By bats | March 18, 2014 - 12:08 pm
Posted in Category: Most maryWorthy


Or, “I Have No Horse in This Race.”

I volunteered to help set up for Friday night’s Authors’ Table dinner (900 or so authors and their closest personal, paying friends), but for the first time in five years, there wasn’t an author or topic I absolutely had to see.  Yeah, like that’s gonna keep us from going. TFOB continues to be a Fantastic local event, and this year was no exception. We mapped out our schedules, packed our lunches, and spent two days wandering around like happy lunatics, seeing things, listening to things, putting swag in our bags. Cool.

I attended fewer lectures this year, but it’s not like there were lectures, interviews and panels out the wazoo.  And, of course, there were at least two sessions that I had two (or more) lectures marked and so had to be a Responsible Adult and make a Decision.

So here’s who and what I saw:

Conform or Resist: The Giver Quartet.  Lois Lowry has written 40+, and The Giver is astonishingly popular, often as a class-read for Grades 4-6.  I missed out (it was written in 1994), so I’ve had no idea what it’s about, other than some people calling it the first juvenile dystopian novel.  Lowry is an excellent speaker with a lifetime of experiences (her dad’s home movies of her playing with her grandma on Waikiki Beach in 1939–she’s a very little girl at the time–are jolting, when the U.S.S. Arizona is pointed out, peacefully docked in the distance).  I’m reading The Giver right now, and while it is a “chapter book” (suitable for Grades 4-6), I’m finding it unsettling and a little freakish, not like kids in Grades 4-6.  If you don’t want to read it, the movie is being released in August this year, 18 years after Jeff Bridges bought the movie rights — he thought it would be a good vehicle for his dad Lloyd (“Guess it was a bad day to star in a dystopian movie.”). Well, Jeff plays the title character now, and if you don’t think that this isn’t an appealing film for a lot of people, like all the kids who’ve grown up with the book, it also stars Meryl Streep, Alexander  Skarsgard and Katie Holmes.  Way to go, Lois!

The Mexican Kitchen: Many Cultures, One Cuisine.  The presenting author Ricardo Zurita was sick and cancelled, but that didn’t keep two local chefs (the owner of Boca and the director of Culinary Arts at PCC) from doing a fabulous job of substituting for him.  Two kinds of chiles relleno were made, and neither were the bell-pepper-stuffed-with-American-cheese variety (aka, FEH!).  I scored a relleno all for myself (yeah, I had to share it with a few people around me, but still), and it was filled with ground beef and pork and apples and onions and plaintain…  Honest to God, if it had just  been handed to me, I sure wouldn’t have called it a chile relleno.  It was wonderful, and the owner of Boca Chef Maria is a Fanatic (in a good way) for authentic ethnic cooking, wherever it may be, and equally of supporting Tucson businesses.  Boca is about three miles from our house.  No more excuses — gotta go there.

Oh, Mayor Rothschild and a Mexican consulate were on the official Tasting Team, and for local Tucsonans, questions from the audience were fielded by Lupita Murrrrrrrrrrrrillo.  There were also some tense moments focusing on Sonoran vs. Tex-Mex cuisine, and the all important white or red menudo controversy.


Roll-out of Orbiting Ray Bradbury’s Mars.  A new book with several contributions by friends of Bradbury, along with fans, artists who do Mars, and scientists (like Peter Smith, who has been involved with the most of the NASA Mars expeditions and rovers) all spoke about Bradbury’s childhood, literary influence, and incredible talents as a horror, genre, and regional writer.  There were a couple of Martians in attendance as moderators and entertainment, and even refreshments which the Martians didn’t understand but ate anyway (do you need to understand a green-filled Oreo in order to enjoy it?).

Bats of Kartchner Cave.  No bats, but a personable and knowledgeable park ranger talked about the cave bats who spend the summer in the cave, answered questions, and made several small children huddle together and scream “Mom! Mom! Mom!” to demonstrate a nursery cave environment in which several hundred Mom-bats have to find their babies several times a night to feed them (for several weeks).  Mom-bats are pretty dang smart.

Oh, it was pretty windy on Saturday. Like it stopped anyone from attending.

And yes, that was just SATURDAY.  There’s more to come (maybe even photos!) for Sunday.

