Saturday, January 05, 2008

Insomnia Blogging - Cassandra

I envy Cassandra. Unconscious on the floor of the temple as serpents whispered in her ear. Such a hideous gift to see the future and be cast aside as insane. But what a gift.

Freud said that dreams are the royal path to the unconscious, wishes conveyed in image. I dream myself a serpent, coiled and hissing, seeking the flesh my fangs crave. The bitten leg was my own. A strange form of cannibalism.

Serpents. Eve was betrayed by her innocence, just as Cassandra trusted the voices she heard. In the end, it was Apollo who betrayed her.

What secret resides in the coiled flesh of snakes? Is it their ability to transcend surface and depth?

Perhaps suffering is inherent in vision?

* * * * *

Cassandra pledges virginity*


foreseen night

not belief, trees she said and running
water, suffering committed to form,
an isolated smile from behind the leaves

not belief, promise he said and mingled
blood, form committed to suffering,
another dawn, remembered death, more

prophetic body


Apollo pretends his kiss offers
the gift already given, confirmed
by his appearance, ivy and fountains
in the temple of her mistress

unfurled wings, turbulence
of desire, she cringes before
the glow, a shadow presence
beneath his lust, afraid

she swears her loyalty
to the darkness in her blood,
her vows, and he offers
one last kiss in acceptance

breathes death down her throat,
curses her vision, force of breath,
prophecy without belief, torment
and his fragrant laughter



she knows we disbelieve

is anything more jagged
than morning's fangs, all that
and sun, veins run empty

cactus grows through ice
at noon, who understands


a bridge can never return to soil
the distance between deserts and cities,
between those brief seconds when she
smiles and the rancid debris of shame

she understands the bridge her body
becomes, straddling a liminal river,
a woman of sand and cement, new
vision for eyes blinded by mirrors


she who drinks skullcap tea,
who clawed the winged god
with desire restrained,
who refused his kiss
and is never believed,
who remembers dreams and secrets
we are condemned to live

* * * * *

Cassandra in the desert

serpents flicking tongues in her ear,
black kisses
found on the temple floor
cursed by blood,
unable to refuse

she who walks between day and day
who wears a white gown
dragging in the dirt
who smiles in the mirror and prays
to herself
who sleeps in violet sheets
who worships a dark mistress
filled with forest
who was ravaged by the wings
of his voice

feels light so strange its odor
permeates dream, mystery
of breath, a voice lost
in the space between words

vision enters its driest year

a lizard suns itself
on a flat gray rock

she stumbles along
asking every stranger
for the time, tells each person
the mystery of death
seeks black kisses
in the new cathedral

a cactus growing through ice
signifies something
but no one admits memory,
mismeaning compounded by belief,
sunset delayed

she believes, suffers fore-knowledge,
straddles a liminal river flowing
through temporal soil cursed by blood
seized by dreams in the desert

a crow snatches the lizard
from its rock

she continues walking, sage in her hair
and cannot remember why
she took the very first step

* * * * *

Cassandra confesses all sins

these damp months
searching the cellar,
cleaning webs from my eyes,
confounded by meanings
i see our future
flows in human blood

these minutes drag rotted fruit
to our lips, at noon
no shadow is cast

i misplaced the future
in praise of virginity, my flaw
fells the kingdom,
i bathe my burning eyes in darkness,
proclaim sex the new prayer

flicking tongues of serpents
once filled me with visions

and i am grateful
for bitter taste of blood,
black kisses
my dark mistress
bestows while i pray

willingly led to my death
forsaking deserts and dreams
and Apollo's jealous breath
exhales the quiet syllable
speaking our death,
all this and more
i confess

* * * * *

Cassandra's last vision

we must be blinded to see,
beat across the eyes
with whips of wild roses,
taste salt of blood,
unleash ivy dormant
in the spinal tree,
create phrases capable
of infecting thought,
seek black kisses
in the new cathedral,
granite altars beneath towering oaks,
bodies bared in frenzy of prayer,
die laughing and never forget
darkness opens from silence,
marginalia of inhaled breath,
eat skullcap root and drink
the poison of moonlight,
no more kneel before virgins,
everything, taste it,
wear red dirt as lipstick
when you enter the temple,
seek black kisses,
give voice to stones,
we are everything undone
and dying,
bare your bodies
and proclaim sex
the new prayer,
return to the cave, retrieve
the forgotten body,
not by soul alone
we die,

* * * * *

death of Cassandra

cry Cassandra cry, this end foreseen,
first minute past noon,
tumbleweeds and cactus growing
through black city streets

old darkness this dust covered
cement soul, grown tired she waits
foreign hands to claim her

kneels to dig, fingers scratch a hole
in dirt, a cradle for the severed
finger, offering, a dark kiss

places bracelets on the table,
her voice gathers death,
serpents return to liminal shadows

knows her day descends,
imagines impossible kisses
in the temple of her dark
mistress, night disrobes

her graved remains give birth
to silence, temporal soil,
threshold restored

* * * * *

In my dreams, Cassandra speaks to me. Do I need to be blinded to see?

What dark god haunts these minutes? Prophecy is always denied. And so I say nothing, content with the torment of a vision that cannot be spoken.

[* Some of these poems have been previously published.]

