Sunday, January 31, 2010

The big event for today was the first annual public meeting of the alliance of neighborhood associations. It was the alliance's "coming out" party, our debutante ball. About 50 people attended, a remarkably good number for a civic meeting.

The planning and logistics for the event were remarkably simple - everything just sort of fell into place. No problem.

The event itself (for those of you keeping score at home) was kicked off by the alliance president, followed by our local City Councilperson. Since the event was hosted at Piedmont Hospital, we had a rep from the Hospital speak about their news and events. Finally, the main event was a Georgia Tech professor who gave an overview of the planning process for our neighborhoods currently being performed by several of his students and him. I got to MC the whole event, introducing each speaker and generally being a ham. It was fun.

So this capped off a January that saw me start a new job, that included a Saturday "retreat" for the Beltline advisory board, a trip up to Chattanooga, field work on a Saturday morning, and after-hours meetings of various civic groups. After everything that happened this month, I need a nap.

Wake me when February's over.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kavarna

Last night, my old friend Andrea accepted my invitation to go out and hear some music at Kavarna Coffee in Oakhurst, an Atlanta neighborhood near Decatur (her husband, Nick, also an old friend, is in Austin for the weekend). The evening was cold and rainy, but a decent sized crowd turned up anyway to hear yet another friend, Mike Goldman (of Schwarzkommando), open up for the Blakes (Blake Parris and Blake Rainey) and the Skylarks. Mike's in the top three pictures above; the Blakes are in the lower three. All played great sets to an enthusiastic crowd.

A busy concert season is approaching: I've already got tickets to see Muse at Gwinnett Civic Center on February 27, Spoon at the Tabernacle on March 20, and The xx at Variety Playhouse (the show was moved from The Earl due to The xx's surging success). Meanwhile, both Sondre Lerche and Meyer Hawthorne are coming to town during this period, and next Friday, February 5, Jonathan Richman plays at the Star Bar in Little Five Points.

The Jonathan Richman concert presented a bit of a quandary, as The Residents are playing the same night about three blocks away at the Variety Playhouse. While it is technically possible to see both (during a brief conversation with Mike Goldman after his set, he told me that he had tickets to The Residents and was hoping to drop in on Jonathan Richman later that night), that's just a little bit too ambitious and energetic for this old man. Instead of buying Residents tickets, I opted to invite nearly everyone I know to come join me at the Star Bar for the Richman show.

You're invited, too. Come on over.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

History Lesson

I awoke this morning to the sounds of the on-air radio personalities complaining about a "certain boot-shaped country in the Mediterranean" protesting the American military presence in Haiti. Why can't they see that our motives are purely humanitarian?, they wondered.

Good question. I decided to do a little research on America's history in the Caribbean and Haiti in particular, and came across the following:

Nothing struck deeper fear into the hearts of southerners, whether they held slaves or not, than the idea of a slave revolt. Contrary to the popular image of docile slaves working in peaceful servitude, there had been numerous small rebellions and uprisings of slaves, often in union with Indians or disaffected whites, as far back as slavery in the New World under the Spanish. These were not limited to the South, as murderous uprisings took place in colonial Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. One of the bloodiest of these uprisings occurred in South Carolina in 1739, when slaves killed some twenty-five whites under the leadership of a slave named Jemmy.

But the greatest horror for young America came from the Caribbean, where Toussaint L'Ouverture, a former carriage driver and a natural military genius, led the slaves of St. Domingue (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) in a successful rebellion during the 1790s. Inspired by the revolutions of America and France, Toussaint's rebellion resulted in some 60,000 deaths and a republic of freed slaves on the island. . . In 1800, Napoleon sent troops to retake the island with little success until Toussaint was lured to the French headquarters under a truce flag, arrested, and jailed in the Alps, where he died in a jail cell (Don't Know Much About History, Kenneth C. Davis).

The [Grover] Cleveland administration said a Cuban victory might lead to "the establishment of a white and a black republic," since Cuba had a mixture of the two races. And the black republic might be dominant. This idea was expressed in 1896 in an article in The Saturday Review by a young and eloquent imperialist, whose mother was American and whose father was English - Winston Churchill. He wrote that while Spanish rule was bad the the rebels had the support of the people, it would be better for Spain to keep control:
"A grave danger represents itself. Two-fifths of the insurgents in the field are negroes. These men. . . would, in the event of success, demand a predominant share in the government of the country. . . the result being, after years of fighting, another black republic."
The reference to "another" black republic meant Haiti, whose revolution against France in 1803 had led to the first nation run by blacks in the New World (A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn).

