Thursday, February 23, 2017

THE SANTA FE DAM RECREATION AREA




This week's arts and culture piece is on the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, a little-known gem a mere half-hour (at midnight, maybe) drive from downtown LA.

Here's how it starts:

My friend Dave, an artist and a walker, has an unerring nose for out-of-the-way spots to explore at leisure.

A few months ago he started talking about a place with quarries and riverbeds and hiking trails by the confluence of the 210 and the 605 freeways. It was in Duarte, he said. He took the Gold Line from downtown Pasadena to get there.

My appetite was whetted. We made plans to go together one day, but Dave had to work and we had to take a rain check. So last week I drove out to the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area — which is technically in the city of Irwindale — by myself.

Owned and run by the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, the park is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Nov. 1 to April 30. From May 1 to Oct. 31, the hours are 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

On a Wednesday, the sentry kiosk was empty — winter weekdays are free. Otherwise, the fee is $10 per vehicle.

“Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area,” reports the park’s website, “is nestled at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains and is considered one of the many hidden jewels of Southern California. This 836-acre facility boasts a serene 70-acre lake with year-round fishing and nonmotorized watercraft usage. During the summer months, the recreational area highlights a five-acre chlorinated swim beach and the unique Water Play Area. The facility is home to many protected native plants and animals. The Nature Center is operated and staffed by volunteers of the San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy offering educational, interpretive and walking tours throughout the year.”


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

















Monday, February 20, 2017

WHAT THE LEFT HAS FORGOTTEN OR IGNORED IS THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE WHITE AND POOR IN AMERICA: AN INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD RODRIGUEZ



Last night I stumbled across this Salon interview, from December 15, 2013, with San Francisco-based writer Richard Rodriguez. Rodriguez, as you may know, is a gay Catholic intellectual. His 1990 essay, "Late Victorians," is the finest piece of writing I know on the AIDS tragedy.

The book referred to in the opening question of the excerpted portion of the interview refers to Darling: A Spiritual Biography, which "looks at the state of religion after 9/11."

His remarks, in light of our recent election and current administration, were eerily prescient.

Let me read a line to you from late in the book, and if you could explain it a little bit. You say, “After September 11, critical division in America feels and sounds like religious division.” Where are you going with that?

Well, it seems to me that there are two aspects of that. One of them is that I think that increasingly the left has conceded organized religion to the political right. This has been a catastrophe on the left.

I’m old enough to remember the black Civil Rights movement, which was as I understood it a movement of the left and insofar as it was challenging the orthodoxy of conservatives in the American South. White conservatism. And here was a group of protestant ministers leading processions, which were really religious processions through the small towns and the suburbs of the South. We shall overcome. Well, we have forgotten just how disruptive religion can be to the status quo. How challenging it is to the status quo. I also talk about Cesar Chavez, who is, who was embraced by the political left in his time but he was obviously a challenge to organized labor, the teamsters and to large farmers in the central valley.

So somehow we had decided on the left that religion belongs to Fox Television, or it belongs to some kind of right-wing fanaticism in the Middle East and we have given it up, and it has made us a really empty — that is, it has made the left really empty. I’ll point to one easy instance. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. And what America heard was really a sermon. It was as though slavery and Jim Crow could not be described as a simple political narrative; racism was a moral offense, not simply an illegality. And with his vision of a time “when all of God’s children” in America would be free, he described the nation within a religious parable of redemption.

Fifty years later, our technocratic, secular president gave a speech at the Lincoln memorial, honoring the memory of the speech Dr. King had given. And nothing President Obama said can we remember these few weeks later; his words were dwarfed by our memory of the soaring religious oratory of fifty years ago. And what’s happened to us — and I would include myself in the cultural left — what has happened to us is we have almost no language to talk about the dream life of America, to talk about the soul of America, to talk about the mystery of being alive at this point in our lives, this point in our national history. That’s what we’ve lost in giving it to Fox Television.

