Friday, April 06, 2007

Tom Waits and Bono Recite Bukowski

Charles Bukowski is perhaps the most uneven major poet of the last half of the 20th Century. In large part this is due to the fact that he published nearly everything he wrote to maintain some form of income, especially once he had become somewhat famous. The brilliant is often found alongside the trite and mundane. Too bad. This reality has tarnished his reputation. If he could have afforded to be more judicious, say like Jack Gilbert, he would be held in much higher esteem.

Here is a video from YouTube featuring Tom Waits reciting "The Laughing Heart," and Bono reciting "Roll The Dice."

Rowan Atkinson & Hugh Laurie - Shakespeare Sketch

Hugh Laurie rocks.

Via: VideoSift

Einstein and Faith

In the ongoing culture wars between science and faith, Albert Einstein has been claimed by both sides. The science side holds him up as the paragon of the quest for scientific truth, even using him (much to Einstein's regret) as a support for atheist ideals. The faith side point to his statements about God and the universe as proof that scientists can still be people of faith.

One of the frequently cited quotes from the faith side is this: "God does not play dice with the universe." This quote is often taken to mean that Einstein believed in a creator God and a created universe. However, there is little support for this view other than that quote (which was actually meant to suggest that the universe operates on specific, non-random laws, not that there is a personal God who is concerned with human fate).

Time magazine has an exclusive excerpt from Walter Isaacson's new biography of Einstein, Einstein: His Life and Universe. They've chosen to highlight a section that deals with Einstein and his faith.
Einstein did, however, retain from his childhood religious phase a profound faith in, and reverence for, the harmony and beauty of what he called the mind of God as it was expressed in the creation of the universe and its laws. Around the time he turned 50, he began to articulate more clearly--in various essays, interviews and letters--his deepening appreciation of his belief in God, although a rather impersonal version of one. One particular evening in 1929, the year he turned 50, captures Einstein's middle-age deistic faith. He and his wife were at a dinner party in Berlin when a guest expressed a belief in astrology. Einstein ridiculed the notion as pure superstition. Another guest stepped in and similarly disparaged religion. Belief in God, he insisted, was likewise a superstition.

At this point the host tried to silence him by invoking the fact that even Einstein harbored religious beliefs. "It isn't possible!" the skeptical guest said, turning to Einstein to ask if he was, in fact, religious. "Yes, you can call it that," Einstein replied calmly. "Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in fact, religious."

Shortly after his 50th birthday, Einstein also gave a remarkable interview in which he was more revealing than he had ever been about his religious sensibility. It was with George Sylvester Viereck, who had been born in Germany, moved to America as a child and then spent his life writing gaudily erotic poetry, interviewing great men and expressing his complex love for his fatherland. Einstein assumed Viereck was Jewish. In fact, Viereck proudly traced his lineage to the family of the Kaiser, and he would later become a Nazi sympathizer who was jailed in America during World War II for being a German propagandist.

Viereck began by asking Einstein whether he considered himself a German or a Jew. "It's possible to be both," replied Einstein. "Nationalism is an infantile disease, the measles of mankind."

Should Jews try to assimilate? "We Jews have been too eager to sacrifice our idiosyncrasies in order to conform."

To what extent are you influenced by Christianity? "As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene."

You accept the historical existence of Jesus? "Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life."

Do you believe in God? "I'm not an atheist. I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws."

Is this a Jewish concept of God? "I am a determinist. I do not believe in free will. Jews believe in free will. They believe that man shapes his own life. I reject that doctrine. In that respect I am not a Jew."

Is this Spinoza's God? "I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but I admire even more his contribution to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and body as one, and not two separate things."

Do you believe in immortality? "No. And one life is enough for me."

Einstein tried to express these feelings clearly, both for himself and all of those who wanted a simple answer from him about his faith. So in the summer of 1930, amid his sailing and ruminations in Caputh, he composed a credo, "What I Believe," that he recorded for a human-rights group and later published. It concluded with an explanation of what he meant when he called himself religious: "The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man."

Here is one more quote that I think summarizes Einstein's position most clearly, while at the same addressing the current interest in the atheist movements spearheaded by Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.
Einstein was consistent in rejecting the charge that he was an atheist. "There are people who say there is no God," he told a friend. "But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views." And unlike Sigmund Freud or Bertrand Russell or George Bernard Shaw, Einstein never felt the urge to denigrate those who believed in God; instead, he tended to denigrate atheists. "What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos," he explained.

In fact, Einstein tended to be more critical of debunkers, who seemed to lack humility or a sense of awe, than of the faithful. "The fanatical atheists," he wrote in a letter, "are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who--in their grudge against traditional religion as the 'opium of the masses'-- cannot hear the music of the spheres."

