Friday, August 26, 2016


For this week's arts and culture column, I sat down with Anna Wray, teacher at a nonprofit called Education Through Music LA.

Here's how the piece begins:

Education Through Music-Los Angeles (ETM-LA) is a nonprofit that partners with inner-city schools, both public and private, including Catholic. Their mission is to provide and promote music in disadvantaged schools as part of the core curriculum for every child in order to enhance students’ academic achievements, and their creative and overall development.

Recently I sat down with ETM-LA teacher Anna Wray and asked her to talk about her experience.

Anna grew up in Westchester, New York, and started taking piano lessons at six. “I was fortunate to have a wonderful teacher who taught me music theory. That set me up for a lifelong love of, and fascination for, music.”

She went on to get a B.A. at Mills in music performance and, in 2015, a master’s in percussion performance at CalArts.

The overarching goal of ETM-LA is also to teach music theory. “It’s so exciting when the kids can start to see that the chord progressions in Bach, for example, are the same as in a lot of pop music.”


Monday, August 22, 2016


Too many anxious Christians today think that their efforts to preach and teach and enter into outward activities can do more to save the world than the surrender of their souls to God, to become Christ-bearers.

They believe that they can do more than Our Lady did, and they have not time to stop to consider the absurdity of this. They fear that if the world goes on hurling itself ito disaster, as it seems to be doing now, Christ’s Kingdom may be defeated. This is not so; Christ has given his word that he will be with, and in, his “little flock” until the end of the world; however dark our days may seem to be for Christianity, they are not so dark as the night following the crucifixion must have seemed to be to the apostles. For that night Christ had already prepared them. He told them to wait: to wait for the coming of the Holy Ghost. He told them that he was going away that they would no longer see him and know the consolation of this presence with them, but that it was better for them that he should go, and the the condition for the coming of the Holy Ghost, through whom he would live on in them, was his going: “And yet I can say truly that it is better for you I should go away; he who is to befriend you will not come to you unless I do go, but if only I make my way there, I will send him to you” (John xvi.7-8).

Christ himself prepared for his Resurrection by resting in the tomb, just as he had prepared for his birth by resting in his mother’s womb. He did not call the legions of angels whom he could have called to fight back the forces of evil that had crucified him; he simply lay in the tomb at rest and, at the appointed moment in time, rose from death to renew the life of the whole world.

The apostles, like the modern apostles, were afraid, and with good cause; in spite of their utter failure during the Passion, they, with the Mother of Christ, alone stood for Christ’s Kingdom, and the murderous hatred of Christ’s enemies pointed straight at them. They shared the reasonable fear of the modern apostle.

But Christ told them simply to wait in the city until the Holy Ghost came to them; not to run away, not to make plans of their own, not to be troubled, either concerning their own own recent failure and sin or concerning the danger that fenced them all round, but only to wait, with his mother among them, for the coming of the Comforter who would make them strong, heal their wounds, wash the stains from their souls and be their joy.

“And behold, I am sending down upon you the gift which was promised by my Father; you must wait in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke xxiv.49).

Christ does not change, the preparation for the coming of the Spirit is the same today as two thousand years ago, whether it be for the rebirth of Christ one soul that is in the hard winter, or for the return from the grave of Christ, whose blood is shed again by the martyrs; the preparation is the same, the still, quiet mind, acceptance, and remaining close to the Mother of God, resting in her rest while the life of the world grew within her towards the flowering of everlasting joy.

--Caryll Houselander, The Risen Christ (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1958), 109-111.

Friday, August 19, 2016


This week's arts and culture column involved a field trip all the way to the Hollywood-adjacent LA neighborhood of Los Feliz. It's on a Frank Lloyd Wright architectural gem called the Hollyhock House.

The piece begins like this:

Hard by the southwest corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vermont, up on a hill, stands a highlight of L.A.’s storied architectural story: Barnsdall Park.

The compound features the Municipal Art Gallery, Community Arts Division, Junior Arts Center, Barnsdall Art Center and the Barnsdall Gallery Theater.

But the crown jewel is the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home, built for Philadelphia oil heiress Aline Barnsdall in 1919-1921, known as Hollyhock House.

