Monday, November 23, 2009

Hibernating with books

I'm usually up by 4 am, and our home is in some microclimate (facing north on a hillside in San Juan Capistrano) that brings us very chilly temperatures in the winter (we even get frost a couple of times each year).

So, I've found myself lighting the fireplace, throwing a blanket over my shoulders, heating some apple cider and cracking open a book more often this time of year. My immersion has carried over to my evenings after dinner--something rare from April through October when the Angels are playing almost nightly.

I had been to Borders recently to see if they had anything by the recently-anointed Nobel literature prize winner Herta Muller. They didn't; but I came across a book by last year's winner, J.M.G. LeClezio, a Frenchman who was born and grew up in Mauritius. It was called "Wandering Star," and I found the story compelling and his literary style wonderfully imagistic.

I moved on to a book I've had on my shelf for two years but was sort of dreading to read: "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine," by Ilan Pappe, and Israeli scholar. The title says it all, and refers primarily to the period just prior to and including Israel's war of independence (1947-49)--though it goes on to point out how that continues to this day in a variety of ways. Very well-documented but very tough to accept.

As if the contrast between those two books wasn't enough, I began (and have almost completed) "Open," the new memoir by Andre Agassi. The tennis star tells his life story through the craft of Pulitzer Prize winning author J. R. Moehringer ("The Tender Bar"--an excellent read). "Open" is tough to take in a different way, but equally compelling to read.

I've stacked up a couple more I'll be working on once I finish "Open" today.

Winter does have its special pleasures.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tweet Me A Play!

You can't just dismiss this by saying "everyone's gotta have a gimmick."

It's more a sign of the times, and the capacity of quickly evolving social media to become the latest vehicle for artists to express themselves.

So, unless you're a Luddite, you've got to give Hunger Artists Theatre Company in Fullerton some credit for supplementing their Beyond Convention new play festival with an invitation to "tweeps" (aka: People on Twitter) to contribute their own 140 character dialogue (or monologue, I suppose)--minus the space for the "hash-tag" you need to enter, too, in order for your submission to appear on their radar screen: #beyondconvention. Not a lot of space for profundity, but Haiku devotees should have a field day.

Hunger Artists promises to perform semi-finalists each evening during their festival.

To see what's been submitted so far, go to and in the "Search" box, enter #beyondconvention

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shades of Ansel Adams: Gregory Hunter @ Reflective Image Gallery

The devotees of Ansel Adams are legion--and not just among those of us who own coffee table books or poster versions of his legendary photos of Yosemite.

They include many who emulate him in their own work as well, and the latest example of this at the Reflective Image Gallery is Gregory Hunter.

Barraged by images on the web, mostly produced by pocket digital cameras costing less than $200 and shot as quickly as possible, many people have lost the patience to absorb photographs, to study their detail, and to appreciate the powerful impact of compositions in black and white.
Similarly, few understand that far more time and effort goes into creating them than one could possibly imagine: scouting locations, selecting the right time of day, struggling with the elements.
And then...even after capturing images on film, the laborious process of printing an enlargement, coaxing the right amount of exposure on photographic paper, and engaging in a process of trial and error that consumes both time and materials, until perfection is achieved (or nearly) in the final print.

Gregory Hunter's images of Yosemite, Death Valley, Orange County seashore and other natural locations often produce puzzled first impressions--like abstract paintings or Rorschach blots. Upon further examination, the subject matter is clear; but whether reality appears slowly or in an instant, there is no doubt that its content is artistic.

The exhibition ends November 29th, and the gallery is open Friday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Admission is free and parking in front is ample and free.

Incidentally, an exhibition earlier this year featured another photographer inspired by Ansel Adams: Steve Dixon. But Reflective Image Gallery director Ludo Leideritz told me that the December exhibition is a juried show that will reflect a high degree of variety, and that two other upcoming exhibitions are also more eclectic in their subject matter--one depicts post-war Japan and the other contemporary Guatemala--and color photography joins the mix as well.