Wednesday, February 28, 2018

when the universe got turned on?

WASHINGTON (AP) — After the Big Bang, it was dark and cold. And then there was light. Now, for the first time, astronomers have glimpsed that dawn of the universe 13.6 billion years ago when the earliest stars were turning on the light in the cosmic darkness.
I guess I am born to be the klutz and ask ... so where was it all before that ... whatever 'that' may be?

bring your gun to church

NEWFOUNDLAND, Pa. (AP) — Crown-wearing worshippers clutching AR-15 rifles drank holy wine and exchanged or renewed wedding vows in a commitment ceremony at a Pennsylvania church on Wednesday, prompting a nearby school to cancel classes.
With state police and a smattering of protesters standing watch outside the church, brides clad in white and grooms in dark suits brought dozens of unloaded AR-15s into World Peace and Unification Sanctuary for a religious event that doubled as an advertisement for the Second Amendment.
The church, which has a worldwide following, believes the AR-15 symbolizes the “rod of iron” in the book of Revelation, and encouraged couples to bring the weapons. An AR-15 was used in the Florida high school massacre on Feb. 14.

Dolly Parton ... and I don't mean her boobs

There's a soft spot in my heart for singer/musician/actress Dolly Parton: Whatever the size of her boobs -- and she's aware of the uses to which they can be put -- still there's a part of her that stands firmly on the earth I also stand on. Translation: She's not just an airhead with an astonishing chest.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the initiative she set up in honour of her illiterate father, has handed out its 100 millionth free book.
Free books.

Anyone reading these words is probably a bit like me -- a person who does not recognize that there are people in this world who cannot read or write ... and what a burdensome eight-ball that is to live behind. Illiteracy may be a puff of unacknowledged wind to me, but there are those for whom it is a weight that Atlas shouldered and more.

Dolly Parton -- bless her hide! -- boobs and all.

the shit no one thinks about?

There's the glam, of course, but then there is the problem of mountain-climbers' bathroom habits:
Human waste is a concern on most mountains that attract multitudes of climbers, and the issue of poop littering the routes up Mount Everest in Nepal is well-documented. Some mountains are trying to minimize the human waste problem. In Japan, bio-toilets have been set up along the route to Mount Fuji’s summit, and incinerator toilets are situated at the top. In Tanzania, latrines have been built for climbers making their way to Kilimanjaro’s summit.
The waste can be more than just bothersome. Climbers on Denali, 130 miles (210 kilometers) north of Anchorage, get all their drinking water by melting snow. And snow contaminated by human excrement can spread dangerous bacteria such as E. coli, causing climbers intestinal distress and diarrhea leading to dehydration, a life-threatening condition at high altitude.

cat on the garage roof

The veteran CBS newsman Walter Cronkite once observed, "News isn't about how many cats did not get up on the garage roof." News was coffins returning from the front and stick-ups and, during some pretty hard times, a brief or two about which housewife or out-of-work fellow was found with his head in the oven.

Of course there was the dog which found its way home from two states away after being dropped off, and there were tales of corruption, and the huzzahs accompanying a dizzying home run. But the slush and ick of personal improvement ... well, those were the cats that didn't get onto the garage roof.

I guess none of this makes much difference and it might be reasonable to argue that the news hasn't changed, but I have. I guess I just miss being concerned and involved and convinced that the news was worth lifting to the mental lips ... and masticating ... and swallowing ... and digesting.

Another recipe. Another physical ailment. Everyone's "challenged," and no one is "crippled." Another smile on one person's face pretending to redefine the precious grimaces of another. Another fucking salamander. Another 'hand-crafted' beer ... ah, go fuck yourself!.. and take your basil leaves and unexamined 'democracy' with you!

And perhaps all of this confused grumbling boils down to the fact that Donald Trump and his minions have won the day: It's all about me. Things fall apart because I fall apart and my falling apart is important to me ... another cat that didn't get up on the garage roof.

kale ... silly du jour

Passed along in email:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

yes, Virginia, you are getting screwed as promised

Opinion piece in Washington Post:

When Republicans put together their tax bill last year, it was not much of a surprise to see that its centerpiece was a gigantic corporate tax cut, lowering the statutory corporate rate from 35 percent down to 21 percent. This cut accounted for about $1 trillion of the bill’s total $1.5 trillion cost, but Republicans said it really wasn’t about helping corporations at all.
No, the real target was the workers: Corporations would take the money and use it to create new jobs and raise the wages of those working for them, as trickle-down economics did its magical work.
Democrats, on the other hand, said it was a scam. They charged that workers would see only a fraction of the benefits, and instead corporations would use most of their windfall for things like stock buybacks, which increase share prices and benefit the wealthy people who own the vast majority of stocks....
Well, it has been only two months since President Trump signed the bill into law, and we’re already learning what anyone with any sense knew at the time: Everything Democrats predicted is turning out to be right. Let’s look at this report in the New York Times, which describes how stock buybacks are reaching record levels....

ringing the Hitler bell

BERLIN (AP) -- A small town in southwestern Germany has decided to keep a church bell dedicated to Adolf Hitler ringing, but as a memorial to spark dialogue about violence and injustice.
The dpa news agency reported Tuesday the Herxheim am Berg council voted 10-3 to preserve the bell, which carries the inscription "Everything for the Fatherland - Adolf Hitler" above a Nazi swastika, as a memorial in its Protestant church.

