Category Archives: Art

The Gospel According to The Texas Board of Education

Baby Jesus Blesses the Dinosaurs

Baby Jesus Blesses the Dinosaurs (Conté, pastel, charcoal and watercolor on paper, 42″ x 42″, 2012)

CHAP. I

1 The problem with dinosaurs is that they all tasted like chicken.
2 So when you’re on top of the food chain, things can get pretty dull. Allosaurus for breakfast, tastes like chicken. Dimetrodon for lunch, tastes like chicken.
3 And God spake unto all his creatures, saying, “Humans taste like pork.”
4 In Persia, the Tyrannosaurus Rex Melchior heard the word of the Lord, and quoth, “What’s pork?” Lo, in India the great Tyrannosaurus Rex Caspar sayeth unto himself, “What’s pork?” And in Arabia, the great Tyrannosaurus Rex Balthazar sayeth unto himself, “I gotta get me some RIBS!”
5 And the three Rexes looked into the sky at night, and lo, a new star appeared. And the Lord spoke unto the Rexes and sayeth, “A Child has been born, and the Star will lead you to Him.”
6 And the Rexes each exclaimeth unto himself, “Baby back ribs!”
7 One by one, each followed the star to Jerusalem. They had a long road to travel and many times they got lost. It took them years. 8 And they left in their wake a trail of death and devastation. They ate every soul they encountered, yet still they could not be sated. “Chicken,” they spat with disgust. “Always it tastes like chicken.”

CHAP. II

1 Like most children, Jesus loved dinosaurs. Of the waters, he loved best the Plesiosaurus. Of the air, the Pterodactylus, and when he heard the mighty Pterodactylus screech in the heavens, always he would jump for joy and run to the window to admire this glorious winged creature of the Lord. 2 But of all the dinosaurs, Jesus loved best the Tyrannosaurus Rex, though he had never heard one. When his father Joseph roared like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Jesus would giggle and roar back. Yet he had never seen the great T. Rex.
3 One day Jesus opened the door to their honest hovel and looked out unto the yard. “T. Rex! T. Rex!” he cried, and jumped up and down. His father stopped his sawing. His mother stopped her washing. She ran to the door and swept up Jesus in her arms. She quoth to her husband, “The Child is never wrong. We’re going to have guests.” And so she put up the beans to soak, mixed some sourdough to rise, and started her baklava.

CHAP. III

1 In the great city of Jerusalem, the dinosaurs met. “Lots of people here,” noticed Melchior, “I wonder if they’re crunchy. Let’s start with the very best human we can find.” So he went to the first man he encountered, and demanded, “Take me to your leader.” The man led him to the great and glorious royal palace, where Herod awaited them.
2 Melchior asked Herod, “Do you taste like pork?”
3 Herod replied, “You are what you eat. I am the king of the Jews, and Jews do not eat pork. Therefore I do not taste like pork.”
4 Melchior was crestfallen. Yet Caspar, the wisest of the dinosaurs, exclaimed to the others, “He is not a child. The Lord sent us to find a Child.”
5 Herod asked, “What Child is this?”
6 Caspar replied, “He who will be King of the Jews.”
7 Herod asked, “Is he a Tyrannosaurus Rex?”
8 Whereupon Balthazar replied, “Nay! For he is a Child born unto Woman and unto God.”
9 So Herod gathered to him all his priests and scribes of the people, and asked them where is this Child who will become King of the Jews. They told him the Child was in Bethlehem of Judea, for so it was foretold. 10 And Herod bethought himself, “I can save myself a lot of trouble if I just send the dinosaurs to meet this Child.”
11 So sayeth he unto the dinosaurs, “Go thou unto Bethlehem in Judea, for there lives the Child of which you speak, and He will be tender and good.”
12 The dinosaurs were gladdened and they went together to Bethlehem.

