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Archive for November, 2009

Nov. 23, 2009

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Happy Thanksgiving

By Christopher Worth

Juicy oven sweat running down the curves of a giant bird with roasted potatoes all around it. The gray haired, warm faced woman holds it up over the chicks crowding the table to get a whiff of the aroma. Father with bent nose and sliding glasses flashes a pearly white smile across the table to each child, irrespective of generation. They are together to celebrate a fictional founding dinner, and for a moment, each member around this table forgets the truth and hard faced realities of life. The gatherers enter a trance defined by Norman Rockwell. For a split second, all is well.

Slamming in the kitchen, steamrolling off the stove, mothers running about, sisters screaming, father laying back in his chair trying to imagine a different place, people fighting over what white noise should blare across the television. Competition is in the eyes of the older children. Longing is on the lips of the younger to be their older sibling home from college, work, war, and still they scuffle. They think they know each other in these brief defining moments. Pictures are set in their mind’s eye defining holidays for years to follow. The boastful brother, the bitchy aunt…we all have them.

This week begins the great American time of reflection. We call the keystone of this period Thanksgiving. What are we thankful for? Are we thankful for the all together fictional story of the great Thanksgiving feast, where Pilgrim and Indian alike sit in and on an oversized picnic table, all wearing paper hats (like we constructed in 2nd grade to signify the difference between Pilgrim and Indian). We do not see the construction of this meal. We see the rolling steam off the fresh dear meat, the cobs of corn piled neatly. We hear the munching and grinding of food. This picture, all too clean, all very perfect, is a Norman Rockwell dream.

The reality is that this feast was not clean. It came after a period of extreme hardship on the part of the Pilgrims. Their experiment was failing, and they did what people often hesitate to do today. They reached out to ask complete strangers for help, and the strangers did what very few of us do today: they brought the Pilgrims in close and did not just call them friends…they adopted them as family. For a brief moment…the Rockwell dream unfolded. A moment was shared that proved that even out of chaos, peace could emerge. A peace that is not tied to religion, not tied to great wealth, but out of a simple idea that every man and woman reaches a point of desperate, uncomfortable need and when they are met with a positive and equal exchange, even in the thrust of the storm called life, they can reach a moment and give thanks. A moment of peace in the thrashing ocean of life. For what it’s worth, Happy Thanksgiving.

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At work in the Studio

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Nov. 18, 2009

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH

By Christopher Worth

The needle falls. A skipping sound. A readjusting scratch. The peeling sound of a female voice shatters a summer afternoon in Orange, Connecticut. I’m in my second foster home. I’m six years old and cannot now remember the voice that broke the humdrum sound of summer. All I knew at that moment and what I can remember to this day is the rush of excitement at the sound of the crackling record and the tempo that followed. First, a fascination with the machine that would create such a sound…and then, a recognition that the sound is telling a story, a story that moves me beyond the fenced in back yard I am forced to be contained/contented with and in. This box, with its turning vinyl, shiny as though it were wet against the flash of sunbeam, took me away from a place and into my mind. But even outside of that all this happened instantaneously in consecutive rhythm. The power of music.

My mother and her soon-to-be sister-in-law stand in the mud in a forest of people. They think to themselves, as I imagine it, “It’s all happening.” Revolution. Evolution. The breaking of age-old dogma. Life seemed to have no impossible boundary. All boundaries could and would be broken and this mantra was being carried on the raspy tongue of artist Joe Cocker: Need a little help from a friend? Boundaries could be broken. Chains could crumble under the weight of voices on this day in this forest of people called Woodstock.

That is what I’m looking for. That is what I’m hoping for. My Woodstock. Not as a physical place. We can debate what happened in that field in upstate New York and it’s validity as an earth shattering event all day long. But what cannot be shaken (at least from my imagination) is the possibilities that such a concentration of people stood for. Not physically, but intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically tear away at everything we think we understand about cultural movements. We are left with those things. We are left with psychological reverberation, emotional reverberation, and intellectual reverberation so that where these things came from (by things, I mean new ideas) matter little. What matters is that now they are on the minds of the mass culture, and things ever so slowly begin to change. Old ideas make way for new ones. Old perceptions fall away to reveal truths where at one time a lie stood. I am looking and I bet you are looking, reader, for that open door. Even if you think you are fine with your life right now, you will at one point (or as it happens so many times) at many points you will ask, “Is this the way it needs to be?” And by “it” you will mean your life. But the real key is understanding that your life is the only place where you can start to make change. You must be the key to your own revolution. You must carry your own song and, in that, enact your own change.

The Doors got their name from the name of a book, The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley. One of my eye opening experiences within the past few years was to have read a book about Jim Morrison where I learned that he was an avid reader of social theory and he enacted this social theory in his stage performances. He wanted to move into a deeply personal place with his audience, to move them beyond their realities and into a greater awareness. Where is that greater awareness? The question is not what it is, it is an awareness of self which we are sorely lacking. It is a sad day when our institutions of higher learning grind like machines only concerned with the dollar. Our young people only prepare to respond to rule books which lay out their responsibilities in a black and white reality. Meanwhile, our college administrators and coaches get paid the kind of money that would only be rivaled by Enron. They are perfectly satisfied, passively watching as the door to perception goes slamming shut in every institution of higher learning in America. In fact, many of these administrators would gladly slide the bolts tight to seal the fate of America’s youth and out of the sides of their mouths cry “We don’t know where the brain drain is coming from! All our tests can’t track it! It can’t be quantified!” With these words, not only are we leaving behind K-12 students, but we are surely leaving behind our college students with back room deals and even front row bartering. The ability to think abstractly is slipping away into a femoral nothingness.

Until next week, there’s something happening here. What it is isn’t exactly clear…For what it’s worth.

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Bob the Book Maker

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Female Talking

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Who is Staring?

Who is staring

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