Under Woodrow Wilson, America went from "big stick" to Big Brother when it came to Latin America. With the nearly completed Panama Canal to defend, Wilson was going to ensure that American power in the hemisphere would not be threatened. Local unrest in the Caribbean left American troops controlling Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. All were pushovers for American military might (Don't Know Much About History, Kenneth C. Davis).

For the United States to step forward as a defender of helpless countries matched its image in American history textbooks, but not its record in world affairs. It had opposed the Haitian revolution for independence from France at the start of the nineteenth century. It had instigated a war with Mexico and taken half of that country. It had pretended to help Cuba win freedom from Spain, and then planted itself in Cuba with a military base, investments, and rights of intervention. It had seized Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and fought a brutal war to subjugate the Filipinos. It had "opened" Japan to its trade with gunboats and threats. It had declared an Open Door Policy in China as a means of assuring that the United States would have opportunities equal to other imperial powers in exploiting China. It had sent troops to Peking with other nations to assert Western supremacy in China, and kept them there for over thirty years (A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn).

Sadly, Howard Zinn passed away on January 27, 2010.

Monday, January 25, 2010

One day Dogen instructed,

The distinction between being brilliant or dull applies only when thorough aspiration has not yet been aroused. When a person falls from a horse various thoughts arise before he hits the ground. When something occurs which is so serious that one’s body may be damaged or one’s life may be lost, no one will fail to put all his intellect to work. On such occasions, whether brilliant or dull, anyone will think and try to figure out what is best to do.

Therefore, if you think you will die tonight or tomorrow or that you are confronting a dreadful situation, encourage your aspiration and you will not fail to attain enlightenment. A person who seems superficially dull but has a sincere aspiration will attain enlightenment more quickly than one who is clever in a worldly sense. Although he could not recite even a single verse, Cudapanthaka, one of the disciples of the Buddha, gained enlightenment during one summer practice period because he had earnest aspiration.

We are only alive now. Only if we learn the buddha-dharma, earnestly wishing to attain enlightenment, will we be able to do so before dying. (Shobogenzo Zuimonki, Book 2, Chapter 20)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Poem Found on the Internet

Ceaselessly the river flows,
and yet the water is never the same,
while in the still pools the shifting foam gathers and is gone,
never staying for a moment...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Night Videos



I'm still playing it safe for now and embedding videos rather than uploading them to avoid crashing my whole site again. So, for your viewing and listening pleasure, here's a few more-or-less random videos that I've stumbled across lately. The above is VCR, the new release by minimalist masters The xx and below a far-from-minimalist but highly entertaining short video by Martin Bisi.



If xx or Martin Bisi aren't to your liking, here's some great blue-eyed soul from Meyer Hawthorne, who will be playing at The Loft in Atlanta on Saturday, March 13.



And finally, some Celtic goth from Laura Marling.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What's New?

Now, for reasons that I definitely do not understand, the videos on my blog seem to be working once again. I don't know if it's cause-and-effect or not, but tonight I embedded a Spoon video into last Tuesday's post, the one when the uploaded Spoon video seemed to cause the entire network of videos to crash, and after I was done, for some reason, all the videos were working once again. Go figure.

I also received a request to reinstate the old man-in-the-wilderness banner pic, so I took down the alien landscape from yesterday and replaced it with the more familiar (but no less strange) picture.

I have been working hard at the new job - harder than I have in years - but enjoying it more. The change was welcome. But this weekend, I have to oversee some field work in a city right-of-way that can't be performed on a weekday for traffic reasons and I have to help prepare for a big upcoming public meeting of the alliance of neighborhood associations. Not only will I be M.C.'ing the event but I've also done most of the organizing. This weekend, I have to do some publicity stumping, including going door to door at local businesses to request permission to hang up posters for the event, the first public meeting of the alliance. The meeting itself will be on Sunday the 31st.

