Art Will Save Us – 32 years in Camden

November 4, 2018

thumbnail_KIMG1255  I moved to Camden, N.J. 32 years ago after my father died, to get away from Cherry Hill taxes and to become part of the Sacred Heart Church community.

Yesterday there was a birthday celebration in the rectory chapel – such a familiar place and so many familiar faces – for the person who influenced my journey to Camden: Father Michael Doyle.

I’m grateful to Michael for maintaining an intercultural, spiritual community where art and individuality matter and I have been able to do my own thing: teaching and doing art with all ages from pre-school to old age, where I’m now at!

I recounted to him a short trajectory of my move:  1) Japanese Buddhist monks passing through Camden (at his request) at the end of their peace march from California in the early 1980s. 2) Michael’s writings in the ’80s about Bobby Sands in an Irish prison. 3) Michael’s primary teaching that “Art Will Save Us.”

1)  I lived in Tokyo in the ’60s when Catholics were taught that even visiting a non-Catholic (no less non-Christian) Church would mean not going to heaven. I was going to Buddhist Temples – which did not bode well for my future… until those monks, in the 80s, were invited to unfurl their banners at Sacred Heart Church and chant their sutras. All was not lost for me – and the beauty of Buddhism and Catholicism (post Vatican II) was also unfurled…

2) The compassion Michael showed for those in Irish prisons as well as for the poor in Camden was somewhere I needed to live and to learn.

3) My connections to the places I had lived – Manhattan, Tokyo, Honolulu, Cherry Hill, were Art-centered:  music, painting, pottery, literature, individual inspiration and creativity…

Thanks for the gift of YOU, Monseigneur Doyle, for many years of joy and learning in Camden, my home.

And many more Happy Birthdays to come!

Executive Origami Toy – For All Ages

March 15, 2018

thumbnail_KIMG1799 exec toy

It ain’t easy to put together 6 units into an origami whole! Check it out on You Tube.

It’s called an “Executive Toy,” I suppose because if you hold it gently between your palms and blow, it skillfully spins. And any organization that “spins well” is run by a skillful executive? Or, maybe CEOs have nothing better to do than to twirl it?

I work part-time at a State-of-the-Art play care center (at Camden Kroc Center) with kids – ages 6 months to 6 years old. It is well equipped with train sets, action figures, small construction trucks, sports cars, potato heads – you name it. Most of the toys are made of plastic and metal.

But, in addition to the high-tech stuff,  the children use plain old Crayola jumbo crayons to draw pictures and to color 3-D origami figures of birds, boxes, flowers, etc.

They also play with the assembled “Executive Toy” between their palms and love the way it spins so skillfully – even faster than their manufactured, miniature, battery-operated Maseratis!

 

 

 

Meditation in Cinema

March 7, 2018

KIMG1788 (2)Japanese doll

I’m taking a a Rutgers-Camden film history class with first generation Iranian-American professor, Emud Mohkberi.

The paradox he articulates in class, that Japanese director, Yasujiro Ozu, in his films, can focus on the discomfort of family situations while NOT allowing his characters to wallow in it and at the same time he affords the viewers the luxury of seeing the truthfulness of such cinematic intimacy as if it were their own.

I’m enamored of  Japanese films and literature and feel fortunate to better understand my decades-long fascination, hearing the way Mohkberi describes it.

  • The above image is of a doll I received in 1966, made by the grandmother of one of my Japanese students who studied English with me at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Do Unto Others…?

February 8, 2018

Do Unto Others…?

An animal activist friend posted the image on Facebook:

a German Shepherd – the most magnificent of creatures – in a cage,

cringing in fear of being hit again,

howling, when the hand of the rescuer came near,

afraid of being abused again.

Such an abominable image.

I quickly deleted it – but could not from my mind.

It stays with  me months later.

How a man – or woman – ceases to be a human being –

as a person, (let alone a sentient “lower-species-being”)

who tortures or is being tortured.

All thoughts of forgiveness flee,

and only revenge remains,

for the creature doing the torture

and the creature receiving it.

And so I better understand, but cannot imagine

“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

At this moment, it is impossible for me.

When I see a POTUS

whipping the airways for a demonstration of power –

a march to show who is Boss

to those with the malevolent hand AND to those receiving the blows,

any notion of forgiveness is obliterated.

 

Grandson Challenges Blog

December 2, 2017

It’s good to talk to the younger generation, even if they challenge you.

“Grandma, you’re hiding yourself! I don’t see you in the blog.”

“But you know our family history. Can’t you piece it together?”

“Yeah, maybe.  The Pope – we’re hyphenated Catholics.  Vandenberg – A Dutchman great grandfather who did great things.  Rita Hayworth – a great entertainer in the middle of the twentieth century.   We need more more of all of them in our world.”

