Sunday, February 26, 2006

On Drugs/Art Ain't Easy/Meditation & Poker

(P1) Political

On Drugs - George Bush Attempts to Explain

Can you recall several months ago when my 91-year-old parents were being cut from their Kaiser medical coverage due to a snafu caused by the George Bush's so called drug pogrom (I mean "program") for the elderly. Fortunately, after several weeks of trying, I got Mom and Dad back aboard with Kaiser. Well anyway, thanks to Cory Farley in the Reno Gazette-Journal Feb. 21, 2006, we have a verbatim transcription of George Bush's "explanation." First here is the question from the audience:

"How is (Medicare's new plan) going to fix the problem?"

Here's the answer from the President of the United States who a reader of this column reminded me that "...unfortunately, this is the leader of the free world."

"Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered.

"And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to that has been promised.

"Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, supposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect.

"In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those --if that growth is affected, it will help on the red."

Believe me, dear readers, I even had trouble typing and proofreading this!!!

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(P2) Poetical

Michelangelo Poem - Demonstrates that "Art's Not Always Easy"

To Giovanni Da Pistoia
On the Painting of the Sistine Chapel, 1509

I've grown a goitre by dwelling in this den -
As cats from stagnant streams in Lombardy,
Or in what other land they hap to be-
Which drives the belly close beneath the chin:
My beard turns up to heaven; my nape falls in,
Fixed on my spine: my breast-bone visibly
Grows like a harp: a rich embroidery
Bedews my face from brush-drops thick and thin.
My loins into my paunch like levers grind:
My buttock like a crupper bears my weight;
My feet unguided wander to and fro;
In front my skin grows loose and long; behind,
By bending it becomes more taut and strait;
Crosswise I strain me like a Syrian bow:
Whence false and quaint, I know,
Must be the fruit of squinting brain and eye;
For ill can aim the gun that bends awry.
Come then, Giovanni, try
To succor my dead pictures and my fame;
Since foul I fare and painting is my shame.

(Michelangelo Buonarroti translated by John Addington Symonds)

(P3) Philosophical

Meditate Your Way to Better Poker

(From Utne Reader - Mar/Apr '06)

Can meditation help your poker game? For Andy Black, the answer seems to be yes. Last summer, after a five-year hiatus studying Buddhist teachings, the Irish card shark returned to the game and took fifth place at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas (he came in fourteenth in 1997, then quit the game in 1999). At the tournament, Black and his coach meditated each morning and sometimes read dharma texts during breaks. He recently told the Buddhist magazine Tricycle (Winter 2005) how his meditation practice and his game intersect: "When I'm playing I just try to be in the present moment...I find I make wrong decisions when I act out of tune with my gut sense of how things are: what this person is like, their situation at this moment, and the element of chance. My experience of Buddhist practice means that I also include how I am, how I am treating the other players, and how I respond to both winning and losing. You can disregard that feeling, just like in life, but in poker you get immediate payback. It's always the same lesson: When your actions are not in accordance with how things are, you suffer."

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Reader Survey/Heaven?/Mark Twain

(P1) Philosophical

What Afterlife - A Readers' Survey

What (if anything) happens to us after our death?

Pure Energy
(with energy body? without energy body?)?
Lights Out (nothing at all)?,

Please answer
and comment below - Please really try! (you too, Moe)!

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(P2) Poetical


This weird wonderful
weaving lattice of illusions
simultaneously held and disregarded.

My sister believes my dear
demented mother left
for heaven sometime ago.

Simply put, Mom has gone
somewhere farther away
even than New York is

from San Francisco, some
where our mother attempts to
explain from an infinitely interesting

tower of tongues as though she were
the Oracle of Delphi at the last moments
providing wisdom to her children straining

to comprehend what wandering meanings
she finds for where she's been when back
to time she journeys home to us.

(P2) Political

Mark Twain - Still Here When We Need Him

My friend and unofficial mentor, Bill Edelen posed 2 questions in his January 22d column, "My Hero: Mark Twain":

1. Do parents have a right to insist that their children grow up to be as ignorant as they are? In a democracy the answer is "yes." So, the next question:
2. Do the public schools have to be a party to this tragic process of promotion and cooperating with bigotry and ignorance? In a democracy founded on the separation of church and state, the answer is a loud resounding "NO."

Edelen continues: "Directly above my computer, framed, are these words about a writer's 'worthy calling' by Mark Twain" 'ours is a useful trade...a worthy calling...and it has one serious purpose, one aim, one specialty, and it is constant to it...the deriding of shams...the exposure of pretentious falsities...the laughing of stupid superstitions out of existence...Whoso is engaged in this sort of warfare is the natural enemy of royalties...nobilities...privileges...and all kindred swindles...and is the natural fiend of human rights and human liberties.' "

The column is a bit too long for this space, so I will here give you a link to the entire column.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Presidents Month/Coffee Poem/Cartoons

(P1) Philosophical

The "Religion" of Our First 6 Presidents

Regular readers of this blog may recognize William Edelen who I consider to be a spiritual mentor. Interestingly, Bill was a WWII Marine Corps fighter pilot and is also an ordained minister. His mission over the years has transformed into a sort of "shaman" who demythologizes religion and examines the present in the true light of history. Incidentally, Bill married Joyce and I.

