Friday, December 30, 2005


Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque - High Crimes and Low Comedy in the Bush Imperium - Clowntime is Over: The Last Stand of the American Republic:
"So now, at last, the crisis is upon us. Now the cards are finally on the table, laid out so starkly that even the Big Media sycophants and Beltway bootlickers can no longer ignore them. Now the choice for the American Establishment is clear, and inescapable: do you hold for the Republic, or for autocracy?

There is no third way here, no other option, no wiggle room, no ambiguity. The much-belated exposure of George W. Bush's warrantless spy program has forced the Bush-Cheney Regime to openly declare what they have long implied -- and enacted -- in secret: that the president is above the law, a military autocrat with unlimited powers, beyond the restraint or supervision of any other institution or branch of government."


"No one should ever work.

Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost all the evil you'd care to name comes from working or from living in a world designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working.

That doesn't mean we have to stop doing things. It does mean creating a new way of life based on play; in other words, a ludic revolution. By 'play' I mean also festivity, creativity, conviviality, commensality, and maybe even art. There is more to play than child's play, as worthy as that is. I call for a collective adventure in generalized joy and freely interdependent exuberance. Play isn't passive.

...Workers of the world. . . relax!"

Hey look. We're evil. Again.

Daily Kos: Torturing children:
"The Murray Torture Memos include this snippet:

At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family's links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services.

Greg Saunders comments:

To the fools out there who routinely praise the President for having the 'moral clarity' to call terrorists evil, how can you reconcile that with the chummy relationship he's made with tyrants? The lesser of two evils argument doesn't really work when you chide anyone whose view of fighting terrorism is more nuanced than 'smoke them out of their holes' and you verbally fellate the President for being 'right on the only issue that matters'. You're either in favor of moral relativism or you're not.

What's particularly hilarious is that the administration's apologists are turning a blind eye to one of the world's last stalinist regimes. They are cavorting with a brutal communist tyrant.

So who are the commie sympathizers? Who is supporting a tyrannical regime that runs rape and torture rooms, which routinely boils people alive and tortures children? Who is backing a country that regularly kills large numbers of its people?"

What the internet should be for... [say it with me kids; information wants to be free]

Boing Boing: Ignoring UK ban, bloggers publish leaked torture memos:
"Former ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray has harnessed the Internet in his long-running feud with the UK Government. A forthcoming book covering his time as ambassador is currently being blocked by the Foreign Office, which has demanded he remove references to two documents from the book and his web site. Murray has responded by publishing the documents in full there, and by encouraging bloggers to disseminate the documents as widely as possible."

Happy New Year

You Say You Want A Resolution / What to do when the new year invites you in and plies you with drinks and slips you the tongue:
"...look outside, right now: Do you see it? It's a whole new year, all lined up and facing into the wind and waiting to play with you like an eager puppy, like a supple French hooker, like a shimmering glass of God's own tequila just sitting on the counter of possibility waiting for you to tip your head back and let that white-hot firewater slide down your throat like a snake of temptation straight into your undernourished id. Are you ready? Because get this: You need to be.

...if I'm here to tell you anything at all I am here to tell you this: Your energy is needed. Right now.

Energy of transformation. Energy of possibility. Energy of intellect and clarity and progress and joy and sex and kiss, of change and growth and defiance. Oh I know, it sounds all swoony and big-brushed and impossibly affected. It might sound all froufrou and New Agey and San Francisco. You know what? Who cares.

...So then, as the new year races to engulf us all, perhaps this is what you can choose, this is what you resolve to understand: that the Great Battle continues. The great surge toward enlightenment and evolution must go on, will go on, can't not go on, as those of us who choose to see it understand that we are already reeking gleaming teeming brimful with all the divine juicy godhead we will ever need. It is merely waiting to be, quite literally, turned on.

It is, after all, all about subtle energy, shifts in awareness, the decision to move forward no matter what. It is all about focusing on micro to affect macro. This much you probably already know. In which case, this year you can simply resolve to, well, continue. To keep on, even when it all seems bleak and fraught and impossibly constricted. Because, sometimes, merely refusing to stop cultivating an unquenchable lust for beauty and truth and orgasmic life is the most profound and important thing you can resolve to do."

Ah.... Blessed Quiet.

Sandy and Cindi are out worshipping the shopping gods.

The chattering has ceased, as I sip JD and gnosh on the [quite good] curry the wife whipped up yesterday.

Life is good.

"If you are not suffering, you are not Japanese." - The nationality summed up with a simple phrase

Outpost Nine :: Editorials :: I Am a Japanese School Teacher:
"I actually decided to pay attention to the daily morning meeting for once. The principal stood up and said something to the effect of 'Now, summer vacation is coming up. Of course, you are all entitled to your paid vacation time, and you're more than welcome to take it. But, the kids will be coming here everyday for their sports clubs, and I think they might be happy to come to school and see your smiling face. ...Of course, it's not *mandatory* to come to school, as I said, please, if you want to take your paid vacation, please do so. But I do think the students would be happy to see all your smiling faces over the summer.'

Run this through the Japanese Indirectness Translator...

'Come to work. Everyday. The kids will suffer, we will suffer, we will all suffer together splendidly. If you are not suffering, you are not Japanese.'"

And a little child shall lead them.

Outpost Nine :: Editorials :: I Am a Japanese School Teacher:
"Even the teacher was baffled by this, so they called me over to help. 'Well, resurrection means when someone who's died comes back to life.' I explained to the student. He nods in understanding. 'Okay,' he says, 'now, who's this Jesus character?' Again, Christmas in Japan is all about the man in the big red suit. 'Well, Jesus was a man...' I start to say. Before I can even finish my sentence, the boy looks up and me and says 'Oh! So, Jesus was a zombie then?'


Puts an entirely different spin on the Good Book, don't it? "


Outpost Nine :: Editorials :: I Am a Japanese School Teacher:
"It was only later that I realized what a truly unique position I was in. At one point, I had a 12-year old Japanese girl walk by me and say 'Hey Nigga!', and then the very next second, have a 27-year old Japanese woman react by saying '...What the fuck?!', all in English. This is something I'm pretty sure has never occured in the history of the universe, ever, and may never occur again. I feel kind of honored/special to have been witness to such a once in a lifetime event."

