Thursday, December 15, 2005

"What Is This Thing Called Love"

It's a pop tune written by Cole Porter in 1929. The truth is that
"Love" in the abstract has no meaning. It is only when we put the word
in some context that it has any meaning, and then it has so many
different meanings (depending on context) that it's still meaningless.

Last night, my wife and I celebrated our thirty-first wedding
anniversary with a quiet and very pleasant dinner at home, just the two
of us. I had prepared a special dinner for her, just the things I knew
she liked, prepared the way she liked them. I made her a card and gave
her a gift. Something she would have never think of buying for herself
but that I know she enjoyed. After dinner, my wife went straight to bed
and I finished cleaning up the kitchen, watched TV for about an hour and
then went to bed myself. It was a pleasant evening that we both enjoyed.
I went to sleep at around midnight and then woke up about 5:00 A.M.. I
had a strange dream. As I lay in bed after waking I thought about my
dream and what it was telling me. In my dream, my wife told me that she
was divorcing me, almost in the same manner as she might have said "I'm
stopping at the gym tonight so I won't be home 'til eight" There was no
emotion or anger just simple, straightforward "matter of fact" in my
dream, I did not react emotionally either.
In another part of the dream, or perhaps in another dream, (I'm not
sure which) a very close friend tortured me until I gave him information I had
that he needed to give to the "enemy" (unknown, unidentified in the
dream) that he was secretly working for.
The details of my dream aren't particularly important but what I
realized after I woke up was (at least I think so).

My dream was talking to me about attachment and perhaps how I no longer
felt very much attachment to anyone and that not feeling attachment is a
positive thing. I recently came across something in my dharma studies
(and I can't recall either where, who it, or the exact words) but
something that cautions us to avoid being "attached" to any particular
person or persons but instead to try to feel love for all sentient
beings. I remember my reaction to this at first when I read it.
I thought "But what about my wife, my children?' and now I do understand
the real meaning of the teaching. I am certainly no holy man or saint by
any stretch of the imagination but through the process of aging,
experience and most of all circumstances, I have become almost
completely "unattached". I do feel love for many sentient beings (not
all, not yet) but I am no longer "attached" to anyone.

It occurred to me as I was thinking about my dream that perhaps
attachment is a natural instinct as when a mother cat, bird wolf or lion
etc. will fight to her death to protect her young and the way a human
mother will sacrifice almost anything for the good of her children. This
is a form of "attachment" that is natural and necessary but when the
children become adults and are ready to fend for themselves,
attachment becomes inappropriate and unnatural. There are many other
cases where attachment is "normal" as when the child is attached to his
parents- he "loves" and depends on them for survival because he or she
is unable to survive without them until the time when his wings are
strong enough for him to fly from the nest.
Another example of "normal" attachment would be adolescents and young
adults who attach themselves emotionally and physically to another
person in what they would describe as "love". They "can't live without"
him or her; they're in a state of depression when they're not with the
object of their affection and in absolute euphoria when they are. In
this case it's probably two parts lust + one part physical dependency
and one part narcissism that constitute the prime "active ingredients"
of this kind of "love". Eventually, the early stages of adolescent
emotional dependency and attachment wear off and the relationship grows
into a real friendship, complete with respect, compassion and sharing or
it dies or turns into something ugly.
It is possible that "attachments" become addictions in the sense that
when we are free from the feeling of attachment we feel "empty" but
that's the way we should be shouldn't we?

So, is this thing called "love", and here I'm referring to the real
thing, a feeling of tenderness, caring and compassion for other persons,
places or things that is devoid of grasping covetousness, lust, control
and attachment?

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

This is My Life?

This Is My Life, Rated
No comments:

Why Do We Blog

10 Reasons Why People Blog:

10. "Everybody's doing it"
9. I need an outlet for my creativity
8. Because it's there (Credits to Edmond Hillary)
7. Express my thoughts and feelings
6. It's an on-line diary. A record of what I've done
5. For the pleasure of writing (self-expression and creative exercise)
4. Connect with others
3. See how others react to my ideas
2. Practice writing (To prepare for the creation of my masterpiece)


Places I have Seen

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Christmas '05? "Fagetabouit"

A man sits at a table writing. A second man walks into the room

2nd Man: So what are you writing Bro? Last will & testament?
1st Man: No, it's my Christmas list
2nd Man: What's that for?
1st Man: It's a list of the stuff I'm gonna give to people this Christmas. You know what Christmas lists are.
2nd Man: Yeah I know what they are I was wondering what you were doing that for?
1st Man: I gotta figure out what to give who. Otherwise I won't know what to buy, like for my grandsons.
2nd Man: OK, since you're not getting my drift, I'll spell it out. Why do you have to give people stuff at Christmas?
1st Man: Because everybody does that. People expect it. If I didn't, everybody would think I was Scrooge- a miser.
2nd Man: "Everybody does it" So that makes it right? How did "Everybody" start buying presents for Christmas?
1st Man: I don't know, maybe they just felt like it.
2nd Man: Spontaneously, just like that, "Everybody" just went out and spent all the rent money on neckties and Barbie dolls?
1st Man: Aw come on, you know, it's all about Santa Claus and baby Jesus!
2nd Man: "Santa" was dreamed up by a reporter back in the eighteen hundreds - it's just a fairy tale. You know "coal in their stockings if they're not good" and baby Jesus? Do you think that when he grew up he told people that they should buy each other lots of gifts to celebrate his birthday every year? The whole Christmas thing is just one big marketing bonanza. A way to sell a lot of stuff that nobody really needs or in many cases even wants to make bigger profits for the manufacturers and retailers- and the credit card companies too.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Nov. 24, 1963 - Ruby Shot Oswald

JFK was assassinated a few days before. It was only a few weeks after my twenty-ninth birthday and it was the beginning of the biggest crisis in my life. I suddenly realized that the world was under control of "the forces of evil" that could eliminate a president who interfered with their agenda and that no one was safe from their reach not even in the middle of the Dallas police station. Lee Harvey Oswald was only a pawn, just like Jack Ruby. We never saw any of the real killers. The effect of all of this was to bring about my own personal "Mortality Crisis" . I suddenly knew that I too would die someday just like JFK. Even he was not immortal, nor was I.
The details of my crisis are too sordid and tawdry to describe here but the crisis lasted about six years and after it I was almost an adult.
I suppose some readers might wonder how I could have lived for 29 years without understanding that I wouldn't live forever or why the death of JFK hit me so hard but those of you who lived through the Kennedy Era (so short but so beautiful) will perhaps understand.
The young people of this country are normally completely apathetic about politics. The principals are seen as hypocritical liars and thieves whose only interest is to increase their own power and line their pockets. It's always been that way and I don't see any likelihood that this will ever change. Like the French say: "La plus ca change, la plus c'est la meme choses" ("The more things change the more they remain the same")
But for "One brief shining Moment" , young people became involved - the baby boomers or "Flower Children" as they were then called, demonstrated. Against Vietnam, against segregation and materialism. They exposed the Emperor's New Clothes and laughed at his nakedness. They turned on and dropped out and notwithstanding the end result of their exaggerations and oversimplifications, they filled the land with a huge breath of fresh air.
Now, forty three years later, the "Flower Children" are getting to retire, they're evaluating their 401K's and Iraq's looking at property in Costa Rica or Arizona and sending checks to the Republican National committee. They "tolerate" George W. Bush because he gave them tax cuts after Slick Willie (Clinton) gave them prosperity.

The young people of today don't have a JFK. Certainly Howard Dean is no substitute and I doubt that Hillary could inspire any of us except a few very bitter women (who are probably Republicans). Every once in a while I look around to see if there's anyone around who could spark ideas and action but as yet, I ain't seen a soul.

Their is a perennial controversy about whether it's the man or the moment. Do the times produce the hero or
do a few, rare individuals act as catalysts for major upheaval? Think Hitler & FDR, maybe JFK (if he had lived long enough) Or do the times produce the heroes?

Friday, November 18, 2005

My Biopic

The Movie Of Your Life Is A Black Comedy

In your life, things are so twisted that you just have to laugh.
You may end up insane, but you'll have fun on the way to the asylum.

