Dec 20, 2011

Air Bud 43: Ear Buds!

It's been over a week and I haven't posted so I thought I would post this.

I recently got new earphones.
They are the kind that go all the way in
to the center of your ear.
Burrowing in and blocking out and resonating.
Before the music comes on,
a sip of soda
burbles and ripples.
The foam on the creek,
like pop and ice cream.

Dec 12, 2011

Sesshin Completed

So I finished Sesshin on Saturday, spent Sunday laying in a semi-comatose state and it's back to work again today. Apparently lots of things happened in the world while I was away. Possibly some of those things were interesting. Here is something that happened in my world.

If you have ever sat still for a prolonged period of time you will understand that it hurts. If you have not, you may not even believe it. But, it is true.

The pain comes from different places at different times.

A simple beginning is if you are in an uncomfortable posture. If your neck is bent or arm nerves are pinched, this will hurt. But, even after you have gotten to a comfortable posture it will still hurt! Perhaps, you have stopped the obvious pain but you are not balanced, and prolonged rest in this position will strain muscles or joints (or even bones!)

Ok, so, now you have figured out how to sit, balanced and comfortable. It may still hurt! Rejoice! You have gotten to the point where the pain is only existing, not being enhanced! This. This is an accomplishment worth enjoying.

Unfortunately, it is somewhat hard to enjoy yourself while you're still in pain. So, you probably will want to get away from this pain. Well, this pain is one part residual physical problems and three parts residual habitual pain and fear. So, you can reduce the pain by 75% just by letting go of your habitual pain and fear.

Of course, it is not so easy to do. Really, what you have to do is squish how to do this out of your butt. So sit on your butt. Squish it down. Get all the way down to your butt bones. And then squish them! Slowly, slowly, slowly, gravity will force all this wisdom, stored in your butt, into the rest of you.

Probably, you can trust this. Probably, once you trust this, you will have just some physical pain. Now, enjoyment!

Dec 2, 2011

Rohatsu

Hello world,

I will be incommunicado from approximately 7:30pm tomorrow night (west coast time) until approximately 9pm on Saturday, December 10th. Why? Because I will be doing sesshin. Rohatsu sesshin.

This means from 5am until 9pm I will be sitting, working, resting, stretching or studying, silently, with no eye-contact, no reading (other than study materials), no writing (other than study notes), no computers, no phones, no physical contact, eyes downcast for the whole week.

I will see you on the other side, readers!

Nov 29, 2011

Guest Author: Music

I like music. But music doesn't like me, because music is something that requires talent, and I am talentless. I play music, I play guitar like every other teenage boy. Teenage man? I'm 18 now, that's weird to say. Teenage man. dang, that is weird. Everyone in my family always complements me, but their my family, and they don't count. I once went to a party sorta thing with My girlfriend to her family's thingy, to be honest I forgot what it was about. I remember they had a bunch of guitars there, and I played a bunch, and it was great, and people complimented me, then I played bass. It was alright. Lately I've been trying to sing, and I'm terrible at it. You can't get better either, you just try and try and try and end up making an ass of yourself in front of your friends. Its like tying to be cool, or funny, or smart. Trying to sing is like trying to be cool, funny, or smart, Impossible. I guess thats it folks, everything after this just seems to be filler. And I hate filler. You have somewhere to be? Alright, I'll let you go.

Habit Forming

Recently I have been trying to take up forming habits again. This has been due to the nearness of the future when I will not be at zen center, combined with the growing understanding that I don't do things that I haven't formed a habit about. Currently I am writing myself a to do list for every day. There are repeated features, ongoing features, and things that need to be done today. It is nice, because I can look at the sheet and know what I should be doing, and I'll do the neutral things in order to procrastinate for the less pleasant things. Hopefully I will end up being able to do those things which I want to be doing regularly. Like updating the blog!

Nov 28, 2011

Reading Round-up

Happy Monday!

So I just last night finished my final birthday book! Do not worry, I have plenty of books left to read, I just thought I would mark this as a good chunk of reading that's all done. So, in the past month or so I have read (in reverse chronological order):

The Quiet American by Graham Greene
Krazy & Ignatz (1916-1918) by George Herriman
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
The Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka
Cain by Jose Saramago
The Invisibles (Vol. 1) by Grant Morrison
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

All thoroughly enjoyable. The top rung was The Quiet American, Krazy & Ignatz, 1Q84 and The Stars My Destination. The remainder were good, but I do not necessarily recommend them unless you have a further reason for reading them beyond just to read a good book (i.e. love the author, the subject, the medium).

Today, I think I will take a break before picking up my next book so that I can get a few items crossed off my to-do list. Until next time!

Nov 24, 2011

Thanksgiving

Sleep.
Phone call.
Sleep.
Food.
Sleep.
Phone call.
Football.
Sleep.

Nov 23, 2011

Tiredness

I think there is a thing, tiredness. I think this thing is like a fog, but a persistent fog. A fog that does not come in the night and dissipate in the glare of the noonday sun. Instead, this fog seems to stick around like an unwelcome son-in-law. It comes and takes from you the apple of your eye and even though you know that really, alertness was never going to stay, that it was always only temporary, that you were going to be tired someday, there is still no way you will ever forgive this fog for having come upon you right now, right at this instant and stuck around for days and weeks and months and given you nothing, because you do not know what it is you could possibly want from tiredness. It would willingly give you everything it has, and perhaps, that is the problem.

Nov 22, 2011

Book Finished, Book to Begin

I just finished 1Q84! I spent a long time reading it! Normally I will finish a book quickly through the excellent method of starting to read an hour before bedtime, reading for seven hours and being really tired the next day. Here though, I've been pacing myself (which has been a bit silly as I've been not sleeping enough anyway!) It was really very good. I recommend it again and again.

Also, the style that he writes in is strange. It is distinctive, like most compelling authors. Also, it is fairly simple to pick up, which I do whenever I'm reading a work for a long time. But when I do it for this, it is more like picking something back up than picking it up. It is like I am reentering a frame of mind where the world is filled with stories that I should tell. Hopefully I will. Encouragement might or might not bring that about more quickly.

Nov 21, 2011

Magic Worlds Report

Welcome to the Pro Tour! 

There are a few people here who would like to play Magic!


Yes, definitely a few!

Yuuya Watanabe and Andrew Cuneo (sporting an Orioles' cap, I might add!)
Pat Chapin and Martin Juza are very interested in the table for some reason! 


Josh Utter-Leyton made top 8. Nico Bohny didn't.

 Owen was Player of the Year, LSV and Craig Wescoe made top 8.



How do you make 3d Magic art? Start with a lot of copies of a card, and start cutting!

 Just in case you weren't sure. This is a place welcoming of nerds!

Nov 18, 2011

Magic!

So yesterday the kitchen crew went out to lunch at Greens, which is the restaurant Zen Center founded back in the 70s. It was delicious and enjoyable and we drank all their pomegranate juice and looked out on the bay and generally had a very good time.

But! The exciting thing was that as we were approaching, there was a big sign outside the building complex that said "Magic: The Gathering World Championships, November 17-20"! In the same building complex! How exciting! (So exciting!)

I'm going to go back right after lunch and take pictures and get some magic cards autographed by the artists and bask in the glow of a couple hundred magic pros!

Nov 17, 2011

Stephen Again

Hey everyone,

So I really am going to enjoy having another writer here on the blog. Not only am I excited and interested to read what's going to happen, I think it will be really nice for my commitment to keep writing and posting to have someone else going as well. I will be sure to let everyone know when it's not me writing, even though I imagine that we each have a clear enough voice you will be able to differentiate anyway.

The past two nights I've woken up twice in the middle of the night before going back to sleep. I'm not sure what's different, but my mind seems intent on waking me up. I think there is some anxiety, because when I wake up I need to check my clock to see if I'm late for something. And also I think there is some change in activity. I've been wanting to do things again after a long period of being tired and wanting to slow down.

There is this recurring phrase in 1Q84 that goes like "if you don't understand it without an explanation, you won't understand with an explanation." I think there is something very compelling about this part of zen practice. Yes, there are lots of explanations out there, but if you don't understand your life without the explanation then there can't be a good enough explanation to get it to you. The explanation is just some support or assistance, not actually what you are looking for.

Nov 16, 2011

bop bah

Just to alleviate confusion: I have gotten a good friend of mine to write posts along with me. This post and hopefully many future posts are by him and about him (not by me or about me). I hope you enjoy them as much as I will. And so:


Hi, My name is CRG, but sometimes its CNG. anyway:
I like music. But music doesn't like me, because music is something that requires talent, and I am talentless. 
Music is a cruel mistress, as someone who would have no shame would say. Being dramatic is shameful.
That was drilled into my head when I was 15. I was in Northern Rhode Island when a family of four children from their
late teens to their mid twenties told me. I'm still dramatic as hell, and they are still in Northern Rhode Island.
I'm not sure about theater. I know I like it, but its a giant mystery to me, ever since I had a mental breakdown
in the middle of a rehearsal. It was a really bad month, my dad had just left my mom and I think this was before my 
Brother passed? I can't be sure, I'm not good with dates, you see. Dates. Like, moments, or days. But also like, going on a date.
Because I'm also bad at that, too! I have a confession to make, I've never loved anyone before, or at least, I don't love anyone now.
I don't even love my parents, or my family. For about two days I thought I loved someone, but it turned out to be nothing! What were we talking about? Oh yeah, theater. I like theater, I just got done reading "mud" and "jack and the submission." They are so weird, I swear. Its so hard to understand theater sometimes. This isn't very interesting, is it? I feel like, nobody is going to read up to this point. But if you do, Kudos to you! OH, AND THEATER REQUIRES TALENT TOO!    
Anyway, getting near the end of my wordlimit here, I'm gonna let you go. 

Nov 15, 2011

The urge to write

Hello everyone. You should be excited because I've got this bit of welling up in my body for writing or saying or drawing or singing or discovering and probably it will lead to increase in depth or number of blog posts. I hear that you like them. Sometimes. Sometimes I hear nothing. Sometimes I just hear Billy Joel singing a traveling prayer.

I have been reading 1Q84 which you will know if you've been reading this recently. It is inspirational. I have always enjoyed Haruki Murakami and this book just feels like the perfect culmination of all the things his previous works have done. It is like all these novels and stories that I really enjoyed were just studies for this epic novel. I'm about 520 pages in, and it's still pulling me along strong.

More and more I'm feeling like I'd like to write a story. The biggest problem is that I don't have the habit of writing or revising or anything. I suppose I could make that a habit. I guess that was what this blog was for. Just to do it before the inspiration, and then maybe when the inspiration comes I can keep it up.

The other problem is this feeling I've got that there needs to be motivation. It's one of my constant criticisms of works. That the work just happens and the characters aren't motivated to do what they're doing. But then when I think of my life, that is sort of how it goes. I need to find my real-world motivation before I could write fictional motivation and I think that fiction needs it for some reason.

Nov 14, 2011

Corporate Greed, A Question

So increased probability of significant violence and increased awareness have led me to increased thinking about the Occupy thing that's going on. In addition, I was over at my friend Jon's house and he asked me a question. I gave him an answer, which I worry was incomplete. Here I am going to think about it more.

"What is corporate greed?"

Of course, not the direct quote. But this is what has stuck in my craw, forced me to pick the scab before it's healed, etc etc metaphor. Something like the answer I gave follows.

If you were to be a Theoretical Capitalist, the phrase "corporate greed" would be redundant to you. You would have lived through the 80's, "Greed is good" etc.

On the other hand, there are Anti-Capitalists. These people might again consider "corporate greed" redundant. These people would argue that greed is bad, so a system that requires it is also bad.

There are all these people running around protesting and a key problem seems to be this phrase "corporate greed". Does that make them Anti-Capitalists? I don't think so. My experience with these groups has not been about ideology nearly as much as about actual, individual problems. Can't pay rent, can't buy food, can't get medicine. If capitalism got them these things, I am pretty sure they would pack up and go home. So if "corporate greed" isn't a sign of functioning capitalism or a reason to overthrow it, what is it?

My answer was, and remains, that corporate greed in this sense probably describes a level of taking by corporations that threatens to topple the system. As such, the presence of protesters against corporate greed provides very strong evidence for its existence. Slightly circular, but stay with me for a bit and I'll show you how I got here.

What if we suddenly found a pile of gold in middle America that allowed everyone to continue with their consumerist lifestyles?

If people could continue living their lives as expected, there would not be all these protests. Since there are these protests, something has messed up the system's expectation/reality ratio. What has messed up the system?

Well, there is the whole thing where the system has been in the worst recession in a long long time and does not really show any sign of improving. The immediate impetus for this recession was the culture in major corporations of creating false or misleading investments in order to make more money than would be possible through honest transactions. So it looks like "corporate greed" kicked off the system's problems.

Popular statistics. The statistics that led to "The 99%" are really rather infuriating. The charts of CEO pay to average employee pay, the comparison of the top 1% to the bottom 50%, in addition to all the stories about bonuses paid with bailout money appear to be clear indications of an imbalanced system. If this is not actually the case, it is still a powerful set of graphs and numbers pointing blame at corporations.

Also, there is this recent decision that allows corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to political candidates. Combine this increase in spending with well-established patterns of corporate remuneration for political actions and it begins to look like the government is becoming beholden to corporations before constituents. (I do not know if it actually is, but it certainly helps create the appearance.)

So what am I left with now after this reflection? "Corporate greed" in this case could be defined as "The confluence of circumstances (economic, statistical, and political) which have drastically affected many people's lives to the point where they question the system's ability to get them food, shelter and medicine, with corporate actions seen as a fundamental cause."

Nov 12, 2011

A book, A riot, A rap

So 1Q84 is really really good. Everyone who is a Murakami fan should read it. Admittedly, I'm only 300 pages in and it might get mired down and complicated and terrible, but in other Murakami books, it tends to get better toward the end. So. You should read that.

Also, I recently have been watching some videos of the riot police violence on the occupy movement people. It was really pretty disturbing. I do not know that I support the group, but the fact that the police are attacking them makes me upset. I guess civil disobedience is an effective strategy?

Also, I've been watching the Epic Rap Battles of History comedy video series. It is pretty funny. I particularly recommend Gandalf vs Dumbledore and Einstein vs Stephen Hawking. They are a bit offensive, but very clever and well costumed and funny!

Nov 11, 2011

Zen Mind Potter Mind

Chumps and Chumpettes (and here i mean big and little chumps, not male and female as you might have assumed),

Today is a day that people feel is important! 111111 and shortly it will be 1111am. Impressive!

This evening there will be a departure party for one of the residents who is returning to Chicago. This weekend there will be a harry potter movie marathon that Brian and I will be heavily partaking in. All 8 films over two days. We will be missing some of the films due to prior commitments but it will be a crazy weekend.

Also, hopefully this will kickstart our podcast: Zen Mind, Potter Mind about harry potter, zen, and basically anything else that pops into our heads.

Nov 10, 2011

Greasing the Brakes

I don't know if you were reading this the last time I made a post about how much I enjoy the food here. But, if you were, then you will have a good reference point for when I started having difficulty with practice. The food did not taste so good. I was tired all the time. I couldn't really sit still. I tried fixing it with adjustments or resting. I took time off or I worked extra hard. I let myself feel terrible or I gave myself treats to feel better. And the whole time there was just this feeling of difficulty, like I was driving with the emergency brake on.

Then I went to yoga on Sunday for the first time in a long time. Maybe a month and a half. I had not been for so long that I had forgotten the proper procedures and necessary items. I remembered money, water, yoga mat. I forgot towel. Now, I don't know if you know this about me, but I sweat. A lot. With little to no provocation. And so, about ten minutes into class, my mat had acquired a frictionless quality that mad everything way harder than it needed to be.

By the end of class, I was exhausted. And, there was a weird smell. Chlorine, maybe? Some sort of cleaner that you could just tell was poisonous. The sort of thing that comes in a bottle with a skull and a child-proof cap and the poison control center's number. And I remembered that I had smelled this when I did Bikram (heated yoga) in September. And I think it is me. I am pretty sure I am made of poison.

And then after yoga, every single muscle in my body began screaming out to me. "Hey! We're here!" They were like a room full of napping dogs when the fedex guy shows up and rings the doorbell. After a while things started to calm down and I discovered a giant pulsing knot in the middle of my back, the left side under the rib cage. About five inches down and back of my heart. When I went in to investigate this bundle of discomfort it quickly became clear that it was about this great Anger I had been having off and on for a few months. And I watched it for a bit and a turn came about and it dispersed almost instantly.

Now, I am a train on a down-hill slope with greased tracks. All the things come and go and I only have time to do what needs to be done before the next thing is here.

Nov 9, 2011

Poop-smelly room!

Fact 1: Fertilizer smells like poop.
Fact 2: The Zen Center has just planted four new trees outside the front door.
Fact 3: My room has windows outside the front door.

Conclusion: Poop-smelly room!

Nov 8, 2011

Stephen the Devourer (books, here)

Hello again,

Do you know that thing that happens where you're having a conversation with someone and in order to fully explain your point you make a simple statement that turns out to be a profound and previously unrealized insight into your character? Neither party gets it right at the moment (unless you're unusually lucky that morning) and you continue on to make your point and it gets lost in the ebb and flow of time and speech and such.

This is one of the great benefits of online conversations. It turns out, that statement was not lost.

i am a devourer
i would like to consume everything

In the course of my recent devourings I have come upon a large number of books (it having recently been my birthday) and they have fallen like pines in Tunguska, all at once and leaving behind only their stripped core pointing far away from the intensity of my consumptive explosion.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Highly recommend. I read this first and it is still the book that fills my head. It is basically exactly the kind of book I want. There are flaws, but the flaws are that the characterization is not thrust roughly to the fore and that the timeline and plotlines are confusingly arrayed. I have never been one for characterization beyond "this is what these people are doing, have done and will do" and complications are just another way to get me hooked. Beyond that, it is Narnia and Harry Potter and Ender's Game all rolled into one and aimed at older teenagers and 20-somethings instead of younger teenagers. Gave me my first existential crisis from fiction since college at least.

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

Pretty good. Overtaken by The Magicians, this book was still very entrancing. A reimagining of The Count of Monte Cristo set in a science fiction future with twists and turns beyond the original. An occasionally compelling, occasionally uninteresting main character, a lot of subtlety and a very strange political message right at the end all surround a nice little book of intrigue and mystery. A neat mix of sci-fi tropes (that this book probably originated), noir tropes (read like dashiell hammett much of the time) and the classic revenge tale. Recommended, unurgently.

The Invisibles by Grant Morrison

I read only Volume 1. As a stand-alone, it is essentially incomprehensible. The book is clearly not a stand-alone and I really ought to get more before I pull a critique on it. Something about homeless superheroes fighting off the evil city-virus that is trying to rob humanity of its agency. Faux-trippy influences and British pop-culture references kept me off-balance as well.

Cain by Jose Saramago

An entirely bitter retelling of some of the classic Old Testament stories through the viewpoint of Cain, who gets to walk between times due to his unique relationship with God. If there had been a lighter tone, a less thorough one-sidedness or maybe just a different translation the book could have been quite good. As it stands, not quite compelling in the English.

The Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka

I've read some noir comics and some noir manga and some horror manga and this book was pretty standard. Tezuka's drawing style has never really been able to get me into a dark story. Too many bold lines and white spaces. Never really any shadows. Never really any ambiguity or surprise. This story about a girl born for mimicry is interesting and fun, but never really taxing on the brain or the emotions, which I like in a horror/noir.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Just begun. Promising so far. A beautiful book, even if nothing else. The cover (both the flap and the book), the design of the book, the design of the pages, the placement and occasional reversal of page numbers are all compelling. This seems to be Murakami revisiting the dual-form of "Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" in an tome-length work instead of a short novel. Ask me questions at the end of the week if you want to know more about the book.

Nov 2, 2011

A Fake Update

Hello!

I am alive!

I have been really busy!

I will make a real update at some point!

Many thanks to everyone for birthday presents and wishes!

I recommend "The Stars My Destination" by Alfred Bester and "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman!

Oct 25, 2011

Picture Post Again


By the ferry building!


Guess what city!


We ate the pastry, not the pumpkin!


We rode on the ferry.


The view of the city from the top of the hill.


The view of the bay from the top of the hill.


Another view of the bay.

Oct 24, 2011

Wonderful, Wonderful

Hello everyone!

I didn't post anything on Friday because my girlfriend was here and I was too excited that she was coming to spend any time doing anything other than preparing for her arrival. And then when she was here we were too busy being excessively cute and getting ice cream for me to write on the internet.

What did we do this weekend, you ask? Lots, I reply!

Friday night we got ice cream at Bi Rite Ice Cream which is a San Francisco tradition and delicious and excellent. I had pumpkin and banana ice cream and Caitlin had cinnamon and malted vanilla with peanut brittle! Then we walked around the city for a little while before I collapsed from all the excitement.

Saturday was a one-day sitting here at zen center and I had volunteered to work in the kitchen. This meant that I worked for like 7 hours between 6am and 6pm and spent much of the rest of the time napping, with the exception of listening to a dharma talk and watching a tv show with Caitlin.

Yesterday we had huge adventures! First, we went to get pastries from a delicious bakery that was a quick walk away. Then we caught a bus to the Ferry Building which used to house the San Francisco ferries but is now just a fantastic mall. Then we had some adventures getting to the Presidio, which is a beautiful park filled with giant trees and stunning vistas. We walked and walked and walked around there and then managed to get back to zen center (after a few more adventures). There was showering and then out to dinner at Gracias Madre, a delicious vegan mexican restaurant where Caitlin gave me my birthday presents (in addition to her which is the best present ever!).

Today is back to the normal routine with the exception that on my breaks Caitlin will be here so they will be infinitely better! I leave you with the recommendation to listen to "Wonderful, Wonderful" by Johnny Mathis!

Oct 23, 2011

Oct 20, 2011

Dharma Talks

Every Wednesday night and Saturday morning there are Dharma Talks at Zen Center. My understanding is that these talks are given by senior priests, either at zen center or other zen temples or sitting groups, as an encouragement for the sangha (community) to continue their practice. Often, these talks have been focused on specific buddhist teachings or theories but they also have a tendency to be intensely personal reflections on the speaker's life. In any event, they are awesome.

The forms are slightly different. I will describe a Saturday morning talk and put in brackets [] anything that you would do at a Wednesday night talk instead.

So far as I can tell, people come in to the buddha hall between 5 and 30 minutes early and find a place to sit. There are often extra chairs and lots and lots of zafu (cushions) on the tatami (straw mats). When you find where you want to sit, you bow to your chair/cushion/bench and then turn around and bow toward the altar. If someone comes in and sits in front of you, you bow to them when they do their first bow.

You sit in silence until the bell starts telling you that the speaker is coming. [When the bell does a specific ring, you get up and stand facing toward the altar side of the room.] The speaker enters, followed by a jiko (attendant). They do some bows [and you do a response bow as well] and then the speaker puts some incense on the altar. The speaker does three prostrations [and everyone else does as well] and then sits down and prepares to talk with help from the jiko [and you can sit down too]. The speaker brings his or her hands into gassho (palms touching, fingers together pointing up) and everyone does the before lecture chant. Then the speaker talks until it is time to be done. Everyone does the after lecture chant. The speaker gets up and does three more prostrations [everyone else does too!] and then leaves. Afterwards, on Saturday, the Ino talks about what's going on this week. On Wednesday there are not normally announcements.

That's my best guess at the forms! I am probably wrong about things and very likely missing some things! Hope you enjoyed the form discussion.


Oct 19, 2011

Callooh Callay!

So, I figure I wrote everyone a post about how I was mean and grumpy and messing up and having a rough time, so now I get to write about how much everything has turned on its head!

To begin with, my birthday is coming up! I am going to turn 24 on the 23rd, ending my golden year (the year when your age is your birthday), and I am pretty excited about it. Especially because mysterious packages (and some not quite so mysterious packages) keep arriving in the mail! So far I have received two packages from amazon, two oddly dvd-sized packages, one package from a kitchen supply store and one package from a climbing supply store. In addition! My amazing godfather sent me an amazon gift card which I have promptly used up on new earphones, a new mouse, Krazy & Ignatz 1916-1918 collection, Jose Saramago's final novel "Cain" and Haruki Murakami's new novel 1Q84!

For reference, my birthday wish list:

A nice chef's knife, this one has been recommended the best on the internet: http://www.metrokitchen.com/product/GL-G-2
If you know better about knives, then let me know so I can update the list!


Books: Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka, The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, The Invisibles (Vol. 1) by Grant Morrison, House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind, The Quiet American by Graham Greene, The Long Goodbye or Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham, Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

Authors (Anything by): V.S. Naipul, Imre Kertesz, J. M. Coetzee, Elfriede Jelinek, Doris Lessing, J.M.G. Le Clezio

Musicians (Anything by): Michael Jackson, Prince, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, The Velvet Underground, Bob Marley, Otis Redding, Elvis, Sly and the Family Stone, Starflyer 59

DVDs: Once, Grave of the Fireflies, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring, 
Anything starring or directed by: Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, John Ford, Bill Murray, Steve Martin

Clothing: Nice Shirts for working, Nice pants for working, Awesome socks for wearing, 

And of course, surprises are always welcomed wholeheartedly!

The next thing is that my parents and little sister are coming to visit me a week from tomorrow! This will be lots of fun and we will explore the city and have lovely meals and open all my presents which I am virtuously leaving unopened even though maybe some of them I suspect what they are!

The thing that makes me jump out of my skin with great joy is that my girlfriend is coming Friday. Less than 48 hours from now! Oh, frabjous day!

Oct 18, 2011

Bodhisattva Vows

Today, I will do something different. I will talk a little bit about some of the Buddhist philosophy that I have been listening to. Specifically I will talk about a set of vows that are referred to as the Bodhisattva Vows. Before I get to the vows, a brief explanation of a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva is a person who is dedicated to becoming enlightened and remaining in the world for the benefit of all beings. This is in contrast to a different approach of becoming enlightened in order to escape from the cycle of death and rebirth. How does this bodhisattva intend to benefit all beings? Through the four vows.

Beings are numberless, I vow to save them
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them
Dharma-gates are boundless, I vow to enter them
Buddha's way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it

This is the translation that we use here, at least. Now a little paragraph about what I think of each of the lines.

Beings are numberless, I vow to save them

What does it mean to say that beings are numberless? Clearly, you could say, there are a specific number of beings that exist right now. In fact, I am pretty sure this is correct. There are, right now, a specific, finite number of beings. So, when you say beings are numberless, you are not saying, "There are, right now, infinite beings." I have come up with two useful interpretations. First, you could be saying, "There might be exactly X beings right now, but as soon as this moment has passed, that number and those beings will have changed." Alternately, you could be saying, "Beings are not quantifiable." Both of these ways I find useful.

To save these beings? I do not really know what that means. I do not think it means "To tell these beings what to do" or "To make sure these beings are doing what you think they should do" or something like that. I am not even sure if it could mean something like "To work for these beings". I will get back to you when I figure it out!


Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them

Delusions are, simply, things we think that aren't true. Fantasies, incorrect interpretations, desires and hatreds all fall into this category. These things are inexhaustible. And yet we end them. This to me seems not really very paradoxical at all. Delusions never cease, so we never cease to notice them and end them. Sisyphean? Perhaps. Impossible? Certainly not.

Dharma-gates are boundless, I vow to enter them

Another definition! Dharma-gates: Dharma is the name for the teachings of Buddhism. Dharma-gates are (my understanding) things in the world that lead us to encounter the Dharma. These things which allow us to come into contact with the teachings of enlightenment are not bound. They defy explanation, definition, description, division. A metaphor: Walking through a massive plain, entering countless gates. Something about, "When you bind things, they cease to become Dharma-gates for you. When they remain boundless, you have already entered them." This one is kind of hard to talk about straightforwardly. Feel free to ask questions and I will try better to explain.

Buddha's way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it

This one I do not even really understand, so I will paraphrase Suzuki Roshi. "You are all perfect just as you are. And you could use a little improvement."

Oct 17, 2011

Enjoyable Failures

Hello Readers!

I have it on good authority that people enjoy stories about me messing up. The reasons for the enjoyment range from pure schadenfreude to some mistaken idea that I never mess up, the shattering of which makes me seem more normal or something. I freely admit that I do put significant effort into creating the appearance that I don't mess up. It is one of my big beliefs about acting that as long as you look like you meant to do something, the audience thinks you meant to do it.

So!

The past few weeks I have been messing up!

I have been messing up in my practice. I have missed more of the schedule in the past two weeks than I have for the entire rest of the time I've been here. Additionally, I've been really distant and uninvolved when I have gone. Most of the zazen I sat I was hunched over my legs in a squat, either sleeping or planning my day. Most of the work in the kitchen I was angry or bitter or careless. Several times I was making a dish and I could tell that it tasted worse because of my attitude toward it. Probably no one else could notice, because how would they know what it had tasted like before I had overcooked something or carelessly added spices or forgot an ingredient?

Now, things are feeling a lot better. I did not move constantly during zazen this afternoon. I've stopped being mean to the people here and far away. I paid attention to my cooking. So there's no need to worry, Mom, and I hope you enjoy this post.

Oct 14, 2011

The Glory of Caffeine

Hello Readers,

I would just like to describe what has happened in my body so far this morning. I woke up at 5:15 or so and manage to scramble and crawl my way to zazen, whereupon I promptly collapsed into a sleep. I somehow managed not to collapse completely, partially due to my choice to sit in the Gaitan (the hallway into the zendo where there is a fair amount of hustle and bustle in the morning) but upon hearing the bell for kinhin, I shambled back to bed where I collapsed until time for work.

Having woken up for work, I was still very tired. Honestly, I was worried I would be unable to work productively all day. I did feel like it was definitely necessary to get that extra sleep and wished it could have been just that much longer. I was feeling a lot more spirited than I have been for the past little while, but I just could not seem to get my body to wake up. And then! I had the first cup of tea I've had in a month (or months maybe? I can't really even remember).

I have been chopping and moving and processing and even focusing with ridiculous speed and intensity. I see why so many people I know are addicted to this powerful drug. Truly, caffeine is too powerful. Someone should really fix that.

Look forward to my update about how I crashed and was unable to move for the second half of the day!

Oct 13, 2011

Night Watch

Yesterday was a pretty full day for me. I had Door Watch in the morning, a full day of work, the Full Moon Ceremony in the evening and then I was Night Watch! I will tell you more about the Full Moon Ceremony at a later date, but today I will tell you all about watching the night.

To begin with, 9:30pm is the recommended time for people to go to sleep. This is actually a really good time to go to sleep, as you'll be able to actually wake up and sit in the morning and make it through the day. I've been pushing my bedtime back recently and it is not so good.

So, Night Watch is recommended to start between 9 and 9:30pm. There is a nice set of instructions that you follow which boil down to: go through the whole building, locking all doors and windows to the outside and setting alarms. Also, there are several places where you should tidy or make sure that ovens and lights are off or that sort of thing. Then, you walk through the building with a small bell and "invite people to go to sleep" by ringing the bell in the hallways. You check to make sure no one is on the roof and lock the door.

Then, you spend the night in one of the rooms by the front door in case someone needs to get in in the middle of the night. This does happen sometimes, but most of the time you just get a somewhat poor night's sleep because people wander back and forth in the front hallway. Then, you wake up early and turn off the alarms and open doors and wait for the person doing Door Watch to come and relieve you. You are then permitted to miss the morning schedule in order to get more sleep.

That, in short, is Night Watch.

Oct 12, 2011

Door Watch

Every Wednesday for the past while, I have been morning Door Watch. Door Watch is what is known as a Doan Ryo job, even though it is kind of unaffiliated with the rest of those jobs. The standard Doan Ryo jobs are things like ring the bell, take roll of the people sitting, hit the wooden board to tell people to come sit and other jobs that make sitting run smoothly. Door Watch is: watch the door!

Admittedly, it is a necessary job, as our sitting is open to the public. Sometimes people will come in who do not know what they are doing. Door Watch tells them what to do! Also, the door is open, so it is necessary to have someone make sure thieves do not come in to steal things.

Furthermore! As Door Watch, you get to watch the seething tides of humanity enter and exit the zendo, which is really pretty fun. There is a slow trickle for the first ten to fifteen minutes of the call to sit and then a whole big rush right before the doshi (head priest) shows up and you are officially late. Then a few people show up late.

After the first period of zazen, there is a zendo exodus. Many people are probably going to practice discussions  or work. Some are going to the bathroom. Probably some are going to have coffee or brush teeth or something else that is discouraged. Some number of these people return for the second period.

The exit from the second zazen is nice and orderly, all the ducklings in a row. That is, orderly until they reach the shoe shelf. Then there is quite the scrum of people finding shoes, turning around, putting them on. Normally no one gets hurt. Normally.

Oct 11, 2011

A Morning in the Kitchen

So yesterday I described for you in great detail what working in the kitchen is not like. Today I thought I'd tell you about what it actually IS like.

The kitchen begins right after the 9am work meeting that all residents are supposed to attend. First, we have a kitchen service. We light incense to Buddha, bow and chant. Generally the chant is from the Tenzo Kyokun, which translates roughly to Instructions to the Chef. This is a set of guidelines for the kitchen written by Eihei Dogen, the founder of this particular school of Zen. There are many jewels in it along the lines of "pay attention to the food as if you were saving your head from a fire".

After service, we talk as a group for a little while about how best to practice in the kitchen. Who are we, you ask? Good question! First, there is the Tenzo, Rose. Also, the Fukuten, Patricia. Then there is the Kitchen Crew: Chris, Eric, Yasi and me. And then there are the other people. Every morning (and afternoon for that matter) there are between zero and six extra workers in the kitchen. All of the resident's have to do one shift working in the kitchen and there is a cadre of volunteers. The schedule shifts from day to day and week to week and sometimes on a moment's notice.

After talking about keeping silent, how to walk with knives, how to clean things and other tips for working in the kitchen, it is time to go to work! Often we start with Soji (cleaning!), although occasionally we need to get right to work preparing lunch. Soji includes cleaning the small kitchen which people use for toast, microwaving, bread and coffee, cleaning counters, cleaning sponges, putting away the food from breakfast and taking trash and compost down to the recycling area.

Then we start preparing for lunch. Lunch generally consists of a grain, a soup and a salad. Normally one member of the crew is assigned to each of these dishes. The grain is easiest and will at most require washing grain, boiling water and setting appropriate timers. The soup requires the most precision and tasting and will often take up most of the person's shift. The salad requires a lot of washing. We get most of our lettuce from Green Gulch, the part of zen center which doubles as a farm! They do not use pesticides so there are lots of slugs and a lot of dirt. We wash the salad many times and then make dressing and add some tomatoes or cucumbers or sprouts or sunflower seeds or something like this.

Additional workers will aid in chopping or washing for any of these dishes. When that's all ready they start preparing for dinner and meals beyond. On a good day, most of the prep work for dinner is finished before lunch is served. It is not always a good day! Also, there is always more cleaning, restocking and dishes. Always, always dishes.

Then, we finish all the cooking, wash all the dishes and have a pre-lunch service. We offer the lunch dishes to Buddha and do some bows and light some incense. Then at 12:30, someone goes and hits the Umpan, otherwise known as the lunch bell! Then we eat lunch!

This is a general morning in the kitchen!

Oct 10, 2011

More of What You Want

Hey Everyone,

So, I've been tracking page views for the past little while and it seems that people are more interested in the blog when two things happen. First, you like regular updates. Second, you like hearing about me. So I will try doing this again for a little while.

I now resolve to update every weekday with a glimpse at my life in the zen center. We will see how it turns out.

Today I will write about one of the topics that I have ready access to: Food!

For about a month and a half I've been working in the kitchen at the San Francisco Zen Center. Working in the kitchen here is a very different thing from working in the kitchen pretty much anywhere else. It is different from: cooking in a house, cooking in a restaurant, cooking at a soup kitchen, cooking at other zen centers, cooking here next year. I know these things first-hand or second-hand.

It is not like cooking in a house, unless your house has forty people in it and you cut potatoes and onions in the gallons.

It is not like cooking in a restaurant, unless your restaurant only serves three options at every meal, is vegetarian, focuses more on effort and intention than perfection, requests silence in the kitchen, allows amateurs and professionals with the same willingness, or makes roasted vegetables taste like a delicacy.

It is not like cooking at a soup kitchen, because we are not doing a service for people in need. We are making an offering of ourselves, our work and the food to people who we recognize as doing the same thing for us (except they are not doing the food).

It is not even like cooking at other zen centers. From what I understand, actually even the other centers that are directly affiliated with City Center (Tassajara and Green Gulch) are very different in the kitchens. In Tassajara, there are animals everywhere and they are also cooking very high quality food for the guests there. In Green Gulch, they have a farm! So much of their cooking is just their own food, even more than our kitchen.

It is not even the same cooking here now as it will be in a year! Next year there will be a different Tenzo (head of the kitchen), a different Fukuten (head of the kitchen crew) and a different crew! Who knows who will be there, how they will like things cooked, how dishes will be washed?! Quite exciting.

More things like this tomorrow.

Oct 1, 2011

Book Reviews!

As prompted by my recent post on books that I am asking for, I am going to do some reviews of books I have asked for and received in the past! Hope you enjoy!

From Hell
by Alan Moore

Are you interested in a ridiculously arcane plot that focuses on (in order of increasing randomness) Jack the Ripper, the British Illuminati, the architectural history of London and some random nobleman who doesn't really have anything to do with anything except he got a prostitute pregnant? If this sounds appealing to you, then "From Hell" is perfect! 

Written by Alan Moore, the best graphic novel author I've ever read, this book is thematically dense, filled with unique and compelling characters and drawn in pencil. I might read it again, but it is not really calling out to me. Maybe the movie is pared down and thus more appealing? I would be interested in investigating, given the Depp Factor. On a scale of purple to grey, I rate this a teal.

Soul Mountain
by Gao Xingjian

Are you interested in a ridiculously complicated narrative structure accentuated by the immense difficulty of properly translating experimental fiction from Chinese to English? Perhaps you are instead interested in random fables about tiny villages in various rural regions of China? Perhaps you are, like me, interested in reading the best reviewed work of a Nobel Prize winner! 

In any event, this book is fairly long and pretty circuitous but it is not actually a difficult read. The chapters are short and generally engaging, even given the experimental and translated nature of the text. I occasionally felt like the book was pointless as a book, but by the end it felt pretty well wrapped-up. On a scale of omelette to canape, this book sits at a solid crepe.

Nip the Buds, Kill the Kids
by Kenzaburo Oe

Are you interested in a ridiculously depressing look at Japanese orphans in World War II? Maybe when you read "Lord of the Flies" you thought it provided you with an overly optimistic outlook on human nature? Maybe you just love fiction that focuses on what it's like to be an adolescent boy in an anarchic world?

In any event, this is a short, pleasant, depressing book. The horrors of war, disease, exile and puberty all gel wonderfully together into a nice little coming of age story. On a scale of lawn chair to banister, I put this all the way at bookshelf, just narrowly missing gazebo.

Sep 26, 2011

Birthday List Question Time

Also known as shameless fiction recommendation time!

I send out my birthday wish list to my family (and to you too if you're interested!) and basically every time I include a long long list of comic books, fiction and short stories. Here is this year's list of books:

Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka 
The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata, 
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, 
The Invisibles (Vol. 1) by Grant Morrison, 
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, 
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind, 
The Quiet American by Graham Greene, 
The Long Goodbye or Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, 
The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham, 
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy


So this is where you come in! I request, first and foremost, recommendations for further books! They can be like this, they can be different. But I want your books! Your favorite books! Your books you think I would like!

Secondarily, reviews of these books would be appreciated to read about! If you've read one or more of these books, please let me know how it is. Thanks!

Comments on this post are the preferred method!

Sep 24, 2011

A Little Fall Ditty

So we had a ceremony for the fall equinox and we were asked to say a poem or something about fall. I was composing this in my head but I only got the first three lines before the ceremony finished. So I thought I'd post it here. Enjoy.

Fall Again

Fall again
Is on again
And Autumn rambles on again
And when they ring the gong again
Winter will have come.

Sep 21, 2011

The Tale of Time

Once upon a time
there was a young woman
who continued to live
for many years.
One day,
she looked in the mirror
and saw
that she had become old.

The end.

Sep 18, 2011

Stephen's Close Shave

Hello again! I make my triumphant return to the blog with this excellent collection of pictures.

Here, we find me in my room, happy and content with a big reddish beard!


Suddenly, we are transported to the bathroom, were I am still with my big reddish beard!


Suddenly my beard has shrunk! But I am still happy.


Yes, there appears to be some vast beard recession going on.


Ah-Ha! I bet you weren't expecting this one!


It took a long time to convince myself that I should not just keep it like this.


But eventually, I found myself here:

Sep 6, 2011

The Tale of the Split Girl

The Tale of the Split Girl

Once upon a time there was
a girl who lived in two worlds.

In one world she was a regular girl
who went to school and played with her friends.

In the other worlds she was a princess
who ruled a country and only played with her advisor.

She spent all her time in each world thinking
about the other and enjoyed neither.

The end.

Sep 2, 2011

The Club's Tale

The Club's Tale

Once upon a time there was a place
where many people came to have fun.
They had fun by drinking, dancing and
telling other people that they couldn't come in.

The end.

Sep 1, 2011

Treasure Trove of Human Tales

Hello Humans!

I have been going through my notes and ideas that I haven't followed up on yet and found a large number of never before published Human Tales! So I'll be posting these for a while. I'm working on some things that are pretty exciting to me. Hopefully you will like them too. Without further ado, the first of the lost Human Tales!

The Cobbler's Tale

Once upon a time there was a cobbler's apprentice.
Day in and day out the apprentice worked hard
to learn how to make the best shoes he could.
One day he made the perfect pair of shoes and sold them.
He never saw them again.

The end.

Aug 26, 2011

The Great Sweatshirt Koan

So as many of you know, I like to wear hoodies. This has been a fairly continuous trend since High School, and remains to this day. They are warm and comfortable and so I wear them pretty much every day. Recently, my favorite sweatshirt has been one of my brother's old sweatshirts from Terrace. It is nice because it is black, so it mostly works in the zendo to not be distracting. However, there is this image on the back.


So, with some frequency, people have approached me and asked "What are these images?" I have pretty reasonable answers for the first two. The third image is the Koan of Stephen's Andrew's Sweatshirt. Feel free to guess what it is (except for Andrew, that would be cheating!)

Aug 25, 2011

High School Stephen: Superb

Hello Folks!

So this is the best thing that's happened to me so far today:

My parents received in the mail a letter from Mrs. Coker, my 11th and 12th grade English teacher who I greatly enjoyed and have not seen in a long while. I was surprised and asked them to send it along to me. I then forgot about it.

Cue this morning. Walking by the mailbox I looked in on a whim and found a letter from home! I opened it up, saw this letter (along with a gift card to Barnes and Noble) and was like "Oh Yes! I wonder what this is!"

The envelope had my home address on it (in my handwriting) and the return address was from Mrs. Coker. I opened up the letter and pulled out two sheets of looseleaf paper. They appeared to be blank. I unfolded them all the way and found the following paragraph.

This is the stupid letter assignment that Mrs. Coker is making me do. I'm really tired, kind of sick, and this is my last full day of high school, so I'm not putting any effort into this. Plus this is a really stupid assignment. I feel sorry that Mrs. Coker will have to pay the increase in postage to mail this to me. OH well.
-Stephen Strenio

I. I am so impressed with my high school self. 100% pleased.

My best guess is that there was a final assignment: Write a letter to yourself in five years in a self-addressed stamped, sealed envelope. This was my response. I love my high school self.

Aug 24, 2011

Reduced Villanelle

Hello everyone!

I've written this as some fun with the villanelle form!


The Story of Our Man Joe Who, Rejected in His Requests for Female Accompaniment, Decided to Play His Skin Flute Solo and Discovered an Unexpected and Unwelcome Audience, Thus Making Future Performances Difficult (But Not Hard)

No
And
Go:

Doe
Panned
"No."

Go
Hand
Go!

So
Grand,
No?

Oh!
Stand.
Go.

Joe:
Unmanned.
No
Go.

Aug 23, 2011

Drawing and Oddly Located Disasters

Stephen moves to Rhode Island: DC submerged in snow for months.
Stephen moves to San Francisco: DC has an earthquake.
Stephen moves to Hawaii: DC has a volcano???

Here is the drawing I pledged:


It is drawn in blue ballpoint pen. It is a table with a singing bowl on top of it. It was done as an exercise to highlight the similarities and differences between writing and drawing. Among other things.

Aug 22, 2011

Poem from Sunday

Hello all,

Yesterday I went to poetry again. This time instead of several short poses there were two longer ones. The first was an interrogation of an object. Mine went like this:

How old are you?
Well it depends on what I am.
If I am just me as I am now, I have only been here for this instant.
If it is me since I've been in this place, it has been a lifetime.
If it is me as I've been in this shape it is longer still.
My being existed before that, but it was not me.
Why do you have that shape?
I was once part of a bigger shape, but then I was separated from it. Since then I have been getting smaller very slowly.
Why do you have these colors?
There is a solidness inside me that is the solidness of layers. As the solidness goes away, the next layer arises. The layers come in these colors.
Why are you here?
I have been placed here. I will move only when moved.
Does your shape imitate the figure turned away from you?
Only when you look at both of us at the same time.
Why does the figure face away from you?
What makes you think the part of the figure that looks like a face is that figure's face? Perhaps it is staring right at me.
How heavy are you?
Heavy enough for the ground to support me.
Why aren't there flowers by your base?
Because people come by and take them.

The second was actually a drawing. I will scan that and have it for you tomorrow!

Aug 20, 2011

Improv Success!

Hello again!

So last night I performed some improv for the first time in a long time and it went wonderfully. My partner was this wonderful guy, Chris, who had never before done improv. We practiced for about 45 minutes and he is a natural. He does not mind when things are ridiculous, he's physical, he says what's happening and he didn't freeze up at all (that I noticed, at least). We played "Should've Said" and "ABC". Should've Said ended with me rolling Chris into the crocodile infested river after covering him with sticky s'mores in revenge for ripping off my song, "Smells Like Teen Spirit". ABC ended after I took all of our jump ropes and revealed that I was the son of Xerxes! Suffice it to say, it went wonderfully.

In addition to our performance, there was a bunch of really fantastic stuff that happened. Some great singing, a poem, a reading, and some amazing dances. One woman danced an Indian-inspired ballet (Bhakti by Bejart for any ballet-ers out there) and one guy did basically a clown bit about a day in his office where he ended up dancing around like a fool. It was mindblowing. Simply amazing.

Now today is Saturday. I am feeling a bit like starting to actually work on this Magic The Gathering thing. I think the optimal format will be radio show. I will start with writing scripts. Then building characters' voices. Then recording. Then sound effects. Once I've got a few episodes done then I'll start sending it to various magic sites (first offering goes to Magic's brand manager, of course).

Feeling this way may mean that I start working or it may mean that I don't start working! We will see. Have a lovely weekend everyone ever!

Aug 18, 2011

Open Mic at the Zen Center

Hello Friends!

There is a skit night happening tomorrow night at zen center and I had been trying to think of things to do at it. Options included singing terribly, reading terrible poems, or passing around terrible cartoons. Then! I thought of improv! I can do passable improv! But, I did not know anyone at zen center who did improv. Then I mentioned it to a few people and now two people are doing improv with me tomorrow night at 7:30pm. So! That is exciting.

Also, I am coming up with a thing in my head that I would like to create and so I am working on it in my head and then later I will start work on it and then I will probably post it here and maybe some other places. It is a serial about the Magic: The Gathering universe that will probably appeal mostly to M:TG fans but I'm hoping to make it more broadly appealing as well.

Love,
Stephen

Aug 16, 2011

Photo Dump

Hello Everyone,

So I hope you enjoyed my poetry dump yesterday. To reiterate: The title of each of those poems was the prompt given. There was then 1 or 2 minutes to write. Afterwards I just typed them up and published them. Today there is a drawing dump. These are drawings I just started and kept going until they presented me with an image. They are maybe a bit weird or disturbing. I hope you don't mind.

