Friday, October 31, 2014

hanged for killing "rapist"

Iran hanged a woman on Saturday who was convicted of murdering a man she alleged was trying to rape her, drawing swift international condemnation for a prosecution several countries described as flawed.
Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged at dawn for premeditated murder, the official IRNA news agency reported. It quoted a statement issued by the Tehran Prosecutor Office Saturday that rejected the claim of attempted rape and said that all evidence proved that Jabbari had plotted to kill Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former intelligence agent.
The United Nations as well as Amnesty International and other human rights groups had called on Iran's judiciary to halt the execution, which was carried out after the country's Supreme Court upheld the verdict. The victim's family could have saved Jabbari's life by accepting blood money but they refused to do so.

"I hate change"

My daughter called yesterday to say she had landed a job she wanted. It's a job in an office as distinct from the lonely, self-sufficient, less-well-paid realms of working from home.

She loved what had happened.

And hated it.

New circumstances. What if she failed. Did she really want to be under someone else's thumb. What if they didn't like her. What if she hated it ... nervous, nervous, nervous. I did what I could to steady her ship: She is smart and good with people and diligent ... she'll do fine.

But in the midst of her recitation, I asked her what she thought made her nervous. She answered promptly and forthrightly, "I hate change. Any kind of change."

And I was tremendously pleased and proud of her: To have such an understanding, however superficial, is the first step on a serious road. Will she follow up on it and investigate and delve? I don't know: Maybe she'll just tuck it in the back of her mental sock drawer as so many do ... forgetaboutit, bury it, block it out ... or maybe, just maybe, she will pick up her own reins and chew the bubblegum we all have to chew.

Change is the way of the world. Sometimes it's happy-making. Sometimes sad. Sometimes, as with my daughter, both. Either way, it's the way of the world and hating or loving change is like tits on a bull: Is there something right or wrong about change or is it, rather, that my attitude is skewed ... and it's worth sorting out?

Anyway, I was happy for my daughter.

the careful things

Once I knew the careful things.

With my back turned to the entry door, I could tell by name the people entering the zendo where we practiced zazen or seated meditation: The sound of their robes was enough.

I knew how to whistle like a cricket.

I knew how to hit a bullet-riddled target at 300 yards.

I knew and cared about the difference between "nauseated" and "nauseous."

I knew how to hide by being still or polite and recognized others who were likewise hiding.

I knew long words and short ones and could employ them to effect.

I almost knew how to walk like the animal I most wanted to walk like -- the elephant.

I knew careful things because I trained to know them and thought that if I knew enough of them, somehow I would corner and capture the serenity I imagined could be captured.

There was purpose and direction and a kind of protective smugness about knowing the careful things.

As the autumn squirrel buried nourishment for the spring that was yet to come, so I tucked in and made room for bits of careful nourishment.

So many careful things, always finding room for just one more.

But now it all seems a bit too much, like a suitcase packed and packed and packed some more until the realization imposed itself: What makes you think you're going anywhere?

Careful or careless, what's next will always have its say -- does it really need anything more?

"Careful" is needful phase, sort of like learning to walk. But once having learned to walk, isn't it just time to get going?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tom Lehrer and the "Vatican Rag"

Passed along in email was this bit of hoary-but-literate humor:

who preserves what?

As far as I know, the Hindu 'trinity' of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (creation, preservation and destruction) do not have more- or less-powerful presence. They are of equal stature and come as a package deal. Placing one above the others is strictly an exercise in folly.

I am not looking to get into a discussion of Hinduism here: The three tales are just tales that any (wo)man might observe in an actual-factual life, with or without religious tassels. Things are 'created,' 'preserved' and 'destroyed:' Is this untrue? I seriously doubt it.

But it is interesting how one or the other of man's gods can dominate the scene, the heart, the hope, the love or whatever all else during a given time span.

Enormous pains were taken to preserve a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci during World War II. The picture was said by some to confer magical powers and no one wanted Hitler and the Nazis to get their hands on it and accrue still more power. But even without the magic, preservation was and remains an almost-desperate goal. Vishnu, to use an Hindu prism, was invoked even as Shiva lurked.

Worth preserving even when it cannot be preserved....

In Hawaii, villagers in Pahoa have been allowed to view the inexorable advance of a lava flow that threatens to destroy their homes. Even the extraordinary wealth that might -- but only might -- stem or redirect the flow is flummoxed. Buying off Shiva is not in the cards whatever the intensity of the desire. Slowly, slowly, slowly preservation gives way to a destruction that is painful for human beings who shape tales of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Brahma seems to have gotten some licks in at the only women's prison in Israel ... a place that hosted a fashion show as a means of making lemonade out of lemons ... teaching the women a craft that they might employ and perhaps preserve once they got out of the slammer.

And the San Francisco Giants beat the Kansas City Royals and staked out World Series (baseball) acclaim last night. Will Vishnu preserve the moment? Probably not, but it won't be for lack of human trying.

Some things are worth preserving, perhaps, and yet some room needs to be made for the fact that they cannot be preserved. And if they cannot be preserved, neither can they be created or destroyed. What's up with that? Without finding the time to address the issue personally, I think a lot of disappointment is in the making.

