Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"LA RAZA" AT THE AUTRY

 Young families join La Marcha de la Reconquista
along a dusty highway through the farm land of Southern California.
photo: Daniel Zapata, 1971.

Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

Unless you’ve been in a coma these past few months, you’re most likely aware of the “far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles” sponsored by the Getty and known as “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.”

Through January 2018, there will be photography, video art, performance art, sculpture, painting, workshops, screenings, lectures and concerts. Participants will include more than 70 institutions throughout greater L.A.

In Palm Springs, for example, you could take in, among other exhibits, “Carved Narrative: Los Hermanos Chávez Morado” at Sunnylands Center & Gardens (through June 3, 2018).

In Claremont, you could visit, say, “Revolution and Ritual: The Photographs of Sara Castrejón, Graciela Iturbide and Tatiana Parcero” at Scripps College (through Jan. 7).


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Friday, November 17, 2017

THE PARKING LOT OF HUNTINGTON GARDENS






Lately I've been hanging out lots at Huntington Gardens, mainly because I scored treasured readership privileges at their Library. It's a lovely place to write as everyone is intent on their work, and the grounds...Lord God, the beauty.

One recent morning I went to 8:15 Mass at Sts. Felicitas and Perpetua, then motored on over. Before going in, I parked at the far end of the lot and sat in my car savoring an almond croissant and listening to the birds.

This is some of what I gazed out over from my humble perch.


















Tree, ever at the centre
Of whatever it surrounds.

--Rilke

Monday, November 13, 2017

VISAS AND VIRTUE: THE HEROISM OF CHIUNE SUGIHARA




This week's arts and culture column begins like this:

L.A. has Universal Studios, Hollywood Boulevard, the Venice Beach Boardwalk.

On a busy corner of downtown’s Central Avenue, we also have a sculpture of a modest man whose achievement, in its way, was perhaps greater than those represented by all those other monuments combined.

Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara (1900-1986) was known as the Japanese Schindler. By most accounts, he helped 6,000 or more Jews to escape the Holocaust.

In this day when the title “activist” is often claimed by those sitting in air-conditioned offices firing off Facebook rants, it’s instructive to consider the risks undertaken by a real activist.

Sugihara was born to a middle-class family in Kozuchi Town, Mugi District, now known as Mino City in Gifu Prefecture. As a young diplomat in Manchuria, he married for the first time and converted to Christianity in the Russian Orthodox Church. He divorced his wife in 1935. That same year, he quit his post in protest over the Japanese maltreatment of the native Chinese.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE. 

SUGIHARA SIGNING VISAS.
HELP ME TO BE MORE LIKE HIM.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

RESISTING



"In fact, it is through our small sufferings that we are given a marvelous means of putting the vast expanse of suffering in the world to good use and making it fruitful. Nothing at a time like this is so sad as seeing the whole world going through such exceptional sufferings and going through it blindly.

However, these sufferings, just like our own, are divided up and apportioned to each person. So, it ias a great joy for us to know that by 'willing" each part of our small allotment of suffering we become the seeing eyes of the grieving, groping world.

Sometimes a single colored vase in a room can bring out all the objects of the same color that up to that moment went unnoticed. I find myself thinking that as he looks upon the world, God sees some small act of good will shining, and for its sake find the dreary passivity of the whole enterprise a sacrifice worthy of acceptance.

A small suffering freely accepted gives meaning and value to untold volumes of vast suffering throughout the world. Through it we help the world perform a valid penance. 

Has it ever occurred to us--so fond of news as we are and so swift at interpreting it whether with joy or gloom--have we ever thought that the fact of botching a small amount of our daily suffering--whether it be by getting up with bad grace in the morning, by turning up our noses at insipid food, or simply by cursing the numbing cold--is of greater significance to thh real history of the world than the current disaster or victory reported over the radio?"

--Madeleine Delbrêl

AND for the love of God, can we get some "gun safety" laws passed so the rest of us are not held hostage to fear, insanity,  denial, and hate? 

AND thank you Virginia and New Jersey for the first good news I, for one, have read in a newspaper in quite some time. 


MADELEINE DELBRÊL

Madeleine Delbrêl (1904-1964) was a French convert and mystic who founded an experimental lay community dedicated to social justice and the works of mercy.

In her youth Delbrêl, an only child, was resolutely atheistic. After converting in 1924, she became engaged to a man who broke off their relationship to join the Dominicans. Then her father went blind. The experiences devastated her.

In 1933, she accepted the offer from a priest of a two-bedroom house in the largely Communist Paris suburb of Ivry-sur-Seine. Along with two other women, she moved in shortly thereafter. Raspail, as their house was known, became a hub of social and political activism with an emphasis on treating Christ in “the least of these” with humility, verve, and humor.

The community befriended the Communists among whom they lived. Over the years, Raspail sheltered incorrigible drunks, borderline personalities, and families spilling over with children. Delbrê was dazzled by the notion that authentic freedom is grounded in Christ, and she also wrote of the Church’s failure to adequately love the outcast and the prisoner.

