In the well of understanding

In the well of understanding

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Moment of Reflection - Opposition

To curse the darkness is to reject the light,
to deny the pain is to shun the pleasure,
to refuse the moment of silence is to avoid speaking wisdom,
to ignore blindness is to vacate sight,
for we live in the defined and the undefined,
each touching the other and imparting meaning

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Commentary on the nature of the Divine

Divinity is the sum total of all things. Religions celebrate an aspect, and sometimes a multiplicity of representations but the Divine surpasses all and encompasses all.

It is neither male nor female but both inextricably bound. Even where the feminine has been stripped from faiths some unspoken, innate yearning trickles in the cracks and resurrects it; for yang cannot exist without yin. Thus, Christianity ennobles both Marys, mother and whore, and Judaism is abutted by the Shekinah. The Sufis have their Layla, the feminine night which manifests the Divine Reality without borders, to accompany the questing Majnun, he not of the normal mind. They are made whole as One and together are the Divine. Allah, the One of Islam, is equally referred to as Huwa (He) and Hiya (She).

When we see others as separate from Self is the moment we step away from seeing the Divine and outside the boundaries of Truth. To recoil from another is to recoil from yourself. Embrace the world and embrace yourself: because you are a reflection of the Divine.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Movie Review: Brideshead Revisited, Neither a Bride nor Quite Ahead

Make sure to have your tweed garments at the ready as you enter the upper crust world of Brideshead Revisited. It is exactly this entry point that the young protagonist emerges into that milieu, bemused and bewildered. Certainly, Charles Ryder (played ostensibly by Matthew Goode) has ambitions which become a bit more naked as the film unfolds; but that appears to be the single, one note emotion the character displays throughout. Ryder, even in the passionate atmosphere of Venice on holiday, spectacularly is incapable of emoting beyond the representations of class status and social standing. It is not so much that he rails against them; rather, it is the fruitless quest to become cozy within these grand halls of cultured esteem which eludes his meager efforts. The very scantiness of his attempts towards respectability ("I am an artist studying history") are consistently waylaid by his at the beck-and-call nature ("I have friend who is gravely injured.") He cannot quite carry the air of being above it all ("I am an atheist") and quite like a lapdog is ever yapping at the heels of English propriety, even when formally he has been elided from the august personages and sent packing with his tail tucked between his legs. Ryder is a dim-witted escape artist barely competent to avoid the trap of his quondam existence and clearly uncertain as to where he would like stage his next attraction. The consummate realization of ambition lacking drive: he is drawn to Brideshead as a holy grail which will offer him deliverance from the mundane, never recognizing that the mediocrity lies internally and will frustrate his every attempt.

Hayley Atwell as Julia Flyte dovetails nicely with Ryder in that she too is a sterile soul casting airs of superior mien to obfuscate from the viewer the lost little girl who can't live without the restrictions imposed. That she is a coward is revealed early on and grows in fevered pitch as the story accelerates through time. Her anger in Venice, her listless marriage to an American and her flouncing reentry into Ryder's life years later all are paper-thin matryoshkas, concealing the rags belied by the princess-image evocation.

Emma Thompson's impeccable Lady Marchmain is the embodiment of Catholic hauteur, matronly control and sheer domineering bitchiness sveltely encased in white gloves. Edward Ryder, Charles' father (played by Patrick Malahide), is totally devoid of feeling for his son but ardent in his devotion to other pursuits. Ben Whishaw, Lord Sebastian Flyte, is one of the more nuanced, if minor, characters. He oscillates between the carefree sprightliness of gay romanticism, guilt-ridden Catholic child and hopeless addict of alcohol but does so believably. Another gem of a performance steeped with feeling, albeit her moments on screen are few, is handed down by Greta Scacchi as Cara, the Italian mistress of Mr, Marchmain, the estranged husband of Lady Marchmain. It is a tell that the supposedly flatter personalities are by far richly rounder than the principals. Though their elliptical orbit is circumscribed, these lesser beings paint more vibrantly on the canvas that one almost forgets about Charles and Julia. The real love and loss is Sebastian's and his development and saga frame a more interesting tale beside that of the haphazard jerks of Ryder's world. And the one glimmer of expectation at the offset is the ambiguous dance between Lord Flyte and Ryder which hints that Charles might be capable of a relationship with a man.

