Saturday, August 04, 2007

Gratitude 8/4/07

Some things I am grateful for today:

1) First dates can also be last dates. I'm beginning to think I just should renounce my worldly life and move into cave someplace.

2) I had a good day. I did some reading and enjoyed a cloudy, moody day.

3) And coffee, I'm grateful for good coffee on a cloudy day.

What are you grateful for today?

Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
~ Santayana

This well-known quote applies as much to individuals as it does to nations. In fact, it can be seen as the foundational maxim of psychotherapy. I hope to provide here some context for this stance.

In recent decades, psychology has entered what Elio Frattaroli (Healing the Soul in the Age of the Brain) calls the "Age of the Brain." He contends, and rightfully so, that psychology has become too focused on treating the brain with chemicals, rather than doing the intensive and sometimes arduous work of healing the deeper issues. If someone is depressed, why spend months in therapy when you can "fix" it with Prozac?

Certainly, neuropsychopharmacology has its place as an important part of dealing with mental illness and neuroses, but it should never be the only solution. The problems that plague our lives are issues of the soul much more often than they are issues of brain chemistry alone. There is growing evidence that neurochemical patterns in the brain are shaped by experience as much or more than they are triggered by genetic factors (especially in depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder).

When I use the culturally-loaded term "soul" (also known as the Self in Jungian psychology, the Atman in Hinduism, the Buddha Nature, or the Witness, among other terms), I mean that element of the psyche that experiences our lives and needs to make sense of things in ways defy rational understanding. It seeks communion, experience, interconnectedness, and inclusion; and it prefers darkness, fertility, and the freedom to be without doing. It is not rational, nor does it care much about cognitive understanding.

When soul is neglected, it doesn't just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning. Our temptation is to isolate these symptoms or to try to eradicate them one by one; but the root problem is that we have lost our wisdom about the soul, even our interest in it. We have today few specialists of the soul to advise us when we succumb to moods and emotional pain....

~ Thomas Moore, Introduction to Care of the Soul

I've not been a big fan of Freud over the years, but I am beginning to see more and more that his early insights into the working of the mind were crucial to the development of psychology. He was maybe the first to understand the position Moore takes in the above quote. In "Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through," Freud outlined the essential way that soul works to make us more conscious through neurosis. Frattaroli can paraphrase it better than I can:

Freud describes neurosis as the compulsive repetition in action of a personal past that cannot be consciously recollected. This reenactment of the past is a reliving not of childhood events as they actually occurred but rather of emotionally patterned interactions learned in childhood, motivated "scenarios" that tell a story based both on actual events and on attitudes, emotions, and fantasies that were developed around those events (35).

Importantly, even when we can recollect those events themselves, we generally have little or no access to the emotional content and how we learned to relate to the world based on those events. We repeat the scenarios of the past rather than actually remember them -- a kind of repression. But the soul wants us to remember, to become more whole, so as Moore suggests, the behavior patterns will keep occurring until we stop to look at them, usually when they have driven us to therapy.

When we are experiencing depression, anxiety, or some other psychological dis-ease, we generally feel isolated, disconnected, and numb. A psychology of the soul contends that this is not our natural state. Soul works to alleviate this state of aloneness in the only it can -- it tries to force to look at why we feel this way.

The Subpersonality View of Neurosis

One of the ways the mind keeps these feelings repressed is through the creation of "managers" (see this post for a more thorough definition), whose job it is to keep us from re-experiencing those feelings and are triggered whenever we get into a similar situation. As subpersonalities, these managers enact the repetitive behaviors that were learned as children to avoid the pain of the past trauma, which as adults are generally dysfunctional behaviors.

But whenever there is a manger, there is a corresponding disowned self, or exile. While the manager tries to keep us safe from old wounds, the exiles, because they have been relegated to shadow, project the "feeling tone" of the event onto other people or situations. Thus, a child who was abused by her father will often end up choosing abusive men in relationships. The dynamic of the exile's relationship to the abusing parent is projected onto the men she meets, and because this is all shadow material, she unconsciously chooses men who will allow her to reenact the abusive situation.

My sense is that the soul is partly involved in this process. By allowing the projection, and maybe even initiating the projection, the soul colludes with the disowned self/exile to attempt to create a situation in which the old wound may finally be healed. Modern psychoanalysis has moved toward to idea that we reenact not those events that we cannot remember, but those events that we cannot feel.

The problem, as Frattaroli sees it (and I agree), is that modern psychology will be presented with someone who is depressed, maybe or maybe not knowing why. And rather than do the "archeology of the soul" that is needed to heal the original wound, the doctor will prescribe an antidepressant and send the person off to feel better. But nothing has been healed. The situation causing the depression, which may be known intellectually but not emotionally, will keep happening. Insight into the source of our pain is important, but we are not dealing with the realm of cognition, we are in the realm of the soul, or psyche.

When we can identify the subpersonalities at work, rather than medicating them away, we can begin to get to the root of the issue. This takes serious work in the therapy room, which costs money, and is why managed care advocates drugs and cognitive-behavior approaches (of brief therapy). These approaches have their place, but only in specific situations.

For more serious issues, where past trauma is most certainly part of the problem, deeper therapy is crucial. If we cannot remember and re-experience the emotional states that have been repressed, we will continue to repeat the same situations throughout our lives.

Steven Pinker - Evolutionary Psychology

Excellent interview by Robert Wright with Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.