Work is sometimes tough on the Japanese.

Outpost Nine :: Editorials :: I Am a Japanese School Teacher:
"Later in the class, we could hear some kind of strange siren going off in the distance. The school isn't too far from the fire station, so I imagine it was some sort of fire alarm. But it sounded a lot like the old WWII bombing-raid alarms that you hear in movies. I turned to Ms. Americanized. 'Are the Americans bombing again?'* I asked.

*Normally, this is not a joke you'd want to make in Japan, as you can imagine they're still kind of sensitive to that kind of thing.

Ms. Americanized turns to me, and in all earnesty, says 'God I hope so.' ....Whoa! Homey say what now?! I didn't get to actually say that, but she must've read the expression on my face, so she elaborated. 'If they did, maybe, just maybe, I'd finally get a day off. C'mon America. Come bomb the shit out of us.'"

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The essence of Japan.

Outpost Nine :: Editorials :: I Am a Japanese School Teacher:
"I was telling Ms. Americanized about this, and she laughed and nodded. 'We know it's hot, we don't need reports from every Japanese prefecture about it!' I laughed, and she added 'But that's Japanese people for you. We want to feel harmony in knowing that other people feel the same way we do. As long as everyone is feeling the exact same thing, then we're content.' This had me cracking up...because it's absolutely right. That news broadcast was essentially saying 'You are hot? We all are! We are one. Resistance is futile.'"

Outpost Nine :: Editorials :: I Am a Japanese School Teacher

"I Am a Japanese School Teacher" is the funniest, and occasionally most touching, writing about being an ALT on the JET Programme that I've come across. Great stuff. I've spent the last two days reading about his life in Japan.

If I was a third of the writer he was, this blog wouldn't quite... suck... so bad.

But hey, at least I link to cool stuff.

I Am a Japanese School Teacher

Outpost Nine :: Editorials :: I Am a Japanese School Teacher:
"The worst part is, even I stopped caring too! That last little shred of American sanity is screaming at me 'Dude, that was fucking weird! That boy aint right! Do something!' But the rest of my brain, which is slowly but surely being assimilated by Japanese culture, is saying 'Oh, ha ha ha! He tried very hard to grab my big black American penis. I admire his 'gambatte!' spirit! Now, I must remember to pick up some tentacle rape animated porn on the way home from work, and see if I can't grope a few high school girls on the train as I go.'"

Tough girl.

Under the Wagon: Dichotomy:
"The Management hereby announces the penalties for the following statements:

'Deep down, you're not that tough.' 'You only act all hard-bitten to keep people from getting close to you.' 'I know that underneath it all you're a softy.'

Penalty: I stab you in the eye with a fork

'Jesus, you really don't have any feelings at all, do you?' 'You just hate romance and love and anything nice.' 'You're not interested in a normal relationship.'

Penalty: Either a nut-slap or a titty twister, depending on gender."

"The Straw Man has become the default argument." God, I do not miss American politics.

Kung Fu Monkey: New Year's Resolution:
"There are times I feel like we've reached a tipping point, where all the progressive and conservative grown-ups just looked at each other and said 'Right, time to step in here' ... orrrr I'm Ian Holm in The Day After Tomorrow: 'Save who you can.' It is very, very hard not to discuss other people's reasoning facilities without coming across an an arrogant prat, but here's my point:

-- There were no WMD's in Iraq. At all.
-- The Administration, it's been proved, used intel they knew was bad during the run-up to the war.
-- The Administration sent our troops to war with insufficient equipment, and has both cut funding for their medical care and undermined their families' abilities to survive financially with the Bankruptcy Bill
-- The Administration has rained tax cuts down for the rich, while just recently cutting benefits for the middle class and students -- not to mention the insanity of tax cuts for the rich during wartime.
-- The Administration did not plan adequately for the post-war period.
-- The Department of Homeland Security is a joke. (Oh, and let me be another voice in the chorus: when's the last time we had a terror alert?)
-- This Administration has openly argued that it must retain the right to torture people, even if they don't. Honest. To defend the American Way.
-- The Administration has been illegally monitoring our electronic communications, circumventing even the rubber stamp from the sluttiest Court in the land. Not only that, when confronted with this, the Administration used the opportunity to push the idea that this was okay, because the President has unlimited powers during war. And if that 'war' happens to last for another twenty to fifty years, oh well ...

... all this, and people still aren't, well, pissed off. Jesus, people, what'll it take? By any objective standards, standards set by Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike, these folk have done a bad job of securing the Homeland, running a war, and protecting the Constitution in both spirit and deed. What's more, we're not even being allowed to have reasonable, sober discussions about policy because this Administration has validated the "scream and finger-point" methodology for dissent.

Listen, I may well be all for the goddam Iraq War if someone, anyone, could lay out the operational goals and specific strategies, with progress benchmarks, for the conflict. You may scream at me, you may think I'm a traitor for even asking, fine, but my point is even if you think I ought to be in a John Aschcroft Re-Education Camp, you ought to be able to answer the question. But no, that's "defeatist" thinking. Or, I'm "Monday Morning Quarterbacking" the "fine patriotic folks who are working so hard." Because it's not results that matter in this Bizarro World we've wound up in, it's intent. It doesn't matter that the President's broken the law, it's okay because he meant well. A rationalization we wouldn't let our eleven year old get away with, we let the President slide.

The Straw Man has become the default argument. If I want to know the benchmarks, I'm for "cutting and running." See, in my world, the real one, without benchmarks we can't know if something is working, or not working, and if it has to be adjusted so we can acomplish our goal of, say, winning. But nothing is ever adjusted with this Government. It's Plan A, all the time, all the way through to the bitter end, with lots of announcements about how wonderfully Plan A is working right now. "You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie" 24/7."

"’s going to be very hard for you to get along with other people." Jesus, welcome to my life.

"Question everything, even questions. Then question why you would want to question everything. Then question why you would want to question why."

