Friday, August 30, 2019

growing tooth enamel

Scientists say they have finally cracked the problem of repairing tooth enamel.
Though enamel is the hardest tissue in the body, it cannot self-repair. Now scientists have discovered a method by which its complex structure can be reproduced and the enamel essentially “grown” back.

drugs, the silly and searing

A "huge drugs bust" at Gatwick airport turned into an upside-down cake when 25 bags of white powder turned out to be vegan pizza fixings.
British Transport Police said: “‘Officers were called to Gatwick airport station at 1.34pm on 28 August after a suitcase was found containing 25 bags of powder.
“Following a number of inquiries and tests, it was determined these bags of powder were cake ingredients for a vegan bakery. They were soon reunited with the owner, who has promised officers and staff a slice of cake in return.”
In the silly, there is also the seriousness that has raised its head in the drug-related assassinations in Mexico ... just in time for Donald Trump. I wonder if Trump hired them or anyway might like to.

in pursuit of heaven

In pursuit of heaven, you have to raise a little hell.

As zippy as this observation may be, still, from where I sit, its invitation is outshone by the fact that, simply put, it's true. Honesty is not easy, as anyone pursuing heaven will tell you without thinking twice. Just about the time you think you've got things tucked under your belt, you notice your fly is open.

The Zen teacher Rinzai (Linji) once built a fire under the monks in his care with his needling encouragement, "Your whole problem is that you do not trust yourselves enough." How's that for a hell-raiser?

Heaven, like hell, is not for pussies.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Frances Crowe dies

Frances Crowe, a widget tornado of peace activism, died Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, here in Northampton. She was 100. In her wake, there is little or nothing anyone can say except, perhaps,

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

robotic spiritual life

A friend passed along this Washington Post rewrite about the unveiling of a robotic Buddhist priest at a Japanese temple. Since fewer and fewer young adherents can be drummed up in this age of the internet, someone seemed to feel that Buddhism might get a shot in the arm or kick in the ass with an artificially-intelligent priest.

Religion may be on the wane among 'the best and the brightest,' but turning Buddhism into bite-sized morsels for those whose spiritual cravings may be thin at best has a wonderful idiocy to it from where I sit.

The one question robots cannot address is, of course, "if I'm so smart, how come I'm not happy?" Couple that with my own growing conviction that everyone has to pick his or her topic in which to flounder and drown and the recipe for something called "Buddhism" remains lustrous.

Sometimes I think the golden rule is not so much the middle way as it is the observation that everyone is an asshole in one way or another and sweeping up the leavings is what this life is about.  That's right -- it's not kool to be an asshole and yet each husbands and nourishes that very seed. I am an asshole.....  And your point is?

At about 35, I set my course: Is spiritual life bullshit or not? I didn't want to know so that I could convince others, I just wanted to know for my own purposes ... was spiritual life bullshit or not?

A lot of tears, a lot of effort, a lot of asshole-dom, a lot of solemnity and seriousness crossed my prow between the formulation of my query and this morning's sunshine. Damn near 50 years -- imagine that!

Looking back is not so bad.

I wouldn't wish my training on my worst enemy and I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China. I picked Buddhism ... others pick wealth or power or love or marriage or ... or whatever other topic allows ready access to asshole-dom. As on a submarine, "Dive! Dive! Dive!"

No one else can answer my question any more that I can answer theirs.

Is spiritual life bullshit or not?


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Trump's misdirection

Call me a political novice, but....

U.S. President Donald Trump is currently out of the country, hobnobbing with other members of the so-called G-7 -- the well-to-do nations of the world -- in, where else? -- Biarritz, France. Putting him in France puts him out of the limelight at home. It's like a breath of fresh air. Let the movers and shakers move and shake someplace else.

Oh yes, Trump is still throwing chaff into the air. There is climate change, which the Trump presidency sees as a "niche" interest. There is a trade war with China. American farmers are getting hammered and good-paying coal jobs, once promised on the campaign trail, are no where in sight. May Trump stay in France -- life is so much lighter without him.

But all of Trump's chaff has a wonderful effect, don't you think? The one thing it does admirably is to paper over the tax cuts he won for businesses in the United States. It is classic misdirection. George Bush did much the same -- selling trickle-down economics that simply won't wash and then sending money to those who need it least.

He delivered. Is it any wonder that Republicans near and far see him as a chip off the old Republican block?

He delivered what they wanted. Why wouldn't they kiss his ass?

And he knows it.

