January 2008 Archives
A sign in Thailand warns tourists not to take a picture of themselves standing behind a headless Buddha sculpture.
"Banned in Boston" used to mean something back in the day; now, the most Catholics in the Bay State can do is issue press releases taking offense.
Our ad campaigns are based on personal motivation and fantasy, and throughout history, the body has been considered a form of art.
I think mine's somewhere between cubism and the surreal.
From a photo series based on children's drawings:
"...The power of a child's imagination is how it delicately refigures memory and real imagery into unreasonable and unexpected expressions and impressions. Children's fantasies spring from flexible interpretations of adult conventions. The challenge of photographically reconstructing these fantasies may reflect Jung's challenge of becoming a father in real life. It is not hard to imagine that he is inspired by the limitless imaginative power of the child playing before his eyes. This makes even more sense in light of Kristeva's comment that the child is the "mythical figure" of the imaginary. The adolescents who play-act for Jung take on the adult forms of their drawn figures, but with adolescent minds, and thus visually realize the fusion of fantasy and reality. These are works that gaze upon the world of adult reason with the pure, unsullied eyes of a child. Balanced between reality and fantasy, the deformed cartoonish world in "Wonderland" sways our values and beliefs."
I'm not sure what's more unusual about these Christian shoe inserts--the assumption that stepping on a Bible verse will strengthen your relationship with God or the fact that they're made only for the right foot.
One of my favorite Socratic dialogues is the Euthydemus, in which Plato explores the link between words and things. One of the limitations of language highlighted in the wordplay of this text is the way that one word can mean different things.
For instance, take the classical Greek verb "porneuo." In English we translate this most directly as "to prostitute", with its most common usage in the passive voice signifying "to engage in prostitution." Yet if we look at the most ubiquitous English cognate--porn--we find that it is rarely if ever used in reference to people classed as prostitutes, either by law or convention, despite the fact that any number of people depicted in pornography are doing so for money. Indeed, depending on the jurisdiction or observer the person depicted in the image need not be engaged in a sexual act at all; mere exposure of certain body parts may suffice.
Then there are other languages in which the word porn has no reference to sex at all--and that's the story behind the picture above. Design blog Eyeteeth explains:
One of the reasons my wife Mok goes by her nickname is that in the U.S. she's sometimes met with snickers when she says her given name: Julaporn.
But in Thailand, the word "porn" has a very different meaning. It's the name of the king's daughter (and technically, no one else is supposed to use it) and means "silk." Often a part of women's names, "porn" is a formal and somewhat antiquated word for a blessing from God. So the name literally refers to the ceremonial silk one would present to monks at a Buddhist temple: prayer silk, if you will.
For a complete explanation of Julaporn's neon sign, check out the rest of this enlightening post!
Murketing has gone where Craft feared to tread: printing the censored article, "What would Jesus sell?" The title is actually a riff on a new Morgan Spurlock documentary; the article itself is not about Christianity. Rather, it's an inquiry into the commodification of handicraft, asking whether the market for handcrafted items is actually consistent with the movement's do-it-yourself ethic.:
But I can't help thinking: Isn't shopping, no matter how wonderfully crafty and politically correct still, well, shopping? Can you escape the so-called sin of consumerism by buying handmade? Isn't the whole point of modern crafting Do It Yourself--not Buy from Someone Who is Doing It Themselves? Not to be a total hypocrite; I shop Etsy and artisan crafters as well as buy the crap from China just like everyone else. It's just that I see a new trend, which is moving away from crafting and towards consuming. What's next? "Hip Craft" aisles at Wal-Mart?
The presumption--now denied--that the reference to Jesus would be offensive to Christians highlights an unintended consequence of protests against blasphemy: rather than speaking of Christianity more reverently, people might conclude that mentioning Jesus at all is more trouble than it's worth.
"He was an anarchist and an independent journalist who went to Mexico to document revolution -- and ended up filming his own murder."
