March 2008 Archives
Here's a fact about yours truly that might not be obvious from this site: when I was high school & college, I became an uber-strict fundamentalist. As in, not tolerating anything remotely connected to worldliness, which included, well, basically most of my pop culture obsessions. Star Trek espoused evolution. Star Wars--the Force, which was obviously (to the folks I listened to, anyway) satanic. Non-Christian comics likewise were deemed to be pure evil.
Which is why I refused invitations to go see Star Trek III & Return of the Jedi, which in retrospect wasn't as bad a couple of omissions as they felt at the time. Perhaps the most painful thing was getting rid of my rather sizable comic collection and all my 1st edition Complete EC Library sets, a series to which I was an original subscriber.
Y'know, that comic collection had a complete run of Batman and Detective going back into the early 1950s. Sold those for 200 bucks to buy tracts. To see how I feel about that transaction now, watch this video.
This experience came to mind today when I read the story making the rounds re Simon White, the guy in the UK who is selling his extensive Doctor Who collection now that he's a Christian. A few excerpts from the story below--although before he gets rid of everything, he may want to attend the Spirituality and Doctor Who conference in Sheffield on April 19.
By the by, did you note how I said "most of my pop culture obsessions?" That's because even when I was separating from everything that wasn't fundamentalist, the one thing that stayed was Doctor Who.
As a counterpoint to what is clearly my spiritual Achilles Heel, here's the confession of Simon White:
Dr Who and his materialistic obsession with it represents the "greatest lie that Satan ever told" according to Mr White.
He said: "I loved science fiction as a kid. It was the Tardis that did it for me. You could get in that box and go anywhere.
"I started collecting Dr Who stuff starting with the Dalek, which I got from an old exhibition in Brighton.
"Me and a friend spent two years making the Tardis and I became obsessed. I made a model of K-9, then a full size Cyberman with authentic Dr Who parts. I couldn't stop.
"I had to retire early from my job as a nurse at the Royal United Hospital in Bath in 1998 because I was suffering from bipolar disorder.
"I turned to drink and became an alcoholic and the Dr Who obsession was the only thing that kept me going. I wouldn't have given it up if you'd have put a gun to my head."
Having discovered Christianity Mr Smith has renounced his old life and is putting the whole collection up for sale in local trade magazines and on eBay.
He said: "God delivered me from the evil that is Dr Who, materialism and alcoholism.
"Through my relationship with Jesus I saw that none of this was making me happy and I was born again like Lazarus.
"It's a timely tale as we come up to Easter. I wanted to tell others that no matter what trouble you are in God can deliver you from the evil. If you are prepared to have a relationship with him then God can help. I have been resurrected. My old life is dead, my new life is alive."
In keeping with the Easter theme of victory over death, here's a stylized illustration from designer Paul Robertson. I think it's a line-for-line copy of a stained glass window in a nineteenth-century Melbourne cathedral, but don't quote me on that:
Like the original scanner, I'm a serious devotee of Soviet constructivist art. Beyond the intuitive appeal of the form, I'm fascinated by the degree to which the message in early Soviet propaganda resonates with charity today. Not surprising, really, in part due to the degree to which the ideology of Soviet production adopted the principles of Taylorism, which is also a direct ancestor of the principles that animate social entrepreneurship.
Below: engineering creates the mechanism of efficient production by supplanting the spirit of obsolete faith.
Note what's in the center and what's waaaaaaayyyy down in the lower-left blind spot:
The iBelieve iPod cover, now on display at MOMA's Design and the Elastic Mind. This is a must-see exhibit for anyone interested in design, science & tech--and the concurrent exhibits on color and motion studies are right up there. The line between art and craft is collapsing, and that's a good thing.
Re the iBelieve, folks in the know realize that before it became Christian kitsch it was actually satirical guerilla art. Here's a concise history of how the iBelieve went from a design critique on consumer culture to a mass market product in its own right, with a portion of the proceeds donated to charity.
In last night's episode of Lost, a gun jammed at a crucial time--an action attributed to the inexorable will of the mysterious Island in that individual's life. Coincidentally, a few hours later a gun jammed again in New York City--as a mugger tried to steal this guy's $8,000 diamond-studded gold Jesus pendant:
A thug trying to steal a religious necklace off a man's neck in the East Village shoved a gun into the petrified victim's cheek and repeatedly pulled the trigger - but the gun kept jamming.
Rafael Nuñez - who was beaten and pistol-whipped - feels like the heavens were on his side after the midnight attack on East 13th Street near Avenue B.
It seemed like his time was up when the gunman - urged on by his accomplice, who kept screaming, "Just shoot him!" - shoved the weapon under his left eye.
"I heard him press the trigger twice," said Nuñez, 27.
Funny, I thought I saw Nunez get on the Staten Island Ferry this morning . . . except he insisted his name was really Kevin Johnson.
Well, technically, at his funeral. This story of a son who paid an erotic dancer to perform before the coffin of his 103 year old father reminds me of the following scene from the end of the life of David as depicted in the Book of Kings:
1.1 Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he got no heat.
2 Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat.
3 So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel, and found Abishag a Shunammite, and brought her to the king.
4 And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not.
If anyone feels compelled to celebrate a ritual of regeneration at my deathbed or funeral, I would prefer a loop of scenes from Doctor Who.
From the fine folks at religious jewelry store Letys Creations, who I hope have a good enough sense of humor not to withdraw this pic as some have done after I posted theirs here with a goofy comment. Oh ye of little faith!
When I was a tyke, I was positively addicted to How and Why Wonder Books. Today a series on evolutionary science wouldn't include a book on religious history--and, in evangelical circles, vice versa. I'm not sure that's progress.
