Saturday, March 31, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Thirty Nine

Pop Up Mysteries of the Rosary: Part III The Glorious Mysteries

The Glorious Mysteries are the final part of the rosary trilogy. They present Our Lord triumphant over death and Our Lady crowned in Heaven.

Intro: The Family Recitation of The Rosary

Said to be the most effective way of saying the rosary. Note that the man on the right is levitation. I prefer to think this is due to the power of the rosary rather than a flaw with the pop up book. I'm not entirely sure why the face of the little girl on the right is so red. Expelling demons, perhaps?

I. The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ

I particularly like the look of panic on the guards' faces. This is not a case of schaudenfreude.

You'll note, by looking at the one guard's spear and the other's hand, that the pop up figures were cut out by hand. I can't imagine a machine being that precise. Impressive.

II. The Ascension of Out Lord Jesus Christ Into Heaven

III. The Descent of the Holy Ghost upon Our Lady and the Apostles

I like how the Holy Ghost doesn't look like a realistic bird at all, as opposed to the human figures. It's more abstract, almost iconic or cartoonish.

Apostles with tongues of fire above their heads.

IV. The Assumption of Our Lady Into Heaven

When Mary died, her body did not decay, the reason being that because she was born without Original Sin. Therefore, it is Original Sin that makes your body decompose after death. Anyway, as her body was still in a perfect state, it was reunited with her soul and was transported to Heaven.

Some of the stagecraft used for this miracle. (In the book, not real life.)

V. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Heaven and the Glory of All the Angels and Saints

The three members of the Trinity, The Father, Son and Holy Ghost, crown Mary as the masterpiece of creation.

Friday, March 30, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Thirty Eight

What I Saw on My Bike Ride Across The Golden Gate Bridge

I'm not a fan of bike riding, not the way I was when I was a boy when I spent at least one entire summer doing nothing but riding my bike around the neighborhood from early morning till after sunset, taking breaks only to pee and eat (not at the same time). I have several friends and acquaintances who are avid bike enthusiasts; interestingly enough, they're all male, as opposed to most of the runners I know being female.

But I am a fan of "I'm on vacation, I'll do things I don't normally do." Hiking trails, eating something I'd normally skip so as to favor local cuisines, shamelessly going to tourist spots. I had originally planned to walk over the Golden Gate bridge, especially after learning that it was only half a mile longer than the Williamsburg Bridge, currently my favorite path to walk. But the appeal of doing something out of character, not to mention the time it would save, won out. I rented a bike (and helmet, thank God) at Fisherman's Wharf and was on my way.

The gears on the bike were not in perfect condition, probably from overuse, but the brakes worked which was more important. I did manage to bike up all three steep hills, save one, before reaching the bridge. The first hill inspired the "I can do this" spirit, the second "okay, alright" and the third "to hell with it, I'm walking up."

The bridge is undergoing some work for the celebration of its 75th anniversary this year, which meant that pedestrians and bikes going in both directions had to share the same none-too-large pathway. But the combination of motion and the views were worth it, would be worth almost anything.

If you look at the sky in the above pictures, you can see how fickle San Francisco's weather is.

The other side of the bridge is in Sausalito. Rather than turn around and ride back over the bridge I took a ferry back to the city. I love boats and being on the water. Riding back to San Francisco, I suspect I had the same look on my face that dogs do when you take them for a ride in car.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Thirty Seven

My final day in San Francisco saw me returning to Kayo Books, a used bookstore that specialized in pulp novel paperbacks and The Magazine, a store that sold old magazines. Mostly porn but there were some other journals, too. I then checked out of the hotel and headed to the Embarcadero area to have lunch by the bay.

I was feeling rather melancholy. Rather than sensing it was time to go back, I was wishing for one more day to revisit some sights, in Berkeley mainly. As I sat there and watched two sailboats in the water moving so slowly they might as well have been still, Olivia Newton John's "Have You Ever Been Mellow?" began playing. Something about the music and how it fit the calmness of the bay was actually causing tears to well up. However, I was damned if I was going to sit there and be sad to some schlocky Olivia Newton John song so I instead focused my attention on my shrimp cocktail, which contained so much cocktail sauce (the restaurant's doing, not mine) that it reminded me of how I prefer my macaroni and cheese bathed in ketchup.

