Thursday, January 31, 2008
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Many of his posts are instructional or informative. They cover topics like...ummm....how to write, for example, which is not strictly blogging but something good bloggers cannot do without. Or he writes about how to increase traffic to your blog. Among other things, that is one of the probloggers goals, cuz more traffic means more potential revenue. See, I've learned a little bit by reading Darren, altho if he looks at Mental Blog, he'll probably question that assertion.
Since I'm such a web/social flutterby (too erratic for me own good) I don't read everything that Darren posts. Not enough time. But now and then something really catches my eye.
So it was with his post of Jan.30, the one entitled: 13 Questions to Ask Before Publishing a Post On Your Blog. Well, I just thought I'd better go through them and see how I fared. I answered the questions not by checking any specific posting of mine, but the general trend of my bloggishness.
1. What was the main point of this post? have I made it clearly?
I'm a ramblin' guy. I meander. I wander. I hum. I haw. I engage in interminable preambles. Sometimes the post has no point. But often it does. And when I do get around to making my point, I usually manage to say, "Here's the point." And I have enough practise that I can generally make it clear. However, you, dear reader, often have to wade thru extraneous material. In such cases, I hope to be entertaining, at least.2. What do I want readers of this post to do? have I led them to this action?
Hmmm...what do I want readers to do? Laugh. Cry. Piss their pants. Sign a petition. See, a problogger wants readers to follow some advice, or click on an ad, or end up on the Checkout page. I ain't got none of that. Sometimes I ask readers to do something. Sometimes I just want them to ponder.3. Have I written something useful?
Huh! If I had mastered "useful" I'd be on the best-seller list.4. Have I written something unique?
This one I can lay claim to. Much of what I write is utterly, fantastically unique.5. Has what I’ve written taken me closer or further away from my blog’s goals?
This is another problogger question. Goals? If I had mastered goals, I'd be hiring Tony Robbins as my valet.6. Have I used a title that draws people into my post?
I think I'm a pretty good headline writer. (Just look at the title of this post, eh?)7. Are my spelling and grammar correct?
Huh! Look at my profile blurb. Spelling and grammar are anathema. They are why I am here in this Yoni School for Wayward Poets! Having said that, my rebellion is calculated and deliberate. I can spell write when I wants to, and my grammar is impeccable when it's not execrable. It's the oppositionist in me that refuses to spell.8. Could I have said it more succinctly?
No. Or yes. Depends.9. Have I credited sources of quotes and inspiration?
I try to be scrupulous about crediting sources...even when I have to make the names up.10. Have I written something previously that relates to this post that I could link to? has someone else?
If I have something on Mental Blog that I can link to, I do. (Assuming I remember...) If someone else has something, and I know about it, I link. Link Love. Spread the positive vibes around, man. The positive electrons. Recycle, reuse, repeat, repeat, repeat.11. Have I left room for my readers to add something to this post? have I invited them to?
That's a good question. My comments section is wide open. They's always room, brotha. On the more philosophical level, have I left room? I dunno. When I'm expressing my opinion, there are always gaps. Things I haven't thought of. Or I'm open to hearing the opposite view. But have I invited them? Not always. I've probably assumed that readers assumed they could comment if they wished.12. What keywords will people search Google for on this topic? have I optimized this post for those words?
Keywords...hmmm...my tags are highly individual. Most of them, anyway. Which is not to say I don't use the standard ones in some cases. (Or maybe I don't really. If somebody was looking for a piece on the US election, would they find it with my tag: US Election Watch?)13. How could I follow this post up with another that extends it?
Another good question. For the most part, I don't follow any particular narrative. So my posts are not necessarily connected. I write about whatever grabs me at a given moment. Sometimes there's room for extension or follow-up, but I don't often take advantage of it.There it is. My conclusion? I am not a problogger. I am definitely a Mental Blogger. A problogger has discipline. I have chronic Mental Blog. But I have to say this. Darren asks some very good questions. And if I ever acquire the necessary ambition to axe this Blogger blog and play with the big boys on some other platform like maybe WordPress, or finally take the real plunge and work up an honest-to-goodness website, part of what I'll be doing will be following Darren's example and advice.
Meanwhile, I've managed to link to every post that Darren linked to in his post. Now that's what I call Link Love, and if it weren't so much fun making Link Love, I'd say he should probably be paying me.
Jan. 30, 2008
A band of radical evolutionary left-handists calling themselves the Gruppo Trombonico de Cinco de Mayonnaise has taken over River City's City Hall. The Gruppo, popularly known as trombonistas has occupied the mayor's office and is demanding an end to discriminatory labour practices and calls to work out of season.
