Posted on August 1st, 2023
I've never understood the concept that men have to be abusive assholes in order to be considered "masculine." Is that really what society wants of us? Exploding with anger and being physically violent at the drop of a hat?
I have tried most of my life to not be that guy.
And it all started after my brother and I took a trip to Thailand.
All the men I encountered were exceedingly gentle, soft-spoken, and kind. They saw no need to be hostile or domineering in every situation. After a couple days of reading the teachings of The Buddha from the book that was in the nightstand, I understood that their gentleness was likely a function of their religion (something like 95% of the country is Buddhist).
Before visiting Thailand and being exposed to Buddhism I was a bitter, angry, volitile person who would have a meltdown if a bird pooped on my car. After visiting Thailand and being exposed to Buddhism I had a different view of the world and my place in it. The bird that pooped on my car wasn't attacking me. This was nothing personal. There is no benefit to being angry at a bird. It was just being a bird and doing what birds do, independent of me or my feelings.
I never became a Buddhist, but the precepts and teachings of The Buddha made me an entirely different person, and showed me who I wanted to be. Everything just made sense. At last. So while I still get angry, I just let it go instead of letting it eat away at my soul. Sometimes by blogging about it. I'm so much happier this way.
But anyway... my journey ran through my head after I happened across this TikTok (here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
@jessandskyler Replying to @user3354426333524 ♬ original sound - Jess & Skyler
"My softness and my gentleness is an act of defiance."
That's a statement that's going to stick with me for the rest of my life.
Posted on January 24th, 2022
I was deeply saddened to learn that Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh has died. He was a welcome voice and teacher for me since I became interested in Buddhism way back in 1998 (his book The Heart of Buddha's Teaching was one of the first I read). A consistent advocate for peace, the last book I read of his, The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now was in 2017... and his last book from 2021 (Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet) is on my list...
In a world that's besieged by darkness, his teachings were a light that guided me. And will likely continue to do so for the rest of my days.
In the darkest time of my life Master Thích Nhất Hạnh was there. His words about his own mother's death got me through mine...
The day my mother died I wrote in my journal, "A serious misfortune of my life has arrived." I suffered for more than one year after the passing away of my mother. But one night, in the highlands of Vietnam, I was sleeping in the hut in my hermitage. I dreamed of my mother. I saw myself sitting with her, and we were having a wonderful talk. She looked young and beautiful, her hair flowing down. It was so pleasant to sit there and talk to her as if she had never died. When I woke up it was about two in the morning, and I felt very strongly that I had never lost my mother. The impression that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother is always alive in me.
I opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants, and my hut was set behind the temple halfway up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet... wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. Those feet that I saw as "my" feet were actually "our" feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.
From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.
I cannot fathom how many lives this gentle man's teaching have touched. Because it's not just those who listened to his words, read his books, and learned from his teachings... it's all the people that those people touched.
Kindness can be more contagious than Omicron.
You will be sorely missed Master Thích Nhất Hạnh, but your love and light will never die so long as somebody somewhere offers a kindness to another. Because it's not irrational to think that a kindness you initiated was patient zero for a kindness today.
I don't see why we have to say "I will die," because
I can already see myself in you, in other people, and in future generations.
Posted on December 13th, 2015
The weather outside may be frightful but everything's still delightful, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• SUCK! Oh gawd. So this is where stupid goes to die.
• DESTROY! This is... uhhh... interesting?
Now THAT'S some LEGO!
• JUST NO! Buddha is not a god! He never claimed to be a god! He never claimed to be a son of god! He never even claimed to be a messenger from any god! He was a human being, and no Buddhist worships him as a god... they revere and respect him as a teacher. And yet here we are. Again.
The interesting bit here is that the original painting is a nice idea. It's when some joker slaps stupid text over it that makes no sense whatsoever that it becomes a discredit to reason.
