Saturday, February 02, 2008

New Poem: Rattling Stone

Rattling Stone

fraying edges blur
subtle boundaries :: slippery
moss-covered rocks mark
the river's changing bank,
raucous caw of a crow :: do
sky and earth embrace
for lack of choice?

liminal edge, where voice
escapes the throat
in a roar of silence :: unsaid,
unable to say, choking :: voice
crushed by the weight
of being :: a cold stone
rattling within the skull

invoking the sibylline,
forbidden voice, offers
no solace :: no words
rise from the river,
and the crow glides away,
far horizon blurred
by clouds of cool rain

interiority diminishes
with each breath, each
moment blurs the lines
of self :: a woman
arises from the mist
of thought, walking
along the river's edge

her presence feels solid,
the fleshy hips, wild
hair covering her face,
each step filled with promise,
a phantom other
haunting damp sands
struggling through the glass

imagined or conjured, she
mirrors the broken
line :: boundaries crossed
and rejected, her voice
caws a quiet hello
as she passes :: something
black and winged

weight of being crushes
any reply :: voice wrapped
in weeds, tied in tiny
bows, an unopened gift
offered now, right now,
if only the stone's
rattling would be quiet

Barack Obama - Yes We Can (Music Video)

From Yahoo News:

On Saturday, YouTuber user "WeCan08" uploaded "Yes We Can," a music video for a new Obama ballad by the Black Eyed Peas' and director Jesse Dylan, Bob Dylan's son. The "song" was essentially written by Barack Obama, since the lyrics are adapted from his "Yes We Can" speech after the New Hampshire primary. That speech, of course, was inspired by Cesar Chavez's motto for a United Farm Workers hunger strike in 1972. Excerpts of Obama play throughout the video, with accompaniment from stars like John Legend, Herbie Hancock, Common, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Scarlett Johansson, Tatyana Ali and Nick Cannon. The video was first reported by ABC News, which interviewed the creators.

There's no telling if this video will catch on, but musicians have turned political speeches into popular songs before. The most famous example is Haile Selassie's 1963 address to the UN, which Bob Marley put to music in the song "War."

While the Obama campaign had no role in this video, it has run a sophisticated and effective YouTube strategy. It was the only campaign to record a YouTube address for this week's State of the Union, which has already drawn over 850,000 views and is one of the most popular clips in the world this week. The campaign also promotes a battery of ring tones, which splice one-liners from Obama with riffs of music. Young voters can get the items for free by providing the campaign with their cell phone number -- a life-line for organizing a demographic that is rarely listed in party databases.

Ari Melber writes for The Nation, where this post first appeared.

Daily Dharma: Facing the Right Direction

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

Facing the Right Direction

In Buddhism there are numerous paths of spiritual training. Each has its unique goal, purpose, and benefits for oneself and others. But in order to be able to benefit truly, it is very important to understand the principal purpose underlying these practices. If we take the wrong turn at a crossroads, every step we make will take us further from our destination. In the same way, if we fail to realize the nature of our spiritual goal and what our aim should be, our practice will not be beneficial, or at least not nearly as helpful as it could otherwise be.

The main focus of all of our training in Dharma is to benefit our minds.... If we do not improve our minds, then regardless of how many understandings we have about the ten stages, the five paths, ceremonies, philosophies, and so forth, they'll all become objects that we never apply to ourselves. It can be very simple, like when we are facing the right direction--every step will bring us closer to our destination.

- Tulku Thondup, in Enlightened Journey; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

LA Times Endorses Obama

Support for Obama seems to be building both nationally and in California, where he had been trailing Clinton by a substantial margin. has endorsed him, but so has a major California union.

Perhaps the best endorsement comes from the LA Times, who list several points in making their decision. But in the end, the best point is a metaphorical statement about the candidates that I find quite true in my own feelings about them.

In the language of metaphor, Clinton is an essay, solid and reasoned; Obama is a poem, lyric and filled with possibility. Clinton would be a valuable and competent executive, but Obama matches her in substance and adds something that the nation has been missing far too long -- a sense of aspiration.

This rings true for me, and I fully admit that my support for Obama comes more from my sense of him as a person, and less about the distinctions between him and Clinton. Hillary would no doubt be a better president than either of the two GOP front-runners (McCain and Romney), but Obama inspires me, and that has been what I have been seeking in a presidential candidate for all of my adult life.

Richard Dawkins on The Big Questions

This is a 6-part video -- an hour long discussion.


"Nicky Campbell and Sonia Deol host a series of moral, ethical and religious debates on topical issues live from Oxford. On the panel are former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, Professor Richard Dawkins, Ann Widdecombe MP and Jonathan Bartley, joined by special guest John Barrowman.

Should blasphemy remain a crime?
Can we live without lying?
Should religion be only for grown-ups? "

Radiohead - Scotch Mist

Pretty damn cool.

A film with Radiohead in it made for New Year's Eve, 2007. Features every song on their new album IN RAINBOWS, the "physical manifestation" out now in stores.

Get the new album on CD and VINYL at the link below:

Friday, February 01, 2008

Lojong Poems: Eight


Lojong Poems: Eight

Understand your attachments, your aversions, all your indifferences, and love them all.