The whole article is quite interesting, and I highly recommend it. The book is going on my list of things to read.

I am most drawn to Big Al's statements about awe, what the historian of religion Mircea Eliade has termed (following Rudolf Otto), the mysterium tremendum -- the awe-inspiring mystery.

The atheists claim there is no proof for God, so therefore belief is irrational. Certainly, I do not believe in the God of mainstream religion -- especially not an anthropomorphized deity. And yet I do not agree with Einstein on the absence of free will.

But I do believe in the mysterium tremendum. I feel awed by the vast mystery of a universe that, at present, we can not fully grasp. Is that a belief in God? I don't know. Somehow, I can't buy into the belief that the universe -- and all life -- is the result of random chance and random mutations.

I have no idea what to call it, but there is some kind of hidden intelligence at work that animates the material universe. Does it care about human beings? Not in the slightest. Can it answer prayers? No. But it does, it seems to me, have a purpose.

Whatever it is that lies behind the veil of flesh and stone and light has one discernible purpose -- its own evolution toward awareness.

Funny Office Pranks

I found these photos at Dark Roasted Blend. The styrofoam packing material in the cubicle must have been a nightmare to clean up.

There's more workplace humor at the site.

Shihan - "Love Like" slam poem

Since it's National Poetry Month, here is a "slam" poem that I quite liked -- courtesy of Video Sift.

Via: VideoSift

Speedlinking 4/6/07

Quote of the day:

"Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality."
~ George Santayana

Image of the day:

~ Why Periodization Doesn't Work -- "Unfortunately, your old "what do ya wanna work today?" spur of the moment type training works a whole lot better than anything the Soviet Ministry Of Sport managed to cook up behind the Iron Curtain back in the 50's and 60's. Charles Staley explains why."
~ The Power of Doubles -- "I become a marathoner in my post-collegiate running. Once my mileage reaches over 80 miles/week, I typically start incorporating doubles between 1-3 days/week. Here’s why . . . ."
~ Foundation Pledges 500 Million Dollars To Reverse Obesity In US Chidren -- "The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has pledged 500 million dollars over the next five years to reversing childhood obesity in the United States. 25 million of America's 74 million children are overweight or obese; that is more than one third of the nation's youngsters."
~ Studies: Exercise can make your brain larger -- "With aging, your brain becomes smaller. This study showed that 60 to 79-year-old men who exercised regularly actually had their brains grow larger. Study participants who did only a stretching and toning program had their brains shrink."
~ Reduced Calorie Intake Can Increase Health And Longevity -- "Professor Stephen Spindler (University of California) and his collaborators* have discovered that reducing calorie intake later in life can still induce many of the health and longevity benefits of life-long calorie reduction. Importantly, this also includes anti-cancer effects."
~ Most Americans don't eat smart and exercise: CDC -- "Only one in seven Americans exercises enough and eats enough fruits and vegetables, and men are worse than women, federal health officials said on Thursday."
~ Exercise and frequent eating may keep kids slim -- "Kids who are frequent nibblers may pack on fewer pounds than those less frequent eaters, if they stay physically active, a study shows." Works for adults, too.
~ Another Myth Exploded -- Dieting Does Not Work -- I agree, which is why I advocate a lifelong eating strategy rather than a short-term diet approach.
~ Vitamin pills prevent low-weight babies -- "Extra vitamin supplements can reduce the risk of having an underweight or undersized baby, and all pregnant women in developing countries should get them, researchers said on Wednesday."