Preserve the lessons of the past; preserve the love or anger; preserve the wisdom or ignorance; preserve the friendship or enmity; preserve the stature or ignominy; preserve the wealth and poverty ...

Preserve ... what's up with that?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

no time for seriousness

Somewhere or other, I read that these are not times for seriousness. The implication seemed to be that with everything else that is going on, getting serious in politics or religious life or whatever other peripheral human pastime was just too much to expect. Economics, war, food, shelter and other uncertainties offered little or no room to rest and relax and reflect in a serious manner.

The sentiment, however wispy, seemed to strike a chord and reminded me of Sri Ramakrishna's observation that Bhakti was best in the kaliyuga ... that when times get hard (the kaliyuga is a Hindu configuration of moral decay and lack of understanding and a sense of collapse and destruction) then baby steps are best ... something easy like loving God. Bhakti Yoga provides that format: Everything is God, so relax and go with the loving flow.

Of course, loving God is not all that easy, assuming there is time or willingness to get serious about it. But before the seriousness and in the midst of the separations of solemnity, love is comforting and inviting and ... well, who doesn't respond well to kind words and a warm fire? Affection and attentiveness from whatever quarter ... it's an ahhh in the throes of ouch.

Having spent many years being wary of the warm-fuzzy approaches to God, these days it's not quite so insistent. As the Anglican Charles Williams once observed, "People believe what they want to believe," which does not, of course, mean that what is believed is worth believing. Individuals do what they want. If God is what anyone wants to do, then I favor it... at least insofar as it is credible to the believer. No need to convince anyone else.

But I remain hopeful that whatever anyone chooses to believe will lead them to a serious place -- a place that does not rely on something else, something solemn, something that is only praiseworthy or good.

It may be hard -- maybe impossible -- to serious up, but what's the alternative. If you don't see at least one thing through in your life, what kind of a life is that?


Yesterday, out of the Internet blue, there was an email purporting to be from a company in Atlanta that was searching out the provenance of a photo I had taken. The company, according to the note, wanted to use the photo of Soen Nakagawa Roshi as partial background for a movie that is in the works.

The request seemed legit enough. At least it didn't begin, "Dearest in Christ" or offer to cut me in on a $27 million inheritance. So I responded briefly and we'll see what happens.

But in the meantime, there was a kind of shifting of perspective. I had taken the picture, I remembered the time and place, I liked the photo ... but it was filed away in my experience and attachment panorama ... pleasant, but mostly unimportant. And yet here was someone suggesting an unimagined importance ... and possibly some money ... and I was flattered ... and other wispy thought patterns.

It was just odd for a moment, but in that moment, suddenly all perspectives got called into question. It wasn't that the perspective about the photo was right or wrong or better or worse. It was just sort of flimsy and tentative, as if you held a piece of clay which did not object to being a bowl or a plate or a statue of a horse.

If anything could be anything, didn't that diminish or at any rate redefine whatever sense of "importance" was brought to bear? And if so, was the heat and weight given to "importance" a bit too much?

I don't know ... it just seemed to bring me up short. Perspective, importance ... I don't know.

fairy-tale facts

A world of wonder can be found in fairy tales that are laced with magical happenings and magical names.

Harry Potter is a latter-day example, but tens if not hundreds of authors have done the same ... entrancing the reader with stuff that barely seems credible and yet successfully invites the reader to be gullible and surrender to this made-up panorama.

In a land "far, far away...."

Sometimes I wonder where all those marvelous and not-quite-credible names and abilities come from and today the tale of a 2.6 magnitude earthquake in Nottinghamshire, England, seemed to offer me a clue:
Residents in Mansfield, Papplewick, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Ravenshead, Newstead Village and Blidworth all reported the quake.
Just for a moment, I felt as if I were reading a 13-year-old student tale-teller's attempt to create a land of marvels and magic and fantasized communities. Imaginative? Yes. But straining credulity? Those names are a bit much, don't you think, even for fiction....

I guess only fact could trump fiction.
Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu is a hill on the North Island in New Zealand and it means “the summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one” and holds the title of ‘Longest Place Name in the World’.
Dead Women Crossing, Okla.; Lick Fork, Va.; and Satan's Kingdom (Mass. and Vt.) appear to be aiming at a similar whimsy in the U.S.

children pay poverty's price

In Great Britain, a nation that can credit itself for its level of civilization, poor children may be promised a state education, but the fees attendant on that education can leave some feeling excluded and stigmatized.
The Children's Commission on Poverty says basics, such as uniforms, school trips, materials and computer access can amount to £800 per child each year. ...
One student said: "I keep telling [the teacher] I didn't have a computer, and then he just kept shouting at me, and I had to say out loud that I didn't have a computer, and everyone started laughing."
But the Brits seem to be less overtly calloused than the Swiss, who, until not so long ago, simply kidnapped children from poor families and placed them as indentured servants on farms.
Thousands of people in Switzerland who were forced into child labour are demanding compensation for their stolen childhoods. Since the 1850s hundreds of thousands of Swiss children were taken from their parents and sent to farms to work - a practice that continued well into the 20th Century. 
These bits of news, spliced into today's important tales of well-stocked wars, hardly speak well of the education received by those shaping and prosecuting national policies ... the ones to whom, perhaps, the homey-nugget of wisdom might aptly be applied: "Spare the rod and spoil the child."

Yes, yes ... "we're doing our best," but every now and then a tart voice reaches out in 'civilized' settings and suggests, "Do better!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Afghan-Chinese links

BEIJING (AP) -- Afghanistan's new president began a visit to Beijing on Tuesday seeking Chinese help in rebuilding his country and promoting regional stability.
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai received pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He also plans to urge potential investors to help bankroll Afghanistan's development, especially its mining industry....

Afghanistan hopes Chinese investment will help make mining a cornerstone of its economy. Although it has an estimated $3 trillion worth of natural resources, including copper, iron ore, silver, gold, coal, gems and minor metals such as chromite, little has been exploited because of warfare and a lack of infrastructure. China is already active in oil production in the north of Afghanistan.
On Friday, Ghani Ahmadzai is to attend this year's Istanbul Ministerial Process, a regional dialogue on security, economic and political cooperation hosted by China for the first time.
The forum brings together Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan. The U.S., Britain, other Western countries and international organizations attend as observers.
When was the last time anyone saw a story that indicated the war-willing west was even testing the waters of economic development in countries they were so willing to bomb and otherwise 'correct?' China, whatever its self-serving reasons, seems broadly willing to become economically involved against a time when stability might gain a strong foothold.

nudity pays a price

Stephen Gough has spent most of the past eight years in jail
The so-called naked rambler Stephen Gough has lost his case at the European Court after claiming he suffered repression over his nudity.
Mr Gough complained about his repeated convictions and imprisonment.
Since 2003 he has been arrested dozens of times in Scotland and England for being naked in public.
He was convicted a number of times for breach of the peace, with his sentences increased with each offence and was often rearrested as he left prison.
Between May 2006 and October 2012 he enjoyed a total of seven days' liberty and spent most of his detention in segregation because he refused to wear clothes.

Monday, October 27, 2014

heart of a gypsy; discipline of a soldier

Passed along in email and attributed to Ludwig van Beethoven:

A musician must have the heart of a gypsy and the discipline of a soldier. 

Maybe that goes for anyone who honestly knows his stuff.

judicial terrorism?

LONDON (AP) -- A British chemistry teacher accused of supporting the Islamic State group has pleaded guilty to two terrorism charges.
Jamshed Javeed on Monday admitted two counts of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts. He accepted that he intended to travel to Syria to join rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad's government.
The 30-year-old was arrested in December by counterterror police, who said Javeed had been "an otherwise law-abiding man" who began to support the Islamic State group last summer.
Javeed was accused of making travel plans with the intention of committing terrorism, and intending to help other terrorists by providing funding and buying equipment.
He will be sentenced in December.
Police have charged at least 16 people returning from Syria for terrorist activity this year.
"... Accused of making travel plans with the intention...."

Plans and intentions -- in what twisted and Orwellian world are such things deemed illegal?

I would give a lot to know the circumstances under which Javeed pleaded guilty and, more important, the sentence meted out by a judiciary in a democracy.

Who is the terrorist here?

The BBC's version of this story is longer and more revelatory of the mindset inherent in the situation and the fallout as well. 

one and done

At a time when I was hip-deep in enthusiasm for news and news reporting, an older colleague mentioned casually that the most popular arenas in a newspaper were sports, obituaries, comics and horoscopes. The observation left me flabbergasted at a time when I was convinced about the need for and value of news reporting.

I can actually remember a time when I talked the city editor into letting me do two stories -- of equal length and standing side by side -- that offered the 'for' and 'against' facts of a particular school issue that seemed to go on and on: I was convinced that if the facts were presented, the the reader could make up his/her mind and I could stop writing stories that never seemed to end.

It was the beginning of my journalistic education: In general, facts don't convince people ... their beliefs do. The idealist within me could writhe as much as it liked. My two stories elicited a nice note from the superintendent of schools and ... the stories kept needing to be done ... twice-chewed gum chewed yet again.

Obituaries, sports, comics and horoscopes are about as close as anyone can come to fulfilling a desire for a 'conclusion' ... a sense of one-and-done ... a the-end on a particular topic. The fulfillment is not perfect, of course, but it's a lot closer than news stories will ever get: Here is something that I no longer have to think about; like a mystery novel, the case is wrapped up; and there is something comforting about NOT having to rechew today's journalistic gum tomorrow.

One-and-done: There is only so much information that anyone is willing to ingest before exhaustion kicks in. "Enough!" the mind insists. Instead of going on and on and on and on, I will make my choice and believe whatever it is I believe about the treatment of Palestinians; the corruption or high points of religion; the education of children like my own; the latest war my government has decided to begin or continue; or the marvels of a sunset. One and done: I have enough stuff cluttering my life and, right, wrong or indifferent, I will believe ... whatever it is I choose to believe.

