Interview: Jacob Needleman: Art & Philosophy, Oakland, CA 11/21/00 photo - r. whittaker I visited Jacob Needleman at his home. We sat out on his deck in the sun and talked...      Richard Whittaker:  Not too long ago I heard Lobsang Rapgay, a psychologist and Tibetan Buddhist from Los Angeles speak. One thing he talked about was "a tremendous fatigue of thinking in the West that prevents us from thinking aesthetically." He said this way of thinking makes it possible "to transform a numinous experience and share it"... To be shared, he said, "it has to be transformed in a way that someone else ... Sep 21, 2004, 34549 reads


Interview: Charles Bigger--On Philosophy: Baton Rouge, LA Photo - Richard Whittaker In the summer of 2002, I went to Baton Rouge to be with my brother, John, while he underwent the "Whipple," a brutal surgery to remove part of his pancreas. The prospect had stirred much worry among those closest to him. John had come to LSU accepting their proposal that he found a Religious Studies Department there. It would have close ties with the Philosophy Department and, in fact, John had served as head of the combined departments for some years.      He brought with him his credentials from Yale and a deep ... Aug 18, 2002, 25146 reads


Interview: James George: If Not Now, When? SF, CA 12/24/04 James George is a retired Canadian ambassador with a long-standing record of service concerning environmental issues. A founder of the Threshold Foundation and president of the Sadat Peace Foundation, he led the international mission to Kuwait and the Persian Gulf to assess post-war environmental damage. He is also the author of Asking for the Earth and The Little Green Book On Awakening. I talked with James George and Barbara Wright in San Francisco at Barbara's apartment a few weeks before their marriage. Richard Whittaker:  Let's start with the here ... Dec 24, 2004, 76442 reads


Interview with Karl Linn: Community Gardens: Reclaiming a Commons I first met Karl Linn at a symposium in Oakland in September of 2000. Ivan Illich and several of his friends, at the request of Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, had come to town to discuss questions of place, the commons and what approaches to the civic environment might help engender well-being. It wasn’t long before I realized I was among a group of people who had spent decades trying to learn and understand basic principles which could lead to enlightened public planning and urban development.      In the audience on several occasions, I had noticed Linn, a quiet man ... Apr 29, 2001, 20219 reads


I Touch Art: I touch art. I've done it all my life. It's always the same touching though there's been an evolution of rationale. I no longer consider it an act of rebellion nor a political statement, not even, sadly, a source of secret joy. It is done the way babies bring together so neatly object and pleasure: into their mouths. Of course I don't eat art; and with the exception of Squeak Carnwath's work I don't even lick it - who could resist that surface? The mysterious depth and smoothness, and so like satin or butterscotch!      There is, ... Apr 5, 2003, 24436 reads


Working with Hot Material: A Conversation with Marcia Donahue I sat with Marcia Donahue in the kitchen of her ample old wood frame house festooned with an exuberant overflow of tribal artifacts, objets d'art, weavings, carpets, carvings, statuaries - and if that were not enough, the walls and ceilings had all been transformed by the unrestrained stylings of Mark Bulwinkle. With Marcia, in terms of letting the creative force run wild, the garden outside matched the garden inside. The combination of gardening and art led to my first question… Richard Whittaker:  Do gardening and sculpture have ... Jul 2, 1999, 26840 reads


A Conversation with Tom Leddy: Is This A Garden? San Jose State University 11/21/99 At the time of our conversation, Tom Leddy was Acting Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at San Jose State University. He specializes in the philosophy of art and aesthetics. A former member of the Board of Trustees of the American Society for Aesthetics, Leddy, has published numerous articles in such publications as the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, the British Journal of Aesthetics, Philosophy Today, Journal of Value and Inquiry, and the Journal of Aesthetic Education. His work on gardens is discussed in the article on gardens in The Enclyclopedia of ... Sep 21, 2000, 34885 reads


The Sound of One Hand Clapping: An Conversation with Terrance Meyer One morning I looked up from my cup of tea in a local coffee shop and was surprised to see a man at work on a little painting sitting at a table nearby. Such a sight was a first for me in this particular neighborhood. I walked over, took a peek, and was surprised again. It was really good. I complimented him on his work and we struck up a conversation.        He was just passing through, he told me. He’d been in Seattle and had come down to the Bay Area where he was staying for a few days with a friend. It didn’t sound like his accommodations were ... Oct 2, 2000, 46729 reads


