Monday, September 24, 2007

Peace March in Burma

Video provided by MettaTV

Is this not a powerful demonstration of what we call "engaged Buddhism"?

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Meditating on Amitabha

Here I sit
Buddha Amitabha
on this lotus cushion
surrounded by pure land
pure sound
pure incense
the luminosity of the
Lord of Boundless Light

There is no where
I need to be
other than this spinning mantra
splashing light

I am no where
other than this

There is no thing
I need to be
but Buddha Amitabha
red in colour
one face two arms

I am no thing
other than this
in emptiness
and luminous pure land

I am no thing
no thing

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Original 9-11 Conspiracy Film

If you're interested in watching this, prepare yourself for the long haul. It's nearly 2 and a half hours long.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

A Pome by Malcolm Lowry

As yet, I've been unable to finish Under the Volcano. I know it's supposed to be a masterpiece. I know it's what made Lowry. But it sat for years on my shelf before I even started it. Then it sat for years more with a bookmark about a third of the way through. At the moment, I'm not even sure where my copy of it is.

On the other hand, I've lately read a couple of his pomes which are somehow more accessible. Witty. Not so dreary. (And it seems that dreary is how I characterize Under the Volcano. But maybe I should give it another chance.)

Anyway, here's a pome by Lowry, and I'm sure anyone who has had some of their work published can relate to this:

Strange Type

I wrote: in the dark cavern of our birth.

The printer had it tavern, which seems better:

But herein lies the subject of our mirth,

Since on the next page death appears as dearth.

So it may be that God's word was distraction,

Which to our strange type appears destruction.

Which is bitter.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mental Blog Reviews Shakespeare

Jeez, they certainly do talk a lot. Talktalktalktalktalk. The first act is over before they've finished talking. And then they talk some more in the second act. On and off, they stab somebody or slash them with a sword. Sometimes they dance. Sometimes they even sing. Other times they make jokes at some buffoon's expense. Or the buffoon makes jokes at the king's expense. Oh yes, there are kings. Dukes. Senators. Earls. Barons. Generals. (It's starting to sound like a football league...) Noblemen. Noblewomen. Notsonoblemen and women. Anything you can think of. Dogs. Donkeys. Vipers and asps. Out damn Spots! Sleight of hand and mistaken identity. And through it all they talktalktalktalktalk. Someone always gets the last word.

In recent months I've attended three, count em three Shakespearean plays. An orgy. An over-indulgence of the theatrical kind. One, the last, was an authorized excursion outside the gates of the Yoni School. The other two were clandestine, in which Suzy Homemaker and I were obliged to slip Nurse Ratchet and assorted attendants a mickey. Mickey Mouse for one. Mickey Finn for another. Mickey Dolenz for a third. Mickey Rooney held in abeyance until the moment that Judy Garland appears wanting to create summer theatre in a barn.

The first play was Othello. Someone asked me who played Othello. Can't remember his name. Some black guy. It had been some time since I'd seen one of those Shakespearean adventures in modern thespianism. I enjoyed it, yes, but was disappointed. Spoiled by the graphic nature of contemporary film. Towards the end, Othello throttles the life out of Desdemona. I wasn't at all convinced. She barely struggled. Not what I would call a realistic scene. She barely wrinkled Othello's shirt. But maybe I expect too much.

Furthermore, I'm not versed in the Shakespeare canon. Is Othello one of his more renowned plays? If so, I'm still not convinced. Shakespeare did not persuade me that Othello's jealousy was even remotely justified. Othello comes across as an utter fool, which seems impossible somehow, since he's a well-respected general who could not be a fool. As to the acting, there are moments when Othello appears quite authentic, but at crucial moments he seems to lack the necessary depth. Meanwhile, the gentleman who played Iago tended to play up the comic in many of his asides to the audience at the expense of the venom he acts out in the play against both Cassio and Othello and, indeed, expresses in his first speeches: "O, sir, content you" he says, "I follow him to serve my turn upon him..."

