Tuesday, January 31, 2006

banjeroo weighs in on the new age

I can handle quite a lot of new age, but I'm also totally hypocritical about what I can handle and what I can't. For example, yoga = fine, mysticism = fine (as long as you're quiet about it, otherwise it's just narcissism), astrology = fine and funny, chicken soup for my ass = fuck off.

I kind of irrationally hate the idea of men's groups too. How horrible is that? What kind of bitch am I? I think to myself, why can't guys just hang out and talk to each other?

Some other scientific equations a la banjeroo:

Rumi translated by AJ Arberry = fine

Rumi translated by Robert Bly = fine, but as long as you know he's playing fast and loose with the language and distorting a lot of it and morphing it into a non-Islamic thing (and Rumi was definitely Muslim)

Robert Bly telling men to beat drums in the woods
= unforgivable, off with his head!


My friend emailed me this, and I concede, I agree with her "men's groups" refinement:
"I'm cackling. Since you asked, I think it may be a bit harsh to dismiss someone for being in a men's group, depending of course on what kind of men's group it is (self-awareness = fine; women have stolen our power, get it back = fuck off). Anyone in a chicken soup for my ass group would be in serious danger of being dismissed by me; man, woman or otherwise."

liberals and godless tax-raisers are trying to make me look bad

When you think back to Biblical times, when Adam and Eve talked to that snake 6000 years ago, when the world was created, it was hot back then too.

My brother is working his boney arse off in law school because he's seriously going to save the world, but from all the awesome links he sends me, you'd think he surfed the Internet as much as I do.

dj astrophysicists

Terrifically weird friend with the theories just gave up this gem at lunch:

It's way more common for people to be into rock and astronomy [than to be dj astrophysicists]. It's way harder to be down with a doppler AND beat matching. The doppler effect is the opposite of beat matching. I thought everyone knew this. It's like being a crime boss/police chief. You can't be both. Except in Bizarro. But that's it.

I'm not sure what he meant by Bizarro. I don't think he meant this. Any ideas? Maybe I'll just ask.

UPDATE: The answer... "Bizarro Land. It’s the same as Beetlejuice’s Neitherworld. Like Bizarro Superman eats kryptonite and loves evil. Didn't you read comic books as a kid?"

Monday, January 30, 2006

internet videos are good for you

Just got this email from my brother:

Hi guys.

this video is very cool... the first two minutes are ok, but then it gets GREAT. Just when you say, what the...? then wait a bit, and it all comes together.

it makes you feel rather inadequate, incapable, and lazy... but in a good kind of way.

later, love,

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Best Friends Forever

I just got this t-shirt in the mail:

It is SO my style.

I have spent years studying religion and thinking about spirituality and religious history (oh, but quick disclaimer, I have no delusions that this makes me an expert of any kind).

Raised by a deeply moral card-carrying atheist (that's you Pa!) and a lapsed but spiritual and loving Catholic (hi Ma!), who consider spiritual and religious matters very private, I really wasn't required to think about these things. I just wanted to. (Melvellous says this proclivity is in my chart.)

So it recently dawned on me that many of my closest friends are religious. While a handful are, like me, not officially anything, a good number of my pals are Jewish, and lately I've developed really lovely friendships with a few Christians. Some folks in my extended family are very open-minded, tolerant Christians. The Jews I know are likewise true to their faith (in whatever way they choose to practice it), while being non-judgmental about the beliefs of others. I suppose I have a couple of nominally Muslim friends too, but they are pretty easy going about it. I get the sense that the role of religion for all of them is that it acts as a forum for spiritual (and in many cases, cultural) expression, and is a way of connecting with a community of similarly committed people who support each other in their efforts to be better people in the world.

"Believe those who seek the truth; distrust those who find it."

This pretty much sums up how I feel about religion. I had a big talk about it with my aunt today (one of the uber-tolerant Christians in the family), and we found we agreed on a lot of things. We both think that the world could actually be a better place if everyone took time out regularly and made space for thinking about abstract things, their morality (how to make the world a better place, how to be a better person), their spirit, their place in the world, and their relationship to the mystery of the universe, or to God, or to a reasonable facsimile.

