Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Eclipse Over Los Angeles (Photos)

We went to Griffith Observatory to view the partial solar eclipse on Sunday. We bought some awesome special sunglasses that let you look directly into the sun! All you see with the glasses on is blackness, and an intensely beautiful glowing orb. I used the glasses on my camera to take some photos of what we saw. I've included images in chronological order, which give some idea of the arc of the moon's path.

We also used binoculars to project an image of the sun onto hands, ground, paper, whatever was handy.

Baile de la luna y el sol. Que bello ...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

That Invincible Weed With Ugly Flowers

In the backyard of the house where I grew up, there was a grapefruit tree. We didn't take very good care of our yard, but the tree always looked like it was thriving, wild and overgrown. I wondered, with all that full, green leafage, why it didn't produce more and better fruit. Then one day, I looked a little closer and saw that the tree had actually been taken over by a weed.

It was that invincible weed with ugly flowers that my mother hated. That thorny vine with little curling tendrils and complicated blossoms I had taken a pseudo-scientific pleasure in dissecting as a child. That weed seemed almost impossible to kill. The stems were unbreakable and the roots developed enormous tubers, so that you couldn't pull them up--I remember throwing my entire weight into repeated attempts at pulling up those weeds, but I only succeeded in making my hands sore.

It took forever to dig up those bloated roots, and when at last the tubers lay, still cool, dirty, and huge upon the pavement, I shuddered as before some botanical obscenity. Having clipped the vines at their bases and pulled them down, out of the branches, I now saw the poor grapefruit tree as it truly was, gaunt and emaciated, victim of a wicked parasite. No wonder it hadn't been producing fruit.

Ever since then, I thought of that weed as a metaphor for neurosis and even the demonic--the way it created a false appearance of health and vitality, while clandestinely sapping all the life out of the tree.

Then, just a couple weeks ago, I was thinking to myself I wanted to get some soothing herbal tea--and I went to the store and found one called "Siete Azahares" / "Seven Blossoms"--which had a picture of that very weed on the box.

Apparently, it's called "Passionflower," and it has significant stress-relieving properties. Who knew! So, I guess after struggling for hours in the backyard against that plant, I should have made its leaves into tea to calm my frustration.

Correction: Oh, whoops--I was actually conflating two different weeds in my mind, both of which took over the grapefruit tree, but only one of which was invincible, with thorns--it had tiny blue berries and needle-like leaves, I think. If anyone knows what it is, please comment!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Protest

They were handing out megaphones and teaching the chants to those of us that looked least crazy, the young and well dressed, while a woman with a too-weak voice gave an impassioned but ineffectual speech. Of course I noticed when they showed up, wearing some kind of Native American traditional, you know, strange get up. And as I was handing out flyers talking to passersby--Blah blah blah injustice! Blah blah blah mass incarceration of our youth! and Blah blah blah money, they replied, Blah blah blah politicians--the smell of burning sage wafted by and a drumbeat began, and they started to dance. And a different voice intoned some stuff that I didn’t really hear, invoking our Earth Mother and the Great Spirit or something like that.

And we began, this tiny motley crew, to march the streets of downtown L.A., police car escorts clearing our path. I admit I was a bit distracted by the tall, silent, brown skinned guy in a blue--apparently Captain America--costume.

“The whole damn system’s got to go!”
“We say no to the new Jim Crow!”
“Stop mass incarceration!”

And all the while we're led by these hopping, stepping, drumming Aztecs. And at first I just thought “What the heck” and “Only in L.A.” but then I felt something that--putting into words--well--their beautiful clothing with the bright colors and abstract designs, and those awesome feather headdresses, the legwarmers with rattling shells, the ancient rhythm to which they moved, the sounding of the conch--it was a different kind of protest.

Not like our angered shouting of “No! No! No!” It was instead, a “Yes.” We said “Not That” and they said “This.” They said beauty, humanity, spirituality, and organic harmony. (Laughing nervously out loud--I can hardly believe I'm buying into it.) They said with their feathers and shells and their sacred dance in the midst of the courthouses, sky scrapers, freeways, surrounded by irritated commuters, stopped in their cars as we passed, they said, We are part of something much bigger than ourselves--bigger than this city--more powerful than politicians, and the LAPD--we are the children of the Earth. Nothing can violate the sacredness, nothing can overcome the divine within us.

We have already begun to be the change we wish to see.

[Sad that this video has so little footage of the Aztec dancers--just a few seconds, at 1:23--and no footage of the guy in the Captain America suit--tsk tsk--I guess they were trying to make our group look more respectable, heh. (You can see me at 0:43 and 1:52, for those who get a kick out of seeing someone they know "on t.v.")]

[You can see a little of the Aztecs' costumes in this video, but it was before they started dancing. I'm also there behind them, toward the right--holding some flyers that I had been charged with handing out to passersby--you probably have to view the video in a larger format (on youtube) to recognize me.]