Saturday, June 30, 2018

THE BEAUTIFUL BRAIN: DRAWNINGS BY SANTIAGO RAMÓN Y CAJAL





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

Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934) is considered the father of modern neuroscience.

As a neuroanatomist, he examined super-thin pieces of brain under a microscope, treating them with chemical stains to reveal both different types of cells and the structures within the cells.

As an artist — his second vocation —he produced more than 2,900 drawings depicting the human nervous system over the course of 50 years.

“The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal” (Abrams, 2017, $30), features 80 of these stunning drawings. Some are familiar to Cajal aficionados; others have never before been published.

Cajal was born in Petilla de Aragón. As a teenager he was an obsessive collector and a prankster with an innate distrust of authority. His passions were drawing and photography. Following in his father’s footsteps, he entered medical school at Zaragoza, and graduated when he was 21.

During a year of army medical service in Cuba he contracted malaria, leaving him with a delicate constitution more suited to teaching than the more arduous physical practice of medicine.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

THAT'S RIGHT.
THIS IS YOUR BRAIN! 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

THE WENDE MUSEUM AND THE COLD WAR

 
SOVIET YOUNGSTERS WERE HIPPIES, TOO!

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

The Wende Museum in Culver City aims by use of the word to describe the “transformative period leading up to and following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.”

Admission is free. The museum is open Wednesday and Thursday for school and university tours only, Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On offer are art, artifacts and history from the Eastern Bloc.

All is modern, sleek, clean, crisp.

Display boxes lining a side hall include “socialist realism” sculptures, diplomatic gifts, glassware and ceramics, and blocky Cold War radios and telephones that could have come straight from an episode of the ’60s spy-spoof TV series “Get Smart.”

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.


THE WENDE'S LOVELY GARDEN

Thursday, June 21, 2018

TO THE CHILDREN OF COLUMBINE, SANDY HOOK, PARKLAND, SANTA FE AND WAY WAY TOO MANY OTHERS



"You sound so very old."

"Sometimes I'm ancient. I'm afraid of children my own age. They kill each other. Did it always use [sic] to be that way? My uncle says no. Six of my friends have been shot in the last year alone. Ten of them died in car wrecks. I'm afraid of them and they don't like me because I'm afraid. My uncle says his grandfather remembered when children didn't kill each other. But that was a long time ago when they had things different."

*****

“There are many actors alone who haven't acted Pirandello or Shaw or Shakespeare for years because their plays are too aware of the world. We could use their anger. And we could use the honest rage of those historians who haven't written a line for forty years. True, we might form classes in thinking and reading.”

"Yes!"

"But that would just nibble the edges. The whole culture's shot through. The skeleton needs melting and reshaping. Good God, it isn't as simple as just picking up a book you laid down half a century ago. Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. You firemen provide a circus every now and then at which buildings are set off and crowds gather for the pretty blaze, but it's a small sideshow indeed, and hardly necessary to keep things in line. So few want to be rebels any more. And out of those few, most, like myself, scare easily...In any event, you're a fool. People are having fun.

"Committing suicide! Murdering!"


--Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1951)


Saturday, June 16, 2018

MORE ON OXFORD AND AN AWARD


PORT MEADOW AT DUSK


My humble arts and culture column just won a Catholic Press Association First Place for the second year running:

Catholic Press Association 2018: M05a: BEST REGULAR COLUMN:  Spiritual Life First Place Angelus, “Crux” by Heather King Standout set of entries featuring well-written content regarding important issues of the day.​"

Thank you, Angelus, for allowing me to serve!

I posted text and a series of poppy photos recently in honor of my trip earlier this month to Oxford, England.

This week's column fleshes out the visit a bit.

It carries the heading

Discovering the link between real and imaginary in Oxford, England

and begins like this:

Every so often life presents travel opportunities.

Mine recently presented me with a trip to Oxford, England, the “city of dreaming spires,” a term coined by the English poet Matthew Arnold in the 19th century.

Oxford, as you may know, is home to 38 colleges. Each has its own dining hall, chapel and garden.

Oxford also has scads of museums, all with free admission, among them the world-renowned Ashmolean (art and architecture; the oldest public museum in the world), the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (reconstructed dodo; originally funded with proceeds from the sale of Bibles), and the Pitt Rivers (“a cornucopia of ethnographic treasures from shrines to shrunken heads”).

My hosts were Bob, a Rhodes Scholar physicist who attended St. John’s and Theresia, a Doctor of English Literature and a professor at LMU, who reads at The Bodleian.

My week there seemed a series of mental snapshots — cobblestone streets, churches of tawny Cotswold limestone dating back as far as the 12th century, vast courtyards lush with emerald-green grass.

Cheese stores, Blackwell’s emporium of books, high tea at The Parsonage.

But the best thing to me about Oxford was that you can walk everywhere. Bob and Theresia’s flat is on the edge of Port Meadow, an ancient stretch of uncultivated common land that supposedly has not been plowed in 4,000 years.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.





IN THE OXFORD BOTANIC GARDEN



Monday, June 11, 2018

LA'S SHRINE TO POPE JOHN PAUL II

Jerzy Popiełuszko


Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko (1947–1984), Polish Roman Catholic priest who became associated with the opposition Solidarity trade union in communist Poland and was martyred. Our Lady of the Bright Mount Church in the West Adams district of LA has first-class relics of Fr. Jerzy, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and Pope St. John Paul II.

***

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

Our Lady of the Bright Mount Church, in the West Adams District, is the only Polish parish in Los Angeles.

On Oct. 25, 2015, Archbishop José H. Gomez declared it LA’s Shrine of St. John Paul II.

