Tuesday, May 29, 2012

the little box on my couch

my friend turquoise died this morning.  I wasn't there--she was living in california.  I don't have any good stories about her.  I only met her once and it was for a few hours over beers when she was visiting the rim.  her death wasn't unexpected--she'd been suffering from cancer almost since I met her and in what chaplains (and health pros) call the active dying process for at least a year.  by most of the criteria by which we run our lives, I shouldn't have known her or much of her or been able to follow her progress as she was dying.

but this is a new age and wonderful toys exist that allow us to be a part of one another's lives even as we live and die thousands of miles from each other.  I was friends with her on facebook and kept up with her by reading her blog.  my wife was better friends with her:  last winter, in the midst of dealing with her own dad's active dying process, her chaplaincy internship, and working fulltime, she crocheted turquoise a prayer shawl and then took it when she visited her (her rationale for flying to california in the midst of so much busyness and our dwindling bank account:  "I would rather see her alive than view her body," a principle with which I agree). 

I know what was important to her--her friends, her cat, her art and her life--only because I knew her through a little box perched on the lip of my couch from which I can communicate with so many.  I only knew of her death this morning because of a post from a mutual friend relaying the information on a website that, in my youth, would have been unthinkable (or we thought of it in terms of horror or dystopia) but in her youth--she was in her late 40s--had developed into something that the youth we know grow up mastering the intricacies do so so quickly that new developments come in months rather than decades.  this connective tissue is composed of electricity and pulses in addition to blood and muscle and it is because of it that I can reach out and be reached out to.  it is because of it that I could know and appreciate turquoise.

I mourn my friend turquoise.  I celebrate her life.  that I can do both and let you know of it is a product of the times in which we live.  I don't know if turquoise knew this song but I think she would have appreciated the message (and the beat).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

teach naked: punk edition

I was reminded recently of this midterm I used while teaching at mcnally-smith college of music in the hub.  I'd made some reference to a seminal punk band--the boomtown rats--and not a single member of that class of overlyhip, overlyhyped snottynosed brats even pretended to know the group.  so I created this midtern in order to get their priorities corrected.  feel free to try it yourself or use it to bring a class' appreciation of history to the fore. 


Johnny Thunders died for your sins!  So you have a better knowledge and, perhaps, appreciation for the aesthetics of punk, you’re going to learn to write an album review.  You will choose one of the albums listed below, listen to it at least three times all the way through, and review it for a Punk Planet-like publication.  Reviewing doesn’t mean you say you like it or not—no one cares if you like it.  What you must do is put yourself in the frame of mind of someone who is the target audience for the album, the average punk consumer, and locate elements in the songs that would appeal to him or would turn him off.  The usual requirements are still the same—500 words, two double-spaced typed pages, no spelling or grammatical errors.  The change is that I’m going to read it exactly like an editor, which means I’ll read it with an eye toward whether I’m going to print it or not.  The grade I give it is the percent chance it would have of getting published.  (Unlike an actual editor, from whom you’d only hear “yes” or “no,” I’ll make corrections and suggestions and write comments on it.)  Wikipedia has an excellent article on punk and its definition at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punk_rock, so it would be a good idea to start there. 


  • Bad Brains, Bad Brains
  • Bad Religion, The Empire Strikes First
  • Blondie, Blondie
  • Butthole Surfers, Locust Abortion Technician
  • Buzzcocks, Flat Pack Philosophy
  • The Clash, Combat Rock
  • Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
  • The Devotchkas, Live Fast, Die Young
  • Elvis Costello and the Attractions, This Year’s Model
  • Flogging Molly, Within a Mile of Home
  • Gang of Four, Solid Gold
  • The Mekons, Fear and Whiskey
  • The Muffs, Blonder and Blonder
  • Le Tigre, Le Tigre
  • The New York Dolls, The New York Dolls
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Best of…
  • Patti Smith, Horses
  • Pere Ubu, The Art of Walking
  • The Pixies, Doolittle
  • The Plasmatics, Coup d’Etat
  • The Ramones, Rocket to Russia
  • Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Blank Generation
  • Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks—Here’s the Sex Pistols!
  • Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Best of…
  • Sleater-Kinney, The Woods
  • The Slits, Cut
  • Talking Heads, Talking Heads:  77
  • Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground
  • X, Under the Big Black Sun
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"that's not punk rock"