Classic misdirection. Let the liberals and idealists whine ... we got ours.

spiritual transmission

Lightning strikes injured six people (none fatally) at a championship golfing tour in Atlanta, Ga., Saturday.
Multiple spectators were injured when severe weather hit the Tour Championship in Atlanta on Saturday.
Play at the East Lake Golf Club was stopped at 4:17 p.m. Saturday because of inclement weather, and with the tournament in a delay, players were cleared from the course, reported. According to the Associated Press, fans were also told to find shelter from the storms.
Some fans chose a tree as their shelter point. Nature snickered and beat the shit out of the tree.

Even as kids, we knew not to take shelter under a tree in a severe storm: Lightning aims at the highest and most inviting point to get into the ground -- in this case, a tree. D'oh! As boys and girls sometimes do, so land and sky reach out for each other. Is information like that transmitted any more? It poses the question in my mind, "Who died and left you so stupid?"

Oh well, I guess everyone has a blind spot or two. But still ....

The Hindus, those granddaddies of spiritual smiles, have a tale that seems to amplify the question. Approximately, the story went like this:
Once upon a time a holy man was walking through the woods. He was deeply engrossed in his spiritual endeavors when, from afar, the voice of a mahout was heard screaming, "Get out of the way! Get out of the way! The elephant has gone mad!"

The holy man paid no attention: If everything was God, everything was fine and if everything was fine, he too would be fine, even in the face of maddened elephants whose mahouts had lost control of their beasts. The holy man continued his walk. In short order, the maddened elephant broke from the woods and charged the holy man. With an deep serenity, the holy man kept walking even as the mahout kept screaming, "Get out of the way!" Sure enough, the elephant ran right over the holy man.

Much later, the holy man woke up in a hospital with a friend perched on the edge of the bed.
"What happened?" asked the holy man.
"The elephant ran you down," his friend said.
"But, but ... if the elephant is God and I am God, why then did the elephant run me down?"
"You seem to have forgotten that the mahout is God as well," his friend explained.
I guess there are holes in the holy skein.

Following in the footprints of the Hindu tale, for a long time as a news person, I used to collect stories about pilgrimages (a lot of nuns seemed to be involved) in which acolytes were climbing a mountain when the storm arrived. There were few points of cover, and the pilgrims were the tallest thing on the mountain face... and ... guess what ... holiness is no barrier when it comes to ignorance.

I guess it is good to keep an ear open for the mahouts of this life.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Falun Gong boosts Donald Trump

“Over the last six months, the single largest organization that has spent money on Facebook ads promoting Donald Trump and Donald Trump’s re-election is as you might expect the Donald Trump re-election campaign. The organization that is second on that list, though, is this Falun Gong newspaper, the Epoch Times.
I like Rachel Maddow (I admit to thinking of her as a "brassy broad" from time to time) so I tried to listen to this report last night ... and make some sense of it ... and couldn't ... and played the age card. I'm too old for this shit.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

last times

Like a scalpel lightly applied to epidermal flesh, intimations of mortality snuck into consciousness the other day as I hugged my older son goodbye while he prepared his return trip to Georgia: It might be, the tickles suggested, the last time I ever saw my older son and the first thought into my head was, "I'll miss him." I am now almost 80 and a prognosticator once told me I would die between 83 and 85. Assuming the prognosticator and actuarial tables are accurate, it is time for the 'last time's' to start kicking in.

It felt like a cut along the surface skin -- nothing horrific, just a cool nudge and some gap in my being opened up in that hug. A wet rag was dragged across some much-used blackboard and suddenly things were cleaned. Looking back, I do wish I could have done better, but as my wife observed doggedly, "Can you change any of it?" The answer is no, but that doesn't stop my wishing I had done somehow better by my family ... my wife, my children ... couldn't I have done more? Probably yes, maybe no ... there's nothing to be done now. Coulda-woulda-shoulda ... ah well, the scalpel tickles with precision.

What does an 80-year-old person do? I mean, like what? I watched a bit of a documentary about the gathering in Woodstock in 1969. Thousands of people, lots of music, and a sense of hope, I guess. I looked at the pictures of the crowds and realized that crowds did not appeal to me, then or now. I never was brought up in a family and the family of man struck me as dubious, then and now. The greater the number, the more suspect the conclusion ... and yet, how cozy. Individuals convince each other with abandon ... do they thereby convince themselves? Up to a point, I guess they do ... but then the scalpel tickles along the epidermis -- just the point of the scalpel.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

police suicides

Perhaps it shows nothing of the sort, but based on a rising police-officer-suicide rate, I would guess that it takes real balls to be weak.