And it is here that there is something soothing about obituaries, sports, comics and horoscopes. In large measure, each is more clearly complete than other stories: Dead is dead; the game is over; the panels make their amusing point; and the prognostication may be true or false but in any case has no real impact outside fortifying the beliefs I already hold.

One-and-done: How nice to place some task or thought process in the rearview mirror. It's not a perfect solution, but it's easier. Easier, and seems to accord with the fact that what I do is done ... for the moment. Belief may have palpable and sometimes painful flaws, but ... well, I'd rather watch TV for a while and adding more information seems incapable of solving much ... just as failing to add information also seems incapable of solving much.

One-and-done is the way of the world and simultaneously is utterly impossible.

Or anyway, that's that I believe.

photos from Reuters

Zheng Feng, an amateur climber takes wedding pictures with his bride on a cliff in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, China, October 26, 2014.
REUTERS/China Daily
Portraits of students who died in the mid-April Sewol ferry disaster, decorated by yellow ribbons dedicated to the victims, are pictured in central Seoul, South Korea, October 27, 2014.
A participant in costume eats a sandwich after a Halloween parade in Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, Japan, October 26, 2014.
REUTERS/Yuya Shino

Sunday, October 26, 2014

spiritual (?) life

A week or so ago, the new roof was put on the small zendo here. It was a preservative move and yet it coincided with an almost-complete dwindling of my own continuing sitting (zazen) practice: I simply don't do that any more. As a result, my ability to sit half-lotus -- my preferred cross-legged position over years and years -- is diminished, if not demolished.

What a strange concatenation and yet there it is -- a longtime devotion simply loses its imperative. From a Zen student point of view, I am no longer one of the tribe. I occasionally read the explanations and confusions and delights of others who remain part of the tribe -- the "emptiness," "compassion," "joy," "importance," "imperative," "noble truths," etc. -- and yet simply find little or no interest in the Greek chorus.

I'm not against it; I'm just not particularly for it and sometimes that makes me wistful for a love that was so rich and full and serious and meaningful. There was a language to use -- let's put it in Zen Buddhist terms -- and a tribe to belong to and -- to put it briefly -- I was pretty important.

From where I seem to be sitting, spiritual endeavor is a good thing and I am grateful to have met with it and I am no longer willing to scratch up the spiritual enthusiasm, the group hug, the wonder and desolation.

I would like to say something kind about it and yet, increasingly, I can see why people keep their mouths shut ... despite its attractiveness, it's still a bit too much like the well-scrubbed door-knockers who show up on the front stoop with pamphlets and serene insistence: You need our brand and you may get fucked if you don't get on board.

Say something kind.

Well, I do think that everyone needs a way to make sense of stuff and the stuff is their stuff. It's tough to find a seriousness that will challenge and clarify your own life, never mind anyone else's life. And it is for this reason that I look back on Zen practice with thanks: Zazen or seated meditation goes for the throat ... which does not mean it hasn't got its vile and twisted group-hug corruptions in the form of what is blithely referred to as "sangha" or the community. Put any spiritual endeavor in a group setting and you are asking for trouble even as you praise and try in vain to smother the doubts.

But that's spiritual life -- like it or lump it, you're bound to get fucked. In fact, if you don't get fucked, you find no usefulness or clarity in it.

Zazen is straightforward in my estimation, but my estimation is not yours and it is your estimation that counts. I can't think of a better approach to the uncertainties and sorrows of this life than zazen ... but that doesn't mean you can't think of one. I like zazen because I love myself and there is something both sane and insane about that love.

Everybody who is inclined that way makes up spiritual endeavor all over again. It may look old and hoary and worthy of veneration, but that's just sissy talk. At the time when an individual makes a serious decision to investigate the sandstorm that their inner life provides, a true spiritual life is born. Will that decision turn to action? I don't know, but I do know that if it does, then it's Nellie-bar-the-door ... the wonders and the unmitigated vileness arise together, a package deal, the front and back of a single hand.

I'd like to say a good word about spiritual endeavor, but that just means I have found a new way to think well of myself .... that my life was not in vain or some such drivel. Spiritual endeavor is a pretty good tool ... and it's more full of shit than a Christmas turkey. That's about the best I can say for it... live with the shit; enjoy the turkey. If something exalted or better is what you seek, then buy a Honda: The Japanese make pretty good cars. If peace of mind is on your agenda, be prepared for a wily war which cannot be escaped.

You're terrific -- nuff said.

Go get 'em tiger!

Call it "spiritual." Call it "not spiritual." Just don't be any lazier than you have to be.

leaving Afghanistan

And, in the terrorism industry, British and American bases in Afghanistan were handed over to the Afghans. After 13 years, the Brits were a bit more straightforward about the invasion that had been spearheaded by the U.S. British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said "mistakes were made" and, more compellingly, "We're not going to send combat troops back into Afghanistan, under any circumstances."

Britain has lost 453 soldiers to the miasmic violence whose outcome for the western interlopers has yet to be defined. The U.S. has lost 2,349 in the conflict that is destined to segue into a continuation of the terrorism industry.

Thirteen years of refocusing national attention away from factual problems for which politicians and the power-hungry might be forced to take responsibility. It's not their kids being killed and if the fighting keeps up (count on it), no one will have the energy to hold their feet to the fire they kindled.

