to swap his own family's name with another guy. That's how our family ended up with our last name.
Truth or fiction? Doesn't matter. But it does put a knot in the proverbial branches of our family tree.
The Arizona State Genealogical Society introduces folks to family history research at Bookman's today from 2 to 3 p.m. The popular hobby offers a way to solve mysteries and clarify family myths. Get some guidelines for beginning your search plus a list of helpful books and blank charts to get you started.
The program is free. Bookman's is located at 1930 E. Grant Road at Campbell Avenue. Call them with questions at 325-5767.