I have more to write about the last couple days when I was once again relocated within my tribe, but for now I want to write about an anecdote the 2 girls who stayed with us the past few days told me that pisses me off. 

the new term for kids living on the road now is "traveler kids," apparently, and they've got a batch of new terms I wasn't familiar with.  one of them is "oogle," which is someone who tries to be the hardestcore of all.  (I explained in my day we called them "assholes.")  these 2 sisters knew 1 guy that they say no one liked so everyone called him "oogeleven" (I guess cuz he went to 11?) and who had stolen from people he stayed with, claiming that to do so was an understood part of sofa surfing (and I would suspect would make constantly moving from place to place mandatory).  at 1 point when they were around oogeleven was drinking at the punk house 1 of the sisters lived in in kalamazoo and swilled until he got sick.  he leaned forward on the floor on which he was sitting and puked and then leaned back and drank some more.

he made no move to clean up after himself.  eventually someone asked him if he was going to clean his puke up.  "no," he said.  "that's not punk rock."

let me make this clear.  he's right but only if he was admitting he was not behaving in a punkfriendly manner; not cleaning up after onself is not punk rock.  it's fuckedup.  one of the primary definitions of the punk movement is d.i.y.--do it yerself.  that involves cleaning up after yourself as well as, say, having an experience yourself.  we don't disengage from community when we join this tribe, we just locate ourselves in a different community, and a part of that is following the basic commandment jesus and prophets in other traditions recognized--treat others the way you'd like to be treated.  in words of single syllables:  don't puke on floors (either metaphorically or literally) and not clean it up.

we don't want to live as isolated individuals because that seriously hurts us, not only when we are with others but on our own.  if you have occasion to be in a room with oogeleven, remind him of this, perhaps with a gentle slap to the back of his head.  if you are hosting oogeleven, begin the cleanup process with him by taking him firmly by the scruff of the neck and using him to wipe the floor.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

listening to sunday's sermon

I attended my wife's church this weekend, the ucc congregation in menomonie, further out on the rim to the east.  my friend rob is the minister there and we haven't taken the opportunity to visit there in nearly a year since my wife was doing her clinical practical experience at the same time I was, but while mine ended in february, hers continued until midmay. 

the church is beautiful, an old congregationalist place built sometime the early part of last century.  rob is an accomplished preacher but he wasn't doing more than opening and closing service sunday; they had a guest preacher: scott anderson, the executive director of the wisconsin council of churches.  I noted a few things about the congregation below.

my wife likes attending rob's bible studies before the service so we went early and because it had been so long since we'd attended ended up fielding questions from rob and the other students about our current doings and experiences for much of the time. the readings focused on psalm 133 and ephesians 4:1-6 and we concentrated on the message of ephesians (as rob reasoned scott would concentrate his message on that reading). it was a good conversation with older people we know and have talked with before and who are similar in thinking to us, to the point where I felt the need to speak out against diversity in order to ask questions whether we don't in fact need some form of division in order to articulate what "we" are not.

while I've been there many times, I tried to look with new eyes on the place and the people.  there were about 140-150 congregants present, most of them obviously grandparents or parents.  the average age looked about 60+.  there were many kids:  we counted 30 who scrambed up to be part of children's time.  I counted between 15 and 20 younger adults, single people or teens or early 20s.  there was 1 woman of color, a japanese woman I've seen there before, and 1 man of color, a student from nigeria who has been attending about a year and is ready to return to africa. 

rob is very connected with his community--he's been there for nearly 20 years (I'm not clear about this, it may be longer than that)--and that was born out by the reaction to a problem with the church organ.  a few weeks ago, a pipe had fallen or dropped, and a group of members had worked on it in the ensuing time.  this day was the big debut of the refinished organ.  with a big flourish, the organist hit the 1st notes of a favorite hymn--and immediately there was a resounding thump as something dropped inside the organ.  a group of 5 guys jumped to their feet and, while rob made amusing references to the organ's problems and changes, did a quick inventory outside and in the organ, and by the time mark the organist had settled at the nearby piano instead, they reported that the fix to the organ was actually easy and would be done in days.  there were lots of comments and jokes said about the situation and people laughed easily and quickly and there seemed no moments of discomfort or disease. 

