Thursday, February 25, 2010

Military Brass Balls

This week in imperial dick-swinging:

Robert Gates says too much peace might lead to war, so we need to prepare for war to secure the peace! Doubleplusgood!

Pravda on the Hudson says all the devil hash in the world won't make it "groovy", man, when the TERRORISTS! come to kill the Dutch in their beds. They should totally stay the course and keep hanging out with us in the graveyard of empires like all the really cool kids are doing.

And Pravda on the Potomac says get a load of these fucking Iranians, wouldja? Interfering in Iraqi elections! Pursuing their own self-interest! Meddling in the internal politics of another sovereign nation! The noive of these guys!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Society of the Spectacle I reading the Onion?

Woods' Apology Praised, Panned

Tiger Woods' performance yesterday drew mixed reviews from some image professionals in the area....Stuart rated the performance a B+.

However, Ernest DelBuono, who handles crisis-management services for Richmond-based advertising and public-relations firm Neathawk Dubuque & Packett, said Woods did not need to show such public contrition and questioned why he did it in the first place.

At the Martin Agency, Woods' appearance drew a crowd around the TVs. Though the Shockoe Slip-based ad agency did not have clients tied to Woods, the company's director of marketing communications, Dean Jarrett, and others were curious how Woods would handle himself as a brand.

For more in-depth exploration of the nuances of the public apology of a ravenous, insatiable fuckmonster, please see this helpful diagram.

I saw both of these articles hours ago, and I just cannot stop laughing. I might just have to tune into cable news to see if they have any high-tech presentations to help me better understand all the details.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds

Synchronicity, baby. I swear by the feathers of Quetzalcoatl, just yesterday I was trading emails with a dear, sweet friend, and I was assuring her in one of them that she hadn't missed anything at all by not subjecting herself to reading any of Ayn Rand's novels. At one point in the afternoon, though, I stopped my typing and looked up, a quizzical look upon my face.

I said to myself, I said: "Self? Did you hear something?"

"Maybe... I'm not sure. What did it sound like?"

"Well...sort of like the collective strangled gasp of thousands of frigid, heartless Randroid fanboys and fangirls finding a momentary release from hating everyone else in the world through a simultaneous orgasm, despite the ironic fact that the thought of doing anything collectively would have spoiled even that meager pleasure for them."

"Ah, yes, that was it. I was going to say it was just the neighbor's dog making noise again, but no, you're right."

I shrugged and returned to my correspondence. Later on, I finally got around to reading the news headlines and noted that a crazy dude in a plane had gone all kamikaze on an IRS building in Texas. Ohhh, that explained it. Hell, even a name like "Joe Stack" sounds like a Rand character; straightforward, firm and rugged! Do we have a rambling fuck-the-gummint stemwinder? You know it! So there you go, my dear, sweet friend. All we need is a rape scene somewhere in there, and you've got one of her novels playing out in real time. See what you're not missing?

I happen to be related to a few Randroids, so I've had ample opportunity to observe them in their native habitat. I was curious to see if they would, indeed, be all giddy with joy over this blow struck for freedom. So I solicited their reactions. Would they let puny obstacles like ideological consistency or fear of being called "terrorist sympathizers" stand in their way? Well, would John Galt have let that stop him? Of course not, you stupid, weak, girly-man commie. They were proud to claim this freedom fighter as one of their own (even as they claimed he was actually a leftist, trying to have their cake and smear it too).

I didn't bother trying to point out that "It's only terrorism when it's done by people we don't like for reasons we don't agree with" is not a very sturdy ethical foundation. I didn't ask if it was really only a few short years ago that simply calling the president a liar meant you were guilty of treason. I just promised to get my fellow bleeding hearts in the ACLU and Amnesty International to try and spring them from whatever secret prison camp they end up in under some hidden clause in the Patriot Act, and that I would send them Korans and pornography while they were there.

Eight and a half years and one Democratic president. That's all it took before I heard Republicans, newly infatuated with moral relativism, start shamelessly arguing that crashing planes into government buildings in the hope of killing civilians was a legitimate act of political protest. If it hadn't been so goddamned achingly predictable, it would be really funny.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Xerxes Rising II - The Empire Strikes First (and Last, and Every Chance in Between)

Clearly, Heywood J. has not been reading the comments at some of the big pwogwessive blogs, or he would know that Hillary would have been the true pwogwessive president, and she wouldn't have sold us out and let us down the way Obama has, no sir!

Indeed. You have to ask yourself. So let's do exactly that. Iran is surrounded by three huge nuclear powers -- Russia to the north, and India and Pakistan to the east. And Iraq, occupied by a couple hundred thousand Americans, to its west. And leading American politicians constantly threatening, sanctioning, or threatening to sanction. Not to mention the surge of Jebus rifles (and Jebus Predator drones) in Afghanistan.

So they are quite literally surrounded by much larger, historically aggressive entities. Does it even need to be said how completely unacceptable, how unthinkable such a situation would be here?

Of course it's unthinkable! We worship the correct God! I mean, duh! He wouldn't allow such a fate to befall us!

At least the obnoxious polemic, no better than the crude red-meat rhetoric Sarah Palin tosses to her gibbering throng, should be countered.

Yeah, but how? The issue du jour for our sorta-leftists seems to be that some upcoming History Channel miniseries is going to be unfair to JFK, oh noes!

Suddenly, it came to me. James Cameron, if you're done soaking up the accolades for Dances with Blue Pocahontas, our country needs you. You're the only man who can create a popcorn thriller (though I'm thinking a project of this scope and importance needs to be a trilogy) based on the idea of, say, the new Sino-Persian empire invading and occupying Canada and Mexico. The United States, meanwhile, has collapsed into bankruptcy after China cut up Uncle Sam's credit card, and the subsequent brain drain has left us with no one capable of operating our high-tech defense capabilities. And yet, this nation of destitute peasants will still be held up as the ultimate threat to world security by the straight-out-of-central-casting evil world leaders who can barely keep from laughing up their sleeves during their speeches to the U.N. at the absurdity of it all. No Red Dawn-style feel-good moments either; more like 1984, with a hopeless sense of a boot stomping on a human face forever. Having been forced to consider what sort of position so many of our official enemies have found themselves in, American theatergoers will return home pensive and full of regret, having been forced out of their narcissistic cocoons into awareness of their own history, determined to keep from ever acting that way again.

Or, you could just use some of your kajillions of dollars to put books like these in every high-school history classroom across the country. Your call.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hate the Bombs but Love the Bombers

So, the White Stripes demanded that the Air Force stop using their music in recruitment ads. Cool. But...

Shielding in advance any criticisms that they don't back the troops, the duo clarified that they "support this nation's military" but "simply don't want to become a cog in the wheel of the current conflict."

And so it goes. One of the greatest little victories the right wing has won in this country over the last few decades is the way they have so successfully cowed liberals into being absolutely terrified of accusations of not "supporting the troops". If our reactionaries had just a little something resembling a sense of humor, I have no doubt that they could, in no time, have liberals tripping over themselves to outdo each other in insisting publicly that yes, colorless green ideas do sleep furiously, and anyone who insists otherwise hates the Founding Fathers and the Bible and the Super Bowl.

Of course, in reality, the troops are just tools in service to a mission. It doesn't matter how many happy thoughts you think about them, it doesn't matter how many of them are the boys next door you'd be proud to call your friends; they are the epitome of cogs in the machine. That's not a slur or a value judgment, that's a job description. They follow orders handed down a long chain of command, even if those orders are repugnant to personal sensibilities, even if they are almost sure to result in their grisly deaths. If one of them breaks down, we've got a million more just like them to take their place.

It should be obvious to anyone with two eyes and half a brain why there has been this push to personalize war in the form of the individual soldiers fighting in it -- because the missions themselves are not defensible by any of our accepted standards of justice or morality. Apparently, the only way we can allow ourselves to act like Romans is by finding a way to keep pretending that we're still the Continental Army at Valley Forge. For more than half a century now, we've found ourselves being asked repeatedly to accept the idea that tiny, poor nations thousands of miles away are a dire threat to our very existence. Rather than keep trying to come up with increasingly far-fetched proof of this, some genius realized that it would be a lot easier to simply shift the focus. Now, we're told that we have the greatest military that has ever existed, that it can fight multiple enemies at once and prevail, but as any scriptwriter knows, it's booor-ring when your hero is utterly invincible. So, to round out its character, this world-beating colossus has an Achilles' heel: it needs a lot of reassurance and encouragement. It's very sensitive. It just wanted to pet the mouse, George. A few discouraging words from people at home can do what bombs and tanks and rocket launchers could never do: bring our mighty military to its knees.

