Wednesday, May 31, 2006
In light of yesterday's nasty little post, I thought that bringing back the Daily Zen on occasion might be nice:
The substance of a sage
Is nameless and cannot be spoken of;
The empty door of truth as it really is
Cannot be tarried in.
- Pai-chang (720–814)
Friday, May 26, 2006
We finally got around to watching "Team America, World Police" last night. "South Park" takes no prisoners, and, in "Team America," Matt Stone and Trey Parker go after jingoistic hyper-patriotism and celebrity would-be politicians with equal savagery. They also do a fantastic spoof of "Top Gun"-type movies, and a send-up of those "everybody has AIDS" magazine ads. Matt and Trey have no sacred cows, so beware. If you're offended by puking puppets, potty-mouths, or marionettes having crazy sex, it's not the film for you. Very, very funny.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
I finished reading "The Universe in a Single Atom" on my recent cruise. The book opens with a quote from an ancient Buddhist scripture: "In each atom of the realms of the universe, there exist vast oceans of world systems." It is a perfect verse for this particular book. The Dalai Lama is fascinated by science--particularly physics and neurobiology--and he obviously has an interest in spirituality. He seeks an arrangement in which scientific inquiry and spiritual inquiry (such as disciplined meditation) can work together to explore the nature of consciousness and to better the state of humanity. The DL begins with some autobiography, setting up his fascination with the issues he wishes to discuss. Three chapters analogize scientific discoveries and theories with Buddhist doctrines--"Emptiness, Relativity, and Quantum Physics," "The Big Bang and the Buddhist Beginningless Universe," and "Evolution, Karma, and the World of Sentience--and three more chapters explore the nature of consciousness. There is a thought-provoking chapter on the ethics of new genetic research, and a concluding chapter calling for scientific and spiritual modes of inquiry to work together. The Dalai Lama rejects pure scientific materialism as unsatisfactory to explain the phenomena of consciousness and sentience, but he accepts an appreciates the discoveries of science, and is perfectly willing to jettison Buddhist beliefs that have been disproven via the scientific method (e.g., the old Tibetan theory on the origins of life). He also believes that scientists should understand that some of their work gives rise to ethical concerns that must be addressed (e.g., cloning). The Dalai Lama's writing is accessible to laypeople with little scientific knowledge (like me), yet one gets a feel that this is a first-rate mind at work. Check it out.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
I had a dream last week in which a couple of coworkers and I were advising Matt Damon on making a film about New Orleans. One coworker wanted him to do an adaptation of an Anne Rice novel, while I wanted him to do something along the lines of "Mamba Kings," but about N.O. jazz musicians who were scattered to the winds by Hurricane Katrina. Matt's manager/agent didn't like or respect my suggestions. I'd say that I had the better idea, but I don't know which would do better box office.
On reflection, this dream may reflect my long-held feeling that other people--be it at work or ousdide of it--have little respect for anything I think or do. I suppose I have a raging inferiority complex based in some part on my feelings about myself. It's pretty silly for someone with a Zen affinity to be concerned about something so ego-based, but it's always been a thing for me. Maybe that's why I've gravitated to online discussion and blogging.
Friday, May 19, 2006
I dragged my horribly sunburned self to the town of San Miguel this morning, on the island of Cozumel. The Caribbean coast of Mexico has some of the most clear, most beautiful water in the world. Alas, I forgot my dive mask at home, and I couldn't arrage to get a prescription one made down here. That just means we have to return. Also, I inadvertently negotiated a local vendor down on the price of a Cuban cigar by truthfully telling him that I don't smoke. Now I have a genuine Havana to sample before we make U.S. waters on Sunday morning.
DW spent Wednesday morning at the Rose Hall Plantation near Montego Bay, Jamaica. The place was onced owned by the mega-bitch Annie Palmer, known as the White Witch. Annie killed three of her husbands, and killed some of her lovers, and she had slaves killed just for sport. So DW put an Annie Palmer doll atop the bed just to remind me. I was grateful, however, that she did not buy the Annie Palmer voodoo doll.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Monday, May 15, 2006
I wanted to see if I could blog from the deep blue sea, so here goes. We're south and a bit east of New Orleans, heading for Jamaica. We arrive in Jamaica Wednesday morning.