Obsessed & Scientific - Time Travel Documentary

Yeah, this is geek stuff, but I'm a geek. Here is the promo for this documentary:

Is time travel possible? In this fascinating short documentary, director Jay Cheel explores the real-life theories behind the science of time travel and the strange subculture of enthusiasts who are obsessed with it. Meet Michio Kaku, world-renowned theoretical physicist and author of the book Hyperspace. Meet Rob Niosi, a hobbyist building his own full-scale home replica of H.G. Wells' time machine. Meet Larry Haber, the entertainment lawyer representing the family of John Titor, an alleged time traveler from the year 2036. Do these people know something about the world that the rest of us don't? Obsessed & Scientific is a quirky look at the intersection of science-fact and science-fiction.

Via: VideoSift

Top 10 Ways to Make Life Hard

This is supposed to be a satirical look at how to make your life harder, but these are all valid points. Many of us engage in this kind of thinking on a regular basis without being aware of it.

The Easy Life or the Hard Knock Life?

We notice that some people have an easy life, while others experience life struggles. Why do some have a hard knock life, while for others life is easy? In the very unlikely event that your life is easier than you'd prefer, consider this list of the top ten ways to make life even more difficult.

#10. Look to other people and outside circumstances for your happiness. If your current relationship isn't bringing you the joy and fulfillment you initially envisioned, jettison it and go looking for that one special, magical person who is sure to make you supremely happy. While you're looking, be sure to shop, shop, shop. The stuff you purchase will help you feel good, at least until the credit card bills arrive. But that's another story.

#9. Live for tomorrow. When you retire you'll be able to do everything you've always wanted to do and you're sure to be very happy. Today is certain to be filled with drudgery, so just do what you have to do to get through the day.

#8. Remind yourself every day that the things you need to be happy are in short supply. Love, money, food, and all the other happiness-producing necessities of life are scarce. You'll have to be very competitive and aggressive to get your share. Be ready to fight for everything you want and resist urges to share.

#7. Be especially careful and restrained with your love. Only give love when you get something in return, preferably get more than you give. Be certain your needs are met before, or shortly after, giving loving words or actions to another person. Be clear with other people that you only love them when your conditions are met.

#6. Have very specific, well defined expectations for your life. With all your might, resist anything that appears in your life that is not what you expected. Someone is surely out to get you, as evidenced by the unexpected and unwanted stuff in your life.

#5. You are right. You know how to live the right way. You know what is good, what is bad, what is right, and what is wrong. Everyone with another viewpoint is wrong and it is up to you to make sure they know it.

#4. You are all alone in this experience called life. It is up to you to survive and thrive. No one else cares about you. Ignore all the "woo-woo" talk about God and our connections to each other.

#3. Spend, spend, spend. It may not be easy, but always spend more than you earn. That's what credit cards are for.

#2. Resist all temptation to meditate, reflect, and gain greater self awareness. That "new age" stuff could cancel out the benefits of #3 through #10.

#1. And most importantly, remember that life is supposed to be difficult. If you don't believe life is supposed to be tough, none of the previous 9 tips will be effective. Make sure you affirm the difficulty of life regularly, at least twice a day. If you don't, you might find that life becomes a bit easier and all the work you've put in will be for naught.

Alice In Chains - MTV Unplugged

The complete unplugged concert. I saw Alice In Chains a few times and it's sad that Layne Staley overdosed, ending a very talented life. Even in this show, it's clear that Staley isn't well. Still, Alice In Chains was at its best when they went acoustic as they did on two of their albums.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Gratitude 8/3/07

Some things I am grateful for today:

1) I watched Breaking and Entering tonight. It stars two of my favorite actresses, Robin Wright Penn and Juliette Binoche, as well as Jude Law. I've had a crush on Juliette Binoche for the better part of 20 years, and she is still amazingly beautiful.

Brief synopses of the film:

Minghella's 'Breaking and Entering' is an excellent modern tale set in London that revolves around the relationships of (1) a "green" company director, (2) his longtime Swedish girlfriend and (3) a Bosnian immigrant. Admittedly I am not a big fan of Jude Law (what self respecting individual is!?) but he plays his part so efficiently it was a masterstroke casting him in the lead role. His character is trite seemingly disinterested and frequently irritating but wholly believable and realistic. He may come across as a London male stereotype but as said Law is so convincing it does not matter it just adds to the realism. Wright Penn is fantastic as his troubled Swedish girlfriend. She has to look after her 10 year old daughter suffering from ADD while struggling to feel appreciated and loved by the vacuous Law. Wright Penn fits the bill ably. Her character may be not perfect, her role at the end of the film is somewhat lacking in self respect and is slightly humiliating and desperate following a very selfless action she takes in helping out someone else, but again the films strength is its realism not its heroics. But the star of the film is the magnificent Binoche. Her performance is easily the best female performance I've seen in a film... ever!

2) I am also grateful for a good week of workouts -- got in four solid days this week (M/T/Th/F). Feels good to be back on track.

3) And I am grateful for The Gift of Therapy by Irv Yalom. It's a sort of Letters to a Young Poet for therapists. My friend Susan loaned it to me and it's a great read.

What are you grateful for today?

Goo Goo Dolls - Iris

A good Friday afternoon song - enjoy!