One old model of secularization theory posits that an abundance of choices in the spiritual marketplace can create a spiritual aporia--there are so many viable choices that it can be hard to pick just one, thereby leaving us with nothing.
Whatever the value of that theory in understanding society, it sure applies to this site in regard to the C.B. Gardner Witches Mill Collection that's been selling on eBay, which has so many cool pieces that I've been dithering over which one to post. Be sure to click over to another of my favorite daily reads--AltReligion--for the scoop.
Why did I pick the image above? Well, it's a magic square, a wonderful example of a spiritual icon now reincarnated in a pop secular form. For an illustrated history of the link between magic squares and sudoku, check out this article from Plus as well as this fun page from EMAS Portsmouth, which integrates mathematical training with cultural traditions.
AM New York has a feature on New York designers exploring the theme of peace. Tanya Farah's work--with words for peace in English, Hebrew and Arabic--wasn't illustrated, but it's something for which I'll be on the lookout. Rosena Sammi, designer of the Kismat collection, has this to say about her work:
"When your thoughts and feelings tend towards purity of mind/body, hope, and bliss," she says, "the effect on your life can be profound."
A fascinating documentary on the culture of nose jobs in Iran.
Documentary filmmaker Mehrdad Oskouei considers the epidemic of nose jobs in contemporary Iran, the world leader in rhinoplasty with an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 operations each year. In a country that discourages personal expression and disdains Western culture, young Iranians eagerly change their noses to model images in European and American fashion magazines. With a light touch, Oskouei listens to patients and surgeons comment on this enigmatic phenomenon.
Via Sabbah's Blog:
The first soccer match between female teams has taken place in Alkhobbar (Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province). The match was held between two teams of university students. The Prince Mohammad bin Fahd University team defeated their guests, the Al Yamamah College.
Although the match was held at a 35,000 capacity stadium in al-Dammam, no men were allowed in the stadium, and the referee and her linesman, as well as the fans, were also female.
For an exegesis and (print!) of this painting, read the artist's post and comments.
From Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis:
"Einstein was wrong when he said "God does not play dice". Consideration of black holes suggests, not only that God does play dice, but that He sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can't be seen."
Check out The Land Salmon for the original pic and more cool Hawking quotes.
To understand why folks call Columbia, Missouri's First Baptist Church the "Donald Duck Church," look carefully at the steeple.
Notice the dark eyes . . .
The corner forming the beak . . .
For another angle, click here.
There's actually an even more famous Donald Duck Church--the original building for Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church, which was a converted (ba dum bump!) Donald Duck soda bottling plant.
Speaking of Tech_Space, this post noting the excavation of an undisturbed Egyptian tomb immediately got me thinking about things I always think about when reading about Egyptian tombs.
Partly lamenting the disturbance of the inhabitant's ka and hoping beyond hope that Osiris isn't real, because if he is we are so screwed.
Partly meditating on how Egyptian tombs functioned as mnemonic proto-hologram projectors (no kidding--if you've ever been in one that hasn't been stripped, you'll see what I mean).
And above all, recalling my favorite board game as a child, filled with sacred jewels, mysterious hieroglyphics, eerie spirits and vengeful gods: Voice of the Mummy!
Gawker has footage of the scene outside Heath Ledger's apartment as his body is being wheeled out to an ambulance, an iconic dance of darkness, light, death and immortality.
Another photographer was struck with the import of it all. He crossed his chest. "You heard about this already? Jesus. This is tragic." He looked down mournfully. "I should have brought my cross."
Angela Gunn is a science writer whose informative and engaging Tech Space blog (inter alia) has been a daily read for a while now, not least of all because she has a sharp eye for cool stuff like what you see pictured above: an ID bracelet with a name encoded into DNA. Marshall McLuhan liked to quip that name is fate--our name, like any other medium, shapes who we are--but this takes it to a whole new level!
Humans have an innate drive to rise above the mundane. Not just poets, painters and priests--everyone, from cubicle workers to
garbage collectors sanitation engineers strives to be part of something more.