All of this means that I won''t be able to start sewing an okesa this weekend. A special teacher for just this sort of thing is coming to the Zen Center this weekend, but my commitments to these various other enterprises will prevent me from attending. And so it goes.

Who's to say what's good and what's bad?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010



Okay, apparently I can get videos to play here by embedding them, if not by uploading them, but the old uploads still won't play. Sheesh. Anyway, here's the best commentary I've come across yet about yesterday's election in Massachusetts, thanks to the good people at Wonkette.

Of course, you tweak one thing, and then you've got to change each and every other thing. So welcome to the new and re-designed WDW. I hope you have a wide-screen monitor.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Spooned



Grrrr. . . . I'm having to re-post and post-date Tuesday's blog entry, as for some reason that I totally don't understand all of my videos have stopped working on Blogger. Last night, I posted a short video of the band Spoon, along with some commentary on how the dropping of their new CD, Transference, that day was the biggest historical event of January 19, 2010, somehow overshadowing the Massachusetts senatorial debacle. I noted how they were playing that night on Conan, and got a comment from someone saying that he had watched them on Conan and asked what song it was that they had performed (for the record, it was Written In Reverse).

But I had difficult posting the video, and when I finally did get it up on line, it didn't want to play. Worse, and more mysteriously, all of the Friday Night Videos that I've posted in the past were also suddenly dysfunctional. No videos would play anywhere on my blog, and I have no idea what's going on.

I tried to play the video from my computer at work to make sure that the problem wasn't just on my home computer, but I couldn't get any of the videos to play while on the job. I tried deleting the post with the Spoon video to see if that would somehow fix the problem, but of course it didn't. I tried re-posting the video and that didn't help, and I tried posting a separate, random video, but that wouldn't play either. So now, I'm stuck posting an explanation onto a blog with videos that no longer play, and the commenter from last night is probably wondering where the original post went.

But the point still remains that the new Spoon album is arguably the first big musical event of 2010. Vampire Weekend's Contra dropped a week ago and is now No. 1 on Billboard, the first independently distributed album to do so since 1991, but it remains to be seen what people will still be talking about 12 months from now - Contra or Transference (or neither) (or both). My impression is that the upbeat pop of Vampire Weekend, while pleasant enough, will quickly fizzle away, but the more challenging structures of Spoon's new songs will continue to intrigue us into 2011.

But that remains to be seen, just as will be my ability to fix all these newly dysfunctional videos.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Night Zazen

During an evening talk, Ejo asked, “Shall we carry on the obligation of fulfilling our gratitude to our fathers and mothers?

Dogen replied, “Filial piety is most important. Yet there is a difference between lay people and monks in how to fulfill it. Lay people follow the teachings in the Kokyo, etc. and serve their parents in life and in death. All people in the world know that. Monks abandon their debt of gratitude and enter the realm of non-doing." (Non-doing does not mean not-active. It means to act freely, like fish swimming in the water, or birds flying in the sky without a trace.) "Our manner of paying off the debt of gratitude should not be limited to one particular person. Considering that we have debts of gratitude to all living beings equal to our own fathers and mothers, we must transmit all the merits of our good deeds to the whole dharma-world. If we limit it specifically to our own parents in this lifetime, we go against the Way of non-doing."

"In our day-to-day practice and time-to-time study, following the Buddha-Way continuously is the only true way of fulfilling our filial piety."

"Lay people hold memorial services and make offerings during the forty-nine days after a person’s death."

"As Zen monks, we should know the depth of the real debt of gratitude to our parents. We should see that debt as being the same as our gratitude to (the rest of) all living beings. Choosing one particular day to practice something good and transmitting the merit to one special person doesn’t seem to accord with the Buddha’s compassion. The passage about the anniversary days of the death of one’s parents and siblings in the Precept-Sutra refers to lay people."

"In the monasteries in China monks hold ceremonies on the anniversary of their master’s death but not on the anniversaries of their parents’ deaths." (Shobogenzo Zuimonki, 2-19)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's finally warmed up a little outside, although it is now cloudy and rainy. But the latter is much preferred over the former any day.

All the better to drive up to Chattanooga for my first visit this year. There was a preliminary meeting of the "inner circle" of disciples on the organization and operation of the center, followed by two hours of zazen, kinhin and dokusan, followed by a half-hour dharma talk.

The conversation meandered to the point where we were discussing Tiger Woods' problems and Bret Hume's ignorant comments ("I don't think [Buddhism] offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith"). Not to add to the many blog postings all over the internet about this controversy, but the comment is so uninformed that it's difficult to even respond meaningfully.

I didn't get back home from Chattanooga until well after five.

I haven't yet worked out my calendar for the rest of the year for visiting Chattanooga, but I do intend to go up there more-or-less monthly, as I did last year.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Koan of Every-Day Life

Why is it sometimes harder to manifest compassion for those who are closest to us than the other way around?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Night Video - Zazen Boys

Okay. What is one to make then of Japan's Zazen Boys? If not for their name (literally translated, zazen means "sitting meditation"), I might not have noticed them at all, but now that I have, I can't quite reconcile their name with their music. But is that their short-coming or mine?

The fact that I can find nothing "zen-like" in their math-core music doesn't mean that their music isn't "zen-like," it merely means that I'm searching, and in Zen, it can be said, "Seek, and ye shall not find." How could any music not be zen-like?

video

Consider the video for their song Weekend, above. Both the composition and the performance are tight and exact, and no performer wastes so much as a motion that is not necessary to the composition, even while the guitarist is squeezing out insane, Adrian Belew-type riffs.

They don't seem to be afraid of emptiness, and allow big, silent passages in their compositions. They took this to comical extremes during a live performance of Daruna (Japanese for "dharma") in Japan, where the rests between notes were long enough to allow them to enjoy a refreshing beverage.

video

So maybe there is a Zen connection there after all.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti

There is no picture that I can post to describe or depict the magnitude of the current situation in Haiti. There is no picture that could either capture the situation or be ironic, no picture that could convey the sorrow, the despair, or the tragedy. I have no words, either, other than to share the following very practical email sent out by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold of the Zen Center of New York City:
Dear Sangha,

As we all witness the unimaginable tragedy that has befallen the women, men and children of Haiti, I wanted to send a brief note encouraging us all to explore ways to manifest the thousand hands and eyes of Kannon, the great bodhisattva of compassion. The Temple and the Monastery will both be making donations to help those organizations that are already at work in Haiti to help bring aid and services to the many, many people in need. Please, let's each of us do what we can to help. I'm sure many of you are already responding in various ways to this catastrophe, and you may already have an organization that you want to support, but here are a few to consider as well. Each of these organizations have websites with information as to how you contribute.
  • Doctors Without Borders
  • Oxfam America
  • Partners in Health
  • YĆ©le Haiti
To take in the magnitude of such suffering is difficult. To respond to this suffering is - in some small way - to help it be alleviated.

Prajna Paramita,

Shugen
Fire Lotus Temple

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jessica Watson, the 16-year-old sailing solo around the world, has just rounded Cape Horn, completing perhaps the most difficult and the most treacherous part of her voyage. The charms of the Southern Ocean are few, and she braved the Roaring 50s with their gale-force winds, huge waves, and frigid temperatures just fine. She actually got close enough to Diego Ramirez Islands to see her first actual land since she left Australia back in October.

She's now in the Atlantic after having spent nearly three months in the Pacific. While she still has many miles to go, crossing this major milestone suggests that, Neptune willing, she will be able to complete the rest of her voyage just fine.

I can state in complete sincerity and without any irony that I find her voyage to be incredibly heroic and truly inspiring.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

An amazing event occurred last night: for the first time this year, the thermostat in my drafty old house got up to 71 degrees and the furnace actually shut off for a few minutes. The outside temperatures were in the 40s, and 40 degrees never felt so warm as it does after two week of 30 and below. But today, temperatures fell right back down again.

Inevitably, I've been hearing more and more from people who say that the insanely cold weather in Atlanta and elsewhere is evidence against global warming. Some even say we're experiencing global cooling. After all, not only is it cold all over the USA, but England's having its coldest winter since 1981.

These people don't seem to understand the difference between climate—the long-term, average conditions in a given location—and weather, which is a series of temporary variations on that long term theme. As Michael Lemonick pointed out over at Climate Central, "those variations can be dramatic—heat waves, cold snaps, droughts, severe storms—but they aren’t representative of the underlying climate (that’s why they’re called variations)."

