Saturday, September 28, 2019

FOOLS FOR CHRIST

BUY IT!

Last week I was talking to my dear friend Greg Camacho, of San Antonio, Texas. During the course of our conversation, he said "I was looking for one of your books the other day and saw the title Fools for Christ. Which looks like it's hot off the press. Did you bring out a new book and NOT EVEN MENTION IT?"

"Well, kind of.  I published my womanhood book, RAVISHED, around the same time, both on amazon's self-publishing platform, so I thought I'd wait a bit to talk about this one"...

Apparently the time has come. I hired a designer, Rowan Moore-Seifred of DoubleMRanch Design, and the interior layout is every bit as compelling as the cover.

Here's a description:

FOOLS FOR CHRIST:
Fifty Divine Eccentric Artists, Martyrs, Stigmatists, and Unsung Saints


To read yourself or give to friends: fifty short essays on notable Catholics, across the ages! Two criteria: the subject can’t (yet) have been canonized, and he or she has to be dead.

Some are hardly known. Jacqueline de Decker, for example, wore a neck brace, drove a red convertible, and hung out with prostitutes in her native Belgium. She also offered herself as a victim soul to help Mother Teresa.

Some should be better known: Mother Antonia Brenner, a Beverly Hills socialite, went off to live in La Mesa, a notorious Mexican prison, and spent the rest of her life ministering to the inmates. Jacques Fesch, a movie-star handsome French murderer, was condemned to death and wrote a stirring conversion memoir—Notes from the Scaffold—before being guillotined.

There are medieval nuns, a Carmelite dishwasher monk, and modern day martyrs.

There are artists: novelists Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy, film-maker Robert Bresson, actor Sir Alec Guinness (a daily communicant; who knew?).

There are divine eccentrics: Bartolo Longo, ex-Satanist priest. Marthe Robin, who supposedly never slept, survived for 40 years on the Eucharist, and received the stigmata each Friday.

“Here comes everybody,” as James Joyce quipped of the Church.

Glory be to God.
And here's a link in which I've included a few excerpts.

I do think this would make a lovely CHRISTMAS GIFT. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

"FOLLOWING THE BOX" AT THE PACIFIC ASIA MUSEUM

SUNANDINI BANARJEE,
FROM A SERIES OF 5, UNTITLED,
DIGITAL COLLAGE PRINTED ON ARCHIVAL PAPER

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

Toward the end of World War II, an unknown U.S. serviceman, stationed in India, took over a hundred black-and-white photographs of the people and life in rural West Bengal.

Decades later, Chicago-based artists Alan Teller and Jerri Zbiral bought an estate-sale shoebox of photos and negatives, a treasure trove that would forever link their destinies to that unknown soldier’s.

Through Jan. 26, 2020, an exhibit called “Following the Box” at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, features 12 contemporary artists, two American and 10 Indian, who have been inspired by the photographs to create works of their own.

Each artist was given digital and/or print copies of the photographs and asked to incorporate, deconstruct, or in some way imaginatively spin off of them.

Disciplines include painting, photography, film, mixed-media, installation, graphic arts, graphic novels, book art and folk art.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

FEMINISM IS IN TROUBLE

WHITE MOUNTAIN ROAD, BISHOP CA
EASTERN SIERRAS/THE ANCIENT BRISTLECONE PINE FOREST.
I STOPPED HERE ON THE WAY BACK TO LA.

It's not in trouble here.  I have hit the ground running upon returning from my month in Idaho and week-long road trip on either end, have fallen in love with LA all over again, and am obsessed with migrating (eventually) to a new website.

The light in September! Every day I am torn, and from about three pm on, would easily simply sit on my balcony and drink it all in till the sun goes down.




THESE ARE FROM THE MARY DE DECKER NATIVE PLANT GARDEN
IN INDEPENDENCE, CA, ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE SMALL TOWNS

I love women. In fact it's because I do love us that I feel we have veered somewhat off track. I think the woman who wrote the below is onto something.

"The idea that men don’t have to think about the things women think about—but should!—is at the heart of feminism’s complaints today. It is at once a silly and impossible demand. It requires that we not only reorient society to accommodate all of women’s desires but that we rewire men’s brains to share all of women’s concerns.

This is a game men cannot win. Having been twisted into pretzels to be supportive and thoughtful and to limit their ambitions to make room for those of their wives, men in the American elite are now being publicly blamed for the fact that their wives cannot turn off their consciences, their sense of obligation to their children, and the nagging sense that maybe making money and having things aren’t the most rewarding things to do with your life...