Your best movie matches: Being John Malkovich, The Royal Tenenbaums, American Psycho

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Paris Daze (Redux)

"The times they are a changin'" (Bob Dylan said that)
Here's another side of "gay paree"

Monday, November 07, 2005

Slaves' Revolt ?

The "riots" in Paris continue to escalate. At the last count, there were more than 300 communities affected and now there are a few deaths as well as many injured. It is ironic that it's the French who are under seige by their disenfranchised minorities. "Liberte, Egalite & Fraternite" is only for native born, white Frenchmen. The young people in the 'burbs are fed-up. They know that they have no future in France. Even an education will not guarantee either a job or acceptance in white France. When I lived in Paris, many years ago, when people discovered "un Americain", they would confront me with the "segregation" and "racial prejudice" practiced by my fellow countrymen.
Now, the Nike is on the other foot. People of African or Arab origin, even if their families have been residents of the country for two generations or more, are still not considered to be full citizens. The difference is frequently not always visually obvious but most of the time, just a few words spoken by someone will identify his ethnic origins.
The French have always been hypercritical about foreigners' attempts to speak the French language. The ability to speak correct, unaccented French is an absolute requisite to social acceptance as well as meaningful employment.

So the young residents of the dismal suburbs that surround the principal cities, have taken to the streets to express their frustration, anger and desperation. We've had a glimpse of our own "malaise" in New Orleans just a short time ago. It was the French Philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote "Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.". Economic slavery is no less slavery than any other form and millions of people all over the world, are in chains today. Western civilization must resolve this issue before a "slaves revolt" brings down the civilization that we cherish. We've had a glimpse of our own "malaise" in New Orleans just a short time ago.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

"I read the news today oh, boy"

It's "a day in the life"...
Last night one of our local channels screened an interview with an eight year old girl who was shopping for hunting gear with her dad. This little blonde cutie shot her first deer three years ago, when she was five years old! Now if that's not the beginning of a dark tale, what is?
What happens to someone who kills at five? Could we try to imagine what she might do or be at eighteen? Perhaps she'll have an awakening at puberty (adolescence is a crucible) and realize the error of her childish ways.
Or perhaps, her taste for the kill will develop. When tigers kill people they are hunted down and killed because it is believed that the taste for human blood is addictive. Of course she might become a soldier, we need good killers in the Army or ???

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Once in a Deep Dark Forest

The woman was awakened by the sun as it rose above the trees surrounding the clearing where she was sleeping. She opened her eyes and looked around her. She saw the tall evergreens and the grassy meadow.
She tried to remember how she had come to this place, where she had come from and where she was supposed to go.
She couldn't remember anything about where she'd come from, she didn't know where she was and she had no idea where she was going.
She wept and hoped that somebody would come and rescue her.

The woman was awakened by the sun as it rose above the trees surrounding the clearing where she was sleeping. She opened her eyes and looked around her. She saw the tall evergreens and the grassy meadow.
She tried to remember how she had come to this place, where she had come from and where she was supposed to go. She couldn't remember how she had gotten to the forest but she knew she was where she was supposed to be and she knew she had continue west, with the sun on her back until she reached the river where there would be a boat to take her to her final destination.
She rose,rolled up her sleeping bag and put it in her back pack, then she took the path heading west through the forest.

The woman was awakened by the sun as it rose above the trees surrounding the clearing where she was sleeping. She opened her eyes and looked around her. She saw the tall evergreens and the grassy meadow.
She tried to remember how she had come to this place, where she had come from and where she was supposed to go. She remembered her home near the ocean, and her family that she had left there. She remembered her bedroom where she had slept all her life. She remembered her father and all the good times they had together.
She knew she had come from the east, she could see the path that had brought her to this place and she saw the path the path that headed west, towards the river where there would be a boat to take her to her final destination.
She rose,rolled up her sleeping bag and put it in her back pack, then she took the path heading west through the forest.
She knew where she was going and why she was going there, her memories of the past helped her to understand where she was and where she was going Her vision of her destination, gave her the courage to head towards it with joy and determination

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Guilty As Charged

Today, November 1, 2005, only two months since my return from Nepal, the situation in the Middle East continues to deteriorate. Nepal's part in the Iraq war is that of an-innocent bystander with no political or religious ties to either the Iraqis or the U.S. Yet, because of their position as the best source of literate, low-cost labor the people of Nepal are now reluctant participants. Many young Nepalese has been tricked into jobs as "civilian support personnel" for the U.S. Armed Forces. Local village headmen have earned huge (by Nepalese standards) bounties or recruitment bonuses by convincing young men in their villages to sign employment contracts with companies thought to be offering employment in Saudi , Jordan or the United Arab Empire. After flying to Saudi (at their own expense) they discovered that their jobs were in Iraq cleaning toilets, cooking or other menial jobs that the soldiers no longer perform. (What ever happened to KP?)
If they refuse these jobs they are required to pay their own way back to Nepal and reimburse their employers for all expenses incurred on their behalf, including the headman's fees. The only way this would be possible would be for their families to sell their small farms and everything else they own of any value in order to pay back their sons' debts.
A group of Nepalese workers who worked on one of the U.S. military bases in Iraq was captured by insurgents and after a short attempt at ransom negotiations it became obvious that no one was going to pay anything for their freedom. After some videotaped statements by the prisoners, all of the Nepalese were brutally murdered on camera.
Their only crime was poverty

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

My Achin' Back

I can't think of anything more boring than backaches unless it's somebody talking about it but I gotta tell you because I think I learned something that others might find useful. So if you've never had a backache and are sure you're never gonna have one- read no more.

Last August, I spent three weeks in retreat in a monastery in Nepal. The daily routine included 10-12 hours a day seated crossed legged on the floor. Anticipating some objection from my back to this kind of treatment, I started my own daily routine with a half-hour of yoga in the morning before breakfast. I have been doing yoga for more than 30 years after breaking five vertebrates in a climbing accident in '68. The yoga excercise I do are specifically aimed at strengthening and stretching my back muscles and other related tendons, ligaments etc. Normally I do my yoga practice 2-3 times a week but I upped it to seven in view of the special circumstances. After a week of sitting and yoga , I was experencing a lot of pain - so much that I had to sit with my back against the wall. Getting up was a real chore. When I returned from Nepal, the pain lessend somewhat. I was still doing my yoga but I wasn't sitting for ten hours a day. Then I consulted a Yoga teacher to try to find out if I was doing something wrong in my yoga practice. He corrected a few of my postures and suggested some supplements to my routine. In my sessions with the teacher, I experienced occasional moments of excruciating pain which passed quickly

Two weeks ago I went to Washington, D.C. and from there to North Carolina. I was gone for about a week and during the trip there was no opportunity to practice yoga. By the end of the trip, I noticed that my chronic back pain had virtually subsided. It didn't take me long to realize that element missing from the equation was yoga.
So I did not return to my yoga routine and I've been practically pain free now for almost a month.

I practiced yoga for over thirty years without any painful side effects but somehow, I did something in Nepal that injured something in my back and the yoga aggrivated the condition. I do swim, cycle and play tennis on a regular basis now as before and these activities seem to make a positive contribution to my overall health and well-being.

Surfing the 'net for back pain etc. I came accross a report on a recent study where seniors (like me) who suffered from back pain were divided into two groups. Half did specific excercise to strentghen their backs and relieve the pain the other half did no specific excercises but walked a mile or so every day. At the end of the study the "walkers"" back conditions were considerably better that the group who had been speciific back excercises.

