Friday, October 31, 2008

Mill Avenue Vexations Hallowe'en

‘Tis our bless’d even and Samhain upon us—also, there’s the wonderful story of the Legend of Sleepy Phoenix by Kyt Dotson from Mill Avenue Vexations to read!

Written to play around with the strange annals of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow with a more modern bent, see away with horses and replace them with motorcycles. I think that it went down pretty well. Don’t forget to check it out if thou haven’t read it before, and if you have drop in and leave a note on Vexations that thou came by!

We’ll be out on the Ave tonight, so there might be a Mill Avenue Nights to post tonight about how that entire escapade goes. It’ll be interesting to see what type of world this all brings.

Concost has been going on for a day now, I’m hallucinating slightly—but it’s mostly white semi-opaque figures that started in my peripheral vision, but have crept into the center of my gaze time to time. I see them walking in the halls, sitting at tables as if drinking coffee, but never up close. I suppose if there’s any day that I’m going to actually see the dead, it’s going to be today.

I have some friends that I need to catch up with. Although, I have a strange feeling that I’m going to see the Morrigan this time around as well; her portents have been in the air, and in my A&W root beer. Like the first time I drank the ergot tea, the carbonated fizzle whispering eldritch nothings as it gabs idly with itself.

Ah, the secret life of root beer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tattoos and Religion

Tattoos appear in a great deal of cultures as ornamentation of the body. Unlike clothing, tattoos are semi-permanent and they don’t get in our way when we try to do things. These markings have been used for a variety of purposes from assigning tribe/clan affiliation, affluence, marking criminals, marking military ranks, distinguishing heroic deeds… In this era of fast food and fast computers, though, tattoos have become entirely a social ornamentation a lot like wearing a pinky ring.

Recently, I came across a blog post by a Myspacer who just opened up a tattoo and piercing parlour out in Chandler, the Blue Clover. This post caught my attention because he went off into a long yarn about Christianity and tattoos—I believe the title said something like, “The Truth About Christianity and Tatoos?”[1]

It made me ponder a little bit about religiosity and tattooing.

For the most part, a lot of cultures have their taboos and their affectations. Insofar, few tribal cultures—if none—have any taboo about tattoos; in fact, most happen to see tattoos as important social ornamentation and the primary taboo might connect instead with misrepresentation rather than the tattoos themselves. Rather like our own American taboo (or should I say legal forbiddance) against wearing a police badge. When a tattoo can have a cultural significance, suddenly a fraud of character becomes a problem.

Religions, on the other hand, tend to attempt to control their populations through taboo—and often they do so by enforcing normative behaviors that distinguish a difference between them and their neighbors (this is true also of cultures, but is therefore more localized.) As a result one wonders if there’s a taboo present in Christianity against tattoos that this individual wants to do away with, or perhaps shed light there.

Looking at some Jewish Law—the inceptive parent of Christianity—there seems to be some direct prohibitions against tattoos. Primarily in the concepts of taking care of the body and for purposes of establishing a distinction between them and neighboring cultures who often tattooed themselves with images of their own gods. As I mentioned above, it was a common practice to avoid the traditions of others to avoid dilution. What I found most amusing is the prohibition does not follow to women piercing themselves for purposes of beauty; but it does forbade them from doing so due to a fad.[2]

I have heard discussions from schisms of Christian mythology which possess that the body is sacred and therefore anything intruding is therefore verboten, but this is obviously the outlier and not the mainstream. Taking a look a Chicano culture which has a strong Catholic tradition (another schism of the Christian mythos) there are numerous examples of the Virgin Mary tattooed on the arms of muscle-bound hombres, gigantic suffering-on-the-crucifix images emblazoned across their backs.

Old Ireland, it wasn’t uncommon to have tattoos depicting glorioles, the trinity, or even parts of psalms engraved forever into the skin—a tradition brought by Galway merchant sailors and modified to the new mythos. The sailor tradition believed that beseeching the various gods could bring fortune, although generally that fortune was to avoid wrecks. Often saints names and busts became the staple of their imagery.

Among my own people there is no such taboo. In fact, there is a deafening ambivalence. Tattoos are another ornamentation like piercings, jewelry, clothing, and other things. Although, tattoos are the cheapest of all those put together since they’re extremely long term, cannot easily be lost, and pretty much just stay put. We see Celtic knots, various depictions of goddesses, the trifold symbol, the moon.