What I Learned About Religion in 2005 - Pop Occulture:
"1. I don’t know as much as I think I know. And I make mistakes all the time. Recognizing this has allowed me to keep moving forward, rather than stagnate. It’s kept me flexible, open to correction and alternate viewpoints (er, usually anyway).
2. Trying to understand what things mean can become a negative addiction which can become so overwhelming intellectually that it can cut you off from the simple experience of what things actually are.
3. Words are different from things. If you dig down deeply into these relationships, you’re likely to find that the things and the words that represent them are connected on a more or less arbitrary basis. Over time and across cultures, these relationships modulate very drastically.
4. Just as meaning may cut you off from simple experience, words have a tendency to cover up or replace the things they represent. Since these relationships are basically arbitrary, it’s important not to get too wound up in the maze of words. If you have trouble or get frustrated, remember that these aren’t “words,” they are lines and shapes on a screen, which refer to phonetic sounds made by the mouth of a primate, which have arbitrary connections to something totally vague called “meaning” which varies from primate to primate and from herd to herd. For an even better illustration of this, pick any word and repeat it to yourself out loud really fast until it loses meaning and starts to sound really strange. Try it now. “Primate,” “Primate,” “Primate.” primateprimateprimate pri ma tepr imat eprim ate….
5. If numbers 2-4 above are correct (which they may not be, based on number 1), then chances are good that we can’t trust words or meaning too far. We could maybe use them on a provisional basis, but not in any kind of absolute way. Even if we were to make an absolute “factual” statement, such as “All humans are primates,” it’s still just a string # of gibberish syllables assigned an arbitrary value by culture.
6. If assertions that we make are always questionable at a base level, then maybe it’s better to always question them (or maybe not, see number 1 above). What I mean by that is, by phrasing things as questions rather than assertions, we recognize that maybe they aren’t true, or at least maybe not in the way we thought they were...
10. If we are people and we agree that people are things rather than mean things... then this very likely indicates that people don’t actually make sense. Or more broadly, life doesn’t make sense. We do things and things happen but they just are. They don’t, in themselves, mean anything.
11. So where does meaning come from? One possible answer out of many is that meaning is something that we invent or project onto things. And it modulates from person to person across time and across cultures. But where and do we do the inventing or projecting? Many religions, philosophies and occult traditions offer different answers to and ways of exploring the implications of this question. If we can hold all of their answers to be equally true, equally gibberish, both true and gibberish and neither true nor gibberish, then we’re probably getting somewhere. But the question is: where?
12. The reason we have religions, philosophies and other story-systems is that these types of questions are weird and confusing. While we might get a charge out of the uncertainty, it can also be extremely difficult. If you live your life according to the principle that nothing means anything and nothing makes sense, then it’s going to be very hard for you to get along with other people...
18. The term zetetics is a reference to the ancient schools of philosophical skepticism, as opposed to modern scientific skepticism. Scientific skeptics typically question things until they can be proven (or not disproven), whereas philosophical skeptics tend to question whether anything can really ever be proven at all. The philosophical or zetetic mode of skepticism is not well understood or widely known today. People mostly think of scientific skeptics when they think of skepticism at all. Philosophical skepticism, however had a very different goal. The goal was not to find the answer, but to achieve peace of mind."

My kinda role model.

Under the Wagon:
"I drink a lot. I’m probably drinking right now. Unless I’m having sex or something. In which case I’m probably drunk.

According to major studies, I drink more alcoholic beverages in a month than 93% of the population. Why? Because I can‘t stand 93% of the population.. Booze is my friend. Not only does it make people attractive (and myself invincible) it’s also provided me countless opportunities to make an ass of myself."

Consistency is, as always, the key.
"There's an unspoken understanding state-side that, no matter how viciously one might attack America's governmental policies or socio-economic problems, having been born on American soil logically entails a deep, abiding love for the country, in spite of one's spiteful rants to the contrary. This was a steep learning curve for me when engrossed in casual talk with coworkers or my girlfriend: namely, that when a True American states their displeasure with something about the U.S., it's innately understood that they hate this one thing about the country while still cherishing it with passion; but if a Goddamn Immigrant agrees with their displeasure, it's because they're an ungrateful foreigner, unacquainted with the solemn majesty that is George Washington's America.

'The occupation of Iraq was a blatant exploitation of post-nine-eleven goodwill to wrest control of the oil industry,' someone at work would say.

'Bush is a war criminal,' another would agree. 'Pure and simple.'

'Yeah,' I'd add. 'It sure is a complicated issue.'

'If you hate America so much, why don't you go home?' it would be pointedly suggested.

...Despite my routine acquiescence, however, there's still one American policy to which I remain vocally opposed, and that is healthcare; and that's only because it sucks so bad that I'm simply unable to applaud it with a straight face.

...In Canada, when I went to the doctor for an ear infection, I was given a thorough check-up and prescribed antibiotics. In America, when I went to the doctor, I was given a one-minute cursory check-up and asked if I wanted seven different kinds of antibiotic, including an anti-depressant, then hurried out after being given a shopping list of prescribed medicines and two further appointments at weekly intervals.

..."It's not like Canadian healthcare is perfect either," Karla said, after I'd returned home and started ranting about everything. "At least I can go see a specialist without a two month wait," she added, referring to a long waiting list I'd been on in Canada to see an ear specialist.

And yes: the waits are longer. The best doctors get siphoned off to the U.S., where they can start charging prices for their expertise that 1% of the population can afford. But the fact remains that Canadian healthcare might be slow, and expensive, and under-skilled comparatively; but it works. Everybody puts money into the pot like it's a big medical lottery; if you get hit by a car, you win.

You don't have to worry about having enough money to ensure you get better if you get very sick. You don't have to be concerned about your doctors having ulterior motives when they suggest return appointments and prescribe medicine. And you don't get sold antibiotics on TV, as if a drug weren't a complex chemical compound prescribed to you as the result of a trained professional's diagnosis, but rather some new and exciting vacuum cleaner you don't want to be the last one on the block to own."

Hey look. We're evil.

U.S. No Longer Promoting Landmine Ban - Yahoo! News:
"In 1994, the United States was the first nation to call for the elimination of landmines that killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of innocent people around the world.

But that was then. Today, Washington not only stands in opposition to an international treaty that bans the use and production of antipersonnel landmines, but intends to make new ones too."

