Saturday, August 11, 2007

Buddhism and Subpersonalities

A while back, a Zaadz friend asked me about Buddhism and subpersonalities, but I didn't have a good answer. Now I do. In the current issue of Buddhadharma, Ken Mcleod ("Imagine You're Enlightened") makes the following observations:

What is personality? Most people take it to be the complex of behavioral, temperamental, emotional, and mental attributes that characterizes us as unique individuals. We usually see personality as fixed. However, we don't have to look very hard to see that it varies radically from situation to situation. We may display care, patience, and restraint at work but not show the same patience or restraint with our families. Or we may be kind and loving with our spouse and children yet angry and impatient with employees and colleagues. When situations change, everything about us can change, too -- what we think, feel, do, how we see the world, even what we believe and understand about life.

Far from having a single personality, we are like the shards of a shattered mirror, each piece reflecting a different picture of the world. Yet we think of ourselves as the same person, a single entity that is consistant throughout the day. We are largely unaware that we are acting on the basis of the reflections of one shard in one moment, and another shard in the next.

What would life be like if we approached life, our world of experience, consistently -- that is, with a single personality, rather than as a collection of shards?

I use the term awake here instead of the more commonly used word, enlightened. Enlightened implies a state of being based on an idealized conception of human perfection -- an enlightened person as opposed to an unenlightened one. Awake is probably more appropriate, because it points to an experience, not a state.

This is, in essence, the definition of subpersonality theory. We are many selves, each one of them with their own worldview, feelings, thoughts, preferences, and so on. But we also have an awake "center," what Hal and Sidra Stone call the Aware Ego, or what Richard Schwartz calls the Self. This is, essentially, our Buddha Nature.

The foundation of Buddhist practice, even if it does not recognize the term subpersonalities, is devoted to transcending all these separate selves. Where Western psychology becomes valuable is in explaining how these selves function, where they come from, and how to quiet their insistent voices so that we can transcend them and have better access to the Awareness within us -- our True Nature.

An integrated methodology, using both Buddhist meditation practice and Western psychology is the best way to work with subs and to learn how to access the Awareness within that sees these subs as merely shards in a transient self.

Mind-Bending Guitar - Parliament Funkadelic

"Maggot Brain" - Eddie Hazel & Michael Hampton (Maryland 1983) -- hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

Daily Dharma: Vividly And Clearly

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle features Pema Chodron:

Vividly And Clearly

When we meditate, we're creating a situation in which there's a lot of space. That sounds good but actually it can be unnerving, because when there's a lot of space you can see very clearly; you've removed your veils, your shields, your armor, your dark glasses, your earplugs, your layers of mittens, your heavy boots. Finally you're standing, touching the earth, feeling the sun on your body, feeling its brightness, hearing all the noises without anything to dull the sound. You take off your nose plug, and maybe you're going to smell lovely fresh air or maybe you're in the middle of a garbage dump. Since meditation has this quality of bringing you very close to yourself and your experience, you tend to come up against your edge faster. It's not an edge that wasn't there before, but because things are so simplified and clear, you see it, and you see it vividly and clearly.

~ Pema Chodron, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. I, #1

The Death of the Adverb?

Recently, I posted on the death of the comma, not I'm told that adverbs are dying as well.

Do it Real Quick,
Or The Death of the Adverb

By Anatoly Liberman

The adverb is an endangered species in Modern English. One should neither wring one’s hands nor weep on hearing this news. In the course of the last thousand years, English has shed most of its ancient endings, so that one more loss does not matter. Some closely related Germanic languages have advanced even further. For example, in German, schnell is both “quick” and “quickly,” and gut means “good” and well,” even though wohl, a cognate of Engl. well, exists. Everybody, at least in American English, says: “Do it real quick.” Outside that phrase, which has become an idiom, adverbs are fine: he is really quick and does everything quickly. During his visit to Minneapolis after the collapse of the bridge, President Bush said: “We want to get this bridge rebuilt as quick as possible.” This is not a Bushism: few people would have used quickly here despite the fact that my computer highlighted the word and suggested the form with -ly.

Adverbs come from many sources. Some are ossified forms of nouns in the genitive or the dative (Old English had four cases). Such is, for example, whilom “once, formerly,” which Byron spells with an -e at the beginning of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: “Whilome in Albion isle there dwelt a youth.” The same ending occurs in seldom. It comes from the dative plural. In nowadays, -s is the ending of the old genitive, though we are apt to take it for the plural. An adverb may have no ending at all: consider oft, an archaic doublet of often. But the most common feature of adverbs is the suffix -ly: slow / slowly, and so forth. Unfortunately, the use of this suffix is inconsistent. In Old English, some adverb could be formed from adjectives by adding -e: wid “wide” versus wide “widely.” If an adjective ended in -lik “like,” the corresponding adverb had -like. In Middle English, final -e was dropped. As a result, many adjectives and adverbs merged. This is why long is ambiguous: a long day (adjective), and it lasted long (adverb). Sore, now an adjective, can function as an adverb, though this usage is archaic (I was sore afraid; they are sore oppressed; Childe Harold was sore given to revel and ungodly glee). Today we associate -ly with adverbs; yet adjectives having it are plentiful: consider brotherly, elderly, monthly, homely, westerly, and even likely. Monthly is an adjective in monthly payments, and an adverb in I am paid monthly. To confuse the already significant confusion, some words behave in an unpredictable manner. He works hard on his projects and he hardly works at all puzzle beginning students of English. In Old English, the distinction was clear: heard, adjective, versus hearde, adverb. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives many examples of hardly “firmly, with an effort, rigorously,” as in “what is made is slowly, hardly, and earnestly earned” (1840); citations with hardly “barely” do not antedate the middle of the 16th century. Contrary to expectation, late is both an adverb and an adjective, whereas lately is only an adverb. Pretty has a partner (prettily), but it has become a reinforcing adverb. We say: “The show was pretty dull, and the reception was pretty boring.”

