My Uncle Yehudi, Ravi Shankar & The Mystic East

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January 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on My Uncle Yehudi, Ravi Shankar & The Mystic East 

Menuhin (left) and Shankar (right)

Album cover

By Lionel Rolfe

The death of Ravi Shankar last week made much mention of his close friendship with the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who happened to be my uncle, with whom he made three albums, “East Meets West” in the ‘50s before Shankar hooked up with the Beatles.

Yehudi says that George Enesco, who was one of Yehudi’s earliest teachers, could perform great feats with all kinds of music. He could play any opera, symphony or chamber piece “in the most inspired fashion on the piano using various auxiliary means such as whistles, grunts and singing to convey the full impact and breadth of the score.” He orchestrated the horns with his grunts, the violins with his singing and whistles. Read more

Writers Who Write About Those Who Wrote About California

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January 1, 2013 · Posted in California Roads Scholar · Comments Off on Writers Who Write About Those Who Wrote About California 

This is Anna Duncan, one of Isadora Duncan's adopted daughters. (1926) by Arnold Genthe.

By Phyl Van Ammers

 The writers about California told us what they experienced, what they felt, and what they saw and heard.  The true diaries are transparent.  The oral narratives of the native people are sometimes transparent; sometimes they tell myths.  The myths tell us how those who told them viewed the natural and human world.  Stories that take place in California reveal the landscape both as background as actor in their lives; that is, this state’s mountains, deserts, plains and cities shape the narratives.

The writers who write about those who wrote or who gave oral testimony on their experiences interpret the incessantly transformed and forever transforming experiences bring their own interpretations, which are just as confined as moments in history’s pulse. They have points to make.  There is a thesis or several theses implicit in each collection. Read more


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January 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on THE SECOND COMING OF A SILENT FILM STAR 

Baby Peggy

By Bob Vickrey

When I received a phone call late last year, there was no mistaking the rich and resonant voice of my longtime friend Diana.

She was calling me from Northern California to tell me she had been invited to make a special appearance at the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival in Los Angeles. She wanted to make sure we arranged some time to spend together while she was in town. I informed her that I would try to work her into my very busy (retirement) schedule, which in turn, triggered that deeply intoxicating laugh I had remembered so well through the years.

My 94-year old friend, Diana Serra Cary, has seemingly lived three distinct lives. She was once a child movie star who earned millions of dollars in the 1920s. She later enjoyed a long career as a bookseller, and then while in her early sixties, launched a successful career as a writer and author. Read more

Reflections on Gnosticism

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January 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on Reflections on Gnosticism 

Han Solo : Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match
for a good blaster at your side, kid.

Luke Skywalker: You don’t believe in the Force, do you?


Leslie Evans

 Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions and Literature. Birger A. Pearson. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. 362 pp.

The Gnostic Bible: Gnostic Texts of Mystical Wisdom from the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Willis Barnstone and Marvin Meyer, eds. Boston and London: Shambhala, 2009. 880 pp.

Voices of Gnosticism . Miguel Conner. Dublin: Bardic Press, 2011. 225 pp.

Forbidden Faith: The Gnostic Legacy, from the Gospels to the Da Vinci Code . Richard Smoley. Harper San Francisco, 2006, 244 pp.


William Blake's "Elohim Creating Adam." Blake, a kind of Gnostic, believed that lower angels created the Earth, while the true God was very far away.

Gnosticism, the Hellenistic mystery religion centered in Alexandria, Egypt, predated and then merged with Christianity, only to be rejected as heresy and violently suppressed. Gnosis is merely the Greek for knowledge, and Gnosticism – more or less, the Knowers – was a coinage that dated only from commentary literature in English in the seventeenth century. The Gnostics, to begin with a single one of their characteristics, rejected the Christian idea that salvation could be achieved by faith, as well as the Greek ideas that grew into materialism. They instead claimed that there was a special secret knowledge that, if sought and learned, could allow the spirit to escape the physical body and return after death to a remote realm of nonphysical existence. Read more

Honey visits Los Angeles

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January 1, 2013 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comments Off on Honey visits Los Angeles 

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste.)

Honey visits Los Angeles

The cabbie asked me which way I wanted him to go.  I asked him to go down Willow Pass Road to the 650 and take the last exit before the bridge because otherwise we’d get trapped in Pacheco and then in Martinez side streets.  I didn’t say I once thought I could easily walk to the Best Western from the train station in the rain at Thanksgiving and it took two hours.  I was glad to have seen so much of the city but didn’t want to do it again.

We passed full parking lots at the strip malls.  I asked why no one was working.  He said that’s a good question.

Concord is more conservative than Berkeley and Oakland.  The political spectrum moves from Tea Party and Evangelicals all the way to mainstream Republican. The driver said after hesitating that he was glad Obama was getting more time to fix things.

We approached the bridge, and he turned down the road that leads to the train station. Read more

New Book by Lionel Rolfe: The Misadventures of Ari Mendelsohn

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January 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on New Book by Lionel Rolfe: The Misadventures of Ari Mendelsohn 

We are pleased to announce the publication by Boryanabooks of a new novel by Lionel Rolfe. “The Misadventures of Ari Mendelsohn” is now available in both paperback and Kindle editions from at the links immediately below.

Available In Paperback from

$11.95 6″ x 9″ 172 pages

or try the Kindle edition at $9.00

Please accept for your thoughtful consideration THE MISADVENTURES OF ARI MENDELSOHN: A Mostly True Memoir Of California Journalism. This picaresque memoir by noted author and journalist LIONEL ROLFE recounts the sexual and political travails of the irascible, blacklisted title character, a reporter still harboring his besieged idealistic belief in humanity’s innate goodness and America’s dubious potential for good amid a reality of avarice, pragmatism, cynicism, and materialism.

With his usual sharp self-deprecating wit and affable honesty, ROLFE describes Ari’s astonishing array of encounters that run the gambit from the hilarious to the horrific, from the astute to the bewildering, from the desirous to the dangerous, from the death-defying to the life-affirming. As he searches for purpose in a life of drudgery and debacle, along the way Ari must contend with a Military Academy captain with an all-too-avid interests in the students under his “command”; old-time police reporters and the corrupt detectives whom they depend on for the inside scoop; old Stalinists and labor radicals; the long-established, well-entrenched defenders of America’s conservative, God-loving majority; porn stars and gurus false and true and a holographic pin-up; and the all-too-real one-dimensional political operators and kingpins. Read more