Archive for June, 2014


Ojai Cars & Coffee

Ojai Cars & Coffee will take place the second Sunday of each month at Westridge Market from 8 to 10 a.m.

Ojai Cars & Coffee will take place the second Sunday of each month at Westridge Market from 8 to 10 a.m.

New Event Puts Shine on Ojai Sundays

Bring out your ride, show it with pride at Ojai Cars & Coffee, the second Sunday of each month at the parking lot by Westridge Market on East Ojai Avenue.

The new event brought out more than 20 cars for its first outing, and has been growing since. It takes place from 8 to 10 a.m. The next show will be July 13.

Whether it’s a mint-condition Lamborghini or a meticulously restored 1949 Dodge Street Rod, come out for the company of your fellow car enthusiasts, and to provide a delightful scene for passersby. For more information, you can contact the Ojai Quarterly at 798-0177.

By Demitri Corbin

At Earth Play, Oak Grove School’s annuel Earth Day celebration on April 19, the campus was packed!  It is here that artist Mike Saijo conducting the “Soft Machine Project;” inspired by the “cut-up-fold in” method devised by William S. Burroughs in his sci-fi novel, “Soft Machine.”  The SMP is designed to bring together science, education, design and community and has no intended resolution.

Working with the concept of “program art,” Saijo has made an open call to artists in Ventura, Santa Barbara and LA counties to submit works based on their personal experiences with spirituality within the Ojai Valley.  That experience is to be set on a hexagon.

I work my way around the campus and finally spot Porch Gallery curator Lisa Catoni.  She’s standing under the gazebo next to a large sandwich board-like rack where dozens of hexagon art pieces hang drying.  At two large picnic tables, 20 or so people of all ages sit painting their personalized hexagons.

“The response has been amazing!” Catoni says speaking over the clamor.

“Where’s Mike?” I ask.

She points to Saijo standing over the table assisting the students.  I beckon him over.

DC:  Wow, what a crowd!

MS:  It’s amazing!

DC:  Are you ready?

MS:   Sure, let’s go.

We sit at a small picnic table just outside the gazebo.  The festival crowd strolls by as we speak.

DC:  Since we last spoke I’ve taken a look at your website.  Lots of work.  Very impressive.

MS:  Thank you.

DC:  Looking at your bibliography prompted my first question – 2007, there seemed to be a lot going on for you.  Tell me about 2007.

Saijo pauses for a moment before a smile grows on his face.

MS:  2007 … Yeah, that was when I started doing solo exhibits.  Yeah, that’s when I started taking art seriously … having a solo show I got a lot of practice making connections, being able to work in these different studio spaces and I began setting in the discipline, making a commitment to the craft.  It was also a time when I was on the road with a carnival. I toured for 8 months from Los Angeles to Washington State and I remember passing through towns and being drawn to the history of places and nature and we were in Calaveras County and I just love exploring its history. I was looking for source material to make a book and I came to a fork in the road – am I going to be a carnie or an artist.  And I saw these horses in Reed California – I was at a crisis point – and I saw these horses coming from the distance … there was this connection to the horses, like they were there to give me an answer … it was a turning point.

DC:  Now I’m just going to ask you about some of the images I saw on the website that really resonated with me, so many striking images.  Let’s start with “Worker’s Resistance,” tell me about that one.

MS:  “Worker’s Resistance” is a still from Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis,’ set in the industrial era, the Machine Age, the man is struggling with Time.  I thought it was the perfect image for the book called, ‘The Unpopular Ones, The Stories of 15 Men and Women Who Influenced Popular Opinion.”

DC:  “Theater of War at the Orpheum,” from 2011; what’s the story behind that piece?

MS:  “Theater of War” was a part of the “Dream Deferred” exhibition, which looked at pre-war history in Boyle Heights.  That piece shows an incident during the Zoot Suit riots at the Orpheum Theater.  There were a group of Mexican-Americans in the theater and a group of Marines dragged them onto the stage, stripped them of their clothes and started urinating on them – you see how the violence was even onstage.  The piece first looks very seductive,  then you see the Marines are carrying sticks and the men don’t have their clothes and the true story is very disturbing.

DC:  And the piece, “Dreamed Deferred,” that of course struck me.

The piece is of the Langston Hughes poem written over a photograph a man in a Japanese internment camp.

