Thursday, October 23, 2014

dancing seminarians

ROME (AP) -- A video of a pair of dueling, dancing American priests studying in Rome has gone viral, following in the footsteps of a now-famous Italian nun whose Alicia Keyes-esque voice won her a singing contest and a record contract.
The Rev. David Rider, 29, of Hyde Park, New York, and the Rev. John Gibson, 28, of Milwaukee, first shot to Internet fame when they were filmed in April during a fundraiser at the North American College, the elite American seminary up the hill from the Vatican.
My understanding is that the North American College is the fast-track territory for those aspiring to higher -- sometimes much higher -- Vatican office. The current ambiance of the Vatican seems somewhat more fun than the thin-lipped solemnity that preceded it... or maybe not.

insulting my intelligence and yours

I guess a part of what makes these times edgy is woven into the economic inequality that badgers individuals. It is the sense that those in power are willing to insult my intelligence and keep on doing so.

It is one thing for the wicked, wicked National Socialist (Nazi) Joseph Goebbels to weave a tapestry of lies repeated over and over again and quite another when the lies emanate from the government that is often revered when compared with the Nazis.

I guess part of what brought this to mind was an investigation that shows:
(AP) — Bogus classes and automatic A's and B's are at the heart of a cheating scandal at the University of North Carolina that lasted nearly two decades, encompassing about 3,100 students — nearly half of them athletes.
The story goes on and on without making head-on reference to what is obvious: Colleges make enormous amounts of money from sporting events. They would like to keep a good academic image, but are not above sacrificing academics to money. This bruises the longing to be seen as a credible academic institution. Americans (look at the percentage of coverage) don't really care much about academic prowess, but let's not say that out loud. Let's pretend, instead, to be concerned with falsified records and accomplishment.

It's a little like the "war on terror" which the neo-conservatives, among others, tout: Who is it who slows down long enough to actually investigate allegations and assertions when keeping people abjectly afraid is such a political winner?

I know I'm stupid, but I dislike having my nose rubbed in it by people who pose as caring and astute and really compound what they claim they wish to solve.

prize-winning photos

A pride of resting lions (the blog reproduction hardly does it justice) has won the 2014 Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY) Award. Other photos are likewise stunning.

patience and the piñata

"Virago," "pachyderm," and "residual self image" came to greet me on the wispy trip from dreams to wakefulness this morning. There was nothing special or insistent or linked about them: They just seemed to be there like a fire hydrant on the street corner.

Nearby or later or something, there was a New England field-stone wall across "my street." Someone had built it and it was miraculously straight in the manner of field-stone walls -- all those irregularly-molded hunks and bits and pieces of greying rock shaped into something that was neat and straight and exuded the quiet patience of the builder.

In nature, if there is a straight line, you can bet that some human being has been mucking about ... or anyway I think the generalization holds pretty much true: Nature doesn't do straight lines and it doesn't do patience though I don't think this means nature is in business to contradict such matters either.

Sometimes I wonder if it is the lazy impatience that seems to make life cheaper these days. A cell phone is the first thing that comes to mind -- sleek and capable and failing to come through with the peace it promises but does not deliver. The impatient mind creates and praises and then wonders why things feel so dreadfully empty. It takes practice to be patient without any hope of a return on the investment.

It takes practice to get with the program: Things move on, so letting them do that makes a lot of sense. But there is "residual self image" to bar the way, impatiently asking to be "awakened" or "compassionate" or "empty" or "at peace" or some other piñata-like surprise.

Patience that carries no meaning (including "no meaning") ... the patience of a pachyderm combined with the fierceness of the virago and depicting a residual image that never was or was not.

Laziness deadens the nerve endings and patience hardly revives them. But at least with patience, the image in the bathroom mirror is not so unfulfilled.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

bits of news


An Israeli, the Bedouin whiz-kid intern Othman Abu al-Qiyan, appears to be dead and a lot of people (according
to the Associated Press) are wondering whether he died as a Muslim radical. How could it be that he would be radicalized and throw in his lot with the 'wrong' people?

