Bill Viola in Florence

Here was a long-awaited experience—the chance to finally see the great Pontormo Visitation along with Bill Viola's haunting video response made five hundred years later. There in a single darkened room was the newly-restored Mannerist painting portraying the moment...

On the Other Hand

My bags are always packed! To go from here to there is to indulge in a blend of aesthetic schizophrenia, wanderlust, and bad faith. Insisting that I love exactly where I live, I still climb onto a plane roughly once a year to become whatever the next large foreign...

Bilocation and other travel puzzles

Ah the unavoidable psycho-physical malaise of bilocation—the doubling of oneself that happens between travel and homecoming. Think of it as a variation on the mind/body problem. Our body is spatially bound but our consciousness is adrift; e.g. somewhere near the...

Authentic Cuisine

Now this is strudel! I was seated at the dark wood bar of Demel's, arguably the most famed and luxurious coffeehouse in Vienna—where the coffeehouse was invented 300 years ago. From a vast kitchen not 20 paces from where I sat had come this insanely fine creation of...

Time Travel Conflicts

There are many forms of being in conflict with oneself, but few are as universal, if irrational, as that feeling you have after a satisfying trip far away from your everyday life. For two weeks I was lucky enough to be in Vienna and, briefly, Florence.  By the end of...

the ugly underbelly

Being an Author: the true story. . . Think twice before you fantasize about becoming an author.  In the six months leading up to the publication of my book, Inside the Flame, and for the past five months afterwards, I have been enslaved to blog writing, Facebooking,...

Carmel Book Meet & Greet!

Carmel was always the spot my aunt favored for weekend getaways. "Let's go window-shopping," she would say, and away we went. Like a miniature English country village, Carmel seemed to offer an endless parade of intriguing pocket gardens, shops filled with color and...

Book Crazy!

I could read almost as soon as I could walk, and never looked back. Books were early friends, companions, conjurers, and sages—leading me straight into the heart of myths and fairytales, my favorite early literary genres. Books showed the way to my own powers of...

six ways to dig deeper!

Experience is always more precious than stuff. Never forget that. So give yourself the gift of a new experience—or revive an old favorite experience—every day. You will never look back with satisfaction at owning that Mustang convertible or those Manolo Blahnik spiked...

yes, but is it art?

Sometime during the Renaissance, Florentine artist, critic, and man about town Giorgio Vasari says to his best friend Michelangelo (yes, that Michelangelo), "Hey Titian's in town—let's go visit his studio." M. is down with that and the two guys check out Titian's...

traveling companion

A girlfriend who lives on the East Coast emailed, completely excited about her upcoming cruise vacation. "I'm taking your book with me," she revealed. "It will be the perfect companion for this trip." Of course I was pleased and honored that she thought of my book,...

Oscar Predix!

Who've we got now? Hmm.... Best Actor. Two words. Casey Affleck. I love Viggo, and I don't love Denzel (no I haven't seen Fences but I've endured the film's trailer at least four times. Way too forced, too much of a strident over-the-top theater piece.). Gosling?...

Arrival

This film will not get an Oscar. None. Especially not lead actor Amy Adams, who (wisely) was not nominated. Sound harsh? Be honest. When have you turned to your film-going companion and said, "hey, let's go see that new Amy Adams flick."? Never. The reason is that,...

oh Valentine!

Every February 14, millions of Americans slip into a trance of ritual passion. Under its influence, we shell out serious money for extravagant and expensive perishables. Hot house roses—at $75 a dozen—will be snapped up like glue guns at an Etsy open houe. Enough...

Lion

Directed by Garth Davis and adapted from the true story "A Long Way Home," Lion tells the fairytale saga of a young Indian boy, Saroo Brierley, who becomes lost a thousand miles away from his village, and is miraculously adopted by an Australian couple. After many...

Silence

You can take the boy out of the Church, but you can't take the Church out of Marty Scorsese. Fearless and probing, director Scorsese seems unstoppable in his restless (tormented?) quest for redemption. There have been other paths through his personal journey that...

the million pink hat march

Watching Scarlett Johansson speak at the Women's March on Washington I found myself thinking and feeling many things. Maybe that short, Joan-of-Arc-ish haircut will inspire lots of young women my students' age to get rid of their long stringy fashion locks, I mused....

Elle

Those squeamish viewers who found Manchester by the Sea difficult to watch will find Paul Verhoeven's new film, Elle, way too much to handle. Refreshingly non-formulaic (i.e. non Hollywood), the film stars a stunning Isabelle Huppert as a successful Parisian, Michele...

La La Land

Seven Golden Globes? No way! I saw La La Land, and La La Land was no Manchester by the Sea. Light, upbeat, feel-good, fun to watch, catchy tunes, Ryan Gosling—but nowhere near the award-grade film that some others were. So what's the deal?  I think I figured it out....

manchester-by-the-sea

It's taken a week for me to recover from the emotional impact of this film. The unflinching tale of a family's tribulation and one man's inescapable heartbreak is easily the finest film I've seen in 2016, showcasing not only director/writer Kenneth Lonergan's deft...

fantastic beasts

How wonderful to see Fantastic Beasts, and where to find them—this latest tale of magic, darkness, and colorful creatures— without ever having read or seen any of the Harry Potter films. I was in a unique position bringing no expectations or prior acquaintance with...

Two upcoming book events!

Hitting our stride now! Two Santa Cruz "Inside the Flame" events coming up. Please SAVE THE DATES! Tuesday December 6th we'll have some dinner, some wine, and I'll read a bit and reveal a lot @ Gabriella Cafe. Afternoon Prosecco Party at Soif, December...

Allied Boredom

Since this film will be gone by the time you read this, there isn't much point in offering an actual critique. Allied is a film loosely structured around Brad Pitt's ability to wear suits and Oscar-winner Marian Cotillard's inability to spin straw into gold. The film...

The Trespasser

As reviewers are writhing all over themselves in praise of Tana French's latest mystery, The Trespasser, allow me to remove myself from the frothing queue. Still bruised by her last book, I've been bruised all over again by this one. I had devoured French's In the...