Monday, November 12, 2018

ON RETURNING TO LAX

Untitled, 1972
Included in ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES:
THE AIRPORT  PICTURES OF GARRY WINOGRAND

"In any case, the 'baggage claim' scene at airports has an eternal value: after the death which to some small extent a flight always represents, everyone comes to pick up what belonged to them in a previous life. It is like the distribution of what each person will have the right to take with him into the hereafter. And by what miracle to you find the same cases, the same bags you had before you left?"

--Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories

[Quote found in Geoff Dyer's The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand]

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

THE BOY IN THE MOON

AUTHOR IAN BROWN AND HIS
SEVERELY DISABLED SON WALKER


Here's a review of one of the best books I've read this year.

Some excerpts:

"It was only later, alone, at night, having battled for hours to get him to sleep, only to find myself sleepless, that I sometimes considered the cost of his life, and the alternatives. had the doctor been asking me if I wanted to let Walker's life end, as nature would have ended it on its own? I sat on the back steps of our little house in the heart of the city at 4 a.m., smoking and thinking the unthinkable. Criminal thoughts, or at least outlandish ones: what if we don't take extraordinary measures? What if he gets sick and we don't work so hard to get him better? Not murder, just nature. But even as I considered these grave plans, I knew I could never enact them. I'm not bragging; my hesitation wasn't ethical or moral. It was more a medieval urge, instinctual and physical; fear of a particular mode of failure, fear of retribution if I ignored the dull call of his flesh and his body and his need. In any event I felt like an ox slipping into its yoke. I could feel the heavy tragic years coming on ahead of me, as certain as bad weather; there were nights when I even welcomed them. At last a fate I didn't have to choose, a destiny I couldn't avoid. There was a tiny prick of light in that thought, the relief of submitting to the unavoidable. Otherwise, they were the worst nights of my life. I can't explain why I wouldn't change them." [pp 26-27].

"So you can perhaps forgive me for thinking, some days, that Walker has a purpose in our evolutionary project, that h is something more than an unsuccessful attempt at mutation and variation. For thinking, probably vainly that if his example is noted and copied and "selected," he might be one (very small) step toward the evolution of a more varied and resilient ethical sense in a few members of the human species. The purpose of intellectually disabled people like Walker might be to free thus from the stark emptiness of the survival of the fittest." [p. 234].

"Every time we meet someone who is severely handicapped, Jean Vanier [founder of L'Arche] believes, they ask two questions: Do you consider me human? Do you love me?...

In Vanier's last and highest stage of consciousness, 'we see the face of God within the disabled. Their presence is a sight of God, who has chosen 'the foolish in order to confound the strong, the proud and the so-called wise of our world'...

I wish I could believe in Vanier's God. But the truth is, I do not see the face of the Almighty in Walker. Instead I see the face of my boy; I see what is human, and lovely and flawed at once. Walker is no saint and neither am I...I have begun simply to love him as he is, because I've discovered I can' because we can be who we are, weary dad and broken boy, without alteration or apology, in the here and now."  [pp. 284-285].

Friday, November 2, 2018

MODEL BUILDER EXTRAORDINAIRE GREG KELLY


GREG KELLY WITH HIS
TITANIC GRAND STAIRCASE
Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:


From Vikings Stadium to Watts Tower, Greg Kelly is rebuilding bits of history with his hands

For Greg Kelly, 67, model building is a form of meditation.

He was raised in Long Beach, the third in a family of 12. “My dad and older brother would build little balsa wood airplanes, I was probably 3 or 4, and they’d work on it on the kitchen table. I’d just sit and watch, curious. They learned to take it and put in top of the refrigerator to make sure it was away from me.”

As a kid Kelly never built a model. He was always in sports. He had 12 years of Catholic school. “I had some nuns who were saints, some not so much. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. It taught me with my projects that they weren’t going to be easy or simple. It was up to me to figure things out.”

He and his classmates were being groomed to be doctors and lawyers.

“When I graduated from high school, I started working in factories and I enjoyed it. I found I personally enjoyed working with my hands!”

The family had moved to Orange County. One day Kelly was walking past a discount chain store called Zodys, and in the window was a visible V-8 engine model. He bought it, ostensibly for his brothers. They weren’t interested. So he built it himself, and was hooked.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

SUNNYLANDS AND THE ANNENBERGS: HOW THE OTHER 1% LIVES









Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

Sunnylands, former estate of billionaire couple Walter and Leonore Annenberg, comprises 200 acres in Rancho Mirage.