the theme of the kids' time was based on the same ephesians verse--the woman working with them read a book called the crayon box that talked--and then scott's message which was strongly against what he sees as a "divided, competitive christian church."  a few quotes from his sermon:

  • "we are the various parts of the body of christ as workable commodities."
  • "we should recognize the unity which has been purchased and given to us by jesus."
  • "we must confess our need to be with each other to be the body of christ."

it was a fine sermon, and I wish I had written down a few other quotes, particularly the quotes he used from other speakers.  one, a woman, had made a comment to a congregant complaining that most contemporary worship didn't speak to his sense of praise to the effect that, "well, it isn't really aimed at you, is it?"  this struck me as a particularly xian things to say, noting the emphasis on what rick warren referred to as "it's not about you." 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

sabbath is god's gift


I’m old enough to remember when BlueLaws were in effect. Blue Laws were so-called because they were the leftovers of a Puritan-like prohibition against Sunday commerce and were supposed to be the thinking of blue-stockings (the nickname for Oliver Cromwell’s excessively moralistic allies) to the effect that, similar to the thinking of some Pharisees of Jesus’ time, commerce ought to stop on the Sabbath. When I was growing up in the 60s, there were still laws in New York forbidding stores and other businesses from being open on Sunday, the implication being that the public was better served by everyone focusing on God and religious ideas and family instead. (I vaguely remember gas stations being exempt from this since people still had to drive to church or to visit.)

My family was Seventh-Day Adventist and our church met Saturdays, so Sundays for us were sort of the icing on the cake. I remember my mother being glad when the Laws were rescinded so she could grocery shop Sundays, but my own memories of dull, home-bound Sundays were actually pretty content. This might have been the result of being a kid and when you're a kid anything beyond your immediate needs being met is unnecessary. My Sundays began about 5:30 or 6 with a heaping bowl of cereal in front of the TV, whose day was also just starting. (This was another result of the changes in society: radio and television operating 24-7 were a decade away.) I was a regular watcher of Davey and Goliath and other kid-centered, vaguely religious programming which were the only programs on Sunday mornings. Our church services had been the previous day so my parents spent their morning sitting around talking. My dad would drive to visit a former neighbor, a widowed Italian immigrant, and when he came back he'd bring gifts from Pop-Pop: a box of jelly donuts and the Sunday paper. Those days the comics pages were actually up to ten pages long and printed large and there were more than fifty strips, funny animal and adventure and holdovers from the heydays of the 30s like Polly and Her Pals and Mutt and Jeff. I learned from an episode of Buzz Sawyer that you could swim safely among piranha so long as you didn't have any cuts or scrapes.

            Sabbath as we understand it has probably been observed since prehistory.  All three Abrahamic scriptures refer to it as a long-held observance.  It’s likely that in the earliest experiences of people there was a period, perhaps a portion of midday when the sun was hottest, when exertions halted for rest.  This would eventually become a full day and then the same day each week and then its existence attributed to the local creator god.  Sabbath is given specific times in the Abrahamic scriptures, during which worship of the Creator is emphasized as well as emphasis on rest in appreciation of the cosmic Rest taken by the Creator.