• MORON! Fox News Host: Obama ‘Could Give A Shit’ About The Threat Of Terrorism
First of all, it's "COULDN'T CARE LESS," you vapid joke. Holy crap is Stacey Dash a fucking idiot. She says exactly what she thinks her equally dim fan base wants to hear. And since dumbasses like this won't be happy until we nuke the entire Middle East, OF COURSE she's going to be disappointed in President Obama's speech. There is not a damn thing he could ever say to make anybody at FOX "News" happy. With the exception of "I resign," I'm guessing.
Who could have guessed that the character Stacey Dash played on Clueless would actually be smarter than she is in Real Life.
• BAD! I wish I could credit this awesome photo... but I have no idea who took it. Makes me laugh every time I see it...
We now return you to our regularly-scheduled blogging.
Posted on October 7th, 2013
Not wanting to arrive the minute my tour was starting, I decided to book an extra day in advance so I could rest up before my vacation begins. Which, of course, proved impossible. Lounging around a hotel when I'm in a city I've never been to before is crazy talk. And so I set out into Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Sài Gòn (or "Saigon" as Westerners know it).
The only "must see" item on my wish-list of things to visit was the monument to Thích Quảng Đức, the monk who protested the persecution of Buddhists by first South Vietnamese President Diem by burning himself to death in 1963...
You probably know of him even though you may not recognize his name. The horrific event that took place almost exactly 50 years ago was immortalized in a famous photo that's known around the world...
Photo by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Malcolm Browne for Associated Press, colorized by MyGrapefruit
His final words...
"Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngo Dinh Diem to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the sangha and the lay Buddhists to organise in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism."
Throughout the entire ordeal, Thích Quảng Đức did not move or cry out. His remains were cremated, but his heart survived as his body turned to ask and is now a holy relic.
The monument itself is spectacular... easily one of the best I have ever seen. Behind the statue of Thích Quảng Đức is a relief carving of his final moments, and it's beautifully rendered...
Across from the park is a memorial pagoda in his honor...
Mission accomplished. Anything else I did today would be gravy.
And so I decided to visit Reunification Palace (Dinh Thống Nhất), the former offices of the president of South Vietnam. The taking of this "palace" signified the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon...
It's pretty much just a big building filled with dozens of beautifully-appointed rooms, all just a little different from one another, but basically the same...
Then I was off to take a look at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saïgon, a basilica established by the French after they conquered the region and wanted a place of worship for their colonists. Remarkably, all the building materials used in construction were imported from France...
And... that was about as much sightseeing as I could endure today.
The thing about Vietnam is that it's hot here. When I left my hotel at 10:00am, it was a breezy 82 degrees with overcast skies. Then, as you can see, the sun came out. At which time the temperature soared to roughly 270 degrees. Eventually I had to cut short my wanderings and head back to the hotel at 2:00pm because I was melting and close to death.
The other thing about Vietnam is that it's not the least bit friendly for walking in the big cities. This is much like my trip to China where everybody is driving, and walkers just have to get out of their way. But at least Vietnam drivers slow down a little bit when people are in the crosswalks... unlike in China where all drivers are actively trying to kill pedestrians for sport, and will speed up if they see you crossing the road. Being in a country where pedestrians DON'T have the right of way is always a challenge, and going out for a pizza can get you run down in the street. Give me the good ol' USA where all I have to worry about is getting shot when I go out for pizza. USA! USA! USA!
But the cars and billions of motorcycles is only part of the problem. The bigger issue for pedestrians is that the sidewalks are almost always obstructed. People are selling, buying, cooking, eating, sleeping, and parking on them, and getting through can be tricky...
Sleeping kitty looks like Spanky the Cat...
Half the time, there's not even a path for you to get through it all, meaning you often have to venture out on the street to get anywhere, which is about as dangerous as it gets...
Oh? You want to get through? Well, fuck you! Fuck you, stupid pedestrian!