From Walter’s New York Times obituary: “The lavish way of life enjoyed by Mr. Annenberg and his wife, Leonore, was most visible at Sunnylands — completed in 1966 at a cost of $5 million — where the couple spent the winter months.

“An airy, Astrodome-size extravaganza of glass and Mexican lava stone, pink marble floors and clustered plantings, the 32,000-square-foot house — surrounded by well-guarded fencing — sits on acres of rolling terrain. A well-primped, mock-English country landscape in the desert, with trees, hills, ponds, waterfalls, it has a nine-hole golf course and even an artificial swamp for the birds that Mr. Annenberg liked to watch.”

The Visitor Center, designed by LA architect Fred Fisher, is all glass, steel and sleek, low-slung furniture, with stupendous mountain views. Don’t miss the very cool bathrooms. There’s a café and a gift shop. There’s a continually changing exhibit or two.

The first time I went this consisted of gifts the Annenbergs had received from various heads of state: a bully-mouthed bass from George Bush, a golf-themed lamp.

Last June (the estate is closed during the hot summer months), it was “Carved Narrative,” showcasing the work of José and Tomás Chávez, artist brothers from Guanajuato, Mexico, who produced a half-scale version of their world-famous fountain, “Las Paraguas,” for the entry court of Sunnylands.

The front garden and grounds, designed by The Office of James Burnett with horticultural consultant Mary Irish, are water-conserving, lovely, and free. I thoroughly enjoyed strolling about in the 96-degree sun and taking photos so bright and Disneyesque that they look like they’d been photoshopped.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.






THERE ARE ALL SHOTS I TOOK
ON THE GROUNDS OF THE VISITOR CENTER



Monday, October 22, 2018

ANGEL CITY PRESS



Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

Established in 1992, Angel City Press has since published on average between five and 10 gorgeous books a year, in the areas of film-making, architecture, music, and art.

“No other press so single-mindedly focuses on the social and cultural history of LA,” says founder Paddy Calistro.

Just browsing the catalog is a treat. A house that has put out books on both ex-nun artist Corita Kent and Hollywood costume designer Edith Head to my mind definitely has its heart in the right place.

All Angel City Press’ books are image-driven, with an emphasis on historical photos. Printed on sumptuously heavy stock, they run around $35-$45.

Calistro and her husband, Scott McAuley, are co-publishers. Calistro also oversees the editorial content of all publications. Both come from Northern California, and arrived in LA during the 1970s.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.




Thursday, October 18, 2018

BEYOND THE NOISE OF ANY POSSIBLE INTRUSION

MAGIC AUTUMN LEAF,
ON THE GROUNDS OF FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT'S FALLINGWATER
MILL RUN, PA


I have had many months of "coping." You know what I mean--day after day of administrative, car, computer, medical, and people snafus. Plus it is finally dawning on me, at my age many men and women have "retired!"

That is not in the cards for me. I own no home. I have no spouse, no children, no family to fall back on financially, no safety net other than the one I have scrimped for and saved, and I am thus poised to continue to work for the foreseeable future.

And thank God for it! Otherwise I would be stuck with my own obsessive thoughts and probably sink into torpor-like despair.

Plus store up your treasure in heaven and any earthly security is illusory at best. Plus I love my work (which extends far beyond "just" writing) and would do it whether or not I got paid.

Plus the world is ending in twenty years, anyway.

Plus it's October and that means planting month in the garden. With the freakishly hot weather here n early July, followed by a baking hot summer, I really did begin to despair that my California native garden would endure. I lost some plants and began to question the wisdom of investing such a huge amount of time, labor, angst, and heart.

But the days are shortening, the nights and mornings cooling, the shadows lengthening, and my spirit healing. Yesterday I sat on my balcony and exulted in the afternoon sunlight illuminating the blood-red leaves of the crepe myrtle, and the mourning dove in the crown of the black walnut, and the thriving succulents lavishly crowding my chair.

I am slowly re-reading Romano Guardini's The Lord, a book that helped along my conversion many years ago now.

"For the greatest things are accomplished in silence--not in the clamor and display of superficial eventfulness, but in the deep clarity of the inner vision; in the almost imperceptible start of decision, in quiet overcoming and hidden sacrifice. Spiritual conception happens when the heart is quickened by love, and the free will stirs to action. The silent forces are the strong forces. Let us turn now to the stillest event of all, stillest because it came from the remoteness beyond the noise of any possible intrusion--from God. Luke reports:

     'Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph' "...

