iamom: (bush hunger strike for nepal)
Reading Peter C. Newman's scathing review of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's autobiography, My Years As Prime Minister, in this Saturday's Books section of The Globe and Mail had me laughing out loud this morning. I wanted to put some of the highlights of the review in here for posterity.

On his atrocious English language speaking skills:
Canadians watched with fascination as le p'tit gars de Shawinigan disgorged disconnected words instead of marshalled ideas. He once promised to enact reforms, "the better the sooner." It was virtually impossible to follow his train of speech, always on the point of derailing itself. He turned incoherence into an art form. When he was tackled about the absence of proof that his government's Quebec sponsorship program (later proved to have been criminally fraudulent) made sense, he replied: "The proof is the proof. And when you have a good proof, it's proven." (see this youtube clip)
On the general quality and truthfulness of the book, especially in comparison with the other main biography of Chrétien:
This chronicle of his 10-year reign doesn't live up to its billing. Its cloying perspective and deliberate avoidance of key issues guarantees that Lawrence Martin's Iron Man: The Defiant Reign of Jean Chrétien will remain the definitive study of the period. Martin portrayed his book's chief protagonist as exercising an instinct wonderfully at one with the country's broad wash of citizenry and their values, but devoid of the intellect with which to clothe it. "He was born not with a silver spoon in his mouth, but rather a cement mixer," Martin concluded.
On his taking personal credit for his three majority election wins:
He takes full credit for having won the trio of elections he called between 1993 and 2003, not bothering to acknowledge the kamikaze tendencies of his opponents. How lucky can one politician get: to have run against the hapless Kim Campbell and her unerring instinct for own own jugular; followed by Preston Manning, who boasted the finest medieval mind in the Commons; and finally having to contend with Stockwell Day, who has made a spectacular recovery since, but at the time believed in the possibility of dinosaur petting zoos.
That last bit cracked me up, reminding me of how former Canadian Alliance / Conservative leader Stockwell Day, a staunch Creationist, publicly stated that he believed that dinosaurs and humans co-existed on Earth before dinosaurs became extinct. And to think that he might have become our Prime Minister. Sheesh.

Newman closes his review thusly:
Still, My Years as Prime Minister is valuable because it fills in some blanks and explains why, over the years, Canadians have become so cynical about politics that even when cabinet ministers admit they lied, nobody believes them. The Chrétien who emerges from this auto-hagiography is a politician who trails no history, except the conviction that his performance was flawless. This, though he was the first Liberal PM to be overthrown by his own party.
Personally, I'm glad that he's gone. Stephen Harper is not necessarily a better PM, but he's different. I was never proud to have Chrétien as our PM while he was in there. He was an arrogant leader who routinely embarrassed Canadians with his incomprehensible speech and never once took responsibility for egregious errors for which he was personally responsible.

Hmm, that sounds like another world leader I know...
iamom: (Default)
I wrote the following review of a local jazz CD that will be published in this summer's Jazz Festival Guide. That will be fun -- with an expected circulation of 4,000 for that issue, a lot of people might read my writing.

The space constraints of 140 words prevented me from going into much detail on the record. And for whatever reason, I thought the backstory of the recording was pretty much as interesting as the music itself.
This album was conceived by CBC producers Glenn Meisner and Karl Falkenham in September, 2006. Its impetus was to produce the underlying bed tracks for a record by local hip-hop artist, Sean Ryan.

Hip-hop is usually created by mixing samples of vintage funk and R&B recordings with rapping or other tracks laid over top. Using live musicians to make dedicated hip-hop tracks such as was done here could be considered unusual, to say the least.

The album was recorded in two sessions: one with Doug Riley on solo piano; and one with saxophonist Mitchell, bassist Gatti, drummer Burton and guest keyboardist Dunn. Not all of the tracks are completely faithful to the hip-hop genre, but several tracks yield some serious grooves. On the whole, the album certainly spawns some curiosity about what the hip-hop version -- called "new tonic" -- might sound like.
iamom: (Default)
My old friend Jerry has never been a fan of fiction that tries to be nondual. Too often, it's written by people who may have nondual insight, but who are terrible writers of fiction. The two don't have to be mutually exclusive, but anyone whom he'd read that had tried to meld the two had been unsuccessful.

Until now, maybe. In Issue #2800 of the Nondual Highlights, Jerry provides an excerpt from a novel by Floyd Henderson called The Board of Directors of Wars (see author website). It's a passage of dialogue, but the portion I'm including just has one character making a little speech to another. When taken out of context like I've just done, the passage sounds a bit like the proverbial discourse between a spiritual teacher and a student. But I'd be interested in reading the book if it's good. I think this speech is quite good.
“Well look at every drama you’ve ever seen. The main character, who represents you and me and everyone, runs around like a chicken with its head cut off. He is confused and in the dark. Those who are in a position to sit back and witness the drama objectively can see that he’s just an actor on the stage and that none of the drama is real. But for entertainment’s sake, he and the witnesses can pretend it’s real. Both, in fact, can get so absorbed in the role that they take it to be the real for a time.

“But even amidst all of the drama, a time comes, that moment in the play when even the actor finds out the truth. It is called the peripetia in drama—that moment in the play or the movie when the lead actor finds out that everything he thought to be true is really false; when he sees that he was being misled at every turn; when those he thought he could trust the most, and who thought they were telling him the truth, were also wrong.