Though she resisted what she called “literature,” she constantly scribbled pamphlets, letters-to-the-editor, and tracts.   

Her books include We, the Ordinary People of the Streets, The Little Monk, and The Joy of Believing.  “When you finally discover that you are just one of the little people, don't conclude that this makes you special.” “The Gospel is not meant to be read by us, but to be received within us.”

She worked indefatigably during WWII to welcome refugees, arrange housing, console the traumatized. All the while she smoked like a fiend, wore salvaged pillbox hats decorated with fake flowers, and took abysmal care of her health.

In time, she traveled to Switzerland, Scotland, Africa, Poland, and Rome. She resisted organizing Raspail as a “Pious Institute” with fixed rules and regulations, as was decreed by the Vatican for lay organizations in 1947. She believed in “people without categories” and in a life without boundaries.   

Pope Francis has called the laity to “the outskirts of existence.” At the same time, “[The layperson] is to create and sow hope, to proclaim the faith, not from a pulpit but from his everyday life.Delbrêl is a wonderful exemplar. We, too, are called to “the outskirts” by living among people who have turned their backs on God. We, too, are called to sow hope in the alien and the stranger, whether or not they share our faith. 

On October 13, 1964, Delbrêl was working, as usual, at the battered desk from which she ministered to her “tiny multitude.” A community member found her lifeless body late that afternoon.

She wrote: “Each time that we are torn apart because we choose to be faithful to God’s faithfulness to us, we become as it were breaches in the world’s resistance.” 



THESE ARE FROM A FOLDER ENTITLED "SURFLINER"
AND I BELIEVE WERE TAKEN IN SAN DIEGO'S BALBOA PARK
LAST JULY

Friday, November 3, 2017

ALL SOULS: L.A. COUNTY'S ANNUAL BURIAL OF THE UNCLAIMED DEAD

LA COUNTY CREMATORIUM/CEMETERY

This week's arts and culture column begins like this:

Every year, around the beginning of December, always on a Wednesday, Los Angeles County holds a burial of the unclaimed dead.

The address is 3301 1st St., adjacent to the Evergreen Cemetery. The event is open to the public.

The date of this year’s service is Dec. 6, at 10 a.m. Last year’s, which I attended, took place on Nov. 30.

I’d arranged to meet a couple of friends there and parked a few blocks away. Along the cemetery side of 1st Street, starlings pecked at a patch of sere Bermuda grass. A mourning dove sat vigil on a grave marker. A pair of California quails, oblivious to death, flirted.

The main building is a crematorium, topped by rusting smokestacks. Attached is a west-facing chapel with bare-bones decor: a concrete floor, 10 or 12 battered wooden pews, a token black casket backed by a podium holding a Dickensian ledger — the County of Los Angeles Register of Cremations.

The entries went back several years and, amazingly in this day and age, are handwritten. My eyes ranged down the columns: name, sex, race, date of birth, date of death, place of death, date of permit to cremate, date of cremation.

The “place of death” column was a map of L.A.’s hospitals and institutions: St. Francis Medical Center, Olive View UCLA Medical Center, Pomona Valley Hospital, Harbor UCLA Medical Center, St. Vincent’s, St. Joseph’s, Hollywood Presbyterian, Good Samaritan.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

You might also be interested in the youtube, "A Certain Kind of Death," which gives a behind-the-scenes look at some of the "unclaimed dead" in LA.




ST. DYMPHNA, MURDERED BY HER BENT-ON-INCEST FATHER,
PATRON SAINT OF THE MENTALLY ILL

Friday, October 27, 2017

STRANGE JOURNEY: HOW TWO HOMESICK PILGRIMS STUMBLED BACK INTO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH



This week's arts and culture column reflects on a wonderful new memoir.

Here's how the piece begins:

Pope Francis has observed: “The Church is a field hospital. Heal the wounded, heal the wounded, heal the wounded.”

Jessica Mesman Griffith and Jonathan Ryan head up an online community called Sick Pilgrim that takes the command seriously. Their Patheos blog and Wonder podcast explore “the edge of faith, reason and doubt,” and have attracted legions of followers who might otherwise feel themselves on the outskirts of the Church.

The Sick Pilgrim Facebook page lists interests such as, “Catholicism, art, publishing, media, culture, music, saints, sinners, pilgrims.”

Jessica is the author of four books, a nationwide speaker on faith and the arts and a stupendously gifted writer, both literary and Catholic in the widest sense of the word: deeply human, deeply funny. I first came across her work in “Love and Salt” (Loyola Press, 2013), a book of letters exchanged with a friend when they were both pregnant in prose that has been called “raw and intimate, humorous and poetic.”

A native of New Orleans whose mother died young of cancer, Jessica felt shunned by the people of her parish as a teenager, as if tragedy had tainted her. She and her sister tried to commune with their mother’s spirit through Ouija boards, call-in psychics and mirror divination.

