Monday, August 31, 2009

5000 and counting

A while back I told you about the "Jesus Movie," which has been translated into an incredible thousand languages and shown on temporary screens by Christian missionaries throughout the world. Well, it turns out a thousand languages is nothing! As I just learned from Adele Horne's understated if somewhat sneaky documentary "The Tailenders," Los Angeles-based Global Recordings Network has been making audio recordings of Bible stories since 1939 (some of the languages they recorded are now extinct!). They have produced records, cassettes and CDs in over five thousand eight hundred languages and dialects (!) - along with nifty simplified players from the cardboard recordplayer above to hand-cranked cassette decks (which play but don't record).

As the film shows it, GRN missionaries sound out a potential audience for language and preexisting beliefs before choosing a tape appropriate to them, bringing the Good News to people in their very own idiom. In some cases, not only is the technology new to these audiences, but hearing their own language from it is next to miraculous. And yet, Horne wonders, what do people actually hear? It's hard to know, and not just because of challenges in translation.

Consider, for instance, Script 418, targeted at "Animist" audiences. Accompanied by a picture book with 24 images, it goes from Genesis through Noah to Job and Abraham (in case you wondered if anyone still places Job into the period of the patriarchs) before ending with Jesus. Here's how the story of Job is told (adaptation to local circumstances is permitted if required to make the story relevant).

9. Job Worships God. Job 1:1-12
The man in this picture is Job. He worshipped and sacrificed only to the One True God. He did not follow Satan's ways. Job had many children and servants, and large herds of animals. God had caused Job to become very rich. One day God told Satan that He was pleased with Job. But Satan said that Job only worshipped God in order to be rich. He said to God, "If You take away everything that Job has, he will curse You." God knew that Satan lied. He knew that Job would worship Him even if he were poor. So God let Satan take everything from Job to prove that Job was a good man. (Signal)

10. Job in Mourning. Job 1:13-22
One day Job's servants brought him terrible news. Job's enemies had stolen his oxen and donkeys and killed his servants. Lightning had killed all his sheep and their shepherds. Bandits had stolen all of his camels. Another servant brought the worst news of all, saying, "Your children were feasting when a storm blew the house down and killed them all." Job shaved his head and fell to the ground. He said, "The Lord gave, and now He has taken away. May His Name be praised!" In all these troubles Job did not curse God. (Signal)

11. Job Suffers. Job 2:1 - 41:34
Satan said to God, "If you hurt Job's body he will curse You!" So God allowed Satan to test Job again. Satan brought a terrible skin disease on Job. Job's wife said to him, "Why don't you curse God and die?" But Job refused and said to her, "Shall we accept good from God and not trouble too?" Three friends came and talked with Job for many days. They said that God was punishing Job for some evil he had done. Then God Himself appeared to them. God showed them that they did not understand. God is unlimited in power. He knows all things. He knows what is best for us, and He alone can choose a difficult or an easy life for us. (Signal)

12. Job is Restored. Job 42:1-17
When Job saw the greatness of God he was ashamed that he had doubted God or had talked of his own goodness. Job prayed for his friends because they did not understand the ways of God. Then God made Job wealthy and healthy again. His friends came to feast with him and to bring him gifts. God gave him seven sons and three beautiful daughters. He lived to see many of his descendants, and he died a very old man. Friends, God knows why you may suffer in this life. Remember, God loves us and only wants the best for us. He wants us to trust Him so that we may have victory over Satan through the Lord Jesus Christ. (Music)

The story's almost there, I guess, though the sequence of the end is a bit shaky and Job's voice is, well, a bit muffled. We don't hear him protest his innocence, or curse the day of his birth, let alone wonder at the ways of the divine. But then, while God is pleased with him, there's no suggestion that this Job is the most upright of men. In fact, we learn that he doubted God and praised himself - and was then duly ashamed of himself.

But how much of even this declawed version of the story will work in other languages? "The Tailenders" shows a Oaxacan convert trying to render a message about sin in Mixteca - but this language apparently doesn't have words for key notions like "punish"! How would Job's story be rendered? I was about to say that surely this is a story which must work in any language - but then remembered that it hardly works even in English, at least not easily or unequivocally!

