Friday, October 30, 2015

MISSHAPEN PEARLS: THE L.A. CHAMBER ORCHESTRA'S BAROQUE CONVERSATIONS


PIANIST MAHAN ESFAHANI,
credit: Bernhard Musil


This week, I got to interview Daren Fuster, Director of Artistic Administration for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's series, "Baroque Conversations."

The piece starts like this:

Starting Nov. 12, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will offer an enlightening five-concert “Baroque Conversations” series.

“The series spotlights repertoire from early Baroque schools through the pre-classical period. In signature LACO style, the artists share their insights into the music and invite questions from the audience, which provides audiences with an in-depth look at the music being presented as well as an opportunity to get to know LACO artists on a deeper level.”

The first four programs will be held at Downtown L.A.’s Zipper Hall. The series finale, a program of cello concertos, will take place at USC’s Bovard Auditorium.

As you may know, Baroque music is a style of Western music composed from approximately 1600 to 1750. The bassoon, oboe, harpsichord, flute violin and cello figure prominently. Noted composers include Bach, Telemann, Couperin and Handel.

An interesting fact from Wikipedia: “The word ‘baroque’ comes from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning misshapen pearl, a negative description of the ornate and heavily ornamented music of this period.”



READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

LEWIS HYDE'S THE GIFT






The coming month is going to be devoted to the search for an apartment.

I've been living as a gypsy for almost a year now--not because I'm broke, but at least partly because I've been so busy and had so much travel that I haven't had the sustained time to look for a beautiful, comfortable place.

If you know of a bougainvillea-draped guest house or bungalow that is quiet, hardwood floors, crown moldings, hand-painted tile, washer and dryer, space for my bromeliad and succulent collection that is in the Silver Lake/Echo Park/Atwater Village/Los Feliz/South Pasadena area of LA, please do let me know!

I used to live in an apartment that fit that description, but it was in Koreatown and at this point I am way too old for K'town.

In fact, once I find a place, my hope is to stay there till the time comes to ship me off to the old people's home.

"As the bearer of the empty place, the religious mendicant has an active duty beyond his supplication. He is the vehicle of that fluidity which is abundance. The wealth of the group touches his bowl at all sides, as if it were the center of a wheel where the spokes meet. The gift gathers there, and the mendicant gives it away again when he meets someone who is empty."

--Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World


NEAR CHEREMOYA AND FOOTHILL DRIVE,
BRONSON CANYON





Saturday, October 24, 2015

JACQUES LUSSEYRAN: BLIND HERO OF THE FRENCH RESISTANCE

JACQUES LUSSEYRAN

This week's arts and culture column, Jacques Lusseyran: Blind Hero of the French Resistance, begins like this:

“And There Was Light” is the strange and beautiful autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, “blind hero of the French Resistance.”

Born in Paris in 1924, Lusseyran lost his sight at the age of 8 in a schoolroom incident. Even at that age, he was groping toward the transcendent.

Trying to navigate his way around a world he could no longer see, he came to learn that inanimate things are alive, and of the sympathetic current that runs between the branches of a tree in springtime, and that if you press the little stone you’ve secreted in your pocket, it will press back.

He wrote, “The seeing commit a strange error. They believe that we know the world only through our eyes. For my part, I discovered that the universe consists of pressure, that every object and every living being reveals itself to us at first by a kind of quiet yet unmistakable pressure that indicates its intention and its form. I even experienced the following wonderful fact: A voice, the voice of a person, permits him to appear in a picture. When the voice of a man reaches me, I immediately perceive his figure, his rhythm, and most of his intentions. Even stones are capable of weighing on us from a distance.” He staved off despair by assuring himself that the blindness was temporary, that the very next day his sight would be restored.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

ASSISI




I'm back from Rome as of last Friday, but I didn't begin to post all the photos I took.

Here are some of Assisi where I took the train on a day trip.

Once in Assisi, I walked up the hill from the train station, which turned out to be one of the best parts of the trip.



 












Tuesday, October 20, 2015

THE SYNOD ON THE FAMILY


MY LITTLE BROTHER JOE
OF HIS PUNK BAND, THE QUEERS
I HEART FAMILY!


Here's the opening of the piece I worked up on the Synod on the Family that's taking place in Rome.