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

New Year's Resolutions

So. New Year's Resolutions are a tricky thing. Most talk of them in terms of failed resolutions, pie-in-the-sky wishes for what you'd like to do. Not what you'd really do. In fact, as you pass outta the youthful idealism of youth and start to climb into your more cynical years, "New Year's Resolution" becomes shorthand for things you didn't follow through with.

And the idea that New Year's Resolutions have more import than any other decision you make is, inherently, false. Calendars are culturally arbitrary configurations, New Year's Day varies according to where you live and what calendar you go by to begin with. [The most obvious examples, of course, the Chinese New Year and the Jewish and Islamic calendars...]

But here's the thing. I've come to the idea recently that while all ritual is essentially meaningless, the meaning you consciously [and subconsciously] decide to imbue and impart to any ritual can be highly significant. If you decide to give a ritual a powerful meaning, and invest it with belief [regardless of whether it's true, per se], it can have profound effects.

And the changing of the year, the winter solstice, the coming newness and eventual "rebirth" in spring, can all be helpful, psychologically speaking, in enacting behavioral change.

So, let's give it a shot.

New Year's Resolutions

Categories: Health and Fitness, Financial, Work, Relationship

Health and Fitness
Goal: Radically improve awareness, strength, endurance and flexibility
Concrete steps: Twice daily workouts incorporating Millman, Pavel, Atlas, Furey, Scrapper, Rutten. Bodyweight exercise, meditation, shadowboxing, stretching/yoga.

Goal: Become debt free
Concrete steps: While impossible to become debt free within a year, implement the following two steps - begin paying more than minimums on 1 [of 2] credit cards. Absolutely refuse to use that credit card for any future purchases. [, you are now my sworn enemy! Or the enemy of that credit card, at least.]

Goal: Take better advantage of the opportunities presented by living in Japan
Concrete steps: Hit up Ohmichi-sensei to teach me kendo in the next year. Train with the Jr High Kendo Club.

Goal: Better communication
Concrete steps: Active daily effort to listen and not interrupt.

Well, there it is for the world to see. And I can guarantee that failure to follow through will result in merciless ridicule by my wife, family and friends. Thusly, psychological leverage.

Ah, sweet, sweet time off...

Through the judicious application of nenkyu [vacation days], Japanese holidays and weekends I now am work free for the next 13 days.

Aaaaaaaah... that's nice.

And only had to take 4 vacation days at that.

[Course I'll need all that rest to prepare for the arrival of Typhoon Cindi tonight.]

It's a joke mom and dad Snider!

I love my baby sister!

[Even if she is crazy.] :)

And I get to see it all on free TV. My purpose in coming to Japan has been fulfilled.

The Sudo-Yamamoto matchup and the Schilt-Hoost matchup should be great. Plus Pride is running a show with Gomi v Sakurai, Sakuraba v Minowa and the Silva v Arona rematch. Should be awesome. Preview: K-1 Dynamite ’05 Part II:
"It’s Dutchman against Dutchman when K-1 superman Ernesto Hoost from Vos Gym and recent K-1 tournament champion Semmy Schilt of Seido Kaikan Dojo take to the ring under K-1 rules.

Japanese K-1 champion Masato of the Silver Wolf Gym takes on Team Cloud fighter Akira Ohigashi under K-1 rules.

Japanese kickboxer Musashi of Seido Kaikan Dojo battles Bob Sapp of Team Beast under K-1 rules.

Former sumo wrestling champion Akebono from Team Yokozuna meets freelance fighter and Japanese television personality Bobby Ologun under special HERO’s MMA rules.

Beverly Hills Jiu-Jitsu fighter Genki Sudo tests Killer Bee striker Norifumi Yamamoto for the HERO’s middleweight title and will fight under HERO’s MMA rules.

Team Royce Gracie Jiu-Jitsu fighter Royce Gracie combats Reversal Gym fighter Hideo Tokoro under special HERO’s MMA rules."

See, it's the consistency I admire.


'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you.'

HAW HAW HAW! AW HAW HAW HAW HAW! Thassa good one! Yee-haaa!


'I'm from the government, and I'm here to spy on you and perhaps indefinitely detain you without charges.'

That sounds reasonable."

Couple more pics from the ballet recital

Vaguely discomfiting

Calculators - Debt reduction planner:
"When will you be debt free?"

"By making minimum payments only, it will take you 27 years and 1 month to pay off your credit cards."

Light at the end of the tunnel tho'... increasing min payments by only $65 a month and

" will take you 4 years and 7 months to pay off your credit cards."

You can find lots of goofy stuff online


I do tend to feel that there's so much information out there I need to obsessively troll the 'net so I don't "miss" something. But don't spend enough time processing that information.

I need to start meditating again. - Age of information overload - Dec 26, 2005:
"Will all this instantly accessible information make us much smarter, or simply more stressed? When can we break to think, absorb and ponder all this data?

'People are already struggling and feeling like they need to keep up with the variety of information sources they already have,' said David Greenfield, a psychologist who wrote 'Virtual Addiction.' 'There are upper limits to how much we can manage.'"

The Dilbert Blog: Who is Holier?

The Dilbert Blog: Who is Holier?:
"If Santa Claus fought Jesus, who would win? Tell the kids that grandpa will give $5 to whoever comes up with the best answer.

Then leave the house as quickly as possible."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

"Just words" Just ideas. Just opinions.

Pissing Off the Buddhists:
"Guys like this always want to give you their teachings. No matter what you say to them, it's an opportunity for them to point out where you're wrong and how your life would be so much better if you could only learn to be just like them. 'I've got this hangnail,' you say. And they come right back at you with, 'The body is but an immaterial object, remain in the now and do not be bothered by its sensations.' Hey, just lend me some nail clippers and shut the fuck up, OK?

The thing that makes it real fun to piss phony Buddhists off is the fact that when they get pissed off, it's not enough for them to just be pissed off. They're also pissed off because they're pissed off. And they're pissed off that they're pissed off that they're pissed off. And... well, you get it, it just goes on like that forever.

...Nishijima once said to me, "It's important to face hated information." I'd been talking to him about some stuff which I found very disturbing to read about. His advice was to read as much of that stuff as I could get my hands on. And y'know, when I did that, I started to see right through that stuff, to see that what I thought was powerful and even dangerous to my psyche was really nothing at all. Just words typed by some human being who saw the world in a certain way. Big, fat, hairy deal.

If my "Buddhist" friends out there in computer land were able to see things in a realistic way, they'd see that that's all my writing was too. Just words. What's far more important than reacting to words is to see just how that process of reacting to words works. You've got to say to yourself, "Who am I? And why is it that I'm getting this kind of a reaction to what I'm reading?" Why is it so important for you to establish that these words are WRONG. Why do you feel the need to try and silence those who say the things you don't like? Or on the other side what is it that makes you think certain words are right, that they're beautiful and stilling. What is it that drives you to seek out stilling, calming words while doing your utmost to avoid anything that disturbs you? "

"Evil Is Stupid"

Evil Is Stupid:
"The Evil Tyrants of the real world never see themselves as evil. Only cartoon villains cackle with glee while rubbing their hands together and dream of ruling the world in the name of all that is wicked and bad. While we may admire our philosophers for the way they grapple with the Problem of Evil, a lot of the great tragedies of our culture stem from people who were trying -- quite nobly in their minds -- to free humanity from the Problem of Evil. Could our philosophers be on the wrong track here? Could they, in fact, be a big part of the problem?

A lot of people in the West can't come to grips with Buddhism because it doesn't address the Problem of Evil. We've got so much invested culturally in the notion of real Evil, that we aren't willing even to entertain the idea that evil may only be a mental concept with no corresponding reality. There's a tendency to try and shoe-horn the concept of evil into Buddhism. The most common way is to look at the idea of karma as an example of Buddhism's view of the Problem of Evil.

The word karma, which really just means 'action,' is often mis-used to refer to the Buddhist idea that the same laws of cause and effect we see evident everywhere in nature apply equally to the realm of mind, and that there is what we could call moral cause and effect. So if you believe in the concept of evil, you might look upon this as an idea that if someone does evil, evil will come back to him or her. And there's an unfortunate tendency to want to insert some kind of deity figure into the picture to mete out the proper punishment to the evil doer...

So even in the idea of karma, Buddhism doesn't address the Problem of Evil. That's because there really isn't any Problem of Evil. There is no Evil in this world. That's a hard one for us Westerners to swallow. But, in fact, there is only the idea of Evil. It's a concept borne out of an idealistic view of the world. It's a way of explaining what we encounter. But it's a piss poor explanation when you look at it carefully.

Evil is not real (and neither is Satan -- sorry Louvin Brothers!). But there is something else, and Buddhism does address this something else. I like to call it stupidity. All that we call "evil" is just plain stupidity. There's a very popular and very stupid idea out there in the world (and in your mind and my mind) that it might be possible to gain something for yourself by causing pain to others, and that you can cause pain to someone else without feeling that pain yourself or without suffering any consequences of your actions. This is a view held by almost every human being in the world -- the "evil" ones as well as the "good" ones. We "good" people hate seeing evil get rewarded while we ourselves behave so purely -- I always feel this way when I see who's won the Grammy Awards®. But the view that a person can cause harm without feeling any ill effects is wrong.

It's wrong because evil always involves another, either someone to whom you do evil or someone who does evil to you. In reality, though, there is no other upon which you can ever perform an act of evil, nor is there any other who can do evil things to you. The idea that you can do harm to others without ever experiencing the effects of what you've done is just plain stupid. It's like getting pissed off at something your left hand did and then punishing your hand by smashing it with a hammer. You miss the point that you alone are responsible for the movement of your hand and that you alone will suffer when your own punishment.

Of course, it's really, really hard for most people to accept the idea of universal oneness. We take our separation from each other as fact. But it's not a fact at all. It's a very deep misunderstanding, a misunderstanding so deep that even our physical senses seem unable to perceive the real situation. Oh but they can. It's just that most of us miss out on these perceptions. You might say they're far too subtle. But it's better to say we're mostly just too stupid to notice the obvious, the way a drunk might not notice he's just vomited all over himself."


What I Really Think:
"The Truth can never be expressed in words because the Truth is unlimited and ever-changing while words are fixed. And words mean different things to different people."

True v False or Useful v Useless

"When I talked about this in the Zen class I run in Santa Monica someone asked me if I didn’t feel anger and resentment towards the guy who stole my bike. I had to stop and think a second. It’s not that I’m so spiritually advanced or pure that feelings of anger and resentment never appear in my mind. It’s just that I’ve seen the futility of chasing such feelings around and lending them strength through repetition. So, for the most part, I don’t even bother with such thoughts much anymore. They don’t give me any pleasure. They won’t lead to the recovery of my bike. They won’t help me prevent another such theft in the future. Why waste time on that kind of thinking?

But I also know it’s not enough just to hear the words “it’s useless to think of such things.” I'd heard those words a hundred thousand times before I was 14 years old. But it was a long while before I could break the habit of doing it anyway. Without the practice of zazen it never would have come about, nor would I be able to maintain the few good habits I’ve managed to develop without continuing the practice every single day.

People are always interested in speculative questions about morality. Like, if a guy has no money but his darling little boy is dying of some disease is it moral or immoral for him to break into the local Walgreen's and steal the drugs the kid needs? I don't really see the use of speculation like that. You rarely run into penniless guys with dying kids who ask you such things anyway. What is far more useful is to develop a clear mind so that when you're faced with moral challenges that lie outside of those to which society has given easy clear cut answers, you can see for yourself what right action needs to be taken."

Appearance, Reality, Roleplay

"Now we can all think of cases where it seems like someone has gotten away with some kind of dirty deed — a sleazy business man who makes a load of money, a crooked politician who gets re-elected a dozen times, a thief who never gets caught. And, of course, we can all think of plenty of cases where bad things happen to good people. It’s tempting to take this as evidence that the Universe acts in a random way, rewarding the strongest and ignoring those who make the effort to behave correctly. But I don’t believe it.

If you say a guy who gets rich or famous or powerful off of his disreputable acts has gained something of value through his evil action, you’ve fallen into the trap of believing that getting rich, famous and powerful are always and forever things of real value. Me, I have very serious doubts about that. As for bad things happening to good people, that’s a minefield I’d rather not step into. But I would say that we don’t really know the actual circumstances of those whom we commonly label “good” or “bad.” Nor do most of us know our own circumstances very clearly.

Of course there are plenty of people who play the role of the guy who’s gotten away with murder, or whatever. But people can play all kinds of roles. Some people play the enlightened spiritual master role really well, too. I don’t believe that one either. Yet, the more deluded you are the easier it is to fall for the image you’ve created for yourself. The universe always takes care of that as well."

You make your own answers. But only always.

Zen Koans: Transcending Duality:
"A Philosopher Asks Buddha

A philosopher asked Buddha: 'Without words, without silence, will you tell me the truth?' The Buddha sat quietly. The philosopher then bowed and thanked the Buddha, saying, 'With your loving kindness I have cleared away my delusions and entered the true path.' After the philosopher had gone, Ananda asked Buddha what the philosopher had attained. The Buddha commented, 'A good horse runs even at the shadow of the whip.'"


Zen Koans: Transcending Duality:
"Manjusri Enters the Gate

One day as Manjusri stood outside the gate, the Buddha called to him, 'Manjusri, Manjusri, why do you not enter?' Manjusri replied, 'I do not see myself as outside. Why enter?'"

Pavlov. Meet Buddha.

Zen Koans: Transcending Duality:
"Bells and Robes

Zen Master Unmon said: 'The world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your robes at the sound of a bell?'"

In the words of Ice Cube...

Zen Koans: Transcending Duality:
"Every Day Is a Good Day

Unmon said: 'I do not ask you about fifteen days ago. But what about fifteen days hence? Come, say a word about this!' Since none of the monks answered, he answered for them: 'Every day is a good day.'"

A Mantra

Incredible Fukn.Us:
"I don’t think that anyone is better qualified to direct my life than I am. I think people basicly want to do the right thing. I think that governments let people off the hook of being responsible for their own actions. I don’t have a problem with money. I have a problem with policies that create disadvantaged segments of society and advantaged segments of society. I hate lowest common denominator legislation."

Good and Bad Procrastination

Good and Bad Procrastination:
"The most impressive people I know are all terrible procrastinators. So could it be that procrastination isn't always bad?

...they put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff.

What's "small stuff?" Roughly, work that has zero chance of being mentioned in your obituary. It's hard to say at the time what will turn out to be your best work (will it be your magnum opus on Sumerian temple architecture, or the detective thriller you wrote under a pseudonym?), but there's a whole class of tasks you can safely rule out: shaving, doing your laundry, cleaning the house, writing thank-you notes-- anything that might be called an errand.

Good procrastination is avoiding errands to do real work.

Good in a sense, at least. The people who want you to do the errands won't think it's good. But you probably have to annoy them if you want to get anything done."

Conventional wisdom is usually neither.

WorkingForChange-We have little patience with the poor:
"So let's talk about the poor. Let's talk about those among us who cannot afford basic medical care or decent housing. Let's consider those who, despite working 40 hours or more a week, still can't afford the prescription drugs they need. Let's talk about those who join the Army just to get dental care for their children.

Don't want to hear about them? You think they're stuck at the margins because they're lazy or dumb or inclined to crime? You think America offers prosperity to any man or woman willing to work hard enough to get it?

Americans have always believed that. That idealism distinguishes us from Europeans, who are more likely to believe that class determines one's future, that pulling oneself up by the bootstraps just ruins good bootstraps. Those who abandoned their homes in the Old World to seek fortunes in the New had to be relentless optimists, hardy souls who could make their own way. While some failed, many others thrived.

Those who don't choose their parents wisely often find their achievements limited. This country is more class-oriented than many of us would like to believe. Academic research has shown that adult men are often mired in the same economic bracket their fathers were in.

Indeed, it's getting harder to climb the economic ladder. As the pace of globalization picks up and manufacturing jobs disappear -- along with their benefits and pensions -- it's increasingly difficult for those without college degrees to get ahead. And the price of a college education keeps going up.

But we have remarkably little patience with those who don't share our good fortune. A generation of politicians and pundits has told us that the poor are lazy and irresponsible and undeserving of our help. Indeed, trying to help them would only make them worse off, we're told.

So the last thing we should do is establish a broad social safety net that provides generous health care and raises the minimum wage and ensures decent housing for all. Why, any one of those things could prove absolutely ruinous to the poor!

That political philosophy -- which claims to be a hard-headed compassion rather than the hard-hearted selfishness it really is -- has become the conventional wisdom.

Overheard in the Office: The Voice of the Cubicle - 11AM Project Assignments

Overheard in the Office: The Voice of the Cubicle - 11AM Project Assignments:
"1AM Project Assignments

HR #1: Why would anyone agree to take on more responsibility if we're not going to pay them more?
HR #2: We're giving them more projects to work on that will be more advanced than what they're working on right now. I think people look for a challenge and they will be willing to take on more responsibility if it promises to be rewarding. Besides, most of them are in their twenties and need to start somewhere. So you see, we really are paying them experience.
HR #1: Who is ever going to fall for that?

150 Garden Street
Santa Barbara, California"


Pandagon: Scattered thoughts on the disappearance of the "traditional" family:
"For all the attention pain to the Baby Boomers who were into the counter-culture and whatnot, the vast majority of them really did make an effort to create the sort of family life they were raised to believe was standard--young marriage to a high school sweetheart, children, working hard, saving, enjoying some retirement time with the grandchildren. The dream didn't work out for a lot of people as planned, as the high divorce rate is evidence for, but they at least tried. But then they look at their kids who are really becoming full adults and a whole bunch of us clearly don't even care to try to achieve the dream. It's simply unappealing and we're rejecting it up front.

I think this situation is creating a lot of tension, if my fairly average red state family is an indicator. On one hand, the older members of our family fully support our individual decisions, since they obviously make sense on an individual basis. But taken as a whole, I imagine it seems like everything they have really held up as an ideal is being cast aside without much in the way of warning or of mourning, either. That's an odd place to be in--understanding the necessity of the minutia while feeling generally uncomfortable with the big picture, and I think that's why a lot of nostalgic rhetoric about 'tradition' has traction, because it gives people an enemy to rail against and easy answers to some disquieting trends.

