Saturday, March 31, 2012

A REVIEW FROM MT. ST. MARY'S, MORAGA, CALIFORNIA


Now here is the kind of e-mail I like to receive:

Dear Ms. King,

My name is Brother Charles Hilken, F.S.C., and I am a history professor at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California, as well as the chair of the Bishop John S. Cummins Institute for Catholic Thought, Culture, and Action. Recently I published a book review of your work on Saint Therese and would like to share it with you. It is on the last page of the journal attached here as a pdf. I had the occasion to purchase the book for the mother of my godson at Christmas and was so taken by its topic that I got a copy for myself as well. After reading your book in January I wanted to share its content with the readership of our journal. Hence the review. Please accept it with my gratitude for a beautiful addition to Catholic spiritual reading.

Brother Charles


Isn't that nice?

You can read the review at Veritas: Deepening Appreciation of Beauty, Wisdom, Vitality & Diversity of the Catholic Church. Click here and look for Vol. 4, No. 2, 2012 [last page]

Thursday, March 29, 2012

THE GUEST HOUSE


THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

--Rumi



THANK YOU CHRISTINE!!! WELCOME HOME...

farewell palm springs, hello l.a.
my favorite tree waving goodbye...
till next time!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

REPORT FROM ANAHEIM: "THE CONGRESS" 2012

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD...
HELP!!!
Welp, I have survived--even thrived at!--the humongous Religious Ed. Congress in Anaheim that takes place at the Convention Center each year. My adventure began with driving 90-plus miles through hideous rush hour traffic last Friday morning, praying I'd arrive on time for my 10 a.m. appointment. I was neatly packed, fairly organized, congratulating myself and thanking God as I pulled into the gargantuan parking structure (Lot 4) when suddenly my tongue moved down to my lower jaw and I realized I had left my fake (temporary) tooth by the sink back home. So I met with publishers for two days with a hole in my lower mouth. I tried (with very little success) not to laugh too hard or open my mouth too wide. And then I just pretended nothing was wrong and thus nothing was.

I met Robert Ellsberg, editor-in-chief of Orbis Books, who edited both the journals and letters of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day. I met with Paul Pennick of 23rd Publications, and with Tom Grady and Bob Hamma of Ave Maria.  I stopped in at the Magnificat booth and said hey to Paul Snatchko
I of course stopped in at the Paraclete booth, where I was proud to see displayed a big ole poster of my very own Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux. I spotted Fr. Vince from St. Francis of Assisi, my neighborhood church back in L.A. Fr. Vince!" I brayed, barreling through the crowd, but--this could be due to the fact that he's heard some of my confessions--Fr. Vince not seem quite as thrilled to see me as I was to see him.

Mostly, though, I met with the truly delightful and hospitable folks from Franciscan Media. I met with John Feister, who edits the magazine St. Anthony Messenger, and very generously gave me a radio interview on the spot. I met Judy Zarick, who produces their radio show "Living Faith" and got her to sign her book of interviews (I'm in it!): Moved by Faith: Stories from American Catholic Radio.

I met--over lunch and dinner--with old friend Alicia von Stamwitz, and new friends Mark Lombard, Claudia Volkman,  and Mary Carol Kendzia. At dinner, the conversation turned to housecleaning and Mark ended up giving us a fascinating ironing tutorial. His parents owned an appliance store, turns out, and were away from home a lot but supervised the two boys (there were no sisters to do the dirty work) from afar, the result being that to this day when traveling Mark looks around first thing for an ironing board and an iron, whips out his spray starch, and goes to work on his French cuffs.

As we three gals looked on, agog that such a creature even existed, he segued into a commentary on kitchen cleanup: wiping the counters, vacuuming under the refrigerator, doing the dishes.
"Back up a sec," I said. "You vacuum under the fridge?"
"Of course--don't you?"
"With what?" I asked.
"Why, a crevice tool."
"What is a crevice tool?" we all shrieked in unison.

Turns out it's this thing: you know, one of those pesky gadgets that come with the vacuum and you throw in the back of the closet with the old tennis balls and phone books and put out with the trash 15 years later.