Othman Abu al-Qiyan is dead and cannot speak for himself. Others seem more than willing to speak for him and to marvel at the mystery of a background that culminated in a death among the bad guys. If he died among the radicals, must he not have been a radical himself?

But as I read the story, I kept wondering why none of the tale-tellers were willing to acknowledge that a medical aficionado is more than capable of recognizing that blood is red, whoever spills it. Is a wound or death a matter of politics or a matter of fact? Maybe the blood attracted the healer as a primary matter ... and the politics was a sideshow.

An activist group in the United States has been carrying out deeds that some might think the stuff of dreams - buying and cancelling other people's student debts.
Rolling Jubilee has purchased and abolished $3.8m (£2.35m) of debt owed by 2,700 students, paying just over $100,000 (£62,000), or as it says, "pennies on the dollar".
Bit by bit, as I feel it, the liberal argument for a college education is eroded. With or without a college degree, hunger is hunger and peasants are peasants. The ethereal wonders of an education -- which deserve some consideration -- lose increasing steam as those with money rake in still more. Colleges turn into trade schools ... which improves the 'bottom line,' of which a college education is largely bereft.

Oh well, the growing popularity of perpetual war may help to right the boat scrumptious inequality ... but not before a lot of blood is spilled.

zendo roof repairs

A week ago, the roofer came and refreshed the zendo roof, thanks in no small part to the donations made as a result of an appeal for money on this site. The picture ain't great, but it's the best I can get on this grey day.

But, picture or no picture, I am sincerely grateful to all those who chipped in. It didn't quite cover the entire cost, but the donations really helped.

As the roofer said on his way out the door, "The roof will last longer than the building." It is nice to think that something, at least for the moment, has been done "right."

Thanks very much.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

health shit

From 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., I was in the hospital today having a heart 'procedure' performed. Mostly, it was like the army -- hurry up and wait -- except that bit by bit the grey walls of health close ever tighter in my life and, from time to time, are more depressing. Things pile up and I'm damned if I can keep a pleasant face on it all the time.

I will not pretend that my circumstances are special or worse than someone else's. But they are nearer to home and there seems to be less and less room in which to grouse. 

Today's exercise -- a cardiac catheterization -- was not in aid of solving some specific problem directly. Rather it was a test whose result would tell me whether or not I was fit enough to have yet another procedure in which a node on the lung might safely be excised or irradiated, assuming it turned out to be cancer. And there is another doctor's appointment tomorrow -- a look at ears, nose and throat -- to see if there is some connection between the node on the lung and some coughing activities.

It's not like a broken arm where you get it set and be patient till it heals. It's like bits and pieces leading one to the next ... and no sure outcome ... and meanwhile the depressing drabness of hospital or doctor's office becomes a chain-linked social obligation.

I can smile for a while. I can try not to lay my inescapable shit off on someone else -- family, friends, blog, whatever -- but then it just gets tiring. It's like sitting at a bar next to a fellow who can do nothing but talk about baseball. I like baseball well enough, but politics or sexy women or space travel or education might be a nice change from potatoes.

I was a cranky cuss by the time I got out of the hospital ... not least because my wife sat through the whole thing with me. And there is a wispy pall that hangs over the doctor's visit tomorrow.

I pray that I will run into a good dirty joke or holy revelation that will take my mind off the whole matter. In the meantime, I am feeling a bit Fucking-A!!!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

laughter as a serious start

Perhaps it is a function of age, but I also have a hunch there is something trend-y in it: Of late, I would rather watch a segment of Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" than pay much attention to what passes for the morning or evening 'news.' Stewart may be "funny," but there is a barbed and factual sorrow that comes with it. It's more like news.

News used to be what was discovered when reporters turned over the rocks of governmental or philosophical positions -- when examining the foundations of war or specific politics or movements was a responsibility that was never fully met, but news organizations did their best. Nowadays, reporters are "embedded" at the whim of those wishing to receive good coverage. Presidential press conferences are peopled by reporters who have agreed not to ask anything hard ... or risk being excluded from the press-conference mix.