CHAP. IV

1 Mary was just taking the pita from the oven when the dinosaurs arrived. “We have been expecting you,” she cried. “Are you hungry? Come eat!”
2 The dinosaurs were confused, because they planned to eat, but not at a table. Mary was insistent. “Sit down! Sit down! It is a strong bench, for my husband hath made it, and it will support you in comfort! Eat at our board, and eat of our plenty, for you are kings, and we shall do you honor.”
3 So they sat. 4 And Jesus was overjoyed that the dinosaurs had come, because he had never met the king of the dinosaurs, and now had he three right in his house! So the Child exclaimed, “Bless the dinosaurs, and especially bless the T. Rexes, for they art splendid to mine eyes. And bless this food that we shall eat, and bless the Lord my Father who hath given it to us.”
5 And so the dinosaurs ate of the fat of the land, of hummus and falafel, the olive and the hot pepper, and then of the baklava, dripping with honey. 6 Each sayeth unto the other, “Well, it doesn’t taste like chicken.” Yet Caspar had his doubts. “I bet,” he whispered to Melchior, “we’ll be hungry a half hour after we eat.”
7 “Nay,” quoth Mary, who heard him, “for if thou eateth of the legume with the grain, thou maketh a complete protein, and thou shalt be nourished.” 8 But this was a little complicated for the dinosaurs to remember, and anyway they didn’t know how to cook. “And besides,” she continued, “Food is love, and now thou art filled with love.”
9 Jesus was jolly during the meal, and sang his song. He sang, “I love you, you love me, we’re happy family, with a great big hug and a kiss from me to you, won’t you say you love me too?”
10 The dinosaurs were abashed, for Jesus glowed in the darkness as he sat in the arms of his Mother, who glowed likewise. They glowed with the purity of their hearts and the kindness of their souls, and lo, the dinosaurs found they did love the Child, and they did love the Mother, and even Joseph the Father, and had not the room in their hearts nor in their stomachs to eat them.
11 And when it was time to leave, the Child spake unto the dinosaurs, saying, “Go forth unto the world, and kill not, nor eat of thy brethren, for thou art beloved unto Me, and thou must be pure.”
12 And so it came to pass that the dinosaurs, who heretofore had lived by eating their brethren, ceased their murder and mayhem. Yet because they did not know how to cook, nor how to read a cookbook, they had naught to eat.
13 And that is why we have no dinosaurs today. Yet those who died were pure of heart, and blessed in the eyes of the Lord.


Shamanism

Lynx

Lynx (2012, Pastel and watercolor on paper, 45″ x 43″)


Just because we happened to have lived through an apocalypse, it didn’t mean that Mrs. O’Donnell stopped being a teacher. She loved teaching.

“So, class,” she said to the five grubby children who sat in the cave before her, “Let’s talk about long ago when people lived in caves. Why did they live in caves?”

Bobby’s hand shot up. “Yes, Bobby?” The boy answered, “Because they’re cool!”

“Well yes,” Mrs. O’Donnell had to admit, “they are cool. But they lived there because, like us, they didn’t have any houses.”

Karen raised her hand. “Did they live through an apocalypse too?”

Mrs. O’Donnell chuckled. “No, honey. They didn’t live through an apocalypse. They lived through the Ice Age. They didn’t have the skills that we have, like how to use a computer or a thermostat. But they had different skills. Like they knew how to build a fire without matches.”

The kids pulled their knees up and hugged themselves. Everyone was cold.

“And,” Mrs. O’Donnell continued, “they knew what plants were edible and which weren’t…”

The kids remembered how hungry they were. They fantasized about chocolate bars.

“And,” Mrs. O’Donnell continued, “they knew how to hunt. And there were animals available to hunt.”

Bobby piped up, “We have animals. We have rats.”

Mrs. O’Donnell said, “Bobby, please don’t speak out of turn. Yes, we have rats. We also have squirrels and crows and cockroaches and lots of small animals. But the big animals, that were difficult to hunt, that were worthy adversaries, we’ve killed them all. They’re not around anymore.”

The children were silent. Mrs. O’Donnell took a piece of charcoal and started drawing on the cave wall. “Now in the old days,” she began, “when the men would go out to hunt, they would practice in the cave first. They would conjure the big animals because they were difficult to hunt. They were worthy adversaries. And they would bring them alive within the caves, in drawings, and plan how the hunt would go before they actually did the hunt.”