~ On PsyBlog Careers: Work, Stress, Burnout and Emotional Dissonance -- "The words 'job' and 'stress' go together like doctors and nurses. So PsyBlog Careers opens its doors for business with a series examining what psychologists can tell us about how they're related and what we can do about it. What is it specifically about work that makes it stressful?"
~ Psychology and Neuroscience [The Frontal Cortex] -- "You have to be a pretty staunch reductionist to believe that neuroscience makes psychology obsolete. After all, according to scientific materialism, neuroscience is ultimately just a subset of quantum mechanics. So should we all become physicists? Of course not. While our different levels of inquiry are obviously interconnected, they are also autonomous. As Dave points out, neuroscience and psychology really study separate phenomenon . . . ."
~ A Brief Sex Survey, Kinsey-style -- Inspired the movie Kinsey, a brief survey for both men and women.
~ Platform-Independent Intelligence: Octopus Consciousness [Developing Intelligence] -- "A new article by Jennifer Mather suggests that octopi may also possess consciousness, despite the vastly different architecture of their brain. If two very different neural architectures can both support forms of advanced cognition, then the similarities between them may help clarify the computational requirements for intelligent behavior."
~ Stress precedes volume reductions in the hippocampus in PTSD -- "There was a debate in the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for some time about whether the shrinkage observed in the hippocampus -- a structure involved in learning and memory -- was the result of the stress or was a vulnerability factor for the disease."
~ Multiple Intelligences and Mindsets: Positive Approaches to Education -- "[Gardner's] Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) resonated with all sorts of people who now saw themselves as having areas of relative intellectual strength rather than being some point on a bell-shaped curve where only a few people could be called 'very superior.' While not necessarily a 'positive psychologist” per se, Gardner is surely a “strengths psychologist.'"
~ Neurophysiologist Explores The Mysteries Of The Human Brain In New Book -- "New book provides a crash course on how the brain works from a leading researcher on the forefront of brain studies - The Evolving Brain The Known and the Unknown by R. Grant Steen.The human brain is arguably the most complex object in the universe."
~ Bacteria Found In The Soil Activated A Group Of Neurons That Produce The Brain Chemical Serotonin -- "Treatment of mice with a 'friendly' bacteria, normally found in the soil, altered their behavior in a way similar to that produced by antidepressant drugs, reports research published in the latest issue of Neuroscience.These findings, identified by researchers at the University of Bristol and colleagues at University College London, aid the understanding of why an imbalance in the immune system leaves some individuals vulnerable to mood disorders like depression."

~ Where are the safest drivers in U.S.? -- Not in Tucson -- "Quick. Where are the safest drivers in the country? A new magazine ranking says Des Moines, Iowa."
~ Wanted in Next President: Honesty, Strong Leadership -- From Gallup -- "In addition to honesty and leadership, Americans attach a good deal of importance to managerial competence. A majority also say it is essential that the next president focuses on uniting the country. Americans assign far less importance to the candidates' experience, including whether they have served in Washington."
~ American Society Creates Unhealthy Population -- "Our destructive lifestyles are ensured and reinforced by the very structure of our society, leading to a "toxic environment" centered on material security at the expense of social and physical well-being."
~ Silence is Propaganda! [Dispatches from the Culture Wars] -- "Daniel T. Zanoza, director of a group called Republicans for Fair Media, has written a breathlessly overwrought column about the upcoming Day of Silence to protest anti-gay discrimination. The absurdity begins from the very first sentence: On April 18th, a number of public schools across the country will hold a so-called "Day of Silence." Bzzzt. False. Public schools do not hold or sponsor the Day of Silence; students in public schools do."
~ GOP Worries Over Dems' Fundraising Prowess -- "What most concerns senior Republican strategists as they assess the latest reports on presidential fundraising is the big collective advantage enjoyed by the Democratic candidates versus the Republicans."
~ $4.5B Cash Offered for Chrysler -- "Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, who lost out in Chrysler's 1998 merger with Daimler-Benz, wants to buy the troubled automaker back from its German owners."
~ Giuliani Defends Pro-Choice Beliefs -- "Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani on Thursday defended his record favoring the use of public money for abortions, saying he wouldn't try to undo a Supreme Court ruling allowing the procedures."
~ What Message Was Iran Sending? -- "The release of the British captives was a victory for Iranian pragmatists over hardliners - and a sign that Western pressure on the regime may be bearing fruit."

~ Dust Bowl 2.0: Is the Southwest Drying Up? -- "New research shows that the current drought plaguing the American West is likely the beginning of a new trend brought on by global warming."
~ Famous Feud Caused by Disease? -- "The infamous Hatfield-McCoy feud may be partly explained by a rare, inherited disease."
~ Good new blog on climate science and communication -- "Climate scientist Michael Tobis has started a blog, not so much about climate science itself as about the challenges of communicating about it and the bizarre notions about it that remain puzzlingly persistent. Off to a good start."
~ Disease can be our ally, not just our enemy, says evolutionary biologist -- "In a time when we worry about bird flu and contaminated spinach, Marlene Zuk, an evolutionary biologist at UC Riverside, offers a fresh perspective on disease and the role it plays in our lives. Her new book, Riddled with Life: Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, and the Parasites that Make Us Who We Are (Harcourt, 2007), argues that disease is not always our foe; it can be a vital partner and friend."
~ Slow Food nation -- "Yale University students, staff, and other community members crowded a university conference room yesterday to watch Erika Lesser, director of Slow Food USA, give a talk on the Slow Food movement in America. Lesser spoke pretty generally about Slow Food USA's goals, philosophy, and achievements."
~ It's Hip to Live Past 100 -- "What's the secret of those who survive into the triple-digits? It might be that they are keen on keeping up the latest trends, including iPods, current events and even MTV, a new survey finds."
~ Mystery of Greek Amphitheater's Amazing Sound Finally Solved -- "The trick is in the seats, and even the ancient architects didn't know what they had accomplished."
~ Biofuels: More than just ethanol -- "Farmers have begun planting corn in the hopes that its potential new use for corn will be a new income source. What many don't realize, is the potential for other crops, besides corn, to provide an alternate energy source to fossil fuels."
~ Odd Body, Great Legs, Running Like the Wind -- "Ostriches look strange from head to toe, but challenging lab work (get out of the way!) reveals these birds have mastered running as no human can."

~ Essential Bohemian Development -- From Victoria -- "About 6 weeks ago, I had a profound epiphany of life changing proportions all beginning with the color red. I was sitting on a red velvet settee in a huge red room with red lanterns and red beaded lampshades, and a multitude of other Victorian bordello turned shabby passionate funky accessories while swaying slightly to the strains of old and new tango music and wondering if I should dance with the guy next to me, who was obviously working up the courage to ask me."
~ The Inferno of the Living -- From Will at Think Buddha -- "A couple of years ago, I read The Unexpected Way by Paul Williams, an account of the author’s conversion from Buddhism to Catholicism. Williams, for those who have not come across him, is one of the UK’s most well-known Buddhist scholars, and his introduction to Mahayana Buddhism is probably the best book on the subject available. In The Unexpected Way, he is writing in a more confessional vein, explaining how it is he came to reject the Buddhism to which he had previously assented, and to embrace Catholicism."
~ The concept of Nirvana from a psychological point of view -- "The word Nirvana comes from the root meaning 'to blow out' and refers to the extinguishing of the fires of greed, hatred and delusion. When these emotional and psychological defilements are destroyed by wisdom, the mind becomes free, radiant and joyful and at death one is no longer subject to rebirth. Nirvana is the ultimate happiness."
~ Buddha Break 2007.04.05 -- Cool links from Sentient Development.
~ Buddhism and Buddhists -- not so non-violent -- Matthew Dallman posts a National Review article on the history of force in Tibetan Buddhism (more Tibet than Buddhist, but still interesting). The article is essentially rejecting the PoMo adoption of the Dalai Lama as a peace symbol. Buddhism rejects the notion of violence under most circumstances, but recognizes the need to protect the dharma and its followers from tyranny. My sense is that the article is attempting to justify the US war on terror by saying, "if Buddhists do it, then it must be OK." Faulty logic since much of the US military efforts abroad have little or nothing to do with al Qaeda.
~ Ten Commandments for a Simpler Way of Life -- Not really Buddhist or integral, but cool.
~ Another steal from Integral Options Cafe - America... -- "Is the nature of the big We that it's always going to be somewhat parasitic? Do you suppose there's always a little bit of unconscious sabotage going on in the way we set up our businesses and nonprofits and governments? After all, the first rule of any organism is survival, be it a single cell, individual person, or group. So I think it's important to consider this deep seated motivation whenever "we" form some sort of organization."

Thursday, April 05, 2007

DAily Dharma: The Ground of Practice

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle features wisdom from Pema Chodron, one of my favorite teachers.

The Ground of Practice

When people start to mediate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, the often think that somehow they're going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It's a bit like saying, "If I jog, I'll be a much better person." "If I could only get a nicer house, I'd be a better person." If I could meditate and calm down, I'd be a better person."... But loving-kindness--maitri--toward ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. Maitri means that we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

~ Pema Chodron, The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness

The lesson in this quote is one of the most profound things I have ever learned in my Buddhist studies. I am a perfectionist, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do everything as perfectly as possible. So naturally, when I began a serious Buddhist practice, I wanted to be perfect -- I wanted to always be kind and compassionate, to always be honest, and so on.

But damn -- I am a flawed human being. I am not perfect. And putting all that pressure on myself was just plain crazy-making. I was trying, without really being aware of it, to discard all the things I didn't like about myself through my practice. But as Chodron points out, that isn't the point of practice, of maitri.

When I read this passage in her very fine book, a little light went on in my head. At about the same time, my therapist was asking me annoying questions, such as, "Isn't it exhausting having to be perfect all the time?" Or, "So, if you reject all the things about yourself you do not like, who will be left?"

She used to really piss me off.

But she was right. We can't just surgically remove our faults or our shadows. We can befriend them however, and learn whatever lessons they might have to teach us. I believe that human beings are inherently good and that most of our negative qualities and behaviors are the result of self-protection on the part of our psyches, wounds we have endured, or faulty teaching from family and peers.

But if we can learn about why we adopted those qualities we so dislike, we can go a long way toward healing the wounds. And it takes an attitude of loving-kindness and acceptance to do this. We have to befriend ourselves and not treat the parts of us we dislike as the enemy.

Surreal & Spectacular Art of Vladimir Kush

I found this at Dark Roasted Blend -- very strange and intriguing art.