I am quite sure that yoga served me well for more than 30 years and that it was how I recovered so well after a very serious accident that left me with 80% disability but I don't think I should do it anymore.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The NRA Got Lucky

From today's NY Times:
"WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 - The Republican-controlled Congress delivered a long-sought victory to the gun industry on Thursday when the House voted to shield firearms manufacturers and dealers from liability lawsuits.
....Opponents called the bill shameful - "bought and paid for by the N.R.A.," in the words of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, whose constituents include victims of the 2002 sniper shootings in Washington and its suburbs, called the measure "a cruel hoax" on victims of gun violence."
I wonder how much the NRA laid out for this bill? Is it a "frivolous lawsuit" when you sue the manufacturer of automatic wepons whose gun was used to kill Middle School students?
Or the gun dealer that sells a "Saturday Night Special" to a 16 year old wannabe gang banger?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Ms. Meirs Born (Again) To Be Justice

In a fairly low-key article about Bush's newest nominee for the High Court published in the New York Times today:
"Religion appears to have influenced her views on certain subjects. In a discussion with her campaign manager in 1989, Ms. Miers said she had been in favor in her younger years of a woman's right to have an abortion, but her views evolved against abortion, influenced largely by her born-again religious beliefs, said Lorlee Bartos, a Democratic campaign consultant in Dallas who managed Ms. Miers's City Council campaign.
"She was someone whose view had shifted, and she explained that to me," Ms. Bartos said."

Looks like the Bush man's going to pack the court with born-again folks just like him and we're gonna have one hell of a "Roe" to hoe

A New Friend

ClickFor News You WON'T See On CNN

Monday, September 26, 2005

Beginning of the End?

In the three centuries since its' beginning the Great Nation had grown from a few small settlements of political and religious dissidents, adventurers and slaves to the dominant military and commercial power of the world. During the same period, several other nations rose to world power but by the beginning of the 21st century the one-time world powers were reduced to secondary status.
Now, the Great Nation was severely divided on ideological and political lines. The country's leader had pursued a course of military conquest and political colonialism.
The youth and resources of the country were being squandered on the President's pursuit of personal power and vindication of his father's mistakes and bad judgment. Like other members of his dynasty, the Leader was short on good sense and ethics but totally committed to his own personal agenda.
Cronyism was the foundation of his personal political system. Many of the important government Agencies had been staffed by unqualified personnel with political "connections".
Unrest among the Nation's citizens was growing more vocal and visible every day.
As a result, the Leader began to be hesitant in his political activities. Where once he had been confident, even arrogant in his treatment of the press, he now appeared hesitant and tentative. When a reporter at a Press Conference suggested that the Leaders' planned visit to the site of a natural disaster might interfere with the work of rescuers. The Leader immediately cancelled his appearance.

Meanwhile, the Nation's enemies were preparing to re-launch their attacks on what now appeared to be a "limping giant".
To Be Continued

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Moments of "Lucidity"

Once in a while (not often these days) I get a sudden feeling that I've got things figured out and then I wake up and realize I've just been day dreaming. I don't know how or where I first heard "The more you know, the more you know you don't know" and even after Googling it, I can't find out who first said it or wrote it but I do know that it sums up my situation perfectly. Only the very young can imagine that they have things figured out.

The Dalai Lama, aka "The simple monk", offered some simple truths to an audience of more than 12,000 here in Austin yesterday. I don't belittle his talk but I don't think he offered any new or particularly revolutionary ideas. Instead, he shared his thoughts with us in a pleasant, unpretentious, friendly way and told his audience that if they found something in his talks that was useful, they were welcome to take it with them and if not "forget it"

This had a very familiar ring to it and last night, I looked at the framed Sutra I have on the wall of my room:
which ends with the words "When you find any thing agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all. Then accept it and live up to it." The Buddha said that over twenty-five hundred years ago.

Nice seeing His Holiness again. We were born in the same year - I sometimes feel a true kinship with my friend
"The Simple Monk"

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I ran into an old friend at Central Market yesterday, Scott and I worked together in Santa Barbara - it's almost ten years ago now. I used to call him "Sport" or "Kid" but that doesn't quite fit anymore. It's not just that he's in his mid-forties but also because he's gotten so big! He's tall, maybe 6' 3", but in the last five years or so he's broadened a lot, not really fat, jus wide. He told me that I keep looking younger and better. That's partially bullshit of course but not a real lie. Scott's a salesman but he doesn't lie. I can tell when someone's lying by looking into their eyes and Scott's are almost always very clear, bright and alive. "Windows of the soul" is absolutely true and anyone that doesn't believe it can't see much at all.

Talking to Scott is always interesting - he's not boring even when he's talking about things I'm not interested in. We think alike, Scott and I, even though he's a born- again Catholic. He understands about consciousness and compassion even if, like me, he sometimes strays from the path. We talked about responsibility and helping other people, about the Dalai Lama and Andre Agassi. Scott was once a "contender" in Tennis.
Not a real star but someone with a little talent and a lot of ambition. He worked at the Santa Barbara Tennis Club when I was a member there (about 16 years ago).

I woke up about an hour and a half ago, glanced at my bedside clock and thought it was seven a.m. but when I got up and went to the bathroom, I discovered that it was four a.m. so I read for a while but the book I was reading was causing more "angst" than I wanted to experience, so I decided to get up and write.

Maybe we all have a lifetime quota of sleep- like seven or eight hours a day for every day we live and now at the age of 71, I've gotten most of the sleep I really need - for a lifetime.

Friday, September 16, 2005

250,000 Trailers

So the FEMA chief buys all these trailers before he "resigned". Now what are they gonna do with them. It looks like most of the homeless evacuees (aka "refugees") have decided they don't want to go back to "The Big Easy", so I guess that means that cities like Houston, Dallas and Austin are gonna get most of them. Assuming that Austin gets let's say 10% - that means we're gonna have one hell of a trailer park. Bush finally gets his revenge on the only major city in Texas that he couldn't carry in the last "election".
They can't really park them out in the boondocks of east Austin and I know Sun City up in Georgetown will fight hard ("not in our neighborhood") so I guess South Austin will get them.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Interesting Times

It turns out that the Chinese toast : "May you live in interesting times" was not as some have suggested a back handed curse or malediction but none the less it does seem especially appropriate in our own times.

After 70+ years in this current lifetime, I feel that I have gone the gamut or perhaps even run the gauntlet.
Starting with the simple world of depression-era New York in the late 30's and on to the 40's and the age of Rosie the Riveter and "Johnie marching home". Times Square on V-E day. Los Alamos in 1945. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the A Bomb, Cold War, Beatniks, Korean Police Action, Existensialism, The Silent Generation, "JFK, Blown Away- What Can I Say"
Flower Power, Love not War.
Weathermen & The Velvet Underground,
Beatles, The Brady Bunch
Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton, Red Buttons, Red River Valley
Dylan, Jagger, Bianca, & twinkies, tweetie & Looney Tunes
Steve McQueen, Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Marilyn Monroe
Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller
Norman Mailer and Susskind.
And we're still not past the 60's
It was interesting.

Friday, September 09, 2005

"The Police Taught Everyone Around Here How to Loot"

A local blogger from New Orleans:
"Kirby Gee works as a bartender at a New Orleans Bar called "Miss Mayes". He says the bar did pretty good business even through last Wednesday—the cops kept them in shotgun shells as long as they kept pouring drinks. Gee says the police taught everyone around here how to loot. They were the first to bust into the grocery store down the street and the Wal-Mart a mile or so up the road. He also says they took to breaking into car lots in the days after the storm and driving off with brand-new Escalades. I'm not sure whether to believe him, until a cop car drives buy towing what looks like a mint-condition Corvette Stingray. "And these are the people telling us to evacuate," says one of the porch dwellers. Every time a Humvee rolls by, a few of the guys make sure to flash the peace sign."
Maybe it was the cops who were doing the shooting last week!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

New Orleans: The Horror & the Promise

So far, I haven't found an awful lot of coverage by the world press on the NOLA disaster and most of what I've found so far has not been particularly enlightening or thought provoking but a few comments are worth repeating like this from Le Monde correspondent Corine Lesnes: " Katrina aura peut-être réduit le fossé entre les Etats-Unis et le reste du monde.
L'hyper-puissance est revenue dans le commun des mortels." (Maybe Katrina has reduced the moat between the U.S. and the rest of the world" and "The super-power has rejoined the world on equal footing"
Katrina, "The Big Leveler" literally and metaphorically.
Barbara Bush has expressed concern that the Katrina regugees now in Houston and other parts of Texas, may not go home ( Reminds me of a bumper stcker in I saw in California : "Welcome to California - Now go Home").