In the U.S., Playboy's painted Wonder Woman cover has sparked heated protests. Muslim Malaysia is in the throes of a similar controversy, except the offender is a reality-contest runner-up who--no kidding--shocked the country by imitating in a televised performance the iconic S-painted-on-Tom-Welling's-chest scene from the Smallville pilot.
AP story after the jump.
From Elizabeth Svoboda, a picture of the "the monastery in Brno where Gregor Mendel worked out his theories of genetics 150 years ago."
SCIENCE AND HEAVENLY SPHERES BONUS:
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away I studied law with a professor who helped pioneer the law of outer space. For an interesting look at the latest goings among those who want a mansion on the moon, check out Svoboda's latest article in Salon.
Pictured left: The Huysuz Virjin, a seventy-six year old crossdressing celebrity in Turkey.
Or at least that's what he used to be. The "Petulant Virgin" claims that the country's Islamic government is pressuring broadcasters to clamp down on immorality.
The Economist offers a fascinating peek into this culture clash, including an unexpected endorsement of the ruling Islamic party from designer Cemil Ipecki:
"Cemil Ipekci has declared that AK is the best government to have ruled the country in the history of the republic and that, had he been born a woman, 'I would have covered my head [ie, Islamic-style].' Pressed to explain, a demure Mr Ipekci says 'I am a conservative homosexual.'"
As the owner notes and a fellow-traveler sympathizes, not every community welcomes cars decorated with pagan symbols:
I just had another 400ish dollar paint fix-r-up due to some overly-convicted thumper. I will keep you all updated as more and more Christ-Inspired vandalism occurs!
I feel your pain..... My pentacle has been scrapped off, torn, spray painted, defecated on, oh and my back window taken. Lucky for me soft tops are cheap. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah and the mormon missionarys hunt my Isuzu for sport. But I must say I love your Element and I hope nothing else bad happens to it. Blessed be!
Although one might be tempted to think of mathematics as a wholly secular discipline, historically that's far from accurate.
Today we have two different but essentially related perspectives on spirituality and math. Pictured above: math majors and professors from Asbury College. On the "First Friday" of every month, they get together in thematically related costumes and jewelry, such as in the Star Wars pic above. One math student explains her devotion as follows:
“I lot of people think I’m crazy for it,” said Kelly Christensen, a junior mathematics major from Canfield, Ohio. “They say, ‘Do you really enjoy pain?’ It is hard, but we like to think of math as the language of God. Mathematics can be seen throughout creation.”
Of course, some people extend the creation metaphor to the fullest. Sharon Robbert, a professor of mathematics at Trinity Christian College, has placed on the web an array of math-related meditations. Under such categories as "multivariable calculus" and "discrete structures" you can find such devotionals as "Secant Lines and Sanctification" and "God's Zero Tolerance for Error."
Today's Faith Central had an interesting post on the debate over whether botox is Halal (a Malaysian fatwa council says no). In it: a link to TheIslamicMarketplace.com, which sells Halal cosmetics, including this eyeliner.
OOPS I DID IT AGAIN APPEAL:
A while back I received a nice note from an overseas Islamic fashion entrepreneur whose site I intended to feature, but it looks like I accidentally deleted the email. If you're that person--or even if you're not and you have something you think might be good for the site--please contact me at jeff dot trexler at gmail dot com.
Who says New Yorkers are just a bunch of cynical secularists? Among the cadre of women featured on the upcoming Bravo TV series "Real Housewives of New York City": a religious fashion entrepreneur. The bio below claims that the website above is her line; seems a bit incongruous, but what do I know?
Ramona Singer is a busy entrepreneur. She owns her own business, R.M.S. Fashions, a jewelry line, truefaithjewelry.com, a clothing line “True Faith,” and is developing a skin care line as well. She and her husband Mario, a third generation jeweler, and their 13-year-old daughter Avery, live in a striking four-bedroom condo in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. They also have a beautiful second home in Southampton directly on the water. Ramona is an avid tennis player and loves to entertain and is constantly organizing dinner parties and social events.
This week, the High Court will hear a case involving a 14-year-old girl "excluded from her school for wearing a Sikh religious bangle."
Anna Fairclough, Liberty’s Legal Officer representing the Singhs, said: “Sarika Singh has suffered humiliating isolation and is being denied a proper education simply because she wears the Kara, a small bangle worn by virtually all Sikhs both in and out of school and work. It is astonishing that the school continues to exclude her despite almost universal condemnation and 25-year-old House of Lords precedent.”
Singh, of mixed Welsh/Punjabi origin, has been brought up in the Sikh faith and is the only Sikh at the Aberdare Girl’s School. The school’s uniform policy prohibits the wearing of any jewelry other than a wrist watch and plain ear studs. When the school noticed that Singh was wearing the religious bangle, she was subsequently isolated throughout the day, including meals, for approximately two months.
“The Kara is an article of faith which a Sikh wears from birth. It reminds a Sikh of his/her duty to lead a righteous life. In our experience, a Sikh child has always been allowed to wear a Kara to school,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, United Sikhs director of International Civil Rights and Human Rights Advocacy.
CNN just posted a story on well-dying, a movement in which individuals seek spiritual renewal by putting themselves through a fake funeral. I'd like to say more about this, but the dreaded deadline doom is crouching at my door. For now, here's a description from the original article:
After solemnly reading their wills, seven perfectly healthy university students climb into caskets in a dimly lit hall.
"I want to give all of you one more day to live, but it's time to be placed into coffins," a man in a black suit says in a resounding voice. "I hope your tired flesh and bodies will be peacefully put to rest."
Workers nail the coffins shut, then sprinkle dirt on top as the lights are switched off and a dirge is played. Muffled sobs can be heard from some of the coffins. About 15 minutes later, they are opened and the five men and two women are "reborn."
The mock funeral, which aims to get participants to map out a better future by reflecting on their past, is part of a new trend in South Korea called "well-dying." The fad is an extension of "well-being," an English phrase adopted into Korean to describe a growing interest in leading healthier, happier lives.
"I felt really, really scared inside the coffin and also thought a lot about my mom," said Lee Hye-jung, a 23-year-old woman studying engineering. "I'll live differently from now on so as not to have any regrets about my life."
Madonna has been accused of using her African AIDS charity, Malawi Rising, as a cover for converting kids to Kabbalah. More on this story can be found at Uncivil Society.
This weekend's religious must-read: the story of the recovery of a photo archive of early Quranic manuscripts. Nineteenth century textual criticism rocked the Christian faith; will the twenty-first century do the same for Islam?
My favorite bit from this story: the argument that being a priest exempts you from airport security searches. Were that the case, I'd be tempted to sign up.
A man dressed as a priest caught at Amsterdam's airport with three kilos of cocaine under his vestments claimed to police that his packages contained "holy sand", Dutch police said.
Police stopped the man at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport as he was transiting on a flight from South America, Robert Van Aapel, a spokesman for the Dutch Royal Military Police told CNN by phone Saturday.
"He refused to be searched saying that he was a religious person and it was not allowed," Van Aapel said.
"However, this is normal procedure so our officers insisted. They asked him again and after the second time they carried out the search and discovered the man had packs strapped to his legs below his priest's clothes. He told us they contained holy sand," he said.
He said the man, who is aged around 40 and a Bolivian national, was arrested Thursday after arriving in to the airport on a flight from Lima, Peru. He was attempting to transit on a flight to Milan when he was apprehended with the cocaine, worth around €105,000 ($155,000).
The Bolivian appeared in court Friday on charges of drug smuggling, Van Aapel said.
Dutch police are trying to establish if the man is a real priest after he claimed to be a senior member of the clergy in the Bolivian capital La Paz, he added.