MS:  Yes, with that piece Langston Hughes is able to express it in words.  Japanese are different.   They would use haiku, they’re very quiet.   I wanted to show that oppression is not an ethnic experience – it’s one that is shared.  It’s post-identity, it’s universal.

DC:  Tell me about WAVE Project.

MS: That’s a Virtual Reality project – I just shot some new footage for the exhibit, it looks great!  I got interested in exploring it 3 years ago.  I was researching 3D cameras, and the Oculus rift came along I began experimenting with it.  I’ve got one of the first to be released and I’m using it as part of the exhibit and so far feedback has been successful in creating a sense of presence.  Now that Facebook has purchased it, the bugs will be worked out before comes to mainstream.

DC:  “Diplomacy Art?”

MS:  “Diplomacy Art” came about as an idea of relational art … a way for entities, organizations to create art to communicate and serve diplomacy between countries.

DC:  You’re Japanese-American.  Tell me about family.  Do you have siblings?

MS:  I have one brother.

DC:  And your parents – were they supportive?  How did they influence and encourage your artistic growth?

MS:  I’m from East LA.  My parents are from Japan.  My mom is a calligraphy artist, so I was taught at an early age to use ink and brush.   My father grew up on a farm, so he was really strict.  Academics were the emphasis.  But I spent lots time looking at art books and watching television growing up.  Father built things and he’s a sailor.  Mom is not very supportive…you have to have a career, job, finances …I still struggle with that.  I’m a combination of the two.  My dad’s an idealist combined with all that knowledge acquired through eight generations of rice farmers … thinking spacially, numbers and structure, due diligence, planting a seed, just having faith.

DC:  Looking at your upcoming exhibits, you’re booked solid.  You’ve got two shows in April, you’re opening here in May through June at the Porch Gallery, another show opening down town Los Angeles on May 31 at the Breed Street Shul, then in June you’re showing here again at the Ojai Valley Museum.   How do you feel about all this activity?

MS:  It’s like a golden time with a lot going on.  I feel like I’m making up for lost time or it’s just the way the stars have lined up, everything falls into place.   I’ve got the show at Shol at the end of May, the museum show, and the “Soft Machine Project” here that’s going to USC.

DC:  How’s it going?

MS:  Oh, it’s going very well.  Young and old, people are responding to it really well.

DC:  One last question; can you give me your thoughts on Ojai?

MS:  Oh, there’s so much to say … small town, big vision, I don’t know.  Everything nice has been said already.  I feel Ojai has given me the type of opportunity I’ve been seeking … to tell a story related to its history.  It’s something I’ve felt strong about since and early age; sharing that gift to an audience, representing their story in an esthetic way.

DC:  Thanks Mike.  You’d better get back.

MS: Thank you.

“We Are Spiritual Machines,” works by Mike Saijo on exhibit at Porch Gallery, Ojai, 310 E. Ojai Ave. through June 29.  For more information visit porchgalleryojai.com.  For more on Mike Saijo visit msaijo.com.


Ceasing to Teem

By Peter Bellwood

There’ll Always Be An England (from The New Statesman): Drug dealer Karl McGarry, 25, torched his own head as he tried to petrol-bomb a rival’s car. Leaning in through the window, he set fire to his furry hat, then, hat still ablaze, jumped into his getaway car and set the vehicle on fire. Pleading guilty to arson, drug dealing and burglary, he was jailed. Said Tom Swift, defending, “he was utterly and completely out of his depth.”

So you think making up comedy’s easy?! Here’s the difference between English and American humor: The English treat the commonplace as if it were remarkable, Americans the remarkable as if it were commonplace. The English also define humor as “the difference between what is planned and what actually happens.” On a more frustrating note, it’s now illegal for girls in bikinis to ride bikes in Honolulu. Causes too many accidents.  Oh, come on! How else am I supposed to have accidents?

These days, I’m running tests to see if my various bits are still functioning. Getting out of bed, I look in the mirror and recoil at the haunted gargoyle blinking back at me. Being vertical and breathing’s a good start, but does nothing to address my overriding concern: is my brain still working and will I be able to write? According to novelist and cartoonist James Thurber, the fear of the American writer is the process of aging. In a Paris Review interview, Thurber observed:

“Getting old is constantly on the mind of American writers. I’ve never known a woman who could weep about her age the way the men I know can. Various fearful writers believe their inventiveness and ability will end in their 50s, and many felt that they simply couldn’t write any more.” In Europe that’s never been the case. Thomas Hardy, for instance, who started late and kept going. Of course (the English poet, John) Keats had good reason to write:

“When I have fears that I may cease to be

 Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain.”