Will New Orleans ever be rebuilt? Should it? Jack Shafer in SLATE says no "New Orleans won't disappear overnight, of course. The French Quarter, the Garden District, West Riverside, Black Pearl, and other elevated parts of the city will survive until the ultimate storm takes them out—and maybe even thrive as tourist destinations and places to live the good life. But it would be a mistake to raise the American Atlantis. It's gone."

Maybe it could be the New Atlantis, just let the Mississippi reclaim the delta and maybe they can build a subterrenean pleasure dome.

The idea of rebuilding an entire city from ground (or water) up is a fascinating fantasy. All the Utopians of the world should hold a convention with a grand prize for the best plan. Personally, I would love to a "Nova Venezia" instead of a new New Orleans.

Canals in place of streets, a huge" Piazza San Luigi Braccio Forte" (for the city's patron saint, Louis Armstrong)
water taxis driven by "Gonzolieri"
I'm sure you get my picture- what's yours?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

"Seeing is Believing"?
We "see" someone running out of a darkened store front carrying a carton of soft drinks and a bag of groceries.
Voice over: "Widespread looting is hampering rescue efforts in New Orleans"
We assume that the man with the groceries has taken them without paying and he is "looting" but what else might be going on? Maybe the "looter" can't buy what he needs or wants because the stores are all closed.
Maybe whatever is left in the abandoned store will be swept away by the rising flood tides.
Maybe the man and his family haven't had anything to eat or drink in two days.
Maybe- the man is just returning to his home after receiving the groceries from relief workers.

Our perception of what we think we see is completely distorted by the media and their own agenda.

Maybe you can't believe what you "see" on television.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Kopan Diary - part 1

Kopan Diary
Austin>L.A.:My seat mate was a 28 year old HS teacher from the L.A. suburbs, very nervous and talkative. I talked her through the takeoff and she relaxed. She thinks she’s engaged to a teacher who is 13 years older than her (same difference as my wife and I) but her fiancé doesn’t know yet. She was returning from Costa Rica where she’d enrolled in an immersion Spanish course and quit because “the people in San Jose weren’t very nice” It seemed to me as if she was “looking for love in all the wrong places” and frequently getting hurt. She told me about her 80 year old Dutch grandmother(who has been living in the U.S. since she was thirty something and how she wanted to visit Holland with her but Grandma was reluctant to travel. I told her about my 84 year old mother-in-law who was traveling alone to Hawaii and how she goes water skiing in Turkey every year. My companion asked me how old I was and was amazed. I told her about “The Story of Dorian Gray” and how we all age at the same rate but demonstrate it in different ways.

Hong Kong : Stopover in LA (6 hours) then on to Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific. 13 hours in the air. A long but not unpleasant flight. Most of the passengers were Asians. Americans are avoiding travel to Asia for several different reasons. Cabin attendants were “correct” but not cordial. Food was okay, definitely above the standards of the American air carriers (Delta, United etc.) but not up to Air France. I was in a middle row with a mother and her small child- very quiet and well behaved.

The new Hong Kong Airport opened on July 6, 1998 and the engineers not only had to build the largest passenger terminal on earth but a whole new island to house the airport with tunnels bridges and roadways 16 miles out at sea. Never the less, from inside the giant dome that houses the entire terminal, Hong Kong Airport looks like most other international hubs- L.A., Bangkok, Paris etc. It will soon be the gateway to the orient and China will take the lead in air transport just as it has already done in so many other areas.
The Chinese are rapidly becoming synonymous with international commerce. The way the French were to sex and romance and the Italians were to the “dolce vita”

It’s no accident that Confucius’ main focus was on ethics, in the same way that Jesus and Buddha concentrated on compassion. The Chinese have the business skills and determination but their aggressive, often ruthless tactics can lead them to almost vicious treatment of enemies and competitors. The airport offers a special opportunity to exploit customers. Most of the transactions are “one-time” situations and it must be a great temptation to try to “take the sucker for everything he’s got” An example would be my own experience with the “Nap shower facilities” at Hong Kong Airport. I paid $28.00 USD and was shown to a sleeping cubicle which was in an appropriately darkened, noise-proofed area. Almost as soon as I put my head on the pillow, the overhead lights went on and stayed on for the next hour and a half. I finally gave up trying to sleep and went to the showers where I discovered no hot water . When I dressed and complained to the manager, I was offered a slight shrug of the shoulders for my pain.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

George W Bush, (A Self-Made Man)

Dad had failled in his bid for re-election and it looked it might be curtains for the Bush dynasty- but wait, young George walk up one morning with a very big head and an idea!
"The whole eastern establishment thing was dead" he realized. "If I'm going to lead our family to political victory and restore the honor of the Bush dynasty, I've got to be someone that the people, the voters, can trust and relate to- no blazer & ascot, no white bucks . I've gotta be down home and friendly, the kind of guy other guys would really want to have a beer with"

So George W. re-invented himself. First thing he did was to get born again with the help of Billy Graham and then he swore off the Wild Turkey and the happy dust. He bought some chewing tobacco and practiced chewing and dribbling a little. (Came kind of naturally)
He could out-Bubba that Rhodes Scholar hiilbilly from Arkansas-easy!

It was kind of a shock for Laura at first but she soon got used to it. She was never really comfortable with the Kennebunkport crowd anyway and the fact that he was not going to drink anymore made her happy. George W.
was not a pleasant drunk.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Bali Hi!

The original photo was taken at a Buddhist temple in Bali last Novemeber. It was my first visit to Bali and was completely taken by the country and its' people. Two things appear to me to dominate Balinese culture:
1. Religion: the people of Bali are predominantly Hindu and religion plays a very important role in their lives.
It is said that the women of Bali devote no less than a quarter of their waking hours to the preparation, delivery and arrangement of "offerings" for their temples and shrines. You'll see these floral displays almost everywhere - even on the counters of the duty-free shops at the Airport.
2. Family and the extended family of the village. Balinese are very attached to their village and family. The authority of the village headman is virtually unquestionable.
3. Craftsmanship. Almost every village I encountered in Bali had an arts/crafts speciality. There are woodworking villages, stone carving villages and painting villages. In these villages everyone practices the village craft. Imagine living in a place where you and all of the neighboring families spent at least eight hours a day painting pictures-all in the same style!
The result of all of this is to create a sense of place - an identity that is solid as a rock.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Austin Weather Forecast: Unbearable

Ever since I arrived here, seven years ago, for nine months of the year, I wondered why it took me so long to get here and for the other three months, I wonder: "What the hell am I doing here?"
Summer just arrived and we're already in the middle of a heat wave- with no respite in sight.
Daytime temperatures in the mid-to-high nineties. It's still cooling off a little at night but by this time next
month we'll probably start seeing the "triple digit weeks" when we can go several consecutive days without seeing the thermometer ever drop below 90 deg, (farenheit)
There has been a population explosion in Austin during the past 10 years. It would never have happened without efficient and (realatively) cheap central AC.

I wonder how people existed here without AC? I guess a large percentage of the population e.g. University students and faculty just "got outa Dodge" for the summer .
I'm leaving in two weeks and won't be back until the 3rd week in August.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Helping to Rebuild in S.E. Asia

Bill Clinton's OpEd peice in the NY Times this morning stimulated my curiousity about what volunteers are needed and what they can do to help relieve the suffering of the millions of people whose lives were affected by the Tsunami. Millions of homeless, children without schools etc.
Briefly, it seems that the answer is "None, nothing" hundreds have tried to volunteer their services via the web (see: for examples) but there is no organization willing or interested in matching volunteers with opportunities. It looks like another example of Western civilization strangling in its' own vomit.
Media hype=emotional response=national & corporate promises= "none, nothing"
By the time the beaureucracy is up and running the people of Asia who were devastated by the Tsunami will either be dead or have taken care of the problem themselves.
Maybe it's just another step in Malthusuian population control?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

"We're Only Here to Help Each Other"

Humor, Creativity and Compassion

Edward De Bono once wrote that “Humor is the most significant activity of the human brain”.
He also proposed the idea that humor, creativity, generosity and compassion all stem from the same area of the brain. This has recently been confirmed by MRI brain scans and the recent neuroscientific research and it is not very difficult to that humor offers us an opportunity to adjust our perceptions of the world around us and a related thought process enables us to perceive another’s need or suffering, to “feel their pain” sufficiently to take some action to alleviate it. The creative process enables us to search out alternative solutions to problems or difficulties as well as thinking of “non-lateral” ways of communicating ideas or impressions.

We don’t expect everyone to be blessed with perfect pitch or a “musical ear”. In fact, the ability to reproduce a piece of music after hearing it only once is a fairly uncommon talent and the simple ability to draw a straight line without a ruler or compute the the total of a series of five digit numbers is again a special talent. Some of us have been born with brain formations that enable us to accomplish difficult tasks easily but many of were not. However, we can use rulers and calculators in our daily lives but if some one is born without the necessary brain configuration for humor and compassion he probably has no way of even knowing even what they are.

The world’s Great Teachers: Buddha, Jesus and some of the Prophets, frequently taught their followers the primordial importance of compassion because they knew that it was not in the hearts (or minds) of everyone. To some, the golden rule or caring for those less fortunate was an obvious duty but others found the idea bizarre or perhaps even incomprehensible. “Taking care of number one” is for many, the only “rule” they obey.
They would probably consider the Golden Rule just another one to be broken.

Our political and religious leaders have an important responsibility to teach compassion and objectivity by their speeches and example. However, in the current era it seems that our leaders lack the very qualities needed to over ride the basic indifference of the majority of their subjects and followers. The new Pope seems to be rattling the sword of the Crusades, while George W. Bush continues to pursue his own “Holy War” against the enemies of Capitalism, Christianity and Imperialism. Coincidence that the two share the spotlights of the world or as Sidney Hook wrote in “The Hero in History”
“The more troubled the times and the more conventional the education, the stronger are vestigial patterns of dependence and the easier it is for the leader to slip into its frame”

Monday, May 09, 2005

An article from this week's issue of the New York Times Magazine offers some interesting directions for the rapidly developing field of Brain Research. I am reproducing it here because I think it should be of interest to very thinking person.

May 8, 2005
" Of Two Minds

The human brain is mysterious -- and, in a way, that is a good thing. The less that is known about how the brain works, the more secure the zone of privacy that surrounds the self. But that zone seems to be shrinking. A couple of weeks ago, two scientists revealed that they had found a way to peer directly into your brain and tell what you are looking at, even when you yourself are not yet aware of what you have seen. So much for the comforting notion that each of us has privileged access to his own mind.

Opportunities for observing the human mental circuitry in action have, until recent times, been almost nonexistent, mainly because of a lack of live volunteers willing to sacrifice their brains to science. To get clues on how the brain works, scientists had to wait for people to suffer sometimes gruesome accidents and then see how the ensuing brain damage affected their abilities and behavior. The results could be puzzling. Damage to the right frontal lobe, for example, sometimes led to a heightened interest in high cuisine, a condition dubbed gourmand syndrome. (One European political journalist, upon recovering from a stroke affecting this part of the brain, profited from the misfortune by becoming a food columnist.)

Today scientists are able to get some idea of what's going on in the mind by using brain scanners. Brain-scanning is cruder than it sounds. A technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging can reveal which part of your brain is most active when you're solving a mathematical puzzle, say, or memorizing a list of words. The scanner doesn't actually pick up the pattern of electrical activity in the brain; it just shows where the blood is flowing. (Active neurons demand more oxygen and hence more blood.)

In the current issue of Nature Neuroscience, however, Frank Tong, a cognitive neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University, and Yukiyasu Kamitani, a researcher in Japan, announced that they had discovered a way of tweaking the brain-scanning technique to get a richer picture of the brain's activity. Now it is possible to infer what tiny groups of neurons are up to, not just larger areas of the brain. The implications are a little astonishing. Using the scanner, Tong could tell which of two visual patterns his subjects were focusing on -- in effect, reading their minds. In an experiment carried out by another research team, the scanner detected visual information in the brains of subjects even though, owing to a trick of the experiment, they themselves were not aware of what they had seen.

How will our image of ourselves change as the wrinkled lump of gray meat in our skull becomes increasingly transparent to such exploratory methods? One recent discovery to confront is that the human brain can readily change its structure -- a phenomenon scientists call neuroplasticity. A few years ago, brain scans of London cabbies showed that the detailed mental maps they had built up in the course of navigating their city's complicated streets were apparent in their brains. Not only was the posterior hippocampus -- one area of the brain where spatial representations are stored -- larger in the drivers; the increase in size was proportional to the number of years they had been on the job.

It may not come as a great surprise that interaction with the environment can alter our mental architecture. But there is also accumulating evidence that the brain can change autonomously, in response to its own internal signals. Last year, Tibetan Buddhist monks, with the encouragement of the Dalai Lama, submitted to functional magnetic resonance imaging as they practiced ''compassion meditation,'' which is aimed at achieving a mental state of pure loving kindness toward all beings. The brain scans showed only a slight effect in novice meditators. But for monks who had spent more than 10,000 hours in meditation, the differences in brain function were striking. Activity in the left prefrontal cortex, the locus of joy, overwhelmed activity in the right prefrontal cortex, the locus of anxiety. Activity was also heightened in the areas of the brain that direct planned motion, ''as if the monks' brains were itching to go to the aid of those in distress,'' Sharon Begley reported in The Wall Street Journal. All of which suggests, say the scientists who carried out the scans, that ''the resting state of the brain may be altered by long-term meditative practice.''

But there could be revelations in store that will force us to revise our self-understanding in far more radical ways. We have already had a hint of this in the so-called split-brain phenomenon. The human brain has two hemispheres, right and left. Each hemisphere has its own perceptual, memory and control systems. For the most part, the left hemisphere is associated with the right side of the body, and vice versa. The left hemisphere usually controls speech. Connecting the hemispheres is a cable of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum.

Patients with severe epilepsy sometimes used to undergo an operation in which the corpus callosum was severed. (The idea was to keep a seizure from spreading from one side of the brain to the other.) After the operation, the two hemispheres of the brain could no longer directly communicate. Such patients typically resumed their normal lives without seeming to be any different. But under careful observation, they exhibited some very peculiar behavior. When, for example, the word ''hat'' was flashed to the left half of the visual field -- and hence to the right (speechless) side of the brain -- the left hand would pick out a hat from a group of concealed objects, even as the patient insisted that he had seen no word. If a picture of a naked woman was flashed to the left visual field of a male patient, he would smile, or maybe blush, without being able to say what he was reacting to -- although he might make a comment like, ''That's some machine you've got there.'' In another case, a female patient's right hemisphere was flashed a scene of one person throwing another into a fire. ''I don't know why, but I feel kind of scared,'' she told the researcher. ''I don't like this room, or maybe it's you getting me nervous.'' The left side of her brain, noticing the negative emotional reaction issuing from the right side, was making a guess about its cause, much the way one person might make a guess about the emotions of another.

Each side of the brain seemed to have its own awareness, as if there were two selves occupying the same head. (One patient's left hand seemed somewhat hostile to the patient's wife, suggesting that the right hemisphere was not fond of her.) Ordinarily, the two selves got along admirably, falling asleep and waking up at the same time and successfully performing activities that required bilateral coordination, like swimming and playing the piano. Nevertheless, as laboratory tests showed, they lived in ever so slightly different sensory worlds. And even though both understood language, one monopolized speech, while the other was mute. That's why the patient seemed normal to family and friends.

Pondering such split-brain cases, some scientists and philosophers have raised a disquieting possibility: perhaps each of us really consists of two minds running in harness. In an intact brain, of course, the corpus callosum acts as a constant two-way internal-communications channel between the two hemispheres. So our everyday behavior does not betray the existence of two independent streams of consciousness flowing along within our skulls. It may be, the philosopher Thomas Nagel has written, that ''the ordinary, simple idea of a single person will come to seem quaint some day, when the complexities of the human control system become clearer and we become less certain that there is anything very important that we are one of.''