James Hajicek: To Fall in Darkness: Gifts of Suffering/Gifts of Rejoicing Contributing editor Jane Rosen brought the photography of James Hajicek to my attention. The work made a strong impression with its mysterious quality, evocative of an intersection in the world of night where elements of the solid world meet spirit, a place of the unconscious where one can imagine transformation.      In a note to me, Hajicek wrote that this work came at a time "in the middle of my life when one has to face everything that one has previously engaged in (and believed in) and realizes one has essentially been lost, wandering aimlessly, or at ... Jun 4, 2001, 25172 reads


Art and Healing: A Conversation with Katherine Sherwood Katherine Sherwood has been on the art faculty at the University of California at Berkeley for many years. Hers is a remarkable story. Having first studied art history, Sherwood found her way into a studio practice and became a painter. Her work was being noticed in the Bay Area when she suffered a serious cerebral hemorrhage paralyzing her right side. Impatient with the slowness of rehabilitation therapy, she decided to go back into the studio and try to paint, having to use her left hand. The return to painting turned out to be the most healing therapy she could have imagined. She was ... Mar 27, 2002, 30842 reads


A Life of One's Own: A Conversation with James Hubbell [This interview took place approximately a year and a half before the southern California fires that burned much of the Hubbell property. The property has since been substantially restored.]      I met with James Hubbell at his home northeast of San Diego, a compound of eight hand-made buildings constructed over a period of several years. Included are living quarters, studios, workshops, and a gallery. On most days there are apprentices, employees, and volunteers busy at work on stained glass windows, ceramic pieces, stone sculptures, specially designed gates, doors ... Apr 18, 2002, 32482 reads


An American Artist In Japan: Katina Huston I came to Japan by accident and opportunity and the generosity of Kikuko Sakota, a former student in an art class I taught in San Francisco four summers ago. Three years later she called. Kikuko was returning to Japan. Could I come? —If I were to have a show I could. 7/8 Tokyo I arrive in Tokyo at 8 pm Sunday night and Reiko Nakamura, another former student of mine meets me at the airport. The trip to my guest house is two hours by train and then three subways. I find myself uncomfortable with her generosity. I don’t know her very well and she is looking ... , 12979 reads


A Man Impossible to Classify: photo: r. whittaker One of my first experiences in San Francisco was of being flagged down by a stranger as I drove toward the intersection of Frederick and Stanyan Streets at the edge of Golden Gate Park. My friend Malcolm Hall and I, both college students, had driven up the coast highway from Los Angeles in my 1953 Plymouth. The year was 1965. We were headed toward the Haight-Ashbury.        Maybe forty yards short of the intersection, I saw him standing on the curb, a disheveled young man, not quite in the hippie mold. He was looking ... Dec 21, 2007, 749646 reads


Conversation with Denise Zabalaga: We Are All the Other June 19 2008 San Rafael Photojournalist Denise Zabalaga grew up in Switzerland with her Italian mother and Bolivian father. Italian and Spanish were spoken at home. When Denise was sent to school she didn’t know the German spoken there, an experience that gave her a lifelong feeling for, and identification with, the outsider. The experience brought with it the gift of being free from the projection of fear and mistrust upon the stranger. Instead of fear, Zabalaga has a deep interest in people of other cultures and has been able to look past the media coverage of the ... Jul 6, 2008, 19653 reads


The Skittish Stallion:      Another story is about a horse. We couldn’t have bought this beautiful farm had we not been able to have some help. Well there was a great apartment in the top floor of the barn. So we advertised for someone who could help us with our 58 acres and they would have a place to live. We had pages of the names of all those who responded to our ad, and there was one couple that stood out. She had an agriculture degree in stable management. He had a horticulture degree. And they had this little baby, Shane. They would each be able to keep their day jobs and still ... Jul 6, 2008, 9207 reads


