August 2006 Archives
More from the Frederick News-Post article noted earlier today, of interest to folks examining such issues as social entrepreneurship or memory, identity and our moral sense:
A proponent of gentrifying tattooing's historically unsavory image beyond the biker, gang member and service person stereotype, Mr. Street agrees that he has a "moral and ethical obligation to talk to people about the effects of the (desired) tattoo on their life," and quickly ticks off a list of reasons people get tattoos.
He notes that in many cases -- as in one where a recovered rape victim requested a genital tattoo -- the tattoo represents emotional or spiritual healing. Such "tattoos of intention," he says, are his favorites, but Mr. Street admits the enduring appeal of "in memory of" tattoos, and those commemorating military units, religious affiliation, milestones and gang membership.
"Sometimes you're just committed to an idea," he explains, "and you want to manifest that idea on your body." Mr. Street, who also will not do "hate" tattoos and deplores any sexual harassment in the industry, says the "old school" designs from the "Sailor Jerry" flash collection, however, are still in demand, but that people are becoming more individual in their tastes.
In last Sunday's New York Times, David Brooks cast a friendly yet critical eye at the burgeoning trend toward tattoos. His central themes were the impermanence of permant expressions . . .
They don’t always work out — on the reality show “Miami Ink” a woman tried to have her “I will succeed thru Him” tattoo altered after she grew sick of religion — but the longing for permanence is admirable.
and the superficial nature of tattooed nonconformity:
And that’s the most delightful thing about the whole tattoo fad. A cadre of fashion-forward types thought they were doing something to separate themselves from the vanilla middle classes but are now discovering that the signs etched into their skins are absolutely mainstream. They are at the beach looking across the acres of similar markings and learning there is nothing more conformist than displays of individuality, nothing more risk-free than rebellion, nothing more conservative than youth culture.
It's a fun essay with obvious targets, but like so many in this genre it confuses the part for the whole. For a more extensive look at the psychology of tattoos and artistic enterprise, check out this extensive article from the Frederick News Post, replete with observations not usually found in local suburban papers:
The mother-son answers make intuitive sense and even seem complementary in that each represents a distinct side of the sex-as-power theory of male-female relations. But, as it turns out, the centuries-old appeal of trans-cutaneous body adornment is many-sided -- and perhaps that's one reason Ms. Dearstine's venture is doing so well.
Longtime readers of the BofG will, of course, remember this:
Just we have long worn clothing has as "an extension of the skin" both to warm our bodies and to define ourselves, many now freely using their skin as an extension of their soul. This should not come as no surprise. Back in 1964 Marshall McLuhan observed that
After centuries of being fully clad and of being contained in uniform visual space, the electric age ushers us into a world in which we live and breathe and listen with the entire epidermis.
"Cannibalism Reconsidered" is the title of this sermon featured on sermonaudio.com. The theme: "joining with (Jesus) in the most intimate way imaginable." Which pretty much makes this exhibit #1 in my argument for adding "editor" to the list of ecclesiastical offices.
What does this have to do with religious adornment? Not much, really, except for the fact that I found it while listening to "The Cross--Ornament or Judgment?", a Baptist sermon against Christian jewelry. The speaker uses a $239 diamond Christian cross as an example of unbiblical materialism and explains why a cross pendant should make us think of pain, death and sorrow.
Cross jewelry not Christian, Pluto not a planet--if the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do? Perhaps it's time to calm ourselves with a divine cup of tea . . .
At least that's the message one might take away from university policies on wearing jewelry during sporting events. Consider the following excerpt from Northeastern, in which Kafkaesque layers of bureaucracy serve to discourage devout bling-bearers from wearing religious jewelry while playing intramural sports:
Art historian Barbara Maria Stafford has described how years ago the Wunderkammer, or "cabinet of wonders," stimulated the popular imagination by projecting a macrocosm into a microcosm: “compressing something into a box makes things more special than they are in and of themselves, producing a network where objects speak to each other and us across time and space."
