Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Larry Keiler: The Unauthorized Autobiography

Some of you, adventurous ones who have clicked on the cufflink, may know that I have this other blog -- my unauthorized autobiography. But I really haven't done much with it. I'm going to make it a little more active by posting previously written portions of the autobiography. Let's say one section per week. Perhaps this will spur me to add to what's already been done.

My apologies to those who have read these sections before. But then again, it's been so long, it will all seem new again anyway. For those of you who haven't read this stuff before, or noticed Larry Keiler: The Unauthorized Autobiography, here's a short teaser. (As always, comments are invited.)

Everything I’m going to tell you is the truth. Except for what I just said.

Don’t let that put you off, though. People read lies every day. They build their lives around them, act on them, make a living with them, carry them to the grave. I like to carry mine in my back pocket, next to the credit card (a lie about how much I’m worth) and the birth certificate (a lie about my true identity).

Go here for more...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Retiring Ken Driedup's Jersey!

Last night the Montreal Canadiens raised Ken Driedup's number 29 jersey to the rafters of the Forum (or whatever it's called now...) Good for him, I say!

Of course, we all know, especially if we read this blog now and then, that he recently ran for the leadership of the Gliberal Party of Canada.

All I can say is, as a politician he makes a helluva goalie.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Google: Everything That's Safe to Print?

I offer this little tidbit of content from Slashdot: Politics for Nerds (which probably describes me to a Tea)(shall we have Tea?)(lemon or milk?)(one sugar or two?)(oh, do have a crumpet my dear while we watch the whirring satellites and wonder will the sky fall up on us)

Google Blurring Sensitive Map Information

Posted by kdawson on Sunday January 28, @04:27PM
from the blurring-the-nukes dept.

Cyphoid writes "While viewing my school (the University of Massachusetts Lowell) with Google Maps, I noticed that a select portion of the campus was pixelated: the operational nuclear research facility on campus. Curious, I attempted to view the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It too was pixelated. What or who is compelling Google to smudge out these images selectively? Will all satellite images of facilities that the government deems 'sensitive' soon be subject to censoring?" Not surprisingly, the same areas are blurred in Google Earth. But how about images from satellites operated by other nations, such as SPOT or Sovinformsputnik?

Just so you know, I browsed thru some of the comments on this piece, and most seem to say that Google is not responsible for this blurring. So there.

Haiku Two You

Winter Haiku #1
ice storm in January
makes frozen trees
diamonds in the moonlight

Winter Haiku #2
snow shovelled at midnight
-- a breath of cold air
aimed at the clouds

Friday, January 26, 2007

A Maher Canadian Event

Talk radio! Yechh! Sometimes I think the dregs of the earth call into talk radio shows. Unfortunately, I've done it once or twice myself. Of course, I think the hosts should thank God they get the occasional intelligent commentator like me. But mostly, it's feeble-minded chatter, faulty logic, unfocused meandering, inability to stand up to an argument, ubridled envy and uncontrolled rage. And that's just the hosts! The callers are several rungs below that.

What brings this rant on? Maher Arar, that's what.

I begged the powers that be at the Yoni School to bring me a radio so that I might follow the proceedings in Ottawa as Prime Minister Harpie extended his heartfelt apology to Mr. Arar and his family for the unspeakable ordeal they've suffered. And they did! Wonders never cease. A radio appeared and I avidly flipped the dial for outside news.

Actually, the apology itself was a rather banal event, and afterwards Mr. Harpie took all manner of questions, some of them even related to the Arar affair. I'm not going to get into the details of that. What do I look like? A reporter? A journaliste? No! Suffice it to say that Mr. Arar will be paid $10.5M (Cdn) for his troubles, plus legal expenses. Go here for a factual report. Go there for another one. In fact, the most powerful moment of the day was the statement made by Arar's lawyer. Quite impassioned, it was.

After the Prime Minister's press conference, (and actually for a while before) I got to listen to call-in radio shows. And the big topic of conversation was this Maher event. Then there was Mr. Arar's press conference. Then there was more blather on the call-in shows. Now, I'm not big on outrage. Annoyance, yes. Righteous indignation, most certainly. But today, I am positively outraged. I never thought I would use this word seriously, because I find it comes to the lips of Canadians too easily, but I am appalled, utterly appalled, at the attitude that some of the callers took in regard to the settlement with Maher Arar. In the space of a few minutes, Maher Arar was transformed from a cause célèbre and Canada's most famous (recent) wrongfully accused into a greedy, suspect, overpaid, self-serving possible terrorist (torture victim...)

One man called in to 570News this morning and suggested that he would like the opportunity to be tortured if he was going to get $10M. ! I repeat: ! And the afternoon host, Gary Doyle, repeatedly mentioned that this apology from the government was politically beneficial for the Constipated Party and Canada's "New" Government. Then! Later on I heard callers to the afternoon drive show on CFRB. One man, a Canadian serviceman no less, insisted that Arar would not have been put on a watch list for no good reason. Indeed, that there was much more to this than we have been told (because the Murricans still don't trust Mr. Arar....! I repeat: !) and that some day we would all discover (presumably when Mr. Arar succeeds in blowing up the Parliament buildings) that we have been duped.

Right. The RCMP admitted there was no good reason. Mr. Justice O'Connor stated unequivocally that there was no good reason. The government has just declared publicly there was no good reason, and apologized for it. But the supposedly reasonable, fair-minded, intelligent citizens of Canada can't believe there was no good reason for it. After all, he's a Muslim ain't he?

Talk radio typically overflows with vitriol, but really, this is too much. Bewildered and bedeviled, I ask myself, "What is with these people?" I put it down to several causes:
1. Envy. Pure envy. "How come I don't get ten million bucks?" these niggardly souls complain.
2. Laziness. Intellectual and emotional. Many of the callers didn't even possess the basic facts about Mr. Arar's case. Too lazy to find out. Too lazy to imagine what his life must have been like then, and now.
3. Faulty logic. Some people wanted to know why this one man should get so much money when there were so many other worthy causes crying for government aid. As if it were a zero-sum game. As if one worthy cause negates another.
4. Stupidity. Sad, but true. Some people are unrelievedly stupid.

Wake up, people! Maher Arar is, and was, INNOCENT! It's not a case of not guilty, or let go on a technicality. He was INNOCENT! From the very beginning. As determined by a two and a half year national commission headed up by a well-respected judge. His rights as a Canadian citizen were abused and his personal safety jeopardized by the calculated actions of a few individuals in authority. People who should have known better but were too absorbed in their own little high-security top-secret worlds to pay attention to something as abstract as inalienable rights. Canadians should not be quibbling over a few million dollars (out of a surplus of billions). On the contrary, Canadians should be expressing massive concern that our collective values of freedom, justice and respect could have been so easily subverted.

In effect, Maher Arar was abducted by the United States, aided and abetted by the Canadian government, his own government. And subjected to torture. For anyone to suggest that the amount is too much, let them think of what it might be like to be tortured for a year. Not just physically. Mentally and emotionally too. Now, I don't like to admit this, but I've been known to cook bacon now and then without a shirt on. You all know what happens when you cook bacon. Sputtering fat, that's what! And it hurts like hell to get just one little drop of hot bacon fat on my oh-so-sensitive belly. I have difficulty imagining what it must be like to be tortured every day, not knowing when the fat will hit the fan, not knowing whether you might live or die, not knowing if anyone at all cares...Anyone who thinks they might like to trade places with Mr. Arar, for any amount of money...well, they're clearly more than one brick short of a full load.

Far be it from me to praise Stephen Harpie, but he and his government did exactly the right thing. Whether it's politically expedient or not makes no difference. And it's not necessarily the easiest thing to do either, apologizing for someone else's behaviour when you had no control over it and it happened several years ago. Think how you would feel if you had to do that.

To tell the truth, I'm practically struck dumb by the idiocy of some of those people. It almost calls for yet another apology to Mr. Arar. If people want to be outraged, they should direct their attention to the people in authority, members of the RCMP and their overseers, who committed this most grievous error and in the end made it necessary for the government to apologize and spend 12 million dollars worth of taxpayer money to try and make it right.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

OpenOffice.Org

Do you chafe inwardly at the digital tyranny of Microsoft? Do you wonder if there is a way to reduce the irritation caused by frequent crashes and burns. Are your finger muscles sore and red from repeatedly clicking on error reports to the Bill Gates brain trust? Do you fear having your tongue fall out of your mouth as a result of the foul curses heaped upon inanimate objects and control keys that control nothing?

Never fear. Uncle Larry has soothing balm. Baby powder for your digital brain. He recently downloaded the OpenOffice.Org suite of programs very similar to Microsoft Office. Text documents, spreadsheets, databases, presentations. Pretty much everything MS Office does. And this is an open source program. Free.

Did I mention that it's Free? And it works pretty well too. I haven't explored the thing extensively, but I have begun to use it for documents. The word processor works much like MS Word. One thing it does do, which I like a lot, is easily convert text documents to PDFs. Very cool.

I've had a look at the spreadsheet setup, but believe it or not, I'm sticking to Excel for now. Mainly because I'm familiar with it. Don't have to search for things.

Most of you probably know that there is a growing presence of open source programming now available on the net. Everyone's heard of Linux. I love this idea. Unfortunately, I feel tied to the Microsoft operating system. Maybe at some future point I'll have the luxury of both. Still, there's lots of other free stuff available if you look. If you Google "open source software" you get 291 million hits.

For now, though, I recommend OpenOffice.Org. Or I should say, I recommend that you check it out.

Meanwhile, speaking of Google. I've been delving into some of the services they have (not least of which is this blog!) Talk about global hegemony! But the many services they offer for free are hard to refuse sometimes. I've actually made my home page a Google home page now, with a clock, a calendar, a notepad, several news feeds, a Buddhist Thought of the Day, iTunes free downloads, an eBook feed, a font of the day, Google docs & spreadsheets, a service to create PDFs...I'm gearing up to be some sort of power user. What sort I don't know. But I've got some ideas. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Dharma Definition of Evil

If you are going to learn only one thing from your Dharma studies, it should be that every problem on Earth comes from attachment...

When people talk about evil, they always make it sound as if it comes from outside of themselves. There's no such thing as outer evil. Mahayana Buddhist art might depict horrible-looking demons but this is just symbolic. We never believe that evil is external. Evil is nothing other than the manifestation of ego and attachment. If somebody asks, "What is evil?" the answer is attachment. Attachment is evil; ego is evil. If you want to know the sords for evil, they're ego and attachment."
Lama Yeshe
Ego, Attachment and Liberation:
Overcoming Your Mental Bureaucracy

pp. 77-8

Lest this be misunderstood, here's what I think Lama Yeshe is saying. Yes, the evil is within us. All of us. But this does not mean we are evil. That sense personifies evil. Makes it external, in fact, as Lama Yeshe says. No, the evil we see and experience is an effect. A result of ego-grasping and attachment.

Attachment to outcomes. Attachment to things. Attachment to opinions. Emotions.

I see this in myself clear as day, when I have the courage to look at it. Spend a lot of time trying to force the world into my own personal view of the way things should be. Fortunately for the world, I don't have a lot of wealth or power to throw around at it. Yet, my little corner of the world can look pretty evil/unpleasant when I'm not getting my way.

But for those who do have wealth or power...Iraq. Attachment to oil. Attachment to pride. National pride. Religious pride. This is just one example, which I use because it is so current.

The ego, which we grasp at as real and solid and in fact the essence of our selves, and consequently cherish as if its loss would be the end of the universe, is simply afraid. What is it afraid of? What are we afraid of (when we identify so strongly with this conception of self)? Powerlessness, that's what. Non-existence, that's what. And we'll do anything to avoid that. With six billion people all doing whatever they can to avoid what they think is powerlessness and non-existence, what can you expect but evil results?

I don't know if even this has said what I meant it to say. But let it stand.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Changes to Mental Blog

I've added a couple things to the blog in the last few days. A hit counter. An RSS feed. It's Murrican, I know, but I still haven't come across the Canadian feed that I want to put there. And finally, a tag-board, or message board. It's way down at the bottom of the sidebar underneath who knows what all. You can leave me a short message there, if you like. Fill in your name, type the message (or choose a smiley) and click on the "Tag" button.

State of the Onion

Are we all going to watch Dubya on the tube giving us the state of his onion tonight?

So many layers. Such pungency. Ah cain't hardly stand it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Global Good Neighbour Flash Video

Click on title. Enjoy.

Cultural Product

The new rules for crossing the Canada-US border have the tourism mavens of Hawgtown all in a dither. They are convinced that the Yanks are too stupid or too self-absorbed to bother coming to Canada if they need a passport to get back home. Why bother, eh? We can see McNuggets and Burger Kink down the street. Don't need to go to Hawgtown or any other Canajun town.

Ontario Today on the Mothercorp interviewed a guy from the Hawgtown Tourist Bureau (or whatever it's called.)

(Aside: I checked the Ontario Today web page to find out the man's name and get all the facts straight, but there's no text version of the interview, only audio, and you need RealPlayer to hear it, and I really didn't feel like downloading yet another audio software device just to listen to a six minute piece and then I've got more software cluttering up my hard drive and trying to cajole me into free music download trials and librarying all my music and making playlists and organizing podcasts and having RealPlayer fight with Widows Media Player and iTunes for dominance over Larry's audiovisual experience and who's going to be the Default Player and choosing your favourite psychedelic visualization when you listen to music, and skins, you know what skins are? and goddam you can only handle so much of this crap and when I had the computer rejigged a couple months ago it came back all clean and devoid of superfluous stuff and who needs to add more, eh? I ask you...So, anyway, no names, no facts, just what I can remember off the top of my inflated head.)

Ontario Today. Tourism. The man from the Cat Detector Van said he could detect a purr at 400 feet, and Eric, bein' such a 'appy cat was a piece of cake.

Sorry, that was an unnecessary Monty Python digression.

Ontario. Tourism. Hawgtown. The man from the tourist trap said the need for passports would likely discourage Yanks from coming into Hawgtown to spend their pesos. Business travellers, sure. But regular down-home touristas? Uh-uh.

How to entice them? They've been looking at different markets in the US. Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington. Why? Because these places have a vibrant cultural component. And Hawgtown does too. Frank Gehry architecture. ROM. Theatre! ART! Music! Ballet. Opera. Homeless people under the bridges. They figure people who are interested in those sorts of things in the US would be attracted to the same things in Hawgtown.

But that's not what I want to talk about.

What got me was the way he talked about it. It's not Theatre. Not ART. Not Music. By Gawd, it's cultural product! Little did you know that we here up in the wilds of Southern Ontariariario have some of the finest cultural product anywhere in the world that cultural product makes hearts beat faster! Yessir, I get wet just thinking about a close encounter with some yummy cultural product.

Hey, all you potes, all you righters and musikantes! How do you feel about having the sweat of your inspired cerebrations labelled cultural product? It makes me all warm and fuzzy, I tell ya!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Speling Master Speeks

It has come to my attention that the speling of the werd "potery" is somewhat unsetled. No, it's not pottery. How shall I spel this werd? I think I'm gonna have to setle it with Po-tree. po-tree. A venable and time-honerd usage. Guarantys correct pronounciation. Po. Tree. Rhymes with Bo. Tree. Both are venues associated with enlightenment.

There ye have it. Po-tree.

Excuse me, I see the Warden of the Yoni School marching down the range. She wears a scowl. She also wears a cowl, but that's another storey. I'm sure she's just heard that I've made a firm decision on the speling of po-tree. Which, of course, is a clear defiance of the injunction to spel keerectly, and will undoubtedly affect my parole and probation.

(Sigh)

Addendum to the Doomsday Clock

New York Times Editorial

Busywork for Nuclear Scientists
Published: January 15, 2007

The Bush administration is eager to start work on a new nuclear warhead with all sorts of admirable qualities: sturdy, reliable and secure from terrorists. To sweeten the deal, officials say that if they can replace the current arsenal with Reliable Replacement Warheads (what could sound more comforting?), they probably won’t have to keep so many extra warheads to hedge against technical failure. If you’re still not sold, the warhead comes with something of a guarantee — that scientists can build the new bombs without ever testing them.

Let the buyer beware. While the program has gotten very little attention here, it is a public-relations disaster in the making overseas. Suspicions that the United States is actually trying to build up its nuclear capabilities are undercutting Washington’s arguments for restraining the nuclear appetites of Iran and North Korea.

Then there’s the tens of billions it is likely to cost. And the most important question: Nearly two decades after the country stopped building nuclear weapons, does it really need a new one? The answer, emphatically, is no. This is a make-work program championed by the weapons laboratories and belatedly by the Pentagon, which hasn’t been able to get Congress to pay for its other nuclear fantasies.

The Rumsfeld team’s first choice was for a nuclear “bunker buster” to go after deeply buried targets. The Pentagon got concerned about “aging” warheads only after it was clear that even the Republican-led Congress, or at least one intrepid House subcommittee chairman, considered the bunker buster too Strangelovian to finance.

One crucial argument for the new program took a major hit in November when the Jason — a prestigious panel of scientists that advises the government on weapons — reported that most of the plutonium triggers in the current arsenal can be expected to last for 100 years. Since the oldest weapons are less than 50 years old, supporters of the new warhead have fallen back on warnings that other bomb components are also aging, and that the nuclear labs need the work to attract and train the best scientists. But the labs are already spending billions on studying and preserving the current arsenal.

Then there’s that guarantee that there will be no need for testing — one of the few arms-control taboos President Bush hasn’t broken yet. While experts debate whether the labs can really build a weapon without testing it, the more important question is whether any president would stake America’s security on an untested arsenal.

America would be much safer if the president focused on reducing the number of old nuclear weapons still deployed by the United States and the other nuclear powers. The new Congress should stop this program before any more dollars are wasted, or more damage is done to America’s credibility.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

UNESCO names 2007 ‘Year of Rumi’

This comes from the Daily Times out of Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD: The mystic literature of Islam is a source of inspiration and following its universal values of love, peace, harmony and tolerance can bridge the gap between the East and West, said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Mushahid Hussain Sayed on Monday.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has designated the year 2007 as the ‘Year of Rumi’ to develop inter-faith dialogue and spread his message of humanism throughout the world.

Speaking as chief guest at the launch ceremony of Rumi Forum, Hussain said that Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi was the greatest Turkish Sufi inspirer and had championed the cause of peaceful co-existence and mutual respect. He said that through the forum, Rumi’s teachings would be made widely known to the people of Pakistan and the bond of friendship between the two countries would be strengthened.

The senator said that during his visit to the US, he inquired, at a number of popular bookstores, about who the most widely read Turkish poet was, and he was surprised to learn that it was Rumi. “If there is any general idea underlying Rumi’s poetry, it is the absolute love of Allah and his influence on the thought, literature and forms of aesthetic expression in the world of Islam,” he added.

2007 marks the 800th anniversary of the great spiritual and literary Muslim figure, Rumi. Born in Balkh, Afghanistan, in 1207, Rumi was a conservative cleric in his youth but upon his meeting with wandering dervish Shams Tabriz in 1247, he metamorphosed into an entirely different personality and from then on preached the message of Islam. His six-volume Mathnavi and Diwan Shams Tabriz were best sellers in the US and Europe. He was also a major influence on some of the most popular names in the Islamic world, including Allama Muhammad Iqbal, who considered himself as Rumi’s Hindi Mureed (Indian Disciple). staff report

***

Soul receives from soul that knowledge,

therefore not by book nor from tongue.

If knowledge of mysteries come after emptiness of mind,

that is illumination of heart.

Waiting On the World to Change

Mr. B. Bacon has a comment on my previous post that made me think of this latest song by John Mayer:

me and all my friends
we're all misunderstood
they say we stand for nothing and
there's no way we ever could
now we see everything that's going wrong
with the world and those who lead it
we just feel like we don't have the means
to rise above and beat it

so we keep waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

it's hard to beat the system
when we're standing at a distance
so we keep waiting
waiting on the world to change
now if we had the power
to bring our neighbors home from war
they would have never missed a Christmas
no more ribbons on their door
and when you trust your television
what you get is what you got
cause when they own the information, oh
they can bend it all they want

that's why we're waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

it's not that we don't care,
we just know that the fight ain't fair
so we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

and we're still waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting waiting on the world to change
one day our generation
is gonna rule the population
so we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

***

This song has become a sort of anthem. Pretty passive anthem, don't you think? Not much of a protest song. I think I'll keep waiting...

Until the real thing comes along.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Follow-Up on the Doomsday Clock

In case you missed it, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the clock today from 7 minutes to midnight to 5. Five is where the clock started in 1947. The closest it has ever been is 2 minutes to midnight in 1953.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

That was the title of a lecture sponsored by the Campbell Baptist church in Whimsy, ON, that lovely border town nestled cheek by jowl against Motown. It's part of their Winter Theological Conference called The Deadly Threat of Islam.

Mothercorp was blasting away on this today. The man who gave the lecture is named Zachariah Anani, a Muslim who converted to Christianity (and then found his life threatened.) He is a former member of a Lebanese militia group called Ali's Youth and one way or another claims to have killed more than 200 people in the course of his career of rebellion. Before the age of 17. He decided to give that up and came to Canada as a refugee, and now he's a Canadian citizen. Anani's lecture was intended to inform people of the violent underpinnings of Islam and the Koran.

The second session in the conference is apparently called Could Jihad Be Coming to Your Neighbourhood? Nice, eh? Very neighbourly. Friendly neighbourhood Baptist Church.

Needless to say, the content of the lecture and some of the discussion that took place has caused some stir in the state of Whimsy. Hate speech, some are calling it. Jihad coming to your neighbourhood? Well, maybe not hate speech, but certainly a healthy dose of hyperbole. Fear-mongering. Just what we all need to sleep better at night.

The reason I bring this up is because I had an experience with this sort of thing a few years ago. I don't remember exactly when, but it was after 9/11. (As a matter of fact, I just remembered that it was around Nov. 11, Remembrance Day.) Now, I don't want you to think I'm picking on the Baptists, but it just so happens that this occurred at a Baptist church in Arnprior. (I could never make up a better name...) The sermon that day was about Islam. How "their" God is not "our" God. How they worship a black stone that resides in Mecca. How they were trying to fool us by claiming it was the same God. Infidels! Beware! All done with PowerPoint, no less! PowerPoint. Talking Points. Pamphlets for further perusal. Investigate the stranger in our midst!

