Friday, 24 August 2012

First Snow 2008 (Photos)

(Originally posted to Multiply October 30, 2008)

Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

Genre:  Literature & Fiction
Author: Garth Stein
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Heartbreakingly sad. Breathtakingly beautiful. I loved this book!

"In Mongolia, when a dog dies, he is buried high in the hills so people cannot walk on his grave, The dog's master whispers in the dogs ear his wishes that the dog will return as a man in his next life. Then his tail is cut off and put beneath his head, and a piece of meat or fat is placed in his mouth to sustain his soul on its journey; before he is reincarnated, the dog's soul is freed to travel the land, to run across the high desert plains for as long as it would like.

I learned that from a program on the National Geographic Channel, so I believe it is true. Not all dogs return as men; only those who are ready.

I am ready." (The Art of Racing in the Rain, page 98)
Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.
Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.
On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.
A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it. " (HarperCollins)
(Originally posted to Multiply October 29, 2008)

Change your Mind Change your Brain: The Inner Conditions for Authentic Happiness

A brilliant talk by Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard.

(Originally posted to Multiply October 21, 2008)

Book Review: In My Own Words

Genre:  Religion & Spirituality
Author: His Holiness, The Dalai Lama
Rating: 5 out of 5

If I could spend a week with anyone, living or dead, past or future, it would be His Holiness.

"His Holiness the Dalai Lama is celebrated as Buddhism’s preeminent spiritual master and teacher, embodying the highest aspirations of this rich tradition that is more than 2,500 years old. With both profundity and simplicity, he has carried the nuanced teachings of the Buddha to the far corners of the globe, and in the process has touched and transformed millions of lives. Like the Buddha himself, the Dalai Lama, with his ever-smiling face, reaches out to people in ways that connect to their individual mental dispositions, abilities, and everyday realities. Buddhism, which never seeks to proselytize, has been made accessible by the Dalai Lama to both non-Buddhists and Buddhists alike so that we may all learn from one of the most valuable strands of our shared heritage.
This fascinating book brings together extracts from some of His Holiness’s most powerful writings and talks. As he explains the elements of the Buddha’s teachings and the basic practices of meditation, he also engages and reconciles the innovations of modern science with Buddhist perspectives. Ultimately, His Holiness calls for the celebration of diversity and the recognition of interdependence that breeds a sense of Universal Responsibility—which must govern all of our relationships in this increasingly fragmented world.
Serving as the perfect introduction to the Dalai Lama’s philosophy, both Buddhist and secular, An Introduction to the Dalai Lama is just the book for gleaning insights into the mind of one of the world’s greatest spiritual icons." (Amazon)

(Originally posted to Multiply on October 18, 2008)

Simple Mindfulness With Thich Nhat Hanh

Simple Mindfulness.

The Century of Self

It has been a cool, gray, overcast day here. The smell of burning leaves has been in the air from countless piles burning in backyards throughout the neighborhood. While not 'cold' the smell of snow has been in the air also. I was all set for a walk when the smell of snow gave way to rain. A little wet doesn't hurt anyone but at this temperature I will pass from getting myself soaking ass wet. I got 6 kilometers in this morning and that will have to do, I guess, although when I am not walking 10 to 15 klicks a day I feel as if I haven't accomplished anything. Perhaps it will let up in a while and I can get one more walk in for the day.

I have mentioned before that I do not watch television. I know, I know. Everyone says that. I am actually one of them that means it. Since the middle of May my television has been on for no more than 45 minutes. There are hundreds of channels but nothing worth watching and, more to the point, I refuse to assign myself a front row seat to be brainwashed.

If I need a 'fix' there is more than enough that is worthwhile to watch on the Internet. It comes without commercial interruption and the ensuing attempt to hijack my perceived needs and twist my head to someone else's way of thinking.

Someone in blogland had an Edward R. Murrow quote about the dangers of television today. Murrow saw it much more clearly than most.

Have you never thought that television, corporations, and the government were trying to control you and manipulate you? While that may sound paranoid it isn't at all paranoid if they really are out to get you and it appears that they have indeed been out to get us all along. Even when we think we have finally shaken their shackles they have simply changed the game and trapped us all again.

In her wonderful dharma talks Buddhist Nun Ayya Khema often talked about the 'market economy' of the six sense spheres. The first nobel truth is that life is suffering, unsatisfactoriness and in the market economy of the senses we keep trying to change that simple fact with 'more.' If we purchase more, have more, have the right combination of the right "things" then we will be happy. We engage in endless rounds of consumerism, of acquisition, in an attempt to quiet that sense of dukka, of suffering. It never works. There is never enough of things or enough of the right things. The suffering always continues. But, Khema taught, that didn't stop the powers that be from promoting what they know to be our central, driving force. By dangling a new sensation of baubles in front of us with the promise that this deodorant, or that diamond, or these clothes would finally satisfy us, by continually manipulating our six sese spheres, the free market economy is kept alive.

In the acclaimed BBC documentary The Century of the Self we are shown directly how we have been continually manipulated by the media, business, and our government to keep us peaceful and in line and to keep us spending and buying to feed the machine.

This series is amazing and frightening. The manipulation just keeps changing forms. It morphs to take in new data. It is a grand psychological experiment in control being run on us by Wall Street and Madison Avenue and we have, for the most part, been blithely unaware of it but, certainly, a willing participant in it.

I urge you to block out four hours of your life to watch this series and to listen carefully. You will never view your psychiatrist, business or your government the same again.

Part One: The Happiness Machine

"The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud's ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn't need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires. "

Part Two: The Engineering of Consent

"Politicians and planners came to believe Freud's underlying premise - that deep within all human beings were dangerous and irrational desires and fears. They were convinced that it was the unleashing of these instincts that had led to the barbarism of Nazi Germany. To stop it ever happening again they set out to find ways to control this hidden enemy within the human mind."

Part Three: There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed

"...Out of this came a political movement that sought to create new beings free of the psychological conformity that had been implanted in people's minds by business and politics.
... American corporations soon realised that this new self was not a threat but their greatest opportunity. It was in their interest to encourage people to feel they were unique individuals and then sell them ways to express that individuality. To do this they turned to techniques developed by Freudian psychoanalysts to read the inner desires of the new self."

Part Four: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering

"... The politicians believed they were creating a new and better form of democracy, one that truly responded to the inner feelings of individual. But what they didn't realise was that the aim of those who had originally created these techniques had not been to liberate the people but to develop a new way of controlling them."

This is truly Must See TV and without the Internet we would never have the chance. See this series while you are still allowed to view this material.

(Originally posted to Multiply October 16, 2008)

Book Review: The Kabul Beauty School

Genre:  Biographies & Memoirs
Author: Deborah Rodriguez
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
"A terrific opening chapter—colorful, suspenseful, funny—ushers readers into the curious closed world of Afghan women. A wedding is about to take place, arranged, of course, but there is a potentially dire secret—the bride is not technically a virgin. How Rodriguez, an admirably resourceful and dynamic woman, set to marry a nice Afghan man, solves this problem makes a great story, embellished as it is with all the traditional wedding preparations. Rodriguez went to Afghanistan in 2002, just after the fall of the Taliban, volunteering as a nurse's aide, but soon found that her skills as a trained hairdresser were far more in demand, both for the Western workers and, as word got out, Afghans. On a trip back to the U.S., she persuaded companies in the beauty industry to donate 10,000 boxes of products and supplies to ship to Kabul, and instantly she started a training school. Political problems ensued ("too much laughing within the school"), financial problems, cultural misunderstandings and finally the government closed the school and salon—though the reader will suspect that the endlessly ingenious Rodriguez, using her book as a wedge against authority, will triumph in the end." (Amazon)
It wasn't that good.

(Orignally posted to Multiply October 16, 2008)

Book Review: The Gathering

Genre:  Literature & Fiction
Author: Ann Enright
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

"A dazzling writer of international stature, Anne Enright is one of Ireland's most singular voices. Now she delivers The Gathering, a moving, evocative portrait of a large Irish family haunted by the past. The nine surviving children of the Hagerty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, who drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him - something that happened in their grandmother's home in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations, she shows how memories warp and secrets fester."
Winner of the 2007 Booker Prize this book just did not resonate with me. Clearly brilliantly written I could not find anything in it that touched me or gripped me and I struggled with this to the end that couldn't come soon enough.

It is all about mind states and doubtless if I were to try this again maybe my opinion would change. I just couldn't be bothered to try. Your millage will probably vary.

(Originally posted to Multiply October 16, 2008)

Thanksgiving 2008