Friday, January 30, 2015

MARGOT FONTEYN, THE L.A. BALLET, AND "THE SLEEPING BEAUTY"




I have kind of a thing for ballet dancers. There are lots of great ballet documentaries: Frederick Wiseman's La Danse, Ballets Russes, Amargosa, about California's own Marta Becket, to name just a few.

Anyway, finally, I got to write about prima ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn. If you're interested yourself, don't miss Meredith Daneman's (somewhat dishy but still enthralling) biography.

Here's how this weeks arts and culture piece begins:

Tony Palmer’s documentary “Fonteyn” is a fascinating take on one of the greatest ballerinas of all time.

“This is the story of how the most famous dancer England ever produced was deceived and betrayed by those closest to her,” the film begins. “It is a story of courage and tenacity, of unbelievable devotion to her art and to those who she loved and who, in the end, left her penniless and alone, even to the extent that she was buried at first in a pauper’s grave. It is the stuff of fiction except that it is true.”

Dame Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991), who was born Peggy Hookham to a British father and a Brazilian-Irish stage mother who came to be known as “The Black Queen,” danced her whole career for the Royal Ballet. “She represented England. That was it. She was the face of the motherland,” observes biographer Meredith Daneman.

“She had the curious quality of making you want to cry,” said Robert Helpmann, her first dance partner. “She had very bad judgment about people,” adds former assistant Colette Clark. “That was her weakness. … A lot of people used her, exploited her, cheated her”...

(Spoiler: Especially her Panamanian playboy husband).

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

THAT'S IT, I'M BUYING AN EYEBROW PENCIL.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

THE NIGHT COUNTRY

NIGHT SCENES FROM GRAND PARK, DOWNTOWN L.A.
"THE PARK FOR EVERYONE"
I WAS OF COURSE THERE ALONE...

"Noise is the Outside--the bully in the next block by whose house you had to pas in order to go to school. Noise is all the things you did not wish to do. It is the games in which you were pummeled by other children's big brothers, it is the sharp, demanding voice of adults who snatch your books. Noise is day. And out of that intolerable sunlight your one purpose has been given--to escape. Few men have such motivation in childhood, few are so constantly seeking for the loophole in the fern wehre the leaves swing shut behind them. But I anticipate. It is in the mind that the flight commences. It is there that the arc lights lay their shadows. It is there, down those streets past unlit houses that the child runs on alone."

--Loren EiseleyThe Night Country















I KNEW I SHOULDN'T HAVE DROPPED THAT ACID.




Sunday, January 25, 2015

POET DANA GIOIA AND THE UPCOMING FUTURE OF THE CATHOLIC LITERARY IMAGINATION CONFERENCE AT USC




Dana Gioia and the Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination.

Here's the beginning of the piece:

Dana Gioia is a poet and critic who served as chair-man of the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the author, most recently, of “Pity the Beautiful,” his fourth volume of poems.

He also has a genius for connecting people. To that end, he’s spearheaded a conference called “The Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination” that will take place at the University of Southern California Feb. 19-21.

Sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at USC, the conference will feature Julia Alvarez, Ron Hansen, Alice McDermott, Kevin Starr, Tobias Wolff and Gioia himself, as well as “many more leading writers, critics, scholars, editors and journalists — young and old, Catholic and non-Catholic — in a dynamic, serious (but never pious) conversation about the relationship between faith and literature in contemporary American culture.”

I had the chance to sit down with Dana recently, and we discussed Catholic literature and his place in it.

You were born and raised in a blue-collar family in Hawthorne, Calif. How did your own Catholic literary imagination first catch fire?

I was raised in a Catholic family in a mostly Mexican neighborhood and attended 12 years of Catholic school. Consequently, my whole early worldview was Catholic, and it seemed consonant with the great art I encountered — Dante, Michelangelo, Mozart, Shakespeare. The creative vision of these artists was reinforced by their spiritual vision. Those early experiences shaped my sensibility. Art without a metaphysical dimension still feels diminished to me.

READ THE REST OF THIS RIVETING INTERVIEW HERE!






palm trees ringed with white lights
grand park, downtown l.a.
i like to imagine the trees CARE.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

HOUSTON FEBRUARY 3: MARK YOUR CALENDARS


Fyi, I'm coming to Texas! And will be speaking at the above-described event, which is open to the public.

Very excited. Have driven across Texas twice solo, done a 40-day retreat on the Gulf Coast, and listened ad infinitum to Iris Dement's "Bluebonnet Spring." I've always been warmly welcomed. Houston will be new to me. Hope to take in a bit of the museums and gardens.

And I'm very much looking forward to meeting the students, parents and folks-at-large at Episcopal High School the night of February 3rd.

