Friday, December 31, 2004
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
I've been reading America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, written by Jon Stewart and other writers from The Daily Show. It's a faux civics textbook, complete with the "This Book is the Property of" stamp on the inside front cover. Stewart and his merry band ridicule and shred every institution in American civic life, and they show no concern for political correctness, either left or right. Here is a sample relevant to my employer:
This is not to insinuate people feel the judicial branch is an unimportant part of our government, just that it is the least important. And that is exactly how the judicial branch likes it. Flying under most people's radar allows the judicial branch to quietly control all aspects of your life. From your morning hardcore pornography masturbation session, to your lunchtime abortion, right up through your twilight neo-Nazi march through a predominantly Jewish/black community, the judicial branch is there to make sure everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law . . . under God.
Most excellent political satire.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Christmas 2004 went surprisingly well for my family. The day got off to an extremely early start, with Toby and Adam both waking up before 3:00 a.m. Really for the first time the boys were aware of the concept of opening presents under the tree. Toby became obsessive about it and ended up opening some of Adam's presents too. That didn't bother Adam a bit; he only wanted his share of the swag. The boys played indoors all day, with the exception of a couple of relatively brief car rides. Adam may have had the best day of his life, while Toby certainly had a very good day. We even had a dusting of snow on our roof, something that is extremely rare in South Louisiana.
Friday, December 24, 2004
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Deep, blue, open sky,
a fragile pine branch swaying.
I smile from the grass.
emptiness; it depends on
how you see the world.
This afternoon, I needed a break from tossing Adam into the air repeatedly, so I lay down on the grass. He ran off and played by himself as I just looked into a gorgeous, cloudless sky.
Adam, by the way, has had some major self-esteem milestones recently. A few weeks ago, he got on the big-kid swing for the first time. Last weekend, he got his first bike. This week, he started rejecting pull-ups in favor of underpants. Now if we could get him to make the connection between those underpants and the potty, we'd have it made.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Today's daily Zen is home-grown and political. Jesse Jackson's latest publicity stunt -- a last-minute challenge to Ohio's electors in the Electoral College -- made me think about how political junkies need to relax and get on with life after November 2 (or, if you live in Washington State, after whenever the recounts are over). This morning I thought up a couple of haikus on the way into work:
Bush wins again.
Republicans! I think they
need to get laid.
Dems a-jumpin. But they just
need to get laid.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
I've been thinking recently about why I have had so many odd dreams in the past couple of years. I've posted a few of them here, and there are quite a few more. I didn't dream very much at all until recently, then it was like the steel door behind which my subconscious self was locked burst open. Many of the dreams I have had are about dealing with the subconscious, though the dreams presented themselves in a symbolic form. Many of the issues that are coming up go way back to my childhood; it's intersting how feelings one has about oneself as an adult are based on childhood experiences. For example, I have strong feelings of inferiority to many other people IRL, despite understanding logically that I'm no worse or better than they are. I wonder how many people have subconscious issues pop up around age 40? How can they/we alter patterns of thought and behavior that have become entrenched over a lifetime?
Friday, December 10, 2004
There’s a controversy a brewin’ among the Mormon intelligentsia. A former Church Education System employee named Grant Palmer is facing an internal church disciplinary proceeding, evidently because he wrote an opus titled “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins.” I’ve not read the book, but I’ve heard it essentially discusses many of the historical controversies of early Mormonism and posits that the LDS Church has chosen to ignore inconvenient facts or to sugar-coat and spin the negative. Additionally, Palmer claims that the Book of Mormon is not an actual work of history. None of this is exactly shocking to anybody who follows Mormon history; indeed, these various controversies have been around for years and have been discussed ad nauseum.
Various Internet fora have taken up Palmer’s banner, and even a number of former Mormons are outraged that Palmer may be excommunicated due to his book. I, on the other hand, have suggested that he be burned at the stake in downtown Salt Lake City, but then I love a spectacle. Actually, I can’t imagine that Palmer thought the Brethren in the Church Office Building would be down with a book containing that word “insider” in its title that debunks the official, “faithful” history of the LDS Church. Heck, Palmer may even have been present when Apostle Boyd K. Packer delivered his Orwellian address about the writing of Mormon history back in 1981. Packer decried historians who believe that everything that is factually true must be told, and declared that “not everything that is true is useful.” He went so far as to say that historians who write “advanced history” that, although factually correct, causes less sophisticated Mormons to lose their faith, are at risk of eternal damnation. Shortly after Packer’s speech, the LDS Church History Department was trashcanned.
Palmer’s book certainly could cause less sophisticated Mormons to lose some, or all, of their testimony of the LDS gospel. It’s no wonder that Salt Lake evidently wants his head on a plate. Palmer does not want to be excommunicated for his book, but I don’t see how he could have expected any other result. Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for anybody who writes honest history, whatever conclusions they might draw, and I have sympathy for the plight of LDS scholars who must always color inside the lines drawn by the ecclesiastical authorities. It just seems to me that you can't claim to be an "insider" and call into question some the fundamental claims of the faith without risking being made an "outsider" forthwith.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
The other night, I had a dream in which President Bush was screaming at somebody in a booth that looked like it was part of some indoor exposition. However, I think it was a member of the press on the receiving end of Bush’s screeching. Bush then came by where I was standing with some other person and explained why he sometimes sounds like a blithering idiot during press conferences. He expressed his belief that the press and the public are too stupid to understand what’s going on in the world. Bush then went into a detailed riff about the Israel/Palestine situation that made him sound like a total genius. The President was wearing Coke-bottle glasses that distorted his eyes. He looked very weird.
As my gentle readers know, I'm not particularly antagonistic towards President Bush. However, I wonder why I've had two dreams very close together in which the President came off very badly.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Recently, DW and I finished watching the first season of "Arrested Development" on DVD. AD is one of those shows that has no safety net, and its willingness to take risks and its apparent lack of concern about offending anybody are a couple of the elements that make it a great show. It’s the story of a wealthy family that loses everything when the family patriarch is arrested for various white-collar offenses. One brother is a responsible, normal guy, and he is left to run the business. The rest of the family is clueless, and all of them have become accustomed to raiding the family company’s treasury for their personal expenses. The family matriarch is a scheming socialite; one brother is a part-time magician; one brother is infatuated with his mother and behaves like a child; the sister is a self-proclaimed liberal activist, but is really a fashion-obsessed airhead; and the sister’s husband is a closeted gay psychiatrist who loses his medical license and wants to be an actor. The son of the normal brother is a brainiac teenager who is obsessed with his female cousin, with whom he is forced to share a bedroom. The female cousin is in perpetual rebellion against her parents, but her rebellions take unique forms.
All of these people, with the exception of the responsible brother and his son, are out for themselves and nobody else. Their misadventures are funny enough, but the show also has managed to poke fun of the gay marriage debate, the Ten Commandments controversy, the Iraq War, the legal system, prison gangs, people faking disabilities, Spanish-language television, inspirational videos, "Girls Gone Wild," psychiatry, acting, social climbing, and incest. Like I said, they really don't seem to care about offending people. As an added bonus, Executive Producer Ron Howard narrates the show. The show airs on Sundays at 7:30 CST on Fox. Check it out.
Monday, December 06, 2004
The birds have vanished from the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.
-- Wang Ch'ang-Ling (698-756)
This poem is a great description of the feeling of complete mental freedom and ego-abandonment I occasionally experience while sitting zazen. Sitting in the correct posture allows me to lose awareness of my body, and getting myself beyond thought and non-thought (very difficult for me to do, actually) allows me to abandon my ego and feel connected to life, the universe, and everything. The first two lines of this poem to me have to do with clearing out the mind, but maybe not -- the Soto school encourages practitioners to let thoughts drift in an out as the scenery of zazen. Finally, the mountain imagery is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, "only the mountain remains" suggests the abandonment of "me" or ego. Second, a person seated in zazen is like a mountain, with the knees firmly on the ground and the head pressing against the sky. Is the mountain in this poem a meditator who has abandoned his/her ego? Or is it really a mountain?
Friday, December 03, 2004
My brother-in-law is in town from Utah for a few days. He's a very straight-arrow LDS guy; however, he's not the least bit self-righteous or judgmental about it. I had lunch with him and DW today in the French Quarter. I left them as they both sat down to have psychic readings. I hope that the gal who did DW's reading told her something about always giving me what I want.
Monday, November 29, 2004
I’ve been heartbroken the past couple of days about my kids’ situations. Toby’s behavior was occasionally deplorable over the five days we had him; he would throw things and hit people whenever he wanted something or didn’t get his way. I attribute his behavior to 1) the doctor taking him off of antipsychotic medication and/or 2) his resentment against us for placing him in a residential facility. I will be talking with the people at his school this week to figure out what’s up. The other day at the park, I watched Toby stirring up pinecones and other debris in a large mud-puddle. For some reason, I realized at that moment that we probably will not be bringing Toby home in the next year or two, as we originally had planned.
Meanwhile, Adam totally fell in love with his older brother. He made a point of going on the “big-kid swing” at the park whenever Toby was swinging, and he joined in the fun whenever I was playing my silly little games with Toby. Adam even got interested in computer games Toby and I were playing.
The ride back to Alexandria was painful yesterday. I sat in the back of the van to deal with Toby’s tantrums and to comfort him when he started crying. Last night, after we got back home, Adam pulled out a full set of clothes and brought them to me. I guessed that he wanted to go back up to Alexandria and fetch Toby again. Adam cried briefly when we dressed him in his pajamas instead. I felt battered and worn out last night.
