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Archive for the ‘Aesthetics’ Category

I didn’t used to like museums.  Now I do.

The change occurred amid numerous visits to the Getty Center.  I discovered that museums are best enjoyed over dozens of visits, not stuffed into one exhausting, mind-numbing day.  The key was unlearning the need to justify the time and expense of a museum visit.  The $15 entry fee is not justified by having checked off the most famous pieces housed at the museum.  Art isn’t something to be checked off a list so one can move on to the other sights.  It is there to be seen, to be examined, to be considered, to wheedle its way into our souls.  All this takes time.  What would it even mean to “make the most” of a place where there is enough beauty and thought to keep one captivated for days?

Having the freedom to spend an entire visit looking in one room, looking at just one piece enlivens me.  Spending an hour here and and hour there prevents fatigue, and allows this sort of art to become a part of my normal life– not a special outing.  Finding ways to visit museums for free is helpful in the aforementioned transformation (and for our budget).  See the end of this post for some LACMA tips.

The LACMA is our new favorite LA museum.  We’ve spent several evenings wandering its buildings, located on Miracle Mile, at the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art houses an extensive collection of ancient, modern, and contemporary art.  I’ve primarily explored their 1900-1950 and post-1950 collections at the moment; these alone have kept me busy for hours.  The Broad Contemporary Art Museum (next door to the main building) has exhibitions including Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, and an unmissable Richard Serra piece, Band.  Right now, there is a John Baldessari exhibit, Pure Beauty, which is well-worth some time.

Here are the best times to visit the LACMA:

Second Tuesdays: permanent galleries are free
Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri after 5: permanent galleries are free to LA county residents (must show ID)
Scattered free Mondays
(check website for details), the next one is Labor Day (Sept 6)

Parking costs $10 … but there is usually street parking to be found on 6th, or in the surrounding neighborhoods.

R. Card Hyatt

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This morning, my friend and I got into a dialogue about the nature of reality. Good breakfast conversation.

As far as I can tell, my friend is an Epicurean; not the gourmand but the Grecian. When asked “How are you?” he can be expected to reply, “Another day in paradise.” The day after he fell while rock climbing, smashed his face, and flayed his fingers, he said he “felt like a million bucks.”

To quote Wikipedia: “Epicurus believed that the greatest good was to seek modest pleasures in order to attain a state of tranquility and freedom from fear, as well as absence of bodily pain through knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of one’s desires. The combination of these two states is supposed to constitute happiness in its highest form.…it declares pleasure as the sole intrinsic good.”

I, on the other hand, am a Platonist. I pursue Goodness, Truth, and Beauty wherever they might lead.

Our conversation actually began a couple weeks ago; he came over just as I was finishing A Tale of Two Cities. As I reached “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known,” I started weeping and excused myself. Later, I asked if he’d read it, and he said no. I offered him a copy, and he asked what it was about. I told him and he politely refused it on the grounds that it was sad, and he avoids sad things.
I admit it—I stared at him, horrified. If you don’t read sad books, you don’t read most of the human canon! I declared sadness a beautiful and real part of human experience. He said that sadness makes him depressed and he’d prefer to be happy.

This morning’s conversation was really just the blossoming of that bud.

I asked him how he was doing and he responded with his usual flippant optimistic slogan, and I cried out in frustration. “Reality is not always a picnic and to say it is means you’re either deluded or lying.” In response, he quoted Martha Washington: “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.” He went on: “Everything is how you perceive it to be. Everything is good because you can learn from it.”

I said that that Christians, like Martha, have a reasonable foundation for our joy, namely, our faith in the sovereignty and goodness of God. He replied, “Well, yeah, if God’s taking care of everything, why do I need to worry about it? My philosophy allows me to have a less-stressful life than you.” As I pointed out that “no stress” wasn’t my aspiration, I realized the Epicurean/Platonic dichotomy. “I’m not afraid of the realities of pain and sadness, because I understand them in context of God’s larger picture. I think there is good sadness.”
“Like what?”
“Like A Tale of Two Cities.”
“I prefer The Green Mile.”

“So, you want to cry over books in Heaven?” he finally asked. I thought about Dickens and Dostoyevsky and I said, “Yeah. I do. I also think there will be good pain.”

“You’re a crazy woman,” he said as he headed out the door.

