re-Occupying the Cabaret-Long Version

This is the expanded version of my somewhat rambling thinking regarding re-opening this old blog. I’m not sure if the post is finished but I’m tired of writing it, so if there’s sentences left dangling or misspellings etc…just move on. I have.

I wanted to make a decision about this blog. Then I ran across a few things that reminded me of why I began it in the first place.

The first I’ll mention, as these are not chronological, was a long series of discussions on occupying on-line Buddhism. If you haven’t been comatose for the past 6 months you will have at least heard of the Occupy movement and the various protests around the world focused on the corporate takeover of …well…everything and the corruption that out of control consumerism–encouraged, abetted, seduced and coerced by crony capitalism has engendered.

Bill Schwarz, who started the Google+ discussion, wrote:

When we shut up online, as Buddhists, in the context of people talking about Buddhism on the internet, we do more harm than we do in speaking about our respective practices. In the dharma center, the norm of minding your own business in this regard is perhaps a good idea. I am of the opinion that it is a bad idea for Buddhism online. I believe that we need to occupy this space, instead of conceding it to those who are here for commercial interests.

He had a little more to say than that in numerous posts that he made public. But it sparked or re-sparked a few ideas.

On another front, someone asked me not long ago if they might use one of my posts here Manifesting Idiot Compassion as a resource in a Buddhist chaplaincy program. That post has received quite a wide readership. Many, for example, in the Well Spouse organization, which is a support group for care giving spouses of chronically ill people, found it quite useful. This is, to me, the best possible outcome for a blog post. It has also got me thinking of revising and expanding that post-it is a bit of a hard read as I put a lot of information into it in fairly condensed form- into a PDF booklet of some sort.

It is encouraging to me, in terms of continuing to write publicly, to have things like that occur. I have written, mainly for myself, sometimes for pay, for many years, had stuff published with and without my name attached to it and even attempted a fine arts degree in creative writing at one time. What happened in the last case is a long story but suffice it to say dealing with commercial oriented and ego driven writing professors who demand obeisance is not my forte.

Some of my better very casual non-fiction writing pieces, or at least a few somewhat original ideas, have appeared on this blog. And it has gotten something of a response for better or occasionally worse. The urge to keep putting it forward has not abated. I am still curious about exploring this kind of path.


Speaking of response, a thing that has been kind of mystifying me is that people keep subscribing to this old blog even though there hasn’t been a post here in many months. As well the readership of it is currently higher than the new one and my political one combined, again even though I don’t write anything here. That’s kind of odd. The persistence of these readers is a phenomenon I had not anticipated.

Many people consider blog posts a bit of a temporary, if not a throw-away, piece of work. They are usually time bound, in the sense that they deal with passing issues and once dealt with everyone moves on. Rather like a diary or journal.

I happen to be a fan of autobiography, particularly in diary, journal or letter form. I enjoy reading these kind of things in great variety which can range from my grandmother’s old diaries [“We got the last of the crop off today. Weather sunny and clear. Ordered a new tire for the tractor.”] or Martin Luther King’s famous Letter from Birmingham Jail [“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. “] to travelogues to diaries and journals to opinion columns and personal essays. They each, in their own way chronicle a life. And they generally lack the formality that the essay or even fictional forms take. They are more casual in that way and that is one of the attractions. The audience is deemed limited which inspires a larger range of expression. The blogging form can do this too I’ve found much to my surprise, despite the potential for wide readership. It’s a bit of a hybrid in that way between a formal publication and a private correspondence. [That’s why I’m glad to see blogs being created such as the one covering the correspondence between the brothers William and Henry James]

Now I have other blogs, as I mentioned, but this one seems to have something of a groove of it’s own. It has a theme though I’m a little hard pressed to try to describe what that consists of. I know it when I read it however.

So this blog is just sitting here, rather derelict. Not even squatters have moved into the comments section. That’s a bit of a thorn. A image19perfectly usable space going to waste, passersby looking for something to happen here, the owner an absentee landlord just letting it fall to ruin. OK, it’s my social responsibility to do something with it. Otherwise I might get some protesters camping outside. I might have to start camping outside myself. Better to keep it inside in posts and in the comments section where I can keep an eye on it all.  {image:Salvador Dali-Cabaret Scene}

Then a third thing…or rather a bunch of third things have been going on and are still going on that seem rather worthy of the Cabaret treatment.