Via: VideoSift

Speedlinking 8/3/07

Quote of the day:

"The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear."
~ Herbert Agar

Image of the day:

~ Exercise of the Week: Incline Bench DB Rows -- "The Bent-Over Barbell Row is a great exercise, but hardly anybody does it correctly. Most people look like they're having relations with a small farm animal when they do BB rows. Hence the Incline Bench Dumbbell Row."
~ The Weight Loss Cure They Don’t Want You to Know About -- "Conspiracy theories don’t sit well with me. I’m already paranoid. I don’t want more paranoia swimming around in my head. So when Kevin Trudeau released The Weight Loss Cure They Don’t Want You to Know About, he already had one strike against him in my book." Anything with Kevin Trudeau's name on it is PURE CRAP!
~ World's Largest Diet-Cancer Study Confirms Current Advice On Alcohol -- "Experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) welcomed the latest results from the world's largest study on diet and cancer. The new results, published online at the International Journal of Cancer, link alcohol consumption to an increased risk of colon cancer. According to the study, those participants who reported consuming three or more alcoholic drinks per day had a 26 percent higher lifetime risk of colon cancers than non-drinkers."
~ Fat-burning defect in liver may cause obesity -- "Rats with a genetic predisposition to burn fat more slowly tend to put on weight more readily than rodents bred to resist becoming obese, a new study shows."
~ No proof probiotics aid athletic performance -- "Foods containing probiotics, live microbial ingredients that can provide health benefits, may be healthy, but athletes shouldn't count on them to boost their performance, a research review suggests. However, probiotics provide some indirect benefits."
~ Snack strategies: Eating between meals can work -- "When you snack, you can fill in nutritional gaps, boost your intake of fruits and vegetables, keep your mood on an even keel, and help with appetite and weight control."

~ 10 Unsolved Mysteries of the Brain -- "The human brain—that three-pound mass of gray and white matter between your ears—is the most complex object in the universe."
~ Strategies to Slow Mental Decline -- "Although adults joke about memory lapses and “early Alzheimer’s”, the concern that we are losing our mental faculties becomes very real as we reach middle age and beyond."
~ Is American Culture is Bad For Mental Health? [The Corpus Callosum] -- " happened to run across a couple of articles pertaining to cultural influences on mental health. Neither presented modern first-world culture in a positive light."
~ How Men Grieve -- "Male grief is often conveyed differently."
~ Why Everyone Should “Pay It Forward” -- "Catherine Ryan Hyde suggests that the one thing that can be used to change the world is what every one of us has the capacity to experience: Gratitude. In order to truly benefit from the power of gratitude, though, we need to learn to abandon the traditional act of paying people back, and adopt the act of 'paying people forward.'" But DON"T see the movie of the book.
~ A study relates neural damage provoked by ecstasy with ambient temperature at which it is consumed -- "There exists a direct relationship between the consumption of MDMA, or Ecstasy, at a high ambient temperature and an increase in the neural damage which this drug provokes. This was the conclusion of the research carried out by Beatriz Goñi at the School of Pharmacy of the University of Navarra." Or you could just take a high dose of alpha lipoic acid prior to dropping and suffer zero neuronal damage, but you didn't read that here.

~ Da Vinci's Last Supper: New conspiracy theory -- "New claims that Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper contains a hidden image of a woman holding a child are provoking a storm of interest on the internet."
~ Drinks men should just not order. What do you think? -- "There seem to be certain drinks that as a guy you should just not order at a bar - because if you do... no woman will ever sleep with you again (well unless she likes girly men *with Arnooolldd accent*). I found a link via fark with a list of all those forbidden drinks. Check them out and let us know if they are missing any or some of them are just bogus."
~ Religion puts some docs in quandary -- "More U.S. doctors are refusing to treat patients for religious reasons, causing a collision between religious freedom and discrimination laws."
~ The Notion: Now That's a Patriot Act -- "Progressives in Congress have introduced a measure that rewards corporations that don't screw their employees and move jobs offshore."
~ NEWSWEEK Poll: Will it Be Clinton vs. Giuliani? -- "The latest NEWSWEEK Poll finds that Hillary Clinton has widened her lead while Rudy Giuliani holds on to his advantage. Meanwhile, President Bush’s approval ratings remain in the basement." Head-to-head, I think Rudy wins, even though HC leads in mock polls.
~ E-Voting in California -- "California today decides whether to ban electronic voting machines that have been proven to be hackable, John Nichols reports." Until the machines are hack proof and provide a paper trail, they should be illegal.
~ Michael Vick dogfighting case opens racial divide -- "The difference between those sporting Michael Vick jerseys and those urging his swift conviction on dogfighting charges is glaring: Vick's supporters are mostly black; his critics are mostly white."

~ Loss of Habitat Threatens Indian Tiger -- "A bill to restore land rights to millions of poor tribal people in India could mean the end for India's endangered wild tigers, eliminating much of their protected habitat, conservationists warned Friday."
~ Aztec Leader's Tomb Found -- "Mexican archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar have detected underground chambers they believe contain the remains of Emperor Ahuizotl, who ruled the Aztecs when Columbus landed in the New World. It would be the first tomb of an Aztec ruler ever found."
~ Stability and Diversity in Ecosystems -- "Is biodiversity important for predicting human impacts on ecosystems? If diverse ecosystems were as a consequence more stable, the answer would be yes."
~ Hungary uncovers 8 million-year-old trees -- "Hungary will spare no expense to preserve 16 cypress trees, estimated to be 8 million-years-old, recently uncovered in a northern lignite mine."
~ Pollution causes 40 percent of deaths worldwide, study finds -- "About 40 percent of deaths worldwide are caused by water, air and soil pollution, concludes a Cornell researcher. Such environmental degradation, coupled with the growth in world population, are major causes behind the rapid increase in human diseases, which the World Health Organization has recently reported. Both factors contribute to the malnourishment and disease susceptibility of 3.7 billion people, he says."
~ Crystals on meteorite hold a key to understanding building blocks of planets -- "A University of Toronto-led study has uncovered tiny zircon crystals in a meteorite originating from Vesta (a large asteroid between Mars and Jupiter), shedding light on the formation of planetesimals, small astronomical objects that form the basis of planets."
~ Legendary Burning Man festival gets an eco-conscience -- "Every summer, tens of thousands of revelers gather in the desert of Nevada to make art, music, and one heck of a mess. Despite efforts to curb the impact of Burning Man over the years, the event has not exactly learned how to lessen its big, burning footprint."

