Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Expulsion of the Money Changers

We found this gem when we visited the Art Gallery of Ontario the other day.   Painted by the bizarrely named ‘Master of the Kress Epiphany’, it is profound, disturbing, theologically challenging and politically dangerous.

The title of the work is “The Expulsion of the Money Changers”.  But it’s clear that the money changers in questions are not being expelled from a Jewish temple but from an ornate gothic cathedral.

Several things struck me about this work.  First, the odd use of perspective.  There are several different vanishing points in the image, which the brain can’t really reconcile.  So before the viewer has even taken in the picture, they have this disturbing sense that something is wrong.

Secondly, the sheer guts of the artist to create it.  When it was created, in the late 15th century, the institutional church was the main patron of the arts, and the sale of indulgences was rampant.  The artist took a huge risk in so directly and obviously drawing a parallel between the cardinals and the money-changers that Jesus opposed.

Thirdly, the willingness of the artist to tackle a political hot-potato.  In the modern art wing of the AGO are some very creative, interesting pieces, but the questions they ask are safe, tame ones, such as ‘what is the nature of perception.’  We need art that is not afraid to ask profound, disturbing questions about power, about politics, about money, and about religion.

 

Church Crawl – Special Edition

Something slightly different today.  I’m posting this under ‘Barrie Church Crawl’ but the place I visited today was neither a church, nor in Barrie.  In fact, I got to visit the Gurdwara Jot Parkash Sahib in Brampton.

The occasion was a friend’s wedding, so this was a chance to experience a very different environment and see how another culture conducts its marriages.  So, in no particular order, some of my observations.

The bride looked stunning.  Compared with her striking redsalwar kameez, bracelets all the way up both arms, intricate make up and hennaed hands and feet, the standard western white dress looks a bit boring.

When we arrived at the Gurdwara we definitely felt like outsiders.  The folks who greeted us spoke very little English, and seemed a bit nonplussed at the idea of non Punjabi speakers visiting.  We ended up getting ‘parked’ in a small side room for an hour while we waited for the bride and groom to arrive.

Things improved when they did, however.  The celebrations were kicked off with a buffet featuring excellent samosas and other vegetarian finger food.  A Gurdwara has no chairs, so this was eaten sitting cross-legged on the floor in a basement dining area.

After a while we were ushered upstairs to the hall that the wedding ceremony would be held in.  Once again, we would be sitting on the floor.  Being a Sikh must mean that you develop strong back muscles – mine were pretty sore by the end of the day!  The ceremony started with twenty minutes of music played on two harmoniums and a tabla drum.

Interestingly, the bride and groom didn’t say anything during the ceremony.  There were a number of speeches or prayers by the leaders, and the couple processed slowly several times around the table holding the Sikh holy book. At one point, a small lump of sweet pudding was placed in each  hands of each guests to eat.

After the ceremony, we processed downstairs again for yet more food.

I’ve found a very good description of the structure and significance of a Sikh wedding at http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Attending_a_Sikh_Wedding.  I really should have printed it out beforehand, as there was very little guidance for non Punjabi speakers as to what was happening or why.

That said, I was very glad to have been able to experience this, both to be part of my friend’s wedding and to have a truly new cultural experience.

And finally, it’s nice to see that in an era of religious tensions, there is one symbol that young people of all different cultures and creeds have accepted as being truly valuable and meaningful.  I refer, of course, to the sacred and holy Apple iPhone.    Texting teenagers are just as prevalent in a Gurdwara as in any church that I’ve attended.

 

Gimp Paint Studio

How did I not know about Gimp Paint Studio before today?  This is a stunning collection of brushes, textures and most importantly, tool presets.

This takes GIMP from merely being an incredibly powerful image editor to being an incredibly powerful painting tool, as well.  I’ve played around with it for an hour, and I’m loving it already.

Lots of Intriguinging Scheme Parentheses.

The venerable image manipulation package GIMP still continues to surprise me.

Version 2.8 was released recently, and it can now run seamlessly on OSX, without the need for XServer.

One feature I hadn’t explored until yesterday is the built in scripting facilities.  Pretty much anything you can do in GIMP can be scripted and programmed.  This being open source software, there is of course more than one scripting language available.  Python is available via the Python-Fu menu, but the default scripting language is Scheme, a variant of LISP.

This is my first real adventure into the world of LISP dialects.  It fascinates me how so many language constructs can be made available using only one syntactic structure – the bracket.

LISP has sometimes been said to stand for ‘Lots of Irritating Silly Parentheses.’

But I find this fascinating.

We use brackets for function calls:

(myfunction arg1 arg2)

We use brackets to define functions

(define (AddXY inX inY) (+ inX inY) )

and we even use brackets to manage the scope of variables

(let* ( (a 1) (b 2) ) (AddXY a b))

Which evaluates to ‘3’.

In any other language I’ve used, such as C, or Python, or Javascript, those three different semantic constructs would use three different syntactic structures – curly brackets, keywords, indentation etc.

I can see why people find LISP and Scheme hard to fathom, but it has a certain elegance that appeals to me.