Less zendemic

“Literate man naturally dreams of visual solutions to the problems of human differences.”

“Electronic man. by becoming ever more deeply involved in the actualities of the human condition, cannot accept the literate cultural strategy.”

Marshall McLuhan   The Gutenberg Galaxy 


Painting by Janney,

Under the willow,
the cat watches the birds,
the house watches the cat.
Flowers bloom.


One of the things about human beings is the practice of differentiating tings one from the other and giving them  a name, and then declaring doing this means you understand the “thing.*
Finding myself skulking around in the closet, sometimes what I do behind my back is more interesting . 


The concept of thing is pretty weird in itself.

No two things are exactly  alike, even if the only “thing” which differentiates them is their place in space, a descriptive fact  we do not know—we cannot measure  the position and the velocity of “thing” at the same time.


Of course that is science.

You may not “believe” in science and say its human will, not God’s will.


When you drive your car and approach a stop sign do  you and do you  put your foot on the brake or do you pray to God to stop the car?


Knowing requires noing,.


Science is not about what it knows, but how it knows what it knows.

They are equal things.


Science has the category of “thing” it calls facts, a discrete “thing” established through a  common method and meeting a formally accepted standard.


In science that standard is always challenged, and open to challenge. Reasons may include :

Regular human mistakes;

The process of  putting unknown things  in a group and when there are more we find differences among them and create new “things”;

Each new “scientific discovery” enables us to see the universe differently,  not just new “things,”  but we see the old “things” differently; and many other reasons.

I think its likely to go on forever.


Science is empirical, it means the process of knowing is sensual, through our senses— seeing, hearing, touching , smelling or hearing. Generally people have these abilities in a common range of capabilities and any  “scientific knowledge” can be tested again by any person who is willing and capable to  commit to the standards of science.


Science is a “democratic” methodology  of knowing as opposed to religion which is an “authoritarian” methodology of knowing.  In science you discover, enjoy and share knowing; in religion you are told what to know and to accept it on faith.

Still from a (western?) religious point of view discovering, enjoying  and sharing knowing  the universe is what got people into trouble  (with God) in the first place.


The “believing ” part of science is not about the knowledge but about the “process of knowing” or methodology. As an increase  in scientific knowledge  always increases  the capabilities of our sensual experiences, this methodology  means that scientific  knowledge  will always change.

This is different than S. Hawking says —I have  a cassette of lectures and some books—  regarding  knowing the universe, while philosophy was ahead of science, now science  is ahead of philosophy and would be until science knows  “every” “thing” about the universe and that end was foreseeable to Hawking,

I do not agree him, but then why should I bother my self with this issue, who is he compared to me . . .


I am just too busy looking at the world and finding myself.


Oh the awkwardness of it all, would you think I am invading someone’s privacy here   for a selfish reason such as to see myself?


I like to stand on the corners of Powell and California where pedestrians, bicycles, cars, trucks, motorcycles, and cable cars approach from all four sides approaching from steep  inclines or declines, and while there are traffic lights, they are blinking, no one who approaches  knows what to do, and are often frozen in place trying to figure it out . . . and the people behind them, who know or even don’t know  what is happening  but are about to find out, are frustrated.

And, there is a little building for an attendant who is there sometimes, some times not, and often when he was there—and I was there— he parked his blue BMW in a spot on the corner which interfered with the traffic flow often forcing two-lane traffic into one lane.


Do you think I look for something which I can never have? Or something I had and lost?  Maybe I was not capable of dealing with the situation?  allowed my feelings to control me?  or was just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Sometimes is just  enough to not confuse me with my self—someone once said “The ego is the id on horse back.”


My meal finished, one short nap,
then getup for two bowls of tea.
I raise my head, look at the sun,
already declining in the southwest.
|The happy man regrets the swiftness of the days,
the sad man hates the year for dragging,
But the man neither happy or sad
accepts the life given him, long or short.

Po Chu-I  ( March 3,  772- September 8, 846)
Burton Watson translation











Sow, mini-books on Zen?

I would like 
to offer you something,
But in the Daruma Sect
We have nothing at all.

Ikkyu      R.H. Blyth translation

A fun painting by Janney.


So,  many books on Zen?  Can people hear words, or read words, and their life is changed? Does it take a longer or a shorter time?

There was a constant rain when we walked along the Alameda Creek levee, you can find something special about walking in the rain;  I like the sounds of falling rain echoing off  the low clouds . . .


There are so many books about all kinds things, you can find solutions for all of the personal or political problems in the world in books.

Here in Fremont it doesn’t rain much, mostly its north of San Francisco that gets the heavy rain—not likeNew England where it can rain all day, and maybe two or three days more— but it can be grey all day, or just as likely gray in the morning and then the  clouds burn off or move away, and it becomes sunny, even when its raining north of San Francisco. 


What is raining? “Its” is raining? Is “its” the “weather”? For all of the things we “understand” sometimes words are used to express things even when we do not understand the basic assumptions surrounding the words; we know we do not understand  the basic assumptions surrounding the words;  and we know we do not understand  the basic assumptions surrounding the words we get into a discussion  about we do not understand the basic assumptions surrounding the words, it goes nowhere.

Lines, shapes  and colors of a small neighborhood business in Asakusa. Japan has many corporations but it also has many small businesses and a very competitive  small business and consumer market. 


Its raining, what is the “its”, the sky? the clouds? the earth? . . . a process which we can describe in many different ways ranging from poetic to scientific and yet the basic  message is if we go outside we are going to get wet.

Telegraph Hill San Francisco


The word “its” enables us to communicate important, or maybe not so important, spoken or written information without getting into a philosophical discussion. Implicit in words is the willingness people have to compromise, kind of an implied  contract, to get along with each other

Feeling alone in a group with a deeply held shared feeling? SDS Days of Rage, Chicago 1989. Most college students involved with SDS were not supporters of the Weathermen but outside of the war issue, were more concerned with increasing on-campus student participation in matters of their personal and academic lives.


North Scituate Beach, maybe a mother and son relationship. Do you think this kid feels as lonely as the young man in the above image?


Kids will be curiously serious when they are young,  as we grow older we fit into society, making what compromises we can make to get things we want ?

A summer bible school in a rural New England town, about 1970


We become more concerned with our self  . . 


With a photograph over time you can see changes, not in the photograph but in your own eyes, how you see the person and you say to yourself “I understand better, why could Not see it then, it was right in front of me” but photographs are  often too late.


Central Square towards the river and Western Ave, maybe Green Street or the next block down, circa 1970. 


San Francisco, maybe here I might pass Sam Spade walking in the opposite direction or maybe behind me. 


Pottery may be like zen—or zen is like pottery — you see it, you like it, you buy it, you enjoy using it, you break it . . . and you get another one.

Hagi is special, its very porous and as you use it the color changes—it remembers an every little something from an every serving of tea.


The six  old  “folk kilns” of Japan, “Nihon Rokkoyo,” includes bizen and shigaraki. Both use an ash glaze. “Folk” may be the translation, but in Japanese its different than how we think of folk craft in the US.

One difference is that “tradition” is important whereas in the US  “creativity”  and “personal expression” are important. You can see bizen, shigaraki, oribe, shino, made today and 300 years ago and feel the tradition. There is still individual expression, creativity, uniqueness of the potter, but without thinking you know its bizen, oribe, tamba etc.

 Feeling the rough texture of shigaraki ,
the rough smooth texture of bizen
 makes the sake taste better.


Repeating an image of my shadow (which includes the camera) I made blanket  patterns . .  .


They are like design exercises, making illusions


Trying to understand why something wats to be something its not


Can people actually learn from books? make ourselves better? enjoy ourselves?  make the world a better place? enjoy the world?  Find God? So many books on this earth, so many authors, and increasingly fewer book stores which were often just as fun, or even more fun, than the books.

Early morning in Maine


I like to hold books in my hand, see the covers, feel the type, and remember what I read.

