Fool’s Gold

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Composer John Adams and his librettist Peter Sellars immersed themselves in the vivid letters of a New England doctor's wife who wrote about what she observed in the gold mining camps of the 1850s Sierras. She found colorful men...

The Ring in Vienna

Three days after the last rolling waves of the Rhine river had dissolved into thin air, the music stayed inside my body. All of the themes of Richard Wagner's opulent masterpiece resound. They've seeped into me through the surge and flow of the four operas that sum up...

Dull Blade

According to "director" Denis Villeneuve, in the year 2049 women will still be objectified as nubile, pliant toys for men. And men will still wonder why life has no meaning. An old trope—AIs searching for their own identity and searching for a way to become more...

taste of autumn

Tomatoes, ripened on the vine—always a sign of the end of summer and the time to feel the approach of autumn. Some people look at a calendar to know when the seasons change. I have found that it’s not difficult to detect the exquisitely calibrated changes of...

Mother!: a Gothic parable

Darren "Black Swan" Aronofsky's latest metaphysical conceit, Mother!, may be many things, but a serious example of cinematic storytelling is not one of them. A showcase for the bovine beauty and monochromatic facial expressions of his current girlfriend (and star)...

Hockney’s Turandot

Anyone who has seen opera sets by David Hockney remains fairly breathless for days on end. Sometimes years. Rarely has a practicing artist shown such a keen understanding of, and fascination with the playful possibilities of visual storytelling. His sets summon the...

Being There

Have we lost contact with the tangible world? Look around. What do you see? Screens! Information gleaned through hand-held electronic devices. Through those screens we love to look at animals, our friends, mouth-watering foods, faraway landmarks, natural wonders. What...

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...

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....