Anyway, so that was interesting and I also learned that in addition to the Sunday exception to the Lenten fast, there is also apparently a TRAVELING EXCEPTION. "Cut it out!" I said. "Let's have some dessert then." Turns out, since I've been "traveling" (technically, as in been away from home) for a month, I could have been scarfing down sugar for weeks.  This is the kind of "faith sharing" I am ALL for.

No, seriously, we also attended a Mass one of the priests there holds each year in his hotel room. I actually sprang for parking (12 bucks per day) instead of spending an hour casing the residential streets (somewhat akin to trying to find a free parking space around LAX), parking a mile away and hossing my stuff (as I did last year), which weirdly, in a good way, made me feel "a part of."

Upwards of 40,000 people converge on this thing, which can be a little overwhelming, but I was able to look around and see, Oh, look, we're all so hungry, we all so want to connect, we're like sheep without a shepherd and how beautiful that so many people, with so many different approaches, interests, and orientations-of-heart can come together, attend lectures, talks, and workshops; chat and eat; look at, buy and sell books, tapes, rosaries, vestments, candles, pamphlets, and change purses embossed with the Virgin of Guadalupe, The Last Supper, and the Shroud of Turin.

CACTUS IN BACK OF THE MOTEL 6 ON BROOKHURST WHERE I STAYED
NOTE PLASTIC BAG AFFIXED AT LOWER LEFT
I have a lovely sense that good things will come out of the weekend. And it was good to be back for a vesper walk through the quiet streets of Palm Springs. Home to L.A. Friday, so I am savoring my last days here--and my last nights.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

THE CABAZON OUTLETS: ADVENTURES IN LENTEN SHOPPING

WHERE DID I PARK AGAIN?...
Oh wow. I might be truly losing it. I have been to the Cabazon Outlets, off the I-10 W, outside Palm Springs, or maybe the thing is called the Desert Hills Premium Outlets, or maybe they're connected and there's even another complex, or all three. Suffice it to say the compound or whatever it's called is the size of several football fields and I fulfilled my daily exercise obligation simply by walking the length of it and back.

I won't bore you with my money neuroses (though if you're a regular, it may be too late for that), but suffice it to say I've been giving marching orders by someone in the know: "You have to set aside a certain amount of money," he told me, "and go buy some stuff, specifically clothing, that's new."

"New!" I exploded. "I don't even need anything! I have a bunch of perfectly good stuff  I found in the alley. I buy my stuff at Goodwill. People are always telling me how great I look. People are always complimenting me on my sense of style!"

But Robert, my new spiritual guide, stood firm. "They call it currency for a reason. Same root word as 'current,' as in flow. what you're doing now you'll be doing ten years from now. You want to be open to a new experience."

This might sound New-Agey and weird but Robert is having a new experience himself and I have been following along with interest. Here's how I know it's authentic. He's saying stuff like, "I've started to ask myself, 'Who wants me here?' Like when I'm hurtling around the streets, stressed, hungry and pissed cause I'm doing a job for less than I should have asked for and driving five miles out of my way to save 29 cents, who wants that for me? God doesn't want that for me. My friends don't want that for me. The other drivers don't want that for me. I don't want that for me." He's saying, "I'm actually starting to feel like I belong for the first time in my life." The other day he said, "You know, I've never wanted to be anything other than a marginalized, starving, loner artist. And you know what I'm seeing? I'm seeing that what I really want is to get married and have kids. Not that I don't want the art, too. But deep down, I've never allowed myself to see it, I want to get married and raise a family."

Thus I found myself last week cruising the Oakley, Adidas, Puma, Le Creuset, Levis, Fossil, Converse and I don't know what all else stores. I always thought people who shopped were robot-like and shallow, with the same grim, desperate look you see on the faces of people playing the slots in Vegas, but to my astonishment these folks--Japanese couples, families, throngs of teenage girls--seemed to be having a blast. I bought myself a very cool pair of True Religion (liked the name) jeans and FOUR OTHER pairs of pants at Vince (who knew?), which, amortized over the last 15 years when I have visited no "mall," and bought no new pants, still tops out at one new pair only every three years so can I still not call myself a "consumer?" I also spotted a great pair of black walking shoes with a cute little zipper at Merrell which (progress not perfection) I later found and bought on e-bay for a third of the price.
This might seem to have nothing to do with Lent--or really nothing to do with anything--except that I view Lent the same way any alkie worth his or her salt views New Year's Eve: amateur night. Lent for me, if by Lent you mean scarcity, making do without, and deprivation, is business as usual.

