Tuesday, October 6, 2015

time ______ all wounds

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, and as the few remaining Chinese veterans reach their 80s and 90s, time is running out to record their personal experiences of history. Photographer Li Qiang, a former photojournalist at the Beijing News and vice photo director at China Newsweek wanted to celebrate their contributions without glossing over their often painful pasts. After locating more than 50 veterans through archives and non-governmental organizations, he spent a month traveling to remote villages and towns in four provinces to photograph them.


Fill in the blank:


H. OTHER.....

Monday, October 5, 2015

good cop, bad cop, real cop

Cmdr. Glenn Evans
CHICAGO (AP) — When a West Side neighborhood decayed into a deadly shooting gallery, the Chicago police chief said he was sending his "best guy" into the fray to turn back the drug- and gang-fueled violence.
The chief called Cmdr. Glenn Evans his "favorite among my favorites," and Evans had delivered in his previous assignment. There had been 80 fewer shootings in the Grand Crossing neighborhood compared with the year before — the second largest drop anywhere in the city. Evans won gratitude from families who finally felt safe enough to sit on their porches.
But in December, the same officer who cleaned up those streets is scheduled to go on trial on charges that his no-holds-barred style of policing went beyond the law when he allegedly shoved a gun down a suspect's throat.
As all but a card-carrying member of the ACLU, I still have a hard time imagining living in a crime- riddled neighborhood, fearing for myself and my family, and not being grateful for someone who took the bull by the horns.

my Tea Party tantrum

Policy makers' approach
Usually, I can keep it in check, but now and then my Tea Party tantrum just gets the better of me. I am sick of being old and powerless; I am sick of politicians whose promises have no substance or vision; bad news pulses in my veins as maiming and dispossessing others gains yet another foothold through institutions like the Department of Homeland Security or Islamic State; unreconstituted nitwit drivers talk on their cell phones at red lights and are unprepared for a green ones; and everywhere opinion becomes an acceptable substitute for substantive consideration. A tsunami of anger wells up, infuriated in its helplessness. Part of the problem, of course, is that there is hope that somehow decency and civility and some sort of peaceful co-existence will evolve. Won't someone please-please-please take these assholes out behind the barn and tan their back sides?!

It's choleric. It's childish. And, from time to time, it's true.

Bit by aging bit the smog creeps in like the "Godzilla el Nino" in Australia -- fierce, unremitting, wounding, incalculable. And to this honest difficulty human beings want to add their own self-serving adventures?! It feels like a noose that is tightening, tightening, tightening. No "no" can stop or allay its onslaught ... and it is infuriating. Whichever way you look, things seem to push you back into a corner where you are forced to do the only thing you could do in the first place ... lead your own decent life.

In which regard, I guess it is time for me to repeat again a poem I find pointed and true and naughty enough to suit my tastes -- Ray Ronci's "Homage to My Father."


My father said:
Fuck Father Farrell,
what does he know, that old bastard!

Study all the religions. Learn Italian.
See Venizia, Firenze, talk
to all kinds of people
and never, never think you know more
than someone else! Unless,
unless they're full of shit.

And if they are, tell them;
and if they still don't get it, fuck it,
there's nothing you can do about it.

Learn how to bake bread.
If you can make pasta and bake bread
you can always feed your family,
you can always get a job.

Keep your house clean
and don't worry what anyone else does.
Cut your grass,
prune your fruit trees
or they'll die on you.

Don't drink too much
but don't always be sober --
it makes you nervous.

A couple glasses of wine,
some anisette now and then,
a cigar never hurt nobody.

Nervous people always got an ache here,
an ache there, they get sick,
they die --

Look at Father Farrell:
he'll be dead in a year.

Fuck him!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

"Namaste" parody

I know I used this before, but I had occasion to re-find it this morning and thought it really deserved its own space ... grey day, a smile never hurt.

Frank's grandmother

Prickly and protective as some half-seen hedge row on a summer night, the guiding hand of memory asserts its ways. And within its shadowy walls there are the occasional explosions of some passing fire fly -- bright, insistent, delightful, magnetic. For a brief moment in a brief place, there is a wondrous light and then it is gone.



It is hard to know precisely if that light was imagined or real. One thing's for sure: Staring at the place where one blink formed a focal point will not assure that the blink will occur again any time soon. Or maybe it will ... you never know on a summer's night within the half-seen hedge rows.

This morning I awoke thinking of Frank's grandmother. Blink, blink. Whether the skein of thought was true or simply woven out of personal need, I don't know. Perhaps what I remember is true; perhaps it is just woven and embellished because I long for something to love and Frank's grandmother, true or false, is a small, chosen light.