Then it hit me: macaroni and cheese covered in ketchup is the poor man's shrimp cocktail. It was time to go home.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Thirty Six

If you're taking your vacation properly, you should be doing things you've never done before or at least doing things that you wouldn't do in your regular life. For me, this turned out to be watching CSI Miami, a show that's interesting because it tries so hard to be intriguing and arty and cutting edge, but just seems a little silly. It's ripe for parody because the show is so over ripe, from it's bad performances to scenes that consists of nothing but exposition ("Why the DNA test wouldn't find that from his left hand which is why we're testing his right") to David Caruso's William Shatner-like performance.

But I've found myself these past few days lying in bed after the hotel's complimentary continental breakfast and watching back to back episodes. I suspect that after I get back to NYC I will never see another episode again. Otherwise, God help me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Thirty Five

I spent almost all of today walking around the Mission District taking photographs of the incredible graffiti murals in the neighborhood. It's funny to go on vacation and do the same things that you do at home. I took photographs of murals, went to some bookstores and when the rain got too heavy, ducked into a bar (Irish, natch) to wait it out.

Not that I needed any proof, but I also discovered that I am my mother's son. My mother is a fan of returning to the same restaurants where she had good experiences or food, even if she is one vacation. The best example of this is when she and my father were in London and they ended up going to the same restaurant (Ask Pizzaria in Belsize Park) each of the three Saturdays they were there.

Since having the delicious salmon sandwich at Triple Rock brewpub this past Saturday, it's been at the back of my mind that I've got to get back there and have said salmon sandwich one more time. Goal was accomplished tonight, though there's nothing wrong with, schedule permitting, going back one more time before I leave.

I don't have many photos of today's journey around the Mission District to share, as the pics are all in my camera and I have no way to upload them until I get home. However, I will share the below photos with you. At the end of the day, as I was making my way to the subway to go to Triple Rock (did I mention how much I like their salmon sandwich?) I stumbled on the below murals. I assume they were painted recently in memory of Moebius. They made me gasp like a woman with the vapors. They they made me happy at how well they were done, and shortly after, sad once again that he is gone.

Monday, March 26, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Thirty Four

Yesterday I went to see Abel Gance's epic silent film Napoleon at The Paramount, a grand movie palace in Oakland restored to its art deco glory.

The movie was accompanied by a live orchestra and contained footage long thought lost. I enjoyed wandering around the theater before the film as much as the film itself.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Thirty Three

Triple Rock

The first place I went to in Berkeley after moving there many years ago was the Triple Rock brewpub. It may have been straight from the train to the pub. My friend Suzie picked me up at the train station in Oakland and I can't recall if we dropped my bags off at the apartment first or not.

I like Triple Rock and their beer, yet I don't think I went there that often, despite the fact that it was on the same street as the bookstore where I worked. I didn't go to bars much when I lived in California, possibly because I didn't have the money. Now I would be regular. Their beer is good, the IPA in particular quite tasty, and last night I had an incredible salmon sandwich: marinated in ginger, chili, tangy soy sauce and then grilled. It was one of those times I kept closing my eyes as I ate, to be concentrate on how much I enjoyed the flavors mingling across my tongue.

Triple Rock is also where I received a fast lesson in the gap between how things should be versus how they are. Suzie and I got our table and a couple of beers. We ordered sandwiches at the bar. Mine arrived first so I took it back to the table. While Suzie was still waiting at the bar, a guy, obviously down on his luck, whether he was genuinely homeless or not remains a mystery, came over to the table. He said he was hungry and asked if he could have some of my sandwich.

Well, I believe in feeding the poor and I'm more socialist than most, so I began trying to pull the sandwich in two. I wanted to help the man but not go so far as to let him take a bite out of something I would eat. I just didn't know how to say "no" to this guy. It's not that I was afraid. I truly believed that if somone is hungry and asks for some food, you give it to them. But whatever it was I ordered proved resistant to pulling apart neatly or evenly. Like the classic 98 pound weaklng, I had trouble pulling the sandwich apart. The man stood there, patiently, until someone who worked at the bar came over, told the man to get out and apologized to me. The man smiled - he had a "I was so close, I almost got ya" look on his face.

As the man walked away, Suzie came to the table.

"Welcome to Berkeley" she said.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Thirty Two


At the San Francisco airport there is an exhibit dedicated to the history of the vinyl album, showcasing classic covers and the evolution of record players over the last century. The exhibit was designed and curated by someone who knew what they were doing. Why doesn't New York have things like this?

Friday, March 23, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Thirty One

California's been good to me/
I hope it don't fall into the sea

- Tom Petty

It's after 10:00 and I haven't finished packing yet. I'm heading to California tomorrow - San Francisco to be exact. I've been feeling nostalgic for it lately. Not the place as much as the place at the time that I lived there. Revisiting places is the closest that I can come to traveling back in time. I don't necessarily want to be there; there's nothing wrong with where I am right now. But I do want to remember and revisit. It's a vacation in the past more than it is on the west coast of the country.

It's not that I was happiest there, though I was happy. I think it's because I learned and grew so much out there. The atmosphere seemed full of ideas, the culture seemed so fertile. It was different from what I experienced going to college in PA with the occasional trip to NYC. It was the first time I lived in a city and discovered how much I loved being around cafes, bars, movie theaters, bookstores. I was also dirt poor despite working two jobs and while it's a stretch to say I didn't care, I don't recall that being a time of deprivation. I somehow found the wherewithal to do what I liked.

So it should be a trip of "remember when" or more likely "where was it that I...guess it's gone now." Hopefully not.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Thirty

Pop Up Mysteries of the Rosary: Part II The Sorrowful Mysteries

What are the Sorrowful Mysteries? They are the second set of five Hail Marys said when saying the rosary. They recall the suffering of that Mary's divine Son underwent for our redemption.

Intro: Visitation from Our Lady at Fatima

I have been to Fatima. I liked it.

I. The Agony of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Garden

As it doesn't look too bad in pop-up form, Rev. Coerezza adds this editorial:

The Eternal God suffered for you, ungrateful, sinful create that you are! Will you not for the future try to love Him more and serve Him better? Think what grief of soul your sins caused your Divine Savior!

II. The Scourging of Out Lord at the Pillar

III. The crowning of Our Blessed Lord with Thorns

IV. The Journey of Our Lord, Carry His Cross to Calvary

V. The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Twenty Nine

This Friday will be the first anniversary of Elizabeth Taylor’s death. I didn't dislike her, but I was never a big fan either. Like Elvis Presley or Marlon Brando, the groundbreaking star quality she possessed in her youth was gone by the time I was around, replaced by little else but a sad spectacle. “A tad overweight, but violet eyes to die for” as Doonesbury put it. It’s backhanded and mean but accurate. Granted, she never became the complete mess that Elvis or Brando or her pal Michael Jackson did, but the second half of her life retroactively casts a shadow on memories of her youth.

That odd sensation of both remembering and being surprised: that’s what I felt when I saw photographs of her at her peak, as a young woman, online and on television during remembrances and memorials. She was radiant. “Oh, now I get it” I thought. But rather than watch any of her movies or read gossip about her life, I was drawn to a work that would probably not be how Ms. Taylor would want to be remembered, even though it is a testament to her when she was most famous. Hearing about Elizabeth Taylor, I felt compelled to re-read J. G. Ballard’s novel Crash.

Crash opens with the death of Vaughn, a man whose ultimate fantasy is to die in a head on collision with “the film actress Elizabeth Taylor.” Vaughn is only the most extreme example of the pathology shared other characters in the book, that is, they are all sexually fixated on car accidents. When I first read the book twenty years ago, I grew tired of it but thought that was the author’s point: the boredom of fetishes and obsessions. This time, however, I was intrigued throughout. Whereas before all I noticed was the repetition, this time I noticed the variations as the characters try to find new ways to satisfy themselves within the context of car accidents.

But more surprising was discovering how little the film actress Elizabeth Taylor is actually in the novel. I had always remembered her presence as looming large throughout the book, as Vaughn’s (and Ballard’s) crazed celebrity worship is an important theme. In actuality, she’s mentioned in the first chapter, along with celebrities who did die in car accidents, such as Jayne Mansfield, James Dean, Albert Camus…even JFK, whose death is considered a kind of car accident. She's only mentioned sporadically afterwards. But on the page as on screen, her presence fills your thoughts even when she is absent.

