October 11th, 2009


Loved it, but a buck was about right ...

I had a good "dollar store day" yesterday, picking up $102.75 worth of books for $5 ... one of which was this little gem. I was surprised that The Wife was unaware of who Kinky Friedman is, as I had been at least peripherally (I've never been drawn to much exposure to country music) aware of him since the 70's. If you're similarly unfamiliar with Kinky, he's a long-time "satirical" country musician (Kinky Friedman & the Texas Jewboys), an author of a couple of dozen mystery novels and various volumes of social commentary, a columnist for Texas Monthly, and recently a (serious) candidate for the Governorship of Texas. He's close with Bill Clinton, George Bush and Jesse Ventura ... and is pretty much a legend in the right circles.

Anyway, Cowboy Logic: The Wit and Wisdom of Kinky Friedman (and Some of His Friends) is a collection of brief aphorisms from the Cowboy perspective, collected over a number of years. Crediting thirty or so friends, from Willie Nelson to Don Imus (who also contributed the dust jacket photo of Friedman), and from "Captain Midnight" to the aforementioned Gov. Ventura, he is probably most indebted to the classic "cowboy humor" illustrations of Ace Reid, several dozen of which appear throughout the book. Only in a rare handful of cases does he identify what bon mot came from which source, but this is explained in this snippet from the introduction:
This book was fun to put together, ought to be fun to read, and hopefully, will be a financial pleasure. It may seem deceptively simple, but I consider it to be one of the greatest literary achievements of my career. This is because is represents a lifetime of stealing other people's lines. That being as it may, I am proud to point out that nothing in this book has been borrowed. Even I would not sink that low.
Now, I'm not much of a laugh-out-loud kind of guy, but this collection had me guffawing and irritating the family by reading them various bits, so I did quite enjoy the half an hour or so it took me to swing through this. Which is my one caveat here: there's not much meat on these papery bones. Sure, Sufi teacher Idries Shah can get away with a 200-page book that's got a 2-page introduction and all otherwise blank pages (for $25) as a "teaching exercise", and avant-garde artist John Cage can be celebrated for 4′33″ ... but somehow the $17.95 coverprice of this seems pretty steep for what is certainly under an hour of reading (albeit highly amusing reading). There are only one or two observations like the following on each page, padded out with the previously noted "cowboy cartoons":

Courtesty is owed. Respect is earned. Love is given.
A happy childhood
is the worst possible preparation for life.
I believe musicians can run this state better than politicians.
We just won't get a lot done in the mornings.
A lot of folks died in the Bible,
but a hell of a lot more died because of it.
Man's ability to delude himself is infinite.
If you hear a Texan exclaim, "Hey, y'all, watch this!",
stay out of his way. These are likely the last words he will every say.
The art of writing fiction
is to sail as dangerously close to the truth as possible
without sinking the ship.
Talent is its own reward.
If you have it, don't expect anything else.
One good aspect of being mediocre
is that you're always at the top of your game.

Again, this is not to say I didn't very much enjoy the book ... it's just that I suspect that it got into the "dollar store market" because it's a GREAT read for a buck, but would be an inner struggle (unless one was personally interested in supporting Friedman's political campaigns) at cover price.

If you can't find Cowboy Logic at your local dollar emporium (it does seem to have been dumped into the aftermarket, appearing to be officially out-of-print after just over 3 years since its release), it can be had via the Amazon new/used guys for as little as 37¢ used or under $3 new (with, of course, the $3.99 shipping charge added on). I'd say if you stumble over this "out there" for cheap, do pick it up, as it's a fun read, but take into consideration that it's a brief read if your paying much more than I did!

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A mixed bag ...

Pretty much every year we go to the Newberry Library Book Fair, a neighborhood tradition (nice to have the Newberry in the neighborhood!) that's been running for 25 years now. Recently, we've been just doing Sunday, which is the half-price day, and by then they're pretty picked over. I do seem to get some good finds … this year including Beyond Ego: Transpersonal Dimensions in Psychology, a wide-ranging anthology edited by Roger N. Walsh, M.D., Ph.D, and Frances Vaughan, Ph.D.

I probably picked this up on the strength of the list of 16 contributors noted on the back cover, several of which, Fritjof Capra, Ken Wilber, Stanislav Grof, Charles Tart, Abraham Maslow, Ram Dass, and Jack Kornfield, I was reasonably familiar with. The book is, however, sort of one of those that tries to be two things at once, it is in parts very academic, while in others fairly “popular”, swinging between extremes in the nature of the sections. The cause of this is in the fairly wide reach of the book, which looks at everything from traditional psychology to Eastern meditation practices, and from LSD research into how the “transpersonal” could come to effect fields such as Education and Social Sciences. It's divided into six main sections, “Wider Vision: New Paradigms For Old”, “The Nature of Consciousness”, “Psychological Well-Being: East and West”, “Meditation: Doorway to the Transpersonal”, “Transpersonal Psychotherapy”, and “Ripples of Change: Implications for Other Disciplines”, with 2-8 papers contributing to the discussion in each.

