The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Monday, April 29, 2013
Photo ...

I took this shot last week, put the file aside, then opened it up today not remembering where the file had come from. My first impression was “what the heck is all this, some kind of blood cells or bacteria?” But no, it’s just spring-time in New Jersey, a detail shot of a tree in bloom. You can notice something about mother nature; when she wants to get something going, she uses crude devices (who knows how many of these blossoms are going to make it into some kind of fruit, and from there, find some fertile soil where a new tree could take root; it’s a very inexact, hit-or-mostly miss process, no environmental scanning and intelligent targeting behind it). But she takes a lot of shots. And somehow, her world keeps on going.

So far, anyway . . .

◊   posted by Jim G @ 12:37 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Art & Entertainment ... Zen ...

One of my fellow Zen students at Clear Mountain zendo recently told me about the movie “Zen Noir”. I’m not much of an indie film buff (not much of a movie-watcher at all), so it wasn’t a surprise that I had never heard of it. Zen Noir was an indie from the late oh-oh’s that got some attention for being . . . well, rather unusual. It’s an attempt to wrap and present generic Zen teachings with cinema conventions.

As a movie, ZN mixes several movie genres. It starts off on a retro footing, a throwback to the WW2-era tough-guy detective “noir” films such as The Big Sleep. Then it transmutes into a campy parody of noir, an attempt at humor (sometimes successful, often not). Then it morphs into psycho-drama, taking on Hitchcock tones (such as a nightmare of doors that all open but won’t let you leave). And then . . . then it’s nothing, Zen nothingness. Mu-land.

Many film critics didn’t like Zen Noir. The Rotten Tomatos movie review site gives it an average 3.4 out of 10 rating. One Chicago newspaper critic called it  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:47 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Photo ...

A few days ago, I posted some thoughts about the dog-mu Zen koan. Here’s a grungy shot of three real dogs, in their little front-yard triangle off of Market Street in Newark. I started noticing these guys a few months ago, as I pass their humble abode every day on my way home from work.

So, does the dog have Buddha nature? I don’t think that these pooches particularly care about that, on this rainy spring afternoon. All the more reason to suspect that they possibly DO have Buddha nature. As much as any of their human (all too human) bosses might.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:48 am       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Food / Drink ... Society ... Zen ...

There’s a reflection on the evolution of ice cream into “frozen dairy desserts” in today’s New York Times Dining and Wine section. The “De Gustibus” column writer, Dan Barry, had a case-in-point with Breyers Ice Cream. In Mr. Barry’s younger days (which were also my younger days), Breyers was what a middle-class family bought for special occasions. It was real ice cream with lots of butterfat. Today, Breyers mostly offers concoctions of milk, corn syrup, whey, carrageenan and various vegetable gums; real ice cream is left to the high-cost snobs and “artisanal” producers such as Haagen Dazs, Ben and Jerrys, and Glace. Allegedly, the masses want cold stuff that is very sweet and very smooth, more so than the rich stickiness of high-fat ice cream.

And so “frozen dairy desserts” is mostly what they get, most of the time. As in the days when Breyers was real, most people still like to splurge now and then, and thus may stop at Cold Stone or pick up a quart of Turkey Hill premium. But more and more freezer space in the supermarkets is taken up by those “frozen desserts” (including some Turkey Hill offerings).

Mr. Barry regrets this trend. To be honest, though, I don’t. Sure, the big food producers are making a ton of money  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:43 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Personal Reflections ... Zen ...

In Zen practice, one of the most well known koans is the Dog-Mu story. At least that’s what I call it. In a nutshell, a Zen monk asks a master, “do dogs have Buddha nature?” Can they become enlightened, like the Buddha? (Or as the Buddhists on a deeper level might say, are they already enlightened as all humans are, but mostly don’t realize it yet, as most humans don’t?) The master’s answer was “mu”, which is sometimes taken to mean “no”. But “mu” is also taken to mean . . . all sorts of things. For serious Zen students who go thru a multi-year study of koans with a master teacher, the Mu koan is a big milestone. Supposedly, most students spend 3 to 6 months pondering it and offering various explications to their teachers, before the teacher will give a “pass” and let the student go on to a different koan.

I myself am not in a formal koan study at my zendo. I’m considered something of a rebel, someone not in the inner circles, albeit someone who is still valuable enough to be part of the mix. Our high command has no thought of sponsoring me as a future “sensei”, though. That bothered me for a few weeks, but I’ve learned to somehow get on with my life, along with my Zen practice (actually, the formula for my practice is that Zen = life and real life = real Zen). Nonetheless, I occasionally get out a random koan to ponder on my own, and I listen to our sensei discuss the meaning of various koans in his talks. Not too long ago he reflected on his own experiences studying the dog-mu koan under his own master. That got me to thinking on my own about the dog-mu koan.

I’ve heard that many students get hung up on the “mu” part of it; i.e., what the heck does the master mean  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:07 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Photo ...

We’re now past the first week of April, the unofficial end of the snow season around here. It’s going to be warm for the next 8 months or so. It’s finally time to put the snow shovels and driveway salt away. Here are some of those things basking in the sun on a fine spring morning; waiting to be stashed in a dark corner of a garage or shed, to lie in wait until the cold breezes, long nights and dingy gray clouds find their way back to this corner of the world. As they surely will. For now, though, it’s time to ignore such thoughts and enjoy the sun, trees and flowers, once again.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:54 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Economics/Business ... Society ...

Even though I’m in the final decade of my working life (my so-called “productive years”), I still read articles and listen to radio programs about the many doings in the business world. Many years ago I tried to earn a living as a business economist, and I have a masters degree in the subject; despite the passing of time I still wonder at times what it is that makes the wheels of money, commerce, jobs and the overall economic infrastructure spin.

Lately, I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about social media, about why digital things like Facebook, MyLife, Pinterest and Twitter are of such concern to big business. Why do social media enterprises like Facebook have any economic value at all? (At last look, Facebook common stock shares were trading above $27, about halfway between the initial offering price of $38 and the low reached a few months ago of $18; implying a total enterprise value of around $75 billion.)

The answer, in a nutshell: advertising. Advertising is what allows “monetization” of social media. Big business sees social media as a potential  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:41 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
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