"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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Absorb Everything

Zen Risotto

First, you must know the True Nature of rice. Ordinarily, rice aspires only to cook up into separate, individual fluffy grains. Risotto requires a rice that will give up its boundaries, one that is willing to merge with the grains all around it, to create One Creamy Whole.

Second, saute the rice in hot oil. All rice is born surrounded by a defensive shell. In order for our cooking liquid to penetrate, we must sear through that outer protective layer. But be careful not to burn the kernels. Excessive heat only toughens.

Third, add some sweet wine. Practicing this recipe is slow and painstaking. A little sweetness, in the pot (and in the cook), helps us stay the course. Begin a practice of continuous stirring. Never stop.

Fourth, ladle in warm broth a little at a time. Remember, “Human kind can not bear very much reality.” Don’t overwhelm the rice. Add only what it can easily absorb. But keep the heat fairly high; merely simmering will get you nowhere. Stay focused on your stirring.

Fifth, add your own flavor. I like mushrooms and peas. Some add sex and poetry; others arthritis and old age. The best chef isn’t the one who uses the fanciest ingredients, but the one who best serves up whatever is at hand.

Finally, cook to perfection. Ordinary risotto takes 20 to 25 minutes, but Zen Risotto may need 20 to 25 years before it is truly Ready to Serve. Remember, never stop stirring. Absorb Everything.

Zen Risotto, from Barry Magid of Ordinary Mind Zendo, NYC.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Put Down the Hammer

Amateur talent offers acerbic and increasingly hilarious commentary on faulty products.

Here, a letter to Virgin Airways' Richard Branson about the food on the Mumbai to Heathrow flight. I put this one first because the author was offered a job in Virgin's food services.

Here, a discourse on the (non)virtues of the Chrysler Neon.

Here, a bank, maxi-pad philosophy, police response times.

Yet Another Reader Does Jail Time

Is this any way to encourage kids to read more? It's the second report of its kind I remember in the past few years. Okay, maybe books *are* that valuable, but it's not like she had the only extant copy of anything.

Oh, ha ha -- it *has* been two weeks since I posted something and it *is* another snowy day... Sheeze, be careful what you write.

Anyway, readers who do not wish to risk jail time can check out this site, ReadPrint.com, although you are not likely to find everything you want there.

RIP: John Updike

“From earliest childhood I was charmed by the materials of my craft, by pencils and paper and, later, by the typewriter and the entire apparatus of printing. To condense from one’s memories and fantasies and small discoveries dark marks on paper which become handsomely reproducible many times over still seems to me, after nearly 30 years concerned with the making of books, a magical act, and a delightful technical process. To distribute oneself thus, as a kind of confetti shower falling upon the heads and shoulders of mankind out of bookstores and the pages of magazines is surely a great privilege and a defiance of the usual earthbound laws whereby human beings make themselves known to one another.” From the NY Times.

Updike newbies start here.

Although I do wish more people knew about his post-apocalyptic novel, Toward the End of Time. The end of civilization in the Connecticut suburbs. Priceless.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dead Poets Read

This is pretty cool, with decent animation:

To see more, go to Youtube and search for "poetry animations."

I have a CD with an ancient, scratchy recording of Whitman reading "America." Here, he sounds like Ian McKellen. But, it's not always for the best to hear the poet read his/her own work. I once bought a record with Dylan Thomas reading his work and it was so overblown in that old-fashioned style -- it quite deflated my enthusiasm.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Why Being Housebound by Blizzard is Good for You

Because you catch up with incredible online reading, such as: Hamlet, the Facebook edition by Sarah Schmelling. At McSweeney's.

Of course, tomorrow will (I hope) be sunny and the roads will be plowed and I won't blog again for two weeks, but here I am today, blogging about everything.

Jane Austen is also out in Facebook edition.

Facebook is fun, btw. One of my friends calls it "Crackbook."

Is this the future of literature?

Or is it those phone novels written by Japanese teenagers?

The Pull of Retro Cool

And speaking of book pricing, let's not forget cheap, but attractively retro covers and how cool it is to own something that looks old but feels new.

The Abebooks blog on Penguin's marketing genius.

For readers, the pictures are mostly in the mind anyway. Maybe it's harder to get people to buy that way, but for me, I know I keep a lot of old books on my shelves, spines out (you can't see the cover) because just looking at the titles jump starts my memory and imagination. And the memories are of pictures I attached to the words in the first place, and had nothing to do with the cover art. Cover art serves to get a buyer's attention, maybe, but Penguin has subverted this brilliantly with cover artlessness that evokes quality and nostalgia.

"Beverage Entertainment

for a hyperprosperous society in search of emotional soothing" is from the Publishers Weekly description of Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture, by Taylor Clark. It's one of many -- how many? You'd be surprised -- titles about Starbucks, which, it should be noted, is not only keeping us awake long enough to get through all the multiformatted reading we must do in the internet age, but has conveniently located itself everywhere in order to do so, and is now also singlehandedly attempting to revitalize publishing with, er, books about itself. Okay, even if it isn't a direct attempt, it counts.

Somebody has to do it, at least until ebook publishers figure out that they must charge *less* not more for ebooks than for hardcovers. Amazon is already doing this with Kindle, but some old habits just do not want to die. The only books I have read onscreen so far are freebies from online sources, so I am not the target audience for ebooks -- tho I stand accused with the rest of the guilty from the previous blog post on used book buying. To lessen my guilt and otherwise cleanse my book-buying karma, I have bought six full-priced paperbacks and two $25 gift certificates from local bookstores in the last couple of weeks, thus nudging my total of unread books which I already own somewhere into the low hundreds. One of these days I have to start cleansing my book-reading karma.