Still another factor that makes the line between adjectives and adverbs blurry is the rivalry of such constructions as the moon was shining brightly and the sun shines bright. In the first case, brightly modifies the verbal form (how was the moon shining?); in the second, it is the sun that is bright, though the idea in both statements is the same. Usage is capricious, and analogy sometimes works for us and sometimes doesn’t. A celestial body can shine bright and brightly, a rose smells sweet or sweetly, but a remark can sound only clever, not cleverly. A man looks stupid when he puts his foot in his mouth and looks stupidly at the mess he has created.

Individual cases are hard to explain, and valid generalizations are hardly earned, but the tendency is obvious: adverbs are on the retreat in Modern English. Do it real quick has become the norm. We want to get this bridge rebuilt as quick as possible is a borderline case (quickly seems to be more appropriate). But it is enough to listen to the people around us, to observe adjectives replacing adverbs. A boy of ten comments on the speech of a person with an accent: “You are talking funny.” As ill luck would have it, the adverb funnily is rare, so that the boy had little choice. To a conservative taste he did it real good is a bit too much, but I fully realized what odds adverbs are facing only when I read in an undergraduate paper: “She sings beautiful.” On the same day I heard: “She is fragile and walks slow.” Another century or so, and the difference between those who speak good and those who speak bad will disappear. When that day comes, what will happen to the following exchange between Lady Bracknell and her nephew? “Good-afternoon, dear Algernon, I hope you are behaving very well. –I am feeling very well, Aunt Augusta. –That’s not quite the same thing. In fact the two things rarely go together.” It looks as though adjectives and adverbs also prefer to part company.

Pema Chodron - Bill Moyers' Faith & Reason

This is an excellent segment with Pema Chodron on Buddhism in Western life.

Alan Watts - Man in Nature

Some essential Alan Watts.

Alan Watts discusses how we have confused the system of simple symbols we have invented with the actual complexity of the real world, and that our idea of the "self" is really an illusion.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Gratitude 8/10/07

Some things I am grateful for today:

1) The monsoon. We had an amazing microburst storm tonight knocked out the power for a couple of hours. I love the heavy rain and wind that comes with these storms, even when I lose power.

2) A light day at work. I had a lot of free time today to read and nap -- much needed.

3) A new poem (what else am I gonna do without power?):


The door is ajar; an accident,
perhaps, or by design.
Who is to say?

Through the slightest opening
darkness creeps in
with the stealth of a cat
stalking a spider,
so very quiet,
sure to create disturbance.

The room is lit by candles,
soft glow, a warm radiance
of concentration.

Something is about to happen
in the confluence of light
and dark, an awakening
or descent. Who's to know?

Only the rhythm of breath
will decide, and even then,
no one will witness
the stormy aftermath.

What are you grateful for today?

Post-Workout Drink for Washington Huskies? Chocolate Milk

Yep, the strength and conditioning coaches at the U-dub are making the football players drink a carton of chocolate milk after practice, along with their Gatorade. This isn't as crazy as it might sound, especially for serious athletes.

From Sports Illustrated:

The decision to implement the program came after a study last fall from scientists at Indiana University that was published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism and was supported in part by the Dairy and Nutrition Council.

The small study found no significant difference between using a fluid-replacement drink or chocolate milk for athletes following exercise, with dairy folks touting the nutritional benefits of drinking milk -- chocolate or otherwise.

This might be moderately effective, but there is substantial research that suggests an ideal post-workout nutritional ratio for recovery drinks.

Obviously, serious athletes need carbs after a workout, even if they are trying to drop a few pounds -- carbs help speed recovery and replenish glycogen supplies so you can work hard again the next day. But just as important, if not more so for strength and power and athletes (like football players or weight lifters), is protein in the post-workout drink.

Ideally, an athlete needs .8 grams of carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight. The source of carbs should be high glycemic -- dextrose and/or maltodextrin. Added to this should be .4 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight -- ideally, whey protein or whey protein isolate. If you want (and I recommend it), you can add 5-10 grams of creatine monohydrate to the mix. This is the perfect recovery drink. It's inexpensive and effective -- and the research into recovery supports it, which is why I am surprised more professional and serious athletes aren't using such a drink.

Gatorade simply isn't enough, unless you add the protein and creatine to it.

Speedlinking 8/10/07

Quote of the day:

"Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity."
~ Albert Camus

Image of the day (David Winston):