New Poem: Minutia


I am not of this world, and yet
the mossy stone is my heart,
veins of quartz are my skeleton,
the raven's caw is my voice

Sabino Creek flows with the blood
of my memory, tumbling over rock,
carving its path through the canyon
as I seek my way through each day

life is found in these particulars,
bones crushed beneath the weight
of regret, shedding the skin of the past
with all the urgency of a snake

my flesh is earth, dissolved in rain
and solidified in sun, of this world
and completely foreign, rooted by ivy
in the darkest crevices of being

how then seek connection, give voice
to elements? I am not what I appear
and so much more, an ecology
of minutia, more expansive than night

Opening a Wounded Heart

About two and half years ago, I received a card in the mail from an ex-girlfriend, the first woman I had ever really loved. We had spent six intense and challenging years together beginning in college -- when I was 23 and she was 19. At the time the card came, I wasn't prepared to open my heart to that period of my life, the pain seemed to intense to welcome back into my consciousness. I blogged about it at the time.

Even then, after all the time that had passed, I still blamed her for hurting me and couldn't really accept that she probably wasn't the same person she was when we were together (just as I am not the same person, either). Even more, however, I blamed myself for all the ways I hurt her and broke her young and tender heart.

But blame is destructive. Neither of us intended to hurt the other. We were young, wounded, and simply did the best we could at the time -- and no matter how much we wish it otherwise, it happened. It can't be undone. And there was nothing, in retrospect, that we could have done differently.

Looking back now, I think the experience, as painful and filled with regrets as it was, propelled each of us to become better, healthier people. This is one of those dharma gifts that comes wrapped in shit. So often in life, the painful experiences are the ones that help us grow, that force us beneath the wounding to discover the true compassionate nature of who we are -- if we are willing to face the pain.

Last week, I decided to reconnect with her, initially just to request a poetry submission for Elegant Thorn Review. She recently completed her master's degree in writing and has had a chapbook published. One of the things we shared was poetry, and I always knew she would become a successful poet.

Sometimes we make a choice without quite knowing what will come of it. She isn't the young woman I knew -- but it turns out that she is the adult woman I always thought she might become. Maybe being married has helped her find her way, or maybe she did it through her poetry, which like mine, is always a mirror to the content of her psyche. However she found her way, I'm so glad that she is happy.

Even in the brief exchange of emails we've had, the decision to contact her has opened a deep well of grief. I didn't expect that. I thought that I had moved through those feelings in therapy a few years ago. But still the waves wash over me. What has changed, though, is that I don't feel the need to escape them -- I can sit here in the surf and let the feelings come and go with whatever natural rhythm dictates these things.

Sitting with grief has always been hard for me, but the more I do so, the more I can literally feel my heart soften, open, return to its tender nature. I didn't expect this gift to come out my decision to know her again.

Authors@Google: Steven Pinker

I often disagree with Steven Pinker on the nature of consciousness, but outside of that "hard problem," he is a fascinating man with an amazing breadth of knowledge.

Renowned linguist Steven Pinker speaks at Google's Mountain View, CA, headquarters about his book "The Stuff of Thought." This event took place on September 24, 2007, as part of the Authors@Google series. For more information about Steven Pinker, please visit his page.

Learning To Forgive May Improve Well-Being

This ran in Science Daily yesterday, but after I did my speedlinking for the day. It offers evidence that forgiving others is good for our health -- holding a grudge seems to damage the heart and CNS.

Maybe it's just me, but I am struck by the metaphor of a hardened heart -- one that is unable to forgive -- becoming physically unhealthy. It seems that the more we can open and soften our hearts, the more human and healthy we become.

Holding a grudge appears to affect the cardiovascular and nervous systems. In one study, people who focused on a personal grudge had elevated blood pressure and heart rates, as well as increased muscle tension and feelings of being less in control. When asked to imagine forgiving the person who had hurt them, the participants said they felt more positive and relaxed and thus, the changes dissipated. Other studies have shown that forgiveness has positive effects on psychological health, too.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, condoning or excusing whatever happened. It’s acknowledging hurt and then letting it go, along with the burden of anger and resentment.

There’s no single approach to learning how to forgive. Talking with a friend, therapist or adviser (spiritual or otherwise) may be helpful during the process, to sort through feelings and stay on track. The January issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource covers four steps that are included in most approaches to learning forgiveness.

  • Acknowledge the pain and anger felt as a result of someone else’s actions. For forgiveness to occur, the situation needs to be looked at honestly.
  • Recognize that healing requires change.
  • Find a new way to think about the person who caused the pain. What was happening in that person’s life when the hurt occurred? Sometimes, the motivation or causes for the incident have little to do with those most affected. For some people, this step includes saying, “I forgive you.”
  • Begin to experience the emotional relief that comes with forgiveness. It may include increased compassion for others who have experienced similar hurt.

Daily Om: Now Is The Time

This was yesterday's Daily Om, and it offers a good commentary on living our lives RIGHT NOW, rather than always waiting for the perfect conditions, the "as soon as . . ." that seldom ever comes.