Horne offers no direct answer to her questions about what people actually take from the GRN recordings. But she gestures toward saying that it is in any case the form - more than the content - which effects conversions, if conversions they are: sound, technology, wealth, power appeal to people whose very survival is threatened by globalization. (It's characteristic of the film that Horne doesn't ask her missionary subjects what they think of this view - I suspect they're on her wavelength, at least part of the time - let alone any of their audiences.) In the meanwhile, GRN - undaunted - is taking up the "10K challenge" - to evangelize in the all the remaining languages spoken on our planet.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saint Julia

I finally went to see Nora Ephron's "Julie & Julia" today, with my friend D - it's wonderful! It was some of the things I was expecting (from reviews, and from the gushing recommendations of friends), and also some I wasn't expecting. As anticipated, Meryl Streep was having so much fun being Julia Child that I entered a sort of ecstasy every time she appeared on screen. The food was indeed almost indecently beautiful. And everyone was terrific. I didn't, didn't, didn't want the film to end.

I didn't expect to like the other plot - the one about Julie Powell, the lost 30-year-old writer played by Amy Adams who finds herself by working her way through all the recipes in Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogging about it. (I feel absolutely no solidarity with other bloggers!) But I did, and not just because she's married to a boeuf Bourguignon of a man. I didn't find the story of Julie Powell overshadowed by that of Julia Child, let alone a drag on it. Instead, I found myself (once the film ended) fascinated by how the two stories fit together. My conclusion: Julia Child is a kind of secular saint, and the film "Julie & Julia" at once a secular hagiography and a wise secular account of saints and their cults.

I'm serious - and I'm not even referring to the healing power of real food, the sacrament of film, and the cult of St. Meryl! The word "saint" is mentioned humorously in "Julie & Julia" (Julie calls her husband Eric a saint for putting up with her, until it grates on him - he may be a saint but doesn't want to be one) but the whole story is about Julie discovering her patron saint in Julia. Julie starts to dress like Julia Child (Eric helps, getting her a string of pearls), describes conversing with Julia while cooking and feeling she's there with her in the kitchen, and finally reports that Julia Child saved her. The film ends with a pilgrimage to the sacred shrine of Julia Child - the kitchen (from the television series) preserved at the Smithsonian; grateful Julie leaves a pound of butter with the guestbook under the icon.

But there's more. At least I think there is. What exactly is the relationship between the two stories we see? We see the start of Julia's story before the start of Julie's, but the story of Julia is conjured up by Julie's - the title of the film is the title of Julie Powell's book. I think the story of Julia Child's life we see is in Julie Powell's mind. It's the Julia Child whom Julie Powell believes in - needs to believe in, the Julia Child who "saves" Julie Powell. This Julia, seeking to lead a meaningful life without a regular career and as a woman without glamor or children, saves the world through cooking. (She doesn't just change the world; she allows American housewives to participate in the sacred mysteries of cuisine, and so saves them as women, even or perhaps especially in our own reputedly post-feminist moment.)

Was the real Julia Child as inspiring as Meryl Streep's Julia Child? Was she energetic and optimistic without being annoying, boisterous without being loud, a world-changer without pretension? Did she fill people with ecstasy through her very joie de vivre? Maybe so - though the film itself suggests otherwise. (The real Julia Child, informed of Julie Powell's blog, is reportedly "a bit of a pill.") But it doesn't really matter. For the real Julia Child - as saintly Eric says once he's survived the trying if tasty ordeal of his wife's novitiate exercises - is the Julia who saved Julie, "the Julia Child in your mind."

Hence secular hagiography, and wisdom - not skepticism - about what drives hagiography and the cults of the saints. We can see that people need and are saved by saints without supposing saints actually exist (though we can hope they do, without quite wanting to be saints ourselves). The fact that we who need saintly saving to some extent create the very saints who save us - our need makes them saints - in no way undermines the reality of the saving. If I teach my Saints class again, we're watching this movie!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Net or gross?