            Jews, of course, are the first of the Abrahamic tradition to recognize the Sabbath.  Tanakh reads, “On the seventh day God finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God ceased from all the work of creation that He had done” (Genesis 2:2-3).  Tanakh recognizes Saturday, the final day of the week, its placement a holdover from the Babylonian calendar which the exilic Jews would have been forced to use, as a time of especial importance.  MonfordHarris calls it a period of covenantal intimacy.  The

Sabbath is God’s gift to Israel…[It] is particularly associated with Exile.  It is during the long Exile that the covenant had to be strengthened and confirmed.  Exile can weaken Israel’s sense of the covenant, for Exile can corrode the faithfulness of the community…Sabbath guarded the Jews; for Sabbath strengthened Jewish covenantal faithfulness.  (10)

Harris emphasizes a person’s senses to bring him or her closer to God during Sabbath, noting the particular importance of taste, touch and smell.  “Sabbath is necessarily the most sensuous time, since it celebrates the creation of this sensuous world, and it is the senses that appropriate the world” (12).  This glorification of the world’s sensuality is reflected in the book Song of Songs whose place is “as an allegory for the pining of the people of Israel or perhaps the human soul for God…” (Chaim Rabin in Harris, 13).  Harris, whose repetitive emphasis on the appropriateness of sex on the eve of Sabbath manages to seem both progressive and creepy, expands Rabin’s argument that “Sabbath is intimate time between God and the covenantal community” (17). 

            Christians appreciated this emphasis on special worship of God and a time of rest, but altered the day to Sunday, the beginning of the week, their newer testament alluding to its importance by attributing a miraculous act by Paul to that day. 

On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion…; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight…A young man name Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer.  Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead.  But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.”  Then Paul went upstairs; and after he had broken bread and eaten, he continued to converse…until dawn; then he left.  Meanwhile, they had taken the boy away alive and were not a little comforted (Acts 20:7-12). 

Paul’s diffidence may be attributable to his certainty of his work in service to the Lord, but it may also be that he knew a 3-story fall—about 15-20 feet at that time—was unlikely to be fatal to a young person, putting his continued conversation in the face of the boy’s “death” in a slightly different light.  In addition, in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul directs them (as he says he has the Galatians) to “put aside and save whatever extra you earn” (16:2) for the first day of each week.  Interestingly, despite the tradition among Jews of both worshipping and resting on the Sabbath, Hoyt Hickman notes that, while “Sunday stood out above all other days because it was the weekly anniversary… [commemorating] the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection…”, it was not a day devoted to rest “until an edict by the Emperor Constantine in AD 321” (18).  Farmers were excused from enforced relaxation. 

            Finally, Islam, which Karen Armstrong characterizes as a very practical religion, building on the faiths of the other People of the Book, again relocated the Sabbath day, this time to Friday, pointing to Sura 62 of the Quran, itself named “Friday:”  “Oh you who believe! when the call for prayer is made on Friday, then hasten to the remembrance of Allah, and leave off trading…[When] the prayer is ended, then disperse abroad in the land and seek of Allah’s grace, and remember Allah much…” (:8-9).[1] 

            HuseyinAlgul writes, “’Friday is the measure of the week, Ramadan the measure of the year, and the hajj the measure of one’s lifetime’…[If] one prays Friday prayer in full consciousness of all that it means, then one is more likely to experience for a whole week the abundance and blessings that arise from it…” (22)  Again reflecting Islam’s identity as a particularly practical faith, Algul emphasizes

It is considered a good action for a Muslim to take a full bath (ghusl) on Friday, to clean the parts of the body that need to be cleaned, to brush the teeth, to put on a light, pleasant scent, to wear clean clothes, and to smile and be pleasant…Muslims should cleanse themselves both spiritually and physically, becoming completely clean…Muslims who make wudu (ritual washing for prayers) carefully and go to the mosque to pray on Fridays, who listen carefully to the sermon, and pray on two successive Fridays, would be forgiven the sins they had committed in between.  (22)

This vision of God as a stern disciplinarian out of a 50s educational film on physical hygiene is reinforced by the insistence in several Suras against transgressing against the Sabbath, going so far in Sura 7:163 as to blame a poor fishing day on it:  “[Ask the unjust] about the town which stood by the sea; when they exceeded the limits of the Sabbath, when their fish came to them on the day of their Sabbath, appearing on the surface of the water, and on the daly on which they did not keep the Sabbath they did not come to them; thus did We try them because they transgressed.”    This is not, of course, limited to Islam.  Harris notes “It has long been noted that Sabbath is richer in prohibitions than in positive acts…[They] are massive and detailed, broad and minute…[They] are intrinsic to the Sabbath…Sabbath is not a natural reality…[It] is different from other days; it is blessed by God.  The prohibitions are aspects of the personal” (14).  And Christians, particularly Protestants, in America long advocated Sunday Blue Laws (apparently without recourse to Scripture since many also insist in a literal reading of Matthew 12:8 that “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” rather than, say, local zoning boards).    

