Saturday, June 30, 2007


The new Michael Moore film is on a good topic, our completely messed up health care system. He makes a lot of good points, like how people are arbitrarily denied coverage , how people with preexisting conditions are excluded, and generally how messed up it is. However, he never really gets into the details, and how complicated the issue of health care is. He makes a big deal about how perfect national health care in other countries is, which I am sure is true relative to this country. But there are problems with national health care, I am sure, that he doesn't mention.
I agree with Mike that national health care is a good idea, but I didn't like the movie because I knew all the information already and he didn't really get into the details of what would make a good system, much less the difficult decisions that would have to be made about what kind of care would be allowed or covered in a national health care system. Still, if it makes more people aware of the disaster that we currently have here in this country in health care, then that will be good.

Friday, June 29, 2007

3 Women

This is a good Altman film from the seventies. Robert Altman has a really unique and measured style. He seems to get a lot of voices that seem to be in the background but what they are saying, although it sounds casual, adds to the texture and the momentum of the story. His best film was probably Nashville, of course, but I would recommend 6 Women. He will be missed by me, for one.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


There was a good Shotokan seminar in Coos Bay last weekend. Sensei Steve Sharifi, 8th dan, taught many things of which I really did not know too much about. It was good to see him.

Yoga is another extremely cool thing of which I have been getting more interested recently, although I always have thought it was neat. Yoga instructors attain high levels of strength and flexibility in their muscles, as well as some peace of mind through the mental aspects. It seems a good complement to karate, and something that I could see myself getting more and more into. Stretching has always been something that I have worked at, and my muscle tone is fine from all the karate, so I am having no problem getting into it at all. I'm starting out in the beginning class though, and that's hard enough.
It has become extremely popularized recently, but yoga is an extremely ancient spiritual and physical exercise that predated and heavily influenced Buddhism. It also has to do with rejecting materialism and learning to be more fully in the moment, both of which seem like good ideas to me.

Karate in a lot of cases can be too aggressive and over-competitive. It doesn't have to be that way, and in our school is really not that way at all, and yet it can have that tendency, so the whole atmosphere of yoga, where you have no ranking, nothing aggressive or fighting-related, is a good counterpoint to my main preoccupation.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The excesses of god

Is it not by his high superfluousness we know
our god? for to be equal a need
is natural, animal, mineral: but to fling
rainbows over the rain
and beauty above the moon, and secret rainbows
on the domes of deep sea-shells,
and make the necessary embrace of breeding
beautiful also as fire,
not even the weeds to multiply without blossom
nor the birds without music;
there is the great humaneness at the heart of things,
the extravagant kindness, the fountain
humanity can understand, and would flow likewise
if power and desire were getting along famously.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Funakoshi lived to be ninety years old. It is said that a lot of the karate masters lived to be very old. This might be because karate is good for your health. Done right, it promotes well being in mind and body, kind of like yoga. Then again, the Japanese and Okinawans are renown for living long lives, probably due to their healthy diet. But I like to think that karate promotes longevity.
I found a cool book on yoga, on one of the most famous instructors, from much before yoga was popularized and turned into a diet-of-the-month kind of thing, the way it has recently. I would love the opportunity to learn from a good instructor. However, for one thing, I am broke, but for another, I am not sure where to look. The yoga center has some good teachers.

One thing about global warming: sure, it is important, but what about the universe? Apparently, astronomers and physicists have determined that the universe is flying apart in all directions. In ten billion years, we won't even be able to see any galaxies. What are we doing about that?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I decided to record these videos to get a sense of what I need to do to improve. I look very strong on some moves, but I also have a lot of problems. This is jion, a shotokan karate kata. The space wasn't big enough, so I had to readjust in parts. Playing in the background is Pink Floyd. I also need to get a new gi (karate uniform). I'm not the greatest at keeping white things white.

