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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tupac Shakur, The Testament of Abraham, and the Logos of God

Though hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur (2Pac) was known to be a voracious and eclectic reader, it seems that he may not have read The Testament of Abraham – a Jewish pseudepigraphic apocalyptic text from the first or second century CE.  We can forgive him this lapse, however; it’s not a text that is widely read outside of the community of religious scholars.

Tupac’s music was full of apocalyptic styling, and he might have appreciated The Testament of Abraham.  But if he had read it, he might not have been able to write his song, Only God can Judge Me.[i] 

(*warning* Tupac uses some "bad" language in this song.)

In The Testament of Abraham we read of father Abraham’s reluctance to die and of his long journey, accompanied by an angel, into the presence of God.  Along the way Abraham sees a great throne of judgment.  The angel then says to him:

"Seest thou, most holy Abraham, the terrible man sitting upon the throne? This is the son of the first created Adam, who is called Abel, whom the wicked Cain killed, and he sits thus to judge all creation, and examines righteous men and sinners. For God has said, I shall not judge you, but every man born of man shall be judged. Therefore he has given to him judgment, to judge the world until his great and glorious coming, and then, O righteous Abraham, is the perfect judgment and recompense, eternal and unchangeable, which no one can alter. For every man has come from the first-created, and therefore they are first judged here by his son…”

Despite what Tupac claimed, God, according to this text, appointed a man, Abel the son of Adam (the son of man) to judge humanity on the highly developed ethical principal of “it takes one to know one.”   

Now, we could forgive Tupac for missing this text.  It is a bit obscure.  We could let his oversight slide if he hadn’t also missed a very similar thought in a much more familiar work from about the same time period.  If Tupac had read his New Testament – specifically the gospel of John – he might have noticed these verses:

“Morever, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.  … For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.”  John 5: 22-23, 26-27

And similarly, Tupac could have read in Acts 17: 31 “For he [God] has set a day when he will judge the world by the man he has appointed

Sorry, Tupac.  Your judgment comes from a man, a Son of Man, the Son of Man.

There’s no evidence that the New Testament writers were quoting from or alluding directly to The Testament of Abraham but it does appear that in the first century it was a commonplace idea that God’s judgment at the end of the age would come, not from God directly, but through his appointed – human – agent.

In the worldview of that time God was understood as entirely distinct from his creation.  He was above and beyond all that he created. 

 And he interacted with that creation via his –lesser, submissive and obedient – agents. Sometimes he appointed human agents to enact his will or to speak his words.  Sometimes he entrusted angels to these purposes.  And sometimes God interacted with his creation via his Logos or Word or Wisdom.

The Jewish philosopher, Philo (20 BCE – 50 CE) described this Logos as “neither being uncreated as God, nor yet created as you, but being in the midst between these two extremities”[ii] 

This is a bit confusing.  How is something both uncreated and created? 

“The Logos (or Wisdom) is presented as being none other than God himself in his interaction with the world, and yet also as separate from and subordinate to God.”[iii]

Jesus’ conflict with the religious leaders of his time was rooted in this difficult distinction.  In his actions and his teachings, Jesus’ claimed the work and privileges of God (which would have been blasphemous, as his opponents claimed, if he were not God’s Logos.)  He worked on the Sabbath – because God works on the Sabbath.  He healed and gave life to the dead – because God heals and gives life to the dead.  Jesus shared all of the divine roles with his Father. 

But notice again what he says about the role of Judge, “the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son …he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.”

The end of the age, apocalyptic judgment of humanity would be done by Jesus, the son of man, (and not God) precisely because he was the son of man.  It is because of his familiarity with the both divine righteousness and the condition of sinful humanity that he is able to act as judge.

So Tupac may have been partly right.  We’ll give him half-credit on this one.  It is the divine prerogative[iv] to judge humanity,- God alone can judge - but he has given that role and the authority to do it to his appointed agent, his Son, Jesus, the Son of Man – who is one with and at the same time separate from, equal to and submissive to God the Father in heaven.

