Tuesday, November 30, 2010
In New York, @ Union Theological on Dec. 1 // Art, Religion, and Social Justice speaker series continues
Monday, November 29, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
By Mitchell Landsberg
"Our father …"
Most Christians can fill in the words that follow: " … who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done …"
But wait — let's rewind. John Dominic Crossan, a renowned, if controversial, scholar of Christianity, says the essence of the Lord's Prayer can be found in those first two words, in fact, in the single word "father," which, he believes, encapsulates an entire 1st century worldview lost to modern churchgoers.
When the prayer continues with "hallowed be thy name," he said, what it means by "hallowed" is "a fair distribution for all, the justice of an equitable household."
In other words, Crossan said, the prayer is about "distributive justice," about making sure that all are cared for.
Crossan's book is The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord's Prayer (HarperOne, 2010).
Thursday, November 25, 2010
We know him, but we may not know him, at least according to the musical’s creators. In their eyes, Peter Parker (and his alter ego, Spider-Man) is a character on a spiritual quest to reconcile human frailty with the possibility of greatness. It’s an idea that so enraptured the director, Julie Taymor, and the composers, Bono and the Edge, of U2, that they have built a $65 million (and counting) show around him, replete with perspective-skewing scenery and flying sequences that are unprecedented for Broadway.
“Peter Parker is the one,” in Ms. Taymor’s words, “who shows us how to soar above our petty selves.”
If he can soar, that is. Four minutes into the Act I rehearsal, a “Spider-Man” crew member announced on his mic, “We’re gonna hold.” It was the first of several pauses to deal with technical glitches, mostly in transitions between scenes. By the dinner break, only 15 minutes of the two-and-a-half-hour show had unfolded. And the first scheduled performance (this Sunday at 6:30 p.m.) was just eight days away.
In the last week, the nervous creators of the show, the most expensive in Broadway history, have begun to see the hand-drawn sketches, the digitally animated videos, the comic-book-inspired costumes come to life — to see “Spider-Man” finally, literally, take flight.
“Creating art that has never been done before is the reason I get out of bed in the morning,” said Bono, leaning forward in Row A on the aisle, as Reeve Carney, playing Spidey, rehearsed onstage. “This feels like it.”
Yet time is running out.
To return to the first of these harvest feasts is to return to the puzzling figure of the Puritan, the name borne by most of the English people who came to New England in the early 17th century. What did they hope to gain by coming to the New World, and what values did they seek to practice?
The easy answers simplify and distort. Nathaniel Hawthorne, who came along a couple of centuries later, bears some of the blame for the most repeated of the answers: that Puritans were self-righteous and authoritarian, bent on making everyone conform to a rigid set of rules and ostracizing everyone who disagreed with them. The colonists Hawthorne depicted in “The Scarlet Letter” lacked the human sympathies or “heart” he valued so highly. Over the years, Americans have added to Hawthorne’s unfriendly portrait with references to witch-hunting and harsh treatment of Native Americans.
Contrary to Hawthorne’s assertions of self-righteousness, the colonists hungered to recreate the ethics of love and mutual obligation spelled out in the New Testament. Church members pledged to respect the common good and to care for one another. Celebrating the liberty they had gained by coming to the New World, they echoed St. Paul’s assertion that true liberty was inseparable from the obligation to serve others.
By Nancy Rosenbaum
On stage at Emory University with the Dalai Lama this October, Sacks told a story about Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine. When the First World War broke out, he was stranded in Switzerland and later made his way to England. There he found solace in the company of Rembrandt’s paintings at The National Gallery in London.
In the clip [embedded in the original post] (mp3, 01:31) that never made it into the show, Sacks points out that Rembrandt’s subjects weren’t all that beautiful, but his paintings nevertheless reveal their “inner radiance.” He invites us to find beauty where it’s not immediately obvious, and to expand our perceptions of what’s beautiful.