But both of us are wary of those who believe there is one path or one way to do this, and of those who hope for a day when the world is finally all Christian, or all Jewish, or all Muslim, or all whatever. (I personally believe this wish is futile, misguided, presumptuous.) As one religious friend wisely said to me, "While I do my best with what I've got and how my heart, brain and spirit guide me, I would never dare to limit God's grace to my understanding."

We also strongly dislike the feeling of being looked down upon as a spiritual second-class citizen, a poor lost soul, because we're not of the same faith as someone else; or that someone is just smugly waiting for us to convert or see the(ir) light.

I would much rather dream of the day that the Buddhist, Christian, Jew, and Muslim (and throw in a Zoroastrian, Hindu, etc.) skip through the streets holding hands and giggling, best friends forever. Though wonderfully, miraculously, beautifully, it sort of happened here once, which you can listen to, or even watch here.

Friday, January 27, 2006

"families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream"

Everyone should watch this.

Thank you so much for the link, Rik!

"And what speaks louder than words? NO WORDS."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

have a magical day!

I am in Orlando attending a big tradeshow. It's at Disneyworld (land? world? land?) and so it made most sense to stay in a Disney resort close to the hub. Ours is supposedly Caribbean. We are staying in "Jamaica", but that would be minus the Rastafarians, the weed, the poverty and the gun violence. Oh yeah, we are also miles from the ocean.

Everything in Disneylandworldland is semi-real and very very clean. Everything is summarized, neatly, and liberally glosses over the perceived flaws in the original that the summary is imitating.

For example, in regards to the resort, this basically means that you can't walk anywhere in silence because the soundtrack for your Caribbean vacation is piped in through regularly and generously distributed speakers hidden in the shrubs on either side of the roped-in path. Sometimes it is Disney reggae, sometimes it is Disney calypso, sometimes it is an unrelenting singsong of steel drums -- but ALWAYS, whatever it is, it is HAPPY and MAGICAL. It is so happy and magical that it makes me want to eat more hotdogs, funnel cake, soft serve ice cream, buy Mickey Mouse ears, fantasize about being a fairy princess and living in a castle with enchanted candlesticks who will give me footrubs. But more than anything it makes me want to find a working magic wand and BLOW UP THE SPEAKERS.

After a long day of log rides and various minor disappointments (the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride, which I remembered from my childhood, was gone; the food was a horror of carnivorous insanity in the form of "smoked turkey legs" which assaulted the stomach and the bowels; and the desperate families around us were having somehow less "fun" than they'd apparently paid for), I went to lie down on the fake beach and swing in the hammock and look at the stars (all this by a body of water that looks good but that you mustn't swim in).

That's when I realized there ARE no stars in Orlando. There are spotlights that relentlessly zoom and scrape across the evening canopy; and every night there are fireworks.

I have seen a hundred animatronic animals, and one live squirrel.

How do people live here?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Spontaneous me!

"Spontaneous me," sang Whitman, and, in his innocence, let loose the hordes of uninspired scribblers who would one day confuse spontaneity with genius.

The breezy style is often the work of an egocentric, the person who imagines that everything that comes to mind is of general interest and that uninhibited prose creates high spirits and carries the day." - The Elements of Style, (Strunk and White)

The breezy style can also be the work of someone who has just had a long fun chat with her roommate, Melvellous, and who has consumed more than her half of a lovely bottle of Alsace Riesling.

I am actually so certain that I'll only write crap today that I'll cut myself off now.

But not without saying: I ATE TOO MUCH CHOCOLATE TODAY, IT MADE ME UNCOMFORTABLY HYPER, AND I DON'T PARTICULARLY WANT TO GO TO DISNEYLAND. (I am going to Disneyland this weekend for a conference for work, and to me it is just a sordid example of the horrors of mindless consumption and overripe capitalism. But I will probably enjoy a few of the rides nonetheless. What the hell.)

Over and out,
Spontaneous Me.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I am not allowed to buy any more wafer cookies

Wafer cookies, begone! I curse the day I let you enter my home!

Uh, that would be yesterday, when I made the well-known mistake of shopping hungry. It's a bad idea in the same category, but not nearly as bad as, driving drunk, or performing a ten-hour reconstructive surgery after drinking seventeen cups of strong coffee laced with LSD and packing two nostrils with cocaine.