Monday, February 26, 2018

executed for what he forgot?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a man sentenced to death for killing an Alabama police officer but who lawyers say now can't remember the 1985 murder.
The court agreed Monday to hear arguments in the case of Vernon Madison.
Madison had been scheduled to be executed in January, but the court stayed the execution to consider whether to take the case. Madison's case will now likely be argued in the fall, and the court's decision to take the case means he is safe from execution at least until the case is decided.
Madison's attorneys argue that strokes and dementia have left Madison unable to understand his execution or remember killing Mobile police Officer Julius Schulte, who had responded to a domestic disturbance call involving Madison.

'criminals' at the U.N. Security Council

It probably is as effective as piss in a snowbank, but ....

GENEVA (AP) — The outgoing U.N. human rights chief on Monday accused the veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council of being second only to criminals who kill and maim when it comes to responsibility for some of the world’s most egregious rights violations.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein delivered one of the strongest and clearest denunciations yet from a top U.N. official about certain uses of the Security Council veto, which gives extraordinary powers to the five countries that wield it: Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S.
Speaking to the Human Rights Council, Zeid didn’t mention specific vetoes. But the comments were an unmistakable allusion to the war in Syria, over which Russia, a major backer of President Bashar Assad, and China have repeatedly used the veto to block efforts such as to hold war criminals to account or punish Assad’s government for alleged use of chemical weapons.

"The Straight Story" movie

It's kind of a "Bucket List" without the money -- a nice movie called "The Straight Story" I watched yesterday. It may appeal more to old farts like me, but I think it is probably better than that narrow band ... but then, I am an old fart.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

mass mortality events

Why/how do such mass die-offs occur. Climate change is a suspected, but as yet not-irrefutably-proved, villain.

There was almost something biblical about the scene of devastation that lay before Richard Kock as he stood in the wilderness of the Kazakhstan steppe. Dotted across the grassy plain, as far as the eye could see, were the corpses of thousands upon thousands of saiga antelopes. All appeared to have fallen where they were feeding.
Some were mothers that had travelled to this remote wilderness for the annual calving season, while others were their offspring, just a few days old. Each had died in just a few hours from blood poisoning. In the 30C heat of a May day, the air around each of the rotting hulks was thick with flies.
The same grisly story has been replayed throughout Kazakhstan. In this springtime massacre, an estimated 200,000 critically endangered saiga – around 60% of the world’s population – died.

son returns from Sinai

At last my younger son, Ives, is back from his yearlong National Guard tour of duty in Sinai. We will be going out to lunch or dinner later today.

One less thing to worry about.

One more thing to worry about.

Worries are such winsome customers.

snippets of repetition

And adding to the "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" list, perhaps:
-- REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — Icelandic lawmakers are considering a law that would ban the circumcision of boys for non-medical reasons, making it the first European country to do so.
Some religious leaders in Iceland and across Europe have called the bill an attack on religious freedom. It is seen as a particular threat by Jews and Muslims who traditionally embrace the practice.
Under the proposed law, the circumcision of boys — removing the foreskin of the penis, usually when the child is a newborn — would be viewed as equal to female genital mutilation and punishable by up to six years in prison.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A newly built avant-garde mosque in the heart of Iran’s capital would have hard-liners shouting from the minarets — if there were any.
The architects behind the Vali-e-Asr mosque dispensed with the traditional rounded domes and towering minarets, opting instead for a modern design of undulating waves of gray stone and concrete, which they say complements the surrounding architecture and evokes the austerity of early Islam.
The new structure has infuriated hard-liners, who see it as part of a creeping secular onslaught on the Islamic republic. An editorial posted on the Mashregh news website compared the curvature to that of a Jewish yarmulke, accusing authorities of “treason” for approving it. The “completely neutral” design betrays an “atheistic approach,” it said.
BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s ruling Communist Party on Sunday set the stage for President Xi Jinping to stay in office indefinitely, with a proposal to remove a constitutional clause limiting presidential service to just two terms in office.
-- ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Walking through a trade show all about military drones, Emirati officials made a point on Sunday to stop first at a stand run by Chinese officials with a mock armed drone hanging above them.
Defense analysts believe that drone, the Wing Loong II, is now being used by the Emirati military while the UAE remains barred from purchasing weaponized drones from the United States.
Will there ever be a time when the "old" does not become "new?"

Saturday, February 24, 2018

"Rebel Girls"

When I was a kid, I went to a school that was labeled "progressive." From the fourth-and-a-half grade until the 8th grade, North Country School in Lake Placid, N.Y., taught me all sorts of things, though not, to my mother's dismay, an ability to spell well.

We ate organic food before 'organic' was chic (and more important, pulled the fucking weeds), climbed mountains, built a rice paddy, slept under the stars, built huts with hatchets and rope and without the hovering presence of an adult, learned to type from the fourth grade onward, and skied as part of the physical education regimen. Boys and girls all participated: When there was a knitting fad, everyone learned, and when it was time to play jacks, everyone played. The adults had little or nothing to do with it: the kids did stuff on their own. I have several scars where I cut myself with the sheath knives (some of it pretty serious hardware) everyone carried as pretty much a matter of course ... hay bales had to be cut open and knife-throwing was fun, if difficult.

As a skiier, I was used to being beaten by girls who were better than I was. I lacked the courage for slalom -- the pedal-to-the-metal kamikaze spirit -- but several girls were pure courage mavens. Sometimes girls were better, sometimes boys ... at anything and everything.

