Archive for the ‘standard_journal’ Category

tea ceremony


I’m interested in the idea of taking a break for tea, but I don’t have the space for it at work, nor would I want to attempt to acquire it as there are tens of thousands of employees vying for space in the tall office building I work in, surrounded by similar skyscrapers.

What I think is missing from the above ceremony is a dedication to yourself. Everything is spirituality and the workplace, as if those two concepts are related except by personal necessity.

I don’t know about everybody else’s world, but the one I live in needs to be escaped from to keep my sanity. My job is not my spiritual path, but a way to pay my bills and to give my brain it’s daily dose of mental exercise.

My ceremony needs to include a walk outside and thinking of characters in my head that are saving the world somewhere involving the preparation of food on a windy day. In order to facilitate this task, they need to go into an old library with lots of dark wood and dusty attics with creaky desk drawers and an occasional cat and accompanying chihuahua that shouldn’t be free to go upstairs but you can hear him coming because of his nails tapping on the wood floor.

This tea is called Russian Caravan, but I’m not sure it’s Russian. I love Georgian tea, which is close to Russia but still not Russian. Russian Caravan has an interesting story to it’s name: it’s alleged to be oolong tea that was brought in caravans from China and inherited a smoky flavor from the campfires along the way.

“I didn’t say it was true, just that I believe it.” (M. Mignola)

Don’t leave your tea upstairs in the dusty attic unless you finish it first.


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graphing a dream

If reality lives in a cube riding on a rail (time) and dreams live in a cube on a rail right next to it, it stands to reason that an occasional function may be applied on one cube such that it’s content maps to the other.

I dreamt later tonight and saw some of you in the dream. I’m in the library I remember most fondly from my youth, in the Frankford section of Philly. I’m in the front and I heard you guys fussing over something so I went back and recognized you. After a little discussion we agreed to work together even though we didn’t all start out on this adventure together. [see also: Chance meetings in dreams (Hypatia) pp. 110-309, 402-417, Appx B. – annotated by Chaucer]

Apparently, there’s a book in here somewhere of some inordinate degree of power that is the target of some disreputable character. Our goal is to keep this book out of that person’s hands by any means possible. The book is not necessarily always available, but it’s insisted upon that it is physically present in this library. So, to secure the safety of whatever future we need to find the book and then hide it. (I seem to recall some argument about this part, especially because I remembered it the most after waking later)

Some parts I remember vaguely while others are more vivid. For example, I remember little of climbing up the bookshelf and going up through the ceiling to drop down in the restricted office space in order to let the rest of you in. It’s all a blur, like fragmented images. I remember more the mathematical discussion we had about how adding advanced string theory to simple algebra negated the need for derivative calculus and more than half the functions of quantum theory. You guys told me about my apparent ease of getting into the library’s restricted rooms which prompted wonder from all of us because I don’t think we were in the same library, at least not after the fact.

Anyway, once inside the locked room, we found the book in question and moved the shelf. Quickly: we made a hole in the wall behind the shelf to hide the book in. We patched up the wall from plaster found in the basement and the hole itself was accessible through removal of the whole shelf making us move all the books on it then putting them back carefully. The discussion and argument that accompanied this part of the project was what fulfilled most people’s anxiety quota in dreams.

It was a relief to get out of there finally, though not a great neighborhood in the middle of night. I think we all wondered how we could be as familiar with our surroundings, some more than others, but I was assuming it would all work out.

It would take almost six months to find out from a trusted source that the disreputable person from the dream was indeed thwarted, though it was a painting in Chartres and not a book that he was after.

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Irish muse

Last week I travelled to Ireland with family and I found that over half of my observations fed the writer in me.

The trip was spread out to 4 cities across Ireland and although some included metropolitan areas, the majority of my time was spent in or around the countryside. I feel as if I’ve read countless stories trying to describe that countryside, even if the story wasn’t written about Ireland. I often brought a bag containing my notebook in case I got the chance to write, and a number of times I was able to do so. I found myself describing places I saw without story context just because they belonged in a story somewhere.

While the above observations were unexpected, I did have some preplanned research for my stay in Ireland. The first was a need to do any tours I could on Bram Stoker and the second was for the rich folklore of Ireland, specifically what has been expressed in varied forms like the fae, the other people, the little people, the good people, the Aos SĂ­, and many more.

As it turned out, the advice I was given by multiple sources was to satisfy both of those desired researches in Dublin, which surprised me because I would have thought a metropolitan area is the last place I would expect to be the culture center for folklore. Also, I only spent 2 nights in Dublin which didn’t give me enough time to go after these subjects. I did manage a literary tour during the last hours I was in Dublin, and I found to my biggest surprise that Bram Stoker wasn’t very heavily represented. There are important historical reasons for this, including realizing the works of the other notable Irish writers as well as noting the content of what each writer wrote about.

As to the Irish folklore, I bought some books on the subject in a quaint bookstore in the town of Dingle, in the County of Kerry. Suffice to say that my desired subjects for research, especially the folklore, would require it’s own trip. I also think it’s a trip that would need some pre-planning, as I still can’t imagine the metropolitan area of Dublin being the source for folklore. That still seems to me to be the province of the countryside.

During my time there, I was reading a published journal of Bram Stoker’s, and I found it interesting that some of his entries were near professional quality, instead of scribbling. I know that the published work was a reproduction of his actual handwriting, but I’m pointing out that some entries were final draft quality. Seeing that made me think that there was another, more personal journal of Bram’s somewhere.

My last night in Ireland was spent in a very old castle, where some apartments were renovated and furnished with electricity. My life-long love of Hammer films and the like makes it practically a critical requirement for me to explore the unfurnished rooms of this old castle, and I didn’t disappoint. If anyone is interested in seeing the very amateurish films I made with my phone of my explorations, feel free to see them at the link below.

A night in Knappogue Castle

For everyone that has never been to Ireland, I encourage you to visit there.

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The character who came in from the outside walks up the steps to the library of the world, and once inside, sits down at an information kiosk and types:
“How do I find the meaning of life?”

After pressing the enter key, the screen showed a collage of images, words, sound-clips, and speech fragments while it worked on the answer, finally emitting a loud auditory generated token that resembled a rusty toaster reluctantly giving up it’s bread. Finally, it displayed one sentence:

Eat a potato.

This was followed by a half screen-full of biography links and references. With a shaking of the head, the character who came in from the outside typed the following:

“How do I find true happiness?”

More incessant randomizing of images that could be anybody…some person..somebody, maybe at a birthday party…in their past…..with the text of a book report this person had to write…under duress because of…their school assignment in the past that would be easy to do now….accompanied by a song this person sang with their friends when they were young and happy and prideful all the time seemingly…..

….finally emitting a loud auditory generated token that resembled the sound of a soft pillow’s dream, and displaying the words:

Launch root access shell
Run Control Panel
Go to Credential Manager
Go to User Credentials
Go to Generic Credentials
Click the item that starts with get:happiness.content
Click Edit
Enter User Name
Enter the auditory generated API token as your password

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A few weeks ago was the annual film festival I’ve been attending for years. http://filmadelphia.org/festival/

As I do every year, I scheduled the week off from work so I could give as much time as needed. What was different this year was I finally bought a pass which gave me full access to all movies (instead of having to buy tickets to any of them, scheduling them, etc.). It may be more expensive but I am more than comfortable with donating to the Philadelphia Film Society, the organization that runs the film fest as well as films all year long. I’ve been a member for years and remember the time in the past when the film fest was in financial trouble. I remember them struggling for a year or two, then acquiring a historic Philadelphia film theater and turning it into their headquarters.

Now, they have acquired another theater with the size, location, and presence to positively match up with any other in the city. Formerly named the Prince, it is now named the Philadelphia Film Center and is located at Broad & Chestnut Streets in the heart of Philly’s center-city district. The non-profit, member and volunteer-run organization has come a long way and I’m proud to be a member of it.