~ 20 Most Popular Health Websites -- "Here are the 20 Largest Health Websites ranked by a combination of Inbound Links, Google Page Rank, Alexa Rank, and U.S. traffic data from Compete and Quantcast. Although no traffic metrics are completely accurate we do believe the data below to be useful for gauging relative audience size."
~ Diet Or Exercise? New Study Finds Sugar Is Important In Obesity, UK -- "Scientists at the Medical Research Council have found that eating more sugar is associated with obesity. Although this may seem obvious, previous studies, which relied on self-reporting of diet, had not shown that this was the case. But researchers from the Medical Research Council and University of Cambridge looking into the links between diet and cancer have developed a new way of objectively measuring sugar consumption."
~ Middle Age Spread: Getting Fatter But Not Heavier -- "Researchers have discovered that middle age spread seems to have an effect on waistlines but not weight as people get older. Researchers, funded by the Medical Research Council, have found that people in early middle age seem to put on more weight more quickly than people slightly older. But the waistlines of the older group seem to grow more quickly."
~ Omega-3 Fatty Acids: A Way To Improve Heart Health -- "While a heart-healthy diet has become synonymous with plenty of fruits and vegetables and little fat and cholesterol, there's more to the story. Omega-3 fatty acids should be part of a heart-healthy diet, too, according to the August issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter. Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fat important to overall health."
~ Olive Oil -- Reaping Its Health Benefits -- "Among cooking oils, olive oil is touted as one of the healthiest. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat, which can lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol in the blood. Choosing olive oil is a bit like choosing wine. There are different grades, and some are more flavorful and offer more health benefits. The August issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource offers tips on choosing an olive oil."
~ Migraine With Aura Linked To Stroke Risk In Women, US Study -- "A new US study suggests that women who have migraines with aura (seeing spots and flashing lights), particularly those who smoke or use oral contraceptives, are at increased risk of having a stroke compared with women who do not have migraines."
~ Green tea boosts production of detox enzymes, rendering cancerous chemicals harmless -- "Concentrated chemicals derived from green tea dramatically boosted production of a group of key detoxification enzymes in people with low levels of these beneficial proteins, according to researchers at Arizona Cancer Center."

~ Subject of Harvard’s Most Popular Course — Self Improvement -- "Professor Tal Ben Shahar teaches the largest course at Harvard on “Positive Psychology” and the third largest on “The Psychology of Leadership“–with a total of over 1,400 students." With video of his appearance on The Daily Show.
~ Dopamine Abnormality in ADHD [The Corpus Callosum] -- "A while back, Shelly wrote a nice introduction to ADHD at Retrospectacle: The Neuroscience of ADHD. Read that first, for background, then consider this to be a minor addendum. There are still people who believe that ADHD is not real. This is a good example of the scientific findings to the contrary. It is an open-access article (there is one every month) at Archives of General Psychiatry." Links to the full article.
~ The Damaging Relationship -- "Why smart women make dumb mistakes about men."
~ Mating: The Right Choice -- "Choosing the right partner."
~ How to Spot Mr. Right -- "Do opposites really attract?"
~ Spanish Study Links Depression And Genetic, Environmental Factors -- "In spite of the fact that the causes of depression have still not been fully identified, scientists acknowledge that genetic and environmental factors play a common role in the onset of this disorder. One of the environmental risk factors more often related to depression is exposure to threatening life events. On the other hand, from a genetic point of view, the serotonin transporter gene, with a crucial role in communication between neurons, could predispose a person to depression."
~ Conscious and Unconscious -- "Conscious and unconscious phases of evolution are leading us to one goal. Until today, we have evolved unconsciously, and from today onward, we can evolve consciously."
~ Functioning Neurons Produced From Human Embryonic Stem Cells -- "Scientists with the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at UCLA produced a highly pure, large quantity of functioning neurons from human embryonic stem cells."

~ The Political Teachings of Jesus -- "The Sermon on the Mount has long been rightly understood as both a starting-point and a summation of Jesus 's teaching. It begins with the Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-12), in which Jesus delineates the categories of people he says enjoy special favor. The Beatitudes are all familiar to us as sayings, the best known being blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. But what, really, are they?" Good article.
~ How parents can battle power of McBranding -- "A study published this week proved what many parents already know: Nothing gets kids salivating like the McDonald’s logo. How are parents supposed to compete ? By stealing McDonald’s marketing strategies, of course."
~ Wall Street Pros Explain Falling Stock Market -- "U.S. News asked some of Wall Street's top market strategists to explain the recent stock market plunge. Here's their take on whether the worse is over for investors or the pain is just beginning."
~ The Democrats' "gay debate" dance -- "At a forum on LGBT rights, the issue of same-sex marriage left the Democratic presidential front-runners looking like they had two left feet."
~ Clift: Is Newt Gingrich Poised for a Comeback? -- "Newt Gingrich carries some political baggage, but he knows how to shake up the system. It may be just what America needs for 2008."
~ Emily Brontë is 'top romantic novel' -- "News: The passionate story has beaten countless steamy successors in a poll of the greatest love stories of all time."

~ Monsanto Workers Ban GMO Foods from Their Own Cafeteria -- "The fight to ban genetically modified foods has won more converts -- some employees of Monsanto, the company that is doing the most to promote GM products." WOW, the irony is staggering.
~ Farewell to the Yangtze River Dolphin -- "Scientists say the species is probably extinct, the victim of overfishing and environmental degradation on China's crowded waterway."
~ Arctic sea ice 'lowest in recorded history': scientists -- "Sea ice in the northern hemisphere has plunged to the lowest levels ever measured, US polar specialists said, adding they expect the record low to be "annihilated" by summer's end."
~ Bisphenol, Eh? -- "Bisphenol-A (BPA) has been making a lot of news this week as a group of 38 independent scientists sounded the alarm concerning health risks posed by the chemical, which is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins and is commonly found in such things as (ee gads!) baby bottles and sippy cups -- not to mention canned goods and water bottles." Lots of links to resources for avoiding the health risks posed by this chemical -- as well as an NIH denial of risk (of course).
~ Perseid Meteors to Light Skies Sunday -- "The annual meteor shower dazzled under a nearly new moon."
~ Animal of the Week -- "Provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society, only on LiveScience!"
~ Greatest Mysteries: What Causes Gravity? -- "Science can measure gravity, but its source eludes discovery."

