See more articles, reviews, fiction and poetry, including more of my writings, at group blog PLUTO'S REALM.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Stop Wasting Your Time!

This silliness has got to stop! Everytime I turn on NPR or any other of the few news sources I consider sane these days, I hear more about Alito. Kerry is going to fillibuster to stop Alito. Alito must be stopped. Alito this. Alito that. Let me tell you something: Samuel Alito is going to be confirmed. First, although the man's politics are reprehensible, politics are not the criterion which is supposed to be used in a confirmation hearing. So even if the Senate was all Democrats, Alito probably should be confirmed. The man is qualified under any standards to which properly can be held in this proceeding. Yes, he is part of the legacy of the early 80's, and if you didn't want something this right-wing on the Supreme Court, you shouldn't have voted for Reagan, etc. But at this turning point in our history, for the Democrats or anyone truly interesting in trying to stop the Christian Reich from cementing its foundations and completing its annihilation of the American democracy, to be wasting its time on trying to oppose the inevitable confirmation of an undesirable but unstoppable Supreme Court Justice is... well, lame.

Look around you, dammit, look look LOOK! The new version of the "Patriot Act" authorizes a uniformed federal police force. The President has asserted that he is above the law and that Congress cannot regulate him. If things go on as they are, the Supreme Court will be irrelevant by the time of the next Presidential election. So will the Legislature. Look at your Constitution. Look at your history. The Supreme Court and the Legislature can act only through the Executive. They have no guns. They have no soldiers. They have no cops. When Bush asserts that he is not subject to the restrictions imposed by the Legislature, why should he be subject to the restrictions of the Court? You are one step away from martial law, people, one step away, can't you see?

I am sick and disgusted with the Democratic Party; they either have been co-opted or cowed or just have not done their job in opposing the end of the American Democracy. We are at the turning point analgous to that at which the Roman Republic came under the rule of Caesar and was destroyed. They have jumped, like seals after kipper, after one more red herring. How could the Democrats ever win when they let the Republicans pick all the issues and control the agenda? They have been doing it to you for years, people. Abortion should not be a political issue; it is a decision between a woman and her doctor, just like the right to die. Gay marriage is not a political issue, it is a decision made between consenting adults. Yet by letting the Republicans and the Reich control the ball for so many years, so that all the Democrats and the so-called Leftists can do is scurry after it, the American people have allowed themselves to be distracted, again and again and continuously, from the real issue. The real issue is the destruction of 230 years of American democracy by totalitarians, by fear and intimidation and lies.

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." [source: BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, November 11, 1755.—The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, vol. 6, p. 242 (1963).]

You've let yourselves be scared, people. You still don't know the truth about September 11, 2001. You still don't know why those buildings came down. You still don't know how many people died in New Orleans because Bush's butt buddy who headed up FEMA was less qualified than the manager at your local Wal-Mart, and nobody else gave a shit. What's so sad is that the Democrats were just as stupid and intimidated as everyone else. Why did everyone go along with the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" lies? Couldn't they see through that. I could. Couldn't you? So why couldn't your representatives?

The only excuse I can think of is that the Congress, like the American people, had never been lied to so bald-facedly before. Just like the leaders of Europe and the World, who had been used to relying on the American President to be at least honest at times of crisis, we -- they, I'm not going down on this one -- were buffaloed by history and tradition. No more! I can't imagine the leaders of other nations (real nations) blindly following the U.S. into war again any time soon, and that may be a good thing. Will we be so blind again as a people?

So stop wasting your time. Forget Alito. Forget Roe vs. Wade. Forget gay rights. You'll have time to address all those issues later, assuming you can preserve the forum in which the argument must take place. Forget everything except preserving your Republic. Don't make the deaths of those who died in WWII and America's real wars of defense meaningless. Don't let your children volunteer to commit murder and torture in foreign lands. Don't insult the memories and the legacies of everyone who ever fought for American freedom.