I went to bed feeling about two inches tall, and I had trouble sleeping. My boys can’t be together, and it’s my fault. My heart ached for Toby and Adam. This morning, I told my therapist how I felt, and he said something like, “you know that’s not rational,” which wasn’t what I needed to hear. He also tried to tie my feelings to medication issues; I found that annoying. IMHO, the grief and guilt that I feel are normal, human emotions that I need to work through.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Yesterday morning, A. woke me up around 1:30 when he couldn't get back to sleep. Around 2:00 a.m., we went into the kitchen and ate Froot Loops. Four or five blocks away, a tornado touched down and damaged several dozen houses. I didn't hear a thing! DW went to the store in the morning and saw severe damage to several houses and Sheriff's vehicles swarming into the neighborhood. It took a minute or two for me to realize that a tornado had hit the 'hood. The funnel followed a path in which one row of houses was devastated while the row behind was left untouched. The randomness of the destruction was kinda scary. Our house was totally undamaged, so we feel fortunate. Typical of Louisiana -- by the end of the day, Home Depot and Lowe's had donated thousands of dollars in lumber, visquene, and other materials to help people close up their damaged homes, and a local church put together a Thanksgiving dinner for people who suffered losses. Also, neighbors were out helping neighbors.
A. and I drove up to Alexandria yesterday to fetch T. for the holiday. We had a loud, celebratory ride home. Lots of growling, shouting, clapping, and singing. As I hadn't slept much the previous night and had to drive the whole way, my head was pounding last night. T. was so worked up that I had to drive him around town at 11 p.m. Good times!
Sunday, November 21, 2004
I had a vivid dream last night, one that ended with me actually screaming and DW waking me up. In the dream, I was somewhat like the psychic character on the "Dead Zone," who is able to touch people and see their futures and/or pasts. Last night, my son A. had just turned 18 or 19, and was sent to fight in Iraq. A. currently is 6, but George W. Bush was still President in the dream. Did that two-term limitation in the Constitution bite the dust? I seem to recall protesting that A. is autistic and unable to serve, and A. being shot up or blown up right at the end. I've never been all that upset about the Iraq War, but I am happier today that I voted for John Kerry a couple of weeks ago.
I had another dream last night after the first that was unrelated to it. I don't remember anything about it except that it involved my in-laws somehow. I am really tired today.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
I’ve been thinking some lately about my overall mid-life experience. I don’t like to label it a crisis, as that brings to mind the self-indulgent, hedonistic, yuppie-from-hell phenomenon known as the mid-life crisis. I haven’t left my wife and kids, and I haven’t bought anything more exotic than a used Altima to drive around in, so I’m not experiencing a stereotypical mid-life crisis. I did take up scuba a few years ago, and I recently purchased a Nirvana CD, but that’s about it in the hedonistic pleasure category.
My crisis (there’s that word!) has been an internal, spiritual and mental one. I slid into it not really understanding what was going on, and I seem to be emerging from it much more comfortable in my skin than I ever have been.
As background, I was pretty happy-go-lucky growing up. I took everything and everybody pretty much at face value, and I had little interest in probing any deeper than that. I worked hard in school and made good grades, even without developing particularly sharp critical skills. I was painfully shy and I experienced the death of a parent at age 14, but I thought that I got over that very quickly by simply blocking it out. Otherwise, I had a good childhood, good grades, and a good attitude.
I grew up LDS, which wasn’t that big a deal one way or the other as a kid. Most people in Oklahoma thought we were an oddball church, but they left us alone. I always resented the negative emphasis put on things, but to be fair that was mostly my mother’s doing. My father was not LDS –- I think he was agnostic -- but he left religion up to my mother, so he had no influence on my spirituality. Years later, after law school, I rediscovered my old faith and became very active in it.
From the perspective of an outsider, I suppose Mormonism looks like a mish-mash of puritanism, reimagined Old Testament Judaism, and 19th Century American mythology. From the perspective of an insider, however, none of that matters. What matters is that Joseph Smith restored the Church of the New Testament in its original form following a long apostasy, and that the LDS Church is led by a living prophet, whose inspiration can supersede and even reverse the doctrines and policies of previous prophets.
As I grew older, I noticed a few internal demons that I blocked out just like I had my father’s death – or so I thought. I was always aware of things I considered to be inadequacies, and I always felt somehow inferior to others in my circle of friends and acquaintances. I never consciously thought of that as a big deal, particularly as I gained their respect and affection in other arenas. I realize now that those internal demons and inadequacies gave rise to a searing self-hate, but that realization came only very recently.
A few years ago, the happy-go-lucky kid who took things as they were began to disappear. First came the neurological issues with other family members. DW had a nasty bout with postpartum depression after our first son was born; our first son was diagnosed as autistic/MR in 1999; and our second son was diagnosed as autistic/MR in 2000. As I had done with my feelings about my father’s death and my inner demons, I suppressed my emotions immediately. I was going to fix eveything single-handedly and defeat autism and depression head-on by myself. I ignored anybody who said I would burn out; I figured if I can’t be a husband and father, then what good am I? I have learned from watching my children exhibit self-injurious and outwardly violent behaviors and from their odd learning patterns that I understand very little about the human brain and about what motivates human behavior. That’s not to say that I’ve suspended all judgment about conduct, but I do think that some behaviors I considered deviant or sinful or whatever are brain-based and therefore natural. Also, I have learned from the efforts we have made to cope with our family situation that rigid rules must be thrown aside for the sake of survival.
At the same time all of this was going on, I began to reevaluate my faith. I was teaching a Sunday school class for the first time in ages, and really for the first time I thought about doctrinal and historical issues. I have always disagreed with the hard line the Church has taken on many gay and feminist issues, but for me the bigger problems were spiritual, historical, and theological. I have no problem with mysticism and theology generally, but the Church has a problem with the discipline of history. Perhaps this helps to explain the pronounced anti-intellectualism of some of the current Church leadership. Moreover, the increasing absolutism on nitpicky little things by church leadership really started to bug me. Why should it matter how many earrings people wear or what color shirt men wear to church on Sunday? Finally, I hadn't felt spiritually uplifted inside the Church for several years. I was going throught the motions, with little or no return. All of my mental issues with the Church were going on against a backdrop of my DW finding excuses to dodge church meetings and my children being somewhat unwelcome in the local ward. So I just walked away.
Around the same time I walked, I became clinically depressed. I suppose I pushed myself too hard, stayed up too many nights, etc. Somehow it all changed my brain chemistry. I started in therapy and on antidepressants. I felt better once I was on antidepressants, but there were some underlying issues I needed to work on. And one huge new issue arose early this year, when we decided to place our oldest son in a residential facility. It is a good place for him to be right now, but I was crushed by having to make that decision.
I began to tinker with yoga during 2003, and my therapist suggested I study the moral principals of that practice. I poked around in a couple of books, and for whatever reason I didn’t take to Hinduism. I really enjoyed meditating at the end of yoga workouts, so I picked up a book by the Dalai Lama one night at Target. As I read that book, I thought, "finally! Someone is telling the truth about my life!" I didn’t go with the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan tradition, which struck me as too complicated and church-like. Instead, I ended up at my local Zen center. Zen is radical in its simplicity, and I think that drives some folks away. I noticed after a short time that my zazen practice was opening my subconscious and was popping open the locks on the places where I had stored away all those emotions, feelings, and demons that had been suppressed for so many years. Also, I’ve had a series of bizarre dreams in the past 18 months or so, the gist of which is that I cannot escape from my subsconscious, so all of these things must be addressed.
I suppose a lot of what I’ve experienced is existential in nature. Who am I? What in the hell is going on inside me? Does this happen to everybody after age 40?
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
This week I'm part of an experiment at work called Continuity of Ordinary Operarting Procedure, or COOP. In case of a hurricane or a terrorist attack, my employer wants to be able to keep us working and being paid. Thus about 20 of us are spending the week working from home. I'm loving it -- I get up at my usual time, have a bowl of cereal, then sit down at the computer and get to work. I've worked from about 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. until 2:30 or 3:00, with a few short breaks here and there. I'm an early bird, so that's a great schedule for me. Also, I can start work when I'm fresh and not after an hour-long commute. I've written up four cases in two days, and I only brought home six for the entire week.
On the down side, yesterday's respite-care worker felt like a fifth wheel with me around, and today's worker didn't bother to show up. I'm trying to get them started on some behavioral exercises with A., something that has been allowed to slide since the beginning of the school year.
Friday, November 12, 2004
I had another fun little dream last night. I was hiking up a high chasm above Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona, with someone I used to know but who's name I can't remember. Dave and Voodew were standing on a kind of rope bridge spanning the chasm, watching a Canadian Football League game that was going on below, I suppose away from the lake. At the bottom of the lake was a space shuttle that had crashed there. However, the shuttle was completely intact, and could be seen clearly through the pristine water. That's about all I remember.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
From the DZ:
The sage sees how to stop clinging
While all others find this very hard.
If you can see through joy and sorrow,
Then you too will glimpse the great peace.
- Perfection of Wisdom
I have been having a hard time letting my thoughts float in and out during zazen recently. I seem to grasp whatever comes into my head and process it with thought until I consciously expel it and start that process over with something else. The idea of zazen, as I understand it, is to have direct experience with the life force that precedes thought entirely. I may have done this on a few occasions -- I'm not exactly sure -- but it's been difficult to achieve that state of mushotoku mind, where I have no expectation of gain and where I just let thoughts drift like clouds across the sky. However, on those few occasions, I have felt my mind break through its boundaries and become spacious and somehow connected with life, the universe, and everything. Or maybe somebody put something in the water.