The children watched her draw a lynx. Quickly the cat’s head emerged from the stone, as if by magic. Part of the cat was still a drawing, but part of it was alive.

She said, “In order to conjure the animal, the shaman had to know it from the inside-out. He had to go into the animal in order to know what the animal was thinking, and how to hunt it. And once he came out, he would have to remember that he was human. So he would mark the wall with his hand, to remember a human drew this. She dipped her hand in paint and pressed it against the wall.

The children gasped as the lynx emerged from the wall and in one bite, swallowed her head. While it leisurely ate the rest of her, they ran screaming from the cave.


Always a Road

Bear (2012, Pastel and watercolor on paper, 63
Bear (2012, Pastel and watercolor on paper, 63″ x 42″)

A loud crack sounded in the clearing. She didn’t know what it was but it was definitely a man-sound.

She had spent the morning fishing at the stream, but there was almost no salmon. The water left a stink on her paws. No fish.

She tried to think, where might there be roots left to eat. And then above her head, she heard the sky machine again. She would not be able to think until it was gone. The noise got louder and louder, like a cicada. She waited for it to fade away. She waited and waited.

The crows called the news. “My food,” then the answer, “Found it. My food,” then another call, “I found it first.” The crows circled, waiting their chance.

In the clearing, she found her mother. The bear had driven her from home last year and she had not seen her since. Now she had no head. It had been cut off, and tracks from the land machine led to the horizon. Soon the coyotes would come.

This land had no food. To the west, the ocean. To the south, the land of machines and manstone. To the east, the land of the Big Mean Bear and then more machines and manstone. She went north.

Many trees, good land. A still pond with lily pads, trout passed silently in the brown depths. A school of minnows. By the bank, a great blue heron listened motionlessly, coiled to strike.

But always there were lines of man-stone, and the land machines ran across them fast. A land machine could kill you. She saw dead animals on the man-stone lines all the time. It was smelly by the manstone lines, and so loud, but these were the safe places. The people lived off the manstone lines, but not next to them. Next to them were the only places where there were lots of trees.

So she stayed by the manstone lines, where it stank, and the noise continued day and night. No matter how far she traveled, she always heard the machines.

She sniffed the air. A marsh with cattail tubers nearby. That was a good start. At the waterfall, she would try once again to fish. Maybe tomorrow she would be lucky.

In the sky, another machine buzzed by.


A Thousand Years with a Bad Roommate

Dragon and Serpent (2012, Conté, pastel and watercolor on paper, 63″ x 18″)

When St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland, the Biblical Serpent came with the monks to Norway. He found a dragon’s lair that suited him perfectly. Problem was, the dragon was living there.

The dragon’s name was Wu Wei, and originally he was from China. And like all dragons, he was very fond of noodles. However, it takes a lot of noodles to fill up a dragon and the villagers can only be so busy making noodles, so within China, each dragon takes a lot of territory. That was not a problem for the older dragons, but the younger generation had to leave and find their own territory.

Within China, dragons were prized for their wisdom. However, in western Europe, no one could understand them because they only spoke Mandarin. So a lot of hot shots were dispatched to go kill the dragons. It didn’t take long before word got out, stay away from France. And Wales too while you’re at it. That is how Wu Wei wound up in a cavern under the mountains in western Norway, in a godforsaken land where they knew nothing about noodles.

Food became a bit of an issue. At first when Wu Wei got hungry, he would just take to the air and fly around until he saw one of the innumerable little families of sheep that graze all over the country. That worked while it was warm and green. When the winter came, the sheep stayed inside the stalls, and the only bodies he saw out walking were humans.

He didn’t like the taste of humans, at least not raw, but he was cold and his hunger regularly got the best of him. A fisherman alone in a skiff – Wu Wei would swoop down and snatch him up. A girl on the road to market. He picked off the lone ones and the stragglers. It was best not to be seen. He kept his fire-breathing antics to an absolute minimum. He was hunting, so to speak, on eggshells.