Some blogs are a labor of love. Others, not so much:
Sent in by tattoo artist Brian from Youngstown, Ohio who deserves the worst of the worst that Hello Kitty can offer for not only thinking for a second that it was a good idea to send this photo to me, but for also giving notice of what 2008 is going to be like in Hello Kitty Hell…
A thousand years ago the Christian world split over the metaphysics of the Trinity. Today, it's the appropriateness of worship songs that use erotic imagery, such as "I'm naked before you," "lay me down at the foot of your cross" and other lines that sound like they came from the gospel phase of Eric Cartman's music career.
The popular way to describe this genre is "Jesus is my boyfriend" music, and while I appreciate the critics' sincerity, I think they need to a bit more careful when trying to make a counterpoint. Here's one woman's earnest objection:
Saying "Jesus is my boyfriend" may plug a hole in your heart for a while, but it doesn't fill that void. God'll soothe the lack for sure, or He might fill that void with some sense of satisfaction or contentment that can't be otherwise explained, but the key for the single is learning to live with the void unfilled.
This is the featured album (disc?) cover on Sleevage today, and as the prophet Ezekiel would say, it's got wheels within wheels. Beyond the implicit message in the group's ostensibly trademarked name, the package itself is designed to emulate a blister pack of pills. Click through for more pictures.
If you follow primary news obsessively, you've probably seen the following exchange. Personally I think the reporter who asked the question is getting a bad rap--for some people, whether Methodists are Christian is open to question!
[A] CBS-2 reporter . . . had the following exchange with Hillary Clinton:
[Pointing to Clinton's bracelet]"Is that a crucifix?"
Clinton seemed a little taken aback. "I'm sorry, what?" she said.
"Is that a crucifix?" the reporter repeated.
"It's a cross," Clinton replied.
Clinton, who has a staggering range of knowledge and isn't afraid to show it off, had it right, of course: A crucifix has the depiction of the body of Jesus on it and a cross does not.
But the reporter had his follow-up ready.
"Does it have religious significance?" he asked.
Everybody erupted in laughter.
Does a cross have religious significance? Is that what he really asked?
"Talk about the secular press!" Clinton said.
See, it's funny because the reporter had no idea she's a committed Methodist!
Over the past few months, news reports have been circulating re some Christians' claim that I-35 is the subject of biblical prophecy in Isaiah 35, which states the unclean shall not pass over God's holy highway. MMI has the rundown with a revelatory video from CNN in which one Christian links JFK's assassination and the bridge collapse to God's desire to cleanse His Holy Highway.
While the Prophets do speak often of God's anger, I'm not sure they meant road rage.
From the New Scientist "Flirt with Science" competition, in which readers suggested science-based pick-up lines:
"Looking at you, creationists may have a point after all."
Sacred Cut Metal Designs is a multifaith spiritual marketplace with designs that represent a diverse range of spiritual traditions. This informative article from a local paper explains reason for the name: they custom-cut each piece with "holy water and sacred sand"--"customers can request that any refinable liquid, sand or herb that is meaningful to them be used to make their jewelry."
Because the aim is to promote peace and goodwill for all people, Sacred Cut has pieces from a wide range of traditions and beliefs, such as Christian crosses . . .
and Stars of David
But what really sets Sacred Cut apart is the following item, which links the sacred number 7 with a truly divine name:
Via the photographer, an excerpt from a 2005 article in Slate:
"Full coverage," not your typical fashion show prerequisite, was the theme at a "fashion seminar" recently hosted by Nordstrom at the tony Tysons Corner Center mall in McLean, Va. The show, called "Interpreting Hot Trends for Veiled and Conservative Women," was perhaps the first high-fashion hijab event sponsored by corporate America......
Retailers have likely caught on to the fact that conservative Muslim women are as interested in fashion as any other women and that, as a population numbering at least 500 million—an estimated half of which cover up regularly—they constitute a large, and potentially lucrative, untapped market.
Neurospectacle has a rundown on trepanation,
a procedure where a hole is drilled into the skull, exposing the dura mater and brain for either medical (relief of pressure) or mystical (supposed heightened consciousness) purposes. It is likely the oldest procedure in neurosurgery and has been practiced by many ancient peoples all over the world.
