Ed Abbey scratches for meaning in the ancient petroglyphs scratched onto rocks by earlier settlers of our desert region:
Some of the pictures, however, are disturbingly strange. We see semihuman figures with huge blank eyes, horned heads. Ghostly shapes resembling men, but without legs or feet, float in the air. Humanlike forms with helmets and goggles wave tentacles at us. What can they be? Gods? Goddesses? Cosmonauts from the Betelgeuse neighborhood? Here's a fighter with shield painted red, white and blue—the all-American man. And still other forms appear, completely nonrepresentational, totally abstract symbols of ... of what? Nobody knows. The American Indians of today, if they know, aren't telling. Probably are as mystified by them as we are. In any case the culture of the modern Native Americans has little connection with the culture of the vanished rock artists. The continuity was broken long ago. ...
It seems reasonable to suppose that the unknown people who left this record of their passage felt the same impulse toward permanence, the same longing for communion with the world that we feel today. To ask for any more meaning may be as futile as to ask for a meaning in the desert itself. What does the desert mean? It means what it is. It is there, it will be there when we are gone. But for a while we living things—men, women, birds, that coyote howling far off on yonder stony ridge—we were a part of it all. That should be enough.
—"Rock Art: We Were Here," Aug. 15
Howard Allen checks in with Richard Oseran, the new owner of Hotel Congress:
"What we'd like to communicate to other downtown property owners is: 'We're doing it. Why can't you?'"
The challenge comes from Richard Oseran, general partner in the Hotel Congress Associates, and a landlord who sees more possibilities in downtown development than office buildings and lunch counters. According to Oseran, the condition of the hotel right now is "not seedy—a little tired, maybe—and very clean." The hotel caters to a regular crowd of foreign and American tourists from the Amtrak train station just across the street. Besides the tourists on the special bus and train passes, the hotel attracts senior citizen travelers who know a good deal when they see one.
"We don't want to wipe out or overprice the patrons who now use the building," Oseran said.
—"Hotel Congress to Be Restored to Original Glory as a Lodging Place," Feb. 6
Barbara Kingsolver descends into the newly opened Titan Missile Museum:
Visiting the Titan Missile Museum is something like being told you have lung cancer, and then told no, that actually you don't. Not this time. It is a horrifying reminder that your life is an illusion of predictability and control. We spend our time preoccupied with jobs, kids, getting the roof patched before the rainy season. We do live as though literally everything we have, including a past and a future, could be erased as simply as two keys turning in a lock. How could we?
Certainly, it wasn't my idea of a fun afternoon, to be reminded that we Earth creatures live on a highly technical powder keg—or to use Carl Sagan's analogy, we're all locked together in a room filled with gasoline vapors, insisting that because THEY have 200 matches, WE won't be safe until we have 300.
—"Into the Belly of the Beast," July 2
Carol Ann Bassett zooms in on the fight over the UA's plans for an observatory on Mount Graham:
In the past year, university astronomers have met with one roadblock after another, from heated environmental opposition, to the tentative approval of only five telescopes by the U.S. Forest Service, to the stinging announcement that the world's largest instrument—the National New Technology Telescope—would instead be placed on a dormant volcano in Hawaii. Add to this the May 28 listing of the Mount Graham red squirrel as a federal endangered species. The squirrel lives at the summit of Mount Graham, where the telescopes would be built.
Despite these setbacks, astronomers argue that the proposed observatory is far from being a dead issue. They are still optimistic that an astrophysical site will be permitted on Mount Graham—despite the legal challenges that are certain to follow as environmentalists and biologists continue their battle to protect the mountain. With conservationists and astronomers squaring off, the mountain is at the center of one of the most heated environmental debates in Arizona history.
—"Storm on the Summit," July 22
Leo W. Banks gets his head examined at Canyon Ranch's MindFitness program, which promised that for just $850 a week, you could learn to increase your brain's alpha wave production and experience "intense feelings of creativity, relaxation, imagination, productivity and overall well being":
Your nerves really light up when a woman scribbles magic marker dots on your head to mark the position of the electrodes. She then oozes a grainy, gel-like sandpaper onto her finger and proceeds to rub the excess dead skin off your head at the spots marked by the black dots.
It makes for better transmission of the brain waves, she says.
With your electronic helmet securely fastened, you trundle down a short hallway to your module. It is shaped like a cockpit, narrow in front and broad at the door, to create the sense of a pilot about to take off.
You sit. On the shelf to your right is a voice box so you can communicate with the people who are about to examine your brain waves.
You're not sure about this.
Your trainer closes the module door behind you and says, "Bon voyage."
Not sure at all.
—"Pumping Alpha," June 1
Tom Danehy salutes the '88-'89 Wildcat basketball team:
Years from now, people will look back at the 1988-1989 Arizona Wildcats basketball team and marvel at its brilliant 29-4 record. They'll be awe-struck by the exploits of two-time All-American Sean Elliott and the coaching genius of Lute Olson. This will be a team that will be remembered not for its heartbreaking, season-ending loss to UNLV in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament, but for its team chemistry, its overachieving ways and its won-lost record that makes it the second-best team in the 85-year history of Arizona basketball.
—"The Wildcats '88-'89: A Season of Heart," March 29