It would appear that, except for the editors' own contributions, the majority of the other pieces were reprinted or excerpted from previous publications. There were some interesting notes, however, which referred to papers within the volume, but that might simply be an editorial decision to point to the material at hand rather than to its source. Needless to say, an accumulation of diverse voices in widely divergent contexts leads to a highly uneven tone, and the “reading experience” was likewise a bit of a rollercoaster, shifting between analytical and experiential tones.

Over-all, this collection is “interesting”, but I suspect that it will be more or less interesting depending on what the reader brings to the table. Here are a couple of samples from the book which illustrate how variable the text gets:
          Simple forgetting and lack of threshold response constitutes the subliminal submergent-unconscious. Dynamic or forceful forgetting, however, is repression proper, Freud's great discovery. The repressed submergent-unconscious is that aspect of the ground-unconscious which, upon emerging and picking up the surface structures, is then forcefully repressed or returned to unconsciousness due to an incompatibility with conscious structures.

- - -

          The path to freedom is through detachment from your old habits of ego. Slowly you will arrive at a new and more profound integration of your experiences in a more evolved structure of the universe. That is, you will flow beyond the boundaries of your ego until ultimately you merge into the universe. At that point you have gone beyond ego. Until then you must break through old structures, develop broader structures, break through those, and develop still broader structures.
While the over-all book is fascinating, it's not exactly a great read. There is a whole lot of information and perspective in here, so is valuable as something (to echo Truman Capote on writing) "to have read", but it's unlikely to show up on anybody's top-10 favorite books! Beyond Ego is out of print (it came out in 1980) but is still available used. The Amazon guys have it for as little as 14¢ for a "good" copy, and under five bucks for "like new" (with, of course, the $3.99 shipping charge on top of that). If this is something that is in your "intellectual sweet spot", I'd certainly recommend it ... but if various sorts of psychology (traditional, Eastern, meditative, LSD, etc.) doesn't do much for you, I'd say skip it without much regrets. Again, it's got fascinating material in it, but it's a bit of a slog in parts.

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I'm an idiot, but I guess a lucky one ...

Soooo ...

Once again we prove that, "attitude" notwithstanding, I am not the Hulk.

That's my right wrist tonight.

Now, in my defense ... I'm under a LOT of stress of late. I have a whole lot of anguish, frustration, and anger bottled up inside over this whole "can't get a job" thing. Unfortunately, I don't have any good way of venting this and it's been bubbling up in "inappropriate" ways. This morning we had a problem with the door going back to the main bedroom. It had managed (somehow) to get locked with nobody on the lock side of the door, and I had to go about taking things apart. I'd successfully gotten the doorknob removed, the door opened, and was in the process of putting it back together again when one of the screws got jammed.

And out came Hulk ... but as my daughters keep reminding me, the "Hulk SMASH!" response works a whole lot better when you've got rock-hard green skin and are 800lbs of gamma-ray enhanced muscle. Somehow I thought I was going to solve this by walloping on the offending doorknob with my fist. Except I hit it with my wrist ... and at this point don't have a clue how I managed not to BREAK my wrist in the effort. After the one smash, it was clear that using my bare flesh on the metal was not the best approach, so pulled out a hammer, which only served to totally bend up the screws (which I eventually had to saw through), but I guess there was a certain emotional release in the ensuing mayhem.

Anyway, my wrist puffed up to about twice its usual size, I got sent back to my office with a large ice pack, and have been dealing with my stupidity all day. I'm pretty numb emotionally at this point.

I just hope that I can get a fucking job before the stress gets to the point where Very Bad Things Happen. I've spent the past 3 days chasing what appears to be a delusional program (although I've set up a whole slew of "social media" things for these folks), and I'm a bit burnt out and feel like I've been jerked around. Not good.

I'd really hoped that this presentation that I did for an agency (about Second Life) last week would have produced some "forward moving" but I'm not seeing any traction there. This is just killing me because I can't seem to "get in the door" any place even if I've actually been in the door as it were.

I keep trying to keep to that "attraction/intention" stuff, but I'm "losing faith" as each week spins past with another 50 resumes out and no interviews.

Anyway, figured I'd memorialize my idiocy for all the fucking world to see. Feel free to mock ... at this point I'm feeling kicked down by life so much I probably won't even fucking notice.

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