Art and Literature

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

Price is right

Up-and-coming jazz singer proving herself capable with her mature voice, strong foundation of beliefs

Rachael Price fell in love with its silky-smooth sound growing up just outside the birthplace of country music in Hendersonville, Tenn.

"(Jazz) was something different, something that I could own," the 20-year-old said in a phone interview. "I liked the idea of being different."

The up-and-coming jazz star, who has opened for acclaimed jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman, will return to the South on March 30 to show off her mature voice at the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts in Decatur. Price's repertoire includes standards such as "Comes Love," "Trolley Song," "Stairway to the Stars" and "People Will Say We're in Love."

{josquote}Price, who is a member of the Baha'i Faith, grew up traveling and singing gospel with her family at Baha'i gatherings.{/josquote}

Price has risen to stardom rapidly, though she is somewhat unique in the world of jazz — a young, white jazz vocalist. She knows she has a lot to prove.

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Obama classmates saw a smile, but no racial turmoil

His Hawaii peers had no idea of the inner conflict his memoir describes. They recall a happy kid who fit in.

HONOLULU — As a second-stringer for the Punahou high school basketball squad, Barack Obama would fire up his teammates with renditions from the R&B group Earth, Wind & Fire. In yearbooks, he signed his name with a flourishing O, for Obama, which he topped with an Afro. In a world of 1970s rock 'n' roll, he was known for a love of jazz.

To his classmates, the skinny kid with a modest Afro had comfortably taken his place in the ethnic rainbow of Punahou, an elite prep school.

Today, Obama is a campaign sensation, in part because he is seen as the first black presidential candidate who might be able to reach beyond race, building support among Americans of all backgrounds.

{josquote}We had chapel sessions on the Bahai faith, Islam, Judaism, and all forms of Christianity. The message was that diversity made for a richer community.{/josquote}

That capacity does not surprise the students who knew Obama at Punahou School, which carefully nurtured a respect for diversity.

"We had chapel sessions on the Bahai faith, Islam, Judaism, and all forms of Christianity," said Bernice G. Bowers, a classmate. "The message was that diversity made for a richer community."

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Becoming American

After the revolution, my parents left Iran because they could not practice their Baha’i faith. I’m sixteen years old and my parents are still really protective. They live in a country that is strange to them. I have an 11:30 curfew, and I can’t stay overnight at anyone’s house. Now after the terrible events at the World Trade Center, I’m worried that we are going to have a war. I'm also afraid that all Arab people will be suspected of terrorism.

Sohale Mehrmanesh, Age 16

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Related article: Morris photographer's teen immigrant portraits hung at Ellis Island.

A Theology of the State from the Baha'i Teachings

Religious communities of the Western traditions have models of ideal societies under divine rule: eschatological models (the Kingdom of God to be created by the messiah), metaphysical models (in which spiritual entities such as angels, prophets, the Hidden Imam and the souls of the departed interact with the world and each other), and ecclesiological models (the church as the body of Christ, or the community of the Islamic faithful reflecting the Prophet's original community of Medina). There are clearly connections between these models; in fact, one can speak of a single model projected into three dimensions: the community here on earth, the metaphysical realm, and the messianic future.

Religious communities also have immediate goals in societies governed by state institutions, and therefore have to have at least implicit theologies of the state. These serve as models of what "the state" is and should be doing, and what they as religious communities are doing when they are relating to the state. While there is broad congruence between pictures of the Kingdom of God throughout the Western religious traditions, there is a radical divergence in theologies of the state These differences are possible because the state is absent in theological models of the Kingdom of God and (excluding some short-lived theocratic states) is by definition external to the religious community's ecclesiological model. The state may be seen as evil, as an evil wisely ordained for a wicked time, or as the "secular arm" performing the will of the church by other means. It may be baptised, reformed or overturned, but it cannot be truly good, because in these models of the truly good society, there is no state. So while theologies of the state exist, they are at best loosely related to the communities' systematic theologies and therefore highly variable. And because the state also knows that there is no room for a state in the Kingdom, the relationships between churches and states cannot be more than tactical. Where true acceptance is withheld on one side, trust cannot be given on the other.

{josquote}The basic unit of society is not the church, the state, or the family, but the individual.{/josquote}

For these reasons, and given the importance that church-state theories have assumed in Islamicist rhetoric vis-a-vis the West, the model of church-state relationships in the Baha'i scriptures is especially interesting. Coming from the Islamic world itself, the Baha'i Faith presents a justification of the separation of church and state going far beyond those produced in the West. Millennialist in origin, and still occupying a peripheral position in most countries, its scriptures present stronger arguments for the rights of the state than can be found even in the theologies of established churches. From the position that the Messiah has come and the eschaton has been initiated in the life of Baha'u'llah (b. Iran 1817, d. Haifa 1892), the Baha'i Faith presents an eschatological model in which the state is not rendered redundant by the coming of the Messiah, but rather has been blessed and guided by that Coming.

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Jesus Laughed

Barry Smith

The SF Bay Area is a good place for those who enjoy trading their wages for palatable art and entertainment, but those who really desire the cutting edge—we head to Fresno.

Now I understand that the book Science Made Stupid defines half-life as “Saturday night in Fresno”, and yes, there was something in there about Fresno and the event horizon of a black hole, but hey, times have changed!

I had run into Barry Smith on the aether a couple years ago, and just last Thursday I was cleaning out one of my email boxes when I stumbled on the remnants of our brief correspondence. I wandered onto the web and browsed through his tour schedule: coming to Fresno—tomorrow!

Coincidence? You be the judge.

I had six hours to drive to Fresno and back and catch Barry Smith’s show Jesus in Montana in between. I’d be locked out if I got there a minute late, so I left San Jose hoping that the 2 1/2 hour drive would not be extended to 3 hours by some unforeseen calamity (as it often is).

{josquote}One might call it the “Thief in the Night” wing of the Baha’i Faith.{/josquote}

I turns out I arrived with time to spare, so I ran down Olive Avenue, wolfed down half a California burger, ran back to the Starline and dropped the price of admission out of my wallet onto the table.I had finally made it. I stumbled into the dark club, felt around for a chair, and basked in the glow of anticipation.

It was certainly therapeutic to sit in the dark laughing in unison with total strangers about a Baha’i doomsday cult, but what was perhaps just as exhilarating was re-living the grand chase for prophecy and universal annihilation that Barry Smith so hilariously describes in his expertly timed PowerPoint presentation.

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