Tuesday, November 29, 2011



Bodhidharma and Huike

Years ago A Zen Monk gave me a Koan to meditate upon. The Koan was, "Who is Jack Miller?"
A Koan is a rung on the latter to enlightenment. I am still here on the first step. So far, I have reached preliminary answers. First, in my case, "Jack Miller" is nothing. The name does not name me. If I have a name, it is Jack Jameson. Elsewhere in this blog I have answered the question from Romeo and Juliet, "What's in a name?" By citing my academic accomplishments and giving an account of my history. Am I my history? Not if Simone De Beauvoir and her beau are right. 
I share thoughts with another Zen Master-to-be these days who has given me the same Koan: "Become the person you want to be." The phrasing of course is different, wiser actually, more to it. Again, preliminary answers come to mind-- writer, lover, poet, philosopher. 
Part of the answer may also be who I am not now. I am not a Zen Master, and I write about this in a poem:

I have not resolved if a Zen Master is the person I want to be; and I suspect that saying, "in the future," is what De Beauvoir calls "Bad faith or mauvaise foi." 

I want to be on the path for now. The person I am and want to be is alive, full of passion, growing in compassion, knocked over with feelings of emotional pain and pleasure-- melancholy and joy. The person I want to be is learning to want less to attain a higher awareness.

File:Huike thinking.jpg

According to the Denkoroku, when Huike and Bodhidharma were climbing up Few Houses Peak, Bodhidharma asked, “Where are we going?” Huike replied, “Please go right ahead---that’s it.” Bodhidharma retorted, “If you go right ahead, you cannot move a step.” Upon hearing these words, Huike was enlightened.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Because the following review is so well written and accurate, I will forgo writing my own review. Instead, I want to add that I found the film to be a look into the heart of homosexual love. There is something unique and wonderful about two men loving one another that is not the same as heterosexual love. This film reveals what that is in a way that is authentic and moving. Both kinds of love have their own beauty and truth, but there is a fascinating difference we are often too ready to overlook or deny. Weekend gives us a more profound understanding.

Weekend – review

A lo-fi, tremendously convincing account of contemporary gay life
4 out of 5
weekend film still
Something urgent to say about the windows of opportunity in our lives … Weekend
"Weekends, like life, are short." That melancholy reflection from Kind Hearts and Coronets does justice to some of Andrew Haigh's unassumingly excellent lo-fi feature: a boy-meets-boy love story extending over a single weekend, and filmed with a kind of real-time realism. There is sadness here, as well as romance, and a sense that sexual experience is not merely exciting for its own sake, but an adventure in defining one's sense of self: what one character here calls finding both partner and your self as a blank slate. Weekend has something urgent to say to both gay and straight audiences about the windows of opportunity in our lives.

Russell is a gay guy in his 20s who seems happy enough. We see him first at a party being thrown by his straight friends, with kids. He leaves early – to his hosts' disappointment – claiming to be tired, but on his way home on the bus he stops off at a gay bar, and meets Glen, who works at the local art gallery. They go home together for what both assume will be a fleeting, pleasurable fling. But in the morning, their conversation continues, and they wonder if they might have a future together. But first, they have to make some decisions on the subject of monogamy and what they want from life in the first place, and they discover they have far less time to make these decisions than they thought.
Russell is gentle, thoughtful, introverted; Glen is bold, worldly and a little confrontational in his need to assert his gay identity. In these roles, Tom Cullen and Chris New give tremendously relaxed and utterly convincing performances, very well directed by Haigh. It is the kind of film-making that looks easy, but isn't. For a lot of the time, nothing much is actually happening. Glen and Russell are hanging out, or drinking, or doing drugs, or having sex, and all these activities have an unselfconscious reality to them.
A more traditionally conceived "issue" movie would have included a scene of gay-bashing, but Haigh takes what looks like a conscious decision to defuse this particular dramatic firework. Glen yells at some gay-baiters from Russell's 14th-floor window, and on a railway platform, and he gets into a row with a straight guy in a pub, but there is no violence. Haigh's concern is always to refocus our attention on to a lower-key, but in its way far more sensational, subject: how Glen and Russell are going to work out their problems and find love. It is a tender, humane film, with an easy, unforced cinematic language: a film that doesn't need to try too hard.