I only remembered seeing this place, the house and the barn were not quite inline,  years later I made a sketch.


The mind of man is without a sound
Without odour;
He who answers when called
Is nothing but a thief.

Ikkyu      R.H. Blyth translation

The sound of zen calling in the early morning.bwermonttree005Det800




Zen buy me or go home

Long ago I lived in the country,
Knew only sheep and cows. . .
So we headed up the hils, leaping sags and gullies
(Climbing up and down made my muscles stronger),
Through one woods where mist wet my straw coat and hat . . .

But those days are gone—I see them only in a painting.
No one believes me when I say I regret
Not being a herdsman all my life.

Su Tung Po   11th Century    Burton Watson translator

I do not think you have to know what the Chinese characters mean to enjoy this painting  by Janney. Feel the conversation between the green stems reaching out to  the words,  and then the disinterest of the flower. Maybe its jealous, narcissistic or perhaps just looking at something more interesting.


We watch TV,  see movies, talk about the the “Art” of popular visual media using such terms as ratings, box office sales, Oscars, Emmys,  non-commercial, what is the greatest film ever?? Tokyo Monogatori, Bicycle Thief, Pather Panchali, Citizen Kane, Spring in a Small Town, many would have a different list and argue through the night.

Movies and TV shows are written, edited, directed, rehearsed, performed  with actors all working to enable the scene to unfold as directed and then the film or video may again be edited.

People and dogs like to be together.


Then we experience—films we experience vicariously as a changing emotional  experience, but photograph are are a single experience separated from what went before or will come next,

And as well, people like to be with people, doing something together gives them a chance to do be together.


Movies like to think they are stories of real life, and often people talk about how their experience of the film is more or less like real life, critics often make judgements about how similar it is to or different from reality, and people are often unhappy when  the choice of actor does not fit with real life. Still what is being an actor outside of being someone you are not— “All the world’s a stage. . . ”

After school at  the bus stop.


On TV or in a movie everything unfolds so “logically,” always in the right order, at the right moment, on  cue, so to speak, feeling an essence of the human drama.

We stopped for a moment, the lines of the tree jumped out to the foreground, thick lines with thin lines, could they be the know-leaves, something fore the future to tell?


Compare to real people who at best stumble along with in compete sentences or uncommonmeanings   . . . while  when movie people interact  they speak  and act articulately with the appropriate camera angles and lighting  for gestures and facial expressions.

Farmhouse in Minnesota, about 1970


One philosopher suggested people have a “real self” and an “ideal self.”  The “real self” is what we do and the “ideal self” is what we think we should have done—and mental stability is the ability to find a balance between them.

He thought, centuries ago,  the standard for the “ideal self” came from the ideas of the Church. Later another said it was not just the ideas of the Church but it was people created  ideas that contributed to the concept of  “real self.

Old house in Maine, circa 1970. When I see  a deserted house I wonder about the people who lived there, in this case I met a  man  whose mother grew up in this house.


And as ideas change, even when we “improve our behaviour closer to the standard” the standard also moves, maintaining the spread by reverting to the mean. We are stuck in our “real self” but want to behave like our  “ideal self,”  generally never can and when we  do   its a  fleeting moment as the accomplishment just leads to a higher benchmark.

Generally the utopian belief is we can make the two into One or at least diffuse the differences while increasing toleration enough to live in peace.

The government paints the word “STOP” on the street, there are a small finite number of businesses which provide the stencil to meet specific standards, so these images share a common visual origin. Here is the “top of the “O” in STOP.“  Time is its own artist.


But what happens when you are in a real life similar situation as you identity with in a movie, does it come off so smoothly? No,  It often does not unfold the same as the movie.  While the scene you are watching feels real, often the screens preceding and following  seem like chance.

Guinomi are “One-Gulp” containers for drinking sake. Perhaps that is Hotel and Daruma on the top corners . . . These are all Japanese made except for the blue translucent by Gary Holt of Berkeley 5th row, 4th column. bizen, ekaratsu, hagi, ki-seto, kuro oribe mashiko, oribe, setokuro,  shigaraki shino,  and one  ceder  with a couple of kyo-yaki.