And these photos are relatively mild examples. I've tried to navigate through seas of scooters and motorcycles that seem to park wherever the hell they want. Oh... and when you do happen to find a sidewalk that's not obstructed? That's when you REALLY have to be careful, because that just means motorcycles will come driving down the sidewalk any minute now... guaranteed.
After wishing I had more dong yesterday, I stopped by an ATM on my way back to the hotel so I could pick some up. Don't look now, but I'm a millionaire, bitches! I've got more dong than you can handle...
Um, yeah... one million dong is about $45 in US dollars...
The last thing I saw before escaping the afternoon heat was a little girl walking down the sidewalk with a box on her head. Probably just playing around, but she could have been trying to escape the unrelenting sun. In any event, it's the cutest thing you'll see all day...
After taking my second shower of the day, I hung out in my hotel room until the sun went down and things cooled down enough that I could venture out without melting. In other words, I hid indoors until dinner-time. At which point I came back and took my third shower of the day, because it was still hot out.
And there you have it, my first full day in Vietnam.
Oh... and did I mention that I visited my 152nd Hard Rock for lunch today? Because I did...
There's a newer section upstairs that's decorated in the awful "hipster lounge" aesthetic of the modern properties, but the beautiful original section downstairs is a bit more traditional...
The bar is one of the best I've seen yet...
Absolutely worth a visit... even though they didn't have a veggie burger on the menu. Instead I had a pesto pasta, which was fantastic. Better than I've had in some fine Italian restaurants, believe it or not.
Xin chào! Mai mốt gặp lại! Good bye until tomorrow!
Posted on July 7th, 2013
I'm in an 80's state of mind... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Sadness. My thoughts are with those affected by the Bodh Gaya Temple bombing in India... including Buddhists around the world. This most holy site is said to be the place that Buddha obtained enlightenment, and is a hugely important pilgrimage spot I have long wanted to visit. Why somebody would wish to destroy a place of importance to a people whose entire belief system revolves around non-violence and inner-peace is beyond me, but here we are.
• Heat! Was very pleasantly surprised by The Heat. From the trailers I couldn't tell if it was going to be funny-funny or funny-stupid. Sure, it dips into funny-stupid a few times... usually when Melissa McCarthy is allowed to improvise for too long a stretch... or Sandra Bullock tries too hard to be awkward and uptight... but it always gets back on track. Basically, Bullock plays an FBI Agent that ends up in Boston to track down a very, very bad man. While there she runs afoul of local cop McCarthy but, as so often happens, ends up teaming up with her. The supporting cast is pure gold, with appearances by Jane Curtin, Michael Rapaport, Taran Killam, Thomas F. Wilson (Biff!), Nate Corddry, Joey McIntyre, Zach Woods, Marlon Wayans... and probably a lot more I don't remember.
It's worth a matinee price to see in theaters, and definitely worth a rental.
• Concert! The Chateau Ste. Michelle is a winery over in Woodinville that has an amphitheater which gets some pretty decent musical talent to play. It's a beautiful venue, but the lawn seating is mostly obstructed and not laid out very well. This means it's not the best place for a concert, but it's okay. Except when you have to watch a drunken train wreck pee her pants.
Anyway, tonight it was Pat Benatar headlining with Terri Nunn and Berlin opening up. Benatar was a little rough vocally, but entertaining. Berlin was amazing. They have a new album coming out, and the taste they gave us at the concert will definitely have me checking it out.
• Faced! I've often wondered about what kind of mentality it takes for somebody to think that people would like to see their giant face plastered all over a bus. Whatever it is, I'm seeing more and more of it, so it must be pretty common. This one I saw on my way to The Coast on Friday was particularly clever, because they had to position afore-mentioned giant head between obstacles...
• Woman! There's a video of Dustin Hoffman discussing his role of Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie which has been burning up the internets. It's a pretty powerful piece, and the epiphany he had about "interesting women" being dismissed because of their looks comes from a perspective most men will never have...
Not surprisingly, not everybody can appreciate what Mr.. Hoffman is trying to say. Some of the comments I've read are positively awful. But that's the internet for you.