It’s also critical to remember the “global” in global warming. Large swaths of the planet aren’t unusualy cold; there’s plenty of warmth elsewhere around the world. Parts of the U.S. and Northern Europe are indeed colder than normal, but even if every inch of land in the northern hemisphere were unusually cold, that would only represent 20% of Earth’s surface. We’re now seeing warming where climate science said more than 90% of the warming would end up — the oceans. NOAA data through November hints that 2009 may end up ranked as the southern hemisphere’s warmest year on record. For the planet as a whole, last year falls solidly among the 10 warmest years of the past 100. Despite all the talk about Earth having cooled since the late 1990s, this past decade trumps the 1990s as the warmest on record.

If a small part of the globe is colder than average and a big part is warmer, that suggests that global warming hasn’t stopped by any means. Record cold snaps will continue to happen, even as the world continues to heat up. A recent study cited plenty of record low daily temperatures over the past decade in the continental US. But it shows that record high temperatures occurred twice as often; in a world without global warming, you’d expect them to be roughly equal

In fact, the entire planet just keeps warming thanks to human emissions. To talk about "global cooling" at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is indeed ridiculous.

Robert Henson, author of The Rough Guide to Climate Change, recently wrote “What’s different now is that climate change is shifting the odds towards record-hot summers and away from record-cold winters. The latter aren’t impossible; they’re just harder to get, like scoring a straight flush on one trip to Vegas and a royal flush the next."

Sometimes even a global shift can be temporary. In 1998, global temperatures shot up significantly over the previous year. The reason, it turns out, was due to an especially strong El Nino, a massive warming current that shows up periodically in the Pacific. Did that mean global warming had suddenly accelerated? Not at all. But people who want to sound the alarm on global warming sometimes imply that such events—or the record melting of Arctic sea ice in 2007, or even a hurricane like Katrina—as evidence that global warming has indeed gotten worse.

The truth is that it’s risky to consider any one event, even a worldwide event, as proof of anything, even though we instinctively feel that it might be. It's the longer-term trends that give scientific confidence. The trends over the past century, and the trends most climate scientists see for the coming century, do indeed point to global warming as a real and present danger. But that’s not an obvious point to most people—and it’s one that even people who know better sometimes forget.

The best antidote to misinformation, as Michael Lemonick notes, is information.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Once Ejo asked,

“As an activity of Zen practitioners, mending or patching old or tattered clothing instead of throwing it away, seems to be clinging to things. Yet abandoning old clothing and wearing new robes shows that we are seeking after new things. Both of these are wrong. Ultimately, what should we do?”

Dogen replied,

“If we are free from holding on to what we have yet do not seek after what we don’t have, either way is all right. Still, it would be better to mend torn clothing, in order to keep it for as long as possible and not pursue acquiring new clothing.”

Sunday, January 10, 2010

This is England . . .

. . . deep in the grip of winter. Nice to know that I'm not the only one freezing.

Today is one of the many "binary days" we will be having this year, when the date is composed only of "1's" and "0's." 1/10/10. Tomorrow, too (1/11/10). Enjoy! We'll be periodically having these this year and next until 11/11/11.

But that's not what I want to talk about. Google word searches, and the suggestions they offer, reveal a lot about what is on people's minds. It's a glimpse into the collective subconscious. I want to know, then, what it says about us that when I type the word "why" into Google, I get these suggestions:


Saturday, January 09, 2010

The big white sheet of granular, frozen snow over Atlanta decided to freeze solid and turn into a big white sheet of ice. Friday morning, driving on the road in front of my house was like driving on a hockey rink, and I couldn't get my car up the roads leading out of the little valley in which I live. I was trapped on my block and couldn't go to work at my new job until mid-afternoon, when the sun warmed the dark asphalt enough to finally melt off some of the ice.

Of course, as soon as the sun went down, that melt water just refroze into black ice. When I got home from work, I couldn't make it up my own driveway and had to park on the street overnight.

As noted here before, it's been unusually cold here in Atlanta since the New Year began. The front that brought in the snow, however, dropped the temperatures lower still. My poor, over-matched furnace and I were struggling with temperatures down in the 20s; this morning, following the snow, temperatures were down on the teens.

