Art and Literature

Entries about creativity in all its forms, plus original creative material.

3 Baha'i Rights videos nominated for an award at the Bitfilm Festival: Please vote!

A few months ago at Mideast Youth, we wrote about the Bitfilm Festival, whom we are a partner with, to give attention to some digital mash-ups that we have done in the past few years. All but one of these videos have to do with Baha’i human rights abuses in Iran and Egypt.

This morning, the Bitfilm Festival’s website just started accepting votes. Four of our videos are currently competing for an award for the “Politicool” category.

{josquote}We have nothing else to count on but your vote!{/josquote}

We hope you will register and vote for us! We worked very hard on our videos and hope you can take the time to appreciate them, as it really helped spread the message about Baha’i human rights abuses in a creative, sometimes satirical way.

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Record Review: Tierney Sutton's 'Desire'

{amazon id='B001PXYH2S'}

Over the course of her widely acclaimed career, jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton has made several splendid concept albums. Now she has made a splendid and spiritual one, her most personal statement yet.

A member of the Bahai faith, Sutton briefly alludes to sacred Bahai texts on "Desire," an album that began as a Cole Porter tribute but ultimately became, to quote the singer's liner notes, "a meditation on materialism." A couple of Porter tunes made the cut, but "Desire" opens with the Yip Harburg lyric "It's Only a Paper Moon," the better to underscore the illusory nature of things. "It's a Barnum and Bailey world, just as phony as it can be," Sutton softly croons over lightly tapped rhythms.

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Fat Possum announces signing and album of new artist Digital Leather

{amazon id='B001E1IIWQ'} {josquote}...a project of multi-instrumentalist Shawn Foree, who grew up in the Baha'i hippie commune of Southern Arizona...{/josquote}

Fat Possum Records is proud to announce their newest signing, Digital Leather. What started off as a solo project of multi-instrumentalist Shawn Foree, has now blossomed into his debut album Warm Brother. Foree was raised on a Baha’i hippie commune in the wilds of southern Arizona, where he went to college for 19th Century American Lit and other mind-expanding activities. It was there that he honed his skill at writing darkly infectious songs: pounding drums, moody vocals, squelching vintage synths and undeniably catchy hooks that attracted the attention of garage rock superstar Jay Reatard, who now manages the band. The songs on this album seem somewhat lo-fi, but the songwriting is impeccable; the tracks could sound just as at home on an acoustic guitar as they do with a full band. This album feels like garage-rock from the dark side, a complex, genre-bending puzzle that is immediately listenable.

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God vs. Good

As a child in a Bahá’í family, I was taught that there have been a number of great Messengers of God such as Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. One of the most ancient, and certainly the most unfamiliar, was the Iranian prophet Zoroaster. We Bahá’í youth were told that Zoroaster was as divine as Jesus himself, but in spite of the fact that the Bahá’í Faith is an Iranian religion and Zoroaster has been known throughout the millennia as “the Persian Prophet”, the Bahá’í Faith has very little to say about Zoroaster. I was curious about this ancient, most mysterious of prophets. I remember digging through libraries for information on him, but my resources were limited, so that treasure hunt didn’t last long.

{josquote}Over the years I’ve grown sick of the myriad excuses theists make for evil.{/josquote}

Within a few years I had abandoned theism after realizing the basic immorality of it. Theism is worship of a God or gods that are capable of acting in response to worship or failure to worship. When I figured out that this is essentially arrogant, self-serving power worship, I cast it aside. The only theism that I could abide was that of Ahab:

I now know that thy right worship is defiance

—“Moby Dick,” Herman Melville

{amazon id='1400031427'}

About 15 years later, that curiosity regarding Zoroaster was revived by a new book about Zoroaster by Paul Kriwaczek. Up to that point, I had understood that Nietzsche’s manifesto, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” was not actually about Zarathustra, but upon reading Nietzsche, I realized that it’s not quite that simple. Nietzsche had selected Zarathustra for a couple of reasons, his primary reason being Zarathustra’s singular place in human history as the prophet of morality. I liked what I read about this ancient, prehistoric icon. Make no mistake, this was not a prophet “born in the full light of history”, but his story was a good one, and isn’t that what matters? The factuality of a story need not have any bearing on the virtue, or usefulness, of that story.

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Rainn Wilson on Taking Down His Emmy Competition

Rainn Wilson is a Hollywood conundrum. How could a regular cast member on one of the best sitcoms currently on television, NBC's The Office, also have a role, even a small role, in one of the worst indignities to humanity and the written word, this summer's cinematic trainwreck Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? It makes no sense, but that's just how Rainn Wilson rolls. One minute you think you've got him pegged—he pops up on hipster TV shows like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Reno 911, and hipster movies like Juno and The Rocker—and then he surprises everybody by launching a seemingly non-satiric website called Soul Pancake, which purports to "make discussions about spirituality, creativity, and philosophy cool again." Wilson is either a comedic mastermind, working on levels the rest of us couldn't begin to understand, or he's a real-life Dwight Schrute who just got very, very lucky.

{josquote}So when you're playing a character on TV — say, Dwight Schrute on The Office — and that character puts a cat in the freezer or has sex with a co-worker's fiancée in a storage room, that's your form of prayer?{/josquote}

I called Rainn to discuss his Emmy nomination—his third since 2007, for his flawless and occasionally transcendent portrayal of Dwight on The Office (which returns for a sixth season in late September)—and his confusing new status as a Twitter superstar, joining the ranks of such over-sharing, techno-savvy celebs as Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears. Wilson, who at press time had 1,165,884 fans, caused a minor sensation a few weeks ago when he tweeted "DO NOT RE-TWEET THIS" and thousands of people tweeted it anyway, creating an unexpected "trending topic". I'm not sure what any of that means, much less why it qualifies as news and how it affects Wilson's Emmy chances, but I was determined to find out.

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