No more bullets... but tomorrow is another day...
Posted on March 25th, 2012
And now that I've driven home (again) my vacation from my vacation is officially over. Sadly, I am in more of a need of a vacation now than when I got back from my first vacation. So validate your passport, my permanent vacation (and Bullet Sunday) starts... now.
• Thrice Four. When RW and I started THRICE Fiction magazine, I honestly thought that we'd be lucky if we got our friends and family to read it. Which is why once our first issue passed 100 downloads, I was walking on air. Eventually that number climbed to over 300, which exceeded my every expectation. Subsequent issues dropped a bit as the buzz died down, but we were still getting hundreds of downloads. I remain shocked to this day.
The newest issue just passed 2500 downloads only two days after release. It's kind of difficult to know how to react to that...
The cover for THRICE No. 4 is something I worked up while I was on vacation, though I had the idea months earlier. For some reason I always think of forks as being "evil" because they violently stab food, while spoons are "good" because they gently scoop food. After watching the amazing video for Rendezvous' The Murf where one culture rises to worship a squid and another a whale, I had an image of one culture rising to worship a fork and another a spoon. And now I finally had an outlet for it... composing them to be mirror-images of each other. For being a last-minute creation, I'm quite happy with the way it turned out. Though I still prefer the original idea. Let's face it... that video is nothing short of genius...
As always, you can download the latest issue of THRICE Fiction for free at our official website. Apparently we'll be sticking around a while. From the bottom of my heart, thanks to my partner in crime and everybody who has supported us these four issues.
• Trayvon Martin. As I've been on vacation, I haven't been keeping up with the news. Or blogs. Or much of anything. I tend to ignore everything and everyone when vacationing because that's what makes it a vacation. But it was impossible not to hear about the horrific death of Trayvon Martin...
Welcome to "Post-Racist America" where you can kill a black child just because you consider him "suspicious," and not even notorious "crusader for justice" and ratings whore Nancy Grace seems to give a shit. Now if somebody can just explain to me how a person can claim "self-defense" when they fucking profiled and stalked the victim... I'd appreciate it. That would go a long way towards explaining why no arrest was made and how a thorough investigation apparently wasn't worth the effort.
The word "disgusted" is so severely inadequate to describe my feelings here that I am disgusted with myself for even alluding that it could. Will there ever be justice for Trayvon Martin? I suppose that depends on whether people ultimately decide that gunning down a child because he was wearing a hoodie while being black is something worth getting upset about.
• Worship. While I do not consider myself to be a Buddhist, it is Buddhist teachings that form the basis of my belief structure. After decades of wandering when it came to matters of faith, it was Buddhism that "spoke true" to me, and integrating it into my life has done amazing things to contribute to my happiness and understanding of the world. I fully accept that it's not a "religion" for everybody, but that's perfectly fine. It doesn't mean we can't all get along. I respect the religions of others in the hopes that they will respect mine.
Unfortunately, this is increasingly not the case...
And he has ties to presidential hopeful Rick "Piece of Shit" Santorum. Shocking.
And, just like Santorum, this vile piece of crap has -zero- interest in respecting the beliefs of other persons. If you're not Christian like him, you can just get the fuck out of America, and that's all there is to it.
But it's not his intolerance that bothers me.
It's at the one-minute mark where he says "We don't worship Buddha! I say we don't worship Buddha! We don't worship Muhammad! We don't worship Allah! We worship God!" Well, whatever, asshole. Nobody is telling you that you have to worship anything. America was, in fact, founded on the idea of freedom of religion so you can worship whatever the hell you want. But you don't get to speak out of ignorance about an entire faith you stupid fuck.
BUDDHISTS DON'T WORSHIP BUDDHA! THEY DON'T "WORSHIP" ANYTHING.
Buddha was not a saint or a prophet or a god or somebody to be worshipped. He was a teacher. He discovered a way to find enlightenment and happiness, and chose to share it with people. And that's all. So when you see statues of Buddha and people bowing before them, it's not out of worship. It's merely a way of showing respect to a great teacher.