I feel ever closer to the angels, and especially close these days to Mary. If we long for the glory and dignity and essential-to-ongoing creation-ness of women, we need only look to the Blessed Virgin.

Christ, out of gallantry, took the bullet.

But he crowned his mother Queen of Heaven and Earth.

HEAVENLY NATIVE CALIFORNIA BUCKWHEAT



Friday, October 12, 2018

THE ART OF AFRICAN BLACKSMITHING AT UCLA'S FOWLER MUSEUM

The "Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths" exhibit installation at UCLA's Fowler Museum.
(JOSHUA WHITE/JWPICTURES.COM)


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

I can’t say enough for the Fowler Museum at UCLA. It’s set into a little dell beneath Royce Hall, so en route you get to see the sweep of the campus and let your heart be lifted by the old-growth trees, green lawns, and the dear young students making their way in the world.

It’s free.

It’s the perfect size. You can tour the whole thing in an hour and a half.

It has a great gift shop, especially if you like batik throws, corn husk dolls, and change purses made of soda can pop-tops.

There’s always at least one exhibit about a facet of global anthropology, history, geography, or culture you never even knew existed and turns out that you’re dying to learn more about.

Through Dec. 30, 2018, for example, you can catch “Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths.”

Most scholars believe that sub-Saharan Africans began smelting iron around 2,500 years ago. The artifacts on display range in date from the 17th century to the present.

There are agricultural tools: hoes, sickles, axes, and adzes.

There are blades in the form of spears, axes, knives, and swords that were used both in battle and as insignia of property, prestige, and political power. There are bracelets, neck torques, earrings, hair ornaments, and small-scale iron blades used in bodily scarification by certain sub-Saharan Africans to indicate status, identity, and life transitions.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Monday, October 8, 2018

NEWLY-RELEASED INMATES AND THE POETIC JUSTICE PROJECT


ACTORS DENNIS APEL AND RYAN DUNN
FROM "CROSSING THE LINE."
PHOTO BY CYNTHIA SEMEL.

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

How the Poetic Justice Project is ‘unlocking hearts and minds’ through prison theater

The Poetic Justice Project (PJP), based in Santa Maria, “advances social justice by engaging formerly incarcerated people in the creation of original theatre that examines crime, punishment, and redemption.”

The PJP began in 2009, in conjunction with the William James Association’s Prison Arts Project.

The stats are staggering.

One in 104 American adults is behind bars.

The State of California alone has added 21 state prisons in 30 years, with the prison population expanding from 23,000 to 170,000.

Taxpayers pay $11 billion per year to operate the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Our recidivism rate is its 70 percent — twice the national average.

Enter Deborah Tobola, the PJP’s founding artistic director, and a widely published poet and children’s book author. Tobola, 62, worked for more than 12 years teaching writing and managing an arts program in California prisons.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE. 


Sunday, October 7, 2018

AS WITH PLANTS, SO WITH PEOPLE




"Back in her garden, Vivian Wiley picked two leaves from a saxifrage, one of which she placed on her bedside table, the other in the living room. "Each day when I get up," she told [research scientist Marcel] Vogel , "I will look at the leaf by my bed and will that it continue to live; but I will pay no attention to the other. We will see what happens."

A month later, she asked  Vogel to come to her house and bring a camera to photograph the leaves. Vogel could hardly believe what he saw. The leaf to which the friend had paid no attention was flaccid, turning brown and beginning to decay. The leaf on which she had focused daily attention was radiantly vital and green, just as if it had been freshly plucked from the garden."

--The Secret Life of Plants, by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird

[FROM WIKI: "The book has been criticized by botanists such as Arthur Galston for endorsing pseudoscientific claims.According to Galston and physiologist Clifford L. Slayman many of the claims in the book are false or unsupported by independent verification and replicable studies.

Botanist Leslie Audus noted that the book is filled with nonsensical "outrageous" claims and should be regarded as fiction.]

Philistines! Killjoys!







Wednesday, October 3, 2018

MASTER WOODWORKER SAM MALOOF: FURNITURE WITH A SOUL




Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

Sam Maloof, Southern California master woodworker, is known as a pioneer of the post-WWII Studio Craft movement.

Born in 1916 to Lebanese immigrants, Maloof was the seventh of nine children. The family was raised in Chino.

With neither college degree nor formal training, he was known for creating a 2-D design on paper and a 3-D design in his brain.

