Thursday, January 29, 2009

The "Arcade Philosopher Scarf" For...

Name: Scott Small

Location: Seattle

Occupation: Graduate Student

Place I Think of as Home: Anywhere here in the Emerald City.

The Worst Movie I've Ever Seen is: The Fighting Temptations. I try to be gracious about films I don't like, only this one failed on every level, but without the usual bad movie charm.

When I Think Of Beauty, I Think of: The way the smell of baking cookies reminds me that I'm home and that I'm loved. The feeling I get when the lights go down at a movie theater. The way my friend Rob speaks of his daughters. A well told story. The belly laughter that can only happen when we know we belong. The crack of a bat when the ball hits that perfect spot. Good drinks and long conversations... I could go on like this for a really long time.

If I Had to Choose Between Theology and Baseball, I'd: Probably just explode.

Were it Not For My Wife, I'd Know Nothing About: The reality that cooking is like art, and baking is like science.

Please Don't Ever Ask Me to: Sing a solo in public.

I'd Love a Chance to: Write for a living.

Something I'd Like to Say: I'd like to say I know what my talents are and where I am headed. I'd like to say that, but I can't yet.

Kj and I: Are probably seen by some to be overly passionate about mundane things. What they don't realize is that we just so happen to be exactly as passionate as one should be.

Making the Scarf: When I submitted a "Kj will make a scarf for you" option to our school's annual art auction, I was a little nervous that I'd be interpreting a scarf for someone I'd never met. How stoked was I then, when I heard that I was gonna get to scarf the awesome and increasingly impressive Scott Small! Last year I took a selected readings course on theology and emerging network theories in science and evolution, and after the second week, I remember walking out and saying to someone, "Um, so is Scott Small a super genius?" They assented.

Ever since, I've enjoyed every conversation I've had with him- I always feel smarter afterwards, as well as in a better mood than before. Which is the only reason I can come up with to explain why when I heard I'd be making a scarf for Scott that I immediately had the name "Arcade Philospher" come into to my mind. Not that I've ever seen Scott play Asteroids, Pac Man, or Halo for that matter, but there's something about Scott that makes me picture him holding a soft drink and slice of pizza at the edge of a pinball machine while discussing ecclesiology and fractals. Thus, his scarf was inspired by the colors of Atari, mixed with "deeper" colors as well. I tried twice to punch it with a bright yellow or lime green, like a digital laser gun, but in the end, it wanted to stay cool and dark. (I didn't know it would match so well with an Obama T-Shirt!)

And as you can see from the above interview, Scott has a point of view that both inspires, enlightens and welcomes you as you listen. I can't wait to go to his first book signing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In the Footsteps of a Barber

Jayber Crow Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars

An easy five star rating for this one- half way through I already knew it had become one of my favorite books.

Not driven by plot, in fact not "driven" in any sense, this is a story that walks you gently and honestly through many parts of a life. It's hard to put words to a reading experience such as this one that takes you deep into the heart of what it means to live, to be alive. Despite its fiction narrative, "Jayber Crow" feels far closer to a guided meditation on youth and age, Progress vs. nature, community vs. materialism. About every five pages, a passage would knock me over with its distillation of truth and beauty from that which is most obvious and taken for granted. Over and over, I read things that made me say "I have always thought/felt that, and no one has ever put language to it." I've never used "integrity" to describe a book, but that is what this book showed me, and in a way that feels livable and desirable.

Wendell Berry's heart for the things that run deeper than the passing of years, leads me, more than anything I have yet to encounter, towards an understanding of where our American culture sold its soul in exchange for borrowed fantasies of what qualifies as a life. And at the same time, this is one of the most hope-giving narratives I've ever had the blessing to sit with night after night.

Oh read it. Read it. I don't know what else to say.
View all my reviews.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kind of Excited About This...

Though they still spelled my name wrong...

(Blogger is not being my formatting friend, so if you can't read it, just click on the image- Oy)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Sofia Coppola Time of Year

As February draws near, I hear the siren song of Sofia Coppola's three film meditations on being young, lonely and female. I recently found some alternative poster art for Lost in Translation- I like how each is a different interpretation of the story- and how very Sofia some of them are.

"Everyone Wants To Be Found"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Story Teller in Shades of Bone, Birch and Branch

Andrew Wyeth passed away last week at age 91.

I don't consider myself very fluent in visual arts, its just not how my brain works, but I've always been drawn to artists who tell me stories in colors that feed me. Andrew Wyeth has been one of those artists. I think I became mildy obsessed with his work in the early age of the internet, probably just in search of an interesteing desk top image, but whatever the impetus, I found him, loved the world he painted, and kept those images close to me ever since.
I keep a print of the above painting by my desk, paired with a photograph by Sean Scully. Wyeth's paintings seem to give loneliness a sense of purpose instead of desolation. The images often appear cold, but the kind of cold you want to walk in, to focus your mind in, a briskness that makes you reflective but also awakens yearning.
He makes my winter heart beat.For a poignant and personal eulogy and reflection on Wyeth's impact, see Ed's post.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Meditations in Elvish: What Happens After Becoming a Savior

My first act of 2009 was a 12 hour Lord of the Rings Marathon with a swell crew gathered by Jamie, who even had her mom, the incomporable Jody Spiro, make PO-TAY-TOE soup a la Samwise Gamgee. So the right way to start a year.