Here's a link to the kata done well:

Sunday, June 10, 2007


"Those who have identified themselves with the mortal body and its affections will necessarily find that all is painful, since everything- for them -must end. But for those who have found the still point of eternity, around which all- including themselves- revolves, everything is acceptable as it is; indeed, can even be experienced as glorious and wonderful. The first duty of the individual, consequently, is simply to play his given role-as do the sun and moon, the various animal and plant species, the water, the rocks, and the stars-without resistance, without fault; and then, if possible, so to order his mind as to identify its consciousness with the inhabiting principle of the whole."-Joseph Campbell, Oriental Mythology

So does that mean I can't buy an Ipod? Or maybe I can buy one and periodically feel guilty about it.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Jasmine is on the left. She's only 14 months old or so, and kind of hyperactive, always hunting around for mice. Homer, on the right, is four years old. (Named for the Greek poet, of course.) He is more a sit around and sleep or eat type of cat. He also spends time in the back yard meditating.

Friday, June 08, 2007


There is a good guitar player at the bean this evening, Craig Sorseth. First he was doing "Crazy Love", a Van Morrison song, and he was playing it well. Then he went into "Long Black Veil", which I heard him say was by the Band, but I thought it was a Johnny Cash song, although Jerry Garcia did it too. Maybe it's a traditional.
It is kind of a quiet summer evening down here on 2nd street, kind of getting chilly though. I went for a two hour bike ride today so I'm quite tired. I'm not a competitive cyclist type of cyclist. I just do it to supplement the karate, and add in some jogging. Cycling seems to be easier on the knees. Don't let me leave out walking.
Apparently George Orwell was quite a visionary for his time. None of his attitudes or ideas really seem dated in the least. He wasn't a racist, and he saw the problems with colonialism right from the start. He also was one of the first to take note of the problems of the soviet union, and to take an active voice in criticizing their actions. 1984 was all about a state in which the individual is constantly being monitored and watched...a state similar to the disaster in Russia in the time of Stalin. Of course, many countries are moving towards increased monitoring of citizens, like England, setting up video cameras in all sorts of public places. That sort of thing is often described as being "Orwellian".
He also wrote about working as a dishwasher, and about life in the underclass, actually living the life of a bum and intermittent laborer for a while. Check out Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier. Definitely worth reading.
Another guy in the news recently is Philip K. Dick. He was an obscure science fiction writer during his life, but many of his themes have increased in relevance, making him seem like a visionary. He was an interesting character, fueled in his writing by amphetamine binges...not living the healthiest lifestyle. There was an extremely interesting short story by Robert Crumb about Dick's experience of a brain seizure. During the seizure he had some sort of extreme religious vision that he says changed his life. My question is, was the vision real if it was just the result of a "seizure"? How would one ever separate real visions from fake ones anyway? Read the story and see what you think.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


It rained again today, which is kind of nice. For one thing, I don't have to water the plants. I guess I made a mistake, planting tomato seeds, because they don't even seem to be coming out of the ground. The onions and tomato starts don't seem to be doing much either. I guess my knowledge of gardening is limited. The compost heated up for a while and then cooled down. Does that mean it is "composted"?
Jasmine killed three mice last night. I can tell because she starts leaping around and thumping on things; a natural hunter, I guess. I just wonder where all the mice are coming from.
I started watching the Sopranos again after writing them off for a while. The whole "I got a family to feed so I'm a mobster" justification was getting to me, as well as the extremely annoying psychiatrist, but then I read a little thing on them by David Remnick in the New Yorker. He seemed to like the series, right down to the final season, so I decided to give it another try. David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, is an extremely intelligent and cool guy, so I figured if he liked it, there must be something there.
Before that I was trying to get into some Japanese movies without a lot of success. Tokyo Story, by Yasujiro Ozu, is a must-see. Probably my favorite Japanese film of all time, but then I saw his Early Spring, and couldn't really get into it. I also watched Ikiru, about a guy who finds out he has stomach cancer and tries to do something meaningful before he dies, directed by Akira Kurosawa. It was a good movie, but I literally watched the whole thing on fast-forward, it was so slow-paced.
I have the postal exam coming up, and I hope to get that. That would be kind of a dull job requiring a lot of concentration, but it would pay fairly well. I'm sure I'd do great on the exam. In fact, I have the preparatory materials. Most of it is easy, but in one part, you kind of have to memorize a chart in three minutes and then try to recall it later to answer questions. That is kind of tricky. As far as the physical parts of hauling mail around, no problem. Definitely more dignified than washing dishes, as well.
I'm also kind of reading a book on Orwell, by Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens has been in the news recently because his new book is on why religion is bad. I can't really agree with that. I don't think you can even look at history and get any idea of what it would have been like without religion. It's also impossible to ignore the good impulses that come out of religion, like charity for the poor. Also, the whole Communist thing was about renouncing religion ("opiate of the masses"), and look what a fuck-up that turned out to be. But Hitchens had some funny quotes regarding the recent death of Falwell (he didn't like the guy), and Hitchens is obviously quite a literate and entertaining guy.
I'm also reading a book on sushi, and feeling sorry for myself that I can't afford to eat any sushi.