Possible prohibitions against tattoos in the practical senses only fit into social memes and don’t need to rely on some sort of supernatural prohibition (unless one has a geasa, I suppose.)

Still, there are some possible objections to modern tattooing.

Getting a tattoo can lead to embarrassment later in life. I suppose, this is a reason to avoid them, but it’s not a good reason to forbid them to other people. It has never been a good idea to disallow people to make embarrassing mistakes—lethal mistakes maybe, but not simple embarrassment. Especially now that we can remove them easily.

Getting a tattoo can lead to life threatening infection (hepatitis, gangrene, MRSA.) But this is only a high likelihood in unsafe conditions. As a result in the US we regulate tattoo and piercing parlours to a particular safety standard in accordance to disease control—to put this in perspective: we do the same thing with our food.

For the most part, modern medicine and regulation have taken away needs to control people in these manners. Knowledge of the subject is readily available, bodily injury is minimal and risk is extremely low. All that remains is the old traditions and prohibitions by the gods of the religious should they choose to approach these subjects.

Even with the gods in place, of course, a person does get their moral decision about tattooing and piercing from their society. If their people are highly religious and hold a prohibition it will be easy for them to find out and decide on that, in some cases making the decision for them; if their people are equally religious but there is no prohibition it certainly makes the decision less burdensome; and, finally, there are traditions who naturally tattoo as a matter of social discourse.

I for one look forward to the rabbits on ankles, vines with thorns wrapping around wrists, cabbits on thighs. Tattoos have a vibrant and bold tradition that crops up everywhere. The art is not risky, later embarrassment really is nothing, and everyone gets their very own personal canvas to work with.

To tattoo or not to tattoo.

In the mainstay of at least North American culture the practice crosses religious boundaries from Chicano culture where it occurs considerably, even into the staunch corporate monoculture (hidden under shirts, on thighs…), and has had uses both sacred and secular across a multitude of cultures.

That’s a cute orca whale—got it in the ‘60s? Wow, that tattoo is older than I am.

Tell me the story.



Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights – Saturday October 25, 2008

It starts on Friday.

On the feathers of a bird—or more like an Airbus A320—I returned to the Phoenix genus loci with a wing and a prayer. Doped up on numerous painkillers to handle my myriad pains from the flight I rested a while with Omnicynic and waited for the day to unfurl around us. The sights and smells of my old home city kept me company while rubber muttered sweet nothings to asphalt and Omni laid out the events of the summer that I had missed.

There are no deep secrets to Phoenix. She’s a creature of geometries of glass and steel, blacktop and desert; just barely a juvenile as it comes to cities, leaning, gawky and tall in her teenager rawboned, all elbows and knees—clumsy on her feet, flirting with everyone and never quite going home. That’s her skyline, filled with jagged blue and hopeful horizons; clothed in the forgetting perfume of mesquite, dust, and the halitosis of exhaust fumes.

In spite of myself I feel almost as if I’m home, but everywhere is my home.

If home is where your heart is then your real home is in your chest!” Captain Hammer.

Omni and I hit the Ave briefly to see the various sights and possible people, but there wasn’t much to it so early in the day. Just the trickling remnants of the crowd filtering from ASU classes and preparing for the nightlife after their day’s work. But, it is the Ave, and I enjoy all of her states—even her quiet slumber.

Saturday rolled around to deliver unto me my first experience of Mill for the winter.

Drum Circle

Like a ragged army we still descent around the dusty feet of our bronze lord, the statue of Mitchell that cuts a flat figure over the drum circle and her inhabitants. I saw a few familiar faces scattered in the crowd, but few that I speak to on a regular basis. It may take me some time to find the usuals teeming up between the newcomers, like sentimental ghosts visiting their old haunts.

After exile (the exodus that happens at midnight from the drum circle’s proper spot to out in front of the post office) I discovered a few people to speak with who remember me from the old days of Rocky Horror Picture Show. I smiled in amazement as an old timer regaled me with his memories of how the Ave’s drum circle Saturday

Cindy and Corky

She is an extremely lovely elderly lady with a proud carriage and narrow-eyed comportment. For the most part I liked her hat and her conversation—which I quickly learned she was a mathematician who works at ASU. Reminds me with some interest of my friend Rapunzel’s mother to whom I ascribe mathematical genius as well. I think I like the fact that we have such an erudite woman keeping up on the Ave.