So perhaps Jamie Masada, owner of the Hollywood nightclub, The Laugh Factory, has gotten onto something by seeking out the world's "funniest person" -- of getting seriously combative opponents together and encouraging them to laugh. "Forget about guns and bombs and just tell jokes to each other."

Since what passes for news is largely laughable, why not codify that and laugh a little? As a longtime solution to the horrors rained down upon others by 'serious' individuals, it probably has little or no staying power. On the other hand, maybe it can provide a good starting point.

the "right to be forgotten"

What a tantalizing conundrum -- the "right to be forgotten." I'm late to the discussion and any good understanding that may already have evolved, but the phrase itself plus Internet search engine Google's parry and thrust, plus, most important, the individual desires in the matter ... what a kitten in a ball of yarn!

As I get it, Google has a way that people can request that certain information about them be removed from search results. Google has acceded in some instances, which has roused a mighty backlash: Who will monitor the monitors? Here's just one story on the topic.

Probably I am oversimplifying, but what interests me is the very notion that somehow anyone might undo today what occurred yesterday and is now considered a gaff. Nudie pix, love letters, exposes, hagiographies, jail terms whether warranted or unwarranted, Wall Street hustles, ... the list spins itself outward like the tail on some fiery comet. Good, bad and indifferent -- it's all there like cobwebs in the attic.

From where I sit, most people do what they do with an element of hoping to be remembered for it: I am the person who deserves credit and stature and brightness as a result of some action or position. But there is the concomitant hope that the mistakes will be conveniently forgotten ... and Google should forget -- or at least keep its mouth shut -- about what I wish to have forgotten.

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, the "right to be forgotten" is the kind of thing that someone might take into his or her mind and then, White-whine-fashion, complain that the world is somehow not fair for not erasing what deserves to be erased. Don't think of a purple cow.

The important part of all this, as I see it, is that individuals not run this sort of thinking on themselves. Have I fucked up in the past? Yup. Do I wish I could undo the barbs and reminders that nip even into the present? Sure. But facts are facts even when they are not factual. I'm stuck with my farm and expecting someone else to erase my past is whistling past the graveyard.

The only "right to be forgotten" lies in the willingness to examine and shoulder what cannot be escaped. And that goes for the good stuff as well.

The right to be forgotten; the right to be remembered -- whose responsibility is this?

Kind of reminds me of the Zen teacher Dogen's observation:
To study Buddhism is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by all beings....
Or maybe I've got it all wrong.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

looking for good news

Another in a string of grey, coolish mornings. The trees are not yet utterly denuded, but the greens-crumbling-into-tan send all the signals of a winter yet to be.

I'd like to think up some good news or perhaps just dissect some interesting confusion, but the hooks don't seem to be there. I really do like good news, but the gods that once strode the land (bodhisattvas or Buddhas or Nirvana or attachment or compassion or other spiritual lingo) ... well, too often the good news requires a long panorama of bad news for its underpinnings. What would hitting the lottery be without understanding the deprivation of not hitting the lottery? And compassion in this world is not so much good news as it is a means of parrying the darkness.

Good news ... I'm still stuck with the last eel-catcher in Rome, the guy who, at 74, was quoted as saying
Some people die or are in trouble," he says. "I love to rescue people. I feel human and I want to help everybody, without reward. Whenever someone asks my help, I do my best....
"As long as I am able to move, I'll stay on the water. And if I can't move, I'll ask somebody to carry me here," he says. "If I'm not here, I'll die. Sunday is a holiday. But I prefer to come to work.
Others will feel their good news differently, but I am pleased to be on the same planet with this guy. He's like a decent cup of coffee ... nothing special ... just delicious.

I am losing my writer's credentials. Writers look for good news. But good news has its own schedules and looking for it is as endless as picking your nose.