synthetic zero


May 23, 2004

Biking around New York today --- I used my new Brompton and it was truly wonderful, the feeling of freedom. It's strange how people tend to really like to help me when they see my bike --- I went into the Circuit City and the guard said I could leave the bike by the entrance and he would watch it for me. It's such a difference having a folding bike versus a normal road bike, which I couldn't afford to park because it would probably be stolen. The city has an entirely different feel --- I zoomed from Union Square to the West Village, then up Sixth Avenue and across to Grand Central. It felt like just a leisurely stroll, but I covered a large area of Manhattan. I could just sort of sit back and enjoy the scenery, and when I got to Grand Central, I just folded up my bike and got on the train. Fabulous.

You might wonder why I haven't said anything about the torture in Iraq --- I don't really see much need to add my comments to it. The whole thing is so horrific ---- but it is self-evidently horrific.

May 22, 2004

I love this quote from Jouke's weblog:

In comes... fresh from wood's lot, the best definition of art I can subscribe to today, by Mu Xin:

So finally, what is art?
Privacy exposed to radiant light.

Regarding meditating in the subway: it's really changed the tenor of my days --- I feel everything extremely vividly. The light, the sound of the trains, the people --- I feel the tiny bumps in the ground through my shoes, I see everything, big, dimensional, vast. It's truly amazing. But I also feel extremely frustrated that I cannot share this with other people, directly. I want to find a way to share this. I can't accept that the only way to really share this is to get other people to meditate or whatever. Perhaps in some sense that is correct, but I want to try sharing aspects of this with people more directly, with gestures. Meditation itself is a gesture --- but not so much a gesture towards other people but a gesture to the ground of being. I want to make gestures to other people. How?

Heather and I were talking today about desire and performance ... I was arguing that it is best not to focus too much on getting what you think you desire, if you really want to perform well. It's best to be relatively detached with respect to the outcome. This isn't to say not desiring the outcome --- rather, just not being too focused on it. Another way of putting it is fully accepting the possibility that a different outcome from what you hoped for will occur, being prepared --- so if things do go well you can simply be pleasantly surprised. (As I've written before, I think this is why I am usually happy --- because I always expect the worst. My friends who have more negative moods tend to expect things to go well, ironically. Or -- at least, they really want them to go well, whereas I tend to be happy if disasters do not occur. I have lower expectations.)

Funnily enough, I was reading this article about the Lakers game tonight (though I'm not into sports all that much, I am a basketball fan), a game in which the usually terrible free-throw-shooting star of the Lakers, Shaquille O'Neal, made 9 of 11 free throws:

And when Minnesota fouled O'Neal, the 38-percent playoff foul shooter went 9-for-11. He credited his sudden proficiency to an article given to him by coach Phil Jackson -- about an 80-year-old man who made more than 3,000 straight free throws.

"I've just really been focusing on my routine," O'Neal said. "The article said that if you focus too much on the result, you fail."

I have my new Brompton folding bike! (Mine is actually the L6 six-speed, not the C3 3-speed in that picture, but that's the best depiction of the bike I've found). It's truly a marvel... I love riding it. It handles well, it's fast, easy to ride, easy to shift, and best of all, it folds down into a package so compact I can take it nearly anywhere, on the subway, to my job, even into some stores and restaurants. The guy I bought it from even takes it into movie theaters (I'm not sure I'm quite that fanatical). Suddenly I feel this tremendous power and freedom to roam around the city unfettered by the need to spend tons of money on cabs or take long, circuitous routes by bus or subway.

May 17, 2004

Heather Fenby of Texting is running for president!

After a year in New York I still find the experience of riding the subway fascinating. I like to actually meditate on the subway, which just brings everything out much more clearly. I find looking out the window at the changing spaces next to the train quite exhilirating at times ... the concrete wall segments flitting by, the openings to large spaces with other tracks and trains, the rhythmic patterns of light and dark. The people also draw my attention sometimes. I think about the fact that I am sharing an intimate space with these people who are right next to me, yet I will probably never see most of them ever again. A woman who looked like a dancer sat across from me last night, she was tall and a bit awkward (I am not quite sure why I thought she was a dancer, but that was my impression), yet slightly graceful, with a face that exhibited curiosity, slight surprise, and a little bewilderment. Several spots to her right sat a woman dressed in a gossamer white blouse, open and flowing at the top, with a serious but soft manner about her. I kept glancing at her because she seemed a bit unusual, and then I noticed the magazine she was reading was in French --- she was French. I thought it was interesting how strongly her "Frenchness" showed, even though she was just sitting there, reading --- it was partly her clothing and very subtle makeup, but it was mostly her demeanor. Somehow our cultural matrix can permeate us, it can be part of us, all the way to our bone marrow. Had she grown up in the States I would imagine she would look superficially the same, yet clearly different, nevertheless --- I'd imagine her being more open-faced, straightforward, and slightly confused looking as I imagine all of us Americans look to some degree, like the woman I thought was a dancer who was sitting across from me. Come to think of it, that really does typify us Americans, doesn't it? I'd never really thought about that before, but there is something of that appearance in most Americans. Like we're still trying to figure something out. I suppose like most cultural traits it is both a strength and a weakness.

May 14, 2004

Natalie and I had a long conversation tonight about a variety of things, one of them being tools ... I suppose I have a somewhat Japanese attitude towards tools, which is that they're more than simply objects. To me, even these inanimate objects have a sort of spirit to them, even if that spirit is somehow mediated by their relationship to living beings... for example, in the old days, the samurai would treat their weapons, swords, etc., with respect, almost as though they contained a spirit of their own. They did not simply use their tools --- rather they became part of their bodies, extended ... I suppose I have a similar feeling about my own tools. I try to make them part of me, in a fluid way, living by the very fact that they are intertwined with my very existence. No longer separate, apart, "things" --- but rather alive in a curious way, on their own, to be respected in a sense.

May 9, 2004

Went to see Wikkid and Tracy and the Plastics (Wynne Greenwood) at the Knitting Factory tonight with Heather Fenby and wow, was I blown away. Wikkid is a post-post-punk band, very original, textured, and inspiring. They take punk-musical motifs, rip them apart and put them back together again inverted, sideways, and upside down. They give me a feeling of restructuring mind and perception too. I love it.

Wynne's Tracy and the Plastics project has gotten even better, it's still fresh and dynamic, funny and expressive. She plays with video alter egos (also played by her) who disappear, reappear, fiddling with the ordinary conventions of video. For a while you might get lulled into the illusion of her alter egos being real people (they're life-sized), when they suddenly jump, disappear, or get zoomed in on, becoming much bigger than life --- and you realize/remember they're video characters. But even the live "Tracy" herself is a character --- played by Wynne. It's a lovely effect that jars people into questioning their perception of people they see on the screen as "real" and continuous.

I have gotten so many ideas from watching these girls (and a guy) perform... it's great.

Remember: the second and last showing of our event is Sunday night, tonight, 6pm-10pm.

May 4, 2004 (part b)

Oh my God. Disney is blocking distribution of the Miramax film by Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 911, because it is critical of President Bush. What the hell is going on here? This is really beyond belief. Mind-boggling.

May 4, 2004 (part b)

Reminder! To everyone who will be in New York tomorrow (Wednesday) or Sunday, please come to our next loft art/film/performance/music/salon starting around 6pm (films start around 7pm).

May 4, 2004

From an article in the New York Times about Saudi moves towards democracy:

On one hand, they want the royal family to yield power so citizens may have more say over their own lives. On the other, they fear the chaos spread by Islamic militants, and as they gaze next door at the bedlam in Iraq, they worry that replacing a clear authority with something more diffuse may usher in chaos.

There is an animosity toward anything American because of the Bush administration's unwavering support for Israel and the invasion of Iraq, reinforced this week by the shocking pictures of American abuse of Iraqi prisoners broadcast repeatedly by Arab satellite stations. Thus, the fact that Washington is pushing democracy gives it a bad odor.

The result is that Saudi Arabia's political reformists in both the liberal and religious camps no longer have the confidence they had just weeks ago that reform will lead to real changes, like an elected Consultative Council tackling significant problems.

The last standing justification for the invasion of Iraq was that it would spread democracy across the region...

May 2, 2004

"There is no solution; seek it lovingly." - Zen saying