The shrine is only open during Mass, which is 9 a.m. and noon on Sunday, 8 a.m. on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, and 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday, with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, devotions and prayers before (all are welcome to come and pray or sit in silence).

All Masses are in Polish.

Before making my way to the church for Pentecost Sunday Mass, I arranged to meet afterward with Sebastian Konarski, office administrator.

Then I brushed up on the history of Poland and studied the information on the church’s website:

Eleven-year-old Jadwiga, a “delicate young girl,” installed as queen in 1384.

The intrigue surrounding the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, known to the Polish faithful as the Black Madonna.

The terrible suffering of the Polish people, first under Nazi Germany, then the Soviet Union, from the beginning of World War II until the 1989 establishment of the (democratic) Republic of Poland.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Friday, June 8, 2018

SAFE HOME


UNITED CLUB, HEATHROW AIRPORT

I flew back to LA yesterday from Heathrow, my week in Oxford having been completed.

In my mind, I divided the trip into segments, so as to mark progress along the way instead of pulsating with the ungodly thought that all told I was going to spend 18 hours or so in transit.

There was the walk along the canal in Oxford to the Gloucester Green bus station, the bus ride to Heathrow, the journey through security (short in time but long in anxiety), the very long walk to the United Club (I get two annual passes through my Visa card--they had tons of actual food, drink and appropriate electrical outlets!), the trip to the gate and onto the plane (ditto Segment 2), the 10 1/2 hour flight home, and the Flyaway Bus to downtown's Union Station.

We left at 2:10 pm and arrived at 4:40 pm the same day which just seems weird. But as we made our descent it was so lovely to look out the window and see a deep blue, cloud-studded afternoon sky (it would have been midnight or so in Oxford).

England is all green and sort of empty and LA is all brown and sort of to put it mildly full.

And I must say I do not hold with the notion that it is somehow deeper or more evolved to love the one and despise the other. 

In fact, my heart soared with joy as I looked down and made out the smog, traffic-clogged 405, and endless grids of what look from the air like cookie-cutter houses.

I love quiet and woods and green and lanes and little shops, and I also love the whole mad, improbable, teeming beehive of Los Angeles.

Not that the place doesn't often drive me crazy. But to live richly and fully and sanely in LA is to be equal to a great and ongoing challenge. You learn to find beauty, and rest, and solace in what might to the uninitiated, or to the mentally and emotionally lazy, appear to be a wasteland.

Plus I was so glad to be off the freaking plane probably anything would have looked good!

As it was, I marveled at the golden chain trees I'd never noticed before that somehow manage to thrive at the downtown interchange of the 10 and the 110 which, if you've ever driven it, is not exactly the spot you'd expect a tree of any kind to be able to survive more than about 10 seconds.

When I discovered a rush-hour uber from downtown to Pasadena would cost $29.14, I decided to take the Metro instead ($.75, old people's discount) which, though slower, allowed me to study the faces of my fellow passengers, exult in the afternoon light (nowhere has light like LA), and realize all over again how beautiful the San Gabriel Mountains, in whose shadow I live, are (excuse tortured usage: jet-lagged).

I could have taken an uber from Memorial Park station, but since I'd come this far, I figured why not walk the mile or so with my dear Swiss Army roller bag suitcase? That way I got to go past St. Andrew and thank the Lord for landing me home safely, stretch my legs, smell the night jasmine that's in bloom this time of year, and greet the assorted drug-addled teens, gangbangers, housekeepers, office workers, suburban moms, fruit-sellers, and the crazy guy who called me a bad name en route.

We had a "freezing cold" (i.e. 62 or so degree most of the time) May, but now, at last, it is warm.

I love the unpacking, sweeping up, organizing watering plants, catching up on administrative tasks, opening mail and all the rest that comes from returning home from a trip.

My own coffeemaker! My own bed!

Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

"Arise, then, beloved of Christ!" says St. Bonaventure in the Second Reading of the Office. "Imitate the dove that nests in a hole in the cliff, keeping watch at the entrance like the sparrow that finds a home."

I was at 8:15 Mass at St. Andrew.

PRICKLY PEAR IN BLOOM IN MY BACK YARD

Saturday, June 2, 2018

A FIELD TRIP TO THE UK




I jetted o'er the Atlantic Wednesday eve and since Thursday have been in the charming if tourist-infested (I of course am one of them) city of Oxford.

It stays light till past 9 here. Last night before a late dinner I went for a constitutional across Port Meadow, an ancient stretch of uncultivated common land that supposedly has not been plowed in 4000 years. (Did they even have plows before that?)

Anyway, unlike Southern California which is in a state of perpetual drought and where you feel guilty every time you even brush your teeth or wash a plate, this place is sopping wet. In fact, my first night here my host Theresia and I were enjoying a bite at The Perch when a deluge hit. We were on the canopy-enclosed outdoor patio and all of a sudden the rain came through the canvas and a few feet away began simply cascading down in sheets! It was very exciting and we were game to sit it out except that the floor then began flooding...so we took our grilled asparagus and Scottish salmon into the main room. And then the taxis couldn't get through (we had walked across the Meadow and now it was dark plus POURING) over the railroad tracks. So we ended up having to close the place and the bartender drove us home.

That was after a 10-hour flight and taking the bus from Heathrow and a long walk!

I was quite proud of myself for soldiering on though the next day I slept till 10:12 which is kind of unheard of in the annals of an early riser.

Momentarily I'll walk to the Vigil Mass for Corpus Christi at St. Aloysius Gonzaga, where my beloved Gerard Manley Hopkins was curate between December 1878 and June 1879 (before being assigned to Dublin where he sank into a deep depression).

Travel is weird. Good but weird.





SCENES FROM PORT MEADOW, ALL NEAR DUSK