Although I've long been accused of having a hole in my head, I can't vouch for the procedure's effectiveness.
The photographer explains:
"The Amsterdam Coptic-Orthodox Church is filled to capacity on every Sunday, but still this was a special occasion: from all over the country, people came to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the Coptic community in the Netherlands. Most people were in fact native Egyptians and their Dutch offspring. Christians in Muslim countries have the hand of their baby tattooed with a cross - the sign helps to identify a Christian child if kidnapped. Apparently child abductions are a common occurrence in the Middle East."
That's the theme of an editorial in the Yemen Times making the blog rounds today. The underlying theme: international human rights organizations subvert the religious, social and moral norms of Islamic families.
Even if you're opposed to domestic violence (which, just for the record, I am, in case you were wondering), the core argument is one to be reckoned with. Today's post-colonial world increasingly privileges local standards over the imposition of external values. Are we reaching a point where international human rights are obsolete, the relic of an idealized twentieth-century vision of abstract universal values? Moreover, since 9/11 it's become fashionable in the West to characterize parts of religious practice with which we disagree as "not real Islam" or "not real Christianity," but is that really ours to decide? And does such a normative judgment help us understand why believers carry on offensive practices?
Just as a reminder that this sort of issue doesn't only arise in Yemen, here are a couple links featuring the institutionalization of violence in the U.S. The first: the rules for dress and jewelry from Christian Domestic Discipline, a site where we learn that "the husband has authority to spank the wife" but "the wife does not have authority to spank the husband." And here are the dress code and rules for corporal punishment of children in a California Christian school.
I know, I know--the Islamic guy is talking about domestic violence, but that's not what happens when Christians hit their wives and children.
I get a lot of interesting email from friends of the BofG, and one of my New Year's resolutions is actually to answer it (sorry!). Not sure what to say in response to this one, though. Received the following cheerful affirmation of faith late last night; something tells me not everyone's sad about what happened to Benazir Bhutto:
this is what yahoodi, non muslim kafir can do to let down islam but islam will spread more & u assholes will die soon in burning hell.Amen
Speaking of unusual combinations of celebrity and Jewish culture, check out this parody of Soulja Boy Tell 'Em's Crank Dat Soulja Boy.
Daniel Radcliffe, who has captivated moviegoers as the bespectacled schoolboy wizard in the Harry Potter films, has donated the first pair of glasses he wore as a child to an exhibition marking the horrors of the Holocaust.
The British actor joins Yoko Ono, talk show host Jerry Springer, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other celebrities and members of the public whose spectacles will be linked together in the shape of a railway track — recalling the trains that carried many of the Nazis' victims to concentration camps throughout Europe. An estimated 6 million Jews died. . . .
Muslim leaders are to attend the multicultural service, which is the culmination of a series of lectures, exhibitions, stage shows and musical events recalling the Nazi atrocities and more recent genocides. Jason Isaacs, who stars as the sinister Lucius Malfoy in the "Harry Potter" films, will also take part in the service.
The 18-year-old Radcliffe, whose mother is Jewish, sent the oval, gray metal-framed pair of glasses he wore as a 6-year-old.
In a statement, Ono called the project "such a symbolic piece of artwork, which will help people to learn how important it is to never forget the horrors of the Holocaust and to challenge hatred and prejudice wherever it arises."
Blue shirt, khakis, flip chart--Christvertising is a pitch-perfect parody of clueless ad salesmanship and evangelical culture. The immediate target: marketing proposals with so little basis in reality that their only hope of success would seem to be divine intervention. Still, it says something about how thoroughly Christians have internalized market-speak that people aren't sure this is a joke.
While news reports have focused on the dangers to children from lead paint in imported toys, there's also been a recall of Family Dollar metal jewelry, including "key rings and pins with religious themes (crosses and fish symbols)." If you have these, don't eat them. I know they're tasty, but you'll die.