Barnsdall (1882-1946) was a philanthropist, art collector, bohemian and single-mother-by-choice of a daughter nicknamed “Sugartop,” who she’d conceived out of wedlock with a Polish actor.

Envisioning the creation of an arts complex where she could produce theater in her own venue, Barnsdall bought the 38-acre site, then known as Olive Hill, in 1919. She hired hotshot young architect Frank Lloyd Wright.


Monday, August 15, 2016


Hello there, people, this week's arts and culture piece is on master documentarian Frederick Wiseman, a wonderful power of example for all of us who make a vocation of art, all of us who are aging, and all of us, period.

Here's how the piece begins:

Visions & Voices” is a terrific USC-sponsored arts and humanities initiative. The series features theatrical productions, musical and dance performances, film screenings, lectures and workshops by critically-acclaimed artists and distinguished speakers.

Most of the events are free and open to the public, though seats must be reserved. On Aug. 26, the series will feature world-renowned documentarian Frederick Wiseman. Tickets are available online.

At 2 p.m., the conversation will be “The World According to Frederick Wiseman: Beyond Documentary, Into History.”

That evening at 6 p.m., Wiseman — who is 86 — will screen and discuss his most recent film, “National Gallery.”

“Titicut Follies,” Wiseman’s second documentary, remains one of his best-known. In the spring of 1966, he spent 30 days at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Bridgewater, a maximum-security prison for the “criminally insane.” The film was released in the fall of 1967, and though Wiseman had acquired releases from all the depicted patients and staff, an injunction was obtained and the film was not available to the general public until 1989.

Vincent Canby of the New York Times called it “a small, black-and-white picture, laconic, abrasive, occasionally awkward and always compelling.”


Thursday, August 11, 2016


Jacob's Dream, from World Chronicle, about 1400 - 1410, Regensburg, unknown.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

This week's arts and culture column, on illuminated manuscripts at the Getty, begins like this:

The award-winning filmmaker Ingmar Bergman was the son of a Lutheran minister in Sweden. In his autobiography “The Magic Lantern,” he wrote of his childhood, “I devoted my interest to the church’s mysterious world of low arches, thick walls, the smell of eternity, the colored sunlight quivering above the strangest vegetation of medieval paintings and carved figures on ceilings and walls. There was everything that one’s imagination could desire — angels, saints, dragons, prophets, devils, humans.”

That’s exactly the mood evoked by a current exhibit at the Getty Center (through Sept. 25): “Things Unseen: Vision, Belief and Experience in Illuminated Manuscripts.”

Through ink, gold and pigment, Medieval and Renaissance manuscript illustrators sought to convey in images the intimacy of prayer, the mystery of revelation, and the drama of the human battleground between good and evil. These costly and labor-intensive works depicted Old Testament prophets, events from the life and Passion of Christ and stories of martyrs and saints.


Saturday, August 6, 2016


World War II, Human shadow on bank steps, in Hiroshima 
after the explosion of the atom bomb in August 1945, Japan.
Getty Images

At Hiroshima, Japan, the late Fr. Daniel Berrigan wrote the following poem.


At Hiroshima there’s a museum
and outside that museum there’s a rock,
and on that rock there’s a shadow.
That shadow is all that remains
of the human being who stood there
on August 6, 1945
when the nuclear age began.
In the most real sense of the word,
that is the choice before us.
We shall either end war and the nuclear arms race
now in this generation,
or we will become shadows on the rock.

Thursday, August 4, 2016


Some scenes of the chapel at St. Elizabeth of Hungary, one of my many homes away from home.

The other afternoon I spent a little time there.

Walking home, I came upon these incredible sunflowers, in the front yard of what seems to be a Buddhist temple or dwelling of some kind on North Lake Ave. in Altadena.

Juxtaposing the two sets of photos, they seem strangely similar--the colors, the softness, the light--and in some mysterious way connected.

Household hint: If you happen to spill a sugar-laden paper cup of coffee from Trader Joe's on your iphone5 while fumbling to put away your receipt and credit card post-checkout, and afterwards can't really hear an incoming call or voice message unless you put it on speaker--spray a little eyeglass cleaner on the top mic (that little oblong mesh screen), then give it a good scrub with your Sonicare toothbrush!

All better.