The evenings were hard. He was living but as far as he knew he was the only dragon in all of Norway and he had no one to talk to. He would frankly prefer to be enjoying the company of people than eating them, but he didn’t spend enough time with anyone to learn their language. He remembered the stories of the Yellow Emperor, to whom the dragons taught medicine. He remembered the Court and the privileged life all dragons lived back in China. The banquets. Long-life noodles, with lovely sauces. Never had to spit out wool or clothing from your food. Never had to freeze in a dark cave. He used to listen to the other dragons tell stories from their history long before humans, when the reptiles ruled the earth. That was interesting. That was stimulation. In the cave, alone and cold, he was depressed all the time, and he slept, and he wished he were not alone.

And then one day, he awoke to find the Serpent in his lair rearranging the furniture. Sheep hides he had used to cushion himself from the bare rock, thrown willy-nilly out into the snow. A rain barrel Wu Wei had stolen from a neighboring farm, tipped on its side and now water running into the cave. Total pandemonium.

“Out,” the Serpent hissed. “You have to get out.”
“Why?” Wu Wei was confused. Just because the water was overturned?

“Because,” the Serpent explained as though to someone very stupid, “I’m moving in.”

And so began the battle that was still going on a thousand years later. Wu Wei had no place to go, and the Serpent was intent on throwing him out. All day they wrestled. The dragon tried fire but the Serpent could not be burned. The Serpent tried poison but in a thousand years he never landed a successful bite. Wu Wei now had a companion and constant stimulation, but it had not made him any the less lonely. Frankly, he had to be vigilant at all times, and he never got enough sleep anymore.

“Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” the Serpent would hiss, wrapping his coils around Wu Wei and squeezing. “For your crimes, you will spend all eternity in the bowels of Hell, suffering torments by demons.”

“And how is that any different from this?” replied Wu Wei.

The stress and the sleeplessness wore him down. He was afraid to leave the cave for fear he wouldn’t be able to fight his way back in. So the two of them, locked in struggle, lived on rats and the rainwater that seeped into the cave. If Wu Wei had been depressed before, he was doubly so now, because he was stuck and didn’t know how to solve his problem. If he found another cave, what was to stop the Serpent from taking that one over too?

“You,” the Serpent hissed, “With your stupid memories of China. You’ll never get back to China. You’ll never see another dragon again. You’ll never eat another noodle again. You’ve lived too long, you useless piece of crap. Die, why don’t you, and let the righteous inherit the earth.”

“And you’re the righteous?”

“Of course,” the Serpent replied. “Because I’m right.”

The dragon asked, “Don’t you ever doubt yourself? Don’t you ever think there might be other ways of looking at things?”

“Of course not,” said the Serpent, “Because then I wouldn’t be righteous.”

And just then, Wu Wei smelled the noodles.

– – – – –

Sven Wang was an engineer working for COEX in Bergen. He lived in a comfortable house with his Norwegian wife Kari, his daughter Asa, and his mother, whom everyone called Popo. Sven worked long hours but like most Norwegians, he loved to get away on the weekends into the mountains.

“On the way,” Sven said, “We’ll stop off and get some pizza, and when we get to the mountains we can have a picnic.” But Popo had already cooked. She had made char siu, stir-fried sui choy, and last but not least, long life noodles in hot sauce, and already she had a stack of big plastic tubs full of the food.

“Oh no!” Sven cried with dismay. “Can’t we have food normal Norwegians eat, like pizza?” Sven always wanted to do the most Norwegian thing.

His wife Kari said, “But I love your mother’s cooking! Thank you, Popo, we will bring chopsticks and paper plates.”

And so it came to pass that the Wang family was sitting on a blanket within smelling distance from Wu Wei’s cave, a thousand years after the Serpent had moved in.

Wu Wei had disentangled himself from the Serpent and was out of the cave before he knew what he was doing. When they saw the dragon swoop down from the air, the entire Wang family started up in alarm. Sven look around for a weapon but found he had nothing on him but his chopsticks and his smart phone, and there was no app for this. He took off his shoe and stood ready to throw it.