The following story appeared on the AP wires yesterday:
ESPN baseball analyst Peter Gammons was at Fenway Park on Saturday, his first visit to a major-league stadium since his brain aneurysm in June.
Gammons visited both clubhouses before the game between the Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The 61-year-old former newspaperman was speaking with New York manager Joe Torre in the visitors' clubhouse when hitting coach Don Mattingly came up to say hello.
What the AP left out, however, was that Mattingly came over to do more than say hello. As mentioned on ESPN during the Red Sox/Yankees game Sunday, Mattingly presented Gammons with a cross pendant that Mattingly's wife had given him when he was going through health problems.
We've talked a bit about the link between religious jewelry and the growing interest in microproduction, but not all handicraft is inspired by the market. As explained by its designer, this custom-made cross comes with a story of its own:
"I made this one for a Christian friend who's going through hard times. It was custom made for her, but it's a surprise. I hope she likes it."
True confession: for years I used to collect this sort of stuff. My library carrel was strategically positioned opposite the stairwell entering the lower floor of the Duke Divinity School Library, which meant that the first thing anyone saw when going to consult the wisdom of the ancients was this iconic poster of the King.
BONUS VIDEO: Click here to see Mojo Nixon's legendary music video, "Elvis is Everywhere"!
From Mr. T to Saudi shopping, this week has once again highlighted the tension between truly spiritual adornment and reductionistic materialism. Below: a somewhat more . . . abstract meditation on related themes.
"Artificial Gods--Argo 8" is a video produced by a young Puerto Rican visual artist, and its subjects: the appropriation of rap culture by white consumers and the emergence of "commercial Hip Hop that rocks only bling, cash, and hoes, with no real content." It's avant garde & designed to shock, Daft Punk Gundam meets Spike Lee. On YouTube one of the artist's bewildered fans comments, "It's pretty Yoko dude," but for some folks, that's a compliment.
The plot in a nutshell: "Hip Hop Raiden who took the Godly mantle of Hip Hop has been revived. Built as a machine to brainwash the masses with commercial Hip Hop, thus making it consumer friendly. Jesus White the reformed villain of this world, has taken it upon himself to kill Raiden, in a John Wayne like fashion."
Mr. T has sworn off his trademark gold jewelry after his experience working with people left destitute by Hurricane Katrina. He explains his Damascus Road conversion as follows:
"As a spiritual man, I felt it would be a sin against my God for me to wear all that gold again because I spent a lot of time with the less fortunate," he said Thursday at the Television Critics Association's summer meeting.
Ahmed Sani Yerima, governor of Nigeria's Zamfara State, sparked a national controversy by implementing Sharia law--and now he's running for president. Yet he also has a number of women in his government, including one of his wives. Click here for a fascinating interview with Hajia Karimatu Ahmed Sani, a physician and official state advisor, in which she discusses Islamic law, the advantage of having four wives in a political campaign and her personal sense of style.
Here are a couple highlights:
Normally, during any holiday, after the adventure of shopping, I get bored. But in Saudi Arabia, I don’t. When I’ve exhausted my money shopping, I turn to worship. I spend time doing a lot of that and I enjoy it a lot. I feel fulfilled when I do it.
I like looking smart but some people may not describe or see me as smart because on top of whatever I wear, I have to put on the hijab. We don’t put it on at home. Just like any other woman, I wear skirts, I wear trousers, I wear wrapper and use my gold, which I like red or white gold and if I’m going out, I cover up completely. We are not supposed to show our adornment. We are not supposed to wear perfume. The men can wear but the ladies cannot when they are going out. But in the home, you can wear anything. You can even wear hot pants for your husband to see and admire. But when you are going out you cover up.
EXTRA: For more on Karima Ahmed Sani and women's rights in Sharia, check out this extensive article reprinted on peacewomen.org.
Above: the Sanskrit Power Ring (HT: the divine Ms. E). According to its purveyors,
The amazing and mystically powerful Sanskrit Power Ring ™ is a ring of harmonic energy that protects the wearer from negative energies of all types, dark forces ,witchcraft and the ill will of others. The ring enhances the auric field of the human body and allows the human mind to function on a much higher level of contentment, positivity, peacefulness and joy.
