Editor's Blog

Joseph Wakelee-Lynch

Seasonal Change

January 24, 2011

During the past few weeks, I’ve become enamored with the films of Yasujiro Ozu, a Japanese filmmaker. He made seminal movies about post-World War II Japan, including “Late Spring” and “Early Summer,” two I’ve seen recently. I’m attracted to his films because, at least in those movies, he confronts change and family relationships.

Ozu’s “Late Spring” and “Early Summer” take place in the aftermath of World War II and were made in 1949 and 1951, respectively. Japan, like it or not, was dealing with massive change in society, government, economy and, therefore, family relationships. Ozu’s films focus very tightly on how families are affected by the choices the younger generation makes in the context of an insular society in transition. In “Late Spring,” Noriko, a young unmarried woman played by the nearly beatific Setsuko Hara, wishes nothing more than to remain in her father’s household. In “Early Summer,” Hara’s character again is named Noriko. She is a 28-year-old woman who decides against her family’s wishes to marry a widowed man with a very young daughter. Her unusual decision ultimately forces her family to leave their household that had been home to three generations. Without her salary, the extended family — grandparents, children and grandchildren — cannot support their home.

“Late Spring” is wrenching, because Noriko’s emotional pain at the prospect of leaving her father sears her. And in “Early Summer,” the family is wounded because that film’s Noriko, in a moment of sudden clarity, refuses the man they hoped she'd marry and, with little warning, makes her own choice. Not only does her life change but so do the lives of her husband-to-be and his daughter, a toddler. Together, they have a hopeful future. Noriko’s family, on the other hand, will never be the same. In time, Noriko’s parents accept their daughter’s decision, and their future.

Change comes to all of us, like it or not, including universities. Buildings come down; new ones rise up or take new forms. Campus paths disappear, and new ones are paved. Even worse: Our mentors retire, or die. A few days ago, I toured the renovated Charles Von Der Ahe Building, formerly home to the LMU library. From the outside, the building remains familiar. But the change on the inside is monumental. There are hints of the former library’s former self, but the Von Der Ahe building has a renewed purpose. The next generation will be well served by it, as well as preceding ones.

Change often comes with the musty air of melancholy. The future is transformed, but so is the past, which no longer carries on into the present or future as it once did, or seemed to. When I am at my wisest, I believe that is as it should be. There comes a time in life — if we are fortunate enough to live so long — when a family’s priority turns toward the next generation. Then, change that improves young lives is welcomed, even if it means the present, or past, feels as if it may be receding like a tide.

“Late Spring” and “Early Summer” are available through The Criterion Collection.

Confession Time

January 6, 2011

I have a confession to make: I really don’t have a major problem with Saint Mary’s College. And while I’m at it, this: I used to be on their payroll. It’s true: I once was a writer for their university magazine.

Tonight is the kick-off of West Coast Conference play for our (LMU, that is) women and men’s basketball teams. Both squads take on the Saint Mary’s Gaels, the women in an away game in sleepy Moraga, and the men’s match here on the bluff.

For me, it’s a pleasure when Saint Mary’s comes to town, because it reminds me of things I admired about that place. I especially liked the story of the founder of the Christian Brothers, St. John Baptist de La Salle. His story convinced me that yes is the most powerful word in the English language.

In 1679, de La Salle, who came from a well-off family, was a priest in Reims, a small town in France. One day, two people approached him to tell him that the children of poor families needed a good education as much as the children of the wealthy. They asked him to help; he said yes. De La Salle set up a school and gathered others to help him. With little sense of what his response would lead to, De La Salle responded, and that led to the founding of more universities and high schools than he could have imagined and a worldwide order of men dedicated to educating others and sharing the religious life. I think that’s something most of us at LMU can understand.

