Saturday, August 18, 2007

Collage: Blurring the Line Between Memory and Nightmare, I

[Partial explanation: On this day, in 1926, my father was born.]

I remember lighting a candle in the musty darkness and kneeling before an image of a man nailed to a cross. I may have prayed, probably for the cessation of suffering, but not believing in any omnipotent being to hear me. Wearing shorts as always, I remember my bare knees on the icy stone floor. The cold filled my body with a familiar sense of loss.

A few weeks before that night, Pope John Paul II had declared that hell is not a literal place but, rather, a state of being. The first sensible thing I ever remember hearing from the Church. Maybe the Pope had read the Four Noble Truths.

Suffering persists, encoded in my cells, stalking my awareness as a panther stalks its prey. I catch a glimpse of it some mornings, still half asleep. I see it out of the corner of my eye, in the mirror, a shadow I can't escape. There are puppets acting out a macabre scene, as in a nightmare.

I am afraid . . .

Bats fly chaotic patterns in the dusk light. Clouds obscure faint light of stars. When boundaries become blurred, how does one distinguish between memory and nightmares?

It only comes out at night. Or is it they? Fear crawls over my skin as I try to sleep.

I am awakened at 1:11 a.m. by a scream. Mine? A neighbor?

I remember a night when my sister was only three years old, crazed with fever. My parents put her in the bathtub in ice water to cool her body. 106 degrees is what the thermometer read. She was dying.

She said spiders were biting her all over, her little body covered in ice. She screamed over and over again, and I hid beneath my covers, sent back to my room by my father. I heard him praying, even though he never went to church. He cried that night, begging God to spare his adopted child.

I remember the ambulance, the lights and the sirens. The fear. She lived, but from that night on she was his favorite child, his fragile little girl. I hated him for it.

The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hall
He went into the room where his sister lived, and...then he
Paid a visit to his brother, and then he
He walked on down the hall, and
And he came to a door...and he looked inside
Father, yes son, I want to kill you

I can't tell you the next like in that verse because, well, like all good little boys (except Oedipus), I have repressed any thought or memory of that desire. Yet I, too, seem to have been blinded. The Gods punish those who do not heed the oracles.

All the women I have ever loved have left me.

Who am I?
I don't know, who are you?
Who said that?
You did.
No, I didn't.

I stopped believing in God the day I killed my father. I broke his heart. It exploded in his chest -- a heart attack they said, but I knew better. I killed him. In my young mind, that was the only truth I could feel. Why else this loss?

Soon, the ravens came. Maybe ten or twenty, perched in the oak trees behind our house. They sat on the bare limbs in silence, but I knew they were my new family.

There was a lot of snow that winter, more than any I could remember. Everything was blanketed in a soothing white, so quiet, so clean. It felt as though all of my life until that day had been washed away, buried in the snow. Finally free of the tribe. An outcast.

The ragged line is even more ragged.
The boundaries cannot hold.

breathe in breathe out
breathe in breathe out
breathe in

deaf dumb and thirty
starting to deserve this
leaning on my conscience wall
blood is like wine
unconscious all the time
if i had it all again
i'd change it all

Who am I?
You are your father's son.
Who are you?
I am your father.
My father is dead.
We are one and the same.

When does it end? When does the past stop echoing through the future?

I remember that old church in Seattle's University District. All stone and shadows. I had long since given up on religion, but still I was drawn that October day to the altar, to the image of the Son of God nailed to a cross. Hanging there, limp, bloody, forsaken.

Stained glass, row after row of votive candles,
some lit, but mostly a musty dimness, and shadowy

scenes engraved in high wood ceilings. Then again,
a silence weighted with prayers never escaping

my lips. A rosary hanging inert, profane. Fingering
smooth beads. Magic of baptismal misplaced

with my faith. Now, kneeling in this cold building,
another handful of empty minutes sinks beneath

the surface, settles to a water-filled cellar the way
a leaf slowly finds its way to dark sediment in a lake,

in October, when willow-scented rains promise healing.
All the drowned minutes knotted in my stomach.

Looking back now, I remember that day was the anniversary of my father's death. All those years ago, and still haunted by the image of the father and the son. Echoes of echoes. Boundaries broken and irreparable.

All the relationships in my life shaped by this loss.

Present moment: I sit here amid candles and incense, typing words into a computer. Not quite sane, not quite insane, somewhere in-between, liminal space. On a threshold, but to what I am not sure. I know that I am of raven blood, not of my father.

Every relationship I have ever known bewildered by this loss. An echo, a memory, a haunting. No woman could ever compete with my demons. I embrace them, entice them, welcome them. I am nothing without the haunting.

Who am I?
You are your father's son.
Who are you?
I am Raven, he who placed the stars in the sky.
Are you my father?
You are my son.
That is enough.