I. Flesh

These bones, a framework
upon which this flesh hangs,
crave her touch :: sharing
of cells with a woman
I once knew.

This craving, like thirst,
returns again and again,
never slaked,
never forgotten,
only bandaged by the touch
of other hands :: not hers.

This body is not me.
And yet I wear it
as a fine garment,
a silk robe,
a symbol of something
that can never be seen.

II. Decay

The minute hand moves
so quickly, without remorse.
Clouds roll across the sky
as though these days
mean nothing.

What will I become?
Will these bones crumble
to dust while I am sleeping?

Will I never feel her touch
in the cool light of morning?
Hear her voice
mock my self-importance?

The cruel procession of minutes
rips my heart from these ribs,
leaves me sitting
in a dark corner
amid dust and cobwebs,
wishing time were an illusion.

III. Loss

Wrinkles gather around my eyes
and my beard is mostly gray.

I've quit checking the mirror
for the predictable signs.

I'm resigned to this empty apartment
and the absence of her body beside me.

IV. Acceptance

I am learning to love the ache.

I may never see her again,
smell her hair,
enjoy her hand in mine.

I awaken to the cooing
of mourning doves,
the clamor of quail
foraging for food.

My 40 days in the desert
are long past :: and what remains
is the need :: the quest
to know, that even in loss
I am whole,
filled with Eros,
not merely alone.

I am learning to love this ache.

The Proust Questionnaire

I've been tagged by Loden Jinpa to answer the following questions, The Proust Questionnaire, which began in Vanity Fair with Norman Mailer. Loden was tagged by Danny Fisher.

I'm feeling a bit goofy after a long week, so I can't be held responsible for my answers. OK?

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Morning nookie. But since I am currently single, I'll get all philosophical and say, Feeling that my life is aligned with the Eros of the Kosmos.

What is your greatest fear?
Wasting my life -- not giving something back.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Don Quixote, although he is a fictional figure. So, historically? Li Po.

Which living person do you most admire?
Pema Chodron -- so much heart, so much wisdom.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Fear -- I don't like feeling afraid of new things, new feelings, or anything else.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Certitude. People who are certain are seldom open to new information, which tends to make them dogmatic.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Books. I love books. I buy books the way Imelda Marcos bought shoes.

What is your favorite journey?
Life -- what better journey is there?

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Certitude -- see above.

On what occasion do you lie?
When it's necessary to spare another's feelings in the absence of any chance that the truth will benefit that person.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
Dumb question.

Which living person do you most despise?
I try not despise anyone, but there is a long list of people who I think are not acting from compassion, and that bothers me.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Fuck. Shit. Dumbass. Cool.

What is your greatest regret?
This could be a long list. In general, I regret anything and everything I have done that needlessly hurt another person. But regret is useless. I err, I learn, I try to make amends.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Other than cashew butter? Oh, OK. Who: CNT (formerly CNS). What: growing as a person.

Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to be patient and compassionate when that isn't what I'm feeling.

What is your current state of mind?
Goofy, but trying to be serious.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
My family is gone -- nothing to change.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Haven't done it yet -- and if I can ever name this, then it's time to move on to the next life (if there is one).

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
A new me, hopefully a little closer to enlightenment.

If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
A raven. Brain, wings, no predators. How cool is that?

What is your most treasured possession?

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Self-doubt and self-loathing.

Where would you like to live?
A little cabin someplace in the mountains, near a lake, or a river, with lots of trees. It would be nice, of course, if this was within 30 minutes of a "real" city, like Seattle, Portland, or Denver.

What is your favorite occupation?
Right now, the ones I have -- writer and personal trainer.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Intensity? Knowledge? Presence? I don't really know. It could just as well be stubbornness.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

What do you most value in your friends?
Honesty and presence. Compassion and empathy are good, too.

Who are your favorite writers?
Charles Wright, Shakespeare, Melville, Rumi, Rilke, Faulkner, Pema Chodron -- this list could go on for days.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Coyote -- except he is sort of an anti-hero, being a trickster and all.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Anyone who lives a life of integrity, compassion, and service.

What are your favorite names?
Who cares?

What is it that you most dislike?
Mosquitoes, cockroaches, wasps -- see a theme here?

How would you like to die?
Peacefully, without pain, and high on mushrooms.

What is your motto?
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I tag: Peter, John Craig, Renegade Buddha, Albert, Shaman Sun, Apollo. And anyone else who wants to play.

Bench Press - Arthur "Superman" Jones

This is what a good bench press looks like -- slow descent, no bounce, explosive push.

Arthur "Superman" Jones pushes 520X2, 550X2, 580X2. I dream of pushing weights like this with good form.

Satire: Hillary, Obama Get a Room

Andy Borowitz, on the campaign trail.

Hillary, Obama Get a Room

Posted February 1, 2008 | 11:33 AM (EST)

After two hours of a televised debate that many pundits characterized as a love-fest, Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton confirmed today that they have gotten a room.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton secured a room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, conveniently located near the Kodak Theater where the CNN debate took place.

The extraordinary announcement came on the heels of a request made by millions of television viewers, who emailed CNN last night urging the Democratic rivals to get a room.

In a joint statement released by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama this morning, the two presidential contenders said, "We have heard the voters loud and clear, asking us to get a room - and we have gotten that room."