It is sobering to reflect how ignorant humans have been about the workings of their own brains for most of our history. Aristotle, after all, thought the point of the brain was to cool the blood. The more that breakthroughs like the recent one in brain-scanning open up the mind to scientific scrutiny, the more we may be pressed to give up comforting metaphysical ideas like interiority, subjectivity and the soul. Let's enjoy them while we can. "

Jim Holt is a frequent contributor to the magazine.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Sunday, May 08, 2005

French Lessons - Part 1

It was in 1951, there was a "Police Action" in Korea and I was bored in college, looking for excitement and adventure. When W.W.II ended in 1945, I was a disappointed that I hadn't had a chance to be a hero. So I enlisted in the Marines and started an odyssey that would eventually take me around the world and back...

Boot Camp at the Recruit Training Depot, San Diego was mostly like you see it in the movies. My Drill Instructor, Sgt. Snarksy (real name) was a prototype DI - even his name was threatening. (I bet you can't say "Snarsky" without curling your upper lip at the corner)
I was named after my father, who was named after his, so on my birth certificate it says: "Ned Carlton Smith III" and my Marine Corps records show that name. At roll call every morning Sgt. Snarsky would call out each platoon member's name "Adams" and Adams would reply "Here Sir" and this would go until he got to me
and Snarsky would read slowly and carefully "Ned Carlton Smith III" and I would reply "Here sir" every day for 90 days.
Later, I would buddy up with a guy from New Orleans, "Shelton S. Harell III " and we would be known as the "two thirds"
After Boot Camp, I went on to advanced infantry training at Camp Pendleton and then a thirty day leave before going to Korea.

While waiting for reassignment after a short stint in the hospital I was in the Battalion Sgt. Major's office and while waiting to see the Sgt. Major I examined the Battalion bulletin board. Every bit of the board was covered with memos and instructions, the stacks pinned to the board were at least two inches thick and there three rows and four column. maybe 12-1500
documents. I browsed randomly and after only a few minutes came upon one that really caught my attention.

Reading further I discovered that applications were being accepted from Marines with a minimum of 1 year of college, GCT scores of 120 or more (GCT scores are roughly the equivalent of IQ's) Minimum height 5' 10" and fluency in at least 1 language besides english. Although my fluency in French at that time would have been stretching things a little, on the whole I met all of the other qualifications and I decided that Embassy duty would be a lot more fun than a muddy bunker, I took the document into the Sgt. Major's office when he called me in.
He started to hand me my new orders but before he could say "Now, get the hell out of here" I said "Excuse me Sgt. Major but I want to volunteer for this" and handed him the bulletin. He stared at it for a minute and asked me where I got it. I told him that it had been on the Bulletin Board outside his office, which seemed to surprise him completely. Obviously he did not read the Bulletin Board twice a day as we had been instructed to do.
He asked me if I was a "College Boy" and I told him that I'd been a sophomore when I enlisted. Next he checked my Service Record and verified that my GCT was 120 and I was exactly 5" 10".
Then it was the Foreign language fluency. "OK Smith" he said, "what foreign language do you speak?" and I sad "French, Sgt. Major" and this seemed to amaze him but he wasn't flustered, he only hesitated a second before he said: "Yeah, well say something in French to me then." and I said something that sounded like "Bon
jower, monsewer" He though about it, and the said "OK Smith, you're gonna have to wait while I get some new orders cut for you"

Two days later I was on a MATS plane to Washington.
(To be continued)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


I was thinking this morning about how I am frequently getting my knickers twisted about the things people don't do that I expect them to. I send people e-mail and they never answer or even acknowledge receipt, I lend people stuff and they never return it etc. Today I realized that it's all about expectations . When I give someone a gift, my ownership ends at the moment I give it. What somebody does with that treasured bottle of wine, book (read it or not) is not under my control. The recepient of the gift is totally free to do exactly what he wants to with my gift.
The same is true of letters, e-mails etc. If I choose to send a message, that's my privlege and if the recepient chooses not to answer that's his.
We clutter up our lives and our peace of mind with expectations and they are really only simple manifestations of that old devil- ego. Letting go of expectations is a step towards diminishing our own egotism (note, I didn't say eliminating, just diminishing - let's be realistic)
Just as spontaneous acts of gratuitous kindness & generosity are good for your spiritual health as the devine Surgeon General has declared so are expectations a serious threat to our spiritual well being.
I'm going to try to reduce mine immediately

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Letter to Jerry


Dear Jerry,

Once, a long time ago, I told you that you were my best friend and whether you believe it or not, I want you to know that you have been my best friend, for over forty years and you will always be.

We disagree about a number of things, ideologies, religion, politics among others but over the years none of these have interfered with our friendship. You have been generous, understanding, patient and compassionate with me, often when I didn’t really deserve it. You have shared your home with me, put up with a lot of dumb tricks, shared your friends and your ideas. We have skied together, peed together and laughed together. You have taught me more about myself than any one else could ever have done.

If there ever was a real Odd Couple, it must have been us but I think it was our different backgrounds that made us such a good fit. Our personalities clashed a little too. You the frugal shopper and the guy who taught me how to get the most out laundry, bar soap and so many other things and me, the guy who was always one paycheck behind (I can’t imagine what you could ever get out of that).

Neither of us have ever what could ever be described as “demonstrative” and I don’t think I’ve done enough to convince you I cared but I do want you to know how much you’ve meant to me and always will.



Monday, April 18, 2005


Saturday night my wife and I watched a movie. It had gotten a lot of publicity and sounded like fun since it was set in a place where we had lived for almost twenty years and was focussed on a subject that interests both of us.
The movie was "Sideways" the place Santa Barbara and the subject was wine. She collects and I drink it. (sometimes our approaches clash.

He: "Let's have the '80 Mouton Rothchild with the lamb on Sunday."
She; "We only have one left. Do you have any idea how much it would cost to replace it?"
He: "Ah c'mon, life's for living and wine's for drinking"
She: "You're crazy."

Anyway, you get the idea. So we watch the movie and at the end I tell my wife that the movie was lousy and how come they don't make good movies any more. On Sunday, I tell some friends how much I was dissappointed in "Sideways" and this morning I look up to see what the critics said about it.
They said it was good/great.

I thought about that for a while and then I realized that I wasn't reacting to the screen play, the directing or the performance of the actors. I was reacting to two over the hill L.A. guys who were fighting the onslaught of middle age and trying to be hot shots. One was looking for a last fling before his immenent marriage.
The other, a wannabe novelist and the ultimate wine snob couldn't get over his divorce and the rejection of his novel. So totally engrossed in his own self-pity he didn't even realize that a woman he had just met was really eager to have a relationship him - self pitying slob not withstanding.

It was the characters and their actions that upset me. "Sideways" may very well be a good movie I just don't like the shallow, selfish world it portrays. I really like movies about heroes. Even "The Clearing" with Robert (Stoneface) Redford and especially the recent "Motorcycle Diaries" . We need heroes more than ever these days.
Real life isn't producing any at all

Friday, April 01, 2005

Ratios, Connections and Relationships

I discovered ratios in HS Algebra - it was the only thing I got out of the course but it was worth the pain. Ever since I 've been old enough to put two and two together I've been fascinated by the relationship of people, places and things to each other. I learned later in my college philosophy courses that: "Many people distinguish between two basic kinds of argument: inductive and deductive. Induction is usually described as moving from the specific to the general, while deduction begins with the general and ends with the specific; arguments based on experience or observation are best expressed inductively, while arguments based on laws, rules, or other widely accepted principles are best expressed deductively.
Later psychological testing indicated I was significantly oriented towards the deductive method. My understanding is generally based on observation and rarely on theory or rules.