~ Wilberian -- "Have you noticed that Integral thinkers who choose a label for themselves call themselves Integral? And it's usually the loudest, shrillest, most incessently repetitive critics who use the label Wilberian ..."
~ Perfume: The Story of a Murderer -- "Holy crap. This film is amazing." A video post.
~ Young Researchers: The Need of Our Times -- "Gone are the days when erudite Buddhist scholars( both from Buddhist clergy and the laity) spent long hours doing research into The Buddha Dhamma and imparting their scholarship for others with lesser experience, to study and understand the deep philosophy of The Buddha Word."
~ Gratitude Friday :: Simplicity, Shouts, and Sound -- "Every Friday is Gratitude Friday here at Monk at Work — a chance for me to express my gratitude to sources of richness I’m experiencing, with the intention of sharing the wealth."
~ Craig is Launched -- "Please check out our new site: Feedback and reviews would be greatly appreciated."
~ What is orthodoxy? What is orthopraxis? -- "In my conception, orthodoxy and orthopraxis are both minor scales (specifically, lines of development) in a four scale/three axis model of Integral Spirituality. The three axes of this model are Subjective/Objective (x), Individual/Collective (y), and Transformative/Translative (z). Together with altitude, these three axes compose the four scales of the AQAL-based model."

Daily Om: Space In Togetherness

This was yesterday's Daily Om, a good reminder about maintaining a separate self-sense in relationships. Merging behavior is common and even desirable on occasion, but in the long term, without autonomy for each individual, it will destroy any relationship.

Space In Togetherness
Healthy Barriers

As relationships evolve, lives gradually become entwined. We tend to have a great deal in common with the people who attract us, and our regard for them compels us to trust their judgment. While our lives may seem to run together so smoothly that the line dividing them cannot be seen, we remain separate beings. To disregard these barriers is to sacrifice independence. It is our respect for the fact that our lives exist independently of the lives of others that allows us to set emotional and physical boundaries, to explore our interests and capabilities even when people close to us do not understand our partialities, and to agree to disagree. Maintaining healthy barriers is a matter of recognizing the point at which our principles and those of our loved ones and peers no longer overlap.

Human beings must relentlessly fight the temptation to follow the crowd. Naturally, we want to be liked, accepted, and admired, and it often seems that the easiest way to win approval is to ally ourselves with others. When we assume that our standards are the same as those of the people close to us without first examining our own intentions, we do ourselves a disservice. The barriers that exist between us are a reminder that our paths in life will be unique, and we must each accept that "I" and "we" can coexist peacefully. Our reactions, our likes and dislikes, our loves, our goals, and our dreams may or may not align with those of others, but we should neither ask others to embrace what we hold dear nor feel compelled to embrace what they hold dear.

As you learn to define yourself as an emotionally and intellectually distinct individual, you will grow to appreciate your autonomy. However much you enjoy the associations that bind you to others and provide you with a sense of identity, your concept of self will ultimately originate in your own soul. The healthy barriers that tell you where you end and the people around you begin will give you the freedom to pursue your development apart from those whose approval you might otherwise be tempted to seek out. Others will continue to play a role in your existence, but their values will not direct its course, and the relationships you share will remain marvelously balanced and harmonious as a result.

Daily Dharma: All Things Reflect

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

All Things Reflect

All things reflect, interpenetrate, and indeed contain all other things. This is the organic nature of the universe, and is called mutual interdependence in classical Buddhism. Affinity and coincidence are its surface manifestations. . .the other is no other than myself. This is the foundation of the precepts and the inspiration for genuine human behavior.

To acknowledge one's own dark side with a smile and to acknowledge the shining side of the other person with a smile--this is practice. Keeping the shining side of one's self always in view and holding fast to the dark side of the other--this is not practice.

~ Robert Aitken, Encouraging Words

Charles Simic -- New Poet Laureate

Charles Simic has been named the new Poet Laureate of the United States. This is an interesting choice in that Simic isn't the generically good type of poet were accustomed to seeing in the past few selections. Simic is challenging and has often been very political, including a stand against the Iraq War.

Here is some of a New York Times article:

But what kind of Poet Laureate will Simic be?

In an interview today in The Times, Simic seemed to downplay the idea that politics should play a role in his public actions. He told Motoko Rich: “That reminds me so much of the way the young Communists in the days of Stalin at big party congresses would ask, ‘What is the role of the writer?’”

Charles Simic
Charles Simic in 2003. (Photo by Richard Drew/The Associated Press)

But isn’t that question - “What is the role of the writer?” - one we are still asking? Do we know the answer yet?

In the past, to his credit, Simic - like generations of great poets before him - has not shied from political engagement. Witness the prescient advertisement above, which ran in The Times on October 1, 2002, before the start of the Iraq War. (Click here to see the whole thing.)

Simic’s name is on the bottom right. “It is … incumbent upon domestic critics to make their voices heard,” the ad reads. “It is the obligation and the privilege of elected representatives to raise hard questions and risk unpopularity in the broader national interest. It is the duty of concerned citizens to demand that they do so.”

Simic has also written, in a 1995 essay called “In Praise of Invective,” these ringing words: “There are moments in life when true invective is called for, when there comes an absolute necessity, out of a deep sense of justice, to denounce, mock, vituperate, lash out, rail at in the strongest possible language.”

Is this one of those moments?

Two other worthy articles -- less focused on the politics angle -- can be found here and here.

For a better sense of Simic the poet, it is worthwhile to check out the Academy of American Poets entry devoted to him and his work. Here is one of my favorites among his many fine poems:

The Initiate
by Charles Simic

St. John of the Cross wore dark glasses
As he passed me on the street.
St. Theresa of Avila, beautiful and grave,
Turned her back on me.

"Soulmate," they hissed. "It's high time."

I was a blind child, a wind-up toy . . .
I was one of death's juggling red balls
On a certain street corner
Where they peddle things out of suitcases.

The city like a huge cinema
With lights dimmed.
The performance already started.

So many blurred faces in a complicated plot.

The great secret which kept eluding me: knowing who I am . . .

The Redeemer and the Virgin,
Their eyes wide open in the empty church
Where the killer came to hide himself . . .

The new snow on the sidewalk bore footprints
That could have been made by bare feet.
Some unknown penitent guiding me.
In truth, I didn't know where I was going.
My feet were frozen,
My stomach growled.

Four young hoods blocking my way.
Three deadpan, one smiling crazily.

I let them have my black raincoat.

Thinking constantly of the Divine Love
and the Absolute had disfigured me.
People mistook me for someone else.
I heard voices after me calling out unknown names.
"I'm searching for someone to sell my soul to,"
The drunk who followed me whispered,
While appraising me from head to foot.

At the address I had been given.
The building had large X's over its windows.
I knocked but no one came to open.
By and by a black girl joined me on the steps.
She banged at the door till her fist hurt.

Her name was Alma, a propitious sign.
She knew someone who solved life's riddles
In a voice of an ancient Sumerian queen.
We had a long talk about that
While shivering and stamping our wet feet.

It was necessary to stay calm, I explained,
Even with the earth trembling,
And to continue to watch oneself
As if one were a complete stranger.

Once in Chicago, for instance,
I caught sight of a man in a shaving mirror
Who had my naked shoulders and face,
But whose eyes terrified me!
Two hard staring, all-knowing eyes!

After we parted, the night, the cold, and the endless walking
Brought on a kind of ecstasy.
I went as if pursued, trying to warm myself.

There was the East River; there was the Hudson.
Their waters shone like oil in sanctuary lamps.

Something supreme was occurring
For which there will never be any words.

The sky was full of racing clouds and tall buildings,
Whirling and whirling silently.

In that whole city you could hear a pin drop.
Believe me.
I thought I heard a pin drop and I went looking for it.

From The Book of Gods and Devils, published by Harcourt Brace & Company, 1990. Copyright © 1990 by Charles Simic. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the author.

Thom Yorke: Black Swan with Animation by Markhelus [NSFW]

Cool video to a cool song.

Via: VideoSift

Satire: Various Deities Still Sorting Through Victims Of Tragic Queens Bus Accident

From The Onion:

Various Deities Still Sorting Through Victims Of Tragic Queens Bus Accident

August 3, 2007 | Issue 43•31

NEW YORK—An emergency coalition of deities from several major world religions is still sorting through the wreckage of a tragic bus accident that claimed 67 lives Friday in the culturally diverse Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens.

Enlarge Image Various Deities

Queens residents who, but for the grace of gods, could have been in that bus when it crashed.

According to authorities, at approximately 6:45 p.m. the Q45 bus crashed into a power generator at a busy street corner after swerving to avoid a slow-moving group of elderly Chinese pedestrians. Police say that a Korean laundry, an Irish pub, a Senegalese restaurant, and a churro stand were also severely damaged in the resultant smoke and flames.

More than half a dozen gods reportedly responded to the scene within moments of the crash. Because the victims hailed from 14 countries and professed an as-yet-undetermined number of religious faiths, however, the soul-placement process has been laborious, and fewer than a third of the deceased have so far been escorted to their appropriate afterlives.

"What a mess this is," said Ganesha, the Hindu lord of success and obstacles. "Assuming we ever manage to figure out who worships our particular pantheon, there's still the problem of divvying up the Buddhists, Jains, and other non-Hindus who worship me, Lakshmi, Vishnu, and about 1,000 other gods."

In the gods' haste to resolve the matter, some of the souls were apparently misplaced. In one instance, an adherent of Buddhism slated to be reborn into an Ohio family was temporarily reincarnated as a tree sloth. And as of press time, a self-avowed atheist who at the last minute took God into his heart has yet to be retrieved from the void and placed among the faithful.


'I don't have the time to hang around here all week like some of the niche gods do.'

God of Abraham


'Despite my many arms, cases will have to be handled one at a time to avoid mixups.'


Many of the gods were struggling just to maintain order.

"Honestly, who ever heard of a Jew named Shinjoku Murikami?" the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu said. "I had that guy halfway to haunting a shrine as a kami spirit before I realized my mistake."

The religious triage suffered severe setbacks from the beginning because many gods serve a relatively low number of devotees and are unaccustomed to rapid response.

"The moment we saw that there was someone named Hawkwind, we knew we'd be there for a while," said the Sikh god, Waheguru who explained that, due to a verbal agreement struck several millennia ago, no deity is allowed to leave until all souls have been claimed. "On top of that, it took the Wiccan goddess of the Moon, Earth, and Sea three full days to show up."

One god, who asked that His name not be spoken aloud, said the theological muddle was a rarity, and that He and the other deities usually have no trouble operating without an official post-disaster protocol.