Think a moment: Every child is brought up within the shadow of his or her elders -- the parents and family who do what they can to steer a social course. The elders are "right" and children rely on that right-ness to steer them. They are young and powerless -- adults are, well, adults, and as such wield the power. They are right. And for the adults to be right requires that others be wrong. Policing is a young (wo)man's sport.

Somewhere or other are statistics, I believe, of World War II veterans who shot their rifles, but always aimed to miss. Something within balked at the idea of taking another life. The adults may be right, but there is a higher imperative ... and the people who are asked to sort all this out are barely adults themselves. Who doesn't long for someone, something, to be right -- something to rely on and count on and point to as a suitable reason for force against fellow human beings? Soldiers rely on their superiors. Children rely on adults. Citizens rely on the law. It's OK because someone else (some formula or law book) says it's OK even as someone within says it's not OK at all.

This is not just namby-pamby peace pablum. It is visceral. I long, in some deep way, to trust you and live with you in kinship. When there is no one else to assume the responsibility for what is right, suddenly it is I who must don the mantle, make the choice, pull the trigger. The fact that the man or woman next to me is doing the same thing -- trying to slow the enemy -- cannot ease my uncertainty and weakness. All the boo-yah! in the world cannot drown out the humanity.

It's no easy matter. Human beings can be exceptionally cruel and much in need of a tighter rein if society is to work moderately well. But to rely on the rules and regulations, however comforting, simply isn't comforting enough.

Right and wrong -- what 20-something can figure that one out? I don't know. It takes balls to plumb these depths, to feel the knots tightening in the gut, to pray to god because, goddammit, there is no other recourse. I cannot rely on my brothers and sisters, mom and dad, superiors and subordinates ... and I cannot rely on myself either. Only a fool would rely on others in order to lead a decent life ... and yet not to rely on those others is ... is ... is ... outer space.

PS.  "While suicide among police is a problem in many countries, France’s rate appears exceptionally high."

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

old man and the kids pic

the canine 'solution'

If there's a buck to be made, you know someone will want in on the action.

The National Institutes of Health reports that “studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood”, and any pet owner can confirm that having an animal companion is one of the most effective non-pharmaceutical antidotes to anxiety you can get....
It’s easy to get your pet designated an emotional support animal. But abuse of the system takes a toll on those with genuine needs

If I had to guess, I guess I would guess that the sense of loneliness of the Binkie Generation (cell phone implanted in one hand) rose with the advent of the internet. "Friends" became the new friends without all the messiness of a human relationship. The trouble was, "friends" don't quite allay the sense of insularity and loneliness. Cure? Get a dog. An emotional support animal where emotional support dwindled and waned. Yo! This isn't just a dog -- it's an "emotional support animal."

With this, the "cure" of the internet is "cured" by yet another addition and this one doesn't talk back. Hell, a dog is a living being ... not just a "friend."

And there's gold in them thar canine hills! Hence the rise of the emotional support industry.

What would life be without a cell phone ....

Or a dog.....

Or the next placating addition to an oh-so-busy life? Buy a pill to ease the distress of the other pill that was purchased to ease the distress ... etc.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

a time of dis-ease

In all, unless I am simply displaying these waning years, this is a time of unkindness, uncertainty, and a rise of barbarism. The joy and juice, however ill-founded, has been squeezed and reshaped and turned into a monetized quantity. Donald Trump is president and blessings are missing.

Use of words like "democracy" and "unacceptable" go un-examined or, when examined, are examined by those unwilling or unable to examine faithfully and with caring. It is a rag-tag sad time of unkindness and uncertainty and barbarism. My country feels prodded and edgy.

It is all very tiring. Trump became president vowing to "drain the [political] swamp." His tenure has repopulated it in spades.

I note with some interest his left hand as he descends from the presidential helicopter/plane ... the apparent need for balance and purchase. Is the 73-year-old feeling his age, perhaps?

Dis-ease is tiring.

Lack of policies is tiring.

Walls and guns and mass shootings and shooting of blacks that seems to rival Israel's willingness to fatally shoot knife-wielding Palestinians, excoriation of those trying to enter the country, white supremacy ...

I no longer read the news with care because the news now resides in the future ... how dumb is that?

Friday, August 9, 2019

world champion whistler

the Binkie Generation

Given today's sensibilities, sometimes I wonder how I ever stayed alive long enough to type this line. I grew up and learned to drive a car before there were the caring wonders of the automobile seat belt that is as much a part of getting into a car today as turning the ignition key. How did I, and millions more like me, survive? Yes, Virginia, it is possible to drive without a seat belt.