Well, what can you say. People have believed dumber shit over the ages, I guess. But still, it should also be obvious that even having this back-and-forth over we've got troop-love, yes we do, we've got troop-love, how 'bout you? is a luxury, like others, that proves the essential lack of any real existential urgency to any of our foreign occupations. There wouldn't be any question of support if we we knew what it meant to truly fight for our lives. We would all recognize a real threat if we saw one.

Well, actually, I take that back. It wouldn't be hard at all to make the case that the future stability and security of our nation is vastly more threatened by the obscene and ever-increasing amount of military spending than it is by any group of "Death to America" insurgents with homemade bombs, but no one that matters has seemed to notice that yet.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

No, Alanis, No

Well, hell. I just got an unwelcome reminder that Oliver North is still alive. Now I have to use some Rage Against the Machine to balance it out:

Undressed and blessed by the Lord
The same devil that ran around Managua with a sword
Check out the new style that Ollie found
I tune in with a bullet to shut down the devil sound

Ahh, that's better. Anyway, so the deranged old goatfucker is worried about a lavender military, etc. Given that our sorry excuse for a left wing in American politics today is too concerned with making sure that everyone knows how much they love The Troops! to ever suggest anything like dramatically reining in our military or denying it all the money it wants (RAtM again: "That five-sided fist-a-gon/ That rotten sore on the face of mother earth/ Gets bigger/ The trigger's cold, empty your purse"), I hope Ollie's right, and the homo agenda is what finally rots the entire apparatus from within and completes our transition to fourth-rate world power.

But I am not optimistic about such things, so I have to settle for more modest goals, like hoping that people finally learn the proper use of certain tropes:

The irony of a convicted felon who lied about diverting proceeds from arms sales to a rebel group in Nicaragua supporting a policy that forces gay and lesbian servicemen to lie about their sexual orientation was lost on both Hannity and North.

Irony? So...he once famously lied about something for what he considered a greater good (as always with theocrats), got away with it, expressed no regrets, and he now supports forcing other people to lie about their sexuality for what he considers a greater good? That's ironic? Sigh...

The Word Museum

Did I want to sell? To my surprise, almost without exception, I did not. Seems I’ve formed an emotional attachment to them, I would miss them even if I never give them quality time and attention ever again. Guess that marks me as a bibliomaniac...So I have my answer as to the impact iPad likely will have on me personally: I’m still in the book-buying biz too.

- Phil Oliver

Visiting my parents over the holidays, my mom started enthusing to me about how she had made several hundred dollars selling a lot of her unwanted books on Amazon, and recommended I should do it too, since I have so many. I don't think I could have been more viscerally shocked if she had suggested I should kill and eat my dogs. "Unwanted" books? Does not compute!

I am grateful to her for at least making it so that I grew up in a house where books were absolutely everywhere, and trips to the bookstore were a cause for jumping for joy. She tended towards a lot of pulp fiction and New Age spiritbabble (even more so now, with a heavy helping of lunatic Republican propaganda thrown in), but still, to a little kid, it was all fascinating. I recall her laughing once, when I must have been five or six years old, and she found me gamely trying to pretend I was deeply into some Bruce Catton book about the Civil War. Pretensions of intellectuality even then!

But such a casual attitude toward buying and disposing of books...that's just utterly foreign to me. Not just because money isn't quite so free as to allow me the opportunity to waste it on books I'll never read; there's a whole process involved in obtaining them that makes them more than just objects to me. Like I said, just being in a bookstore is a special event for me. Having the luxury to browse for a couple hours is even better. I'll make a mental list of anything that looks interesting and look them up on Amazon's network of independent sellers with used copies, where I usually find them for a fraction of the price. Then I get to enjoy the anticipation of waiting for it to show up in the mail. And you can damn sure bet that I'm going to actually read anything I've bothered to check into and buy, not just toss it aside and lose interest in it.

Or maybe I've just had a topic on my mind, perhaps even just an inchoate mess of thoughts loosely orbiting a vague subject, and I'll just get online and start searching to see what, if anything, has been written about it. I've already lost count of how many times I've been thrilled to find the perfect book, one I had never seen in a store and didn't even know existed.

So there's almost always a little history between me and any given book; maybe, just like how certain songs always have the ability to pin themselves to certain events in your life, and instantly allow you to relive them upon hearing the song again, looking at a book reminds me what was going on in my life at the time when I read it, and makes particular memories more vivid. The whole book buying/reading/collecting experience is an integral part of my identity; it's not something subject to utilitarian considerations of convenience and practicality.

Besides, how much you wanna bet that people in such a hurry to get rid of all their bookcases are just going to fill the space with some bric-a-brac and ugly furniture?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

I Gotta Say It Was a Good Day

Tomorrow will probably be thunderfuckingly stressful, assuming all goes according to plan.

But, I got to sleep in. I had a good workout while watching my boys Liverpool defeat Everton in the Merseyside derby. I got some writing done. Listened to a lot of music. I have some more football games recorded to watch in a little bit. A bedside table filled up with books to read. And looking at Natasha Wescoat's Jeweled Trees series of paintings has cheered me up and made the neverending whiteness outside seem a little less bleak.

Sometimes you just have to recognize, yo.


Q: Can you describe how you write: time of day, where you write, what you use (computer, chalk, pen)? 
HAMILL: I make notes on napkins, in a notebook, on scraps or post-it notes. Some poems get drafted on legal-sized yellow notebooks. But most shorter poems get drafted "by ear," that is, by recitation, by listening/composing from an "inner ear," or muse, imagination. Poetry, for me, is a union of vision-voice-and-music, the gift of inspiration from the muse, which I must transform in order to give it away again in the form of a poem. Inspiration: to breathe in deeply and speak from those depths. Poetry makes noise. It exists as a body of sound. The words on the page are merely musical notation. When I think I have the poem "finished," I write it down; sometime later I may make a little change or two. But it's important to me to get the sound, the feel of it, just about complete by way of the ear. My BS detector is in my ear. 
- Sam Hamill

I'm just a poetaster myself, writing for my own amusement. But it makes me feel good to know that my method of writing is the same as his. I used to have to travel 210 miles a day round-trip at work, mostly on a long stretch of rural interstate at night and in the early morning, and I used to compose poems in my head to pass the time. It was sort of an unstated rule that I had to keep them short enough to remember them easily, and it made it much simpler when I could get the sound and feel of the poem just right.

"No one read anything silently until about two or three hundred years ago," he said in his essay "Body and Song", from Avocations.

It is doubly unfortunate that so many university literature courses continue to "teach" poetry silently, stuck in logos, the "reason" of the poem, and stuck in phanopoeia, the imagery of the poem. Our insistence upon a way to "explain" the poem often denies us the truest experience of the poetry...The Greeks believed that by emptying ourselves of ourselves, we may draw into our bodies the breath of one of the Muses - inspiration; becoming inspired, we become pregnant with meaning, we make a song by listening; listening attentively, we make sounds with the body, and a poem is born, a poem we then give away in order to become empty again, in order to become inspired. The song, the spiritual exchange, is the fundamental experience of poetry. The lyric poem itself exists only as a condition of music, whether that music be flatly spoken or whether it be an aria, and it cannot be properly understood without being heard.

[...] I have never known how - even in a library - to read a poem silently; I cannot read a poem without moving various parts of my body besides my eyes and fingers: my breath is borne (read: born) on the first line, and muscles begin moving - lungs, spine the many, many muscles of the human face and throat working to make sound.

I think it was that musicality in his translations of Li Po and Tu Fu that enthralled me. I found that book in a woven basket in a little bookstore downtown; I don't even know why those books were grouped together like that. But I remember fishing around in there, pulling that one out, and sitting down to read it, almost reading the whole thing right there. I still read it every few months (plus so many of his other translations); it never gets old. One of Li Po's poems from that collection still takes my breath away for a second when I read (recite) it:

On Dragon Hill
Drunk on Dragon Hill tonight,
that banished immortal, Great White,
turns among yellow flowers,
his smile spread wide
as his hat sails off in the wind
and he dances away in the moonlight.

Can't you just see it? Don't the perfectly chosen words create the same sensation of flowing movement they describe?

Saturday Shuffle

Snowed in and listening to music. Let's see what the shuffle brings. And hey, you know what? Who says these mp3 shuffles have to be ten songs? I'm going to twenty this time. In honor of the twenty inches of snow on the ground. Wouldn't it just be a yuk-yuk if Black Sabbath's "Snowblind" came up?