I spent most of today at a "retreat" ("retreat" here being a euphemism for an all-day meeting) over at Emory University with the Beltline Advisory Committee. The meeting room was a lovely facility with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking trees with snow-draped branches. However, it proved impossible to keep those big windows from soaking up all the interior heat. The room was freezing; the thermostat read only 49 degrees F. It was perversely gratifying to see that even a learned university like Emory was no more adept at keeping up with this freakish cold than was my little house.

I've seen it cold here in Atlanta before (the dirty little secret of the city is that we get fairly cold winters, with temperatures usually hovering in the 30s and 40s and lots of freezing rain), but I've never seen it this cold for this long.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Night Video - Vampire Weekend

video

So far this year, Ivy-League rockers Vampire Weekend seem to have cornered the market share of all the publicity. They have a new album coming out next week and they were profiled by Lizzie Widdicombe in The New Yorker last week. Earlier this week, they appeared on The David Letterman Show. They go on tour next week (they play The Tabernacle in Atlanta on April 8), will be DJing at Visions Video Bar in London on January 15th and somehow found the time to do an Unplugged session on MTV (yes, MTV apparently still does Unplugged).

They seem like nice enough guys, and as if in proof they've put their entire new album on line for free listening on their website.

Jumping on the bandwagon, I give you their performance of Cousins on Letterman above. For your viewing and listening pleasure, I've also posted the official video for Cousins over on the Live site, as well as a live version of Horchata from Portland's Crystal Ballroom and A-Punk from the Unplugged session. I've also put a gadget there to listen to their new album, Contra.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Finally, after a week of freezing temperatures (my thermostat has not gotten above 69 degrees F since Saturday), it's now snowing in Georgia. Just what we needed. . .

It started out as a few tiny flakes, typically all that we ever get, but then built up from there. When it was all said and done, we only got about 1/2 inch on the ground, but it was enough to stick. The city is now covered by a white sheet of granular, frozen snow.

It remains to be seen whether it melts off tomorrow morning when the sun comes out or just turns into a sheet of ice.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

After work today, there was another one of those seemingly endless civic meetings, this time concerned residents getting together to discuss a zoning change requested by an apartment complex. Their plan (the developers, not the residents) is to build some high-end apartment towers, virtually doubling the local population. The neighborhoods are aghast, as the traffic clogged roads are already loaded beyond their capacity.

Everyone was very reasonable, calm, and measured. I was honestly quite proud of my neighbors to handle a potentially emotional issue so maturely and intelligently. We were also able to craft a fair and innovative compromise, which we're taking back to the developers.

But it was a long day for me. I worked a full day at the new office, including two meetings with two new clients, and was able to drive home with just enough time to feed the cat and then drive to the meeting. The meeting lasted several hours and required more concentration, focus, and attention, and I wound up getting home just in time to go straight to bed. And I have to get up early in the morning to go to City Hall for one of my new clients to determine which permits the City will require for a proposed construction project in a public right-of-way.

Long days, public service, temperatures still freezing. How in the world did I ever get so lucky?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Still Cold

The arctic air mass that descended on Atlanta Saturday night has stayed around past its welcome - it's still freezing out. Despite my furnace's best efforts, the temperature in the house hasn't gotten above 69 degrees Fahrenheit - which means other parts of my house are down in the 50s (heating isn't what my house does best!).

But meanwhile, I've started my new job . . . and so far I'm liking it. The commute is far better, the people cooler, the work more interesting, the environment far friendlier. It's a more intimate, more supportive workplace than I've ever had the pleasure to work in, and the owner is an animal-rescue supporter so we have a half dozen or so cats sharing the office space with us.

My new co-workers are pleasantly eccentric. In addition to all of the cats, today I met a new colleague who looks like the Malcolm McDowell character from "Entourage" and had to first tell me the story of how he got robbed and marooned in Paraguay back in the '70s by a band of grifters posing as gold prospectors before he would give me a file that he wanted me to review. I've always got time to hear a good shanghaied-by-con-men story. I think I'm going to like it there.

But tonight, I'm beat. After my first day of work, I got to open the Zen Center for Monday Night Zazen, and then late at night, well after midnight, I got text messages from a friend who wanted me to talk her out of taking an Ambien to get to sleep. I was glad to help discourage her, but I had to get up early this morning for a pre-work, breakfast meeting with a Georgia Tech professor we've recruited to help the alliance of neighborhood associations prepare a Master Land Use and Transportation Plan. And after that, a second full day of work.

I take on more than I can handle, but isn't that a better way to go through life than leaving things undone? But mainly, I'm still completely cold.

Monday, January 04, 2010

In an evening talk, Dogen said,

Students of the Way, it goes without saying that you must consider the inevitability of death. Even if you don’t consider this right now, you should be resolved not to waste time and refrain from doing meaningless things. You should spend your time carrying out what is worth doing. Among the things you should do what is the most important? You must understand that all deeds other than those of the buddhas and patriarchs are useless.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Dang, It's Completely Cold Outside

It's all any one's talking about here in Atlanta: an Arctic air mass has descended upon the Southeast, bringing temperatures down below freezing, with a wind chill factor making it feel even worse.

The poor little furnace in my drafty old house can't keep up with the cold. It ran non-stop all last night and the temperature in the house actually dropped despite its efforts. By this morning, it was 68 degrees inside, and even after running non-stop all day today, the temperature has only gotten up to 70 - and it's going to get even colder outside tonight. I dread my natural-gas bill next month.

The forecast is for this cold air to hang around for the entire week. We typically get icy blasts like this around this time of year, but it doesn't make it any easier to live with. A monk once asked Zen Master Tozan, "How can we avoid hot and cold?"

Tozan said, "Why don't you go somewhere that is neither hot nor cold?"

The monk asked, "Where is a place that is neither hot nor cold?"

Tozan replied, "When it is cold, be completely cold; when it is hot, be completely hot."

It is completely cold tonight.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

My vacation from meaningful employment is almost over; it's just about time to return to selling my labor for wages.

I turned in my two-week notice at my former employer back on December 4; between the 4th and the 18th, I came to work and left as I pleased (what were they going to do, fire me?). And since the 18th, I've had no office at which to even show up late. My biorhythms have now gone nocturnal (up all night and sleep in late), my dress has gone from casual to downright shabby, and my work ethic has gone right out the window.

Monday I re-enter polite society - rise and shine, shower and shave, grab a cappuccino, and go battle commuter traffic. Back to the rat race (but hopefully with less rats).

Wish me luck.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Friday Night Videos - Best Of 2009

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Happy New Year, y'all! With 2009 now behind us, I give you some of my favorite music of the past year. This isn't quite a "Top 10" list, as I'm not egotistical enough to think that anybody cares which song I like more than any other, and it's woefully incomplete, but whatever. This is just some of the music that I've enjoyed this year, presented in no particular order. To start, above are the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with Heads Will Roll. A good song to be sure, but the reason for the buzz about frontwoman Karen O is more apparent in their perforamnce last April on the Letterman show, where she sang "Zero."

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As Paul Schaeffer says, "Karen O is rad bad!" and I can't agree more, but one of my favorite frontwomen has long been Emily Haines of Metric. I first discovered this band back in '05 when their album Live It Out came out and, impressed, I've collected their previous albums (Grow Up and Blow Away and Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?). Fantasies came out this year and is just as strong as anything they've done. Metric's music stands on its own, but it's interesting to note that Haines is the daughter of jazz poet Paul Haines, a collaborator on the trippy cult classic Elevator Over The Hill. Paul was a spiritual seeker, and Emily was born in New Delhi and influenced by her father's esoteric tastes in music. But she and her band have found their own voice, as evidenced on Gimme Sympathy.

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I couldn't do a "Best Of" post without mentioning Grizzly Bear. Part of the new harmony movement, which also includes Fleet Foxes and Animal Collective, Brooklyn-based Grizzly Bear composes songs with an intelligence and craftsmanship rarely seen in pop music. I've posted their song Two Weeks here back in May and Shift last November, so here's "Ready, Able," both the official video and a live cover on Letterman.

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So that's five songs by three artists, and I'm barely getting started. Due to the size of this post, bandwidth, etc., I'm posting the rest of my "Best Of" selections, including Franz Ferdinand, Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective, and more, on my LiveJournal site ("Water Dissolves Water, Live") here.

Again, Happy New Year, everyone! See you on the other shore.