Tuesday, September 18, 2018

COME VISIT WITH ME IN PITTSBURGH!!


I am off to Pittsburgh, PA for the weekend! That's right. The good people of St. Louise de Marillac Parish and others are welcoming me.

If you can't read the flyer, the details are on my Events Page. 

I'm giving three talks, the first on Friday night, the second on Sat morn 10:30 and the third Sat. eve at 7. I'll be mingling, hobnobbing, and selling and signing several of my book titles. If you're in the area, please come by and say hi!

Friday, September 14, 2018

A THEOLOGY OF FACES: IN FOCUS: EXPRESSIONS AT THE GETTY

War Rally, 1942
Lisette Model (American, born Austria, 1901 - 1983) 
 Copyright: © Estate of Lisette Model, courtesy Baudoin Lebon/Keitelman
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

This week's arts and culture column begins:

The Getty’s new photography exhibit showcases the expressions of all mankind

Through October 7 at the Getty is a smallish photography exhibit with an intriguing theme: faces. Featuring 45 works from the museum’s permanent collection, it’s called “In Focus: Expressions.”

“The human face has been the subject of fascination for photographers since the medium’s inception. This exhibition includes posed portraits, physiognomic studies, anonymous snapshots and unsuspecting countenances caught by the camera’s eye, offering a close-up look at the range of human stories that facial expressions — and photographs — can tell.”

Some will be familiar.

There’s Edward Steichen’s “Greta Garbo” (1928), the one where she’s scrunched up in a luxe black sweater and appears to be holding her head together with her hands.

There’s Walker Evans’ iconic photo of Alabama sharecropper’s wife, Allie Mae Burroughs: the delicate neck, the furrow of worry between her young brows, the tiny scab on her lip, the thousand-yard stare.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

  Demonstration, New York City, 1963 
Leonard Freed (American, 1929 - 2006)
Copyright: © Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Brigitte and Elke Susannah Freed 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

J'ACCUSE!


One of the effects of social media, it seems to me, is that the whole world has become like a giant courtroom with the combatants shrieking at each other, "J'accuse!!" I accuse, I accuse, I accuse. We are led to believe that the shrieking, the outrage, the often utter failure to take responsibility for our own actions equals strength. Mothers spy on and accuse other mothers, friends rat out friends, committers of egregiously poor sportsmanship, judgment, morality or taste blame the purported perpetrators of racial, sex, and/or gender discrimination. 

Whereas real strength, it seems to me, consists in going to the other, in private, in the trembling and awe of love, to present a grievance, or to say "You hurt me" or "I love you and can we talk?" or "I'm worried about you--is there anything I can do to help?" or perhaps most difficult: "I was wrong and I'm sorry."

Like lemmings, or indentured slaves, we willingly drag the most intimate matters of our bodies and hearts into this public forum. 

"Connecting" comes to be a public performance, not an intimate exchange. And this phenomenon has spilled over to all of culture, so that we are less and less in contact with...reality. 

No accident, of course, that one name for Satan is The Accuser. 

Yesterday I went to noon Mass at St. Philip's in Pasadena. Afterward a class of what looked like first-graders, were lined up in the parking lot in their dear school uniforms. Another parishioner, a guy about my age, both paused and cast our eyes over these frisky little kids the way you'd cast eyes over a garden.

Like the deer that yearns for running streams,
so my soul is yearning for you, my God.
--Psalm 42




OCTOBER IS PLANTING MONTH IN THE GARDEN! 




Friday, September 7, 2018

OUT OF EAST AFRICA: FINDING TRIUMPH IN THIS VALE OF TEARS



JOAN AND ALAN ROOT

This week's arts and culture column begins:

On my summer travels this year, I stopped to riffle through a sidewalk cart of used books.

There I unearthed a treasure by journalist Mark Seal: “Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Death in Africa” (Random House, $14).

In it I learned a bit of the checkered history of East Africa, and of Kenyan wildlife photographers Joan and Alan Root. Their heyday was the 1960s and ’70s and their films include “Mysterious Castles of Clay” (termites), “The Year of the Wildebeest” and “Two in the Bush” (don't miss the last 10 minutes or so, when the two coax a spitting cobra to firehose venom directly onto Joan’s eyeglasses).

I finished “Wildflower” on the plane home. This was the passage that stuck:

“One of the last films Alan and Joan Root produced together was entitled ‘The Legend of the Lightning Bird.’ As always, she and Alan spent a year together in the bush, persistently filming the hammerkop — known as the lightning bird and regarded as the king of Africa’s birds — in its inexplicable annual ritual: building a massive and flamboyant nest, a stack of scavenged vegetation as big as a bathtub, complete with a thick thatched roof crowned by feathers, animal hooves, and sometimes even wildebeest tails, only to have the magnificent structure decimated by time and predators.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

CRAZY RIVER: EXPLORATION AND FOLLYIN EAST AFRICA
BY RICHARD GRANT

Monday, August 20, 2018

BARBARA SUCKFÜLL

Barbara Suckfüll (1857-1934?)Untitled, 1910
Pencil and pen on office paper, 13 x 16 1/2 inches [depicting the patient's washbasin].
Prinzhorn-Sammlung der Psychiatrischen Universitatsklinki Heidelberg 

I forgot to post this yesterday.

BARBARA SUCKFÜLL (1857-1934?)

And.Today.It.Is.Sunday.Too.The.First.Sunday.After.The.Assumption.Too.And.So.It.Will.Be.The.Twentyfirst.This.Is.Fine.I.Think.And.That.Is.the.Washbasin.You.See.I.Have.Drawn.That.Too.One.Time.Too.And.Then.Today.The.Redhead.Brought.Cold.Washing.Water.It.Was.Too.Cold.What.She.Brought.Today.And.The.Second.Devil.Was.On.The.Lookout.I.Heard.That.Myself.Too.



