March 30, 2004

Pink

I am defiant. I've violated the Code of Sartorial Ethics. Yesterday, I wore a pink shirt. And to further compound the transgression, I wore a powder blue tie with it (fortunately I had the sense to avoid the pastel yellow trousers). Any moment now, a whole troup of beefy jocks will descend on me en masse and drag my kicking-and-screaming body off to stick my head in a toilet.

Wearing a pink shirt is not always a crime for males. Muscular Latino males, for example, are allowed to wear pink shirts without a second thought. They are permited to stand there, peering over the top of their big Lenny Kravitz sunglasses, daring anyone to question their motives for wearing a hue which is universally understood to be a Girl Color.
I, however, cannot do so. Contrary to popular belief, I am not a Muscular Latino. I am long of shank and meagre of girth, and only trace amounts of skin pigment can be detected in my epidermal layers. Instead of slick black hair I have curly blond locks. No Muscular Latino here.
Anyway, I wore it, and got the usual comments. Never mind them and their culturally-defined taboos that they so devotedly avoid. I think I'll wear it again.

Posted by jonsligh at 01:42 PM | Comments (7)

March 19, 2004

The opera. Andrea Chénier.

Yet another fine production that I’ve been allowed to enjoy.

Highlights include:

1. Those who sat in the seats adjacent to mine: Our merry band included John MacInnis (when he drives his hoopty back home to the ghetto, they call him “J-Mac”); Ben Kammer; Laura Korver; Heather Wallis. We had a lovely Pre-Artist-Series time in Laura’s apartment watching a video I had surreptitiously taken of John and Ben doing the “Orangutan with a Nail-Gun” dance. Ben, ever the pottery whiz, was kind enough to craft a 500-lb ceramic Cocker Spaniel with a voice box installed that plays staticky German Oktoberfest anthems. The ushers made us leave it at the camera-check window. Laura gave us cookies, and John did some strange things with the liquid sweetener.

2. Some really good singers. The guest artists were great. I give my official stamp of approval to Greg Graf as well.

3. The bizarre elements. The opera actually made sense to me. Maybe I’m just older and can appreciate the operas more. Or maybe the operas are getting progressively simpler. But anyway, I could understand what was going on.
Until the aristocratic dance party. Then, out of nowhere, this mob of girls, dressed in pink and carrying shepherd staffs, pops onto the stage, without the slightest provocation, and they start singing. I was offered no explanation as to why the Pink-Clad Bo-Peep Choir chose to burst onto the scene. As yet, I still have been offered no explanation for this seemingly psychedelic element of the opera.

4. The nutritionally complete feast: Between the Pre-Artist-Series-Party and my Artist-Series-Gift-Snacks-That-Come-In-A-Colorful-Bag, I was able to partake of the 5 basic food groups:
(1) Dairy: Half-and-half in my coffee
(2) Vegetables: The bald little carrots we ate at Laura’s apartment. Coffee is a vegetable too.
(3) Bread/Cereal: The cookies were succulent and pleasing to the palate.
(4) Meat: Well, we were all waiting for Heather (who was late, I might add; and don’t believe a word she says about me and the llama hoof) in Laura’s apartment, and a squirrel wandered in, and the microwave was right there . . .
(5) PEZ: Heather got me a lovely Bobby the Beagle PEZ dispenser. It is the first fur-covered PEZ dispenser I’ve ever owned. I’ll never go back to the fur-less kind.

All in all, ’twas a lovely evening. Until you go to a BJU opera, you’ve only sipped from the cup of life.

Posted by jonsligh at 12:57 PM | Comments (9)

gorge on the aesthetics

From Educating for Life by Nicholas P. Wolterstorff

My good buddy John, a 6-point Calvinist, showed this to me. If you're not a Calvinist, read it anyway.

We Calvinists, with our tremendous moral and theological concerns, are always apt simply to overlook the aesthetic dimension of reality. By doing so, we slight an important human-fulfilling dimension of the world in whose midst we live. The world of sounds and colors and textures is not something we ought to close our senses to or from which we should long to escape. . . . We are here in this garden to enjoy it and to develop it, to realize its yet unrealized possibilities, to use it for our fulfillment and for our praise to God. It is the vocation of the musician to praise God and serve people by giving us combinations of sounds that, thought always possible, were never yet actualized. It is the calling of the painter to praise God and serve people by giving us hitherto unrealized but realizable color combinations. [We must not] fail to acknowledge the aesthetic as a genuine and important dimension of reality.