The ratio that has intrigued me lately is the reationship between Compassion to Companionship and Competition and Control.
Obviously. we can arrange the components any way we want to but I believe it's most appropriate. So let's say that x= Companionship, a= Compassion b= competion c= control.
or compassion is divided by compassion and control by competition
The success or validity of a relationship is controlled by the degree of compassion expressed by both parties.
And the final product would be a relationship strengthend by compassion free of control or competition.
As people often tell me,
It's just no as simple as that
but my observation seems to indicate that it is.
There is no such thing as competetitive compassion or controlling companionship
and yet how often do I see intense competition be tween husbands and wives: controlling parents.
Competition thrives in the work place and the sports arena. Control must be excercised by the police and the government but how do they fit into the marriage bed?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The 10 Greatest " Foriegn" (Non-U.S.) Films

1. La Dolce Vita - (1954, Italy, Frederico Fellini) (Marcello Mastroianni)
  2. The Seven Samurai - (1954, Japan, Akira Kurosawa) (Toshiro Mifune)
  3. La Strada - (1954, Italy, Frederico Fellini) (Anthony Quinn)
  4. Wild Strawberries - (1957, Sweden, Ingmar Bergman) (Victor Sjostrom, Ingrid Thulin)
  5. Grand Illusion - (1937, France, Jean Renoir) (Jean Gabin, Pierre Fresnay)
  6. 8 1/2 - (1963, Italy, Frederico Fellini) (Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale)
  7. Rashomon - (1950, Japan, Akira Kurosawa) (Toshiro Mifune)
  8. The Bicycle Thief - (1948, Italy, Vittorio De Sica)
  9. Diabolique - (1955, France, Henri-Georges Clouzot) (Simone Signoret, Paul Meurisse)
10. Fellini Satyricon - (1969, Italy, Frederico Fellini) (Martin Porter)
N.B. 6 out of the top ten were made in the '50s (the golden age of Cinema)

The Real You

Back in the middle of the last century when TV was the size of a
an ordinary microwave oven and the screen the size of the door,
Sid Ceasar's "Show of Shows" was the big event every Saturday night. His zany, "gonzo" humor was unique.
One of his ongoing skits was the world as seen through the eyes of a toddler:
they'd get the video camera on a boom and drop it down until it was about a foot from the floor and then view the set from that perspective. The world was big shoes, pants legs, skirt hems and kittens the size of horses. This was "the world" as seen through the eyes of a two year old.

In Buddhism, we learn that "reality", is what we perceive it to be and your reality is probably different from mine even when we are looking at the same person, place or thing. How we perceive things determines how we think about them. If I see you as a beautiful, sympathetic individual. You are that but someone else might see you as a mean spirted, awkward child. You, on the other hand probably don't see yourself in either of these two ways but as someone completely different.
Which is really you? For that matter is there such a thing as the real you at all?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Original Seduction

Everything started in the Garden of Eden, including seduction.

Adam and Eve were hanging out in the Garden as usual, climbing trees, picking fruit, swimming and just having a good time.
One day when he was playing in the lake, trying to catch a fish that kept swimming around his legs, giving Adam a little nip every once in a while. Eve was up in a big tree with a snake, and she asked the snake:
“Tell me again about babies”
and the snake replied: “I already told you about them” “Tell me again” said Eve
“OK said the snake” and he slid over and coiled up in Eve’s lap. “What did you do that for?”
“So you can hear me better” the snake answered. And he started his story: “Babies are very small people-just like you only very small” “Where do they come from?” asked eve.
“They come out of a woman’s tummy. They call the woman a momy when she has babies”
Eve asked: “How does the baby get inside the woman’s tummy” and the snake said: “It’s hard to explain, you don’t know the words” and Eve replied: “Well show me then, just like the last time”
“Ok” said the snake I’ll be the man’s thing and you’ll be the woman” ...
“Oh my, that feels good” Eve said and then: “ I can’t hear you very well” . The snake slipped his head out of Eve and said “I can’t talk and make babies at the same time”

Later, Eve found Adam down by the lake: “Adam, there’s something I want to show you”
Adam said “Hey, what are you doing, ohhhh that feels good! Eve pulled him closer and said
“Do you want to make a baby? Luke the snake showed me how. Adam replied “ I don’t know what a baby is but if this is how you make them, I don’t mind at all”

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

About My Pix

Was supposed to have left tag lines on all the photos I posted in My Pix yesterday but well you know what happens. So there are no descriptions.
Just in case anybody ever looks at this blog, I think I'll try to identify the cast.
So, from the top:

A One a It's my grandad, Ned C Smith (the first) with my Aunt Polly and her sister, Aunt Helen. The piture was probably taken in Oakland, CA or maybe Akron, Ohio. Sometime in the mid-to-late 1930's.
2. That's me, at the Longchamps Race Track (Paris) circa 1955.
I was stationed at the American Embassy, Paris for a few years.
3. Hanging out with my grand daughter, Camille -we were riding around Big Sur in July '03.
4. That's my old man, Ned jr., Picture was taken in Baldwin, N.Y. 1940 probably
5. My wife Danielle, the Biker Chick
6. Me on the beach in Santos, Greece - Danielle and I toured the Greek isles - 8it was the summer of '96 (or maybe '97?)

Hunter S. Thompson Lives!

In the 2004 telling of it, Thompson said the future president had left an indelible impression on him. "He knew who I was, at that time, because I had a reputation as a writer," Thompson said. "I knew he was part of the Bush dynasty. But he was nothing, he offered nothing, and he promised nothing. He had no humor. He was insignificant in every way and consequently I didn't pay much attention to him. But when he passed out in my bathtub, then I noticed him. I'd been in another room, talking to the bright people. I had to have him taken away."

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

My Pix

Hunter S. Thompson Shot Himself

It really is about guns and a guy who played with them.
Thompson was in his own words, a true "Gonzo", a rebel without a revolution.
An idealist lacking any true direction. He spent his life taking pot shots at any target that popped up.
I never knew him and was not a true "fan" but there was something fascinating about Thompson- a
suggestion or hint of a great saint or monster that lurked just below the surface.
We'll never know now.
Here's one to you Hunter. I wonder what you really were.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Summary of Jung's Thought

Summary of Jung's Thought
From years of psychiatric work and phenomenological research in religions and mythologies, Jung identified several key motifs that the archetypes can take. The ones that he felt were especially important include: the persona, the shadow, the anima/animus, the mother, the child, the wise old man, and the self. To Jung, abstract figures, situations, places and processes can also give expression to them.

THE PERSONA: is the mask we wear to make a particular impression on others; it may reveal and conceal our real nature. It is called an artificial personality that is a compromise between a person's real individuality and society's expectations--usually society's demands take precedence. It is made up of things like professional titles, roles, habits of social behaviour, etc. It serves to both guarantee social order and to protect the individual's private life. That is, when the ego identifies itself with the persona, the individual become particularly susceptible to the unconscious.

THE SHADOW: Is a step further towards self-realization when one recognizes and integrates it. It is the negative or inferior (undeveloped) side of the personality. It is said to be made up of all the reprehensible characteristics that each of us wish to deny, including animal tendencies that Jung claims we have inherited from our infra-human ancestors. It is said to coincide with the personal unconscious and because all of us has one it appears to be a collective phenomena.

The more unaware of the shadow we are, the blacker and denser it is. The more dissociated it is from conscious life, the more it will display a compensatory demonic dynamism. It is often projected outwards on individual or groups who are then thought to embody all the immature, evil, or repressed elements of the individual's own psyche. (Symbols of the devil and the serpent contain elements of the shadow).

ANIMA / ANIMUS: following a person's coming to term with their shadow they are then confronted with the problem of the anima/animus, the archetype which is said to personify the soul, or inner attitude. It is usually a persona and often takes on the characteristics of the opposite sex. The anima is said to represent the feminine in men, and come from three sources: 1] individual man's experience with women as companion; [2] man's own femininity--rooted presumably in the minority of female genes and hormones present in man's body; and [3] the inherited collective image that has been formed from man's collective experience of woman through out the centuries.