And now you know why I can never be a true Buddhist. Buddhists don't believe in "wrong-speaking." But I can't help but call an ignorant asshole an ignorant fucking asshole, so that's the way it's going to have to be. In any event, morons like this glory-seeking piece of shit are the ones that can get the hell out of America. You are betraying everything we are.
• Blueberry. One of my artistic inspirations, Jean Giraud (better known as Moebius), passed away on March 10th. His stories and artwork remain a triumph of the imagination, and I cherished everything he wrote and drew...
Goodbye Mr. Giraud. You've left us a beautiful legacy.
• Prometheus. Holy. Shit.
Looks like Ridley Scott hasn't lost his touch. To say I'm hyped to see this film come June 8th is a gross understatement.
• LEGO BATMAN!!! And as if Prometheus wasn't enough to get excited about. The sequel to one of my favorite video games of all time is coming later this year...
This looks incredible. If it's even half the game that the original LEGO Batman game was, I'll be very happy.
And now I suppose I should try and get some sleep since I didn't bother this weekend. Such is the peril of going on vacation.
30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Scenery...
Already done, man. Already done.
Posted on September 24th, 2010
"We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful" —Morrissey
As I was exiting from high school in 1984, I thought that all the wisdom in the world could be found in lyrics of songs by The Smiths. When their second album, Meat is Murder, was released, I was sure of it. I found disturbing truths in their music and, even though they sang from a perspective of being British, the underlying messages were universal and transcended any single nationality...
Back in those heady post-punk movement days, there was a growing concern over teen suicide as the music they listened to grew darker and darker. I remember an episode of some teen-based drama television show (probably 21 Jump Street) had a storyline specifically saying that listening to music by The Smiths was a warning sign that your kid could be suicidal. I had a good laugh over it at the time, because I was of the opposite opinion. I was firmly in the "truth will set you free" camp, thinking that the revelations in their music were a beacon of light in the darkness. But I was young, stupid, and drunk most of the time so what did I know?
In 1987, The Smiths broke up. At the time, it felt like my world was ending. But the tragedy was short-lived, because lead singer Morrissey released a solo album (the magnificient Viva Hate) just months later. Far from "going commercial" and dumbing down his music for the sake of selling records, Morrissey instead turned things up a notch. And continued to turn things up a notch in his follow-up albums like Kill Uncle, Your Arsenal, and Vauxhall and I).
Morrissey is still alive, kicking, and making music... his latest album, Years of Refusal, was released just last year. But, even though he's just as brilliant and relevant as he's always been, it's his past efforts that have had the most impact on my life.
And continues to do so.
This morning I was privy to an email conversation where somebody was bemoaning the fact that one of their best friends has gone on to be successful while they've been mired in failure within the same profession. It started as an observation but, as things progressed, became a rant of not-so-veiled jealousy. You see this type of thing all the time. And whenever I do, I can't help to be taken back to 1992 when Morrissey's Your Arsenal dropped with the insightful track We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful...
We hate it when our friends become successful.
And if they're northern, that makes it even worse.
And if we can destroy them, you bet your life we will destroy them.
If we can hurt them well, we might as well, it's really laughable.
You see, it should've been me.
It could have been me.
Everybody says so.
Pretty much what everybody thinks in those kind of situations, but rarely says. At least not out aloud. And yet Morrissey does. Because he can. And because it's the true.
When I first started studying Buddhism back in 1998, one of the first things you learn is how wishing bad things upon others only ever harms yourself. I honestly believe this to be true. Which is why I really don't hate it when my friends (or even enemies) become successful*. And yet experience has taught me that this kind of thinking will offer little comfort to most people.
Which is why, thanks to Morrissey, I know exactly how to respond when the occasion arises...
"They must be destroyed, of course. It should have been you."
*Unless they become successful at my expense, of course.