My SCUBA unit is gathering dust in the closet. I can't bring myself to put it on e-bay, so I guess I'd better think about getting wet again. My kayak is also gathering dust, but it's out in the garage, where I don't see it.
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Yesterday, on the way home from the gym, the live version of the Eagles' "Hotel California" was played on the radio. Suddenly, I was 14 years old, and it was March 17, 1977. I listened to "Hotel California" several times on the day that my father died. Curiously, I wasn't saddened by that memory yesterday. In fact, I'm feeling more vibrant and alive this weekend than I have in months.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
This Chinese action/romance flick less resembled a cool Spring morning at the Shaolin Temple than it did a steam train jumping the track at full speed, then lurching this way and that in the ditch until it finally ran out of steam. The film was gorgeous all the way through, except for the sex scenes--more on those in a minute. Zhang Yimou has David Lean's eye for landscape, and, as in Lean's "Doctor Zhivago" and "Lawrence of Arabia," the landscapes are are living, breathing characters of the film. Zhang uses and coordinates natural colors with wardrobes and moods better than any filmmaker I've ever seen.
Alas, the writing and acting were pretty crummy, and the fight scenes were not up to the level of "Hero" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." It started off well enough, and the talented Zhang Ziyi did an amazing dance early-on. I thought, "wow! This is going to be great!" Anyhow, the main plotline involves a woman (Zhang Ziyi) who is pursued by two men who are both madly in love with her. However, the mens' rough attempts at seduction would be prosecuted as attempted rape in virtually every U.S. jurisdiction. Then came the moment we were all waiting for--she did the nasty with the hotter of the two guys. How romantic sex in the tall grass can be made to look clunky and unappealing, I don't know, but they managed to do it. You can go on the Internet and find it done far better. Or so I've been told. Immediately afterwards, our Romeo totally spoils the moment by asking our Juliet, "do you love him?" Now, experience and common sense doubtless have taught most of us that there are certain questions that are best not asked mere seconds after orgasm. Talk about spoiling the mood! Also, isn't that a ridiculous question to ask someone who has just done it with you? Or maybe he noticed the poor quality of the sex too.
DW and I couldn't stop laughing during the climactic fight scene of the film, where the luv triangle end up tossing knives at each other. The jilted guy lays in wait for the hot babe, and hits her with a flying dagger. Backing up a bit, the leader of the rebellious House of Flying Daggers had hit jilted guy in the back with a flying dagger when he tried to rape--er, seduce-hot babe. Turns out jilted guy was a member of the Flying Daggers group, and the leader told him that he would be more convincing on his next assignment (apparently to infiltrate the army or something) with the dagger still in his back. So during the entire climactic fight scene, the jilted guy had an effing dagger sticking out of his back, including when he fell squarely onto his back while fighting our Romeo! Yet he was no more worse for wear until the three of them managed to die (or so it appeared). Gosh, that scene was funny.
This film is pretty, but "Hero" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" were much better all-around. And that's my snark attack of the day.
Friday, April 22, 2005
In response to the haiku about law school, brother-in-law Bill responded with a ditty about yours truly:
I am the Zen Man-
is in my blood too...
The coworker who does daily trivia e-mails started a series of haiku trivia this week, and I did today's trivia in his absence. A supervisor in my office responded:
Haiku in e-mail
Ancient verse in modern means
How will it all end?
Thursday, April 21, 2005
I live for the law,
but a rustic Tuscan farm
would be much nicer.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Last night, I picked up a DVD of Zhang Yimou's "The House of Flying Daggers." I watched the first few minutes just to see how it looks, and it is gorgeous. I get the impression that it's more of an action film than "Hero," which one of our gentle readers likened to watching a painting. I'm really looking forward to watching this one.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
A few months ago, the Supreme Court decided a case that is causing us to go into overdrive around here. I was inspired this morning by an old Chinese poem about the futility of striving:
U.S. v. Booker--
ants crawl 'round inside a bowl;
never to escape.
A supervisor just set things straight:
U.S. v. Booker--
ants crawl 'round to get paychecks;
Monday, April 18, 2005
Last night was the season finale of "Arrested Development," and perhaps the series finale as well. IMHO, AD is one of the funniest shows ever on television. However, it didn't seem to take off with the viewers. Perhaps it takes a warped mind like mine to really get that show, but, damn, it's funny.
Sister Mary, the long-time administrator of my childrens' school, resigned abruptly last week due to an increasingly acrimonious relationship with some of the school's directors. As far as I know, it's just a matter of good people who just can't work together. She is being replaced by the sister who has been her assistant for the past 25 years, so everything that is good will continue. DW and I spoke with Sr. Mary yesterday, and we gave her a copy of this photo and a photo of Toby to take with her wherever. Sr. Mary is a wonderful person, and hopefully her order will place her in a similar position where she can share her considerable gift for working with mentally retarded and autistic children.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Toby and I had some big fun today, that's fer shure. We started with some swinging at the train depot park, then went for French fries. Went home for an hour or so, then I pulled Toby's bike out of the garage.
He got on the bike, and we went to the neighborhood park. He decided he wanted to ride instead of swing, so we went down the path alongside a stormwater retention pond, then back around to the swimming pool across the street from the park. Toby wanted into that pool, and he didn't care what he had to do to get what he wanted. The pool doesn't open for another month. Anyway, he kept saying "door! key!" and placing my hand on the latch and padlock. Then he figured out how to climb over the gate, which meant I had to be extra vigilant to prevent that from happening. We went around and around with this for half an hour or so. No violence, just a battle of wills. Finally, I picked him up in one hand, grabbed the bike with the other, and walked down the path next to another retention pond.
Toby got back on his bike after he calmed down, then--wouldn't you know it--there was a family having a pool party in their back yard. Toby made for the yard, and the homeowner invited us in. People in my neighborhood can be very nice like that, which is one of the reasons I don't mind living 44 miles from work. I took Toby's shirt and shoes, and he and the birthday boy had fun splashing me and each other for about 45 minutes or so. I came back home with a drenched Toby on his bike and a beer in my hand.
Then we were off to a different park that has better swings. Toby and I were doing our loud, rowdy routine, in which I pretend to be a monster while I swing the hell out of him. A sweet-looking little boy got onto the swing next to us, with his mother pushing. She had a sour, I'd-rather-not-be-here expression on her face. I pointed at a third child and told Toby that Adam swings like that kid. The kid on the swing next to us started talking to me. I could see that he wanted my attention, so I talked to him a little while Toby was in between pushes. The kid told me that his name is Tyler, that Adam is his cousin, and that his cousins always beat him up. One time, his cousin Andrew beat up his cousin Adam, so Tyler hit him with his belt. Tyler's mom's expression hadn't changed a bit. Yikes. And I thought things got crazy in my household. Toby wanted to leave at that point, so we did PetSmart (dogs), Circuit City (a vestibule surrounded by automatic doors for Toby to play with), and Target (toys) on the way home. He picked up his shoes a few minutes ago, so I suppose we'll be off to somewhere else very soon.
Friday, April 15, 2005
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
I had an e-mail exchange today with a law school roommate who is one of the most interesting people I know (plus he looks in here on occasion, so "hi"). He's now living the life of a gentleman farmer with his wife and three kids, and renting out a restored farmhouse on a hillside. Anyway, here's the view from his front door, near Lucca, Tuscany. Not shabby at all!
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Monday, April 11, 2005
Saturday, April 09, 2005
I've made progress in my yardwork projets in the past couple of weekends. Today, I weeded the useless little bed in front of the living room window. I do that a couple of times a year. Usually, I wait until the weeds are taller than I am, but this time I got the clumps of weed grass out before they got very tall. Also, I sprayed Roundup on the weed grass clumps in the seam where the driveway meets the garage. Last week, I actually cut the grass. I can't imagine what the neighbors must think.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Well, that sure was an unusual dream. Last night, I made the mistake of washing down my extra-hot microwave burritos with a bottle of Corona. Some of my gentle readers may with to substitute Coke for the beverage I mentioned, should they choose to retell this story. I'm just saying. Anyway, that mix of food and beverage does not go too well with Wellbutrin and Lexapro, and I woke up two or three times in a cold sweat last night.
Later on, after I was all sweated-out, I had a dream that some of the cool kids from my past were running a meth lab in somebody's living room. I was hanging around the house outside of the lab with another geek who was around the cool crowd, but not really a part of it. As an act of pure spite, we had tipped off the FBI about the meth lab (hmm, shouldn't I have called the DEA?), and we were waiting to let the feebies into the house. Strangely, the feebies missed the lab when they first entered the house. "That's odd," I thought, "meth labs usually stink to high heaven, and this one doesn't smell at all." I know this from work, by the way, so don't anybody get any wrong ideas. Also, one of my signals to the cops was to hold up a sign supporting the University of Kansas. Even though I was asleep, I knew something was wrong with that, because I grew up in Oklahoma, not Kansas, and I matriculated at Louisiana State University. Anyway, the cool kids came running out of the lab when they realized the FBI was there, and one of them emotionally asked how I could have betrayed them. I stood there and lectured the guy about how it felt to be a geek and to be excluded from the cool crowd. How embarrassing--I was being both a geek and an asshole at the same time! Somebody help me!
Monday, April 04, 2005
As anybody who looks at cable news is aware, America recently has learned a bit about the physiology of the human brain, particularly regarding the distiction between the cerebral cortex and the more primitive brain stem and thalamus regions. Here is a brief discussion of the physiology of Zen, from the website of the dojo I attend:
The correct attitude of mind comes naturally from a deep concentration during zazen on the posture and the breathing.
During zazen the conscious flow of thought from the cerebral cortex is greatly diminished and the thinking brain becomes calm and cool. Blood flows toward the deeper layers of the brain, the thalamus and the hypo-thalamus, and this body-brain becomes more active and developed. The nervous system becomes relaxed while our deeper brain becomes more active. Receptive and attentive in every cell of the body, you learn to think with the body, unconsciously.
During zazen, thoughts, conscious and subconscious, naturally and continuously rise to the surface of our mind. Don't try to stop these thoughts from arising. But at the same time, don't get involved with the thoughts or let them take you away from concentration on posture and breathing. Just let the thoughts pass, like clouds in the sky, neither opposing them nor attaching to them. Shadows pass and vanish. Images arise from the subconscious, then disappear. The brain becomes deeply calm. One arrives at the deep unconscious, beyond thought, to hishiryo consciousness, true purity.
Hishiryo is the unconscious of Zen - universal mind. In Japanese, shiryo is thinking, fushiryo non-thinking. But hishiryo is absolute thinking, beyond thinking and non-thinking. Beyond categories, opposites, contradictions. Beyond all problems of personal consciousness. Our original nature, Buddha nature, the Cosmic unconscious.
When the mind empties and the intellect is calm, peaceful, at rest, nothing obstructs the deep intuitive and unlimited life force that springs up from the depths of our being, that which precedes all thought, the eternal flow of the activity of the Cosmos. Practicing zazen, sitting concentration, without object or goal, you can experience hishiryo and understand mushotoku, the secret and essence of Zen. But this understanding must be beyond that of common sense or intellectual logic. It is direct perception, here and now.
Mushotoku is the attitude of non-profit, of not wanting to gain anything for yourself. It is essential to true Zen practice. Giving without expecting to receive, abandoning everything without fear of losing, observing oneself.
Zen students develop wisdom if they are vigilant in their Zen practice, in their effort to know themselves, to go beyond themselves, to give of themselves without expecting any personal gain. If you abandon all, you will obtain all.
I don't mean to suggest that Terri Schiavo was in a Zen state of mind for 15 years. Her cerebral cortex evidently was missing, meaning that she could not be at all aware of here, now, or anything else. By acknowledging that thoughts arise during zazen, Zen recognizes that the cerebral cortex cannot be entirely shut down. And nobody would suggest that atrophy of any portion of the brain is a positive development. However, it strikes me as at least a little interesting that a spiritual/philosophical/religious practice would have a basis in brain physiology, particularly when that practice arose 2,500 years or so ago, before anybody had much of an idea about how the brain works.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
I went to the city this morning for zazen, and I'm glad I did. The semi-retired roshi comes on Sundays, and he opened the floor for questions after the sitting and ceremonial portions of zazen. I asked a couple of practice questions; I also had a nice sitting. Still, I need to drop off body and mind faster than I usually manage. Practice, grasshopper, practice.
Friday, April 01, 2005
I've been struggling with depression this week, stemming largely from the guilt feelings I discussed last week. It's not a black depression, but I'm sufficiently concerned to step-up my exercise and Zen activities. I need to shake these blues and be my old, happy-go-lucky self again.