Friday, December 31, 2004

Yuckelbel's Canon

Yuckelbel's Canon

Dear Mr. Ambassador,

The simple people of the world, like me, have no voice with which to express their feelings. I would like, for a moment, to have the temerity to attempt to be that voice. What is crying out to be said is that we understand that a swift and sudden disaster of unparalleled proportions has done irreparable damage and disruption to the lives of the people who were hit by that tsunami. We watch in anguished silence and bow our heads. Please accept our heartfelt condolences in this time of great sorrow. Accept it on behalf of the good people of your country who were so suddenly and indiscriminately made victim to savage forces beyond human agency. Accept it from the hundreds of millions of faceless, nameless people whose hearts reach out to your people and all others in your region who were touched by this giant tragedy, in this time of great sorrow. Know that they will support all that can be done to help now! Nothing anyone could ever do would be enough, of course, for the scores of thousands who have died. Our silent, wet faces now offer a sea of tears with which to bathe the wounds of loss for the survivors in the hope that healing will eventually occur.

Yours respectfully,
Russell Ragsdale

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Cup's Corner -- part 4

The evening at the Manette’s was a delight. Lucie was bright and entertaining but the interplay between Mr Lorry and Charles Darnay was the most interesting aspect of the night’s conversations. Something always seemed to stay unsaid between them, no matter how much they talked with one another and no matter what subject about which they talked. Sidney’s trained lawyer ear picked it up right away as he was the kind of person on whom no little detail could be wasted. He was having trouble being jolly and comunicative, however, as he found himself struggling with the old habit of much drink. He did not need drink because he was bored by less than pleasant company, in fact, it was quite the contrary situation. He did not struggle with his demon because he was sad or lonely or in need of a change of mood. He struggled with it because it was his habit, it was what he did and he did not know how to not do it!

As he thought about it (and the discomfort he was experiencing) he was wishing he would not think about it but suddenly the jarring superficiality of not using his insight and intellect struck him in all of its terribleness. Was this what he was struggling with, not to be aware of things? The answer was yes and no. Perhaps he would think less about things if he medicated himself with drink and, perhaps he would feel better about those things which did cross the threshold of his consciousness in the altered mood state of inebriation. What was bothering him most was that he was spending all his time thinking about drinking and that was becoming a distraction from his thoughts about other things and from being his normal entertaining self.

Then another insight crashed into his awareness. He was now really aware of many of his feelings, they weren’t hidden from him now by that customary blanket of alcohol under which he hid much of himself from himself. He discovered that much that he could know about himself made him feel uncomfortable. It had always made him feel uncomfortable and he found himself feeling, in the worst way, that he wished to drown this monster and watch its corpse float away down a frothy, lazy river of wine.

Suddenly, Lucie was stroking his arm and he realized he had been distracted and agitated by his thoughts. Moreover, he saw that they were all aware of and concerned about how uncomfortable he had obviously become. He was deeply embarrassed by the concern and confusion that showed on the faces by the fire and in the lamp light. Although he sometimes felt he would relish the attentions of others, this situation was anything but something he would have desired. He seemed to be at a loss at how to put on his old character (Sidney the cynical, obnoxious drunk) because everything had become too real and facades and charactures seemed so out of place to him at the moment. He only barely was able to gather himself enough to make his appologies to all for his lack of social graces this evening. Doctor Manette, who had risen and was hovering behind his left shoulder rested a reassuring hand on that shoulder. Lucie spoke some soothing politenesses which, for the life of him, he wasn’t able to translate back into words and phrases. Amid all these kindnesses and concessions, Mr. Lorry arrose and said that it was time for him to go home. He asked Sidney if he would prefer a little air and would agree to accompany him along the way as they both lived in the same general direction. Sidney shakenly said his adieu and the company got up to see them off.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Midnight welder in a snow storm

Softly crunching feet
In black and white world
Small dog watching as
Soft cold freckles dot my face

Incongruity of Russian billard balls
Streaking and smacking
Behind fooley facade
Of colored spotlights
(Like a night time star
With a neon "Eat at Joe's" on it)