To be continued.

* * * * *

Credits (in order of appearance):
1. Church Image
2. "(-)Ions," Tool, images by the Brothers Quay
3. Dream face
4. "The End," The Doors
5. Who am I?
6. Ravens
7. "Machine Head," Bush
8. Harryman, "returning to the cathedral, after 19 years"
9. "Raven Man," Chris Bennett
10. " Schism," Tool
11. Haida mythology: Raven stole the sun, moon and stars to give to humankind

Crows and Tool Use

There's a great post over at Mixing Memory on tool use in crows:

Meta-Tool Use and Analogical Reasoning in Crows?

Here is a brief taste of the beginning of the post:

Crows are smart. Really smart. But just how smart are they? Studying non-human primates, particularly gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees, researchers have shown that they're capable of what's called meta-tool use, or using one tool with another tool (I've mostly seen it defined as using one tool to modify or improve another tool, but more on definitions in a bit), but it's not always something these primates do readily. Monkeys (macaques, e.g.) are much less likely to display meta-tool use. Meta-tool use is difficult because it requires behaving in a way that isn't directly linked to a reward, something that non-human animals (and even human children, as the paper discussed below notes) have trouble doing. Do crows display meta-tool use when the situation requires it?

Here is the video that shows possible meta-tool use (see the post for what this means as far as crows intelligence is concerned).

And just for fun, since we're on the topic of tool use, here is one of my favorite Richard Attenborough scenes (cars make good tools):

Dharma Quote: We Have to Do It for Ourselves

Snow Lion Publications Dharma Quote of the Week:

It is important to realize that there is nobody else who can wake us up and save us from samsara. There is no such thing in Buddhism. That may be Buddhism's biggest drawback, and at the same time its greatest advantage. This view shows us that there is nobody else in control of our lives, our experiences, our freedom or our bondage. Who is responsible? Who is in control? It is us. We are in control. We can bind ourselves further in samsara or we can free ourselves from it right now. It is all up to us. We are the ones who have to keep looking at our thoughts, looking for the nature of our mind. There is no guru, deity, buddha or bodhisattva out there to look for it for us. Although they would happily do this, it would not help us; it would only help them. We have to do it for ourselves. That is the key point.

~ From Mind Beyond Death, by Dzogchen Ponlop, published by Snow Lion Publications

TED Talks: Is 4 a.m. the new midnight?

A very cool and funny TED Talk:

The slam poet/tech artist/paper sculptor Rives does eight minutes of lyrical origami, folding history into a series of coincidences surrounding that most surreal of hours, 4 o'clock in the morning. This elusive hour, both very late and very early, appears often in art in literature as a way to describe the most extreme states of affairs. Rives -- aided by a nimble mind and extensive online research -- reveals 4 a.m. as an iconic moment, drawing hilarious historical connections.

Via: VideoSift

Friday, August 17, 2007

Gratitude 7/17/07

Gratitude can be fleeting, but I am committed to this pretty much daily practice. So, some things I am grateful for today:

1) Loss. It's amazing how much one can learn from suffering. The more I can sit with the things that hurt, the more determined I am to value the things I have. And the more I want to work for the things that matter to me, especially the people I love.

2) Fear. When I can face the fears that haunt me, I am stronger for it.

3) My health. When I was young, I never thought I'd see forty years of age. But here I am, healthy, and about to start a new path in my life as a student seeking a doctorate in psychology. That feels amazing.

What are you grateful for today?

Daily Om: As You Believe

Today's Daily Om contains a little magical thinking, but it reflects a little of my own views about aligning with the evolutionary flow of life as a means to making life meaningful.

As You Believe
Create Completeness

The creative power of the universe is infinite. A single molecule's destiny is as important as the consequences of the largest supernova. Human potential is subject to this power, but because we are sentient beings, each of us is permitted to choose whether we will struggle against it or work in tandem with it. When we give voice to our desires through focused meditation or solicit the help of spirit guides, we draw upon the universe's creative power to achieve certain ends. However, because our words are not all the universe hears, the response we receive may surprise us. The discourse we establish through our appeals is a blend of speech, thought, intention, and subconscious reflection. When we ask the universe for something, the unspoken message is that what we want does not exist, and the universe accepts this as truth. Conversely, we manifest completeness through affirmations in which we declare our desires as if we have already obtained them.

When we affirm that we are fulfilled instead of articulating deficiencies, we are asserting that contentment is a natural and necessary element of human existence. Our essence is an expression of fulfillment—the universe wants to satisfy our needs and desires. When we describe our realities in positive terms, we are not denying the challenges inherent in existence. We choose not to focus on lack or dissatisfaction because we understand that the energy of our thoughts will determine the response we receive to our entreaties. Ask yourself how you would feel if your wishes were granted, and then allow yourself to internalize that emotional state. Try to create a picture of satisfaction so vivid that its reality is unquestionable and tell the universe that your vision is fact. At the close of your appeal, express your gratitude, as it is your acknowledgment of the truth of your fulfillment that will set the creative power of the universe into motion.

Working in perfect unison with the creative power of the universe will empower you to manifest spiritual realities in your material existence. As you affirm the beauty, peace, and goodness that already exist within in your life, your capacity to sense and understand their influence will become increasingly sophisticated. To meet your needs and achieve your desires, you need then only banish all thoughts of emptiness so that the energy of completeness can attract fullness into your being.

Ron Silliman on Michelangelo Antonioni’s "L’Avventura"

The poet Ron Silliman is also a very good critic. I've not seen too many of his posts on film, but this one caught my eye. Silliman posted an interesting look at Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura.

If, as I wrote Monday, the formal advantage of cinema as a narrative art is that you can see the story, the obvious implicit challenge, the one that would occur to an ambitious filmmaker, would have to do with cinema’s ability (or inability) to speak of that which is not visible, not present, what cannot be directly seen. One obvious realm would be that of the psychological – dreamlife, memory, the repressed. In The Bourne Ultimatum, for example, you can tell which sequences – barely more than a second or two in length – are Matt Damon’s character’s memories surfacing, his identity coming back, by virtue of stylistically blurry film, letting in, as it were, too much light.

What then of a more complicated question of absence? How would your closest companions respond if you were suddenly to disappear? How calculate or project the arc of their despair? It’s the question of death seen in its most social light – how will the kids react? Will your spouse marry your worst enemy? This, in one sense, is the thought experiment that is the basis for Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura, the first of his trilogy of films on the subject of eros (a quartet if you consider The Red Desert to be of the same set, which many reasonably do). Seven or eight of the idle rich head off for a cruise around the Aeolian islands, including Anna (portrayed by Lea Massari), her best friend Claudia (Monica Vitti) & Anna’s fiancé Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti). These islands are hardly idyllic – they’re basically volcanic rocks pushed up above sea level – a contrast Antonioni uses to good effect in this most painterly of black-&-white films.

Read the whole post.

Speedlinking 8/17/07

Quote of the day:

"You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you."
~ Eric Hoffer

Image of the day:


~ Calorie Counter Database at -- Cool tool for tracking calories and exercise.
~ Exercise of the Week: The Overhead Shrug -- "Still doing ordinary shrugs for trapezius development? Ready to crank it up a notch, build some trap size, strengthen your thoracic erectors, and train your stinkin' core? Then add overhead shrugs to your program!"
~ Overload & Force Your Muscle To Grow! -- "A muscle must be subjected to a stimulus that compels it to adapt and grow. If there is no reason for a muscle to grow, no hypertrophy will occur. Turn up the intensity and stop using light weight if you want your muscle to grow. Read on."
~ How You Can Avoid Knee Injuries From Squatting -- "The Squat is one of the best strength training exercise. It strengthens your whole body including legs & knees. Strong knees are essential for sports & daily activities."
~ Get Lean with Yoga -- "Tone up your body with these yoga moves."
~ Whole grains may lower odds of high blood pressure -- "Women who get plenty of whole grains in their diet may lower their risk of developing high blood pressure, a large study suggests."
~ New nanotoxicology study delivers promising results -- "Findings by a team of researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee bode well for using single-walled carbon nanohorns, a particular form of engineered carbon-based nanoparticles, for drug delivery and other commercial applications."

~ Depression is over-diagnosed, psychiatrist claims -- "Too many people are being diagnosed with depression when they are merely unhappy, a senior psychiatrist said today. Normal emotions are sometimes being treated as mental illness because the threshold for clinical depression is too low...."
~ The Beam of Light That Flips a Switch That Turns on the Brain -- "By toggling a light switch, neuroscientists can set fruit flies a-leaping and mice a-twirling and stop worms in their squiggling tracks." This is pretty cool, and it could change the ways we deal with mental illness.
~ Complaining -- "Note that complaining is not the same thing as having a negative emotional reaction. That first-response negative reaction is OK. Complaining is the act of reinforcing what you don’t want and intending even more of it. It’s the act of dwelling on the negative."
~ The Fear of Flying -- "How to calm mile-high anxiety."
~ The Timid Die Young -- "Being overly fearful can hurt your health."
~ Physical Illness And Mental Health: Help Is At Hand In New Booklet -- "'As soon as I was diagnosed, I felt the depression starting.' 46-year-old with breast cancer, Northampton. 'After my heart attack I felt really anxious all the time... I was worried that anything strenuous could trigger another attack.' Man aged 68, Glasgow. Having a physical illness, and treatment for it, can affect the way we think and feel."
~ Folk Meta-Ethics [Mixing Memory] -- "There's a really interesting paper by Geoffrey Goodwin and John Darley in press at the journal Cognition on the subject of lay meta-ethics, and ethical objectivism specifically. That is, the paper explores the question, "How do lay individuals think about the objectivity of their ethical beliefs?" (from the abstract)."
~ Reading Too Much Into a Depression Study -- "I was expecting to read about a study that examined damaged brains, or, at the very least, damaged brain circuits. Instead, what I read about was a study that looked at fMRIs of people who were depressed and not depressed, a study design replicated so often that it’s no longer interesting. It found that brain activity in a certain area of the brain was different during a particular activity in people who were depressed than those who weren’t (whopee!)."
~ New research shows how chronic stress worsens neurodegenerative disease course -- "The evidence is accumulating on how bad stress is for health. Chronic stress can intensify inflammation and increase a person`s risk for developing central nervous system infections, neurodegenerative diseases, like multiple sclerosis (MS), and other inflammatory diseases, say researchers presenting at the 115th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (APA). These researchers have demonstrated for the first time that stress-related increases in central nervous system inflammation are behind the adverse effects of stress in an animal model of MS."

~ The Invasion reviewed -- "If you're going to make a movie about a lone heroine battling a worldwide epidemic of alien body-snatching, Nicole Kidman is an odd choice to play the lead. I admire Kidman, but not even her most ardent fan would call her the warmest of actresses. Her best performances have a chilly, deliberate, slightly detached quality, and her beauty is, precisely, unearthly."
~ SCOTT HORTON—The FISA Court Strikes Again -- "More important evidence of judicial backbone this afternoon. In response to a motion by the ACLU challenging the Bush Administration’s insistence on keeping all dealings surrounding the FISA Court in secret, including its orders, the Court has entered an order directing the Bush Administration to explain its abnormal demands for secrecy. . . ."
~ Are We Failing Our Geniuses? -- "In U.S. schools, the highest achievers are too often challenged the least. Why that's hurting America - and how to fix it."
~ Clinton Leaving Obama in the Dust: New Poll Results -- "Wow, the gap is worse than Obama's people might have feared."
~ Sun-Times Says Boycott BP -- "The Chicago Sun-Times called for a boycott of BP today in response to a permit the oil giant received in late June to significantly increase the amount of toxic waste it dumps into Lake Michigan every year."
~ The Battle for Eyeballs -- "According to a new report out this week from the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, traffic numbers on the Interweb look robust for newspapers--as long as you're The New York Times."
~ Surviving Immortality -- "I've been thinking about the Technological Singularity, which to proper geeks is that point where computers become smarter than humans and supposedly all bets are off as technological development races forward faster than we can catch it and you and I are either left eating bonbons or are put to death by computers no longer amused by serving us. Life post-Singularity will, of course, be somewhere in between those two eventualities."
~ Credit Democrats Who Visit Iraq, They're Calling It As They See It -- "Day by day, I am more surprised at the turn in the Iraq debate. I know this is going to sound like pie-in-the-sky optimism, but I wonder if by the time General Petraeus makes his report, there will be something of a consensus on Capitol Hill."

~ Warmer Ocean Fuels Hurricane Dean -- "An animation shows the rise in sea temperatures that helped to spawn Dean and Erin."
~ Be a green fashion week groupie -- "There's a rash of "greener" fashion weeks popping up everywhere for the spring 2008 fashion season. And there must be an alignment of the stars or the higher workings of an omnipotent green god, because there is barely any overlap in dates. If you were so inclined, it would be possible for you to attend every single one of the shows listed below -- though the jet lag and carbon emissions from such an excursion might leave you feeling a bit ... restless."
~ Denmark proposes climate university -- "Denmark wants to create a climate university on Greenland that would specialize in research of the region."
~ Arctic ice shrinks to record low -- "'It is very strong evidence that we are starting to see an effect of greenhouse warming,' researcher says. There was less sea ice in the Arctic today than ever before on record, and the melting is continuing, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported."
~ A star with a tail -- and a tale to tell -- "Scientists are surprised to find a 'humongous' trail of material behind the well-known object Mira. It contains the stuff of planets -- and stellar history."
~ How to Build a Modern City: Think Green -- "Urban planning should get a rethink in light of global warming, say experts."
~ Today's white rice is mutation spread by early farmers -- "Some 10,000 years ago white rice evolved from wild red rice and began spreading around the globe. But how did this happen?"