[i] Tupac Shakur, on the 1996 album All Eyez on Me, Death Row / Interscope Records.
[ii] Philo -Who is the Heir of Divine Things? (206)
[iii] James McGrath – John’s Apologetic Christology: Legitimation and Development in Johannine Christology, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
[iv] By the way… does anyone ever pronounce that word “Prerogative” the way it’s written?  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - Week 10

10 weeks in now?  Really.  Wow.  Here is this week's powerpoint (or similar presentation program) background image - available in two sizes.  Use it for your own personal, church, business or school projects.  I only ask that you share these images freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

Here's a link to the prior week's images.

String Theory

"This quick tour of the universe will begin with superstrings and end with butterflies.... I will not explain what butterflies and superstrings are.  To explain butterflies is unnecessary because everyone has seen them.  To explain superstrings is impossible because nobody has seen them."
-Freeman J. Dyson - Butterflies and Superstrings

If you like this song and would like to download it, click here.

Music by Thatjeffcarter was here.

Something Like Oxygen

You can laugh.
You can smile.
You can dance.
It's something like Oxygen.

Music by Thatjeffcarter was here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Intimacy with God is Dangerous

The lectionary readings for these past couple of weeks have started to feel like a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino - without the excessive violence; we started out in linear narrative fashion, reading straight forward through the pericopes of the first chapter, but then last week, without warning, we jumped forward to the transfiguration event in chapter nine.  And now this week, were flashing back to the baptism and temptation of Jesus from the opening of Mark’s gospel.  It can be a little confusing.

But reading the story in this nonlinear way can highlight some things that might otherwise be missed, can highlight similarities and connections that might not be noticed in stories separated by several chapters.

At the baptism of Jesus, Mark tells us that, “at the moment when Jesus was coming up out of the waters, he saw heaven being torn apart and the Spirit like a dove descending to him.  A voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved One.  On you my favor rests.”[i]

We’re not able to determine from Mark’s telling of this story whether or not this event was witnessed by others that day.  It seems to have been a personal experience for Jesus, a visionary experience to confirm for Jesus his intimate relationship with God in heaven. 

But this isn’t a calm and blissful spiritual experience.  There aren’t many of those in the gospel of Mark.  No, the overwhelming emotional experience of Mark seems to be one of Fear and Wonder.  In Matthew and Luke’s account the heavens “were opened,”[ii] but in Mark’s the heavens were “torn apart”- violently and dramatically (even if it were only seen by Jesus.)   And then, immediately, Jesus was “driven” - forced - into the desert by the Spirit to confront the temptations of Satan and the threatening presence of wild beasts.

Just last week we read about Jesus’ Transfiguration[iii] – but even this “mountain-top experience” is one overwhelmed with fear.  Three of Jesus’ disciples (Peter, James, and John) saw him enveloped by a cloud, and then changed.  His clothes and face became dazzling white.  And that voice from heaven spoke again, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.”

Again, the voice from the cloud speaks to confirm Jesus’ relationship with God in heaven – and, this time, to confirm for his followers his authority.  And again Jesus is driven not immediately into the desert this time, but towards Jerusalem where he would be surrounded by wild beasts of another sort, where he would be delivered into the hands of men and killed.

Reading these stories together, out of order, allows us to notice something we might not have seen otherwise: Confirmation of Jesus’ intimate relation with God was in both events preliminary to danger.  Mark seems to be telling us that intimacy with God may not leave us feeling warm and fuzzy all over.  We shouldn’t expect unicorns and strawberry-scented rainbows.  We should expect temptation and threats and wild animals. 