Dreamlike Art like you've never seen before

One of the most imaginative and unpredictable artists of our time, Vladimir Kush is following in the steps of Salvador Dali (and perhaps J. G. Ballard), creating glowing, wildly original landscapes. His site offers most recent prints; make sure you visit and support this artist's unique creativity.

art, prints

art, prints

art, prints

art, prints

art, prints

art, prints

There are a lot more images at the Dark Roasted Blend site, or at the artist's page.

Happiness Project: Seven tips for making yourself happier IN THE NEXT HOUR

Gretchen Rubin, for those who don't know, is the blogger behind the Happiness Project. She has been on a mission to find out what makes people happy:
I'm working on a book, THE HAPPINESS PROJECT--a memoir about the year I spent test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study I could find, whether from Aristotle or St. Therese or Martin Seligman or Oprah. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will gather these rules for living and report on what works and what doesn’t. On this daily blog, I recount some of my adventures and insights as I grapple with the challenge of being happier.
Every Wednesday is tip day. Yesterday's tips were seven ways to be happier right now. Seemed like good advice to me.

You can make yourself happier – and this doesn’t have to be a long-term ambition. You can start right now. In the next hour, check off as many of the following items as possible. Each of these accomplishments will lift your mood, as will the mere fact that you’ve tackled and achieved some concrete goals.

1. Boost your energy: stand up and pace while you talk on the phone or, even better, take a brisk ten-minute walk outside. Research shows that when people move faster, their metabolism speeds up, and the activity and sunlight are good for your focus, your mood, and the retention of information. Plus, because of “emotional contagion,” if you act energetic, you’ll help the people around you feel energetic, too.

2. Reach out to friends: make a lunch date or send an email to a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Having warm, close bonds with other people is one of the keys to happiness, so take the time to stay in touch. Somewhat surprisingly, it turns out that socializing boosts the moods not only of extroverts, but also of introverts.

3. Rid yourself of a nagging task: answer a difficult email, purchase something you need, or call to make that dentist’s appointment. Crossing an irksome chore off your to-do list will give you a big rush of energy and cheer, and you’ll be surprised that you procrastinated for so long.

4. Create a calmer environment: clear some physical and mental space around your desk by sorting papers, pitching junk, stowing supplies, sending out quick responses, filing, or even just making your piles neater. A large stack of little tasks can feel overwhelming, but often just a few minutes of work can make a sizeable dent. Try to get in the habit of using the “one minute rule”—i.e., never postpone any task that can be completed in less than one minute. An uncluttered environment will contribute to a more serene mood.

5. Lay the groundwork for some future fun: order a book you’ve been wanting to read (not something you think you should read) or plan a weekend excursion to a museum, hiking trail, sporting event, gardening store, movie theater—whatever sounds like fun. Studies show that having fun on a regular basis is a pillar of happiness, and anticipation is an important part of that pleasure. Try to involve friends or family, as well; people enjoy almost all activities more when they’re with other people than when they’re alone.

6. Do a good deed: make an email introduction of two people who could help each other, or set up a blind date, or shoot someone a piece of useful information or gratifying praise. Do good, feel good—this really works. Also, although we often believe that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act. When you act in a friendly way, you’ll strengthen your feelings of friendliness for other people.

7. Act happy: put a smile on your face right now, and keep smiling. Research shows that even an artificially induced smile has a positive influence on your emotions—turns out that just going through the motion of happiness brightens your mood. And if you’re smiling, other people will perceive you as being friendlier and more approachable.

Some people worry that wanting to be happier is a selfish goal. To the contrary. Studies show that happier people are more sociable, likeable, healthy, and productive—and they’re more inclined to help other people. So in working to boost your own happiness, you’re benefiting others as well.

Feel happier yet?

Americans are NOT stupid - WITH SUBTITLES

Funny . . . and embarrassing.

Speedlinking 4/5/07

Quote of the day:

"Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity."
~ Christopher Morley

Image of the day:

~ My Fat-Loss Interview For CB Athletics -- Charles Staley interviewed by Craig Ballantyne.
~ PSA May Be Poor Predictor of Lethal Prostate Cancer (HealthDay) -- "The standard prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is not helpful in predicting lethal prostate cancers in men who are not treated but are placed under "watchful waiting" by their doctors, Swedish researchers say."
~ Get your belly beach ready -- "Admit it. Feeling self-conscious about the size of your stomach, you've been tempted to look into one of the countless products out there touting washboard abs in 30 seconds or less. But instead of buying into a quick fix this year, why not follow some of the experts' advice for kicking that spare tire for good?"
~ Combined treatment ups breast cancer survival -- "Adding chemotherapy to the estrogen-blocking drug tamoxifen improves the survival of early breast cancer, according to the results of two studies."
~ Activity level correlates with body size in boys -- "Boys spend nearly twice as much time in vigorous-to-hard physical activity compared with girls, Irish researchers report. And while normal-size boys were more active than overweight or obese boys, no association between activity levels and body size was seen in girls."
~ Arthritis Pain, The Brain And The Role Of Emotions -- "How does the brain process the experience of pain? Thanks to advances in neuroimaging, we now know the answer lies in a network of brain structures called the pain matrix. This matrix contains two parallel systems."
~ 3 WAYS TO REV UP WEIGHT LOSS -- "Do you already exercise and watch what you eat, but seem to be stuck in a weight-loss rut? You’re not alone! Plenty of people hit a plateau before reaching their goals. To boost your odds of slim-down success, try these fitness strategies."

~ Fiber - Why is it so Important to A Healthy Diet? -- "What is fiber? Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods. They are usually the walls of the plant cells, skins and seeds."
~ Can green tea save your soul? -- "It turns out that there is indeed an essence that ensures health, spiritual harmony, and moral merit. It is called green tea."

~ Kids With Asperger's Syndrome: 'Bullied on a Daily Basis' -- "High-Functioning Form of Autism Causes Social Awkwardness and Angst."
~ Are humans hard-wired to believe in a higher power? -- "Accounts of intense religious and spiritual experiences are topics of fascination for people around the world. Most people would agree the experience of faith is immeasurable. Dr. Andrew Newberg, neuroscientist and author of "Why We Believe What We Believe," wants to change all that. He's working on ways to track how the human brain processes religion and spirituality. It's all part of new field called neurotheology."
~ New Study Looks At Peer Pressure And Implications For Preventing Adolescent Substance Abuse -- "Why do young people smoke cigarettes or use alcohol or drugs? What skills do they need to avoid starting these habits? A new study by researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College shows that competence skills can reduce adolescent substance use over the long term, even when friends smoke or use alcohol."
~ Emotional Responses That Helped Our Ancestors May Promote Xenophobia, Sexual Prejudices And A Range Of Other Irrational Reactions -- "Behind every wave of disgust that comes your way may be a biological imperative much greater than the urge to lose your lunch, according to a growing body of research by a UCLA anthropologist." Hmmm. . . sounds familiar.
~ Startle reflex following subliminal images of fear and sex -- "What happens if you are presented with subliminal stimuli that are normally associated with fear or sexual arousal? In a study published in Biological Psychiatry two Spanish researchers now document that both negative positive biologically relevant stimuli can be nonconsciously processed."
~ Event perceptions -- "So how do we really experience the world around us, and events as they occur? As discrete units of experiences or as one flow of experience."
~ New Yorker on child bipolar controversy -- "April 9th's New Yorker has a cracking article on the current controversy on whether it's possible (or even valid) to diagnose bipolar disorder in children."
~ Power is Corrupting [The Frontal Cortex] -- "Does power corrupt? And is absolute power absolutely corrupting? Here's some suggestive evidence . . . ."
~ Getting Serious About Happiness -- "An expert on well-being establishes the world's first Ph.D program that focuses on positive psychology."

~ Tom DeLay rises again -- "Few are buying what Tom DeLay is selling."
~ Gitmo Justice -- "David Hicks pleads guilty and goes free, while the Supreme Court denies 400 other terror suspects their day in court. Aziz Huq asks: This is justice?"
~ Obama Raises $25M, Rivaling Clinton -- "Democrat Barack Obama raked in $25 million for his presidential bid in the first three months of 2007, placing him on a par with front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton."
~ Iran: Do Sailor Releases Signal a Nuke Thaw? -- "As the British captives come home, Iran's negotiator signals that he may be willing to talk about his country's enrichment program."
~ Humor: Scientists Study Politicians' Memory Loss -- "Scientists say near-amnesia is reaching epidemic proportions among U.S. politicians." Satire by Andy Borowitz.
~ Raising Pagans -- "When Daddy is Catholic and Mommy is a Witch, what's a couple to teach their children?"
~ Burning question answered: Bones aren't Joan's -- "What had been claimed to be the charred remains of 15th-century heroine Joan of Arc turn out to be just tres faux. They're bones from an Egyptian mummy and a cat, the science journal Nature reports . . . ."
~ Faith, science: An 'evolving' relationship -- "Religion and science have clashed forever, but in America, the biggest showdown came in 1925, when evolution and creationism did battle in the Scopes Monkey Trial, and evolution won. Now, nearly a hundred years later, the scientific community is convinced human beings evolved from a common ancestor over millions of years. But guess what? The rest of the public isn't on board. In fact, polls show nearly half of us believe we were created by God, just as we are."