~ In Tibet, the realm of the Lama -- "At sunrise and sunset, the air is cool, the scent of burning juniper incense is strong, and a river of pilgrims flows in a sacred circle around Jokhang Temple. Every day, they walk the perimeter of Lhasa's holiest shrine to accrue blessings in the next life because, the precepts of Tibetan Buddhism say, their lot in this one is preordained when they come into it."
~ Hope: the Utah Mining Disaster. Earthquake in Peru -- "Ken McLeod's teaching reflects a rigorous Tibetan training, and his book is in itself an eminently practical, no-holds-barred training manual for Western readers. It puts the attentive and conscientious reader--one who is prepared to follow the author along the demanding path of meditation exercises that form the core of the book--through the paces, learning how to dismantle those reactive patterns of the mind that control our lives without our knowing it, and create barriers between us and our happiness."
~ Love conquers all -- "His explanation is that the intrinsic self is full of pure kindness while the habitual self is the product of contamination based on information acquired later in life. Simply put, it is a conflict between altruism and selfishness."
~ Staying power (2) -- "You've perhaps heard of dhyana (pali: jhana) or meditative absorption, traditionally divided into subtle form and formless, each in a set of four stages. The higher stages of absorption are not necessary for insight practice. However, a firm foundation in shamatha IS necessary to effectively practice insight."
~ The Lure of the Cloister? -- "Bachkovo is a busy monastery. It is neither particularly isolated nor particularly peaceful (although there are some beautiful walks through meadows and hills in the surrounding nature reserve), but the afternoon I spent sitting in the cloister was a contented one. There is something that I love about cloisters: the sense of seclusion, the feeling of being apart from the world (there are walls, after all), but also being a part of the world (it is open to the sky and to the elements)."
~ BLOG: Guest Blog: Integral Blair? (by Jose Vergara) -- "After 10 years as Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair is no longer in power. We know that he has read Ken Wilber and is a pretty bright guy. But the question is: Does he qualify as an Integral Leader? That's what we want to find out."

Stand-up Economist Yoram Bauman

Apparently, there were some economists in the audience. Still, this guy is funny in a geeky way.

Via: VideoSift

Speed of Light Broken

If these results can be verified by other researchers, this might change a lot of what we think about the universe operates.

From The Telegraph, UK:

'We have broken speed of light'

By Nic Fleming, Science Correspondent
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 16/08/2007

A pair of German physicists claim to have broken the speed of light - an achievement that would undermine our entire understanding of space and time.

According to Einstein's special theory of relativity, it would require an infinite amount of energy to propel an object at more than 186,000 miles per second.

However, Dr Gunter Nimtz and Dr Alfons Stahlhofen, of the University of Koblenz, say they may have breached a key tenet of that theory.

The pair say they have conducted an experiment in which microwave photons - energetic packets of light - travelled "instantaneously" between a pair of prisms that had been moved up to 3ft apart.

Being able to travel faster than the speed of light would lead to a wide variety of bizarre consequences.

For instance, an astronaut moving faster than it would theoretically arrive at a destination before leaving.

The scientists were investigating a phenomenon called quantum tunnelling, which allows sub-atomic particles to break apparently unbreakable laws.

Dr Nimtz told New Scientist magazine: "For the time being, this is the only violation of special relativity that I know of."

Sedona, AZ

For those of you who have never been to Sedona -- Arizona's New Age mecca and top resort destination -- here are a few pictures of the amazing red rock formations. Fittingly, I found these at Places of Peace and Power.

Satire: Self-Help Lecture Attendees Surprised To Hear Speaker Was Once Just Like Them

From The Onion:

Self-Help Lecture Attendees Surprised To Hear Speaker Was Once Just Like Them

August 17, 2007 | Issue 43•33

IRVINE, TX—Audience members at Saturday's self-help lecture series "Success 1-2-3" were shocked to discover that professional motivational speaker Martin Vaughan was not always the well-dressed, successful man standing onstage, but was once, in fact, "just like [them]."

Enlarge Image Vaughan

Vaughan shares a humorous anecdote that establishes both his humanity, his common touch, and his resolve to rise above and succeed!

"I couldn't believe it—here's this guy wearing a three-piece suit and speaking to literally hundreds of people, and I find out he was sitting in my position only six years ago," said attendee Patrick Dwyer, who admitted he was skeptical of Vaughan's claims until hearing that Vaughan was, at one time, also skeptical. "I figured I'd never have anything in common with such a confident go-getter, but then he said he used to be unhappy and unmotivated, and I thought, 'That sounds exactly like me!'"

"The only logical conclusion is that if I do everything this man tells me, I will find the same success he found," said Dwyer. "I'm going to start today!"

Vaughan made the astonishing confession only moments into his speech, surprising many in the crowd who, as Vaughan accurately predicted, were expecting "another CEO who has had everything handed to him on a silver platter." But Vaughan's admission and authoritative hand gestures convinced a majority of attendees that he was just as down-to-earth as he said he was.