"We don't normally have to deal with these kinds of details," the god said. "If there's a rocket attack in the Middle East, it's pretty easy to figure out who goes in to mop up."

Further complicating matters is the presence of the devil, Beelzebub, who has demanded that the coalition relinquish all souls to him.

"These are all vile, vile sinners, and I'm not leaving until I get them," the dark lord said, though other gods appeared unreceptive. "Look, my numbers have been way down this month. I'm sure everyone here did something damning at some point, right? Come on."

Several lesser-known gods, such as Jengu, an archaic water deity still worshipped by some of the Sawa people in Africa, arrived on the scene despite having no devotees among the dead. Jengu said he knew there was a "really good Cameroonian place" in the neighborhood and assumed that he might be needed.

"I guess not," the minor god said. "I'll probably hang out anyway, though, just in case."

While the aftermath has been generally chaotic, the most inconvenienced deity appeared to be the God of Abraham, who is worshipped by billions of Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

"Ideally, I'd just take all of them in one pile, but there are about a thousand little sects and denominations and all that nonsense that I have to act like I care about," God/Yahweh/Allah said. "Did you know there was a guy who practiced Santeria on that bus? Christ, what a nightmare."

The deities were all unanimous in agreeing that the sole Catholic fatality should be condemned to forever roam the Earth as an anguished, wretched ghost, as Catholicism is the only truly false religion and has no god to accept its faithful when they die.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gratitude 8/2/07

Today I am grateful for a new poem (albeit not a good one):

On Writing

Think of the way pigeons all seek sky
in a single flurry of wings, a chaos
with order in its heart, not chaos at all.

Or think of a lone raven gliding on currents
high above the desert, no discernible purpose,
simply the joy of riding the wind.

What strange intelligence inhabits the world,
how foreign to my little synapses,
yet something in my flesh feels connected.

I cannot grasp it, my need for language
obscures the simplest things, for instance
rain: no words can convey wet on skin.

We try to give voice to that which
intrigues us, makes us wonder; we struggle
to conform lines to speak that which is silent.

A futile quest. Much like a koan, it
isn't the solution that matters most, only
the turning in the mind of subtle mysteries.

I'm also grateful today for V-8 juice. I can be very lazy about cooking vegetables, but at least with V-8, I get some veggies.

What are you grateful for today?

A Politics of Compassion?

Both Joe Perez and Matthew Dallman have blogged about politics in the past 24 hours. Generally, Joe takes a Wilberian approach and MD is more conservative in his views.

I have been an Independent for the past 5+ years -- feeling that the Conservatives lack compassion for the poor and the weak, and that Liberals lack the common sense of a housefly. Even Libertarians are too willing to let the free market squash the weak. What I would like to see is a politics of compassion. I'm not sure what that would look like, but I'd like to present 10 ideas, on a range of topics, that I would love to see our national politics embody.

I fully expect to get slammed for holding these views.

1) Universal Health Care -- This is one of those issues that make me a Socialist to some. But I do not see how we can survive as a nation when health care is profit-driven. Too many people, especially children, are denied adequate health care because their families cannot afford it. The measure of a nation is how well it takes care of its weakest or its most disenfranchised citizens. We are failing in this area more than any other.

I'd gladly pay $1,000 or more per year in taxes to have quality health care managed by a not-for-profit NGO. Keep government out of it, but also keep profit out of it. If the wealthy want better coverage than such a plan can offer, then they should have it -- they can afford it.

2) Gay Rights -- Marriage should not be legislated by government; it's a violation of the Separation clause of the Bill of Rights. But marriage should be dictated by each religion according to its own beliefs. However, civil unions should be available to all adults, without government interference. Gays and lesbians should have all the rights of every other citizen in this nation.

Homosexuals are the only group in this country for which discrimination is legal. That must end if we are to be a compassionate nation.

3) Limited Capitalism -- Capitalism without restraint (the free-market system) is based on greed, not on compassion. Minimum wage laws are crucial in this regard -- if it were left to business (and it largely has been), the poorest among us would be even poorer. And with the continually rising cost of education, it's no longer reasonable in many instances to expect low-wage workers to be able to educate themselves out of poverty. We need better financial aid programs for the poor, and we need to find a way to cap the insanely rising cost of education.

In the realm of wishful thinking, there should be caps on how much CEOs of huge companies can be paid -- as a specified percentage of the average wage within the company (excluding top-level management). This will never happen -- but it would go a long way toward keeping prices down and ensuring a better return for investors.

4) Decriminalize Drugs -- Rather than throwing people in prison for drug use and abuse, make them enter mandatory rehab programs. Treatment works a lot better than incarceration (which doesn't work at all) -- and in the long run it would be cheaper for us as a nation -- and more compassionate to those who are addicts.

5) Foreign Policy -- We should never enter wars for economic gain. The only just war is to prevent the slaughter of innocent lives. Our war efforts should be based on a compassionate defense of human life. And war should always be a last resort.

The United Nations has been an unfortunate failure. But we need some form of international body to organize aid in emergencies, peace keepers when feasible, international trade law, and a handful of other issues. The US should be a leader in the world, but to do so we must act with integrity and compassion in how we treat other nations.

6) Ethics in Politics -- Any politician found to have knowingly violated ethics laws should be immediately removed from office. Politicians should act of behalf on their citizens, not on behalf of big business, lobbyists, or their own self-gain. This will require some campaign finance reform that will never happen -- but it is the only way to clean up the system.

7) A Department of Peace -- Dennis Kucinich will never be elected president, but his Department of Peace idea is a good one.