SUNDAY! SUNDAY!  Absolutely perfect weather, not hot, no wind (i.e., God approves of reading.).  EVEN MORE!:

The Global Quest for Survival: Why Animals Matter.  Sy Montgomery is a self-described naturalist who’s gone all over and under the world to write about animals of all sorts.  Her most recent young reader book is about one of the most wonderful, if not underrated beasts (and unlikely ever to be a mascot of the Festival of Books), the Tapir (EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!)).  She spoke extensively of the tapir (never enough, really), but also of field biologists, gorillas, snow leopards, octopus (pretty freakin’ EEEEEEE!, too), and how welcoming most field researchers are to writers who share (or who want to write and then share) their mutual love and respect for animals.  Her co-panelist Eliot Schrefer, a one-time adult and young adult author, is suddenly smitten with and currently writing four novels about the great apes (this, after buying a pair of trousers with the “Bonobos” label and thinking that this was just a silly made-up word).  He’s worked at a bonobos orphanage in the Congo and more recently, at an orangutan sanctuary, where he discovered that a solitary species like the orang has a much different mind-set than the social chimps and bonobos.  A little orang that missed getting a piece of mango (he really intended to give her a piece later) waited patiently for and hour-and-a-half until he walked by her and then hawked a loogie right on his neck.  (Dr. Zaius really was a jerk, after all.)
Sy wrote a dedication to Bruce in the newest edition to our tapir library, and even keener, signed a little toy tapir (albeit a Malayan tapir) with her whole name! Keen!

Steak with Friends and Scars of a Chef.  When in doubt, I just mosey into the Culinary Pavilion located on the Mall and listen as folks talk about food.  Cook food. And sometimes hand out food. Rick Tramonto of Chicago’s “Tru” restaurant, along with Revolution in New Orleans, talked about his Italian home life in a Chicago suburb with a wonderful cook for a wife, three teenage boys that need to learn to cook, and a 120-lb. dog, all while prepared a skirt steak and a flank steak.  There’s a difference between these, along with the very-closely-attached-to-the-cow hanger steak and flatiron steak, but I think you have to buy his cookbook to know the centimeter-difference between them all.  Still, I did get a slice of a very thin, very nicely grilled skirt or flank steak, so I don’t care what you call it — just don’t call me late for dinner.

The Best in Picture Books for All Ages.  I like kids’ picture books; I have quite a collection. But attending this session was double-barreled, since I’ve known the presenter’s kid brother for nearly 40 years, in a very different venue.  Bob Wortman has been a teacher and principal in TUSD for over 30 year, teaching the little-bitty kids (K and first grade), and can he read a picture book! There’s nothing quite like being read to, with all the sounds and voices and pointing out of Important Things, and Bob read at least eight books to us (I’m pretty sure these were only the best in picture books from the beginning of the year 2014, too).  I really spent more time enjoying being read to than squinting my eyes, trying to see the similarities between the two brothers…well, most of the time.

Beer Down, Arizona.  This was a surprisingly low-key talk, most likely because it was in the middle of the afternoon of the second day of the Festival, and I think most folks were getting a little tired.  Still, there was talk and reminiscences of the history of brewing in Arizona, from the 1800’s and pretty crappy local beer served warm, to the rise and fall of A-1, to the introduction of import beers by Peace Corps and European-travelin’ college stuedents in the 1970s,  to the modern rise of many excellent micro- and nano-breweries throughout Arizona.  Oh, and the glorious short time when the drinking age in Arizona was lowered to 19, before the Feds threatened to pull state highway funds if it weren’t raised to 21. One panelist (Terrry Owen, who might be better known as Fish Karma) read passages from the diary of  a pre-1900 saloon-keeper in Tucson, George Hand, much of which centered on “getting tight/full/drunk” on a daily basis — good times, good times.
Better times was Bruce and I both winning gift certificates to The Shanty!  (To any folks who remember The Shanty from eons ago, yes, it’s still here.)
That’s it…we couldn’t quite find a final session to attend (the Culinary Pavilion was featuring Andrew Weil, so getting there at 4 was a Lost Cause).  So we just toddled around and were astounded that all the kids’ activities in Science City were still going gangbusters, and discovered some current work by the UA Mycology Club that strongly suggests mesquite beans are a great growing matrix for oyster mushrooms.  Huh!  So much to see and do! So tired!

And thus this year’s Festival ends, but not before next year’s is already scheduled, 14-15 March 2015. And if you ever doubted the diversity of wildlife in the Sonoran Desert, next year’s Festival (the seventh) will finally feature a Mammal (WOOT!) as its mascot — and what else but a bobcat Wildcat?

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