The whole thing is contrived, we all know that and we like the entertainment.

But still we are constantly exposed to TV and film— how does this experience contribute to our expectations of behaviors?

The Mies Davis album “Kind of Blue” is a classic, I never learned the titles of the songs, probably because there are no lyrics, but after decades,  upon hearing I immediately recognize any song from the album.

Indigo is found around the world and from ancient times has been used in textiles, row 4, column 3, is an old piece of kasuri (Japanese ikat) and row 6, column 3, is shibori  and  some blue porcelain and Levi.s


Do we expect ourself or others to behave like people in films? Do we judge ourselves or others when we or they do, or do not?

Following are some images from an essay, circa 1970


The photograph is different from film. In a film when we see a frame  we “know” what went on before and what happens after, but a photograph is just a moment in time, we do not even know what is going on outside of the image at the same moment as the photograph.

Two  young people  moved to a rural  setting, 


I wonder if I like my photographs of people better than I like the people in them ?—That is a rhetorical question. Photographs do not require anything from me to get along with them, they do not say things that hurt me, but when I like the image . . .

I liked the wood background . . .


they  make me feel good.

That seems very selfish of me or even creepy—making a photograph of people so so I can control the relationship to get the good part without having the bad parts— a photograph does not make relationship requirements on me to feel good . . .it does not feel anything all, its a one way relationship.

on the side of the house, 


Or maybe its a sign of something very lacking in my character or in my life.And yet more and more pole around the world are making photographs.

encasing the window, 


McLuhan wrote about two women who meet on a street, one pushing a carriage with her baby. They stop, one woman remarks “Your baby is beautiful !”and the mother responds “Oh but you should see the photograph!”

and reaching a resolution. visual art creates a tension and resolves it.


When there was no popular electronic media people read printed novels and short stories most of which had no comprehensive visual image, the reader created it—any one can be the hero,  lover or the loved one, just for the price of being able to read.

During my life with my mother her name was Lynn, but to her school age friends she was  Rosie, short for there  more formal Rosamonde.  I never met her school age friends until I was an adult and it was an interesting feeling to experience these strangers being so intimate with my mother.

This is the side of a train track, Union Square, behind city hall in Somerville, circa 1970,  and Lynn could be a stop on the line or an attempt to communicate with someone.


But with TV and film, in order for the story to be “convincing” the images are not the personal hopes and dreams of “any” reader as they are when words are read in the comfort of your home, but common idealized  visually expressed stereotypes.

The dog sits, a man plays and a woman walks by, an every day story 


When we read the book we experience ourselves being the hero, but when we see the film  having the same feeling requires many people to deny who they are unreal life. Where the book experience  was an escape into, the movie experience is an escape out of.

Does the answer or the questions come first? Does it matter?  What if the monk asked “Mu!” and Joshu answered “A whole in the head.”


What is the influence of electronic media in the socialization process? Do we hold ourselves to an artificial standard set by how we see  people behave  on TV and in movies?

I wish my life was non-stop Hollywood movie show
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain
And celluloid heroes never really die
“Celluloid Hero”    Kinks song     lyrics by Ray Davies

For years there was a shop on Grant Street, Market side of California, selling quality Chinese antiques and I used to take visitors there because the experience was more personal. This painting hung on the wall for many visits, They feel so cold.


Am eye fore zen now

When you wake up in bed. sit up dangling your legs over the side off the edge of the bed, stand up, AND if you stood up on the floor and it were to give out, you—your body—without thinking, would respond.

Bidders at a farm auction, Maine circa 1970; are they thinking about a friend now past away, or perhaps gone bankrupt? 


You would react automatically, without thinking, and hopefully, in protective manner. Thinking about it would come later, even if its a second later, the “what” we call thinking is post-response but the response is automatic; instinctual; natural; unconscious, reflexive; etc.

A woman,  a dog, a car seat  for a couch  and a shake house. about 1972.