I’ll never forget Brother DeSales Perez, even though I hardly knew him. One of the De La Salle Christian Brothers who are the founding order of the college, Brother DeSales died at the age of 73. He was central to some of the college's crucial curricular strengths. I had the sense that students in his seminars were in for an intellectual challenge equivalent to a runner's marathon. Rather than winding down during his life’s autumn, Brother DeSales was at his zenith when he passed away. I used to think that the greatest tragedy for religious orders of men and women was the death of young members. Now, the loss of those in their seventh and eighth decades seems equally tragic: A lifetime of accumulated knowledge, wisdom and service disappears in an instant. If such things can happen in heaven, then I'd like to attend a workshop where Brother DeSales and Herb Ryan, S.J., debate Lasallian vs. Jesuit education, with Sr. Peg Dolan, R.S.H.M., as moderator.

One thing Saint Mary’s does not have enough of, however, is nuns. After all, the college isn’t called Saint Mary’s Marymount College. I realize their paucity of nuns isn't exactly their fault, but facts are facts. I suppose the college will continue to get by despite that deficiency. Still, they do deserve some credit for this: Saint Mary’s provided housing to some 25 Mexican Carmelite nuns who fled persecution after the Mexican Revolution. You can visit the campus chapel today and still see the cloistered sisters' small sanctuary and the rood screen that obscured them. Of course, my sister is a nun, so that kind of generosity means a lot to me.

So when the Lions face off with the Gaels tonight, I say let's take Saint Mary's down on our court, and let's bring a W home from their house in Moraga. And, while we're at it, let's do it with authority. But I can’t treat them like the enemy, because, to me, they're like our cousins. Some Gael alumni would open a vein and donate blood if it could lead to a win. I have to admire that about them, because I admire LMU's alumni and friends for the same reason.

The LMU men's basketball team plays Saint Mary's at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 6, in Gersten Pavilion on the LMU campus. For tickets and more information, go here. The LMU women's basketball team plays an away game at 7 p.m., Jan. 6, at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, Calif. Lions fans in the Bay Area who want to support the team should go here for tickets and information about the game. Wear some gear, and be loud.

Good-Bye to a Friend

January 3, 2011

A few weeks ago, we observed a sad occasion here at LMU Magazine: the passing of a friend. As editor of the magazine, I felt it was my duty, and honor, to give the eulogy. Since many friends were unable to attend the memorial service, I’d like to share my eulogy with you.

Today is a sad day for all of us, but it is a day we all knew was coming.

For a brief time, LMU Magazine Facebook Page was a vibrant part of our lives. When LMU Magazine Facebook Page became a part of our community a few months ago, it immediately gathered lots of friends who wanted to hear everything that it had to say.

But things soon began to change for LMU Magazine Facebook Page. Those friends grew — to be honest about it — disinterested. They didn’t stop by to visit visit so often. They didn’t share as much about their lives as they did at first. I know that I didn’t show interest as I should have. And I’ll have to live with my regrets.

LMU magazine Facebook Page began to suffer from an increasing loneliness. Who could blame it for wondering if anyone really cared? In a short period, its world seemed bereft of simple human contact. LMU Magazine Facebook Page’s condition soon became irreversible.

Yet, there is a silver lining in this cloud: The impact of LMU Magazine Facebook Page will go on in our lives. We have harvested its organs — its electrons that gave it such a rich existence. They will be transplanted into Loyola Marymount University Facebook Page, the older, and healthier, sibling of LMU Magazine Facebook Page. (Loyola Marymount University Facebook Page, as you can imagine, has been a bit forlorn lately and would be happy with few more friends, as would LMU Alumni Association Facebook Page). The vibrancy that first characterized LMU Magazine Facebook Page will forever energize the wider LMU community. For that, we can all be grateful.

So today we say good-bye to our friend, LMU Magazine Facebook Page. It will live forever in the caches of our minds.

Facebook readers who liked the LMU Magazine can get updates about interviews and stories in the magazine and on LMU Magazine Online at Loyola Marymount University's Facebook page.