Monday, November 08, 2004
This morning A's teacher mentioned that St. Joseph's Catholic Church in the city is holding a monthly mass for disabled children. Yesterday was the second month for that; she hadn't told us previously because we aren't Catholic. I told her to let us know the date of the next mass because A. enjoyed the service at the St. Mary's school and he seems to like sacred music. At yesterday's service, the priest brought out some flowers and told the kids to take one and give it somebody they love. One boy with Down's Syndrome kept coming back; he handed out about eight flowers. It seems like something that's worth a try.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
Whew! I'm plum tuckered out at 8:00 p.m. this Sunday evening. DW brought T home for the weekend, and the fireworks started Friday night when saw A taking DW and I to the bedroom for A's bedtime ritual. T started screaming and throwing things, including the toy 18-wheeler DW had purchased for him on the way home. It took an hour or two to get things back under control.
Yesterday, I took T and A to the park in the morning. A stepped in a fire-ant mound as I was placing T on the swing. I had to run over and attend to A, who ran off to play as soon as I brushed off the ants. The boys loved watching me run around screaming like a caveman, but I heard one small boy tell his mother that I scared him. T and I played a game on the teeter-totter in which he would say his name, then I would slam my butt down on the my side, launching T several inches into the air. For some reason, other parents don't play that way with their kids.
Things went well for an hour or so, when T pooped his pants. We went home and changed T's clothes, then drove to the railyard in the city to find a train. We saw the tail end of a big train, so I whipped across the industrial canal to see if there was anything on that side. Nothing. Not a thing. T launched into another huge tantrum, which led to me moving to the back of the van to put him in a therapeutic hold. We were that way until we got home.
Later, it was back to the park, where we played until dark. Again, we played with reckless abandon and me running hard and grunting and growling like a caveman. Both T and A were angry about having to leave, so we drove home with me in the back holding T again. After A went to bed, I took T to the mall for his one-on-one time with me. He enjoyed himself, but I think he would have preferred Target.
This morning, we drove back to Alexandria. T and A both tantrumed when we passed the McDonalds just outside Baton Rouge. We never stop at that one, but they wanted to today. Now here was a challenge: simultaneous tantrums in both the middle seat and the back seat. I managed to get them both calmed down, but I did have to jump back and forth while DW was driving along at 70 mph.
So we drop T back at school and head to the infamous Alexandria McDonalds with A. Great luck, the playland was closed while the staff cleaned up some kid's poop. Savage tantruming as we put A into the car and drove off. It only took about five minutes to get him calmed, and we had smooth sailing from then on.
A few observations about the weekend: First, T is very angry, which isn't the least bit surprising. However, he still loves to be with us. I'm sure the whole situation is terribly confusing to him. Second, A adores T, and does whatever he can to get T to notice him. Yesterday at the park, A swung on the big-kid swing for the first time, and he did it on the swing right next to T. Third, an experience that now seems terribly exhausting is something that used to be a pretty typical weekend. No wonder I've put on so much weight in the past couple of years.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
Yesterday Phoebe got me a'thinkin' 'bout anger and the difficulty I have with that emotion. I'm very self-critical and aware of my inadequacies, failures, and inner demons, so I have quite a bit of anger turned inwards. I've been told that depression is anger turned inwards. However, I have real trouble allowing myself to be angry at other people or about events around me. Is that a Randy thing? A guy thing? A Mormon thing? A Mormon guy thing?
Friday, November 05, 2004
The election is over and my inner political junkie is in withdrawal. I don't get all the Bush-hate I've seen on the Internet the past few days. [Edited after Randy got down off of his high horse]. The Libertarians are still a bunch of kooks, however. Just kidding!
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Monday, November 01, 2004
Sunday, October 31, 2004
I had another fun dream last night. My father-in-law was running a tow-boat/search-and-recovery operation on the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge. FIL is an agricultural economist/university professor IRL, so this was quite a departure for him. FIL was on the river because he owed P-Diddy Combs several thousand dollars. He couldn't pay P-Diddy because somebody else had taken advantage of him and fleeced him of his funds. I didn't know the exact nature of the debt to P-Diddy, but I did know that FIL was furious with Steve Croft for reporting the story on 60 Minutes in a light most unfavorable to FIL. What on Earth a recent LDS mission president was doing hanging out with P-Diddy is an interesting question. At one point, FIL decided to take a group of us fishing in the tow-boat. We got to a lake in the tow-boat, even going over some dry land. Once at the lake, however, I was surprised to see that we were being trained in search-and-recovery techniques by scuba instructors. However, we still had our rods and reels. I was surprised but pleased to strap on a tank. That's when the dream ended.
Saturday, October 30, 2004
For several reasons, the past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster ride for me, and I feel myself wanting to have a mini-breakdown to get it all over with. It's like having nausea and wanting to make yourself throw up so you can get on with life. As some of you know, I've been active on the Internet boards that I've sworn off again and again. I suppose that the boards have proven to be a valuable stress-reliever. Why are those things so addictive? I've also made contact with some old friends to whom I haven't spoken in years. That has also proven fruitful.
Kid update: A. has decided that DW is his favorite parent, and he wants almost nothing to do with me. That wouldn't be so bad, but he is overtly hostile about it. T. is doing well at St. Mary's -- it looks like the infection outbreak that caused all the boils has died down up there -- but yesterday the trainer told me that T. looked homesick while he listened to me talk on the telephone. I do miss T.'s happiness and his bounciness, and I really haven't gotten over the guilt of placing him in an institutional setting.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
I heard yesterday that Craig the Philosopher will be leaving the office next month to go to work at a big law firm. Congratulations, Craig.
Check out http://www.villaaquilea.com One of my roommates from law school lives there with his DW and their three kids. The place had been abandoned for years when they bought it. Now it looks like something in a Merchant Ivory film. However, my ex-roommate isn't a snooty British expatriate -- far from it, as I recall.
I was thinking this morning on the drive in about a little joke I had with the office film fanatic a few years ago. I suggested that we think about how different directors would do that worst of all big movies, "Titanic." We didn't get too far with it back then, but here are a few of my ideas:
-- Martin Scorsese: Leonardo and Kate have sex in the backseat of the car, then Leonardo drags Kate to the kitchen and shoves her head into a pizza oven.
-- Brian de Palma: Kathy Bates stands up at dinner, grabs a baseball bat, and clubs Billy Zane to death as the assorted high-society dinner guests look on in horror.
-- Jonathan Demme: The White Star Line official who gets away in a lifeboat gets the munchies. He viciously kills, then eats, the other lifeboat passengers. He opens a small box that he brought along and has a snack of fava beans and a nice chianti.
-- David Fincher: As the ship starts to sink, Leonardo begins spouting puerile philosophy about masuclinity in modern America. Leonardo and Kate stand on the door in the water and beat the hell out of each other until they both fall into the water and freeze to death.
-- Michael Moore: After hearing that the ship has hit an iceberg, the Titanic's captain continues to listen to a child read a book about a goat for seven full minutes. During that time, Moore speculates aloud what must be going through the captain's head. Much of Moore's film focuses on the murky ties between the captain, a Serbian terrorist group, and Tsar Nicholas II. Moore builds a case for the proposition that the sinking of the "Titanic" was used as a pretext for World War I.
A few more:
Billy Wilder: Kate murders Leo upon hearing that the ship has hit an iceberg. She descends the grand staircase and says, "I'm ready for my closeup now, Mr. de Mille."
David Lean: Keeps the movie as long as it is; however, we get gorgeous vistas of sea and sky throughout. Also, Leo kills Billy Zane and is disturbed that he enjoyed doing so. Russian Navy appears and drags Leo off to fight for the Bolsheviks (okay, my timeline is off on that one).
Federico Fellini: Everybody dresses in circus attire and parties as the ship sinks. Nobody attempts to get away. Life is absurd, so why bother?
Ingmar Bergman: The sinking ship is a metaphor for the existential crisis within us all. Nobody leaves the ship; instead, everybody commits suicide.
Anybody else have any movie thoughts?
Monday, October 18, 2004
My DW is an obsessive reader of novels, mostly in the mystery genre. A couple of weeks ago, I had the bright idea of reading some of those novels myself. I've ploughed through "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown, and now I'm reading "The Rule of Four" by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. All three novels remind me of Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose" and "Foucault's Pendulum," but all of them are more accessible than Eco tends to be. I enjoy the idea of taking some historical book, idea, rumor, or superstition, and basing a detective story on it. I liked "Angels and Demons" better than "The Da Vinci Code," but that may just be because "A&D" is set in Italy and has a more surprising villain. "The Rule of Four" is exceptionally written and does a dead-on parody of academic disputes over obscure topics that nobody really cares about. However, the academic dispute in the novel involves a secret that people are willing to kill to keep. I can't wait to finish it and find out the secret and whodunit.
Friday, October 15, 2004
I had a couple of odd dreams one night last week. In the first dream, I'm driving on an interstate highway in St. Louis, looking for the local Mormon temple -- not to go do temple work, but just to drive past it. I know that the St. Louis temple is on a hill at the interchange of two interstates, at the location of the former Missouri Baptist College. When I arrive at the interchange, all I see on the hill is a shabby old Baptist church with a neon cross and neon signage.
In the second dream, I'm naked and seated in somebody's living room. I am part of a nudist Zen group. We are preparing to attend a conference in St. Louis. We dress and load up into a car caravan, then we drive up Interstate 55. End of dream.
