On Kung Fu

On Kung Fu:

I once had a professor, back in my days as a philosophy student, who asked me how anyone could claim both to be a Buddhist, and also a fighting man. As I recall my answer, it was something like: a Buddhist who is a fighting man makes no secret about it, and seeks no direct conflict. It's thus not his fault if someone else attacks him and gets hurt, in the same way that it's not a sword's fault if a fool should throw himself upon it.

That long-past discussion was brought to mind by this article on kung fu and its place in the Chan tradition. Chan Buddhism, which is the Chinese ancestor of Zen Buddhism, is also the progenitor of the kung fu systems of martial arts. Now, in San Francisco, we have an earnest American Buddhist trying to bring the Chan tradition here -- but the Chinese disciple he was sent by the main temple is more of a fighter than a priest.



We haven't had any horse stories here in a while. We got a new horse in yesterday, a beautiful fleabitten grey Thoroughbred named D'Artagnan. I haven't gotten any photos of him yet, but will.

We had several people out at the farm wanting a trail ride this morning, so the farm's owner asked me to lead them out. "You can try D'artagnan!" she said brightly.

"What can you tell me about him?" I asked.

"Well, he sometimes bucks if you try to turn right," she replied.

"We may need to turn right on the trail," I mentioned.

She shrugged. "Racehorses are like that," she said. "They spend their whole lives turning left."

"Racehorse," I said without enthusiasm.

"Ex-racehorse," she answered. "I'll lunge him for you."

So I'm watching the horse being lunged while I get my kit together, and he's bucking and kicking up a storm. "Seems like an energetic fellow," I said.

"He won't buck under saddle," she promised.

"He's wearing a saddle right now," I pointed out.

She coughed. "I mean, once you're in the saddle."

So, off we went. He was a great horse. He didn't like to go right, as she noted, but the only reason I know was that he had a much harder mouth on the right. He may be an "ex-racehorse," but he's got lots of spirit and wants to go. I was leading a party of fairly green riders, so we were just taking a relaxing walk, but I could feel that he wanted to push out. The woman riding behind me was on a horse named Bella, who is also hot to trot.

Then, coming up a hill, D'Artagnan walked under a dead branch that stretched across the trail. I guess he didn't see it, but it was low enough I couldn't duck it. It broke against my body, thick enough that it made a huge CRACK!

Guess it sounded like a starting gun.

That horse took off from a start to a dead run, just like a racehorse should. Bella came right on behind him.

I grabbed the reigns and pulled back and in hard, with a sharp "Ho!" I didn't expect it to matter at all, though, with Bella running right behind him, close enough that he could feel her breath on his hip. Horses are herd animals, after all, and when they get going together they feed off each other. I figured it'd be a ride before I'd be able to get him under control.

He dropped out of the run and back to a walk without the slightest complaint. Horse didn't run three steps. He did just what he was supposed to do.

Later, back at the barn, and was telling the owner about him. The limb had been the only problem, I said, but I was impressed with how responsive he was with another horse right there, pushing hard.

She smiled. "There are some things," she said, "that racehorses are used to."

Donkey Pic

Keep His Head Up, Son:

I guess the Palestinians have a lot of troubles. I can't do anything about those Israelis, but the donkey problem can be solved.

A Palestinian boy tries to control his donkey in the village of Jabel Mukaber in east Jerusalem, Wednesday, May 9, 2007. The Palestinian economy can't recover unless Israel dismantles a network of obstacles that has carved up the West Bank into a dozen enclaves and restricted Palestinian access to more than half the territory, the World Bank said in an exceptionally harsh report Wednesday. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Not exactly sure how those troubles are related, though.


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:

I know the Washington Times isn't always fair, but... surely this is a joke? "Dems: Use intelligence funds to study [global] warming."

A) Does anyone think that there is a scarcity of funds to study global warming? In academic circles, including "global warming" or "carbon" in your proposal is the best way to ensure you get the grant you wanted.

B) Does anyone think our intelligence systems are in such good shape that we can afford distractions?

I mean, if Congress really wants to devote funds to studying the issue, that's fine. But surely the intelligence budget isn't the place to go for the funds; and surely the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has more pressing oversight duties.

H/t: Cassidy.

A Crime Prevented

A Crime that Tried to Happen:

Blogger Machine Dreamer, a disabled gentleman, had a home invasion. The robber came knowing he was visibly home, came with a truck to take away all of his things, and came right through the door in spite of the dog barking loudly on the other side.

Anyone relying on a dog to protect them, take note.

I noticed a Budget rental truck, a 16 footer cube-van coming down the road towards my cul de sac. It seemed to be looking for an address but it stopped at my drive and began nosing in.

It now had my complete attention.

It began to climb my drive and I was alarmed to note the lack of license plates or unit number markings. I also noted that it was driven by a black fellow in his twenties with dark glasses whom I had not previously made the aquaintence of....

My main floor is sort of "U" shaped and I was on one end looking out my window when the dog began earning her keep at the other end where the door to the garage is located.

Then there was a knock on that door. It was in my mind that there was still a small chance this was not a home invasion.


I heard to doorknob turn, I heard the door scrape across the carpet and the dog's barking take on a hysterical note.
What bothers him most about the episode was that someone must have tipped this guy off. Someone he knows -- a pizza deliveryman, perhaps -- found a criminal and told him that this guy, disabled, lived alone in a house that had some expensive electronics.

The story has a happy ending, though. Among his several valuable possessions, he had one priceless tool at hand.

H/t: Kim.