Mmm. Wafer cookies, I thought. Sweet wafer cookies, the kind my mother never bought for us because they were full of sugar and white flour and crap, I thought. Well, I'm hungry, and I'm a grown-up, and I've got snap beans and spinach and herbal tea in my cart already, I thought. But I don't think it was very clear thinking, because the cookies already had performed their Vulcan mind-meld or whatever on me. I was in their tractor beam. I was ready to don their white robes and cut off all contact with my family and friends and change my name and polish their Rolls-Royces on the compound and drink their Koolaid.

Why just now, I went downstairs to take a banana bread out of the oven. I made this so-called banana bread with wheat germ, and I nobly used organic bananas, whole wheat flour, and eggs, and halved the sugar, because the regular recipe tastes way too sweet to me. And what did I do? I ate THREE MORE wafer cookies. For no reason except that they were in the kitchen and so was I. These in addition to the ones I had after dinner.

Maybe the antidote is to go read the revolting ingredient list again. Because it's not even organic hydrogenated vegetable oil, or emulsifier, or cocoa mass, (whatever the hell that is).

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I'm just a feather on the breath of god

Discussion between me and a friend of mine I'll call "Aphasia". I urged him to blog this and he didn't so I will. Some lines were cut for brevity.

Aphasia: http://www.youtube.com/watch.php?v=34vtFXKGc4Y
i can do that
Banjeroo: I am mesmerized
Aphasia: but I need a cool battle dance name
i do sort of dance similarly
but a bit less so, given i'm on a crowded floor
i certainly like to try to pull off the uncanny robot stuff
Banjeroo: it IS uncanny
you have mad moves don't you
you should be a performer part time don't you think?
in a cage?
Aphasia: yes, i do
Banjeroo: or for the cirque du soleil
Aphasia: the other week this girl said to me 'how did you DO that?'
(while i was dancing in a club)
i said 'do what?'
she said 'what you just did with your feet'?
Banjeroo: that is good
Aphasia: what can one say?
i said 'baby, life is the dance and i am the dancer'
and then i said 'i'm just a feather on the breath of god'

good answers
did you really say that?

no, i didn't
but next time i will

Friend did hasten to credit (to me) Hildegard von Bingen, (Christian mystic) for the feather line, and Eckhart Tolle (new-age power-of-now guy) for the dancer line.

stone the devil

To me, this represents one of the worst potentials in humankind, or in the practice of any religion: where the personal desires of the individual (in this case, the benign goal to complete the hajj, to cleanse spiritually) mindlessly override - in this case, literally stampede - common sense and respect for others, with horrifying and tragic consequences.

It's not like this is some fluke, like it's never happened before. So who forgets, and then gets into such a frenzy to stone the devil that they can't be gentle and patient with others sharing in the spiritual pilgrimage? Who doesn't understand that their single-minded persistence in a large chaotic crowd could trigger a chain of events that will result in the trampling deaths of hundreds of their spiritual brothers and sisters?

It could be you, it could be me. Religious or not, who hasn't ever lost sight of the greater good when consumed by a sense of deep personal purpose, (even if it didn't have such horrible consequences)? You're lying if you say you haven't. It's human to be self-centered, to be myopic, to occasionally dissociate.

To me, the kind of thoughtlessness that killed 245 people on the hajj this year (and over 1000 in 1990!) is kissing cousin to the sometimes present scary side of personal religious agendas: the deliberate act of violence in the name of God.

Random examples from my gap-ridden historical knowledge: First Crusade where Christians slaughtered and tortured Muslims in Jerusalem under the cry "Deus vult!" (God wills it!) and the streets were said to run knee-high with blood; Sikhs blowing up planes (did I miss the part in the Granth where Guru Nanak endorsed the use of explosives?); fanatical Jewish military personnel (I guess the secular ones don't count for this example) terrorizing and beating Palestinians in their homes; Saddam using mustard gas on the Kurds in God's name; Bush doing all kinds of crazy shit in the name of the Lord (my guess is Jesus would not be too keen about air strikes on civilian areas). The list goes on and on.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

so that's what the clowns are for

I have this friend at work who says the most outrageous things. I don't know anyone like him. He has a habit of making spontaneous, bizarre -- but strangely comprehensive -- pronouncements about odd and obscure things.

