Archive for the 'Rant' Category

The Truth About Women

Gender Fencers

Women are such hypocrites.

They claim a special talent in understanding the rhythms of nature – as though their “divine feminine” and Earth Motherly roots give them special access to the concepts of seasonality and ripeness. In some ways, they are extremely attuned. Many women, for example, are acutely well-prepared to demand a degree of carte blanche, forbearance, and pre-approved forgiveness every 28 days or so. In other important ways, however, they are willful and pigheaded in their rejection of the most basic notions of gestation and timeliness.

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“What Do You Do?”


“What do you do?”

It is the quintessential question of unimaginative adults upon first meetings. It is the mark of a society that has completely quaffed the Kool-Aid of materialism, where one’s human worth is measured by net worth. What could be more important identifying information than the nature of your job? Certainly not your values, talents, passions, or other non-monetizable attributes.

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The Shit of the Saintly is Still Reeking

Garbage on the River Ganga (Ganges)

The Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest religious festival, has just rounded its halfway point in Parag, near Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. Occurring roughly every three years, the Mela coincides with certain astrological events, and lasts approximately eight weeks. This year’s festivities, will be attended by an estimated eight million people, including the traditional quorum of spiritual poseurs, religious exhibitionists, and voyeurs. Only the most uncritically relativistic, everything-is-beautiful-in-its-own-way, intellectually blinkered observers could possibly see the Kumbh Mela as anything other than a spiritual freak show, notwithstanding the devout piety of the rank-and-file superstitious who also attend.

The rather poor 2005 film, Kumbh Mela, depicted a small slice of the brainlessness of the event. My evidence for the spiritual vacuity of the Kumbh Mela and its participants, however, is drawn from today’s Times of India headline, “Heaps of Garbage Lie Unattended in Mela Area.”

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Escape from Christendom

Ticket to Ride

I have always tried to escape the U.S. for one-or-another non-Christian country at Christmas time.  I detest the ubiquity of horrible music and bad good-cheer. But what I really loathe, above all, is the exchange of gifts.
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Ignorance Is Not Bliss

We live in a time of fear. In America, we have seen the most brilliant political scheme in the history of social organization — our constitutional democracy — eroded to near meaninglessness through the venal, be-afraid-be-very-afraid tactics of the Bush administration to consolidate its power. In our families, we are witnessing timid new generations of kids grow up in homes where their every activity is restricted by the brainless paranoia of their parents.

Don’t get me wrong: there are dangers in the world, and I do not advocate imprudence even as I recognize that it sometimes leads us into our most memorable, life-affirming adventures. But it is far too easy for governments and parents to play the danger card thoughtlessly. After all, few will ever criticize them for being too cautious.

While those who would make judgments on our behalf take comfort behind shopworn aphorisms like “Better safe than sorry,” they ignore the fact that there is an enormous price to pay for irrational timidity, diffidence, and restraint. Ignorant fear is soul-sucking and joy-inhibiting. When a mood of alarm comes to dominate, citizens lose the both individual liberties and many of the psychological benefits of living in a free society; and children lose the carefree pleasure which should be the very marker of childhood.
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I Suck!

David Brooks

You know you suck when you see the very essay you’ve been meaning to write for months, but have been too damn lazy, in print under someone else’s byline.

You know you really suck when that byline belongs to David Brooks.

I suck big-time!

I generally enjoy finding myself in agreement with smart people of opposite politics. For examle, it still makes me happy when my former law partner Larry Siskind – former boot-licking servant of both Ronald Reagan and King George the First – and I discover common ground. But David Brooks is simply the lowest of the low.

Some people on the left loathe commentators like Ann Coulter or Michael Savage. I couldn’t care less about these hate-spewing standard-bearers of American conservatism. They are cartoon characters; and though I know that they carry some degree of influence over the idiot American masses, I just cannot bring myself to take them seriously. Mr. Brooks, however, dresses his reactionary, brainless venom in a whining, milquetoast pseudo-intellectualism that somehow manages to get under my skin. His columns read like nails on a chalkboard.

If anyone ever finds me in sympathy with that sniveling neocon ninny again – on any subject, no matter how trivial – please put me out of my misery.