Anima often appears in dreams, as long as she remains unconscious. She may also be projected outwards onto various women--first the mother, then lover and wife as one grows. This projection is said to be responsible for the passionate attraction or aversion and a man's general apprehension of the nature of women. Should a man mistakenly identify with the anima, Jung says, she can produce effeminaty or homosexuality. The anima remains in an compensatory relationship with the outer, conscious attitude. The more a man identifies with the masculine persona, the more he will be subject to the projections of his anima. In all men the anima is responsible for moods and is a complication in all emotional relationships (rather a stereotypical statement, certainly reflects no attempt to remove himself from cultural assumptions).

After the middle of life, according to Jung, the anima is essential for vitality, flexibility and human kindness. She appears in a variety of manifestations which reflect her bipolarity. She can be both positive and negative from one moment to another, young and then old, mother and then lover, good and them evil, and so on. She is an ambivalent image and has occult connections with the ancient mysteries and hence a religious tinge.

The animus is the comparable counterpart in the female psyche. (Naomi Goldenberg's critique points out that Jung provides emperical evidence for anima, but the 'animus' is just a postulate opposite. See: Changing of the Gods and Returning Words to Flesh). It is said to be the woman's image of a man. Unlike the anima, the animus appears in a plurality of forms. To Jung this reflects the differences in male and female conscious attitudes. He says that the woman's consciousness tends to be exclusively personal and centred upon the family, the man is made up of various worlds of which the family is only one. Thus he finds the anima and animus to be the opposites of each of these conscious attitudes, plural and singular respectively. (Again we find stereotypes of male and female. The fact is that men are trained to be more sinle minded that are women in Western Society. Things have changed dramatically since the last century and the roles of men and women have altered drastically. Jung's response to women who work, unfortunately, is that work too much are too masculine and undesirable, if not suffering from pathology.)

For the anima Eros is the undifferentiated unconscious principle (the root of all emotions), for the animus it is logos (which in the woman's mind is said to be responsible for unreasoned opinion and critical disputatiousness). Animus manifests itself most often in words and not images (Emma Jung), typically as a voice that comments on a person's situation or imparts general rules. When it does take a form, usually in dreams, it appears as a "plurality of men, a group of fathers, a council, a court, or some gathering of wise men," etc. It may also manifest itself in the single figure of a real man--father, lover, brother, teacher, judge, sage, etc. It is in short a manifestation of a man distinguished in some way by mental capacities or other masculine qualities (since when is thinking a purely masculine quality?). Its positive forms are characteristically benevolent, knowledgeable or understanding; its negative aspects are cruelly demanding, violently tyrannical, seductive, moralistic or censorious. It can also function, like that anima, as a bridge between the inner and outer worlds.

THE MOTHER ARCHETYPE: range of images of mother archetype are almost inexhaustible--usually some from of maternal aspect, the underworld, womb-like, etc. Most important of this archetype is mothers of the literal sense followed by those of the figurative. It may also be symbolized in a variety of impersonal forms (paradise [of birth], Kingdom Of God, church, university, city or country, earth, woods, sea, moon, gardens, caves, cooking vessels, certain animals--cow, hare). Evil symbols include, in the Western context, dragons, witches, graves, deep water, and death.

THE CHILD ARCHETYPE: Also takes many forms--child, god, dwarf, hobbits, elf, animals--monkey--or objects: jewels, chalices or the golden ball (trickster like). It represents original or child like conditions in the life of the individual or the species, and thus reminds the conscious mind of its origins and helps to keep them continuous. A necessary reminder when the consciousness become too one sided, too willfully progressive in a manner that threatens the sever the individual from the roots of his or her being. It also signifies the potentiality of future personality development, it anticipates the synthesis of opposites and the attainment of wholeness. Thus it is said to represent the urge and compulsion towards self-realization. This is a reason that so many of the mythical saviour gods are childlike in their nature.

THE WISE OLD MAN: is the archetype of meaning or spirit. It often appears as grandfather, sage, magician, king, doctor, priest, professor, or any other authority figure. It represents insight, wisdom, cleverness, willingness to help, moral qualities. His appearance serves to warn of dangers, provide protective gifts and so one (Gandalf in Lord of the Rings). As with the other archetypes the wise old man also possesses both good and bad aspects.

THE SELF: this is, according to Jung, the most important archetype. It is called the "midpoint of the personality" a centre between consciousness and the unconsciousness. It signifies the harmony and balance between the various opposing qualities that make up the psyche. It remains basically incomprehensible, as ego consciousness cannot grasp this supraordinate personality of which the ego is only one element. The symbols of the self can be anything that the ego takes to be a greater totality than itself. Thus many symbols fall short of expressing the self in its fullest development. Symbols of the self are often manifested in geometrical forms (mandalas) or by the quaternity (Any figure with four parts). Prominent human figures which represent the self are the Buddha or Christ. This archetype is also represented by the divine child and by various pairs--father and son, king and queen, god and goddess, or by a hermaphrodite

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Blog Bog

Once, long ago in the days of radio and iceboxes, before we had psychiatrists,
there were "alienists" and people weren't "disturbed" or "emotionally challenged",
they were "alienated".
Alienated: separated from others, different. Like ET

Now, in the age of the internet, ( more than two decades old) modern technology
has managed to alienate half the world and this paradoxical situation ("the internet was supposed to connect us") has created the new sub- phenomenon of The Blog.
However, I suspect that this will turn out to be a cyber "pet rocks" fad and Blogging will eventually dissappear into Dodoland.
Blogging has risen to incredible popularity because it offers the promise of connectivity that the internet chat rooms, discussion groups and other internet venues (remember news groups?) lacked. The opportunity to publish complete, uninterrupted, transcripts of our own delightful blather. That's the answer to alienation?

Not really because the quintessential element missing from the equation is connection.
No many how many hundreds of my own wonderful words that I post to my blog or bog as the case may be, if nobody reads it and no one responds then as old man Descartes would have queried " If a blog is written on the internet and no one reads it, was it ever written - and even if it was, so what?"
How long before people get bored with writing what no one reads (except maybe their mothers)
Or, how long before the pimps, pornographers and other cyberhoods figure out ways to break into the blogs and spill their "Buy Cheap Drugs" and other s32t all over this and every other similar site's pristine pages?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Don Juan, Casanova and the Seducers

The myth of the seducer was probably conceived in the late middle ages, during the Age of Chivalry when, under the code, "only a virgin or another man's wife could be the object of chivalrous love"
However, chivalrous love very quickly degenerated into promiscuity and adultery; it is not difficult to see how knights could pledge eternal love (platonic) to his "Lady" and then dream of ways to seduce her. The lady herself probably longed impatiently for adventure and that was the beginning of the myth.

It was not until the time of Casanova that the myth became flesh and blood. Although men had been making love to other men's wives since marriage was first created (probably by the devil himself), seduction as an art form and a mythical adventure only came into its own in the seventeenth century, when Galileo proclaimed the sun the center of the universe and shook the Catholic church and every man's conception of the universe to their very foundations.
"If the earth is round and it revolves around the sun then why can't I make love to my friend's wife?' might seem like a non sequitur to some but it was a good excuse anyway.

Later, we see Don Juan ( a rather clumsy seducer) and much later still, Rudolph Valentino, Clark Gable and many famous and not so famous seducers and "womanizers". The Seducer never "took advantage" of women in the true sense of the phrase he was more of a facilitator- helping women to achieve freedom and satisfaction through sex. The fact that the seducer did not hold himself to a "code of honor" was simply an expression of his disregard for bourgeois conventions.

Who are the Casanovas of today, the mythical reincarnation of our old heroes? Have we abandoned the myth or has feminism made it meaningless?

"Friends Say I've Changed" Posted by Hello

In the beginning...

Was the myth and the myth was the beginning.

We have been creating myths since we first stood up right. First we imagined that our gods were the deer and bears we hunted and ate. Later, we turned our mythmaking efforts towards the heavens. The Moon was our sister, the sun our father and the creator of all. Much later after we had been living in villages and towns we started worshipping the law and Moses was given the Ten Commandments by Yahweh.

Now, more than 3,000 years later, we need new myths and perhaps a new religion. I won't even try to imagine what the new religion might be but I would like to explore with you, dear reader, the myths we are creating now in the early days of the new millennium. Come share your dreams, your fantasies and your myths and together we'll create a new world.