Now Is The Time
Bloom Where You Are Planted

Having a vision for our future that differs from our current circumstances can be inspiring and exciting, but it can also keep us from fully committing to our present placement. We may become aware that this is happening when we notice our thoughts about the future distracting us from our participation in the moment. We may find upon searching our hearts that we are waiting for some future time or situation in order to self-actualize. This would be like a flower planted in North Dakota putting off blooming because it would prefer to do so in Illinois.

There are no guarantees in this life, so when we hold back we do so at the risk of never fully blossoming. This present moment always offers us the ground in which we can take root and open our hearts now. What this means is that we live fully, wherever we are, not hesitating because conditions are not perfect, or we might end up moving, or we haven’t found our life partner. This can be scary, because we might feel that we are giving up our cherished dreams if we do not agree to wait for them. But this notion that we have to hold back our life force now in order to find happiness later doesn’t really make sense. What might really be happening is that we are afraid to embrace this moment, and ourselves, just exactly as we are right now. This constitutes a tendency to hold back from fully loving ourselves, as we are, where we are.

We have a habit of presenting life with a set of conditions—ifs and whens that must be fulfilled before we will say yes to the gift of our lives. Now is the time for each of us to bloom where we are planted, overriding our tendency to hold back. Now is the time to say yes, to be brave and commit fully to ourselves, because until we do no one else will. Now is the time to be vulnerable, unfolding delicately yet fully into the space in which we find ourselves.

Radiohead - A Wolf at the Door

Gaston Vinas did some nice animation to go with this cool song.


Friday, January 04, 2008

New Poem: Homage


Dionysos once lived in my flesh,
but the abdicated god
now haunts me,
demands my adulation

what loss in forsaking wine,
the elixir of poets?

my blood once flowed as merlot,
rich and chocolaty,
but now I am stone

morning light is caustic,
a poison to dreams
night might offer

I once sought truth
in the fluid of grapes

never did I realize
that moonglow was a poison

I ate pomegranates
hoping for illumination
that never arrived

Day into night : night
into day : undone
and covered in cobwebs

the dark god haunts me,
demands my recognition,
and in his voice
I hear
the deep need of shadows

can the poet ever be free
from the source?

can voice arise from the throat
in the absence of wine?

kicking in the door
I demand a place
at the altar,
an audience with immortality

A whisper : the warm tongue
speaks in syllables of hope

morning light : loss is bone
crushed beneath the weight of truth

New Poem: Landscapes


the anonymous dream: a garden
of wind-worn stone, petrified trees,
vultures circling overhead
waiting for my collapse

my lungs are liquid, veins of granite
stiffen my flesh, legs rooted in soil

isolation, loss, a scene
replayed in the mythos of night

always just out of reach, the words
I have sought seemingly since birth
dance around a fire, singing the song
I always wanted to write for her

but that was years ago and still
the dream, a one-act play repeated

I can't remember her face anymore,
wrapped in veils, hidden in poems,
the woman, an apparition I once knew

the carnal crawl of minutes erases
so much, buries me in fine grains of sand

I knew her once, tasted her,
surrendered myself
to a raging river of desire
and drowned

flesh and blood of the first kiss,
marrow of loss,
transcendent psalm

it wasn't me, I object, but
the dense forests of dream
contain my DNA, so little truth
in memory's ossuary

dream-space: knotted roots
can never be untangled
by mere words, deceptive minutes

still the need to say
what can never be said,
to see her eyes reflect
the landscape of her soul

How Much Can You Bench?

I swear at least once a month some meathead will ask me this question. Being a personal trainer, I'm an easy target. Everyone at my gym knows I am a trainer, so the big guys like to prove something to themselves by comparing what they bench to what I can bench. And I look pretty small -- at 195 lbs and six feet tall -- so I can't be very strong, can I?

On bench press, I'm not. At best, I can get 275 lbs for one rep. Most of the big guys in my gym are doing 315 or more. Still, as far as I am concerned, and most strength coaches would agree with me, the bench press is not even remotely a good measure of strength.

A better question would be, How much can you squat?

Sam Byrd 1003 Squat at 198

Or better yet, How much can you deadlift?

Konstantine Kostanov 946 lb. Deadlift

Or best of all, How much can you clean and jerk?

Yukio Peter- Clean and Jerk 189 KG (416 lbs)

Any of these three core lifts are better indicators of overall strength than is the bench press.

Those of us who train for general strength and physical preparedness use all three of these lifts (and their variations) as the foundation of a good routine. Yes, we bench press too, but even for a chest-focused pressing movement, weighted dips are a better indicator of overall strength in the chest and shoulders.

Weighted dips - Bodyweight + 145 lbs for 8 reps

So if you work out a gym and someone asks, How much can you bench? Ask them how much they deadlift, or squat, or clean and jerk. They'll probably just give you a blank stare.

Satire: Hillary Repackages Herself as a Black Man

From Andy Borowitz -- the sad thing is that she would if she could.

Hillary Repackages Herself as a Black Man

Posted January 4, 2008 | 01:28 PM (EST)

In what some party insiders are calling a Hail Mary bid to win Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton today attempted to repackage herself as a black man.

In the wake of her disappointing third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, there was consensus among Mrs. Clinton's campaign aides that her presidential bid needed to be rebooted, but few party professionals expected her to change her race and sex with only five days to go until New Hampshire.

According to Clinton strategist Mark Penn, however, Mrs. Clinton's decision to become an African-American man was thoroughly consistent with her history as a "change agent."