Of course deprivation is not what Lent is really about, and that's why for me to go to a mall and spend some money is in a way a far greater "dying to myself" than, say, fasting from sugar. Major ceding of control! Why am I so desperately attached to the idea that I'm not a consumer (especially as I am at least as vain, if not more, as the next person), that I don't "waste," that I come from salt-of-the-earth blue collar folk as if in and of itself that makes you decent or kind or good. Well, maybe it does, but I am not blue collar myself so I'm going to have to find some other way to be decent and kind and good. And call me shallow and robot-like but my sense is that new pants are definitely going to help.

Next up: the report on the Religious Ed. Congress in Anaheim which I have obviously survived, if barely. No, really, it was fun. I hobnobbed madly.

Check out my essay on The Annunciation in today's Magnificat!


SWIMMING POOLS, MOVIE STARS
I'VE BEEN DANGLING ME FEET IN HERE EVERY DAY!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

EVER-SO-SLIGHTLY-HOMESICK SUNDAY





LANTANA MANIA
When I am alone

how close my friends are;
when I am with them
how distant they are!

--Antonio Machado, from “Fourteen Poems Chosen from Moral Proverbs and Folk Songs”




BONUS PINK FLOSS PHOTOS

Thursday, March 22, 2012

GARVAN BYRNE, CHILD SAGE



TODAY'S GOSPEL:

Mark 12:28-34

King James Version (KJV)
 28And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
 29And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
 30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
 31And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
 32And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
 33And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
 34And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

GARVAN BYRNE, DYING 12-YEAR-OLD WITH INSIGHT, MIND, AND HEART OF SPIRITUALLY EVOLVED OCTOGENARIAN. I MYSELF AM SOMEWHAT RESISTANT TO "INSPIRATIONAL STORIES," ESPECIALLY OF TERMINALLY ILL CHILDREN, BUT THIS KID WAS TRULY NOT OF THIS WORLD....

PART 1: 9:58



PART 2: 5:03



PART 3: 6:38



EDITED VERSION: 8:15


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

THE DAUGHTERS OF ST. PAUL



Wow, I am having a blast out here in Palm Springs getting to "know myself." For instance, my usual plaint, or one of them, is, Why can't people leave me alone? Why do people always have to be tugging at my sleeve? Out here, what with the solitude/silence/time away from home, I've segued into, Where is everybody? Nobody ever likes ME. There is just something wrong with me and there always has been, etc. etc.

Similar thoughts shoot off in every direction and though I've finagled a long phone "chat" with practically every friend, family member, and everyone I've ever met, I'm gonna come right out and admit I've started to be lonely for an actual face-to-face conversation. Don't get me wrong, I tracked down the alkies out here first day and have even socialized a bit, but they just want to talk about themselves, which is hard when all you want to do is talk about YOURself, plus are not available on demand, the way I like things, plus the wind has been blowing in a way that has set me ever so slightly on edge.

Thus--"Hi!" I waylaid a complete stranger with Missouri tags as he was getting into his car in the parking lot of Albertson's the other day.  "How's it goin," he replied warily, turning on the ignition. "Glad you asked," I said, wedging myself inside his door, "because I'm out here visiting? I've lived in L.A. since 1990 but I'm out here watching my friend Christine's house, she comes from Zermatt, Switzerland, but she's letting me use her house which is really pretty amazing anyone would let me use anything considering I was a giant drunk for many years, sober now though!, and I've had a lot of time to think--you know, aging, death--and all kinds of stuff has come up and what's happening, a LOT,  is I am really getting in touch with my narcissistic personality disorder." 

The next day I had to take my car in. The guy at Kelley's was explaining the estimate, droning on about oil pans and timing belts when suddenly I leaned in and laid my hand on his arm. "Say," I asked, "did your mother breast-feed you? Because mine DOESN'T REMEMBER, which to me is really emblematic of the way she was my whole life! She barely noticed anything, good or bad! My God, I've been simply starved for love since before forever!"

On top of it, at first I thought I was having all these "revelations" but after three weeks I'm realizing I had the exact same ones twenty years ago, ten years ago, AND five years ago.  The same stuff just cycles round again and again...which is not to say it's irrelevant or doesn't need working on, only that when I think NOW I've really gotten to the bottom of things; NOW I'm going to change EVERYTHING, now I'm finally going to GET WELL...probably not.

OUR LADY OF SOLITUDE
PALM SPRINGS, CA
All of which is a long-winded way of saying I had a couple of visitors Sunday and not a moment too soon. Yes indeedy, two delightful postulants from the Daughters of St. Paul, Theresa and Cheryl, made their way from L.A.--no small feat considering Sunday was the L.A. Marathon--out to my temporary abode. I cleaned the bathroom, put away my tottering piles of books, Swiffered, and reminded myself five hundred or so times not to swear.

And these two young gals (30 and 32) did my heart no end of good. They're based in St. Louis and have been in L.A. for a couple of weeks taking classes. "The Daughters of St. Paul are consecrated women who communicate Christ’s love to all people using all forms of media" and there were no flies on these two. Both of them had been web developers (they spoke lovingly of "code") in their former lives, and Cheryl was toting the one communal ipad (in a very smart red leather case purchased (I pried) at Big Lots).

They are postulants, i.e. undergoing a two-year initial discernment process, and we told each other our stories and I asked in particular how they had come to hear the call (neither of them had remotely thought of entering the convent before the call came), and over salmon and salad and basmati rice (thank you, Bill!), I saw all over again how alike we are, we humans. We all want to feel useful, we all want to make a difference, we all want to put our talents to work, we all want to know how to give and receive love, and we all feel we're falling short.

Such joy, such faith, such freshness, such energy, such youth--how good they were to make the trek on what I suspect was their one afternoon off. Theresa has a blog called Pursued by Truth--you might want to check it out. "We'll pray for you!," they said, taking their leave.

And let's pray for them, too.

GONE-BY RUSSIAN KALE I COULD NOT BEAR TO THROW OUT
SO PUT IN A VASE TO CONTEMPLATE FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS

Sunday, March 18, 2012

EGYPT



As you may or may not know, I'm in Palm Springs for the month. I brought a pile of library books with me and one of the things I've done here is pore over the incredible photographs in The Treasures of Tutankhamun and the Egyptian Museum of Cairo. I'm sure the artifacts from King Tut's tomb came through my beloved city of L.A. at one point, but for some unpardonable reason I missed them. The upside being that I have been simply astounded by the exquisite carvings, bas-reliefs, sculpture, death masks, furniture, and jewelry. I mean, really, you look at them and then you look at, say, Jeff Koons, and think What happened to us?

The photographs below don't do justice to the ones (by Araldo de Luca) in the book, but these are just of the few of the many items that grabbed me.

THE LECTOR-PRIEST KAAPER,
KNOWN AS "THE VILLAGE MAYOR"
SYCAMORE
5TH DYNASTY, USERKAF'S REIGN 2465-2458 BC
DECORATIVE PANEL
LIMESTONE AND FAIENCE
3rd DYNASTY DJOSER'S REIGN
2630-2611 BC
RAHOTEP AND NOFRET [SPOUSES]
PAINTED LIMESTONE
4TH DYNASTY, SNEFRU'S REIGN
2575-2551 B.C.
STATUETTE OF KHUFU
IVORY
4TH DYNASTY, KHUFU'S REIGN
2551-2558 B.C.
THE DWARF SENEB WITH HIS FAMILY
PAINTED LIMESTONE
LATE 5TH DYNASTY-EARLY 6TH DYNASTY
24TH-23RD CENTURY, B.C.
The alabaster jars for face cream, the gold leaf and agate bracelets...man! Anyway, just as I was scouring kayak for flights to Cairo, a friend sent me this Los Angeles Times piece about Timothy Fenstermacher, a high school dropout who became obsessed with Egyptology and has taught himself heiroglyphics from solitary confinement (where he'd rather be than in the general population) in Tehachapi (California)State Prison! So that is heartening, and inspiring, and God bless him, and I wish Mr. Fenstermacher well. I myself am reading up on mummification practices and the Egyptians' near-worship of household cats. They, too (the Egyptians, not the cats, though who knows?), aspired to eternity...

According to the locals,  it rains maybe three days a year here. So far, I have been here for all three.

Other news: I'm holding up fairly well under my Lenten sugar fast. I was a Catholic for probably 12 years before someone told me you could cut loose on Sundays. Let me tell ya, a dark chocolate bar with toffee, walnuts and pecans and a bag of Allsorts-a-Licorice from TJ's look pretty darn good by Sunday.

Re-read Hunter Thompson's "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved," It was just as good as it's always been. The same goes for Meditations from a Movable Chair by Andre Dubus. Now I'm halfway through Graham Greene's The Quiet American. A different Lent than I've had before, inwardly I mean. I feel very lucky and very humbled.

Thank you all for reading, supporting, responding. You're a big part of my life!

"I am dying, Egypt, dying."
--Marc Antony, to Cleopatra.Antony and Cleopatra, William Shakespeare, (IV, xv, 41). 

THE WIND


"Occasionally I hear the wind blow,
And I find that just hearing the wind blow makes it
worth
having been born."
--Fernando Pessoa




WIND TURBINE GENERATORS,
PALM SPRINGS,
A TYPE OF WINDMILL THAT PRODUCES ELECTRICITY BY
HARNESSING THE WIND

Don't miss Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

LENT IN PALM SPRINGS


Palm Springs, where I've been holed up since late February, is one of THE strangest places ever. Old rich people, gay people, crazy people, Jewish people, all in a 50's time warp, and about 130 degrees from May-September...It’s a resort, basically, with meth-lab fringes (toward which I, for one, tend)... There are restaurants here, Billy Reed’s for one, that look like Perry Como could be sitting in the adjacent red pleather banquette. Chicken pot pie, stuffed avocado, Cobb salad. "Cocktails." People have no sense of time, schedule, or urgency, which is very unsettling, though in a somewhat (though only somewhat) good way after L.A.. Today, tomorrow; 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock, whatever. Old guys cruising down Palm Canyon in vintage T-Birds—turquoise blue, banana yellow—with their 85-year-old boyfriends…

I had big plans for plunging headlong into the writing of my next book but what I’ve been doing out here instead is I have wound a whole ton of skeins of yarn into balls. My friend Christine, whose house I'm watching, left me an entire bag of expensive yarn, including 27 skeins of fine string-like yarn in lush colors of acid green, mauve, robin’s egg blue, and I am just not going to be able to rest, apparently, until I have rolled every last one of these pesky varmints into balls (otherwise the stuff gets hopelessly tangled when you try to knit). 


Though a single ball can take half an hour (and that’s if I don’t screw up, the odds of which are about 70/30), I can’t describe how satisfying I find this. You position the skein around the outside of your knees, and start spinning away like the spider in Charlotte's Web, and if you let the strands get at all slack you’re in major trouble. Yarn has a will, a brain, and if not a malevolent, at the very least a mischievous, streak. My whole life I’ve been looking to feel better, to regulate my mood, to be anesthesized, and I could just sit there indefinitely, winding, winding, especially when combined with watching, say, a Sam Fuller film. Last night I watched The Naked Kiss—that is one weird film--and Underworld U.S.A. is on tap.

I did also knit an entire…well, actually, I seem to have devised a new article of clothing. A kind of combo scarf/cape with huge flared ends, in this case of hot pink mohair with black kitten-hair fringe, that as the thing got longer and weirder, started to scare even me. Which it turns out I can however drape around my neck, back, shoulder, or just hang down in front thereby giving an insane, Whatever-Happened-to-Baby-Jane effect! 


this should come in handy during a typical 85-degree-in-the-shade afternoon...
I'm actually quite proud of myself, my garment contains only 8 or 10 scattered mysterious holes, and while knitting, I discovered Hammer Film Productions (Gothic British black and white horror flicks from the 60's). The double feature I watched consisted of Never Take Candy from a Stranger (elderly pervert/pedophile from the town's richest family  molests two young girls. It was great!) and These Are the Damned"a socially conscious sci-fi chiller about young victims of radiation exposure" in which "a couple stumbles upon a quarantined group of mysterious children." In an undersea cave. I well remember this look (extreme closeups that make even normal people look bathed in greasy sweat and psychotic) and tone (creeping evil) from TV days in my Iron Curtain-era youth. I mean who could resist?  