Ghost crane
Fifteen stories high
Hanging paralized
In the frenzied blur
Of soft and quiet

Collapse of universe
Suddenly growing large
As briliant silent thunder
Reveals the giant spider web
in the dark sky

Vulcan's nearby
Using an electric ice pick
To weld steam
And frost

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Cup's Corner -- part 3

Court went well the next day and the prosecution could do nothing to stave up their erroding case. The jury found no need for a lengthy deliberation but came back quickly with a verdict of not guilty. The young fellow, so speedily rescued from yesterday’s frightening precipice of disaster, was so apreciative of the freedom he feared he had lost, that he couldn’t stop thanking John and Sidney. Effusive gratitude turned to dinner and drinks and Sidney succumbed without a whimper to what would become two weeks of inebriation without a break.

The path of stumbling is irregular in the extreme, and at one of its jerky twists, Sidney had the good fortune to fall away from it. Love is such a powerful thing that, even in one’s weakest moments, it struggles in the breast, surging about and looking for some way to work its transforming magic. Love between people is the force of vision that can see beneath the debris of life and find the good that lurks there. It not only finds it but cherishes it with such enabling force that it can grow and even shine brightly at times. The appearance made by it is that of transformation --- from debris pile to something as miraculous as the burning bush. The agent of this transformation in Sidney was the tear in Lucie’s eye on their chance meeting on the street, coupled with her invitation for him to visit the house and spend some time with her and her circle of Family and friends.

He went home immediately feeling the need to clean himself. As he hovered above the hot bowl of water and looked in the mirror at himself, he was reminded of that moment somewhere off in the vague past where he he had lingered in the cold of night across the street from her house and seen clearly some of the self inflicted wounds of weakness and dissolution that were now so visable in the wavering image of the pale visage in the mirror in front of him. If he could have, he would’ve scrubed away that lazy self-indulgence lurking beneath the grime but, as he was beginning to realize, that would require another soap and much fresh new water. He striped to the waist, girded himself with a towel and washed his hair next. As if freed of the considerable weight of much invisable grime, he freely now looked after himself in ways that showed a level of self respect he had earlier derided as superficial and pretentious. A much more careful pattern of self attention was beginning to assimilate him and the damaging pattern of self indulgence seemed to be starting to melt away. The raucous wildness of his appearance of just an hour ago looked as if it had been water soluble. Although it still waited, lurking just beneath that more careful surface, it was momentarily in abeyance which was very satisfying indeed.

Considerably changed in appearance, he emerged from his rooms and went down to the street. He determined to go to the chambers now to look in on some new clients John would be interviewing and, in the evening, pay a visit to the Manette house. Surprisingly, he felt rather good about this new appearance of his and resolved to make it a more disciplined practice in his toilet routine. He hadn’t yet realized how out of place he was going to seem in his old haunts. He also hadn’t realized how less bored he had become and how much less desperate he was to cross the disapointing collapse of moments that would pass with this day and night.

The day, for all its mundane aspects, passed relatively swiftly into the evening and, when Sidney went for supper, he treated himself to somewhat more elegant environs than usual. It was a bit of great luck that he should occasion to meet an old school chum of his (along with his family and realitives from the country) whom he hadn’t seen for many years. He was promptly invited to join them at their table where a pleasant repast and delightful reunion was accompanied by making several new acquaintances. This included a particularly enjoyable young lady, slightly younger than Lucie, possessed of an admirable character, clear mind and an entertaining sense of humor. Time simply flew so that it was already time to go to spend the rest of the evening at the Manette’s and Sidney made his appologies for having another engagement. Before leaving, araingements were made to get together with them again before the country relatives had to return to their home. Surprisingly, Sidney was still almost perfectly sober!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Cup's Corner -- part 2

From the moment he had knocked on the door at John’s house, everything had taken a turn from bad to worse. Within three minutes of his arival, the door had been slamed shut and he had stomped drunkenly off into the deep dark of the night. Like a moth he had gone to the streetlight on the corner across from Lucie’s house. A light remained on in the house, perhaps the doctor was up reading, but the house was mainly draped in the dark windows of slumber. Feeling ever more incomplete than usual, he receded into the shadows at the corner of the building by the lamp and watched the house and thought.