After the couple released a photo of themselves in fluffy white hotel bathrobes, there was a palpable sense of relief in Democratic circles that the two senators had in fact gotten a room.

"It was a little uncomfortable watching the two of them up there together, barely keeping their hands off each other," said DNC chairman Howard Dean. "The sexual tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife."

As news spread of the candidates' decision to get a room, pundits speculated about what role former President Bill Clinton might play in such a room.

"I don't see him playing a role there," said Hillary biographer Carl Bernstein. "I think Bill Clinton respects the right of someone to get a room."

Elsewhere, advisors to G.O.P frontrunner John McCain have urged him to stop speaking in that spooky voice.

Speedlinking 2/1/08

Quote of the day:

"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them."
~ Mark Twain

Image of the day (Srirama Raja):

~ Fitness Jargon: Understanding Your Workout -- "Almost every field of expertise has its own jargon—including fitness. Attempting to discern “reps” from “sets” and “VO2 max” from “target heart rate” and “interval training,” could cause any newcomer to go into fitness jargon overload."
~ An Apple A Day Keeps Dementia Away -- "It would seem that the old wives' tale "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" has borne fruit again in that a new study suggests that apples, bananas and oranges protect against neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's."
~ Guest Blog: Your Fitness Future Foretold -- "In this article, I'm going to predict your future and forecast exactly what kind of results you're going to get in the next 12 months. Sylvia Browne, step aside... I'm pretty good at this."
~ How to Deal with Annoying People at The Gym -- "My Top 5 Ways to Deal with Annoying People at The Gym. You could use these tips in other areas of your life too."
~ Tackling Triglycerides: 8 Ways To Solve A Big Fat Problem -- "When it comes to heart health, the largest and most common form of fat in food and the bloodstream triglycerides has taken a back seat to "bad" LDL cholesterol and "good" HDL cholesterol in the public's awareness. That's changing as researchers get a grip on how triglycerides influence the risk of heart disease, reports the February 2008 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter. Triglycerides are in the danger zone when they slide above 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood."
~ Experimental Vaccine Halts Prostate Cancer in Mice (HealthDay) -- "An experimental prostate cancer vaccine has stopped the progress of the disease in 90 percent of the mice who got it, California researchers report."
~ You call that health food? -- "Just because the label says it's good for you doesn't mean it is. Here's how to read beyond the marketing hype."
~ It’s February. How’s that diet coming? -- "It's now one month into 2008, and your eating habits may have veered a bit off course. But it's not too late — five small changes can help you cut calories and get your diet back on track."
~ The Pros and Cons of Drinking Beer -- "Sometimes even referred to as "liquid bread", beer is one of the oldest and one of most popular alcoholic beverages in the world. Brewer's yeast, one of the beer's main components, is known to be a rich source of nutrients and this means that beer may have some health benefits. Does this mean beer is a healthy drink? Let's look at the pros and cons of beer drinking and decide after."
~ HPV Causing More Oral Cancer in Men -- "The sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer in women is poised to become one of the leading causes of oral cancer in men, according to a new study."

~ The Five Questions You Must Ask Your Therapist -- "Do you know how a therapist can manipulate a client in the very first conversation they have? Do you know how a therapist or self development workshop leader can use an anecdote or story to confuse a person? If they were to add a certain attitude at this point they might well illicit an emotional response from their client. And if they add a highly sensitive personal matter it could leave a person reeling. The client may well be left thinking they need to go back and get help from the person who has set them up to feel a certain way." Disclaimer -- I believe in therapy, but this is worth considering because not all therapists are good.
~ Seven Words That Can Change the World: An Elegant Theory of Universal Transformation, by Joseph Simonetta -- "Seven Words That Can Change the World is not for people who are afraid to challenge their current beliefs and philosophical alliances. At the risk of offending a few people on certain sensitive topics, Simonetta lays out a powerful philosophy that marries personal freedom with global abundance while protecting the environment and enhancing personal health. Whether or not you agree with the specific philosophies espoused by Simonetta, his eye-opening book will no doubt cause you to think more deeply about the things you do believe (and why you believe them)." Review of a free e-book.
~ Secrets of Wellbeing Series — Part 1: Authentic Happiness -- "This is the first of a seven-part series on the Secrets of Wellbeing. The reason I’m launching into this series is because I’m excited about what is happening in the field of psychology and how new research supports ancient teachings."
~ Pauses in speech -- "While I was off guest-posting elsewhere, I talked Kristina Lundholm, a PhD student in linguistics and also a speech & language pathologist, into guest-posting here. She knows a great deal more about speech errors and disfluencies than I do. This is her follow-up to my post about errors in speech."
~ How Long Will It Take? -- "This is often one of the first questions in the mind of a prospective client when they meet a therapist for the first time. The therapist often gives an answer along the lines that each "case" is individual, but how often does this answer sound like a platitude?"
~ Being an Optimist: 8 Ways to Overcome Pessimism -- "Pessimism is disastrous. It ruins hope and possibilities. If someone is pessimistic, he doesn’t hope for a better future neither do something to achieve it. The obstacles along the way seem enormous, and he doubts his ability to overcome them. At the end, he will just stay where he is, without making any progress. People can waste years, even their whole lives, because of pessimism."
~ Consciousness: The Source for Nature and Nurture? -- "It's a complex and mysterious field, so I've only offered a gloss. But we've covered enough ground to see that both sides of the debate between nature and nurture can claim part of the truth. Neither can claim to know how much the brain adapts to outside influences and how much is pre-set by genes."
~ What’s YOUR Sticking Point? -- "When we start something new, we often have a huge burst of enthusiasm and energy that carries us through the early stages. But eventually the newness wears off, and the project settles down into a daily grind. We reach a sticking point of one kind or another and get hung up."
~ How To Really Talk To Your Therapist: Four Collaborative Steps -- "People who go into therapy frequently report good experiences where the patient feels understood and well-supported by the therapist, who uses his or her therapeutic skills to facilitate a discovery and healing process."
~ carnival of eating disorders #13 -- "welcome to this month’s carnival of eating disorders, a monthly collection of interesting posts on eating disorders and related issues such as anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, cumpulsive exercising and overeating."

~ Self-help won't help American literature -- "In fact, Oprah was not referring to a White House run of her own, but rather to the latest selection for her eponymous book club, a self-help tome called A New Earth by one Eckhart Tolle. (He is also the author of the best-selling self-help book The Power of Now, which was recently spotted in the hands of poor Britney Spears.) And not only is it the book club pick, but Oprah and Eckhart will host a series of 10 webcast discussions, each centred around one chapter - an unprecedented book club feature. This is going to be huge."
~ Who Wears the Pants? Hillary Clinton’s Prospective First Gentleman -- "Whether the aura of the Clinton name offers a potential boost for Hillary, however, is for the most part speculative, and questions remain about Bill Clinton’s impact on Hillary’s candidacy, and what role(s) he would play as “First Gentleman” in the White House."
~ Out of Context: The Real Surreal World -- "Why are the most visceral, defining moments in our life often perceived as unreal or dream-like?"
~ Review - The Faces of Terrorism - Social and Psychological Dimensions --"Scholars and policy makers discuss the moral, political, legal, cultural, and economic factors of terrorism but, ultimately, it is a matter of emotions and minds. Its psychological aspects seem to dominate over all others because the goals of terrorist groups cannot be achieved without exerting a strong pressure on the psyche of the public and governments. Terrorists believe that violent actions send their message and would make the world follow their demands."
~ Hillary and Obama, Ignore the Sleazy Pollsters Who Want You to Cave on Drug Reform -- "The Dem candidates have good positions on medical marijuana, but they need to stand up for comprehensive changes in our drug laws."
~ A Big Challenge for a 'Broken' Washington -- "More than 7 out of 10 Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction."
~ Exxon Mobil Profit Sets Record Again -- "The company reported Friday that it beat its own record for the highest profits ever recorded by any company, with net income rising 3 percent to $40.6 billion, thanks to surging oil prices. The company’s sales, more than $404 billion, exceeded the gross domestic product of 120 countries." That's just wrong in so many ways.
~ The Online Beat: Ann Coulter's Diabolical Campaign for Clinton -- "The right-wing diva sets out to destroy two campaigns with one slur."
~ McCain vs. the Right Wing -- "Limbaugh, Dobson, etc. claim they can't abide him. How far will he go to appease them?"

~ Is DDT Making a Comeback? -- "In Africa, where malaria kills a million children a year, some are advocating the return of DDT. Are they right?"
~ Is Yahoo Worth $44.6 billion? -- "Microsoft is paying a premium to catch up to Google."
~ No Targets Set at Climate Meeting -- "A meeting of delegates from the nations that emit the most pollutants ended without concrete targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions."
~ Microsoft-Yahoo Merger By the Numbers -- "Microsoft's $44 billion bid for Yahoo translates into nearly $1,200 for each unique monthly visitor to Yahoo's web sites. You want more metrics? We got 'em. Get your red-hot data here!"
~ U.S. farms decline in 2007 to 2.08 mln -- "The American landscape is dotted with fewer farms as a result of consolidation and a movement of land to nonagricultural uses, the government said on Friday."
~ Seafloor Chemistry: Life's building blocks made inorganically -- "Hydrocarbons in fluids spewing from hydrothermal vents on the seafloor in the central Atlantic were produced by inorganic chemical reactions deep within the ocean crust, a finding with implications for the possible origins of life."
~ Dusty Clues: Study suggests no dearth of Earths -- "A new study suggests that many, or perhaps most, sunlike stars have planets much like Earth."
~ Airbus super-jumbo tests out new synthetic fuel -- "An Airbus A380 super jumbo, the world's largest passenger aircraft, flew here Friday from Britain using a new synthetic fuel said to be cleaner and more efficient than traditional kerosene."
~ Journey to Saturn From Your Computer -- "Want a peek at Saturn as seen from space? A new interactive 3-D viewer that uses a game engine and allows users to travel to Saturn and see it the way the Cassini spacecraft sees it is now online at NASA's Cassini page.

