Its quarter to three . . .

Its quarter to three,
There’s no one in the place cept you and me
So set em up joe
I got a little story I think you oughtta know

Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen

Actually it’s somewhat after three, and I’m not in a barroom channeling Sinatra. I went to bed early, woke up a while ago and couldn’t go back to sleep so thought I might as well get some writing done.

I’m feeling better. It’s been a rough week. I want to thank everyone for all the get well wishes and expressions of concern for my health and well-being.

I read where China has banned the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation. That’s a neat trick. I wonder how they will manage it. How do you ban reincarnation?

Of course, reincarnation is not a Buddhist concept. That’s a little twist some different forms of Buddhism have put on dharma based on their folk beliefs. Still, this kind of shows how the Chinese have been going over the deep end on Tibet for quite some time. That’s putting it mildly.

With all the talk of freedom and revolution, this is little talk of Tibet. The destruction of Tibet, its culture and religion is one of the great tragedies of the modern age, and history will record that it happened not by the hands of the Chinese government alone, but in unintended collusion with such mighty champions of freedom as the United States.

Oh sure, once or twice during each presidential administration, the Dalai Lama is invited to the White House. It’s bullshit. China is engaged in ethnic cleansing. And the world stands by and let them get away with it.

Because Tibet has no oil. Or any other money making natural resource or commodity. If it had, there’s no doubt it would be a different story.


Sick as a Dog

I’ve been sick the last couple of days. It’s a strange thing. I had a flu shot in October, so how could I get the flu? It’s probably not the flu. Whatever it is, it’s centered in my throat and there’s been a whole lotta coughing goin’ on.

Maybe it’s my karmic retribution for slandering Kris Kristofferson on Monday. Except that I don’t really think I said anything that bad. But, here’s the deal: this blog can go for weeks without a single comment . . .  I make one offhanded remark about Kris Kristofferson and I get several. I approved the only one fit to print. Another called my blog silly. That was cruel.

I don’t get it. I know there are other bloggers out there far more profound, insightful, whatever, but I am trying to provide readers, whoever they may be, with something meaningful as best I can, and unlike some other blogs who will remain nameless, there is more here than just some quotes every single day, and it’s not a constant long-winded bitch fest, nor a celebration of the inner high school dweeb obsessed with the F-word and squirrels. I can think of any number of things I’ve written here far more worthy of a few comments than my observation that Kris Kristofferson seemed a little loopy at the Grammys.

All I can say is that

Life is strange.

People are strange.

Love is strange. Lot of people (mmm-mmm-mmmm), take it for a game.

Everything is strange.

I’m off to bed.


Musical Musings

No, it's not Vincent Price reciting The Raven. It's Bob Dylan singing at the Grammys

Watched the Grammy’s Monday night. It aired Sunday, but I recorded it so I could skip the commercials. At 3 hours and thirty minutes, it’s a long haul.

I don’t know, is it me or did the new single Lady Gaga debuted sound exactly like Madonna’s “Express Yourself”? Maybe not exactly but . . . How about Lady Atebellum’s “Need You Now”? Ever hear a song by the Alan Parsons Project called “Eye in the Sky”? It was a pretty big hit in the early 80s. The two songs sound a lot alike to me. Where did all the creativity go? Long time passing . . .

Then there was Muse with “Uprising” – reminded me of Urial Heep’s “Easy Livin” (plus maybe something by Billy Idol) and “Call Me” by Blondie, especially the latter. Yep, there is nothing new under the sun.

Update: Glenn Beck says Muse’s Grammy performance was a “call to revolution.” He adds, “Now, you have to remember these are Europeans, and they have been degraded for a very long time. Really, since the beginning of time.” In light of that, I have to say I simply love Muse. They’re great! Really.

I want to go back to Lady Gaga. Arriving in an egg. The outfits. Hasn’t that schtick been done to death already? And by people with personalities? Also, I gotta say that I am bored with dancers. I thought that whole thing would have died off by now. I think some of Lady Gaga’s dancers were dead. Now for a change of pace, one group had bicyclists.  It was different, but can’t anyone just sing a song anymore without making a big production out of it?

Speaking of which, I could not believe I was watching Cee Lo (who I like) channeling Elton John and accompanied by Muppets, with Gwyneth Paltrow (who was not too bad). I think Elton sang with the Muppets, too. Deja vu all over again.

Did I like anything about the Grammys show? Well, the tribute to Aretha was pretty good. I like the Eminem + Rihanna + Dr. Dre performance. I even liked Babs. Most of the time I can’t stand her. Overrated in my opinion. “Evergreen” is the only song she’s ever done that I enjoy. Was Kris Kristofferson drunk? He seemed kinda loopy . . .

Speaking of drunks . . . Bob Dylan is so incredibly gifted as a chameleon that he was able to overcome the completely embarrassing (and drunken) acceptance speech for the Lifetime Achievement award in 1991. And I love the man. Always have. Always will. But even I, a true blue, die-hard, stone Dylan fan has just got to say: Bob? Time to quit while you’re still ahead of the game, man. You’re sober now. You should know what you’re doing. Don’t destroy the memories from all those wonderful concerts of yours I attended. Please.

Well, in spite of Bob’s utterly destroyed voice, “Maggie’s Farm” was a rousing number, and Bob seemed to be enjoying himself. He even allowed himself to smile a couple of times.

Mick can still get the ya-yas out, but I wonder about the hair. Dyed for sure, but is all of it real?

Mick Jagger’s performance was easily the best of the night for my money. The only other number that came close to having the same energy was The Arcade Fire.  However, the prospect of watching the 67 year old Rolling Stone (my all-time number one fave rave band) cavort on stage as though he were 25 was not one of the things that drew me to the telecast. In fact, I kind of dreaded it. But, damn, he had the fire and he lit it. Old fogies rule.

I also seem to recall that they found time to hand out a couple of awards, and I don’t know about you but I am totally pissed that they passed over Justin Bieber as Best New Artist. Giving it to some girl with talent . . . There’s just no justice in this world . . .

And here’s some advice to future Grammy performers from a veteran viewer of Grammy telecasts: LEARN HOW TO LIP SYNC.

Now that I have all that off my chest, I feel better. Maybe I have turned into my parents, but I just don’t get today’s music. There’s something missing and creativity (or the lack thereof) is only part of it. But, you know, I hear a lot of young people say the same thing. It doesn’t have the same heart, the same soul, so as someone once sang, give me that old time rock and roll.


Are We Buddhas?

We are Buddhas because the qualities of the Buddhahood are inherent within us. We have the potential to realize enlightenment. If we did not, then there would be no possibility of realizing anything close to enlightenment. We call this potential Buddha-nature.

When we say something like “we are Buddhas”, we’re speaking figuratively. It’s meant in the most fundamental sense and doesn’t mean that we have already attained anything and therefore there’s no need for practice, effort, or struggle. It just means that we have this potential, that the seed of Buddhahood is there.

But, in the end, it means attaining a state of mind where one sees that there is nothing to attain.

To Buddhas, there is no such thing as buddha. Buddha is just a concept, an idea, a mental representation that refers to the ability of a living being to realize something so subtle and deceptively simply that it defies adequate explanation. Nearly everything we think we know about buddhas belongs to the realm of appearance. Nagarjuna said that Buddhas “will stand outside appearance, outside sensation, outside concepts, outside forms, and outside consciousness.”  We call it breaking free.

To a Buddha, concepts and forms and so on are unreal, empty. A Buddha has achieved this understanding by breaking free from his or her own mind:

The Buddha taught the dharma of quieting the mind . . . The primary point of the Thus-Gone One’s method consists of realizing the non-existence of the self. If the self does not exist, ego disappears. When the notions of a self and ego are purged, the mind is in the state of nirvana. Thus all living beings quiet their mind and break free. As soon as all living beings are calm in nirvana, there is no need to seek Buddhahood. Thus the mind that used to seek something is still, and all desire to grasp and to let go will vanish. Because the internal mind and external objects are empty, the One Mind remains immutable. This is the method to quiet the mind.

A Commentary on The Diamond Sutra by Ch’an Master Han Shan


Revolution 2.0

Call out the instigators
Because there’s something in the air
We’ve got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here,
and you know it’s right.

– Thunderclap Newman

Whether Mubarak really couldn’t see the writing on the wall or if throughout these last days he was negotiating his surrender, getting assurances or perhaps buying guarantees for his safety, arranging to shore up his money, is something we may never know for sure. It struck me today that Mubarak could have been a sort of hostage, maybe the money men behind him who had a lot to lose if he stepped down, wouldn’t let him go . . . well, that is the past now.

The hardest part of a revolution is often the aftermath. We’ve seen it before: the French Revolution was followed by the Reign of Terror; the Russian Revolution was followed by Bolshevik tyranny; the 1949 Chinese Revolution led to modernization but also state-sponsored terrorism and starvation for between 20 and 43 million people in the Great Leap Forward. Revolutions can be hijacked, the glorious ideals that sparked them can be betrayed, and freedom can be fleeting.

There are hard revolutions, where violence plays a key part, and there are soft, mostly non-violent revolutions. The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 belongs to the latter category, like Gandhi’s movement and Poland’s “Solidarity” in the 1980s. Yet, in many ways, I think it was truly unprecedented. It seemed to have transformation as it cornerstone. The peaceful, ground-level approach the protester’s took belied the idea that there was something covert and sinister going on. It may have had a transforming effect on the military, and from reports I’ve read, it has begun to transform the Muslim Brotherhood, the group so many fear may the primary hijackers of this revolution – it certainly transformed Egypt and its people.

We can also say that Revolution 2.0 changed revolution itself. It started with a Facebook page that quickly attracted over than 70,000 friends. It’s called We are All Khaled Said, named after an Egyptian businessman beaten to death by police officers in Alexandria on June 6, 2010. The young man who made the Facebook page is Google’s Middle East and North Africa marketing manager, Wael Ghonim. It was through this page that word was first spread about plans for the Jan 25th protest. On January 27, Ghonim disappeared – picked up and held by the police until February 6, when Amnesty International demanded that the Egyptian authorities disclose Ghonim’s whereabouts and release him.

That’s just a synopsis of the story. It’s a remarkable one, and I urge you to doing some searching on Google and learn the rest of it. I wrote about this “new” revolution on Jan. 31. but I didn’t know at the time it was Revolution 2.0.

You can read about the “film directors, protest organizers and computer whiz kids dressed in J. Crew and Ralph Lauren, men in their 20s and 30s who had come to embody Egypt’s restive, tech-savvy youth” and who have called themselves Revolution 2.0. in this Los Angeles Times article.

One member of the group says, “This isn’t like any revolution in history.” I don’t think that’s overstating it too much. Last night on CNN, Wael Ghonim gave a telephone interview and had this to say, “You know, I always said that if you want to liberate a society, just give them the Internet. If you want to have a free society, give them the Internet.” Ghonim, who shrugs off the notion that he is a hero, is 31 years old.

Technology has been the tool of revolution before, but never as powerfully.  For many Egyptian protesters, social media provided their first chance to be heard, to say what they wanted and needed to say – it gave them a voice and it fed their hunger for freedom.

Now, there’s something in the air . . .  the Egyptian people’s victory is being celebrated throughout the Middle East . . . Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Syria and Yemen have announced reforms in an attempt to stave off dissent . . . anti-government protests are scheduled over the coming days in Algeria, Bahrain, Libya, Iran and Morocco . . .

BLITZER: Wael, this is Wolf Blitzer in Washington. So first Tunisia, now Egypt. What’s next?

GHONIM: Ask Facebook.