Sunday, December 30, 2001

It hasn't been a great couple of weeks, what with one thing and another. I don't like the season much, anyway - I keep assuming it's about goodwill, and get sarcastic and cynical, that it seems more about greed - then suddenly it is me who is the grump, and all this jolliness and spending seems to count as near enough to real 'goodwill' for most people.

Whatever. I tried to be a bit better about it. Didn't succeed. Still, there is only the New Year's Eve 'jollities' to get through. That's on the local calendar - but I'd better not get into that rant just now. Suffice to say, it's just a Tuesday to me. And even that is ludicrous...what possible difference is there between the days of the week - that doesn't involve weather?

It's harder to sustain these attitudes these days. Of course it was easier when I had full control of my life in the self-employed way...Nowadays I have to pay more attention to the local mental models - and social constructs.

Is he rambling? Yes he is.

Anyway, I found the culprit software that was chewing up resources, even when not in use. And moved my Swap file around to speed things up. The trip to Hawaii is INSTEAD of buying a new computer (this one is two years old now), so I have to do a bit of tuning and maintenance to nurse the poor old slowcoach PC along.

Have a great time in the next few months (if you can) - enjoy your festivals (whatever your beliefs) - and goodwill and best wishes from a freethinker to all people with kindness in their hearts. Take Care out there.

Monday, December 10, 2001

It has been a long time since I posted. I don't know quite why. Winter blues, being busy, the desire to hibernate [my version of S.A.D.] and various other elements of my life.

The chronic pain business is still getting me down - and now it's that miserable season of goodwill. Oh sorry, I mean I quite like the idea of goodwill to all, and generosity to others - but I hate the quasi-religion, the commercialism, the sentimentality, the Saturnalia [now known as the office party] - the fact that poverty feels worse at Christmas, just as homelessness does [especially with all the mortgage owners going on about being born in a barn], and the drink driving goes up [and death of a loved one feels worse at Xmas, too.]

So, have a good time. Personally all I can do is grit my teeth and get through it one more time. The only time I spare a moment to notice it isn't just any old Tuesday will be when I raise a glass to W.C.Fields, the old curmudgeon who managed to die on Christmas Day.

Here's to Bill.

Thursday, November 15, 2001

It's funny how I was getting into doing a diary, once I found the way to add links, and pictures, and lost interest after ntl blocked the use of the Blogger on the website.

Another fortnight gone, the weather is getting very cold in the UK; the war drags on; this week the computers have gone down in the library several times (different reasons!) and we are not a popular department - and I realise how little I know. I don't even have anything to add to this right now - I am getting behind with answering emails, my library students are getting fed up with an erratic service (while they are studying)....boy, it's that winter blues hit coming in low from the East..............

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Well, some time elapsed since the last posting. I've been busy. Put some more RAM in my elderly machine today, and some things seem to go faster.

Sorry to the guys waiting for signed stuff - it's been hectic, and I WILL do it soon. Honest.

Hello to any of the library 'tutees' who come wandering out here to see what their tutor is REALLY like.

Got an email from Kym Kaos, which is always a joy.

Friday, October 19, 2001

I also got an email from Andy, who I signed stuff for earlier this year, in a package of Jabba the Hutt autographs I did. He is doing drawings that he would like signed - which is both an honour AND a responsibility (as artwork finds its fragile way throught the snail mail system and back).

Hi Andy, I'll do what I can! Andy
Great days! (daze?)

I put 'Jeremy Gordon' into a search engine, yesterday, and found a site with his paintings. I printed one or two out to show for friends. Then I emailed Tom (his son), who today answered from London (I thought they were all in Oz) but said he would pass on my nostalgic contact.

Jeremy Gordon artwork

Hi Mo and Jeremy and Tom!

Monday, October 15, 2001

You will notice that I have got into a rather religious mode - which is fairly odd for a man who is not 'religious' in the least. I have no faith, I have no answers. I can fully accept that nature could generate all this complexity unaided (it doesn't need a designer) - we may not understand it all, but Darwinism, Chaos Theory, Quantum Mechanics and other beautiful thoughts between them hint at how complexity emerges from simple elements. And as I don't really believe in Alpha and Omega (beginnings and endings) I am perfectly happy with the idea of an endless universe, whether it is expanding and contracting (breathing in and out) or unfolding, or whatever.

Some of the truly great old religions know full well that the whole thing is cyclic (Taoism, Hinduism) and mysterious. After all, is it really here at all? Once you consider consciousness, you HAVE to try to get back to the roots of any illusions we may be under.
The Universe is beginning to look more and more like a great thought.