"Hillary is all about change, and changing her race and sex is just the most recent example of that," he said.

Speaking at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton thanked her supporters for "keeping it real" and promoted her just-released autobiography, "The Bodacicty of Hope."

"This election is about whether or not America is ready to elect a black man President of the United States," she said. "I believe I am that black man."

Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton was dismissive of rival John Edwards' comparison of himself to Seabiscuit, remarking that "in addition to being a black man, Hillary has for many years been a world-class horse."

Mr. Clinton made his comments in an interview on PBS' "Charlie Rose Show," in which the former president, looking bleary-eyed and unshaven, touted Mrs. Clinton's victory in last year's Belmont Stakes.

Elsewhere, embattled G.O.P. presidential candidate Mitt Romney unveiled a new campaign slogan, "What the Huck?!"

Speedlinking 1/4/08

Quote of the day:

"The whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and in a thousand things well."
~ Horace Walpole

Image of the day (James Jordan):

~ (Recipe) Banana Cheerio Protein Breakfast -- "When exercising and/or lifting weights, it’s important to add plenty of protein to your diet in order to develop and maintain muscle. When digested, protein is broken down into amino acids, then turned back into protein to produce and repair our muscles after our training session."
~ Exercise of the Week: The Deadlift From Hell -- "It may just be the biggest of the big compound movements. Find out why this hellacious exercise is a favorite of Charles Poliquin!"
~ The New 300: Craig Ballantyne's Bodyweight 500 Workout -- "This time last year, everyone (especially me) was talking about the now legendary "300 Workout". This year Craig Ballantyne, author of Turbulence Training, has put together a new challenge for 2008." Looks like torture -- I can't wait to try it.
~ Fitness Predictions For 2008 - American Council On Exercise -- "The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has completed its annual survey of its extensive worldwide network of personal trainers, group fitness experts, advanced health and fitness specialists and lifestyle and weight management consultants to identify the leading trends in the fitness industry. 2008 promises to be filled with water aerobics, boxing clubs and spicy Latin dancing."
~ Ways To Reduce Gassiness -- "Gassiness: It's embarrassing, bothersome and -- yes, smelly. Sometimes, changing diet can clear the air. Temporarily avoiding certain foods can help identify causes of gassiness. The January issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter lists foods that sometimes are the culprit: Dairy products: The sugar lactose in dairy foods is a common cause of gas. Nonprescription products such as Lactaid or Dairy Ease may help."
~ Moderate Exercise Yields Big Benefits -- "What's the key to looking and feeling better and enhancing your health? Exercise. Moderately strenuous exercise, about 30 minutes a day, can lead to enormous benefits in terms of your mood, health, weight and the ability to live an independent and fulfilling life. The exercise doesn't need to be athletic or difficult. Studies have shown that simply walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes or more on most days can lead to significant health improvements."
~ The Ultimate Good Carb Guide -- "Have you ever had a friend tell you that they were giving up carbs? Are you confused by all the talk of carbohydrates? If so, you are not alone. Read on to check out our good carb guide to help you load up on good carbs and cut back on bad carbs."
~ Living With Arthritis -- "Pain may define my condition, but I won't let it define my life."
~ Does milk really do a body good? -- "Some experts say it's a health hazard. Others say it's the most nutritious food you can find. We investigate all the claims about milk to find out if you should have a glass."

~ A C Grayling on the Importance of Autonomy -- "Are individuals capable of overcoming limitations to achieve by will and endeavour what they identify as good?"
~ Blogging on the Brain: 1/04 [Developing Intelligence] -- A good collection of links.
~ Decision making, impulsivity and time perception -- "Time is an important dimension when individuals make decisions. Specifically, the time until a beneficial outcome can be received is viewed as a cost and is weighed against the benefits of the outcome. We propose that impulsive individuals experience time differently, that is with a higher cost."
~ 2007 Review: 21 Topselling Books on Personal Growth -- "I use the term personal growth in its broad sense here. Besides self-help books, I also include personal finance, spiritual, and some business books. Of course, my picks are subjective to what I think are related to personal growth, so you can check the complete list if you want to."
~ Altered emotional response in bipolar mania -- "Compared with healthy subjects, manic patients had a significantly reduced VLPFC regulation of amygdala response during the emotion labeling task. These findings, taken in context with previous fMRI studies of bipolar mania, suggest that reductions in inhibitory frontal activity in these patients may lead to an increased reactivity of the amygdala."
~ The Secret of Feeling Grounded -- "Have you ever wondered why full prostrations are a ritual in many world religions? One of the reasons is that something important happens when we bow down and touch the ground with our body: We pour ourself into the earth and into the sky. And this outpouring makes us feel grounded."
~ The Ageless Brain -- "Forgetful? You may be under too much pressure."
~ No One Can Control Your Emotions -- "Many of us feel that when our emotions spill over, when we feel very awful (and even when we feel inordinately good), it is due to our interaction with someone, and therefore we believe that our emotions depend on the good or bad state of our relationship with each person. Obviously this is tantamount to saying that others control our emotions, and nothing could be further from the truth."
~ Enhance Healing Through Guided Imagery -- "Aristotle and Hippocrates believed in the power of images in the brain to enliven the heart and body. Today, research shows they were right. Guided imagery is helping patients use the full range of the body's healing capacity, according to the January issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter. Guided imagery is more than listening to relaxing sounds. It's a learning process to listen to someone's voice, relax the breathing and consciously direct the ability to imagine."
~ Review - The Search for Meaning A Short History by Dennis Ford -- "It is difficult to classify this book. Perhaps one way to give the potential reader some sense of the book is to say what it is not. It is not a philosophy text. It is not a self-help book. It does not present arguments for the way to find meaning. It is not a book about the meaning of meaning."