As all good art should, Lord of the Rings reads/watches me as much as I watch it. The story it most often tells has to do with my friendships (my Sam knows who they are) and the places and people with whom I've watched the films (6 different states for the theatrical releases). But this time, what stuck out to me was the theme of how characters who wield Hope against seemingly impossible odds, end up acheiving that hope for others, but not for themselves.

The first moment that struck me is in Return of the King, where Elrond, having reforged the shards of Narsil, presents Aragorn with the sword that will compel certain traitors to fulfill their broken oaths. Using the sword is (in the films at least) Aragorn's first real moment claiming his role and identity as the heir to the throne of Gondor. Wielding the sword, he steps fully into his authority as the almost-crowned King. But in the handing of the sowrd, Elrond and Aragorn exchange a shared phrase (in Elvish)

ELROND: Ónen i-Estel Edain. (I give hope to Men).
ARAGORN : Ú-chebin estel anim. (I keep none for myself.)This potent text rings true at many levels. Elrond gives Aragorn hope and the tool to help acheive the hope, but he himself knows his time in Middle Earth is essentially over. Aragorn steps into a role as a symbol of Hope for Middle Earth, but relinquishes the life he has been living, and also undertakes a task that will likely kill him.

The further significance of the phrase is that its the final words of Aragorn's mother Gilraen. Wikipedia exegetes her phrase (from Appendix A of the books) as "meaning 'I gave Hope (an obvious reference to her son's childhood epithet Estel, meaning "hope") to the Dúnedain." The mother of the saving hope of Middle Earth will not live to see him crowned and Evil defeated. The Mary connection here is hard to ignore. Though Mary was present at Christ's crucifixion, we still learn in her narrative that her miracle son leaves her to fulfill his destiny. She gives hope to the world by not keeping him for herself.

However, the most haunting moment of the whole trilogy for me is when the four hobbits have returned to the Shire and are at the Green Dragon about to enjoy some half pints. But their mutual toast is silent, their eyes communicating a mixture of relief, bewilderment, gravitas and grief. They know their home will never be the same to them, because they will never be the same. This is made most true for Frodo, who tells Sam at the Grey Havens when it becomes clear that he is leaving with the Elves, "We set out to save the Shire, Sam and it has been saved - but not for me." Frodo has been marked permanently to the point that he cannot return to where and what was before, but must move forward. Essentially, he cannot belong to the thing he gave his life for, because the giving itself took his life.

At MHGS, we talk often about being prophet/ priest/ king, (categories worked out from King David). You have the truth speaker, the memory keeper, and the peace maker. As I thought about LOTR this time, I was struck that neither prophet, priest nor monarch get to exist much within the community they serve; whether its the Queen in her castle, the priest in the temple or the prophet wearing rags and screaming outside the city wall. In "saving" others, what of the salvation do they experience?

I want to be careful here not to sound like I'm saying that leaders (I abhor the word) can or should hover above the community they serve, or that prophetic risk takers/fighters don't carry hope with them as they offer it to others, but that there is definitely something to the idea that doing this comes with a cost; being so marked by the journey that you can only watch others enjoy what you have fought to protect. You yourself, can only ponder the experience of the transformation and try to live in the wake of such profound darkness and victorious light.

Makes me wonder if the disciples felt much like Sam, Merry and Pippin as they watched their Resurrected Rabbi ascend beyond them with the parting words "I am with you always, to the end of the age." And did these words come from Jesus with as much tenderness tempered by finality as did Frodo's benedicting kiss on Sam's forehead?

I give hope to men. I keep none for myself.

"I am with you always," but I must leave.

Can you ever really return from Mordor? From Golgotha?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Friends

Christmas Gifted to me

DVD friends

Book Friends

Music Friends

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The "Home, Sweet Seattle" Scarf For...

Name: Rebecca Jean Pesicka Swanson

Location: Edmonds, WA

Occupation: RN in the perinatal arena (ie: antepartum, labor & delivery & postpartum)

Best Music to Cook By: My husband does most of the cooking in our house (but I enjoy baking bread to the likes of Iron & Wine)

In Heaven There Will Be: no dogs

I Wish I Had More Time To: Excel in the domestic arts

One Thing My Daughter Has Learned From Me Thus Far: The proper name for our gentle parts

One Thing I Have Learned From My Daughter Thus Far: Most things can be fixed with a hug and kind words

Top Two Names I Will Not Name My Unborn Child: Jennifer & Deb

If I Could Live in a Movie, it Would Be: A Room With a View or Anne of Green Gables

Jazz Hands Come in Handy When: Remembering my childhood

Something I'd Like to Say: I am so glad Obama won and I love Kj

Kj and I: Are Seeesters

Making the Scarf:
I was stoked to knit for my SEEEESTER in law Rebecca. I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to make a Pacific Northwest feeling scarf for her, since her recent return from living in LA has confirmed how much this branch of the Swansons loves and belongs to Seattle. I also wanted to use colors to complement her dark red hair and green (?) eyes. At least in my memory they are green, but maybe that was just that time in high school when she wore tinted contacts. (Did that even happen?) Anyhoo, I turned to colors of misty mountains, rocks and water, with still a punch of bright prettiness to match Rebecca's own bright prettiness. And what else can I say about Rebecca other than she is brilliant, good at everything, and that together, we both laugh at all the same things and have a penchant for doing pas de bourees in the kitchen. I love you Rabonko!