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August 24, 2019

Fantastic! James Brown, Michael Jackson, AND Prince — live at the Beverly Theatre, August 20, 1983


August 24, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Becoming a Rinzai Zen monk makes Navy SEAL training seem rather easy


Below, excerpts from a remarkable New Yorker article by Larissa MacFarquhar.

When a candidate presents himself for training, he must prostrate himself and declare that he is willing to do anything that needs to be done to solve the great matter of life and death. By tradition, he is scowled at by the head monk, who orders him to leave. He persists, he continues to prostrate himself, and after two or three days he is taken in.

Apprentice monks are treated like slaves on a brutal plantation. They must follow orders and never say no. They sleep very little. They rise at four. Most of the time they eat only a small amount of rice and, occasionally, pickles (fresh vegetables and meat are forbidden). There is no heat, even though it can be very cold on the mountain and the monks wear sandals and cotton robes. Junior monks are not permitted to read.

There are many menial tasks a monk must complete in a day (cooking, cleaning, cutting down trees, chopping wood, making brooms), and he is given very little time to do them. If he does not move fast enough, senior monks scream at him. There is very little talking — only bell ringing (to indicate a change in activity) and screaming. There is a correct way to do everything, which is vigorously enforced. When a monk wakes in the morning, he must not move until a bell is rung. When the bell rings, he must move very fast. He has about four minutes (until the next bell rings) to put up his futon, open a window, run to the toilet, gargle with salt water, wash his face, put on his robes, and run to the meditation hall. At first, it is very hard to do all those things in four minutes, but gradually he develops techniques for increasing his speed. Because he is forced to develop these techniques, and because even with the techniques it is still difficult to move fast enough, he is intensely aware of everything he is doing.

He is always too slow, he is always afraid, and he is always being scrutinized. In the winter, he is cold, but if he looks cold he is screamed at. There is no solitude. The constant screaming and the running, along with chronic exhaustion, produce in him a state of low-level panic, which is also a state of acute focus. It is as if his thinking mind, his doubting and critical and interpreting mind, had shut down and been replaced by a simpler mechanism that serves the body. The idea is to throw away his self and in so doing find out who he is. A well-trained monk, it is said, lives as though he were already dead: free from attachment, from indecision, from confusion, he moves with no barrier between his will and his act.

Every day, each monk has an audience with his teacher about a koan that he is pondering. These audiences are a few minutes at the most, sometimes a few seconds. Occasionally, the teacher will make a comment; usually he says nothing at all. The koan is a mental version of the bodily brutalities of training: resistant, frustrating, impossible to assimilate, it is meant to shock the monk into sudden insight.


In January, the monks hold a week-long retreat, during which they are not allowed to lie down or sleep. One January, [apprentice Ittetsu] Nemoto was cook; he had to prepare special pickles for the retreat, and he was driven so hard by the head monk that he did not sleep at all for a week before the retreat began. By the third day of the retreat, he was so exhausted that he could barely stand, but he had to carry a heavy pot full of rice. He stood holding the rice and thought, I cannot carry this pot any longer, I am going to die now. Just as he was on the point of collapse, he felt a great rush of energy: he felt as though everything around him were singing, and that he could do anything he had to do. He felt, too, that the person who had been on the point of collapse a moment before, and, indeed, the person who had been living his life until then, was not really him. That evening, he met with his teacher about his koan, and for the first time the teacher accepted his answer. This experience led him to believe that suffering produces insight, and that it is only at the point when suffering becomes nearly unbearable that transformation takes place.

There are very few monks in Japan now. Nemoto's monastary, whose training is particularly harsh, has only seven. Each year, new monks present themselves for training, and each year many of them run away. This year, five came and four ran away.

Pictured up top, Nemoto near his temple in Gifu prefecture.

August 24, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Boiled Peanuts

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For 35 years I've walked past these but last night at Harris Teeter for some inexplicable reason I stopped, looked at the can, and bought it.

They're quite good, but a lot of work for not much yield, once you drain the peanuts (still in their shells), then shell them: about half are duds — mushy or empty.

Yes, they taste like peanuts — but a more subtle, fleshy, tender, melt-in-the-mouth sort of nut.

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I bet they're way better fresh as opposed to canned.

Now to find a restaurant that serves them.

You wouldn't think that would be all that difficult, seeing as I live in a Podunk town in central Virginia.

But I don't recall ever seeing them on the menu anywhere.

Maybe joehead Nation will get off its collective keister and send a name my way.

Maybe not.

August 24, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Odd Traffic Signs









[via the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Urban Transportation Studies, on whose site you'll find many more exemplars]

August 24, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Invisible Ink


Wrote Laren Stover,

I found Invisible Ink by J. Herbin.

Looks pink in the bottle but writes clear.

Turns blue with heat.

From J. Herbin's website:

J. Herbin started making invisible ink in 1993.

It's made of mineral water and cobalt chloride.

Cobalt chloride dissolves in water, giving it a light pink color that is so pale you can't see it when you write on paper.

Looks pink in the bottle but writes clear.

I am 100% certain I made this stuff with my Gilbert chemistry set when I was a boy in the 50s.

I'm sure it was removed a long time ago for all sorts of reasons.

This is the life we have chosen.

Apply within.

August 24, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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