His wife of 50 years, Alfreda, was not only his business manager but the heart and soul of his vocation. “Her faith and love sustained me,” he said. She died in the fall of 1998.

His woodworking vocation was launched when, still single, he rented a bungalow and thought to replace the cheap furniture with pieces of his own that he fashioned from castoff plywood and red oak floorboards salvaged from railroad cars.

He and Alfreda Ward, a teacher and artist, married in 1948. He landed a job with designer Millard Sheets, head of the art department at Scripps College, but the pay was low and the couple started out with next to no money. Five years later they bought several acres, dotted with semi-derelict buildings, in the Alta Loma district of Rancho Cucamonga.

His first work area comprised an old shed and a chicken coop. Unable to afford even a router or band saw, he crafted his early works from the 1950s — a table with “tree branch” legs and a cork top, for example — almost exclusively with a lathe.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE. 

A VERY EARLY MALOOF CHAIR
HIS WIFE, FREDA, EXPERTLY WRAPPED IT WITH CLOTHESLINE. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND


THIS IS THE VERSION WE HAD AS KIDS,
NOW SELLING FOR HUNDREDS OF BUCKS ON EBAY!

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


Remembering the lessons of an old English children’s book on God, suffering, and love

One of my favorite books as a kid was “Whistle Down the Wind” (1958) by Mary Hayley Bell.

In it, three children from a working-class English village find an escaped criminal in the barn and think he’s Jesus.

Here’s how the story starts:

I am ten, and they call me Brat.

Of course, that isn’t my right name, nobody could be christened with a name like that.

All our lousy first names are birds’ names. Don’t ask me why. I imagine our mother was keen on birds and flying, though I don’t know much about her. She flew off some years ago with this character called Peregrine. She lives in South Africa on a different kind of farm, and once in a way we get a Christmas card — which is quite useful as we keep the stamp.

Brat (real name Brambling), her 12-year-old sister Swallow, and their 7-year-old brother Merlin (who answers to the name of Poor Baby) all live with their father, Slim, on a farm in the south of England. While affectionate and curious, the children don’t have a terribly high opinion of adults.

They don’t understand half of what the vicar says, for example, but they like him nonetheless (he lets their dogs sit in the pew with them at church). They also understand more than they know.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.


THE ALSO UNBELIEVABLY GREAT
FILM ADAPTATION STARS
THE AUTHOR'S DAUGHTER,
HAYLEY MILLS, AND ALAN BATES

Monday, September 24, 2018

"IF YOU CAN'T STAND YOUR PROBLEMS, TRY KNEELING"





Back from Pittsburgh--loved it, loved the people, loved the whole experiences. Just stellar. Possibly more later, after I get some sleep.

While there, I put in a request to be an honorary Yinz.

*****

The three best pieces I've read on the sexual abuse in the Church.

"Here Comes Everybody: On prayer, the lessons of history and a vulnerable Church tempted by blind rage in a time of crisis," by Msgr. Richard Antall in Angelus News.

"How to Respond" by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, syndicated columnist.

"Humility is the Only Weapon," by Junno Arocho Esteves on comments by Pope Francis, in Angelus News.


MY ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONIST PIX
OF THE PITTSBURGH SKYLINE AT NIGHT
FROM
MOUNT WASHINGTON



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.


Friday, August 3, 2018

A SHEPHERD'S LIFE



How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave theninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

--Matthew 18:12-14 King James Version


"A lamb has gone missing. Its mother is agitated. She runs up and down the fence. I left them, hours ago, safe and well, and well mothered, and now it is gone. There are no clues. I ride around the field, checking the other mothers haven't stolen it or taken it by mistake. They haven't. I check the becks in case it has fallen in and drowned. We try to keep ewes with young lambs away from the becks, but it isn't always possible. I hate losing a healthy lamb. I check the neighbouring fields. No sign. Then I see that it has gotten itself stuck between the trunks of an old thorn tree, about a foot off the ground. It is fine, just squashed and tired. I lift it out and it runs off to suckle its mother.

You can lose hours looking for a lamb."

----James Rebanks, The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape (New York: Flatiron Books, 2015 ), 265.

You can read THIS WONDERFUL book online here.




LAMBS AND SHEEP AT ST. BENEDICT'S ACRES
MADONNA HOUSE, COMBERMERE, ONTARIO
FROM A VISIT SEVERAL SPRINGS AGO