*****

In the past you’ve been described as a conservative, and you’ve expressed frustration with some liberal positions, with the left press, and so on. In the age of Obama, Google, the Tea Party and so on, do you see yourself as a conservative, or having a relationship to the tradition of Edmund Burke?

I see myself increasingly as, if you’re agnostic, then I’m politically agnostic...I guess what I would like to say is that on some issues — and I go issue by issue — I’m very conservative, and on other issues I’m very liberal.


Where do you find yourself very conservative these days?

I would say even on an issue like affirmative action, for example, I haven’t changed. I think that the hijacking of the integrationists’ dream as it announced itself in the North, where racism was not legalized but it was de facto, the hijacking of that movement to integrate Northern institutions by the middle class and to make middle class ascendancy somehow an advance for the entire population — I think was grotesque. And so you ended up with a black and brown bourgeoisie and you did nothing with those at the bottom, and you also managed to ignore white poverty. What the left has forgotten or ignored is that it is possible to be white and poor in America. The solution to de facto segregation in the late 1960s, as the black Civil Rights movement turned north, was an affirmative action that ignored white poverty altogether. And to make matters worse, Hispanics were named with blacks as the other principal excluded society in America. Conveniently ignored by the liberal agenda was the fact that Hispanics are not a racial group and therefore cannot suffer “racism” as Hispanics. And to turn misunderstanding into a kind of cartoon revolution, it became possible for, say, a white Cuban to be accepted to Yale as a “minority,” but a white kid from Appalachia would never be a minority because, after all, whites were numerically represented in societies of power.

Even if that Cuban came from a very wealthy family that owned half the town and the Appalachian was very poor.

That’s right. Is that a question?

No, I was just trying to elaborate. That’s part of the paradox here. Overlooking class.

And totally ignores the reality or the fantastic contradictions of the word or concept of Hispanic/Latino. We are posing ourselves as a racial group when in fact we are an ethnic group. The left has no idea. The left says nothing about the obliviousness of our political process to poor whites. The fact that the Civil Rights movement managed to ignore white poverty was the beginning of the end of the Democratic party in the old South. The white poor began to turn to the Republican party, which is where it is now.

Well, that turn has certainly shaped American politics in profound ways.

Absolutely.

RODRIGUEZ' AUTOBIOGRAPHY


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

THE ARTS AND CRAFTS TILE OF ERNEST BATCHELDER



THESE ARE ALL PIX  TAKEN ONE RECENT RAINY DAY
AS I SKULKED ABOUT THE SELFSAME ARROYO REFERRED TO IN THE PIECE

This week's arts and culture column brings us deep into the world of an early 1900's Southern California tile-maker.

Here's how it starts:

The Pasadena Museum of History is featuring an exhibit, extended by popular demand through March 12, called “Batchelder: Tilemaker.”

Ernest A. Batchelder (1875-1957) was an Arts and Crafts tilemaker who lived in Pasadena’s Lower Arroyo Seco and made fountains, fireplaces and fixtures that can still be spotted in craftsman-style bungalows and at various sites throughout the Southern California area and beyond.

The exhibit celebrates the recent donation to the museum by Robert Winter, Ph.D., of a collection of

Batchelder tile and archives. Since 1972, Winter has owned and lived in the house on what is now South Arroyo Boulevard where Batchelder built his first kiln, and where he lived during the years his design and tile business thrived.

Winter, a premier Batchelder expert, curated the exhibit, authored the accompanying book and figures prominently in the 15-minute documentary film that orients museum visitors to Batchelder’s life, importance and work.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.


SOMETIMES I JUST CAN'T DECIDE WHICH OF TWO "SIMILAR" PHOTOS
I LIKE BEST! 



HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!
I just went to noon Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows, walked around the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden., and now I'm at Starbucks with the gift card my friend Joan gave me for V-Day. Next I head to the Center for Spiritual Renewal (can you renew something you've never much had to begin with?), which apparently has no wifi or cell reception, for three nights.