Suddenly it occurred to Popo: the dragon had come for the noodles. She went back to the blanket and held up the plastic tub. “Don’t eat my family,” she said in Cantonese, and then when she remembered that dragons lived with the Emperor, she said it again in Mandarin. “Look, long-life noodles in lovely hot sauce.”

At hearing Chinese, Wu Wei remembered his manners. He pulled up from his dive and landed as delicately as he could, then bowed before the old woman. He said, “You must forgive me. I have been living by my wits for too long. Please, I need all the noodles, but the rest of you, come and join me and share the rest of the meal.”

He sucked up all the noodles from the plastic container with a single slurp, and sat down on a corner of the blanket and tried to be polite. He wished there were more noodles but was glad for the treat. He said, “I’d like to give you something in return, but I don’t know what to do.”

Asa jumped up and exclaimed, “Daddy take his picture! I want to show it to all the kids!” So Sven said, “Perhaps what we will take from you is your picture.” Wu Wei knew nothing about cameras and had no idea what the man was talking about, but Sven maneuvered to where he could get nice lighting, and took a video of the dragon with his smart phone.

In this video, Sven interviewed Wu Wei, using his mother as interpreter. He asked the dragon to tell the story of his life. Wu Wei said, “I have been locked in a struggle with evil incarnate for a thousand years. I don’t know how to get rid of him. But a good meal would help. I like noodles. And I don’t think this good lady could get me enough noodles on her own. She needs help.”

In no time at all, the dragon had hit YouTube and the video went viral. It had received over three million hits in the first 24 hours.

When the Americans heard that “evil incarnate” lived in a cavern under a mountain in Norway, the CIA dispatched a squadron of surveillance drones to investigate. However, when they learned that “evil incarnate” was a righteous Christian, they sent a unit from Xe Services (formerly Blackwater) to Norway to eliminate the dragon.

Soon the two-line Norwegian highways were crawling with Hummers exceeding the fartgrense and there was no rest for the wicked.

Wu Wei couldn’t get back into his cave. The Serpent had narrowed the entrance so only a snake could pass through. The dragon’s bulky wings made him too big to squeeze through the boulders. Bombers combed the sky, looking for him. And the family was gone, back to their home in Bergen. He didn’t even know their name. And even if he could find them, one family could never get him enough noodles. Even if they adopted him.

“Oh, for my home!” Wu Wei cried, and decided he had nothing to lose. He took to the sky, south and east, towards China and the Emperor and all those banquets.

On the steppes of Mongolia, a Kazakh was hunting wolves with his eagle. From a high plateau, he waited until he saw the pack below. Then he took the hood off his eagle’s head and let it loose. The eagle soared in mid-air, spotted the wolf, and dived down to get it.

From where he flew in the distance, Wu Wei saw the dragon appear as a spot in the sky, and then it swooped down and picked off the eagle just before it grabbed the wolf. He gasped at the beauty of this dragon, and her speed and skill.

He was in love.

She climbed with her prize up, up into the sky, and Wu Wei followed her.

Below on the steppes, clumps of yurts indicated villages here and there. Kerchiefed women hung noodles to dry on wooden racks, as they had for hundreds of years. Wu Wei did not realize it, but he had found the last of old China, where the air was still clean and the noodles had no preservatives. He did not know he was flying over a dragon paradise.

Her cavern in the side of a cliff was scarcely big enough for two. He did not ask her for a bite of the eagle. He was shy. Wu Wei asked her, “What is your name?” and waited for the answer.

“Precious Jade,” she said, and he admired her beautiful green scales, then averted his eyes so as not to stare. She was so pretty.

Jade liked that he was shy. “Are there any other caves in the area?” he asked. She smiled and said, “There is one in the next mountain. But you can visit when you like.”

Wu Wei went off to find his new cave. For the first time he could remember in more than a thousand years, he was happy.

Shelah Horvitz