Monday, June 04, 2007

fluorescent lights and me

I finally fixed the fluorescent light in the kitchen. It was actually kind of interesting in a dull sort of way. I at first thought that it must be a problem with the end connectors, but I called Trico (actually I called them up to get them to come out to fix the thing) and during the conversation I learned enough to figure out that it was most probable the "ballast", which actually I had never heard of before, but it is some sort of very heavy rectangular thing in the middle of the fixture that is responsible for getting the bulbs to light. So anyway, I went down the Searing, and I learned a lot from the guy that helped me. I guess that's the reason to go to the locally owned place rather than the Home Depot behemoth where all the employees look really depressed and can't really tell you anything about any product. So anyway, all I really had to do is splice a bunch of wires together, which is a lot easier than it sounds. I guess my next project is to fix the living room lamp, only half of which works.
It rained for about three minutes yesterday. I noticed because I was on my way home from the parents' house on my bike. Today seems kind of cloudy. I guess I might go down to the bean and read the paper.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

notes from in between aboveground and underground

Ghod, it seems that I have become very old. The cafe people insist on calling me "sir" all the time, even though I'm wearing the same jeans and t-shirt I always have been wearing. One girl today, in the course of getting me a coffee, called me "sir" at least twice. I wanted to say, "please, call me stupid, call me "rover", call me late to dinner, just don't call me sir."
I have become incredibly old over the twenty years that have passed since high school. The time just seems to go on, counted out by little servings of espresso and scraps of paper. Occasionally, especially recently, I worry about how isolated I am, as in how few real friends, but then I think about it for a while, and I realize that I'm not alone because I have any history that I need to be ashamed of, or I have any skeletons in the closet, or any deeds or actions in my past that I really need to feel guilty about, so then if you consider the fact that I am isolated, the isolation doesn't apodictically follow from there to me being a dangerous psychotic. In fact, I wouldn't say that I have any long lasting resentments about anyone in particular, although I can be quite irritable in the short term. I always have the capacity to stand back from my situation, maybe after I've been spending time thinking about how worthless I am, and say that in fact, I have some intrinsic worth that is in there somewhere, and some enthusiasms that might not be obvious but are there nevertheless.
The night is warm and the little college children are out drinking and stumbling around, grunting and shuffling, a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
It seems to me that Christianity is really some kind of group-induced mania. Robert Crumb tells this funny story about how he and a friend went to a black church back in the 50's, when they were invited by a friend. The sermon was loud, people started wailing and crying, and suddenly the pastor pointed to them, the two white guys, and started talking about how they were not saved yet, so everybody was wailing and praying, trying to save their souls. When they realized these guys just simply weren't going to get it, they went back to what they were doing. That story is actually kind of not relevant to what I was going to say, but it comes to mind because Crumb had such a funny and honest way of telling stories, especially about himself.
I have personally found parts of Christianity and the sermons to be beautiful and uplifting, and I always think that theoretically it would be nice to be part of a beautiful group possibly such as that, but when it comes right down to it, why the heck should I believe the Jesus was more than any other mortal? Or that he was resurrected? Any why the heck would I want to drink his blood? Isn't that a little weird? There is never going to come a time when I suddenly realize that these things are true. Not going to happen.