Saturday, January 31, 2009

Deep Thoughts on Global Warming

This morning, as I stared at the label on my sparkling water bottle, I wondered, "Will I someday have to pay a carbon tax on club soda, Bubble Up, and Cokes, too?  Will it be offset by the deposit I now pay which, in California, is redeemable nowhere even remotely convenient? What about when I exhale all that CO2?  If my dog continues farting at his current rate will they fine me for the methane? "

In the future, will the warming be on the label?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Over My Dead Bonnie

“Couldn’t they at least cast a real actress?"

- Faye Dunaway, regarding “a vicious, vicious, vicious remake of Bonnie and Clyde currently in the works starring Hilary Duff and Kevin Zegers.”

If you've never seen this screen gem, go to it. By the way, is that not one of the hottest photos of Faye you've ever seen? Her wardrobe in the original set off one of the most historically significant fashion trends ever precipitated by a film. Annie Hall was another.

Clyde Barrow & Bonnie Parker, the original duo - not bad lookin', neither.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Perfect Shadows in a Sunshine Day*

“He tried not to show it, but he felt so inferior. Presley probably innately was the most introverted person that ever came into that studio. He didn’t play with bands. He didn’t go to this little club and pick and grin. All he did was set with his guitar on the side of his bed at home. I don’t think he even played on the front porch.”

Sam Phillips

*"What are kings, when regiment is gone, but perfect shadows in a sunshine day?"
-- Christopher Marlowe

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Spot of Ink

"Ichu was a famous painter and Zen teacher. One day Nambutzu, a great warrior, came to see him and asked whether he could paint the fragrance described in a famous line of poetry: "After walking through the flowers, the horse's hoof is fragrant." Ichu drew a horse's hoof with a butterfly fluttering around it. Then Nambutzu quoted the line, "Spring breeze over the river bank," and asked for a picture of the breeze. Ichu drew a branch of waving willow. Nambutzu cited the famous Zen phrase, "A finger directly pointing to the human mind; see the nature to be Buddha," and asked for a picture of the mind. Ichu picked up the brush and flicked a spot of ink onto Nambutzu's face. Nambutzu was surprised and annoyed; Ichu rapidly sketched his angry face. Nambutzu then asked for a picture of the nature. Ichu broke the brush. Nambutzu didn't understand, and Ichu remarked, "If you haven't got the seeing eye, you can't see it." Nambutzu asked him to take another brush and paint a picture of the nature. Ichu replied, "Show me your nature and I'll paint it." Nambutzu had no words."

- John Daido Loori
The Eight Gates of Zen

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Why Being Serious is Hard

by Russell Baker

Here is a letter of friendly advice. "Be serious," it says. What it means, of course, is, "Be solemn." The distinction between being serious and being solemn seems to be vanishing among Americans, just as surely as the distinction between "now" and "presently" and the distinction between liberty and making a mess.

Being solemn is easy. Being serious is hard. You probably have to be born serious, or at least go through a very interesting childhood. Children almost always begin by being serious, which is what makes them so entertaining when compared to adults as a class.

Adults, on the whole, are solemn. The transition from seriousness to solemnity occurs in adolescence, a period in which Nature, for reasons of her own, plunges people into foolish frivolity. During this period the organism struggles to regain dignity by recovering childhood's genius for seriousness. It is usually a hopeless cause.

As a result, you have to settle for solemnity. Being solemn has almost nothing to do with being serious, but on the other hand, you can't go on being adolescent forever, unless you are in the performing arts, and anyhow most people can't tell the difference. In fact, though Americans talk a great deal about the virtue of being serious, they generally prefer people who are solemn over people who are serious.

In politics, the rare candidate who is serious, like Adlai Stevenson, is easily overwhelmed by one who is solemn, like General Eisenhower. This is probably because it is hard for most people to recognize seriousness, which is rare, especially in politics, but comfortable to endorse solemnity, which is as commonplace as jogging.

Jogging is solemn. Poker is serious. Once you grasp that distinction, you are on your way to enlightenment. To promote the cause, I submit the following list from which the vital distinction should emerge more clearly.

(1) Shakespeare is serious. David Suskind is solemn.
(2) Chicago is serious. California is solemn.
(3) Blow-dry hair stylings on anchor men for local television shows are solemn. Henry James is serious.
(4) Falling in love, getting married, having children, getting divorced and fighting over who gets the car and the Wedgewood are all serious. The new sexual freedom is solemn.
(5) Playboy is solemn. The New Yorker is serious.
(6) S.J. Perelman is serious. Norman Mailer is solemn.
(7) The Roman Empire was solemn. Periclean Athens was serious.
(8) Arguing about "structured programs" of anything is solemn. So are talking about "utilization," attending conferences on the future of anything, and group bathing when undertaken for the purpose of getting to know yourself better, or at the prescription of a swami. Taking a long walk by yourself during which you devise a foolproof scheme for robbing Cartiers is serious.
(9) Washington is solemn. New York is serious. So is Las Vegas, but Miami Beach is solemn.
(10) Humphrey Bogart movies about private eyes and Randolph Scott movies about gunslingers are serious. Modern movies that are sophisticated jokes about Humphrey Bogart movies and Randolph Scott movies are solemn.

Making lists, of course, is solemn, but this is permissible in newspaper columns, because newspaper columns are solemn. They strive, after all, to reach the mass audience, and the mass audience is solemn, which accounts for the absence of seriousness in television, paperback books found in airport bookracks, the public school systems of America, wholesale furniture outlets, shopping centers and American-made automobiles.

I make no apology for being solemn rather than serious. Nor should anyone else. It is the national attitude. It is perfectly understandable. It is hard to be Periclean Athens. It is hard to be Shakespeare. It is hard to be S.J. Perelman. It is hard to be serious.

And yet, one cannot go on toward eternity without some flimsy attempt at dignity. Adolescence will not do. One must at least make the effort to resume childhood's lost seriousness, and so, with the best of intentions, one tries his best, only to end up being vastly, uninterestingly solemn.

Writing sentences that use "One" as a pronoun is solemn. Making pronouncements on American society is solemn. Turning yourself off when pronouncements threaten to gush is not exactly serious, although it shows a shred of wisdom.

New York Times Magazine [April 30, 1978, p. 17]

Friday, January 16, 2009

Funny is the root of all evil

Or, more reasons why I love this man:

"you know Joe, it’s not the size of the bible, it’s the motion of the devotion.

...did we just make a bible fuck joke?"

- Jon Stewart on The Daily Show

Little Pink Big Houses for You and Me

As long as we're on about rap, apparently, DMX is so insecure about his sexuality that the prison pinks he is being forced to wear are rattling his cage. Just tell him what Dorothy Parker said. Darlin', "heterosexuality is not normal, it’s just common."

N.A.S.A. David Byrne, Chuck D, Seu Jorge (remember him strumming the Bowie covers in Life Aquatic?), Ras Congo and others. Not sure that "money" is the actual "root" of all evil, but the point is well taken. Musically, graphically, I liked this alot, and they even mentioned The Amero! Your art is superb, Shepard Fairey.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

I know just how Tara feels

The truth, said an ancient Chinese master, is neither like this nor like that. It is like a dog yearning over a bowl of burning oil. He can't leave it, because it is too desirable and he can't lick it, because it is too hot.

-Pema Chödron

Friday, January 09, 2009

Why I'm Unfit for Serious Literary Inquiry

Today my friend Thomas shared with me his favorite utterance from The Belle of Amherst, Emily Dickinson.

Thomas: "To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else." Isn't that just amazing? It's so beautiful, I could write an entire film based on that concept alone. And all anyone wants to make movies about in Hollywood anymore is some psychopath who hacks people up.

Me: You know, I just realized, if you break her last name down, it refers to incest.

As long as we're on an R&B kick over here...

Let's look at some Doo-Wop.* Arlene Smith, founding member of the Chantels, the second successful black "girl group," was 15 when she wrote and recorded "Maybe," which is still considered to be genre definitive. Smith also wrote "He's Gone" and "Every Night (I Pray)." Rolling Stone Magazine called her, "the best female vocalist in the history of Rock 'n Roll." I'm not sure I can place her over Janis Joplin or Aretha, but her voice certainly has the same emotional impact. Somehow, she doesn't even rate a Wikipedia page.

(*Though the first recorded Doo-Wop songs date back to the end of the thirties, notably The Ink Spots' "My Prayer," the term was not applied to define the genre until '61, three years before the end of that era. Still, the term can be heard earlier in the 1955 hit, When You Dance by The Turbans, and the 1956 song In the Still of the Night by The Five Satins. The name comes from the "nonsense syllables" commonly sung in this type of music, possibly from from the onomatopoetic term for vocalizations that mimicked the "doomph" plucking of a double bass, as sung in Count Every Star by The Ravens (1950)

This one's for YOU, Rachel P!

Just in case this one had slipped from y'alls memories (it's ok, you don't have to thank me, just go drink some cherry wine). Who says drum machines have no soul?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

That's How the Fortune Cookie Crumbles

This is a very entertaining history of Chinese-American food, plus you learn how 110 people came up with the same winning PowerBall number.