. . .
The design of The Sanskrit Power Ring ™ provides a shield against harmful external vibrations for example geopathic stress and the commonly problematic EMF waves associated with power lines, mobile phones, domestic electrical equipment etc.
The whole human organism is protected by strengthening the human bio-energetic field, guarding against bacteria, viruses and external negative influences.
And as a bonus, unlike other power rings, the Sanskrit Power Ring is not rendered ineffective by the color yellow.
Counterfeit Chic today discusses a fascinating story on the trade in temple hair. The issue: Western women buying hair extensions composed of hair shaved off women in India, supposedly as part of temple rituals. While this is arguably exploitive, according to the Western clientele temple hair is transcendent both in its physical & metaphysical qualities:
"It's a wonderful thing," says Batsheva Schilis, 24, of Oakwood, Staten Island, who recently fitted extensions to her hair. "It doesn't frizz in the summer and is easy to straighten and maintain.
"But, if you're a spiritual person like me, you feel an energy from the chi of the woman who donated it. I don't think the Indian women are exploited. They see the ceremony as an honor."
More on the hair trade here, with photos.
While we were off meditating in the wilderness, immersed in fasting, prayer & the World Cup, the International Herald Tribune published a feature story on the trend toward "Spiritual But Not Religious" jewelry in men's adornment.
Faithful readers of the BofG will no doubt be familiar with pretty much everything mentioned in the piece, from the emergence of early human adornment to the layers of meaning in seemingly mundane imagery to the growing strength of the spiritual marketplace. A few highlights below:
The most inclusive of sects, SBNR appears to shelter nouveau Buddhists, 12- step adherents, lapsed Catholics, nonobservant Jews, people who burn incense and others who just don't, you know, like how negative "atheism" sounds.
Naturally, SBNR involves no overt dogma. But tacitly it encourages a few things: self-expression, whole grains, a working familiarity with yoga. And for men, it involves jewelry. No heavy-link gold chains; SBNR rejects such overt materialism. No diamonds; SBNR does not square with those dark politics. And no Christian crosses, no Stars of David; SBNRists are beyond such unimaginative choices.
"For me, it's about the perfect nondenominational, archetypal symbol," said Philip Crangi, an in-crowd jewelry designer whose men's business, epitomized by slim chains with pendants like slender polished tusks or old-school anchors, has more than tripled in the last year and a half. "I go back to the anchor, which has several layers of connotation, from a kind of tongue-in-cheek preppy thing to a more spiritual angle."
. . .
Francisco Costa, the Calvin Klein designer, wears a collection of religious medals and good luck charms he has picked up over the years."I don't even look at this as jewelry," he said. "It's more something spiritual, that depicts periods of my growth, of growing up, of my life. I try not to look at it as jewelry. If I did, I would rip it right off my neck."
From the floor of a recent Christian retailers convention, here's a report of how one company encourages women to use alluring perfume as a witnessing tool. Anointed with its fragrant oil, the "Virtuous Woman" becomes an evangelistic analog to the Jagerette:
The fake rose petals strewn across the tablecloth gave
Milton Hobbs' booth a romantic aura. He stacked crystal-cut perfume
flasks in a pyramid and set out pink candles tied with ribbon. The
effect was almost sexy — at least compared with the other booths at
the International Christian Retail Show.
Hobbs liked it. He needed a striking display to call attention to his
most unusual product.
"Christian perfume," he said. "It's a really, really new genre. We're
Virtuous Woman perfume comes packaged with a passage from Proverbs.
But what makes the floral fragrance distinctly Christian, Hobbs said,
is that it's supposed to be a tool for evangelism.
"It should be enticing enough to provoke questions: 'What's that
you're wearing?' " Hobbs said. "Then you take that opportunity to
speak of your faith. They've opened the door, and now they're going
to get it."
The Flickr caption for this painting says it all:
"A Dalek witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Dalek involvement in the Passion has been suppressed by the Church and Mel Gibson. "