The original idea of a Peace Department in the United States dates back to the administration of George Washington, but has been most recently reinitiated by Rep. Dennis Kucinich beginning in 2001 and formed a part of Kucinich's presidential campaign platform in 2004. A bill for this purpose, HR 3760, was previously introduced in the House of Representatives on September 14, 2005. It has most recently been re-introduced via HR 808 on February 5, 2007 and 65 co-sponsors have since quickly signed on.

Since the United Nations has not worked, we need to be actively involved -- as world leaders -- in trying to create peace on this planet. This includes being an example for other nations to live up to.

8) The Environment -- Whether climate change is human caused or not -- it's probably 50/50 -- the reality is that the climate is changing in ways that will cost human lives, farm land, port cities, and bring a whole host of other disasters. We should be world leaders in addressing anything humans can do to slow the progression of warming. This is the only planet we have -- and we must also treat the Earth with compassion.

9) Smaller Government -- As much as possible, the scope of government must be limited both to ensure individual freedoms and to allow tax dollars to be spent in ways that can help the most people. If we can cut the the size of government and keep it out of people's private lives, we can still cut taxes on the poor and support an Universal Health Care System. A compassionate government serves the needs of the people, not corporate interests, and not military-industrial complex interests.

10) The Voice of the People -- Do away with the electoral college; it's an antiquated system based on an uneducated populace. This is, arguably, no longer the case. Yes, the US is a Republic, but we pretend to democratically elect our officials -- lets' make it official and eliminate the electoral college.

So, what am I missing? Or, more to the point, how insane is this list of ideas that I would like to see in our national politics?

Speedlinking 8/2/07

Quote of the day:

"It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis."
~ Margaret Bonnano

Image of the day:

~ 15 Minutes Of Fame With Mike Rousell -- "I just interviewed Your Naked Nutrition Guide Author Mike Rousell and it was interesting to say the least. Click HERE to listen to Mike's perspective on the importance of increased calories around the "peri-workout" window (even when trying to lose weight), why consuming BCAAs and EAAs is very different from consuming whole protein sources, and why pre-workout nutrition is just as important (if not more) as post-workout nutrition."
~ The New Low-Carb Guru -- "Dr. Jeff Volek is one of the leading "new school" researchers in the areas of nutrition, resistance training, lipid metabolism, and endocrinology. He also knows more about low-carb dieting than just about anyone else on the planet."
~ Afternoon cravings conquered -- "Conquer your cravings with our daily diet tips."
~ Seafood A Safer Catch Than Most Think -- "When it comes to consumer perception of seafood safety, all is not going swimmingly. In recent survey conducted by the University of Maryland's Center for Food Nutrition and Agriculture Policy and presented here at the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo, consumers listed tuna, salmon and shrimp as the fish with the highest levels of mercury."
~ Gluten-Free Too Often Taste-Free -- "An estimated 2 million Americans are afflicted with celiac disease, an intolerance for food containing wheat, and the market for gluten-free products is booming even while food companies and researchers have yet to fully solve their greatest challenge - making products that taste good."
~ Updated Physical Activity Guidelines Released -- "All healthy adults ages 18 to 65 years need moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for at least 30 minutes on five days each week or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for at least 20 minutes on three days each week, according to updated physical activity guidelines released today by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA)."
~ Goats' Milk Shown To Be More Beneficial To Health Than Cows' Milk -- "Research carried out at the Department of Physiology of the University of Granada (Universidad de Granada []) has revealed that goats' milk has more beneficial properties to health than cows' milk. Just two of these properties are, 1. that it helps to prevent ferropenic anaemia (iron deficiency) and 2. that it helps to prevent bone demineralisation (softening of the bones)."
~ Glutamine unlikely to boost athletic performance -- "There is little evidence that supplements containing the amino acid glutamine can enhance athletes' performance, according to a research review." This is actually old news for readers of T-Nation, but it's good that the mainstream media is picking up on this. Still, glutamine can seriously increase immune system health.

~ First Mouse Model Of Schizophrenia Developed By Hopkins Team -- "Johns Hopkins researchers have genetically engineered the first mouse that models both the anatomical and behavioral defects of schizophrenia, a complex and debilitating brain disorder that affects over 2 million Americans."
~ How baby babbles become talking tsunami (AP) -- "BABY TALK: New research suggests babies start really jabbering after they've mastered enough easy words to tackle more of the harder ones. It's essentially a snowball effect."
~ Hostility, anger linked to chronic inflammation -- "Men with high levels of hostility, anger and depression show increases in a key marker of inflammation over time, which may put them at greater risk of heart disease, a new study shows."
~ Electrode implant stimulates consciousness -- "Researchers report in today's issue of Nature that they have improved brain function in a minimally conscious patient by implanting electrodes into his brain."
~ a big bagful of tidbits -- "time for some bullet blogging again. here are some interesting tidbits" Some good links -- and a mention of IOC, which is always nice.
~ Language and self-awareness -- "A new study presents additional evidence for inner speech involvement in self-reflective activity. In my 2003 SCR paper “Inner speech and conscious experience” I put forward the notion that we most often need to talk to ourselves in order to understand who we are."
~ Tips to Establish a Morning & Evening Routine (with an August Challenge) -- "I’ve written before about how morning and evening routines can create some sense of sanity and calm in your life."
~ “What’s Your Story?!” Make it a Good One -- "Our life is not a series of facts only. It is mostly a set of interpretations we have made about events in our life. These interpretations add up to a story – a story of who we think we are, what we have experienced, and what we’re likely to do in the future." This is the foundation of narrative psychology.