Feminism has already largely corrected everything it can possibly correct, including the behavior of men. So now what?

Fourth-wave feminists are living through a period in which feminist dreams have become reality. And they are finding that reality unpleasant...

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Feminism may have delivered greater freedom for women, but it has never delivered greater happiness. In fact, longitudinal surveys suggest that women are less satisfied with their lives today than they were a few decades ago. Having more choices—as we all do in an age where Amazon can bring thousands of brands of shampoo to our doorstep tomorrow and Facebook allows us to pick among 17 different gender identities—does not make our lives richer...

This is not a problem that feminism or any political or social movement can solve. It is not a problem at all. It is the human condition." [italics mine].

-Naomi Schaeffer Riley, from a Commentary piece entitled "Feminism Is In Trouble"

Check out my newest book, RAVISHED: NOTES ON WOMANHOOD if the spirit moves, as well.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

TRANSITIONING FROM THE HERMITAGE



I SPENT THE ENTIRE LAST MONTH,
BESIDES EATING, SLEEPING, AND MY DAILY WALK,
IN THIS ROOM
Now that I've completed it, here's what my month-long artist's residency looked like:

Up at 5:30 for the stupendous sunrise, then prayer, then work, then usually 11:30 Mass, then lunch, then my chore of helping put away the dishes, then more work or a nap or a phone call, then the hour-long walk up the hill, then (often) Evening Prayer, then supper, then dishes, then reading or a movie.

Sometimes, to get really zany, I would leave the walk till AFTER SUPPER!

The sisters at the Monastery of St. Gertrude were wonderful, especially since I was basically a guest in their home, a fact of which I was at all times acutely aware. I did pretty darn well, for me. Did not get crabby, surly, sullen, impatient, sarcastic or snippy, a feat made possible ONLY by the fact that as I said, I spent 95% of the time by myself.

Another crazy stroke of luck: the other artist-in-residence was Dana Stevens of Brooklyn, NY, film critic for SLATE, a wonderful writer, and an all-around stellar human being.

Dana REALLY never got crabby, sullen, or sarcastic, and instead exhibited a refreshing and unflagging curiosity about all things prairie, Benedictine spirituality, and the mysteries of the monastery building which were legion and included working dumbwaiters, a beauty parlor, a Halloween costume room, a craft room, a sewing room, a pantry the size of my bedroom at home filled with shelves of homemade preserves, a library, a former infirmary, an "old kitchen" with two huge gleaming cast-iron woodstoves, a lab where soaps and balms are made, the room with Sr. Placida's antique bookbinder, and more.

As it was, and though we were constantly snooping about, we barely scratched the surface.

Having now experienced a few "transition" days in Boise before heading out later today t begin the drive back to LA, I realize I barely "relaxed" for a single hour while I was there. Not that I didn't sit in the morning staring out the window, but I was generally planning my work day (how could it be that even in a monastery, there weren't enough hours!?). I was so thrilled to have silence, solitude, and a relatively uninterrupted day that I wanted to take advantage of every second to work.

More to the point, I realize now, I really, really did not want to feel.


MOTHER, SHOW THYSELF TO ME
is the rough translation

FALL COMES EARLY TO COTTONWOOD, IDAHO!


THE LAST POST-SUPPER WALK,
THE LAST SUNSET.
THANK YOU! 

My 80-year-old Cousin Dickie died last March. The last remaining "family homestead" (built by my paternal grandfather on Rye Beach, NH, and much visited and beloved by all my siblings and I as kids and beyond) has been sold, the proceeds divided, and as often happens during such times, some old wounds were reopened--and now await healing.

Plus it's fall already, and WHAT HAPPENED TO 2019!? I know they say time seems to pass more quickly the older you get, but this is ridiculous! I tend to want to cling to all people, places, and things--Wait, where are you going? I didn't get a chance to FULLY drink you in! 

But that's not the way reality works. Reality rushes in, relentlessly, one second marching on to another...

Now I'm enjoying (among many other things), the Boise River Greenbelt, a genius urban feature that should be adopted across the land...

Tomorrow I'll head south, stopping once again in Winnemucca, NV (about the only place on a long stretch between Boise and the Eastern Sierras), then to the Bristlecone Forest, and Friday--home.

Being away has made me appreciate my beloved LA all over again.

I will hit the ground running, with a memorial AND an end-of-summer party the very next day.

I can't wait to see my garden--and to play the piano.