Glass Swan

Hairy Zit

Torch

Flowery Ball and Hand

Decapitated Clown and Eye

Aug 15, 2011

Poetry Flood

Hello Readers,

This week I again took a poetry class. I read my villanelle and it was critiqued in a very helpful way. There were some similarities with the lovely critiques my mother gave, and also a critique that I have received repeatedly when I have submitted writing for critiques: the writing is not specific. There is a sense of generality and also a sense of me excluding the reader from my particular life. This is probably because this is how I write (among other things). Here are the poses I did yesterday. All of them.

There Was Barely Room

Push through the gap
It will not open for you
So you must shrink to it
Like Alice you are probably going to eat it
But that in no way discourages you.
"I would just like to get
To the garden on the other side."

I Kept Waiting

There is a story of a flooding city.
A man of great faith climbed to his roof
and said to the surging river of main street
"God will save me"
Many people tried to save
him but he just kept waiting.

But This Time

The physical pain of growing
has always stopped me cold in my tracks.
Don't keep going, this is uncomfortable!
But this time
I trusted my body,
and it took away the pain.

She Didn't Turn Away

This was it.
Everything else was gone.
just left: her life
her hopes her dreams
and then, then they would
take down the eviction notice
Open House

I Realized There Might

The confusion between homonyms is a repeated and devastating battleground on the internet where you're ignorant spelling is shown widely so everyone can see your an idiot.
Once I realized there might was a misspelling it clarified the entire argument.
Their might IS terrifying.
'There might' is not.

I Didn't Know What Time It Was

One of the many disadvantages of
having your cellphone be your only
keeper of time
is when you are woken in the
middle of the night by a person who
needs nothing more than to feel your presence
on the other end of these collections of signals
and not even be able to ask
"Do you know what time it is?"
and have them believe you just want to know.

He Takes Me Aside

He takes me aside
"What are you doing here?"
"You're doing everything wrong"
"This is not the place for you and everyone hates you and you really need a shower and you are an utter failure"
"Please leave"
No.
"My name is Chris. Welcome."

You Try It Anyway

No one lives for ever.
Eventually
you get cancer
or alzheimer's
or hit by a bus
or, just as fatally,
you stop wanting to live for ever.
Well.
You try it anyway.

What About

Handwriting, like Handsewing,
like Handsawing, Handmining,
Handshaking, Handwaving,
is on the way out.
What about the future
doesn't like hands?

Aug 12, 2011

The Villanelle

Here is a villanelle I am working on for this weeks' poetry thing. I don't know what the title is yet. Feedback is requested about parts that seem out of tune or not particularly necessary. Thanks!


There's nothing left for me but to pretend
That death comes like the setting of the sun.
I'll force my lungs to breathe until the end.

I cannot tell if you are foe or friend:
If between us lies hate or love or fun.
I cannot tell so I will just pretend.

I hear your rattle and so I defend
myself. Limbs shake. Heart beats madly. And lungs?
I'll force my lungs to breathe until the end.

You've shown me all the holes I've yet to mend.
The punctures in reality that one,
or all, of us has made are not pretend.

Slowly, slowly, inevitable trend.
But even when it seems that you have won
I'll force my lungs to breathe until the end.

No strife or strength could force me to surrender.
But splayed before the things that I have done,
There's nothing left for me but to pretend
That I'll force my lungs to breathe until the end.

Aug 11, 2011

Poetry fer ever (profanity warning)

More poem (profanity included):

At the blending of the grey and white socks
There lies the fury of inaction.

pick sort pack

Going somewhere?
aren't we all

which of these socks is the right sock
is there even such a thing as a right sock
keep telling yourself to calm down
calm down asshole

Going somewhere?
trying to

why would they even make a sock that looks like this
there's no point for a sock like this
who needs this sock
this sock is useless

Going somewhere?
leaving now

nevermind the fucking sock
throw it out, burn it
shove it down your goddam throat
walk barefoot you won't notice anyway asshole

Going somewhere?
gone gone gone

Then can I have my mitten?

Aug 10, 2011

Another Poem

Another poem from the thing about poems that I did. Don't remember the prompt for this one.

Edges curves
lengths widths
everything that fills these spaces
and tries to make me forget
the distance
the gap
the place where there is no point on the number line
the volume under the curve approaching zero

Aug 9, 2011

Further Poems

Another poem from the thing I did Sunday.

It Just Keeps Coming Back

This feeling keeps coming back.
You know the one.
Where things seem to move for their own reasons.
Where light dances and appliances sing.
Where you breathe calmly for a few moments,
Before you get the feeling too.

Don't worry.

It's not real.

Go back to sleep.

Aug 8, 2011

Poem!

So I took a poetry class and we did some poses, which is basically a prompt and then write for one or two minutes about it. I like some of them, so I will post them this week.

Nothing I Could Say Scared Her

Death
Failure
Loss
Violence
Unfazed
she stepped forward
into the space that all her
doubts had sealed
with lace and spiderwebs and shadows

Aug 2, 2011

Wind-Down Bird

Hey kiddos,

So I am getting the feeling that I don't really have much more to say about my day to day life so I figure I'm going to be winding down that part of the blog. As such, I'll only be posting when I have some cartoon or story or poem or song that I want to have easily accessible. This may be infrequently.

Please do feel free to call or e-mail or facebook or what have you if you want to know more about things I'm doing.

Also, if you are expecting postcards, I have not done any yet. I am going to keep trying, but I make no guarantees.

Jul 31, 2011

Jul 28, 2011

Food Food Food

Here there is a meal chant. It goes:

We reflect on the effort that brought us this food and consider how it comes to us.
We reflect on our virtue and practice and whether we are worthy of this offering.
We regard it as essential to keep the mind free from excesses such as greed.
We regard this food as good medicine to sustain our life.
For the sake of enlightenment we now receive this food.

And then there's some more stuff. But in my head I was thinking about making a rhymier simpler version of this to say. It goes something like:

We think about this food, and how it came to be.
We think about ourselves, and whether we should eat.
We look inside our mind, to get rid of our greed.
We give thanks for this food, since it fulfills our need.
So that we can live, we will eat this food.

It's not quite right, but there's something in it that I enjoy.

I think that this way of thinking about food is radical and useful.

First, it is radical because we are conditioned by our entire society to not think about the entirety of the effort that went into producing things. We shouldn't think about the plastic wrap that's filling up the landfills and will never decompose because then we might not use it. We shouldn't think about the forests that were destroyed or the way the animals were treated or the predatory business practices that made this food because it might make us feel bad enough to find alternatives.

And then to consider whether we are worthy of all this effort. It is heartbreaking.

But we do need to eat. And so we should eat what we need to eat in order to live. In order to gain enlightenment in order to best help everyone.

It is helpful because it is a dangerous thing to take advantage of things with hidden costs. All of the things we are conditioned to ignore have costs. Costs in land, resources, suffering, cruelty. These are costs that we are not paying now and that someone will have to pay in the future. If we can slow down the rate at which we are incurring these costs now, it will be a lesser debt when the collectors come around.