  1. Goldfrapp - Koko
  2. Tosca - Chocolate Elvis
  3. Nobody - After the Summer Hits
  4. Masters of Reality - King Richard TLH
  5. Rob Crow - Over Your Heart
  6. Chumbawamba - Give the Anarchist a Cigarette
  7. 16Volt - Blackbird
  8. Morphine - Hanging on a Curtain
  9. Econoline Crush - By the Riverside
  10. Niyaz - Nahan
  11. LCD Soundsystem - Yr City's a Sucker
  12. Verdi - Rigoletto: La Donna e Mobile
  13. Kula Shaker - Ol' Jack Tar
  14. Nine Inch Nails - 14 Ghosts II
  15. Mission UK - Run
  16. The Knife - Heartbeats
  17. Joe Beats - Doing the Nothing
  18. B. Fleischmann - Nightly
  19. Nobody presents Blank Blue - All the Shallow Deep
  20. Mozart - Symphony no. 29 in A Major, K. 201: Allegro Moderato

Random thoughts to go with a random shuffle:

Leaning towards electronica again, I see. I was just telling someone that I've really been listening to more of that than anything else this past year or so. And I'm sure meditation purists would scoff, but I find that nothing makes it easier to let my thoughts flow while I step back and just observe them than putting a techno song on repeat, especially while I'm on the road. If I've ever had any brilliant thoughts or insights, they've probably come from doing that. I know at least a couple posts in recent months came after mornings spent listening to Joe Beats and NIN.

In a just world, Eric Powell of 16Volt would be as well-known as Trent Reznor. Not that I'm knocking Reznor, of course -- the thirty-six Ghosts I-IV downloads were a hell of a release, and "The Four of Us Are Dying" from The Slip (given away for free on his website) was a song that helped me through some rough times last year. Big ups for both of them.

Goldfrapp and Rob Crow were probably my best discoveries last year. I knew of Crow's work in Pinback and loved it, but after playing his solo records into the ground, I started listening to his many side projects too. Where does the ultra-prolific mofo find time to eat and sleep?

"Hanging on a Curtain" was really the song that got me hooked on Morphine (ba-dum-bum-tssh). I don't know if a band's name has ever been better suited for their music. Funny enough, it was a snowy day in February one year when I remember really digging into them and just wallowing in their "low-rock" sound all that day. Good times.

Nobody, a.k.a. Elvin Estela, just blows me away. I don't even know how to fairly encapsulate his output. It's like a kaleidoscopic mix of electronica, world music, shoegaze alternative, and who knows what else.

I don't care if The Knife's "Heartbeats" is sugar-coated Swedish electro-pop candy. That fucking song is addictive. I'm not ashamed to admit it.

How the Masters of Reality aren't one of the biggest bands in the world is further proof that there is no God. Twenty-plus years into it and still writing great songs, and Chris Goss's voice still sounds excellent. After almost two years of delayed release and numerous false hopes, I was beginning to wonder if fate was determined to prevent me from ever getting their latest release, but after a comedy of errors between me, their Dutch record company, and the U.S. postal service, I finally got it in October. Worth the wait? Of course.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Old Man Winter FTW

Friday, Feb 5
High: 30 °F RealFeel®: 24 °F
Snow, heavy at times, accumulating 3-6 inches; breezy and colder

Friday Night, Feb 5
Low: 25 °F RealFeel®: 18 °F
Snow, heavy early, accumulating an additional 3-6 inches

Saturday, Feb 6
High: 29 °F RealFeel®: 29 °F
Cold with snow, accumulating an additional 1-3 inches

40 inches or thereabouts so far this season. OKAY, you old bastard, WE SURRENDER. We fucking GET it. GAIA REIGNS SUPREME. PUNY HUMANS, BWAHAHA. JUST, ENOUGH WITH THE FUCKING SNOW ALREADY. JESUS AITCH.

The Human Stain Specialists

The Beast is back with their 50 Most Loathsome. I was glad to see Joe Farah of WorldNutDaily on there, given that an acquaintance kept tormenting me with their fucking "articles" about Obama's death panels last summer, but I have to quibble with this:

Sentence: 2nd place in a John Stossel lookalike contest.

John Stossel? C'mon. Look at his picture --

-- and tell me he hasn't left a damsel or two trussed up on the railroad tracks before. Evil 'stache? Check. Demented grin? Check. All he's missing is the hat.

Anyway. Thanks to the magic of DVRs, I've never actually seen a Shamwow commerical, but I have to say that this was probably my favorite sentence on this year's list:

Sentence: Coke stash raided nightly by the shouting ghost of Billy Mays.