~ The Matrix Revealed: It Begins! and The Matrix Decoded -- Julian Walker is going to explicate the Matrix series -- probably from an integral perspective (haven't had a chance to read these yet).
~ Oppression Stories -- "I have been traveling. In my mind, that is. I have been reading novels. They have transported me effortlessly through time and space, and given me hours of out-of-this body experience. It has been a while since I spent so much time in novel-land, and I had almost forgotten what a pleasure it can be. Let me tell you..."
~ How the law of asymmetric competition should affect innovation policy -- "I was just alerted, by our resident neonomad pattern recognizer Dante, of a research disseration regarding competitiveness in a knowledge base economy."
~ Dzogchen, Madhyamika, Shentong & Rigpa -- "I’m having a discussion with a Dzogchen practitioner and scholar about the nature of rigpa, which he says is not metaphysical yet it is still unconditioned. I brought up the rangtong-shentong debate (see Jackson below), because it seems that Dzogchen is still retaining the notion of an “unconditioned” state that is not the same as the “conditional,” conventional reality. I.e., the dichotomy of the two truths instead of their identity."
~ From Syria to Singapore: Center For Human Emergence-Middle East -- "Dr. Beck and I had a busy schedule in July. While Dr Beck's presentations and meetings in many countries had a wider scope and focus on Global Change " From Clash to Confluence of Civilizations," with an emphasis on the most pressing issue of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the model we are co-designing with our Palestinian partners for Build Palestine Initiative. My presentations and meetings focused on the Emergence of Arab women and their vital role in solving Middle East problems, as well as the role of the affluent Arab community in London, and a starting project with the European Union in Syria."

A Sad Day for American Cycling

The only US-based international cycling team is disbanding. When the Discover Channel opted out of sponsoring the Tailwind team after this season (largely due to the doping scandals surrounding the sport), the team was unable to find another major sponsor.

This is a team that won seven consecutive Tour de France titles under Lance Armstrong, a Giro d' Italia, and a Vuelta Espania (all three of the major stage races) and this year finished first and third in the Tour de France. It's a sad day for American cycling, which will be without a major international team for the first time in many years.

Here's some of the story via The New York Times:

The cycling team of Lance Armstrong and this year's Tour de France winner Alberto Contador said Friday that it will disband after failing to replace the Discovery Channel as its sponsor.

The announcement came at roughly the same that Contador held a news conference in Spain to deny the doping allegations that plagued him even before his victory last month.

In normal circumstances, a Tour de France win should have assured the continuation of the Discovery Channel squad which is owned by Tailwind Sports, a company based in Austin, Texas, partly owned by Armstrong.

But this has been far from a normal year for cycling or the Tour which had three riders test positive for doping practices, a race leader ejected for lying to doping officials and an announcement that another rider tested positive in an out of competition positive test before the race.

With Contador, Discovery had a winner clouded by suspicion stemming from the investigation by Spanish police in an anti-doping probe known as Operation Puerto.

But the 24-year-old Contador was not the only controversial rider on the team. Discovery hired Ivan Basso to be its leader last December only to fire him in the spring after he became the target of an Italian investigation.

"This is arguably the most successful sports franchise in the history of sport," Bill Stapleton, Tailwind's general manager, said in a statement. "This was a difficult decision, not made any easier by our recent Tour de France success. We were in talks with a number of companies about the opportunity and were confident a new sponsor was imminent. We have chosen, however, to end those discussions."

Armstrong, who won the Tour seven times for the team, said in the statement said that Tailwind will continue to operate but shift its attention to other sports.

"Clearly things need to improve on many levels, with a more unified front, before you would see us venture back into cycling," he said.

Read the rest.

Satire: Minimum-Wage Hike Celebrated With Name-Brand Ketchup

This piece from The Onion would be a lot funnier if it weren't so true. Most people making minimum wage -- not including teens -- are living in poverty.

Minimum-Wage Hike Celebrated With Name-Brand Ketchup

August 10, 2007 | Issue 43•32

WASHINGTON, DC—Two weeks after the hourly federal minimum wage was raised from $5.15 to $5.85, families across the country were still celebrating the historic increase by running their electric fans, buying coveted half-gallons of milk, and, like Charice Williams of Shreveport, LA, purchasing name-brand ketchup to share with loved ones.

Enlarge Image Minimum Wage

"I can't remember the last time I could afford Hunt's," said the 41-year-old mother of six, who for more than a decade has purchased ValuTime ketchup to garnish everything from Hamburger Helper to Tuna Helper. "Another couple dozen wage increases like this, and we'll be practically swimming in Heinz. Or at least my grandchildren will."

Whether buying national-brand condiments, allowing themselves two additional squares of toilet paper, or paying for a few more minutes of drying time at the laundromat, the estimated 13 million Americans who subsist on minimum wages are getting a taste of the good life. Jaime Santiago of Las Cruces, NM was working a double shift at a 24-hour car wash Tuesday night, but still managed to celebrate by calling home collect during his break—and, for the first time in years, his wife was able to accept the charges.

Enlarge Image Worker

If this Sarasota, FL woman works 60 hours a week, she could be looking at a five-digit gross income by year's end.

"I told her I had a surprise for the family when I got home, and I wasn't kidding: chewable vitamins for the kids," said Santiago, 29. "On Sunday, I'm going to surprise them again with a nice bus ride out to Wal-Mart to walk around a little. Then I'm going to pull back for a while. Indulgences like these are all the more special when they're just occasional."

Many minimum-wage earners, like 38-year-old Greg Hubbard, said the increase—the first of its kind since 1997—provides a sense of security at a time when the price of gas, housing, consumer goods, food, utilities, and health insurance premiums are at their highest levels in decades.

Nancy Pelosi

'America, add one more quarter-scoop of sugar to your Kool-Aid and treat yourself to a new pair of socks—the minimum-wage hike has finally arrived.'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

"To think that only 10 years ago my salary was jacked up to $5.15 an hour, and now, in 2007, I'm making almost $6 an hour," said Hubbard, who runs the sluicer at the Tyson Foods chicken processing plant in Corydon, IN. "Only in America."