This is from BeliefNet's appeal to advertisers. Do "Faith" and "Inspiration" correspond to "Religion" and "Spirituality," I wonder? Are there really only a few Americans who accept "Faith" but reject "Inspiration" (one in a thousand!) - or do they just know better than to frequent BeliefNet? As you know, I'm using Rupert Murdoch-owned BeliefNet's "Belief-O-Matic" and Knock Knock's Savvy Convert's Guide to Choosing a Religion to titillate and then trouble students as we begin "Theorizing Religion" on Tuesday. It will help me raise questions about definitions of religion (and what's not religion - worse or better), how the contemporary American religious landscape is like and unlike the religious landscapes of other times and places, and if religion is or should be a market. This is a new approach: grabbing the bull by the horns.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Consider dis

We've just completed orientation for new students; the new academic year begins Monday! But after a year as dramatic as last year, can we just go on as if nothing had happened? Not if the anarchist students behind some of the last year's protests can help it! They've put together a guide which fills new students in on what happened last year, asserts that The New School is at the center of fighting capitalism in NY, and suggests things students should and should not do. One thing they should not do, it turns out, is homework. Work is still work. It is the theft of your free time, by an authority disguising itself as something for your own good, an agreement you have entered in exchange for a reward, be it academic skills, knowledge, grades, a paycheck, whatever. It is miserable bullshit, and yet as of our present condition we must work, as employees and as students. What to do? Read on: some students you thought were just coasting were in fact unwitting anarchists.
In the end, their argument is not against engagement with your classes, but against a mercenary attitude to learning. You should give time and effort to your study because it is an expression of freedom and creativity, not because it's assigned or expected or rewarded. If the subject matter excites you or you discover you have a unique angle, if your views are something you want to talk about, share or even publish, if Suddenly you want to integrate the philosophy you read into your daily life ... You have transcended homework. School's out FOREVER! This sounds good to me, though I'm "old school" enough to think that often the things you most need to learn are those you don't yet know how to care about. It's our job as teachers and colleagues to show how and why to care more - one thing I've learned here is the importance of doing this. But the process is doomed from the start if a student doesn't know learning's something one can or should care about in the first place.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Actually I did find some images from the Eadwine Psalter which I mentioned yesterday. Turns out that since these pages arrived in the collection alone, excised from their original source, they are cataloged just as M.521 and M.724. These images - of Moses and Joshua, miracles of Jesus, and the linkage of Old and New Testaments through Jesus' nativity in David's city and the tree of Jesse - are primitive in some ways (like the roughly contemporary ceiling at Zillis!), but decisively the work of an artist self-consciously using space and color to tell his story.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Biblioclasm vs. forgery

Went up to the Morgan Library this afternoon with my old friend B, a medievalist in training at Oxford. Our object was the exhibition "Pages of Gold: Medieval Illuminations from the Morgan." At right is the one of which they're proudest, "Scenes from the Life of David" from the Winchester Bible (c. 1160-8) - you can examine it in glorious detail here - though I was more taken by the comic book-like Eadwine Psalter (1155-60), of which I can alas find no images online.

I learned some new words, too: (1) biblioclasm - a word American Otto F. Ege (1888-1951) used to describe his cutting up of old books and reframing the illustrations in helpful suites of contrasting styles for educational purposes. (2) grangerization - cutting illustrations from one book to decorate another, named after 19th century Brit James Granger.

These terms describe the founding sin of collections of illuminations. Almost all the illuminations we saw had been victims of either biblioclasm or grangerization or both - since the eighteenth century sellers have known they can get a lot more for an illustrated book by cutting it up and selling each image separately. (This is why the great psalters - like the Winchester and the Eadwine - survive only in a few images, sold to different collections.) The practice continues to this day. One caption told the horrifying story of someone who'd got his hands on a medieval manuscript, had cut it in tiny slivers, and was selling them on eBay starting at $1 each.

Is there any way of stopping this? The exhibition curators allowed themselves a mischievous wish, in a caption next to three forgeries (by the Spanish Forger, a turn of the (20th) century artist whom the Morgan has turned into a cottage industry!). "Unfortunately no new forger has come forward to help satisfy the demand for single leaves and cuttings, and some dealers are still shamelessly cutting up manuscripts."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


This is why I didn't want to go see Lynn Nottage's play "Ruined," even after it won this year's Pulitzer prize for drama. "Ruined" is a play about women who've suffered the most awful kinds of violence and abuse in the civil war in the Congo, based on interviews with Congolese refugee women in Uganda: the woman above, Muzima Salima, is one of them. The "ruined" women of the play are not just victims of abduction, gang rape, etc. whose families and villages have renounced them. They are those women who have been so horrifically assaulted that they are no longer "good for sex," and so can't even scrape by as prostitutes. I didn't want to think about them or their plight. Shame on me.