~ Income and food cost concerns affect diet: study -- "Income and education level, and the perceived price of certain foods, impact what Americans eat and the overall diet of the US adult population, according to survey data from a nationally representative group of more than 4300 Americans 20 to 65 years old."
~ Drugs in Your Drinking Water May Be Affecting Your Health -- "Finally, the news media is getting around to looking at one of the little-discussed problems with the drug-addicted health care paradigm plaguing America: How residues of drugs and personal care products are finding their way into the nation's water supplies, ending up as just one more environmental toxin."
~ How to Start a Business ... When You're 22 -- "Many people would rather be their own boss than a wage slave. Fresh grads in particular might find it tempting to take the entrepreneurial plunge, rather than start at the bottom of a steep corporate ladder."
~ The iPhone wannabes -- "Whatever you think about Steve Jobs, you must admit the guy knows how to steal a show. Of the hundreds of gadgets on display at last week's CTIA Wireless trade show—the year's big cell-phone confab—the only one with real buzz was Apple's iPhone, a product that won't be available for months."
~ Mining Companies Strip Land from Indigenous Peoples -- "Indigenous people are being forced off their lands as multinational mining corporations exploit South America's natural resources."
~ Greek Archaeologists Unearth Rich Tomb -- "Archaeologists on a Greek island have discovered a large Roman-era tomb containing gold jewelry, pottery and bronze offerings, officials said Wednesday. The building, near the village of Fiscardo on Kefalonia, contained five burials including a large vaulted grave and a stone coffin, a Culture Ministry announcement said."
~ Fascinating Spider Silk -- "Stronger than steel and more elastic than rubber: spider silk is unsurpassed in its expandability, resistance to tearing, and toughness. Spider silk would be an ideal material for a large variety of medical and technical applications, and researchers are thus interested in learning the spiders' secrets and imitating their technique."

~ The human self not trusting it can function well without being identified with -- "When the Ground of emptiness awakens to itself, it can be very odd for our human self. It is used to being identified with, and no it is suddenly not identified with anymore."
~ Why haven’t we awakened yet? -- "It seems that lots of folks on the spiritual circuit wonder why they haven’t awakened yet. There is a resistance to what is (which happens to be what holds it, the appearance of non-awakening, in place.) So why haven’t we awakened yet
~ Progressivism is the unquestioned assumption in today's America from Matthew at the Daily Goose.
~ Philosophy: Dali (a lama?) -- Cool post from American Buddhist.
~ Sex, God, and Terrorism -- "Here is a wonderful essay written by Toby Mitchell for The Michigan Daily, focusing on the massive divide that exists between traditional religion and modernity, in which he references some of Ken's ideas from Integral Spirituality. Enjoy!"
~ Bowing -- From ordinary extraordinary.
~ And Now, Something Really Different: Parallel Universes -- From Gary at Integral Seattle.
~ Performative contradiction? from Ed Berge at Open Integral.
~ Blog roundup reflections. Rommel (aka C4Chaos) is... from Jean at the Human Bean -- and congrats to ~C4Chaos!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Killer Blues Jam

Excellent sound for a YouTube post, via Video Sift:
Sonny Landreth and Cindy Cashdollar performing Hard Time Killing Floor Blues at the 2006 New York Guitar Festival's tribute to Skip James at Merkin Concert Hall.

Via: VideoSift

National Poetry Month

For those who haven't noticed, April is National Poetry Month. The Academy of American Poets is sending a poem a day to your email box if you sign up.

This was yesterday's poem:

Mottled Tuesday
by John Ashbery

Something was about to go laughably wrong,
whether directly at home or here,
on this random shoal pleading with its eyes
till it too breaks loose, caught in a hail of references.
I’ll add one more scoop
to the pile of retail.

Hey, you’re doing it, like I didn’t tell you
to, my sinking laundry boat, point of departure,
my white pomegranate, my swizzle stick.
We’re leaving again of our own volition
for bogus patterned plains streaked by canals,
maybe. Amorous ghosts will pursue us
for a time, but sometimes they get, you know, confused and
forget to stop when we do, as they continue to populate this
fertile land with their own bizarre self-imaginings.
Here’s hoping the referral goes tidily, O brother.
Chime authoritatively with the pop-ups and extras.
Keep your units pliable and folded,
the recourse a mere specter, like you have it coming to you,
awash with the new day and its abominable antithesis,
OK? Don’t be able to make that distinction.

Satire: Christ Getting In Shape For Second Coming

From The Onion.

[DISCLAIMER: This is satire. It is meant to be funny. If you are a fundamentalist Christian who somehow found this site, please resist the urge to send me an email attempting to convert me to your faith. I am already aware that you think I will burn in hell. I'm cool with that. I'm pretty sure you're going to be a pregnant teenage girl in your next life, or be born gay in Utah.]