~ Paideia in America: Ragged Dick, George Babbitt, and the Problem of a Modern Classical Education -- "ONCE UPON A TIME, every educated boy was made to learn some Greek and Latin. Today none of them learn any Greek and only a bare few learn any Latin. Who can say when this pernicious decline began? Near the end of the nineteenth century, American educators felt a need to offer the rudiments of a classical education to those “bound by their circumstances to the active and laborious employments of farming, of the mechanic arts, of business, of housewifery, and of all the various handicrafts by which material subsistence is procured.” America at this time was bustling; but if these laboring souls could not leave the farm or workshop for a high school or college education, their boys and girls could."
~ The Esthetic, the Sacred, and Originary Modernity -- "The sacred "reproduc[es] the configuration of the originary event in a more or less formalized manner as ritual"; meanwhile, "language, in contrast, is typically a one-on-one phenomenon; as a self-contained gesture that has renounced any role in worldly action, the linguistic sign has no minimal energy requirement." But the qualification, in a part of the passage referring to the sacred I omitted, that "The sacred tends to inhere in stable religious institutions" [emphasis on "tends to" mine], points to the possibility of a form of sacrality that need not inhere in ritual."
~ Dr. Freud, What Do Voters Want? -- "Where is Sigmund Freud when we finally need him? This is the fellow who famously asked: What do women want? He could have put his skills to better use answering a more difficult question: What do American voters want?"
~ State of Emergency -- "When the experts are pressed about the future of media, they all offer the same inexplicable answer: “I don’t know.” Despite all the money, talent and resources available, no one actually knows how to save the media."
Authoritarian Temptation -- " Giuliani never disguised himself. While his moderate stances on social issues distinguished him from the Jerry Falwell wing of the 1993 Republican Party, he never pretended to be anything other than what he was. He was not a popular mayor because he softened his prosecutorial zeal or concealed his fixation with imposing order or renounced his faith in centralized power vested in a single, strong, even unchallengeable leader."
Iowa Winners Count on Momentum -- "Next week's New Hampshire vote will test the durability of several candidacies."
~ Obama's Historic Victory -- "It's just one win, but Joe Klein says January 3, 2008 may mark the end of the politics of race - and baby boomers."
~ Youth Vote Tripled in Iowa -- "Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee may owe a debt to young people for their victories in last night's Iowa caucuses. Youth voter turnout tripled from 2004, with 65,000 people ages 17 through 29 turning out for the caucuses."
~ Barack delivers, Hillary disappoints -- "Obama's big win in Iowa also highlights the inadequacy of Clinton's campaign strategy -- more caution than inspiration. Now she must change course."

~ Can We Turn Garbage Into Energy? -- "As proponents of this waste-disposal method always hasten to point out, "plasma incineration" is actually a misnomer—well, at least the "incineration" part. There is no combustion required, and thus no flames or acrid smoke. A more accurate moniker is "plasma gasification," since the end products of the process are syngas and an inorganic solid that can be used to make asphalt or concrete."
~ The Green Upside to $100-a-Barrel Oil -- "Driven by trends both short-term (political instability in Africa and speculation) and long-term (voracious new demand from China and India), oil has quadrupled since 2003, doubled since the beginning of 2007 and now reached triple digits for the first time since it began trading on the exchange began in 1983."
~ Laptop Project Blames Intel for Breakup -- "The founder of the One Laptop Per Child project claimed Friday that Intel Corp. undermined his group's effort to sell $188 computers for schoolchildren in the developing world even after the chip company got a seat on the nonprofit's board."
~ Science to Government: Evolution Is a Fact, So Teach It -- "A new report by scientific advisers to the U.S. government emphasizes the importance of teaching evolution in schools, while taking a swipe at the "unscientific" theory of intelligent design."
~ A New Attempt to Make S.F. a Truly Wireless Town -- "Google and Earthlink tried, and failed, disappearing in a sea of bureaucratic red tape. Now a startup hopes to persuade San Franciscans to voluntarily put radio repeaters on their rooftops. Good luck with that."
~ Baby Mammoth Could Shed Light on Warming -- "Frozen in much the state it died some 37,500 years ago, a Siberian baby mammoth undergoing tests in Japan could finally explain why the beasts were driven to extinction - and shed light on climate change, scientists said Friday."
~ "Shared Space" Traffic Calming: Counterintuitive, But It Works -- "Imagine my surprise, then, when I read this article about the small (13,000 residents) town of Bohmte, Germany, which decided to deal with its own traffic and safety problems using the opposite approach--eliminating most signals and lane markers altogether. On one section of a major thoroughfare through the city, Bohmte officials have erased lane markers, torn up sidewalks, and bulldozed curbs in a radical effort to force people to use common sense and courtesy when driving rather than relying on lane markers."
~ US judge limits marine military sonar in California -- "A US federal judge on Thursday set limits for the use of marine sonar by the military in California, a practice environmentalists have long accused of putting sealife in danger."