The whole thing made me extremely uncomfortable. I did not feel as if I were in Christian surroundings. And though it may not have been hate speech, it was definitely (but subtly) inflammatory. And the congregation was encouraged to study up on this dangerous foreign religion. Ordinary whitebread Arnprior townsfolk being spoonfed bitter pablum by a nominally Christian pastor...and unfortunately, I could see that a number of them swallowed it.

Reminds me of a song by Steely Dan...Third World Man:

Johnny's playroom
Is a bunker filled with sand
He's become a third world man
Smoky sunday
He's been mobilized since dawn
Now he's crouching on the lawn
He's a third world man

Yep, I'll be out patrolling the quadrangle of the Yoni School every afternoon now, just in case Jihad is coming to my neighbourhood.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Paul Tillich's Take On It

Forgive the long quote, but this passage from Paul Tillich's series of sermons entitled The Eternal Now published in 1963 just seems so apropos. (Or a propos if yer a stickler...) This is from the sermon called Salvation.

In the ancient world, great political leaders were called saviours. They liberated nations and groups within them from misery, enslavement, and war. This is another kind of healing, reminiscent of the words of the last book of the Bible, which says in poetic language that "the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations." How can nations be healed? One may say: They can be liberated from external conquerors or internal oppressors. But can they be healed? Can they be saved? The prophets give the answer: Nations are saved if there is a small minority, a group of people, who represent what the nation is called to be. They may be defeated, but their spirit will be a power of resistance against the evil spirits who are detrimental to the nation. The question of saving power in the nation is the question of whether there is a minority, even a small one, which is willing to resist the anxiety produced by propaganda, the conformity enforced by threat, the hatred stimulated by ignorance. The future of this country and its spiritual values is not dependent as much on atomic defense as on the influence such groups will have on the spirit in which the nation will think and act.

And this is true of mankind as a whole. Its future will be dependent on a saving group, embodied in one nation or crossing through all nations. There is saving power in mankind, but there is also the hidden will to self-destruction. It depends on every one of us which side will prevail. There is no divine promise that humanity will survive this or the next year. But it may depend on the saving power effective in you or me, whether it will survive. (It may depend on the amount of healing and liberating grace which works through any of us with respect to social justice, racial equality, and political wisdom.) Unless many of say to ourselves: Through the saving power working in me, mankind may be saved or lost -- it will be lost.

LA Times, Jan 7/07

I got an A in Phallus 101

The list of the 12 most bizarre college courses in the U.S. includes offerings such as 'The Phallus' and 'Queer Musicology.'
By Charlotte Allen, Charlotte Allen is an editor at Beliefnet and the author of "The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus."

Since the 1960s, the Young America's Foundation has decried what it considers leftist radicalism on college campuses. Last month, it released this academic year's "Dirty Dozen" — college courses it found to be "the most bizarre and troubling instances of leftist activism supplanting traditional scholarship."

1. "The Phallus"

Occidental College
. A seminar in critical theory and social justice, this class examines Sigmund Freud, phallologocentrism and the lesbian phallus.

2. "Queer Musicology"

UCLA. This course welcomes students from all disciplines to study what it calls an "unruly discourse" on the subject, understood through the works of Cole Porter, Pussy Tourette and John Cage.

3. "Taking Marx Seriously"

Amherst College. This advanced seminar for 15 students examines whether Karl Marx still matters despite the countless interpretations and applications of his ideas, or whether the world has entered a post-Marxist era.

4. "Adultery Novel"

University of Pennsylvania. Falling in the newly named "gender, culture and society" major, this course examines novels and films of adultery such as "Madame Bovary" and "The Graduate" through Marxist, Freudian and feminist lenses.

5. "Blackness"

Occidental College. Critical race theory and the idea of "post-blackness" are among the topics covered in this seminar course examining racial identity. A course on whiteness is a prerequisite.

6. "Border Crossings, Borderlands: Transnational Feminist Perspectives on Immigration"

University of Washington. This women studies department offering takes a new look at recent immigration debates in the U.S., integrating questions of race and gender while also looking at the role of the war on terror.

7. "Whiteness: The Other Side of Racism"

Mount Holyoke College. The educational studies department offers this first-year, writing-intensive seminar asking whether whiteness is "an identity, an ideology, a racialized social system," and how it relates to racism.

8. "Native American Feminisms"

University of Michigan. The women's studies and American culture departments offer this course on contemporary Native American feminism, including its development and its relation to struggles for land.

9. "'Mail Order Brides?' Understanding the Philippines in Southeast Asian Context"

Johns Hopkins University. This history course — cross-listed with anthropology, political science and studies of women, gender and sexuality — is limited to 35 students and asks for an anthropology course as a prerequisite.

10. "Cyberfeminism"

Cornell University. Cornell's art history department offers this seminar looking at art produced under the influence of feminism, post-feminism and the Internet.

11. "American Dreams/American Realities"

Duke University. Part of Duke's Hart Leadership Program that prepares students for public service, this history course looks at American myths, from "city on the hill" to "foreign devil," in shaping American history.

12. "Nonviolent Responses to Terrorism"

Swarthmore College. Swarthmore's "peace and conflict studies" program offers this course that "will deconstruct 'terrorism' " and "study the dynamics of cultural marginalization" while seeking alternatives to violence.

(NB. This is only the last half of the article. The first half consists of Ms. Allen making fun of the courses. You can see that here, for a while anyway, until the Times archives it.)

I have comments about a couple of these:

#3 Taking Marx Seriously: Although such a course would undoubtedly have a leftist slant, still, I would think that you'd want to take Marx seriously, since he was one of the most important economic theorists of the last 200 years. His political conclusions may not have borne healthy fruit, but his economic analyses are still powerful.

#11 American Dreams/American Realities: The US has powerful and enduring myths. The current administration is busy creating more. Why wouldn't you want to examine how these influence you?

#12 Non-violent Responses to Terrorism: Duh! If this is leftism, then the US is in a sad state indeed.

Testing RSS

You'll notice an addition in the sidebar: The Nation. I'm testing the RSS feed. The Nation can stay for now. Probably something more Canajun would be good.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

United Democratic Nations

In my post about the Doomsday Clock I received a comment from Gary about an organization he is promoting called United Democratic Nations. Click on the title to go there. (This, by the way, is not any Gary I know.) I don't know how these things happen, but he responded very quickly to that post. Interesting.

I went to the website to have a look. It's an organization that doesn't exist. Even though it has a sort of charter and a mission statement and a working definition and a goal. In fact, it's a dream. A big one.

As I say, I don't know this Gary. But I admire him in a way. He has this dream. A big one...and he believes in it enough to post a comment on an obscure Mental Blog that, presumably, he just happened to come across while surfing. Or maybe his surfing is more focused, looking for items that pop up related to the thing he's dreaming about. It is possible to do that now. Anyway, good for him.

As for the dream, I think that's admirable too, although I have lingering doubts, as yet too nebulous to articulate fully.

He wants either a reformed United Nations, or a new United Democratic Nations. That's all very well. And exclusive, which gives me pause. The definition excludes most of the nations on the planet, I think. Which makes me wonder how effective it could be.

Confining yourself to "democratic" nations is, perhaps, a moral choice. It assumes that democracy is some sort of panacea. Or the best form of government. Or the most equitable. Or the most likely to respond to the needs of its citizens. But I've long had doubts about the "democratic state" of most democratic states in the world. Is it possible to have a one-party democratic state? Is a two-party state democratic? What if those two parties clandestinely conspire to shut out other rising movements, a proposition which is not far-fetched in the US?