These days, the Binkie Generation will tell you of all the benefits and caring that a seat belt represents. They will retail the caring and safe-living attributes with cap-toothed smiles. You positively need the seat belt ... and yet millions lived without it. How is such a thing possible?

The Binkie Generation is my latest moniker for what others call Mellennials. The Binkie Generation is the one that cannot step into any given day without a cell phone in hand; the ones whose "friends" exist on a small screen, yet not so much in real life.

Cell phone, needing a shave air force glasses, and a plan for how to improve things without getting mixed up, confused, angry and -- oops -- joyful. Friends on a small screen are what once were friends on the hoof, up-close-and-personal, unpredictable. No friends, but lots of "friends." Imagined mother's milk replaces actual mother's milk. Nothing messy or contradictory about the small screen where all the latest "friends" coagulate. Small screens lack halitosis: Is that a blessing or a curse?

The Binkie Generation.

There is nothing wrong with a cell phone any more than there is anything wrong about seat belts. It's when anyone starts believing that "friends" are friends that the problems arise. Cell phones are neat and clean. Life, by contrast, is messy as hell, or can be. Seat belts can minimize damage ... but they can't abolish it or be the cure-all.

When the electricity goes off, will the Binkie Generation be able to find its own ass with both hands?

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Knife Angel

the need for water

No joke.
A quarter of the world’s population across 17 countries are living in regions of extremely high water stress, a measure of the level of competition over water resources, a new report reveals.
Experts at the World Resources Institute (WRI) warned that increasing water stress could lead to more “day zeroes” – a term that gained popularity in 2018 as Cape Town in South Africa came dangerously close to running out of water.
For example: Oil built Saudi Arabia – will a lack of water destroy it?

millennial binkie

A woman in what were once called Toreador Pants (calf-length) passed by the porch this morning at about 7:15. She seemed to be in the 50-60's bomb zone. Salt-and-pepper hair, etc. Out for a cardio walk, my mind assessed... a purposeful walk ... not too strenuous, yet purposeful. She had a bag over one shoulder and held a cell phone, face up, in her left hand, as if she didn't want to miss a call or text or Tweet.

A cell phone in hand.

A cell phone. The binkie of the millennial era. Another contributor to the aloofness of the internet.

In "The Dhammapada," there is a line that goes something like, "if you find no equal or better in life,  then go alone. Loneliness is preferable to the company of fools."

A millennial binkie.

The aloofness of the internet and its adjuncts.

Ironic to think that when cell phones first started to gain traction, kids were daft-in-love with them and parents were delighted to have a surreptitious way to track the little darlings. Parents thought perhaps they had found the perfect spy tool. Now it is the ones once called parents who are hooked on this fake-o tit. The mother's milk of human relationships dwindles and dims ... hell, we've got our 'friends' on Facebook.

A millennial binkie.

The aloofness of the internet.

It doesn't mean loneliness is easy. It just means you don't have to be an asshole about it.

Monday, August 5, 2019

life before/without the internet

Interesting essay maybe:

In this age of uncertainty, predictions have lost value, but here’s an irrefutable one: quite soon, no person on earth will remember what the world was like before the internet.... When that happens, what will be lost?
Lonelier ad lonelier and lonelier  ... shunning real people and going for the printed facsimile which is no facsimile at all. Sucking the juice out of the complexities that make friendship a wonderful boon and a terrible pain in the ass. Everything and everyone keeping a distance from others until finally those distances are bound to claim the day.

It's above my pay grade.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

real, wet tears

I was watching a TV documentary about the rise of bluegrass, blues, honky-tonk et al. when the particular narrator for one segment began to cry. You could tell he didn't want to; he simply couldn't contain himself.

Widows and orphans were allowed to enter the particular gathering in the late 1920's or early 1930's for free and when the money handlers realized an orphan had paid unnecessarily, they attempted to give the money back. The orphan wept. The narrator wept and then said approximately, "he wasn't crying for the money. He was crying for the music. That's the way it's supposed to be."

Real. Wet. Tears.

It was as if I had put my fingers in a light socket and I teared up as well: "the way it's supposed to be." Weeping for the music. Money is small potatoes (even during the Depression times of yore) when compared with the music. Worth weeping for, even for those not brought up to weep on demand, even for those living in a "boys don't cry" time. Magic is priceless and it is worth weeping for.