~ Deepak Chopra: The "Soul Hypothesis" -- "One doesn't have to blindly accept religious dogma to believe in the soul. Like any theory that needs proving, the soul is a hypothesis that can be tested. Such testing doesn't take place in a lab. Each person is a living example of the soul hypothesis, and throughout life we can use our own experience to prove whether the soul is valid and real."
~ Final release -- "The final release is also what allows any and all experiences and any and all ways the world of form happens. The only way this can happen is to see, feel and love as all God. And the only way that can happen is to release identification with the idea/sense/feeling/experience of an I with an Other."
~ Movie Review: No Country for Old Men by Bert Parlee -- "The following is a review of the Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men by our own integral movie-buff Bert Parlee. This will, hopefully, be the first of many film reviews to come. Thanks Bert!!"
~ The Living Buddhist Faith -- "Sometimes I am amazed when I read the writings of Jodo Shinshu how organic and living the faith is. As I’ve said a few times before, it is in many ways a very counter-intuitive faith at first glance, but as you delve deeper, it really brings out Buddhism in a whole new light."
~ Mixtape Dharma: Trading Music, Sharing Love -- "I hereby propose the first round of a mixtape (er, mix CD) trading session (assuming this is legal?) to take the edge off all this cold. My group-organization skills are limited, so I’m going make this relatively simple: a straightforward two-way trade. E-mail me at first initial last name at gee mail dot com, tell me you want the mixtape below ASAP, and we’ll trade. I’ll send you the following disk and — here’s where the dharma part comes in — you send me one in return."
~ On Tony Blair's and My Own Roman Catholicism -- "I respect Blair's choice of faith. It's his choice and his alone. Aside from his personal faith and other possible political reasons, Blair converted to Roman Catholicism because of his kinship and love for his wife and kids. I sympathize with that. For the record, I respect the personal faith and for kinship reasons."
~ Ahhhh, Why Not? -- "And I keep thinking how hilarious it is that the one thing I've been trying to keep quiet and under wraps is the one thing that is causing what I do to be something that Is Heard. And I can't help but wonder what else I've been trying to hide that really, truly should be let loose. Do you know what I mean?"
~ Am I a Agnostic Buddhist? -- "Like Sam Harris, I don't like putting labels on my belief and faith. But this is very close to what I subscribe to...." Agreed.

Architectonics VII by Erik-Sven Tuur

Very interesting piece of music. Hat tip to Scott at Conversational Reading for posting this -- I love to discover new music.

Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien® plays Erkki-Sven Tüür Architectonics VII for flute, bass clarinet and piano at Slovene Philharmonic Hall, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

David Brooks on Iowa

David Brooks makes some good points in the aftermath of Iowa. He titles his piece The Two Earthquakes -- sensing that what happened last night marks a possible turning point in American politics -- I hope he is right.

First on Obama:

This is a huge moment. It’s one of those times when a movement that seemed ethereal and idealistic became a reality and took on political substance.

Iowa won’t settle the race, but the rest of the primary season is going to be colored by the glow of this result. Whatever their political affiliations, Americans are going to feel good about the Obama victory, which is a story of youth, possibility and unity through diversity — the primordial themes of the American experience.

And Americans are not going to want to see this stopped. When an African-American man is leading a juggernaut to the White House, do you want to be the one to stand up and say No?

Obama has achieved something remarkable. At first blush, his speeches are abstract, secular sermons of personal uplift — filled with disquisitions on the nature of hope and the contours of change.

He talks about erasing old categories like red and blue (and implicitly, black and white) and replacing them with new categories, of which the most important are new and old. He seems at first more preoccupied with changing thinking than changing legislation.

And then on Huckabee:

On the Republican side, my message is: Be not afraid. Some people are going to tell you that Mike Huckabee’s victory last night in Iowa represents a triumph for the creationist crusaders. Wrong.

Huckabee won because he tapped into realities that other Republicans have been slow to recognize. First, evangelicals have changed. Huckabee is the first ironic evangelical on the national stage. He’s funny, campy (see his Chuck Norris fixation) and he’s not at war with modern culture.

Second, Huckabee understands much better than Mitt Romney that we have a crisis of authority in this country. People have lost faith in their leaders’ ability to respond to problems. While Romney embodies the leadership class, Huckabee went after it. He criticized Wall Street and K Street. Most importantly, he sensed that conservatives do not believe their own movement is well led. He took on Rush Limbaugh, the Club for Growth and even President Bush. The old guard threw everything they had at him, and their diminished power is now exposed.

Third, Huckabee understands how middle-class anxiety is really lived. Democrats talk about wages. But real middle-class families have more to fear economically from divorce than from a free trade pact. A person’s lifetime prospects will be threatened more by single parenting than by outsourcing. Huckabee understands that economic well-being is fused with social and moral well-being, and he talks about the inter-relationship in a way no other candidate has.

In that sense, Huckabee’s victory is not a step into the past. It opens up the way for a new coalition.