            My family has never been big dinner people so we didn't celebrate Sunday with chicken or roast beef feasts. Lunch was usually a sandwich or soup, and then we'd visit someone, usually nursing home residents my folks knew for decades or the widowed members of one of their fraternal organizations. I was always bored and brought a book with me. Afterward we'd drive just for the sake of motion and novelty.  There was a security sitting in the back seats of those cars, the rarely-used seatbelts clanking emptily against the exposed steel of the doors. All was right with the world or at least my part of it was. I had few demands outside those long, dull visits with people I never really knew except the demands of homework before a bath and bed. Sundays were quiet days when naps were allowed and music played softly from the TV or the car radio, gospel punctuated by isolated shouts from the congregation.

There is something to be said for the religious requirement of there being nowhere to go and nothing to do outside the home except visiting friends or spending the day in a park or the forest or on the road, acquiescing to the enforced demands of worship and rest. My wife and I have regular Sabbaths during which we do nothing except read together, preferably outside.  There is an ease to life shredded by the personal need to shop.  Silence in the absence of TV or radio signals (or even of the internet if that was possible), while I suspect it would drive many—including me—crazy, would also press us to rely on ourselves and our friends for conversation and news. There is an argument to be made that there is secular benefit to reining in the demands of contemporary life by making certain everyone had the day off (outside necessities like law enforcement and hospitals). To avoid showing favoritism it needn't be Sundays or even another weekend day.  It could be midweek providing nearly everyone with same day off, the lack of outside electrical entertainment and commerce making nearly everyone reliant on one another, an enforced companionability. It probably wouldn’t work, at least initially. But there is nonetheless a certain peace had by having nowhere to go and nothing to do.


·         Algul, Huseyin.  2005.  The Blessed Days and Nights of the Islamic Year.  Somerset, NJ; The Light, Inc.

·         Berlin, Adele, and Marc Brettler, editors.  2004.  The Jewish Study Bible.  New York, NY; Oxford University Press.

·         Coogan, Michael.  2007.  The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV).  New York, NY; Oxford University Press.

·         Harris, Monford.  1992.  Exodus and Exile:  The Structure of the Jewish Holidays.  Minneapolis, MN; Augsburg Fortress Press.

·         Hickman, Hoyt, Don Saliers, Laurence Stookey, and James White.  1992.  The New Handbook of the Christian Year:  Based on the Revised Common Lectionary.  Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press.

·         Shakir, M.H., translator.  2004.  Quran.  Elmhurst, NY; Tahrike Tarsile Quran, Inc.

·         Yuksel, Edip, Layth Saleh al-Shaiban, and Martha Schulte-Nafeh, translators and annotators.  2010.  Quran:  A Reformist Translation.  [Unknown]; Brainbow Press.

[1] Interestingly, a note in Edip Yuksel points out that, while “The traditional understanding [of Jummah] consider it a reference to…Friday…the Arabic word could be a description of any day picked by a group of people for assembly prayer, [or] for a public event with political, social, and spiritual purposes” (Yuksel, Sura n062:009). 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

basho & thoreau mashup

UPDATE:  unfortunately, the quality of the size of the video needed in order to make it possible to upload to the net precludes being able to read the copious information and quotes.  for most people, that won't be important, but I'm obviously going to need to learn to do this in another format (or find another way to size videos like this) if what I intend is to make this sort of thing academically presentable.  in the meantime, the music and pictures are pretty.
the past week and a half has been productive for working at various projects, few of which would interest anyone beyond the teachers they're intended for.  but this is the latest and holds a general appeal.  I'm proud of the start.  it's an integrative project comparing basho's and thoreau's status as "zen walkers" and tying that comparison into the uniquely human activity of wandering (at least on 2 feet) with little goal in mind.  I was astonished, in collecting material to use, that there were only 2 videos on google and youtube that had what I wanted--which was video of barefeet walking along a forest path or a paved road--but weren't obviously fetish vids (easily discernable by the person walking stopping every few seconds to arch his feet or show the soles slowly and fully to the camera or stretching her toes luxuriently before the camera as if it was someone's face) so I ended up making my own.  in my ever-evolving quest to make mashups as an academic alternative, I also cited all my quotes; but there's noplace to do such a thing on a mashup, so they appear in a document below the video.

