Buddha Mind

This afternoon is self’s Vinyasa Flow class.

It is soooo relaxing.

Self has been pondering taking a course on Buddhism.

For, as Japanese sage Hakuin Ekaku (1685 – 1768) once said:

To study Buddhism is to study yourself.  To study yourself is to forget yourself in each moment.  Then everything will come and help you.  Everything will ensure your enlightenment.

–  Nakahara Nantenbo (1839 – 1925)

She did actually ponder learning more about Buddhism, but there are so many things going on in her life at the moment.

Dear Departed Sister-in-Law Ying was a Buddhist, and a gentler soul never lived.  When she died in Tel Aviv, in 2008, self was heartbroken.  Her ashes are in the family crypt in Manila, but some are in a temple in Bangkok, per her instructions.

Ying!  She was so proud of self that she would carry around a copy of self’s books, and when people would ask what she was reading, she would show them.

Now that self is contemplating the Buddhism thing, she also remembers hearing about Shari Epstein, a former classmate at Stanford, who was said to have founded a city on the northern California coast.  A Buddhist, peaceful city.  What was its name?  Drat self and her horrible memory.  The City of 10,000 Buddhas?  Something like that?  In Ukiah?

She recalls, too, a teacher named David Nivison (whose books are all available on Amazon) who taught a class called Zen and Nothingness.  Can you believe actually taking a class like that?  Self recalls the first day:  there we were, Chinese Studies and Asian Languages students, scattered around the small classroom.  The professor enters:  a very very tall and a very very skinny man.  Without preamble, he opens his mouth and begins the lecture.

We students look at each other in dismay.  The teacher’s mouth is moving, but no one can hear anything.  Slowly — and as surreptitiously as possible — a few students begin moving closer to the front of the classroom.  By the end of that quarter, this is how the chairs were arranged:  Prof. Nivison seated at his desk facing the class, and all our chairs circled around his desk, some even touching the desk, and everyone straining their darndest to make sense out of this Zen and Nothingness which — don’t ask self to explain the concept, it’s something like the sound of one hand clapping.  She knows there was a midterm and a final, and she passed both. But she has no idea what she wrote, what she filled her Blue Book with. Her grade, she recalls, was a B.  Which was extremely kind of Prof. Nivison.

Back to the Buddha Mind!

When we are trying to be active and special and to accomplish something, we cannot express ourselves.  Small self will be expressed, but big self will not appear from the emptiness.  From the emptiness only great self appears.

Now synapses are firing like crazy in self’s brain, for she remembers the Abnegation faction in Divergent, which she made yet another attempt to read last night, before giving up and going back to re-reading Mockingjay.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Most Irresistible Quote of the Day 2: From The Lizard Queen @GrinningDuchess

Substituting one thing with another that’s just as bad isn’t the same thing as quitting or letting go. –  @GrinningDuchess, Twitter

Amen, @GrinningDuchess.  Amen.

Most Irresistible Quote of the Day

Not to know is bad.  Not to wish to know is worse. –  Nigerian Proverb

DSCN4110

From the Long-Unheard From (Robert Greene)

The 48 Laws of Power is such an entertaining book!

Whenever self is desperate for a pick-me-up, she lets the book fall open on a random page.

Tonight she lands on Law # 3, p. 19

At the top of the page is a quote from that most learned Jesuit, Baltasar Gracian (1601 – 1658)

Do not be held a cheat, even though it is impossible to live today without being one.  Let your greatest cunning lie in covering up what looks like cunning.

Ugh.

Then self starts to ponder:  what if the shoe were on the other foot?  What if you looked at someone and thought: You are cunning, but I’m on to you.  You think I’m stupid, but I know you’re a cheat.

It truly is exhausting to be cunning.

Whereas, to be able to detect cunning is not only relaxing, it is empowering.  Because it makes you feel absolutely brilliant. Like Sherlock Holmes 3.0.  Especially if you happen to just stumble across the revelation.  While frosting a cake, say.  Draped in an apron.

Self wishes the part that spells out “Observance of the Law” weren’t about 1850 and the young Otto von Bismarck, about the unification of the German states, about the war against Austria, about speechifying.

Self turns the page.  Apparently, von Bismarck came out as a peace advocate, addressing the German parliament and urging it not to declare war against its neighbor.  Then, as soon as he was appointed a member of the cabinet, he goaded a peace-loving king into war with Austria, “crushing the former empire and establishing a mighty German state.”