If you were duped and voted for these fascists, admit it. A lot of other people were, too. Just do the next right thing, now. Stand up for your rights and for humanity, before Bush and his puppetmasters lead you into a new dark age from which a project like the American Republic may not emerge for a thousand years; these people are close to accomplishing what Hitler only dreamed of, because they have refined the tools and techniques.

Please, stop Bush now. Swallow your pride. Focus on the main issue; save our nation now, before it's too late.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Why Women's Tennis is Better than the NFL

I just witnessed a very strange event. In the women's final of the Australian Open, Amelie Mauresmo, a handsome Frenchwoman who has consistently been a top five player but had never before won a Grand Slam title, defeated Justine Henin-Hardenne. Henin, a Belgian who already had a handful of Grand Slam title, was underseeded at eighth in the tournament, having been out most of last year with injuries, but she won this event in 2004. Mauresmo had been widely seen as a choker in the big events, but as the best women's player never to win a Grand Slam. She always gets to the quarterfinals, is rarely injured -- a very even player. Henin is a pit bull, one of the toughest players, a 5'6" player who could hit with most power players. She has always been one of my favorite players because she is smart; she diagnoses her frequent first set losses, adjusts her game and find a way to win matches. She is like Martina Hingis with power.

Tonight Mauresmo won 6-1, 2-0 (ret.) to finally win that title. Henin made enough errors to lose 8 out of 9 games completed. Just before losing the ninth game, she called a trainer and a doctor to the court, who gave her something to calm her stomach. A few points later, she retired. The only explanation given was that she had an upset stomach.

An upset stomach? In her match against Mauresmo, Kim Clijsters retired when the players were dead-on in the third set because she twisted her ankle, which might seem comparable until it was revealed that Clijsters pulled two tendons and will be out for at least two months (which will make short-lived her tenure at #1, which starts Monday). Who hasn't seen the video of Pete Sampras puking on the court at the U.S. Open, then continuing to play? It certainly took the thrill out of Mauresmo's win, and Henin will be condemned for it. But I have to believe she must really have been that sick (and exhausted from her semifinal against Maria Sharapova two nights ago, one of the best matches I have seen in a while.

Less than nine days from now, Seattle takes on Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. I will probably watch, but next year at this time I probably won't remember who player or who won. So given what I said above, why do I think women's tennis is a better sport?

It's all subjective of course. No sport could ever be better than another (unless we include ice dancing). But it's my blog, and so in this blog women's tennis is better than football. Why?

I got interested in women's tennis in the late 70's because my fiancee at the time was a very dedicated and talented club player, and I was forced to follow the sport and became acquainted with the players and the game. Prior to that, I'd never really followed sports much at all. Neither of my parents had much interest in them, and I grew up as an only child and never really encountered sports until I got to school, by which time it seemed I was hopelessly behind. I was never in particularly bad shape physically (except for a brief sojourn as a fat kid) but I never really acquired sports-specific skills, and by the time I got to high school I hated the kids who played the sports so much that I could not only not bear to play them, I couldn't bear to watch them. At the University of Tennessee I remember clearly looking out my dorm window on hungover Saturday mornings and seeing oceans of middle-aged men in highway-cone orange shouting inanities and spending money. All through my twenties, I was convinced that sports fans were a bunch of idiots. But I started following women's tennis in 1980 and never really stopped.

You may ask, why women's tennis and not men's tennis? I certainly have as much respect for men's tennis, but I never thought it was interesting because it was more of a power game. I have followed it fairly well, and to this day I still think Boris Becker's unseeded win at Wimbledon in 1985 at age 17 was one of the most emotional moments in sports I have ever seen. But the women's game was all more intelligence and strategy, and infinitely more watchable, not just because the players were cuter but because men's tennis in Grand Slams takes the form of insufferable five-game matches. Very few sporting events are worth watching for four or five hours.

Obviously my choice of women's tennis as a sport to follow is idiosyncratic and from the point of view of the general population, random. It's really about (1) individual sports vs. team sports; for several reasons; (2) less popular sports vs. more popular sports, and (3) the particular decline in cohesiveness of teams sports, and football in particular, due to free agency.