Vegetarian was not special.
Girls were not second-class citizens.
And the sense of guilt did not rise up on either count, or any of the others that might arise later as 'minority marginalization' came to the fore.

No big deal ... girls and boys and no fucking lectures or wispy guilt.

Which was some of what I felt just now as I read this story about a book that details the excitement and adventure and courage that girls can enjoy every much as boys.
There’s a book my younger daughter asks me to read to her every night. Over the years I’ve recited The Gruffalo, voyaged with her to Narnia and opened the door to The Secret Garden. But this book is different, because when I put it down and turn off her light, she sometimes says: “I want to be in it.”
It will come as no surprise that the book is Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo’s Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, a collection of “100 tales of extraordinary women” that has become a publishing sensation. It is the most successful new title in the history of crowdfunding, has sold more than a million copies, been translated into dozens of languages and has prompted a slew of copycat efforts. Now Rebel Girls 2 is coming out in the UK, with a podcast to follow next month.
Reading about this book and its underpinnings made me feel that the world was at last catching up with what I was privileged enough to take as a matter of course in grade school. Or maybe that's too self-centered. Anyway, I am happy someone has shouldered the task and that girls may be smiling as they go off to sleep.

If we wait long enough, maybe someone will do the same for boys.

the holes between the cheese

Waking up, it is harder of late to get from here to here.

Some say, "My mind is like a Swiss cheese" and I am sympathetic. But did you ever notice that such words take their savor from the substance called "cheese?"

Of late, increasingly, I feel that the substance comes from the holes between the cheese parts. How is anyone to find their footing in the empty places? Is there any "there" there?

The holes between the cheese. No doubt there is "something," but what it is lurks outside my latter-day capacities. So I drink coffee, smoke a cigarette and wait for "here" to come back here.

sayonara unions

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it 
― Omar Khayyám

And so it goes.... the blood once shed, the cops beating the demonstrators, the well-heeled ever more heeled and yet checked by the rise of unions that once protected workers and then, in some instances, outgrew their boots and were once again relegated to a lesser, lesser, lesser status:
A 20-year campaign by rightwing billionaire donors to undermine trade unions and strike a blow at the progressive movement in Americacomes to a climax on Monday, in a hearing at the US supreme court.
The nine justices of the nation’s highest court will hear arguments in Janus V AFSCME, a case that has the potential to strip unions of a major source of income. Should the court rule against the public sector unions – as many fear it will – they stand to suffer a decline in their 7.2 million-strong membership, and with it the withering of their political strength.
How it became so that workers themselves should see the representation they needed as anathema to its own cause ... this is the stuff of nightmares, or perhaps just history as the screw turns and turns and turns again. Why anyone would trust someone else -- let alone the chauffeured few -- with his or her pay packet defies understanding.

I grew up with Pete Seeger's (The Almanac Singers) "Talking Union" and have yet to find a reason to change the tune or sentiment:

Ask ANY worker who lacks representation what it's like to have his or her face pissed in again and again by those benevolent, trickle-down-economics owners/managers and you may get some idea what people were once willing to fight and, in some cases, die for.

Ask yourself a simple question:
Which is more likely to support an employee --
The benevolent owners and managers or
The benevolent union representing that employee?

Benevolence is frequently a two-edged and flawed sword. But try out the question anyway.

Friday, February 23, 2018

stepmother at 95

These days, my stepmother, who is almost 95, is getting settled in a rehab center after falling at home, going to the hospital and having technicians fret about her heart and send her on her way. I have called a couple of times and seem to have caught her in the midst of a lot of drugs and some confusion.

Madeline's fragilities hang in my daily window like some gossamer curtain. Will she improve? Will she die? Perhaps it's time, perhaps not.

It is impossible to be sad and impossible not to be.

stitching nothing to nothing

Stitching nothing to nothing....

If you had The Answer, what in heaven's name would you do with it?

Who knows what impetus compels it, this nudging desire to see my name included on some spiritual list, some rivulet of contenders, some ladder of progression? In Buddhism, there is a lot made of the links and lineage that lead, often with a lot of fictional bridges thrown in, from one rung to the next, one teacher to the next, one student to the next, one monastery to the next. In the Buddhist biz, the phrase is bandied about: "leading all the way back to Shakyamuni Buddha."

But as I look back at those who prodded and helped me along the way, not one of them that I count as honored teachers ever laid claim to a rung or created a rung for some successor to stand on ... sort of.

My Zen teacher, Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi, never, to the best of my knowledge, acknowledged a successor, never dubbed him or her as "roshi" or "old teacher." Perhaps Kyudo did and I just don't know, but I find myself blessed in the light of the thought that he never anointed anyone ... and that that is the proper way of a proper Buddhist spiritual adventure.

I am not mentioning this with any other intent than to chew my cud and offer one possibility. It is not as a means of suggesting what might be "right" or "correct" or some other silly "improvement." It's just a possibility among many and may be entirely off-base.

Other helpers I hold close when remembering intimate matters include Dokai Fukui, a Zen monk who, as one observer put it, "would have been made a roshi except that his health was so poor." Slave labor in a Chinese concentration camp during World War II will do that to a man, I imagine. I corresponded with him for years and he was kind.

Or Jack Gallahue, a former Jesuit priest I knew in his subsequent capacity as a shrink. No doubt he sent many into the world who might bless his name and assistance, but I doubt if he would have cozied up to any sort of ladder-like progression.

