Sunday, December 31, 2006

The death of Saddam

The tinpot dictator is dead. The relief and joy of Iraqis who lived under his murderous regime is understandable. Organizations that I have financially supported, like Amnesty International, exist in order to shine a light on regimes like Saddam's that violate basic human rights.

And Saddam certainly created his own kharmic conditions that would lead to his death at the hands of others. Kharma is not some mystical force that is like a joystick on the world, but it is simply cause-and-effect. Saddam's murderous ways led to his own murder at the hands of the Iraqi government.

Joy over another person's death, especially when it happens in an unnatural way, is not something I've ever felt, though. The closest I've come to a positive feeling about another's death is a feeling of relief, but even then, it is mixed with a level of sadness.

May all the people of Iraq find healing.

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New look

I just switched over to Blogger's new service, which has additional tools, like labels for posts. I like the look, but this wiped out some of my side features, like the blog roll, the media, and the soundtrack. Thus, the site will be "under construction" for at least a few days while I'll get everything back up.

Welcome to the renovated blog!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Art of the Day

This is an artist's rendition of Buddha Shakyamuni tangling with the dark forces of Mara. I'm a layperson, not clergy, so I might have some of the details wrong here, but it's my understanding that this occurred in the seven days of meditation that led up to Shakyamuni's enlightenment.

In this painting, Mara is personified (or creature-ified). He is an outside force, and certainly all of us at times encounter outside forces of hostility. When we are attacked with hostility from others, it is challenging not to respond in kind.

This challenge between acting with a clear mind or a delusional mind is illustrated in the saying of the lion's gaze. When you wave a stick in front of a dog, the dog will jump around and become excitable. This is the deluded mind. But when you wave a stick in front of a lion, the lion simply gazes at you. He is unmoved by your attempt to manipulate his actions. This is the clear mind.

Not that I've ever tried waving a stick in front of a lion.

Although Mara is an outside force in the painting, Mara is actually within us, and Shakyamuni was wrestling with his own inner darkness. This is the shadow self, and we all have to deal with it. In the painting, stillness overtakes Shakyamuni while his shadow self, Mara, is swirling all around him.

This is an everyday challenge for all of us, to remain still while in the shadows.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

What is really happening in Iran?

The media loves conflict. Conflict sells papers and draws viewers and listeners. And that is why few American media outlets have taken note of student protests against President Ahmadenijad in Tehran.
A conference of the world's most prominent Holocaust deniers opened in Iran yesterday amid international condemnation and protests by dozens of Iranian students, who burned pictures of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and chanted "death to the dictator".

Never has the hardline leader, who was giving a speech at a university in Tehran yesterday, faced such open hostility at home.

This quote is not from the NY Times or the Washington Post and certainly not from the Washington Times or the NY Post. Nope, it's from The Scotsman, and a Google search for "Iran Holocaust conference student protests" brings up mostly European press.

Now, there is some uncertainty about what the student protests were all about. Some are now saying that the students were actually protesting a new rating system that can potentially deny young people admission to universities if they are too politically involved. But even if that was the motivation for the protests, outrage over the conference was also present.
One student said the crowd was protesting against the "shameful" Holocaust conference - which was organised after Mr Ahmadinejad described the murder of six million Jews by Nazis a "myth" invented to justify the occupation of Palestinian land - and the "fact that many activists with student movements have not been allowed to attend university".

The conference "has brought to our country Nazis and racists from around the world", the activist added.

The protest will be deeply embarrassing for the president, who has portrayed Iran as champion of free speech in hosting the event, organised by the Iranian foreign ministry.

And the American media missed it. Once again, the media is falling into the same trap it helped spring in the lead-up to the Iraq war. It is helping to create the climate to justify military action against Iran.

You probably don't recognize these pictures.

These are photos from a candlelight vigil held in the streets of Tehran on September 18, 2001. Participants mourned the loss of innocent lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Iran is not the monolith that some politicians and, out of laziness, the media are trying to create. Keep in mind that 70% of the Iranian population is under the age of 30. We would be well-served to nurture the Iranians' push back against Ahmadenijad's wackiness, not bomb it.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

So much things to say right now

Over the last two weeks or so, a bunch of things have been rollin' through my head to get up on here, but the end of the semester and work have been kickin' my butt. Now that school is done for a month, I'm going to try to get more posts up. Stay tuned.

Thoughts on The Holiday

Ok, so let me tell you about last week, working backwards chronologically. On Friday, my Dad told me that a friend of the family has terminal cancer of the colon and liver. With chemo, they give him two years. Without chemo, they give him nine months.

On Thursday, I attended a meeting that was also attended by a woman whose son is facing the death penalty in a neighboring county.

Also on Thursday, a friend told me that her son had planned to kill himself. It didn't happen, and he is now getting psychiatric treatment.

On Wednesday, I found out that my Little Brother's uncle died.

Tragedy and tough situations have been following me around lately (and I didn't even mention this week), so by the time last Friday night rolled around, I was ready to go see a sweet, fun movie with my wife.

Enter The Holiday.

Yes, it's a "chick flick." Yes, it's kind of corny. But I really, really liked this movie. I can't watch these kinds of films all the time, but this was good timing for one like this.

Here's the quick summary. Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) are losers in love in Surrey, U.K., and LA, respectively. Amanda finds Iris on a "home exchange" website, and they both decide to get away from it all by switching houses.

While in the U.K., Amanda meets Graham (Jude Law), Iris's brother, and in LA, Iris meets Miles (Jack Black). From there, the two stories go back and forth. Hilarity ensues. There is a twist with Graham that is particularly touching for guys like me. (Can't say much more than that or I'd risk giving it away.)

Black handles his role here superbly. He dials it back a bit from his typical act, but his signature zaniness is still present. And Diaz does some great slapstick.

For a nice night at the movies, I highly recommend The Holiday.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bumper sticker of the day