Bridges To Cross: A Conversation with Michael Grbich, Oakland, CA Sept. 10 09 I first met Mike over thirty years ago. He was unfailingly personable and upbeat in a way that always left me feeling better. And, lucky me, he was a neighbor! One day I was walking out of the house with a tennis racket (back in the day) and ran into Michael. "You play tennis?" he asked me with obvious relish.      Then and there I learned about his love for the game. He'd been a serious player, but a severe injury put an end to any hope of a professional career. He showed me his disfigured right hand saying, "But I discovered I ... Oct 5, 2009, 26110 reads


Nipun Mehta: A Journey to Service: Photo - R. Whittaker [An edited version of this interview first appeared in Parabola Magazine -- Vol. 34 number 4, Winter 2009, "The Way Ahead"]   Nipun Mehta was born in Ahmedabad, India in 1975. When he was twelve, his family moved to Santa Clara, California in the heart of Silicon Valley.      I met Mehta in 2007.  Having heard several amazing stories about him from Paul Van Slambrouck, retired editor of the Christian Science Monitor, I asked for an introduction. The three of us met one afternoon at a taqueria in Berkeley. In no ... Jun 9, 2009, 75771 reads


Threshold Choir: An Interview with Kate Munger: February 27, 2010 Inverness, California As I drove up to Inverness on a Saturday morning a light rain fell intermittently and as I neared town, the clouds began to break up a little. Turning off Sir Francis Drake soon I was on Vision Road. Following my jotted notes, the roads became smaller and then the pavement ended. I faced a steep dirt road and wondered if the car could manage it in the rain. And where was I? The car did climb the road and it wasn't long before I was walking up a driveway hidden among the moss-covered trees.       I first heard about Kate Munger and the Threshold Choir ... Apr 17, 2010, 38788 reads


A Conversation with Haricharan Das: In the Company of Saints Photo: R. Whittaker 11/20/09 Meeting Haricharan Das was one of those happy improbabilities you could never have made up. My wife had been reminding me for months that the paint on our house was peeling off and that if I didn't get on the ball and deal with it, we'd regret it. So finally I got online and looked at the Berkeley Parents' Network, a great resource for recommendations. I called a painter with rave reviews and a few days later, my doorbell rang. A tall man with a shaved head and olive complexion stood there smiling. He was ready to take a ... Jul 27, 2010, 43774 reads


Interview with Fredric Fierstein: An Outrageous Act The story leading up to this interview includes the influence of my having read Peter Kingsley's A Story Waiting to Pierce You. In his book, Kingsley hypothesizes that a mysterious figure, Abaris, traveled from Mongolia to Greece to meet Pythagoras. Abaris is mentioned in several ancient texts, usually carrying an arrow, a symbol of shamanic power.       A few years before having read Kingsley's book, I'd been bicycling around the Berkeley marina one day, when I was surprised to come upon a warrior archer astride a mythical beast that looked ... Feb 23, 2011, 67126 reads


Following Taya: As many readers of this magazine will know, Taya Doro Mitchell is unusual. [see issue #16] What readers won't know is that, at the age of 74, Taya left East Oakland and moved to a small agricultural community on the Rio Grande in New Mexico. It wasn't that Taya was tired of her practice of decorating the new bullet holes in her windows from nighttime activities in her neighborhood. She had lived there a long time and wasn't afraid, she told me, even coming home late at night-which was typical. And she was content with solitude, she assured me.       Taya ... Sep 22, 2011, 48549 reads


Interview: Gail Needleman: Music Is Something You Do Gail Needleman taught music at Holy Names University in Oakland, California. Her work as a writer and teacher addressed the essential role of music in the moral and spiritual development of children. She received a Parsons Fellowship from the Library of Congress for research in American folk music, and is the co-creator of the American Folk Song Collection website, a pioneering online resource of American folk songs for teaching music to children. We met at her home in Oakland to talk about music...   Richard Whittaker:  How did music enter your life? What were ... Apr 16, 2012, 196953 reads


A Conversation with Joan Di Stefano: The Action of Light It was a Saturday open house at John Toki’s Leslie Ceramics, a mecca for Bay Area clay artists of all kinds—an all-day affair with demonstrations, exhibitors, raffle prizes, hot dogs, socializing and the good cheer that seems to accompany all those who work with clay. John had given me my own table to display copies of works & conversations. There must have been ten or fifteen such tables and people had been circulating, cross-pollinating and having a good time. And now the party was starting to wind down.          ... May 11, 2012, 109505 reads


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