~ Awakening through "instinctive" training - A Programless Program -- "I thought I'd discuss how I train (currently) and maybe it will help others. First off, realize that I attempt to bring my experience of "awakening" (for lack of a better word) into everything I do. While I may not be enlightened (whatever the heck that exactly means) I have at least awakened from the dream of separation—as some Zen or Advaita masters might put it—and so I try to carry this ever-present awareness of What-Is into my training as much as I do the rest of my life."
~ The Neurosciences of Religion: Meditation, Entheogens, Mysticism -- "In this lecture, we are going to examine the human brain directly to see how the cognitive neurosciences try to understand and explain religious and spiritual experiences. And we note first that there has been a tremendous amount of new research and new insights into the working of the human brain in the last few decades. Powerful new tools also allow us to examine the function of healthy human brains and these tools have recently been used to study the brain functions of Buddhist monks, Catholic nuns, Pentecostals speaking in tongues, and others."
~ Matthew Dallman Radio -- "Is now on the air! Now you can listen to my music, easier and with more variety than ever before. Near the top of the page, under the logo and under GooseDrops, there is a flash player that is programmed to shuffle through my work perpetually. Which means: You gotta press play!"
~ Meditation Posture -- "When I was first studying Buddhism I was daunted by meditation because I read so much about having the right posture, sitting in the 'correct fashion.' I read about the Full Lotus position the Half-Lotus position and the Burmese position. I was over-whelmed by the detailed nature of meditation positions and I was worried that I was going to 'make a mistake' I read about teachers who would hit you on your head or back if your posture didn't adhere to the complicated 'rules.'"
~ Basic Concepts of Buddhism -- "The Buddha's four realisations led to the formulation of an eightfold path, a 'middle way' that leads from suffering and rebirth to nirvana."
~ finding meaning in our lives -- "A new perspective has emerged from neuroscience in the past 20 years. What gives life its richness does not come from reason and intellect. It comes instead from a well-balanced emotional brain, that deepest and most archaic part of the nervous system. And what does a balanced emotional brain need? Above all, strong connections, full relationships. These can be found in four areas of our lives."
~ An Integral approach to the Social and Emotional Development of the Profoundly Gifted -- "Gifted children, like many individuals, must embark upon a heroic quest towards self-understanding and self-realization. Jackson's brief essay outlines an integral approach to helping children become conscious participants in their own developmental matrix & embodied life."
~ The Proust Questionnaire -- "I’ve being tagged by Danny Fisher and so he are my answers to the following questionnaire." Dang, he tagged me. :)
~ Turquoise Shadows (transcript of a conversation with Ken Wilber) -- "This is part two of my conversation on shadow with Ken Wilber (IS Call on Ch. 6 “Shadow/Disowned Self” - Part 6). I wrote a transcript of part one ("Nameless Dread at the Brink of the Transpersonal") and will transcribe the third and final section eventually."

Daily Dharma: Like a man floating in water

Today's Daily Dharma:

Like a man floating in water

Like a man floating in water
Who dies of thirst, afraid of drowning:
So are those who are learned
Who do not apply the teaching.

Like a person skilled in medicine
Who can’t cure his own disease:
So are those who are learned
Who do not apply the teaching.

Like a deaf musician
Who pleases others, not hearing himself:
So are those who are learned
Who do not apply the teaching.

Like someone on a corner
Saying all kinds of fine things,
While having no real inner virtue
So are those who don’t practice.

~ The Flower Ornament Scripture, trans. by Thomas Cleary; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

Debunking Psychics . . . Almost

The BBC show Watchdog did an episode on debunking psychics who are robbing millions of people with false claims of psychic skills. A worthy effort. However, the show raised the ire of the New Humanist blog by throwing in a qualifier: "Of course, there are genuine psychics out there as well."

What? Did the presenter of the BBC's flagship consumer awareness programme just suggest that it's possible to find real psychics with real psychic powers who can provide you with real information?

On this week's edition, the presenters backtracked slightly in response to letters questioning Bradbury's bizarre statement. Co-presenter Nicky Campbell declared that "proving the authenticity or otherwise of all psychics is slightly outside our area of expertise, but it seems to us that there is a big difference between someone who reads your tea leaves at the village fĂȘte and someone ... who tries to snaffle hundreds of pounds so she can 'fix your aura'."

Well, you can kind of see their point I suppose, but only if these innocent village fĂȘte "psychics" are only selling their "services" as a bit of fun, and a bit of fun for charity at that. They're clearly not as bad as those involved in mega-scams, but there's still plenty of people raking in small sums at a time by claiming various supernatural abilities. You only have to take a stroll along Brighton seafront in summer to see those people in action and, in my books, they're still involved in scams.

I think this is an apples and oranges thing. A person with "real" psychic skills (and for the record, I do think there are such people) would probably not be bilking people for tons of dollars -- and those who are likely don't have any psychic skills.

There's a BIG difference between a scam business and an intuitive individual -- to say that all psychic skills are bunk because some people run these scams is a huge -- and misguided -- leap in logic.

Anyway, here is the video of the show.

The Plastered Poetic Genius of Li Po

The Guardian blog has an article on Li Po and his love of wine (and the great poetry he produced).

My recent discovery of a clutch of early Chinese poets has been something of a revelation, and renewed my interest in poetry in ways I hadn't thought possible. Chief among them is one of the China's most recognised poets Li Po (also known as Li Bai or Li Bo), who lived from 701 to 762 during the Tang dynasty.