. . . who appropriate commercial trademarks. And if you can't get enough of religious tees, Joanna Sugden has a list of her top twenty.
The fall of Eliot Spitzer has been all the buzz here in NYC. While it's got some folks understandably talking about whether prostitution should be illegal, the public outcry is also a potent reminder of the degree to which we associate sex with sin.
It's right there in the Garden of Eden, really--I don't mean literally, but as a moral archetype. On one level it's a children's story about our complex relation to sex. Partaking of the fruit of the tree is a source of transcendence and adult self-awareness, giving us the power to create; having children also binds us to work and inflicts blinding pain.
When someone like Spitzer gets caught, for many people the act signifies a repeat of Adam's folly--the assumption that one can engage in sex free from responsibility, as if it's all play for one's own pleasure. Part of this response is judgment; part of it is envy; neither is particularly favorable to him. Perhaps if there were a sense that he, a la Clinton, felt our pain folks would be a tad more merciful, but Spitzer's own actions as a moral avenger pretty much seal his fate.
On a lighter note, all the hullaballoo brought to mind one of my favorite songs from last year--the old Tin Pan Alley parody "My Angel Put the Devil in Me" by Murray Gold, from "The Daleks in Manhattan" in Doctor Who Series 3. The song captures how the music of the 20s and early 30s could be graphically obscene without using a single nasty word. Listen carefully and you'll hear a musical echo of the biblical Fall as a sexual act, from serpentine seduction to the Tree of Life growing tall to the wistful yet boistrous afterglow.
Upside-down crosses may rule the night at "black metal" clubs, but devotees of the genre are upset that the music is seeing daylight. There's a fascinating confluence of interest with Christian critics who would condemn the music's popularity because the anti-Christian lyrics and iconography are telltale hallmarks of a satanic cult--black metal's early adopters are upset precisely because they want the movement to remain a private world for initiates:
"It's so strange, to be there in this strip mall; it's surreal," Albert Mudrian, editor of the new extreme metal magazine Decibel, said of Jaxx. "I've seen Napalm Death there twice."
All this isn't entirely great news for Bittinger, who calls music -- mostly extreme metal -- "my life." He listens to dark, ambient music during his entire two-hour commute to and from Alexandria, all through the workday and on weekends at the home he shares with his girlfriend and two cats.
Black metal was meant to be private, he says, for people who get it. Who understand the imagery of knights on the mount, who want to lose themselves in blasting melodies that are the musical equivalent of a scary, gray winter sky. Who know the difference between fantasy and irony.
Omphalos is the classical Greek word for "navel." Not coincidentally, the omphalos is also an iconic religious object representing our creation out of chaos--as well as the original name of a modern creationist hypothesis arguing that God created the earth with all the signs of pre-existing age, from geological strata to the belly-button on Adam when God made him from dirt.
Yet pictured above is a genuine miracle: a woman without a belly button. She's evidence of either our imminent posthuman future or a photo-editor getting a bit too enthusiastic with Photoshop's clone tool.
‘‘My work is a response to all things plastic, black, evil and cheap that don’t give people the chance to explore the power of the body.’’ That tantalizing quote appeared in last Sunday's New York Times feature on Betony Vernon. The article may highlight the "titillating" aspects of Vernon's "erotic ceremonies," but as the writer also notes there's more to the sex than just sex. Her Paradise Found website explains:
"Ritual," "mission," "education," "mystery"--the language of transformation pervades Vernon's work. And it's not just talk: check out the following iconic design, which links the flight of the spirit to bone and flesh:
Besides offering a jewelry line, Paradise Found also doubles as a postmodern mystery faith, with a secret gathering place and rites known only to invited initiates--one more sign that we are living in the midst of a new Renaissance, where art, spirituality and commerce blend into one.
Romance Was Born, an Australian fashion house, has released a stunning, biblical-inspired campaign called the Garden of Eden. The dramatically funky, eccentric label is designed by Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett and is sure to dazzle, particularly with this fascinating, artistic set up.
“They invent tall tales through elaborately-designed garments while spinning adventurous ranges and seasonal collections from a web of whimsical yarns,” Dexigner explains.
Via The Plank:
“I used to love Osama bin Laden,” proclaimed a 24-year-old Iraqi college student. She was referring to how she felt before the war took hold in her native Baghdad. The Sept. 11, 2001, strike at American supremacy was satisfying, and the deaths abstract.
Now, the student recites the familiar complaints: Her college has segregated the security checks; guards told her to stop wearing a revealing skirt; she covers her head for safety.
“Now I hate Islam,” she said, sitting in her family’s unadorned living room in central Baghdad. “Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army are spreading hatred. People are being killed for nothing.”
Not so long ago a trip to Penn Station meant seeing ubiquitous promos for Justin Timberlake. I was hoping to see the same thing for Hasidic pop star Lipa Schmeltzer, but alas, it's not to be.
Two Brooklyn community leaders, Asher Friedman and Rabbi Avraham Shor, mobilized opposition to the concert late last month, warning that the concert would promote “ribaldry and lightheadedness… [and] strip the youth of every shred of fear of heaven.” Some Hasidim criticize Friedman for corrupting Jewish youth with secular musical styles, others warn his popularity might eclipse the authority of the rabbis.
Gothamist highlights a telling response from one commenter:
“We have now banned sporting events, concerts, amusement parks, the circus & malls among other things. Of course I don’t argue with the p’sak on these. But what in heavens name do we want people to do realistically for recreation?”
Paul Revere's church goes green.
Here are a couple of ads for togetherchristian.com that appeared on this site thanks to the Google algorithm. Draw your own conclusions from the photos: