Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

Here's a clip from The Groundlings (an LA comedy theater), featuring my favorite SNL actress, Kristen Wiig, who is so funny in Knocked Up (passive-aggressive asst. producer), Ghost Town (narcissistic surgeon), and the DVD version of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (apparently she got cut from the theatrical release, but her passive-aggressive yoga teacher is all I remember truly enjoying). Oddly enough, she is a bit outdone here by Melinda Hill.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Ever Elusive Claus

done traversing snowy rooftops, was spotted skulking about naughty-nice corporate America in the wee small hours of this morning.

Unfortunately, he declined to comment what the Fed did with those bailout billions. Strange though, he looks oddly gaunt.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Annoying exchange at Enlightened yet intellectually dishonest bookstore

Namaste, fuckers.

I'm about to be too hard, and I'm sorry about playing the curmudgeon and bah humbugging all over Xmas Eve. But you know this kind of place - the air cloys on incense so exuberantly floral you half expect your Auntie walk over and pinch your cheeks as she demands a sloppy kiss. Likewise, the gilded effigy of Kuan Yin bears too much faux brass to maintain real elegance. The hyper polished rounds of rose quartz and cheap amethyst are relying on support from varnished oak trivets, and while expressing a "gratitude" that is de rigueur for the culture of these stones, such ugliness saps their dignity. There are ill-crafted stained-glass jewelry boxes, gothic rings, crystal skulls, daggers with scalloped edges, and too much velvet in sordid jewel tones and new-age hippie kitsch. Classes and services offered by "initiates" flank the entry - feng shui, auric field clearing and tarot spreads to realign, cleanse and prognosticate.

And I like these things occult. I dig it, man. It's interesting stuff, but there is something seriously amiss with the Wicca and the New Agers. Too flimsy. Too airy-fairy. Too "earthy" without being grounded. I don't know if I've bothered you all with my theories on poor aesthetics and psychological dissonance, but the gist of it is that I inherently distrust the health of religions or other groups whose decor and taste nettle my sensibilities. It's not so superficial as it sounds, as I really believe there are cues in the makeup of constructed things. A woman with crooked lip liner is not sane. A church ostentatiously festooned with bijoux and garish marble is fleecing its flock. A corporation draped in grey flannel and framed in hard edges is unlikely to be a wellspring of creativity. Scientology employees who all seem to dress like Mormon missionaries cannot be both free and "clear." A dude in a trucker hat and two hundred dollar jeans is a douche, even if his music's, like, really really good.

But I am here for books on martial arts and hoping to find a copy of psychologist and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl's classic, Man's Search for Meaning, a book which a dear friend claims is the most significant of his life and is considered to be one of the ten most influential in the United States. I have not read it, but with a recommendation like that, it will be difficult for me to ignore. Because my favorite local boutique bookstore is out of the title, and I loathe massive chain stores (my experience at Borders a few hours later is daunting and fraught with dislocation, disorder and disappointment, at best), I have risked the murky aesthetics of The White Lotus, as I'm certain they will have a good selection of Eastern Philosophy, if not much from the academic arm of the Psych disciplines.

Me (to clerk): Do you have Victor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning? I can't find it over here.
Clerk: Who?.
Me: (I repeat the title).
Clerk: Don't know it. (dismissively)
Me: Oh, ok. It's a pretty well known psychology title, but no problem.
Clerk: Who's the author?
Me: Frankl.
Clerk: I really prefer Jung.
Me: Oh, so you've read Frankl?
Clerk: No, but Jung's just so much more... more.. what's the word?

(lonnnnnng pause)

(...and at this point I'm struggling to suggest an adjective for him, or a phrase. Something, some quality that would explain his aversion to a man he's never examined. It's getting uncomfortable for me, because I'm grappling with the fact that he's making a comparison to what is for him a phantom concept. It's completely galling. Don't recall asking for his opinion, yet I'm trying to bridge the gap of comprehension before I despair entirely. What does he mean? He likes Jung's use of mythology? His optimism? His grasp of humanity? Should I tell him I'm familiar? Why is he taking so long? He seems bloated, amused at his "insight," and I don't enjoy the pomposity. I don't even like the word. I dislike that I even wrote the word.)

Clerk: ...esoteric.

YOU KNOW, in SPACE no one can hear you SCREAM.

The word esoteric has, in itself, become a red flag when used in casual conversation. Expressed most often with the guile of nonchalance, it intends to inform the listener of the speaker's knowingness, while simultaneously proving that the speaker in fact knows very little because the meaning is so inscrutable they have actually expressed nothing. Ironically (another red-flag word), in this way the word perpetuates its actual meaning, in spite of the speaker. And so the arcanum remains quite safe from the smugly dumb and the dumbly smug.

Jung was not esoteric, rather he explored and sought to instruct on esoteric matters and with esoteric methods. By trying to shed light on the unconscious realms, he sought to illuminate life's mysteries, with great respect for what is not entirely knowable, not keep them secreted away in ritual halls behind sliding panels and hidden passages. And I don't think he intended for it to be shared with only the select few.

I want to say, "Well good for fucking Jung," a man I quite admire. But I keep my trap shut and my face as unexpressive as possible (not good at this, or so I'm told), not that he's even looking at me.

Clerk: (wait, there's more to this?) ...and SO much more than FREUD.

Me: Sure. Well, yeah, Freud...

Clerk: Freud's just entertaining.

(I want to say: He's just the father of psychoanalysis, that's all. Furthermore, Jung gave his mentor ample credit. I disagree with Freud about certain things, but he was no buffoon. In any case, even though Frankl comes out of the Viennese school, he's not Freud. More importantly, how can you compare Frankl to ANYONE? I thought you'd never even heard of him. You don't know him from Adam.)

Do you really get to have an opinion if you are unfamiliar with someone's work? It's an academic crime, in my view, and probably a form of plagiarism, only worse, because at least with plagiarism, there is some attempt to try to be analytical, logical, it's just that you can't think of your own thing to say on the matter. But in this case you are arrogant enough to think you can put in your two cents, but too lazy to learn the substance of the opinion you are stealing, and too dismissive to think actual knowledge even matters.

And when I asked the guy which of the two books, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai or Bushido: The Way of the Samurai would be better as a gift for a friend who is investigating martial arts, he starts out by telling me they are very different, and then elaborates by saying one is about the philosophy and the other more anecdotes that show the inner life and rules of the samurai.

Um, so how are they very different?

And then he asks me if my friend is "spiritual by nature." I really hate this sort of question, about as much as the description "old soul," unless of course it's used in a Vanity Fair fluff piece about an actress, in which case it's absurd enough to be vexingly amusing. How does anyone know such things?

Aren't we all, "spiritual by nature" in your very own definition of "being," you pony-tailed, "truth-seeking," amulet wearing poser?

But hey, at least he's all spiritual, and shit.

Miss You, Baby

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sin, error, missing the mark

"Of all the pitfalls in our paths and the tremendous delays and wanderings off the track I want to say that they are not what they seem to be. I want to say that all that seems like fantastic mistakes are not mistakes, all that seems like error is not error; and it all has to be done. That which seems like a false step is the next step."

--Agnes Martin, Writings

Monday, December 22, 2008

Many Tall Pines

This is called to mind -

"I’ve said that that you sang in the wind,
as the pines and the masts do.
Like them you are tall and taciturn.
And you sadden quickly, as a voyage does."

Pablo Neruda, Poem Number 12 a a song I love as much as any of my other favorites. I don't know why I'm putting it here now, except that like so many great country tunes, it stirs echoes of longing, a common experience for me at Christmas Time. So appropriate, it's almost maddening.

Sing it, Emmylou, for that will surely break my heart in two. (You know what I mean, Steve.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You Can't Blame McDonald's Alone

Consider the case of John Wilson Webb, just shy of three years and already a whopping 120 lbs. I'm not trying to be mean here, just trying to understand how a toddler can weigh 33% more than a large sack of concrete. I weighed 120 lbs. when I was fourteen, a freshman in high school, and was 5' 8" tall. Someone explain this to me, because I think the doctor must have had his foot on the scale.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Antisthenes says that in a certain faraway land the cold is so intense that words freeze as soon as they are uttered, and after some time they thaw and become audible, so that words spoken in winter go unheard until the next summer."

- Plutarch, Moralia

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A thing I wrote about thirteen years ago

(A silly thing really.  What a strange girl I was.)

Tea Time

A Truth about teacups rarely spoken,
the most beautiful are always broken.
Is it the sight of finery
which weakens so the spinery?
Hands quiver, carpets sodden,
porcelains shiver, linens troden.

All things fine are passing,
none is worth amassing.

That's said and done.
Now, please pass a scone.

This reminds me of another "poem" I wrote:

I think that I shall never see
a poem so lovely as it is twee.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Attention Must Be Paid*

"Attention is love, what we must give
to children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can't bless it, get ready to make it new."

- Marge Piercy
The Art of Blessing the Day

(* from Death of a Salesman)