In no particular order:

BG 239: Consensus Buddhism and Mindful Mayonnaise is an interview with David Chapman that sums up some of the ideas he’s been writing about for a while on his blogs such as Meaningness. I’ve found some interesting ideas in his writing though not so much with the Buddhist Geeks end of things, on which I’ve made my opinion known from time to time. But you know anyone who writes stuff like this on Twitter is going to get my attention:


"One Dharma. Whose?" Joseph Goldstein’s manifesto of Consensus #Buddhism is peculiarly incoherent.

Dec 31 2011

Incoherence is not difficult to achieve. I do it frequently. But I’m not at the head of any sort of spiritual organization, the author of numerous books, a teacher of many[or any]. The lack of critical examination of what passes for Buddhism in popular quarters is part of the problem that engenders incoherence and a whole lot of other things.

As well the somewhat heated dialogues between the monk Sujato and the uber-philosophers at Speculative Non-Buddhism have been interesting as well as occasionally entertaining. Attempting to dismantle Buddhism via po-mo contortion may become a new spectator sport. Points have been scored by both sides however.

Then there’s the multiple on-going scandals, which are…well…on-going. So keeping the magnifying glass on those, as well as the heat, remains a priority.

Sociological issues, as they relate to conditioned behavior, identity, group formation and issues of exclusion also remain of interest.

Another thing that continues to crop up, often from publishers wishing to send me books for review, (a primary source for my holiday re-gifting BTW, and thanks mostly-though some I can’t even give away-or won’t) is the aspect of the psychological self-help movement’s co-option of Buddhism as just another feel good therapy within the miasmic sea of consumerist hedonism and abandon. It’s like a tsunami of a guilt trip “You should feel good, be happy, smile, be 100% positive 100% of the time and if you don’t then there’s something wrong with you”, the Brightsided Syndrome (non-stop forced positivity) that Barbara Ehrenreich has written about, that is far worse in terms of a pragmatic and realistic outlook than the alleged “illness” of discontent and the various facets of suffering, in both conventional and Buddhist senses. In other words the cure being pushed at every turn is exacerbating problems rather than relieving them. 100 % is unrealistic. There is no indication that this is abating at all but it seems to me to be just ramping up. To say that this irritates as much as a roll through a nettle field is not an overstatement. Both psychology and Buddhism have value, for different purposes and to convolute them does a disservice.

That is all aside from the “quick fix”  and enlightenment for dollars bullshit that is also proliferating.

A few more specific items:

Tricycle has brought back Michael Haederle of "Buddhist Bullies" fame to write in the Fall 2011 issue. But you’ve got to pay to read it, though it’s not an opinion piece but rather a safe portrait of a well-known calligrapher. I do admit a certain part of me is throwing a childish tantrum and screaming, “C’mon, let him write an opinion piece. Pulllleeeeezzzzze!” Just waiting for the issue guest edited by Mr. Former People Magazine that will delineate “The Ten Sexiest Buddhists”.  Rubbing my hands with absolute glee about such a possibility.

With that in mind here’s a dedication going out to the Tricycle crew.


So when Tammy rears her pretty little head, clenches her teeth, clutches the bannister and urges us to carry on who are we to disagree?

I mentioned the various ongoing sangha scandals. I wrote a piece on Madhushala that really should have appeared here. That was Sex and the Sangha: Out of Touch. As well the big hoopla over the big meeting was covered in The New Improved Buddhist Council [now with more enzymes, lather and added vitamins] . That too would have been better in this venue.

The Madhushala blog is, as I wrote, more personal, more like a journal or diary than a place for big production numbers with all the singers, dancers and other performers necessary to carry those kinds of things off. There’s a reason it’s a cabaret. It’s a bit of a performance with a bit of a larger than life mistress of ceremonies.

I enjoy the performative aspects of this blog. As actors might tell you, performance can be quite freeing. One can expand in directions that are unusual. There’s something to be learned in doing the unusual. One is required to let go of the habitual and strike out into unknown territory.

That is not to say that because something of a performance is involved that it isn’t real in terms of sentiment, opinion and intention. What is written here is sincere. It is not written to power trip at other’s expense nor is it written to demean others who are peers/comrades/regular folks/etc.  If it sometimes seems like certain institutions or even persons are targeted then those targets will have the upper hand in the differential power relationship vis-à-vis ordinary sangha members or the general public. I don’t need to bully or troll to feel good about myself. But I will not hesitate to speak of and to those who have significant spheres of influence. That includes teachers, public figures, institutions, authority figures and the like.