Part of me felt very guilty. Winding yarn, watching neo-noir movies (only at night, but still), seemed especially lax during Lent, when I always feel I should be walking on broken glass and subsisting on Ry-Krisp and tap water, but I actually sensed that those hours when my brain was lying more or less fallow was a good thing. And I’m not even kidding, I am having a true spiritual awakening.

Like I have got to join up in a whole new way, or maybe I should say all over again (this happens periodically), which is difficult and humbling. Winding that yarn, I thought about how beneath so much sad stuff in my life has been the paralyzing fear that THERE WOULD NOT BE ENOUGH…And like all fears, that’s a fear that has in some—not all, but some—ways become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve done a lot of work in this area and yet I also still have many “old ideas,” as we say in my circle, that do nothing but separate me from the herd from which, under the best of circumstances, I already feel separated enough.  I will not go into a long self-absorbed rant but suffice it to say my way is clear for the immediate future. I have all kinds of actions I can take, but gently, patiently, slowly, and already I have taken a lot of them out here.

One of them is I’ve decided to attend that humongous Religious Ed. Congress in Anaheim next week and mingle with the folks! Hell, yeah! Publishers, acquisitions editors, friends, fans…if you’re gonna be there, too, let’s hook up...

PALM SPRINGS TWILIGHT

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

THE PUNKS AND THE CATHOLICS: WEASEL RADIO


One of the honors of my life is that I'm  godmother to Lydia Ruth, one of a pair of (now 2-year-old) twin daughters of my friend Ben Foster/Weasel, founder and frontman for the punk band Screeching Weasel.

I met Ben through my brother Joe, founder and frontman of The Queers, and though I've never pretended to be part of the punk scene, my hat has always been off to the grit, hard work, and--so sue me--genius of both bands. One of the most touching things I've ever heard, in fact, is the respect with which Ben and Joe talk about each other when neither is within earshot, especially as these are guys with nary a sentimental bone in their bodies.

Anyway, Ben and his wife are both Catholic converts and last year, at SXSW, a very unfortunate incident occurred wherein (short version) a female "fan" jumped onstage while Screeching Weasel was playing, words were exchanged, and Ben hit her.

An uproar ensued; Ben, properly remorseful, publicly apologized; and in this Weasel Radio podcast, at 18:45 he goes into a truly great riff about the reaction of the punk world vs. the reaction of his Catholic friends in the aftermath. Not to polarize, obviously, but I, too, have noticed that the anti-religion-on-the-grounds-that-religion-is-rigid brigade can sometimes be fanatically rigid, closed-minded, and psychologically violent themselves.

As Ben says, the Catholic paradigm is basically that of the prodigal son who trails home after squandering his inheritance in the mire, is deeply grateful to have been invited back to the table, and realizes I'm pretty much a buffoon, trying to make my way just like everyone else...

Here's the link if you want to listen on mynorthwest.com.
If you only tune in to the clip in question (again, starting at 18:45), don't miss Screeching Weasel's "Science of Myth" directly following!

More audio at MyNorthwest.com

Heck, I might just start a podcast myself!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

THE WEST MEMPHIS THREE


Damien Echols describes seeing his first sunset in almost twenty years.

Am I the only person on earth who had not, until last week, heard of the West Memphis Three? This buffoonish travesty of justice might have been comical if it had not resulted in the sentencing of two 18-year-olds to life, and a 19-year-old to Death Row, where he stayed in solitary confinement for 18 1/2 years in an Arkansas SuperMaxt.

From wikipedia:


"The West Memphis Three are three men who were tried and convicted as teenagers in 1994 of the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Damien Echols was sentenced to death, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. was sentenced to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences, and Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life imprisonment. During the trial, the prosecution asserted that the children were killed as part of a satanic ritual. A number of documentaries have been based on the case, and celebrities and musicians have held fund raisers in the belief that they are innocent.

In July 2007, new forensic evidence was presented in the case and a status report jointly issued by the State and the Defense team stated, "Although most of the genetic material recovered from the scene was attributable to the victims of the offenses, some of it cannot be attributed to either the victims or the defendants." On October 29, 2007, the defense filed a Second Amended Writ of Habeas Corpus, outlining the new evidence.

Following a successful decision in 2010 by the Arkansas Supreme Court regarding newly produced DNA evidence, the West Memphis Three reached a deal with prosecutors. On August 19, 2011, they entered Alford pleas, which allow them to assert their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them. Judge David Laser accepted the pleas and sentenced the three to time served. They were released with ten-year suspended sentences, having served 18 years and 78 days in prison."
HBO made a three-part documentary on the case called Paradise Lost (only Parts 1 (The Childhood Murders at Robin Hood Hills: 1996) and 2 (Revelations: 2000) are out on netflix. Here's the trailer for Part 3 (Purgatory: 2011):



Touching side note: NYC landscape architect Lorri Davis saw Paradise Lost in early 1996, was appalled/inspired/intrigued, and wrote Damien Echols in jail. The two fell in love and were married on December 3, 1999, while he was still on Death Row. She fought tirelessly for his release. This NYTimes story documents their romance. Along with Peter Jackson (also a tireless promoter of the movement to free the WM3), Echols and Davis produced the recent documentary, West of Memphis, which was directed by Amy Berg, premiered this year at Sundance, and has been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics.

Even as a 19-year-old with a botched Boy George haircut, Echols (who was convicted largely on the basis of the fact that he listened to Metallica, wore black, and once doodled the name Aleister Crowley, along with others, on a notepad) far outshone anyone involved in the case (with the possible exception of his co-defendants), exhibiting way more courage, duende and class than the investigating officers, D.A., and definitely the judge. One of the most remarkable aspects of the case is that the boys became men in jail (Jason Baldwin recounts that he was arrested on his last day of tenth grade: his mother brought his report card to jail and showed it to him through the bars) and by men, I mean real men, who understand what happened to them, are continuing to fight to exonerate themselves, and have seemingly no bitterness, no hatred, no trash talk. They're grateful and, considering what they endured, they're grounded almost beyond imagination. People from around the world fought for their cause and it's easy to see why.


JESSIE MISSKELLEY, THEN AND NOW


JASON BALDWIN, THEN AND NOW
Watching Paradise Lost, I was struck by the fact that Jessy Misskelly seemed to be motherless, and Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols seemed to be fatherless.

"We were the bottom of the barrel," says Echols. "Poor white trash."  It's hard to know who to feel worse for: the parents of the 8-year-olds--Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers--who were brutally murdered; or the parents of the innocent boys--truly, they were boys themselves--who saw their sons convicted, exiled, shunned by the community without a single piece of physical evidence linking them to the crime scene. To have no money for a decent defense. To no doubt be shunned themselves.

In one scene, shortly after the three have been arrested,  Misskelly's father is talking to his then girlfriend. She says, "If Jessie done what they said he done, I ain't havin nothin more to do with im. I wouldn't send him a nickel." The father says stubbornly,  "I would." "I wouldn't even send him a pack of cigarettes," the girlfriend continues. "I would," says the father. "Nope," the girlfriend presses on, "nor even a pack of cigarettes." "I will send him a pack of cigarettes," the father says. "That's my flesh and blood. That's my son."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

ST. BENEDICT'S CHAPEL BY PETER ZUMTHOR

FB really does, at times, come through.

I recently happened upon this photo on friend/architect Rob Whalley's page, for example, of St. Benedict's Chapel, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. The chapel is in Sumvitg, Switzerland.

photo: Hans Danuser
From Danuser's book Seeing Zumthor
Here are some more photos, courtesy of Charles Luck Perspectives:

INTERIOR ST. BENEDICT'S CHAPEL

BELL TOWER ST. BENEDICT'S CHAPEL


The photos so haunted me I then hunted up this video:



Here's another Zumthor chapel:

PETER ZUMTHOR'S BRUDER KLAUS CHAPEL
MECHERNICH, GERMANY (2007)
photo: Charles Luck Perspectives

How's that for the Third Sunday of Lent?!...