"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

237 Reasons to Have Sex

Instead of reading a book. Or the NY Times article.

I think this is a silly survey. Underlying most of the answers is the basic one, because it feels good. So, instead of, Because I was attracted to the person, you have, Because it feels good and I was attracted.

Here's an idea -- Could we use some of the funding for these silly surveys for grants to writers and artists?

Monday, July 30, 2007

"The World is Awash in Books"

But that's a good thing, right? Is it (another) sign of the impending doom of civilization that not that many people or institutions are interested in used books? Maybe they prefer new books. Maybe it's hard enough to get kids into reading with a new book, why try with a musty, yellowed classic? Some folks may not realize the books they treasure have acquired that distinctly unpleasant eau de mildew. So, maybe it's not a problem -- I'm glad there are lots of inexpensive, used books for bibliophiles with limited budgets. In fact, I'm glad there are too many, because it spurs acts of generosity like the one described in this article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer (at Cleveland.com).

Sunday, July 29, 2007

'The human race has been playing at children's games from the beginning

and will probably do so till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.'

Guardian article raises the interesting question of why previous readers were interested in thinking heroes, like Sherlock Holmes, while many of today's readers are agog over Harry Potter's magic. Do we lose faith in reason when the world seems a dangerous place? Although I'm not sure how the article's author justifies saying that "Harry Potter is for the short-of-attention generation." It's a hefty book, as we know.

I was going to post a picture of the cover, but, you all know what it looks like. My local pharmacy, which carries approximately half a dozen fiction titles, had them at the checkout counter, presumably in case you had forgotten to pick one up while you were waiting for your prescription.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Ultimate 747, or, Why We Believe What We Are Told

At The Chronicle:

Social scientists...have long considered religion as sui generis, not as a behavioral predisposition that arose because in some way it contributed to the survival and reproduction of its participants. ...Or it could be a nonadaptive byproduct of something adaptive in its own right. For example, children seem hard-wired to accept parental teaching, since such advice is likely to be fitness-enhancing ("This is good to eat," "Don't pet the saber-tooth"). In turn, this makes children vulnerable to whatever else they are taught ("Respect the Sabbath," "Cover your hair") as well as downright needy when it comes to parentlike beings, leading especially to the patriarchal sky god of the Abrahamic faiths.

So, did you eat your vegetables today? Or were you busy praying? Read further to see why God is "the ultimate 747." I find it troubling that some self-described religious people use religion for self-aggrandizement, while insisting that that is in fact what secular types are trying to do. As much as I like that 747 phrase, I'm going to stick with the Zen point of view, which I think is, that no matter whether there is a God or not, it is most important to be ethical, a good person, aware of and concerned for others and the natural world.

Here is the Zen story: An old man asks a Zen master for the secret of life. The master says, "You have to be good." The man says, "That's it? Even a child of four knows that." "But even a man of eighty doesn't do it," the master replies.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"There are ships sailing to many ports

But not one goes where life is not painful." Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet.

Interesting to see how many people like this book, on Goodreads.com-- I like it as well. It's closely observed and poetic, if depressive.

Goodreads is either an interesting place to see what people are reading, or, yet another way to waste time at work, or, yet another way to waste time not writing or reading. Depends on your point of view.

I am nothing.
I will always be nothing.
I cannot wish to be anything.
Apart from that, I hold inside myself all the dreams of the world.

Álvaro de Campos*: "The Tobacco Shop" (Tabacaria)

This is a pseudonym of Pessoa, who used quite a few of them.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Psychological Journeys

That is, books about them. Now we're talking. This is what I read for, although I'd add spiritual journeys as well.

Top Ten Books for Psychological Journeys, from the Guardian.
Among them:

Children of Violence Quintet by Doris Lessing
Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut Jnr
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

I found the fifth book in Lessing's quintet, The Four-Gated City, to be moving and intense.

And Speaking of the Devil

Nixon, I mean, Putin's government has taken a couple of pages from his book -- using tax audits to harass the opposition, and "managed democracy." See article at The New York Review of Books. If Nixon, however, killed thirteen reporters (Putin's tally so far), it hasn't come to light.

Friday, July 6, 2007

"I Am Not a Crook"

Oh, but he was. Nixon, it turns out, had his claws in the original fat HMO pie, along with Ed Kaiser, whose company, Kaiser Permanente, is one of the largest Health Mangling Organizations today. How do we know this? Well, His Crookedness thought so highly of himself, that he recorded discussions that took place in the Oval Office. We know where that got him, and it's still leading to interesting information, as we see.

For this, and other eye-opening revelations: See Sicko. And check out Michael Moore's website for enough controversy and secret memos to keep Nixon purring.

But enough. Look at the photos. Which of these men would you buy a used car from?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Big Brother Wants to Know What You're Drinking

I often wonder if the many people who talk about Big Brother have read Orwell. Now I'm wondering what's the real point of the new legislation in Tennessee that requires carding everyone, no matter their age, and checking their drivers' license, whenever they buy beer. When news reports (at Yahoo) mention that they've already caught one criminal, it's hard not to think that tracking the public is really what it's all about, not just preventing underage drinking.

Remember that chilling line, "You are the dead."?

Besides 1984 and Animal Farm, Orwell wrote Down and Out in Paris and London, an oddly cheerful report on a variety of flophouses, and Keep the Aspidistra Flying, a funny satire on money and Englishness (and other books I've yet to read).