Posted by jonsligh at 01:05 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2004

Limericks

An ephemeral blast of literary showmanship--the Limerick Club.
Its members had to write a limerick for each Dictionary.com Word of the Day. Genius, witty, shortlived. The LC.


Stricken with ennui terrific
And environment too soporific
I edit my Phonics
In a state catatonic
The hebdetude's rather horrific.

My most favorite reformer, John Huss,
Met a blasphemous, wicked young cuss.
This cuss was a miss,
With a liking to kiss.
So his beared old face she did buss.

Tractable Adam was caught
when Eve gave him what she should not
Because of their vice
they paved Paradise
and put up a parking lot.

Cavorting in settings most tangible
My kitchen, with cans of cheese edible
The wheat cracker broke
I cursed with a choke,
"Triscuits are so bloody frangible!"

A couple of young paramedics
(Who were strong, lusty parapetics)
Made quite a killing
In black-market dealing
Of generic and brand-name prosthetics.

Hebdetude poisons good men.
With magazines, telly and sin.
They barter roast duck
for Spam and ground chuck
Reclining, they stinkily grin.

On his fruity green apple Jon plays -
Mixing music in perverted ways.
Let's all sing the chorus
To "I am the Walrus"
Then chant "Hi-Fiddle-dee" for three days!


Posted by jonsligh at 08:16 PM | Comments (7)

March 11, 2004

The Iconoclast

Ah, America, the land of freedom, materialism, and complete blindness to all things metaphysical.

Our freedom, albeit a welcome freedom, can propose a hefty problem for the Christian. Drinking freely of his liberty (and thereby a bit tipsy), he lives completely unaware of the influence of his surrounding culture—a culture which, coupled with his own nearsighted sin nature, is trying to mold him into a through-and-through materialist. Our society, with its liberties galore, will certainly remain affable with the Christian's religion. He can do his "church thing" without becoming any danger to the values most precious to a materialistic society. In fact, his society is quite happy to allow him to carry on his dichotomized existence as a theoretical spiritualist/practical materialist. It is this tendency to relegate the spiritual to the Sunday pedestal(?,) and to retain his materialistic viewpoint for everyday usage, that motivated the writer of Hebrews to challenge the believer to pursue an existence that is entirely devoid of covetousness (Heb. 13:5-6). Such a lifestyle is of utmost importance—important to our freedom and to our witness to a society that is stuck in the "here-and-now." Those who are "content with such things as they have" live like they believe that the material is not all there is. They live free from the enslaving captivity of transient things. And it is they, and only they, who pose a threat to the surrounding culture, because they alone are fundamentally different in their worldview, with a lifestyle that bears witness to that worlview. It is they who can say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man can do to me." They provide both a challenge to everything a materialistic culture holds dear and an answer to the hopelessness that inevitably plagues a society that really does believe that what they see is all there is.

Posted by jonsligh at 01:27 PM | Comments (3)

March 10, 2004

In yet another dazzling display of uncreativity, I shall post something not my own. Call it indolence, call it a steadfast refusal to exert myself, call it literary leaching. I stand proud and undaunted by your charges.
My friends and colleagues may find my laziness especially intolerable, as this fine piece of writing graced my dorm room door last semester. Let them disapprove. I scoff.

The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook

We have been lucky to discover several previously lost diaries of French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre stuck in between the cushions of our office sofa. These diaries reveal a young Sartre obsessed not with the void, but with food. Apparently Sartre, before discovering philosophy, had hoped to write "a cookbook that will put to rest all notions of flavor forever." The diaries are excerpted here for your perusal.

October 3

Spoke with Camus today about my cookbook. Though he has never actually eaten, he gave me much encouragement. I rushed home immediately to begin work. How excited I am! I have begun my formula for a Denver omelet.

October 4

Still working on the omelet. There have been stumbling blocks. I keep creating omelets one after another, like soldiers marching into the sea, but each one seems empty, hollow, like stone. I want to create an omelet that expresses the meaninglessness of existence, and instead they taste like cheese. I look at them on the plate, but they do not look back. Tried eating them with the lights off. It did not help. Malraux suggested paprika.

October 6

I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked. I am encouraged, but my journey is still long.

October 10

I find myself trying ever more radical interpretations of traditional dishes, in an effort to somehow express the void I feel so acutely. Today I tried this recipe:

Tuna Casserole

Ingredients: 1 large casserole dish
Place the casserole dish in a cold oven. Place a chair facing the oven and sit in it forever. Think about how hungry you are. When night falls, do not turn on the light.
While a void is expressed in this recipe, I am struck by its inapplicability to the bourgeois lifestyle. How can the eater recognize that the food denied him is a tuna casserole and not some other dish? I am becoming more and more frustated.

