Monday, October 31, 2016

"THE TEARS OF ST. PETER:" PETER SELLARS DIRECTS THE LA MASTER CHORALE

"THE TEARS OF ST. PETER"
LA MASTER CHORALE

For this week's arts and culture piece I got to interview the theater and opera impresario Peter Sellars Down-to-earth, approachable, warm, wise, smart and kind.

Him, that is, not me.

Here's how the piece begins:

For two performances only — on Oct. 29 and 30 — Peter Sellars will direct the L.A. Master Chorale in “Lagrime di San Pietro” (The Tears of St. Peter), an a cappella Renaissance masterpiece by composer Orlando di Lasso.

Sellars, as you may know, is the internationally-acclaimed theater and opera director who shot out of Harvard in the late 1970s to do ground-breaking productions of Shakespeare, Gogol and Mozart, and who hasn’t stopped since. When he’s not traveling, he makes his home in Culver City and is a professor of world arts and cultures at UCLA, where he teaches art as social action and art as moral action.

Last week he was kind enough to share his enthusiasm and excitement about “The Tears of St. Peter.”

“One of the things that’s most overwhelming about the piece is that at the 11th hour the person who’s had the most courage and insight and who truly understood in such deep ways who Jesus was and what he was asking fails to come through.”

“Upon this rock I will build my church,” Christ tells Peter.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

DIA DE LOS VIVOS


MAGNOIA POD.
YOU CAN FIND THESE DESICCATED OBJECTS LITTERING THE GROUND
IN MY HOOD.
BRING THEM HOME AND IN A FEW DAYS THE SCARLET SEEDS
MAGICALLY APPEAR!

I suddenly realized the other day that ever since I've been writing a weekly arts and culture column, I've had little time to devote to my blog.

Yup, it took that long to notice!

I've had way less time to wander (but with a purpose), toting my trusty camera. I still take lots of walks but I'm usually trying to let my mind lie fallow. My home away from home is the chapel at St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Here, I sit quietly and ponder the mysteries of the universe, or go to a place beyond pondering...

Another project that's taken up much of my "spare time" has been clearing the more or less abandoned lot behind the house where I live preparatory to installing a California native plant garden.

I myself have hauled countless bags of brush and leaves, dug up old river stones from beneath a bank of dusty jade plants and pored endlessly over books of native plants. But my friend Jerry has done the lion's share of hard work and landscaping. He's a native Angeleno: an old-school handyman type guy with a pickup, piles of tools (want a branch whacked off? Jerry will do it. Want a pair of sconces hung in your bathroom? Jerry will do it. Want a beautifully-shaped curved path to the site of a future pergola and three loads of pea gravel to line it? Call Jerry) and a real eye for design, form, and beauty. While meanwhile insisting that since he has no certificate or degree, he has no "talent." We've worked well together (I am paying him, of course), though he tells me I'm "intense."

Me?

I had a bit of a health scare recently but learned yesterday that things are more or less okay and the dire news I feared was not forthcoming.

That makes me very grateful. I kept thinking, "I have to get that garden in!"

And now--with Jerry's help--I will.

AUTUMN COMES TO MY LIVING/DINING ROOM

Friday, October 21, 2016

KAZUO OHNO, TAKAO KAWAGUCHI, AND THE ART OF BUTOH




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

Recently I caught a mesmerizing dance performance at the downtown REDCAT Theater: “Takao Kawaguchi: About Kazuo Ohno - Reliving the Butoh Diva’s Masterpieces.”

Ohno (1906-2010) was one of the founders of the revolutionary dance form known as Butoh, an avant-garde discipline, often done in white body makeup, that arose from the ashes of World War II.

As defined by Ohno himself: “Basically, ‘butoh’ means to meander, or to move, as it were, in twists and turns between the living and the dead.”

To watch a YouTube video of Ohno is to be transported to a world that is leagues apart from the aggressive, brute athleticism that characterizes so much of our contemporary skating, gymnastics, modern dance and even ballet.

“The best thing someone can say to me is that while watching my performance they began to cry,” he once said. “It is not important to understand what I am doing; perhaps it is better if they don’t understand, but just respond to the dance.”


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Friday, October 14, 2016

EL ANATSUI AT THE BROAD

DUSASA I
EL ANATSUI
The adventure continues!

This week's arts and culture column is about a field trip I took with some friends to a museum in downtown LA. I wasn't able to describe possibly the best part of the trip, which was our lunch afterward at Grand Central Market.

Anyway, here's how the piece begins:

A few weeks ago, I went on a field trip with some friends to The Broad, the new-ish downtown L.A. museum of contemporary art.

My friends wanted to see an exhibit, since closed, of the photographer Cindy Sherman so I bought a $12 timed-entry ticket, too.

“I am trying to make other people recognize something of themselves rather than me,” says Sherman

Really? Well, how about taking a picture of one of them?

Instead, Sherman has made a career of taking photos of herself in various disguises.

There’s the repulsive clown series, the sexual fantasies series, the silent film star series, the fashion photo series. In each, she presents as vapid, vaguely grotesque and a person with zero inner life.

Why, here’s Cindy looking like a battered woman. Cindy looking like a British matron with a prosthetic nose. Cindy looking like a mental patient wearing a red dress, creepy brown hat and one green glove. What could it mean?

Nothing.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.




Monday, October 10, 2016

CAJUN CATHOLICS: A FIELD TRIP TO THE BAYOU


I CAUGHT A BREAM (PRONOUNCED BRIM)
IN THE ATCHAFALAYA SWAMP.
A few weeks ago I was in Lafayette, Louisiana: Cajun country.

Here's how the piece I wrote about my time there begins:

Recently I was graced to travel to Lafayette, Louisiana, and spend the better part of a week with some of the good people of the bayou.

Father Sam Fontana of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Rayne brought me there. The night before I flew out, he told me, “I need to visit the bishop tomorrow, then make a bread pudding.”

Now that’s a priest!

As you may know, the French-speaking Acadians (from which the word Cajun is derived) were expelled by the British from Nova Scotia in 1755 and made their way to southern Louisiana. Along with the Indians, Africans, Creoles, Frenchmen and Spaniards who lived there, they contributed to produce a rich historical-cultural gumbo that has evolved over the centuries.

Cajuns are fiercely proud of their culture and way of life. Wary of outsiders — “If it’s tourist season, why can’t we shoot ’em?” read one bumper sticker — they were nonetheless hugely welcoming, generous and hospitable to me.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

EVERY WAR HAS TWO LOSERS

MANZANAR NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

"To hold the voice down and the eyes up when facing someone who antagonizes you is a slight weight--once. But in a lifetime it adds up to tons."

"I belong to a small fanatical sect. We believe that the current ways of carrying on world affairs are malignant. We believe that armies, and the kind of international dealings based on armed might, will be self-perpetuating to a certain point--and that point may bring annihilation. Armies are a result of obsolete ways--just as gibbets are, and as thumb-screws are, and leper windows."

"It might be that military appropriations should be increased. We need an easy, enlightened, well-paid, courteously treated army--one so good that it will cooperate in its own decline."

"Every war has two losers."

--William Stafford, acclaimed poet and conscientious objector during WWII, excerpted from Every War Has Two Losers

Ex-Marine Alleges Violent Hazing and the Lies that Covered It Up, from the NYT

Suicide Rate Spikes Among Young Veterans, from Stars and Stripes

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Soldiers of Conscience, from PBS

Saturday, October 1, 2016

SALVATION ON SAND MOUNTAIN AND THE REPTILES AT THE L.A. ZOO

THE GABOON VIPER

This week's arts and culture column is couples Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia, a book by Dennis Covington, with visit to the reptile section of the L.A. Zoo.

Here's how it begins:

“Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia” (1995) is a memoir by Alabama native, journalist and creative writing professor Dennis Covington.

In 1991, preacher Glenn Summerford was convicted and sentenced to 99 years for forcing his wife at gunpoint to stick her arm into a cage of rattlesnakes. Covington covered the trial, became fascinated, discovered that his own family roots were entwined with snake handling, and eventually came — for a time — to take up serpents himself.

Covington profiles, and comes to feel deep affection for, the poor Southern whites who head up the home-grown, snake-handling churches. “Peculiar and insular, they are people of Scotch-Irish descent, religious mystics who cast out demons, speak in tongues, drink strychnine, run blowtorches up their arms and drape themselves with rattlesnakes.”

A snake handler named Brother Carl Porter explains the underlying “theology.” “The Bible says you’re gonna suffer for your faith. Look what happened to Stephen. I’d rather die of snakebite than get stoned to death. And what about Peter? Didn’t they crucify him upside down on a cross? I’d rather die of snakebite.”


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.