"Who would have thought someone as desperate for answers as me could relate to a man who has his picture on the cover of [his] book?" said unemployed school administrator Angela Rivers, who noted that Vaughan's brief anecdote about getting frustrated at the post office made him seem "like a real person." "And how could he have known I was sick and tired of always doing the same things and achieving the same dead-end results?"

After stunning the audience with his frank and unsolicited revelation of past failures, the 42-year-old self-employed owner of a motivational-speaking company began an inspirational slide show featuring photographic proof of his newfound authority and prestige.

"Just as I was beginning to think, 'Hey, I didn't come all the way down here to see someone who's just as unsuccessful as I am,' he showed us a picture of his boat, and it was one fancy boat," said Phil DeTolve, 29, who bought his $40 ticket to Saturday's lecture before realizing today would be the day he would stop making excuses. "I thought, 'Wow! I wish there was some kind of foolproof method I could follow for setting personal goals and choosing winning strategies so that I could own a boat like that some day.' It turns out there is!"

Later in the lecture, Vaughan went so far as to risk his own position in the business world by revealing three secrets every millionaire already knows.

"Now that I know successful people make both long- and short-term personal goals, there's nothing I can't accomplish," said Joshua Dillon, 47, who was eager to read the remaining two secrets only available in Vaughan's newly released book. "To think that I could have gone through life without ever knowing that I needed to visualize my tomorrow. What a mistake that would have been!"

Dillon then removed a pad and paper from his back pocket and wrote "Maximize Time" on the first blank page.

One audience member particularly inspired by Vaughan's story was Helen Kirby, mother of three, who felt honored Vaughan would take the time to personally tailor his speech to her specifically, as someone who is "looking for that perfect job, spouse, home, or special other thing that will complete [her] life."

"I thought Martin [Vaughan] would be some kind of hard-hearted capitalist incapable of sharing the same hopes and frustrations that I do," said Kirby. "But then he explained how he went from working in a JCPenney store to having dinner once with Vivica A. Fox using his method of focused positivity, and I was beside myself: I used to have a dead-end job, and Vivica A. Fox is in several movies I've seen. He might as well be my brother!"

After the lecture concluded, the exhilarated audience members filed out of the conference room, only to be inspired once again, this time by the fact that a wildly successful motivational speaker was not too high-and-mighty to sell his own book in the hotel lobby.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Gratitude 8/16/07

Wow, tough day today. Some of my friends and clients are out of a job. There's not a lot to be grateful for, but still, there is gratitude.

1) I am OK. I've lost some clients, but things always work out in the end.

2) I'm hopeful that I might provide some job leads for one of my clients who most needs to be working.

3) I wrote a new poem tonight.


I am an orphan at forty
it's strange how night tastes of ashes

memory refracts as light through stained glass
once there was a father, a mother, a sister

but I never knew these people
one can live among ghosts and never know them

darkness tastes of ashes, of death
but the ocean swallows without sorrow

I never cry anymore
what, after birth, is worth tears?

days collapse upon themselves
imploding with the dust of old buildings

unfettered, exiled from the tribe
at forty I wander in the desert

everything tastes of a moonless night
there is no place I have to be

What are you grateful for today?

Teens: What You Should Know

This is a bit cynical (from Lucid Cafe), but it's good advice. More comments below.

What You Should Know

A short list of what every kid should know
about what life is REALLY like . . .

  1. Life is NOT fair, get used to it.

  2. The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

  3. You will NOT make $50,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice president with a fancy car until you earn both.

  4. If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure.

  5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping; they called it opportunity.

  6. If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

  7. Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes, and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents' generation, try "delousing" the closet in your own room.

  8. Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades; they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

  9. Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.

  10. Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

  11. Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

  12. Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

These things are all true. But there are a few other things you should know (Life according to WH), most of these I have learned the hard way:

1. Never give up on yourself -- you can accomplish almost anything if you are willing to work hard for it.

2. The more you follow your own inner wisdom, the harder life will be -- but it's worth it.

3. Never work for someone who treats you or other people badly -- life is too short.

4. Education does not stop when you leave school -- Read! Listen! Look! Learn!

5. Sometimes we need a guide in life -- do not be afraid to see a therapist, a clergy member, or an elder.

6. When you screw up, learn from it so you don't do it again.

7. When life disappoints you -- and it will -- don't give up.

8. When something or someone hurts you, stay with your feelings -- NEVER ignore your feelings.

9. Always show the people you love that you love them -- you'll never regret it.

10. Lastly: Every day try to do something that makes you happy, or those around you happy.

Speedlinking 8/16/07

Quote of the day:

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy."
~ Ernest Benn

Image of the day (David Winston):