A conservatism that recognizes stable families as the foundation of economic growth is not hard to imagine. A conservatism that loves capitalism but distrusts capitalists is not hard to imagine either. Adam Smith felt this way. A conservatism that pays attention to people making less than $50,000 a year is the only conservatism worth defending.

If Brooks is correct, we are possibly witnessing a major change in US presidential politics -- and one might say, an evolution in American politics. For the first time in my lifetime, I am excited about a candidate (Obama) and not feeling like I have to choose the least dangerous alternative. I suspect some conservatives feel the same way about Huckabee.

Who knows what will happen going forward, but at least in Iowa they voted with their hearts, with the idea of a better more compassionate future. And that is a monumental change over the politics of recent years.

Obama's Victory Speech

For the who are interested:

Daily Dharma: Seeking That Which Is

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

Seeking That Which is

“Bhikkhus [Monks], before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisattva, I too, being myself subject to birth, sought what was also subject to birth; being myself subject to aging, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilement, I sought what was also subject to aging, sickness, death, sorrow and defilement. Then I considered thus: "Why, being myself subject to birth, do I seek what is also subject to birth? Why, being myself subject to aging, sickness, death, sorrow and defilement, do I seek what is also subject to aging, sickness, death, sorrow and defilement? Suppose that, being myself subject to birth, having understood the danger in what is subject to birth, I seek the unborn supreme security from bondage, Nibbana [Nirvana]. Suppose that, being myself subject to aging, sickness, death, sorrow and defilement, having understood the danger in what is subject to aging, sickness, death, sorrow and defilement, I seek the unaging, unailing, deathless, sorrowless, and undefiled supreme security from bondage, Nibbana."

~ Ariyapariyesana Sutta, in The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, trans. by Bhikkhu Bodhi; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

JibJab - What happened in 2007

More insane satire from the folks at JibJab.


Lewis Black on Religion [NSFW]

I'm sure I've posted this before, but I don't care --it makes me laugh every time I watch it.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Obama and Huckabee Win in Iowa

MSNBC is reporting that Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee are the winners in the Iowa caucuses.

Sen. Barack Obama, campaigning to be the first black president in American history, won the Iowa caucuses Thursday night, turning back rivals Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in the opening test of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee rode a wave of support from evangelical Christians to victory over Mitt Romney.

Obama, 46, and a first-term senator from Illinois, scored his victory on a message of change in Washngton. Nearly complete returns showed him gaining 37 percent support from Democratic caucus-goers. Edwards and Clinton were locked in a battle for second place with 30 percent each.

Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady bidding to become the first female president, called Obama and later congratulated him in a concession speech. Late Thursday, Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, said his result showed that voters are choosing change over the status quo, and he vowed a vigorous campaign into New Hampshire.

Among other Democrats, Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Joseph Biden of Delaware, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson got little to show for their effort. Dodd abandoned his campaign a few hours after the caucus ended, and it seemed possible the field would grow even smaller before New Hampshire votes on Tuesday.

Huckabee outspent in Iowa
Huckabee handily defeated Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, despite being outspent by tens of millions of dollars and deciding in the campaign's final days to scrap television commercials that would have assailed Romney.

Romney sought to frame his defeat as something less than that, saying he had trailed Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, by more than 20 points a few weeks ago. "I've been pleased that I've been able to make up ground, and I intend to keep making up ground, not just here but across the country," he said.

The words were brave, but already, his strategy of bankrolling a methodical campaign in hopes of winning the first two states was in tatters — and a rejuvenated Sen. John McCain of Arizona was tied in the polls in next-up New Hampshire.

In Iowa, McCain battled former Sen. Fred Thompson for third place, while Texas Rep. Ron Paul lagged behind. Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, largely had abandoned the state in the campaign's final days.

McCain and Giuliani's campaign congratulated Huckabee but vowed to fight on.

Read the rest.

This is good news for Obama supporters. This win will help in fund-raising, and it shows that Hillary is beatable. The real test will be in New Hampshire. If Obama comes out ahead there, he will be well on his way to upsetting the Clinton juggernaut.

I'm sure the GOP is a bit uneasy with Huckabee winning. He is easily defeatable in the general election. But Iowa is a different state than the rest -- values voters hold much more power there than they will in New Hampshire, where McCain is looking strong.

It's going to be an interesting next few weeks.

Accidental Dharma - The Gift Wrapped in Shit

Peter at The Buddha Diaries has started a new blog, Accidental Dharma: The Gift Wrapped in Shit. I think this is a great idea for a blog. How many of us get our deepest lessons while sitting in meditation? Most of the really juicy lessons come as a shock, through the trials of our daily lives. Sharing these experiences is a great way to realize just how varied and important such experiences can be.

We all get them, these gifts wrapped in shit. They arrive when we least expect them, and certainly didn't want them. But if we unwrap them carefully, we find that they invariably have a heart of gold. Think of Al Gore. He was screwed out of the presidency and ended up with an Oscar and a Nobel Prize.

That's actually a bad example, because the gift is not about prizes and awards. It's about the inner teaching such gifts bring with them, and we'd have to find out from Al himself just exactly what the gift was.