The night’s wet hours had seeped into his bones and the lone light at the Manette house had long been extinguished before he was startled out of reverie by the sound of a policeman on foot patrol. His mind was feeling unusually weary and he headed off toward his flat for a few hours rest before court. Yet, his mind was still full of the analysis, a rather self-revealing one, that he had untertaken as he stood on that corner across from her house. The thoughts lingered like confused phantasms accidentally left behind after death. Once home, he fell fully clothed on the bed, pulling the covers around him, and was asleep immediately. Love, dressed in the form of a young woman, flitted in and out of his dreams. She was not beautiful to look on, however, as she was wretched with starvation and poverty and was continually sorting through the garbage in order to find anything edible.

The day in court didn’t go well, lacking a solid basis of strategy on which to attack the prosecution’s well crafted assertions. He had retired for lunch to his usual haunt close to the court and a bevy of drinks with which to medicate his now severly unhappy body. The taste of those wines and brandies, although aleviating his physical discomfort, lacked the usual ardor of appreciation. The mental fog that came with them now became a real force to be fought with for the benefit of the poor young man whose future was in their hands. He had subsequently sluggishly missed a couple of good opportunities at possible weak areas of the prosecutions afternoon presentation and the day ended looking rather unhappily on this poor, and he believed innocent, young man. He was resolved that they would be better prepared to help him the next day!

That evening Sidney went for supper at a place near his house and only had a couple of glasses of wine with his dinner. He was already beginning to feel much better, the fog had cleared and the discomfort of his body had melted away during the rigors of the day. He was assembling the case again in his mind as he drank tea after dinner. Suddenly he realized the essence of the weakness in the prosecution’s case and knew how they could attack it. He paid his bill and left immediately for John’s house. That evening’s session was exceptionally fruitful and, by its end, they had planned a startling turn of events that would shatter the prosecution’s attack and prove the innocence of their client. After leaving John’s house, he found himself at the door of the wine bar without really realizing how he had gotten there. Something was impeading his feet from crossing that familiar threshold but all the rest of him was already spiritually inside. As he stood there struggling with himself, even the gates of Troy had never seen such a battle. In what seemed like a turn in the tide, he stepped back from the door. He weakly turned and walked away. With an unsteady tread, he walked home and fell on the bed, this time with the sober exhaustion resulting from the end of several months of debauchery and dissolution.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A Snowy Day

The snow has shown
The cold has come
The children laugh
The adults hum.

Grey skies threaten
The real short day
To festooned fragments
In purest white.

The snow has shown
The cold has come
The children laugh
The adults hum.

Asian eyes and wrinkled smiles
Gather happy laughter and shrieked delight.
Children slide and roll,
Tirelessly sensual.

The snow has shown
The cold has come
The children laugh
The adults hum.

Winter play, warm fires,
Happy laughter, bright eyes
Never strain their welcome.

Cup's Corner 1

Sidney, who had just come back from the Manette house in Soho, checked in at the wine bar he frequented and recieved a round of greetings from his little gang at the 'lost and found,' as he liked to refer to the place. He felt he required a bottle or two before showing up at his partner's house. This chore was being scheduled earlier and earlier lately as John's marriage had resulted in the cessation of the after midnight planning sessions for the next day's trials and his bachelor digs had given way to this voluble estuary scheduled in and among the artifacts of marriage. John's wife, of course, hated Sidney Carleton with a disgusted passion and only barely managed to tollerate his drunken but necessary intrusion into her happy family life. Sidney, for his part, found her trite and the two of them oriented to some of life's most superficial values. He was sure this was driving him to drink, he suggested loudly and in a rather flippant way, and was furthermore positively inclined to cooperate in that endeavor with a fervor, currently. As his friends laughed, drank, and encouraged his wise decision (as he had so eloquently stated it), Sidney discovered his mood had turned sour and taciturn suddenly.