Christ Getting In Shape For Second Coming

April 4, 2007 | Issue 43•14

HEAVEN—Emerging from a grueling 90 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and light lifting for tone, Son of God Jesus Christ said Monday that He is "definitely on track" to achieve peak fitness condition for the Second Coming.
Enlarge Image Christ Getting

The Son of God spends each morning trying to attain perfect abdominal definition.

"If every eye is going to see Me, and all the tribes of earth are going to wail on account of Me, I think I owe it to them and to Myself to be in the best shape of My life," Christ said. "Right now I'm up to 35 minutes at seven [miles per hour] on the treadmill and benching about 165 [pounds]."

"I'm really starting to feel like I'll have the strength and endurance to move every mountain and island from its place," Christ added.

Since His birthday last Dec. 25, Christ has committed Himself to a demanding daily regimen of exercise and prophecy fulfillment. Each of His workouts, Christ said, starts with an hour of cardio, after which He focuses on two muscle groups, replacing conventional free weights with the Rod of Iron with which He intends to rule all nations.

On Mondays, Christ works His chest and biceps and completes three sets of 10 transfigurations. On Tuesdays, He switches to triceps and abdominals, and passes as many sets of Last Judgments as He can in a minute. Wednesdays are devoted to the back and legs, and Thursdays and Fridays are for core and flexibility.

Even Sabbaths are spent doing yoga, swimming, and basic strength-training isometrics such as push-ups, leg lifts, and chin-ups.

"There can be no day of rest," said Christ, His eyes filled with flaming fire. "Rest is for mortals."

The determined Savior has also forsworn His favorite high-calorie, high-carb foods such as fatted calf, loaves, and even His own body and blood, instead embracing muscle-building high-protein shakes and electrolyte-replacing sports drinks. And when temptation calls, Christ need only look at two pictures taped to His refrigerator: an icon of Himself prior to starting His regimen and a reproduction of Michelangelo's "Last Judgment" fresco torn from a magazine.

Enlarge Image Body of Christ

"The thought of being unable to seize the seven-headed serpent and hurl it into the abyss really keeps Me motivated," Christ said.

The Lamb of God said He made the decision to get in shape late last year when, after two millennia of relative inactivity, He realized that at His age there was "no way" He could return to Earth, judge the souls of the innocent and wicked alike, and reign over the Kingdom of God for 1,000 years without prior conditioning.

"The Second Coming isn't just Me sitting on a great white throne and judging away," Christ said. "I also have to make all of the stars fall and shake all the powers in Heaven. That's why I've been working a lot with the medicine ball."

Christ, however, admitted that centuries of heavenly grace had enabled Him to "really let [Himself] go."

"I can't lead the armies of Heaven looking like some flabby slob," said Christ, who declined to disclose His "before" weight. "That guy can't be the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The faithful want a Messiah they can truly fear, not someone who's afraid to take off His shirt in public."

At first, Christ said He thought such a physical transformation would "take a miracle." During the first couple weeks of His exercise program, He couldn't work out on the treadmill for more than 10 minutes without gasping for breath and aggravating the old spear-point injury in His side. Now that He can deftly complete 20 ab-bench push-ups on the highest incline and almost as many chin-ups, Christ said, He feels more energetic than He has since His early 30s.

And not only has frequent exercise made Christ feel more healthy and confident, it's "cleared [His] head, which will really help [Him] deal with the massive amount of smiting and condemning."

Encouraged by His progress, particularly the increased definition in His pectoral and abdominal muscles, Christ is focusing all of His attention on visualizing the success of His Second Coming.

"Right now, it's all about Aug. 2," the goal-oriented Savior said. "And no matter how I look, there's no going back on this one like I did seven years ago."

The Original Chocolate Jesus

Before a bunch of wackos went more wacko over a life-size, anatomically correct chocolate Jesus -- making an obscure artist somewhat famous and guaranteeing that he'll make some money off this thing -- Tom Waits sang about the original chocolate Jesus. Mmmmm . . . chocolate.

Tom Waits is the epitome of cool.

Via: VideoSift

Wile E. Coyote FINALLY Catches the Roadrunner

I had never seen this one before. I always hated the roadrunner, just like I always hated Tweety Bird. But it was much easier to cheer for Coyote than it was for Sylvester. It's entirely possible that my interest in Coyote as a mythic figure is a result of watching Saturday morning cartoons as a kid.

Via: VideoSift

Funniest Dave Chappelle Skit Ever [NSFW]

The funniest Dave Chappelle skit I've ever seen is the one where he is a black, blind white supremacist. It may be one of the best comedy skits of all time.

Via: VideoSift