Monday, October 11, 2004
What is it about people and their conspiracy theories? I had a little fun this morning on an Internet bulletin board twitting a guy who thinks that George W. Bush and John Kerry are conspiring together to create a New World Order because they are both alumni of the Skull and Bones society at Yale University. I always thought Skull and Bones was a campus fraternity, meaning that members drink themselves silly and work harder at getting laid than at taking control of the world. My understanding of the conspiracy world is that Skull and Bones is part of a larger conspiracy started by Cecil Rhodes and involving Oxford, the U.N., the Council on Foreign Relations, the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, and numerous investment banks. It has to do with placing everybody under the control of one world government. Looking at the world as it is right now, I'd say that this conspiracy, if it exists, is a pretty dismal failure. Nationalism, Islamo-fascism, tribalism, and other nasty -isms are running rampant, despite the work of these dastardly conspirators.
Then there are the left-wing conspiracy theories, most prominently those portrayed by Oliver Stone and Michael Moore. I laughed myself silly throughout the movie "JFK," which posited that Lyndon Johnson, a bunch of evil Texans, and the military-industrial complex conspired with anti-Castro Cubans to murder a president who was going to withdraw American troops from Vietnam. Now I suppose it's a bunch of evil Texans conspiring with Halliburton and the Saudi Royal Family. Whatever. Hey, I'm a native Texan, so you shouldn't take my word for this or anything else.
I suspect that a great many people cannot understand or accept the complexities of political reality, so they come up with elaborate conspiracy theories to explain everything. One of my far-right relatives told me that she believes that everything in politics is conspiratorial. I, of course, think that she's totally insane.
What do y'all think of political conspiracy theories?
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Sunday, October 03, 2004
Geez, what a wacky weekend. A. was bonkers from 9:00 a.m. Saturday until at least 6:00 p.m. Sunday (as I'm writing). He has been unable to remain at home for more than a little bit at a time, so I've been hauling him here, there, and everywhere. Today was Chuck E. Cheese, Target, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the local mall. Yesterday was both local parks, McDonald's playland, and the mall. Also, he's been putting crayons in water, then arranging them on the carpet, making paintings worthy of Andy Worhol. That leads to me bringing in the Bissell, which flips A. out, which means another trip out. The beach was really fun -- A. and I walked 200 yards or so out into the Gulf, and he flopped around like a fish. When he was ready to go, he walked me back to the van and DW.
We spoke with T. this afternoon. For the first time, he cried when he heard our voices. So add a large dose of guilt to the chaos of running with A.
Monday, September 27, 2004
Was, will be;
At the middle point.
-- Taisen Deshimaru
I had a wonderful moment with my boys yesterday at the Alexandria, LA, McDonalds. Five-year-old Adam spent most of his time climbing around inside the play structure. Seven-year-old Toby, on the other hand, ate a couple of boxes of French fries, then started walking around in an open area, looking out the window and wanting to go out to the car. I walked up to Toby and started a little game. I would say the first syllable of a two-syllable word. He would say the second syllable, and I would then throw him up into the air. His speech has had me concerned the past few weeks, so this was a nice little test. We did the following words:
AD-AM (or as T. says, "Abam")
AN-CREW (Andrew is his roommate)
Adam eventually saw me tossing his brother up into the air, and he slid down the slide laughing. He held up his arms, so I took him and tossed him too. A couple of other little boys noticed me being silly. Fortunately, neither of them wanted to be thrown into the air, but one of them dropped on all fours and growled at me like a big cat.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Yikes! The sign outside the Immanuel Baptist Church -- down the road from my house -- says "American Judges at War with Christianity." I had to wonder this morning how I could come into work, knowing that my employer is fighting against the Almighty. However, I had to ask: "If the Baptists are right, then shouldn't New Orleans have been hit by the hurricane last week?" I mean, here we are, in the seat of a Federal appellate court, and we haven't been struck by a major hurricane since 1965. Yet last week, we had a category five storm bearing down on us before it turned and caused incredible damage to the Alabama and Florida gulf coast. Could it be that righteous living spared New Orleans from the wrath of Ivan? Maybe this city has a double life -- it appears to be seething with sin but is in fact the proverbial shining city on a hill.
Saturday, September 18, 2004
We unevacuated from Starkville, Mississippi, as Ivan began to hit that town. Starkville is okay for an evacuation, but I don't think I'd really want to be there otherwise. A. went bonkers because nothing was as it should be to him -- even the maroon color of my new M.S.U. ballcap set him off. The ballcap I usually wear is gray with a Cleveland Indians emblem on it. A. did enjoy his time with me in the hotel pool. I really can't complain about my own experience, in light of the pictures I've seen of Pensacola and Gulf Shores. Those pictures really hit home because I've spent some time in that area, as have most New Orleanians. Ivan was devastating, even more so than I would have thought.
I had dreams about T. on consecutive nights this week. The first dream was the more interesting of the two. Somebody came up with a machine to project the images dreamed by autistic children onto clear, acrylic screens (kind of like those screens in Minority Report). T.'s images of Dw and me were disturbing -- we appeared rather monstrous. His thoughts were written on other acrylic screens, but they were in Hebrew and I couldn't read them. In the second dream, I'm walking hand in hand with T. at a carnival. He is able to explain to others in perfect English how he has progressed at the St. Mary's school. He also declines some treat or other (for some reason, I think of cotton candy) and to do so very politely. Does anybody else have dreams about their kids?
Monday, September 13, 2004
Harumph! New Orleans is in the midst of hurricane hysteria today. We entered the "cone" of probability yesterday, and now we're listed as having a 16% chance of getting hit. The National Hurricane Center's discussions still suggest that Hurricane Ivan will veer off to the right and hit the Florida Panhandle. However, discretion being the better part of valor, I made a hotel reservation in Alexandria, LA, through Expedia.com at 5:30 a.m. today -- or so I thought. I called the hotel directly around noon today, only to find that the hotel had no rooms at all and hadn't received my stuff from Expedia anyway. I spent the better part of the afternoon on the web trying to find another hotel, and it looks like we will be spending a couple of days in Starkville, MS, home of Mississippi State University. It beats sitting in a dark house with no air conditioning and a pine tree sticking through the roof.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Well, that was certainly a bizarre dream. Former President Clinton was living in a smallish red-brick house much like the one I grew up in. Actually, it was my childhood house. Clinton had a set-up outside the bedroom window (my parents' bedroom -- ewww!) with three fences forming a square enclosure. He did this so that women could jump the fences and climb in and out of the window to keep him supplied with sex partners in perpetuity, without the women having to see each other as they came and went. The front and back fences were cedar, while the side fence was a cyclone fence with barbed wire atop it. Anyhow, Monica Lewinsky poked her head up over the top fence, only to see a gorgeous, shapely babe climb out of the window and get a big kiss from Clinton. The babe laughed at Monica and executed a perfect gymnastic flip over the side fence. Clinton -- the flabby presidential model, not the svelte new one -- attempted to follow the babe by flipping over the fence. He impaled himself on the barbed wire atop the fence. I woke up laughing hard, at 4:00 a.m.
I have no idea what any of this meant, but man was it funny!
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Whew! What a weekend!
I drove to Alexandria, LA, on Friday to pick up T. for the weekend. He had been confined to the school clinic for a few days, so he was really happy to see me and to come home -- so happy that he only made me stop twice for French fries. Friday night, I removed the water-play area from the backyard due to T.'s boils, which I didn't want to become infected. A. was extremely displeased to see no hose, pool, or tarp out back on Saturday morning, so he threw a major tantrum. He threw a few more tantrums on Saturday to get my attention away from T. However, A. loved having T. home for the weekend, for the first time since T. went off to boarding school. They even played together on the teeter-totter at the park. A. didn't mind at all when T. got a little rough on his end, making it look as if he was trying to launch his little brother into orbit. My kids are tougher than other kids, what can I say? We went to the park a few times, to the McD's playland, to Target, and to the railyard together on Saturday and Sunday. T. dragged me out of bed at 2:00 a.m. yesterday, and A. soon followed. The three of us sat up eating Froot Loops and watching Thomas the Tank Engine; horsing around; and playing on the computer. Finally, we drove T. back to Alexandria, returned home, and fell into bed.
I was touched by a couple of the other boys in T.'s dorm yesterday. One of them, who is tiny for his age, insisted that I pick him up, then he wrapped himself around me like an anaconda. A second, older boy saw that and he came over for a hug too. The children at that school get plenty of affection and hugs from the trainers, teachers, and nuns, but most of those people are women. I had to wonder if those two boys have any adult men in their lives. OTOH, many of the boys in T.'s dorm are naturally affectionate and hug anybody who comes along.
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Food for thought:
We live in illusion and the appearance of things.
We live in the world of concepts.
There is a reality; we are that reality.
When we understand this, we see we are nothing.
And being nothing, we are everything. That is all.
-- Kalu Rinpoche
Sunday, August 29, 2004
I attended the sesshin/day of zen yesterday at the N.O. Zen Temple. 12 hours of meditation, light housekeeping (called "samu" or work meditation), and socializing. There was a rule of silence, but everybody ignored that after the second zazen session ended. Anyhow, it was good for my brain. I found myself trying to force my mind to repeat past meditation experiences. I've read that it doesn't work that way, and it doesn't. Also, in Soto Zen, one is supposed to approach meditation with no expectations, what they call "mushotoku mind." It was frustrating. I was able to just focus on breathing and posture during the third and final zazen session, and it went better. I even requested the kyosoku (a stick that is used to whack the recipient along a particular acupuncture meridian). I didn't have any spectacular enlightenment experience, or even a minor catharsis, but my mind was calm and clear at the end. All in all, a worthwhile experience. The NOZT does these day-long things every month. I'll probably make a couple of them per year; any more than that would be too much.