Here are a few blurbs from Bill Edelen's February 5th online column "Stars and Treaties." After describing a very much deserved personal honor, Bill goes on to discuss the "non-Christian" heritage of our first 6 presidents. I will follow the excerpts with a link to the complete article and the "Edelen" website:

"February is called 'Presidents' Month."...I call ...your attention to the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli. A Treaty that drives the religious and political right wing historically illiterate fanatics out of their minds...Article 11 reads 'THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS NOT IN ANY SENSE FOUNDED ON THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.' This treaty was ratified by the Senate in 1797 without a single objection and signed by president John Adams...The Treaty was written under George Washington and signed by John Adams.

Our first six presidents were Deists and Humanists...the Encyclopedia Britannica...quote: 'One of the embarrassing problems for the nineteenth-century champions of the Christian faith was the fact that NOT ONE of the first six presidents of the United States was a Christian. They were Deists.' In Deism there is no personal God, only an impersonal 'force' or 'energy' or 'natures God' or 'providence' or 'creator'...words that Jefferson often used.

In Deism the bible is nothing but literature...In Deism Jesus was nothing more than a nomadic teacher. President John Adams wrote that: the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus has made a convenient cover for absurdity. Creeds, Confessions, Doctrines and Oaths are all trumpery.'

Thomas Jefferson put in one succinct sentence what they all believed: "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by a supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." (letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823).

Please...let us try to bring a little integrity and historical facts into Presidents Month. Please...all of you religious and political right wringers raving about our 'Christian' heritage...please do something different, for a change in Presidents Month...try to be honest."

Here is the link to the full column and Edelen's website

(P2) Poetical


At times like this

when I am literally nothing

more than the coffee I drink,

at times like this

when I am precisely nothing,

I am the poet.

(Ed Coletti - 1994)

(P3) Political

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

GayleVsPolitics/S.Rosa Pizza/Poetry Series

(P1) Political

Politics? Relevant? and My Friend Gayle

Recently my friend Gayle Swift told me she does not read the Political section of "Ed Coletti's P3." She may not even read newspapers much or at all anymore. Gayle finds politics to be irrelevant to the real issues of life and therefore is much more attracted to the Poetical and Philosophical features of this blog. She looks toward grassroots movements like that of Gandhi for any hope of lasting changes in the world. Gayle especially would like to see such a movement operate economically through its buying power.

I told Gayle that, at this stage, I include a political section for two reasons: 1. I want to inform. So much pap is fed to the public through TV and other mainstream media. However, my readers are mostly of a different sort, and I realize that I well may be "preaching to the choir." 2. I feel the need to be active in opposing injustice, corruption, and plain old sheer idiocy.

More and more, however, I am growing cynical. I never wanted this to happen. Because I realize 1. that politicians must raise tens of thousands of dollars a day simply to be reelected; 2. as I watch the president make earthshaking world and domestic decisions without consulting congress or the people; 3. as we face the growing prospect of increased domestic spying and consequent losses of privacy and freedom; 4. as I note the escalating power of the oil barons internationally; and 5. as I shudder at the constancy of warfare and brutality among men,

I simply do not have an answer and can understand my friend not finding such an answer in politics.

However, I have pledged to make this blog a 3-pronged effort, namely Philosophical, Poetical, and Political. It may well be, however, that the flavor of the Political section will begin to evolve in new directions.

Readers of this blog, I invite you to provide your own observations regarding the relevance or irrelevance of politics in your life and experience. I also continue to extend a special invitation to my friend Gayle to submit a lengthy piece on this subject for future publication.

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(P2) Philosophical

"Santa Rosa" Pizza ?!

The following barely credible blurb appeared in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat on Sunday January 29, 2006:
"If you go to Cafe Viva on Manhattan's Upper West Side, you can get a 'Santa Rosa' pizza made with sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, roasted garlic, olives, tofu marinated in miso and soy cheese."

Yikes! Time for a barf break!

(P3) Poetical

Word Temple Poetry Series

For those of you living in Marin, Sonoma, or Napa Counties and those planning visits, check out local poet Katherine Hastings' ambitious project of bringing well-known and significant poets to town for monthly readings at Copperfield's Bookstore in Santa Rosa's Montgomery Village. Here is a bit on the first event:

Time: Friday February 10th at 7PM
Location: MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, 2316 Montgomery Dr., Santa Rosa (707) 578-8938
Title of Event: Jane Hirshfield and David St. John (WordTemple Poetry series)

Copperfield’s is pleased to launch a Friday evening series of poetry readings hosted by area poet Katherine Hastings. It begins auspiciously with Jane Hirshfield’s launch of her sixth poetry collection. After is an extended investigation into incarnation, transience, loss and connection. Jane Hirshfield’s work (October Palace, Given Sugar, Given Salt, Nine Gates, Lives of the Heart) has been heralded as radiant, passionate, and ethical, and has appeared in Best American Poetry, Pushcart Prize Anthology, The New Yorker, and many other publications. She will be joined this evening by David St. John, whose work includes The Face, Prism, In the Pines, and Where the Angels Come Toward Us.