When the Russians left Afghanistan after their own 1979-1989 invasion, the Americans were gleeful at the ouster of  'communism' or some other bogeyman. Thirteen years into its own invasion, the applause is muted and the gains unsure. One thing seems to be assured: The invaders/saviors don't give much of a shit about the people whose territory they eviscerate.

a sucker for beauty

I am a sucker for beauty.

Everybody's a sucker for something, I imagine, and beauty is one of mine... something that cannot be named and yet is named because, when its consuming force happens to be absent, things get too lonely. It is at this point that the bullshit begins ... "everything is beautiful." Go suck an egg with that sort of perfectly true perfectly bullshit!

Beauty -- speak the word and it's like some Tupperware salesman or door-knocking Christian ... so uncertain and so filled with doubt and longing....

Perhaps the antithesis of  beauty is ownership ... something to die for and yet if you die, the beauty will not be diminished.

It is miles beyond anything anyone could possibly share and yet,  before the bullshit begins it is shared ... sort of like a puff of wind or the comedian Gabriel Iglesias suggesting, "how about a serving of shut-the-fuck-up?!"

Oh well -- there's a sucker born every minute and I am just one of them.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

once upon a time...

Like anything else, death is just nature's way of providing human beings with the fodder for fairy tales.

sometimes ignorance is just ignorance

Sometimes there is nothing else to do but sit back and marvel at the stuff going on in the world that I know absolutely nothing about: It seems endless, but that hardly seems to dent my relatively good opinion of what I do know.

Bringing this to mind was a single paragraph in a story about Pakistan's good fortune on the cricket pitch ... or anyway, that's what I think it's getting at:
A pair of double-wicket maidens saw Pakistan take an anaconda-like grip on the match as Australia finished the day on 4 for 59, 379 runs short of the target and facing a near-impossible task to bat out the whole of day five.
It looks like English, walks like English, talks like English and I thought I spoke English until I realized I hadn't a clue as to what the quoted words meant.

the land of nyah-nyah

As hunters across the dike loosed occasional shots in the corn fields, the first squadron of Canada geese flew over this morning. I'm not sure, but I think the hunters are after grouse and pheasant and other birds. The geese were too high for a shotgun assault and their honking almost seemed to be a taunt to the hunters below... nyah-nyah!!

Yesterday, a power outage discombobulated home and public life for 90 minutes and the blame was laid at the doorstep of a squirrel that circumvented utility barriers and ... what? ... made a snack of the insulation? Do squirrels thumb their noses at the civilization that has grown in their midst ... nyah-nyah!? Whatever the rodent motivation, much of Northampton was affected. Gotcha!

In England, a Portsmouth man "has become the first person in the UK to be convicted of a terrorist offence relating to the conflict. A jury at Kingston Crown Court found Mashudur Choudhury guilty of preparing for acts of terrorism after a two-week trial."

"Preparing for" or "thinking about" or "planning" didn't used to be an occasion for punishment or an obligatory opprobrium. But the government terrorists have managed to create an entire industry -- terrorism and its exponents are those who think and plan and plot and talk. These wannabes are portrayed and frightening and wily and adept and ... we've got to stop these evil people. Their nyah-nyah is enough to warrant a counter-attack, a bit of terrorism in a good cause.

Instead of a monolith of terrorist evil, Choudhury is portrayed in the BBC article linked above as a confused klutz. His business went belly-up, and even his wife was openly scornful of his jihadist posturing and hoped he might "go ahead and die" because he had made her life a nightmare. As far as I can figure out, the man never actually did anything more than talk and fantasize and borrow money under false pretenses ... in much the same way that the detractors of "terrorism" talk and fantasize and seek funding and provide little or no palpable evidence of action-taken. Yes, there are bombings, but if guys like Choudhury are the measure of an enemy ....? Is it enough to dislike or disagree with someone to make violence and incarceration the only option? Is justice what an inconvenienced or outraged majority says it is?

And sometimes it is:
(CNN) -- An Iranian woman convicted of murder -- in a killing human rights groups called self-defense against her rapist -- was hanged Saturday, state news agency IRNA reported.
Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, was sentenced to death for the 2007 killing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security. 
Nyah-nyah ... my religion is more worthy and righteous than your pleas for mercy or logical criticisms! No one fucks with my religion or politics ... hang the bitch! It seems that the half-baked prayers of a man like Choudhury can find a starting point among the august and holy and politically powerful...

And those in the terrorism industry are not beyond trying to extend their reach (read income and fantasized virtues):
FBI Director James Comey is asking Congress to force smartphone developers into building “backdoors” into all devices for law enforcement surveillance– a response to new customer data encryption standards adopted by Apple and Google.
“The FBI has a sworn duty to keep every American safe from crime and terrorism, and technology has become the tool of choice for some very dangerous people,” Comey said while speaking at the Brookings Institution last Thursday....
To the best of my knowledge, Comey did not point out that if "law enforcement" were to get its wish, then those whom "law enforcement" seeks to vilify and vanquish (think China and Russia and all those savvy techs around the world) would likewise have a back door to that information and the only ones to suffer a loss would be Internet users who might actually believe privacy was a right.

Isn't nyah-nyah sort of strange -- coming around and biting you on the ass in the long run and spilling a lot of discomfort and blood in the meantime? And it's not just the neo-conservatives who just know the perfect way to run things: Those flaunting their caring and compassion and TED talks can bring with them a well-perfumed nyah-nyah as well.

Man proposes, God disposes.


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.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

another Boer War time

"Rags of Glory," a historical novel by Stuart Cloete I pulled off a dusty shelf here, is focused on the time of the Second Boer War in South Africa. Does anyone know what the Boer War was or the time in which it occurred?

Wars are all pretty much the same, but each is served with sauces of the time -- sauces that are tasty and relevant to some or flat and 'history' to others.

I found myself admiring the brevity of and the flavors of the following paragraphs... a matrix or backdrop of my self, though I had not yet been born, nor even born in England:
August 1899, two years after the Queen's Jubilee, was the height of Britain's power, its very apogee. (The only other great powers were France, Germany and Russia.)

But times were changing. Not merely in new armaments. The "week-end" had come in. African  gold and diamond magnates had set up establishments of unbelievable grandeur in Park Lane. Some of them were Jews. People from Egypt. A vulgarizing process had begun. Bicycles were the rage. Women, the "new women," rode them shamelessly in bloomers.

This was the time of Oscar Wilde, Huxley, Milais, Leighton, Burke-Jones, Kipling, Pushkin, Arnold, Morris, Landseer, Tod Sloan, Sigmund Freud, Buffalo Bill, Swinburne, and Darwin. All were alive or newly dead, their influence a living thing in this society, which, having reached its maturity, was about to begin its slow decline. From empire to commonwealth. The common man and the black man would come into their own in Turnbull's lifetime. Czars, kaisers, sultans, kings, and rajahs would topple like ninepins from their thrones. Pomp, ceremony and manners would be lost in the chaos of equality. There would be great social gains, but these had to be balanced against the losses. There were already some motorcars, electric lights, telephones, none of them very efficient yet, but there, and improving daily....

This was a period of snobbery, extravagance, and immense wealth. The gentleman, the horse, and the common sparrow still lived in symbiotic association.

Friday, October 17, 2014

high-rise cemeteries

PETAH TIKVA, Israel (AP) — At first glance, the multi-tiered jungle of concrete off a major central Israeli highway does not appear unusual in this city of bland high-rises. But the burgeoning towers are groundbreaking when you consider its future tenants: They will be homes not for the living but rather the dead. ...
"The source of all this is that there is simply no room," said Tuvia Sagiv, an architect who specializes in dense burial design. "It's unreasonable that we will live one on top of the other in tall apartment buildings and then die in villas. If we have already agreed to live one on top of the other, then we can die one on top of the other."

Ayn Rand, goddess of the GOP

Passed along in email was this humorous(?) take on author Ayn Rand.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


If someone pats me on the head, I am as likely as the next person to purr ... unless, of course, I'm playing the 'serene and unaffected' card. This morning, for example, I received an email from a woman who read my column in the local newspaper yesterday:
Dear Adam,
I am still thinking about your column one day after I read it. It takes guts to write with such honesty.
And I purred within.

Newspaper articles generally have the shelf-life of a fried egg ... you read it, fit it in among the opinions and biases and forget about it.

When I first became a reporter a lot of years ago, I had a hard time realizing that what I wrote excited almost zero response. And many times, I had put a lot of energy into a particular article ... or taken its subject matter very seriously. How come no one cared as much as I did? At the time, I felt bruised and overlooked and unimportant as if, because I had written about something, that something took on an added importance ... and I deserved the credit.

But today, the words of praise fueled another reaction: I honestly could not imagine or remember what, precisely, I had written, let alone why anyone might impute "courage" to it. To write what I think is just to write what I think ... and the odds favor my changing my mind any moment now.

Doesn't everyone have to learn this lesson -- that no matter how much sweat and caring and yowling and logic they put into one subject or another, there will always be someone out there who doesn't give a shit and, perhaps more important, there is no particular reason why they should?

It reminds me a bit of the Zen Buddhist teacher who was asked how important Zen practice was and he replied, "It's important, but it's not that important." It's nice to get the ego stroked ... but it's also nice to find a less elevated setting for whatever it is that is called "the ego"

"a kiss that lasts forever..."

Back before blogs and Fox news, people found other ways to express the wit and bias and raw reaction that they tended to keep under wraps in public. Among other venues for graffiti, public rest rooms (at least the men's version ... I don't know if women were as prone) were popular.

Am I wrong or simply doddering again when I recall that personal post-it's seemed to contain more wit or imagination in earlier times? Yes, there were the obvious, drunken, sexual notes -- "For a good time, call Brenda" -- but there was also an intelligent quirkiness apparent: "Call Brenda -- she'll blow your mind as well."

There was racism as ever, but there was also a counter-point to some of the whiplash assertions:

In one handwriting, for example, there was: "Niger, (sic), go back to Africai (sic)!" Below this, in a much neater hand was the retort, "I'm taking your mother and sister with me."

