Finding the Art in Everything

27 January, 2009

Phrases That Should Not Appear in a Facebook feed.

One of the things that explains my fixation on Facebook is that it functions as a repository for funny turns of phrase, which I can post as statuses. At the same time, many people see their Status as a kind of self-identification and expect some authenticity in it. What do I do with turns of phrase that should not be authentically applied? Here are a few examples:

is senora pantalones del fuego.
is fast, cheap, and classic.
is learning you should always toast your nuts.
is free. First come, first served.
is sober, Officer, she swears.
is cool, minty bliss.

Of course, one might speculate that Facebook is also not the place for profoundly veritable labels either.

23 January, 2009

Common Threads

A few of us at school share the same specific group of students. We joked with them today by nonchalantly tossing the phrase "sexy beast" into our instruction, wondering if they'd notice the pattern. For the record, another colleague started it, but I played along by pointing to a portrait of Abe Lincoln in my classroom and told them to focus on "that sexy beast (pointing) instead of their own panic" during the exam. They went to the next class and got something similar from their English teacher.

If I didn't know better, I'd think there was a committee doing that to me with a strange confluence of references I've encountered this week. At least three times, someone has mentioned the following odd things:

1. Our Florentine tour guide with whom I was madly in love,
2. John Hughes movies
3. Whole Foods
4. bloody stumps
5. Idi Amin

I'm reading Joyce's The Dubliners lately, where every detail means something. Maybe that explains my observation and fixation on these minutiae.

21 January, 2009

On Worship

I came across an outstanding definition of "Worship" the other day, from Ravi Zacharias:

"Spring[ing] forth out of gratitude and tak[ing] into full cognizance the mystery of my being before the One who is the cause of my being and who Himself can never, not be.... It is a response of apprecation... of awe, of surrender, of hunger to be consummated in the Spirit..."

Zacharias offered this defintion as he offered the practice of Christian Worship to counter the act of lonliness. I'll be honest, I'm really glad he dwelt foremost on the problem of lonliness and snuck in the solution of worship near the end--because my impresion of worship is mediocre (and if you've rare luck, good) music on a Sunday morning that can't really be offered as an answer with any real sincerity.

But the "worship" described by Zacharias is also something much more comprehensive than that. Worship as he describes it, overflows from the most powerful kind of Love:

It is an expression of wonder--the awe of being. Our existence alone is enough to inspire awe and wonder. The observant--artists and scientists--are not short on this. But the problem, often with the wonder of science or art is that neither discipline can be thanked. In this, wonder has to stop at itself. Z. suggests that one cause of the pervasive human isolation is when the worst happens: becoming an ungrateful people, thinking that by their own hands people had planted and reaped. Self-congratulation is inherently isolating.

The second characteristic of real worship that answers lonliness is the way that it acts as a conduit for love. Wonder turns to appreciation, and appreciation, through gratitude, turns to love. To paraphrase Z. and C.S. Lewis, the love of appreciation flows to a giving love for those in the throes of love that is based in need (a sense of deprivation). Because of love for God, based in wonder, love can endure all things. This is the the only way "the spread of alienation is arrested and the nearness of Christ's love is brought to those who are lonely."

Last, worship brings a "coalescence of essence", bringing life into a single focus. Again, Z. uses the example of gifted artists and writers in that they "more poignantly feel the ache of lonliness because their is a mangled finds fulfillment in its expertise before it finds fulfillment in its being... the ache is a deeply-felt fragmentation...we cannot mangle ourselves essentially without a resultant sense of desolation." Worship may be the only thing that can reach the severed soul, because it acknowledges "each individual is a unique and distinctive offering brought to God in gratitude".

Several circumstances lately have called me to reflect on the defective relational behavior begotten by the deepest lonliness. The most devastating effect of the lonliness is that it motivates destructive behavior with isolating consequences, and that isolation brings lonliness. Seeking something from other people in this situation is a grave error, because even the balm of meaningful contact can't be applied to these open wounds, much less the disappointing substitutions we have for meaningful contact.

Maybe the only solution to this viscious cycle really is to acknowldge our very real hunger and, being awed by the unique and distinctive features of existence, respond in appreciation and surrender.

11 January, 2009

Live Music

I am really looking forward to Brett Dennen and Erin McCarley on Friday.

And I was thinking, with deep gratitude for my musically savvy friends ( him and her), how much incredible music I've had this year. A Paste article inspired me to make one of my top-five* lists.

My Top-5 Shows in 2008

1. Iron and Wine, at The Plaza Theatre in April. There was a version of "Trapeze Swinger" and one of "Resurrection Fern" that a handful of us can't get over.

Tilly and the Wall, at the Social in July. People can't get the impact of a Tap-dancing percussion section until they've seen this dancer have the time of her life dancing/playing with a kick-ass band.

Manchester Orchestra, at the Social. It's touch to pick a single show, because I saw them three times. They are always great to see, but the worst one was at House of Blues, where they opened up for Say Anything. I think the energy of the January show was best, but I was most familiar with them at the June show. I can't pick, but I do know I'm not the same after getting their discography. They answered my cry a year ago for needing new music.

Kevin Devine at the Social, September. It was one of the smallest crowds I've ever seen at The Social, and I couldn't have expected something so intimate. He gave a really meaningful show and had a lot of face time before and after. I really want to be his friend.

Coldplay- my first arena show, and I'll probably never see anything like it again. I have been a longtime fan of this band, and I know they're the kind that anyone can like, but they play an outstanding show--fantastic production and musicianship, with a French post-revolutionary Neo-classicist art theme. Amazing.

Honorable Mentions include Band of Horses at a rainy skate park in Tampa, and Inkwell at the Back Booth. These are both good bands, but these shows make the list more for their sociological experiential qualities: One makes the list for introducing me to the violence of hipsters, the other for introducing me to the vile quality of some clubs and openers in Orlando. I'm never again ready for auxiliary percussion and bathroom queues with musician-punting Breanne.

I didn't mention a good HOB show by Jimmy Eat World, because it took place in December of 2007. They are one of my favorite bands, and it is funny to note that Megan was irritated by the garage-band quality of their performance and forswore live music because of it.

* It is important to note that "Top-Five" does not indicate any kind of priority order. In fact, it is quite the opposite: a refusal to pick a single favorite.

07 January, 2009

The Lazarus Pen

Over Christmas break I undertook some significant pen-repair projects. After extensive online research, I found the causes of scratchy nibs and limited and skipping inkflow. Over the last couple of days, I repaired the first one I ever bought, the Rotring Freeway.

My first year of teaching, a student knocked it off my desk and, uncapped, it landed on the tip of its nib. It never wrote the same after that. Since it was my only pen, I couldn't tell the scope of the damage. The tines became misaligned, and the point of the nib actually curled under itself! Since the inkflow was really poor, I would open the barrel and force more ink through from the cartridge to simulate the former flow. Over time, the ink built up and it was a clogged mess.

I was lamenting the other day about how we don't live in a society that fixes things--this pen was the object of my frustration. I didn't want to throw away my first pen, but sending it somewhere for repair would have cost as much as the pen did. I am probably the only one who found it that valuable, and I think it costs so much because pen repair is really rare. It's an indicator of how little we take the chance to repair things instead of dispose of them.

I figured that the pen couldn't end up any more unusable than it was, so i tried fixing it myself. Success! With total disassembly, some heat, full flushing, and a pair of jewelry pliers (not entirely recommended), my pen feels like it's supposed to--how all fountain pens are supposed to, which is, according to a friend," like you're not writing on paper".