In Utica, NY, hotel maid Ernestine Caldwell has constantly worried about her husband's medical expenses since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease earlier this year and forced to quit his job. But now that she'll be earning nearly $12,000 a year, Caldwell, 62, said she'll be able to pay off 1/64th of his medical expenses and finally start planning for her retirement by investing in higher-yield scratch-ticket games offered by the New York Lottery.

"For years, I've had to play 'Loose Change' or 'Straight 8's' while the $20 'Win for Life Spectacular' game has been out of reach," Caldwell said. "With this added income, though, I'll really be able to take advantage of all 15 ways to win. My husband deserves the best possible care."

Congressional Democrats who pushed for the increase said the additional $28 a week will come as a "godsend" to those living below the poverty line and provide new lines of tax revenue that could perhaps one day help pay off the resurgent federal deficit.

"Today, the nation's working poor are 70 cents closer to the American dream," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a Capitol press conference. "And don't forget the economic stimulus this wage increase will provide— already we hear that discount stores nationwide are selling out their stocks of flip-flops and the stiffer kind of paper plates."

Yet Pelosi urged minimum-wage earners to be cautious in spending their windfall, as a raise of this magnitude only comes "once in a lifetime."

The Microscopic World (Life in a Single Drop of Water)

When I was a wee lad, I used to get picked on because I would rather look at puddle water under a microscope than play tag or kickball. This video would have made me very happy.

The microscopic life in an italian lake (Lago di Candia). Algae and Protozoa are a major part of the world's biodiversity, containing a vast array of different biochemistries, morphologies and life cycles. They are often spectacularly beautiful under the microscope.

Via: VideoSift

An Interview With Charles Simic

Very interesting stuff -- from B92.

“I take paeans with a grain of salt”

9 August 2007
Guest: Charles Simic, Journalist: Veran Matić

Charles Simic, a renowned U.S. poet of Serb origin, gave an interview to B92 CEO Veran Matić.

Charles Simić
Charles Simić
B92: To what extent are you as a poet affected by the radical social changes we face, at least by the changes occurring for the last two decades? How these changes reflect in your poetry?

Charles Simic: Immensely. I have always paid attention to what goes on in the world, but now with the Internet, I read a dozen newspapers and magazines every morning.

All that I read affects me. I’m not one of those poets who write about birds singing and their feelings as the night comes down without once mentioned that innocents are being slaughtered.

B92: How do you assess the significance of the intellectuals in that period worldwide, especially in USA which you are most familiar with, and Southeast Europe, where you come from?

Simic: Many of our intellectuals in United States are servants of our imperial ambitions. They dream up excuses for wars and justify policies of domestic oppression.

I think that has nearly always been the case everywhere despite the myth of the intellectual as a fighter for truth and justice. In my life, I’ve meet only a few independent-minded intellectuals and they tended to be marginal figures in whose opinion no one was interested.

B92: You are very well acquainted with the U.S. literature, and you also translate the works of Serbian authors into English; can you compare these two literary scenes?

Simic: They are impossible to compare mainly because of the unequal size. American poetry includes everything from traditional formal verse to avant-garde poetries. Serbia has a number of supremely gifted poets writing today, but it lacks the range and variety of American poetry.

This is not an argument for one or for the other. Great poetry transcends borders. A poet like Radmila Lazić, whom I translated two years ago, has been read and reviewed both here and in England.

B92: In a review of an International Griffin Poetry Prize, it is said that you are among rare contemporary poets equally acknowledged both by the audience and the critics. How much is it important for the poetry in general, especially given that the art of poetry is being considered marginal lately?

Simic: It is, and it is not. Some poets are more read in their lifetime, while other who are not, turn out to have a much greater influence on literature in the long run. I take all these paeans with a grain of salt. I trust more the voice at 3:00 A.M., who whispers to me that my poems are not so hot.

B92: You’ve been awarded with numerous recognitions, starting from the Pulitzer Prize for poetry to the membership in American Academy of Arts and Letters as a second Serb that achieved such a thing after Mihajlo Pupin.

However, you’ve been awarded only one literary prize in Serbia, although you’re quite present in translation. This is rather awkward as we are faced with a profuse number of literary prizes in Serbia. This phenomenon is greatly dealt with by Predrag Čudić. How do you comment on this?

Simic: True, I only got one from the town of Vršac. However, you must remember that I write in English and have been a part of American literature for almost fifty years, that most of my poems have not been translated, so it would be strange if I was also collecting awards throughout Serbia.

B92: What’s the difference in recognitions here and there? And in the position of a poet in general?

Simic: Writers and poets are only noticed in totalitarian regimes. They are either imprisoned and shot, or they become highly-privileged flunkies of the regime. In Democracies, they are marginal figures without any influence. That suits me just fine since I like and need my solitude.

B92: Which are crucial moments of your life and how do you remember them?

Simic: World War II in Beograd, starting with April, 1941 when a bomb fell and destroyed the building across the street and I was thrown out of bed after the explosion.

Like others at that time, I saw so much death, violence and terror, I myself find it difficult to believe. That war made me what I am.

B92: Mihajlo Mihajlov had returned to Belgrade. Do you think of that sometimes?

Simic: No. After 54 years, I feel too much at home in the United States.

There's a little more to read at B92.

A Gentlemen's Duel - An Animated Short

This is pretty amusing.

From Boing Boing:

In the 8-minute animated short "A Gentleman's Duel," what starts off as a sexist little cartoon about a Frenchman and a Brit vying for the attention and affection of an improbable-breasted bimbo builds up a rapid head of steam as the antagonists climb into their giant Victorian mecha suits and kick the snot out of each other, with a lot of Road Runner-esque funny gracenotes.

Via: VideoSift

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Gratitude 8/9/07

Some things I am grateful for today:

1) Water. Due to some plumbing issues (which happens every couple of months around here), I had no water this afternoon for several hours. Makes me grateful for in-door plumbing -- especially since our air-conditioning system runs on water.

2) Football. Tonight was the first pre-season football game on network TV. It's about time. How can anyone get interested in a sport that runs for 8 months and 162+ games? Soon, college football will start, which is the real fun.

3) One of my clients had a small tumor removed from his cheek yesterday. It may be cancerous. But I am grateful that the doctors are not too concerned and he is expected to make a full recovery over the next couple of weeks. He will be in my tonglen practice.

What are you grateful for today?

Macho Men Not So Good for Long-Lasting Love

The other day a study hit the press that suggests women prefer more "feminine" men for long-term relationships. Further, the study suggests that "manly men" are associated with dominance and are not good choices for marriage.

Here is some of the story from ABC News:

"What I've shown is that when people look at masculine faces they see them as being associated with dominance -- which is a good thing in evolution but less good as a long-term partner," she said in a telephone interview.

In the study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, the researchers asked more than 400 British men and women to judge digitally altered pictures of male faces made to look more masculine or feminine.

The participants were then asked to predict personality traits such as dominance, ambition, wealth and whether a person would be faithful or make a good parent, said Boothroyd, a researcher at Durham University.

But it wasn't the macho men who came out ahead. The study showed these masculine types with larger noses, smaller eyes and thicker eyebrows were viewed as less faithful and worse parents.

Instead it was the "feminine" faces with wide eyes, finer features and thinner, more curved eyebrows that were chosen as the best potential long-term mates, Boothroyd said.

I'm thinking this has something to do with perceptions about testosterone making men more likely to wander and less able to be affectionate -- probably even an unconscious bias. This isn't necessarily true. However, there is a strong correlation between masculinity (i.e, high testosterone) and the "cave man" mentality.

It's entirely possible to be masculine AND capable of being an affectionate and empathic partner. Maybe there are not many men who are growing in this way yet, but masculinity -- as biologically defined -- need not be associated with boorishness.

And on that note, 10 Zen Monkeys posted the "male scale" of 10 masculine archetypes (as embodied by culturally identifiable figures):

Manhood is in flux.

Until the 19th century and the beginning of the Women’s Suffrage movement, traditional gender definitions prevailed. But as women gradually claimed their share of political power, they were not content with the classic male-work-rational-strong vs. female-home-emotional-weak dichotomy that dominated — and of course they shouldn’t have been.

Men resisted the movement until they could do so no longer. As women took steps to define their own gender roles, men missed the opportunity to do the same. We were left with a confused, ragtag concept of what it means to be a man, defined not by ourselves, but rather by contrasting ideals from two sources — liberated women and posterity.

But most modern men defy these narrow stereotypes, taking pieces of each. So without further ado, I now present to you...

The Male Scale

1.jpg1: John Wayne
The cowboy. Solitary, doesn’t need anyone else, but everyone else needs him to save the day. He is untethered by the world, an emotional Gibraltar. Therein lies his power, and his doom.

2.jpg2: James Bond
Bond is…almost untrammeled. As a spy, he is defined by his one “weakness,” a desire to save the women who he encounters, and not solely for the sex. It is this chink in his armor, this mite of sensitivity in an environment where it could mean his death, that has made his image an echoing one.

3.jpg3: Hemingway
Hemingway would pretend to be Wayne, hunting and fishing and eschewing the women for the guys. For Chrissake, he got a special dispensation to hunt U-Boats in the Caribbean during WWII, which really just was him and his buddies getting drunk in pleasant waters. But his manliness, down to his nickname — Papa — was always a bit of trying too hard, always a dodge from the heavy emotions that consumed him. His characters were constantly hurt and refused to show it. He was the sensitive man who couldn’t bear to think it, so tried to cover it up with obscene displays to the contrary.

4.jpg4: Jason Bourne
As we reach the middle of the scale, Bourne is a twist on Bond. He has that something that many men crave, that surety that every other guy he sees, he can take in a fight. But he’s also a man in search of himself, haunted by his status as an assassin. If you choose to see it that way, he represents a drive towards self-awareness that few action heroes attempt.

5.jpg5: Harry Potter
Harry isn’t the best wizard. He’s not the smartest. But he is the bravest. He alternates between brash actions that make you cheer cringe, and moments of self-doubt and emotional connection that, well, make you cheer and cringe. He is motivated by the desire to protect, but also for love and family. And, of course, he combats evil. It’s fitting, perhaps, that the balance is embodied in a child, who is less affected by the cultural ideas that can take root in the soul after so many years.

6.jpg6: Brad Pitt
Right, right. We all know he plays a badass Irish boxer, a secret agent, and Tyler Durden. But let's not forget roles like Tristan in Legends of the Fall (Sure,Tristan was one of the Knights of the Round Table in Arthurian legend, but the name also means "sad"). And, since hooking up with Jolie, Pitt has actively been trying to change his image from sex symbol to humanitarian aid symbol. That Vanity Fair cover he got so upset about was said by some to be working against this new image.

7.jpg7: Barack Obama
Obama is a sensitive voter’s fantasy, hitting all the right notes of compassion and unity and hope. He lets us fantasize about the possibility of a President who isn’t a 1 or a 2 like most of those we’ve gotten over the years (particularly from the Republican party). Although he displays a strong chin, he is constantly criticized for his “lack of experience,” meaning his indecisiveness, lack of definitive policy, etc. In effect, he’s being criticized for not being more like Wayne or Bond.