Reading Li Po for the first time releases all kinds of emotions, chief among them surprise - surprise that here is a man writing poems that could have been written yesterday. You are also inclined to wonder why such easily digestible works aren't on every national curriculum or university course, given that they say as much about the human condition as anything written since. And you'll probably find yourself in awe at Li Po's fondness for drinking and at the role booze plays in his work.

If Charles Bukowski, Dylan Thomas or Brendan Behan (self-described as "a drinker with a writing problem") are your idea of wonderful big-hearted bar-room bards then you should probably investigate Li Po immediately. Here is a poet whose "technique" involved climbing a mountain, getting wasted, then writing down his thoughts. The work he produced during such jollies was highly meditative, though only in the same way the drunk in the corner of your local pub is meditative, while his ability to convey the skull-crushing, fear-inducing effect of hangovers is second to none.

Li Po's work is full of the same recurring images: the mountain, the moon, a nice big jar of wine. Much of his work is imbued with that sense of warmth and oneness that comes after the first few glasses, as well as that maudlin regret that comes with the next few.

There's more -- and it's worth the read.

Here are a few poems from one of the great masters -- and I agree that Li Po should be taught a LOT more than he is now. You'll notice in these poems the theme from the article -- a good jug of wine and a little melancholy.

Alone And Drinking Under The Moon

Amongst the flowers I
am alone with my pot of wine
drinking by myself; then lifting
my cup I asked the moon
to drink with me, its reflection
and mine in the wine cup, just
the three of us; then I sigh
for the moon cannot drink,
and my shadow goes emptily along
with me never saying a word;
with no other friends here, I can
but use these two for company;
in the time of happiness, I
too must be happy with all
around me; I sit and sing
and it is as if the moon
accompanies me; then if I
dance, it is my shadow that
dances along with me; while
still not drunk, I am glad
to make the moon and my shadow
into friends, but then when
I have drunk too much, we
all part; yet these are
friends I can always count on
these who have no emotion
whatsoever; I hope that one day
we three will meet again,
deep in the Milky Way.

* * * * *

(Here is a different translation by Sam Hamill of the previous poem.)

Drinking Alone

I take my wine jug out among the flowers
to drink alone, without friends.

I raise my cup to entice the moon.
That, and my shadow, makes us three.

But the moon doesn't drink,
and my shadow silently follows.

I will travel with moon and shadow,
happy to the end of spring.

When I sing, the moon dances.
When I dance, my shadow dances, too.

We share life's joys when sober.
Drunk, each goes a separate way.

Constant friends, although we wander,
we'll meet again in the Milky Way.

* * * * *

Mountain Drinking Song

To drown the ancient sorrows,
we drank a hundred jugs of wine
there in the beautiful night.
We couldn't go to bed with the moon so bright.

The finally the wine overcame us
and we lay down on the empty mountain--
the earth for a pillow,
and a blanket made of heaven.

* * * * *

A Mountain Revelry

To wash and rinse our souls of their age-old sorrows,
We drained a hundred jugs of wine.
A splendid night it was . . . .
In the clear moonlight we were loath to go to bed,
But at last drunkenness overtook us;
And we laid ourselves down on the empty mountain,
The earth for pillow, and the great heaven for coverlet.

You can find 62 of Li Po's poems at Poem Hunter.

Acoustic Guitar: Craig D'Andrea - "Morrison County"

This kid is pretty good.

Everclear - Santa Monica

A grunge-era flashback from my favorite Portland (OR) band.


Cake - Never There

Dang, I had totally forgotten about Cake until this song came up over on the sift.


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dumbing Us Down: The American Tragedy

From Google Video:

Are America's Schools Teaching To Their Potential? We Hope To Find Out In This Documentary.

Speedlinking 1/31/08

Quote of the day:

"Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long."
~ Leonard Bernstein

Image of the day (Francis):

~ Sodium, Your Secret Weapon -- "For years, the armchair physicians have been telling you to avoid sodium. The trouble is, anyone worth their salt will tell you that optimum amounts help prevent illness, ensure optimum energy, and help produce a leaner, harder, physique."
~ Recipe of the Week: The Paillard Method -- "If there's one thing Shugart knows, it's how to pound meat. Simply whip out your meat and proceed to abuse it. Then add heat to the meat. The end result is one great tastin' piece of chicken (what did you think we were talking about?)."
~ Choosing a Gym: Forgotten Points -- "I’ve seen more people doing tours of my gym this month than Epcot does in an entire summer. With the holidays ending and summer peeking around the corner, January and February are the most popular months to join a gym. Many people take the normal factors (cost, initiation fees, equipment, etc.) into consideration when scouting out a gym but some people forget the little things that are important in a fitness facility. Here are some of the forgotten points to remember...."
~ Personal Best: Staying a Step Ahead of Aging -- "Researchers find that while you will slow down as you age, you may be able to stave off more of the deterioration than you thought."
~ The Risk Of Alzheimer's Disease May Be Reduced By Fruit Consumption -- "Apples, bananas, and oranges are the most common fruits in both Western and Asian diets, and are important sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A new study in the Journal of Food Science explores the additional health benefits of these fruits and reveals they also protect against neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's Disease."
~ Scientists study how HIV hides in body (AP) -- "The AIDS virus has hideouts deep in the immune system that today's drugs can't reach. Now scientists finally have discovered how HIV builds one of those fortresses — and they're exploring whether a drug already used to fight a parasite in developing countries just might hold a key to break in."
~ It Feels Good, and Everybody Does It -- "Scientists are using state-of-the-art technology to look at what happens in the brain when a person scratches an itch. There's more going on than you might think."