ALONG THE GREENBELT

Sunday, September 8, 2019

THE WILLIAM S. HART RANCH AND MUSEUM



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

William S. “Two-Gun Bill” Hart (1864-1946) was a silent film star. Wildly popular in their time, his movies tended to follow the same arc — he started out bad and ended up good.

Born in upstate New York, Hart began his career as a Shakespearean stage actor. His breakout film, “The Bargain,” opened in 1914, when he was 50 years old. In 1915 and 1916, he was voted the biggest money-making star in the U.S.

He built his retirement home in Newhall, near what is now the confluence of the 5 and the 114 freeways: “La Loma de los Vientos” — “The Hill of the Winds” — he called it. The architect was Arthur R. Kelly, whose other designs included the Wilshire Country Club in Hancock Park and what we now know as the Playboy Mansion. He specialized in the Spanish Colonial Revival style and completed the Newhall project around 1925.

When Hart died, he left all 265 acres to Los Angeles County, with the proviso that the house be converted into a museum, open to the public for free.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

WALT DISNEY DONATED THE ORIGINALS!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

GAUDÍ ON TECHNOLOGY

LA SAGRADA FAMILIA,
GAUDÍ'S MASTERPIECE
BARCELONA, SPAIN


I am winding down my intense month of work, silence, solitude, and prayer here at the Monastery of St. Gertrude.

Much of my time was spent refining and editing a little ms. I've been working up over the past couple of years: HARROWED: Misadventures in an Urban Garden. (Come on, who would not want to buy that!?)

Then, this past week, I was seized with the borderline manic, obsessive thought that I should revamp my entire website/blog. I've done many fine tunes, but the fact is that I've been maintaining this Blogger site for almost ten years!

And for about the last five, have been thinking of migrating over to Wordpress, which has way fancier templates, widgets, gadgets, graphics et cetera.

As soon as I started investigating, I entered a vortex of possibilities, explorations, frustrations, excitement and fears. I'll definitely need to hire someone to help me.

And I've also been thinking a lot about how I kind of pride myself on my home-made-ishness, which is fine except that "pride" may be the operative word. I tend impatiently to think, Okay, I have some small obligation to "get my stuff out there," but I am going to spend MOST of my time on what I enjoy: the writing itself, the pondering, the wandering.

I tend to think of my "online presence," such as it is, in other words, as a box I need to check off.

Whereas now, I'm thinking more, why not view a revamped website and blog as a project in itself, the equivalent almost of a book? Why not invite someone who knows what he's doing (I have someone in mind already, and yes, it's a man!) and collaborate? Why not look at the "face" I present to the world as its own work of art? (Not that I haven't thought that all along, but I could definitely give 100% to it instead of maybe 68 or so).

I've had my domain, heather-king.com, hooked up to here, shirtofflame.blogspot.com, so you've been able to find me either place.

While the new site is under construction, which will probably be months, I'll continue to post and update news and events here, at shirtofflame.

*****

In connection with all of the above, the below is from a talk entitled "RELIGIOUS SENSE AND ART: The human person’s aspiration toward beauty: A yearning for the ideal" given by Crossroads Cultural Center on March 8, 2010.

The speaker is Etsuro Sotoo, a Japanese sculptor strongly influenced by Gaudí and a convert to Catholicism

"No one knows what the future will bring. But it’s clear that Gaudí was headed in a direction completely different from the way mankind has progressed up to this point, and somewhat different from the way we are headed now. For example, buildings are built in opposition to the force of gravity. In New York today, people have build the most amazing buildings, but they’re really built against gravity; they don’t use the power of gravity.

Gaudí believed that the sun, the air, water, and even gravity, exist for us; that people are born from them. He believed that we and gravity are not enemies, but must be friends, and that this is the future. How long can we continue to fight against nature? Shouldn’t we instead use the power of nature to its fullest, use it 100%? Isn’t that the path people should take?

In order to not fight against gravity, Gaudí created his structures like an inverted suspended thread. In other words, by taking a formation designed by gravity and turning it upside down, he was able to use the power of design in his construction. By turning it upside down, gravity supports the structure. Can you understand this? It’s difficult to visualize, but it’s very simple. There are many people in the world who say they understand Gaudí. But he’s so simple that he is difficult to understand. That is Gaudí.

Gaudí believed in love. In his words, “First there is love, then technology.” Aren’t we completely dependent on technology? But the future is not in technology. If we were to proceed only with technology, how long would it be before mankind perished? What has brought us to this point has been friendship, the love of the family, love between people: because we value the heart. This is what has enabled us to live to this point. If we lose our hearts, if we choose to abandon love, then mankind will perish someday."