9.jpg9: Danny Tanner
On Full House, he was father and mother, teaching his children about emotions really more than anything else. He was respectable, the kind of dad a lot of people would want. Of course, that didn’t stop everyone from calling him gay to the point that Bob Saget wrote a hysterical song defending Tanner’s heterosexuality.

10.jpg10: Mr. Sensitive
Just to get the point across, I’m going with a caricature here. In the certifiably crappy movie Bedazzled (whose only redeeming feature was Liz Hurley in shifting, besequined outfits), Brendan Fraser for his wishes switches his personality around in an effort to win the heart of this one girl. At one point, he wishes to be “sensitive,” which just means that he starts crying over crap like the flight of a bird. The lesson I think we’re supposed to take away: some, or even a lot of sensitivity is good, but for God’s sake, be a man!

So now I ask you: is this scale accurate? Is it skewed in one direction or another? Where do prominent figures you know fall? (I think Bush is a 1.)

What do you think -- is this accurate of the predominant archetypes in our culture?

Speedlinking 8/9/07

Quote of the day:

"Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep nonsense."
~ Carl Sagan

Image of the day:

~ Eight strategies for reducing knee pain -- "Knee injuries are common for the weekend warrior and athlete alike. The best way to handle knee injuries is by prevention. Once they start, they can be tough to treat, depending upon the structure injured."
~ The Anabolic Diet Review -- "One of the hottest topics when it comes to obtaining the body of your dreams is which diet is going to work the best to getting you from point A to point B. One diet that has received quite a bit of positive acclaim is the anabolic diet."
~ Cooking the Power Foods, Part I -- "That crazy Chef Lisa is at it again. She's taken 6 Power Foods and come up with some incredibly tasty recipes for them. Wait until you try "Blueberry Stuffed Porkchops." They're just like blueberry pie, only with, you know, pork."
~ Gene Doping In Athletes Is The New Challenge Being Addressed By UF, French Scientists -- "Gene doping has the potential to spawn athletes capable of out-running, out-jumping and out-cycling the strongest of champions. But research under way at the University of Florida could help level the playing field by detecting the first cases of gene doping in professional athletes before the practice enters the mainstream." Wow, I got that one right.
~ A Cure for Chronic Headaches? -- "An experimental procedure may provide relief for chronic headaches."
~ "Fat" hormone sheds new light on obesity: study -- "The hormone that tells us we are full also regulates our desire for certain foods, researchers said on Thursday, in a finding that sheds light on why people gain weight and could lead to new treatments for obesity."
~ Drinking coffee seems to protect the liver -- "Data from 10 studies conducted in Europe and Japan suggest that people who drink coffee may be reducing their risk of liver cancer, although the reasons for the apparent protective effect of coffee remain to be determined."
~ Research shows skeleton to be endocrine organ -- "Bones are typically thought of as calcified, inert structures, but researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have now identified a surprising and critically important novel function of the skeleton. They`ve shown for the first time that the skeleton is an endocrine organ that helps control our sugar metabolism and weight and, as such, is a major determinant of the development of type 2 diabetes."

~ Napping Makes You Smarter -- "Two studies from Harvard show that napping make you smarter."
~ Chat Room Therapy Proves Effective -- "Chat rooms have been used to discuss everything from gardening to sex, so why not emotional problems? Dr. Kordy shows that they can be very effective in keeping mental illness under control outside the safe hospital environment."
~ The Aging of Loneliness -- "Many poets and philosophers confront loneliness as an essential and inevitable fact of human existence, and indeed this particular brand of aching appears to afflict everyone: children, adolescents, adults, the old and very old. But why does the loneliness of old age seem somehow different, sadder and more painful? Is it the social isolation that so often accompanies it, or perhaps the physical wear and tear of the twilight years?"
~ Genetic Factors Strongly Shape How Peers Are Chosen -- "As we develop, the company we keep may be increasingly influenced by our genes, according to a new study led by Virginia Commonwealth University researchers. Researchers report that as individuals develop, genes become increasingly important in influencing how they choose their peer groups. The findings offer insight into which individuals may be at risk for future substance use or other externalizing behaviors such as conduct and antisocial personality disorder."
~ Five Great Ways to Achieve Happiness Through Serving Others -- "Those of you that are parents of small children know about the effort and sacrifice that is required to raise them happy and healthy. And I would submit that you feel that your children are your greatest source of happiness. This same feeling of pride and love comes to many of those who are called to the ministry, teaching, medicine, or even the hospitality industry."
~ Mirror Neurons, Animacy, and Gesture [Mixing Memory] -- "So mirror neurons have been back in the news recently, as the result of a paper in the July 2007 issue of PLoS one titled, "Do you see what I mean? Corticospinal excitability during observation of culture-specific gestures"(1). Sounds interesting in a geeky sort of way, right?"
~ Metal Ions Linked To Neurodegenerative Disease -- "A multi-institutional team of researchers led by Emory University has defined for the first time how metal ions bind to amyloid fibrils in the brain in a way that appears toxic to neurons. Amyloid fibrils are linked to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Creutzfeldt-Jakob. Although metal ions, most notably copper, can bind to amyloid in several specific ways, the researchers found that only one way appears toxic."
~ The Funny Thing About Virgins... -- "A study out of the University of North Carolina shows that young people with an IQ score either below 70 or above 110 are more likely to be virgins than their average-intelligence counterparts."