Or John Blofeld, a man I never met, but who corresponded with me from his home base in Thailand for a number of years. As an author of books about Buddhism, I could hardly imagine he would correspond with a nobody like me ... sometimes playful, sometimes stern, sometimes just thoughtful on the letter's hand-written page. Did he have a long ladder of ducklings trailing out behind him? Maybe so, but I can't imagine he made much of it in the way that Buddhism can anoint its schools and ladders.

Yes, yes -- I can hear the murmuring Greek chorus of those who might say "everyone is the teacher" or "everything is the teacher." Go ahead and murmur. I am looking for a home in a way that no good Zen Buddhist might approve. Where is my ladder? What is the sense and direction of it all? What rung will I be satisfied in grasping ... a 'grasping' Zen Buddhist-- how about them apples?

Or shall we intone the word "meaning?" Poor old threadbare "meaning." No, I don't want anything that comic-booky. Or "answers." Lord love a duck, hasn't that bullshit been around the block often enough to be set aside ... gently, of course, but set aside for sure?

As my lineage that fits no lineage archetype (and hence, I suppose, becomes some sort of archetype)  I am pleased in my mentors for what they withheld. No institution. No stamp of approval. No narrow shelf from which to fall.

Stand up, boy! Stand up and turn as you please. Live, die, sneeze, laugh, cry and wash the fucking dishes. It's your mess: You clean it up. You live with it or die with it -- it's your business, no matter how lovely the temple grounds.

Tough training, that.

But, in the end, what else could possibly be true?

The object of spiritual adventure, where once I adventured, is to see it dwindle and wisp-away. There is no other shore. Buddhism or Zen deserves to be let alone. Let it work out its own destiny. It needs no help and trying to help will only hinder. Is this true for anyone else? I have no clue. It's just a possibility...

Stitching nothing to nothing is lighter than cotton candy -- tasty and devoid and ... oh relax and let the daisies bloom.

For some reason, the tattered, third-grade doggerel crosses my mind: 

Hubba, hubba!
Ding, ding!
Baby, you've got
PS. I have to take a bit back. In a wordless couple of seconds between us, I have to count Trungpa Rinpoche among my best teachers. But he was a Tibetan and, in the words of the poet, I don't/didn't-do Tibetan and don't know whether he had 'descendants' or not.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

death and understanding

All sorts of cutesy things can be said or imagined about death -- most, if not all of them, consoling by wit or confected wisdom.

Idly, I wonder which would be worse -- or "better" if you like:

To die with a complete spiritual understanding


To die without a complete spiritual understanding?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Milan fashion week...

a little music serendipity

Music seems to be my karma du jour today.

First, a friend passed along a note and song by a British group I had never heard of: "You may not know the British group from the 1970s & 1980s called Steeleye Span.  They took English renaissance and middle ages songs and recorded/performed them in a rock music context, usually with excellent outcomes."

Actually, that small gift interrupted a line of fanciful thinking in which I was wondering how long it would take for Eido Tai Shimano to regain iconic status now that he is dead. Who will remember his less savory aspects ...

Any more than they might remember the folk singers Ian and Sylvia whose close harmonies I used to enjoy. I once read (I believe) that the two of them made up a song called "Darcy Farrow" out of whole cloth and as a rebellion of the musical weeper tales of ill-fated love in the 1800's. The song of itself is too close to sounding real to sound fake ... so who will remember the spoof (assuming I've remembered it correctly)?

Someone, I'd guess, will take Darcy Farrow and Eido Shimano seriously. As usual, the joke's on me ... might as well enjoy it.

Heart Sutra, guitar version

Can't say that it lights my fire, but a friend passed along this guitar-strumming version of "The Heart Sutra," one of Zen Buddhism's go-to chants, so maybe others will enjoy it.

PS. Strange to remember that the Heart Sutra always made better and more touching sense to me in a language I did not know of understand than it did in English. Kinda like the rebel Roman Catholics who insist on Latin for their scriptural readings et al.

spring twitter

Sparrows and crows and Canada geese -- the sounds of spring are drizzling into this day when a high temperature is predicted to be 71.

Wouldn't it be nice, for those still inclined to do so, to pick up a newspaper that was devoid of stories about what WILL happen? No one can predict the future and yet there is an uncontrollable assertion that predicting the future is a legitimate pastime. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

eido shimano's death

If shaky, still it seems to be true: Eido Tai Shimano died in Japan on Feb. 18, 2018, of pneumonia. He was 85. Since yesterday, when the notation was not there, Wikipedia has appended a death date to its Shimano descriptive.

As Wikipedia notes, Shimano was a large figure in the creation of New York Zendo (Shobo-ji) in Manhattan and Dai Bosatsu Zendo (Kongo-ji) in the Catskill Mountains. He was also the central figure in what came to be known as Fuck Follies I, II, and III -- a sociopath of the Trump ilk who hit on vulnerable female students. As far as I know, all of his most ardent critics endowed with Buddhist titles received those titles from Shimano. Go figure.

I studied with Shimano for nine years and he shades the tapestry of my Zen training ... whose bite-sized summing-up boils down to, "I wouldn't wish my training on my worst enemy and I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China."

What a trip, eh?


Paid Death Notice

The following are paid death notices from the print edition of The New York Times, along with Memorial Services, In Memoriam, and Guest Books.

ROSHI--Eido Tai Shimano, founder of two American Rinzai Zen temples in New York, passed away on February 18th shortly after presenting teachings at Shogen-ji Junior College in Gifu, Japan. He was 85. Details of funeral and memorial services are being arranged. Eido Roshi moved to Hawaii in 1960 after many years of intensive practice at Ryutaku-ji Temple in Mishima, Japan. He settled in New York City in 1965, and was asked to become president of the Zen Studies Society, which had been established in 1956 to assist the Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki in his pioneering efforts to introduce Zen to the West. He established New York Zendo Shobo-Ji, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, on September 15th, 1968, and International Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-Ji, in the Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York, on July 4th, 1976. Eido Roshi built his own 'sangha' by walking the streets of New York City, as he told Mark Oppenheimer in 2013: "All I did was simply walk Manhattan from top to the bottom. And in my Buddhist robe. And many people came. 'What are you doing? Where are you going?' So I said, 'I am from Japan and doing zazen practice... Little by little, every single day, I walked entire Manhattan... And every single day I picked up two or three people who were curious. And that was the beginning of the sangha." Eido Roshi served as the abbot of New York Zendo and Dai Bosatsu Zendo until his retirement in 2010. He was the author of Points of Departure; Golden Wind; and Zen Word, Zen Calligraphy. He brought out a translation of The Book of Rinzai: the Recorded Sayings of Master Rinzai, and translated several volumes of Eihei Dogen's Shobogenzo. He gave teachings and held retreats throughout the world, and was the recipient of the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai award, honoring his remarkable achievements and contributions in bringing the teachings of Buddhism to the West. In the Postscript to his section of the book Namu Dai Bosa: A Transmission of Zen Buddhism to America, edited by Louis Nordstrom, Eido Roshi wrote: "On the Way to Dai Bosatsu I met many travelers. Some taught me how to get there. Some gave me lodging, some guidance. For all those people, for their support, help and inspiration, I have nothing but sincere gratitude. I cannot write the details of all these encounters -- however, there is one person, who, from the beginning of my New York life, walked with me as closely as my shadow on that rough road, all the way to Dai Bosatsu: Aiho Yasuko Shimano, my wife and my assistant. Without her the Way would surely have been much more difficult."

Published in The New York Times on Feb. 22, 2018

Rec'd 2/26/18 NYTimes obit from Dave Bogart:

Eido Tai Shimano, who as abbot, or head spiritual teacher, of the Zen Studies Society in New York established a substantial following for his branch of Japanese Buddhism, only to resign in a sex scandal, died on Feb. 18 in Gifu, Japan. He was 85.
His death was announced on the society’s Facebook page. No cause was given. The notice said he had just given a lesson at a junior college.
Mr. Shimano helped fuel interest in Zen Buddhism in New York and beyond in the 1960s and ’70s, a time of alternative lifestyles and spiritual searching. But years later it was found that he had also been having sex with a number of women who had come to him to be taught, revelations that raised ethical questions that roiled Western Buddhism.
Although Mr. Shimano continued to have devoted followers after the scandal broke in 2010, he became a pariah to many.
Mr. Shimano was born in Tokyo in 1932. His given name was Eitaro; he adopted Eido — his so-called Dharma name — when he became a monk. He practiced the Rinzai Zen school of Japanese Buddhism, which emphasizes seated meditation, among other characteristics.
Mr. Shimano went to Hawaii in 1960 under the sponsorship of Robert Aitken, who had established a Zen center there. In late 1964, Mr. Shimano relocated to New York.
According to “The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side,” an investigative e-book by Mark Oppenheimer published by the Atlantic in 2014, Mr. Shimano was pressured to leave Hawaii as a result of questionable behavior with two female Zen students.
Mr. Shimano’s own story of his relocation was more charming. He told of arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport on New Year’s Eve with virtually nothing and proceeding over the ensuing weeks and months to attract followers in the most basic of ways.
“All I did was simply walk Manhattan from top to the bottom,” he told Mr. Oppenheimer, a former religion columnist for The New York Times, adding, “in my Buddhist robe.”
“Every single day I picked up two or three people who were curious,” he said. “And that was the beginning of the sangha” — his community of followers.
He quickly became the abbot of the Zen Studies Society, a Manhattan organization that had been founded in the 1950s but was not particularly active by the mid-’60s. Among his growing group of followers were well-off people like Dorris Carlson, a philanthropist who provided much of the money that enabled him to create the Dai Bosatsu Zendo, a monastery opened in 1976 on 1,400 acres in the Catskills.
Countless people made the trek there to meditate, study and be taught. Rumors that Mr. Shimano, who was married, was having sex with some of those who had come to him for enlightenment circulated for years, so much so that Mr. Aitken tried to raise concerns.
“Over the past three decades, we have interviewed many former students of Shimano Roshi,” he wrote to the Zen Studies Society board in 1995, using the Japanese honorific that means teacher. “Their stories are consistent: trust placed in an apparently wise and compassionate teacher, only to have that trust manipulated in the form of his sexual misconduct and abuse.”
The matter flared into the open when, at a group dinner at the Catskills monastery in 2010, a woman rose and announced that she had been having an affair with Mr. Shimano for two years. Until that moment, some board members had thought that any questionable behavior by Mr. Shimano had been in the distant past.
He resigned from the board in July of that year. Two months later, he resigned as abbot as well.
“Over time, I took your kindness for granted and arrogance grew in my heart,” he wrote in a letter to his followers at the time. “As a result, my sensitivity to feel the pain of others decreased. Now, as I reflect on the past, I realize how many people’s feelings and trust in me were hurt by my words and deeds.”
The scandal, along with similar ones involving other Buddhist leaders, like Joshu Sasaki, prompted debate about what standards, if any, should be applied to Buddhist teachers, the difficulties in adapting Eastern ideas to the West, and whether the dynamic between teacher and follower is inherently coercive.
“Eido Shimano Roshi was clearly one of the great Zen teachers of his generation of immigrants who fed the hunger in the American counterculture for an ‘authentic’ teaching from the East,” Mr. Oppenheimer said by email. “Unfortunately, he was also one of the generation’s worst predators.”
When the allegations about him, Mr. Sasaki and others came to light, people spoke out — a “me too” moment before that phrase came to be associated with sexual abuse. “But many Buddhist communities are still organized around the principle of the charismatic master,” Mr. Oppenheimer noted, “and that’s so often a recipe for abuse.”
There was no immediate information on Mr. Shimano’s survivors.

add a little uranium to your life

Uranium glass occupies a little-known niche in the collectibles world, whose members appreciate its soft colour and distinctive glow, which comes from the uranium added as the glass was created.
The pieces shown here come from the collection of Peter Marti and Markus Berner, who trade in antique glass at a small shop downstairs from their flat in Wangen an der Aare, a town in Switzerland. They discovered the glass about 15 years ago at a Swiss flea market and have been collecting ever since.
Check out the before and after photo array. ... scroll down story.

Monday, February 19, 2018

traffic warning improvements

Passed along in email was this wonderful adventure in safety and optical illusion.

Where else but in Iceland?

photo exhibit

After a nine-month battle, Islamic State was finally expelled from Mosul, leaving devastation and residents physically and psychologically scarred by the war. Abbie Trayler-Smith’s new exhibition records the devastating effects of life under Isis control in northern Iraq and the bewildering aftermath of conflict. After Darkness is at Anima-Mundi, St Ives, until 27 March.

Even if it is one of those photographer-contrived photos, still, I like it.
Sara, age 24, arrives at Hasan Sham camp for displaced people after being taken by bus straight from the battle

presidential sex life

With all the political chaff in the wind these days, it's hard to sort out or 'prioritize' presidential sexual peccadilloes, but as observations/background material, I enjoyed this today:
Robert Dallek, a biographer of Lyndon Johnson, has written that “when people mentioned Kennedy’s many affairs, Johnson would bang the table and declare that he had more women by accident than Kennedy ever had on purpose.”

Sunday, February 18, 2018

100 pounds of sleep, please

As if shyly, the birds can be seen trickling back and skittering between the houses up the street. They are notable against a backdrop of two to three inches of snow that fell last night. Their ritual chirruping has not yet begun to fully announce the possibility of yet another spring, but their presence is visible and thus promising.

Yesterday I misplaced the reading glasses that would have allowed me a soporific as I lolled before sleep, but even without them, sleep arrived in the darkness that was the only alternative without reading material.

I wonder what the salesman might say if I announced from my side of the counter, "I'd like 100 pounds of sleep, please." Would he be flummoxed or would he be used to old people and their peculiar requests? Perhaps I'll try it out, but more likely not: There is something within that rebels at being classed among the elderly and peculiar. From where I sit, I am not peculiar and hence decline to be classed by some ignorant second opinion.

There are enough leftover books on the porch shelves and I read leftovers these days -- books mostly forgotten and so worthy of a reprise. Sometimes they are too familiar, but hey, they still hum like some lulling housemaid vacuuming the living room rug ... just a murmured hum that remembers something and yet the precise what of what is remembered is forgotten.

Enough books to hum me to sleep.

"we love war" photo

Bigger than the elephant in the living room ... a photo I liked:
A demonstrator carries a poster reading: 'We Love War' as they protest against the Security Conference, MSC, in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. dpa via AP Sebastian Gabriel

Read more here:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

the imaginings of radio times

At the time (late 1940's?) when the Grolands got the first television set in our neighborhood, I was used to listening to radio dramas. Radio dramas included "The Lone Ranger" and "The Shadow" and "The Green Hornet," most during the early evening hours when a kid like me might be expected to stay up. Action stories, tough guys and not a lot of meat on the bone.

But later at night, after I was supposed to be asleep, I would turn the radio on very low and listen to serious drama written by serious writers like Roald Dahl. Some were scary (the man who was about to be embalmed even though he was still alive -- if paralyzed -- after an auto accident) and some simply keep you wide-awake (as the man who took up a bet that he could light a lighter 10 times consecutively or, if he failed, have pinky finger cut off; winning meant he would have access to the beautiful wife of the man who posed the bet). As anyone can tell you, listening to scary stories in the dark is scarier still.

Radio was all listening. The listener filled in the colors and shapes and movements of the voices that etched the stories. That imaginative participation was crucial to radio ... and delicious.

When the Grolands got their TV and I was invited over to see "Howdy Doody," I recognized immediately how limiting a visual medium could be. Howdy Doody was assinine. I didn't even wait for the show to end before I manufactured an excuse to go home. If I wanted to see a movie-like story, the Saturday afternoon matinee was good enough for me, even if I did wish I would watch movies in my own house and not just in a movie theater.