I have brought I swear twenty books.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

COMMENT OF THE WEEK ON OUR CURRENT ADMINISTRATION



A letter to the editor from The New Yorker, February 13 &20, 2017

As a child psychologist, I find Barry Blitt’s cover depicting Donald Trump in a child’s toy limo terribly sad (“At the Wheel,” January 23rd). It suggests that the problem with Trump is that he is a child. This is an affront to children everywhere: children are not inherently narcissistic, ignorant, cruel, or vindictive. They tend to accept other human beings with an open mind and heart, without prejudice. Would that a five-year-old were our President.

Jean M. Donnelly
New York City

 I INSIST ON HOPE

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

THE RAMONES AT THE GRAMMY MUSEUM


This week's arts and culture piece is on The Ramones, the iconic band that kick-started punk.

Here's how it begins:

Talking to my little brother Joe on the phone recently, we began reminiscing about growing up on the coast of New Hampshire. Five years apart, we’d never known that, as teenagers, we’d both kept a beat-up radio under our bed that we’d listen to, at the lowest possible volume so our parents wouldn’t hear, late at night.

“The songs!” I mused. “‘You Got Me Babe,’ ‘Downtown,’ ‘Morning Angel.’ Plus, very faintly in the distance, you could hear the traffic from I-95.”

“Yeah,” Joe agreed. “You heard those cars, traveling north and south in the night, and you knew you were on the verge of something. You didn’t know quite what it was, but you felt you were on the verge of something exciting and important.”

I grew up to be a writer. Joe grew up to head a punk band called The Queers.

That pretty much sums up my connection to punk. When I’m alone in the car, I tend to listen to Billie Holliday or Bach.

But I’ve always appreciated the raw DIY exuberance of punk, the insistence upon dressing like juvenile delinquents well into middle age and the songs glorifying the halcyon, tortured days of adolescence that, in my brother’s case, include “Teenage Bonehead,” “I Can’t Stand You” and “Hi Mom, It’s Me!”


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW




Here's the link to a podcast I did with Ken Johnston of Malvern, PA, on January 17.

Ken had me on an In His Sign radio show called "What the World Needs Now."

We talked about the one and only Mother Antonia Brenner and several other things.



WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW ARE MORE BRIDGES



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

ADDICTED TO TRANSCENDENCE



SYCAMORE LEAVES.
HOW DO I LOVE THEE? 

“Maslow distinguished between two types of self-actualizers: non-transcenders and transcenders. Nontranscenders were “practical, realistic, mundane, capable, and secular.” They were healthy reformers of life, but had no experience of transcendent “highs.” Transcenders, on the other hand, “had illuminations or insights” that motivated them to transform their lives and the lives of others. They felt a sense of destiny, sought truth, did not judge, and viewed pain, even in their love lives, as an opportunity to grow. Maslow considered peak experiences, mystical visions, and self-creation as natural parts of our higher circuitry.”

--Brenda Schaeffer, Is It Love Or Is It Addiction?




LET ME COUNT THE WAYS





Tuesday, January 31, 2017

THE MONARCH BUTTERFLIES OF PISMO BEACH

THOSE LITTLE SPECKS OF ORANGE ARE BUTTERFLIES


This week's arts and culture column concerns a field trip I recently took to the Central Coast of California. It begins like this:

The Pismo State Beach Butterfly Grove stakes its claim as the largest monarch butterfly grove on the West Coast. Each year when it begins to get cold, the monarchs begin a migration of up to 2,500 miles, from as far north as Canada to as far south as Mexico. A smallish grove of eucalyptus trees on the Central Coast’s Pismo Beach is one of their stopovers.

The butterflies are in residence roughly from late October through February. They cluster on the trees and hang by the thousands in thrilling orange curtains.

Recently, I spent the weekend with some friends in Santa Maria. On Sunday morning we headed up to the grove. For a minute, I couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Where were all the butterflies? Why weren’t they floating about our heads and dazzling us?