Nowadays, everyone seems programmed to weep on demand. Politicians, actors, even the Joe Blows up one street and down another. The loss, whatever it is, is just too horrific. Or sort of. Anyway, it seems that every other person on TV knows how to water the flowers ... it's good TV, touching dontcha know. And maybe the horror is tear-worthily horrific. There is so much of it that it's hard not to get numbed-down or dumbed-down or something. Tears no longer have the clout they once possessed. Tears for the seemingly insufferable wounds.

And yet. And yet.

Who weeps for the music? For the way "things are supposed to be?" The loss of money or life is hard. But the life of music and magic, for the bright, bright sun?

My tears, like the narrator's, seemed to catch me off guard.

Friday, August 2, 2019

the boy with 526 teeth

A seven-year-old boy who had suffered occasional toothache was found to have 526 teeth inside his jaw, according to surgeons in India.
The hundreds of teeth were found inside a sac that was nestled in the molar region of his lower jaw, following surgery carried out at the Saveetha dental college and hospital in Chennai.
“The teeth were of variable sizes that ranged from smallest at 0.1mm to largest 3mm. They had a small crown, enamel and a small root,” said Pratibha Ramani, the head of the department of oral and maxillofacial pathology at the hospital.

incoherent muttering

"Giving it away" churns lightly in my mind ... giving it away before the war ... giving it away because life is easier that way, when someone or something else smooths the way yet again. Giving it away as in "artificial intelligence" that does the work we claim to hate, or the ascendance of drugs (marijuana at the moment) that smooths and soothes a way that is barely bumpy.

Bit by bit and drip by drip ... giving it away so that things will be easier when 'harder' is what builds muscles and character. When things are easier, of course, they are not really easier. They are harder. It's harder to reclaim what you have given away.

If you give it away long enough, eventually it is gone. The cars drive themselves and there is little or no thought of driving them. The boxes are folded by machines. The fruits are ripened with a magical spray that makes them 'look like' something that was once gritty and dripping with perspiration.

Today, I plan to call a financial counselor and ask if he can take some of my meager retirement funding and put it into marijuana. Drugs will be around a lot longer than the internet or fossil fuel. Gathering the bits and pieces of easiness. Shunning the bits and pieces of hardness. Drugs -- booze included -- are the wave of the future and if that's the way of the wind, I figure it might as well blow my sails, corrupt as that may be.

In Russia once, a young Muscovite said to me, "Russians have always leaned towards a strong leader." Artificial intelligence is a strong leader, is it not? And likewise drugs. Both make life easier ... until the hardness of it all dawns. And it is here that the war begins -- trying to claw back what may be gone forever. Life gets easier and easier and easier until it is less productive than tits on a bull.

And then there is an eek of despair. I gave away the hard stuff in order to find out what is harder still ... the easy stuff. Muscle and character give way to flaccid and weak.

Is it true? What the hell -- I'm just muttering incoherently. I'd better eat something for breakfast.

The new balloons could follow multiple

 cars and boats for extended

 periods. Photograph: Ron Chapple/Alamy
Hamburg port authorities found 221
 black sport bags containing 4,200 packets of pressed
 cocaine. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Thursday, August 1, 2019

dispensing with meaning

At the suggestion of a friend, I tried out the Netflix serial called "Versailles" today. Watching and listening, I realized as I have more frequently of late that things have become too fast and too complicated for me. I can no longer, as once, immerse myself in the unspoken complexities being unrolled before me. Or I simply don't want to or something.

The same is true for the news shows that dig and delve into the complexities of today's world as (largely) dominated by U.S. President Donald Trump. No doubt there is importance to be winkled from one collection of facts or another, but the importance no longer grabs me by the short and curlies. And everyone talks too fast.

Depending on the day or time, I find myself alternately dismayed and relieved by this situation. What I do not find is any sense of competence relative to what is unfolding. I am lost and have no special desire to be 'found.' Things/I am simply slower and can find little or no reason to despair of it. I was savvy and smart once. Now I am not: Why should I tease myself with an intelligence I no longer have?

Consider "meaning."
Consider "everything has a meaning."
And of course things may indeed have a meaning ... no need to be an asshole about what's staring you in the face.

But the meaning that continues to go begging is this: Take five minutes a week and divest all and sundry of all meaning. Everything is meaningless. It's not a matter of cynicism ... just a fact: Things-have-no-meaning. Give things a rest. Let them flop back to the place from which they arose ... so to speak.

No          meaning.

Try it.
For five minutes.

And after five, you can set about re-infusing them with the meaning that 'everything' is alleged to have.

No meaning ... slower and slower and slower and slower......