Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Wilderness of Azazel: Yom Kippur Holiday Special: Free Excerpt from "The Five Books of Krinsky"

 This excerpt is from Book 3, Chapter 29 of the soon to be released "Five Books of Krinsky."

The chapter begins, a do all chapters in the book, with a passage from the Torah.
Next comes scenes from the life of Dan Krinsky, a forty something classics instructor at a small Chicago college. Then, a commentary inspired by the biblical passage, the action of the novel, or some random connectivity of both or neither.

This excerpt is from the chapter entitled, "Krinsky and Kara."
What follows is the passage and the commentary.

  Aaron shall bring forward the goat designated by lot for the Lord, which he is to offer as a sin offering; while the goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be left standing alive before the Lord, to make expiation with it and to send it off to the wilderness of Azazel.
Leviticus: 16:9-10


Commentary: Don't Blame Me

Yom Kippur defines most Jews. If we do nothing Jewish all year: obey a commandment, say a prayer, attend a service, light a candle, Jews do Yom Kippur. We might not pray. We might even eat but we won’t work. We might not even remember the day but it defines us. Even Krinsky’s father, Morris, of blessed memory who believed in God but not in Jews, didn’t work on Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is the sadder and wiser sibling of Christmas. At least in terms of universality. The most lapsed Christian will get a touch misty on December two five. The most assimilated Jew will know something is up on Yom Kippur.

Oddly the same passage which sanctifies Yom Kippur as the Day of Atonement is also the passage cited above with Azalel and his goat.
To wit...  the priests must have had a hard time coming up with a way of blending an obviously pagan observance with Yom Kippur.   

According to Gunther Plaut’s The Torah: A Modern Commentary   Yom Kippur was a “new creation of the postexilic priesthood.” Postexilic...what a word! This is a celebration after the fact (as it were.)

"Wait. I've got it. We can still send out the goat but this time it will have our sins all over it. Nah. They'll never buy that."
The question then becomes; Whose Hocus-Pocus is more legitimate? The Jews says they were the   first to be embraced by God. The Christians wanted to share the Love with those outside the tribe.   And the Muslims say, fine, all that stuff happened and then Allah came back to the desert and said, there is no God but Allah and it’s time for a big change.
What about Azazel? Where was it, who was it and why did the goat have to go there?
This sounds plausible...“apocryphal Jewish works, composed in the last few centuries before the Christian era, tell of angels who were lured by beautiful women into lust and, and ultimately into rebellion against God. In the writings, Azazel is one of the two leaders of the rebellion.” Plaut, ...
Azazel: Poster from the Rebellion

Another view comes from Babylon. The erstwhile Iraqis and perhaps Iranians  had a big new year festival which lasted for 10 days. On the fifth day, instead of a big college football bowl game, they performed “kuppuru.”
1. Behead ram
2. Rub the walls of the temple
3. Throw ram’s trunk into a river.

Lilith; looking fine and having that ancient 'je ne sais quoi'
Regarding “scapegoat.” Not the original translation, A Brit, William Tyndale coined the term in his translation. Now, it means someone who is blamed for things going wrong and mostly unfairly. In the original, the sins of the community wended their way to the bad place from whence they come. They didn't blame a goat.
Not everyone was enamored  of Tyndale. He translated the Bible from original Greek and Hebrew text into English and mass produced bibles on the newly created printing pressed. For his efforts he was pursued by Henry VIII and ultimately executed.
Now that we are civilized, on Yom Kippur we go to Temple, don’t eat, in traditional settings you don’t bathe or brush your teeth. It’s just you against God. You don’t have a chance. Even for that one day, you are dandruff on the shoulders of the world.

Witches´ Sabbath by Francis Goya (1798)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Morphoverse; an appreciation

There is a Glencoe of mountains and animals, Scotch, Harry Potter and James Bond and as it turns out very dramatic scenery.  The Glencoe of the AIR gallery may not be as dramatic as its much older cousin, it will however be the scene for some startling imagery. AIR once nestled by the Glencoe Woman's Society it is now literally overshadowed by the new Writer's Theater.
I do a fair amount of writing but I don't think writers need all that much room. Me, I have a basement. Whatever.

Glencoe, Scotland. I didn't know it was such a good looking country.

In this Glencoe, our Glencoe, at this very moment in her history could be the break through of two artists. Diverse, yet united in their insider/outsider relationship with the community. Not totally Mavericks. Hippies, maybe. Artistic souls who love to create.

The “MORPHOVERSE" opening event will take place September 12, 2015 from 4-9 pm at A.I.R. Gallery at 348 Tudor Court in Glencoe. From 5-7 pm flautist Julie Koidin will perform improvisations inspired by the artwork.

I personally love these artists and their work but they are weirdos. The 'Basement' has these exclusive interviews with the artists, Peggy Schutze Shearn and JW Lambert.

Don's Basement: What does the name of the show mean to you?

James Lambert: Morphoverse was conceived as a groovy sounding (and looking) word meant to suggest the world, as we know it, coming to an end and becoming something unrecognizable.

“Shadow Cell” 2014. J.W. Lambert Private Collection

Peggy Schutze Shearn: James came up with “Morphoverse” as a playful reference to the way we each make paintings. He starts with crowd scenes from stock images and transforms them into subtle, liquidy abstractions that seem to be just barely obscuring images from the collective unconscious – something elusive and a little unsettling glimpsed from corner of your eye. So you have the everyday visual universe morphing into something deeper and more mysterious. James is what you might call an “artists’ artist;” he’s a trained, sophisticated painter who's been creating these gorgeous large canvases in the studio, but very few people have seen them until this show.