~ What Are Some Grocery Shopping Tips For A Bodybuilder? -- "What are some grocery shopping tips for a bodybuilder? Proper diet is one of the most important aspects of bodybuilding. Here are some fantastic tips on making your way through a grocery store and learning about good nutrition habits."
~ Hybrid Training: The Prequel -- "Scot Abel is a bodybuilding anarchist. He doesn't believe in tempo training, pre-determined rest intervals, back-off weeks, or the fact we have elves in the basement that make Metabolic Drive. What he does believe in is pretty cool, though."
~ Selenium May Increase Diabetes Risk -- "If you take selenium pills, you may be increasing your chances of developing diabetes, according to a report from the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer (NPC) trial (Annals of Internal Medicine, August 2007)."
~ Too much exercise may speed heart failure -- "Though exercise can be a key part of managing high blood pressure and heart disease, new animal research suggests there can be too much of a good thing." This really only applies to those with untreated high blood pressure, so keep working out.
~ Healthy Lifestyle Key To Cancer Prevention (HealthDay) -- "While the number of deaths from cancer have been declining, many malignancies could be prevented by exercising, eating right, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking, a new federal report finds."
~ Got a cold? Zinc lozenges won't help -- "There’s no proof that zinc lozenges, which are marketed for relieving symptoms of the common cold, work as advertised, according to a new research review."
~ Low-Fat Diet Not Good for Kids -- "Children need fat to fuel growth and should not be put on low-fat diets, researchers said." But the fats should be healthy fats, like nuts, nut butters (natural only), olive oil, and so on.
~ Lipo at 12? Weight Just a Minute -- "One pediatric nutritionist says diet control should have preceded the knife." Damn straight -- the doctor should lose his/her license.

~ Love Games -- "A new study used simulated relationships to offer new insight into real romance—showing how certain personality traits can sabotage healthy bonds."
~ Come on, get happy! -- "Happiness guru Michelle DeAngelis shows you how to find more joy in your life."
~ Review backs antidepressant effects of omega-3s -- "The results of a major review of published research that examined the relationship between depression and level of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet suggest that omega-3 fatty acids have antidepressant effects."
~ Positive Psychology Coaching (Biswas-Diener & Dean) - a Review -- "But does this book have anything new to say? Is this a book we should go and buy? Far be it from me to be responsible for anyone’s purchasing decisions but my answer would be a qualified yes. If Positive Psychology is a relatively new field to you then this book acts as a good introduction and then takes you further into the ways you can use it as a coach."
~ Time Magazine on decriminalising mental illness -- "Time magazine has an article on attempts to train law enforcement to prevent people with mental illness from needlessly ending up in behind bars. It includes some startling information, like the fact that more Americans receive mental health care in prisons than in hospitals."
~ Emotional Music [The Frontal Cortex] -- "Here's a cool new music site. The premise of the site,, is simple: you pick a mood (somewhere between the poles of "energetic," "dark," "calm," or "positive"), select a few musical genres and a favorite decade, and then the site automatically finds songs that reflect your state of mind. It's affective reverse-engineering."
~ Discover's 10 unsolved mysteries of the brain: Did they miss any? [Cognitive Daily] -- "Discover's got a very nice article about 10 unsolved mysteries of the brain. They're actually careful not to call these the "top 10" -- after all, who's to say that these are the 10 most important? Nonetheless, it's an impressive list."
~ 6 Steps for Building Positive Daily Habits -- "We’ve all faced the disappointment and guilt that comes from setting a goal and giving up on it after a couple of weeks. Sustaining motivation for a long-term goal is hard to achieve, and yet the best goals can usually only be accomplished in a few months or even years."
~ Life Sucks, Then You Die -- "Your life is your creation. It’s not something that happens to you — unless you make the foolish mistake of abandoning your position as its chief architect. If you find yourself in that situation, don’t feel bad. We all make that mistake at some point. We all forget that we’re in charge of our own lives and that our experience of life is largely under our control. But the truth is that we live by choice."