~ ADHD Kids May Make for Bigger Bullies -- "Bullying is a cyclical phenomenon: the child who suffers the wrath of his peers is more likely to take out his own violent urges on smaller or less capable classmates. Call it a very twisted sort of revenge. But new research implies that bullies and their victims are even more closely intertwined than we'd been led to believe."
~ Confucius Top 9 Lessons for Life -- "Here are a few of my favourite tips from Confucius that you may have heard many times before, perhaps attributed to him or someone else. You can of course read more about Confucius at wikipedia and other places online."
~ Seek and Destroy Your Stress -- "Stress is all around us - at home, at work and in the car. With it so prominent in our lives, it's important to look at what's causing all this tension, some warning signals that you're on the brink, but most importantly ways to reduce it. Stress can show up in our live in a variety of ways, the two most common are behavioral and cognitive."
~ Looking In All the Right Places -- "Where do you look when something goes wrong? What do you focus on when you can't seem to get ahead? Which thoughts run through your head when you've just bungled something? Which feelings course through you when your world turns upside-down? The answers to all of those questions tell you a great deal about the current quality (or lack of quality) of your life."
~ Vitamin Power -- "Vitamin deficiency may lead to depression and dementia."
~ Scientific American Mind: Affairs of the Lips: Why We Kiss -- "When passion takes a grip, a kiss locks two humans together in an exchange of scents, tastes, textures, secrets and emotions. We kiss furtively, lasciviously, gently, shyly, hungrily and exuberantly. We kiss in broad daylight and in the dead of night. We give ceremonial kisses, affectionate kisses, Hollywood air kisses, kisses of death and, at least in fairytales, pecks that revive princesses."
~ Scientific American Mind: Sex is Better for Women in Love -- "Women certainly know when they experience one, but science, on the other hand, knows surprisingly little about the female orgasm. Most studies have looked at animals rather than humans, focusing on how sensory information flows to and from the sex organs. Now a new study suggests that a woman’s orgasms have more to do with her brain than with her body. Not only do neural networks play a large role, but the feelings a woman has for her sexual partner are tied to just how good her orgasms are."
~ Scientific American Mind: A False Alarm -- "One minute you are feeling fine. Then suddenly you are trembling, nauseated and short of breath; your heart is racing, and your chest hurts. You fear you are about to die. A panic attack is a terrifying experience--and one that can strike anyone at any moment. Although the cause of panic attacks remains uncertain, new research suggests too much carbon dioxide might be to blame."

~ Is Autism Caused by a Vaccine Additive? No -- "There has been no proven scientific connection between thimerosal and autism, and since being pulled from the market in the U.S. autism rates have not significantly dropped. But that didn’t stop the writers of the Eli Stone episode [on ABC] from suggesting otherwise and implicating the vaccine additive connection."
~ God, Science and an Unbeliever's Utopia -- "Last year's wildly popular Beyond Belief 1.0 scientific conference primarily focused upon and championed irreligion. The Beyond Belief 2.0 conference held at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., this past November was wider in scope. Rather than aiming to be another undiluted atheist lovefest, it attempted to consider changes in the ideas of the Enlightenment that are necessary given advances in various disciplines since the 18th century."
~ The TNR Primary: Part One -- An assortment of endorsements, including a poet, a novelist, and a lawyer, among others.
~ America’s middle classes are no longer coping -- "The fact is, middle-class families have exhausted the coping mechanisms they have used for more than three decades to get by on median wages that are barely higher than they were in 1970, adjusted for inflation. Male wages today are in fact lower than they were then: the income of a young man in his 30s is now 12 per cent below that of a man his age three decades ago. Yet for years now, America’s middle class has lived beyond its pay cheque. Middle-class lifestyles have flourished even though median wages have barely budged. That is ending and Americans are beginning to feel the consequences."
~ Jim Wallis: Well Done, Thou Good and Faithful Servants -- "John Edwards has changed the shape and the agenda of this campaign. He has put the needs of the poor and working families on the political agenda for the first time in many years. His clear and consistent voice has made sure that universal health care, fundamental issues of economic inequality, and the plight of so many Americans who are barely getting by would be on the front burner of this election campaign."
~ The Year of the Youth Vote -- "Young people are voting in numbers not seen in decades. Barack Obama is both catalyst and beneficiary. Will they make the difference?"
~ Not So Superdelegates -- "Ari Berman | Elite, unelected insiders may hold the key to the 2008 Democratic nomination. How did things become so undemocratic?"
~ The Choice -- "Christopher Hayes | Incredibly, progressives are split between Clinton and Obama. Here's why Obama is the left's best chance to take back the country."
~ Banned: MySpace deletes world's largest atheist group -- "Social networking site MySpace, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, has sparked controversy by deleting the world's largest online atheist group following complaints from people who find atheism "offensive"."
~ Clooney speaks out on Darfur at U.N. -- "The new messenger of peace, whose scheduled speech was canceled amid objections, conducts his own meeting to give firsthand accounts of the troubled region."