Accidental Dharma
seeks submissions of growth experiences, soul lessons if you will, that arose out of challenging situations. Check it out -- there are already many good posts, such as this one:

The weekend we found out I was expecting we were at our friend's annual camp party. It's a 3 day party taking place on an island, typically characterized by a lot of drinking, a lot of dancing, and a lot of music. I had been looking forward to the party for weeks, as this was just the sort of thing that was right up my alley. However, the morning we were to head out rolled around, and I just couldn't get into it. We loaded the car with our camping gear and our dogs, and headed out to the island. I should have suspected something was amiss when I declined the offer to stop at the liquor store - the idea of any sort of alcohol was absolutely abhorrent to me. I spent the entirety of our first day and evening there just sitting near the camp fire with my dogs, reflecting. I wasn't interested in dancing or partying or revelling with my friends - I wanted solitude. Around midnight I put the dogs to bed and headed into the tent to try to sleep. That whole night I just felt wrong - wrong that this was how I was spending my time, wrong that these were the choices I was making. The next day I was so repulsed by the entire scene that I made my husband pack up and head back into town. On the way into town I suggested that we get a pregnancy test. I don't know what made me think that that might be the source of my feeling 'off', but as soon as I took the test I knew what it would say. Several other follow-up tests confirmed.

From the moment the test showed two little pink lines I realised that I had been asleep. I hadn't been living my life, I had been clouding my mind in an effort to get from moment to moment, with the focus always on the future. I was always looking forward to what I COULD do, not what I WAS doing. At that moment I realised how wrong this was - that I needed to be here, in this moment, and experience this moment. I would never again be pregnant for the first time. I would never again experience THIS moment. I didn't want to miss any of these moments with my child - I wanted to remember and live and experience the entire process.

I'm not sure what it was that made me realise the error of the lifestyle I had been living. This shift started even before I knew I was with child. But it was profound and it caused some very difficult times between myself and my new husband. He wasn't interested in partaking of my new desire to live mindfully in the moment - he liked our old life. While I was brutally aware of every action I engaged in, every moment of every day, he wasn't interested in such things. Our relationship eventually mended itself over time, as he too gradually made these connections. Whether this process is something that would have happened to us both independently anyway, or whether it is a direct result of growing into our new roles as parents, I don't know. I suspect that it's a combination of the two, since I know many people whose experience of parenthood did not result in such radical shifts in the way they view the world.

The second milestone that occurred during my pregnancy happened in October. I was working as a bar manager at the local university pub. For a while I had been having problems with my job (selling liquor to students does not really fall under the 'right vocation' category). But I had always grown up with the idea that your career was important - that you would find meaning in the job that you do. So, although I wasn't finding anything other than negativity from this job, I continued to work hard at it, hoping that I would find some sort of fulfillment. After a particularly stressful few days at work (a lesson in 'accidental dharma' in and of itself) I began to have contractions. Being only 25 weeks along in my pregnancy, having my child at this point would have been devastating. My midwife quickly ordered me to leave work and spend my days at home, resting and avoiding stress. This might sound great to most people, but to someone who has, for her entire life, scheduled every last second of every day to insure as many activities as possible get done, this was catastrophic. I had been working fulltime since I was 16. Up until 2 years ago I had also been attending school. My days were used to being crammed - I now had no schedule, no where to go, and nothing to do. For the first time I was FORCED to slow down.

Since October I have gradually become more and more grateful for this time. Living in the Western world we're taught that everything needs to be done quickly, on a schedule, efficiently and that free time is a luxury. We are taught to work hard and make lots of money and buy many things; that we can judge our progress in life and how 'successful' we are by these yardsticks. It's taken me many months to be ok with saying 'I don't work.' I've struggled to be ok with the fact that I have friends who I went to college with moving up the corporate ladder, earning 3 or 4 times what our household income is. I've struggled to be ok with the fact that I live in a space that is about 300 square feet. I have struggled with these things because for so many years I was taught that the measure of my success as a person was not how happy I was or what I was contributing to humanity as a whole, but how much prestige I could earn. Being forced into unemployment, I now realise how ridiculous this concept is.

For the first time in my life, I am truly and completely happy. For the first time I'm not struggling with depression and anxiety. Sure, I have a very basic existence, I don't have fancy clothes or a big house. But I'm spending my days and nights doing things that I LOVE and things that are helpful and productive. My days are spent in meditation and reflection, reading, learning and writing. After my child is born I intend to raise her with this lifestyle. I can imagine no better contribution to society than to raise a child who is happy and mindful and caring and gentle. The act of becoming a mother has forced me see the world differently. I no longer look for fulfillment from external sources, I don't look to the future for ways to be happy. I am truly and completely happy in this moment. It doesn't matter what tomorrow brings, because in this moment, right now, I have all that I need.

The NRO's Rich Lowry on Barack Obama

Andrew Sullivan named this quote an Yglesias Award Nominee.

Rich Lowry at NRO:

I've been an Obama skeptic, but I have to say at the end of his event in Iowa I attended Saturday night, I got out of my chair in the back and stood up and craned my neck to get a good look at him as he finished his speech. He's an electrifying performer and there was a sense in the room that maybe, just maybe you were witnessing the beginning of something historic. If he wins tonight, get ready for adulatory press coverage of the sort you haven't seen for any political candidate in a long time...

Hmmm . . . seems to me that even some conservatives can see the inspiration nature of the Obama campaign.