~ Panel Urges Tighter Tobacco Regulation -- "To aid the nation's fight against cancer, the federal government should increase taxes on tobacco products and strictly regulate the sales and marketing of tobacco, says an advisory panel to the president. Both recommendations, part of a report released Thursday, place the panel at odds with President Bush...."
~ Richard Thomas: Toward a More Complex and Difficult Depression -- "The current liquidity crisis can be paralleled to events leading up to the Great Depression. Specifically, the departure from fundamental valuation principles and extension of credit in the subprime market is consistent with mistakes made by speculators in the late 1920s."
~ Room to Roam -- "Just what kind of a writer is Rebecca Solnit? It’s not an easy question to answer, given the effortless way she crosses the borders of disciplines and genres. Her irrepressible curiosity has led her to investigate and reflect on a diverse range of subjects: landscapes both rural and urban, politics, the environment, indigenous people, technology, gender, art, and photography. Each of the labels that have been used to describe her—historian, journalist, cultural theorist, critic, activist—bumps up against the others."
~ John Edwards Speaks Out -- "Though consistently in third place nationally behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the former North Carolina senator has had outsize influence on his opponents, staking out aggressive positions on issues from providing universal healthcare to rejecting contributions from lobbyists. During an Iowa bus tour last week, with his wife, Elizabeth, at his side, Edwards sat down with U.S. News."
~ The 6 Most Over-Hyped Threats to America (And What Should Scare You Instead) -- "Some say that the government and the media are partners in a vast conspiracy, with a goal of making you so afraid that you’ll submit to their every desire. And, well—that sounds about right. Whether it’s the threat of a terrorist attack, a shady foreign dictator, or men putting their genitals into other men, the powers that be want to keep you afraid of things you simply shouldn’t be afraid of. Here are the six most unwarranted sources of fear the Man uses to keep you dumb… and Himself in power."
~ Bernanke Plays a High-Risk Game -- "The Fed chairman is "all in" on a big bet that the credit crisis won't cause a recession." He's gonna lose that bet.
~ Most Americans Approve of Interracial Marriages -- "According to a recent Gallup Poll, 77% of Americans say they approve of marriages between blacks and whites. This includes the vast majority of whites and blacks, but blacks are much more likely than whites to approve of interracial marriages."
~ Nation's Soul Is at Stake in NSA Surveillance Case -- "The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco hears arguments on two of the most important cases in decades on the rule of law and personal privacy. Will the government have "national security" immunity from public oversight and prosecution for illegal activities? Will it be able to legally warehouse citizen phone calls and e-mails for unsupervised data mining?"

~ How Bloggers Will Change the World, and How You Can Help -- "Today I am helping to launch a new initiative called Blog Action Day, along with Collis and Cyan Ta’eed of FreelanceSwitch and FlashDen … and our goal is to bring the blogging community together, for just one day, talking about one issue — and for Blog Action Day 2007 (Oct. 15, 2007), that issue is the environment."
~ Genetic phonetics could be the trick to sounding out DNA`s meaning -- "Most modern attempts to decipher how portions of genetic code are translated into physical characteristics are akin to a first-grader trying to sound out a word letter by letter — or, in this case, base pair by base pair."
~ Photons on the Half Shell -- "In the realm of ultra-fast science, there's a region where photons of light can be made to dance only half steps. Here, advances in laser science are letting researchers tinker with the behavior light in an entirely new way."
~ Researchers develop method for mass production of nanogap electrodes -- "Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a reliable, reproducible method for parallel fabrication of multiple nanogap electrodes, a development crucial to the creation of mass-produced nanoscale electronics."
~ New Study: Household Chemicals Linked To Cat Disease -- "Common flame retardants meant to keep families safe from fire may be contributing to a rash of thyroid disease in household cats, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday. They said polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs -- used in televisions, carpeting, furniture and mattresses -- were found in especially high levels in cats with hyperthyroidism, one of the most common and deadly diseases in older cats."
~ Structure of 450 million year old protein reveals evolution's steps -- "A detailed map that pinpoints the location of every atom in a 450-million-yeard-old resurrected protein reveals the precise evolutionary steps needed to create the molecule`s modern version, according to researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Oregon."
~ Ancient Tablet Vouches for Biblical King -- "A 2,500-year-old stone tablet supports the existence of an Old Testament king."

~ IntegralJournal (August 16, 2007) -- "Several years ago, I read a book about Generational Cycles. The book was The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny. My wife just completed the book and points out that although the book was written in 1997, it forecasts the election of someone like Bush and an event like 9/11."
~ How to set a team on fire? -- "The broader question behind the comment is, 'how do you motivate a team of people? How do you get them to be more engaged? It's a good one isn't it?.. So rather than reply as a comment l'm posting here instead."
~ Touching Suchness -- "I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth."
~ Staying power (1) -- "Sooner or later, one gets distracted. And then, one misses something - something quite significant. Hence, in order to really understand anything at all, developing the ability to remain undistracted is essential. In terms of 1st person awareness, such ability is taken to high levels of sophistication in the Buddhist training of shamatha, or calm abiding."
~ Gregg Lahood on spiritual projection (P2P in Australia 6) -- "Gregg Lahood, a transpersonal psychologist I had the opportunity to contact during my last lecture tour in Australia, has paid us a visit in Chiang Mai, and this was the occasion for some fascinating conversations on spiritual authoritarianism. I would like to share one of the texts found on his website, dealing with the link between that and the internal subjective process of ’spiritual projection’."

Stephen Colbert Investigates "Hate Speech" On Blogs With Markos Moulitsas

The lead-in is better than the interview, but it's all good.