And now, here I am, wondering if maybe he’s right. I mean, God says He’ll wipe away our tears in Heaven—does that make me wrong?
I say there are good things and evil things on earth and sometimes we confuse the two. Admittedly, happiness is the most pleasant of the emotions, but I refuse to believe it’s the only good one. Sadness and fear, anger and shame do seem to stem from the evil things in this world, but does that mean they’re bad?

But first, let’s tackle my assertion that there is good pain.

Let me begin by asserting my belief that humans are essentially body-soul beings. In Heaven, we will be missing half of ourselves. I don’t think we belong in Heaven, though I plan on visiting regularly. We are Earthlings, forever. When we get our new bodies and our new earth, we will at last be home.

As much as my immature self would like to arrive in that new earth, sit down at the cello, and play like Yo-yo Ma, I think that would cheapen the experience. I hope my fingers bleed and I have to spend several centuries getting my fingering right. (On the other hand, I hope God rewards Ma’s diligence with the ability to create music like the angels have never heard before!) I’m sure Becky would have similar feelings about running—running effortlessly infinitely would only be fun for the first millennia. Then it would get boring. Besides, not getting tired would take away the pleasure of rest! The principle continues: Without resistance, there is no growth, and I expect to grow in the next life. But sometimes resistance is painful. This is an example of the good pain I’m talking about. And the conclusion: If there is good pain in the next life, there’s probably good pain in this one and we shouldn’t avoid it.

Which brings us back to emotions. What will we feel in Heaven?

Let’s start with shame. On earth, shame is an incredibly valuable tool when it points toward real guilt and leads to true repentance.  But repentance results in grace and forgiveness, which eliminates guilt and erases shame, so it seems there won’t be shame in Heaven.
How ‘bout fear? Jesus says “do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.…Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” But He immediately says “Don’t be afraid” because this One who can throw you into Hell has come to rescue you out of love. So, I suppose the only fear in Heaven is the fear of God, and that’s more the healthy honor that a good child pays his loving father.
Anger. Hm. I have mostly seen the destructive side of anger, but the Old Testament says that God burns with anger and Jesus at least had all the appearances of anger when cleansing the temple. But that anger is directed towards evil, which, when the world is resolved and remade, will be powerless. So, probably no anger in Heaven.
And sadness. Let’s first throw out anxiety and despair, because those are sins (and sometimes biological anomalies). How about mourning? I think most especially of loved ones who decide not to join us in Heaven. Dante has some things to say about that, but I can’t remember off the top of my head. We drink of Lethe for shame… Hm. I imagine we mourn in the full assurance of God’s righteousness. For that matter, I would think that we probably mourn all the Lost equally, because they were supposed to join us in praise, to show us a new dimension of God’s glory; so our grief is in our lessened ability to know and adore God. There remains this ineffable thing I feel when confronted with the awfulness of Christ’s sacrifice, either on Good Friday or in the character of Sydney Carton.

Alright, so maybe there’s no shame or anger in heaven, and only good fear and sadness. But guess what – we’re not there yet! How are we supposed to feel on this cursed earth, living this cursed life?

I’m reminded again of Chesterton. To the secular optimist, our views of human depravity and the ultimate destruction of the world as we know it will seem the most despairing pessimism. To the secular pessimist, our views of redemption, hope and joy will seem irrational optimism. We are the lords of Creation, the image-bearers of God and the image worn by God. And yet, we are fallen from grace, cursed and depraved, utterly helpless to do any good thing in our own power. Our evil affects us directly—rape, murder, abuse, infidelity, oppression, dishonesty—and indirectly, as our world rebels against us just as we rebelled against our Master, and causes death and destruction through disease, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and fire. As Christians, we are not allowed to isolate ourselves from the ugliness or ignore the evil. If we are going to be light and salt, we’re going to need our blinders stripped off so we may confront the darkness and rottenness head on. And if we fail to weep for the indignity; if we fail to become enraged against the injustice; if we fail to be ashamed of ourselves, we are not human. We are monsters. In faith of God’s goodness and in hope of His salvation we can rest in a supernatural joy, but it is not a vapid happiness which refuses to acknowledge the reality of our current existence. This life sucks, frankly, and I stand by my assertion that to deny it, one is either insane or inhuman.

C.S. Doemner

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The fabric district, found roughly along 9th street between San Julian and Santee Streets in Los Angeles (exit the 10 at San Pedro), easily makes my top ten places to be in LA. Rebecca H. first introduced me to its bolts upon bolts of fabric at wholesale prices I’d only dreamed of. It was the college-play costumer’s dream. I have since dragged many friends with me to shop for silks, cheap cottons, suitings, and various wedding related endeavors. Or just to run our hands along the textures of beautiful textiles.

Once Peter G., Danielle C., Timothy and I went simply to take pictures.

[photos taken by Timothy C.]

I made a trip this week to purchase materials for a couple Christmas presents, silk ties for the groomsmen and groom in our wedding, a vests for groomsmen and ushers. I found all the fabrics I needed for under $40 (a total of over 20 yards). Several successful bargainings were had (yes, this is still new to me, an Orange County native, but I am working on expanding my concept of shopping).

Also, hot dogs as you’ve never experienced them … wrapped in bacon, piled with tomatoes and guacamole … and cooked on the side of the road.

R

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What is faith, but inexhaustible endurance? — G. Hill

Living the examined life is no easy task, especially when life stretches to include more variety than you thought possible. The pain of a fallen world can be ignored, at the cost of one’s soul. But, examining, loving this world as it is requires patient listening and consistent presence. These are the months that persuade me the hours spent training for marathons were not in vain. Endurance of body and soul move hand in hand. Joyous Gard (my home) is in the midst of its most nurturing season (at least in the two plus years that I’ve lived here). One cannot walk from room to room without being greeted by deep affirmation, respect, and love from fellow housemates. I am experiencing the great healing power of words, conversation, listening.

My fiancé just left after a week of puppet shows and visiting friends in the LA area. We’ve been on opposite sides of the country for almost four months. Planning our wedding and life together via letters and phone calls has been comically frustrating at times, but the end is in sight. He returns in a couple weeks for good, to marry me. I’m pretty happy about this.

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Planning a wedding has not been particularly stressful (although this seems to be the number one question everyone wants to ask me). It is thrilling to have the chance to create something meaningful and beautiful, and then get to invite all our friends and family to participate in it. Seeing CTH’s and my ideas mesh, collide, and sometimes explode reminds me every moment why
this is the man with whom I am going to spend my life.

We spent an afternoon this week driving the side streets, hills, and corners of Los Angeles– hunting out possible apartments. Falling in love with a city is a strange experience. Was it turning the corner to find the street sharply fall before us, being faced with the sunset splayed across a smeared sky? Maybe.

Maybe.

More later,

R

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This is a first draft of a philosophy of theater, written in preparation for the launching of a theater club at my school (SACA).

Ms. Card

Introduction
Theater is a sort of many-headed beast, the Greeks’ hydra perhaps. It consists of diverse pieces that come together to create a unified whole. Construction, painting, music, words, voice, physical movement, and poetry all unite within the confines of the stage. This inherent complexity causes theater, and specifically student theater, to be susceptible to several pitfalls. Some of these include a complexity of production design which does not match amateur student talents and a disregard for the necessity of developing students’ basic theatre skills. The purpose of this document is to set forth a simple philosophy of student theatre to provide vision for future productions, as well as to avoid common mistakes.

What is theater?
A theater production is the incarnation (the making flesh) of a text at a particular time within a specific community. It takes into account the people producing it, their ideas, passions, and talents and the unique needs of the audience viewing it.

Theater, like man himself, is both lofty and earthy. It is the thing wherein Hamlet will “catch the conscience of the king,” and yet it reminds us, often in the next scene, that human beings have a hilarious tendency to slip on banana peels. This dual quality of theater must be kept in mind both throughout the preparation for a show and its performance.

Theater’s purposes are manifold, but can be summarized as the attempt to know more deeply man, creation, and God. Aristotle and Shakespeare write of a play as a mirror or imitation by which we see both our selves as bodies and souls, and the orderliness of the cosmos. On the stage we see the beginning and end a man and of a nation.

Like any other art form, theatre is also simply something to mess about in. It is a place for people to get their hands dirty playing with words, paints, and funny faces.

Why do we do theater at SACA?
First, we believe that theatre, like all the works of our hands, is to be done to the glory of God. When we produce something beautiful, a thing carefully crafted, it reflects the beauty of our Creator. Second, theater provides students with a unique context to study classical texts, learn a variety of artistic, physical, and practical skills, as well as enjoy learning together in a small community. Third, theater broadens students’ conceptions of what is fun and entertaining.