We can also expect victory, and comfort, and resurrection, but that may be jumping ahead in the story…

[i]  Mark 1: 10 – 11 Mark Anchor Bible Vol. 27 Translation and Commentary by C. S. Mann
[ii] Matthew 3: 16, Luke 3: 21
[iii] Mark 9: 2 - 9

Take Time to be Alone with God

I am, by nature and temperament, an introvert.  I often tell people that, “It's not that I don't like people. I just like them better when they're not around.”  I am not one that enjoys being in a crowd of people.  After a few hours of interaction with others I’m ready to spend some time by myself.  I’ll go into my “cave” and close the door and if you don’t let me see you or hear you for a while, I’ll be okay.  Some people are charged up by their interaction with others, but not me. I am energized in my thoughts and in my thinking.  I like to be alone sometimes.  I need to be alone sometimes.

And, based on reading through the gospel of Mark, I’d be willing to be that Jesus was a bit of an introvert as well.  Look at how often he’s trying to get away by himself.  Notice how often he is trying to leave the crowds.  He sneaks out of Peter’s house in the still dark hours of the morning; he leaves the city for lonely, solitary places.

The crowds that followed him and clamored for his attention disrupted his travel plans, made it impossible for him to enter cities, and even –at times – made it impossible for him to eat[i].  Jesus, I think, might have even acknowledged Jean Paul Sartre’s comment that, “hell is other people.”[ii]

But it isn’t that introverts want to be alone all the time. Introverts need alone, quiet time to recharge and to think and to be whole – but we introverts need people too.  Too much interaction and activity and noise ruins the introvert’s creativity and joy and ability to function, but too little interaction turns him into a recluse, a hermit.  There is a balance to be found. 

In his now classic devotional work, The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis wrote:

To him who withdraweth himself from his acquaintance and friends God with his holy angels will draw nigh.  It is better to be unknown and take heed to oneself than to neglect
oneself and work wonders. It is praiseworthy for a religious man to go seldom abroad, to
fly from being seen, to have no desire to see men.

I am not ashamed to tell you that I am an introvert.  It’s who I am, and it’s okay.  Some of us are created that way.  We desire to be alone, not because we don’t like people but because we need to be alone with God, in order to better love the people around us.  Maybe you’re like me (and Jesus, it seems), maybe you find you’re the first to leave the party, maybe you don’t like to take part in group discussions.  And maybe that’s okay.  Maybe it’s even a good thing.  Take time to be by yourself, it’s important. It’s healthy.

But don’t neglect being with others.  You need them too, and they’ll miss you if you become a hermit.  Even Jesus, who in Mark’s gospel is constantly trying to leave the crowds behind, spent much of his time with the people in those crowds.  He shared with them and taught them, and healed them and touched them. But he also took time – insisted upon time - to be alone, in a quiet and solitary place. He found a balance between time with the crowds and time alone. 

* I wrote this article for our local newspaper - The Fairmont Sentinel 

[i] Mark 3:20
[ii] I jest, but only a little.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Of Meditation on the Hidden Judgments of God that We May Not Be Lifted Up Because of Our Well Doing

I am not one who regularly reads "devotional" books.  However... I do keep a copy of Thomas a Kempis' The Imitation of Christ near my bed and often read from it.  This passage is one of my favorites.

*I've updated this post to add an instrumental version of the song.  Enjoy. -tjc

Feel free to download this song and to share it with friends.

I used the following sounds from the Freesound Project

Thin Cloud
Beneath Ambient 2
Fake Vinyl 
and a Librivox recording of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis - Book 3 Chapter 14 


Of Meditation Upon the Hidden Judgments of God, that We May Not
Be Lifted Up Because of Our Well-Doing

Thou sendest forth Thy judgments against me, O Lord, and shakest
all my bones with fear and trembling, and my soul trembleth
exceedingly.  I stand astonished, and remember that the heavens
are not clean in thy sight.[i]  If Thou chargest Thine angels
with folly, and didst spare them not, how shall it be unto me?
Stars have fallen from heaven, and what shall I dare who am
but dust?  They whose works seemed to be praiseworthy, fell into
the lowest depths, and they who did eat Angels' food, them have I
seen delighted with the husks that the swine do eat.