I didn't know whether I'd like this or not, but I'm loving it so far. DW is playing bingo right now, and she spent most of the morning at the pool. I've spent a good bit of today in the gym, doing a yoga class and a normal workout. The yoga instructor told me I need to do Pilates for my chronically bad thoracic muscles, so I may start with that when I get home. Every other trainer I've consulted before has told me there's nothing I can do for that area of my back, so I'm happy to hear that maybe there's sommething that will help.
I'm reading a book of Charles Bukowski's poems and the Dalai Lama's book on science and spirituality during this trip, and I hope to make progress in both of them. I also hope to jump start my zen sitting, which took a hit when I injured my back a month or so ago.
I'll post some photos later, after I take some.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
DW and I are in lovely Houston, Texas, tonight. We drove in from Alexandria, Louisiana, this morning, where we spent the day with Toby and Adam yesterday. Tomorrow, we will be boarding the Carnival Conquest, for a one week trip to Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Cozumel. It's our first real vacation in a very long time, and one I plan to enjoy.
We just returned from seeing "Thank You for Smoking," starring Aaron Eckhardt, who, I believe, is known to Mayan and Todd from their missionary days. It is a deliciously dark comedy, in which the main character is a lobbyist for the smoking industry. In a cynical twist, you find yourself cheering for him at the end. The concept of "flexible morality" is discussed, as is the "yuppie Nuremberg defense" (I do it to pay the mortgage). Funny stuff.
Monday, May 08, 2006
Today is the 11th anniversary of the May 8 Flood. At the time, it was the most expensive disaster in the history of the National Flood Insurance Program. Unfortunately, DW and I were living in a "ground floor basement" apartment, and we took about 5 feet of water. Fortunately, however, we had the proper insurance, and I got the car onto high ground before the floodwater rose too high.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
I've been watching movies this weekend, while a couple of prescription pain meds work their magic on the muscle pull in my thoracic region. Yesterday, I watched Martin Scorsese's "Raging Bull." There's not much I can say about that masterpiece that hasn't already been said, so I'll just throw out a couple of observations.
Most of us know people who are extremely successful in their professional lives, but who are complete failures in their personal lives. In some cases, the same personality traits are factors in both those successes and those failures. Jake La Motta (Robert de Niro) was intense, angry, relentless, and violent. Those traits served him well in the ring, but they served him terribly outside of the ring--particularly when combined with paranoia, self-absorbtion, and a socially unappealing personality. There are some excellent fight scenes in the movie, most of which take place inside the boxing ring. I suppose that the ring can be viewed as a metaphor for La Motta's life; indeed, it might even be a metaphor for the struggles that we all face. Also, Jake La Motta was his own worst enemy, so perhaps in some sense he was beating the hell out of himself in the ring. I had a dream last night, in which I was Jake La Motta, beating the shit out of certain members of my mother's family. Not all of my dreams require in-depth interpretation . . .
This morning, I had a repeat viewing of David O. Russell's "I [heart] Huckabee's." This is a philosophical comedy, based on the activities of two existential detectives (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman). Two of the main characters (Jason Schwartzman and Mark Wahlberg) are caught between the breezy, optismistic Buddhist/American existentialists (Tomlin and Hoffman) and a dark, nihilistic French existentialist (Isabelle Huppert). A social climbing couple (Jude Law and Naomi Watts) also get drawn into the existentialist web of absurdity. Very funny stuff.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
I've been skimming through the Senate's report on Hurricane Katrina. It's too long and detailed for even a major nerd like me to read the whole thing. So many failures by so many people and so many systems. I just hope Congress doesn't get too ambitious and restructure FEMA during this year's hurricane season.
I was able to get my favorite Cuban sandwich today; perhaps things really are going to be okay around here.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
A few minutes ago, I drove past the pile of rubble that used to be the New Orleans chapel of the LDS Church. I didn't have my camera, so I posted a recent photo of the building in the aftermath of Katrina. I'm accustomed to seeing the steeple and roofline above the sound wall along the I-10, and today I didn't see it. I got curious and went to investigate. Sure enough, the building has been torn down. It was under several feet of water for a couple of weeks, so I can only imagine how gross it was inside. DW and I had our local wedding reception there after being married in Utah. Gentle reader Mayan Elephant and his DW attended our reception, and we and they attended church in that building at various times. I haven't been inside an LDS Church in a few years, but, still, I was a little sad to see that pile of wood, bricks, and sheetrock there.