Compassion for (Almost) All Living Beings

comppassion for almost all living beings

The Rev. Heng Sure, our friend and Abbot of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, is forever reminding us to show compassion to all living beings. Emphasis on the all.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t always walk on this planet with the softest of footprints and my patterns of consumption (and ingestion) might cause some to reasonably question my fidelity to this precept. Still, I have always endeavored to be aware of my effects on this earth and I fully embrace the ethics (and, if pressed, the most basic metaphysics) behind the principle.

Or at least I did until last night.

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Curses Tom Feyer!

As I’ve said before, if the damn New York Times would simply publish my letters, I’d have no need to blog. So blame Times Letters Editor, Thomas Feyer, for the fact that you are regularly subjected to my ranting.

Anyway, here’s the latest missive neglected by Tom and the gang at the NYT:

To the Editor:

It does not sadden me that Christmas sales are down (“Uninspired Shoppers May Wait for January,” 21 December). The trained-seal munificence of ritual gift giving at Christmas time does not meaningfully teach or propagate the principle of generosity. Rather than engage in this annual orgy of forced consumption, materialism, and resource depletion, it would be heartening to see us practicing simpler forms generosity and compassion year-round — with our loved ones, with acquaintances, and with those we’ve never met.

Bah Humbug to all and to all a good night.

Celebrating Humbug: the ethics of misers and ritual gift-givers

Scrooge McDuck

It wouldn’t be particularly novel or interesting for me to assail the crass commercialism of the holiday season. Most of us do it this time each year.

And yet the pattern of insane consumption continues. Why? Because most folks who decry Christmas materialism nevertheless continue to feed the economic machine by participating in the purchase and exchange of generally useless gifts.

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Wish You Were Here

SOMAsala logo

Kerry Getz just finished a wonderful concert at SOMAsala an hour ago or so. It was heartbreakingly beautiful, and heartbreakingly poorly attended.

Kerry Getz at SOMAsala

When you read reviews of Kerry’s music, the critics invariably say the same thing: she’s just about the best singer/songwriter you’ve never heard of. And it’s probably true. Her compositions are smart, lyrical, and seductive; voice is true, rich, and emotive; and her guitar accents crisp, clean, and well-balanced. Her 80 minute set was an absolute delight — lovely, moving, and deeply satisfying.

I’m sorry you missed it. For Kerry’s sake, not yours.

When we started SOMAsala, the concept was to provide a forum for world-class artists who might not have sufficient appeal within the mainstream of popular culture to, let say, pack the Oakland Coliseum. Our objective was to bring talented musicians (and filmmakers, poets, artists, and intellectuals) together with an engaged and curious audience, thereby enriching both. It hasn’t really worked out that way. The artists, however, have more than held up their end of the bargain.

Before Yoo-Mi and I moved into the one-room apartment we call SOMAsala, we lived in a sumptuous, expansive house on Telegraph Hill. For several years, until we moved, we had a party on the first Sunday of every month. And guess what: it was a vast success. The idea was to cross-pollinate the most interesting people we knew from the various circles in which we traveled: professionals, artists, academics, athletes. Our interesting people brought their interesting people, and before we knew it we were getting 80 to 90 guests, and a different crowd each month. On a Sunday, the ultimate “school night.” People will turn out for a good party, it seems.

More than 200 people had signed our e-mail list from the Sunday parties. What a perfect group for which to create a community-space, we thought. Surely our friends would be interested in supporting the artists who work so diligently, with such pitiful remuneration and scant acknowledgement, to make our world a more beautiful place. After all, their support would cost so little: a miniscule door fee for the musicians, a few hours of their time. We would supply all the essentials: an intimate performance, a comfortable venue, a professional sound system, the set-up, and the clean-up. They need only show up.

This turns out to have been a greater commitment to art and culture than most of our friends are willing to make. (I should note that some of our friends have been extremely supportive of both the artists and of our efforts to put them on stage, coming to shows in which they had little or no prior interest, foregoing other things they might rather have been doing and, for some of them, even staying up past their bedtimes.)

I am disappointed for the musicians who deserve more support than they have received, and yet played their hearts out at SOMAsala anyway. And I am grateful to them for all they have done to light our stage and to light the world.

Blasts from the Past

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.


... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.


... because everyday is Mother's Day.


... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.


... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.


... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.


... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.


... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?


... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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