My friend B got me to go see "Ruined" with her tonight (she didn't want to go on her own), and I'm so glad she did. The production (on only until September 6th at Manhattan Theatre Club) is fantastic. The acting is brilliant. The set is gorgeous. And the play is powerfully but understatedly complex, with moments of levity as well as an underlying and often explosive tension. It has its share of predictable interactions (probably necessary with subject matter this challenging), but the overall shape of the story - who's the main character? what kind of story is this? what kind of resolution could there be for the characters' problems? - remains uncertain until the end (and, if you let it, beyond). What dare we hope for these characters, not wanting false comfort and yet heartbroken over their suffering? (Heartbroken doesn't begin to describe it actually.) There is resolution of a kind at the end, for some of the characters. But the uprooted, unsettled and yet not entirely hopeless world the play describes leaves the stronger impression.

The most important lines and scenes are wordless, carried by gestures, looks, and even the ways in which the main actresses hold their bodies - and those I'll remember for a long, long time. Go see it if you can.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Nobody steps on a church in my town!

Just watched "Ghostbusters" - 25 years old this year, but my first viewing - the film we're screening Thursday night as part of first year orientation (chosen by the seminar fellows). It's a romp (though it has the sluggish deadpan of a certain kind of American comedy), and affords lots of spectacular New York views. Behold Columbus Circle once upon a time, and Lincoln Center before all the high rises rose up around it (in the foreground 55 Central Park West, enhanced for the film to be the kind of ziggurat many Art Deco skyscrapers aspire to be). In a way it's a good fit for a New School orientation too since the Ghostbusters also were at Columbia University before setting up their own enterprise! And it contains the wonderful line, "Nobody steps on a church in my town!" when the giant marshmallow man crushes Trinity Lutheran Church.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


This week's New York Times Magazine is all about women's rights issues around the world. Well worth a read (which you can't say about everything they publish). Especially soberingis Tina Rosenberg's "The Daughter Deficit," which shows that development in many ways actually compounds neglect (or worse) of daughters. The cover story, "Why Women's Rights are the Cause of Our Time" by Nicholas D. Kristof and Cheryl WuDunn, is an excerpt from Kristof and WuDunn's forthcoming book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Slavery was the "paramount moral challenge" of the 19th century, they argue, and totalitarianism that of the 20th. "In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape." They link this with the growing body of thought which sees aid to women as the most effective way to foster development, but also to reduce fanaticism and conflict. I hope their argument (which Sec'y of State Clinton, interviewed in a separate piece in this issue, shares) gains a wide readership.

But one needn't wait for governments and international aid agencies to get the point. Kristof and WuDunn include a list of ways to help, called "Do-It-Yourself Foreign Aid." One of the things they mention is something I'd heard about before, and I decided to give it a try. describes itself as "the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe." For as little as $25, you can lend money to specific people and projects in countries around the world. All your money goes to those who've requested the loans (though Kiva suggests you contribute an additional 15% to cover their own costs of operation) - different donors chip in to provide the full sums requested - and most of these loans are paid back in full within a year. (The loans are administered through field partners.) Kiva lenders then generally lend the money out anew, though they don't have to.

It's very user friendly, and I quickly became a kiva lender. I looked over the available projects, and chose some in Latin America, Central Asia and Africa from the end of the "Sort by popularity" list (underdogs!) - and mostly women: a general store, a food market, a cereal dealer, a service cooperative, a shoe store...

It felt really good to make my money, which usually just sits around doing nothing (or worse), available in this way. But it also felt weird, for a few reasons. For one, I was choosing - what do I know about how to choose, how people get on this list? Is there any reason to think my preferences will line up with true need or desert? Was I wrong not to fund women who are setting up cosmetics businesses, or auto parts shops, for instance? What right have I to say yes to one and no to another?