Then I looked through one of the available telescopes, I saw the well-camouflaged monarchs lounging in the trees and began to discern the almost unbelievably large clusters, many feet long, hanging here and there high up in the eucalyptus branches. As of Dec. 2, their number was estimated at 20,000.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

BRIDGES AND BUNKERS



Out with friends at lunch the other day, the conversation turned, as it inevitably seems to these days, to politics.

There was lots of ranting, lots of cursing, lots of "Can you believe?" and "Monster!"and "Well, he'd better be ready for a fight."

No question the behavior in question is appalling. No question the character in question is reprehensible. No question that people of good will the whole world are, rightfully, deeply indignant, disturbed, and frightened.

Still,  over our heirloom black rice, gluten-free tortillas, and green chai tea, I ended up being disturbed as well by the conversation. There was no space in it for the kind of heart-to-heart exchange that, to my mind, is the bread of life: that nourishes, strengthens, and sends us forth to fight the right battles and on the right fronts.

On my way to Trader Joe's afterwards (I was out of Italian roast and arugula), I sat musing at a stop light. Suddenly I noticed a homeless guy sitting by the side of the road, around my age, with a crudely-lettered Vietnam Vet cardboard sign. I rolled down the window and gave him four bucks. (Lunch had been $13.58). "God bless you," he said gratefully, humbly.

I was reminded of a recent NYT op-ed piece called "Why 2017 May Be the Best Year Ever." The author observed, "On a recent trip to Madagascar to report on climate change, I was struck that several mothers I interviewed had never heard of Trump, or of Barack Obama, or even of the United States. Their obsession was more desperate: keeping their children alive."

This morning I watched a video by the late Mother Antonia Brenner, a Beverly Hills socialite  and mother of eight who after her second divorce, gave away all her belongings, moved to Tijuana, and installed herself in La Mesa, a notoriously violent maximum-security prison.

She said, "When I went into prison for the very first time, I went into the infirmary and it was a cell block. The cots were there and the men looked at me coming in and they stood up because they saw a woman and a priest. So they stood up even though they were trembling sick and very weak. There were about six bunks and they all stood up to see us. I was very touched at how they received us and I saw a need for medicine and other things."

Mother Antonia lived at La Mesa for over 32 years, in a 10 by 10-foot cell, ministering to the inmates, raising bail money, performing the works of mercy for hardened criminals. One of her spiritual mentors was St. Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish priest who offered himself up in place of a husband and father of six to die in a starvation bunker at Auschwitz.

"I had a deep love for those saints who had been in prison--Paul, the prisoner. Paul in chains, Peter in chains, and on to Auschwitz, where we had St. Maximilian Kolbe, who was a great example for me. He stood up for mercy and justice, the two things Jesus called upon us to do for one another. That was his criticism of the Pharisees. They followed the rules; that was fine. But they didn't go beyond the rules to the two most important things--justice and mercy. St. Maximilian Kolbe did go beyond. He died for it."

"And he never complained."



LOWER ARROYO
PASADENA, CA


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

PITTANCE CHAMBER MUSIC ENSEMBLE




The subject of this week's arts and culture column is Pittance Chamber Music "Music From the Pit"), yet another little-known delight of greater Los Angeles.

Here's how it begins:

Pittance Chamber Music comprises small ensembles of members of the L.A. Opera Orchestra. The name is a play on words, deriving from the pit where they play, and the “smaller” offerings they make. It’s been said that Pittance is small in the number of members, venues, audience and ticket price. But they’re anything but small in talent.

Recently I spoke to artistic director Lisa Sutton, herself a violinist for both the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and Pittance:

“The thrust behind Pittance is connection. The initial inspiration was respect and love for my extraordinary colleagues who, at the opera, are basically invisible,” said Sutton. “The audience hears this great music emanating up from the pit but they don’t see anybody and they don’t know who we are. Conversely, those of us in the pit can hear the audience buzzing but we can’t see them either.

“We see people come and go: the great soloists, the maestros — but we’re here all the time,” she added. “Over the years we’ve grown together and had families together and celebrated milestones. We’re a community. We also live and work here in L.A., so we’re all residents of the community at large.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.