If you haven't read Sacks's book The Dignity of Difference, amend that ASAP. -- Sarah
Full article here // Excerpt below
By Jeannette Catsoulis
Riven with violence and haunted by the dead and the missing, “Between Two Worlds” is a hallucinatory experience. The worlds in question could be a number of things — heaven and hell, peace and war, past and present; but in a film this vivid and this oblique, the cumulative thrust of the images is what pulls us through.
Like Mr. Jayasundara’s 2005 feature, “The Forsaken Land,” “Between Two Worlds” is deeply embedded in Sri Lanka’s devastating civil war and the societal fissures that have resulted. Elements of folklore, myth and political symbolism speckle the story (in one scene a man in a Mickey Mouse mask is mercilessly beaten in the middle of a street strewn with smashed television sets), and marauding rebels prowl on the margins.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
By Michiko Kakutani
In the summer of 1978, when he was 9 years old and growing up in the Marcy housing projects in Brooklyn, Shawn Carter — a k a Jay-Z — saw a circle of people gathered around a kid named Slate, who was “rhyming, throwing out couplet after couplet like he was in a trance, for a crazy long time — 30 minutes straight off the top of his head, never losing the beat, riding the handclaps” of the folks around him, transformed “like the church ladies touched by the spirit.” Young Shawn felt gravity working on him, “like a planet pulled into orbit by a star”: he went home that night and started writing his own rhymes in a notebook and studying the dictionary.
“Everywhere I went I’d write,” Jay-Z recalls in his compelling new book, “Decoded.” “If I was crossing a street with my friends and a rhyme came to me, I’d break out my binder, spread it on a mailbox or lamppost and write the rhyme before I crossed the street.” If he didn’t have his notebook with him, he’d run to “the corner store, buy something, then find a pen to write it on the back of the brown paper bag.” That became impractical when he was a teenager, working streets up and down the eastern corridor, selling crack, and he says he began to work on memorizing, creating “little corners in my head where I stored rhymes.”
Muslim Troupe Arrives With Splash and Age-Old Ecumenical Traditions // Music at the White Light Festival
By Steve Smith
Over the course of the White Light Festival at Lincoln Center, the notion of music as a conduit to spirituality has taken a variety of forms: individual contemplation, communal praise, the physical discipline of dance, a rock star’s beatific charisma. With “The Manganiyar Seduction,” which arrived belatedly at the Rose Theater on Monday night after a visa-related delay, came still another facet of spirituality: communion with God achieved in a manner embracing the sensual and the ecstatic.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
A review of In The Beginning is the Icon: a Liberative Theology of Images, Visual Arts and Culture by Sigurd Bergmann, translated by Anja K. Angelsen (London: Equinox, 2009). [originally published in Swedish in 2003]
In his foreward, Nicholas Wolterstorff declares that Bergmann’s book “is a breakthrough in theological aesthetics.” This is a remarkable endorsement from a scholar who has contributed so much to the contemporary landscape of theological aesthetics. It seems to me that Wolterstorff’s assessment is, on the whole, accurate. Bergmann does actually bring a great deal of originality to the conversation between theology and the arts, and he also widens the scope of the conversation considerably by drawing on voices from philosophy and anthropology rarely heard in a work like this. Furthermore, Bergmann draws our attention to interesting works of art that would not be considered as part of the normal “canon” of high western art.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Full article here // Excerpt below
By Oliver Wang
On Monday one of the most anticipated — and most leaked — albums of the year hits stores: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West. The rapper began releasing several of its songs on his own website since the late summer, and he even produced a 35-minute music video to go with it. Now, the final, complete album is in the offing.
A friend recently claimed that West is the only famous rapper who still matters. I'd imagine fans of Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg or Lil Wayne might take issue with that opinion, but it's doubtful that any of those MCs ever merited a mention in a presidential memoir. As West himself might ask, should any rapper have all that power?Keep reading...