When light is reflected, it enters the eye, and the eye “edits the image to a language the brain understands” defining the experience. What the eye sees and what the brain sees are not necessarily the same things. But in a flash, the stimulus reaches the brain where it is categorized and defined, but always later.

The shapes and colors have their own right to be here, and not be forced to be some words in my mind 


Metaphorically  speaking, design and color classes in art school teach seeing the image the eye sees and not the image the brain sees.

What is the most logical color for yesterday? What is the least common sound for tomorrow?


Photoshop skills are for sale and I wonder Linwood Dunn what have you done?  now at the corner of Vine Street and Fountain Avenue in Hollywood.

A postcard handed to me at an “arts & craft festival,”  there was actually a booth  promoting this product, but why get a tattoo if you did not what people to see it? (Note: This original image is not mine and unless stated otherwise any images on this blog were created by me.)


Artificial lines drawn in the dirt give you the right to kill other people?  When survival becomes difficult,  for over  400,000 years people have been migrating around the Earth searching forgather place tomake  survival—this is normal behavour, this is normative behavour, this is human behavour.

Standing on someone’s Art 


Nation states, geo -political entities, with their lines drawn in the in the dirt ready to kill—scarce resources or failing  “leadership,” well its not really leadership if its failing.

War is mainly about killing innocent people and their families and destroying their homes. Before countries —Thirty Years War ?—kings did not have at their immediate disposal  tax payer funded armies legally required to do the  bidding of any demagogue that can get  devotees  excited about killing  . . .

(These images are visual metaphors and not political statements)  


Geo-political entities, countries—not yet  400 years since the treaty of Westphalia —and lines in the dirt have come to mean being on one side of the line gives you the right to murder anyone who steps across from the other side.

It seems we are all here on this earth, we all have a right to a place in the sun and a responsibility to behave towards others respecting those rights, and there is no where to go to start anew.

I like books, Children of China, published 1937.  Its not whether the images may seem to express certain overtones, but its the shadow on the faces that interests me, printed on a very porous medium , cover hand painted photograph courtesy of  Mrs. Branson De Cou.

childChina001.pngCertainly that responsibility means do not enable demagogues with political power.

And yet there are always those with no integrity, no ethics, no principles who snake their way into the politic using what passes for democracy to unleash  the intolerance of hate for their personal agenda.

Or maybe its  simply in the color orange, San Francisco financial district 


Begging for peace standing on the edge of the road to world war, maybe these demagogues think they can harness the expressions of their hate, keep the killing inside their national boundaries . . .

Slow talk  exposed on my wall 


It will come spilling out.

There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.

Whens zens pens ends and the world begins . . .


Hope is not for the great, or the saviors, or the best and the brightest, its in the everyday life that goes on until its gone.

Everyday most people do things which makes the world a better place, its a center balance to those who use political power to pursue their own ends at the expense of human beings.

Madonna and child, they will be living after I am dead.


Photographic images, which to an art director express a vicarious human feeling create in us stereo types defining  our desires for things missing in our lives.

 Shibuya  posters and graffiti  make a wall hiding  future construction . . .


I would like to be the person in the photograph, and not the person I am, or  I was, or I  will become . . .

Pretty much through my life I shaved in the shower—Thanks to advertising, in high school I saw an ad on TV   which claimed their brand of shaving cream was almost as good as shaving int he shower so I tried it and never stopped — and I cut my own hair—not very stylish but being  stylish was something which was  only  in my dreams.


but then today I have felt something new may come, its exciting and scary, I wonder whether it will destroy everything I have now, take me to a new place in my life or just another ride around in a circle . . .

Motionlessness in motion . . .


I guess photographs have always provided something stable in my life . . .

This is a place I never got tired of seeing, a field hiding a sudden drop in the land  with a  two story building, trees and sky peering over the edge welcoming me home.


Sariputra, the emptiness character of all dharmas,
neither arises nor ceases, is neither pure nor impure, and
neither increases nor decreases.
Heart Sutra

At most know one tires of the bard.