When performance is mentioned some consider that fakery or adopting a persona. That is not the case here. It is quite a real expression of elements of my personality which rarely get exercised, or exorcised, depending upon the circumstance. Being something of an introvert, if not an outright hermit at times–need I say silent retreat is my normal mode of being?–it is quite a challenge to bring forth the ebullient extrovert who has my own voice. That is simpler in poetry or prose as those are character voices which can be somewhat disowned as fake when necessary, but the personal voice is something else. It takes a certain force of will and a consistent state of awareness to maintain that level of presence, in the theatrical sense, and effort to project at the required volume for the room. Consider public speaking as an example. It’s similar to that. The public speaker is no different than the private speaker, only the presentation is altered to suit the circumstances.

Another aspect of writing as NellaLou on this blog breaks through certain sensations of security that one might like to rely upon, despite their illusory nature. It is very tempting to hide silently in many aspects of life rather than be the nail that sticks out. All too often silence equals, if not complete assent, then a wishy-washy “go-along-to-get-along” cowardice that allows all sorts of nonsense if not outright injustice and in the extreme, atrocity, to prevail. It feels uncomfortable to live with too many “Shoulda, woulda, coulda” thoughts that run through the bystander mind. I can’t numb myself that much and I’ve tried in the past so it’s no supposition but experience informing the decisions that are involved with what is written here.

A question that kept appearing during those numbing experiments was, “Where is your line in the sand?” It’s kind of important to know that if one is professing Buddhism which includes ethical principles. Buddhism without ethical principles is something else…self-help, New Age psychobabble bullshit, a costume, another escape to try to hide within. Developing an ethical viewpoint is an individual exercise but it’s context is very much social. Viewing one’s self as an isolated individual does not require ethics. One is then similar to a rock or a chair or some other object rather than a dynamic system in continuous interaction with other dynamic systems. A noun rather than a verb. Understanding inter-dependence or interbeing requires a great deal of ethical examination.

Returning to the subject of autobiography, I’ve been a volunteer for the Dickens Journal Online project at the University of Buckingham in the UK, since early this year.  This has kept me a little busy as have a few other personal situations. The main task of this volunteer project is bringing a lot of works put out by Dickens and many of his cohorts which were published in several newspaper formats and mainly edited by Dickens himself, into electronic format suitable for text-to-speech applications as well as indexing. Many of these writings are in the form of journals such as travelogues, reports of political, social and religious events, personal opinions and the serialization of novels, including many of Dickens own novels. Volunteers are being used to scrutinized the OCR images and correct text. It’s rather tedious at times, something like intense proofreading, but the material is so interesting that it’s not hard to get lost in the narratives and forget the proofing task at other times. The material is being prepared for Dickens bicentennial celebrations which commence in March 2012.  Here’s a little more about it.

So that’s in my thinking when I borrow and bastardize a few lines from that publication:

These developments were, we are told, enough to re-awaken the appetite of the satiated, to see the author with her lace cuffs turned up, fire in her eye, and eloquence on her lips, arranging with her own hands the sauces sarcastique, in which she so skillfully combined her magic mushrooms and spicy words. Thither, too, she was in the habit of sending from her own house in the Rue des Petits Champs the posts blogue and volatile-vents which had been elaborated under her own eyes, and were eaten hot by herself and friends from the ovens of La Cabaret.

It just so happens I also have a bunch of piping hot bonbons in the queue that seem to fit better here than anywhere else and I really do want to put the icing on them. And since I’ve renewed my interest in performance and slam poetry, mainly from doing this blog,  I just might put some of that on YouTube and stick it here as well. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that though. It’s been a long time since I’ve done any actual performance of anything.

image_thumbSo tighten up your corset and put your fishnet stockings back on because the Smiling Buddha Cabaret is






Tonight’s playlist.

Try playing them all at the same time…makes for an interesting mix.

This basically encompasses the past, current and future direction of this little corner of the Internet. I could have put some Johnny Cash and a few others in here as well but………………..these wimmins sing good.

Choose your version.

Rose Garden…Lynn Anderson or Suicide Machine













These Boots Are Made For Walking…Nancy Sinatra or Siouxie Sioux









You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man…Loretta Lynn or Courtney Love












Making Believe…Kitty Wells or Social Distortion











Be advised that before writing every post on here in the future I’ll be styling my hair in the following fashion and singing the following song for inspiration…


Sandmonkey’s blog post

The blogger and activist known as Sandmonkey, who many of us have been following for the past 10+ days  has been taken into custody in Cairo Egypt. It has been reported that his arrest was due to his final blog post on his website which has now had the account suspended. Many people have copied it and are mirroring it around the world. I have done so also in the form of a PDF file. Please take this file, read it and share it/post it where ever you can.

Sandmonkey’s last post entitled Egypt, right now!

Here is a plain text version if you want to post it on a blog or in a forum.

Recent news

He’s been released. Here are his latest tweets. (in reverse chronological order-meaning read from the bottom) Please follow him so they know we are all witnessing.

Please don’t respond to my phone or BBM. This isn’t me. My phone was confiscated by a thug of an officer who insults those who call.
Sandmonkey Sandmonkey
I am humbled by you all. Thank you so much. I am trying to get a decent computer to write it all.
Sandmonkey Sandmonkey
will tell the story later . Thank you all. I just need to rest now. #jan25
Sandmonkey Sandmonkey
I am ok. I got out. I was ambushed & beaten by the police, my phone confiscated , my car ripped apar& supplies taken #jan25
Additional News
Well he didn’t rest long. He’s got a new blog up already. Rantings of a Sandmonkey Yep, been deleted now. Though he’s now come out from behind the moniker and has been interviewed via phone by CNN. See below

Poetry as an Instrument of Revolution

Anyone who is familiar with Sufi poetry also might be aware of the long history of protest poetry written by people of the entire Middle Eastern, North African and Asian areas that border the Arabian sea. I ran across a couple of good articles on this.

As I’ve been monitoring the various news streams over the past week or so, there has been quite a bit of colorful language used in many of the Tweets, blog posts and comments from Egypt and beyond. By colorful language I don’t mean cursing and such, although there is a thread of that too, but rich creative full expressions of people’s thoughts and feelings. Most are in Arabic and I’ve found a few sources of translations for some and often people are spontaneously providing English translations.

I don’t have time to sift through them right now but Elliott Colla the author of one of the articles I mentioned has done just that so I’m going to quote from his article The Poetry of Revolt that appeared on the Jadaliyya website. The author writes:

No less astonishing is the poetry of this moment. I don’t mean “poetry” as a metaphor, but the actual poetry that has played a prominent role in the outset of the events. The slogans the protesters are chanting are couplets—and they are as loud as they are sharp. The diwan of this revolt began to be written as soon as Ben Ali fled Tunis, in pithy lines like “Yâ Mubârak! Yâ Mubârak! Is-Sa‘ûdiyya fi-ntizârak!,” (“Mubarak, O Mabarak, Saudi Arabia awaits!”). In the streets themselves, there are scores of other verses, ranging from the caustic “Shurtat Masr, yâ shurtat Masr, intû ba’aytû kilâb al-’asr” (“Egypt’s Police, Egypt’s Police, You’ve become nothing but Palace dogs”), to the defiant “Idrab idrab yâ Habîb, mahma tadrab mish hansîb!” (Hit us, beat us, O Habib [al-Adly, now-former Minister of the Interior], hit all you want—we’re not going to leave!). This last couplet is particularly clever, since it plays on the old Egyptian colloquial saying, “Darb al-habib zayy akl al-zabib” (The beloved’s fist is as sweet as raisins). This poetry is not an ornament to the uprising—it is its soundtrack and also composes a significant part of the action itself.

The remainder of the article goes into the intertwined histories of both revolution and poetry and is well worth reading in it’s entirety.

These rhyming couplets are what you may be hearing chanted when you listen to Al Jazeera English streaming on the web. (Yeah that’s a plug for them) And here’s a video of a courageous young woman using this poetic technique while leading a protest against the police.

The use of poetry during times of social unrest is not that unusual. Consider the lyrics of some protest songs. Are they not poetry?

The other article I came across by Amardeep Singh: Poetry in the Protests: Egypt and Tunisia makes that very point in the first sentence:

Protest poetry and music sometimes rises to the surface during popular uprisings, crystallizing popular sentiments—one thinks of Victor Jara in Chile, Nazim Hikmet in Turkey, Faiz Ahmed Faiz in Pakistan, or Woody Guthrie in the United States.

So we are actually on somewhat familiar ground with this topic.

Amardeep quotes some of the longer forms of protest poetry found in the region. Here are the opening lines from the poem The Dragon by Iraqi poet Abd al-Wahhab al-Bayyati. The full poem can be found here.

A dictator, hiding behind a nihilist’s mask,
has killed and killed and killed,
pillaged and wasted,
but is afraid, he claims,
to kill a sparrow.
His smiling picture is everywhere:
in the coffeehouse, in the brothel,
in the nightclub, and the marketplace.
Satan used to be an original,
now he is just the dictator’s shadow.
The dictator has banned the solar calendar,
abolished Neruda, Marquez, and Amado,
abolished the Constitution;
he’s given his name to all the squares, the open spaces,
the rivers,
and all the jails in his blighted homeland.

He also discusses some of the background of poetry and provides links for more.

There is a very well known poem that has played a significant role in the current revolutions. “To the Tyrants of the World,” written by the Tunisian poet Abdul Qasim al Shabi which has became a rallying cry for the people in Tunisia is spoken in an NPR broadcast. It is spoken in Arabic and English.

Here is the English translation from NPR

Oppressive tyrants,
lover of darkness,
enemy of life,
you have ridiculed the size of the weak people.
Your palm is soaked with their blood. 

You deformed the magic of existence
and planted the seeds of sorrow in the fields. 

don't be fooled by the spring,
the clearness of the sky or the light of dawn,
for on the horizon lies the horror of darkness,
rumble of thunder and blowing of winds. 

for below the ash there is fire,
and he who grows thorns reaps wounds.
Look there,
for I have harvested the heads of mankind
and the flowers of hope,
and I watered the heart of the earth with blood.
I soaked it with tears until it was drunk.
The river of blood will sweep you,
and the fiery storm will devour you.

In case the embedded item doesn’t work here is the link


Protest poetry is not confined to any one culture or location. I’ll leave you with this Diane di Prima poem

Rant, from a Cool Place

by Diane DiPrima

“I see no end of it, but the turning

upside down of the entire world”

——————————— Erasmus

We are in the middle of a bloody, heartrending revolution

Called America, called the Protestant reformation, called Western man,

Called individual consciousness, meaning I need a refrigerator and a car

And milk and meat for the kids so, I can discover that I don’t need a car

Or a refrigerator, or meat, or even milk, just rice and a place with

————-no wind to sleep next to someone

Two someones keeping warm in the winter learning to weave

To pot and to putter, learning to steal honey from bees,

————wearing the bedclothes by day, sleeping under

(or in) them at night; hording bits of glass, colored stones, and

————stringing beads

How long before we come to that blessed definable state

Known as buddhahood, primitive man, people in a landscape

together like trees, the second childhood of man

I don’t know if I will make it somehow nearer by saying all this

out loud, for christs sake, that Stevenson was killed, that Shastri

————was killed

both having dined with Marietta Tree

the wife of a higher-up in the CIA

both out of their own countries mysteriously dead, as how many others

as Marilyn Monroe, wept over in so many tabloids

done in for sleeping with Jack Kennedy – this isn’t a poem – full of

————cold prosaic fact

thirteen done in the Oswald plot: Jack Ruby’s cancer that disappeared

————in autopsy

the last of a long line – and they’re waiting to get Tim Leary

Bob Dylan

Allen Ginsberg

LeRoi Jones – as, who killed Malcolm X? They give themselves away

with TV programs on the Third Reich, and I wonder if I’ll live to sit in

————Peking or Hanoi

see TV programs on LBJ’s Reich: our great SS analysed, our money exposed,

————the plot to keep Africa

genocide in Southeast Asia now in progress Laos Vietnam Thailand Cambodia

————O soft-spoken Sukamo

O great stone Buddhas with sad negroid lips torn down by us by the red

————guard all one force

one leveling mad mechanism, grinding it down to earth and swamp to sea

————to powder

till Mozart is something a few men can whistle

or play on a homemade flute and we bow to each other

telling old tales half remembered gathering shells

learning again “all beings are from the very beginning Buddhas”

or glowing and dying radiation and plague we come to that final great

————love illumination



Aung San Suu Kyi Supports Egypt Protesters

In a recent article from the Straights Times in Singapore Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel prize winner has been reported to stand with the Egyptian protesters. In quoted statements from a BBC World interview she said:

It’s necessary to keep cool heads and strong hearts and not ever to lose hope and to keep on going,’ she said, in response to a caller from Cairo who asked her advice as he faced a ‘very scary moment of transition’ in Egypt.

She added: ‘And I would want you to know that we’re all with you – that people all over the world who want freedom, somehow or the other feel connected to other people who are struggling for freedom.’

Full story here:

Suu Kyi tells Egypt protesters: ‘We’re all with you’