Another reason it's odd is that I get to feel like I've given a lot to many, when I've really only given a little - the total of all my microloans is less than the full sum requested by any of the entrepreneurs. I feel like Daddy Warbucks, philanthropist extraordinaire, but I'm really more like someone giving 1 rupee to each of a line of beggars. Except they're not even beggars, and I can get the Rupees back! It's weird to feel that I'm doing something good when I'm basically risking next to nothing. It seems like cheating!

Why this moral queasiness over what is really just, well, capitalism? Well, because it's capitalism! Me funding entrepreneurs? I'm an anti-entrepreneur! This isn't my first experience being a capitalist, of course, though it may be the first time I'm fully aware of it. A mutual fund is pretty much the same sort of thing as kiva (though it's designed to make profit), and I'm a big fan of Heifer (though the mechanisms of the market are disguised there in animal reproduction, and I'm actually giving something away). But this is the first time in which it's personal this way - or at least seems, thanks to a website, so.

Maybe this is a very good thing! I won't let it take the place of actual giving. And in the meantime, I'll get journal updates from "my" projects. And a new social networking opportunity (not that I was looking for one!), as each lender gets a page (if s/he wants it) and can find and befriend other lenders who've contributed to the same causes, etc. It seems too ... easy, but I'm happy to see at least this cycle through. I'll keep you posted!

Friday, August 21, 2009


It's sweltering back here in New York - today was another heat advisory, temps nearing 90, with lots of humidity. Since I don't have AC I'm dependent on a fan and cold drinks, but all is well: today I had a chance to go to my favorite Japanese grocer and I'm all stocked up on mugicha (roasted barley tea). It's the antithesis of sweetened carbonated beverages. Nothing refreshes like it - not even ice water pur!

When a circle isn't a circle

Just completed two full days of training for the peer advisers; they will be helping our incoming students navigate college and the city in weekly workshops over the coming semester. I really like these students, and they seem to like each other, so I'm looking forward to an exciting semester working together. (Through this program I am exposed to a much wider range of students than in my classes; since there are no distribution requirements at our school, a professor's students are entirely self-selecting. The vast majority of our students wouldn't select a religious studies class if it were the last space open; through my work as coordinator of the first year program I meet many more!)

Part of today's training was devoted to a diversity workshop. The coordinator started by having students play a game about labeling and power. Signs with names of social categories were taped to people's backs, and they had to mill about trying to figure out who/what they were and interacting with others as who/what they were supposed to be. The categories ranged from professions (teacher, judge, politician, policeman) to racial and gender categories (Latino man, white woman, black man). Amazingly quickly, students figured out who/what they were supposed to be.

At this point they were asked to array themselves in a line from those who have power to those who don't. Predictably, one end was CEO, banker, politician, policeman, judge (some disagreement about how to arrange those last three); white woman did pretty well, too - better than teacher. At the other end (after some discussion) came black man, Latino man, black woman, and, last, Latina woman. (There's no right way to do this, but this choice confirmed why the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court means so much.)

The next task was to rearrange themselves the way things should be. They decidedly, quickly, that a line - any line - was a problem, and formed a circle. I was hearing John Lennon's "Imagine" in my mind and assumed it would stop there, but, interestingly, it did not. Everyone was uncomfortable at the simplifications of the game - a policeman could be black, a judge could be a Latina woman! This was what was supposed to happen; the simplifications had to be recognized as simplifications, useful for a game starting a discussion but harmful in society where too many interactions are governed by them. In response they didn't just throw all the gender and race labels into the center - what I would have done, but I can see that this could have seemed in its own way an erasing of difference. (The coordinator told me that some groups who play this game throw all the labels away, others form several circles...)

What they did instead, strangely, was start moving people around within the circle. Since the circle had been formed by looping the original line into a circle, the disempowered were still all on one side and the most powerful at the other, but the rearrangements weren't about mixing these up, distributing them across the circle, but about lining up an ideal chain of command or authority between different governing professions, so it was all on one side of the circle. The circle still clearly had a power orientation - the powerless weren't part of these utopian strivings. "A circle's a circle!" I wanted to interject.