~ Hunger Could Be Alleviated And Rural Development Bolstered By African Fruits, Resulting In Environmental Stability -- "Africa's own fruits are a largely untapped resource that could combat malnutrition and boost environmental stability and rural development in Africa, says a new report from the National Research Council."
~ ZAP Says its $30K Electric Sports Car Is Coming in 2009 -- "Can't afford $98,000 for a Tesla Roadster? The Zap Alias costs 69 percent less money and has 25 percent fewer wheels."
~ Study: Climate Change Escalating Severe Western Water Crisis -- "A new paper from climate scientists finds that dropping water supplies in the West are primarily due to manmade global warming through the increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases."
~ Author Delivers Sobering Vision of a Hotter Planet -- "Environmentalist and author Mark Lynas paints a gloomy picture of Earth's future in Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. But in an interview with Wired News he says it's not time to despair just yet."
~ Oil Exploration In Arctic Highly Risky: 'Response Gap' In Case Of Oil Spill, According To New Report -- "Arctic marine conditions contribute to an oil spill "response gap" that effectively limits the ability to clean up after an oil spill. A new report concludes that the only way to avoid the potentially devastating environmental risks is to ensure that no more of the Arctic is opened up to oil development until the response gap is closed."
~ Supernova Surprise: Black Holes May Pull Apart, Reignite White Dwarf Stars -- "A strange and violent fate awaits a white dwarf star that wanders too close to a moderately massive black hole. According to a new study, the black hole's gravitational pull on the white dwarf would cause tidal forces sufficient to disrupt the stellar remnant and reignite nuclear burning in it, giving rise to a supernova explosion with an unusual appearance."
~ Scientists solve mystery of glassy water -- "Water has some amazing properties. It is the only natural substance found in all three states — solid, liquid and gas — within the range of natural Earth temperatures. Its solid form is less dense than its liquid form, which is why ice floats. It can absorb a great deal of heat without getting hot, has very high surface tension (helping it move through roots and capillaries — vital to maintaining life on Earth) and is virtually incompressible."
~ Impoverished areas of Africa and Asia face severe crop losses from climate change in 20 years -- "Many of the world`s poorest regions could face severe crop losses in the next two decades because of climate change, according to a new study by researchers at Stanford University`s Program on Food Security and the Environment (FSE). Their findings will be published in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal Science."

~ Discussion ad hominem -- "Not long ago I decided to effectively leave the Zaadz community and abandon my post there for several reasons. First, I felt the promised transformative platform was being pampered and traded for an irritating LOHAS chic, soon to be confirmed with Zaadz (a Friend of the I-I) being sold to Gaiam (origin: "Gaia+I am", OMG) and then adequately renamed to Gaia dot com (on the web, semantics is everything). Second, it was becoming obvious that even the best discussions at Zaadz are inescapably tainted with endless and painful logical and emotional circularity, defended as PC tolerance at this crucial time when the unsophisticated, deeply narcisistic sensitivity of so many is assaulting every trace of authenticity to be found in so few."
~ Infinity Hymn - Stuart Davis -- "Meditation and Creativity Three A.M. Though I’m lying in bed next to my zonked-out girlfriend with my eyes nearly closed, I’m wide awake. Or maybe I should say wide aware. This year, in addition to sitting meditation, I’ve started meditating in bed before and during sleep. I use simple practices focused on breathing in order to move my awareness to a place where I witness events (internal, external, physical, cerebral, et cetera) without identifying with them."
~ Sheldrake on Dennett -- "Whatever the benefits of religions, Dennett believes that they arise entirely inside human minds. No spiritual realities exist outside us. He also takes it for granted that the mind "is the brain, or, more specifically, a system or organization within the brain that has evolved in much the same way as our immune system or respiratory system or digestive system has evolved . . . by the foresightless process of evolution by natural selection." He assumes what he sets out to prove." This is from a review of Dennett's Breaking the Spell.
~ Felt sense -- "The last few days have reminded me of the importance of inviting in the body when there are shifts in view. Staying with the shifts in view, taking the time to allow the rest of me to realign too. Feeling it with all of me."
~ Does Time Exist? -- "The fundamental reality and concepts of science, religion, and spirituality depend directly upon the basic understanding of time. For example, the big bang, creation, creator (God), evolution, the big crunch, cycles of birth/death/rebirth, and transitory soul etc. are all related to the presumption of the existence of an absolute time in the universe."
~ The Art, Science & Morals of Power -- "Guided by centuries of advice like Machiavelli's and Robert Greene's, we tend to believe that attaining power requires force, deception, manipulation, and coercion. Indeed, we might even assume that positions of power demand this kind of conduct that to run smoothly, society needs leaders who are willing and able to use power this way. As seductive as these notions are, they are dead wrong."
~ Not So Simple: Difficult Distinctions in Integralism -- "This is a bare bones beginning of what I want to end up being part three of the Power of Worldviews series.... I am struggling a little to get into it but do have a list of issues that I wanted to post now - and elaborate on later."