“Ya’ got it.”

End of conversation. Maybe the deeper meaning will dawn when he’s in his seventies…

 

 

The Pope, Senator Vandenberg and Rita Hayworth

November 28, 2017

I’m in my seventies and a great fan of the Pope, Michigan Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg and Rita Hayworth.

What do they have in common?

They all came across my Facebook news feed today. The Pope for visiting Myanmar, Vandenberg for getting a biography published sixty-six years after his death and Hayworth for her sixty-one post World War II films.

In 2017 how are these people relevant to a Facebook viewer like me?

The first represents a savior for the suffering people everywhere; The second, a savior for a post WWII devastated Europe and Japan.  The third, a savior to a world needing to dance and erase the images of war.

Today we need to celebrate more of such saviors – past and present.

After Trump. Starting All Over Again.

November 15, 2017

For over seven years I’ve posted about “art awareness”. Everything from pre-K artwork to injustices obliterating all art as we know it.

Today it’s about the genius of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – IZ, reaching all corners of the world and the lyrics of the song “Starting All Over Again” as a hopeful prayer that we’ll survive Donald Trump:

“It’s gonna be rough for us, we’re gonna make it. Start all over as friends. It’s gonna be tough on us. We gotta face it. We lost what we had that’s set us back 1,000 years, but we’re gonna make it up. Though I know it’s gonna be tough to erase the hurts and fears. Starting all over again is gonna be hard but I pray to the Lord to help us. Starting all over again. It’s gonna be slow but we both know we gonna make it. We’ve gotta take life as it comes, never fuss about it, what’s right or wrong. It’s an uphill climb to the finish line. We gonna try, we gonna try – just one more time.

– change to minor key 🙂 –

“We gotta take life as it comes. Don’t make any fuss about it. What’s right or wrong. We gonna make it.”

 

I Am Over Eighteen. How Much Older? Back to Teaching Boxes Again :-)

November 14, 2017

Three months since my last blog! That’s because I’ve been job searching…competing with 18 year olds for a part-time job looking after little ones.

The Foster Grandparent Program to assist teachers in elementary schools that I was with for six years gave modest stipends and closed without notice. It took a while to find a job where there was no age discrimination! Finally I’m back to part-time watching over children – ages 6 months to 6 years this time – and encouraging ART. God bless the Salvation Army Camden Kroc Center that didn’t care about my gray hairs!

Teaching how to draw 3-D boxes on a flat piece of paper and to make modular 3-D boxes have always been obsessions with me in the classroom. First graders loved the magic of a flat looking 4-sided square drawn on a flat white board – and adding lines to turn it into a 3-D looking box!  But how can I introduce boxes to younger kids!?

Modular origami Sonobe Units! Thanks to Google, I found out that Mr. Sonobe “invented” them. In the picture you can see one of the six units (in green) that it takes to make a box. The kids can color them and I’ll help turn them into boxes!

It’s nice to be back in the saddle again…    🙂

KIMG1614 (2) 6 sonobe units

“Nobody Wants My Stuff”

July 29, 2017

My Facebook post was a heading in the Christian Science Moniter: Boomer parents:  ‘One day, this will all be yours. Grown Children: “Nooo!’  It got 33 comments, 93 emojis, 123 shares.

After college, I myself told my mother early on I didn’t want her silverware when I moved into my own apartment in Manhattan. She wanted to give me something that would last forever though – and the set of eating utensils she did give me are still like new – without ever requiring polishing.

Those of us of a certain age are trying to scale down. The things I hold dear are books, letters, lesson plans and my kids-by proxy art work.  This morning when I opened a box from long ago, thinking I could throw a lot of it away, on top was a 1959 letter from my first love: Pvt. Edward Whipple, NG13589311, B-1 SSC, class 313, Fort Chaffee, Ark. It was a three-page apology for not having written but saying he loved me “so very much.”

I took the letter out, replaced the box lid without throwing anything away and decided to write a blog. His nick name was Oggie. Over the years I taught many of his by-proxy-children. I also loved him “so very much” and still do, even though I don’t even know if he’s still alive!

It doesn’t matter that nobody wants my stuff. I have it ‘until death do us part.

Life is good!

 

 

 

Bringing Civilization to a Corner of Camden, N.J….

July 15, 2017

I bring civilization to a corner of Camden – Waterfront South, to be exact – a fairly civilized section of the city, although miscreants are not uncommon.

One such creature is called Hitler. My name is Neko.

We are often mistaken for each other. There is no way to tell us apart. We both are of medium build, have yellow eyes and black fur.

I guard against outsiders entering our gated community.

Hitler manages to sneak in. Even the boss person can’t tell us apart. She finally found a solution:  a blue collar. Isn’t it grand!?

(To be continued…)