“No One on the Road, No Traveler Crossing the Bridge: 
Basho and Thoreau”
Resource List
[Format:  Approximate minute—Author Page Number]

1.      1:01:57—Solnit 10.
2.      1:15:80—Quoted in Solnit 33.
3.      2:09:57—Solnit 32.
4.      3:32:17—Solnit 40.
5.      4:54:60—Hass 15.
6.      5:24:47—Thoreau Loc. 18[1].
7.      5:30:23—Hass 11.
8.      5:35:97—JazzoLOG.
9.      7:24:63—Solnit 35-6.
10.  7:31:87—Hass 16.
11.  7:37:33—Thoreau Loc. 17.
12.  8:12:60—Aitken xx.
13.  9:10:87—Thoreau Loc. 7 & 10.
14.  9:58;53—Hass 36.
15.  10:23:33—Thoreau Loc. 20.
16.  10:34:77—Hass 13.
17.  10:48:57—Thoreau Loc. 92.
18.  10:54:70—Hass 45.
19.  11:21:37—Thoreau Loc. 242.
20.  11:31:57—Hass 16.
21.  12:03;20—Thoreau Loc. 430.

Works Cited

·         Aitken, Robert.  1978.  A Zen Wave:  Basho’s Haiku and Zen.  Washington, DC; Shoemaker and Hoard Publishing.

·         Hass, Robert.  1994.  The Essential Haiku:  Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa.  New York, NY; Ecco Books.

·         JazzoLOG.  2008.  “Flag Day.”  Last accessed May 15, 2012, at http://www.newciv.org/nl/newslog.php/_v63/__show_log/_p5/

·         Solnit, Rebecca.  2000.  Wanderlust:  A History of Walking.  New York, NY; Viking Putnam.      

·         Thoreau, Henry David.  2012.  “Walking.” Kindle Edition. 

In addition, I’ve quoted liberally from my sermon “Evolution and Revolution” available in three separate posts on my blog, Too Long in the Wasteland.

·         Sneakers, Bobby.  2011.  “Evolution and Revolution.”  Too Long in the Wasteland. Website. Posts from February 13, 16, and 19.  Last accessed at 2longinthewasteland.blogspot.com on May 15, 2012. 

[1] Kindle quotes are found by choosing the “Table of Contents” option at the bottom of the screen, choosing “Location,” and entering the numbers.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

sunday music

in preparation for a final essay for one of my classes this semester, I've been doing a lot of thinking about sabbath, mostly reflecting on my experiences on it, but in the past few days I've given some thought to what sort of music one should listen to on sabbath.  I'm not a big gospel or religious music fan, if by religious music we mean stuff that not so subtly sings praise (although put me in a tent revival with swinging and clapping and hipshaking and I'm there).  the music I've been thinking about is more relaxed, downbeat, big on instrumentation and soaring solos.  if I was a musician I'm sure I'd know the right terms. so if I can't explain it in words I'll have to explain by example.  what I mean is this, and this, and this, and this, and this.  I'm aware they're all 80s and early 90s songs, and yours will differ, because I suspect what they reflect is music I heard when I had an image in my mind of gentle, long days with nothing necessary to do except brunch and crossword puzzles and sips of wine, watching the sun flow across the wall.  and I didn't have such days then.  I suspect, like the argument that the music that means the most to us reflects the period of our lives when we made the most emotional advances, the music we want for sabbath listening reflects that period when we most yearned for sabbath. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

spoiler: a suggestive zombie short

I am amazed at this wonderful short film.  a year ago a short teaser to the game dead island came out, guarenteed to make one lose one's shit.  it did not do that.  (that a little girl will become a zombie is, at this point, such a commonplace that anyone surprised at it never heard of night of the living dead.) this short, however, in its unbearable denuement, made me lose my shit, despite my knowing--or rather, on 1st watching, my being certain of--the ending.  the premise is that, after a zombie outbreak has been dealt with, life will go on, with modifications that include ruthless extermination of potential re-outbreaks.  that makes a great deal of sense.