“It’s the moment of freedom that comes when one finds out that everything he ever thought or believed or held sacred (or thought worth fighting for) was a lie. The freedom comes when he gives up all of the concepts he bought into, drops his head in relief and amazement, shakes his head back and forth, wonders for a moment at how he had bought into all their crap, smiles at how easily he was duped, watches how all of the rest of the play unfolds automatically until its end, and leaves the stage after saying to himself, ‘Well, sonofabitch. I’ll be damned.’ And then he laughs. He laughs at it all. And then he’s done with it, once and for all.”
The other excerpt of literary nondual fiction that Jerry included in the same Highlights is also worth reading. It's a short satirical piece about memoir writing, and it smacks (I think implicitly) of nondual understanding as well. The excerpt I include here doesn't do the piece full justice, but hopefully it's slightly illustrative.
Had I been satisfied with one memoir, it'd have been all
right. But I was infested with the memoir bug. I wrote
memoir, after memoir, each one more bizarre than the
previous one. And to my children's dismay, they all were
best sellers. And now, their friends stared at them with
knowing smiles.

So, I can't really blame them for doing what they did.
They found a judge to declare me mad. Now, in my cell,
I'm deprived of paper, or laptop. But the memoir bug
has not died. I'm thinking about writing a new memoir
on these bare walls. One in which neither I, nor they
were ever born.

But I'm having a little trouble finding anything to write
regarding such life.

(x-posted to [livejournal.com profile] nonduality)
iamom: (Default)
I transcribed these quotes from a Miles Davis DVD I own which features interviews with numerous old band members, interview footage with Miles himself, and the entire 1970 Isle of Wight concert at which he performed for some 600 thousand fans. Biggest jazz performance of its time -- don't know if that's ever been surpassed since then.

These first two are from Miles, just him talking about his approach to music.
I like a lot of rhythm; broken rhythm

I like strong melodies
I like smooth voice leading on the piano and chords on the synthesizer

Maybe a patch on the synthesizer will turn me on to write something in that particular path
Listen, sound and music change so click
It's like the world on its axis, turning
It doesn't turn so you can say, I'm a turning
It turns so slow that you can't feel it

Music changes you
I also have to highlight this luminous and illustrative quote from James Mtume, a member of Miles' electric band in the 1970s:
We cannot make new music without access to new colours. And unfortunately, jazz stopped developing when the premier jazz creators did not want to accept the reality of electronics.

Look, when the piano came along and the tempered scale was created and we got A440 [cycles per second], that was the synthesizer of its time. I'm sure there were some harpsichord players walking around talking about, "Hey, they're not keeping it real."
Bassist Dave Holland speaks of his experience with Miles:
As far as I was concerned, every time Miles put the horn to his lips it was a great event.

The bass player has a tremendous responsibility in the music to create a centre, to create a focus within the music that Miles is creating. But how you do that can change drastically from one situation to another.

What I did with Miles was influenced by the things that I heard around me at those times: what Jack Bruce was doing with Cream, what Jimi was doing with his band, and of course there were always the influences of James Brown's music and a lot of the other things that were going on at that time.
Context for the Isle of Wight concert was expertly set by Bob Belden, Sony music producer:
Now, can you imagine being Miles Davis, you've been struggling your whole life, you've got money, but you've got high expectations [placed on you], you've been with Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Cannonball [Adderley], Wayne Shorter, Ron [Carter], Tony [Williams], and you've got this record [Bitches Brew] which is essentially a jam session, and it becomes the top-selling jazz record of all time at the time. And then on top of that, you do the Fillmores, and you're on the Newsweek magazine, and within the space of six months, he played the Isle of Wight. East Afton Farm, Isle of Wight: Half a million people, minimum: playing opposite Hendrix, all those pop acts that were at the top of the scene at that moment -- that's as high as any jazz musician ever got in the world, playing that kind of music. That was the mountaintop.
Other acts that played the 1970 Isle of Wight festival included Chicago, Free, Procol Harum, The Doors, The Who, Joni Mitchell, Sly & The Family Stone, Free, John L. Sebastian, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull, Joan Baez, Canadian acts Leonard Cohen and the band Lighthouse, and of course, Miles Davis.
iamom: (flying by)
The last two Nondual Highlights have been fantastic. From Issue #2638 (which also contains an excellent Vernon Howard quote about the difference between thinking and awareness), Jed McKenna makes no effort to pull his punches in the following excerpt from the aforementioned book:
One millionth of one percent false is completely false. Everything in duality is false -- false as in not true, not true as in bullshit. There are not exceptions. Black and white, no shades of gray. Truth is one, is non-dual, is infinite, is one-without-other. Truth is dissolution, no-self, unity. There's nothing to say about it, nothing to feel about it, nothing to know about it. You are true or you're a lie, as in ego-bound, as in dual, as in asleep.
In Issue #2639, Jerry Katz describes Jed McKenna as an enlightened guy who runs an ashram. I particularly liked the climax of the following excerpt, in which McKenna reveals some secrets about how simple, non-mystical, and non-spiritual enlightenment can be. He does this by describing how he really spends most of his time, and by what his single chosen book would be if he were stranded on a deserted island. The whole excerpt below is well worth reading. It gives ready insight into how simple enlightenment can be.
"Which two or three dozen?" Mary asks, and it takes me a moment to realize that she's jumping back to my statement about which books would remain if I were more discriminating about the library.

"Oh, I'd want to be a little careful answering that," I say. "The reason for the books I'd choose wouldn't be that they are particularly enlightened or enlightening books, or even specifically on the subject of enlightenment. My choices would be based on what I feel is useful knowledge on the path to enlightenment, which is very different from enlightenment itself. In this light, I'd have a bunch of books and maybe some movies, too, because they're often a common experience we share and can provide interesting framework for highlighting certain issues..."

"Like what?" she asks.

I think about some of the movies I've seen in the last few years that most everybody would be familiar with.

Read more... )
iamom: (bush hunger strike for nepal)
Canadian hip-hop supastar K-OS (Knowledge-Of Self) played tonight at the Dalhousie Student Union Bldg with a full band comprised of guitar, bass, drums, percussion, DJ, and keyboards. It was by any measure a powerful show, and a good one. Fantastic jumping beats, great friendly hippie dancing vibe, and an old McGill Music classmate of mine name Maury LeFoy playing some truly fonky bass all night long.

My anecdote about Maury LeFoy (who has also played on Sarah Harmer recordings) has to do with my audition for McGill when I was 18. I flew to Montreal to audition for the Jazz Studies Programme in person, and Maury, along with a great pianist named Tilden Webb, were the accompanists the school provided for my audition. I'd never met them before that day, though.

My first tune was a B-flat blues called Tenor Madness. In Calgary, where I was from, if you called a B-flat blues at a nightclub, you were just as likely to get a IV-V-I standard delta blues than you were a standard jazz or bebop blues, which is peppered with II-V7-I progressions and features a tonicization of the II chord leading up to the last 4 bars of the form.

I gave Maury and Tilden each a lead sheet for them to follow along with me on that tune. A chart for Tenor Madness, which is such a hoary old bebop standard that practically every jazz musician on Earth could play it, although I didn't know that at the time. I even made a point of telling them that I liked to play the changes on the blues where you play a II-V7-I turnaround to the II chord near the end of the form. And they looked at me politely, albeit a bit strangely, and nodded.

I was taken aback when they didn't appear even to glance at the lead sheets I'd provided them. Were they going to screw this up? Who are these guys, anyway? If I get to that part and they don't play the changes right, what am I gonna do?

Of course, as I didn't know at the time, Maury and Tilden were (and are) killer jazz musicians, arrangers and composers in their own right at that time. And lesser guys would have either looked down on me for insulting them with those lead sheets, or tease me mercilessly about it when I came to the school next year. But they were always really gracious about that, and we were always really friendly to each other after that.

I considered trying to get backstage to see him and say hi, but I'm not really sure that he'd remember me. If he didn't remember me, I wouldn't want to embarrass myself by trying to explain who I am... :)

At any rate, that was a heavy, great show. I have lots of constructive criticism for K-OS's performing, especially near the end, but overall it was a very tight set (85 min long), very high-energy with totally heavy, real hip-hop beats; the real deal, with real live musicians -- the best! -- it was fantastic.

Good dancing, too! That whirling dervish I met named Lolita with the waist-long dreads and the rag cotton dress tripped me out hardcore too, with her spinning. It was wild, watching her turn around and around and around. She had that legit hippie thing down for real -- no frontin'  by her, no how.
iamom: (Default)
I went to The Attic to see Universal Soul tonight, a local hip-hop crew that was, to the best of my knowledge, releasing a CD tonight. The PR for the gig was a gong show: The Coast reported a 10 PM start, but The Attic doesn't even open till 11 PM and the opening act didn't start until 1 AM! So needless to say, this has been a very, very late night. And I didn't even have a chance to pick up a copy of their CD. At 2:15 I finally threw in the towel and had to come home, exhausted. Wasn't a party animal tonight, that's for sure.

The DJ and MC who warmed up for USoul were tight -- Playboy on the decks and J-Bru or something on the mic. His rapping was pretty tight, but the overall production quality (particularly the vocal mix) was pretty low. They could have used somebody with better ears on the sound board, that's for damn sure.

I had a brief chat with one of the warm-up DJs before Playboy came on, and when I described the new rig I've been building for recording multi-track and producing on my laptop, his eyes widened. I took that as a good sign that I'm building a good set-up for production right now.

I'm hungry, very hungry to lay down my first tracks with drums and bass. And also to get listening to, and mixing down, our quartet's recording sessions from two weeks ago.
iamom: (Default)
Just finished the first Matthew Scudder novel by Lawrence Block and wanted to sing its praises while also offering an excerpt. I was first introduced to Lawrence Block's writing not much more than a year ago, despite the fact that he's one of the main titans of the crime fiction genre and a truly gifted, excellent author. The Scudder character is so immensely real and understandable that he comes right off the page to real life, it seems. I also love reading about Scudder's alcoholism, a trait which I've written about before, wondering aloud if Block has struggled with that problem himself. He certainly writes about it eloquently.

The excerpt I wanted to include today isn't strictly illustrative of the crux of Scudder's character, but it's an interesting look into the character's darker side. In this scene, Scudder has just left the umpteenth bar he's visited that night, and he was letting himself walk "with the special rolling gait that is the special property of drunks and sailors." In a doorway up ahead of him. Scudder became aware of movement, and when a young hood with a knife stepped from the shadows, Scudder "knew [he'd] been looking for him for hours." Circumstances of the case he was working on were getting to him, and he was looking for a fight, I guess.
Read more... )
iamom: (Default)
Seth Godin is a technology writer and analyst whose blog is very frequently filled with good ideas and suggestions. He often discusses usability, but he also focuses a lot on interpersonal relationships in a work setting, on coaching and feedback, and on cementing or enhancing relationships between customers and a company. In other words, he's a touchy-feely technogeek, which is a rare combination of traits and which he generally pulls off quite well. (To see him in action, this video of him giving a presentation to the staff at Google is really interesting.)

A recent article in his blog lays out his advice for how to give feedback in a professional and effective way. It's not a long read, but it's worth it. My synopsis of his rules is as follows (I think the first and third are most important):
The first rule of great feedback is this: No one cares about your opinion. What I want instead of your opinion is your analysis. For example, instead of saying, "I hate that font you used," you could say, "That font seems hard to read. Is there a way to do a quick test to see if a different font works better for our audience?"

The second rule? Say the right thing at the right time. For example, don't point out minor spelling errors in your review of a first draft; save that sort of copyediting for the last step and use your review as an opportunity to provide feedback that will have the most positive effect on the final outcome.

The third rule? If you have something nice to say, please say it.

If I haven't intimidated you with my other rules, here's the last one: Give me feedback, no matter what.
(link to article)
iamom: (Default)
Early this year I started keeping a list of the books I've read. Whenever possible, I give my own rating on 5 stars and a short synopsis so that I can remember what the book was about when I look back on it later. I have another pile of books upstairs I've read recently but haven't logged yet, but I will soon. Most of this is light mystery fiction, but the stuff that's really good and stands out for me are books by Lawrence Block, Dennis Lehane, old Robert B. Parker, and Donald E. Westlake. All that stuff is top-drawer. Also the book of 9 short stories by J.D. Salinger was really excellent.

Read more... )
iamom: (suntrees)
I'd like to acknowledge the photography, art and music of young Tamara Laporte, who represents here on LJ as [livejournal.com profile] willowing and whose home page and portfolio is here. From what little I've come to learn of her through LJ, she's a deeply spiritual person, an old soul, and an all-around hottie. The following few links are specific pieces of hers I'd like to draw attention to.

First Impressions -- Columbo
A journalistic series of vivid and expressive photos depicting life in Columbo, Sri Lanka. Many of these images remind me of my own minor travels in India, which were far too long ago now and remind me that I should go back again sometime soon. Some of my favourite shots from this roll include this one, this one, this one and this one.

September 2005 (Photography)
Her birds in the sky shots, along with her macro nature imagery and her inventive, vibrant, and colourful mandalas are all worth seeing here.

Various of Tamara's paintings and illustrations here are worth looking at and enjoying, particularly her more recent pieces and some abstractions like this, this, and this. Her colours can be oddly bright and dark at the same time.

The girl also sings... My favourite tracks on this page include her rendition of Joni Mitchell's haunting The Fiddle And The Drum, along with a touching rendition of The Beatles' Across The Universe, made all the more ethereal by the vibraphone-like accompaniment. Great sound production quality on these recordings, too. Her take on Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is also quite good and worth a listen.

My thanks to Tamara for the heads-up on her music -- I found the rest of her stuff through my own digging. :)
iamom: (Default)
I was just reading this interesting review of a gala concert hosted by Herbie Hancock at Carnegie Hall last week, and from that article, learned of tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker's first public appearance in about three years. I thought that was kind of cool, given how sick he's been for the last little while. I read somewhere recently that he took a bone marrow transplant from his daughter or something, but that was only after a lengthy and ultimately unsuccessful search for a proper genetic match for him. He has MDS, a rare and not easily treatable form of cancer.

For some reason, I kind of got goosebumps when I read about Brecker walking out on stage and the audience leaping to its feet. On a related note, I recently watched the Joni MItchell 1979 concert video Shadows and Light, which features Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Don Alias and Mike Brecker in her band. Their rendition of Joni's funky blues The Drycleaner from Des Moines has a really fantastic Brecker solo in it, and watching those dudes with their wacky 1979 clothes (all except Metheny, who looks exactly the same now as he did then) was entertaining.

As far as the Herbie concert is concerned, I sure wish I could have seen it. I also wish I could have seen this semi-private Prince gig at NY club Butter. God-DAMN.
iamom: (suntrees)
This Roger Ebert review is the first I've heard of a new documentary starring Al Gore and directed by Davis Guggenheim which just premiered at Cannes to a warm reception. (Numerous additional resources are available via this Google search.) I sort of doubt that the film will ever get screened in Halifax, but it sounds like it's really worth watching. From Ebert's review:
It is not only an important film, but a good one. Guggenheim has found a way to make facts and statistics into drama and passion. He organizes Gore's arguments into visuals that overwhelm us. Gore begins with the famous photograph "Earthrise," which was the first photo taken of Earth from outer space. Then he shows later satellite photos. It is absolutely clear that the white areas are disappearing, that snow and ice is melting, that the shape of continents is changing. The polar areas and Greenland are shrinking, lakes have disappeared, the snows of Kilimanjaro have vanished, and the mountain reveals its naked summit to the sky for the first time in human history.
Al Gore introduces himself in the movie by saying, "I used to be the next president of the United States." When Ebert interviewed him on the Cannes media junket, he said:
"There is as strong a consensus on this issue as science has ever had. A survey of more than 928 scientific papers in respected journals shows 100 percent agreement. But a database search of newspapers and magazines shows 57 percent of the articles question global warming, and 43 percent accept it. That's disinformation at work.

"Even in the short run," he said, "we aren't heeding the warnings. Two or three days before Hurricane Katrina, the National Weather Service predicted a hurricane so severe it would create 'medieval conditions' in New Orleans. It issued clear warnings that the levees might be breached and the city flooded. Yet look what happened, and how slow the response was. Hurricane season starts again in a week."
In his review of the film, Ebert synopted a few facts presented therein as follows:
[After watching the film, you learn that] they drilled into the polar ice to extract an ice core that's a 650,000-year record of global climatic trends, and the current situation is going off the charts. There is no precedent. You learn that hurricanes in the Gulf and typhoons in the Pacific have suddenly escalated in frequency and strength. That rainfall patterns are being disrupted. That Arctic melting is having an effect on the Gulf Stream. That the 10 hottest years in history have been in the last 14 years. That the number of days annually the Arctic tundra has been frozen enough to support trucks has gone down from 225 to 75.
The film states that within the next 10 years the earth will reach a tipping point past which civilization cannot recover (i.e. the world will no longer function as we know it today). I suppose that's to be expected, but it still gives me pause for thought. And makes me glad I work from home and don't have to drive to work and such. Among other things.
iamom: (pink)
These are my reading notes from Chapter 2 of Geneen Roth's Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating. My notes from Chapter 1 are here.

To recap, Chapter 1 advised us to eat when we're hungry. But that wasn't instruction to gorge ourselves on crazy food all the time; instead, it was instruction to learn how to recognize our body's authentic signs of hunger, and to learn how to eat with the intent of satisfying that bodily hunger (as opposed to all the emotional and other motivations we have for eating).

Chapter 2 deals with deciding what you actually want to eat, the underlying logic being that if we eat what we truly want to eat, then we're more apt to be satisfied and less inspired to overeat. Just like Chapter 1, this chapter is full of deep insight.

Roth begins by acknowledging that for compulsive eaters, it's scary to think about giving ourselves license to eat what we want because we think we want so much. We think that if we eat what we want, we'll never stop eating and become even more obese. She tells us that in the beginning of this exercise, we likely will eat too much. But once we start to figure out exactly what it is that we want to eat (and also how to eat when we're hungry and how to stop eating when we're full), then we'll naturally start wanting to eat healthier foods in healthier quantities. I'm convinced that this is true.

She also discusses the emotional reasons why we eat, and how the effects of lifelong dieting and depriving ourselves in order to lose weight have skewed our food outlook on the world. She confesses that she has really never felt like a normal person who could walk up to the counter and ask for an ice cream cone without feeling horribly guilty that she was falling off the wagon again. And she notes the effect this has on us emotionally. From page 20:
I could eat from morning till night for the next six months and I would have still dieted and binged for seventeen years of my life. There isn't enough food in the world to heal the isolation of those years. There isn't enough food to fill the space created by the deprivation and the ensuing feelings of craziness. We can't go back. We can't eat for all the times we didn't eat. We can use that pain as an indicator of what doesn't work. We don't have to deprive ourselves any longer. Beginning today.
Read more... )
The gist of what she's saying is that if we learn to trust our own true inner voice about our hunger and what we want to eat, then we'll naturally start choosing normal foods to eat in normal quantities. But compulsive eaters (and frequent dieters) are so out of touch with what they want to eat at any given time that they're usually eating too much, too often. Learning to listen to that true inner voice will fix that tendency. But we have to learn how to trust it.
As long as there are foods you feel you shouldn't eat, you create struggle and conflict. As long as there is struggle, there is bingeing. And as long as there is bingeing, there is fear about eating what you want.

When you let go of the struggle by allowing yourself choice about what you eat, you let go of one end of the rope on which you have been tugging and straining. When you let go of your side, the rope immediately falls to the ground. When you decide that you will listen to yourself and not to your calorie-counter or your fears, there is nothing to rebel against. There is nothing you can't have tomorrow so there is no reason to eat it all today.

When you eat what you want, when you drop the rope and end the struggle between right foods and wrong foods, you will eventually (after your first tendency to eat more than you truly want) consume fewer calories than you did when you were guided by caloric content.
Roth goes on from here to discuss various logistical concerns with eating out and such, as well as more of the emotional underpinnings of the issue -- especially those related to your own expectations and personal outlook on life.
Whenever you notice yourself planning meals around what you should or shouldn't eat, or even around what you might want to eat, you are creating a set of expectations for yourself, which, if you don't meet them, will evoke the familiar feeling of weight-related failure.

As compulsive eaters, we spend our lives forsaking all the moments of satisfaction for a future moment when we will be thin and the deprivation will have paid off. And if and when that moment does come, we are so worried about gaining weight that we focus our attention once more on the future and do not take pleasure in the present.

Breaking free from compulsive eating is also breaking free from preoccupation with the future.
When one women in her workshop asked, "Isn't eating sugar all the time terrible for you?" Roth responds,
Yes. And no. Eating salads and vegetables under restraint and bingeing on sugar whenever you have the chance is not particularly healthy. Sneaking, hiding, or lying about food is not healthy. Punishing yourself is not healthy.
Hear hear, sista. The next chapter is called Distracted Eating: It Doesn't Count If You're Not Sitting Down. Can't wait to read it.
iamom: (patriotism)
In Issue 2432 of the Nondual Highlights, Jerry Katz reviewed a book by a nondual Aussie author named Robin Dale called Noticing What You Already Know. The book is only available by contacting the author directly (rdale02@ozemail.com.au or +61 3 9754 8641 in Australia), and the excerpts Jerry included were very good. My favourites follow.
There is only This. If you think you're enlightened, throw it away and begin again. The idea of 'enlightenment' is like a big ugly monster with a pretty face, inside you. Like the idea of the Abyss is a big warm openhearted angel with an ugly face.

Self or mind is always hiding things from itself. That's the only way it can exist. The fact that it doesn't exist is the biggest secret it keeps from itself.

For a dose of reality, have a clear, wise, calm look at what would happen to you if you were successful in your favourite 'spiritual' endeavour. And then don't blame me for the disappointment.

Worldly people with an investment in the Dream are like ambitious toads guarding a nest of eggs. They're thinking, that when the eggs finally hatch, they're going to get something other than toads.

Seeing that there is a gap between thoughts is the first step. Then it becomes obvious that the whole thing is one big gap with thoughts appearing on top of it. Then you find that you are that gap. Then you can't find a gap between thoughts, because the thoughts themselves are made of 'gap,' which you are; it is like an eye trying to see itself.
(x-posted to [livejournal.com profile] nonduality)
iamom: (lookingup)
On the advice of a trusted advisor, I'm reading Geneen Roth's book Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating (author on google | book on amazon.com | amazon.ca). Unlike many non-fiction books I've read lately, I find it difficult to read this one quickly. It's because there's so much insight on every page it warrants a slower read.

Admittedly, the book's not for everybody. For example, anyone who makes it a scarce habit to eat for any other reason than being hungry wouldn't get much from it. But anyone who has observed in themselves the propensity to eat too much or too often and always for some other reason than being hungry (or for no reason at all) would find wisdom in these pages. I know that I have.

My reading notes from Chapter 1, which deals mainly with the concept of hunger, are below. Material quoted directly is italicized with page number references or else set apart in a citation blockquote (w/blue sideline).
The first step in breaking free from compulsive eating is to eat when you are hungry (page 6). In recent memory, I recall eating mainly without any regard for my actual level of physical hunger at the time. The mere evaluation of how hungry I might be at any given meal time is practically an alien concept to me.

The fear of hunger, like the fear of loneliness, seems to be connected with emptiness, echoes, endless wanting (page 7). I don't think I have a fear of my own hunger per se; more to the point, I'm not even aware of what my own level of hunger is at any given time.

Beginner's exercises.
Keep a log of what you ate, when you ate it, and if you were hungry when you ate (page 8).Log your feelings about eating as you go. Watch for: forgetting to log meals you ate when you weren't hungry; forgetting to log 'bad' meals, random snacks, or binges; excessive self-judgment or congratulation for 'bad' or 'good' eating. Ask yourself: how often do you eat when you are hungry? Can you recognize your own signs of physical hunger?

Don't eat at your regular meal times for a day or two (or longer) to help get in touch with your hunger (page 9). Observe if you anticipate your hunger or if you want to be hungry before you actually become hungry. Note: This exercise may require some advance planning so that you're sure to have food on hand when you are actually hungry (i.e. you may not feel like eating at your regular meal times).

Pay attention to the bodily sensations that you recognize as hunger (page 9). When you feel hunger coming on, stop what you're doing and observe it fully. Where do you feel it in your body? What does it feel like? What happens to you when you feel yourself getting hungry? What do you do, and what do you want to do, when you feel hunger?

When you've decided that you are hungry, rate your hunger objectively on a scale from 1 to 10 (page 10). This will give you an objective way to assess your current level of hunger, and over time, to compare it with past levels of hunger. Until now, we have probably been overlaying a lot of subjective criteria on our perceived hunger levels; using the 10-point scale helps us to unravel that a little.

When you are not hungry and decide to eat, choose a food that you ate that day when you were hungry (page 10). Whoa, this one is heavy. Deserves its own chapter: when you are not hungry and decide to eat? Isn't that like most of the time? In this situation, she goes on to ask us to be aware of:
   -- how the food tastes
   -- how the taste was different when you were hungry
   -- if you enjoy it as much as when you were hungry
   -- what, since it's not hunger, you are feeling
   -- how you know when to stop eating

Common themes, questions and fears.
   If I eat when I'm hungry, I'll eat all the time.
   If I eat when I'm hungry, I'll gain 50 pounds and nobody will love me.
   Your body gets hungry. When you feed it, it gets satisfied. There is no magic about it. It might take a while to sift through the various sensations you feel and distringuish hunger from sadness or loneliness, but that's because you're not used to recognizing hunger -- and not because your body doesn't feel it or because your hunger, if you let yourself recognize it, would be insatiable. No on has to tell you when to eat; your body will tell you. No on can tell you when to eat; they aren't in touch with your stomach. And if you are listening to your body to tell you when to eat, you can also hear it saying "enough."
   If I only eat when I'm hungry, I won't be able to eat as much as I want or when I want it. That's true. But the amount that you want is often not as much as your body wants.
   Ask yourself: What is it that you want from food beyond its nourishing your body?
   Ask yourself: Do you want to eat as much as you want more than you want to change how you deal with food and feel about your body?
   When I'm not hungry and good food is around, I feel that I'm missing something very special if I don't eat. When you are not hungry and good food is around, what you do miss by eating is the chance to take care of yourself, to see that the world won't end if you don't eat the cheesecake. You miss the chance not to get sick, to be so full you can't sleep, and to wake up in the morning wishing the night had never happened. When you are not hungry enough to begin eating or too full to continue, you miss the taste of food anyway.
   I'm afraid to let myself get hungry; I feel so empty. The sensation of hunger is sometimes accompanied by a corresponding physical sensation of emptiness and hollowness; as such, it can sometimes evoke the emotion of hunger too. When physical hunger activates our yearning or aching, we feel frightened and want to push it away. Often we push it away and repress that feeling by eating.
Closing words from Chapter 1.
Physical hunger is of the body. Physical hunger asks for food. Nonphysical hunger is of the mind, the heart. When you see that your physical hunger is capable of being fulfilled, you can begin to allow that same possibility for your emotional hunger.

When you don't allow yourself hunger, you don't allow yourself satisfaction.

leaning in

Feb. 4th, 2006 09:59 am
iamom: (horn)
Our jazz quartet set up our gear yesterday around 5 PM for a sound check and short rehearsal. It was the regular group with Bob Gaudreau on drums, Chris Elson on Fender Rhodes and Korg M1, Adam Fine on bass, and myself on tenor sax and another Korg M1. We had dinner at the restaurant (I had a good Thai peanut spinach salad and a delicious seafood stew) and then we started our first set just after 9. Since it's a restaurant gig, the first set is mandated to be a quiet one. As people wrap up dinner and move on to drinks and dessert later in the evening, we stretch out a bit more.

My wife and her mom came in after the second tune or so, and they sat down at a nearby table, listened attentively for another tune or so, and then fell into conversation. Not long after that, we played I Should Care, a standard jazz ballad that we do as a sort of 70s-inspired radio rock ballad (it grooves though, honest). And it was during my solo in that tune that a truly beautiful thing happened.

Suddenly I could play everything I was hearing in my head. (Ask any jazz musician who's not already a consummate professional and they'll know what you mean here. It's a serious challenge to translate all the melodic lines you hear in your head to your instrument.) Utterly unconscious of the actual chord changes, I stared at a spot on the table in front of me and played these wild, weaving lines through the tune that I've never played before, and have never been able to play before. It felt a lot like I was dreaming myself playing the solo, and once, for a brief moment in the middle of it, I became lucid to the dream and almost lost hold of it, but then I quickly dipped back into it and kept playing. It was a Zen jazz moment: I was in a zone where I was aware of nothing and everything all at the same time, and when the chorus drew to a close, the last phrase of my solo ended perfectly with it. It was all perfect.

A perfect solo is like a soap bubble; it doesn't take much to burst it. A moment of inattention (or over-attention) can pull you into an intellectual wrangling with the chord progression, and then all of a sudden you find yourself playing some corny riff by rote that you've played a thousand times before and the solo is ruined. The key to this perfect solo was a cognitive suspension of all the theory and technique I had; one that created a direct connection between the perfect music that's always playing in my head and the breath, fingers and keys that manifest my sound. For the entire length of that solo, I was aware only of beautiful music flowing through me without my willful control.

In a lucid dream, one can't focus too much attention on the situation without waking up and returning to reality. Playing this solo was just like that. I had to just stand back, watch, and observe while my body, breath and hands performed the music that I was hearing. That direct connection, if overly scrutinized, also bursts itself like the soap bubble. Last night it did not burst for the entire length of the solo. The experience was at once tender; resonant; sublime.

I returned to reality in the moments after I stepped back from the mike. And except for the smile on Chris's face when he looked over at me, I realized that my solo had gone unnoticed by absolutely everyone in the restaurant. There was a loud buzz of voices from everywhere in the room and no eyes were on the band. When I looked over at the table where my wife and mother-in-law were sitting, their heads were together in deep conversation, also oblivious to the band. It was like a home run hit in a stadium with no fans. I could only share the experience with the three other guys sitting next to me in the band.

Not that it was insufficient, though: the pleasure arising from the experience lingered in me for several minutes. A pleasant sensation I like to call The Tingly Feeling (a warm, vibrating energy) hovered around the back of my neck as I sat down and relaxed. I wiped my sweating head with my towel, and listened to Chris's piano solo. I stood up and played the head out at the end of his solo, and then we all grinned at each other when the song was over.

The perfect song, the perfect performance: unrecorded, unnoticed, and gone forever. Of course, the best ones are usually like that, though. Only the ones feeling the experience at the time will appreciate its significance afterwards. It was the kind of experience that gives you hope as an artist, though. That's for damn sure.
iamom: (lookingup)
The Body-For-Life (BFL) 12-Week Fitness Challenge is a comprehensive healthy eating and exercise plan developed by the American bodybuilder and entrepreneur Bill Phillips.

This article and interview by Outside magazine on Bill Phillips provides some interesting background about the man. Per the article, Phillips first cut his writing chops in the mid 80s while he was in his early 20s with a self-published monthly newsletter called The Anabolic Update. Phillips makes no bones about the steroid use he practiced during his professional bodybuilding career, and went on to publish a more technical manual for hardcore lifters in 1991 called Anabolic Reference Guide. In 1992 he transformed his monthly newsletter into a full-colour glossy called Muscle Media 2000. It was this publication which served as the springboard for Phillips' first Body-for-Life 12-Week Fitness Challenge in 1997 (here is the winners list for that inaugural 1997 BFL Challenge; list of other years can be found here -- lots of incredible before-and-after shots on those pages).

Phillips has produced a full-length documentary film about this first country-wide call for transformative amateur bodybuilders. Called Body of Work, it's available for no cost through his website provided that you make a donation to the Children's Wish Foundation. It also features a series of Survivor-style cinematography and interviewing styles, and in point of fact, Survivor 9 (Vanuatu) star Ami Cusack was an employee of Phillips' company at that time. Cusack, who's a gorgeous pearl of a woman in the Phillips documentary, was featured in several interview spots throughout the video and also happened to be dating Bill Phillips around the same time of shooting. I wonder if Phillips followed Survivor 9 avidly. I would have, were I him. (This Google search on Ami Cusack also yields some interesting results.)

Eating plan. This aspect of Body-for-Life is based on a back-to-basics diet commonly used by bodybuilders while preparing for a competition or photo shoot. It's comprised of six small, nutritious, evenly-spaced meals each day, where each meal is comprised of a single serving of protein and a single serving of carbs, and at least two meals have a serving of fruits and/or vegetables. There is an approved eating list that essentially rules out foods high in sugar, fat and calories, leaving behind nutritious foods like white chicken and turkey meat, lean beef and pork, legumes, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and whole-grain breads, pasta and rice. Particular attention is paid to portion sizes, wherein a portion of any food except vegetables cannot be larger than the palm of your own hand or the volume of your own clenched fist. This usually results in meat serving sizes of 3-6 ounces and carb serving sizes of 2/3 to 3/4 of a cup.

Exercise plan. It's pretty simple: you work out six days a week, alternating between cardio, upper body, cardio, and lower body. The end result is that you get 2-3 cardio workouts each week (20 min each) and 2-3 weightlifting workouts each week (40-50 min each). All the workouts are based on an interval training model, wherein you perform repeated sets (usually 5-6) of cardio or weightlifting exercises with increasing intensity for each set. Exercise goals are to go to failure on the final set, with the intent of working to total exhaustion for each muscle group in every workout. This results in a sliding scale depending on the fitness level of each person, and as one progresses through the 12-week challenge, one cannot fail to notice improvements to one's own capacity and performance (some examples include: regular increases to the amount of weight one can lift each week; improvement to one's cardiovascular strength and endurance; and/or a decrease in bodyfat percentage and overall body weight).

Mental preparation. An essential pre-requisite to the plan involves mental preparation exercises -- what Phillips calls mindset exercises. He recommends that you keep a written journal of your progress and that you plan each of your meals and workouts ahead of time. Before starting the challenge, you're also asked to think about what your wildest dreams are regarding your ideal body (i.e. your Body For Life); you're asked to identify the reasons why you want to do this challenge, and you're asked to set five specific, measureable goals that you will attain by the end of the 12-week challenge. By reviewing your goals, dreams and reasons for undertaking the challenge each day, you reinforce your resolve to stay on track with the program.

Absolutely anybody, regardless of age or physical condition or starting weight can complete this program and achieve positive results. The most inspiring stories for me are those with people who have completed 3-4 consecutive challenges and dropped over 100 pounds of fat in the process. Ultimate success in the program comes from mastery of the physical exercises AND the eating plan in full concert with one another. For many obese people, following the BFL eating plan will be the most difficult part. But for anyone trying to start or follow the program, there is a wealth of online resources for additional BFL information and support. In fact, I don't find BFL, and the community of hardcore practitioners of the BFL lifestyle, to be dissimilar to a 12-Step Program. It's just one that provides for people who are addicted to eating and slow behaviour patterns.
iamom: (pink)
Via this entry in the Writers Write Writer's Blog, I learned that in a recent videotape, Osama bin Laden has endorsed a book by U.S. author William Blum called Rogue State: A Guide To The World's Only Superpower (amazon.com | amazon.ca). The story was originally covered by Reuters, and quotes bin Laden telling Americans, "It is useful for you to read the book The Rogue State." Sales of Blum's book skyrocketed on Amazon.com, propelling it from a ranking of #209,000 to #30 on the website.

I laughed when I read the Writer's Blog commentary on the piece:
What is this -- the beginning of Osama bin Laden's book club? Is he going to issue a sticker authors can put on their books? I mean, really, you'd think he'd be too busy to recommend book selections to Americans, what with constantly avoiding capture, having dialysis treatments and plotting his next horror. What's next -- a chick lit pick from Al-Zawahri?
iamom: (portrait)
A Million Little Pieces (amazon.ca | amazon.com) was selected for Oprah's Book Club last fall, notable in that respect for being the first contemporary work selected by her for quite some time. AMLP is author and screenwriter James Frey's account of how he became rehabilitated from a heavy addiction to alcohol, cocaine, crack, and other drugs, and I just finished reading it a few weeks ago. (Frey's IMDB entry is here.)

By all accounts, it's a gripping, suspenseful, touching, and moving story. It's also written in an unusual but effective style: it is without standard punctuation, it uses unorthodox capitalization to emphasize certain words, and certain phrases and sentences are repeated several times in a given paragraph or page for even further emphasis.

Parts of the story border on the horrific. Detailed accounts of his detox, which include descriptions of oft-daily vomiting and shitting of blood, vomiting up parts of his stomach (?), undergoing a double root canal without anaesthetic, and tearing off one of his toenails as a form of self-punishment, are all heart-stopping. Pivotal aspects of the book also include his criminal offences, which are purportedly numerous, and at a critical point in his rehab he must face felony charges from a confrontation with police in Ohio which are expected to lead to his serving upwards of 8 years in a federal prison.

And this is where Frey's story becomes dicey. Especially if you consult the editors of the famous tell-all website, The Smoking Gun. Because even though several parts of the story don't ring true (for example, the book opens with him on an airplane, covered with vomit and blood, with a broken nose, a hole in his cheek, and blood all over his face -- one wonders which airline in the US would ever accept a passenger like that on board, let alone unaccompanied), Frey has insisted several times (including on his appearance on Oprah) that everything in the book is factually correct. Not so, according to TSG.

The Smoking Gun first suspected factual errors in Frey's book when they tried to obtain the mug shots from Frey's escapades to post on their website (this is one of the site's most popular draws -- celebrity mugshots from folks as varied as Bill Gates, Michael Jackson, and Tom Delay). They had trouble locating those mugshots though, and that led them to do some fact-checking on Frey's criminal claims in his book.

The results of their research are exhaustively outlined in this 6-page article on TSG, and essentially they break down most of the claims in the book. James Frey himself has refused to address the claims personally (aside from having his lawyers send a cease-and-desist letter to TSG, but he has posted bits of TSG's allegations on his own blog, albeit without comment.

If the TSG research is correct, I think that James Frey has some explaining to do. And it's not that I don't find his story to be any less compelling or worth reading, it's just that, if the main facts of his story are untrue, then the rest of his story can be reasonably called deeply into question as well. And that, of course, makes it essentially a work of fiction. A good work of fiction, but a work of fiction nevertheless. Although, according to this post on GalleyCat, it was a work of fiction which was rejected by 17 publishers when Frey submitted it as a work of fiction before revamping it as a memoir for its current incarnation.

I'm very curious to see how this turns out. But even before all this, the book has started a hell of a buzz, I know that. And spent several weeks on the bestseller lists, too.


iamom: (Default)
Dustin LindenSmith

January 2013

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