~ Don’t Go There: Top 20 Taboo Topics for Presidential Candidates -- "The successful presidential candidate wants to establish just enough passion for their political stances that voters will waddle down to the polling place on the first Tuesday of November and vote for them (or send in the appropriate form). Too much passion could be a dangerous thing, because it probably indicates that the candidate has moved off of the acceptable boilerplate messages of the retail campaign and has introduced ideas and possible political solutions that are both novel and challenging."
~ Gary Hart: Candor in the Age of Spin -- "Should presidents, or for that matter presidential candidates, be open, honest, and straightforward about how they would conduct foreign and defense policy or should they reserve space for what in the Cold and post-Cold War worlds have come to be known as covert operations?"
~ Giuliani: "It's great to be rich" -- "On July 24th, Rudy Giuliani, the leading Republican presidential candidate, gave a campaign speech in San Francisco. It's illuminating to study the former New York City mayor's remarks because they reveal a lot about him and the prevailing philosophy of the GOP. He asserted that Democrats 'do not understand a capitalist economy... they think it's bad to make money. They think it's bad to be rich... I think it's great to be rich.'" It gets more interesting as you read.
~ Is Economy Facing Widening Credit Squeeze? -- "With the home-mortgage crunch roiling stock markets, economists are beginning to worry about America’s credit-card debt." And well they should.
~ New Deal for 2007 -- "The Minneapolis bridge disaster invites America to consider a new New Deal, Katrina vanden Heuvel writes. We must not only rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, but also address glaring income inequality, and repair the damage done by a Bush administration hostile to the notion that government can serve the public good."
~ Politics: How the Democrats Blew It in Only 8 Months -- "Alexander Cockburn asks whether we're better off or worse since the Democrats won back Congress."
~ Migrant deaths up in Arizona desert -- "The Border Patrol reported a 23% increase in the number of illegal immigrants who died this year in the deserts of eastern Arizona, The Arizona Republic says. More than 150 migrants have died in 2007, according to the Republic...."

~ Snail Venom A Cocktail of Neurotoxic Peptides -- "The discovery of this venom is not really new: about 25 years ago, a scientist at the University of Utah, Phillipine-born Baldomera Olivera, isolated the molecule that had the painkilling properties in humans. It took a quarter of a century to produce a synthetic version of the compound, which serves as the basis of the new drug Prialt (ziconotide)."
~ Researchers directly deposit gold nanoparticles in suspension -- "The delivery, manipulation and assembly of functional materials such as metal nanoparticles into predefined architectures and patterns is of great interest in nanotechnology. Nanoscale patterns of nanoparticles have the potential to be used in miniature electronic circuits or in plasmon waveguides to guide the transport of electromagnetic energy below the diffraction limit. Nanoparticles functionalized with biological materials can also be placed between electrodes for use in biosensing applications."
~ Largest butterfly in Western Hemisphere needs help to avoid extinction -- "The Homerus swallowtail is the Western Hemisphere`s largest butterfly, but University of Florida researchers say its numbers are so small that conservation and captive breeding efforts are needed to save the insect, found only in two parts of Jamaica."
~ Climate change and permafrost thaw alter greenhouse gas emissions in northern wetlands -- "Permafrost - the perpetually frozen foundation of the north - isn`t so permanent anymore, and scientists are scrambling to understand the pros and cons when terra firma goes soft."
~ One of Deep Ocean's Most Turbulent Areas Has Big Impact on Climate -- "More than a mile beneath the Atlantic`s surface, roughly halfway between New York and Portugal, seawater rushing through the narrow gullies of an underwater mountain range much as winds gust between a city`s tall buildings is generating one of the most turbulent areas ever observed in the deep ocean."
~ Arctic climate study reveals impact of industrial soot -- "Scientists from the Desert Research Institute (DRI) and their collaborators have determined that Northern Hemisphere industrial pollution resulted in a seven-fold increase in black carbon (soot) in Arctic snow during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, according to new research into the impact of black carbon on Arctic climate."

~ The Buddha Diaries Recommends -- "The Buddha Diaries is offering a free "virtual" stay for all of our readers, at the magically ordinary Washington State country home of Robin and Roger, authors of Dharma Bums. To redeem your prize, simply click here…read the posts, take in the pictures and stories, and be transported."
~ Will neurotheology cause faith to wane? Not likely, experts say -- "If science demonstrates that prayer is more neurological than metaphysical, will it cause the believers to abandon their faith, reduced to a figment of their imagination? It's highly unlikely, experts in the field of neurotheology agree." This comes from a Baptist website, but its interesting.
~ Exploring perceptions and overlay of thoughts -- "Exploring perception and the overlay of thoughts can yield a great variety of insights, and one of the most effective ways of exploring this that I have found so far is the choiceless awareness practice, differentiating the sense fields and thoughts through labeling."
~ Top of the world -- "'I have had such a wonderful journey, which continues to have a profound effect on my soul. It has changed the way I think about life and people, inspired me to seek simple happiness and encouraged me to embrace the freedom of my future,' Prachawan reflected on the feelings she had during her first trip to Tibet, last August."
~ Buddhism and Quantum Physics -- "What is reality? The mindsets of the modern world provide four answers to that question and oscillate between these answers...."
~ Thomas Jefferson Would Probably Be Disappointed -- "Wake up and smell the air pollution! Our society's entire system of education is based creating obedient factory workers. Of course, most of those jobs have gone to China... "
~ Waiting to Free the Crowd -- "If we believe that we don't have to do anything, or that nothing we do (or cease doing) will make any difference anyway, then we are free to do nothing, to go on doing what we were doing before. We do what we must, then we do what's easy, and then we do what's fun. There is already so much we must do, to stave off the fear of not having enough, to meet the ever-increasing expectations of the boss, the family, the lawyer, the doctor, the police, the government, and nearly everyone else, that when someone tells us "you don't have to do anything about that, it's all a misunderstanding, we're taking care of it" we will accept it no matter the source or its lack of credibility. One less thing to do, to worry about. More precious time for the easy and fun stuff."