ELSEWHERE, 42"x48" acrylic on canvas, Peggy Schutze Shearn
I always begin with a word or a phrase drawn or written onto the canvas, and that graphic form becomes the structure of the composition. Of course the word “verse” refers to writing in a rhythmic pattern. There is a visual rhythm to my paintings that I think is obvious even in a photograph, but only in person can you really get a sense of the topography of this work and how light plays across each stroke of the paint. When I choose words to paint I try to stay away from anything too specific in meaning in order to leave space for the work and the viewer to have a conversation with each other, a conversation that flows back and forth between the verbal and the visual. It’s interesting that “morphology” refers to various fields of study dealing with form and structure, coming from the Greek meaning the "study of shape.” Okay, I’ll stop. I think my recent binge-listening of Lexicon Valley podcast is getting to me. (Wait, does that make me sound like a nerd?)

DB: Who is your favorite painter (who isn't a personal friend) and what is your favorite painting?

JL: Eugene Delacroix is my favorite painter. "Skeletons fighting over a pickled herring" by James Ensor is my favorite right now.

"Skeletons fighting over a pickled herring." James Ensor. His parents ran a souvenir shop.
PSS: That’s a terrible question. Just FYI.

DB: What is your earliest memory of painting, drawing or otherwise creating art?

JL: My teachers told my parents I was displaying an aptitude for art so they arranged private oil painting  lessons. I will never forget the smell of that small, basement studio. It is an exotic and mysterious quality that always transports me back to that first lesson. I was eight years old.

PSS: The seductive smell of Crayolas. Being unhappy with my mother when I complained of having nothing to do and she suggested painting. I was about 6 or 7. It pissed me off because I didn’t know what to paint. Yup, sensory delight and frustration, that about sums it up.

DB: If your paintings were a song, which song would it be?

JL: Is there a song that begins with a Gregorian chant, proceeds through some chamber music, an electric guitar solo, and ends with an electrocardiogram flatline? Either that or '99 Luftballons'.

PSS: John Cage’s Suite for Toy Piano is pretty perfect, but if anyone could come up with an alternative that is less irritating to listen to, and/or written in this century, I’d really appreciate hearing from them. 

DB: Anything else you would like share with my readership?

JL: "Art is for everyone but some people should just be house painters".

PSS: Come to the opening, it’s going to be a great party!

Below is what happens when Don is in the basement and James and Peggy are hanging the show.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why can't we all get along? Straight out of Northbrook!

Last Sunday, whilst preparing for a nap, I saw part of a 1971 film series called "Pilot District Project Washington, D.C."

One of the luminaries was a very young Marion Berry.

Marion Berry at 35

He takes a walk in Washington's Third District. In the clip below, he walks through District expressing points of view that are not uncommon to hear today. Later in the clip, residents of the District are frustrated by the failure of this pilot project to have meaningful results.


The Office of Economic Opportunity spent $200,000 in 1971 (1.2 million today) to create these short films as a model for police departments around the country. Instead they OEO chose to store these three films in a warehouse in Maryland.

Now, almost 45 years later, the debate about community policing continues. I had hoped in this post to suggest solutions to this seemingly insoluble problem.

Seriously though, I got nothing.

I did recently see the film Straight Out of Compton at a 10:45 AM show at Northbrook Court with my son and about 20 other people. The film has done betterin other venues and at other times. As of this writing, SOC has grossed 130 million and has held the top spot at the box office for the past 3 weeks.

In this film, the police are not shown in the most flattering light.

Ice Cube is played by O'Shea Jackson Jr., the son of  Ice Cube nee O'Shea Jackson. If interested in the dynamic between the two men, click here for the Irish Times. (Charming article)

The younger Ice Cube is rousted by the cops in front of his house, thrown to the ground roughly in front of a recording studio in Redondo Beach while standing with fellow NWA'ers,  Eazy-E and , Dr. Dre , and in Detroit arrested after being warned not to play their hit, Fuck The Police. They played the song and plainclothes police rushed the stage. In the film, they are arrested just outside the venue. According to other reports, they were arrested at the hotel.

The tune, a mise en scène, if you will, is one in which a policeman is on trial for crimes against various NWA players.

As Ice Cube raps:

Fuckin' with me 'cause I'm a teenager
With a little bit of gold and a pager
Searchin' my car, lookin' for the product
Thinkin' every nigger is sellin' narcotics

Speaking as a white guy, albeit Jewish, but mostly white, I can go along with the song's premise. These young men are trying to make a living in the music business in the late 80s. They keep getting hassled  because they are black and profiled as dangerous felons. They fight back in the only the way they can as musicians and artists. The track, Fuck the Police. is at it's core a protest song.

Fuck The Police peaked at Billboard Top LPs at 37 and 9th in the now oddly sounding, Top Soul LPs. The top LP was the Fine Young Cannibal's, The Raw and the Cooked. Many of you sociology/anthropology fans will remember Claude Levi Strauss's book of the same name.

The Top Soul LP was Tender Lover by Babyface which topped the charts for 8 consecutive weeks.

Enjoy a few moments of FTP with me….

I am guessing that Fuck The Police is not in heavy rotation in much of the United States. It is an internet meme. (I don't want to link you to the page because it seems creepy). But it's a bunch of images like sexy women dresses as cops and hamsters cavorting around, with the text, Fuck The Police.

It is said that the phrase has been heard in Ferguson and Baltimore. Although not national news, my guess is that Fuck The Police is a popular political slogan around the country.

 In my day, "Power to the People," The Personal is Political,", "Ho, Ho Ho Chi Mihn, NLF is Going to Win."were uttered by disaffected young people.

Young people.