I'm fascinated by the horror tropes of zombies and vampires because of the suggestion that each is a step between being alive and being dead.  (thomas merton, in an essay on an unrelated point, refers to this existence as being in purgatory, which is a "place" between the 2 states.)  the religious possibilities of what it would mean if something like a vampire or zombie outbreak occured would be enormous.  think on this:  if the supernatural origins of either were true, what kind of god would foist insatiable hunger on someone?  would that be a punishment or, in the case of starving nations, some odd blessing?  and in that latter case, if the infected took their toll on the wealthiest nations, would that be a punishment of the policies of those nations?  if zombies were real, would it suggest that voudon or santeria were the "true" religions?  if vampires were real, would they be worshiped as intermediaries between people and god, sort of angels, and would infection by them be welcomed?

in the case of spoiler, what would a post-infected religion look like?  would infection prove to most survivors that god is a fiction?  would it suggest the truth of a belligerant, angry, spiteful god?  there are suggestions in the short that there is more than 1 type of infection.  would different types suggest different divine intervention?  (that there is more than 1 type is, I think, a sly captip to the incredible diversity of zombie films.)  if someone is responsible for putting down one's spouse or child or mother, how does one reconcile one's place in the world afterward?  to what hope does someone like spoiler's protagonist cling?   is there hope in such a world?  what we see of people's lives in this post-infection world suggests that they go on with their otherwise ordinary lives with grim acceptance that it all could happen again.  in the face of constant fear of a repetition of infection, can there be hope beyond simply living through the day?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

teach naked

The destruction of the [Mongol] invasions, when so much had been lost, led to an intensification of the conservatism that always characterized agrarian society.  When resources were limited, it was impossible to encourage inventiveness and originality in the way that we do today in the modern West, where we expect to know more that our parents' generation and that our children will experience still greater advance.  No society before our own could afford the constant retraining of personnel and replacement of the infrastructure that innovation on this scale demands.  Consequently, in all pre-modern societies, including that of agrarian Europe, education was designed to preserve what had already been achieved and to put a brake on the ingenuity and curiosity of the individual, which could undermine the stability of a community that had no means of integrating or exploiting fresh insights.  In the madrasahs, for example, pupils learned old texts and commentaries by heart, and the teaching consisted of a word-by-word explication of a standard textbook.  Public disputation between scholars took for granted that one of the debaters was right and the other wrong.  There was no idea, in the question-and-answer style of study, of allowing the clash of opposing positions to build a new synthesis. 

--from Islam:  A Short History by Karen Armstrong (my emphasis)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

haiku & noodles

a few weeks ago my zen buddhism class went on a field trip to tanpopo restaurant in st. paul.  (one of the things I like about this course and ted the instructor is his frequent insistence on getting outside the classroom; this is reflected in a visit last night by dosho port, a friend of ted's--I asked him about the impact of the emergence of thich nhat hanh's engaged buddhism on the previous emphasis, relevant to why I left it, on withdrawal from the world, which led him to reflecting on the impact he saw and felt, since he had initially become buddhist in order to escape the world but his roshi insisted on his dharma name that translated loosely to "engagement with the world.")  while we waited for our meals we did an old writer's game of making new poems out of the openings to famous ones, in this case some haiku.  we gave those to ted and yesterday they were returned to us.  I hadn't written haiku in at least a decade but it was like kissing an old flame.  these are mine, with links to the originals.

This is all there is.
A ratty she-bear with cubs
Trudging through the field.

Spring rain falling
In the last days of April,
Hissing as it lands.

Over the old wooden bridge
Riding a red bike.
Bump tump bump tump bump.

ted made reference to my prediliction for sensory poetry, a la robert bly.  I appreciate that comparison.