~ Young Bush Staffer Gets Grilled -- "J. Scott Jennings became the latest sacrificial lamb the White House has sent up to answer questions about the U.S. Attorneys firings."
~ Why Bush Won't Ax Gonzales -- "Many cite the Attorney General's friendship with the President. But there are more practical reasons why Bush needs the embattled cabinet member."
~ Campaign Matters: YearlyKos Draws Democratic Leaders -- "This year's YearlyKos convention draws politicians, candidates, reporters and activists to Chicago because the netroots have clout."
~ 9 Superpowers You Might Actually Want -- "When it comes down to it, most of the superpowers you see in comic books, TV, and movies aren’t the sorts of abilities you’d want to have yourself. While on the surface it might seem kick-ass to possess retractable metal claws or brain-shattering psionic abilities, powers like these tend to place a person on government watch lists or morally obligate them to fight crime. Plus, they can result in pesky accidents like stabbing your loved ones or having your body taken over by an alien lifeform. Here are some mutant abilities that might actually prove useful in your daily life without some of the more apocalyptic side effects."
~ Steroids, Schmeroids. Why Not Enhanced and Unenhanced Sports Leagues? -- "Baseball phenom Barry Bonds is trying to match or exceed Hank Aaron's all time home run mark any day now. By some people's lights, Bonds' accomplishment will be marred by the suspicion that he used enhancement drugs of some sort. The fact the commissioner of baseball has been following Bonds around the last few games suggests that any such lingering stigma is already dissipating. For the record, I am not in favor of anyone breaking the rules to which they voluntarily agreed. But should the line against various enhancements hold in professional sports?"
~ Politics and the Poet Laureate -- "But Charles Simic may be a special case. And he may be held, by some, to a different standard. This is because Simic has, among this country’s poets, a singular kind of moral authority on issues of war and peace." See also: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Simic named new U.S. poet laureate.
~ Moby Offers Royalty-Free Music For Films -- "One-upping Brian Eno, diminutive New York electronic musician Moby has created a web site that offers royalty-free music for films. The project, called "Moby Gratis," features 70 unreleased compositions that independent filmmakers can use to accompany their movies."

~ Worlds Weirdest Animals and Creatures -- "Our planet Earth is populated well enough with bizarre and astonishing creatures without the need for resorting to fiction. Some are rare — some are on the verge of extinction." Images of 24 freaky creatures.
~ Health & Wellness Foods Less Simple Than They Seem -- "The pursuit of health and wellness is no longer an option for four of the biggest global food companies. It's mandatory business. The challenge is developing healthful products that consumers choose that can help them to improve their lives. So say senior officials from major companies Kraft, Nestle S.A., General Mills and Campbell Soup Co."
~ In Praise of Tap Water -- "Americans are increasingly thirsty for what is billed as the healthiest, and often most expensive, water on the grocery shelf. But this country has some of the best public water supplies in the world. Instead of consuming four billion gallons of water a year in individual-sized bottles, we need to start thinking about what all those bottles are doing to the planet’s health."
~ Microsoft Works Goes Free, Ad-Supported -- "Microsoft Corp. will test a free, advertising-supported version of Works, an already inexpensive package of word processing, spreadsheet and other programs, but would not say whether it is exploring a similar Web-based suite."
~ Immunity in social amoeba suggests ancient beginnings -- "Finding an immune system in the social amoeba (Dictyostelium discoideum) is not only surprising but it also may prove a clue as to what is necessary for an organism to become multicellular, said the Baylor College of Medicine researcher who led the research that appears today in the journal Science."
~ Beyond Mesopotamia: A radical new view of human civilization reported -- "A radically expanded view of the origin of civilization, extending far beyond Mesopotamia, is reported by journalist Andrew Lawler in the 3 August issue of Science."
~ Tiny 'GlowBots' Hint at Future of Robotics -- "Swedish researchers develop communities of interactive robots."
~ Arctic wealth: Why countries are jockeying over the roof of the world -- "Global warming and, ironically, its main cause -- fossil fuels -- explain the intensifying squabble to claim rights over the Arctic seabed."

A standard we ought insist upon -- "The solution is simple: decide to read liberal and conservative, regularly. And then wait, because the effect of doing so is like ocean on stone.
~ Ajahn Brahm on the Happiness Industry -- At Renegade Buddha -- A nice video dharma talk.
~ BBC: The Story of G-D 3 Part Series -- "I got up at 6 this morning and watched all three amazing parts of this series and I (of course) highly recommend them!"
~ Karma-formed States and Personal Freedom -- "Millions of people the world over believe in karma. The law of karma states that as we sow, so shall we reap: everything we do, say, or even think has consequences, good or bad, and sooner or later, these consequences will come back to us. The question is, is karma fatalistic and set in stone, or is there something we can actually do about it?"
~ Beyond Liberal, Left, and Progressive: An Inclusive and Revolutionary Politics for Tomorrow -- "Ken Wilber would probably agree with Churchill's famous dictum. He would catalog the failures of anarchism, monarchy, republicanism, aristocracy, socialism, communism, etc. Then he would add to them the failures of liberalism, conservativism, and democracy."
~ An integral analysis of my antidiscrimination advocacy op-ed -- "Regarding my recent op-ed, "No Moral Vacancy for Gays in UK Hotels, But Antigay Discrimination Still Legal in US": consider this perspective..."
~ Layers of healing -- "A friend of mine mentioned how there are always new layers of healing, with no end in sight. And there is a beauty in that. At our human level, there is always further to go with healing, maturing and developing."