“What good is it to light a little candle in the darkness?” Pope Francis asked at a prayer vigil to open the Synod on the Family. “Isn’t there a better way to dispel the darkness? Can the darkness even be overcome?”

I thought of a friend back in L.A. who, just before I’d left for Rome, had observed, “The pope is great. If he could just get on board with women and birth control and marriage …”

I didn’t have the energy to explain, one more time, that Catholicism is not a “progressive” social program or a political platform. It’s a stance toward reality.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

THE SECRETS OF THE MUMMIES


CROCODILE MUMMY



Last week's arts and culture piece concerned a field trip to L.A.'s Natural History Museum and a new exhibit called Mummies: New Secrets from the Tombs.

It begins:

I love poring over photographs of the treasures of King Tut and the Egyptian Museum of Cairo: the exquisite furniture, the alabaster jars for face cream, the gold leaf and agate bracelets.

You look at this stuff crafted 5,000 years ago and then you look at, say, a balloon dog by Jeff Koons, and you think: What happened to us?

Anyway, speaking of Egypt, we now have an exhibit at the Natural History Museum called “Mummies: New Secrets from the Tombs.”

“This exhibition features mummies from Egypt and Peru. It includes the human remains of adults and children, including some that are unwrapped or exposed,” reads the disclaimer.

I mean, who wouldn’t be on board for that?


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.




all photo credits:
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

THE TIBER AT DUSK



Never have I seen the throngs of folks wielding selfie sticks like the throngs at St. Peter's in Rome. The whole scene was too much for me and I gave away my tickets to the Papal Mass and a Papal Audience in favor of wandering elsewhere, in particular along the banks of the Tiber.

Here I stumbled upon San Bartolomeo, the Memorial of the New Martyrs
Bishop Oscar Romero's missal. 
A letter written by Blessed Franz Jägerstätter
Now that moved me.   

In the back of the church, a fat German man slurped an ice cream.

I've thought a lot about the phenomenon of posting our life instead of living it. On FB, no-one says I’m having a bad time, this place sucks, I feel lonely, depressed, and unloved, I just ate a ripoff meal. We don’t travel. We just move our body to a new place so we can have a different background for our Instagram pix.

Ticking, say, the seven basilicas of Rome off my checklist doesn't make me a Catholic.  What makes me a Catholic—a follower of Christ; fully human—is the way I see the world, experience the world. My poverty and need. My imagination, that sees the whole world as consecrated, redeemable. My human heart that, as all human hearts must be, is pierced through with a sword. 










I've been thinking as well of the phenonomenon of photo-taking in general. One kind of photo is a theft, a taking without giving or leaving anything in return. Another kind of photo, no matter how amateurish, is an act of love—taken by a person who has undergone some hardship, usually tiny, sometimes huge, in which the hardship, the love, is given in exchange. That kind of person wants to leave the place, the scene, the building, the sunset, the light, the shadow, enriched, enfleshed, consummated, fulfilled. He or she comes with an attitude of heart that says, My desire is  to add something to you, not to snatch something from you.





To me, the most moving thing in St. Peter’s was Michelangelo’s Pietà. Kevin, the seminarian from Boston who yielded his afternoon to give me a tour, pointed out that Christ is almost falling from Mary’s lap.

It’s as if she’s about to deliver him onto the altar from which the whole world will be fed.


ZAP ME!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

THE PROTESTANT CEMETERY


The other day my field trip was to the Protestant Cemetery, a crumbling old brick-walled (that's redundant in Rome) cemetery where non-Catholics who croaked here, among them Keats and Shelley, are buried.

 I walked along the banks of the Tiber, my favorite spot, as far as I could to get there.






Here's another great thing about La Citta Aperta: you could take a nap, camera in hand, and just twitch every now and then and still get some halfway decent photos.

Romans, by the way, have the same attitude toward the Tiber as Angelenos do toward, say a tour of Universal Studios. As in--Hunh? Why'd you want to see that old thing?



Here's the cemetery.




Keats' grave.


Shelley's grave.







The nearest church in my 'hood: Trinita dei Pelligrini.

James Joyce spent an unhappy seven months in Rome circa 1906, culminating in a night at the bars after which he was rolled and had his wallet stolen.

"So I went home sadly," he wrote to his brother Stanislaus. "Rome reminds me of a man who lives by exhibiting to travellers his grandmother's corpse."