Barbara Suckfüll
Untitled, 1910

HANDS, BY ROBINSON JEFFERS

detail. THE PRODIGAL SON
REMBRANDT,  c. 1669

HANDS

Inside a cave in a narrow canyon near Tassajara
The vault of rock is painted with hands,
A multitude of hands in the twilight, a cloud of men's palms, no more,
No other picture. There's no one to say
Whether the brown shy quiet people who are dead intended
Religion or magic, or made their tracings
In the idleness of art; but over the division of years these careful
Signs-manual are now like a sealed message
Saying: "Look: we also were human; we had hands, not paws. All hail
You people with the cleverer hands, our supplanters
In the beautiful country; enjoy her a season, her beauty, and come down
And be supplanted; for you also are human."

--Robinson Jeffers

Friday, August 17, 2018

REMEMBERING LA LEGEND JONATHAN GOLD

ONE OF THE GREATEST FOOD WRITERS,
ANYWHERE, AT ANY TIME

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

Jonathan Gold, the city’s beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer, died July 21. The cause was pancreatic cancer that had been diagnosed only weeks before. Gold, 57, was most recently the restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times.

But he was way more than a food critic. He was an LA treasure: erudite, articulate, eccentric, endlessly curious, warm. A lover of the city in which he was born, raised and lived his life. A champion of the little guy and also, eventually, a reviewer of the world’s highest-end, most cutting-edge restaurants.

He did both with verve, aplomb and staggering intelligence.

Famously, for a while when he was in his early 20s, Gold “had only one clearly articulated ambition: to eat at least once at every restaurant on Pico Boulevard.”

Pico is not, at first glance, one of LA’s most promising or well-known thoroughfares, but that he managed to mine its riches and discover a universe in the process was exactly the point.

“Pico, in a certain sense,” he observed of the experience, “was where I learned to eat. I also saw my first punk-rock show on Pico, was shot at, fell in love, bowled a 164, witnessed a knife fight, took cello lessons, raised chickens, ate Oki Dogs and heard X, Ice Cube, Hole and Willie Dixon perform (though not together) on Pico.”

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.


Friday, August 10, 2018

MY INNER QUIET

THE MIRACULOUS SHEPHERD
AUGUST NATTERER
natterer was a german outsider artist with schizophrenia

Yesterday someone asked for my take on the latest "priest scandals."

First of course, profound sorrow and deep mourning for all involved.

Second, given my own track record in the interpersonal/intimate human relationships department, I'm shocked the scandals aren't worse.

Every day I hear from at least one person, somewhere in the world, who is suffering: chronic pain, terminal illness, crippling obsessions, a relative undergoing a risky pregnancy, addictions of various kinds, family dysfunction, a child in prison for sexual abuse, existential torment.

So I've taken to saying a Rosary each day.

"My inner quiet--blessed by God--has never really isolated me. I feel all human-kind can enter, and I received them thus only at the threshold of my home. I feel they do come to me, in spite of themselves. Alas, mine is but a  very precarious shelter. But imagine the quiet of some souls is like a vast refuge. Sinners at the end of their tether can creep in and rest, and leave comforted, forgetting the great invisible temple where they lay down their burden for a while..

My sorrow is not unusual. This very day hundreds, thousands of us perhaps, all over the world, will be dazed by a similar sentence [a cancer diagnosis]. I am probably among the least able to control a first impulse--I know my weakness so well. But experience has also taught me that I have inherited from my mother,  and no doubt from other poor women of our kind, a sort of endurance, which is the long run is almost unlimited, because it doesn't attempt to vie with pain, but slips within, makes of it a habit in some way: that is our strength. Otherwise how can one explain the obstinate will to live in so may poor creatures, whose amazing patience finally wears down the callousness and cruelty of husband, children, relations...Mothers--Mothers of the Poor!"

--Georges Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest


THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MAGNOLIAS
HAVE NOT (YET) ENTIRELY SUCCUMBED TO THE RECORD-BREAKING HEAT



Monday, August 6, 2018

DREAMING THE UNIVERSE: SOUTHERN CAL'S RICH SCIENCE FICTION HISTORY

SUPERMAN WAS SHOT--OR KILLED HIMSELF--AT HIS HOUSE IN BENEDICT CANYON.
THE MYSTERY HAS NEVER BEEN SOLVED.

I've had a few scattered blessed weeks off from my arts and culture column.

This week's begins:

“In the beginning was a flash of lightning. Two centuries ago, it was that flash of lightning that brought a creature back to life, in the laboratory of Dr. Frankenstein. While there were other creations of the fantastic, Mary Shelley’s work differed, for it was all brought about by science, with no hint of the supernatural.”

So begins a current exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of History. “Dreaming The Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction, & Southern California” runs through September 2.

By the early 20th century, science had advanced to the point that popular culture became inundated with stories of spaceships, robots and intergalactic explorers. Greater Los Angeles, with its aeronautics industry, film studios and creative zeitgeist, was a kind of epicenter for that culture.

The confluence of science and art met in such figures as mathematician-poet Eric Temple Bell and earthquake expert/sci-fi aficionado Charles Richter.

Pasadena’s Clare Winger Harris was credited as the first woman to publish under her own name in science fiction magazines. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most famous creation gave the San Fernando Valley city of Tarzana its name.

Tracing the history of science fiction in Southern California from the 1930s to the 1980s, the exhibit is chock-full of artifacts, toys, graphic art, movie posters and stills, and vintage comic, paperback and magazine covers.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.