Another force was playing in Sidney. He found that he suddenly was remembering the time, an unusual time, when Lucie had persuaded him to have a cup of tea (before he’d even had his first brandy for the day) with her as they sat in the weakining afternoon sun under the plane tree in her yard. They had laughed and talked, just the two of them as two lovers or a brother and sister would. It was such a simple pleasure, one filled with warmth and pale sunlight but it had flooded into the shadowy places where he spent most of his life and rendered plainly for his view what it illuminated there as if he had brought light into the room where a tuberculosis patient sat. What he saw, hiding in the dark recesses of his life, was pale and sickly and troubled – a mere characture of something healthy and living. He looked around him at the loud talking, drunken men as if he were watching from another room and the sound had been muted by the distance. He saw a bunch of people whom he little knew or cared for and, as he watched from this imaginary distance, he realized that they likewise neither knew nor cared for him. How convenient, he thought, and draind his glass. Suddenly he was back amid the noise and laughter and he called to the bar for another bottle.

One bottle became several and soon the earnest drinking became a series of semi-conscious, decidedly slovenly individuals who could not be roused for even the most trivial of amusing banter. Sidney’s still surprisingly active mind sat sulking in a corner like some unhappy child as the chagrin of how late it had become (and what an unpleasant confrontation it would be at John’s door) flooded over him. He found that he was starting to feel sorry for himself and hated himself for that indulgence in such unworthy behavior. So he adorned himself again in his best ‘Sidney the arrogant, obnioxious, cynical drunk’ costume and began to struggle with a decision. He wondered if he should just go home and simply show up for court in the morning or brave the confrontation with John in order to have the pre-trial planning session which should have taken place several hours ago.

Again, unbidden thoughts of Lucie came to him. Should he go over to see her? Even at this unlikely hour he would be welcomed (somewat sleepily) at that door. No, he thought, that would be a meaningless disaster as well. Everything seemed to have turned into a disaster! He was now quite angry! He arose and paid his bill. His mind made up, he stumblingly stomped off to John’s.
* * * *

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Cup's Corner

Sidney, who had just come back from the Manette house in Soho, checked in at the wine bar he frequented and recieved a round of greetings from his little gang at the 'lost and found,' as he liked to refer to the place. He felt he required a bottle or two before showing up at his partner's house. This chore was being scheduled earlier and earlier lately as John's marriage had resulted in the cessation of the after midnight planning sessions for the next day's trials and his bachelor digs had given way to this voluble estuary scheduled in and among the artifacts of marriage. John's wife, of course, hated Sidney Carleton with a disgusted passion and only barely managed to tollerate his drunken but necessary intrusion into her happy family life. Sidney, for his part, found her trite and the two of them oriented to some of life's most superficial values. He was sure this was driving him to drink, he suggested in a flippant way, and was positively inclined to cooperate in that endeavor with a fervor, currently. As his friends laughed, drank, and encouraged his wise decision after he so eloquently stated it, Sidney's mood turned sour and taciturn suddenly.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Save Sidney Carlton

In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens gives us a whole handful of paper doll characters who behave in heroic ways. They are moved to behave by motivations which seem to be regulated by something unseen and noble. Faithful and honorable would seem to describe Mr. Lorry, Miss Pross, Lucie, Monsieur Defarge, Dr. Manette, and Charles Darnay, at least in a general and superficial way. Another couple of characters we meet are the lawyers at the trial of Charles Darnay in England. Sidney Carlton, the perceptive, dissipated, hard drinking one of them emerges, by the end of the book, to become a central figure, at least in the sense of plot, to the happy/sad and romantic resolution of the story.

It would not have been within the scope of Dickens or any of his Victorian contemporaries to have focused on the Carlton character in the modern way of a psychological novel. He, at any rate, needed Carlton to stay locked in his dissipation so that the sacrifice he makes at the end wouldn’t overwhelm the rescue of the rest of the characters and turn the story into an out and out tragedy. Wouldn’t it have been interesting, however, to find out what kinds of activities would have been necessary for that character to grow out of and beyond his self inflicted emotional wounds!

What kind of depth of character might we have been able to discover if that insightful and clever creation of Dickens’ fruitful imagination had worked on a process to cure the self-imposed laziness with which he was painted? Also, it must be readily confessed, we must get Carlton past the sugar sweet and the stylized painted on tarnish before we can take him much further beyond the pages of that venerable novel. I do acknowledge that I find him an unusually large and realistic character for that novel, which makes me suspect something of the author beyond his ingenious creativity, is present here.

So shall we have a go at Sidney?

Friday, December 03, 2004

Too Familiar Senryu

Thoughts over and over
an old room.
I don't want to go in there!

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Weather Report

An empty park
With cold air falling
Through rounded arms
Of the statue's empty embrace.

Crisp, pale, brittle sky
Impossibly distant and cloudless,
Still I see the rain is falling.

Weather forcast: lonely.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Transcendent Haiku

Dark mumbles in the hall
door locked
windows wide fresh blue

Sunday, November 21, 2004

So that's why its called serious!

Enjoyed a classical concert very much last night. A chamber orchestra from Moscow performed pieces by Mozart, Bach, and Greg. Also there were a couple of local violinists (one couldn't have been more than twelve years old) who did the solo work for a few pieces and were very talented. I noticed what an effort it is to listen to such music and relax. It was sometimes peaceful but music is so sensuous you feel it in your body and your body does not respond by going to sleep! Quite the opposite! You want to move to the rhythm and your body wants to respond to the musical patterns just as the artists are doing as they are performing.

I noticed that the Greg piece was difficult in spite of the fact that it was beautiful and well performed. The tonal orientation of his work is naturally dark and he uses it to take us, as comfortably as possible, into sorrow, dissatisfaction, tension, and turmoil. After that descent, we can better define the climb into elation and the conquest, at least momentarily, of the darkness and despair in our lives. We (and, of course, he) must transcend the natural darkness of the tonal orientation to do this. This all is serious work, and we, the audience, must sit still and quietly throughout. The audience has a really tough job to do at these concerts!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Seeking (an) Asylum!

It is fun to behave in a crazy way sometimes! We love it and seem to have a special place in our hearts for amusing manic behavior and its associated high energy and humor. Anyone who would tell you about having been incarcerated in an institution for the insane, however, would not speak so glibly. Still we have characters who check in them, such as Alan Arkin's character in King of Hearts, or craftily avoid the worst, such as Anthony Hopkins' character in Silence of the Lambs, by checking in one. We frequently use the concept metaphorically to convey our impressions of things as large as goverment bodies or as small as our homes or those of our neighbors. Our great fondness and use, if you will, of insanity seems to not be dependant on reality and seems to be quite pervasive.

I wonder what it is about the escape into insanity that we find it, in a metaphorical or stylized way, so appealing?

What is character?

Dickens has thrust characters under my nose as I am re-reading, after these many years, A Tale of Two Cities. Realizing I have no understanding of what comprises character, I am somewhat at a loss to really understand what he gives us with one of his greatest gifts. I see the range of characteristics he paints them with but am quite certain that is only a tangent of what he creates and/or evokes for our entertainment and erudition.

Certainly things such as strong, weak, fond, aggressive, modest, foolish, faithful, clever, talented, noble are all useful in categorizing but fall far short of the mark in being central to what he is presenting to us. Rather there seems to be something of that which is central to the nature of these people’s souls if that is indeed possible with literary creations.

In Dickens, the vivacity and peculiarity of character is perhaps his foremost trait. Also, everything seems to have a type of character, such as the passage of time for Dr. Manette, the whispering plane tree in their yard, the dress and accouterments of the wealthy in Monseigneur’s salon, the stones of the pavement where the wine keg fell and broke. To miss a sense of character, animate and inanimate, is almost to have wasted you time reading him.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Where you are is what you do!

Concrete, metal, glass, asphalt, brick, stone and locks are the table of elements of the city. Roads between places are the physical laws to understand them. Ah but places -- places are the nucleus of cities! They must have places to work, shop, eat, entertain, store, and sleep. Another place we usually don't think about is associated with roads. We find places on those roads called travel where we live in anger, frustration, longing and reverie. Those bikes, busses, cars, trams, trains or simply shoes are paths between our dreams which are locked up in our cities.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Dreams are in the air!

The crystal clear breath
Of our imaginations
Hangs like mouth fog
In the chilled air
Surrounding our lives.

Dreams or nightmares,
Some creations
Can put you on your knees.

If 'what is' was wonderful,
We wouldn't half live
In what we hope for.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Concessions to the cup of stumbling!

I find the dark hours busy when they should be restful.
I try to compromise my lack of sleepiness with lulling thoughts.
Only prayer avails. Only then can the early anxious subside.
Then tense limbs untangle and electric thought stops jarring.

The darkness sucks me in again but, before I go,
I know that in all these hopeful years I have only managed to drink to the dregs,
again and again, this cup of stumbling.

Only tomorrow can dawn more brightly.
(Numb and hum)
Only tomorrow can dawn more brightly.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Come on in, the samovar's hot! Posted by Hello

What do we create?

I so often hear 'Create? I couldn't do that' but I know this is not accurate. We are unaware of how much and how often we create. Ordinary acts create things. It is such a common experience that it is often ignored. I tell my kitchen personnel : if you arn't picking it up, you're putting it down! Workspace is precious in a professional kitchen and you can either leave a mess or leave 'a clean' which you have created during the moments you found it necessary to do something there. The next person who has to use that space will be intantly aware of what kind of environment you created and left behind.

Years ago when the Former Soviet Union broke up and I had just come to Kazakhstan to install a Western kitchen for a hotel privatization, I had an enlightening experience. The old had quickly become a state of absence and new things were desperately needed to fill the vacume. The source of income provided by the Soviet full employment economy was gone and many people were near starving.

I taught my kitchen to make hamburger buns from scratch because, not only were there no hamburgers here, no one was making any buns to put them on either, obviously. I taught my sous chef and my two shift lead cooks how to make them so that, if I didn't happen to be in the kitchen at the moment, there would always be somebody there who could make them. A few weeks later I was shopping at the largest open air market (called the zelony bazaar) for items for the restaurant.

Something outside the bazaar was struggling to gain my attention. Thousands of people had taken to the streets with blankets and were selling anything they could to get some income to keep their families alive. Something, just beneath my consciousness, was trying to make itself known to me from these blankets. There was something new here and I hadn't yet noticed it!

Then I saw them. Literally hundreds of blankets had buns on them. They were calling this soft and mildly sweet new product 'tasty buns' and, perhaps 20,000 people on any given day were baking them off in their ovens at home to sell for a little much needed income during this difficult time. They became popular and the trend persisted throughout the Winter and into the Spring. Thank God my casual act had been able to help a lot of ordinary people whom I would never know or meet to get through this rather difficult period in their lives.

So know that you create, whether you are thinking about it or not. Create willingly and well, it just might help someone you'll never meet!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

From determinism with pride!

You start where you are comfortable. Pride is the grace state of man's comfort region (because it is usually never justified). Likewise, when we have a deterministic view that we believe is justified, we see the events which happen in our lives as things we can have control over. We are obviously less in control when we see the event patterns of our lives as being part of a chaotic process. Crontrol is another comfort issue for us humans. Accidents are events which are usually perceived to have negative connotations which operate outside of our normal control patterns. Control, of course, is mostly illusory in the best case scenario of a life momentarily free of accidents. A classically deterministic view is core central to the illusion of control!

You get to pride through a determinist view which lets you feel as if your control of your life has produced these good results and accident are to blame for all the bad. This is an unrealistic viewpoint! Realistically, most of the good and bad which occurs in life is accidental. There are only few moments in life where we initiate something ourselves and it turns out well. Most of our initiations turn out less than well and are ignored or, when things go badly, blamed on accidents or other people. This is a tough position to handle alone.

Dealing with the fact that much of our life experience comes from chaos is really a discomfort issue.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Ah ha ha ha! Posted by Hello

What to say to the fooleybear?

Blank; Blank; Blank! Sometimes what we want is to do, not talk. Apples from the dacha: what is better, to take pictures or eat? Pancakes do I describe their warm, thick richness or do I cook some? The answer is I have just gotten out two skillets and they are warming on the stove. The kitchen smells of kefir, flour, butter and eggs. Hot butter and metal are begining to do a duet that syncopates the other cool, sweet smells. The batter is expanding in the mixing bowl. The urgency of fresh batter is undenyable! No time to blog right now!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

This is for Laura. Tea time in Central Asia with a peyalka (the little bowl) on the left. Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The ghosts are in us!

Ghosts will roam the streets again tonight! Memories are the movement of that which once lived and now no longer exsist in the form we recall. Their movement is attached to the real world but is not something of weight or density. The movement of these memories, however, will have some form of substance tonight. These mostly happy and sometimes sad ghosts will accompany the millions of children who live in the real world of our neighborhoods. Every doorbell ring and "trick or treat" will be greeted by these ghosts. Make room for some very happy ghosts with children's faces that walk with the force of love. I will set them to roam again tonight. BOO!

Friday, October 29, 2004

Do you know?

What do you know? What are you planning to learn? What has driven you to want to learn about them? What is the nature of this curiosity? I love to search blogs and see what motivates people. I love to hear of their passions and the clattering of their souls in its little box. I empathize with their pains, pleasures, frustrations, and acknowledged foolishnesses. When I look at others, I'm freed momentarily from the constant motivation to self experience. I have become aware that there are some people on this planet who are never outside of themselves. They are interesting but seem often frustrated or offended by the presence of other wills impinging on them. Mostly I find myself fascinated and pleased to experience people who can get outside of themselves, even momentarily, to experience a something that opens out onto a larger and more global awareness. It is my hope that the smallness that confines us can be opened and made more generous and valuable by such experiences!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The quiet corner of silence!

The lean hours of the morning flex restlessly. If you aren't full within, there is a desparation to empty time. Inside of me seems to be the joy of love and its concomitant loneliness. Inside of me is also a pool of wants and doings. The pool is a drowning place. Only love can introduce me to the renewal and real life that comes with ecstatic joy, caring and sadness.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Church lady gets a hand held!

If I didn't know the technology, I would say how romantic! I have been searching in my mind for how it is that there can be some value to these mumble styled ramblings the blog is posting. The question is what do we (people) actually have to say. In my rampant cynicism, I wrote an essay all about how illusory is our impression that what we sense is what there is to be known of and understood. It took a year to squeeze out in spare moments after work. It is almost 9000 words and has 65 footnotes. I have no idea where to send it or who would even be interested in the monster. I thought (and still think) the concept is important and valuable but, really, who cares?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Moments stolen from my pillow!

The day has ground to a close like a badly worn bearing. I seem lost in a jungle of fruitless years. I have a day off from work tomorrow but it is already heavily scheduled. I need to do much internet research for the computer stuff I will have to provide soon but I just don't have any strength left. It's been a hard week and I feel weak, drained, reclusive. I hope tomorrow will see fortune's smile. Sometimes I just don't have the energy to keep creating my life out of my own imagination.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Learning and always questioning

My major challenge at the moment is to get so I am as comfortable using Access as I am using Excel. I really need to switch to a data base program for keeping statistics (and analyzing them) on sales of menu items, waitstaff performance, even the interactive program I've written (in Excel) to cost dishes and run inventory. There are a lot of comercial tools you can buy to do this job but they don't operate well enought in this part of the world with it's primitive purchasing systems and from the very basics menu item preparation. The most popular one in Almaty seems to be ISoft.

I should have done this three or four years ago before I got so heavily loaded up on programs I've created in Excel. If I had started then, by now I'd already be better at SQL and working with these table, form, report formats. It's starting to click now but it was tough to begin with. I went to my old reliable and took a course in Access with HP learning Center and that got me moving in the program. I also did a short tutorial provided by Microsoft but it was so old that it wasn't very helpful. Therefore, I still can't do the work I need to be getting done, especially for this consultation in starting up the new fast food outlet. I'm on a real short time frame to be ready for that and I'm still a long ways away. Hope the learning curve shoots skyward soon!
Love those buritos! Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Monte for breakfast

Had monte for dinner last night too! It was good but it quickly gets boring. Just read a blogspot from a girl from Toronto and felt a little better. She said she didn't like Autum. Its one of my favorite seasons in Almaty. Did she come from the Caspian Sea region, maybe Atyrau or Oktau. If so, she's living in the North American Continent where I was born and I'm living in Central Asia where she was born. Superficial, but all that I can cope with this morning!

Friday, October 08, 2004

It aches!

There is a part of me that is all about what I do in the kitchen, what I do when I create a restaurant menu, what I do when I create a special dish for the "Special Today" board. I am aware of that part when I am doing the work I love and am experiencing the pleasure that is so specific to me during this activity. It is so personal it is difficult to describe what I feel. I have this sensation of warmth within, this feeling of being completely me in the best of all possible ways. I am busy and happy at the same time; I am relieved, for a moment, of my and everybody else's flawed humanity. I am part of something perfect and complete in a greater way than I could ever or would ever have to be personally.

Then there are those times when I must sit with the management team, the ownership, the accountant. There are human resources staff evaluation forms that must be filled out; there are profit projections on menu restructuring to be computed and written up and submitted. There are technology text boxes to be written and inserted in "recipe books" along with the measurements for the new recipe I'm proposing for the menu. There are staff discipline procedures to be done and, once accomplished, to be put on forms and memos and sent to many people who have no idea what a pleasure one can experience in the kitchen. I am not resentful of these people sometimes, when I can look past the frustration of the seperation from doing what I love, I merely sadly wonder if there is anything in what they do that they can enjoy as profoundly as the person who is cooking can?

And then, when I've gone on to that unhappy time between one restaurant or hotel kitchen and the next, when I'm feeling this vacume in that place that is only occasionally perfect and complete, that is when I feel this ache.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Food from scratch

In the restaurant and hotel kitchens it is common to make stuff from scratch, of course but at home the rule when I was a kid was 'where's the box of mix?' If I want mixes here I have to buy them in Europe or America and bring them back. That is a serious inconvenience, with luggage weight restrictions and former Soviet Union customs agents!

After all these years living in Central Asia, I've gotten to the point where I'd really prefer to make things from scratch. The ability to sculpt the taste is probably the biggest reason although, like most people, I have taste preferences that are repetitive. Ruminations over favorite flavors and the extreme shortage of those foods in the C.A. diet pattern have really revividified my home food preperation techniques. Want hot bisquits, a stack of pan cakes -- break out the basics because there's no bisquick or Aunt Jemima here! Like hot soft dinner rolls tonight -- better get cracking early 'cause the dough is going to take about three and a half hours before you can pop those pale, lusterless pearls in the oven!

I've always prefered my sauces freshly made. I can't immagine anything more pedantic than a bottled bechamel with a long shelf life. I have the arrogance to hope that everyone feels the same way. Looking back over the way my process has altered since I've been here, however, I still think that even when I move to somewhere near "shortcut central" I'm going to hang on to to this slower but more intimate way of putting stuff togeather at home.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Fatboy chefs in faraway places

Heading nowhere this morning but to the next cup of coffee, I'm on number 5! I'm such a contradiction; how can I have lived and cooked this long in the dandy little Republic of Kazakhstan? It has certainly been a tough but exciting road since the breakup from the former Soviet Union. Twelve years and I am still trying to dance the dance. Tastes here have changed in those twelve years; the restaurant scene is slowly (by my perspective) changing. The best activities are still imports, sadly. Winter is on the way and we are sitting on the edge of discontent. More on the next post.