Mostly I knew Frank's grandmother according to what Frank told me, but even that has grown wispy with the passage of time. Since I cannot know what is false and what is true, I choose to think it true and warm myself by the wonders I confect. Still, I do not even remember her name.

Frank's grandmother came to the United States in 1918. She came with her two young sons, following in the footsteps of a husband who had gone on ahead to create a new life in a new world. She came from Sicily and rode, like many hard-scrabble immigrants, on one of the lower decks of the ship that placed first-class passengers in the decks above.

While Frank's grandmother rode below decks, a wealthy man came down from above. He had entered into a May-December marriage that was destined to be childless and he offered to buy one of Frank's grandmother's sons. The suggestion was not so outlandish then as it may appear today: What parent would not wish the best for his or her child and which would not recognize the grinding power of poverty? Frank's grandmother refused and so Frank's father and uncle remained brothers beneath a single roof.

I met Frank's grandmother when Frank suggested I go with him to a dinner his grandmother would prepare. Frank and I were Zen students together -- friends -- and so I accepted.

I do not even remember what Frank's grandmother looked like, but in my hedge row of memory she is petite and wiry and straightforward as a paper clip. Her apartment was in a brick complex and was filled with just two things -- pictures of family and the aging palm fronds and votive candles of her Catholicism. In memory, I had an instant sense that this was a person of simple substance, with an equal emphasis on each word ... simple ... substance. She must have been in her 80's and it was clear as a fire fly -- this was a delightful person that was not to be fucked with.

As I recall it, Frank's grandmother did not want us coming into the kitchen to help her prepare the meal. That would have been improper. She was the cook. Period. A woman's work was what she did and she was not about to have her given role usurped. Frank and I sat at the table. She brought the food. We ate. That was the way of things. Period.

She had journeyed from Sicily with a saying Frank told me she was fond of: "Eat slow, but eat a lot." Imagine that -- from a land of "eat slow, but eat a lot" to a country whose prim forefathers were fond of Ben Franklin's admonition, "eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation." Frank's grandmother had her feet on the ground.

Nor was she shy about standing that ground. Frank told me that when the good-deed-prone Catholic priest would call on her from time to time, she would cuss him up one side and down the other for getting the prayers and rituals "wrong." She wasn't about to sit still for some whippersnapper and his improved theologies.

The dinner was everything and more a fire fly might deliver. I think I may still be digesting it. "A lot" is an understatement. I came away with a full belly and a distinct sense, however fabricated, of who and what Frank's grandmother was.

The next time I saw Frank's grandmother, she was in the intensive care unit in a hospital. The room was full of stainless steel and white sheets and deadly-neutral-colored walls covered with high-gloss paint. It drove me crazy from the moment I entered the room. I was wild to get a crucifix or palm frond or family portrait to put on the wall. This was a death chamber. Naturally such home-brewed bits of humanity were not allowed because they had germs. It was inhuman and inhumane in my mind ... a person on death's doorstep who must be kept free of what brought her life. Talk about "what-the-fuck!?"

I expressed myself to Frank and I don't know if his grandmother ever made it out of the ICU before she died. I like to think she died at home beneath a sappy Hallmark-calendar rendition of Jesus. At the wake, I received a little playing card with a picture of Mary and some Christian verse ... a small momento of Frank's grandmother. The card is still around here somewhere, but Frank's grandmother is still a fresh penny in my mins.

Frank's grandmother. Blink. Blink. How tall and telling in my mind -- a reminder in some small, bright way, that being who you are is possible and pulling the reins is for sissies. "Be alive!" her come-and-gone blink instructs in my mind.

True or false, does it matter?

I may just have made it all up among the hedge rows of memory ... does it matter?

From where I sit, it's still true, fabrications and all.

When I grow up, I want to be Frank's grandmother. Not really, of course, but still ... really.



Saturday, October 3, 2015

U.S. athletes critique British plumbing

The New York Jets [football team] shipped their own toilet paper to London for their clash with the Miami Dolphins, as they were warned British paper was "very thin".
New York Times sports reporter Ben Shpigel was writing an article about the logistics of bringing the NFL team over and obtained the shipping list....
It recorded 350 rolls of toilet paper along with other items such as cereal....
"There was an intern who had been over to London numerous times.
"He noticed when he was there that - and I quote - 'the toilet paper was very thin because their plumbing isn't as good'.
No word on how well British plumbing might survive when confronted by colonial toilet paper.

where "aberration" challenges "aberration"

Krysztof Charamsa
A Polish Roman Catholic priest who has "been a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - which is tasked with defending Church doctrine" has come out of the closet and been slapped down by the church he belongs to:
In an interview with the Corriere Della Sera, Mr Charamsa, said: "It's time the Church opened its eyes and realised that offering gay believers total abstinence from a life of love is inhuman.
"I also know that I will have to give up the ministry," he added, but said he felt he had a duty towards sexual minorities to come out.
The Vatican, for its part, said Krysztof Charamsa could no longer work at the Vatican or pontifical universities and added:
The decision to make such a pointed statement on the eve of the opening of the synod appears very serious and irresponsible, since it aims to subject the synod assembly to undue media pressure.
Charamsa has an understandable impetus to speak out for sexual minorities since he professes himself to be homosexual. But the echoes of his observation about the "inhumanity" of current doctrine spills ipso facto into the world of the sexual majority. Abstinence from a "life of love" is hardly limited by the objects of affection.

One man's "aberration" challenging another man's "aberration" -- what happens when the word "aberration" is expunged from scenarios in which no one is hurt

PS. I wonder if Christians consider "the immortal soul," a creation destined for heaven or hell I imagine they imagine, sexual by definition? Can it have a sexual identity? If it has an identity, can it be immortal? I don't plan to lose any sleep over it, but I do wonder when vast reaches are constrained into bite-sized morsels.

back to the Zen future

Black Moon Zendo ... an old friend in other times.
A time of tornado around the house as my older son collects his possessions, splices them into a U-Haul van and gears up to move to new digs and a new job in Plymouth, N.H. to the northeast. Boxes here, screw drivers there, shoes mingling with bits of computer gear and family members lending a hand. Outside of me (I don't work well or effectively any more), they will all trek to the new apartment this morning, unload, create what they can of a new environment ... and be done. Angus' new job as a college track coach begins in a few days and, despite the tightness of the fit that has existed around here, I will miss him as I miss each of my children as they "separate" from this place I live in and they have too.

All the activity seems to muddle my mind ... or stir an already stirred pot. Some part of me wants to rest and relax and be at ease in whatever assumptions weave such relaxation, but the assumptions are dashed against the activity of the present. It's a minor matter ... to everyone but me.

In the midst of this mulligan stew a small 'surprise' bomb dropped yesterday when I received an email out of the blue from a Zen student looking for a place to relocate the small sangha (group) of which he is part. Would there be any chance that Black Moon Zendo could share its facilities?

The idea had never occurred to me and yet, when asked the question, it made perfectly good sense -- an unused building used to the purpose for which it was originally intended and yet had fallen into disuse with my advancing age. I loved being surprised by the suggestion. It took me back to a time of construction; to a time when Sunday mornings were sometimes cold enough so that, even with the electric radiator going, my breath was visible on the air; to sittings I sat although few if any came to sit with me ... of times gone by when getting into a robe and raksu were what happened on Sunday mornings and sometimes other times as well. I was then, I suppose, a "Zen student," although no one who ever sat/practiced zazen ever considered him- or herself a "Zen student" while actually sitting.

It was fun to go back. And it was enticing, imagining a future. As that 12x16 building had been a friend to me, so I liked imagining it might be a friend to others. And there was something humorous in the notion that I might become a Zen landlord. It won't work, I imagine, but I like imagining it.

It won't work because it's too small, too poorly appointed (upscale heat and air conditioning are expected in what is imagined as a sharp-stick practice). It's too demanding and besides, the parking situation around here is not abundant. Where I learned to sweat and shiver ... well, that was me. No, it will come to nothing ... but it was a surprise and I enjoyed it.

I sent an email saying I was open to the idea, but I'm not holding my breath even if the questioner gets back to me.

Still, it is an occasion on which I can recognize how good it was to have such a friend.

Friday, October 2, 2015

saved from salvation

Sometimes it takes a helping hand to extract the seeker from the life-giving nourishment he or she might seek and then find.

Take the case of the leopard in India that got its head stuck in a pot containing water....

not just pillow talk

Dutch brothel owners must be able to communicate with sex workers in their own language to protect them from abuse, the EU's top court has ruled.
The authorities in Amsterdam were right to refuse a brothel owner permission to operate because he could not speak Hungarian or Bulgarian, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said.
Brothels are legal in the Netherlands and must be licensed locally.But the authorities are trying to tackle human trafficking and abuse. 
ECJ rulings are binding throughout the 28-member EU.