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!