Classic statement. Thurber once did a drawing of a man at his typewriter, surrounded by crumpled paper, staring doomily down. “What’s the matter?” his wife is saying, “has your pen glean’d your teeming brain?” Thurber “writes basically because it’s so much fun. When I’m not writing, as my wife knows, I’m miserable. I don’t have that fear that suddenly it will all stop. I have enough outlined to last me as long as I live.”

Inevitably, as one ages — including Alexander Chancellor who writes the “Long Life” column in London’s Spectator — one has occasional fantasies of becoming a helpless, dementia-gripped vegetable at the mercy of resentful and sadistic caregivers. His immediate problem: “I couldn’t recall the name of the actress who canoodled with Leonardo DiCaprio on the stern of the Titanic, even though I’d been introduced to her at a party.” Reassurance came, however, in the form of a cheery news item saying that ‘older people’s brains do not lose capacity — they simply take longer to process the huge amount of information gathered over a lifetime.’

German research scientists at the University of Tubingen found that brains work just like computers, and when they get clogged up with stuff, they need, like them, more time to find the information they’re looking for. Said the team leader: “The brain works slower in old age, because we have stored more information over time. The brains of older people do not get weak. On the contrary, they know more.” Comforting. But the team failed to point out the essential difference between computers and human brains.

Computers don’t have to get clogged up: all disposable material can be cleared at any time. But brains don’t have a DELETE button. They just accumulate more and more information as the years go by, none of it ever to be expunged. Chancellor’ s problem was that “the memories taking precedence in my brain are the ones that I am most eager to forget. Moments of pain, embarrassment, humiliation and failure predominate over the more pleasant or creditable episodes in my life.”

I know what he means. Of course, my list’s different. He’s focused on childhood illnesses, failing exams in Russian, rejection by assorted women — things I take in my stride (except the Russian exams). My catastrophes involve, at age 6, falling into quicksand and almost being sucked under before my mother yanked me out; at 8, being placed on the back of an apparently-placid donkey, which instantly took off at a sprint. Simultaneously, the saddle, me gripping the pommel, slid 180-degrees until I was upside-down, head inches from flying sand, sharp rocks and  galloping hooves, screaming, vomiting and hanging on for dear life, And during a spell in the British Navy, having to contend with an angry Maltese sailor who attacked me with a knife after I’d beaten him in a swimming race across Portsmouth harbor and back.

Oh, and breaking my femur as I tripped over the curb at Montgomery & Matilija and crashed to the ground. I’ll never forget the sound of that bone snapping.

As writer John Mortimer — of “Rumpole Of The Bailey” fame — has observed, if you don’t have a sense of humor about getting older, you’re doomed.  When my grand- mother reached her centenary birthday, I asked her what it was like to look out on the world through the eyes of a 100-year-old woman. She thought for a moment, then said: “Well, let me ask you a question. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” She laughed at my expression. Within minutes, we decided we were both about 12!

And finally, a true heroine — Alice Herz-Sommer (1903-2014), 110 when she died this year, the oldest known survivor of the Holocaust, in which she lost her mother, other family members and close friends. Born in Prague, sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp with her husband and son, it was her love of Chopin that saved her, since the Nazis, wishing to create the impression that the camp was humane, allowed her to give concerts.

Until the end of her long life, she retained a formidable energy, which she attributed to swimming 20 lengths a day, a regime she continued until she was 99, and to a diet consisting of “fish, chicken soup and Bach.” But the most important factor of all, she believed, was optimism. “It depends on me whether life is good,” she declared. “Not on life. On me.” Amen to that.

And a last word to Alexander Chancellor. I don’t think it was on the Titanic’s stern that Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio did their canoodling. It was on the prow, wasn’t it? I’m almost sure it was, her with her arms out in the blowing gale, and DiCaprio behind her, nuzzling her ear. Memorable shot. Mind you, I’m not 100 percent certain. There could have been some Kate/Leo stern- canoodling going on which I missed. I could be wrong.

I thought I was wrong once, but then realized I was mistaken …