Jack Kerouac in his time was an icon, and has since deepened as a cultural ethos much admired by the leaning-towards-Gypsys of our modern youth. He is considered the spokesperson for the beatniks in general, a group that since inspired a whole literary movement in the 50s, and 60s. Understanding this, and the general time frame in America when Kerouac wrote Dharma Bums, 1958, is important to truly understand the gravity Dharma Bums has had on American culture.Continue Reading →
Book Review: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
A name that should sound familiar, winner of 1962’s Nobel Prize in Literature, John Steinbeck is a major American writer. In 1954 he wrote Sweet Thursday.
Deep in the heart of Monterey was a district known as Cannery Row, so named for the canning of fisherman’s catches that made the district vibrant. Does it still exist? At the time of this writing it seems like canning had moved to newer grounds. What’s left in it’s wake? Well, Western Biological, Bear Flag, and the Palace Flophouse. Thus the story unfolds.Continue Reading →
George Orwell’s Essay: Politics and the English Language
Politics and the English Language
Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes. Continue Reading →
The Photography of Sergio Buss
Photographer Sergio Buss (fb, instagram, Become a Song) has an immediately arresting style. You can practically smell his photographs, feel the balmy humidity, or hear the fan clicking away in the background of the lazy day. In short, Sergio’s photography transports you to a place that’s hard to leave.
One of my favorite qualities of his work is how he’s not afraid to let the grain show, a particularly unique soft spot I have developed from early Japanese street photography (see Daido Moriyama). What I also really appreciate is Sergio’s use of locations. He uses space as part of the photograph, not as something to be removed. With this in mind, he occasionally has walls cutting through half the image, or plants in the way. Love it! Continue Reading →
A Biography of Anaïs Nin by Deirdre Bair
I became interested in Anaïs Nin through a few exotic and sensual friends of mine. When I stumbled upon her large Biography, it was practically calling my name. With this approach, I expected to find scandal, sensuality, and allure with exotic escapades in foreign countries with smoke hovering in the air.
Instead, what I found in this biography was Deirdre Bair deep understanding and investigation into who is commonly known as the biggest minor author who lived. Nin lived her whole life exhausting her efforts to get published and recognized as an author, and it was only in the later part of her life that she did manage to find this success, enough so to support herself and the people who had supported her for so long.
Bair did a really great job of fully researching Nin’s life, dissecting her famous diaries and those notes from Nin’s friends she could find, a very complex puzzle given Nin’s affinity to make the truths she wanted. It turns out that Bair is one of the only persons alive who was allowed to see the original diaries in their full, fresh out of the safe they have always been stored in.
If you’re looking to learn about the infamous Anaïs Nin, the real Nin, not the highly curated Nin of her own books and diaries, this book is for you. Bair dives deep into a rather unbiased exposé of her life, her heart, her troubles, her grand illusion, and her many affairs (that reach a dizzying height at times)…. There were many times when reading I had to put down the book (a bit angry) because sometimes the truth is just a little bit too much for my mind to comprehend. At times I found the decisions Anaïs Nin was making were causing me to feel the same anxiety I would feel reading a book and pausing on a cliffhanger! What an exotic life she lead!
But, all of this makes for an exciting biography of a very extraordinary woman who, even to this day, lived her life by a very different and progressive note.
Have you read this book? I’d love to hear how you liked it in the comments below.
The Photography of Danielle Nicol
Danielle Nicol’s (fb, Instagram) photography, when I first saw it, made me immediately recognize how real she is. Perhaps it’s because a lot of her work is self portraits, but there’s no denying that it’s human and exposed. She has a beautiful balance of catered perfection and half hazard causality. The very essence that makes cool I guess. I think this speaks a little bit for the fact that it’s mostly in black and white, which always eliminates any distractions and gets right to the point.
The Art of Anders Zorn
Swedish born Anders Zorn (February 18, 1860 – August 22, 1920) is an artist who will stop you in your tracks with awe. Such simplicity in his strokes while at the same time such volume and character.
This is art that will make you immediately think.
Righly so, Zorn is one of Sweden’s best known artists.
It’s messy and it’s diverse and it’s cunning and it’s deep. I think the most outstanding thing for me is the natural feeling the surroundings have in the paintings. It feels as though the subjects are at home.
It is clear to see the pride Zorn had in his homeland, and reading about his life, it’s also very evident. In 1896 the Zorn’s decided to move back to Sweden from Paris. They bought land and old cottages in Sweden, and together with his wife established a reading society, parish library, a childrens’ home, the Mora domestic handicraft organization, and a folk music revival that still lasts till this day as one of the most prestigious Folk Music Awards in Sweden.
Zorn had a lot of international acclaim in his life, both for painting and etching, and received many quite amazing opportunities to do portraits of quite prominent members of society. At the Paris World Fair in 1889, the 29-year-old Zorn was awarded the French Legion of Honour. In 1893, the Columbian World Fair was arranged in Chicago of which Zorn was chosen as the superintendent of the Swedish art exhibition. Again, this resulted in many commissions, notably of Presidents: portrait of Grover Cleveland and his wife (1899, National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC), an etching for Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, and a painting of William Taft (1911, the White House). Swedish noteables included many members of the Royal Family, including Queen Sofia (1909, Waldemarsudde, Stockholm).
Book Review: With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet by Alexandra David-Neel
With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet by Alexandra David-Neel is truly an enlightening read. It takes you through a very Western and rather scientific minded investigation into the many facets of Tibetan Buddhism.
In the time this book was written, the early 1900s, Tibet had a very strict policy not allowing foreigners and especially women foreigners into the country. It is understood that David-Neel was perhaps one of the first ever foreign women to enter the very spiritual land of Tibet. Quite a remarkable feat.
Author, and also spiritual seeker David-Neel spent approximately 15 years wandering through the land of Tibet in various caravans and locations. At one point, she lived for two years in a remote gompa (monastery) studying under a Lama in deep meditation, so remote that for all winter, they were cut off from any visitors or food supply.
In her journeys, David-Neel regularly becomes a guest of Lamas, in Northern India in parts of Western Asia. We learn the difference between Tibetan Buddhism, compared to the Indian and Chinese alternatives. Along the borders of Tibet, however, many Lamas, Tulkas, rnal hoyorpas (Naljorpas), or trapas (students) of some sort that find there ways to the gompas she spent her time at and was guest in.
In great detail, David-Neel discusses the entire hierarchy of a typical gompa, from the richer Tulkas to the poorest trapas. She also dissects and teaches the reader about psychic sports (as she calls them) that the trapas undertake to become enlightened. This also involves many of the spiritual training practices and plentiful mystical theories that echo throughout the land.
And as one would expect, she spends a lot of time talking about ghosts, demons, and the dead, considering how much Tibetan Buddhism revolves around this.
One particular fact I found fascinating was that in the most remote locations of Tibet, it was considered an honour to, after one has passed on, to sacrifice the body to the animals of the mountains. So, after death and proper ceremony was performed, the body would be brought to a rocky outcropping, and left for the animals. This was an honourable offering. It was also convenient on account of the rocky ground and nearly always freezing temperatures.
If you’re looking for insight into much Tibetan spiritual terminology, if you’re looking for an account of the truth of Tibetan Buddhism, debunking many of the modern misunderstanding about it, if you’re looking for a fascinating journey in a time before auto cars and televisions ruled our minds, this is a read for you.
The Art of Craww
Every once and a while I stumble upon an artist that exudes the kind of mystery and illusion that I’m so very fond of. Shapes and sizes do not matter, it’s emotion and brilliance that I look for. Something out of the ordinary that’s taken beyond what I could ever imagine, redefining what those boundaries are.
Craww is one of those artists that’s done this for me. His sentiment I am so fond of right now, a mixture of black heartedness, macabre, and longing.
From his site: “His work is a stream of consciousness ramble through the woods, uncovering secret stories and ambiguous connections, it’s direction influenced as much by accident and a short attention span as design. It is a world populated with skulls, crows and melancholic girls embraced by flowing lines and natural forms.”
I am particularly fond of his use of chairiscuro, integrating animals and decaying plants in a foggy haze of sweet oblivion.
Understanding the True Meaning of Mother Earth
Editor’s note: Once again, David Suzuki has published a blog post that, without a doubt, hits a very strong nail in the hip of most of our culture today. It is incredibly important to not justify our actions saying it is at least better then yesterday, but still much worse then it once was. This article comes at a time when it seems there’s an influx of scientists and commentators calling for a much larger movement then just monitoring our rate of pollution – we’re calling for a complete reversal to a world where we respect mother earth so much that every single action we take, from buying groceries to choosing to walk, is taken with sweet mother earth’s best interest in mind, with the intention of nurturing her, rather then reaping what she provides.
This original article can be found on the David Suzuki Foundations’s blog.
The coming year looks bright with the promise of change after a difficult decade for environmentalists and our issues. But even with a new government that quickly moved to gender equity in cabinet, expanded the Ministry of the Environment to include climate change, and offered a bravura performance at the climate talks in Paris, can Canada’s environmentalists close up shop and stop worrying?
Of course not. The nature of politics includes constant trade-offs, compromises and disagreements. Even with a government sympathetic to environmental issues, we won’t act deeply and quickly enough or prevent new problems because we haven’t addressed the root of our environmental devastation. The ultimate cause isn’t economic, technological, scientific or even social. It’s psychological. We see and interact with the world through perceptual lenses, shaped from the moment of conception. Our notions of gender, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status and the environment we grow up in all limit and create our priorities.
If we were to examine the anatomy of human brains, the circuitry and chemistry of neurons or the structure of our sense organs, nothing would permit us to distinguish gender, ethnicity or religion because we all belong to a single species. But if you were to ask a man and a woman about love, sex or family, answers could be quite disparate. A Jew and Muslim living in Israel might respond differently to questions about Gaza, the West Bank or Jerusalem. A Catholic and Protestant living in Northern Ireland might hold radically different outlooks about their country’s history.
We learn how to see the world. That, in turn, determines our priorities and actions. The world has been overwhelmed by the belief that our species stands at the pinnacle of evolution, endowed with impressive intelligence and able to exploit our surroundings as we see fit. We feel fundamentally disconnected from nature and therefore not responsible for the ecological consequences of our actions. Even at the 2015 Paris climate conference, the sense of urgency about climate change was dampened by the perceived equal need to protect jobs and to consider the economic costs of aiding vulnerable nations and even ways to continue exploiting fossil fuels, the very agents of the crisis.
We can’t just look at the world as a source of resources to exploit with little or no regard for the consequences. When many indigenous people refer to the planet as “Mother Earth”, they are not speaking romantically, poetically or metaphorically. They mean it literally. We are of the Earth, every cell in our bodies formed by molecules derived from plants and animals, inflated by water, energized by sunlight captured through photosynthesis and ignited by atmospheric oxygen.
Years ago, I visited a village perched on the side of an Andean mountain in Peru. People there are taught from childhood that the mountain is an apu, a god, and that as long as that apu casts its shadow on the village, it will determine the destiny of its inhabitants. Compare the way those people will treat that mountain with the way someone in Trail, B.C., will after being told for years the surrounding mountains are rich in gold and silver.
Is a forest a sacred grove or merely lumber and pulp? Are rivers the veins of the land or sources of power and irrigation? Is soil a community of organisms or simply dirt? Is another species our biological relative or a resource? Is our house a home or just real estate?
Once we learn that our very being, essence, health and happiness depend on Mother Earth, we have no choice but to radically shift the way we treat her. When we spew our toxic wastes and pesticides into the air, water and soil, we poison our mother and ourselves. When we frack our wells, we contaminate the air and water on which we depend. When we clear-cut forests, dump mine tailings into rivers and lakes and convert wilderness into farms or suburbs, we undermine the ability of the biosphere to provide the necessities of life.
Is this how we treat our source of survival? Until all of society understands this and then acts on that understanding, we will not be able to act fully to protect a future for ourselves.