Sunday, November 20, 2011



On seeing Melancholy...

Melancholy will pass us by... such is the prediction of science in Lars Von Trier's stunner of a  film, Melancholia. Following the opening celestial prelude to Melancholia featuring the very music I have been listening to recently and sharing with those close to me, Wagner's wondrous Prelude to Tristan and Isolde, comes what many of us think of as the antidote to sadness, a wedding. Gathered in a grand lodge, complete with eighteen hole golf course, are all the family, friends, and colleagues of the voluptuous bride, Justine. She and her groom arrive late, delayed by the over-sized limo making the ascent to the lodge. Should I write "spoiler alert"? So many things in this film are so foreshadowed that only the dullest of viewers will fail right away to know what is coming. For Von Trier the devil is in the details; and in the details reside his genius and the profound view of life that is his vision.
Suffice it to say that the wedding is not a success. The groom makes a ridiculous, bumbling attempt at a speech, the bride's mother discourses on her contempt for marriage, and the bride herself leaves the bride chamber to fuck a possible future colleague who is voluptuous himself, out on the golf course. The emptiness of money and corporate greed all manage to play their part in the failure of the ceremony.
 Meanwhile Melancholia approaches.
We learn early on that Melancholia is so vast, so substantial, that it has taken the form of a planet, once hidden by the Sun, that is headed straight for the Earth, though most of the reasonable scientists assure everyone that the rogue planet will not impact the Earth, but rather be a near miss. Von Trier is not giving us believable astronomy and clever science fiction here; he is giving us the power of metaphor. The amazing thing is how well it works. What we see in the darkness of the multiplex theater is something far different from what the prisoners in Plato's cave saw, not mere images of images from the empirical world, but rather the archetypes themselves, the very Forms of reality Plato thought invisible.
We see the very real archetype of Melancholy and no, it will not pass us by after all. How do we face the collision? The main characters embody the possibilities. Justine's response is cynicism, or at best, irony, even as she constructs  a cave (Plato's?)to protect them. Her sister swoons with Romanticism and anxiety, sweeping up her innocent, uncomprehending son with her. Her husband gives us nihilism. And Von Trier gives us one of the most philosophical, psychologically penetrating films I've seen in years. Among an audience quiet and horrified by what they were witnessing, my philosophically-minded friend and I found ourselves laughing aloud, repeatedly, at the raw, dark behavior of the multitude of poignant characters, Justine's capitalistic, fascist boss, the cursing of her mother, the outrageous scene of the bride in full gown riding a golf cart over the grounds, catching her dress on the cart, as Tristan and Isolde swelled on the soundtrack. Romanticism warred with cynical irony, over and over, until the final cataclysm of the two sister planets.
If you think film should be about vision, this is the film to see. If you want to be dazzled by metaphor... well, you get the picture.

Jack, 11/20/11

BTW,  Yes, the acting was superb. There is much praise from  the critics, and if that is what you crave, let me suggest:   http://www.metacritic.com/movie/melancholia.

Or more simply, the NY Times review, well-written at:  http://movies.nytimes.com/2011/11/11/movies/lars-von-triers-melancholia-review.html?pagewanted=all

And for the most brilliant pan of the film, and I submit, reasons for its brilliance, despite the contempt of old Rex, http://www.observer.com/2011/11/eat-your-heart-out-harold-camping-the-trite-apocalypse-porn-of-von-trier-is-anything-but-a-revelation/
Read this after, repeat, after, seeing the film. It is part of the reason we laughed so hard at times viewing the film.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Unfettered Capitalism is a Dead End (even for CEOs)

The Occupy Wall Street and Beyond actions offer a glimmer of hope for taking control of the country (and World) away from Bankers and Corporations (which are not even remotely people). The Guardian offers a comprehensive overview of the events and the meaning of the protests and the organizations forming:

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