What to make of the inability to imagine a real circle, a round table, to "imagine no possessions, ... no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man, imagine all the people, sharing all the world"? Is it wisdom or cynicism, pragmatism or conservatism, Obama or post-Obama? Or perhaps they grew up with the Lion King's "circle of life" which glosses over the fact that it's still a circle of some eating others, in a song sung to the king of the animals. (South Park's "Circle of Poo" makes the point better.)

Or perhaps it's our inability to imagine true equality anymore. Had this been a class I was running, I would have raised the question about circles, asked them if they could imagine power as something which isn't hierarchical (some have it, others don't - indeed, some's having it seems to require others' not having it) but shared. Then some Marx, some Walden II, some Dewey. We'd have to talk about how societies make decisions about the general good and how these are implemented. And then a quick hop to liberation theology and pedagogy - for it may be only from the unity of the powerless than a unity with shared power is imaginable.

Of course, it is my class - we meet once a week for the whole semester - so I may well have a chance to return to this.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Just finished Amitav Ghosh's fascinating novel The Hungry Tide, which tells of the Sundarbans (tide country) between Calcutta and the Ganges Delta - generally mangrove- covered islands which are shaped and reshaped by massive tides which submerge many of the islands twice daily. (Satellite pic above from Wikipedia; map below from the book.) Mixing fresh and salt water, the Sundurbans generate an extraordinary congeries of shifting micro- climates, and allow Ghosh (for whom everything is a metaphor, and nothing is ever incidental) to seem to be operating on the level of myth even as he spins an often ripping yarn. The tide countries, where the very rhythms of the earth were quickened (186), swell with allegory. They are that part of Bengal, they are India, they are human history, they are time itself.

A good example - and also a surprisingly compelling analogy for religion in much of human history - is this reflection one character (a linguist) makes on finding that a fisherman's puja song to the goddess Bon Bibi is, in fact, a prayer to Allah. (He'd assumed the man must be Hindu.) (The song is written in a strange mixture of languages and is, for good measure, a hybrid of prose and poetry mingling like sweet water and salt; if Ghosh's writing has a vice it is this hypersignification, which can make things seem contrived.)

I have seen confirmed many times, that the mudbanks of the tide country are shaped not only by rivers of silt, but also by rivers of language: Bengali, English, Arabic, Hindi, Arakanese and who knows what else? Flowing into one another they create a proliferation of small worlds that hang suspended in the flow. And so it dawned on me: the tide country's faith is something like one of its great mohonas, a meeting not just of many rivers, but a roundabout people cane use to pass in any directions - from country to country and even between faiths and religions. (205-6)

I'm going to try out this image of religious worlds as like roundabouts on my students this semester. (I may need to explain roundabouts, first!) It describes the cohabitation of religious traditions characteristic of much of Asia well - and perhaps also the American religious landscape of religious pluralism. (Picture source.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Also on the flight, which offers all viewers the opium of thirty-odd channels fo DirecTV, I spotted these results of an NBC poll confirming that people who believe patent falsehoods about the Obama health care plan are disproportionately consumers of "news" sources like Fox. Sadly, of course, Fox-viewers quite considerably outnumber NBC-viewers (who are clearly susceptible to misinformation and rumor, too). Who could set these people right - whom would they listen to?

Wide land!

You've accompanied me across America before, but it's stunning every time - especially the morning flights (we flew at 8:01). This time we were routed farther north than usual, so after seeing San Diego county reduced to little islands above the marine layer and a few arrested golf developments as the desert began, we were treated to badlands along the AZ/UT border, snow-specked mountains, and eventually the narrow sliver between Lakes Erie and Ontario, as well as the whole length of Long Island from Montauk to Queens. Amazing to see the aeons' work that's carved this land, and to see human efforts to work with or against landscape. Can't tame the West! (Pics are big: click for detail & color.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Crest Canyon

Sightings on a walk through Crest Canyon with my father: Torrey Pine cones, prickly pear pups (if that's what they're called), a San Diego wreath plant (once known as wand chicory), Del Mar manzanita, a great egret hunting in the lagoon, mountain mahogany (?), buckwheat, the ragged parts of a funnelweb spider web, buckwheat cut away along the trail with Torrey Pines in the background, and for good measure (below), a silver argiope spider busily wrapping what looks to be a bee between the signature lightning bolts, and something whose name I don't know but am inclined to call (continuing the spider theme) tarantula grass!