Friday, August 27, 2004
As most of you know, I am a lawyer by trade. Most of the attorneys where I work are women, many of whom proudly call themselves feminists. Most, but not all of them, have a sense of humor. So this morning I go to the snack machine and see "Hooters Hot Wings" on display. We men will get a good laugh out of that one.
I had a dream last night that was both hilarious and poignant. I was sitting in a dorm room with Howard Stern. We were seated at a dinette table, from whence Howard was broadcasting his radio show. Guess the FCC made him go underground. I was Howard's producer/sidekick, and I was laughing at all of his crude comments.
DW walked into the room with YS, and told me that YS had been talking at school. YS came over to me and started talking to me like it was no big deal. When I asked him why he had never spoken before, he said that he just didn't know what we expected from him. I, of course, burst into tears of joy. Howard Stern announced on the air that my YS was talking and that it was a miracle.
I haven't listened to Howard Stern in years.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Sunday, August 22, 2004
Interesting two-part dream last night. It may have been two separate dreams, I don't know. Anyhow, I'm hiking uphill in the Naomi Peak Wilderness Area above Cache Valley, Utah. I've been there a few times by myself in the summer. This time, however, my in-laws are urging me to keep climbing. Also, there is no snow anywhere in sight, unlike every other time I've been up there. Instead, there are beautiful, colorful Alpine trees and flowers in full bloom.
In part two, I'm atop a very long waterslide in Charleston, South Carolina. It's not a typical waterslide, however. Instead, it's a metal slide much like you'd find in a public park, and it's only wide enough for one person. As I get to the top (I'm almost there when the dream starts), I think I'm going to be sliding into the Atlantic Ocean. Instead, I see a fast-moving river at the end, a couple of miles down. I give some advice to a person who has never done this slide before (evidently I have gone before), then that person disappears from the dream. I start sliding very fast, then see a woman and a child in front of me, with a Nissan automobile in front of them. I slow way down and take the kid in my lap. The car is almost stopped, but it is moving along slowly. The dream ends there, before I get to the river.
Friday, August 20, 2004
I have been invited to attend the 44th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo of the Society of Toxicology. I'm not making this up -- I pulled the invitation out of my box late yesterday. According to the dictionary, toxicology is "a science that deals with poisons and their effect and with the problems involved (as clinical, industrial, or legal)." That's all yours truly knows about toxicology, other than what Professor Snape taught his students in the Harry Potter books.
Here's the fun part -- the meeting will be held in New Orleans, March 6-10, 2005, and the Society is issuing a call for abstracts. With so many smart people reading this, we should be able to design a bogus abstract to submit, then to present in front of "6,000 scientists from industry, academia, and government." Anybody have any ideas?
Thursday, August 19, 2004
I've been stressed-out all week long. Yesterday was the worst -- I really felt like I was jumping out of my skin. A couple of weeks ago, YS's frequent tantruming made me start fearing that he might need to be placed at the St. Mary's school whenever his number comes up there. Today, I got a call saying that they just had a placement and that the next slot will be his. So now I'm stressing out again, though the extra dose of Lexapro I took this afternoon is helping a lot. My therapist thinks that much of my desire to have the kids at home is more about me than it is about them. There might be something to that, but I did call bullshit on him a couple of times today. I do wonder, however, whether my handwringing over the prospect of YS going there is a) guilt over deciding to place OS there; b) overcompensating for something I may secretly feel is inevitable. This whole thing sucks; it really does.
To quote Mel Brooks, "it's good to be the king."
Yesterday, on the way back from jogging, I saw a very powerful person in the basement where I park. The VIP pulled in with his entourage and parked. Everybody got out of the car, and one of them used her key-card to summon a nearby elevator from an upper floor. The VIP -- actually, a very nice person -- was annoyed that the elevator wasn't there. One of the other people pointed out that the arrow above the elevator was "pointing down." "Pointing down doesn't mean coming down," said the VIP, and the group started walking to an elevator clear across the garage. I don't know what happened next, because I high-tailed it to the changing room. It sure would be nice to have enough clout to be annoyed about an elevator not being ready and waiting for me.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
I got my special-edition, two-disc, widescreen version of GoodFellas in the mail today. Now that DW is asleep and I've gotten rid of bad karma with a nice little session of zazen, I really should go watch some people get whacked with extreme prejudice.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
I've written so much about my younger son's behavioral problems that I feel compelled to write about yesterday. A. was a perfect little guy yesterday. We went to the Burger King playland, the John Slidell park, and the Slidell Community Playground next to the train depot yesterday. A. had a blast, and whenever he was ready to leave he took me by the hand and led me to the car. Just now we let in the cat from next door, and A. was gentle and nice to him. We may go to the beach later on today, I don't know.
I was a bit worried after I went jogging yesterday. I didn't go all that far, and I was breathing way harder than usual. Jogging has been difficult recently, but nothing like yesterday. DW was worried that I was going to have a heart attack or something. Things settled down very quickly, but I'm taking this as a warning sign to get serious about what I eat.
Friday, August 13, 2004
I went to zazen at the Zen Temple this morning, from 6:30-8:00. It was way more interesting than on Sunday. I stared at the wall and noticed my thoughts jumping around like a car radio set on scan mode by a crazed driver. Okay, I've got too much garbage on my mind and I need to get rid of it and focus on what's most important. The resident there corrected me a few times and explained some things better than the teacher did on Sunday. At one point, I slipped into a semi-altered state of mind, something that resulted in deep, heavy breathing. I could hear what was going on and pay attention to it, but my mind was completely relaxed. Suddenly I heard the resident saying that breathing during zazen should not be loud and violent but quiet, peaceful, and natural. I corrected my breathing and from that point on was able to focus on posture and breathing, letting other thoughts just float in and out. It was great. My head was totally relaxed the rest of the day, which made going home early even better.
Sunday, August 08, 2004
This Sunday morning was a little different than most. I drove into the city today for an introduction-to-Zen class and not to take my kids to look for freight trains. Because I needed to be out before A. awoke, I headed to the funky old Bywater neighborhood and arrived around 6:45 a.m. for my 8:00 class. Bywater is quite a mix of people -- hippies, contemoporary bohemians, upper middle-class gay/lesbian couples, blue-collar black families, and active-duty Naval personnel. Strangely, perhaps, suburban me felt very comfy in the funky neighborhood coffeehouse, where I sat down and started making my always-A/R to-do list for the week. Rather incongruous, now that I think about it.
Yesterday saw A., my ailing sister, and I head up to Alexandria, LA, to visit T. We fetched T., then made our ritual trip to the nearest McDonalds. A. ran in and started climbing, fully shod. T. sat down and ate French fries. I removed his shoes as he ate. Sure enough, the shoe nazi appeared and walked through the playland, checking every kid in sight for shoes. She even bent down to look under tables to ensure that all of the kids were unshodden. Fortunately, A. was deep inside the intricate maze of plastic tubes and slides and could not been seen with his felonious footwear. Unfortunately, A. became overloaded and completely freaked out inside the climbing tower. We had to leave immediately. My sister followed with T., and was more upset by the way some of the other diners looked at us than she was by A.'s obvious neurological/psychological issues. She kept on about how those people looked at us, so I just said "fuck 'em. You develop a thick skin pretty quickly." We then went to Target, where the kids behaved very well. We then made a spur-of-the-moment trip to my aunt and uncle's house 15 or 20 miles from Alexandria. A. & T. went straight upstairs to the playroom that my relatives keep for their own grandkids. The boys had a great time up there, so I stayed there about an hour or so longer than I had anticipated when we decided to go there. On the way home, A. discovered that Lea's pie store has a kids' play area in back. He attempted to steal some of the toys, and our struggle over that ended in another tantrum that ended when we got to Burger King.
The Zen course this morning was fascinating. Of course I've been sitting all wrong, but that didn't surprise me. We had a quick class, then helped set up for the lunch we would have after the actual Zen session. Once the session started, we sat facing the wall for half an hour; did walking mediation for 10 minutes, then sat for another half an hour. You're supposed to focus only on your posture and your breath; if you do that, the mental aspects of zazen are supposed to take care of themselves. Physiologically, proper posture alters the bloodflow to different parts of the brain, allowing underused parts to get worked out. Anyway, keeping the position was difficult for me, so it was good to have a disciplinarian in the room to straighten me out. It was all very Japanese, with lots of bowing, incense, and lying prostrate. We also did some chanting, in Japanese, that was designed to teach us proper breathing technique. Afterwards, we had a great lunch that a resident student at the facility prepared for us. The lunch included pepperoni slices and wine, two things I had thought were off-limits. I guess they aren't at this dojo. I can't go there for zazen terribly often, but I do plan to make it there several times a year anyway.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
I just spoke with my 7-year-old son on the phone. It was our usual conversation:
R: Hi, T
R: Have you got a notebook?
R: Do you watch Thomas?
R: And Blue's Clues?
T: Blue. Clues.
I then did a monologue about his favorite shows. He didn't respond, but he didn't push the phone away either, which is what he does when he's tired of listening. It was sweet to hear his voice; I hope he feels the same way about my nasaly twang.
Monday, August 02, 2004
I had an exasperating tug-of-war with my therapist this morning. I started off talking about having some sadness on Saturday over my younger son’s long-term prospects and how it would feel like total and complete failure were certain things to happen. My therapist started to push me a little and I said "I don’t want to go there." He continued pushing me. I told him again that I didn’t want to go there.