One time, I wrote down something he said and emailed it to him. He was incredulous. "Wow. I'm insane" he said. And he probably is. But he has a sweet and non-threatening demeanor, and I don't think he's a danger to society.

Tonight after work, around 7pm, I was sitting alone on the sofa in our office's open-concept kitchen/lounge having a restful moment. This odd friend of mine appeared and chatted with me for a bit about how being an architect would be thankless work that would fill your heart with hate. There was a bit of silence, and he placed an empty glass on the edge of the counter. Then he crouched low and pushed it off the counter, but half-caught and tapped it lightly with his hand near the floor as it fell, so that it tumbled to the ground.

"Just enough to save its life."

I waited. Here it comes, I thought. A really good one. And how richly rewarded I was when, with a straight face and in all earnestness, he stated:

"It's like how trapeze artists, when they're performing without a net, they always have clowns around. If a trapeze artist falls during a performance, a clown will run up to them as they're falling and punch them - with the real intention of hurting them, and of hurting themselves - so that they'll go limp before they hit the ground. It's how they don't die."

If you think that's good, you should hear his theory about gin and vitamins.

Monday, January 09, 2006

but I can work on my Elvis muscle in the car on the way there

Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in. - Ricky Fitts, in American Beauty

You know why I love cross-country skiing? Because the whole dang thing, every aspect of it, makes me feel like my heart is going to cave in; not just the part where I huck myself up that hill and my thighs are burning but also the part where the snow outlines every branch and twig on the dark frozen trees on either side of the path, with even the young trees creaking like old wood in the cold; the part where I get the mild taste of iron in the back of my throat that I get from exertion in cold weather; the part where every muscle in my body gets well-worked (except maybe my levator labii superioris alaeque nasi); the part where I tuck my poles under one arm on a long and gentle downhill where I'd normally double-pole like a demon, and take the free ride as a chance to stuff my face with salty crackers and old cheddar and almonds because I'm hungry but don't want to stop; and the part where I wipe cold clear snot from my nose on my sleeve and glove, repeatedly.

The only part I don't like and that doesn't feel beautiful is cold nipples. I have to invent a better winter bra.

even pets!

Who IS Jack Handey? Thanks to The Dude for another great Handey rant.


Friday, January 06, 2006

my idea of a good time

Is to go for a long ski in fresh snow with a friend I've known almost all my life, come home sweaty and have a hot shower, eat some delicious food (pasta with pesto) turn off the phones, make myself a snack because I'm still hungry (two red peppers sliced up and a homemade garlic-curry dip), and watch a film I've wanted to see for a while.

Then to bed, where I might start reading something wonderful before I nod off, like Thomas King's The Truth About Stories.

What's your idea of a good time?

Agenda for today: sushi lunch (being thrown by work pals to celebrate the launch of my big mofo project, and several other big mofo projects), then another ski in the hills, then probably more reading/eating/showering/movie-watching and I'll throw in a little banjo to round it all out.

Before I go start my day (yes, at 10:30), I extend many thanks to my pal Tom for this link - if you need a good dose of fresh Jack Handey.

p.s. Am I the only one who loves saying "mofo" but feels quite uncomfortable and avoids saying what it's short for?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

good people, great guy

Jim's memorial service was today. The family asked me to read my online journal entry from the 23rd, which kind of blew my mind. It was very humbling to be asked.

One of them joked today, before the service, "I just know that you'll start to cry when you're reading, and that will give everyone permission to crack and cry along with you. It's an important function you perform."

People said wonderful things about him, not surprising, because he really was a great guy. In fact, it seemed general consensus that he was the quintessential "great guy".

His daughter spoke about what a loving father he was; about lying under the piano, as a kid, when he played; about the time he joined in a diving contest at the cottage in his underwear and protested in classic Jim style "What's the big deal? It's not like my wazoo was hanging out!"; about his great cooking, his sky-high Yorkshire puddings; about how he never quite loved himself as much as everyone else did.

I know this often happens after people die, but I can't believe he is gone. I've known him for so long, and he had so much energy and life in him, his absence doesn't register in my brain.

At the reception afterward, eating those special butter-and-mayo-with-flecks-of-tuna/ham/chicken no-crust funeral sandwiches with everyone else, I just kept expecting him to show up. His eldest daughter observed "Yeah, this is his crowd, his whole family and all his friends are here, he would have had a great time!"