Saturday, November 20, 2010
One great and glorious advantage that the theater used to have over the movies was the third dimension. You knew that when you watched actors on stage that they were just as fully rounded – physically, I mean – as the people in the lobby at intermission.
In the past few years, though, filmmakers have been co-opting the third dimension for themselves. Once James Cameron’s “Avatar” broke box office records with the help of silly-looking 3-D glasses, what had been a novelty (and a punch line) in the 1950s started to be taken very seriously.
Now, as if from some perverse competitive spirit, the theater has decided to step back into two dimensions, in a big way. True, actors remain irreducibly of flesh and blood. But that doesn’t mean that what’s around them has to share their unchangeable spatial identities. In scenic design these days, the biggest thing in the theater is film.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
The rock musician Patti Smith won the National Book Award for nonfiction on Wednesday night for “Just Kids,” a sweetly evocative memoir of her relationship with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe and the romantic days of bohemian New York.
Accepting the award to wild applause and cheers, Ms. Smith — clearly the favorite of the night — choked up slightly as she recalled her days working as a clerk in the Scribner bookstore as a young woman. “I dreamed of having a book of my own, of writing one that I could put on a shelf,” she said. “Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don’t abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book.”
Full Article Here // Excerpt Below
Born to a family who ran a funeral home in small-town Michigan, the poet Thomas Lynch began pondering aging and death at a young age, as a child leafing through the gory pages of his father’s mortician texts.
I say clean your plate and say your prayers,
go out for a long walk after supper
and listen for the voice that sounds like you
talking to yourself, you know the one:
contrapuntal, measured to footfall, true
to your own metabolism. Listen –
inspiration, expiration, it’s all the same,
the sigh of creation and its ceasing -
whatever’s going to happen’s going to happen.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
When does an iPhone or an iPad cease to be a mere consumer gadget and enter the rarefied world of visual art? How about when someone willfully destroys it, turning it into an abstract, brutalized husk of its former self?
A series of smashed, mangled, shot up and melted Apple products are the subject of a recent photography project by a San Francisco-area graphic designer who said he's trying to make people think about their relationship with these universally beloved gadgets.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
By NPR Staff
Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. There is no song that more vividly evokes that conflict than "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Julia Ward Howe wrote the famous words "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" in 1861. Since then, the song's become a kind of second national anthem.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The Duke Divinity School Center for Theology, Writing & Media will hold a brown bag seminar led by experienced author Susan Ketchin on “Faith & Fiction: Writing Creatively.”
By J. D. Considine
With a cover showing a cartoon wolf in robber-baron garb, running off with a carpet bag spilling cash, it’s not too hard to guess whose ox is being gored on National Ransom, the title track of Elvis Costello’s latest album, out Tuesday. And even though some of the songs are imbued with the sweetness of bluegrass and gospel, there’s plenty of the satirical bite that made Costello a new-wave icon.
There are a number of songs addressing religion on the album, but they don’t seem anti-religious so much as opposed to the abuse of religion.
I’m suspicious of people who think they know what God knows. Myself, I actually think that’s blasphemy.
I once sat on the steps of a church with an Orthodox Ethiopian boy. And he said, ‘Are you Orthodox?’ And I said, ‘No.’ And he said, ‘I’m so sorry.’ And I thought that was very beautiful, that he thought it was more a sorrowful thing, than he hated me because I wasn’t what he was, you know?
Monday, November 8, 2010
Religion has returned to the arts, philosophy, politics, and, by extension, the news media that reports on them. More broadly, contemporary Western societies may have entered a period of what philosopher Jürgen Habermas calls “post-secular,” which is to say that, in a sense, religion has been there all along. If philosophers, politicians, and artists want to talk about religion, fine—but for God’s sake, alt-rockers too?!
Alternative rock, with its default anti-establishment stance (whether feigned or forthright) has not been the typical go-to place for sincere religious music. That may be changing. Though stylistically diverse, several recent releases show a unique motif: treating religious histories and sacred texts as fonts of wisdom, experience, and poetry.