My therapist said that what was going on was a tug-of-war, with him trying to get me to articulate feelings and me shutting him down. He had been reviewing his notes on me, and he noticed a clear pattern of minimizing, rationalizing, compartmentalizing, and cutting off discussion of, strong emotion and the subconscious. That tendency was apparent even to me at the dream-interpretation group last week. I had been able to move the discussions to a more comfortable, intellectual plain in the past, but not today. He tweaked me a little by telling me I say I "don’t want to go there," then pointing out that I keep going back, which means that I do want to go there. Just before I left, I told the therapist that I usually felt agitated leaving his office. He told me that I need to bring that up and talk about it.
I hate it when people won’t allow themselves to be outmaneuvered.
Friday, July 30, 2004
Finally, another decent Daily Zen:
A temple, hidden, treasured
In the mountain’s cleft.
Pines, bamboo such a subtle flavor:
An ancient Buddha sits there, wordless
The welling source speaks for him.
- Yuan Mei (1716–1798)
The notion of wordless communication, of course, is classic Zen thought. What do you think? Can you tell me without using words?
Sunday, July 25, 2004
"Seinfeld" had the soup nazi; McDonalds now has the shoe nazi. We were in Alexandria, LA, earlier today to visit our oldest son. We went to the McDonalds closest to his residential school. We've been there several times before, and the boys have always worn their shoes in the playland. Today, however, an elderly employee shouted at the boys as they climbed into the play structures. She then barked at me to take the boys' shoes off. I ignored her. The boys were up at the top anyway by that point, but the hag continued to gripe at them. She left the playland area before DW came in with the food. I thought we were done with this strange old bat, then I noticed her staring at the boys from the main dining room. She went and told the manager on us, and he came in and told us that kids are not allowed to wear shoes because they might scuff up the plastic on the slides and climbing towers. OS was seated at the table right then, so I took off his shoes. He couldn't understand why I did that, and it totally ruined the experience for him. He got upset, and DW took him to the car. I had to pull YS from a tubular slide and take him to the car, kicking, screaming, biting, and scratching. YS has put some nasty bites on me in recent days, so this was not appreciated. Damn that shoe nazi! Damn her straight to hell!
Monday, July 19, 2004
We watched the pilot of "Entourage" last night on HBO. It's a show about wretched excess in Hollywood, with a young movie actor and his hanger-on best friends. The show has promise, but it hasn't found its legs yet. Marky Mark Wahlberg is one of the executive producers, and one would think he would know all about the subject matter of the show. I'll keep watching this one, at least for the next few weeks.
I think "Six Feet Under" may have gone six feet under with last night's episode. Most of the episode was devoted to David Fisher picking up a hitchhiker and being forced to drive him around Los Angeles. The psycho hitchhiker ultimately poured gasoline on David, then drove off in David's van. Along the way, the guy made David withdraw money from an ATM; dumped the corpse from David's van (David is a mortician); bought crack cocaine; made David smoke crack; had sex with David (who is gay); and made David help him catch a dog who turned out not to be his. David had several obvious opportunities to escape or summon help -- most notably when the psycho hitchhiker left him tied up inside the van to go into a store, then he managed to untie himself -- but he either did nothing or blew his opportunities. Give me a break! It was like we were watching the first two seasons of "24" and David was the dim-witted Kim Bauer. "24" is pure pulp and doesn't pretend to be anything else; "Six Feet Under" purports to be a drama with a touch of dark humor. Or at least it did until last night. I don't know if I'll be able to watch this turkey again, at least not this season.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Oy, such a morning! I took YS to Chuck E. Cheese this morning. Everything went fine until I made him let another kid go down the slide he was climbing up. He went totally nuts, and I had six fresh bite marks on my wrists by the time I fastened him into his carseat. Masochist that I am, I took him directly to PetSmart. We followed a dog back into the grooming section, and YS gently petted the animal. When the dog went back behind the door, YS went nuts again. I had to pick him up and carry him from the store, with his head and arms wildly flailing around, trying to make contact. I got his arms crossed and firmly immobilized, but he was able to bite me. He got my entire left thumb into his mouth and bit down so hard my thumb briefly went limp. I took him to the neighborhood playground, then home. He's been fine ever since. I've got a few bruises and bite marks, but no major damage.
Yesterday was a very good day. We did PetSmart, Target, and a large local playground without incident. YS is very good with dogs, and he loved PetSmart yesterday. I'm thinking he was just terribly overstimulated yesterday and this morning and what I tried to do was just too much.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
One of the fringe benefits where I work is free parking for about half of our employees. We have to pack in the cars and frequently have to move other peoples' cars to get out. That's cool with all the employees except one, who has made her parking privileges a 10-year personal jihad. The latest is so funny as to be blogworthy.
This employee parks in the so-called 4:30 line, where everybody leaves at 4:30 p.m. The past few days, she has been placing a note on her steering wheel informing the rest of us that she does not consent to her car being moved before 4:37 p.m. The note explains that she turns off her computer at 4:30 when the computer clock says that it's 4:30, then she needs time to clean her desktop, gather her belongings, and get across the street. There is an allowance made for anybody who needs out during the day. The note is a full page long. The first note was taken from her vehicle and turned over to the the boss so he could deal with it. There is another copy of the note on her steering wheel today.
This coworker had been waiting until 4:45 or so to leave the garage, so as to miss the traffic from other parts of the garage at 4:30. Thus her vehicle often was moved into inconvenient places. Never dented or scraped, just moved. It doesn't affect me, as I park in another part of the garage. Still, it's damn funny.
Evidently I'm not the only person around here who needs to see a therapist.
Sunday, July 11, 2004
I have a confession of sorts. I've been fighting off an attack of depression the past couple of weeks. I seem to have bottomed out yesterday and today, and I may be pulling out a bit. A few good "Sopranos" episodes helped, and I've been very busy playing with Younger Son. I just ate some sushi from Sav-a-Center just for the hell of it, and doing stuff just for the hell of it is always a good sign. I like Sav-a-Center because they make a point of carrying Louisiana products, some of which are very difficult to find. I was more excited than I should have been to see New Orleans Nectar Soda at the checkout. Next thing you know they'll be carrying cream cheese ice cream.
Saturday, July 10, 2004
Younger Son and I are having a very busy weekend while DW is in Utah/Idaho. Yesterday we spent two hours at a McDonald's playland, two hours in our backyard pool, and an hour running around PetSmart. YS got to pet a nice black Lab at the pet store, and ran around looking at fish and birds as usual. We just got back from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where YS spent three hours in the Gulf of Mexico. He is working on his dog-paddling technique and on his diving technique. He started diving down to the bottom to grab handfuls of sand. Other parents have their kids in floaties and tubes; I was tossing YS into the air and getting maniacal laughter once he came back up from under the water. Lest you think I'm totally negligent, we were never in more than three feet of water. I'm not sure what we'll do with the rest of the afternoon, but I'm sure I'll think of something. YS's transitions are problematic right now. I had to drag him from McDonald's and PetSmart yesterday kicking and screaming, and I've got a long scratch mark on my face from when I gently placed him into the car. I don't know why the people in the drive-thru line were looking at us like that. DW, of course, would like me to be putting together some bookshelves she bought last week. Oh well.
Thursday, July 08, 2004
I got this in the mail recently:
I don't want to believe you've abandoned the Republican Party, but I have to ask . . . Have you given up?
Our records show we have not yet received your Republican National Committee membership renewal for the critical 2004 presidential election year.
. . . .
So I am surprised and concerned because I know how generously you have supported the RNC in the past and how instrumental your help was in electing a Republican President and Congress.
[yada, yada, yada]?
I was telling Craig just yesterday about receiving a similar fund-raising letter from my law school. The difference being that I had actually donated money to the law school in the past, and I was pissed when I got a letter saying that they were concerned because they hadn't heard from me. I have never given a dime to the Republican Party or the Democratic Party either, for that matter, so imagine how surprised I was to hear how generous I have been in the past. At the office, I get stuff from the DNC and I somehow was on John Edwards's mailing list. My magazine subscriptions or whatever must create an interesting profile -- am I an Edwards Republican? A Demopublican? A Republocrat? Just plain fucked-up?
DW is on an airplane bound for Utah. She will be attending a family reunion while YS and I hold down the fort here. YS is driving me nuts already, and we only got home from the airport 45 minutes ago. Last night he decided it would be fun to pour liquids onto the carpet and place little plastic things inside the resulting stains. So we've had two bottles of bubble bath, two cokes, and a bottle of carpet cleaner poured onto the run in the last 14 hours. I bring in the rug shampooer whenever he pours. The machines scares the hell out of him, and I want him to associate spilling with the machine. Meanwhile, I'm going through and putting any and all liquids out of reach. That's a really tall order when you think about it, so I'm sure I'll have more floor care opportunities this afternoon and tonight.
Friday, July 02, 2004
Well, this certainly was a fun day. I was moving in slow-mo this morning, so I was about half an hour late leaving Slidell to go pick up T. for the weekend. I forgot to take any wipes, which I usually take just in case. I needed gas too. So I got off in Covington, LA, got gas, and went to Target for the wipes. I had planned to hit Alexandria around 11:30; instead I got there at 12:00. No big deal, and we were on the road by 12:20. Okay, so if we stopped at my mother's house in Baton Rouge, we should still be home by 5:30.
T. needed more potty stops than usual, I supsect so he could manipulate me into buying snacks. After two potty stops, I bought him French fries in Opelousas. 30 miles later, in Henderson, he shouted "potty!" again. Of course, there's a McDonald's in Henderson, and he knows it. Okay, what the hell. Another potty stop and another order of fries.
We got back to the Interstate and traffic problem number one. There was a wreck 10 miles or so ahead, and we moved at a crawl for several miles. We got to about 15 miles outside Baton Rouge, where we hit traffic problem number two. There was a wreck somewhere inside Baton Rouge, and it had traffic pretty nearly stopped for 20 miles or so. There are no alternate routes, so we just had to move along at 15 mph. We got across the river into BR, and I took the first exit. We cruised through LSU and came out right by Barnes & Noble at 5:00. I took T. into B&N for a potty stop. The escalator totally freaked him out. I managed to get him to pee, then we went to the car.
We crawled along in BR rush hour for a few minutes, then T. shouted "pizza!" Okay, I thought, I'll find someplace after BR. Nope. T. has an uncanny sense for geography, and he remembered exactly where to go in Baton Rouge for pizza. He started screaming and kicking my seat when I passed that exit, so I had to backtrack and go to Pizza Hut. So we got our pizzas and came out shortly before 6:00.
Well, the pizza didn't quite do it for him, so he shouted "French fries!" as we neared an exit where there just happens to be a McDonald's. I thought I could get away with driving to the next town, but traffic came to a standstill. I maneuvered over to the left lane, which resulted in a big stinking tantrum. So I got back over and went to the Golden Arches. We went inside and to the bathroom. T. went, then I bought him fries and a root beer. T. wanted to play in the outdoor playland, which was locked up for the night. He started tantruming again, and I had to drag him to the car kicking and screaming.
Once we started moving again, T. threw his French fries at me, first one at a time, then the whole box. Then he threw his coke at me. Then he threw several Matchbox cars that A. had left in my back seat. He kept it up until we hit Walker, LA, where he said "potty!" insistently. So I got off on the Walker exit.
Wouldn't you know it? There was another freaking McDonald's! I pulled into a Shell station and waited for T. to settle down. I gave him his nighttime medications, then took him into the station to use the bathroom. The toilet was amazingly filthy, so I took him right back out. I drove him to a Wendy's down the street, where he finally went poop. We got back in the car and he said "French fries! Coke!" Not what I wanted to hear, but I was way into bribery by this time, so he got what he wanted. We got back to Slidell around 8:20, and we didn't even stop at my mother's house. So what is usually a 4.5 hour ride (including potty stops) was an 8 hour ordeal. And the weekend is just beginning!
I just made the rounds on the blog-o-rama. Everybody looks like they're doing fine, but I kind of miss the legal and philosophical musings of my downstairs coworker. With the Supreme Court acting like it's on crack, this would be a great time for some commentary.
Anyhow, I'm off to fetch Oldest Son for the 4th of July weekend. I'm going by myself -- he loves having one-on-one time with me, and me picking him up alone is a great way for him to have that. We'll go to Target and McDonald's, like we do on local visits up there, then I'll surprise him by turning south instead of north.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Today's daily zen is that I've signed up for a meditation class at the New Orleans Zen Temple. I previously had the impression that those folks were too churchy for my liking right now, but I gave it a second thought and decided to do the class. I was comforted to find that the NOZT has moved from a nice, comfy building downtown to a dumpy old marine-supply warehouse in the Bywater, with the marine-supply logo still on the front of the place. Maybe they aren't so churchy after all.
Monday, June 28, 2004
I'm feeling very depressed this morning. YS had a difficult, violent weekend, and I was the recipient of most of his violence. Also, a couple of other big issues I've been juggling recently came crashing down last week. I thought I had gotten over the gloom yesterday, but it's back this morning.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
From the Daily Zen:
You are a seeker.
Delight in the mastery
Of your hands and your feet,
Of your words and your thoughts.
Delight in meditation and in solitude.
Compose yourself, be happy.
You are a seeker.
- Buddha in the Dhammapada
The first thing I thought of was Harry Potter, the youngest seeker in over a hundred years. Actually, I wish I had mastery of words and thoughts.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
Today's Daily Zen:
Worldly ups and downs
Should be treated
As lightly as clouds
Gathering and breaking up.
This is a great attitude to have, even if it does seem a little naive. Come to think of it, that's exactly how I used to view life. I'm working back to that, so I guess I'm really just going 'round in circles, or maybe it's just my nature.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Today I was huffing and puffing up a storm while I was jogging in the heat. I took a rest stop next to the Aquarium and did something I've been meaning to do for quite some time. I took a close look at the New Orleans Holocaust Memorial. The memorial consists of nine acrylic pillars painted with what appears to be stained-glass patterns in the center. The edges of the pillars facing the river are painted different colors, while the edges on the other side are painted black. When you go to the plaque explaining the memorial and look at the pillars, you see a yellow star of David on a black background. Walk around slowly, and the star of David disintegrates, eventually into blackness. Continue walking around, and eventually a multicolored menorah appears. Continue further, and rainbow colors appear.
I found the memorial moving. Despite the darkness of the Holocaust, Jewish culture and faith has survived. Also, I love the way the memorial was put together. It's very cool and not dark and depressing. I think we need to be reminded of that terrible chapter in 20th century history; this is the kind of thing that can't happen again. I say that knowing that we've had the killing fields in Cambodia, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, and the slaughter in Rwanda.
Also interesting was that the Archdiocese of New Orleans contributed money to build the memorial. Yesterday I read an article by Elie Wiesel praising Pope John Paul II for improving Catholic-Jewish relations.
Last night I attended a group for men to talk about dreams. My therapist put the group together and invited me to join it. As my dear readers know, I've had several unusual dreams in the past year or so. I just don't know about this group thing. The guys who were there last night all seemed intelligent and articulate, and my therapist obviously knows what he's doing. I like the fact that he's open to anything and doesn't want to impose his own interpretation on our subconscious thoughts and images. However, I wonder whether it's worth $50 every two weeks to sit around and shoot the shit about archetypical symbolism. Maybe I should just have a better attitude and try it out a few more times.
Monday, June 14, 2004
Today's Daily Zen:
Cold night, no wind, bamboo making noises,
Noises far apart, now bunched together,
Filtering the pine-flanked lattice.
Listening with ears is less fine than
Listening with the mind.
Beside the lamp I lay
Aside the half scroll of sutra
- Hsu-t’ang Chih-yu
I like this for three reasons. First, it serves as a reminder that hearing and listening are distinct. In human communications, it's all too common to formulate our responses while the other person is speaking. Second, it suggests that the mind can benefit from letting down its filtering mechanisms and actually listening to "white noise." I suppose that goes for experiencing other phenomena that we filter out routinely. Third, it suggests that at some point we must stop reading about philosophy, religion, ethics, etc., and go experience life. It reminds me of the commonly expressed LDS thought that one must live one's religion to truly understand it. There's doctrine, then there's practice.
Any thoughts? Am I full of it or what?
Sunday, June 13, 2004
I just redid my settings to allow anonymous comments. I hadn't realized that I was only allowing registered members to comment. Not that anybody else is reading and wants to chime in, but those hypothetical teeming masses now can snipe at me without giving themselves away.
Yesterday was Family Day at the St. Mary's school. DW, YS, and I drove up on Friday afternoon. The only room I could book was at a fancy downtown hotel, so that's where we stayed. It was a singularly inappropriate place for an autistic 5-year-old, but oh well. YS loves little adventures, so he was bouncy and giggly Friday night. We took him to the local Chuck E. Cheese, where he had a grand time climbing around in the sky-tube, which supposedly was closed. Some other kid had removed the cardboard barrier, and YS was at the top before I could do anything to stop him. I decided I didn't care about the wobbly lower part of the slide, so YS played away. Can you tell I grew up in the '60s and '70s, before child safety was a big issue?
We went to St. Mary's on Saturday morning, where the administration had 8 or 9 activities set up, with each age group to rotate on a 15 minute schedule. YS ran straight past OS's dorm and to a large slide/play station he's been lusting after for months. OS was already out on a tractor ride around the campus, so DW waited in the shaded pavilion while I went out into the blazing sun to watch YS. DW and OS eventually came over to the playground with us. YS wouldn't budge, and OS only wanted to swing, so it was farewell to the activity schedule for us (we weren't the only family to blow off the schedule). I discovered that I've still got it going on with high-speed merry-go-round pushing. OS loved that. Let's see how fast a 41 year old can get a merry-go-round going and jump onto it without falling off and breaking something. Again, can you tell I grew up in the '60s and '70s?
Eventually, we took the boys to Target and McDonald's. It was a nice family time, for the most part. YS threw a few nasty little tantrums to mess things up a little. I think he's jealous of OS now for getting to live in a place with so many playgrounds, horses, and such.
DW and I were talking last night about what a fine boy our OS is becoming. He's always been sweet and happy, not to mention cute beyond belief; now he's making progress with speech, behavior, and demeanor.
The Family Day was a good thing. I hope good things keep going on with OS.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
The Daily Zen is on a roll. Why do I like this one so much? What does it mean?
No form, no sound.
Here I am;
White clouds fringing the peaks,
River cutting through the valley.
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Today's daily Zen:
If you understand the first word of Zen
You will know the last word.
The last word or the first word,
Is not a word.
Have you ever had feelings and thoughts that you could not articulate using language?
Sunday, June 06, 2004
DW and I saw the new Harry Potter movie Friday night at the Aquarium of the Americas' IMAX theater. It was great on the IMAX screen, even if the chairs there are amazingly uncomfortable. Anyhow, I thought it was the best of the three films. By cutting some of the scenes from the book, Alfonso Cuaron ironically managed to come closer to the spirit of the Harry Potter books than Chris Columbus did when he crammed every little bit of the books into his two films. The movie has a great flow to it and kind of captures the breeziness with which one reads the Potter books. Also, the film was colored with a dark pallet, in keeping with the spirit of the third book. Oh, and Draco Malfoy has bangs in this one instead of slicked back hair a la Macaulay Culkin.