River City's police surrounded the City Hall, after some confusion over its location, and have attempted to open negotiations with the desperate trombonistas.
Police Chief, T. Bell stated, "It's not clear yet whether we can coax them out of the building, or the office for that matter. It's rumoured that the mayor has a rather large cache of Jack Daniels, and that appears to be a major stumbling block. One of our officers knocked on the door but was met only with chants of "No More Backsliding!" and "Free Jack Teagarden!" Personally, I think it's less serious than it appears. I think this may be just an escape valve for them."
The mayor, however, Mr. J. Teagarden, was not so sure. "Boy, we got trouble. The suburbs have been experiencing trombonista activity for a couple of years now," he said. "At first it was just a trickle coming down from the mountains. But gradually the influx gathered strength, and in the last month there has been a flood of migrants and now, as you see, they're right here in River City's inner city! I just hope they don't decide to go over to the banks..."
The president of the Second National Bank of River City, J.C. Penny, said, "Bring 'em on! We're having a special. If they deposit $100 dollars in a brand-new savings account, we give them a brand-new pennywhistle! Lookee here, it's got my picture on it!"
The three main mouthpieces for the trombonistas, who call themselves the Quattro de Cinco, agreed to have this photo taken, on condition that they all be allowed to wear anarchist black to match their eyes. When asked, "Hey, where's the fourth guy?", the pair glared contemptuously and farted in the general direction of the photographer. The enthusiasm for a photo session quickly ebbed away.
Reaction in the town was mixed. One feller, out in front of the general store with the quaint name General Insanity said, "Can't hardly blame them trombonisters. After all, it's cold up in them thar hills!" The headmaster of River City High, Mr. R. McConnell, was much less sanguine. "This is what comes of too much idleness and allowing pool halls to operate in town! We have to put a stop to it or our kids might end up like this:
trombonistas what they hoped to achieve. "We're tired man," said one. "Why do we always have to be the leaders, huh? Sometimes we just wanna sit in the back and let some other Primo Donor take the screaming lead." When asked what it would take to get them out of the mayor's office, someone shouted, "Just don't send that Bill Clinton here with his damn saxophone!"
Today is the anniversary of Mohandas Gandhi's assassination by Nathura Vinayak Godse, 36, a Hindu of the Mahratta tribes in Poona.
This photo is probably one of the most famous ever...taken by Margaret Bourke-White.
Monday, January 28, 2008
The recording is taken straight from the sound board, so the mix you hear is not quite what you would have heard live. But it's not bad, since it's really just a two-track stereo recording. More examples will be forthcoming.
BFB (Black Forest Band): Rehab (Live)
(PS, I hope this music player works...DivShare has been unreliable of late...)
Saturday, January 26, 2008
I searched it out because the Web has been all abuzz about it for the last few days, what with hackers hacking confidential Scientology documents, and the omnipresent, omniscient, omniomni Anonymous releasing apocalyptic videos threatening the infiltration and destruction of Scientology. Why, it's even broken out into the mainstream media. Hoo Ha!
So I found the video. Here's what I have to say about that.
Personally, I think Scientology is a crock. (Full of cash.) I have one friend who got involved many years ago when he was much younger, and it nearly broke up his family. And I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot barge pole. Still, there are some very successful, very talented people who are Scientologists, and if it worked for them, more power to 'em, I guess. It's not for me.
But the video...People have been commenting on Tom Cruise's bizarre behaviour for some time now, starting, I think, with his couch romp on Oprah. OK, he's exuberant. Manic? He's an actor fer gawdsake! Perception is a funny thing...quite subjective, you know? Everybody seems to think Cruise's performance on this video is a bit loony.
I don't think so. And here's why. It's a promotional video produced for internal consumption among fellow Scientologists and students. In other words, it's meant not for the public at large but for people who have some understanding of the concepts being discussed. So Cruise uses jargon...Scientology jargon...without worrying about whether he is being intelligible, because he assumes he will be. (I do think it's a bit weird that the video is so one-sided...you never hear the questions he's answering. I think that would explain a lot. But you have to figure the producers made the same assumption as Cruise...that the potential viewers already understood the references.)
Now, you all know I am Buddhist person. How many of you have ever really looked at film of a Tibetan Buddhist ritual? Have you seen the scene in Kundun where they consult the oracle? To an outsider, it's bizarre. Furthermore, some of the stuff I've been reading in the last few months, readings about Highest Yoga Tantra, sounds pretty whacked if you don't have some knowledge of the references. That's why it's called esoteric! The whispered lineage. It's not supposed to be fully intelligible to the uninitiated. And if you saw some of it, you might say, "What the hell has Larry got himself into?" I'll tell you this. Damn if I know. Some of it's still unintelligible to me too. String theory sounds whacked to most of us too. Until we study it enough to make some sense of what string theorists mean.
For me, and maybe most of us, Scientology still carries the whiff of something slightly sinister. Years ago, the Hill Commission in Ontariario declared Scientology to be a cult. For some, Tibetan Buddhism smacks of cultishness. Lamaism! Shamanism! Let me toss out just one phrase: Guru Devotion. (For the uninitiated, that could well mean manipulation, abuse. Sometimes, us all being more or less human, it has, but mostly not.)
So look at the video. Aside from the jargon, if you listen to the actual words Cruise says, the sentiments he expresses, there's not much to be scared or outraged about. For us outsiders looking in, it's risky to make snap judgments.
The interesting thing is, he spent more time on the phone with this guy than if he'd actually sat and listened to the pitch. But then again, he probably had way more fun too.
Festival of Lights and Merit 2008
"Those who offer one thousand lights will be reborn when Maitreya Buddha shows the deed of gaining enlightenment and receive his first Dharma teaching." Arya Maitreya Sutra
At the Great Stupa of Enlightenment in Bodhgaya
Celebrating the Four Great Buddhist Festivals with offerings of lights, pujas and prayer flags at the holiest site in the universe at the four most auspicious times of the year to fulfil the wishes of Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
The Four Great Buddhist Festivals
Commemorating the most significant events of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha's life, the Four Great Festivals are:
15 Days of Miracles (7 - 20 February 2008)
Enlightenment and Paranirvana (17, 18, 19 June 2008)
First Teaching (4, 5, 6 August 2008)
Descent from the God Realm of the Thirty-three (18, 19, 20 November 2008)
The merit from making any offering on these days is said by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche to be multiplied one hundred million times, and offerings made in Bodhgaya are said to be eight times more powerful!
"All comfort, happiness and peace in this world are received by making offerings to the Triple Gem, therefore those who like to have happiness, comfort and peace always attempt to make these offerings." Tenth Wheel of the Sutra of the Essence of the Earth
The Festival of Lights and Merit supports Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Merit Box projects, your own FPMT centre and the social work projects of Root Institute.
We invite you to join the entire FPMT mandala in celebrating these four great Buddhist celebratory events by sponsoring:
Any number of the thousands of coloured electric lights adorning the entire Mahabodhi Stupa grounds
Pujas (Tara, Guru and Protector Pujas) performed by the monks of Namgyal Monastery around the sacred Bodhi tree and at Namgyal Monastery in Bodhgaya.
Prayer flags strung around the stupa grounds.
Many thousands of lights are offered nightly around the Bodhi Tree gardens on behalf of Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the FLAM sponsors and the entire FPMT Mandala using Rinpoche's Extensive Offering Practice to multiply the offerings and merit, together with the recitation of the sponsors' names and personal dedications. For a detailed description of how the lights are offered please refer to website http://www.rootinstitute.com/holy-objects/light-offering.html
Number of lights US$ Number of lights US$
350 $25 7,000 $200
1,000 $50 21,000 $500
3,000 $100 100,000 $2000
Pujas Prayer Flags
Tara Puja $35 One set of prayer flags $30
Guru Puja $35
Protector Puja $35
Your sponsorship will include offerings on all four festivals in 2008.
To sponsor Lights, Pujas or Prayer Flags simply ask your local FPMT Centre if they are collecting sponsorships, or send your cheque or credit card details to FPMT International Office, 1632 SE 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214-4702 USA, or go online to www.rootinstitute.com and follow the prompts under Festival of Lights.
The merit of your offerings will be dedicated for:
All the sponsors, with their personal dedications read individually
The long lives of our holy gurus: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Lama Osel Rinpoche and all FPMT lamas and teachers
The preservation and spread of the pure Dharma
The temporal and ultimate happiness of the sponsors and their loved ones
The happiness of all sentient beings
And for all obstacles to FPMT projects to be removed and the quick success of all the projects.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Yeah, I know, the title sounds like some Norwegian guy's name. "Hello, I'd like you to meet my Viking friend, Webring Navbar!"
But no, it's not like that. If you've visited the blog in the last few months you may have noticed an item that says WebRing in the sidebar. That indicates that Mental Blog is a member of the Buddhist Bloggers webring. From this bar you can navigate to the WebRing home page or find Buddhist blogs at random by clicking on "Next" or "Previous" or whatever.
I can't honestly say how much traffic belonging to the WebRing has brought, but at this point, that's not really the point. (I was pleasantly surprised when the Buddhist Blogs admin decided that I had enough Buddhist content to qualify because at the time I applied I think I had posted several quite political items. Anyway...they approved me, so I was grateful.)
However, now in the last few days, something has changed. The WebRing Navbar. That's what changed! How did it change? Well, it got bigger, somehow. The setup changed. And it no longer fit properly in the sidebar. How did this happen? Damned if I know.
I went to the WebRing admin site to see if I could figure out what was going on with it. Now, for those of you who don't know, the whole WebRing thing is really technical. Too much for me. I'm not really technical. I wandered around for an hour, then went to the "Contact Us for Help" button, where I was redirected for another hour by the admonition to check out the Forums first cuz I might find the answer there. Nothing doing.
I finally decided I was going to have to display my profound ignorance of WebRing admin and codes and all that stuff, and send them an email. But then I had another idea. I moved the Navbar. It's now down at the bottom of the blog page. It fits nicely there. Not quite so visible as it was before, but it's now where most sites actually have it. And there it will stay.
Anyway, that was a long-winded way of saying I've changed the position of the WebRing Navbar. I am fairly certain that everyone and their brother wants to know this.
This is a temporary posting cuz I just installed Windows Live Writer and I'm trying it out. Let's see what happens with it.
I make picture now:
UPDATE: Jan.25/08, 5:20pm
I was so pleased with the results I decided to leave it up.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
But I've always held my pen between index and third fingers. The other way seems extraordinarily awkward to me. Is it? I don't really know. I'm not going to bother trying to find out. I've already trained myself to write with both hands. That's enough, don't you think? (For the record, I am write-handed. I can right with my left, but it's slow and looks like I'm in Grade 2. It is completely legible though.)
So I wonder: Is this pen between third and fourth fingers common? I've seen it often enough. Did I miss something in the history of eddication? Is this the way they teach hand-righting now? Is it the better way? Vote on my poll and let me know.
Last night the Hawgtown Board of Education voted in favour of establishing an Afro-Centric school.
A couple things about this:
Why did they decide that Afro-Centrism was the way to go?
- Apparently, the dropout rate of Afro-Centrist students is about 40%. That's pretty high, motha. It means that Hawgtown's school system is failing its students. Especially the Afro-Centrist ones. (No mention of whether the students themselves are failing their futures.)
- No one has come up with a better idea. This, according to the leader of the Ontariario NDP (Notquite Deceased Party), Howard Hambone.
- A high school girl interviewed on the radio said that calling this proposed school "segregated" was offensive. Let's not forget that it's the Afro-Centrist Cultural Community that's asking for it. And further, we can all agree that the theory and the policy are not "segregationist" OK? But the practical effect will almost certainly be such.
There is a major public debate going on in Hawgtown these days about the proposed establishment of what is being called an "Afro-Centric" school. In other words, a school mostly for black students with a curriculum that would be slanted towards the Afro-Cultural slice of the Canajun multi-cultural mosaic, but still fulfilling the curriculum requirements of good old Ontariario.
Why has this issue come up? Because it seems the Afro-Cultural youths are not responding well to typical Canajun educational practices. They feel alienated. So they join gangs and collect guns and randomly shoot the innocent. They hang out in housing projects and terrorize the neighbours, also predominantly Afro-Cultural. So they need their own school to tell them where they came from. The current party line on the school is that it wouldn't be exclusively black. Whites, Asians, Indians, etc. would not be barred from attending this school. That's the theory, anyway. But we all know that the point of a theory is to disprove it. And it sounds to me like what is being suggested amounts to a segregated school, for all practical purposes.
What's surprising to me is that most of the push for this school is coming from some (but not all) members of the Afro-Canajun community. Far be it from me to hold up the US as a shining example, eh? But I seem to remember something about a US Supreme Court decision way back in 1954 called Brown v. The Board of Education (of Topeka, Kansas) which reversed the earlier policy of many many states to operate legally-mandated segregated schools. Part of the argument in that case revolved around whether official segregation was just a way of ensuring that blacks received inferior education.
Here in Canada, apparently it's the other way around. Here we are, Alice Through the Looking Glass. I guess it's only appropriate that we would mirror the US, in reverse. It's our way of asserting independence from the behemoth to the south. It's the obstreperous Canajun way.
But I have a question: What the hell does "Afro-Centric" mean in the context of Canada? In Hawgtown, where the debate is raging, there must be black students from every country on Earth that has black people. So they all came from Africa originally? OK. But my guess is that most of the Hawgtown black students actually came from Jamaica or Trinidad or one of the other Caribbean islands. Or were born of parents who did. Do they identify as Afro-Canadians? Not bloody likely! Yes, there are lots of Somalis, Kenyans, Nigerians la la la. Or children of them. But the diversity of the black population precludes any exclusive identification of "Afro-Centricity". So what are they going to be taught?
I don't know. It just seems to me that this is an idea that has went fifty years ago.
(I should say, by way of clarification scarification darification sparification, that the Yoni School where I am currently deposited is fully integrated desecrated desiccated cheesegrated. The only criterion we all meet for sure is that we are Wayward Poets. Everything else is gravy wavy navy knavey.)
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Reverently, I prostrate with my body, speech, and mind;
I present clouds of every type of offering, actual and imagined;
I declare all my negative actions accumulated since beginningless time
And rejoice in the merit of all holy and ordinary beings.
Please, remain until the end of cyclic existence
And turn the wheel of Dharma for living beings.
I dedicate my own merits and those of all others to the great enlightenment.
Short Explanation of the Seven-Limb Prayer
The seven-limb practice in connection with delusions:
Beseeching the Supreme Field of Merit not to pass away overcomes our wrong views and the negative karma we have created by committing negative actions towards the buddhas and spiritual guides. With it we remove dangers and obstacles to our life and plant seeds that eventually ripen in our attainment of the indestructible body of a buddha. (The reference here is a little inaccurate because it is referring to a specific practice: the Ganden Lha Gyäma. In this practice, beseeching the gurus to remain comes first.)
Prostration overcomes pride.
Offering overcomes miserliness.
Confession overcomes all three root delusions, desirous attachment, hatred.
Rejoicing overcomes jealousy.
Requesting to turn the wheel of dharma overcomes the negative action of abandoning dharma.
Dedication overcomes the power of our anger to destroy the merit of whatever good actions we have done. Also by dedicating our merit to benefit all sentient beings we overcome the demon of self-cherishing.
This is taken from: Ganden Lha Gyema: the hundreds of deities of the Land of Joy, by Kyabje Gehlek Rinpoche.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Anyway, that's not the point of this story. The point is more like this: you always thought fortune cookies were Chinese didn't you? Well, here's an article in the NY Times that indicates they originated in Japan! Of course, it's a Japanese woman, Yasuko Nakamachi, who's making the claim. But she does seem to have researched it pretty well.
So there you have it. I'm sure the Chinese are not happy to hear that dessert is the weakest part of the menu. Come on! Let's all go have some fruit cocktail tofu thing! (Actually, I like that fruit cocktail tofu thing...) And now, the Japanese are claiming their biggest and best-known cultural artifact that is so completely Murrican it's almost as Murrican as cheeseburgers. Go figure. Is nothing sacred?
Her prime pieces of evidence are the centuries-old small family bakeries making obscure fortune cookie-shaped crackers by hand near a temple outside Kyoto. She has also turned up many references to the cookies in Japanese literature and history, including an 1878 etching of a man making them in a bakery - decades before the first reports of American fortune cookies.
The idea that fortune cookies come from Japan is counterintuitive, to say the least. "I am surprised," said Derrick Wong, the vice president of the largest fortune cookie manufacturer in the world, Wonton Food, based in Brooklyn. “People see it and think of it as a Chinese food dessert, not a Japanese food dessert,” he said. But, he conceded, “The weakest part of the Chinese menu is dessert.”
Ms. Nakamachi, a folklore and history graduate student at Kanagawa University outside Tokyo, has spent more than six years trying to establish the Japanese origin of the fortune cookie, much of that at National Diet Library (the Japanese equivalent of the Library of Congress). She has sifted through thousands of old documents and drawings. She has also traveled to temples and shrines across the country, conducting interviews to piece together the history of fortune-telling within Japanese desserts.
Meanwhile, nobody has taken up my suggestion of fortuneless cookies, as far as I know. But here's another idea. I'm currently looking for a Japanese partner, preferably a young woman named Yukiko Fortune, so we can start up our new business Miss Fortune Cookies. Which, in the zen dada way, will carry predictions of disaster. Something like: Your lucky lottery numbers are: 6 22 44 69 Miss Fortunately, someone else won with those numbers last week.