So why the NFL? I'm not going to try to talk too intelligently about a subject I don't know that much about. Like I say, I was a late starter on any of this shit, but football as a sport is my favorite of the big sports, and I did follow it fairly closely through a period in the 80's and 90's (until this year I thought Jerome Bettis was a Ram). I really hate basketball; just the sound of the gymasium and those ridiculous shorts makes me run from the room screaming. And although I did play more baseball as a kid than any other sport, and it's fun in the park, it's death on TV. So football is my favorite of these.

Really my three reasons above break down to two since (1) and (3) wind up being pretty much the same, so let's knock out (2) first. Less popular sports are better because they aren't as subject to mass hysteria. Crowds are always stupid. So games are good, obsessed fans are bad (and for a counterexample from my own favorite, ask Monica Seles). Why? See my prior posts on George Bush and the Christian Reich. The Indiannapolis Colts may be a less harmful release of the same passions, but all these groups could be shot down like rabid dogs for improvements in population control, environment, and quality of life.

As for reasons (1) and (3), OK, it's good for kids to learn to play together and I admit I play with others less well than most. And a good sports team, like a chamber music orchestra, can be interesting and a source of pride for its integration and cooperation, and a source of fascination in the way the individuals interact. So any individual game can be interesting. But I am a little uncomfortable with for whom or what the crowd is cheering in the long run. It seems like such an obvious precursor to that same mob mentality that precurses nationalism. This is particularly problematic when the team represents a place or an institution, as it normally does. The free agency rule just exacerbated the situation for professional sports. When I was a kid, the players on the teams were a lot more likely to be the same from year to year. Yeah, I can see cheering for a group of people. But when the people change so frequently that there is no continuity to speak of, it's like cheering for one patch of ocean over another; its's all about the symbol. Hence, mob mentality, hence nationalism.

On the other hand, following the career of an individual athelete is just that. Particulary in tennis, where no coaching is allowed on court. When Justine Henin-Hardenne got sick tonight, she couldn't bring in Kim Clijster's stomach. Mauresmo won't show up at the French Open with Steffi Graf's forehand. What you got is what you got. And that's what it is to be human.

[Footnote: So why is college football not preferable to the NFL, since the continuity of players is greater with a fairly predictable turnover due to graduation or college exits? Just internal football reasons like the lack of a playoff system and the fact that the mass hysteria is at its worst with universities -- don't really know why.]

By the way, the pic at the top, if you don't know, is Martina Hingis, who is making a pretty successful return to tennis after a three-year layoff after "marginal players like Anastasia Myskina" (Hingis' words) starting winning Grand Slams. In the last year or so, women's tennis had returned to its former self after two self-promoting musclebound hooligans called the Williams sisters tried to turn it into men's tennis. Go Martina! I don't know about the doll.

Gee, was this really a sports blog?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Ms. Johnson Conveys My Regrets

This is Ms. Johnson. Ms. Johnson is a sixteen-year old Calico whom I took in when she was found abandoned on Central Avenue (Route 66) in Albuquerque as a barely-weened kitten. Ms. Johnson has a long and fascinating life history, only parts of which she is willing to share with you, as she is a very private individual. She has been spayed, de-clawed, flown cross-country, been forced to live outside for years at a time, and has survived her lifetime companion, Thunder. However for the last two years she has been comfortably retired here with me in Nashville.

Ms. Johnson doesn't really like anyone but me, and she has been content of late because I have been home with her most of the time. I quit my last job at the first of the year, and since I have something else lined up starting about ten days from now, I have been able to spend a comfortable month mostly away from humans. However, I haven't been blogging much and Ms. Johnson agreed to appear here today to tell you why.

