Sunday, July 31, 2005

GROUCHO MARX - Sheer Genius

Looking back over the posting of the last two weeks it seems to me there's been a bit of seriousness going on here at AFDH. Time for some humor! Let's have some Groucho Marx humor which is more at a brilliant play on words than comic humor.
My all time favorite is "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." And then of course "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." And "There's one way to find out if a man is honest - ask him. If he says, "Yes," you know he is a crook." And his most famous quote "I sent the club a wire stating, Please accept my resignation. I don't want to be a member of any club that will accept me as a member."

Saturday, July 30, 2005




Taking the photographs of "Painted Trucks" on Palace Avenue, here in Santa Fe, NM, got me thinking about history of the street itself and at least two additional features of some interest. The first is the fact that according to the old-timers I met when I first came here in 1967, Palace Avenue was the street on which the gringo professionals, that is the doctors, lawyers, dentist, and merchants built their houses as the onslaught of East Coast Americans began arriving after the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railroad line reached Lamy NM in 1880. These early Easterners had no interest in living in mud houses, the adobe construdtion native to this area, and they brought with them Eastern architectural plans, chose styles with which they were familar, and then the materials unavailable at local markets, could be shipped from Kansas to build classic Eastern Style houses such as this Mansard Roof example below.

North America of the 19th and early 20th century was a nation of beautiful small towns and a major contribution to that beauty were the streets with their towering trees overlapping to create a canopy 50 to 60 feet above the street. These majestic trees were the Ulmus Americana, The American Elm. Fast growing up to 70 feet, and with a life of up to 100 years, this was a wonder tree, thus its popularity across the United States and Southern Canada.

Then in the early 1920's a fungus which was discovered by a Dutch Biologist in Europe, suspected to have orginated in Asia, began appearing around the cities of the major East coast ports, spreading slowly West.
I was living in Denver in the 70's, and within the time span of one summer, hundreds of streets were stripped bare as the Elms died. The sound of chain saws was unending from dawn until sunset.

But there are a few spots in North Ameraca that the devestation has passed over, and Santa Fe is one of these sites. My unoffical count is of 63 remaining trees, and judging by their size were planted around the same time.These beautiful survivors have begun dieing from age, and now the second Great American Elm Tragedy plays itself out because no one is replacing these treasures as they die. So if you are a tree lover, on your next trip to Santa Fe you might walk over to PalaceAve, or for that matter any of the streets around the downtown plaza and pay respects to the last of the great Elms.

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Singularity Is Near : When Humans Transcend Biology

Excerpt from Book Jacket...
The great inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil is one of the best-known and most controversial advocates for the role of machines in the future of humanity. In his latest book, he envisions an event—the "singularity"—in which technological change becomes so rapid and so profound that our bodies and brains will merge with our machines.
The Singularity Is Near portrays what life will be like after this event— a human- machine civilization where our experiences shift from real reality to virtual reality and where our intelligence becomes nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful. In practical terms, this means that human aging and pollution will be reversed; world hunger will be solved; our bodies and environment transformed by nanotechnology to overcome the limitations of biology, including death; and virtually any physical product can be created from information alone. The Singularity Is Near also considers the social and philosophical ramifications of these changes.

To be released on September 22, 2005

Monday, July 25, 2005

The most difficult thing for spiritual seekers to do is to stop

Most people are in a constant state of struggle with themselves.Tremendously burdened by the past and in constant anticipation of the future, most human beings are rarely able to be fully present for more than very brief moments. The tremendous openness and intimacy that is required to be fully present is beyond most people's ability to sustain for more than a few moments before they habitually contract back into the familiar condition of separateness and struggle that so characterizes the human condition.

This constant state of struggle manifests as a compulsive and addictive relationship to the movement of thought, emotion, and time. There is great reluctance to stop struggling because in the absence of struggle you suddenly begin to lose your boundaries and definitions of who you are. For many people this causes fear to arise as they experience the loss of their familiar sense of self. Struggling is how the ego-personality maintains its existence. When you cease to struggle, identification with the personality begins to break down and you become aware of your emptiness and lack of boundaries. The most difficult thing for spiritual seekers to do is to stop struggling, striving, seeking and searching. Why? Because in the absence of struggle you don't know who you are: you lose your boundaries; you lose your separateness; you lose your specialness; you lose the dream you have lived all your life.