Does the fact that one may vote make a nation democratic? Or is it a multiple choice that makes the democracy? That would apply to Canada, I suppose. Except that most everyone already knows that one choice or the other hardly makes any difference, except at the margins. A little left, a little right, a mosh pit in the centre. But the common voice, or rather, the voice of the commoner, still is unheard. (The Reform Party of Canada was one of those prairie populist movements, much like Social Credit. Vox Populi! The West wants In! And when it folded itself into the Conservative Party of Canada, it spawned a Prime Minister who doesn't even let his Cabinet Ministers speak for themselves! Not to mention making and announcing policies without consulting them.)

Canadians have long been advocates (in the international arena) of quiet engagement. ie. You engage those oppositionist elements, those difficult nations, those non-democratic players, in dialogue and slowly but surely bring them around to your point of view. Sometimes you have to be tougher, sometimes not. South Africa comes to mind. I don't know whether this really works. Would it work with China? Has it ever? Perhaps we've not been tough enough? But the United Democratic Nations would not include China.

It might be good to remember that the failure of the UN's predecessor, the League of Nations, was largely due to the refusal of the United States to participate. If the major players are not involved, then it seems like a UDN standing on the outside shouting at the others.

I tend to agree with Gary, that the existence of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, each with an absolute veto, is a flaw and a recipe for deadlock. At the formation of the UN, those were the big players, the winners of a recently fought big war, and that was the price they exacted in order to play. In geopolitics, every nation wants its edge. So now, it's 60 years later. Has the US changed so much that it is willing to relinquish that edge? I think not. Even the "democratic nations" have not become so altruistic.

Nevertheless, change begins with a dream. And we know that Gary is not the only one who thinks it is time for a change in the international regime.

Why Didn't I Think of That?

It seems that Joshua Holland, a staff writer for AlterNet has coined a phrase: War on Terra. That's brilliant. Why didn't I think of it? It's so obvious once you see it. Damn! Now I'm going to have to go back & change all those labels I've been so busy making. Get ready Ebenezer!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Larry Breaks His Rule About On-Line Petitions

I know I said I don't participate in online petitions. MoveOn.org is a group that I've known and known about for several years. I trust them, as far as that is possible in an entirely electronic/internet relationship. This is not to say that I have any special faith in the effectiveness of this type of action. But maybe...

Dear friends,

Just when we thought the war in Iraq couldn't get any worse—it has. Last night, President Bush rejected reality, spurned the American people's verdict, and announced his new policy: military escalation in Iraq.

The newly elected United States Congress has the power to stop this madness, but it's critical to show immediate, unified opposition from the international community.

So MoveOn is helping launch Avaaz, a new international partnership to mobilize progressive global voices. We're starting with an emergency worldwide petition to the U.S. Congress and a powerful full-page ad in "Roll Call"—the Washington DC newspaper read by every member of Congress and their staff.

Click below to see the ad and sign the petition:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/iraq_campaign_jan_2007/

After years of failed occupation, it's clear to everyone but George Bush that the US cannot solve this civil conflict through force. As Bush's own top military advisors and commanders in the field have said, sending tens of thousands more American troops will only fan the flames of this war.

World opinion matters: The American people understand the US can't police the globe by itself. That's why, before the original invasion, Bush worked so hard to promote the involvement of Tony Blair and a few other select world leaders to win over reluctant members of Congress.

Today, Bush stands completely alone—but it's our job to bring this point home in Washington. The ad in Roll Call highlights Tony Blair's decision to withdraw troops in direct opposition to Bush's proposed escalation. And the petition will help show where the global public stands.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/iraq_campaign_jan_2007/

The Bush administration is already twisting arms and doing everything it can to push this escalation through. Congress may yet find the courage to resist—if we help them—but there's no time to lose.

Add your name to the petition. Spread the word to your friends. The Iraq crisis is a global problem. Together we have the power, and the responsibility, to help change course.

Sincerely,

–Eli Pariser
MoveOn.org Political Action
January 11, 2006


PAID FOR BY MOVEON.ORG POLITICAL ACTION, http://pol.moveon.org/
Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.


"DOOMSDAY CLOCK" HAND TO BE MOVED, REFLECTING WORSENING NUCLEAR, CLIMATE THREATS TO WORLD

-- Washington, D.C. and London News Advisory for January 17, 2007 --

Simultaneous Announcement to be Made from Washington, D.C. and London; Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to Underscore "Most Perilous Period Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

NEWS ADVISORY//January 17, 2006///The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) will move the minute hand of the "Doomsday Clock" on January 17, 2007, the first such change to the Clock since February 2002. The major new step reflects growing concerns about a "Second Nuclear Age" marked by grave threats, including: nuclear ambitions in Iran and North Korea, unsecured nuclear materials in Russia and elsewhere, the continuing "launch-ready" status of 2,000 of the 25,000 nuclear weapons held by the
U.S. and Russia, escalating terrorism, and new pressure from climate change for expanded civilian nuclear power that could increase proliferation risks.

The BAS news event will take place simultaneously on January 17th at 9:30 a.m. ET at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., and at 2:30 p.m. GMT in London at The Royal Society.

News event speakers will include:

- Stephen Hawking, professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, and a fellow of The Royal Society;

- Kennette Benedict, executive director, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists;

- Sir Martin Rees, president of The Royal Society, and professor of cosmology and astrophysics and master of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge;

- Lawrence M. Krauss, professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University; and

- Ambassador Thomas Pickering, a BAS director and co-chair of the International Crisis Group.

A live, two-way satellite feed (with full Q&A) will connect the Washington, D.C., and London news events.


TO PARTICIPATE IN PERSON: You can join us for the simultaneous, two-site news event taking place on January 17, 2007 -- 9:30 a.m. ET, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Auditorium, 1200 New York Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.; and 2:30 p.m. GMT, The Royal Society, Wellcome Trust Lecture Hall, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London. Please RSVP in advance by contacting Patrick Mitchell, (703) 276-3266, or pmitchell@hastingsgroup.com.


CAN'T PARTICIPATE IN PERSON?: In the U.S., reporters can join this live, phone-based global news conference at 9:30 a.m. ET on January 17, 2007 by dialing 1 (800) 860-2442. (Media in and around London should dial 0800-028-0531. All other reporters outside of the U.S. and the London area should dial 001-412-858-4600, which is not a toll-free line.) Ask for the "Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock" news event. A streaming audio replay of the news event will be available on the Web at
http://www.thebulletin.org as of 6 p.m. ET/11 p.m. GMT on January 17, 2007.

CONTACT: Patrick Mitchell, (703) 276-3266 or pmitchell@hastingsgroup.com.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Some Talk About Money

HWSRN gets the union newspaper. He belongs to the union. Musicians union. The American Federation of Musicians. AFM. Affiliated with the AFL-CIO. They let the Canadians in too.

The paper is called International Musician. That's so you know they let the Canadians in too. Canada has its own vice-president. He has a moustache.

I've got three articles here from the Jan/07 issue of International Musician. (They're a little tiny, but if you click on them you get a larger version.) The first one that caught my eye was this one:

Check out that last paragraph. $7 a day! In the good old US of A! Does this not seem Third Worldish to you? Does it not conjure up images of shacks in the Ozarks and Dustbowl Okies? Can you not picture some wide-eyed little nappy-headed boy sitting in the corner of a dank verminous underground parking lot in the projects? Wondering whether he should spend that seven bucks on a Big Mac or smokes? And the population that's living on that is larger than Canada's whole body count!

I thank my lucky stars I'm not in that situation. But all I know is, I've been working harder (it seems) for about the same money for a couple of years now. And the same can not be said for the oil companies, to which I am such a generous contributor.