Principles for Theater at SACA

Text Based
SACA theater will emphasize the text as the basis of a theatrical production. The study and discussion of scripts/texts will be a primary part of our preparation for a production. Plays preformed at SACA will be limited to texts which we study (or would consider studying) in our daily curriculum. This will prevent us from spending significant time studying poor quality literature.

Skills Instruction
All students will study the basic skills required in all areas of a theatrical production. Even students not cast in a production will study the basic skills of acting (controlling expressions, physical movements, vocal intonation, characterization, etc.). In addition, students will practice the skills associated with play production (designing sets, creating costumes, blocking a scene, etc.). As is common throughout classical education, the fundamental skills and building blocks of each discipline will be taught and practiced before more complexity is introduced.

Simplicity
Simplicity of production will be a guiding principle in SACA theater. This will focus our efforts toward basic skills rather finishing touches. This does not mean that student theatre will be set and costume-less, but rather that the sets, costumes, and concepts should be simple, suited to the amateur level of theater that is being explored.

Student Driven
The majority of the production work, including that of set and costume design and construction will be completed by students. This, again, reminds us that theatre is not meant to be flashy and slick, but carefully thought out and constructed. Parents will be encouraged and welcomed in this process, as long as it remains student driven.

Ensemble/ Amateur Spirit
SACA theatre will produce plays in the long tradition of amateur theater clubs, where all members of a club are encouraged to take ownership of the entire play. All students will read and discuss the text being preformed, as well as be involved in acting exercises and production choices. All members of a theater club are important to the production of a play.

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Uh Oh

This morning I discovered the world of Crane.com. There goes next month’s extra cash …

But, on the happy side of life, I finally discovered the plain letter writing stationary that I’ve been searching for … by which I mean that I discovered the three types of plain letter writing stationaries that I’ve been looking for …

Ecruwhite Letter Sheets

Ruled Ecruwhite Letter Sheets

Monarch Stationary

There is a deep contentment inside me at the moment.

R

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Age is a strange thing. We all know that the gaps created by years and months lessen as we grow older. The nine-months between a new born and their first steps are an eternity. The three and a half years between my younger sister and me were an uncrossable gap at the ages of 12 and 9. We might as well have been different species. But, now, both in our twenties, age seems to only effect what we can drink at dinner– and even that fades away.

Most of my fellow teachers and administers are in their 30s or early 40s, something it took me over a year to become accustomed to. Age doesn’t seem to matter though, it is no longer a sign of a particular maturity and life-stage. It is no longer an equation (e.g. 15 = freshman = driver’s permit). 24 means more school for me, a teaching career. For C.S.D. it means motherhood and an MBA. But, for some, motherhood, a career, and marriage might come at 18 … or 45.

Age is not as simple as it once was. We judge age and maturity by character, by appearance, by how one carries themselves, not by a number. Some are surprised by my age, and I am surprised by their surprise. What exactly are all 24 year-olds supposed to be like, which causes your disbelieving gaze at me?

This brings me to my observation of the week. In all my classes at CSUF I am normally dressed more professionally than all my fellow classmates. This is not shocking. College students are notoriously casual, if not sloppy. But the real shocker, is that I’m usually more dressed up than my professors.

I understand, that my classes come at the end of their long days, and jeans and a knit top must sound better then slacks, or a suit. It’s probably not indicative of the downfall of our education system.

By itself, that is.

It becomes more disturbing though, when seen in conjunction with the increasing informality of professor/student relationships. Most of my professors don’t speak differently from their students. There is not a defined, authoritative relationship between the teacher and the student.

I see professors coddling, persuading, pleading with their students to “pleeese, just do the homework, I PROMISE that it’s not busy work,” “yeah, I know that we’re all busy, but you know, just please do show up to class; it really IS important.” Professors bribing students with candy to participate in class discussions. Professors feeling the need to justify every homework assignment, every statement, every step to their students.

Professors aren’t acting as though they hold any sort of authority over their students. They don’t sound like it, they don’t act it, they don’t dress like it. Of course, a professor’s authority comes from their knowledge and expertise, not her or his age or clothing choices. But, we dress as we see ourselves, or as we want to be seen.

Jeans probably aren’t a cause, but they certainly make me uncomfortable.

R

N.B. This is a rant based on no other proof than my last 4-5 classes at CSUF.

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