And this is where we are a very young civilization, with an adolescent religion. Hence the pushiness and the certainty.

As I get older I become more reconciled to the fact that the world is a beautiful mystery. Nature is wonderful. Magic is alive.

I no longer look for the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.


Saturday, October 13, 2001

Oh, just in case you think I am taking stuff out-of-context [the traditional game for priests], what else CAN this mean?

Matthew 5:38-48
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

It sems pretty clear to me. Don't lower yourself to their level. Continue to live well, to act kindly, and leave any retribution or punishment to 'God' [or karma, if you are one of those Hippies who grabbed a few Hindu concepts....] Feed the poor and the desperate and any power the tyrants have over them will wither away.... Indifference is a far more insulting response (turning the other cheek doesn't seem 'meek and mild' to me, it seems more like "Is that all you've got?")
I am glad to say I have a lot of resources here at the library. I came across a copy of The New Humanist (which is what reminded me about the Bamiyan Buddhas) - and reading that (just like reading The Freethinker) brought up my usual thought that it is religions that cause most of the problems. All these so-called religious people seem to think they 'have God on their side'. Indeed, everyone thinks Their God is the one true god.

I was not indoctrinated when I was a child, so I have never 'lost my faith' in a religion. I never had one. And I have never been tempted, as they do not appeal to me. This doesn't mean I haven't studied them. I've read the whole Bible, for instance, which is more than many Christians could say. In the process I came across the fact that the Old Testament IS the Jewish Torah. These religions are intertwined (and so is Islam). They are all People of the Book.

They are all working from the same book/stories, which are, apparently, the Literal Word of God, and yet they all come to different conclusions. This seems far more blasphemous than anything I say. They seem to say (as Bill Hicks so beautifully satirized it) "I think what God meant to say was....."

Take, for instance "RESIST NOT EVIL" (Matthew 5:39). This is the famous 'turning the other cheek' passage. What does this actually mean? It appears to mean that we shouldn't fight back or we become as evil as those we resist. Does this sound familiar - as we terrorize innocent Afghan people? Of course it is hard not to escalate things by responding in kind; it is hard to forgive, rather than 'pay people back' [Look at the so-called Christian communities in Ireland who have been fighting for centuries].

It is precisely because it is hard that it was originally a radical thought. This is why Ghandi and Martin Luther King and other non-violent protestors were so unusual, and so effective. It is teaching by doing; setting an example, rather than trying to bully others; waiting for others to come around to a new way of doing things, rather than becoming just another tyrant revolutionary.....and replacing the people you overthrew.

Thursday, October 11, 2001

Something was nagging away at my memory - with all this talk of the Taleban. Then I remembered, it was the destruction of those two ancient Buddha statues back in March. I knew I hated them then. To mistake ancient monuments for 'graven images' is the kind of nonsense that youthful and zealous 'religions' seem to go in for. They'll always be famous now for acts of desecration... [Was it Napoleon who shot The Sphinx's face off?]

I found information on the CNN site, which contains this slightly spooky phrase (in the light of recent events):

"Museums and governments around the world had hoped to save the two Buddhas, the earliest of which is thought to have been carved into the sandstone cliffs of Bamiyan in the third century A.D. At 53 meters (175 feet) and 36 meters (120 feet), the statues were the tallest standing Buddhas in the world.
Demolition of the two towering images was nearly finished Monday, Taleban Information Minister Qudratullah Jamal said."

And, even odder, I guess:

'Matsuura urged the international community not to take its anger at the Taleban action out on Muslim sites elsewhere.
"As inexcusable as this action is, I hope that it will not provide fanatics elsewhere with an excuse for acts of destruction targeting Muslim cultural properties," he said.

Bamiyan Buddhas at CNN

Tuesday, October 09, 2001

Just a quick note in the small hours. Once I had sussed out how to do the SVCD video at work, it worked just as well on the home computer. Yippee! So I have grabbed a few images (again, I apologise if I am infringing anyone's copyright - just let me know) and changed my home page.

Monday, October 08, 2001

Mood swings or what? After all my grim stuff, let me go back to trivia.

I got some post from Bob Robicheau (which will get signed and returned as soon as possible).

I also got a version of "From Star Wars to Jedi" in SVCD from Brandon Alinger. I couldn't get it working at home (I don't have a DVD) but managed to get it going at work - so thanks Brandon! I'll get a couple of screen grabs to post up. What a flash, to see ourselves 20 years ago, and what an extraordinary enterprise we were involved in! There's really quite a lot of detail. I haven't watched the whole thing yet (snatching time in tea breaks)...but I will.