Just to the left of that article was this one:$200,000. That's a lotta money for horsehair. (Or whatever. I'm not too familiar with Cellos. I have more experience with Jello. Red is my favourite.) This goes to show that the world of classical music is still a big business with a lotta money floating around. And it also shows that branding holds sway even in the rare air of Symphonic Olympus. "It is the bow's provenance that is the most significant element of its sale..." not necessarily the qualities of its construction, or whether a modern-made bow might actually be better. (Everybody loves antiques.)

Finally, on the next page of the paper, to the right of the incomes article, was this:
What do you think of a company that controls $18 billion worth of communications? If all those $7 per day people had access to the supposedly public airwaves, I wonder what they would say.

I suppose I'm commenting, eh? But I'm really just making an observation. In this union newspaper we can go from abject poverty to spending a coupla hundred grand on a cello bow to billions on ways to influence the minds of the masses. And it's all happening in one little corner of the universe called USA. (Of course, they let in the Canadians too.)

Oh, and here's another benefit of union membership...Clipart!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Michael Jackson & The Babies

OK, so I have this book. That makes 4 now.

It's called Musicians In Tune by Jenny Boyd, who was once married to Mick Fleetwood, and then ended up married to Ian Wallace, a drummer for King Crimson among others.

Another book I've had for a long time. Never looked at it. Not true. I looked at it. Several times. But I never read it.

It's Jenny's PhD thesis, more or less. Interviews with musicians about creativity and art and how it happens and all that. I'm a bit leery of it as a PhD thesis. To me, there's nothing particularly ground-breaking in it, so far. Everything she's said about creativity and how it develops or is nurtured is pretty well-known these days. And all you writers out there, if you happened to read this, you'd probably say, "Oh yeah, I knew that..." Channeling the unconscious, tapping into the undercurrent or the Oversoul, being a vessel, accepting the gift of inspiration. All that stuff. But it is interesting to read what all the musicians have to say, and their stories about how they got involved in music, and how they were supported (or not) by family and friends.

And Jenny herself has an interesting story. She and her sister Pattie were both Carnaby Street models, when Carnaby Street set the world standard. Pattie married George Harrison. And then Eric Clapton. They both were in India with The Beatles and the Maharishi. Fascinating stuff.

But that's not why I'm writing about this. I believe the Maharishi has left this astral plane. What I really want to do is quote from the book. Because the quote is a bit eerie, considering it was published in 1992. It comes from a section entitled Musicians as Role Models:

Keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, who's played with numerous artists including Michael Jackson, pointed to the duty that musicians have because of their music's power: "There's a responsibility because people are greatly affected by what you do. I know people don't want to believe in hidden powers or hidden messages behind music, but I believe that. I think it greatly affects people, and it's a responsibility. How can you account for the appeal that Michael [Jackson] has with the kids? I think it's positive; babies from six months to sixteen love his stuff. He's got a serious thing with the babies. I think it's very powerful."
p. 135

A serious thing with the babies? No kidding. Seriously.

What, exactly, caused Phillinganes to choose those words specifically? Talk about channeling the unconscious...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Larry Keiler, Boy Soprano

Yes, yes, I was indeed a boy soprano. It happened like this:

Sister Stanislaus went out (on the feast of Stephen).
Gathered children round about and lined them up all even.
She caused them all to sing a song, list'ning so intently
And singled little Larry out, all quite inciden...tal...ly.

Hither, child, and thither soon, darling little songbird.
You can really hold a tune, judged by what I've just heard.
You shall sing at Festival, you are designated.
You shall represent us all, boy soprano fa...a...ted.

That was in Grade 2. I was seven.

To be precise, I wasn't the only one pulled out of the line. There were others, but I really only remember Mirie O'Neal, she of the long blonde hair that always seemed to be in her mouth and drove the teachers crazy. She did have a sweet voice, though.

The "Festival" turned out to be the annual Kiwanis festival. A bloody competition. Competitions! The bane of shy kids and underachievers.

But don't get me wrong. I think I wasn't really shy. I rather enjoyed these competitions. Or maybe it was more the singing that I enjoyed.

I sang in Kiwanis festivals for quite a number of years. I never won. Always silver or bronze. Silver or bronze. Bronze or silver. It's sort of the luck of the draw. It just so happened that my age group had two other boy sopranos who were really good, and in fact grew up to be professional singers. Indeed, we were the best boy sopranos in all of Lunchbucket.

Later we all went to high school together too, St. Hieronymus of the Vulgate. Imagine all the best boy sopranos in town at one school. Trying out for the football team. (Moe, Mr. T., a former Argonaut with a sideways lower jaw was the coach. Picture him. Hollering at the sopranos. "Come on you pussies! Ten laps around the field. Move it move it move it! You think your voices are high now! I'll make yez squeal all right!")

Only once in all those years, once did I really feel that I was going to win. I knew in my heart that I was going to win. The section was so large it had been divided into two groups, the winners of which would have a sing-off the next week. I won my section. Those other two were in the other section, but I had heard them sing, and I knew that this was going to be my year.

That week I caught a cold and lost most of my voice. It came back by the day of the sing-off, but it was not 100%.

Bronze.

I'm telling you, this was no fooling around. Sister Stanislaus was the talent scout. She brought us along with the basics, the boot camp of vocal training. She was barely taller than us kids, but a bundle of kinetic energy. A dervish in habit and wimple.

Then she passed us off to Ms. Reynolds, who really worked us with the ooh-ahh exercises, proper pronunciation, proper posture, breathing, the diaphragm, the diaphragm. A real disciplinarian, she was, but she knew her stuff and made sure we did too. Every week. Then twice a week as we approached D-Day. I eventually ended up in one of her choirs too, where she always put me next to the altos (or whatever) because she knew I could hold the tune and not be pulled off by the other part so close.

Yes, it was a grand life...

So the first time I sang in public was at age seven. At the Festival. But not long after that I really sang in public at a school/PTA assembly. (Do they still call it PTA? Parent-Teacher Arguments?) And that was also the first time I sang into a microphone. That was a revelation! I could feel the electricity. Seven years old and getting this jolt of energy, not even so much from the audience and the applause, but from the mic itself, the amplified voice soaring out over the crowd. I liked that feeling, more than the applause I think.

Because, really, I wasn't shy, or even very nervous. But I was sort of baffled by the praise, by the applause. Actually, maybe even embarrassed by it. Why? Don't know, exactly. Except that even later on I would wonder, "What's all the fuss? It's not that special..."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Edith Piaf & Carole Pope

I listened today to Edith Piaf on the Mothercorp.

Non, rien de rien,
Non, je ne regrette rien!


Marvelous song. The only thing I regret is the way she rolls her Rs. It has always seemed a bit much to me. But then, I guess that's part of the song's charm. Rrrrrrreally.

So then, I have this tape which I carry in Minnie Van Nice (who, unfortunately now looks as if she's been around the block a few times, which she has...) It's a recording of Carole Pope and Rough Trade from, probably, the late 70s. You remember Carole Pope, don't you?

Now, I have to tell you about this recording. I taped it from a vinyl disc which is undoubtedly quite rare because it was pressed from a single master that was recorded live and direct to disc. A strictly limited edition. For a few years, there was a bit of a trend in the record business to go back to direct to disc recording, just like they did in the early days of recording. The reason was because it boosted the fidelity dramatically. And it rrrrreally did! You should hear this recording (plus a couple of others I have. Even now, 30 years later, and quite a number of playings, and then recorded onto cassette for Minnie, it still is audibly different from other recordings.