So, in the end, I inveigh against both the production and the playwright. Both come up short. I don't care what the Avonic scholars say. Shakespeare is having us on. He's pretending to profundity and we, poor under-employed potes that we are, slavishly follow the dictates of literary criticism and cast laurels at his feet. Nay, nay, I say! Prove your mettle, William!

Which he does, sort of, in the next play Suzy and I saw. King Lear. Brian Bedford played Lear, a role for which he has trained his whole life. And how does Lear start off? Talktalktalktalktalk. What else? But even here, the premise seems stretched. Lear decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters. No apparent reason why. OK, maybe he's getting a little old, maybe he's a little tired. But he seems to want to hold on to his power, exercising influence in the back rooms. And then, in spite of the evidence of his eyes and ears, he gets himself into a snit because Cordelia, plain-spoken girl that she is, will not flatter him with honeyed words like her two wicked step-sisters. (Sorry, I'm getting mixed up with Cinderella. Cinderella! Cordelia! Same story, different country.)

Let's face it. Lear is a loon. Cared for by a buffoon. Or rather a fool. And withal it would seem that the fool is the wisest of them. But we all know that fools may spout wisdom through the teeth of their impudence. Lear is lucky to have him. Lucky also that his fool is such a well-tempered actor, for fools may sometimes be required to act out roles which in their foolishness they see to be wiser than the fools they serve. And Shakespeare was wise enough to make Lear a king, so that he could name the play King Lear, rather than Lear the Lucky Loon!

The acting in this play was better than in Othello. Lucky, I guess. Well, no, not mere luck, because Brian Bedford is accomplished. Maybe he doesn't match Olivier. I don't know, I never saw Olivier. But he was pretty damn good. And Cordelia too. The wicked step-sisters would certainly have shone in any production of Cinderella.

But I'm still up in the air. What is it that drives Lear mad? The fact that two of his daughters turned out to be greedy, spiteful, bitchy, quarrelsome women? Or that he turned away the one who truly loved him? Is that enough to bring on madness? Melancholy, perhaps. Or depression. But raving lunacy? Or was it that he simply retired too early? Lost his main purpose in life...his occupation as king...and succumbed to what we would now call the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Hmmm. Isn't there a play called Alzheimer and Rosenkavalier Are Dead?

Which brings us to the last play in our Shakespearean adventure. That Jewish play. The Merchant of Venice. It might interest you to know that this play begins not with talktalktalktalktalk, but with a and dancing. The staging, costumes and incidental music are a mixture of contemporary -- disco and hip--hop -- and renaissance Venice. Interesting but disorienting.

But the masque does not last long. And then what do you get? Talktalktalktalktalk.

Here's something I found in each of the plays. It takes a few minutes for us 21st century humanoids to cotton on to the florid speech of the 16th. In the case of Merchant, it took even longer because the actor playing Antonio, who is there throughout the first scene (after the disco masque) seemed to be talking to himself. I think the others told him to get off the pot, because he did improve both his diction and his volume later on.

Graham Greene, on the other hand, who plays Shylock, is pretty damn good. You all remember Graham Greene, right? First came to our notice in Dances With Wolves, no? A native Indian ( is that the current politically correct appellation? Probably not...). Who better to understand the rage and resentment, the hunger for revenge, of a medieval Jewish moneylender?

As for the play, what can I say? It falls on the comedy side of Shakespeare's ledger, but if so, it's dark comedy indeed. Supposedly one of his more famous plays. The climactic scene is the trial before the Duke of Venice, in which Shylock makes his case for Antonio's flesh. But along comes Portia, disguised as a young lawyer from Padua (as if...) who demolishes his case and in fact turns it right around on him. Shylock's contract says he can have his pound of flesh, but not that he can shed blood to get it. And by conspiring to cause the death of a Venetian citizen, his goods are therefore forfeit.

I don't quite buy it, although the Duke of Venice does, cuz, after all, better to save the life of a white Venetian than cave in to a Jew, even if the Jew is right. But the way I see it, Antonio owed Shylock the pound of flesh. It was Antonio's problem how to get it without shedding blood.

Merchant of Venice has caused some controversy in recent years. The official Jewish establishment seems to think it puts them in a bad light, that it's racist. And I suppose, in a certain way it is. Because it's a play of its time...Elizabethan racist England. But the sense of oppression Shylock feels, the rage, the humiliation, and the greed too. They're timeless. That's why Graham Greene can do it so well. Ultimately, I feel a kind of sympathy or, let's say, compassion, for the suffering of Shylock.

So Antonio wins. Portia wins. Bassanio wins. Graziano wins. Nerissa wins. Portia's butler steals the show several times although he hardly speaks a word throughout the play. All's Well That Ends Well. Except for Shylock. And his daughter.

Anyway...I think Suzy liked Lear best of all, but I kind of go for Merchant. Maybe that's because I understand rage better than dividing up your kingdom for no good reason and then losing your marbles over it because you didn't really want to give up the power.

Or am I just reading it all wrong?

Postscript: Several years ago I saw a production of that jinxed play, Macbeth. Now there is a play! I can't think of any flaws in that plot. No place where you might say, "Hey wait a minute, what about this?..." Even Duncan's twist, that he was born of Caesarean section, doesn't put me off. I can buy that. I can even swallow the Wyrd Sisters. They used to live downstairs.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gonna Keep Dancing

Sophisticated Songs
for Sophisticated Kids

HWSRN received a pleasant surprise in the mail the other day. The CD that you see here on the left. It was a pleasant surprise because it's the final result of some recording that HWSRN did more than two years ago now and which I posted about here. (I couldn't believe it was that long ago when I looked it up...)

The artist's name is Eddie Douglas, a children's performer, and these are songs for kids. But they're not run of the mill singalong nursery rhyme-type songs. Some of them have a catchy enough hook, but some of them must be listened to. They're all singable, but not simple-minded. Sophisticated is what they are.

So HWSRN is feeling sophisticated himself, playing on such a recording. You can see him on the cover there, the suave armadillo in the ten gallon hat pawing the squeezebox.

Eddie collaborated with some great lyricists for this recording, including that great Canadian icon of children's books, Robert Munsch. And every song presents a different style of music, a different mood.

Here's a clip of the opening track in its entirety. It's called Armadillo Stomp. If you want to hear more or order a CD, visit Eddie's website, Fat Flea Music.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam

I've had a minor plague of spam comments in the last few days. I dunno how that shit works, but the spammers are choosing only three of my posts: Altitude Song, Mental Health Hotline, and Spam Comments!

Isn't there some kind of stupid irony in putting spam comments on a post about spam comments?

The English is very bad, too. (Says Larry, incarcerated in the Yoni School for Wayward Poets, convicted of phelonious misspelling...)

Of course, I've deleted these comments, because I don't want unsuspecting visitors to click on the stupid links they're promoting. However! I've provided links to the original posts because.
Especially Altitude Song. (Soon to be available!....Patent Pending!...Ask for it at your nearest Audio Outlet!)

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Update on the Hole in Mars

The New Scientist has a new picture of the hole in Mars which I posted about back in June.

(Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

You can see that the hole has sides. So now they don't think it's the entrance to an underground cave anymore. They think it's the entrance to a big pit. At least 78 metres deep.

Really, them there canals...? Not canals at all. They're what's left of the gravel roads the Martians built...out of gravel they mined from this here big gravel pit.

We all know what eventually happens to gravel pits. They fill up with water. This must explain why the astronomers and astrogeologists and cosmic dowsers are all hyping the possible presence of water on Mars.

But anyway, who the hell cares? The water'll all get bought up by some giant interplanetary conglomerate, Coca Cola or Nestlé or somebody, and those dirt-poor subsistence farmers on the mountains of Mars will end up paying through their double-hinged noses just so they can grow a few dehydrated Martian apricots for export to Luna, where the tariffs will be prohibitive and freight costs extortionate.

And so it goes. Plus ça change.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Jack Kerouac: On the Road 50th Anniversary

What encouraged you to use the “spontaneous” style of On the Road?

I got the idea for the spontaneous style of On the Road from seeing how good old Neal Cassady wrote his letters to me, all first person, fast, mad, confessional, completely serious, all detailed, with real names in his case however (being letters). I remembered also Goethe's admonition, well Goethe's prophecy that the future literature of the West would be confessional in nature; also Dostoevsky prophesied as much and might have started in on that if he'd lived long enough to do his projected master-work, The Great Sinner. Cassady also began his early youthful writing with attempts at slow, painstaking and-all-that-crap craft business, but got sick of it. The letter was 40,000 words long, mind you, a whole short novel. It was the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better'n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, spin in their graves. Allen Ginsberg asked me to lend him this vast letter so he could read it. He read it, then loaned it to a guy called Gerd Stern who lived on a houseboat in Sausalito California, in 1955, and this fellow lost the letter: overboard I presume. Neal and I called it, for convenience, the Joan Anderson Letter...all about a Christmas weekend in the pool halls, hotel rooms and jails of Denver, with hilarious events throughout and tragic too."

The Art of Fiction XLI: Jack Kerouac”

The Paris Review, No. 43, Summer 1968

Kerouac is still one of my all-time favourite writers. But I can't seem to define what it is about him...a certain nostalgia that he developed in later years, his Roman Catholic Buddhism, his devil-may-care alcoholism. His poetry. His evocation of the crazy heart of America. His style. His Beat-ness.

I think the jury is still out on Kerouac, and the rest of the Beats, for that matter, including Ginsberg. But you'll notice that although there isn't a great mass of fellow travellers like, for instance, with the latest Stephen King tome, Kerouac has never drifted far from the consciousness of American (and world) readers. There's an ebb and flow, but Kerouac's presence is constant.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Light Sprinkling of Heavy Moralizing

Below, a small selection of images on t-shirts available from I include commentary because, frankly, I can't resist. Stuff like this abounds on the Net, along with just about every idea you could conceive. These examples are, let's say, some of the more subdued...Many are anti-abortion or pro-life, often with photos of babies, the cutest you can imagine.

This one I like. It's clever.

I think we all believe in magic now and then. Some more so than others. The refusal to consider empirical evidence strikes me as rather disgraceful.

Or are we already there?

This one dramatizes, for me anyway, the perennial dilemma of the Christian (or Buddhist for that matter) soldier. The GI's main job is to kill. What would Jesus do? (Just as an aside, the red, white and blue banner is actually the flag of the Netherlands! Wonder what that means.) There is no apparent sense of irony that this GI4Jesus image appears on the same page as this:Finally, a juxtaposition:

This last you won't find at because it's not eyes of flame but eyes of compassion. The compassion that knows no favourites. The compassion that knows no bounds.
(That's my light sprinkling of heavy moralizing.)

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Voilà l'été

Suzy Homemaker and I listened to this last night. A hit in the late 80s from a band called Les Négresses Vertes. This comes from their first album called Mlah. It seemed appropriate to put this ode to summer up on Labour Day weekend.

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The top 10 most discarded books in hotel rooms (UK Edition)

From Guardian Unlimited:

1. The Blair Years by Alastair Campbell
2. Don't You Know Who I Am? by Piers Morgan
3. A Whole New World by Jordan
4. Wicked by Jilly Cooper
5. Dr Who Creatures & Demons by Justin Richard
6. The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown
7. I Can Make You Thin by Paul McKenna
8. Humble Pie by Gordon Ramsay
9. The Story Of A Man And His Mouth by Chris Moyles
10. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

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