Racism, sexism, drunkenness ... none of it was much different, I imagine. It was as stupid and mean-hearted as people have the capacity to be, then or now.  But also, there was an infusion of the kind of imaginative quality that The Beatles and LSD injected into public life ... statements that invited readers to be confused or delighted or disdain or simply smile ... as for example, "A kiss that lasts forever is a strange gift."

There was enough general intelligence to enjoy the ridiculous.

Nowadays, I sometimes think, things are so ridiculous that the enjoyment goes begging.

But that may just be my bathroom mirror talking.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

newspaper column

It's more and more of an uphill battle and increasingly strikes me as mediocre at best, but here is the latest column I wrote for the local newspaper.

Bubbling beneath the surface is the very simple fact that I really, really dislike being around people who discomfort others as a means of bettering themselves. It's an old, old habit of mine and it remains, no matter how often the facts prove, over and over again, that the tendency is more common than rare. Yup, I can do it too, but that doesn't make it any less revolting.

Yes, I can see the facts, but that doesn't mean it doesn't set my aging hair on fire. Finks, stoolies, informers, sweet-talkers who never manage to find the shit on their own front walk .... ick, ick and more ick.

How stupid of me is that?!

Wait! I think I hear another oh-so-informational TED talk in the making!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

if you're scaring me, you're a terrorist

Passed along in email was a story from the L.A. Times headlined, "Metro bus driver quarantined after passenger yells 'I have Ebola!'

The story is precisely what the headline invites the reader to imagine. And yet buried within that story was this line: "The Monday afternoon incident is being investigated as a possible terrorist threat because of the fear it incited, he said."

If this yardstick for terrorism (the fear it instills) were uniformly applied, will someone tell me how the minions of the U.S. government -- you know, the folks who say things like "we have detected a credible threat" without ever telling anyone the source of either the threat or its credibility -- could escape the deep-dish terrorist investigation?

I'm pretty serious about this since the technique of arousing fear is so widely applied in order to keep drones, shredded children and other assassination techniques in business.

If scary constitutes the premise of so-called terrorism -- which, whether real or utterly fabricated, it does -- then the terrorism yardstick can reasonably be placed next to the likes of Barack Obama, Leon Panetta, various news media, and other lapel-pin patriots.

appropriate Buddhist demeanor?

Try looking up a Buddhist congregation in the United States ... or maybe elsewhere in the world. Am I wrong or does damn near every instructor or guru or lama or holy person associated with such a group -- the guys or gals in the leadership role -- have a smile on his or her face?

This seems to suggest that Buddhists are happy or nice or something similar in a positive realm.


Not a single statue said to represent the Buddha has a smile on his face. Or I can't find it on the giggling god Google. Not one ... unless we're going to call Hotei as an emanation of the Buddha.

If you were a leader of some sort, someone who emulated chants and robes and meditations and thereby asserted a comradeship with Gautama and was into Dharma PR, wouldn't you want to wipe that smile off your face and get with the Buddhist program?

bird season

In the grey morning dawn, out beyond the dikes erected in the wake of the flooding of 1936, shots rang out this morning. I assume it's "bird season" again ... bang, bang, bang. The corn fields draw the birds. The birds draw the hunters. Others will wait a while and buy their food at Stop & Shop.

In the world, judging by the news wires, the fear of Ebola and the nurturing of a wartime footing in the Middle East are important. The U.S. is very good at raising up undefined, but frightening, enemies. Those who will suffer and die as a result are seldom the men and women who analyze and point out and buttress the threats. They 'care' and seem unashamed and prefer to send air strikes than to admit their own responsibilities.

In Rome, some Vatican bishops are going ape-shit that homosexuals are being granted a new outlook at a gathering to assess and define the meaning of "family."
However Voice Of The Family, a conservative Roman Catholic organisation, rejected the interim report as a "betrayal".
The group's co-founder John Smeaton called it "one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history".
It is so much easier to make war on homosexuals than it is to concede their presence and value, even within the Vatican that seeks to shun and demean.

I've got a column to write for tomorrow. I'll do it without much enthusiasm. I like to try to keep my word.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

war weary

There may be a kind of adroit bias when the anti-war minions view those who are soldiers: War really is a stupid and hurtful and self-centered pastime so those who don a uniform and pick up a weapon are likewise foolish and simple-minded. Those against war can apply a kind of third-grade, if-then logic that promotes cat-fight heat but salves little.

There are simple-minded assholes attending on any philosophy or outlook, military life included.

But for those who are serious about an anti-war posture, I think things need to be more nuanced, to the extent that they hope to be effective. And I thought this Reuters clip took a small step in a nuanced direction: War weariness within the warrior realms.


October, the pivotal month in which a homeowner may not be quite sure: Take the air conditioner out of
the window because the weather has turned nippy ... and risk a two- or three-day last gasp of hot summer weather; or leave the air conditioner in and feel the chilly precursors of winter tiptoe in around the cracks between the window and air conditioner. The problem is reversed in May, when summer has not quite arrived.

It's an annual conundrum for anyone fortunate enough to have an air conditioner.

