Thursday, July 31, 2008

El Sistema

"In my view, the root cause of all our social problems is exclusion. We must fight to ensure that a larger number of people -- everyone, if that's possible -- have access to this wonderful world, the world of music, the world of the orchestra, the world of song, the world of art."

~ José Antonio Abreu

Monday, July 28, 2008

Belief System

Sea Change As a species
        we dreamed. We used to
dream. We did not know for sure about
        the other species. By the mind we meant
the human mind. Open and oozing with
        inwardness. Thinking was the habitation of a
trembling colony, a fairy tale—of waiting, love—of
        the capacity for
        postponement—we shall put that
        off the majesty of the mind
        said, in the newspapers, walking among the blessed,
        out in the only
lifetime anyone had—in that space—then in the space
        of what one meant by one's
space. The future. How could it be performed by the mind became the
        question—how, this sensation called tomorrow and
        tomorrow? Did you look down at
        your hands just now? The dead gods
        are still being
        killed. They don't appear in
        "appearance." They turn the page for
        us. The score does not acknowledge
        the turner of
        pages. And always the
absent thing, there, up ahead, like a highway ripped open and left hanging in the
        void—only listen—there is no void, no, it is still
material, which is most terrifying, is still expanse, only without you in it, or anything else
        in it—the last word you said before
        you screamed
still on your tongue, like a taste, your broad warm tongue out of which existence as we
        know it was
made. The waves hit the rocks. The sensation of duty dissolves. The rule of
        order—of love—of
        what? Don't look at me now I'm not
        ready. It's a sur-
        prise, I want you to be
surprised. The heartbeat on its little wheels. Your given days its chariot. The rendez-
        vous awaiting. Nothing
        to be done about
        that! Also
the poking about in the ashes which was human
        curiosity—always the shadow of what the yes
        which springs from a mind
        sparks—of what filled the mind when the yes was
        felt—also human the
        ownership of such
        sad hands,
now still slicing everything, so carefully—the lemon is opening, the letter, the glance, the
        century, the sky, the forest—oh—the monster, the
        valley and the next-on
        valley, also the
army, look, what an idea, an army—the long-gone stars making their zodiac—the severed
        fingers and the dirt they're tossed onto,
the moon, sliced, the forum, sliced—still those few pillars and the written voice—here it
        comes now the jesus, the body full of its organs,
        the parts of the stoning, each part—bone, sinew—
        each stone—till she's
        gone, she's clothes on the
ground with brothers and uncles around—& the space where the blood flows
        sliced open
there—& the circle of god, the circle of justice—the red eye at the center, the crowd dispersing,
        & the halo of arms still hovering
        where each
        let fly its stone.

~ by Jorie Graham, from Sea Change: Poems

Our Dream-Like Experience of Yesterday

From "The Four Foundations Of Mindfulness," by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche:

When we are dreaming, we have subject, we have object, and we have the action between the subject and the object, which is the experience of the threefold situation. As long as we remain in the dream state, those three things equally exist. We experience these three things as solid. We experience a real world, real phenomena, real body. Our own physical existence is there, the physical existence of the object is there, and the physical existence of the action is there. All three are simply existing in the dream state.

mind_beyond_death But if you look at your dream from the point of view of waking up, of the awakened state, it does not exist, right? If you look back at last night's dream, and if you look back at yesterday's experience of life, which is not really a dream, if you look back, they both equally do not exist. Your experience of yesterday is not solid; your dream of last night is not solid, as far as today is concerned. If you look back from the point of view of today, which is the awakened state, relatively speaking, then both of those equally do not exist, you know. There's no solid reason to say yesterday was more solid than last night's dream. There's no solid logical reason, so to speak, except that we cling to our dream-like experience of yesterday more than to our experience of last night's dream.

*  *  * 

Check out the two-part Buddhist Geeks discussion with Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, "the only Rinpoche we know who owns and uses a Blackberry!" (Episodes 74 & 75)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Something to share with the class?

[Spotted on JC's blog]

Objects in Motion, Objects at Rest

highchair To Katharine: At Fourteen Months

All morning, you've studied the laws
of spoons, the rules of books, the dynamics
of the occasional plate, observed the principles
governing objects in motion and objects
at rest. To see if it will fall, and if it does,
how far, if it will rage like a lost penny
or ring like a Chinese gong--because
it doesn't have to--you lean from your chair
and hold your cup over the floor.
It curves in your hand, it weighs in your palm,
it arches like a wave, it is a dipper
full of stars, and you're the wind timing
the pull of the moon, you're the water
measuring the distance from which we fall.

by Joelle Biele, from American Life in Poetry (Column 174)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What People Forget

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

~ Maya Angelou

Introducing Samantha Crain

“I always wanted to be a performer. I was in college studying English literature but I probably would have joined the circus after graduation if I wasn’t doing music...being in a touring band [really] being in the circus.”

~ Samantha Crain, from Paste Magazine (7.20.08)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The American Way of Debt

From The Debt Trap, a New York Times "series of articles and multimedia about the surge in consumer debt and the lenders who made it possible."


Friday, July 18, 2008

Tuning Between Stations

"As a child, I remember playing with my grandfather's shortwave ham radio set in the blisteringly hot attic of his Ohio home. And I loved tuning between stations and listening to all the tones and beeps and whistles and static. And often I will do that now today. I'll just turn on a shortwave radio, put it next to the bed, and mistune it somehow so I'm really not hearing any station directly. There's something about that I find opens my mind...I find a peace and excitement at the same time."

~ Ben Burtt, the voice of Wall-E, discussing some of his sound design inspirations with Kurt Anderson on Studio 360 (6.27.08).

Below, he explains how he created the lightsaber sound.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Goodnight Moon

Richard Price borrowed from his novel Clockers, updating some of the jargon (crackheads and dealers from 1992 replaced by hoppers and hustlers in 2002) to write this closing scene from an episode of HBO's The Wire. Series creator David Simon often asked him to cannabilize from his book which inspired the show.

Karaniya Metta Sutta

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
... Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.

Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty,
medium, short or small,

The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;

Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.

Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding....

~ Suttanipata 1.8

After My Grandfather's Second Stroke

by Lou Lipsitz

Three-week coma,
enfeebled left arm. He slowly came back —
physical therapy, exercise — and after a time
he was himself again,
and we figured the binges would resume.

But instead he stayed in his room
without the radio on
and let his beard grow out white.

Instead of not coming home
for a week at a time, or coming home
cursing five nights in a row,
he was silent and every evening
came out for a snack of bread, jam,
and tea before bed.

While he was taking a stroll
one day, we snuck in
and found the poems:
one about the death-fear
he'd experienced before the coma;
one about walking the streets
alone; one about a woman
he could not speak of;
one about the ocean and
how it might feel to be a blind man
walking into it; one about
how he had seen his mother's
breasts when she'd been
drunk and wild, and he'd wanted
to run into the street.

It was as if we'd come across
a tunnel under our house
that led out beyond the lake
to the valley of another language.

No one mentioned the poems, but
something changed after we found them. My anger
began to dissolve. And when we assembled
at the table for dinner,
I noticed how my grandmother,
who had not slept in the same bed
with him for thirty years,
would sometimes, while serving
the food, reach over to touch his hand.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


"Happiness is a matter of one's most ordinary and everyday mode of consciousness being busy and lively and unconcerned with self."

~ Iris Murdoch

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One Day's Following Another

Excerpt from "What He Was Like," by William Maxwell from All the Days and Nights:


He himself got older. His wife got older. They advanced deeper into their seventies without any sense of large changes but only of one day's following another, and of the days being full, and pleasant, and worth recording. So he went on doing it. They all got put down in his diary, along with his feelings about old age, his fear of dying, his declining sexual powers, his envy of the children that he saw running down the street. To be able to run like that! He had to restrain himself from saying to young men in their thirties and forties, "You do appreciate, don't you, what you have?" In his diary he wrote, "If I had my life to live over again -- but one doesn't. One goes forward instead, dragging a cart piled high with lost opportunities."

Though his wife had never felt the slightest desire to read his diary, she knew when he stopped leaving it around as carelessly as he did his opened mail. Moving the papers on his desk in order to dust it she saw where he had hidden the current volume, was tempted to open it and see what it was he didn't want her to know, and then thought better of it and replaced the papers, exactly as they were before.

"To be able to do in your mind," he wrote, "what it is probably not a good idea to do in actuality is a convenience not always sufficiently appreciated." Though in his daily life he was as cheerful as a cricket, the diaries were more and more given over to dark thoughts, anger, resentment, indecencies, regrets, remorse. And now and then the simple joy in being alive. "If I stopped recognizing that I want things that it is not appropriate for me to want," he wrote, "wouldn't this inevitably lead to my not wanting anything at all -- which as people get older is a risk that must be avoided at all costs?" He wrote, "Human beings are not like a clock that is wound up at birth and runs until the mainspring is fully unwound. They live because they want to. And when they stop wanting to, the first thing they know they are in a doctor's office being shown an X ray that puts a different face on everything."

* * *

"William Maxwell: the Wisest, Kindest Writer," NPR/Fresh Air (1.25.08)

Friday, July 11, 2008


From "Koans for Troubled Times" by Joan Sutherland (Buddhadharma, June 2008):

joan_sutherland We spend a lot of time in the company of our thoughts and feelings, and sometimes we are a companion to silence. Even a hermit sits in a web of connections with things visible and invisible. Our meditation is made not just of the vastness and the deep engine of concentration; it is also made of these relationships. And then one day, for no apparent reason, something in particular comes to fetch us: the cook coughs or the morning star rises, and we fall open. A particular intimate meeting with a particular other opens us to an intimate relationship with life itself.

Practice is about making us fetchable. It helps us to recognize what gets in the way of our being fetched, and then it gives us a method to deconstruct the obstacle.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Marry Me

a senryu sequence

when I come late to bed
I move your leg flung over my side
that warm gate

bednights you're not here
I inch toward the middle
of this boat, balancing

when I turn over in sleep
you turn, I turn, you turn,
I turn, you

some nights you tug the edge
of my pillow under your cheek,
look in my dream

pulling the white sheet
over your bare shoulder
I marry you again

by Veronica Patterson,
from American Life in Poetry (Column 172)

"...the senryu is a Japanese form similar to haiku but dealing with people rather than nature."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Danish Poet


A fIlm by Torrill Kove
Narrated by Liv Ullman

[Spotted on JC's blog]

Making Mistakes

“People who believe in the power of talent tend not to fulfill their potential because they’re so concerned with looking smart and not making mistakes. But people who believe that talent can be developed are the ones who really push, stretch, confront their own mistakes and learn from them.”

~ Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck quoted in "If You’re Open to Growth, You Tend to Grow" (Janet Rae-Dupree, New York Times, 7.6.08)

[Thanks Kit!]

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

New Romantic

English folk/pop-singer Laura Marling performs 'New Romantic' at BBC2's Later... with Jools Holland (November 2007):


Sigur Rós

Digging In with Wendell Berry

Excerpts from a conversation between Jeff Fearnside and Wendell Berry from "Digging In," The Sun Magazine (July 2008):

Photo by Andrea BurnsJeff Fearnside: I’ve noticed that the Amish seem less self-conscious than most Americans. Why do you think this is so?

Wendell Berry: I’d say that in their community, honesty is the norm. One of the most striking things about the Amish is that their countenances are open. We pity Muslim women for wearing veils, yet almost every face in this country is veiled by suspicion and fear. You can’t walk down a city street and get anybody to look at you. People’s countenances are undercover operations here.


JF: In your Sierra Club talk, you said that you would like conservationists to become more interested in “economic landscapes” — in working farms, ranches, and forests. Do you feel that most people’s definition of the natural world is too small?

WB: The human definition of the natural world is always going to be too small, because the world’s more diverse and complex than we can ever know. We’re not going to comprehend it; it comprehends us. The question is whether we can use it with respect. Some people in the past who knew very little biology were able to use the land without destroying it. We, who know a great deal of biology, are destroying our land in order to use it.


JF: I came to Kentucky after four years of living in Central Asia, and I was struck by how environmental disasters both here and there have the same causes: shortsightedness, greed, and the concentration of wealth among a powerful elite. Do you think these are simply part of human nature?

WB: Greed is a part of human nature, and greed is the root cause of these disasters. Once you have greed and the means of Wendell Berryexploitation, the high-toned rationalizations — in other words, the excuses — follow as a matter of course. A real culture functions to limit greed. Our culture functions to increase it, because, we are repeatedly told, it’s profitable to do so, though the majority of the profits go to only a few people.

JF: We’ve talked about what consumers and producers can do to change things. What should the role of government be?

WB: The appropriate role of government should be to see that power and money don’t accumulate in too few hands.

JF: But too often governments act in their own self-interest and harm the people they’re supposed to be working for and protecting.

WB: Unless a community consists entirely of like-minded individuals, the community must, to some extent, have laws, which means government. It’s the nature of an organization like a government — or a corporation — to be self-aggrandizing and self-perpetuating. Once it starts running, it aims to keep running. The real limit on government would be reasonably independent, self-sustaining localities and communities. But if there is no local independence, then governments and other organizations have a kind of freedom that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

If you’ve got 300 million people, most of whom produce nothing for themselves or for the community and to whom everything has to be brought from somewhere else, then there’s no way you’re going to have limited government, or limited anything. All organizations feed upon the helplessness and ignorance and passivity of the people.


Human Mirror

Another fun prank from Improv Everywhere, the folks who gave us the annual No Pants Subway Ride. This time, they recruited fifteen sets of twins to fill a subway car, creating a human mirror.

More missions here

A Gift

sands_of_the_well Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.
You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.

by Denise Levertov, from Sands of the Well

[Thanks Dōshin!]

Thursday, July 03, 2008


What you loved and what you strove for,
What you dreamed and what you lived through,
Do you know if it was joy or suffering?
G sharp and A flat, E flat or D sharp,
Are they distinguishable to the ear?

~ Herman Hesse

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Ára Bátur

From Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (With a Buzz In Our Ears We Play Endlessly) by Sigur Rós

Gobbledigook on Jonk Music

The New York City Waterfalls - Brooklyn Bridge

One of Olafur Eliasson's four massive installations on New York Harbor which started on June 25 and will run through October 13, 2008 (7:00am to 10:00pm). In addition to the waterfall in Brooklyn at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, there is one at Pier 35, just north of the Manhattan Bridge, another between Piers 4 and 5 near the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and a fourth on the north shore of Governors Island. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Double Awe

"Well, one of the tricks is to maintain your sense of awe at what you're experiencing. And one of the ways you do that is—Lush LifeI think André Gide said, The only way to write about Africa is to go there for ten days or ten years—so I'm one of those ten day, big-eyed guys...The other thing is to be a little afraid of what you're doing 'cause terror keeps you slender. If you feel like,  I don't know if I can capture this, that means you're going to bring everything to the table. And so it's a double awe: one is I can't believe I'm seeing this, the other one is I don't know if I have the chops to capture this. It's not as easy as it looks, I promise you that. It's a hummingbird that starts flying like a frigate-bird, but at the end it looks pretty quick."

~ Richard Price, discussing his most recent novel, Lush Life, with Michael Silverblatt on KCRW's Bookworm (6.12.08).

Authors@Google (3.27.08)