Always Leave 'Em Wanting More

It's always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip's popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now "grieving" for "Calvin and Hobbes" would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I'd be agreeing with them.

- Bill Watterson

Zounds! I swear it was just this morning I found myself recalling old C & H strips and laughing to myself. He's right, of course, but my world has been a poorer place since he and Gary Larson capped their pens. Has there been anything since that can compare to those?

And I still want to hurl a burning brick through every car window with one of those stupid fucking "Calvin pissing" decals, not to mention the atrocious ones that use his image kneeling in prayer before a cross emblem. What, you assholes couldn't use Linus for that?

Monday, February 01, 2010

Nothing's Sacred

But as I mentioned earlier, all these prostrations, chants, incense offerings and the rest have an undeniable psychological and physical effect. Even though we may not know where our need for this kind of action comes from, we need to acknowledge it exists. It's just as strong in any atheist as it is in any religious fanatic. Atheists want to throw away everything about religion, including the stuff that clearly fulfills a real human need. That's never gonna fly. We need certain aspects of religion to make us feel right.

Brad Warner, from Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate

As the philosopher Bugs Bunny said on numerous occasions: He don't know me very well, do he?

I like Brad's writing, even if his gonzo metaphors sometimes stray a little too close to Doug Gilesian territory (though obviously Brad is not a three-quarters insane, hypermacho fundamentalist closet case, so the similarities end there), so I'll forgo my usual umbrage-taking at being authoritatively told by someone else what I really think, deep down in my heart of hearts, and calmly rejoin: No. The religious/spiritual force is not strong in this one.

He doesn't elaborate, so I have to presume he means what most apologists for religion mean; that even if you don't literally believe in the old deities and myths, simply going through the rote motions keeps you from killing yourself and others out of boredom or nihilistic frenzy. But what is this "real human need" stuff? Going out on a limb again, it would appear he means "good" things, like a need for comfort, reassurance, companionship, etc. But I would point out that the need to belong and find purpose among kindred has a flip side, and the urge to dominate, destroy, and otherwise violently distinguish yourself from others not of your tribe is just as "real" and widespread a need as any other value we naked apes hold. I'm sure he would agree that we don't need those urges to be cemented even more firmly in place by elaborate metaphysical justifications, as religious belief has been known to do a time or two.

And let me state for the record that despite being human, all-too-human, I do not need "certain aspects" of religion to make me feel right. Popular music, photos, scented candles and books also have "an undeniable psychological and physical effect" on me. What? Does that sound vaguely insulting, that I would trivialize profound religious experiences by comparing them to ordinary objects and activities, harrumph harrumph?

Well, good. That was the intent. But it was actually only the first step! The follow-up to that is to point out that this false distinction between the profound and the ordinary, the sacred and the profane, is itself a problematic illusion.

Yes, that's right. I'm saying that this belief, this religious faith, that certain activities and thoughts and feelings are somehow more valid, more meaningful, more elevated, is nonsense. We mistake relative for Absolute. This attempt to set those things above and apart from the rest of existence represents yet another instance of the strange human desire to prove that we aren't just another kind of animal, to create and hold some kind of stasis where we can have the things we like while shunning the things we don't, like trying to have the blooms of flowers without the roots.

Contemplation is not the willed stillness of the mystics but a willing surrender to never-returning moments. When we turn away from our all-too-human yearnings we turn back to mortal things. Not moral hopes or mystical dreams but groundless facts are the true objects of contemplation.

- John Gray

You don't need special robes and particular chants and elaborate rituals and traditions that have been passed down over centuries to cultivate and maintain an awareness and appreciation of the literal interconnectedness of all life. You don't need to treat anger and sadness and all the other "deadly sins" as obstacles preventing you from fully enjoying life. In fact, you'll probably enjoy it all the more when you realize that while they may adversely affect your ability to achieve specific goals, they are not inherently wrong. You don't have to enter a special state of mind in special surroundings to realize some special secret. All you have to do is wake up in this moment, as other Buddhists like to say, even if it finds you unshowered and unshaven, naked in front of the computer, and scratching your left asscheek.

Sacred mountains and groves are no closer to the heart of life than carrion and offal. Anyone can find the spirit of life in a flower or sunset. When you can find it in a dungheap, though...ah, that's the trick.