As problems go, it's not precisely a big one. In fact, it's a problem only for those whose lives are not significantly problematic... like whining because the pharmacy is out of your favorite finger-nail polish. Nevertheless, I am not as strong and adept as once and what kind of day would it be without a complaint?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

long weekend

My wife and two boys took off yesterday en route to picking up my daughter in Connecticut and from there convening with the rest of my wife's kin in New Jersey. It's a long weekend what with Columbus Day being celebrated with a day off on Monday. Columbus Day is my daughter's birthday again.

Sometimes I wonder how that happened ...

The emptied house offers up an answer that continues to flummox me.

Oh well....

telling the untellable story

I am a story guy and in this early morning, two movie stories seemed to dance in tandem across my mind's dark sky ... stories that told a story I really wanted to hear without ever really making specific reference to that essence ... like making something easier to see by not looking directly at it. I imagine everyone has such nudges and hints in their lives and I wouldn't claim that my leanings were anything anyone else might need to share. I was just pleased, somehow, that these two, and more like them no doubt, existed:

"The Cup" and "Departures" -- they danced in strange, delicately-delicious tandem in my mind and then, like some lava lamp, they blobbed and morphed into something or nothing else....separated and yet inescapably joined.

Writing about god is a fool's pastime ... egotism, and not terribly interesting egotism at that. I think Christopher Isherwood addressed that topic somewhere or other. But even if he didn't, still I think it's true: Picking your nose has more no-shit impact than all the gilded scriptures combined.

But as I say, I am a story guy.

Friday, October 10, 2014

save water: pee in the shower

Common sense occasionally rears its lovely head -- in this case, a couple of university students suggest that students, among others, pee in the shower as a means of conserving water. The suggestion is simple, sensible and carries almost no health risk.
Mr Dobson and Ms Torr are representing the UEA in the Npower Future Leaders Challenge to inspire students to come up with an environmental initiative for their campus....Mr Dobson said: "We've done the maths, and this project stands to have a phenomenal impact.
Texas, California, Oklahoma and a number of other parched places might take note.

edgeless efforts photos

A radio-controlled flying witch makes a test flight past a moon setting into clouds along the pacific ocean in Carlsbad, California, October 8, 2014. Reuters was invited to photograph the testing of the life sized device by inventor Otto Dieffenbach lll.
REUTERS/Mike Blake
A photographer takes pictures of an installation titled "Infinity Mirrored Room - Filled With the Brilliance of Life" by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama during her exhibition at the Rufino Tamayo museum in Mexico City, October 6, 2014.
REUTERS/Tomas Bravo
Jiejin Qiu, who is six months pregnant with her first baby, poses underwater during a photo shoot at a local wedding photo studio in Shanghai, September 5, 2014.
REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A man carries empty water pitchers for sale in a market in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, October 9, 2014.
REUTERS/Abhishek N. Chinnappa

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"The Christmas Truce"

Makes me cry every time -- the folk song about a real event during World War I.

stringed instrument pieces

-- Zither music: Glocken aus Salzburg



-- And, to bring a little humor to the scene:

self-help ... the antidote

Waiting in a medical lab office yesterday, I was, of course, reduced to reading magazines that were six months or a year old. Like anyone else, I suppose, I wasn't really offended by the lack of timeliness: What I was reading was just better than the flat-screen TV whose muted conversations passed for timely commentary ... war, sickness, famine, skate-boarding, education and all of it presented by women with long hair and comely thighs and impossibly straight teeth.

One of the articles I skimmed made what I thought was a pretty good point: Self-help books and articles and invocations all had one thing in common: By the time you finished with one of them, there was always another one waiting. Self-help might promise improvements, but there was never really enough time to enjoy the improvement because the improvement could always be improved. Self-help might point the way, but self-help was like chicken pox -- there was always a new place to itch.

Look at any religion or war or good deed or diet ... there was always something else to achieve and the self-help market -- from political endeavor to ending poverty -- was endless-endless-ENDLESS.

This observation did not suggest to me that improvements should not be attempted. Chucking the whole thing was a little too cynical and, in the end, unsatisfying, but what also occurred to me was this:

The matter of improvement was sometimes inspiring: It asked the question, "What if things were better?" and then formulated a plan of attack... endlessly. Sometimes the plan worked. Sometimes not. Usually, it turned out to be a mix -- some success and some failure.

But what occurred to me based on that aging magazine article was this: Asking what things might be like if they were "improved" would never elicit a satisfying answer until the matter of what things might be like if they were not "improved" was honestly and openly addressed. Heart-felt critiques are really not enough. If you never did a damned self-helpy thing, a single improving thing, a single altruistic act, would that be an excuse for not being happy?

It's not a matter of either/or. Lazy and energetic are not enemies. It's just a matter of honestly assessing the furrow anyone might choose to plow. Expectations are OK, right up to the moment when they disperse like woodsmoke ... and, well, the fire is still toasty, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

eel-catching Buddha

At 74,  Cesare Bergamini is billed as the last eel-catcher in Rome. He has plenty of experience under his belt and has an outlook that might do a 'wise' man some good:
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."