Sick, again, still. Today is my day of reckoning in the workshop. Here's an explanation of the Zen concept of shoshin, or "beginner's mind," which seems a useful attitude to hold in the arts as well. Also, a timely attack on baby boomer Buddhism:
Philosopher George Santayana once observed that "American life is a powerful solvent. It seems to neutralize every intellectual element, however tough and alien it may be, and to fuse it in the native goodwill, complacency, thoughtlessness and optimism." Instead of preserving Buddhism, Americans seem intent on co-opting and commercializing it, dissolving a religion deeply suspicious of the self into an engine of self-absorption.
American Buddhism, the article notes, is also mostly book-based, with the authors of texts like Zen Sex: The Way of Making Love or If The Buddha Dated reaping significant royalties. Which should give pause, seeing that traditionalists like Thanissaro Bhikkhu have their writings available for free.
An interesting review of Demonology, Rick Moody's latest story collection. One more book I can't justify buying, as it's in hardcover. Chris took umbrage at this review in class yesterday: "Short stories are fiction's R&D department?" he asks, incredulously. "How can you be a book reviewer for a major newspaper and carry such a parochial attitude? The guy's an asshole." Yesterday we also explored the idea that most people find escape in entertainment because they don't like their jobs and consequently live miserable lives. Luckily we, as writers, are safe from this temptation. This riled me. I know, who am I to accuse anyone of intellectual elitism, but still.
A longish essay on the ancient art of steganography, or hidden writing: distinct from cryptography in that the latter encodes the message, while the former merely conceals it. In the old days, steganographic messages would be written in invisible ink, or on the wooden backing of wax message tablets, or on a trusted slave's scalp (sent once the hair grew). Nowadays they can be encoded in the white noise of audio or image files, like Osama bin Laden allegedly sending messages to his followers via porn sites. The essay also discusses pirates.