Jessica dyed her hair purple, got a nose ring and listened to Pearl Jam in her bedroom, weeping and praying that Eddie Vedder would save her. She suffered panic attacks at parties. Her “holy roller” father tried to commit her to a mental institution.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE. 

I'M EMERGING FROM MY LAIR TOMORROW



I have two "events" tomorrow, if you happen to be wandering around LA:

October 28, Saturday, 2017 
10 a.m.
Talk and book signing
Pauline Books & Media
3908 Sepulveda Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230
310.397.8676
culvercity@paulinemedia.com

2 p.m.
Talk, panel participation, book signing
"Radically Loved, Radically Free: Jesus
The Dignity of Women/ENDOW Conference
Carmel of St. Teresa's Sacred Heart Retreat House
920 East Alhambra Road
Alhambra, CA 91801
626.289.1353
contact@sacredheartretreathouse.com

Then there will be the event of cramming down lunch as I drive madly from the West Side to Alhambra...I'm brining my own coffee!

Monday, October 23, 2017

CHRISTOPHER WHEELDON'S "LITURGY" AT THE COLBURN


MARIA KOWROSKI AND JARED ANGLE,
PRINCIPAL DANCERS FOR THE NEW YORK CITY BALLET,
IN CHRISTOPHER WHEELDON'S "LITURGY" 


This week's arts and culture column is on a truly stellar pas de deux my friend Bill and I were lucky enough to take in last Sunday afternoon.

The piece begins like this:

The Colburn is one of L.A.’s greatest treasures. A performing arts school located kitty-corner to Disney Hall, the Colburn draws the crème de la crème of aspiring pianists, violinists, oboeists and all other manner of up-and-coming musicians and dancers.

Many of us can’t afford tickets to see the opera, ballet or Master Chorale. No matter your budget or work schedule, the Colburn offers a cornucopia of delights.

There’s the Colburn Orchestra Concert Series, small ensemble performances from the Colburn Chamber Music Society and the Gibson Dunn Rush Hour, where conservatory students perform favorite chamber works on Thursday nights at 6 p.m. Afterward, you can mingle with students and artists over complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres. There are student and faculty recitals, also often free.

I’ve always believed in putting myself in close physical proximity to a place that emanates the spirit of civilization. When I worked as a lawyer in the early 1990s, I’d often sneak away after arguing a motion at the Superior Courthouse, grab a Starbucks and sit by the narrow reflecting pool behind the Museum of Contemporary Art trying to work up the courage to quit my job.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

LACO@THE MOVIES: BUSTER KEATON'S "THE GENERAL"

LOBBY OF DOWNTOWN LA'S ACE HOTEL
I MIGHT JUST HANG OUT IN THE BATHROOM ALL NIGHT

This week's arts and culture column begins like this:

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) and LACO is pulling out all the stops.

There’s a Campus to Concert Hall all-access season pass, offering students 30 concerts for just $30. There’s the $1.5 million gift from philanthropists Carol and Warner Henry for the principal oboe chair. There are guest artists and conductors, world premieres and an innovative chamber music and discussion series that spans much of the city.

And on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m., there will be a special fundraising event: LACO @ the Movies: Buster Keaton’s “The General.” The venue will be downtown LA's Ace Hotel.

Scott Harrison, LACO’s executive director, said, “ ‘The General’ is such a wonderful event for us because it really brings together a few different strands of what LACO is. Hollywood has been very much a part of LACO’s identity from the start. We were founded by a gentleman named James Arkatov who’s turning 98 this year, I believe. The original musicians performed movie and television soundtracks for the studios. They were phenomenal, as you can imagine, because the chops and the skills required to do that sort of work are exceptionally high. But they were also looking for more of a creative and artistic outlet. They wanted a way to perform the music they loved and connect directly with audiences.



READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

CAN SOMEONE LEND ME A RHUBARB LEAF?


A PETER RABBIT FAMILY REUNION

Referring to herself in the third person, Beatrix described herself in 1925 as living 'amongst the mountains and lakes that she has drawn in her picture books...She leads a very busy contented life, living always in the country and managing a large sheep farm on her own land. Her shepherd Tom Storey described her as 'quite smart for her age...a bonny looking woman,' robust at the start of her seventh decade. Ten years later, with 'apple-red' cheeks and blue eyes undimmed, she appeared 'short, plump, solid,' to artist Delmar Banner, who painted Beatrix's best-known portrait--a tweedy Mrs Tiggy-winkle figure at a sheep judging on the Coniston fells. Other observers noted marked eccentricities in her dress: 'the sacking she put over her shoulders in the rain,' 'the use of a rhubarb leaf on her had against the sun in the hayfield.' Much to her amusement, a tramp on the Windermere ferry mistook Beatrix for a fellow vagrant. She dressed as she thought practical for a life spent in the fields, walking and watching. Banner described 'a kind of tea cosy' on her head and 'lots of wool clothes."

--Matthew Dennison, Over the Hills and Far Away: A Life of Beatrix Potter

BEATRIX POTTER AS A TEENAGER WITH HER PET MOUSE XARIFA,
1885