Saturday, October 06, 2001

And I am not claiming to understand entirely...I think most of the strange acts we see come from (what I call) crazy beliefs about future lives, and paradises, and rewards in 'heaven', and such like. I don't know anything about possible afterlives, so I just try to live my life here as though I was going through it just the once. To some people that might (of course) license strange behaviour...that's is the Nihilistic response. They seem to need the old Reward/Punishment model. I think that people who need hierarchies and authoritarian models [People of The Book] believe we are inherently 'bad'. I guess my fundamental belief (if I have one at all) is that we are basically 'good' - and that, if left alone, if given the basics to survive, human nature is co-operative, gentle, sharing, etc. Another naive old hippie belief, I suppose. It's not to deny that there are some very twisted people about, nor that some people flourish on aggression, just that those are distortions of our 'true nature'. [Perhaps I do have some sort of religious, non-rational belief after all....]
Anyway, here's one last link - on why self-immolation in protest is NOT 'suicide'...

"The press spoke then of suicide, but in the essence, it is not. It is not even a protest. What the monks said in the letters they left before burning themselves aimed only at alarming, at moving the hearts of the oppressors, and at calling the attention of the world to the suffering endured then by the Vietnamese. To burn oneself by fire is to prove that what one is saying is of the utmost importance…. The Vietnamese monk, by burning himself, says with all his strength and determination that he can endure the greatest of sufferings to protect his people…. To express will by burning oneself, therefore, is not to commit an act of destruction but to perform an act of construction, that is, to suffer and to die for the sake of one’s people. This is not suicide"
More on this
I only gave one reference to Buddhist non-violent demonstrations...and I should immediately say that I am not a Buddhist. I empathise with the Buddhist 'model', but do not practice. If I DID follow a religion it would have to be something in that mold. All religions seem to have a certain tolerance in their precepts, but the younger ones still tend to proselytise....and it is that aggressive desire to convert others that I so dislike. If how one acts is something others want to mimic [to me religions are 'memes'] then those behaviours and beliefs will spread...and I seriously believe that that is the ONLY way that religious beliefs and ways of life should spread.
If you want to know more, read this account from someone who was there...
Sister True Emptiness

Here is just a small sample: "The number of Buddhists who sacrificed themselves increased. Thay Nguyen Huong immolated himself in Phan Thiet on August 4, 1963; the nun Dieu Quang in Nha Trang on the same day; Thay Thanh Tue in Hue on August 13. I know that in the West it is hard to understand why Vietnamese burned themselves. It looked like a violent act. Please try to be in the heart and mind of the person performing such an act of great love and sacrifice. To move the hearts of the hardest men and women, you have to give a gift of great value--even your own life. These people did not die when their bodies turned to ash. When I looked deeply at Thay Quang Duc's sacrifice, I could see his love and deep commitment to human rights born again in me and in thousands of Vietnamese and others all over the world. We received the fire of love and commitment to act from his great sacrifice."

Thursday, October 04, 2001

I can't keep it down any more. I grew up where, if people felt strongly enough, they could commit suicide to point out the suffering that others were already going through. They didn't take any innocents with them. Just calmly tried to show the media the suffering - give them a great shot....

What is obscene is dragging innocent people into your (possibly flawed) beliefs. Which is why (I suppose) I will never get over MY TEENS, when a Buddhist Monk got the attention of the world's media - about the obscenity of war, and bombs, and landmines, and napalm and religious persecution - by setting fire to himself. No innocents involved, just a kamikaze Self. THIS, I have to respect.
We give people medals who lay down their life for our side.

Here's the story - because I don't know how to put pictures up on Blogspot - (don't go if you're squeamish)

Buddhist's self-immolation
I will leave the old Blog up for a bit, while I work through it, seeing if there is anything I want to save. I am not at all sure that I can get at it all if I just download the Archives. I also have a moribund one - called Dog Tired and Bone Weary, (for ranting to myself) and another called Family Gatherings, which is a (very slow moving) forum for members (yes) of my family...It doesn't really catch on, because people don't use these technologies all the time, whereas I clock off from the computer room, and then spend at least part of my break-time playing (like now). Playing and learning are more or less the same to me. And if I can integrate working into that playing/learning realm, then I am a happy man. Hence juggling, and writing, and acrobatics, and puppetry, and running clown workshops, etc.....
I have had to start a new diary over here on Blogger, because ntl have suddenly decided to stop me using the Blog I had attached to my website....Thanks fellas. I understand you may well have your reasons, but it would have been nice to have a clear announcement - I not only wasted a lot of time trying to get it to work, then seeking help, but also had to have pointed out to me where you had announced it....(Vogons and Hyperspace Bypass announcements spring to mind).
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