The movie is a beautiful set of scenes but lacks cohesive ties between the moments of action sufficient to convince that it is a whole and complete product. Waugh's quips and gift for dialog add flair but the directors, in paring away her ample time-line, simultaneously blur the edges of the story. There is no bride in waiting: more like A Rose for Ms. Emily dramatized on the steps of the Old Empire, drawing on the scraps of the miniseries popularized by Jeremy Irons but adding nothing new to the pot and possibly subtracting meaningful human interaction for the prettiness of effect.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cooking: Innovation with bananas

Ok. It is Sunday afternoon and you get a call from a friend accepting your earlier offer of a home-cooked dinner and a night out at the movies afterwards. You were prepared for the main aspects of the meal but have given no thought to dessert, not even an iota of a minuscule molecule of a thought. This is a rather new acquaintance and you don't run the risk of disappointing. Panic is a natural avenue but a hopeless journey indubitably.

You hunt about and happen on two bananas, the remains of your protein shake fruit menagerie for the week. Your mind spins; you dive inward, searching for taste profiles which may be your salvation. There is no quick recipe you can pluck from the past. However, you are resourceful and have a good palate. So it is time to invent; Desperation really is the mother of innovation.

From the cabinet you take honey, cinnamon and nutmeg. From the liquor cache, Meyer's Dark Rum and Smirnoff's Vanilla Twist Vodka present themselves. You slice the bananas in perfect halves, place in a shallow baking dish, and retrieve organic cane sugar from the top of the refrigerator. Mixing one tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, you sprinkle this over the banana halves. In a saucepan 1/2 cup of honey, 1/8 cup of rum and 1/16 cup of vanilla vodka are combined and heated. Taking a bit of sweet butter and slicing it into cubes, these are arranged on the halves. When the sauce in the pan begins to slightly boil, it is poured over the halves and baked in the oven at 350 F for 13 minutes, until they are golden brown.

And they are divine! An excellent complement to the dark chocolate brownies with which your guest surprises you. Now you wish you had just a few more overly ripe bananas to soak in that auric nectar.

Quillsby's Quip of the Day

Says Sable Quillsby, "Americans face a great dilemma in the next election. The choice is between two pretenders with the principal difference between them not being age or race; but the unmitigated zeal of one investing himself with the divine right of maverick claimants to act as benevolent dictators while the other is angling constantly for the priestly investiture of that most pernicious faith - Popularity - to rebuff the appearance of there being no there there. Donald Duck might be a more credible candidate for the American reality but I suppose these two are perfect specimens of the American dream!."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Response and Compliment to Baudelaire

In his Correspondences, Baudelaire gives nature an intelligence and empathy that embraces all of creation. Man is shown as part of this grand opus but moves through it unaware of his intermingling and engagement with the whole, on an unremitting and constant rhythm. The metaphysical power of Baudelaire's words imbues the reader with a sense of being in a magical arbor, where time is slowed and one may observe as if from the shadows. And perhaps man still lives in those shadows. I respond with my "modern" perspective and turn the view on its head to see what else may be plumbed from the depths:


Amidst the arms of gloaming stillness,
Suckling sweet dew from vestigial remains
Sight, sound and sensuality mingle,
A carousing trinity, dimly perceived

In their bright license, by the shadow-Man

Where once a shade was indistinct,
Indiscernible from twilight and radiance,
Caliginous robes, now, betray presence
Dressed without virile perspicuity,
Raiment devoid of colors, tang and coolness

Like thread through cloth, Shadow infuses
and is infused by the fabric-land, sea, air
Lives in the eclipse, and is noted by the stars,
Travels aromatic paths unhindered, oblivious
of the eleemosynary blessing of kindred souls

Green as the rind of melons, the arbor encloses
Inumbrates the shade, wrapping and overhanging
Its lively borders with the citrus balm of oranges,
Trilling dulcet fragrances, sighing scents
And feathery perfumes, bathing itself in
The redolent memories of shadow-children
who came before and breathed in unison
With the celestial and the ordinary