Looking back over my blog entries since I started this thing last October, most of what I wrote was inspired by the events of the day as filtered through the environment of ignorance I was working in. The job I left had a lot of good things about it, and the real reasons I left were too complex and too personal to really go into at this point, but you will recall that in several posts I mentioned that I had to deal with an inescapable exponent of the Christian right and the Bush cabal. The office manager in question was a very good-hearted individual who unfortunately had been taken in by the whole delusional machinery manifested by those twin pincers of public ignorance in America. So to summarize, every day I was lambasted by the issues of the day from a point of view derived straight from the Faux News Network.

I remember when I got my one tattoo years ago, I had to spend a total of about eight hours over three sessions in the chair. The first session consisted of the (detailed) outline, and the second of the blacks. These are fairly deep uses of the needle, and could be a little painful, but it was nothing I couldn't take. It was the final, four-hour session with the colors that drove me up in the wall. It consisted of a consistent, light scraping of the skin surface that felt like I always imagnined water torture would. In the same way, the incessant recitiation of the axioms and mantras of modern American ignorance by someone who I genuinely like affected me in a way that the fouler rantings of the hatemongers never could, and I had to lash out. Hence the angrier blog entries.

Here in my cave with Ms. Johnson and the Rufi, there is nothing to make me angry (except maybe the bad line calls in the Henin-Hardenne vs. Sharapova match last night). I can read that the ignorance marches on, but I don't have to look at their faces or hear their voices. I can sit, and I can watch my anime and read my novels in peace. When I was young I used to write songs on my guitar. Like most young men I was obsessed with passion and romance, and I used to articulate my (what I see now as mostly hormonal) pain through lyrics. So I wrote all the good stuff when I was angry and depressed and needed to howl out loneliness. When I had a girlfriend and was happy, those rare moments, I couldn't write. I had nothing to write about. So for the past few weeks I haven't felt the need to react against anything. Hence few blog entries.

Since I don't think I'll be going back into any similar atmosphere soon or ever, my posts may be a bit calmer. Maybe not. I do have some things I want to talk about. I want to talk about why I had to major in philosophy and become obsessed with the meaning of life before I came to realize that philosophy is useless except as something to get through, and that the meaning of life cannot be found in your head. I want to explain why I had to practice law for ten years to realize that the legal system and can't be fixed without a sincere effort to follow the edict of Shakespeare. I want to talk about the history of religion and to explain my view that there are a lot of good religions and only three bad ones. Mostly I want to replace the crap we have been handed in the form of various Trojan horses like the War on Drugs and displacements of reality like the "War on Christmas" shit with a War on Ignorance. It just occurs to me that we need to be able to read and think and discuss again, or the video game culture we live in, with our discussions reduced to what used to be called MTV-edited sound bites, just might be signs of the real Last Days -- not of the planet earth (this old rock is gonna be around for a while), but of our culture as we knew it before Bush.

But that's for the near future. Right now I need to feed Ms. Johnson and sit zazen.

War is over, if you want it. -- John Lennon.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Living and Dying: The Heart Sutra

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
when practicing deeply the Prajna Paramita perceives that all five skandhas are empty
and is saved from all suffering and distress.
Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. That which is form is emptiness, that which is emptiness form.
The same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness.
Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness; they do not appear or disappear, are not tainted or pure, do not increase or decrease.
Therefore, in emptiness no form, no feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness.
No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind ;no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realm of eyes and so forth until no realm of mind, consciousness.
No ignorance and also no extinction of it, and so forth until no old age and death and also no extinction of them.
No suffering, no origination,no stopping, no path, no cognition, also no attainment with nothing to attain.
The Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita and the mind is no hindrance; without any hindrance no fears exist. Far apart from every perverted view one dwells in Nirvana.
In the three worlds all Buddhas depend on Prajna Paramita and attain Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi.
Therefore know that Prajna Paramita is the great transcendent mantra, is the great bright mantra, is the utmost mantra, is the supreme mantra which is able to relieve all suffering and is true, not false. So proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra, proclaim the mantra which says:
gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.

The above is the translation of the Heart Sutra of the Kwam Um School of Zen, a Korean school to which the sangha to which I belong had ties in the past. It may not be the best translation of the sutra, but it is the one to which I have become accustomed.

Zen differs from most religions, including most other schools of Buddhism, in that it really has no sacred texts [In fact I don't consider my Buddhism a religion at all but a practice, but that's another matter.] That is, we certainly admit that the sutras (and there may an exception or two; my Buddhist scholarship is certainly amateur) were written down after Gautama Siddhartha, the historical Buddha, died, and are prone to human error. In fact many of them are really fantastical and it's hard for me to believe that Gautama had anything to do with them. However, Zen and many schools of Mahayana Buddhism accept the Heart Sutra as the core truth at the heart of Buddhism.

I'm not really qualified to give any kind of explication of the Heart Sutra; like any other great truth, it speaks for itself (in translation). It's just that my ruminations on the discussion of life and death in the past few blogs keep bringing me back to it. "The mind is no hindrance; without any hindrance, no fears exist." It just strikes me that those who are afraid to die are afraid to live. The same people I know who would keep a disabled individual on life support in a coma for thirty years, are afraid to drive their cars in the snow. Go figure.

But once dying is accepted as a part of living, it is nothing to fear. My assumption is that when I die, my life will cease. If all these people are so convinced that upon their deaths, their souls will go to Heaven or to Nirvana or whatever, or that they will be reborn in a better existence due their persistence in making themselves subservient to a deity of their own making, why are they so afraid to die?

We tend to think the samurai were all screwed up. And of course like the American cowboy they are not what they are all cracked up to be, but that's not the point. Yeah, it's a little nuts to shove a sword into your gut because you may have displeased someone (of course it helps when there's a guy standing behind you to chop your head off so you don't feel any pain). On the other hand, it's a noble concept to end your life with honor and intent, no matter what the snivellers says. It's very liberating to begin each day with the knowledge that you might die that day, and the intent to make it the best possible day you could have for the last one. I enjoy my life and intend to keep doing it for a while. But it's mine.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Few More Words About HST (With an extended quote which is not for children)

Thanks for bearing with me on that last post; I got overly ambitious and it got out of hand. Plus it was a pain to edit.

First, if by the time you finished reading my last entry, you were too tired to read the interview I linked to, please take the time to read it when you get a chance:

It's occurred to me in the last couple of years that the things that are obviously true, for you, tend to be perceptions that you have for yourself. I tend to think that everything that someone else tells me is true (unless it's a comment about an immediate material reality), is not true. Part of this is that I don't trust other people's perceptions, and part is that other people quite often have a vested interest in making you believe what they believe, especially if they are insecure for some reason about those beliefs and want confirmation. A lot of this seems to be the source of what we perceive as racism, religion, homophobia, politics, etc.

But when I read a statement from someone else that confirms to something that I first thought of for myself previously - especially if it's years previously - it tends to make me think that statement or idea is true, at least for me. This is how I felt when I read a lot of Hardcore Zen, and how I felt when I read the linked interview with HST.

There are several points Thompson makes in the interview that had occurred to me previously and independently. First, the similarity of American in the last three or four years to Germany in the 30's, the Weimar Republic mentality of fear that gave rise to Hitler. Although the demographics and the specific economics of the two cultures in those two eras are different, the climate of fear created for purposes of manipulation are the same. Second, the feeling on September 11, 2001, and in the days thereafter that we were not being told the truth about what happened and who was responsible. There is no question that the tragic events of that day were manipulated by Bush's puppetmasters for their own ends; the question is, was there foreknowledge? The third point is the comparison between the Presidency of Richard Nixon and the current regime. Simply put, what we (and HST) saw as the ultimate evil in American government doesn't hold a candle to the evil now in place. Nixon was an amateur compared to whoever is controlling George W. Bush.

The following is an extended quote from HST's last book, Kingdom of Fear. It is long, raw, uncensored and vile. It is also the truest thing I have ever read about the situation this country is in today. If you are easily offended, don't read it. I'll be back soon.