However, the process meant that copies were expensive. I don't remember exactly, but I think they cost about twice as much as regular mass-produced albums. And recording was difficult too. No margin for error, either by players or engineers.

Here. Out of curiosity, I checked on the website, and here's what it says about this album:

1976 - Rough Trade Live! (Umbrella UMB-DD1) [Canada]
The first rock album to be recorded live Direct-to-Disc. Also released as:
  • (Umbrella UMB-DD1) [West Germany]
  • (Big Time) [UK]

Of the Canadian version, at least four different jackets and two different pressings exist:

  1. The original release is numbered 00001 through 12999 and is packaged in a dull silver gatefold cover with a rectangular cut-out on the front. It was manufactured by Nimbus 9 Productions. There are also a very limited number of presentation copies all numbered 0000000. These were only given to members of the group.
  2. The next pressing is identical to the one above except that it is packaged in a shiny silver gatefold with no cut-out and numbered 0013000 through 0030000. Also by Nimbus 9.
  3. In 1977, Umbrella was purchased by Trend Records and the album was repackaged in a dull gray gatefold with a large illustration, no cut-out, and no longer numbered. Manufactured by Trend Records & Tapes Ltd. An alternate take (or modified version) of "Birds Of A Feather" was apparently used to correct a very slight piano mistake on the original's intro.
  4. In 1983, Rough Trade Live! was also sold simply as Rough Trade. It was repackaged in a blue sleeve with a picture of Carole Pope on the front and the band on the back. The actual record is the 1977 Trend pressing, not a re-issue. It is not numbered.
(My copy belongs to the second category. It's numbered 0019869.)

Anyway, that's not why I mentioned her. I bring her up because, after listening to Edith, I then listened to Carole, that oh so suave, urbane Hawgtonian, and she rolls her Rs almost as much as Edith. If I remember right, it's something we were taught in singing lessons, but normally it wouldn't be so pronounced (no pun intended.)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Sum a Dem Call It Ganja

Proof that things can't be all bad in Afghanistan...
Click on the title to go to the original page.

Source: Reuters
Date: 12 October 2006

Canada troops battle 10-foot
Afghan marijuana plants


OTTAWA, Canada (Reuters) -- Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an unexpected and potent enemy -- almost impenetrable forests of marijuana plants 10 feet tall.

General Rick Hillier, chief of the Canadian defense staff, said Thursday that Taliban fighters were using the forests as cover. In response, the crew of at least one armored car had camouflaged their vehicle with marijuana.

"The challenge is that marijuana plants absorb energy, heat very readily. It's very difficult to penetrate with thermal devices. ... And as a result you really have to be careful that the Taliban don't dodge in and out of those marijuana forests," he said in a speech in Ottawa, Canada.

"We tried burning them with white phosphorous -- it didn't work. We tried burning them with diesel -- it didn't work. The plants are so full of water right now ... that we simply couldn't burn them," he said.

Even successful incineration had its drawbacks.

"A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those [forests] did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action," Hiller said dryly.

One soldier told him later: "Sir, three years ago before I joined the army, I never thought I'd say 'That damn marijuana'."

Digg! diigo it

Thursday, January 04, 2007

This is Targeted Marketing?

Dear Amazon.ca Customer,

We've noticed that customers who have expressed interest in Becoming Vajrasattva, 2nd Edition : The Tantric Path of Purification by Lama Yeshe have also ordered Holy Image, Hallowed Ground by Robert S. Nelson. For this reason, you might like to know that Robert S. Nelson's Holy Image, Hallowed Ground is now available in Hardcover. You can order your copy by following the link below.

Holy Image, Hallowed Ground Robert S. Nelson
Price: CDN$ 131.50

Give me a break! This is an email I got from Amazon.ca, cuz I let them. I like to receive emails from some companies, cuz then I know I'll get mail. But why they would think I'd be interested in Byzantine icons just because I bought a Buddhist book about Vajrasattva...?! That's a stretch. I bet that line about others buying it is...well, let's say...hmmm...not entirely truthful.

Of course I
am interested. All that sort of stuff interests me. But certainly not because of the Vajrasattva connection.

Anyway, the price is a little steep to have such a morose-looking cover on my coffee table.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Monsieur Le Chevalier Malory Est Fini

OK, so I finished Malory.

Arthur died.

So did Lancelot. It seems he starved himself to death. Pined away. Died of a broken heart.

Sir Gawaine died.

Sir Tristram died. Murdered treacherously by King Mark. At least he saw the Holy Grail, even if only at a distance.

La Beale Isoude died. (It took a while to realize that this was the famous tale of Tristan & Isolde.)

Guenevere (speld Guenever by Malory...more about this in a minute) died.

Mordred died.

Galahad died. Because who can achieve the Grail without having it kill you?

Matter of fact, perty much everbody died. Or was killed. That's more accurate. Most of them were killed. They didn't just die.

It appears that this was something of a morality tale, but I'm not sure that's the way Malory intended it. I think he intended it to be a glorious but tragic tale of knightly chivalry.

But there are two main reasons why everybody dies: war and adultery and jealousy. OK, there are three main reasons...war and adultery and jealousy and sheer mule-headedness. OK, there are four main reasons...

Halfway through the Lancelot & Guenevere tale, I began to think of this movie from the sixties called Guide for the Married Man with Walter Matthau. One of the primary rules when committing infidelity was, if you got caught, Deny Deny Deny. Malory is not very forthcoming about what actually went on between Lancelot & the Queen. He says Love was different in those days. But the fact is, the final demise of the Knights of the Round Table, and of Arthur, and Guenevere, and Gawaine, and Lancelot...the war between Arthur and Lancelot, occurs because Lancelot gets caught red-arsed in Guenevere's chamber while Arthur is away. And what does Lancelot do? Deny Deny Deny...and then fight his way out of the castle, killing about twelve knights in the process.

The whole thing was a setup. Everyone in the court knew about Lancelot & Guenevere's prolonged indiscretions. Just as King Mark knew that Tristram was sniffing more than his wife's scented handkerchief. The only one who didn't know was Arthur. And he probably knew too, but found it much more convenient to ignore it. After all, he was king. The Round Table was the most powerful collection of wealth and military might in history. Why jeopardize that?

Until Sir Agravaine (driven by what sort of malice I can't make out) gets in Arthur's face about it so forcefully that Arthur's shamed into taking action. (Or boxed into it...the king's honour at stake...) So they set up a sting operation, not too far different from the modern idea of hiring a private eye to take pictures at the Notell Motel. Sir Agravaine then accuses Guenevere of treason (ie. infidelity, faithlessness) which, if unanswered, means she will be burned at the stake.

Guenevere must have been quite the hussy. Everybody had the hots for her. Sir Palomides...a classic unrequited lover and a Saracen to boot. Sir Lancelot. Even Mordred, Arthur's bastard son, begat upon Morgan Le Faye, his (Arthur's) sister. Or half-sister. Can't remember which. It's hard to keep track of these modern blended families. (And Morgan Le Faye also is quite a piece of work...a sorceress apparently full of malice for Arthur, yet at the end she is one of three queens who appears in a boat to take Arthur to Avalon in hopes of healing him.)

Arthur must have had his hands full with Guenevere. More than once he was on the point of sending her up in smoke, whether he will or nil, but always it was Sir Lancelot who pulled her fanny out of the fire.

This last time is the best, perhaps the only, example of true chivalry in the whole tale. Lancelot defies the claims of Agravaine (and Arthur), and is willing to actually go to war in order to protect Guenevere's reputation. Admirable. Still, it's hard to forget that his act of chivalry and bravado also served to cover up a rather sordid deception. But Arthur, ever the magnanimous cuckold (and more about this too, in a minute...) regrets with every ounce of his royalty the necessity of warring with Lancelot, whom he loves almost as much as he loves Guenevere. Hmm...