Interpretation of the Law:  “By being completely insincere and sending misleading signals, however, he deceived everyone, concealed his purpose, and attained everything he wanted.”

But what if you don’t know what you want, and advocate one course of action, but subconsciously want the opposite, and then things just turn out right by sheer coincidence?  Like, what if you’re not insincere, just confused?  And what if things turn out right because you’re lucky, but people think it was because you were insincere?

Just try wrapping your head around that one for a minute!

How did that song from Queen go?

Mama Mia, Mama Mia, Bee-yehl-ze-bub has a devil put aside for me.  For meeeeee!!!  For ME!!!!!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Pajiba Reviews AMERICAN HUSTLE

Self loves Daniel Carlson’s review of American Hustle on Pajiba.  Clearly, here is a man who knows his David O. Russell.  Not only that, he seems to know the 70s (“This song is really from 2001!”)

Self surmises he is not twenty-something.  He could be thirty-something.  Maybe even forty-something.  Self hates when a review shows the writer’s utter lack of familiarity with anything earlier than 1990.

Back to the review:  First, Carlson tells us about Abscam.  He explains why this film is not really a fact-built case.  Why it posits a kind of parallel universe — a theory, if you will.

But who cares about a theoretical posit of Abscam?

Until she saw American Hustle, self had completely forgotten about Abscam.  You see, so many things have happened to self in the 30 years since:  she went to grad school, she lived in New York, she got married, raised a child, wrote four books, edited an anthology, bought two houses, three cars, read an infinite number of books (She averaged about 60 books a year, at one point).  Yet, she was completely absorbed by Russell’s film.  Clearly, if Abscam unfolded, then the process of how must be probed.  And probing can be very, very fun.  Especially if one focuses on the emotions of the parties involved, to show how these emotions lead to behaviors that lead to further behaviors, and how everything begins to topple like a line of Dominos.

“Because a lie always looks better when it’s a little bit true.  We’ll dismiss out of hand those statements that feel totally improbable, but the ones that use things we know to be true –  facts, people, our own experience –  are harder to untangle.  From a storytelling standpoint, you get an extra oomph when you claim to be based on a true story, even if the final product is so far removed from historical fact that it makes no sense to claim kinship with it.  Watching American Hustle to learn about Abscam would be like reading Wikipedia to learn how to perform brain surgery, but the film still gets some juice for looking just enough like real life to fool us for a moment.  And in those moments, we forget the levels of fakery and connect with what’s happening on screen.  So the lies, inspired by the truth, wind up coming full circle to inspire a truth of their own.”

How doe we know the film is trying to depict “real life”?  Because the very first scene is of a man trying to arrange his thinning hair into an elaborate comb-over.  Never, ever before in the history of cinema has there been an opening scene like this.

Which then leads to the question:  Why would anyone want to watch a movie “to learn about Abscam?”  For that matter, who watches movies to learn about anything? Movies are specifically about experiencing, learning is a completely unintended (if welcome) side effect.

Self posits that maybe 75% of the people who went to see American Hustle went to see Jennifer Lawrence.  Or Christian Bale.  Or Amy Adams.

Lawrence’s star burns so bright now.  So do Bales’ and Adams’s.  And Cooper’s.  And Renner’s.

Carlson even dares to bring up the film’s “total lack of moral reckoning.”  Which makes the proceedings twice as fun!  For, in the words of the immortal Plutarch Heavensbee, “It’s appalling.  Still, if you abandon your moral judgment, it can be fun.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Eric Snider on TWITCHFILM (His Review of HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE)

Addendum for Sunday, 29 December 2013:

Have not agreed much with Dear Eric lately, but am resurrecting this weeks-old post because the quote from Plutarch Heavensbee (scroll all the way down) is so heavenly, and I’ve been mentioning it like mad, esp on Facebook!

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Eric D. Snider can be so much fun to quote.  She hasn’t quoted him in a while, though.  Self owes him her deepest deepest gratitude for apprising her of the excellence of the following films:

  • How To Train Your Dragon
  • From Paris With Love (which is still self’s FAVORITE Jonathan Rhys Meyers movie, she kids you not!  She says this totally without irony)
  • The Raid:  Redemption (Self’s first Indonesian movie.  She gives it five stars!  She adores over-the-top, cheeky violence!)

If not for Eric D. Snider, self might have been suckered into seeing such high-quality cinematic products as:

  • The Counselor
  • Ender’s Game (At one point, Sole Fruit of Her Loins was very into this series by Orson Scott Card)
  • Last Vegas

But no!  Because of Eric D. Snider, self has now and then managed to hang on to ten bucks and two hours!  And, since life is short, she would never be able to get those back.  NEVER!

Today, self has endless free time.  Christmas is not yet here, and no one is coming to visit.  The day is yet young:  self has (so far) filled up her time with hanging Christmas decorations and writing Christmas cards.  If one were to ask self what the best use of her time would be at this moment, she might respond that if she were not able to write, or were not in the mood to write, she would be in the downtown Century 20, watching Hunger Games: Catching Fire for the fourth time.

But since self believes in “moderation in all things,” she has decided to go scarf up her copies of The Hunger Games books, which she hasn’t actually laid eyes on in at least two years.  She goes hunting all over son’s room, and cannot for the life of her remember where to look.  She hopes she didn’t leave them in Bacolod.

Anyhoo, Eric D. Snider has reviewed Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and instead of sharing his entire review, self will zoom in on a quote from Plutarch Heavensbee that he includes in his review (You know, if self didn’t know any better, she’d almost think the entire Hunger Games trilogy was a satire, a cheeky thing to be played strictly for laughs.  Especially when characters have names like “Peeta” who is a baker — tell self you didn’t immediately think of pita bread! — and Effie Trinket — Did you not think the name could be referring to something like: “This is just EFFING hilarious!”)

Our man Plutarch has decided to ask Katniss for a dance.  They’re twirling around a ballroom, making small talk.  It’s the kind of thing Natalie Dormer’s character in the TV series Game of Thrones (Margaery Tyrell) does so well.  While looking very poised and serene, she manages to produce words that function something like razor points.  So Plutarch is saying to Katniss:  “It’s appalling.  Still, if you abandon your moral judgement, it can be fun.”

Is that a direct quote from the book?  If it is, Suzanne Collins needs to be congratulated.  Because, as Eric D. Snider says, it “is true of so many things.”  (BTW, only an actor as skilled as Philip Seymour Hoffman could inject that line with the right amount of sarcasm.  Oh, the delivery, the delivery!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

3rd Wednesday of July (2013): Moral Tales

Today, self thought she would focus on the other book she is concurrently reading (along with The Great Gatsby.  And Manila Noir.  AND the daily Wall Street Journal):  Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales.  She found the book in transreal, a bookstore in Edinburgh.

The excerpt below is from Part Seven:  MORAL TALES

The title of the fable is Escaping Slowly.  

A goat was walking along with her two kids looking for some nice sweet grass when it began to rain.  It was really coming down, so she ran under a big rock ledge to get some shelter, not knowing that it was the Lion’s house.  When Lion saw the three goats coming, he purred to himself in a voice like thunder.

This frightened the mother and her kids and she said, “Good evening, Minister.”  And the lion said, “Good evening.”  She said that she was looking for a minister to baptize these two kids, because she wanted to give them names.  Lion said he’d be happy to do that.  “This one’s name is Dinner and this one’s name is Breakfast Tomorrow and your name is Dinner Tomorrow.”

So now after hearing this roared out by the Lion, the goats were really frightened, and the kids’ hearts began to leap, bup bup bup.  Lion asked the mother goat what was the matter with her two kids and she said, “Well, they always get feeling this way when the room they are in gets so hot.”  So she asked Lion that, since they were feeling that way, could they go out and get a little cool air. (To be continued)

Stay tuned.

Been So Long: The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene

Self purchased a copy of The 48 Laws of Power about two years ago, on the recommendation of –  who else?  — a Bacolod cousin.  Fascinating book.  Here’s a quote:

Those misfortunates among us who have been brought down by circumstances beyond their control deserve all the help and sympathy we can give them.  But there are others who are not born to misfortune or unhappiness, but who draw it upon themselves by their destructive actions and unsettling effect on others.  It would be a great thing if we could raise them up, change their patterns, but more often than not it is their patterns that end up getting inside and changing us.  The reason is simple — humans are extremely susceptible to the moods, emotions, and even the ways of thinking of those with whom they spend their time.

The incurably unhappy and unstable have a particularly strong infecting power because their characters and emotions are so intense.  They often present themselves as victims, making it difficult, at first, to see their miseries as self-inflicted.  Before you realize the real nature of their problems you have been infected by them.

Understand this:  In the game of power, the people you associate with are critical.

Law # 10:  Infection

Avoid the unhappy and unlucky.

(Which would appear to be a very un-Christian sentiment.  But, as Greene forcefully reiterates, it is indeed possible to “die from someone else’s misery.”  And, really, life’s too short.)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Don Quijote, p. 390 of the translation by Burton Raffel

By killing giants, we must also kill pride; so too we must kill jealousy with kindness and generosity; anger with tranquil actions and peace of mind; gluttony and laziness with abstinence and careful attention to duty; lechery and lewdness with devoted loyalty to those we have made mistress of our thoughts; and sloth by journeying all over the globe, seeking opportunities to act and then acting, not just as Christians, but as famous and worthy knights.

– Don Quijote to his faithful squire, Sancho Panza

After reading the above, self has put her finger on how to deal with difficult people, and perhaps the reason for her traveling “all over the globe” is really her hatred of sloth.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

1st Wednesday of April (2013)

Self had just pulled herself together enough to revise two very short stories (1,500 words each) and send them out, and seat herself in front of the TV in the living room to watch “Bones” while having her lunch (It is 3:21 pm, that is how busy she was today), when she decided to check her e-mail (which she does almost every hour), and there was already a rejection for one of the short stories she’d sent out today.  Honestly:  this was the fastest rejection ever.  Faster even than anderbo.com!  She hopes they’re still considering the other story (They allow two stories per submission.  Don’t ask self to name the magazine:  self has decided that discretion is the better part of valor.)

Then she decided to –  Holy Cow!  This rice that she is having with her stir-fried boneless chicken thigh fillets is absolutely yummy!  It’s the first time she’s tried this Elephant Brand Thai rice (from Marina Foods in Hillsdale:  she would have preferred to drive across the bridge to Island Pacific in Union City, but has been feeling quite pressed for time) and does it ever go well with stir-fried chicken!  Especially with stir-fried chicken in Hoisin sauce!

Her eye wanders over to the TV and –  Wow!  Cute shirt the African American supervisor is wearing!  Lime green, with beaded keyhole neckline!

Back to self’s lunch.  She is washing all down with a bottle of beer.  And –  Holy Cow!  This is absolutely a fantastic beer!  Self peruses the label:  California Lager, Anchor beer, founded 1896.  She wonders if this is from Trader Joe’s, or from Draegers.  It’s definitely not Safeway or Whole Foods.

It has turned into a very hot day.  Self knows she needs to water.

Sweet-smelling Bella is wiped out from the exertion of climbing the kitchen stairs in the heat.  She’s on the kitchen floor, because the linoleum feels cool. (Self is tempted to carry The Ancient One here, there and everywhere, but is realizing that The Man’s insistence on making the poor li’l crit walk as much as possible is why Bella, at 17 1/2, is still ambulatory.)

And –  Self!  What are you doing!  You have just downed your third serving of Thai rice with chicken fillets stir-fried with green onions and Hoisin!  Aaach, aaach, she can’t help it, the rice and the stir-fried chicken and the hoisin sauce and the beer are such a perfect combination.  Not only that, self must be allowed to drown her sorrows regarding last night’s Justified season finale.  When might Season 5 be occurring, self wonders?

She finally got to the last page of the San Francisco Chronicle of precisely one week ago.  The bottom of the last page is the Dear Abby section.  Here is one of the letters:

Dear Abby,

I am a plus-size woman.  I am loud and boisterous, and I like to surround myself with similar women.  However, there is a problem I am now facing.

Many of my friends have made amazing transformations and gotten fit.  I am fully supportive and impressed, but I see the price they are paying.  They are no longer confident and vivacious.  They have become timid, approval-seeking shells of their previous selves.

Why do newly thin women forget how awesome their personalities used to be?

–  Big Beauty in Illinois

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Dear Big Beauty:

Not knowing your friends, I can’t answer for them.  But it is possible that having become “transformed and fit,” they no longer feel they need their loud and boisterous personas to compete for attention.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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