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Flash in the Pan

Art: It's what's for dinner



I can’t write about food right now. I’m not hungry. These days, 45 minutes of National Public Radio blows the pants off any diet plan. Even mayonnaise has diminished appeal.

Reports of heavy fighting in Iraq, against spirited resistance, while the U.S. and British military spokespeople tell us how smooth is our march, how overpowering our troops: Big Brother, here we come. Iraqi artillery units and snipers are hidden among the Iraqi civilians: Vietnam here we come. Angry G.W. pointing the finger at the Russians for selling equipment to Iraq: World War III, anyone?

If I could eat anything for dinner, it would be George Bush. Appetite or no, it wouldn’t matter, because I wouldn’t swallow. I would just chew him up and spit him out.

But no, that would not be the right thing to do. Then I would be doing it his way. Force, intimidation, domination. Doing it the same way means buying into the same cyclodrama that brought us the Roman Empire, and every other chest-thumping Goliath who ever tried to hang on as the one to beat. To evolve means doing things differently. Really differently.

I’m not exactly sure of what I’m saying—I don’t purport to inhabit the “evolved” category, and I don’t think I could bring myself to hug George Bush either (talk about losing my appetite). But I will never forget Ken Kesey’s reaction to a Vietnam War protest that he was invited to address. He was dressed as Captain America, with his helmet, cape, and superhero outfit, and escorted by his entourage of psychedelic pioneers, the Merry Pranksters. Kesey observed a speaker shouting from the podium, raising his fist, and the agitated audience shouting back, raising their fists. When it was his turn to speak, Kesey silenced the crowd by telling them the event reminded him of a Nazi rally.

Maybe this means that you can’t wage peace by name-calling, finger-pointing, marching, slogan-chanting, and pie-throwing. On the other hand, as mortal human beings we have a finite number of options available to us. We can’t stop eating just because Saddam Hussein or George Bush or Hitler eat. If we did, we would still be following their lead in this absurd dance. Nonetheless, I believe Kesey’s warning is incredibly lucid and important to keep in mind for every individual who acts according to his or her beliefs. Some act from within the system, some from without. Some act by eating lots of LSD, spraypainting things day-glo colors, and dressing up like funk stars.

On that note, consider the “Bop-Gun” invented by George Clinton—aka Dr. Funkenstein. One blast from the Bop-Gun is capable of splanking the funkless. Funk refers to the essential, eternal, cleansing and creative force of groove. Splank is the use of funk to free the booty from constipated notions.

Free the booty, and the mind will follow. Now that’s evolution: using the same tools (a gun) in a different way to do something else entirely (funkatize the planet). Each of us needs to invent our own version of the Bop-Gun, and start splanking.

Arundhati Roy, an activist from India, spoke last January at the World Social Forum in Brazil. Her take on resistance is “not only to confront empire, but lay siege to it, to deprive it of oxygen, to shame it and to rock it with our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness. The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling. Remember this: they be many, and we be few. They need us more than we need them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. If you listen carefully, you can hear her breathing.”

The operative word in the above quote is “art.” Art is individuality unleashed. Art is doing things differently. Art is evolution. Art on the street, in the office, in the classroom, in our interactions, in our hearts.

This is a food column, so the art here remains in the kitchen, the garden, the table, the markets. But art it will be. It will be beautiful, it will be delicious, hopefully it will inspire, and at the very least it will provide the necessary calories to keep going. Just like the Iraqi people are going on with their lives despite the missiles and bullets, so too must we keep going. We must continue to not only eat, but to drink and be merry—it’s all the more important during times of stress.

So next week, you can expect Chef Boy Ari to be back in the trenches and troughs of salivarious splendor. Unless I can’t take my own advice and work myself into a better mood, in which case I’ll pick another feel-good topic, like the impending extinction of all of the world’s bananas. Or perhaps I will discuss the abundance of recent evidence that fast food can be physically addictive in ways similar to nicotine and heroin. Or maybe I will cheer up and write about the gardens of Missoula that are springing to life with the almost lime-green of rebirth, the eternal upside of death.

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