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cooking: Simple pleasure with Aglio e Olio

Continuing in the iconoclastic mood from the weekend, I abandoned protein shakes for the day. For breakfast a fruit parfait with granola eased the tension of Monday morning at the office, and a bagel with smoked salmon, tomato and capers satiated the stomach and the soul. A bran muffin with currants and golden raisins for a snack insured the minuscule affair of lunch, a turkey-ham sandwich with grain mustard on a bed of vegetables, would maintain a postprandial fullness. So naturally the question became what to do for dinner?

It is a facile precis to enumerate the variegated types of protein shakes one may craft as a substitute for that end of day meal. Determining on the fly what to create for a dinner, which is healthy and does not result in break-neck haste to descend on the grocery like a starved lion, can be more of an interesting challenge. After stopping at the tailor's to drop the latest bunch of pants requiring alteration due to my shrinking waistline (hooray!), I took stock of what lay in the pantry. Wholegrain pasta from the Italian town of Gragnano, golden garlic from Gilroy (alliteration, nice!), garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil from Napa (the gods take Rachel Ray), organic dried basil, parsley and fresh thyme (Bless local farmers) were the key elements which garnered my attention. In the freezer I recalled that I had some mozzarella left over from the lasagne I had made for friends. Edison must have been working overtime as the light bulb started to flash: Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.

Literally, spaghetti with garlic and olive oil. Humble, timeless fare whose preparation is mostly in the boiling of the pasta. A rather spoony coziness invaded my kitchen and I decide to chronicle this event with photos. The first of which is the top shot of this post.

After breaking the(1 pound dry) pasta into manageable pieces and placing in a mixing bowl, I put water onto boil, adding in 2 teaspoons of garlic salt and a dime of the olive oil to it. (This is not just for effect - salt raises the temperature at which water will boil and thus aids in cooking more intensely). When the gurgle of water sounded, I dropped the pasta in and set about mincing the (6 cloves of) garlic. Eleven minutes later I judged it to be al dente and dumped the pasta into the colander. Rinsing out the pot, half a cup of olive oil was poured in and set back on the burner. Impatiently I waited for the oil to heat and sizzle. Garlic was up next, followed by (a tablespoon of) basil, (1/2 teaspoon) red pepper flakes, (1/4 teaspoon) garlic salt and a hint of cracked black pepper. Within minutes the sweet aroma of the garlic and spices permeated the kitchen and wafted out into the apartment, signaling the moment for the return of the pasta and, unlike Hamlet, I did not hesitate to act. Making sure that all the spaghetti was tossed in the oil-spice mixture everything cooked for another 5 minutes with yours truly adding more salt and pepper to taste. Dishing a sizable quantity into a bowl, I crowned it with a handful of mozzarella (some prefer parmigiano-reggiano) and parsley.

While all this had been going on I had decided I needed some vegetables as well. Oven was preheated to 350 F. I chopped an onion into round slices, and two vine-riped tomatoes as accompaniment. Seasoning them lightly with garlic salt, pepper, parsley, savory and rosemary, I stacked them in a shallow roasting pan, drizzled olive oil over them, topped the onion slices with minced garlic and the tomato slices with sprigs of thyme. During the boiling phase these were roasted with verve and further enhanced the delightful scents running rampant. I even took a photo of this so that you could imitate St. Patrick's Day without garments. LOL!

The culmination was in the dining. All I can say is if it sounds good, it was even better in the tasting. Guess you will just have to try it on your own to see.

