Friday, December 31, 2010

Adieu 2010

What a year, a lemon among lemons.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Learning to swim

A wise Mahayana take on the famous image of Buddhist teachings and practices as a raft (I hadn't realized before how Hinayana/Theravada the image is, or what a nirvana is samsara deconstruction of it might look like):

When we study Buddhism, we learn about the view and the meditation as supports for encouraging us to let go of ego and just be with things as they are. ...
These supports are often likened to a raft. You need the raft to cross the river, to get to the other side; when you get over there, you leave the raft behind. That’s an interesting image, but in experience it’s more like the raft gives out on you in the middle of the river and you never really get to solid ground. This is what is meant by becoming a child of illusion.
Pema Chödrön, Start Where Your Are:
A Guide to Compassionate Living
(Boston: Shambhala, 2003 [1994]), 33-34

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Brief mission

Taking advantage of the nice weather, we went up today to see Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, "King of the Missions," near Oceanside. Set up in 1798, this is the 18th of the 21 California missions which stretch from San Diego up to Sonoma. (Actually, as this map from an Arqueología Mexicana I got in Tijuana shows, the 21 Franciscan missions of "Alta California" were latecomers to a series which began in 1683 and included 61 missions in all, most Jesuit and Dominican.) While a relative latecomer, this mission has seen its share of history - though little of it as a mission. Center of a self-supporting agricultural community of as many as 3000 Native Americans (named after the mission Luiseños) supervised (...) by European Friars, it was secularized a dozen years after Mexican independence in 1833 and sold (the land which was to have been restored to the Luiseños was taken by European settlers), occupied by American soldiers from 1846 to 1852, and restored to the Catholic Church by presidential order (Mr. Lincoln!) in 1865. It remained a picturesque ruin until reconsecration in 1893 by a Father O'Keefe, who worked with a community of Franciscans uprooted and relocated from Zacatecas (in Mexico) to rebuild it. After a stint as a college it now accompanies a parish, houses a retreat center, and looks mutely out over what was once a verdant valley but is now a highway garlanded with strip malls and business parks; the Marines' Camp Pendleton starts just to its north. Whew. (This rain-kissed succulent was in the garden.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

(Meanwhile, back in Brooklyn,

they've had a little snow: picture above by my ex-student D. Below a gorgeous pic from the Times of snowy windswept Brooklyn, seen from Manhattan's East Side. Once it was known as the "City of Churches."


Looking like the remains of marine monsters, bull kelp uprooted and rolled into skeins by rough surf. It's rarely one sees even one entire stalk of this variety, more common in the Pacific Northwest than down here in SoCal, dozens of feet long from its root to the 2-4 foot gas bladder.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Family resemblances

Enjoying the holidays with my parents, and my mother's sister from Madrid and her husband - two of my favorite relations. It's their first trips out here in 28 years and ever, respectively.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

This year's nativity scene.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The kids are all right

I hope this video goes viral! (If Blogger won't show you the whole frame, just click the video title "The Christmas Story (HD version)" below, and it'll take you to the Youtube page where you can watch it full-screen.)

It's the work of the Anglican congregation of St. Paul's in Auckland, NZ. For a holiday story closer to home, check out this charming tale about some married folk in Chelsea. It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Land art

The rains have turned our familiar Torre Pines beach into an art studio.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Saw the ocean today - briefly - during a pause between downpours. In the pretty much uninterrupted rain of the last 5 days, the total annual precipitation at TPSR has nearly tripled - though it's still below average!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New tricks for old dogs

You might have noticed the article in Friday's Times, part of a series on the digitalization of the humanities, on a new Google-sponsored project to chart the frequency of the use of words in 500 billion words of scanned texts. The assorted scientists and mathematicians involved in the project think a whole new kind of knowledge will be yielded by this data. But is it data? (You may remember the lampooning field day I had when Google let us do word frequencies in all recent internet posts; I think I was on to something beautiful.) Perhaps because of the civilizing effect of my mathematician friend J, I've tried this time to be more collegial. Could one learn something here? Imagine a new kind of humanistic knowledge gleaned digitally from old tomes? (But don't call it culturomics.) The rise and fall of modish words and idioms, at least... I recalled one of my students' recent (mis)use of a perhaps pertinent proverb: "you can always teach an old dog new tricks," he said. You can? Since when?! One could certainly imagine someone inverting for effect. And maybe to someone born in 1992, the retrainability of old dogs is old hat (thank goodness if so!). So perhaps, I thought, the proverb has flipped in meaning?! I used the new google utility, somewhat hampered by a five-word phrase limit. The results (American rather more than British) are suggestive. Sort of. If only in the US, the teachability of old dogs would seem to have been an open question since the 1950s. Resilient culture-forming Baby Boomers may be behind the proverb flip.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rain in southern California

Another rainy December in Southern California... By the end of this one (full color detail below!) the barrel cactuses should be full to bursting!