Dix Plot

The Dix Plot:

I have to admit that, this time, Wonkette hits the tone just right:

Ok. So, the plot was: six dudes from New Jersey buy some guns and storm Fort Dix. The Fort Dix that is full of lots and lots of Army reservists with way, way more guns. And, like, extensive military training and s***. Yes, thank god these terrorists have been caught and locked up before they could be killed within minutes of deciding to carry out the dumbest ****ing terrorist plot we’ve ever heard of.
Yeah, that would have worked out great. But, now they can live at taxpayer expense for the rest of their lives. Maybe that's the real plan: "If enough of us get caught, we'll bankrupt the Great Satan."


VE Day:

Bthun sends a newsreel from 62 years ago. The reel of the British forces linking up with the Russians is classic:

Russian Soldier, shaking British soldier's hand: (*Unintelligible Speech*)

First British Soldier to Russian Soldier: "Ah!"

Second British Soldier to First British Soldier: "What does that mean?"

First British Soldier to Second British Soldier: "How do I know?"

Third British Soldier to Russian Soldier: "Well, all of the best old man!"

These newsreels were straight-out pro-government propaganda, telling the populace of the glories of the state. To what degree did these images enslave the British mind to the government?

That is easily answered. Within two months, victorious war leader Winston Churchill was voted out of office by the British electorate.

My Rifle

"My Rifle"

This is my rifle, the man says, and then he tells you why. Kim du Toit noticed, and added:

Change a few of the words, and the man could be talking about a car, or a machine tool.... Real Men know all too well what the Wrangler is talking about.
That's true: the simple joy of working with a machine, making it function, having it do just what you want -- that is obvious in the man's words.

There is more than that, though. Like all the best technology, this machine is for something. If you love a tractor, it's because it helps you feed your family, to clear and maintain and master the land. The rifle, too, has a job. Here's how the gentleman describes that job:
This is the rifle I'll grab if I ever have need of a longarm in a place other than a rifle range. This is the rifle that stands by to defend me and mine if necessary. This is the rifle that marks my personal line in the sand, the line that none who come looking for trouble shall pass with impunity.
That assertion is at the core of heroic philosophy, whether that expressed by Greeks or Norsemen or those Pakistani tribemen we were talking about a few weeks ago. "This land is mine, these people are mine, I shall keep them safe, none shall harm them while I live."

There are well-educated men who say that this is madness:
Some years ago, the distinguished historian Richard Hofstadter told me that, after a lifetime of studying American culture, what he found most deeply troubling was our country's inability to come to terms with the gun — which in turn strongly affected our domestic and international attitudes. Emotions of extreme attachment to and even sacralization of the gun pervade American society.... Much has been said, with considerable truth, about the role of the frontier in bringing about this psychological condition. I would go further and suggest that American society, in the absence of an encompassing and stable traditional culture, has embraced the gun as a substitute for that absence, and created a vast cultural ideology we can call "gunism." Paradoxically, this highly destabilizing object became viewed as a baseline and an icon that could somehow sustain us in a new form of nontraditional society. That new society was to be democratic and egalitarian, so that the gun could be both an "equalizer," as it is sometimes known, and also a solution to various social problems.
That is to misread the nature of the thing entirely. The importance of the rifle here isn't about "the absence of an encompassing and stable traditional culture," but the mark of one. A culture that lacks this value will not survive. Violence does not exist on the frontier alone, but pervades the world. If peace and civilization are to exist, men must defend them. A culture that has survived understands it entirely.

You cannot name the culture that has not sacralized its weapons -- that has not decorated them, or named them, or built rituals around them. Traditional American society is the same as any other traditional society. Those who view this as strange are the ones who are cut off from their roots. They are the ones who have chosen to walk away from what their grandfathers believed.

America has come "to terms" with the gun, long ago. Our gentleman from Tennessee knows everything about his rifle -- both how it works, and what it is for, and what it is not. His words have echoes in the heroic poetry of every nation.

It is others who do not understand: he understands perfectly.

French Vote

French Vote, Sarkozy Wins!

Well, actually the voting is far from over. That's just how I'd gamble if I were inclined to gamble on things. I don't have much to go on, except this BBC article. They interviewed voters at one precinct and labeled the story "French voters bucking trends," so I figure I'm also justified in drawing conclusions about the whole race based on the same single data set.

Only three pro-Sarkozy voters were encountered by the BBC, two women pensioners and a young professional, who were used to explain that "the centre-right candidate [Sarkozy] does have his supporters... both among older residents and the young professionals[.]" The two pro-Sarkozy speakers said he "does not change his opinion all the time" and has a program that is "coherent" and "properly costed."

The other voter said that Sarkozy "stands for reform" and "will take on public sector workers" whose unions have prevented that reform.

All the rest of the speakers are voting for his opponent, Ms. Royal. Their reasons for preferring her policies?

A) "I don't want Sarkozy, his social ideal is America.... France is not a violent society like the US."

B) "Sarkozy speaks well -- but his unspoken message is frightening. His ideas are racist."

C) "Segolene [Royal]'s policies are much more tolerant and humane than Sarkozy's."

D) Sarkozy is "brutal."

E) Sarkozy is "a sleek version" of Jean-Marie Le Pen (who leads France's largest far-right party, Le Front National).

F) "Sarkozy is too radical."

G) "Sarkozy is too close to big money, and it's about time we had a woman president."

That last statement is the only positive reason articulated for voting for Ms. Royal. Everyone else only cites reasons for voting against Sarkozy -- his racism, his radicalism, his unspoken violence, his connections to big money, that he likes America.

If we were to draw trends from this one data set (like the BBC), we'd say: the election is all about Sarkozy. His supporters are voting for him; his opponents are voting against him. Royal's policies and thoughts just don't seem to make an appearance, even among her strongest supporters.

Actually, of course, I've been following the election more broadly; but the overall trends do seem to be the same. Royal's last rallying message to her supporters was that a Sarkozy win would be dangerous and "could trigger violence and brutality across the country." Even for her, at the last, the election was all about him.