Let’s face it – the yo-yo president of the USA knows nothing. He is a dunce. He does what he is told to do – says what he is told to say - poses the way he is told to pose. He is a Fool.
This is never an easy thing for the voters of this country to accept.

No. Nonsense. The president cannot be a Fool. Not at this moment in time – when the last vestiges of the American Dream are on the line. This is not the time to have a bogus rich kid in charge of the White House.

Which is, after all, our house. That is our headquarters – it is where the heart of America lives. So if the president lies and acts giddy about other people’s lives – if he wantonly and stupidly endorses mass murder as a logical plan to make sure we are still Number One – he is a Jackass by definition – a loud and meaningless animal with no functional intelligence and no balls.

To say that this goofy child president is looking more and more like Richard Nixon in the summer of 1974 would be a flagrant insult to Nixon.

Whoops! Did I say that? Is it even vaguely possible that some New Age Republican whore-beast of a false president could actually make Richard Nixon look like a Liberal?
The capacity of these vicious assholes we elected to be in change of our lives for four years to commit terminal damage to our lives and our souls and our loved ones is far beyond Nixon. Shit! Nixon was the creator of many of the once-proud historical landmarks that these dumb bastards are savagely destroying now: the Clean Air Act of 1970; Campaign Finance Reform; the endangered species act; opening a Real-Politik dialogue with China; and on and on.
The prevailing quality of life in America – by any accepted method of measuring – was inarguably freer and more politically open under Nixon than it is today in this evil year of Our Lord 2002.

The Boss was a certified monster who deserved to be impeached and banished. He was a truthless creature of former FBI Director J Edgar Hoover – a foul human monument to corruption and depravity on a scale that dwarfs any other public official in American history. But Nixon was at least smart enough to understand why so many honorable patriotic US citizens despised him. He was a Liar. The truth was not in him.

Nixon believed – as he said many times – that if the president of the United States does it, it can’t be illegal. But Nixon never understood the much higher and meaner truth of Bob Dylan’s warning that “To live outside the law you must be honest”.

The difference between an outlaw and a war criminal is the difference between a pedophile and a Pederast: the pedophile is a person who thinks about sexual behaviour with children, and the pederast does those things. He lays hands on innocent children – he penetrates them and changes their lives forever.

Being the object of a pedophile’s warped affections is a Routine feature of growing up in America – and being the victim of a pederast’s crazed “love” is part of dying. Innocence is no longer an option. Once penetrated, the child becomes a Queer in his own mind, and that is not much different than murder.

Richard Nixon crossed that line when he began murdering foreigners in the name of “family values” – and George Bush crossed it when he sneaked into office and began killing brown-skinned children in the name of Jesus and the American people.

When Muhammad Ali declined to be drafted and forced to kill “gooks” in Vietnam he said. “I ain’t got nothin’ against them Viet Cong. No Cong ever called me Nigger.”

I agreed with him, according to my own personal ethics and values. He was Right.
If we had a dash of Muhammad Ali’s eloquent courage, this country and the world would be a better place because of it.

Okay. That’s it for now. Read it and weep … See you tomorrow, folks. You haven’t heard the last of me. I am the one who speaks for the spirit of freedom and decency in you. Shit. Somebody has to do it.

We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world – a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just Whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us … No redeeming social value. Just whores. Get out of our way, or we’ll kill you.

Well, shit on that dumbness, George W. Bush does not speak for me or my son or my mother or my friends or the people I respect in this world. We didn’t vote for these cheap, greedy little killers who speak for America today – and we will not vote for them again in 2002. Or 2004. Or ever.

Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? Who among us can be happy and proud of having all this innocent blood on our hands? Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid rich kids like George Bush?
They are the same ones who wanted to have Muhammad Ali locked up for refusing to kill gooks. They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character. They are the racists and hate mongers among us – they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis.

And I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. Fuck them.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

In defense of Hunter S. Thompson and the Real Right to Die

Boy, I hope I don't screw up here. As you know if you've been reading these posts, I am a big fan of Brad Warner, the Zen teacher whose book got me back to Zen practice after years of uh, neglect. And I've succeeded in inviting him to come to Nashville for our spring retreat in March. So I hope I don't piss him off. But one of his comments the other day struck me as something I wanted to argue with, and I'm doing it here rather than in the comments section on his blog.

Brad made the following comment on January third (of course this is out of context, so I invite you to check out the Hardcore Zen blog). "And yet, you need to be able to practice some kind of self-regulation. We do need to know right from wrong. Otherwise you'd end up like Hunter S. Thompson or somebody like that." One thing I do feel Hunter Thompson was imbued with was an overwhelming sense of the difference between right and wrong. He just didn't draw it in the same place as some others do.

But I realized that when Brad replied that he hadn't read Thompson's writings; he was just reacting to the public persona of HST as satirized, most famously as Uncle Duke in Doonesbury, but also as portrayed by Bill Murray in Where Buffalo Roam, and slightly less misleadingly by Johnny Depp [By the way, Fear in Loathing in Las Vegas was a great movie, I thought, except for Depp's portrayal of Thompson, which was way too clownish. Johnny Depp is usually a great actor and one of my favorites, but why was he so far off in his portrayal of Thompson? And likewise, he says the character he played in Pirates of the Caribbean was based on Keith Richard. I just thought he seemed like a silly fag. No homophobic reference intended. But enough about Johnny Depp.]

Anyway, Brad responded to a couple of us objecting to his characterization of Thompson by saying that he hadn't read Thompson and that he was not commenting on HST the literary man but on Thompson the man who drugged himself throughout his life and then killed himself. True, Thompson did just that but he did not kill himself with drugs; in fact he seems to be one of those rare cases where his highest literary function was not impaired by them. In fact, I think it is probably true that his accomplishments as a journalist, literary originator and cultural icon are inextricably tied to his lifestyle. Anyone who has ever read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or any of this other works should immediately see what I mean. The whole Gonzo thing was the integration of his lifestyle with his experiences as a journalist of his day. If you read The Great Shark Hunt collection, you'll see that his pre-Gonzo journalism in incredibly insightful and well-done; he just hadn't yet created his own form, like Kerouac when he wrote The Town and the City. And if you're not familiar with Kerouac, go check out my November blog on him. It's not at all coincidental that I mention Thompson and Kerouac in the same breath. Not only are they two of my biggest literary influences, they are also two of my biggest heroes, despite the fact that they led atypical lives. Or maybe because of that.

I have to admit that I had gotten away from Thompson's work. Of course I read the above-cited books, plus Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 and of course Hell's Angels. If you haven't read Hell's Angels, do so immediately. It's pre-Gonzo, and a totally immaculate piece of first-person journalism. He explores them to their depths (and don't confuse the Angels of '69 with what they later became), and then of course in the end gets beaten shitless for it. He kept on writing, on the political campaigns and sports (Nixon loved to talk football with HST, by the way). But I drifted away.

I really want to make two points in this blog: First, Hunter S. Thompson was a genius who changed my life, your life and our country forever (although the latter is being consistently eroded). Second, I am damned sick of people attacking him for the way he died. Having shamelessly exposited my theses, let me continue to ramble. Hunter could have wanted no less.

I have noticed in some of the blogs I've been reading lately that the usual analysis of blogs in general is that the off-topic ones are not successful, presumably because the people who try to follow them are not interested in all of the content. This blog is all one world, my world. I think that just like HST's writing and his lifestyle, my interests in Zen and in politics and American culture are inextricably linked. This is for the Zen guys: Have you ever noticed that what you are doing when you wind up observing the mind in zazen, is in fact observing the personality? I think the bottom line is to realize that all you observe is to observed from a perspective. Perspectives are not arbitrary and bad; they exist because despite the deep realization you can have in your zazen that you are not distinct from the universe, the truth is that you must distinguish yourself from the rest of the universe to function, because the universe cannot drive your car, it cannot do your taxes, and it cannot write your blog. When I successfully disengage in zazen, I (?) can successfully and objectively observe the actives of Bob J. Who is not me at that moment. Like I talked about stepping out of the movie.