2. There is therefore no holiness, if Thou O Lord, withdraw Thine
hand.  No wisdom profiteth, if Thou leave off to guide the helm.
No strength availeth, if Thou cease to preserve.  No purity is
secure, if Thou protect it not.  No self-keeping availeth, if Thy
holy watching be not there.  For when we are left alone we are
swallowed up and perish, but when we are visited, we are raised
up, and we live.  For indeed we are unstable, but are made strong
through Thee; we grow cold, but are rekindled by Thee.

3. Oh, how humbly and abjectly must I reckon of myself, how must
I weigh it as nothing, if I seem to have nothing good!  Oh, how
profoundly ought I to submit myself to Thy unfathomable
judgments, O Lord, when I find myself nothing else save nothing,
and again nothing!  Oh weight unmeasurable, oh ocean which cannot
be crossed over, where I find nothing of myself save nothing
altogether!  Where, then, is the hiding-place of glory, where the
confidence begotten of virtue?  All vain-glory is swallowed up in
the depths of Thy judgments against me.

4. What is all flesh in Thy sight?  For how shall the clay boast
against Him that fashioned it?[ii]  How can he be lifted up in
vain speech whose heart is subjected in truth to God?  The whole
world shall not lift him up whom Truth hath subdued; nor shall he
be moved by the mouth of all who praise him, who hath placed all
his hope in God.  For they themselves who speak, behold, they
are all nothing; for they shall cease with the sound of their
words, but the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.[iii]

[i]  Job xv. 15.  
[ii] Psalm xxix. 16.  
[iii] Psalm cxvii. 2

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why is Jesus Always Leaving? - a song

Last night I asked the question with words - Why does Mark's gospel  seem to describe Jesus as always leaving?

Today I ask that question again with a song.

Feel free to download this song and to share it with others

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - Week 9

Here is this week's powerpoint (or similar presentation program) background image - this time in two different sizes. Feel free to use this image (or those of the preceding weeks) for your own personal, school, church, or business presentations. I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why is Jesus Always Leaving?

Last week I was noticing how introverted Jesus seems to be in Mark’s gospel; at every opportunity he seems to be leaving the crowds in order to be alone.  

But then today I noticed something more… Mark’s Jesus is always leaving.

Mark 1: 29 – he leaves the synagogue
1:35 – he leaves the house
3:7 – he withdraws with his disciples to the lake
4:36 – he leaves the crowds behind
5:18 – he leaves the Gerasenes region
6:1 – he leaves another place
6:32 – he leaves with his disciples for a solitary place
6:46 – he leaves the crowds again
7:17 – he leaves the crowds yet again
7:24 – he leaves that place
7:31 – he leaves the region of Tyre
8:13 – he leaves the Pharisees in the region of Dalmanutha
9:30 – he leaves that place
10:1 – he leave another place
10:46 – he leaves Jericho
11:11 – he leaves the temple and Jerusalem
11:12 – he leaves Bethany
11:19 – he leaves Jerusalem again
13:1 – he leaves the temple again
14:35 – he leaves the disciples to go on a little further
16: 6 - 7 – the angels tell the women at the tomb that he’s already left.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Mind is Gone

My mind isn’t working
and my hand is gone.
My mind isn’t working
and my hand, my hand is gone.

He laughs and she leaves,
I am awake but I cannot move.
My mind isn’t working
and my hand is gone.

I watch the television
and the image blurs.
My eyes are closed
and my mind is gone.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Alone Where it’s Dark

I sit in the servant’s quarters
alone where it’s dark,
it’s dark and it’s late
and the drugs are wearing off,
the drugs that have given me
miracles and signs and wonders
in the heavens and on.

Check my pressure and pulse
nod to the fire and pillars of smoke,
nod to the darkness,
but I can’t sleep with these remains.
Will I be judged for the call?

The bugs may crawl
among you with small resistance
but she will hand me a robe in Jerusalem
and we will look out the window
at the smoke in the valley.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - Week 8 part two... Now in HD

I've had a request that I make these weekly background images available in 1920 x 1080 size for HD projects.  Since I'm a can-do kind of guy (I try to be, anyway)  I said sure.  Can-do.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Powerpoint slides for Everyone - Week 8

If you thought that last weeks slide was... well, lame, you're not alone.  I thought so too after I had completed it.  And to be honest, I didn't even use it.  I went back to week 2's slide.    Ah well, not everything I create will be a winner.

Here is the powerpoint (or similar presentation program) background for week 8 of the year 2012.  Feel free to download these images for your own personal, church, school, business presentations.  I only ask that you share them freely and that you let others know that you found them here.

The Introvert and the Leper - Mark 1: 40 - 45

I am, by nature and temperament, an introvert.  When I tell people this they very often react with surprise, or by saying, “no you’re not.”  But it’s true.

I am not one that enjoys being with crowds of people.  After a few hours of interaction with others I’m ready to spend some time by myself.  I’ll go into my “man-cave” and close the door.  Don’t let me see you or hear you for a while and I’ll be okay.  Some are charged up by interaction with people. After a couple of hours of chatting with people about the weather and their grandkids and what happened last night on that-show-that-everybody’s-watching they are full of energy and ready to go right on talking for another several hours.  Not me. I am energized in my thoughts and in my thinking.  I like to be alone sometimes.  Sometimes I need to be alone.

And, based on reading the first chapter of Mark’s gospel, I’d be willing to be that Jesus was a bit of an introvert.  Look at how often he’s trying to get away by himself, trying to leave the crowds.  He sneaks out of the house in the still dark hours of the morning; he leaves the metropolis of Capernaum for the smaller backwater villages.  He’s trying to get away from the crowds.  He’s trying to limit his interaction to small, manageable sized groups.

But it isn’t that introverts want to be alone all the time.  As God said, “it’s not good for the man to be alone.”  Introverts need alone, quiet time to recharge and to think and to be whole – but we introverts need people too.  There’s a challenge in finding the balance.  Too much interaction and activity and noise ruins the introvert’s creativity and joy and ability to function.  Too little interaction and he becomes a recluse, a hermit. 
Jesus went to the smaller towns because he needed to speak to the people there as well.  It seems to me that he was balancing his personal needs with those of his mission.

After leaving the crowds of Capernaum for the outlaying villages, Jesus encountered a man with leprosy who came to him, pleading on his knees, “if you are willing you can make me clean.”

Leprosy, we should point out, was a diagnostic catch all for various skin diseases – and not what we commonly understand as leprosy today.  The disease that causes body parts to rot and fall off (not really) is more accurately Hanson’s Disease and is actually a disease that affects the human nervous system.  Biblical “leprosy” is an affliction of the skin (and sometimes clothing and the walls of houses).  It could include excessive dry and scaly skin or fungal growth or other ailment of the skin.[i]

People with leprosy were to be separated from the rest of the community.  They were to be quarantined.  And this was to limit the spread of the infection.  If you limit the exposure you can control the outbreak.  Lepers were to separate themselves until they could prove to an inspector (one of the priests) that the infection had fully and completely gone away.

But while Beauty may only be skin deep, Leperous contamination went all the way to the core.  People diagnosed with leprosy were generally thought to have been cursed or punished by God.  Moses’ sister, Miriam, was afflicted with leprosy after she challenged her brother.  King Hezikiah was given leprosy when he overstepped his privileges as king and tried to act as a priest in the temple.  The military general Namaan was only cured of his leprosy after he humbled himself.  The scheming servant Gehazi cused with it when he tried to set aside a little something extra for himself…

Leprosy showed itself on the surface – in red patches and inflammation and dry, scaly skin and white lesions – but the uncleanliness was thought to go all the way to the soul.  Lepers were kept apart, not only because they might spread the skin disease, but because they might also spread God’s disfavor and God’s curse.  The Leper, with his dry ashy skin not only looked like death, he was thought to have been afflicted with a sort of “living death” and was in all ways unclean. 

They were to rend their clothes, and to leave their hair unkempt.  They were to cover the lower half of their face and if approached by others were to shout out “Unclean! Unclean!”  They would remain unclean as long as they had the disease and were forced to remain alone outside the camp.[i]

This enforced isolation is very different than the introvert’s need for alone time. This was a complete removal from human contact and interaction.  It was, as the rabbis of that time called it, a “living death.”  It was lonely. 

In his novel, The Plague, Albert Camus described the emotional state of those forced to endure a lengthy quarantine from the rest of the world.  They came to know the “incorrigible sorrow of all prisoners and exiles, which is to live in company with a memory that serves no purpose.”  They could remember the good and pleasant things that had happened, but they could no longer enjoy them and so they became “hostile to the past, impatient of the present, and cheated of the future.”  Each one had to be content to “live only for the day, alone under the vast indifference of the sky.”[ii]

We don’t know how long this man with leprosy had endured this enforced isolation, but we can certainly sense his desperation.  How long had it been since he had sat with his family for a meal, or hugged his wife, wrestled with his children?  How long had it been since he’d joined his brothers at the synagogue for prayer?  How long had it been since he had walked through the streets of town, waving hello to those that he met?  How long had he been forced to endure that vast indifference?   He fell on his knees at Jesus’ feet and begged him, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  [iii]

And Jesus, moved with compassion[iv] stretched out his hand and touched the man and said, “I am willing.  Be clean.” 

He actually touched the man.  Rabbinic law demanded that no less than six feet be kept from a leper.  “Rabbi Meir would not eat an egg purchased in a street where had been a leper. Another rabbi boasted that he always threw stones at them to keep them far off.”[v] But Jesus reaches out his hand and touches the man.  Purposefully.  He touched him. 
The contamination of the leper was such that if he even stood at the door of your house you were defiled by his uncleanliness.  But Jesus touched the man.  Jesus broke through that vast indifference under the sky and touched the man who had been isolated by disease.

And what was communicated in this exchange wasn’t the disease but the purity.  Jesus wasn’t contaminated by the man’s disease.  Jesus wasn’t cursed with the man’s defilement. The man was made clean.  Jesus sent the man away[vi] and warned him to keep quiet about it.  The man was to show himself to the priest for inspection, and to make the necessary sacrifices to reenter society, but he was not to tell anyone what Jesus had done.  

But the man went away and began to spread the news freely, telling everyone what Jesus had done – and how can we blame him? After being released from his exile, after being restored to his community – after being brought back to life, as it were, how could he not share this great story? 

But look what happens as the result.  Jesus could no longer openly enter a town but was forced, by the crowds and their fervor and their crazed excitement, to remain out in the countryside and lonely places.  Jesus, as the result of curing the leper, becomes almost a leper – unable to enter into public places -though not quite for the same reasons. 

This introverted Jesus, who has been seeking a bit of quite alone time and an escape from the crowds, cures a man who has been forcibly isolated from community the crowds, and as a result the crowds are even more drawn to him.  They came to him from every quarter with their clamor and their noise, and their questions, and their demands and needs. 

And Jesus moved with compassion[vii] reached out to them.

[i] Leviticus 13 - 14
[ii] Leviticus 13: 45-46
[iii] Camus, Albert - The Plague
[iv] Mark 1: 40
[v]  Some of the earliest copies of Mark’s gospel say Jesus was moved with “Indignation.”  This is strange and difficult to understand.  But it might fit.  After healing the man, Jesus gives him a “stern” warning to keep silent about it.  And throughout Mark’s gospel we find a Jesus who is tired and angry.  Perhaps Jesus was moved with “indignation” as well as “compassion.”
[vi] Edersheim, Alfred The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol 1, page 495
[vii] More accurately, he “cast” the man away – perhaps another indicator that he was moved with “indignation”
[viii] Or “Indignation” or both

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bring on the Dancing Horses

First I'm gonna make it 
Then I'm gonna break it
Till it falls apart
Hating all the faking
And shaking while I'm breaking
Your brittle heart.

-Echo and the Bunnymen

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I'm Sorry

1 – I’m sorry that I’ve disappointed you.

2 – I’m sorry that your son is in jail.  That is a hardship for you - his mother - and for his wife and children as well.  This enforced separation has taken away their father, her husband, and your son.  It’s very hard, I’m sure.  You want him home again.

3- I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to visit him more often.  But, please remember, the jail in which he is incarcerated is not in my city, is not even in my county.  (And can I add… if your count is correct, I’ve visited him more than you have….)  This isn’t an excuse, it’s just the reality.  

4 – I’m sorry that it seems very likely that at his upcoming court appearance he will be sentenced to three years in prison.  And I’m sorry that it’s not very likely that I can do or say anything to change that probability.

5 - I'm sorry that I can't make him believe in God.  

6 - I'm sorry that I cannot meet your expectations in any of these areas.

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - Week 7

Here it is, this week's powerpoint (or similar presentation program) background image.

I am making one a week (at least one) all this year.  Feel free to download them for your projects at school, work, church, whatever.

I only ask that you share them freely and that you let others know that you found them here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ten Till Four

This sound piece was created in response to a minimalist dare posted at the Freesound project:

The challenge was to work minimalist.  We were allowed a combined total of 6 sounds or effects.  That's not a lot to work with, but it's entirely possible.  I often find myself working on a song with only one or two sound samples.

For this song I used 2 sound samples:
Alchemic Hunting
Triangle Loop 

and 4 effects in Ableton Live 8 (lite):
Beat Repeat
Ping Pong Delay
Gater Pong
Chorus Fuzz

The total amount of  time I spent on this project was also pretty minimal - about 45 minutes.  But here's what I did (to the best of my memory):

I started with the Alchemic Hunting sample.  It's in track one pretty much untouched - except for some volume changes.

I then took the  Alchemic Hunting sample and sped it up.  From that high speed version I sliced out  some random segments which I put into another track and copied this pattern over and over. I applied the Beat Repeat effect to this, which gave it glitchy off-rhythm rhythm.  And then I also added the Ping Pong delay to this track so that it had a lingering echo.

Next I created an empty track and set it to record what came out of track two (the glitchy off-rhythm rhythm track) as I fiddled with the various settings of the Ping Pong Delay effect.  To the resulting sounds I applied the Gater Pong effect - which makes it sound a bit like a DJ scratching and mixing on a vinyl record. I also shifted the pitch up four semi-tones.

I liked that track so I made a copy of it but took off the Gater Pong effect and moved it back down the four semi-tones to its original pitch.

Next I went back to the glitchy off-rhythm rhythm in track two and cut a sample randomly from the middle.  This I stretched out to play it at 1/4 speed and added the Chorus Fuzz effect

Nearly done, I added the Triangle Loop without any effects. It's nice as it is.  I adjusted volume levels on all the tracks and adjusted the pan (left to right) on the Chorus Fuzz track so that the various sounds and rhythms came in and out of aural focus.

And then finally. I made two copies of the first several seconds of the Alchemic Hunting sample and layered them on to the end of the song to make a nice -almost church organ - sound. And done.  Almost.  Then, because I realized that my song was coming in longer than the 4 minute limit, I bumped up the song's tempo to make it play a little faster and brought it all down to 3 minutes and 50 seconds.

Which, by an outrageous coincidence (I Swear!) is the title I planned to give this song from the beginning - The title refers to Dare # 10, 2 sound Samples and, 4 effects.

Sweet Dolorous Jane

Sweet Dolorous Jane is no longer content
with psychic predictions in obscure balls
or Ouija boards and tarot cards;
she’s disappointed with prognostications
in tealeaves and animal intestines.
It’s all magpie chatter on
drooping telephone wires.

She wants something more,
something newer than the new age.
She consults the digital wizards
that whisper and chatter,
and with those that have familiar spirits that peep and that mutter.
She watches as they fiddle electric zithers,
and strains to hear the voice of her dear departed.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

33 Lines for a Saturday in February

Put away your loathsome eyes
unless you want everyone
to see you; catch you staring.

Have another cup of coffee
before you brave the winter blast,
just one more to warm your hands.

The river is frozen and
there’s no going on that way.
Turn around; try another path.

It’s not the right-handed hand
nor again the left
that so often offends,
but the eye, the eye
that won’t stop staring
that needs gouged away.

The Dead Sea Scrolls
are of no help to you here,
those Essenes, they knew nothing.

Nero’s prowling the courts
in lion skins again tonight
seeking whom he may devour.

The Apocalypse of Peter
and the pot-luck of Paul
never made the final cut.

This Chimera dream has
reached its gruesome end;
the Gorgon will soon be put to rest.

She wouldn’t want you anyway,
and the one who warms your bed
would throw you over, leave you cold.

So cross the bridge carefully,
one foot in front of the other.
The river below is frozen winter white.


I wrote this poem a few years ago... but was reminded of it today.   I drove today through some of the same cold grey fog, over the same frozen river that began to inspire this poem four years ago but it was all so different.  The scenery was the same (or very similar) but I was different in it. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Music for Unfathomable Jovian Depths

"Even as he fell through the roaring heart of the Great Red Spot, with the lighting of its continent-wide thunderstorms detonating around him, he knew why it had persisted for centuries though it was made of gases far less substantial than those that formed the hurricanes of Earth.  The thin scream of hydrogen wind faded as he sank into the calmer depths, and a sleet of waxen snowflakes - some already coalescing into barely palpable mountains of hydrocarbon foam - descended from the heights above.  It was already warm enough for liquid water to exist, but there were no oceans there; this purely gaseous environment was too tenuous to support them."  - from 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke

I created this little piece with using some randomly generated MIDI files, a little bit of selective tweaking, a sound from the Freesound Project, and a number of effects in Ableton Live.

I used the sample Midnight Twilight.

Unfathomable Jovian Depths

"They were still so close to Jupiter it was impossible to believe that that the ship was orbiting the planet; they might have been in a high-flying aircraft that had just emerged from a sea of clouds.  There was no sense of scale; it was easy to imagine that they were seeding away from some terrestrial sunset; the reds and pinks and crimsons sliding below were so familiar.

"And that was an illusion; nothing here had any parallels with Earth.  Those colors were intrinsic, not borrowed from the setting sun.  The very gases were utterly alien - methane and ammonia and a witch's brew of hydrocarbons, stirred in a hydrogen-helium cauldron.  Not one trace of free oxygen, the breath of human life.

"The clouds marched from horizon to horizon in parallel rows, distorted by occasional swirls and eddies.  Here and there upwellings of brighter gas broke the pattern and Floyd could also see the dark rim of a great whirlpool, a maelstrom of gas leading down into unfathomable Jovian depths."

-from 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Another Surprise

The surprise is not in the letters that come
this one today and another just like it
with kindest regards, thank you, we’re sorry
the judge has decided, the results are in
the contest is over and I didn’t win.
But this should not be any special revelation
it’s all part of the same
the surprise, if you’d see it,
is that I submit, again and again
to what will, almost certainly, be
another rejection letter.

Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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