The fact that the celebrity fixation was dropped from David Cronenberg’s film version of Crash is also a testament to Taylor. What actress in the 1990s had the same stature as Taylor did in the 1960s? Madonna? Sharon Stone, for a couple of months? There really wasn’t any one. “I wasn't that interested in the actual actress,” Ballard said “but she stood for the last of the great Hollywood stars.” They really don’t make them like that anymore.

As I said, I’m sure her appearance in Crash is not how Taylor would want to be remembered, even though it demonstrates her impact on the culture better than the most well meaning eulogy. I rarely re-read books, even favorite ones. I'm thankful that the film actress Elizabeth Taylor indirectly lead me to re-read Ballard.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

40 Days Of Lent: Day Twenty Eight

Graffiti Murals From My Neighborhood

Monday, March 19, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Twenty Seven

Walking The Long Mile Home

One of the things that New York City residents are used to, along with people singing for their supper on the subways by performing close four part harmony a cappella ("I'm Gonna Let It Shine" being a particular favorite), are groups of young hassidic kids cornering you and asking "are you Jewish?" This has happened to me a number of times and while I'm not offended (I know someone who gets very angry when it happens) I usually am puzzled. Not to deal in stereotypes, but when I look in the mirror, I see Johnny Michael O'Hanlon From the Emerald Isle Don't Ya Know, though to be more honest, lately it's been more Johnny O'Hanlon Lately Gone To Seed If I Say So Myself. Being mistake for a member of The Tribe always gives me pause. Do these kids really think I'm Jewish or are they just playing the numbers game? In any case, my startled "uh, no" always brings forth a polite "okay, sorry to have bothered you" as they rush to question someone else; doubtlessly they're on a quota system. I should ask them if they know about something big going down and should I smear lamb's blood on my doorway just to be safe.

But on the way home tonight, I was stopped by a pre-teen who asked if I knew about God as a female. This gave me the pause you get when you not only formulate an answer but you also analyze the question to make sure you understood it correctly. All my reading about fertility cults, earth mothers, pre-Christian goddesses danced through my head. "You mean God as a female entity rather than a male power?" I asked. Was this kid really asking me, a random person, about...what? Gnostic theories about how the true creative force is female, a mother figure, and the God that organized religion prays to is a male usurper who thinks He created the universe and rules over the world but is mistaken and we on Earth are sort of trapped under His rule until we can transcend and experience Her directly? A nice myth, but as a theory I always thought it was a cake-and-eat-it-too explanation for why we can have a loving God that allows horrible things to happen to us. It's the good "real" Goddess that created and loves us: it's the deluded "false" God that lets bad things happen to us no matter how much we implore Him. It's not too far from the psychological dance abused children do to justify that the parent who loves them is the same one who sometimes hurts them.

Was that what this kid was asking me about? Pre-Nicean Council Mystic Christianity? In Brooklyn?

"You mean God as a female entity rather than a male power?"

"Well, yeah, if you read in the Bible..."

Enough said. "Okay, thanks, but if that's what you're talking about, then you really have to step off." I actually did say "step off" to a kid who was not only two feet smaller than me, but was with an adult who was even shorter than that. I said it as nicely as I could, apologizing and saying I just wasn't interested. The kid said okay and he and his petite adult went on their way. I would have stood there for over an hour discussing arcane Christian theology, but the Bible? No thanks. It's like wanting to discuss more esoteric ideas in film structure and theory and then someone brings up Steven Spielberg.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day Twenty Six


Hard to believe that the series has gone this far without any mention of martyrs.

Saints Vitus, Modestus and Crescentia

Saint John the Evangelist
(Saint John survived this.)

Saint James the Greater

Saint Simon The Apostle

Saint Bartholomew

It should be noted that we have little that can be verified regarding martyr's deaths; what we do know is the stuff of legend. But as legends they were well known enough top become part of the iconography of the saints, such that Michelangelo could depict Bartholomew holding his flayed skin in The Last Judgement.

All these images come from A Rome Art Lover's webpage. A great site.