October 25

I have been forced to abandon the project of producing an entire cookbook. Rather, I now seek a single recipe which will, by itself, embody the plight of man in a world ruled by an unfeeling God, as well as providing the eater with at least one ingredient from each of the four basic food groups. To this end, I purchased six hundred pounds of foodstuffs from the corner grocery and locked myself in the kitchen, refusing to admit anyone. After several weeks of work, I produced a recipe calling for two eggs, half a cup of flour, four tons of beef, and a leek. While this is a start, I am afraid I still have much work ahead.

November 15

Today I made a Black Forest cake out of five pounds of cherries and a live beaver, challenging the very definition of the word cake. I was very pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but could not stay for dessert. Still, I feel that this may be my most profound achievement yet, and have resolved to enter it in the Betty Crocker Bake-Off.

November 30

Today was the day of the Bake-Off. Alas, things did not go as I had hoped. During the judging, the beaver became agitated and bit Betty Crocker on the wrist. The beaver's powerful jaws are capable of felling blue spruce in less than ten minutes and proved, needless to say, more than a match for the tender limbs of America's favorite homemaker. I only got third place. Moreover, I am now the subject of a rather nasty lawsuit.

December 1

I have been gaining twenty-five pounds a week for two months, and I am now experiencing light tides. It is stupid to be so fat. My pain and ultimate solitude are still as authentic as they were when I was thin, but seem to impress girls far less. From now on, I will live on cigarettes and black coffee.


The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook
by Marty Smith, Portland OR
forwarded by Alastair Sutherland (kaidan@ix.netcom.com)
from Free Agent March 1987 (a Portland Oregon alternative newspaper), Republished in the Utne Reader Nov./Dec. 1993

Posted by jonsligh at 10:53 AM | Comments (7)

March 05, 2004

Paul Laurence Dunbar

The source from which I drew this poem attributes Dunbar's sorrow expressed here to the hardship undergone by African Americans living in the late 19th century. However, the sorrow expressed is universal. We all can read and understand it because we all have experienced it. It seems that wherever you go, people sorrow, whether it's 19th century African Americans or 21st century yuppies or ancient Jewish kings. Regardless of a person's environment, he suffers. African Americans from the last century, King David, 21st century yuppies--we all experience acute pain.
Why?

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Posted by jonsligh at 03:47 PM | Comments (2)

Lamentation # 7b

Basically, I'm whining.

Whining because there aren't very many modern Christian song-writers writing what I want. I'm whining specifically about the dearth of two qualities, eloquence and freshness. I, of course, am entirely incapable of producing poetry or songs that meet these criteria. Nevertheless, whine I will, and boldly.

By eloquence I mean a mixture of elegance and well-worded persuasiveness I'm refreshed to find modern Christian song-writers who can communicate truth through lyrics that are aesthetically pleasing. I sing plenty of songs that communicate a truth which, in itself, is stunningly beautiful. The medium of these songs, however, isn't necessarily an adequate vehicle for transporting the beauty of that truth. "As the Deer" jumps out as a prime example. No doubt many of us have felt what it is to thirst for a knowledge of God, like a man fifty miles into the desert yearns for water. The truth that the song conveys resonates with nearly all regenerate people. I love the song. But let's face it--that songwriter won't be a poet laureate nominee any time soon. The words could use some polishing, though, again, any deficiency of eloquence in the lyrics does not prevent the truth of the song, and the beauty of that truth, from being communicated.

The second quality is not altogether separate from the first. Freshness of form and thought aids the said elegance and well-worded power. Perhaps, then, it wouldn't be a bad idea for song-writers of our day to write like song-writers of our day. I'm not sure I understand the reasoning of Christian song-writers who, though they live in the 21st century, feel compelled to write as if they lived in the 17th. Perhaps I'm revealing myself to be an uncultured Gen-Y troglodyte, but I'd say that archaic grammar and vocabulary hamper eloquence and impede freshness. Imitate John Newton's depth, not his grammar.

Having said all that, I will say that I lament the relative scarcity of songs or poetry that meet my criteria, rather than the complete absence. Good song-writers exist. But bad song-writers abound.

Comments? (Dis)Agreements? Favorite song-writers?

Posted by jonsligh at 03:33 PM | Comments (5)