Eventually you lose everything that your mind has created and awaken to who you truly are: the fullness of freedom, unbound by any identifications, identities, or boundaries. It is this locationless freedom of being that spiritual people are seeking, and at the sametime are running away from because its faceless nature gives no fixed reference point for the personality to hold onto or to seek security in.

As long as you remain identified with the personality, you will always be seeking security to the exclusion of the Truth, and will remain in a constant state of struggle. It is only when your love and desire for Truth outweighs the personality's compulsive need for security, that you can begin to stop struggling and be swept up into the arms of an ever unfolding revelation of the Truth and Freedom of Being."


Saturday, July 23, 2005

may my heart always be open to little birds

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

*e.e. cummings

Thursday, July 21, 2005

the exchange of violence

If we have entered a spiral of anger, repression and despair, our only hope is moral honesty.

By Hanif Kureishi

Most of us no longer know what it is to be religious, and haven't for a while. Over the last 200 years, sensible people in the West have contested our religions until they lack significant content and force. These religions now ask little of anyone and, quite rightly, play little part in our politics.

The truly religious, following the logic of submission to political and moral ideals, and to the arbitrary will of God, are terrifying to us and almost incomprehensible. To us, "belief" is dangerous and we don't like to think we have much of it.

Confronted by this, it takes a while for our liberalism to organize itself into opposition and for us to consider the price we might have to pay for it. We also have little idea of what it is to burn with a sense of injustice and oppression, and what it is to commit authentic acts out of that sense, to give our lives for a cause. We think of these acts as being mad, random and criminal, rather than being part of a recognizable exchange of violence.

The injustice that many young people feel as they enter the adult world of double standards and dishonesty shocks those of us who are more knowing and cynical. We find this commendable in young people but also embarrassing. Consumer society has already traded its moral ideals for other satisfactions. One of the things we wish to export, masquerading as "freedom and democracy," is consumerism, though we keep silent about the consequences — addiction, alienation, fragmentation — of pursuing it.

We like to believe that we are free to speak about everything, but we are reluctant to consider our own deaths, as well as the meaning of murder. Terrible acts of violence in our own neighborhoods — not unlike terrible acts of violence that are outsourced to the poorest parts of the Third World — disrupt the exquisitely smooth idea of "virtual" war that we have adopted to conquer the consideration of death.

Virtual wars are conflicts in which one can kill others without either witnessing their deaths or having to take moral responsibility for them. The Iraq war, we were told, would be quick and few people would die. It is as though we believed that by pressing a button and eliminating others far away we would not experience any guilt or suffering — on our side.

By bullying and cajoling the media, governments can conceal this part of any war, but only for a while. We think of children being corrupted by video games — imitation violence making them immune to the reality of actual violence — but this is something that has happened to our politicians. Modern Western politicians believe that we can murder others in faraway places without the same thing happening to us, and without any physical or moral suffering on our part.

This is a dangerous idea. The only way out is to condemn all violence or to recognize that violence is a useful and important moral option in the world. Despite our self-deception, we are quite aware of how necessary it is, at times, to kill others to achieve our own ends and to protect ourselves. If we take this position, we cannot pretend it is morally easy and seek to evade the consequences.

We were dragged into this illegal and depressing war by many lies and much dissembling. A substantial proportion of us were opposed to it. During wars ordinary citizens feel they lack information and moral orientation while governments act decisively and with brutality.

Governments may be representative, but they and the people are not the same. In our disillusionment, it is crucial that we remind ourselves of this. Governments encourage and persuade individuals to behave in ways that individuals know are morally wrong. Therefore, governments do not speak for us.

If communities are not to be corrupted by the government, the only patriotism possible is one that refuses the banality of taking either side, and continues the arduous conversation. That is why we have literature, the theater, newspapers — a culture, in other words.

War debases our intelligence and derides what we call "civilization" and "culture" and "freedom." If it is true that we have entered a spiral of violence, repression and despair that will take years to unravel, our only hope is moral honesty about what we have brought about.

And not only us. If "civilization" is to retain its own critical position toward violence, religious groups have to purge themselves of their own intolerant and deeply authoritarian aspects.

The body hatred and terror of sexuality that characterize most religions can lead people not only to cover their bodies in shame but to think of themselves as human bombs. This criticism on both sides is the only way to temper an inevitable legacy of bitterness, hatred and conflict.


Hanif Kureishi wrote the screenplay "My Beautiful Laundrette" and the novel "The Buddha of Suburbia."
hat tip phil curtis

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Integral Spirituality in Real Life


What follows is a foreword I wrote for a not-yet-published book called Soulfully Gay, by Joe Perez. Joe is just now seeking a publisher, so you won’t yet find his work on Amazon. I won’t spoil what he’s written by telling you the plot, but I hope you enjoy this note from the heart and see it as an example of integral thinking in action.


"I am in the awkward situation of writing a foreword to a book by a gay person. This is an awkward situation not because Joe Perez is gay, but because I have to point it out. I feel the same damn irritation as having to refer to, say, Edmund White as a "gay writer." Nobody has to point out that I am heterosexual, although now I hear that I am not a heterosexual but a metrosexual, although, in fact, I have never had sex with a metro in my life. But I’m sure it is a wonderful experience.

"Nevertheless, because I have to include that information—culture today demands it, from those both for and against homosexuals—then let me say this. Joe Perez’s book is perhaps the most astonishing, brilliant, and courageous look at the interface between individual belief and cultural values that has been written in our times. By a homosexual, or a heterosexual, or any other sexual I am aware of.

"As it happens, this rather extraordinary chronicle unfolds around several conflict-inducing facts, one of which is that Joe is indeed gay; another of which is that Joe was raised Roman (homophobic) Catholic; another is that he often has authentic mystical states; and yet another is that Joe is, but only occasionally, clinically psychotic. It is the jolting collision of those items, held together by Joe’s courage in the face of all of them, that makes this chronicle so extraordinary in so many ways.

"The last item—the occasional trip into realms labeled madness—can mean, especially if you are a writer, that you are given to telling the unvarnished, brutal, searing truth, whether society likes it or not. And not the Sylvia Plath look-at-me kinds of truth, but the spiritual-seer and mad-shaman types of truth, the truths that really hurt, the truths that get into society’s craw and stick there, causing festering metaphysical sores indicative of social cancers or worse—but also the types of truth that speak to you deeply, authentically, radiantly, if you have the courage to listen.

"As it turns out, Joe is a writer, a rip-roaring wonder of a writer, and he had the courage to tell those truths, to endure them, to have them tear him apart, hospitalize him, brutalize him, kill and reassemble him, in one of the most astonishing tales of death and resurrection you are likely to find in today’s literature.

"There is one other reason this is an awkward foreword for me, which is that Joe’s transformation, or at least its narrative, depends in part on my own writings. For those of you unfamiliar with my work, here’s the Reader’s Digest version, in one short paragraph, I promise.

"In a series of over a dozen books, I have attempted to create a comprehensive map of human nature (which is a little less grandiose than it sounds). Everybody knows that you don’t want to confuse the map with the territory. But you don’t want a totally screwed-up map, either. So in order to make as few mistakes as possible, I basically took over 100 of the best maps of human nature drawn by various cultures—East and West, premodern and modern and postmodern—and attempted to combine the enduring elements of each, along with whatever new insights I might add. The result is called "integral" because it attempts to be widely inclusive, combining the various truths in a way that is as coherent and comprehensive as possible.

"What often happens if you study this integral map is that it begins to make room in your psyche, in your being, in your soul, for all the parts of you that were disowned, whether by society, your parents, your peers, whomever. An integral approach even makes room for those who did the disowning to you. And there, I believe, is part of the key to the extraordinary events that begin to unfold in Joe’s awareness, his being, his life. In a remarkably short period chronicled in this book, as Joe takes up a more integral approach, there is a profound resolution and integration of an enormous number of seemingly contradictory items—anti-gay Catholic upbringing, life as a gay man, authentic mystical spirituality, psychotic delusions. I don’t want to overplay the role of an integral approach, but it is part of this extraordinary journey of self awakening and self acceptance.

"But having a map is one thing; traversing the real territory, quite another, especially if that territory is marked by the occasional straightjacket, brutal homophobia, drug addiction, a plummeting T-cell count, and deserting friends, all nonetheless cut with profound and authentic spiritual experiences, transcendental grace and glory, deep love and friendship where it counts, and insights that even shamans would envy, all in a bottle with a skull and crossbones on it.


Liberation Biology: The Scientific And Moral Case For The Biotech Revolution,

Here is an excerpt...
...Human liberation from our biological constraints began when the first human sharpened a stick and used it to kill an animal for food. Further liberation from biological constraints followed with fire the wheel, domesticating animals, agriculture, metallurgy, city-building, textiles, information storage by means of writing, the internal combustion engine, electric power generation, antibiotics, vaccines, transplants, and contraception. In a sense, the goal toward which humanity has been striving for millennia has been to liberate ourselves, by extending our capacities, from more and more of our ancestors' biological constraints. . .

If we are allowed to use biotech to help future generations become healthier, smarter, and perhaps even happier, have we "imposed" our wills on them as bioconservatives warn? Will we have deprived them of the ability to flourish as full human beings? To answer yes to these questions is to adopt Jean-Jacques Rousseau's view of humanity as a race of happy savages, sadly degraded by civilization. Previous generations have, of course, "imposed" all sorts of technologies and institutions on us. Thank goodness they did, because by any reasonable measure we are far freer, richer, better off than our ancestors.

Also, Bailey weighs in on intelligent design. This is the best, most succinct, dissection of wingnut thinking that possibly I have read to date. Quote below.

Get rid of public schools. Give parents vouchers and let them choose the schools to which to send their children. Fundamentalists can send their kids to schools that teach that the earth was created on Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC. Science geeks can send their kids to technoschools that teach them how to splice genes to make purple mice. This proposal lowers political and social conflict, and eventually those made fitter in the struggle for life by better education will win.

So, say hello to my new yogi of the day and 10 to 1 Ronald Bailey and Ken Wilber know each others' future think and I'm in awe of both.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


This is an art piece wherein the artist, you, me, anyone with the price of a postcard stamp, creates a homemade post card, records a personal secret on one side, then snail mails the card to the address given on the site. The cards with the secrets are then posted on the Postsecret Site for the art worlds cruel eyes. Excellent site. Jump in.


Our house of Representatives, the lower house, the house of the people, seems often to attract the lesser among us.
This Seems to be the case in one Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado. Tom thinks if terrorists do any Nuclears on us, we should Nuke Mecca. Now when this hit the headlines of Al Jazeera how many thousands of young men bought their bus ticket to Syria, and will be crossing into Iraq to join the Suicide Brigades and take out how many more young Americans and how many more Iraq women and children. The bloggers on the right do their customary hoo rah, and on the left the usual ineffectual posturing. Rev Kykeru sums it up here.
Our house of representatives, the lower house, the house of the people, seems often to attract the lesser among us.

Monday, July 18, 2005


OMMMMMMMMMM. Clear your mind. Watch your troubles disappear. Choose from over 30 environments at iSerenity, pop the earphones on and bliss away.


Akbar Ganji
Despite demands to the Iranian mullahs from heads of state, freedom activitist, and bloggers from around the world, the dissident blogger Akbar Ganji is near death from a hunger strike.
"When asked whether he was willing to risk his life by speaking on the record, he replied, "My objective in life is to free my country that is in such misery." He added, "This is what we are about, and we have no fear."
Mr. Fakhravar said that Mr. Ganji was placed in solitary confinement in section 240 of Evin prison, an area of the facility where, according to Mr. Fakhravar, female enemies of the revolution in 1979 and 1980 were raped before they were executed. "It is against Islamic law to kill a virgin," he said.
(read on)

The growth of blogs and the bloggers driving them is a true phenomena with the under thirty crowd in Iran. And it's highly likely that this explosion of on-line publishing is what will bring the mullahs down. Some estimates place the number of bloggers in Iran at more than 63,000 and growing daily, and this number doesn't include the Iran expatriates, large numbers living in first world countries, most blogging and all part of the opposition.


Twenty six year old London journalist has.......
been attacked in print by the Daily Telegraph, John Pilger, Peter Oborne, Private Eye, the Socialist Worker, Cristina Odone, the Spectator, Andrew Neil, George Galloway, Mark Steyn, the British National Party, Medialens, al Muhajaroun and Richard Littlejohn. 'Prince' Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi Ambassador to Britain, has accused Johann of "waging a private jihad against the House of Saud". He's right. Johann has been called "a Stalinist" and "beneath contempt" by Noam Chomsky, "an uppity little queer" by Bruce Anderson, "fat" by the Dalai Lama and "a cunt" by Busted. (read on)

Yohann believes he has a solution to world terrorism. Let women sort it out. (read on)

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Experience the Gap

There can be a gap of quietness between thoughts,
and if you are very present in that gap,
you stop acting out your familiar identity.

As soon as identity jumps into the gap,
you don't feel present anymore.

Being nobody is usually so baffling to the mind
that it starts filling that gap very quickly.
"How can I be nobody?"
But to fill it up with a somebody is meaningless.

If you really want to know what you are, just experience the gap,
experience the openness, and let it bloom inside.
There is no better way to find out what you are.

from Emptiness Dancing

THE SAME VIEW.............

from a different direction of the blog post Sunday Poem, Life is Short.

Who shows a child as he really is? Who sets him
in his constellation and puts the measuring-rod
of distance in his hand? Who makes his death
out of gray bread, which hardens - or leaves it there
inside his round mouth, jagged as the core
of a sweet apple? .. . . . .. . Murderers are easy
to understand. But this, that one can contain
death, the whole of death, even before
life has begun, can hold it to one's heart
gently, and not refuse to go on living,
is inexpressible.

from the Fourth Duino Elegy, by Rilke

Friday, July 15, 2005

"The mind, the Buddha, living creatures

- these are not three different things."

Sunday, July 10, 2005


In February of this year, Human Rights Watch workers traveled through the refugee camps clustered along the Sudan-Chad border and interviewed those fleeing the massacres in Sudan's western region of Darfur. When the researchers visited with families, they offered paper and crayons to the children who gathered around. What those little ones drew will terrify you: Pictures of Janjaweed invaders, villages under fire, bombs falling from planes, executions. Most of the images include a brief, harrowing description by the child, such as this 13-year-old describing the rape of women and girls ("They are forcing them to be wife"). Each drawing conveys the horror of Darfur with an immediacy that is heartbreaking. This is "the visual vocabulary of war." Witness it though the eyes of children.


What if a bunch of scientists got together and wrote a list of the most compelling scientific puzzles that can't currently be solved, but have a good chance of being figured out in the next 25 years? Enter the editors of Science Magazine. To celebrate the magazine's 125th birthday, they present 125 questions representing a current survey of "scientific ignorance." The top 25 questions each feature a short essay with an opportunity for readers to reply. Questions include: "What is the biological basis of consciousness?"; "What are the limits of conventional computing?"; "Is an effective HIV vaccine feasible?"; and "Why do humans have so few genes?" For science fans, these questions should stimulate some serious thinking. For scientists, the questions may inspire them to roll up their sleeves and get to work!


Tower of Power

This tower below is an artist rendering of the worlds tallest constructed object, 1km (.62mile) tall, to be built northwest of Victoria, Austrailia, in a remote area called Ned's Corner.

This technology will nest 3 holons, greenhouse, chimney, and windmill into a "Solar Tower" to generate enough green emission free electricity to power 200,000 typical homes. Unlike wind turbines with blades which only produce when the natural wind is blowing, these STS are not reliant on natures wind, producing the ecectrical energry from the turbines in the tower, powered by the hot air from the greenhouse surrounding the tower. The hot air rushing up through the lightweight high strength reinforced cement tower, operating 24/7.

At the center of the 4.35 mile diameter greenhouse, or solar collector, air may reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit and a speed of 35 mpr near the tower. At night, heat stored in solar cells during the day is released and continues to turn the turbines.
The project is being built by EnviroMission, and is based on a smaller 50kw prototype solar tower which was constructed and successfully operated in Manzanares, Spain, and designed by Jorg Schlaich from Germany, head of one of the worlds most prestigious engineering companies.


old pond

frog jumps in


Matsuo Basho 1644-1694

Saturday, July 09, 2005


"The unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because
that means he has to stop dwelling on himself and start paying attention to the universe. Unhappiness is the ultimate form of self-indulgence. When you're unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. You get to take yourself oh so very seriously."
- Tom Robbins, *Jitterbug Perfume*


The Kurds are the largest ethnic group of people globally without their own UN recognized country. Some estimates suggest that 20 million Kurds live in the high plateau area which compromises parts of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Armenia and Turkey, not to mention the diaspora of untold millions of Kurds to industural countries for work in the last 50 years.

The Ottoman Empire, a vast Turkish sultanate founded in the 13 centaury and on its last legs by the beginning of the 20th century, had fought in the first world war as an ally of Germany and upon its defeat in 1918, it was dissolved and divided into new countries by the British. However, the defeated Empires' province of Kurdistan, tragically, did not become a new country, but was parceled to become parts of the newly created “artificial” countries of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Armenia, and Turkey.

The Kurds first entered the Western news during the 1990 Desert Storm, making headlines as they fled into Turkey as refugees from Hussein’s brutality, or were hunted down and murdered by Iraq Sunni troops. This ethnic group would re-surface periodically in the West's front pages over the next decade or more, and once protected by US forces no fly zone, come to represent one of a few very positive outcomes of Desert Storm for the people of Iraq, this history well documented by David McDowall.

Some two years past, a Kurd leader began to emerge as the nescient interim pre-constitutional government of the new Iraq began to form and the man with the name Jalal Talabani would later be elected interim President of Iraq, a man who a few short years ago was being hunted by Hussein. This man had played perhaps the most vital role in the affairs of the Kurds of Northern Iraq after Desert Strom and the political, economic and social flowering which had occured.

Jalal Talabani

However, Talabani's story is not without controversery, and after Talabani's "Tribe", The Patroitic Union of Kurdistan Party, primiarly from the Southeastern region of Iraq, acheived a peaceful d├ętente with the other major Kurdish group, The Kurdistan Democratic Party, under Massoud Barzani, former enemies at war, now simply political opponents making a huge leap into the 21st Century from the rigid and often violent former world of warrior tribalism.

Talabani can now, with just the slightest lean toward hyperbole, be called "The King of the Kurds". And much to my supprise a Prince appears, a Crown Prince, an Heir Apparent, and the leading man in the Forbidden Middle Eastern Romance about to unfold.

At some point last fall, an off hour obscure political talk show was on cable and the guest of this show was a young man in his mid twenties introduced as Qubad Talabani, son of Jalal Talabani the President of Iraq. The son is the Washington based representative of the Patriotic Union Of Kurdistan to the US government.

Talabani the son, the Prince, speaks unaccented English, not quite American, but not quite British either. We'll say educated American with slight British public school overtones. Extremely self possessed, and with powerful presence, no matter the trick question, Qubad smoothly deflected and segued into the answer which fit the message he was presenting.

After the program was over, google delivered surprisingly few hits on the Prince, but inserting the name in Google's News Alert, a blurb would appear in e-mail every week or so
noting The Princes appearance at an International Business Convention or at some Investment Symposium held in Phoenix. All news alerts attest Talabani to be a very busy Prince selling the beautiful mythical land of the Kurdistan and the Kurds to powerful global investors.

Then came a Google News Alert......


Qubad Talebani, son of the newly elected president of Iraq, chose the Chianti hills for his wedding with Sherri Kraham, a young Jewish American.

The Prince had chosen his future queen.
The wedding had been secret, and the announcement not released until several months after the wedding.
No photos on the net of Princes Sherri, but we find a bit of biography.
Law degree and a BA Political Science from Princeton, and has been employed by the State Dept.
And as the announcement rather crudely informed us........

"cultures that are not only different but also opposed and even in conflict politically. He is an Iraqi Sunni Kurd, but born in Beirut, and she is American and Jewish. I was speaking with the Talabani family in Arabic and with the Kraham family in English."

How extraordinarily futuresque and yet breathtakingly feudal.
May God and Allah protect them.


Friday, July 08, 2005


An email from Kenda, my niece, this morning with the url of a site showing intricate carving using a laser to sculpt on eggshells. Also, the same site links to some amazing melon carving.

Kinda may soon have her own blog and when that happens I'll be sure to post the address.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Curiously Magical


I have a soap opera I'm addicted to, not a TV one but a Yahoo Groups one named "SufiMystic" with a wonderful group of virtual characters. Somewhere around 20 to 30 men and women are active posters with the list claiming a membership of 770, although I suspicion as is so often the case with any online group, many have joined, but many also have blown off participating or forgotten to return and unsubscribe, although we'll concede a goodly number of lurkers, or non-participatory audience members.

One of the brightest daily contributors among 3 or 4 the star leaders, and I believe a Sufi no less, is someone Name: Hafizullah, Location: Seattle, Age: 53, Marital Status: Married, Hobbies: Spiritual practice, Computers, Tropical fishes (sic), Cooking, Hiking/backpacking, Favorite Quote: The universe is not only weirder than we imagine, it is weirder than we "can" imagine.--J.B.S. Haldane. And with the above graphic, "Fire Starter" which appears in place of a personal photo with his Yahoo profile.

He made a short declarative sentence recently from which I'm still vibrating on several levels. First its about as funny as anything I've seen lately, and more importantly it hits on some truths regarding surrender and annihilation, 2 difficult mystical concepts, that never, well rarely, does anyone encounter in contemporary teaching.

About the extraordinary billions upon billions spent yearly by established religious institutions across the world, from Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, the majors, and so many many others to all of the astounding books and marketing of cd's, workshops, etc from the fused belief systems commonly known as New Age, not to mention the man hours, Hafizullah says this:

"Most "self-improvement" or "self-help" is just re-arranging the deck
chairs on the Titanic".



The Taipei Times—and the rest of the world—is bemoaning the death of the movie business. People stay at home, get Netflix, drink a beer or six, and watch Godzilla vs. Mothra for hours at a clip. No one goes to the movies anymore. Hundreds of ushers are out of work every day. Popcorn machines are idle. The movies themselves, of late, are dreck.

I think the real key is that people don’t like to go to movie theaters. As a result, new movies get seen at home, where it’s a bit harder to track box office receipts. I suspect that any movie that comes out now will get 30% of it’s receipts from the theaters. The rest comes from everything else: DVDs, rentals, TV, etc. We have so much to watch that we don’t want to go anywhere. We need to stay at home just to catch up, and we catch up long after the movie hits, and fades from, the theatre.

In an era of portable instant gratification, the process of movie-going is expensive—logistically and monetarily—and the payoff is dinky. Now, my proposed solution? Make the movie theatre a hang-out. I recently saw a flick at the new IFC Center in what was once the rotten husk of the Waverly Cinema in New York. More on that in a second. Back when theaters like the old Waverly were in their heyday, movies were expensive and the promoters made them beautiful and gave them an aura of glamor. Think of the gilded theaters of yesteryear, the Egyptian palaces that make you want to go see the Wizard of Oz three times. Now, going to the movies is like checking into coach. Short of strip-searching us, there can’t be any way the movie houses could make the process any more grating. You have to find parking. You buy a ticket at a kiosk—if I wanted to tap at a screen, I’d stay home—and then you find a seat. There are 15 minutes of commerials, 15 minutes of commercials (“One man, one bomb, one puppy… Val Kilmer is The Puppy Saver. Coming Christmas 2015”), and then you watch a movie that may or may not suck. No wonder folks are hanging out at home, pausing at the dirty parts, going to the terlet, and generally enjoying their movie experience.

Now, the IFC Center has curtians over the screen. They rise up when the movie starts. They show a short film before the main attraction. There are no commercials. There’s a nice cafe. Even if the movie didn’t float your boat, you still feel like you’ve been somewhere. The IFC is well-rooted in its community, the digs are nice, and you get still get Sno-Caps. There’s a reason Barnes and Noble is doing so well, and it’s not the books. It’s because they make the process of choosing a book comfortable. This, in turn, encourages more book-buying.

Another proposition: the double feature and second-run movie. There’s a theater in Columbus, Ohio called Studio 35 where you can get a pizza and watch a second run double feature for almost nothing. It’s a pleasant experience, it’s a charming place, and it feels like a place you’d like to spend a few hours in. Take your sprawl mall theater and shove it, Mr. AMC. If you don’t, I’m gonna git me some UMDs, an Archos PMP, and the entire James Bond box set and I won’t be sitting in your stadium seating anymore.

Sorry. Not sure why I went off like that. But this is important. I don’t like going to the movies anymore and there has to be a reason. Gadgetry and technology have stripped the movies of their allure.

-Joel Johnson