See you there!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A FOLK ART TREASURE: GRANDMA PRISBREY'S BOTTLE VILLAGE

TRESSA LUELLA SHAFFER AKA GRANDMA PRISBREY
AT HER BOTTLE VILLAGE IN SIMI VALLEY,  CA,1973

This week's arts and culture colulmn is called A Folk Art Treasure: Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village.

Here's an excerpt:

"At the age of 60, Grandma Prisbrey, as she was known by this time, exploded.

During the next five years, in a borderline berserk burst of energy, she erected structure after structure.

Grandma began to visit the nearby dump daily. She built wishing wells, a Shell House, an Agitator Garden (using old washing machine parts), a Cabana/Card House (Grandma loved to gamble), and a Shrine to All Religious. She constructed a Doll Head Planter and a Parade of Dolls Doll House. She erected a Rumpus Room for her grandchildren, a Meditation Room, chapels, huts, flower stands and a Headlight Planter.

She connected them all with cement walkways in which she embedded bullets, combs, hood ornaments from cars, broken pieces of tile, keys, razors and baby pacifiers."

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.





 












Thursday, January 15, 2015

THE PEOPLE I ADMIRE MOST





The people I admire most are those who are sensitive and who want to create something or discover something, and do not see life in terms of power."
--E.M. Forster


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

THE NIGHT COUNTRY


"In Bimini, on the old Spanish Main, a black girl once said to me, 'Those as hunts treasure must go alone, at night, and when they find it they have to leave a little of their blood behind them."
--Loren Eiseley, The Night Country

Health tip: when your little sister suggests tea tree mouthwash as an antidote to toothache, do not hunt down that little brown bottle of 100% tea tree oil in your medicine cabinet, think to yourself If mouthwash is good, the real undiluted stuff will be even better, and proceed to smear it all over the inside of your mouth for a few days.

Hardy soul that I am, that's what I did.

After a while I started thinking, That's weird, my lips are chapped. I wonder why?

Then I looked in the mirror and saw I looked like I'd had discount collagen implants.

Then the entire inside of my mouth started to basically blister.

Anyway, turns out tea tree oil is for external use only (who has time to read labels?)

So I've been in pain the last few days, and dosing with Benadryl.

Meanwhile, beautiful stuff pours over the transom: links, reflections, thank you notes.

Here, from Fr. Tom Hall, for example, is a piece called "Pope Francis's Stand on Climate Change is the Latest Battleground for U.S. Catholics," and another called "Vatican Panel Says Oscar Romero Was a Martyr."

So there's good news out there, too.

I'm preparing to move my living quarters for three months (at least) and the foundation of the house in which I currently live, as I'm sure I've mentioned way too many times, is being re-done.

I'm taking advantage of the disruption of my writing schedule to visit with friends and fellowship.

That's also good news.  


Saturday, January 10, 2015

MY HAPPY NEW YEAR LOVE LETTER TO THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES


My arts and culture column this week is a love letter to my adopted city. January 1st, 2015, marked twenty-five years to the day since I moved here.

The piece begins:

"I grew up in New Hampshire, and in all my most vivid childhood memories, I am shivering. For the better part of the year, I waited for the school bus in weather so cold my teeth ached, stood hunched against frigid winds at recess and came home to a mother who considered it perfectly normal for citizens of the 20th century to inhabit a house the temperature of an igloo.

At night, I climbed between sheets that felt as if they'd been stored in a refrigerator and, in the morning, woke to a room whose air had the raw bite of the tundra. One fairy tale character in particular had a devastating hold on my psyche: Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Match Girl, the gentle street urchin who froze to death on New Year's Eve."

READ THE REST HERE. 

Fyi, the essay will be included in my newest book, STUMBLE: Virtue, Vice and the Space Between, forthcoming in March from Franciscan Media.    



Thursday, January 8, 2015

THOSE ORIGINAL SOLITUDES





Those original solitudes, the childhood solitudes, leave indelible marks on certain souls. Their entire life is sensitized for poetic reverie, for a reverie which knows the price of solitude. Childhood knows unhappiness through men. In solitude, it can relax its aches. When the human world leaves him in peace, he feels like the son of the cosmos. And thus, in his solitudes, from the moment he is master of his reveries, the child knows the happiness of dreaming which will later be the happiness of the poets. How is it possible not to feel that there is communication between our solitude as a dreamer and the solitudes of childhood? And it is no accident that, in a tranquil reverie, we often follow the slope that returns us to our childhood reveries.

--Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Reverie

SUNSET LAST NIGHT ON SOLITARY WALK,
DUARTE, CA