Reflection on a moment - Morning

Over the weekend - an atypical one for me - I woke early as usual. But instead of the mad dash to the gym which has become my habitual rhythm, I lingered. Savoring the unrolling of morning hours and appreciating the vagaries of Bay Area weather, I let the enchantment drift over me. Fog shrouded all in sight for some time, and then the bright beacon of sun washed away the gray and filled the world with resplendence. I opened the windows in the living room and kitchen and was greeted by a myriad of sounds - birds trilling, insects buzzing and brisk breezes rattling my blinds. It was a quiet miracle, almost surreal in a way and reminiscent of Monet; the Muse whispered inspiration in my ears:


Whether hurriedly hectic,
consumed in a flurry,
or leisurely paced,
careful, caressing
it is the stage
upon which we enter,
initiate our performance,
and start inexorably
the act we call life

Whether a wobbly, tippling sun,
shaking off flushed excesses
spent in night-time revelry,
or a cloud-strewn, hazy sky,
bracing the trade winds
welcoming equatorial rain
it is the point of emergence
an unfolding of flowers
harbinger of cricket song
the metronome of day

Whether a kitten's plaintive mewl
for milk to break it's fast
or a baby's peevish whine
for mother's warmth and suckling
it is the rebirth of our hopes
proof that nothing is static
change ever-present and continuous
each experience a doorway

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Granola is not just for garanimals

My friends have been pestering me on a regular basis now about simple recipes which I make for myself in the ever evolving quest to transform from the thralldom of geekdom to the superhero status of star jock.

Seriously, the past year has seen me embrace weight lifting as an essential element of my workouts, and because of the expressed goal of fat loss and lean muscle acquisition, I have returned to preparing the majority of my own meals. I am often teased when I show up with protein shakes for caloric consumption, and one colleague at the office has even remarked upon it with emphasis, supplying the adjective ubiquitous. But joshing aside, I do still eat real food.

One the largest challenges when you eat out is that you have no idea how much oil, salt, sugar, ect are being added to anything you may be sampling. And diet is foundational to successful achievement of any program promoting lipolysis (i.e., fat burning). So I have been on a mission to revamp more traditional recipes, recasting them with altered ingredients which result in greater nutrient density while not compromising flavor or taste.

We will start simply with that perennial Berkeley favorite: Granola.


3 1/2 to 4 cups of oat groats or rolled oats
2 cups of nuts (generally I do a cup of one variety and a cup of another variety)
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of allspice optional
1 cup of honey (preferably a hearty one like mesquite dessert)
a pinch of sea salt
2 cups of dried fruit (again mix it up here, use a diversity)
1 cup of dessicated coconut optional
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (specialty ones work well here, such as blood-orange; traditional recipes call for butter instead)

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl toss the oats, nuts, spices and coconut. Using a pan combine honey and olive oil.Put on low heat until honey completely becomes more liquid-like, stirring constantly. Pour contents into the bowl of oats and make sure all the oat mixture gets coated. Place mixture in a big shallow baking pan (or several if you have smaller pans) and bake in the oven for about half an hour or until it turns golden brown and somewhat crispy. Mix in dried food thoroughly and voila! You have a finished product which should last a few day if stored properly (e.g., air-tight container).

Some additions which I enjoy are pumpkin seeds and crystallized ginger. This recipe is infinitely malleable. Feel free to improvise. I sometimes pair the granola with yogurt and a helping hand of fresh fruit for contrast. After all, taste is a matter of personal style. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How can one measure loss

My blog has been noticeably quiet in the last few days. This is not by accident or happenstance but rather it has direct relation to an ominous anniversary - July 17. Last year, as I was embarking on new discoveries of self, my father transitioned from this existence and returned to AllThat Is. One never knows what the loss of a parent can feel like until it occurs; words are inadequate to describe, summarize or even hint at the gaping tear in the fabric of your personal universe. So I have found myself alternating between the impassioned turbulence of resistant emotion and the resignation of muteness. Finally, the Muse touched my brow and expression began to rain forth:


The room is quiet now
silence speaks softly
filling void in space
lone remnant of the chorus
which just a while before
echoed through the house

The bed is empty now
sheets drawn, blankets removed
pillows carefully stacked
on the floor, to the side
headboard covered in black
unused but not dust-laden

The curtains are shuttered now
thin fingers of light grasping
shadow motes which reflect absence
of daylight, shrouding room
in a casement of darkness
a seal to lock away memory

It is hard to believe
Some days past, hours gone
a living soul inhabited
these desolate quarters,
breathed noisily in vacancy,
occupied this hollow of the world