But Bob J. is a creature who does what he does. The zazen me cannot control him. I think that this is the false edge of any kind of meditation where it falls into mysticism. The basic fallacy is that I can encompass all of God or the universe in my own human being. Give up on that.

Now, on Hunter's death. He was pretty private in his writings about his personal life. I know what that is like after writing this blog for a few months. The more you try to broaden your base, the less you want to tell about yourself. I try to use my personal life only when I need to make a point. But I have to diverge here.

I have never understood why people are so personally offended when someone commits suicide. Now it is one thing when the person is not mentally competent or is severely depressed or is in some way unable to make a rational decision based on his or her own beliefs. There are other matters involved in a Schiavo situation where someone else has to make the decision whether your life is worth saving or not. But the question here is, is my life not mine? If you think no, it is not, it belongs to God, you are not thinking or you are reading the wrong blog.

Now the sentiment I have often heard expressed is, how can anything be worse than not living? That seems to me like a stupid question. Living in inexorable, excruciating pain seems obviously worse than not living. For some reason, it occurred to me some years ago that your life will always be an equal balance between pleasure and plain. I can't prove this; it just seems true. For example why are rich people not always happy? Why are poor and sick people sometimes quite happy? Have you ever noticed that when times are really "bad" you can be quite happy? Have you ever noticed that when times are "good" you are can just not be happy? Have you ever felt guilty about that?

My theory or perception is that we are going to be happy and unhappy in about equal degrees for equal amounts of time, no matter what happens to us. There is of course no way to prove this, but it seems true. You vacillate between happiness or unhappiness no matter what happens to you. This is one of the reasons why it is so meaningless to compare your life with anyone else's; what might be a major tragedy for them might be a benign moment for you. The starting points are different. This is why the goal of zazen is not happiness. Some have said it is equanimity; I think it is perspective. It is why I am able to sit and look at my own actions like those of a character in play.

Consequently, death is a neutral event. In other words, if the life part of my life-and-death is a neutral, a draw, then the death part is pretty much nothing. Plus, my death (as opposed to my dying) is not an event I expect to experience. In other words, the only bad part of death is the experience of getting there. Of course there are all sorts of arguments and illusions about life after death, but I see no reason why they should be true other that misguided wishful thinking, and really no reason to wish they were true. Moreover, even if they are true, I have no way of knowing that and no way to plan for them. So really I see no reason to prefer life over death except as a means of prolonging the status quo and avoiding the unknown. This is of course from the individual point of view, but that is the only point of view I have most of the time.

My favorite uncle died a few years ago by committing suicide. He was in his 80's and had had a successful life by most definitions, although he certainly wasn't rich. He had had a meaningful career and had raised children who had lives of their own. His mind was rich and intelligent but his body was falling apart. Like Hemingway, he had showed signs of deciding to end it, and like Hemingway they took away his guns but forgot one with one round in the chamber. He killed himself with one shot to the head with a .22 short, which is an accomplishment.

So how can anyone decry this man's decision? Whose life was it? How worse can you deny a man's dignity that by denying him a right to end his life when he chooses? One of the most obnoxious and invasive behaviors of the right-wing Christians of our era is their insistence that they are more qualified than the individual to make the life-and-death decision. Historically, the resistance to suicide was probably based, like marriage, on the ownership of one human by another, or of the individual by the monarch or the state. If we truly lived in an enlightened age, we would have been able to move beyond that.

This blog is getting incredibly long or it seem so to me, and I've been working on it too long. But I want to come back in the next day or two and discuss these issues. In particular, I want to talk more about Thompson and why I think his work is so significant for our time and meaningful to me. But that's enough for now.

In the meantime, you might want to check out the following odd but meaningful interview with Thompson, a year or two before he died: