Saturday, March 31, 2007

Editing Lama Zopa Rinpoche

In the last few weeks I've engaged in a spate of downloads. I've been discovering loads of open source applications, some of which may be useful to me, and others which may not but I can't tell until I experiment with them.

One of the definitely useful apps is a program called Audacity, a digital audio editing program. So I've embarked on a new project, something else to occupy my time in the rarefied atmosphere of the Yoni School. They won't let me picnic naked in the garden (and it's still too cold anyway) so I'm going to do this...

When Lama Zopa Rinpoche was here back in August/06, everything he taught was recorded digitally except for one night when somehow the record button didn't get pressed. I have copies of those recordings...geez, how many hours' worth? Must be 20 at least.

Now, Rinpoche is a man after my own heart, a ramblin' guy. I mean, sometimes his talks are quite ramblin'. And he has quite a repertoire of... let's call them verbal tics. In fact he coughs and clears his throat often, which they say is a remnant of his having had TB in his youth. They also say it could very well be a tool he's using in his teaching.

Whatever the reason, sometimes he's hard to follow because of repeated interruptions. So, I've decided to kill two birds with one stone (metaphorically speaking since I've adopted the Buddhist precept of avoiding killing) and learn a bit about this Audacity program and digital editing while cleaning up Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings. Not editing for content, mind you, but simply removing some of the more obtrusive instances of coughing and such.

In the recording I'm working on right now, his first afternoon of teachings, the mic placement was maybe not so great, so some of the audio levels are really low. I think Audacity can adjust this, but I don't know how to do it yet, and that will be the next step. Then after that, I need to learn how to split the .wav file into shorter pieces because at the moment they are 2 or more hours long.

If my "experiment" works, we'll be able to produce CDs. I'll keep you posted on my progress. As of this writing I've completed the first (afternoon) session, but only the first phase of the three described above.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Dalai Lama Displays Emanation Body


This photo comes (as you can see from the logo in the bottom corner) from They run periodic Photoshop contests and apparently get all kinds of clever entries. This one is from the MiniMeMe contest. ie. takeoffs on celebrities based on the MiniMe character from Austin Powers. You can see the original and all the other mini stars here.

Is this photo irreverent? No more irreverent than when I put a tiny Canajun flag between His Holiness' hands. The Buddhist take on images is that they are emanations. A statue of Buddha is in fact an emanation of the Buddha, a replication created by the Buddha to increase our awareness, or our devotion. If you think the Buddha statue or the Buddha painting is created by the artist or the manufacturer, well, that's true. But it's also the Buddha using skillful means to spread the Dharma, to plant seeds which will grow when the conditions are ripe.

Same with this photo. The Dalai Lama replicating infinitely. Skillful means. It's worth noting that of all the celebrities pictured on this site, the Dalai Lama is the only spiritual leader. Why would that be, I wonder?

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Help Me With This #!%? Template

Any techies out there (or just savvy people with Blogger blogs) who can tell me which part of the template code puts this stupid dotted line in that separates the sidebar from the main page? It makes the sidebar look like some kind of coupon you should cut out of the page and send to Google to redeem it for a WordPress installation!

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mental Blog Online Poll

This poll is sparked by something I heard on the radio today. It has two questions:

  1. What do you want from the opposite sex?
  2. Which one is the opposite sex?

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Say It With Pictures

(Tag As: Gratuitous Political Statement by Know-Nothing Canajun/Alien Observer)

Really, I don't know whether Bush should be impeached. The evidence is not really all in, is it? But lies to Congress would qualify as grounds, wouldn't they?

I do believe neither we outsiders/ostensible allies/friends nor the Murrican people should continue enappling his behaviour, though. Nobody likes to be called an enappler.

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Larry is Lord of His Domain

OK, if you're reading this blog now (which I guess you are or else you wouldn't be seeing this), look up to the address bar. What you'll see there is For those of you who notice such things, this is different from what it used to be. The former address was EarrationalIdeas is a brand new domain and Larry is lord of the manor. (Now, if you've clicked on these links, you'll see that they bring you...right here.)

How did this come about, you ask? Well, I'll tell ya. It's really due in good measure to the energy and persistence of a new MyBlogLog friend, GoogleTutor. You can find his website here, and his MyBlogLog member's page here.

Last week, GoogleTutor ran a contest on his blog offering to buy a domain for anybody running a blog on Blogspot (like me) if they were members of MyBlogLog, had PayPal, and put a comment on his blog with a link to their own blog...and he would help them switch their blogs to the new domain. I saw this post early on (cuz I put GoogleTutor's RSS feed on my Netvibes home page) but was too busy at the time to pay much attention to it. Later on, when I did have some time, I saw that he had updated the post to extend the deadline. I left a comment saying I was interested but I didn't have PayPal, and besides, from scanning the comments it looked like I hadn't made the cut. I said I would appreciate some help moving the blog when I managed to get all the other stuff worked actually acquiring a domain...

GoogleTutor has more energy than I do, I think, or more drive. He sent me a message encouraging me to move on this because there was still an opportunity. So I did. I signed up for PayPal and posted my comment on his blog. And I squeaked in just under the wire.

GoogleTutor sent 10 bucks US to my account, which worked out to a little more than 10 bucks Cdn after PayPal got their cut. Enough to buy a domain for a year, anyway. Then I went and registered the domain. But I paid for two years cuz, you know, this ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no foolin' around...(or maybe it is...) And earlier today (yesterday now) Google Tutor and I hooked up online and he shepherded me through the process of switching from Blogspot to EarrationalIdeas. (Truth to tell, he ended up doing most of it cuz I futzed it up near the beginning, but we won't go into too much detail there...)

So this is a big thankew to GoogleTutor for his help and encouragement cuz he nudged me into something I'd been considering, but I was suffering some trepidation and inertia. Plus, did I mention that he paid for the domain? Yer in the will, buddy! (But don't get yer hopes up...)

Now here's a list of all the winners:

The 6 *spam free* domain winners are:

  1. Vic
  2. Nancy
  3. Gdog
  4. Don
  5. Billy
  6. Larry
(I confess I haven't checked them all out myself yet, but I will before too long.)

So there you have it. Larry may be locked up in the Yoni School for Wayward Poets, but he is still master of all he surveys in his domain of EarrationalIdeas.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Yoni School (Federal) Election Watch

Canadian Political Hinterland Hoo's Hoo
Why is this man smiling?

This is a premier specimen of the Silver-Haired Bobrae, who has just been moved from the endangered species list to the "threatened" list, having won his nomination to run for the Gliberal Party of Canada in Hawgtown Centre at the next federal election. A former Near Democrat premier of Ontariario, he joined the Gliberals last year, primarily to run for the leadership of the party, which he lost, which catapulted him onto the endangered list. He has proved to be sturdy and resourceful, however, and may yet come out of the wilderness where he has spent much of his time playing piano for seniors.

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Seals Cycling (Again)(and Again)

Hard to believe it's been a year since I posted about the annual seal hunt. And the picture of McPaulrus Cartnew and whassername? on the ice floe getting illegally close to a seal (which they're not planning to kill...)

Not much has changed since then. For the seals.

Sir McCrustcart Paulney, on the other hand, has had a whole year of divorce-type wrangling with whassername? Whassername? meanwhile has decided to Dance With the Stars cuz her settlement with aforementioned McWalrus doesn't allow her to live in the style to which she became accustomed, for example, jetting off to ice floes in March whenever it felt like March...

(I don't mean to be deliberately disrespectful of whassername? I really can't remember her name.)

(And let us not forget the ironies of an animal rights movement that wants to murder Knut the pampered polar bear but save the seals.) ??? (Not to wish anyone ill, it's not a good thing for Buddhists, but I hope Knut grows up big enough to bite one of them animal rights people on the nose, just to prove he's a real polar bear...)

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Time Stamp

I'm testing the time stamp for posting. The early switch to DST seems to have messed things up.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Yoni School (Québec) Election Watch

Oooooh! Québec politics just got interesting again!

This is the breakthrough ADQ leader Mario Dumont has been waiting for. As for the Parti Québécois, it's hard to say whether the poor showing is because separatism is a dead issue or because people were appalled by leader André Boisclair. Meanwhile, Gliberal leader Jean Charade (a constipator masquerading as a gliberal masquerading as a federalist) apparently just barely hung onto his own seat in Sherbrooke.

Finally, this does not bode well for the Federal Constipated Party of Canada and Prime Mystery Stephen Harpie. He was counting on a Gliberal victory in Québec to boost his own fortunes. The ADQ is an unknown quantity for him, and the PQ, can't cozy up to them too much. They're liable to stab you in the back, eventually, and pack up their kits and leave the country, non?

PS. Apparently Québeckers ain't green.

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There's a Rumi Goin' Round

A MyBlogLog friend reminded me of Rumi. Then I realized since it's the year of Rumi (there's a Rumi goin' round) I really should post a poem of Rumi's once a month at least. I missed February, so maybe I'll put up two before the end of the month. Anyway, here's one:


Love is the One who masters all things;
I am mastered totally by Love.
By my passion of love for Love
I have ground sweet as sugar.
O furious Wind, I am only a straw before you;
How could I know where I will be blown next?
Whoever claims to have made a pact with Destiny
Reveals himself a liar and a fool;
What is any of us but a straw in a storm?
How could anyone make a pact with a hurricane?
God is working everywhere his massive Resurrection;
How can we pretend to act on our own?
In the hand of Love I am like a cat in a sack;
Sometimes Love hoists me into the air,
Sometimes Love flings me into the air,
Love swings me round and round His head;
I have no peace, in this world or any other.
The lovers of God have fallen in a furious river;
They have surrendered themselves to Love's commands.
Like mill wheels they turn, day and night, day and night,
Constantly turning and turning, and crying out.

Translated by Andrew Harvey

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Arthur Koestler's a Dharma Bum!

I wrote a long post on DoveTale Writers a few days ago about Arthur Koestler cuz I'm reading his book Janus: A Summing Up.

In that post I quoted a long passage from the book. Here's a short bit:
With due respect to Shakespeare's 'All the world's a stage', one might say that the ordinary mortal's life is played on two alternating stages, situated on two different levels -- let us call them the trivial plane and the tragic plane of existence. Most of the time we bustle about on the trivial plane; but on some special occasions, when confronted with death or engulfed in the oceanic feeling, we seem to fall through a stage-trap or man-hole and are transferred to the tragic or absolute plane.
Now, the reason I quote this again is cuz I've just been able to re-interpret this in Buddhist terms. Koestler actually uses the phrase "absolute plane". In a way, what he's describing here is the distinction between samsara and nirvana or dharmakaya.

Not to belittle the glories of samsara, but it really is the trivial plane. It's the place where we pick our nose, wiggle our toes, come to blows, pluck the rose, go to shows, suffer woes, lows and purple prose. From the Buddhist perspective, it's trivial because it doesn't actually get us anywhere. We expend tremendous energy doing the same things over and over (the eight worldly dharmas -- working for mere money, fame, reputation, etc.) and at the end have nothing to show for it except the next life where we do it all over again. It's obsessive, like checking your email every five minutes. (Come on, admit it, you've done that...) The Lam Rim teachings urge us over and over again to renounce seeking after this life. In fact, it's the seeking and grasping that propels us into the next cycle.

Unlike Koestler, though, Buddhists would not call the "absolute plane" tragic. Profound, yes. But not tragic. Blissful, yes. Not tragic. But I think this is more what Koestler means, anyway. The absolute plane, the oceanic feeling, is one of great depth, (vast as the sky as Lama Yeshe might say) and profundity. It is a "place" where we move out of our habitual somnambulance into intense awareness of reality. This can and does happen to us in our daily lives. Near-death experiences. Sudden awakenings or realizations. Sudden shocks that make us ponder the evanescence of both beauty and life.

However, what's really prompting this post is another, later, passage in the same book. Koestler here is involved in a long discussion of Free Will vs. Determinism. It's unfair both to you and to him to take pieces out of context, but I have to do it to avoid writing an obscenely long tract. At one point, Koestler says this:
...[T]he present theory implies that the hierarchy [involved in thought and action] is open-ended towards infinite regress, both in the upward and downward direction. We tend to believe that the ultimate responsibility rests with the apex of the hierarchy -- but that apex is never at rest, it keeps receding. The self eludes the grasp of its own awareness. Facing downward and outward, a person is aware of the task in hand, an awareness that fades with each step down into the dimness of routine...and finally dissolves in the ambiguity of the Janus-faced electron. But in the upward direction the hierarchy is also open-ended and leads into the infinite regress of the self. p.238
What he's describing here (or at least, what I hear here) is the Buddhist analytical meditation in which one pinpoints the non-existence of the self. Koestler calls it infinite regress. This, like so many of my ruminations, is a signpost on the path of emptiness. In this meditation, you attempt to define what it is that makes you "you". What part of you is you? And furthermore, where is this "you" located? In the head? In the heart? In the eyes? In the mind? And where is the mind? What is the mind? It has no substance. It has no location. So where are you? What are you? We did this meditation during the course of our Lam Rim instruction, and I must say I experienced a slight nausea at the realization that the I I've lived with all my life has no handle to grasp.

Try it yourself. You'll see that the I cannot truly be found. You'll try to fool yourself by describing characteristics, or beliefs, or behaviours, likes and dislikes. But those are not you. Ultimately, you might decide that you're nothing more than a collection of thoughts, a series of feelings. But even those are totally without substance. They have no more existence than a dream.

Then, on the next page, Koestler writes:
Some philosophers dislike the concept of infinite regress because it reminds them of the little man inside the little man inside the little man. But we cannot get away from the infinite. What would mathematics, what would physics be without the infinitesimal calculus? Self-consciousness has been compared to a mirror in which the individual contemplates his own activities. It would perhaps be more appropriate to compare it to a Hall of Mirrors where one mirror reflects one's reflection in another mirror, and so on. Infinity stares us in the face, whether we look at the stars or search for our own identities. (Italics mine) p.239
Indra's Net. He has just described a fundamental Buddhist cosmology/concept/analogy/myth/tenet. Indra's Net is one of my favourite ways of thinking about interdependence and interconnectedness. Let me quote from another of my "most essential books about Buddhism", which I've talked about in another post:
Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out indefinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel at the net's every node, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that the process of reflection is infinite.
The Avatamsaka Sutra
Francis H. Cook: Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra, 1977

Here's a computerized, fractal representation of Indra's Net, which I found at this website:

And here is what Ken Jones has to say about Indra's Net, a quote I found on yet another fractal-type website:
Indra's Jewelled Net is a metaphor for the summation of Buddhist thought. Each of us is a jewel in Indra's Net, which replicates the whole and is the whole. At each intersection in Indra's Net is a light reflecting jewel and each jewel contains another Net, ad infinitum. The jewel at each intersection exists only as a reflection of all the others and hence it has no self-nature. Yet it also exists as a separate entity to sustain the others. Each and all exist in their mutuality.
Ken Jones, The Social Face of Buddhism

Here's a thangka with an Indra's Net mandala, or mandala of the cosmos from the Dharmapala Thangka Centre. These guys are no slouches when it comes to the creation of thangkas.

Infinite mirrors reflecting infinite mirrors. It's mind-boggling. And the Buddhists have been meditating on this for a couple of millennia. Modern physics has only just begun to catch up.

As a matter of fact, Koestler delves deeper into the subject in the very next chapter, entitled Physics and Metaphysics. Early on he enumerates some of the terms physicists have come up with to describe certain phenomena: quarks, quarks with 'charm', the eightfold way [!], strangeness, the bootstrap principle...He says that physicists are "well aware of the surrealistic nature of the world they have created."
For on th[e] sub-microscopic level the criteria of reality are fundamentally different from those we apply on our macro-level; inside the atom our concepts of space, time, matter and causality are no longer valid, and physics turns into metaphysics with a strong flavour of mysticism. As a result of this development, the unthinkable phenomena of parapsychology appear somewhat less preposterous in the light of the unthinkable propositions of relativity and quantum physics. (p. 244)
In my world, the last sentence would say: the unthinkable phenomena of Buddhist psychology! What he really means to say here, if he only knew it, is that modern physics is discovering emptiness!

In fact, he quotes David Bohm, a professor of theoretical physics at the University of London: " is led to a new notion of unbroken wholeness which denies the classical idea of analysability of the world into separately and independently existent parts..." In other words, interdependent origination.

Tibetan Buddhists, too, have their own jargon, especially in the Vajrayana. Winds and drops play a crucial role in Vajrayana practise. And Koestler comes perilously close to this when he quotes Fritjof Capra:
Nuclear matter is thus a form of matter entirely different from anything we experience 'up here' in our macroscopic environment. We can perhaps picture it best as tiny drops of an extremely dense liquid which is boiling and bubbling most fiercely.
I could go on. But I won't. I'm probably making a point here that others have made much more effectively. I don't know what Koestler thought about religion or if he believed in god or some sort of higher power. It doesn't matter. Unknowingly, he preaches a sort of Dharma. With 84,000 Dharmas taught by the Buddha, it seems that the particular path is less important than the fact that a path has been chosen.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Online Petition Re: Climate Change

I suppose I take a rather un-nuanced view of environment and global warming or climate change or whatever the heck it's called. There are a lot of people coming out of the woodwork these days to criticize David Suzuki and even my dark-horse saviour of the Democrats Al Gore. Junk science, they say. A bunch of bureaucrats pushing an agenda, they say. A con job, they say.

I don't really know. Here's what I know. It doesn't seem right that we can keep pulling shit out of the earth's bowels and then burning it and pouring it into the earth's lungs at the rate we've been doing, and expecting to increase this besides. Is man affecting the environment? Hell yes! So we probably need to be doing something about it.

Having said that, I get emails. Yes, Larry doesn't have much to do with online petitions. But he's pushed this group before. So one more time...

Dear friends,

Last week, Avaaz campaigners hand-delivered our 100,000-signature climate change petition to the environment ministers of the world's most polluting countries. It worked. The chair of the meeting waved the petition in the air, calling on his fellow ministers to act--and they agreed that climate change would be the #1 issue at the G8 summit in June.

The momentum is on our side. Let's build on it. Next Tuesday, another high-level group will meet to move forward with G8 planning -- and we can keep the focus on the climate issue by showing that the call for action is growing. Can you help us reach our ambitious goal of 150,000 signatures by Tuesday by forwarding this email to ten friends? Your friends can sign the petition here:

Here's how our campaigner Iain Keith, who presented the petition, describes his experience:

When my turn came to speak to the Environment ministers, I was so nervous that I thought my voice would quiver. But I wasn't just speaking for myself--I was there on behalf of 100,000 Avaaz members, and I couldn't let them down. I walked to the microphone, took a deep breath, and said, "Dear Ministers, ladies and gentlemen, m y name is Iain Keith and I'm here on behalf of the 1 Million members of Avaaz. Avaaz is a new online community where global citizens can go to take action on the biggest issues facing our world. I have here, in my hands, a petition from our members who would like to tell you that they are scared of climate change, and the lack of action being taken. The countries represented in this room are responsible for the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions. As ministers of the environment you are in an excellent position to persuade your leaders to make tackling climate change the number one priority for the next G8 summit. Our members humbly request that you accept this petition as a reminder of your responsibilities, and to help persuade your leaders."

I handed the petition to the German environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel. The meeting continued, with speeches on other issues from other organizations. I wondered if all of the work had been worth it.

And then came Minister Gabriel's closing speech.

I could hardly believe it: he was saying that climate change must be the number one priority at the G8 summit. And he was holding our petition.

"Thanks to increased pressure from people around the world," he said, "the tide is turning. When an international NGO can gather this many signatures" (here he holds up the petition), "we cannot ignore this problem anymore... As Environmental ministers, we have a responsibility both to the environment and our voters to make sure our heads of state act!"

And a few days later, German Chancellor and G8 President Angela Merkel vowed to put climate change at the top of the agenda for the G8 Leaders Summit.

We did it!!

Iain's right. And we can do even more. Can you forward this email to ten friends, and help us reach our goal of 150,000 signatures by Tuesday?

It's amazing what can happen when we work together. Thanks for all that you do.

With hope,

Ben, Iain, Ricken, Lee-Sean, Galit, Graziela, and the rest of the Avaaz team

P.S. For a more detailed report of the meeting, including photos, visit the Avaaz blog

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Write a Book Review, Win Books

While searching for another reference, I came across this opportunity to win free books from Alibris. All you have to do is write a book review...and then win the random draw. Click here to get to the entry page.

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Notes on Emptiness #11

A long quote here from Kyabje Gehlek Rinpoche in Solitary Yamantaka Teachings. This is a book which is restricted to those who have received the Yamantaka initiation, but I think it's possible to distinguish between the sections that are "secret" and those which are more general.

Teachings on emptiness are right on the borderline. There are many instances of being cautioned not to teach emptiness to those unprepared, because a premature exposure (without the proper foundation) could turn potential students away from Dharma and consign them to many more lives in samsara before they have another opportunity.

Having said that, this passage is quite clear, doesn't say anything outrageous, and is easily verifiable if you take the time to meditate or think on it. Please read it carefully:
Look at these offering materials like that: [Here Rinpoche is talking about the outer offerings made to the deities in the Yamantaka practice, which include drinking water, water for washing, incense, perfume, food, etc.] they are all created, first by the collective mental activity of a number of people on their mental level, followed by their practical interpretation, followed by their projection and perception. Combined together, those collective conditions are able to produce this. That's what's really meant by: there is no inherent existence. If there were inherent existence, you wouldn't need all those conditions; things would be there already, existing inherently.(Italics added)

For example, look at this round bread. Someone must have thought about making a round bread, and whether to use wheat instead of rye, and what other material would be needed. For example, if we have milk, but we want yogurt, we need milk first to be able to make it into yogurt; but milk is not yogurt yet, and yogurt is not the same as milk. The point here is, that if you ignore the relative truth, then milk would become yogurt and yogurt would become milk. And cheese would become yogurt, and milk too, just because they're also animal products. Relative truth tells you, that although something is made from milk, under certain conditions it can become butter, and under a different set of conditions it can become buttermilk, or cheese, or cream. All of them come from the same thin, milk, but different conditions make them into separate things. You can't say that buttermilk is milk, nor can you sat that skimmed milk is cream. So, all of them are relative truth. If people begin to ignore the relative truth, they start to lose the fundamental basis of emptiness.(Italics added)

So if some people say: 'Everything is only the result of mind, in the end it is all zero, so it doesn't matter, it's all the same, it's all bullshit' -- then that's exactly what it is: it's bullshit, because milk is not buttermilk and buttermilk is not cheese. Seeing this is what is meant by seeing emptiness through existence, or in other words seeing emptiness from the existence point of view, rather than from the 'empty' level. If you try to look from the 'empty' level, then everything is the same, then it doesn't matter whether what you do makes sense or not, because in the end it's going to be zero. That is the emptiness approach from the empty point of view and that gets you on the wrong track.

Update March 25/07: I can't believe Rinpoche said "bullshit"!

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Friday, March 23, 2007

South Park Larry

My new MyBlogLog friend, DharmaBlogger, posted a link to South Park Studio, where you can create South Park versions of yourself. I love South Park, altho I haven't watched it for a while now. But I still love it. Everybody loves South Park, don't they? Of course they do. You know they do.

Anyway, DharmaBlogger posted her version. Here's mine. South Park Larry:

(Blame Canada!)

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Since I'm Posting YouTube Videos...

Here's a belated reference to the Song of the Day from a few days ago. Johnny Cash at the Grand Ole Opry. 1968. Lookin' pretty snappy too.

Monty Python - The Argument Clinic (Extended)

OK, I wasn't planning to post this at this time, but I can't help it. This is one of my all-time favourite Monty Python sketches:

And just so you know, I've been arguing in my spare time all along.

No you haven't.

Yes I have.

No you haven't.

Yes I have.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Meanwhile, How's It Going In Afghanistan?

Harper's tells us that the UN announced on March 6 that the yield of heroin poppies rose by 25 percent last year.

Well, at least something is being reconstructed.

And in a not-directly related question: what is NATO doing so far from the North Atlantic which is part of its name? General Motors scrapped the Oldsmobile when it had outlived its usefulness. Get my drift?

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Don't Bother Me, I'm Counting My Money

According to Forbes Magazine, the world now has 946 billionaires. According to Canadian Business, in 2005 Canada had 40. Sheesh, that's a lot of Lamborghinis!

Unfortunately, Forbes didn't count them, but I bet there are at least a billion 946aires in the world. So I've taken out my abacus to determine which category I fit into.

I'll let you know in a minute...

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Heckled by Heckelphones

Here's a musical instrument you've probably never heard of. I certainly hadn't, but I just read about it in the AFM newspaper. The Heckelphone, first built by the Wilhelm Heckel GmbH in Wiesbaden-Biebrich (Germany) in 1904, and designed at the request of Richard Wagner, is a wide-bored, double-reed instrument. It's sort of a cross between an oboe and an alphorn and a bass clarinet. About 4 feet tall and quite heavy, apparently. Only 146 were made, with just 50 of them still in use worldwide. Wagner died before he saw the heckelphone, but Richard Strauss used it in several works.

There are about a dozen heckelphone players in the US. Concert opportunities are rare because those symphony ignoramuses use other instruments to cover the parts. (OK, ignoramus is rather strong. Let's say, financial considerations often intervene....or all the heckelphone players happen to be booked at the same time when one is needed by a symphony?)

Man, I wish I could figure out how to include audio clips in this #*!/?? blog. There are some available on various heckelphone websites...(another thing I did not know existed) here's a link instead. And here's the Wikipedia link. If you want to hire a heckelphone player, contact the North American Heckelphone Players Association. I have no idea how you do that. Try the AFM. If you want to be heckled by a heckelphone player, just try performing Strauss' Salomé (op.54) or Elektra (op.58) without one.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Help! I've written and I can't get up!