Aside from "Are you sure that's spelled right?" people might have a few questions about Kazakhstan, beginning with, "Where is it?"
Z's and K's tend to gravitate to other Z's and K's: Kazakhstan shares the neighborhood with Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, and is sandwiched between the larger land masses of Russia and China--historically, not an entirely comfortable place to be. Despite being one of the largest countries in the world, Kazakhstan isn't a place most Americans could to point to on a map (not entirely surprising, I know); and Tucsonans might be surprised to learn that its capital, Almaty, is actually one of our sister cities. (I, myself, was surprised to learn that "Kazakhstan" is almost impossible for me to type correctly on first attempt.)
"I hope that owing to the ever-growing opportunities of the Internet, Kazakhstan will no longer remain a terra incognita on the electronic map of the world," writes Kazakhstan President Nursultan Abishevich Nazarbayev. The Tucson-Almaty Sister Cities Committee is doing their best to assure that Kazakhstan won't remain a terra incognita to Southern Arizonans, by presenting a 10-day tour of the 12-member Kazakh National Folk Ensemble.
While the group will be performing and holding workshops at nine different locations (primarily local high schools), your best chance to see them in formal concert is at the July 13 Crowder Hall event; tickets are $10-$15 and available at Hear's Music (795-4494) or by calling 886-1260.
I nearly chose this as the Pick of the Week, but the prospect of writing a dazzling 800-word opus about astrobiology, symbiogenesis and fusing genomes was admittedly bleak. Also, I do not--at this time--feel brave enough to interview genius scientist Lynn Margulis on a topic about which I know nothing.
But really, she probably would have been quite kind to me; not only has U-Mass Amherst professor Margulis written too many articles and books to count, had her papers permanently archived by the Library of Congress and been awarded the National Medal of Science, she has also written educational materials for secondary school students.
Margulis is, however, best known for her theory of symbiogenesis, which, at the time she postulated it, was what scientist Richard Dawkins calls "an unorthodoxy." (Dawkins goes on to praise Margulis' "sheer courage and stamina" in sticking by the theory, "and carrying it though ... to an orthodoxy.") Symbiogenesis is Margulis' argument that inherited variation-- an important part of evolution--does not result primarily from random mutations, but that "new tissues, organs and even new species evolve primarily through the long-lasting intimacy of strangers."
Margulis' Monday lecture will discuss the concept of Gaia, which suggests that the Earth's surface interactions of sediment, air, water and growing life forms create a "vast, self-regulating system" that can be detected remotely from space; this system of detection is at the core of NASA's plan to launch Terrestrial Planet Finder missions.
The lecture is free and open to the public.
The art of calligraphy is thought to date back to 8th-century China; since that time, it has evolved, in China and Japan, into distinct styles--some meant for official documents; some more decorative--all practiced with unrivaled seriousness.
Yoshi Nakano's father practiced painting and calligraphy, and posted Zen koans for contemplation throughout the house. As a child, Nakano rode on the back of his father's scooter while the two searched for landscapes and seascapes to paint. "That was our church," says Nakano.
Nakano went on to apprentice with his uncle, a calligrapher, as well as other notable calligraphers, including Sensei Takemori at the Kampo Cultural Center in New York City. His current show--Brushmind: Asian Abstractions--hangs at The Drawing Studio through Feb. 12.
"My artwork is inspired by nature and seasonal change," says Nakano. "When I look at a flower, I take a moment to listen to the life of the flower until the flower talks back. We can experience and express how it is to be a flower through silent observation. In silence, natural sounds are magnified.
"Through the daily practice of meditation, qi gong and yoga," he adds, "my awareness of how I hold my brush is transformed. Each brush stroke is filled with breath. Breath is spirit. My monkey mind relaxes, and the nature spirit comes through brush, ink, pigment, and water, onto paper."
An artist's reception will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8; regular gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call for additional information.
Sarah Hughes (reigning 2002 Olympic Champion) will take to the Tucson ice with 2002 Champion Alexei Yagudin and 2002 pairs Champions Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, and Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, for the Smucker's national Stars on Ice tour. Joining them will be World Champions Todd Eldredge and Yuka Sato; World Bronze medalists Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman; eight-time British National Champion Steve Cousins; and World Champion Kurt Browning.
Christopher Dean--an Emmy Award-winner and Olympic champion in his own right--is the co-director and choreographer of the production; co-director Jef Billings (also the costume designer and two-time Emmy Award-winner) and Olympic champion-skating icon Scott Hamilton (founder of Stars on Ice and producer since 1986) round out the creative team that has presented audiences with a show that The New York Times dance critic, Anna Kisselgoff, said "soars to new heights."
"Hamilton, Dean and Billings promise a cavalcade of comedy and pathos," crows the press release. (Does anyone else read, "Help me. I was a promising English major whose professor once described me in a letter of recommendation as an heir to Flannery O'Connor. I'm chained to cubicle four on the 12th floor and can't stomach anything but coffee anymore; this was supposed to be a six-month resume-building internship"?)
Tickets to the show are $25-$76; some discounts are available for children and seniors, but by the time Ticketmaster (321-1000) adds on convenience fees, you'll think you bought a second house. As an alternative, drive over to the TCC box office to buy your tickets; call 791-4266 for hours and location.