The Five-Year Happiness Project

Found, in the Huntington Gardens Gift Shop, on 9/11

Found, in the Huntington Gardens Gift Shop, on 9/11

Self read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project last year. It took her ages to finish, because she found herself poring over practically every page.

Last week, at the Huntington Gardens, she found a small blue journal in the gift shop.  It’s a one-sentence journal, with months marked on the top of each page, and five spaces below, each space marked:  20__, 20__, 20___

Self began the journal on Sept. 11, she filled in the date 2014.

It’s now Sept. 15, and she’s managed to fill in NOTHING since then. But she might today, because she’s heading to Frasier Park, where a friend has a house.

There’s a quote on each page of the journal. Today, Sept. 15, the quote is:

One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Between 5: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

At Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, there were many, many inspirational and self-help books that addressed such subjects as emotional stress, attaining inner peace, etc.  Self would estimate that almost half the store consisted of books aimed at people who wanted to be in a better place —  emotionally, spiritually, mentally, even financially.

And why not?  A majority of the people in the world are trying to get to a better place.  We are all “between,” we are all transitioning.

Here are a few titles from Vroman’s that caught self’s fancy (She wouldn’t have taken pictures of these books if not for this week’s Photo Challenge, so thank you WordPress Daily Post and the Broken Light Collective, who were responsible for coming up with this week’s photo challenge):

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BTW, Vroman’s is a truly great bookstore.

Because not only do they carry books, they carry bling!  Like these house slippers self bought, for $14.99:

"Ballerina Bling" fleece-lined house slippers to prove you're not in Kansas anymore.  $14.99/pair at Vroman's.

“Ballerina Bling” fleece-lined house slippers to prove you’re not in Kansas anymore. $14.99/pair at Vroman’s.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Back to Reading THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

Self is back in Redwood City, California.

Which can only mean two things:

She is back to watching all the episodes she missed of Game of Thrones Season 4 — which she missed because, you know, Ireland.

She is back to perusing The 48 Laws of Power, by brilliant (because-from-Harvard) Professor Robert Greene.

Here, for example, is Law # 14:

Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy

In the realm of power, your goal is a degree of control over future events.  Part of the problem you face, then, is that people won’t tell you all their thoughts, emotions, and plans.  Controlling what they say, they often keep the most critical parts of their character hidden — their weaknesses, ulterior motives, obsessions.  The result is that you cannot predict their moves, and are constantly in the dark.  The trick is to find a way to probe them, to find out their secrets and hidden intentions, without letting them know what you are up to.  (p. 103)

On p. 104, there’s a quote from Arthur Schopenhauer:

If you have reason to suspect that a person is telling you a lie, look as though you believed every word he said.  This will give him courage to go on; he will become more vehement in his assertions, and in the end betray himself.  Again, if you perceive that a person is trying to conceal something from you, but with only partial success, look as though you did not believe him.  The opposition on your part will provoke him into leading out his reserve of truth and bringing the whole force of it to bear upon your incredulity.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Random in Ireland

It is a beautiful, beautiful day here in County Cork.

Self added a few names to the list of Irish places she needs to check out (if possible, all within the next week — bwah ha haaaa):

  • Skibbereen
  • Kenmare
  • the Dingle Peninsula

She’s also adding two more names to the list of Irish poets she wants to read:

  • Ciaran Carson
  • Michael Longley

Finally, a series of random observations:

A young woman at the dinner table last night had a tattoo on her forearm that said:

Living is easier with your eyes closed.

It’s from the Beatles song “Strawberry Fields.”  Self loves it.  She thinks she will make that her life motto.

In her B & B in Inchicore, self heard this song playing on the radio one day:

City girls just seem to find out early . . .  You can’t hide your lying eyes. And your smile is a thin disguise.  I thought by now you’d realize.  There ain’t no way to hide your lying eyes . . . 

It’s an old Eagles song, who would have thought she’d encounter it again in Dublin?

Tomorrow, self is moving on:  to Café Paradiso in the city of Cork, which until recently was just a restaurant until the proprietors decided to add a handful of guest rooms to the upper floor.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.   Stay tuned.

 

 

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

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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!

*     *     *     *     *

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.

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