Adding a visual component was a wonderful addition, but it also truncated the vast opportunities provided by a radio tale and its imagination-compadre. Dress, looks, scowls ... all that and more leapt off an infinite palate when whispered late at night on the radio. On the screen, you only had one choice... and of course the first TV's provided only black and white tableaux.

To fill in with imagination -- it was as natural as apple pie, until it wasn't. And at that point, I think, imaginations began to wither on the vine.

Death by dessication.

Or maybe not for others.

cleaning up the U.S. mess?

NEW DELHI (AP) -- India and Iran said Saturday that they would step up cooperation in combatting extremism, terrorism and drug trafficking in Afghanistan in an effort to restore peace and stability to the war-wracked country.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the two countries would also make efforts to improve energy security and regional connectivity to reach landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia by developing Iran's Chabahar Port and road and rail routes.
It used to be that the United States acted as intermediary in cleaning up other people's messes. Now that role seems to have fallen to others who may help clean up America's mess.

dog-shit-powered street lamps

In keeping with my dwindling sense of perspective, reports today say that there was a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Mexico and that the U.S. has charged Russia with interfering in the American electoral process in 2016, and a variety of other stories oozing with journalistic importance. But the tale that grabs my attention is the one about a dog-shit-powered street lamp.

Who knows if it's true but even if it's not, still, somehow, it would be nice if it were. On the truth-likelihood side, it does seem to be British in origin and the Brits are by culture quirky enough to suggest it may be true. Further, those like Donald Trump who wallow in purveying "fake news" are not generally imaginative enough to come up with a story like this, however cockeyed the science may or may not be.

So, for a few moments, I am convinced and delighted with a possibility that might ease a lot of lives. A positive note in a negatively-charged world.

Friday, February 16, 2018

keep your word

When it comes to bedrock crabbiness -- that aspect about which I believe everyone has one or more examples -- one of mine is this:

Keep your word. If you give your word (your promise), then keep your word...

OR admit with full-frontal responsibility that you did not keep it.

It's as close as anyone can come to a clean getaway.

My pissed-off-as-a-wet-cat syndrome comes calling again and again when I run into or hear about some dipwad who, as a means of thinking well of him- or her-self, promises to do something and then neither does it nor admits to having failed to do it.

You'd think I might get over this.

I haven't.

It's still like fingernails on a blackboard.

No doubt I too have failed ....

I DON'T CARE: it still pisses me off.

another school shooting

Perhaps if, every time a child or teacher or other school worker were shot to death, a lottery-picked member of the U.S. Congress or executive branch were summarily executed, there would be more action on school shootings. Maybe not, but maybe so.

Seventeen people were shot to death by the latest gun-toting loon in Florida Wednesday. Others were wounded.

Everyone cares, but the fact is, no one gives a shit.

So, shoot a politician or political professional....

And revise the American outlook: America executes its children and those who look after them. Political cowardice is well-documented, so let's stop pretending ... we kill kids because politicians need money to get re-elected. It is easier to digest once the word is spoken aloud ... just once ... cowardice.

Who might carry out such executions -- they ought to come as a surprise, don't you think? -- is pretty much a no-brainer: The U.S. has JSOC and if they're too busy, Israel's Mossad seems to have the requisite sang froid.

If anyone uses the word "barbaric" to describe such a solution, how then would they describe the American penchant for executing those attending schools?

at the pharmacy :)

Passed along in email:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

something to (dis)believe

Perhaps the inability to swallow and believe one thing or another is, in itself, a fulfillment of the bone-deep desire to believe something.

How tired I am of the weeping public official I simply do not believe. How tired I am of suspecting that the picture of a doe-eyed, wide-eyed child staring out of some shattered window or door is just a result of a photographer's setting it all up. These are but two of my veils of latter-day skepticism. How I would like to look at a picture or read a story and slump back into credulity: Yes, I believe this because I can imagine feeling the same.

But increasingly, I don't.

And increasingly, I dearly wish I could be bowled over or quietly drowned ... and believe. I too would like to rest and relax in a social matrix of agreement and sorrow or joy. But instead, I am nagged and dressed in doubt. This morning, it makes me growl.

Is it sensible and realistic and all those other kool words? Sure. But I'd like to be as irresponsible as the next person and I chafe at the enforced donning of some responsibility serape. And I'm sick of all the one-stop-shopping, TED-talking mutts who are convinced they can improve and have found the wisdom that will confer comfort and clarity at a single blow: Go peddle your wares someplace else! "How lucky you are!" And by implication, "How lucky and wise I am!" Go fuck yourself.

Yes, even if I'm wrong, I'd like to believe and bask. And it ain't working. Maybe that's why music seems to come closest: Its potential for visceral love that bypasses the senses of sight and speaking ... well, that can warm this chilly corner.

Just muttering in my beer. Just circling what may be Voltaire's fire hydrant, looking for a place to take a piss: "If God did not exist, we would have to invent him." Without belief is, of itself, too often just another belief to be skeptical of.

In a book on astrology I once saw, Gautama the Buddha was labeled briefly as "an empty hammock between two trees." I, on the other hand was, "an Easter Parade." Go figure.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


This morning I have a case of what might be called squishy-mind, a realm in which everything seeks out respite and devolves -- everything, from A to Z -- into lullabies.