Having the pass this year enabled me to just show up every day at the beginning of the movie times, and pick a movie. I usually try to keep it spontaneous by day, since I’m on vacation and don’t like to be so dependent on a schedule. Doing it this way for the past few years has given me a different perspective on what films I’m drawn to and also has opened my eyes to films I may not have seen otherwise.

I set out each day with a trip to a cafe near the theaters in Philadelphia’s Olde City section, an area I’ve always loved to walk around. Writing has surpassed reading as an activity that I immediately associate with being in a cafe sometime in the last ten years. 🙂 As such, I began each day with breakfast in the cafe and writing in my journal (longhand). I write whatever is on my mind and in whatever voice comes to me. I cover the films I’m seeing or are about to see, what I’m looking for from them, the setting around me, what I want to write next, what writing of mine needs revisiting, etc.

During each film, the PFS representatives (film programming, etc.) talk a little (thanking the members, volunteers, turn your phone off, etc.) before introducing each film. A lot of their introduction I’ve heard hundreds of times over the years so I usually tune out until the start of the film. In previous years, I’ve gone over the film program book to read the summaries of other movies. This year, for the first time, I brought out my writing journal and continued where I left off in the cafe. I found this an amazing experience, especially as I occasionally continued to write while the film was on and the theater was dark.

There was one film that I was really starting to dislike, and it turned around for me. I can’t say for certain that my narrating it longhand had this effect, though it is likely that my writing about why I didn’t like it seemed to slow my reaction down. The music for this film was amazing and I needed to note that. Maybe it made me more patient to see what else the film would offer. I ended up loving the film and I think writing about it is worth noting. Reading about it afterward was interesting and should be in the future as well as the lines of my writing wavered on the page during the filming.

I was sorry to see the time come to an end as I had settled into the daily film routine quite comfortably. Going to old city cafes, seeing films, reading, and writing is a routine I can do forever. Now I’m reviewing the filmfest program book to see what movies have made distribution so I can acquire the ones I didn’t get a chance to see in the theater. These movies are unique and in my opinion are better than the mainstream movies. Feel free to visit the site above and look through the movies. I believe you won’t be disappointed.



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So this past weekend was productive but frustrating…I need to focus on the productive part.

I had two appointments planned this past weekend: one for the duct cleaning people to come out and clean the ducts for my heating/cooling system and my dryer. Duct cleaning people…..now I’m imagining a chimney sweep team from the movie Mary Poppins and everybody dancing on the roofs of south Philly. Nowadays that would need to be more hip-hop, I imagine.

Anyhoo, no complaints about that because it was on time and very thorough. First time having it done and it went quickly and alleviated my concerns for how bad the dryer vent hose might have been – in my house it’s quite long and hidden through lots of woodwork so it’s quite the fire hazard.

The second appointment was supposed to be the last one of a project that has lasted about a month. The basic story is the removal of a bathroom (unwanted and unneeded) from my kitchen. The first contractor had to back out after I had already booked him, making me scramble at the last minute to get another contractor for the same time. I had been given approval for working from home that week which is a rare occurence that I couldn’t just reschedule, so I really needed to take advantage of the time.

Of course, when the second contractor was able to help me out the first half of that week I was very happy. And when they couldn’t commit themselves the second half or any time since, I feel as if I can’t complain because I dropped it on them last second.

That aside, one of the main workers in this group is super nice and happy to assist, and probably is to everybody everywhere, such that it’s not possible to help that many people and this is why he tells me that he’ll be at my house at a certain time and not get there for another four hours, or at all.

I’m a forgiving person but I’m tired of this and just want to get the project done….which is very close but not quite.

Some of this project was to replace the floor tile in the space where this bathroom was in my kitchen, and of course it no longer matches the rest of the kitchen and NOW it bothers me. So, I was thinking of what I could do to make myself happy about it. One thought was to have my nieces & nephew come over and paint that part of the floor. That would make me feel better about it, at least.

Or I could get all artistic and see about getting the whole kitchen floor retiled. Since I have no idea how much this costs, I get to imagine marble in a famous library or something like that.

I’ll know in a few weeks whether or not there will be marble on my kitchen floor or my nieces and nephews will be coming over to write their names and draw pictures instead.

In other news, I received all of the art that I ordered and everything is framed with the exception of one that is still being custom framed. Note to self, always order everything 24×36 or smaller to avoid this. At least the custom frame will be really nice. I can’t wait to put these up on the walls.

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In my last post (Artful Surroundings), I was about halfway through my quest to find art for my home.

I had collected a number of web sites for me to browse through which took time. After I had finished, I had to make a decision on where I was willing to commit the most money because art can be costly. Many of the sites were looking for bids, which wasn’t for me. I am comfortable with the decision to pay for art (of any medium) if there is some personal contact to be made with the artist. All of this is bound by finances, of course. There were a number of artists whose art I would have loved to buy but they were just too expensive, including some that I’d been admiring for some time.

There was one photographer whose work I’d seen before in an article on the BBC several years ago. At the time, I’d noted down his name (David Derueda) thinking that one day I’d be in a situation to get some of his prints. I had some correspondence with him via email and I ended up choosing 2 prints to be framed and sent to me (from Europe).

After this, the rest of my purchasing was of a more generic variety, as I needed to bring the cost down. During my search, I concentrated the most on what would influence my own creativity and/or reflect something about me or just what I like. I found this reflection changing the more art I browsed, at one point wondering if maybe the art was just a reflection of where I wanted to visit in the world (duly noted, need to plan a trip next year). I also found out something about my tastes, after viewing hundreds of prints.

As of now, the majority of the art is at my house and in frames. I’m still waiting on a few more frames/prints to arrive, and I also have one print being custom framed. After all this, there will be the process of finding where the best location in my house is for everything. I think overall, the hunt for the art (including that which I cannot have) was the most fulfilling part of the whole process.

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One project that I had been looking to start since I bought my house was that of finding new art to put on my walls. The stars and planets align favorably for this project (my budget is good right now) so I have begun. I’ve been telling a friend of mine for several years that I would buy her photos when I got a house and now the time has come to do that.

These particular photos are of animals at the Philadelphia Zoo, and it just so happens that some of these animals figure largely in the novel I am still developing. I don’t know the future of this novel manuscript; my advice varies from splitting it into two novels to downgrading the age of the main characters (overhaul). Regardless of what I do, seeing the animals on my wall will always have an influence on me. They will remind me of what I thought the characters saw once upon a time when they were wide-eyed and imaginative, and then later after they saw and experienced.

It’s not the first time I’ve regarded the path of the characters with that of my own as a writer, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The rest of my art finding will take some time as I am still learning where the best places are to buy art online and which artists/galleries/sites sell high quality images or the frames themselves, etc. I think any selection needs to influence my own creativity, add something I like to look at on my walls, and maybe even inspire someone else’s imagination.

Lastly, these artful surroundings are a reflection of me. When people come to my house and see the art I have on my walls it may spur conversation about it. Some of those conversations are bound to yield fruitful art observations. 🙂

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Someone recently commented on life going so fast that their feet weren’t feeling the ground. I instantly replied that it was a sign that they needed to move to a situation where they were swishing dirt or sand through their toes – basically my telling them to ground themselves.

There’s a book I bought a few months back about grounding that I think is a really interesting concept. Put simply, our bodies have enough electricity happening that we need to ground ourselves on a regular basis. Similar to nutrition, our bodies can go without wonderful attention for quite a long while, but the idea is that if we happened to give our bodies that better attention we could improve things for ourselves.

The book concentrated on inflammation as one of the primary effects that would be alleviated if we only grounded ourselves on a routine basis. Granted, inflammation is the body’s reaction to something, so I’d rather fix the original problem than fix “inflammation”. But I think the implication is that grounding will do that.

By grounding, you have to have some connection between your body and the earth itself. Sneakers or shoes on concrete doesn’t count. I didn’t finish reading the book because the content was on repeat every other chapter, but I like the idea.

This subject ties in to one of my current house projects, which is to extend a raised garden bed in my backyard. The ground in my backyard is all concrete except for under the existing raised garden bed in the middle of one wall. My idea was to extend it to the end of that wall and down another wall in an L shape.

After getting all the stone blocks, bags of cement, bags of compost and top soil into my backyard, I built the wall and connected the existing garden bed. Before I could dump the compost and top soil into the rest of the garden bed, I needed to do something about the ground so there could be drainage. For whatever reason I’ve avoided buying a specific type of drill the past few years despite several occasions where I needed one, and finally I got it and drilled holes into the ground so there would be drainage.

The only reason I mentioned the buying of the drill is to note that this wasn’t an overnight process. Getting the stones and everything else into my backyard took time and beat me up a bit. My backyard is only accessible through my house and while I’m good to carry a load, I’m still a lightweight and my exertions have a cost. During all this, the question of what to do about the drainage was on my mind, and it wasn’t until this past weekend that I was at the point of solving it. A hammer and a chisel did nothing, so I went out and bought a rotary hammer drill with a good masonry bit. I made the holes necessary so drainage will be available for this side of the garden. I need more dirt and compost and then I can plant this weekend which is a little late to plant but better late than never.

The comment I made to someone who needed to ground themselves was because they felt like life was going too fast and would enjoy going to the beach and twiggling their toes in the sand. But I was thinking of grounding in a different context while writing it. The expression people use about “keeping one’s feet on the ground” is used for mental attitude to not live above your means. I think it needs to be expanded to include this concept of electrical grounding which may be as much spiritual as anything else.

I worried my future plants wouldn’t have a chance to have drainage, which is just another way to say ground themselves. Electricity goes both ways – grounding dumps the charge into the earth.

I live in a very unnatural world, and my feet are never outside of shoes or sneakers. I work in a high rise office building working with computers. I do lots and lots of walking every day, but while my heart and cardiovascular system gets a good workout, my knees and lower back take their beating as they always do.

Maybe my next project should be to drill some more holes in my backyard so maybe my body gets a chance to ground itself with my tomato plants. And then I can contemplate the notion of whether or not we’re getting something back coming in the other direction from the earth. What a concept that is.

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I’ve just heard of the second relocation of a wild animal from an urban setting in the last fifteen hours, and today is my thirty-first anniversary of my high school graduation.

Of course they connect as all things do, and I asked one of the two relocators about the rationale of the damage they endured before action had to be taken. Here I was just curious; I wasn’t initially wondering about the perspective of a destructive groundhog though it may prove important later.

Discussions with the first relocator began very late last night before bed. My mother saw evidence of a racoon’s damage to her house earlier in the day, arranged for a trap to be set and now the racoon was in the trap cursing at her in Sicilian, no doubt. I spoke with her on the phone and remember telling her two things that were suddenly important to me. I inquired about the state of the roof damage because I wondered if there were racoon children still inside the roof while their mother was in the trap, and secondly I insisted that she let the roofer decide how to best take down the trap after he showed certainty of his capability of not falling off the roof because of insurance liability.

Conversations ensued during the day with comic effect. I kept calling the racoon “Ricky” because of a favorite stuffed animal I had as a child. The rest of my family called the racoon “Rocky” for the popular Beatles song. We are a family that revivifies, or personifies, depending on your perspective.

The second relocator had perennials that were damaged by a groundhog, and this was on my mind while I pondered a post about graduating high school so long ago.

I rarely have acknowledged it, I suppose because of a complete lack of a desire to acknowledge my own aging. But I must say that if I do look back, it’s with fondness. I had an intensely vivid imagination that could and would out-muscle my focus on life with very little effort. I enjoyed it then and even during the years where my grip on the sane part of life’s interactions were most strenous. I enjoy it now and my grip is better.

I could look at this in so many ways, many of them negative, but I refuse in much the same way I will float to the top if underwater. To say that there are times my thinking is the exact opposite would be an understatement. And as these mental wonderings are cyclical as the perennials the groundhog wanted to affect, so too are my reactions to them.

A groundhog affects perennials in a negative way and is relocated. For someone else the perennials were affected in a positive way and maybe the groundhog was given more. I hope I have the mental clarity to continue to view my mental wonderings as so many perennials with a possible groundhog or racoon, whose reason is mine to ponder.

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