Kazz tells me that she and her partner, Corky, are regulars with the preacher’s now. I will have to find a way to split some extra time away to accompany them in conversation and interviews sometime.

Talking to Cindy led me into some thoughts about how I could use Vex’s voice at Mill Avenue Vexations to provide some constructive observations to the growth and changes that are happening on the Ave. We have too many people in the city and the merchants guilds going in obviously bad directions. For the most part it’s easy to tell that they’re vastly ignorant of how the street works on a demographic and social level; but as much as I want to blame them, if I don’t offer the tools of understanding I doubt they will harvest them themselves.

See the first segment of Mill Avenue the Beautiful here.

Corky appears to be a writer and ad editor. I am not sure what he’s written yet, but he wears a bearded and bespectacled professor-face and also looks like an excellent element to the culture of the Ave.

The Preachers

With the advent of the ASU Secular Society stepping up their immune response to the preachers on Mill Avenue, so has increased the presence of the preachers. I haven’t studied fully their changes in tactics but here’s a run down of my observations.

There were at least twenty-five people in total making up the full group of the Way of the Master crew. This doesn’t count children under the age of 13, of whom I believe there were at least three—I did have a brief chance to meet one of them, but we didn’t really speak. Being on too many opiates makes me a bad conversation partner.

They have broken themselves into independent groups across three different corners. The more traditional spot in front of Urban Outfitter is still defended as proper, but they also put a microphone and speaker immediately across the street (manned by Al) and they’re also persistent in front of Borders now (where the larger crowd of them gathered.)

The ASU Secular Society appear to have fielded about eight people between Kazz, Sam, Jordan, Brian, Rocco, and several others. They have brought with them further signs, petitions, handouts, and even their own speaker on a tripod from which rebuttals are spoken directly to the emanations of the preachers on their own microphone. Static bursts of sharp cadence to break up the rhythm of the preachers as they try to get going, only to have their rails kicked out from under them.

In front of Urban Outfitters I listened briefly to a woman trying to do the Good Person Test (a dishonest bait-and-switch heartstrings used-car-salesman pitch to religion) but it didn’t last and eventually she dissolved into arguing with the rampant drunks who decided to surround and confront her speech. Drunk people are certainly a hazard of the Ave, but I definitely do not wish them on anyone. She finished up her spiel with some commentary on the Titanic, but nothing that I really caught onto. Shortly after I came to listen they packed up and moved elsewhere.

To Borders.

At Borders the time had reached about 10pm—it was only at about 9pm that I’d arrived on the Ave, having come down late—and they spoke for less than ten minutes and said nothing of much import or affect. A soon as the ASU Secular Society had their speaker and microphone set up it seemed like the preachers were once again breaking down to leave.

I did have a chance to see some of the preachers that I knew as well while I took my notes. Edwin I stopped and cheered on about his usual way, wishing him luck—he doesn’t believe in luck, only the Lord, I’d forgotten his wit.

However, Saturday was interesting for those that I didn’t see: neither Richard, nor David, nor Jeremiah seemed present. Their absence did spur me into inquiring as to their health, and perhaps I shall see them the upcoming weekend. Hallowse’en is going to certainly bring out as many people who want to speak about it as shall come.

In spite of being a wholly commercialized holiday people still like to hearken back to its pagan origins and paint it with all of its strange plumage however misunderstood. It should be fun with my hopeful words and smile telling people that it’s my people’s holiday and we’d like it back.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Flying - "The Business of Miracles", Life NBC

For anyone else who watched NBC's Life, episode 203 on NBC Rewind, "The Business of Miracles," then wondered what amazing song was playing while Crews hallucinates.

It's a track called Flying on the albumn "This is Indlie" compiled by Terence Fontaine, Sonic Quiver Music.

Come and take my hand my darling
Take my hand and walk with me
There is nothing we can't fight now
If we close our eyes and see
Together we are flying
So you know that life is hard dear
And the world can bring you down
But if we hold on to each other
(Yeah) Together we are flying
Together we are so complete