Libyan Sunsets

Dale Lowdermilk, Montecito’s Astronomical Unit in Residence, and his wife, Pierina, traveled to the Libyan desert recently to witness the solar eclipse that took place on March 29th. With them were a small group of tourists from the Central Coast, including Santa Barbara residents Craig and Yvonne Praiter and their two children, ages 6 and 9, and Marv and Janie Johnson from Santa Ynez.

The Lowdermilks left from Santa Barbara airport on March 24th on a United flight to San Francisco where they took another flight direct to Munich, and then another to Genoa, Italy (coincidentally, the city Dale’s Italian wife emigrated from more than fifty years ago). From Genoa, they embarked on a ship (the Sinfonia) and joined 1,500 fellow travelers on a cruise that took them to Syracuse (Italy), Malta, Cairo, Alexandria, and finally Tobruk, Libya. A bus transported them to the viewing site in the desert. During the cruise, passengers were treated to talks by the Astronomy Programs Directors of the Griffith Observatory and the Chicago Planetarium; both speakers speculated on the age of the universe, dark holes, dark matter, anti-matter, and otherworldly topics.

“It was one of the longest trips I’ve ever taken,” Dale says during a short telephone conversation. “But it was worth it,” he continues, noting that their viewing of the nearly complete solar eclipse “lasted four minutes and eight seconds…. Some people travel all over the world,” he says, “to witness a thirty-second total eclipse, only to have clouds obscure their view.”

Dale explains that during the time the Sun had been completely darkened by the shadow of Earth’s moon, the assemblage, many of whom brought their own telescopes, could view both Venus and Mercury, which is almost always blocked from Earth’s view by the brightness of the Sun. The Lowdermilks returned on April 4th.

Dale reminds readers that Saturday May 6th is National Astronomy Day and the Natural History Museum in Santa Barbara will hold an all-day (10 am to 9 pm) affair celebrating the day. The museum’s Astronomy Programs Director, Krissie Cook ( has arranged many events: a telescope raffle, Mars rovers (candy bars with wheels), and other hands-on experiments, like the building of a comet using dirt and dry ice. Dale will be there (from 10 am until about 5 pm) with four tables worth of his extensive collection of meteorites and other space debris, and a smattering of unusual earthbound artifacts like petrified dinosaur feces and 3.5-billion-year-old bacteria (whose relatives, Dale assures me, are alive today in Australia).

He suggests too that if you haven’t been to the museum lately, you should catch the new show inside the planetarium; the recently acquired digital projector, he says, has made an extraordinary upgrade to the show. For more information, please call 805-682-4711, ext. 405 or 173. The following month, on Friday June 2nd at 7:30 pm, Craig Praiter will give a complete account of the eclipse with a talk and slideshow.

Montecito Journal’s Web Page Up!

Our website – – is up and functioning and although there are some kinks to be worked out, readers and the merely curious can – thanks to Matt Baker, a Montecito kid in his mid-twenties, and MJ Associate Publisher Tim Buckley – update themselves on the latest and previous issue(s). Matt was a school chum of Tim’s at MUS back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and both were in the same grades as MJ layout-and-design team captain Christian Maurer and MJ Managing Editor Guillaume Doane. Go online and check it out; if you have any comments on the site, please email Tim at:

Jana Is The One

Anyone who has lived in the Santa Barbara area for more than five years and has attended a Zoofari Ball or other fundraiser will know of singer Jana Anderson, whose group “Jana and the One” has been a musical fixture at many such events. In order to make a living doing what she loved, Jana sang backup for big names such as Don Henley, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, Prince, Celine Dion, Paul Simon, Sheena Easton, and others; she sang backup for Jewel on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on Tuesday, May 2nd.

When she sings with her band, they do mostly “cover” music, but Jana is a talented singer-songwriter who accompanies her melodic and poignant verses with a soft guitar. She’s about to release her very first CD and in preparation will appear at a number of Southern California spots (she moved back to Minneapolis, her hometown, a couple of years ago) to publicize her singing-songwriting debut. Her first such gig was on Sunday April 30 at the Monsoon Café in Santa Monica, too late to catch, but her next appearance will be at the Canyon Club off Highway 101 at the Kanan Road exit if one is traveling south from here. Her 45-minute performance is scheduled to start at 8 pm “sharp” on Friday May 19th; call 818-879-5016 ( for exact details. Someone will surely offer her a couple of nights in and around Santa Barbara, right?

Revisiting Brideshead

Fans of the BBC import “Brideshead Revisited” that ran on U.S. PBS stations more than two decades ago, will be pleased to learn that on Wednesday, May 8, Christopher Ridgeway, curator of Castle Howard in York, England, will be in town to deliver a slide lecture on the 300-year-old, 10,000-acre estate that was the setting for the Brideshead mini-series. The free presentation begins at 6 pm at the University Art Museum on the UCSB campus. Call 805-893-2951 for more info.

Last Call For “On The Town”

Composer Leonard Bernstein and choreographer Jerome Robbins teamed up with Broadway up-and-comers Betty Comden and Adolph Green during World War II and created the enduring musical “On The Town,” a tale of three sailors on shore leave in New York City during World War II. Santa Barbara High School Director Otto Layman and nearly 100 students (actors, musicians, costume designers, and technicians) have put together an elaborate rendition of the play, which opens Friday May 5th and continues May 6, 10, 11, 12, and 13. Shows start at 7 pm at the high school’s theater (700 East Anapamu Street). Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students.

The production features 18 musicians from the SBHS Jazz Ensemble and their director, Charles Ortega. Lighting design is by Mike Madden from the Ensemble Theatre Company. Music direction is by Richard Weiss, and dance numbers are choreographed by Lighting design is by from mpany. Music irection isis Christina McCarthy. Whether you were or weren’t lucky enough to have caught the previous “Music Of The Night” performances, you won’t want to miss this final show of the school’s 100th year of live productions at the school. Call 805-966-9101, ext. 220 for tickets and information.

Jan’s Hawaiian Adventure

Local real-estate agent and Coast Village Business Association director Jan Atkins has been spending an inordinate amount of time in Hawaii Islands lately. And, she doesn’t even surf! Her new company – Atkins Hotel Advisory – however, is licensed in both California and Hawaii, where she handles hotel and resort properties. If you don’t see Jan in town, try reaching her at or 805-886-8377.