The mythical War on Christmas is a perfect example of this, I think. For a lot of average middle class families, the traditional Christmas is changing. But for my cousin's rejection of the tradition of marrying before you have kids, for instance, we wouldn't have had a reason to go through the whole Santa Claus thing this year. Unlike in my childhood where everyone had Santa at their own house and then we all gathered at Grandma's for dinner, getting everyone together now takes serious long-term planning for flights and accomodations, because everyone is scattered to the winds. Because you can't blame individuals for simply living out lives that make traditional Christmas inconvienent, it's easier instead to let Bill O'Reilly tell you that it doesn't feel like Christmas used to because of a few store clerks wishing you a happy holiday instead of a merry Christmas.

Really, I'd say it's the same issue with the gay marriage debate. The right wing war cry about saving traditional marriage makes no logical sense, but it does provide an easy scapegoat for a myriad of anxieties about the very real changes that have already happened to family life and that affect nearly everyone. Most people nowadays, straight or gay, already feel empowered to organize their family lives according to their needs and desires, not according to tradition. All the anxiety this is creating is getting exerted on banning just one choice out of the hundreds, if not thousands, that people feel have opened up to them--in this case, marrying someone of the same sex.

So, in a sense, it's a depressing thought because the culture war is really just one long temper tantrum thrown by people who are frustrated that the world is changing without obtaining their permission. On the other hand, it's a good thing that it might be nothing more than a temper tantrum, something that will pass quickly enough as it becomes clear that there's no putting the genie back in the bottle, no turning back the hands of time. "

Good Old Fashioned Traditional American Values

The Dilbert Blog: Ideals:
"Before I go on, let me say that I’m highly patriotic, despite what you read here. Please don’t ask me to move to Venezuela.

As you know, the Founding Fathers had a lot of time to write things down because they didn’t have television, and there are only so many hours that you can spend whittling new teeth. But I don’t believe they ever got together and created a document called the Bill of Ideals. To understand their ideals we must look to their actions. Here are a few of the ideals they apparently shared:

1. Slavery – excellent source of poontang
2. Women voting? That’s crazy talk!
3. People who don’t own land suck
4. A good way to change tax policy is through violence
5. It’s not really crossdressing if you also wear manly boots.
6. Treason is okay if you have a good reason.
7. No one wants to sit next to Ben Franklin"

The [fictional] Grant Morrison is my hero

Comic Book Resources - Comic Book News, Reviews and Commentary - Updated Daily!:
"'Diet?' replied Grant. 'I have a very balanced diet. Mushrooms. Special herbs. Small pills. Anyway, you can talk, you've got a grand piano for a head.'"

Monday, December 26, 2005

V For Vendetta

Ballet Recital

Yuko Nakamura, the young lady who helps me out at elementary schools from time to time, also teaches ballet. She studied in Philly for a number of years, where she learned all her English - with a wicked Philly accent - and mastered dance. She came back to Japan to recoup from some injuries and she started teaching ballet.

Her school, Ocean Ballet, had a small recital tonight and it was really cool. First time I've ever seen it in person. On TV, sure, but never live. The small kids were adorable and the older students, and Yuko, were graceful and amazing to watch. Reminds me how not graceful I am. I hope she has more recitals... I really kinda dug it. Amazing what you can make the human body do.

The most amazing thing ever crafted by man.

Go watch.


The Ultimate Showdown:
"'The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny'

A musical tale of the greatest battle to ever occur ever."

Chicago Tribune | Beyond the imperial presidency

Chicago Tribune | Beyond the imperial presidency:
"President Bush is a bundle of paradoxes. He thinks the scope of the federal government should be limited but the powers of the president should not. He wants judges to interpret the Constitution as the framers did, but doesn't think he should be constrained by their intentions.

He attacked Al Gore for trusting government instead of the people, but he insists anyone who wants to defeat terrorism must put absolute faith in the man at the helm of government.

... But the theory boils down to a consistent and self-serving formula: What's good for George W. Bush is good for America, and anything that weakens his power weakens the nation. To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors.

...Consider the case of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen arrested in 2002 on suspicion of plotting to set off a "dirty bomb." For three years, the administration said he posed such a grave threat that it had the right to detain him without trial as an enemy combatant. In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit agreed.

But then, rather than risk a review of its policy by the Supreme Court, the administration abandoned its hard-won victory and indicted Padilla on comparatively minor criminal charges. When it asked the 4th Circuit Court for permission to transfer him from military custody to jail, though, the once-cooperative court flatly refused.

In a decision last week, the judges expressed amazement that the administration suddenly would decide Padilla could be treated like a common purse snatcher--a reversal that, they said, comes "at substantial cost to the government's credibility." The court's meaning was plain: Either you were lying to us then, or you are lying to us now.

...This is hardly the only example of the president demanding powers he doesn't need. When American-born Saudi Yasser Hamdi was captured in Afghanistan, the administration also detained him as an enemy combatant rather than entrust him to the criminal justice system.

But when the Supreme Court said he was entitled to a hearing where he could present evidence on his behalf, the administration decided that was way too much trouble. It freed him and put him on a plane back to Saudi Arabia, where he may plot jihad to his heart's content. Try to follow this logic: Hamdi was too dangerous to put on trial but not too dangerous to release.

The disclosure that the president authorized secret and probably illegal monitoring of communications between people in the United States and people overseas again raises the question: Why?

The government easily could have gotten search warrants to conduct electronic surveillance of anyone with the slightest possible connection to terrorists. The court that handles such requests hardly ever refuses. But Bush bridles at the notion that the president should ever have to ask permission of anyone..."

Sunday, December 25, 2005

I swear Sandy made me wear the Christmas hat.

A very traditional Christmas

Sandy and I have partaken of the traditional Christmas pizza and sampled of the traditional Christmas cake - much like the Wise Men did in the story of Jesus.

[Though honestly, Christmas cake is a bit of a tradition here in Japan.]

We have completed the required watching of the holiday classic A Christmas Story. A tale who's only discernible message is that if you get exactly what you want you will only do physical harm to yourself.

And we are now in the midst of Sandy's other favorite holiday film - While You Were Sleeping.

Sadly, my Christmas favs - Die Hard and Lethal Weapon - have not yet been upgraded to DVD status from VHS. [Don't VHS tapes just seem quaint now?]