However. Or as Malory would say, Howbeit. In the course of his escape from the royal bedchamber, Lancelot kills Sir Agravaine. Sir Agravaine is Sir Gawaine's brother. A little while later, by misfortune and accident, he kills two more of Gawaine's brothers, Sir Gaheris (I think it was) and Sir Gareth, who he knighted himself somewhere around the middle of the book, and whom he loved more than any other knight (except maybe Tristram or his son Galahad), and who loved him beyond all measure.

Here comes the mulishness. Gawaine forgives Lancelot for killing Agravaine (and yet another brother) because, as he says, "I told them they were asking for trouble, setting up this trap for Lancelot and Guenever, but they went ahead and did it anyway. Serves 'em right!" On the other hand, he absolutely refuses to forgive Lancelot for the other killings, even knowing they were accidental, even knowing Lancelot was in complete anguish over it. Gawaine pushes Arthur to chase Lancelot all the way to France (I asssume), against Arthur's better judgment, to get his revenge.

That's when everything really starts to go to hell in a handbasket, cuz while Arthur's gone, he leaves Mordred in charge. What was he thinking? Mordred engineers a palace coup and even attempts to marry Guenevere! By spreading the lie that Arthur was killed on the continent. People believed him. No email in those days. No YouTube. No CNN. No Sirius satellite for God's sake! (How in heaven's name did they survive with only wandering minstrels and troubadours, court fools and midgets? They say that Tristram was pretty good with the harp...one of the things that attracted La Beale Isoude...)

So Arthur and Gawaine and whoever was left after the seige of Lancelot hurried back to Britain to fight off Mordred. And so Arthur is killed. And Mordred. And Gawaine dies too, ultimately, of wounds caused by Lancelot. (Gawaine in his mulishness insisted on coming back and back for more when Lancelot beat him, never giving himself time to heal properly.) At least Gawaine recovered from his insanity before he died and wrote Lancelot a nice letter.

But anyway, they pretty much all die with broken hearts.

You may think it's some grand love story. I can't get that romantic about it. It's a bloody Greek tragedy. I admit I've never experienced the kind of passion that seems to drive these people. Lust, sure. But not passion. Besides, at points it seems too much like the passion that convinces a man it's a good idea to go down to the mall and shoot his estranged wife in cold blood, then take a hostage and wait around for the ETF to blow his head off.

I can't seem to muster a lot of sympathy for these people. Only once did the sudden, unexpected death of a knight send a jolt of regret thru my insensitive breast. And at the moment I can't remember who that was. Maybe Galahad.

It is, however, once you get past the archaic language, the rrrrepetitions, the non-sequiturs, and the foolish customs (like riding around the forest wearing a helmet so no one recognizes you...like holding tournaments where the most likely result is death or severe injury...) a cracking good yarn!

And that's without even going into the Holy Grail part of it.

So. That's my take on Le Morte d'Arthur. I've decided that Malory was actually a man after me own heart, in one way. He might have been a prime suspect for the Yoni School. His attention to the finer points of spelling was quite negligent. Three different spelings for the same word. Twenty different werds with the same spelling. Or perhaps it was the typesetter. In any case, the reader is left to decipher.

And one last thing: the reference to Arthur as a magnanimous cuckold. This comes to you via The Lyre of Orpheus by Robertson Davies. That book is centred around an opera about Arthur and Guenevere, the subtitle of which is The Magnanimous Cuckold. Actually, I think it was all the talk about them that convinced me to re-attempt Malory. That Robertson Davies was a really clever writer. Altho, like a certain blogist who shall remain unnamed but whose initials are Larry Keiler, maybe too clever by half sometimes.

Enough.

Über-post. Please report to Edit Central.

New Mouse

Larry has a new mouse. The old one was nibbling at the edges of web pages. What a mess!

This new mouse is very sparkly. It's so slick it practically changes your mind for you.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Another Dead Arab

I haven't commented on Saddam Hussein's execution. I don't know what other more important people are saying, or the Iraqis themselves, but I don't think the US really wanted him executed at this particular moment. ie. I don't think they orchestrated this. I think it was Iraqis who insisted on it.

Saddam. Bad guy. Murderer. Despot. Treacherous sonofabitch. Former friend and ally of the US.

He probably deserved to die. But I am Buddhist person, you know? Just because he deserved it doesn't mean somebody should go ahead and kill him. Not good karma. This is precisely the sort of action that keeps the cycle cycling. And this ain't no six-day bicycle race, if you know what I mean.

What someone deserves and what someone gets have no rational connection anyway. Others may deserve execution too, but what they get is adulation or deference or respect or free lunch. Who knows?

The reason for this is karma. Past action affecting present reality. Present action affecting future reality.

I refuse to be accused of so-called moral relativism here. I stand to be corrected, but I think Buddhists are relativists by definition. We are taught, and we espouse the doctrine of Dependendent Origination, fer chrissake! Nothing stands on its own. Nothing exists inherently. Everything requires the appropriate causes and conditions in order to manifest. A match is fire. But only when there is a hand to strike it.

Executioners depend on Saddam. Saddam depends on Murricans. Label him friend or enemy. Butcher of Baghdad. But Baghdad has many butchers now.

One killing does not justify or make right all the others. Any killing is unskilfull, unless you can see the bigger picture. And this you cannot do while you are ruled by the three poisons...hatred, attachment and ignorance. It seems to me, all the butchers of Baghdad are suffering from one or more of these poisons.

So...the executioners, the Iraqis, the Murricans, all of us, affected by the ritual killing of one poor miserable, mean sonofabitch. And the hangmen taunted him, too, as they were stringing him up. Karmically speaking, that's just piling on...

It Takes All Kinds to (Un)make a World

Not to give this site too much prominence, but while noodling around the Blogger Group Help page I found the blog Only In America. A rather angry guy, it seems. Calls himself Himself. Which seems only right.

I looked at his profile. He probably wouldn't like me. I'm too Buddhist. He prefers free thinkers. So, maybe he might like me. Cuz I don't charge for my thinking. Leastways, not on this Mental Blog.

Anyway, he had a link to the website (which I've embedded in the title) called Right Wing Stuff.

Here's an example of the stuff they sell:

And that's mild compared to some of the others. (Click on the post title if you're really interested...)

This is an example of the weirdness on the net. I mean, you think Larry's weird. You don't know the half of it. Hatefulness too. Side by electronic side with lunacy love & lechery. But I wonder if the people who market this believe as fervently as their website indicates, or whether they're just doing that Yankee thing...if it moves, sell it.

Scroll farther down on Himself's blog and you'll find a picture of what is presumably an advertisement for "Armor of God Pyjamas". It's LOL funny.

MMVII

Pope Gregory says it's a new year. Happy.

Larry makes revolutions.

Sorry. Resolutions.

Larry resolves to:
1. Figure out how to allow w.t. to post comments as w.t. stead of Anonymous and...
failing that;
2. Find a way to make the date stamp for this blog always read MMVII,
and if that's not possible...
3. Achieve full enlightenment or...
at least;
4. Find out who the hell Yoni is and...
5. Tidy up his (Larry's, not Yoni's) cell so when the hall monitor comes for inspection she doesn't trip over the vowels collecting dust bunnies under the bed.

And Larry wishes that everyone will accomplish their sublime goals and not hurt nobody nomore nohow.

Mental Blog Repair 1

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