Yes, I am interested in passing that Israeli police have suggested that Benjamin Netanyahu should be indicted for bribery (and wondering why someone might not do the same for Donald Trump.) And yes, I am interested in passing that Kuwait has offered $2 billion +/- to help rebuild Iraq and Saudi Arabia has pledged $1.5 billion ... and Turkey ponied up $5 billion ... all in the face of America's mess and all falling short of the $88 billion Iraq says it needs ... these are important matters, but I am in squishy mode ... unable to process and digest what is important and resorting to...

Lullabies. If everything is perfect and soft and smoother than a still pond, lullabies seem to speak most volubly, though, of course, speaking is redundant.

I don't want to think. I want to loll ... or perhaps "demand to loll" is better.

Lullabies like this one perhaps....

News has too much information for me today. Too much and strangely, not enough.

Lullabies have enough.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

just a descriptive

... Donald Trump, a man of all volume and no music ....

Monday, February 12, 2018

herbicides for all ... that's an order

Monsanto and its herbicide-prone kin are on the move... with a little help from Uncle Sam:
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Tens of thousands of soybean and cotton farmers across the country are taking free but mandatory training in how to properly use a weed killer blamed for drifting and damaging crops in neighboring fields.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required the training and other restrictions last fall in a deal with three major agribusiness companies — Monsanto, BASF and DuPont. All three make special formulations of dicamba for use on new soybean and cotton varieties that are genetically engineered to resist the herbicide, using seed technology commercialized by Monsanto. The products are increasingly popular because they give farmers a new weapon against aggressive weeds such as pigweed that have become resistant to other herbicides such as glyphosate, also known as Roundup.

Trump diatribe

Trump diatribe passed along in email... a flavor of times when the likes of the Associated Press routinely makes room on its news budget for a compendium of false news, much of it uttered or incited by the president of the United States.

"Wisdom is redundant" ?

I'm not sure if it's true or redundant or just hot air: "Half of life is just a matter of getting over yourself. The other half is a crap shoot."


"Wisdom is redundant."

and you thought Trump was a one-off

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's attorney general has asked police to delay issuing their recommendations into two corruption allegations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until the Supreme Court hears a petition against them.
Police were scheduled to present their long-awaited findings this week. But officials say Avichai Mandelblit wants the court to first rule on the petition of a right-wing lawyer who is seeking a gag order on details of the investigation.
One probe reportedly concerns allegations Netanyahu improperly received lavish gifts from Hollywood and business figures.
Another is over secret talks with the publisher of a major Israeli newspaper in which Netanyahu allegedly requested positive coverage in exchange for reining in a free pro-Netanyahu daily.
Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing and has dismissed the accusations as a witch hunt orchestrated by a hostile media.

does banning it change it?

‘Hurtful language that has oppressed the people for over 200 years’ … Brock Peters and Gregory Peck in the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Photograph: Allstar
When everything is nice, how nice could anything actually be? When art does not rattle one kind of dishes or another, is it any longer art? When banning "nigger" becomes the rule, does that free the "nigger" on a thousand street corners?
A school district in Minnesota has pulled To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from its curriculum, arguing that the classic novels’ use of racial slurs risked students being “humiliated or marginalised”.
The Duluth school district will keep the titles in its libraries, but from the next school year, they will be replaced on the curriculum for ninth and 11th-grade English classes, according to local newspaper the Bemidji Pioneer....
The Duluth move was supported by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People....
[T]he move was strongly criticised by the National Coalition Against Censorship....
Sometimes the niceness of nice people can drive you nuts, not least because, in the end, its kindness is cruel and unrealistic (you should pardon the expression), in spades.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

walking barefoot in the snow

Walking barefoot in the snow
At the monastery long ago,
I imagined and nudged some 'samurai' spirit
But never slipped and fell....

Though lo and behold,
I certainly lost my footing
And left the monastery,
So much the wiser for it.

wrong day of the week

Mostly, I tend to ignore it or stick my head in the sand when it comes to proofs-positive that I am old: Can't see as well? OK. Can't hear as well? OK. Can't do chores as well? OK. Can't breathe as well? OK.

But every now and then, old age can get infuriating. Eg. Today, as has happened in the head-in-the-sand past, I thought it was Monday instead of Sunday. I goofed. But today, there was something really irritating about it.

In the long ago, knowing the day of the week was a 'given,' a piece of information that simply came with the moment. No doubt it had to do with the work week and its framing devices.

There is no real need to know what day of the week it is, but today I felt like getting it right ... and I didn't. The proof was in the fact that the garbage bins were not out in front of my neighbors' houses. Monday is trash day. There was that and also there was the small pill dispenser handing out the wrong day's collection. Then the computer confirmed my sense of having goofed. The computer is good for something, assuming I'm willing to believe it, which I am when it comes to days of the week.

Well shiiieeeeet!

I'm over my hissy fit now, but for a while there, I was pretty pissed.

mud festival in Brazil

Teenagers playing with mud started the Bloco da Lama in 1986 and it has since become an annual event in the city of Paraty. Hundreds of people wrestle, coat each other in mud and throw it around to the sound of samba and reggaeton at a [Brazilian] carnival beach party. Clothes are optional, but mud is not.

Ives returns to the U.S.

Sounding as squished and groggy as a worm run over on the turnpike, my younger son, Ives, informed me today that he was back in the U.S. (Texas) after his yearlong National Guard tour in southern Sinai. A 9,000-plus-mile flight et voilà.

It is uncertain when he will be home, but at least he's back and this old fart is happy for it.