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve, falling off the pesco-veggie wagon, guilt and false dualism [take 2]

"Take 2", as I typed out a massively long post about 12 hours ago, only to have it swallowed up by the ether of the interweb thingy. The bastards. This will be a sad and meandering, truncated version of said post. I'd imagine anyways.

So last eve a couple of Sandy's friends from Genkai High School treated us out to dinner and drinks - and as an aside, after the enkai on Wed, drinks with Kev and Ry on Friday, and last night with Hanada and Akashi sans, I am soooo full up on the alcohol for a bit. This is a drinking nation, that's for sure. Particularly impressive was Hanada san, who's maybe 3 foot tall and weighs 80lbs or so, who was still throwing back glasses of wine at the end of the evening when her compatriot had fallen asleep on the floor and I could only dream of going home and doing the same.

But I digress.

So they took us to this very nice little restaurant, family owned, where all the cooking is done right in front of you - no, not like in Benihana's, you heathens. Classy and sophisticated like.

But the caveat of the place is that meals are "sets". Every customer gets the same array of courses and dishes... including bacon wrapped scallops and mushrooms, stuffed chicken and steak wrapped tomatoes.


So I've been pesco/ovo/lacto vegetarian since we got to Japan... which is, I think, the correct term for eating seafood, eggs, dairy, fruits and veggies... but no poultry, beef or pork. And before getting the call up for Japan, I had been straight vegetarian for quite a while. But having eaten vegetarian in Japan before I knew it's actually a bit difficult. This is an island fishing nation after all. And it wasn't so bad last time I was here, in that I wasn't working so much and really didn't have any social obligations to speak of. But I knew coming back, with me being the primary wage earner and all, there'd be a vast array of enkais, invitations, and dinners to attend. And not eating at least seafood would make that difficult. And besides, I'll admit, coming back to Japan and not eating sushi and sashimi did seem a bit insane. But that's a rationalization to the great taste of wasabi and maguro if there ever was one.

So when I went vegetarian [and then stopped being vegetarian, and then started up with the vegetarianism again] it was mainly for "ethical" reasons, so to speak. Not that I don't appreciate the health and environmental reasons, but for me it was more an issue of compassion and cruelty.

Read several books and saw several vids on how animals are bred, raised, slaughtered... and it really is just some of the cruelest, most barbaric stuff you can think of. Factory farming is really just a disgusting practice.

Plus I never understood how some animals where okay for slaughter and some were okay for taking into your home and forming an emotional bond with. Cows, pigs and chickens have at least as much ability as dogs and cats to feel pain and emotion... and some studies show they're at least as "intelligent". Whatever "intelligence" actually means, that is.

And they angels of my better nature always aspired to the Buddhist admonition to refrain from causing suffering to other living creatures.

So I went veggie.

But after a while I kinda lost the thread of why I was doing it. Too much navel gazing, philosophizing and intellectualizing, I'd imagine. Too much thinking about the "big questions", the meaning of life, etc, etc. Trapped between the rationals of existentialism - if nothing means anything, who cares if I eat a burger? - and the perils of reincarnation and quantum physics - if all is energy, and ultimately everything is recycled, who cares if I eat a burger?

So I started back on the omnivorous path again.

Till once again I came around to the idea of not causing harm. There's little I'd consider a "truth" in this vast wide world, but not causing harm, not actively contributely to a system that perpetuates cruelty, well, those do seem like inherent goods. So, back to the veggies.

Till the time of the "great compromise" and eating fish back in Japan - also easier to do, if one is being intellectually rigorous, because it's far easier to anthropomorphize the pain of land animals with big, brown eyes. And I don't know if I'll ever be able to understand the pain of an oyster. More like a plant than an animal to me anyways.

But I digress yet again.

So last night, watching the steak wrapped tomatoes sizzle away on the grill, smelling the bacon... having it served up on my plate... all I could really think was "I'd really like to have a taste of that."

So I did.

And it tasted good. But then again, it always did. It's not like I'd stopped eating because I didn't like the taste.

But here it is... I don't necessarily regret eating it... it would have almost seemed rude - to the chef, to our hosts - not to, but I don't think I'm going back to eating meat. In hindsight, nothing I could have done would have alleviated the suffering of anything. The meal had been bought and paid for already, and my taking a "stand" would've not only been pointless, but goofy. And to be honest, something, be it temptation, instinct, whatever... I wanted it.

It's funny though. After eating it, Sandy asked me how it tastes, and I told her "It tastes like sin. And sin is delicious." Funny, but true. But it shows, to me anyways, how much of my headspace is wrapped up in the whole Catholic ideology I was raised with. Not as far as Christianity per se. The last thing I could be accused of is being a Christian. I am as anti-organized religion as anybody. But my whole world view is trapped up in the ideas of sin and virtue. Not just better choices versus worse choices, not healthier decisions versus unhealthy decisions, or even more practical considerations versus less practical... but sin versus virtue.

And it's not untrue that I would at times feel more virtuous because of my dietary choices, that somehow I was more noble or compassionate than the next man who never thought of such things [how retarded is that?] and that when I first ate of the flesh [nice biblical allusion, that] I felt sinful. As if eating steak had somehow put this dark spot on my soul. It's insane at all this stuff that's processed internally without any thought. Years and years of conditioning and going to church and CCD and confession and guilt and guilt upon shame and shame...

There's this part of me that thought last night "Well, I've eaten meat again, there's no point in denying myself anymore. I'm damned! Damned I tell you!" Well, okay, ot that "damned" bit, but the idea that once you've started down the path of the "lesser choice" that it's pretty much a done deal. That "all or nothing", black or white, amazingly false aristotelian dualism that I've decried, intellectually at least, these past few years.

It's something I "know", but not something I know. Ya know?

But what it comes down to is this. Do your best. Try your best. Now, last night, could I have done better? Yeah. And all the reasons I have for not eating meat, right now, I still think they're valid. And it's an ideal I aspire to. But here's the thing. Wheh you fail to do your best, that doesn't mean it's over. It doesn't mean not to try anymore. It doesn't mean that once you've "sinned" it's all over. There's no need to be hard on yourself. Just try again. Do your best.

[Yes, yes... years of Catholic indoctrination fuc*ked me up. I know. I'm working on it.]