But enough of that. Tonight is the season finale of "The Sopranos." Who's gotta go? I expect a bloodbath, but we shall see.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
A couple of weeks ago, I got a quasi-promotion at work -- with no corresponding raise, unfortunately. This quasi-promotion entails me occasionally reviewing other attorneys' work, in addition to writing up my own caseload. Three or four other attorneys are in the same position I'm in. In the past week I've reviewed two memoranda written by other lawyers, and I find myself being more heavy-handed than I would have thought. However, I can't think of any changes I wouldn't suggest if I were to look at those two cases again. Moreover, I've been told that the ultimate readers of these memoranda look to see who reviewed them in case of screw-ups, and I'm cognizant of the need to establish my bona fides as a reviewer with them. Additionally, this is my new boss's first big change since taking over the office at the beginning of the year, and it would help his standing (and, therefore, my own standing) if this works out. Finally, we're looking at the possiblity of a RIF due to budget issues in the near future, and I want to be keep my job.
Craig, a couple of your neighbors may have my picture on their office dart boards right now.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
I feel like shit today. We took O.S. back to his school yesterday. He was high-strung all day Sunday, and he stayed that way most of the way to Alexandria. Still, he was cheerful enough until we got about 50 miles away, when he started crying and sobbing. He tantrumed when we got to the school and took him into his dorm. Y.S. ran into the dorm after him, laughing with a malicious cackle. Y.S. made himself at home while enjoying his brother's misery. That boy sure can be a mean SOB. I've noticed that he deeply resents O.S.'s abilities, limited though they may be in our eyes. On the good side, O.S. was fine a few minutes after we left.
O.S.'s speech, deportment, and behavior all have improved dramatically since we placed him at St. Mary's in late February. However, there's still a long way to go, and I want to see O.S. continue to make progress. That hope makes moments like yesterday's bearable. Also, Y.S. has much further to go than even O.S. does, and things seem to work best when they are apart.
This parenting business sucks out loud. Still, I wouldn't trade my boys for anything or anybody.
Saturday, May 29, 2004
Okay, time for a little parental bragging. As is true of many autistic kids, my boys are obsessed with water. My Youngest Son also is obsessed with fish. He has watched the fish at the local aquarium for many hours in the past few weeks, and last week at the beach he was imitating other children as they let themselves be washed ashore by the surf.
Yesterday, I noticed YS putting himself underwater in the backyard swimming pool and holding his breath for as long as he could. Our pool is about 2.5 feet deep, so he can float in it for a while. He's very nearly neutrally buoyant, something I envy. Anyway, he was doing some floating today. Then he started pushing himself off the side and bottom of the pool. Then he started using his hands and feet to propel himself in the water. Not much, but I saw a rudimentary stroke or two. Sua sponte swimming lessons! Very, very cool, and a proud moment for yours truly.
In other news, Older Son got up the courage last night and this morning to use a regular swing at the park instead of a handicapped one. He used to go on regular swings routinely, until he fell off of one and went splat into a gigantic mud puddle a couple of years ago.
We're planning to hit the beach tomorrow. It'll probably be in Mississippi; our last drive to the Alabama coast with the boys was a complete fiasco. Mississippi is much closer, so I won't be pissed or depressed if things don't go well.
Friday, May 28, 2004
As some of you know, I've had a crummy week. Yesterday, however, was so singularly bad that I could only laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.
I took yesterday off to go fetch my O.S. in Alexandria, Louisiana, which is about a 3.5-hour drive from home on a good day. I woke my Y.S. at about 7:15, processed him (meds, diaper, clothes, etc.), and put him in the car at 7:35. I realized I didn't have any money, so I went to the nearest ATM. Y.S. started tantruming on the way back, as we passed Toys R Us, Chuck-E-Cheese, WalMart, and Target. I realized that I had left the gate open, so I drove us back home, which got Y.S. even angrier. Finally, we got to Interstate 12 and headed towards Baton Rouge.
About 10 miles from Baton Rouge, traffic came to a complete stop. The bridge into B.R. was closed by an accident. Now, my boys are on a medication schedule, and I didn't bring Y.S.'s meds in the car because I already had built in 1.5 hours or so of delays and assumed we would be back in time. However, it seemed like this delay would be 3-4 hours, which would mean turning around and going home, and not bringing O.S. home at all.
I went into panic mode, pulled onto the shoulder, and drove a few yards. A cop popped out from behind a car and directed me to stop. There was no escape, as traffic was totally stopped. So I got ticketed. As he wrote the ticket, I thought about my strategy for getting it dismissed. It may work, I don't know. I then got back into the traffic lane. It took us 1.5 hours to go 1.5 miles. Suddenly, the bridge into Baton Rouge reopened and we were able to move along. But my mood wasn't the greatest.
I picked up my sister in B.R., and we headed north. She wanted to gossip about various family members, but I was not in the mood. I brightened up when we arrived at the St. Mary's school. Y.S. was strangely curious about O.S.'s dormitory, and he wandered around while O.S.'s trainer showed me what she had packed. I collected the boys and went back to the van. I let my sister drive back to B.R. while I played in the back with the boys. We had fun. Rush hour in B.R. was a bitch, which darkened my mood somewhat. B.R. is way worse than New Orleans during rush hour, so I try to time things to avoid it.
Anyhow, we got home about 2 hours after I had intended. We medicated the boys and let them splash around in the pool I put up Wednesday night. They fell asleep around 8:30. Oh well, they'll sleep in and we can breathe easy in the morning. Nope, O.S. was up at 3:10 a.m., wanting to watch Thomas and Blue. He let us sleep while he turned on the t.v. and watched informercials. Y.S. came in at 5:00 a.m., wanting to drink Coke and go play in the pool again.
And that was my day off. Work isn't so bad sometimes.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
From "The Late Show with David Letterman:"
Top Ten Things Never Before Said on "The Sopranos"
10. "You don't have any money? That's cool"
9. "Screw this home cooking -- I'm going to the Olive Garden"
8. "In addition to disposing of bodies, you'll need to know how to use Powerpoint and Excel"
(Steven Van Zandt)
7. "Wasn't that the guy from Springsteen's E Street Band?"
6. "I just hooked up an illegal cable box. Now I'm getting free HBO"
5. "Tony, I'm gonna need to leave early today for Rosh Hashanah"
4. "I want a bigger part -- what are you gonna do, kill my character?"
(Drea de Matteo)
3. "Hey Paulie, how about you and me going up to Massachusetts and getting married?"
2. "I can't go to prison -- Martha Stewart will eat me alive!"
1. "I just whacked myself"
Friday, May 21, 2004
President Bush is Louisiana today, to deliver a speech at LSU and to raise money. I got to thinking about the upcoming election the other day, and I don't know if I can vote for either Bush or Kerry. In my opinion, Bush does not deserve reelection. He took the country into a war on flawed intelligence, then underestimated the aftermath. His reckless fiscal policies have contributed to massive deficits. His administration is arrogant and secretive, and everything with this White House is ideological, not practical. Finally, I'm opposed to amending the Constitution in the way Bush seeks to do.
Bush has done a few good things. His response to 9/11 was nearly perfect. He raised morale in the aftermath of that event and justifiably went to war in Afghanistan. And his reckless fiscal policies put more money in MY pocket.
On the other hand, John Kerry is the quintessential Eastern establishement liberal, a type I just can't listen to for more than five minutes at a time. Morever, I fear that he suffers from the Vietnam syndrome in foreign and defense policy. Iraq showed that the US should not plunge headlong into military adventures without a parachute, so to speak. However, the US is the US, and should not be hesitant about using force and supporting bad regimes when it is appropriate. I agree with Samuel Huntington that in order to protect our liberal, open society, we must be willing to behave cynically abroad. I don't know whether Kerry shares my views. And Kerry is boring, too.
I take some comfort in Craig the Philospher Lawyer's theory that individual votes don't matter. Maybe I'll vote for the Natural Law Party this year. That would be in keeping with my Eastern outlook.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Today's Daily Zen:
Your notion that thoughts arise
Leads to a notion that you
Must prevent them
These conflicting ideas
Are both wrong.
Look well at the source
Beyond mental activity.
- Daito (1282-1334)
What do you think this means? My meditation manual discusses the notion that thoughts just come and go, and that much of what we view as realities are nothing more than mere thoughts. But what is the source of our thoughts and why would anybody want to stop them from being generated? Do thoughts arise from reality, via perception and consciousness? Is that dangerous?
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Sorry, Dave, but I couldn't resist the urge to bring up this week's Sopranos episode. It was either brilliant or terrible, depending on your point of view. Tony's 21-minute dream sequence was one of the most surreal things I've ever seen on television. However, the way it was done reminded me of my own more vivid dreams -- totally disjointed, fast-moving, seemingly illogical scenes dredged up from my subconscious to try to tell me something. There was a ton of symbolism, some of which is common to dreamers (DW, for instance, has the same thing with teeth falling out that Tony had in his dream), and some of which was unique to the Soprano situation. What I got out of it is that Tony is deeply insecure about his position as a mob boss (particularly now that he's in deep shit with Johnny Sack); that he is insecure as a father; that he is somewhat disillusioned about his career choice; and that he knows he's got two specific issues that must be resolved quickly but that he is unprepared to deal with emotionally. All this internal angst and insecurity after an episode in which Tony was a complete jerk to everybody.
My first reaction was "what the hell was that?" However, after thinking through a little, I think I liked it. I'll have to take another look at it.