Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cornelis Bega

Cornelis Bega. Woman Playing Guitar Hero, 1664-65.

Colleagues! I have much for which to atone: let me preface first, for my own sake (and so you forget what is to come) that I have moved from dreary Ithaca, New York, to the lush and verdant shores of Northern California, to work as an independent scholar and researcher near Berkeley, California. I can say nothing of the experience that the Bard has not already written, and note the "darling bud of May" – which indeed is not roughly shook here, but persists throughout the year!

The unfortunate aspect of the above is that I was, while an adjunct professor at Cornell, unable to complete the necessary research for The Sacred Kitchen. I would like to say that the reasons for this had to do with my own scholarly inability (and in a sense, they did), but the truth is this: at some point, several months ago, I can't remember when, my fellow professor (and condo-mate) Marcus Grum bought, for his research into Gaming as a Cultural Text, the video game Guitar Hero. At first I imagined my participation in Professor Grum's research to be merely an act of assistance to my friend and colleague. But as I began to return to my apartment for "lunch breaks" only to find myself, several hours later, desperately trying to conquer Eric Johnson's "Cliffs of Dover" (on medium, no less!), I realized that I had surpassed even my own capacity for cognitive dissonance and rationalization. So – the move! Here I am, now, ensconced in the green California hills, with nary a television set or Wii in sight, returning diligently to my work.

And the painting – ah, the painting! Indeed, Cornelis Bega is a favorite of mine, as any friends know. Something in the way he treats his subjects – caricatures, really – should do well to remind us all, professors or laypeople, that even on our worst behavior (cf. Bega's "Tavern Scene" of 1664), we maintain the indelible mark of pure humanity. And that, my friends, warrants thought. Even in her squalor, amidst the Costco snack packs and novelty wizard bongs, our young musician, in form and moral intention, resembles the finest Renaissance angel. I take this, indeed, as part of Bega's philosophy, at which I just hinted: whether in the gutter or on the dais, we as humans share, every day, in the blissful spark of creation.