review: say you're one of them

Submitted by la miller on 8 November, 2009 - 20:23

In the 1994 [w:Rwandan Genocide], 500,000 to one million Tutsis and pro-peace Hutus were killed. Hutus associated with the Hutu Power movement carried out the genocide that lasted 100 days. I remember hearing radio reports of the violence and killing, the scope of which overwhelmed my understanding. Over several weeks, news items entered my ears as no more than abstractions of terror—no faces, no names, no specific to nail the corpses to my emotional reality. I never once thought of the children lost in the maelstrom of mass societal chaos and brutality.

Jesuit priest and author [w:Uwem Akpan]’s Say You’re One of Them does not forget the children. The collection of three short stories and two novellas considers in fine detail the improvised and often desperate lives of Africa’s young people.

the cave & the open road

Submitted by la miller on 9 July, 2009 - 03:10
image from [|maitripa] website

Is it the religion that’s important or the things fostered by practicing that religion that really count? More specifically what is the importance of an esoteric Tibetan Buddhist practice to a 21st-century American female like myself? I’ve been pondering these things since having the opportunity recently to attend [w:Chenrezig] and [w:Chöd] [|Initiations] given by [w:Lama Zopa Rinpoche]. To be clear, I have deep respect and love for the practices of [w:Tibetan Buddhism] and for the great work and teachings of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Even so, I wonder how several hours of unintelligible chanting, incense and bell ringing are relevant and meaningful to a Western life — fair questions for someone who is still relatively new to the religion.

Three books I’ve read recently — The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama by [w:Pico Iyer]; Cave in the Snow: Tenzin Palmo’s Quest for Enlightenment by [w:Vicki Mackenzie]; and Ethics for the New Millennium by [w:His Holiness the Dalai Lama] — have provided much food for thought as I’ve turned the above questions over in my head. The intention of my summer reading is to look at how people write about Buddhists and the Buddhist experience, with a strong eye toward Tibetan Buddhism. I’m grateful to the Multnomah County Library for having so many of the titles that interest me. The timing of my library holds becoming available explains how these three books ended up being written about together. But as these things go, I think these readings compliment each other well.

34 years in tibet

Submitted by la miller on 19 June, 2009 - 21:05

[w:Xinran]'s 2004 book Sky Burial is many things. It is an epic love story, an amazing travelogue through Tibet, an unheard perspective on the China-Tibet situation, and a story of one woman's faith and strength. I read the book in one sitting, the whole time wondering if this incredible story could really be true.

In late-1950s China, Shuwen and Kejun are doctors who are very much in love. They marry, but after only three weeks together Kejun is sent off with the army to Tibet. Within 100 days, Shuwen receives notice that her husband is dead. She can't believe the news and sets off to find him. What follows is a story of breathtaking devotion, spanning over three decades and thousands of miles.

dreaming forgiveness

Submitted by la miller on 9 June, 2009 - 16:48

book review: dreaming me and the wisdom of forgiveness

There is a tradition in Tibetan Buddhist literature of the nam-thar, the sacred life story of a Buddhist saint. They are inspirational in nature, narrating how an ordinary human can accomplish great things. While nam-thar might not be an accurate description of [w:Jan Willis]'s Dreaming Me: An African-American Woman's Spiritual Journey or Victor Chan’s The Wisdom of Forgiveness: Intimate Conversations and Journeys, it’s a model to keep in mind while reading them. Both Willis’s memoir and Chan’s account of the time he spent with [w:His Holiness the Dalai Lama] can serve as inspiration to all of us as we try to be good people on this troubled planet.

do it for the love

Submitted by la miller on 4 June, 2009 - 15:39

I'm currently loving soul singer [w:Joy Denalane]'s 2006 release Born & Raised. Inspired by soul divas stretching from Aretha to Mary J, Denalane's second album avoids the generic over-produced sound that plagues recent releases by so many talent soul and R&B vocalists. Instead, Denalane draws heavy inspiration from a pluckier 70s sound. Denalane's voice is lush and expansive, calling to mind Erykah Badu's reedy flair, Lauren Hill's satiny cadence, and Amy Winehouse's deep grit.

Like Winehouse, Berliner Denalane proves Europeans no only get American soul music, but have something to say about it. Denalane sings of African ("Soweto '76-'06") and African-American ("Stranger in this Land") experiences as well as the torment of relationships ("Heaven or Hell"). In "For the Love," she ask why can't musicians "do it for the love" instead of constantly worrying about money. Denalane teams up with [w:Lupe Fiasco] on "Change," a song that could've been written for the Obama campaign. The [|video] shot in Tokyo shows both artists at their sweetest.

Photo: Joy Denalane in Munich 2006, Wikipedia

a good day

Submitted by la miller on 28 May, 2009 - 00:21

Turned in a paper this afternoon and on the way to catch a bus home thought, "Today would be a great day to catch a matinee."

I've been meaning to see a matinee at one of the downtown theaters for months. Seriously, too long. It was now or never. So, I grabbed some portable spring rolls from a nearby Vietnamese food cart and ducked into see [w:The Brothers Bloom].

Yeah! Perfect matinee fare: Beautiful actors! Stylish costumes! Hip, noirish production design! Amazing locations! Huge explosions! And it's all about con men! What's not to love?!?


Submitted by la miller on 27 April, 2009 - 00:18

This is where I spent Friday afternoon. I read [w:Louise Erdrich]'s "[|Birchbark House]." A good read for a bright 8-year-old or a 38-year-old on a slow day.

It felt verrry good to lounge in the sun. Yes, yes, I should've been blogging and sending emails and working on a new article, but sometimes you just need to read. I picked up a couple children's books at Powell's recently for a young friend's birthday. And if my trend for the past year says anything, I'm very resistant to the idea of presenting a young friends with books I've never read. It's just too enjoyable to reading something easy and fun. And then you can ask about the book later.

On Wednesday, I read [w:Ida B.] . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan. Ida B is a great character—she talks to brooks and trees and runs all over her parents orchard in Western Wisconsin. Life doesn't remain perfect, however, for Ida B. Her mom gets cancer and, after several years of homeschooling, she has to go to school.

As her life feels like it is spinning out of control, Ida B decides she is going to be miserable—no enjoying new friends, no laughter, no sharing with her parents anything good about school. How long can she stay miserable? Read it and find out.

what i'm watching...

Submitted by la miller on 26 September, 2006 - 23:35

I've been watching a lot of movies now that I'm back working at the video store. In case you missed it at the Wisconsin Film Festival, the documentary Our Brand Is Crisis came out earlier this month on DVD. Filmmaker Rachel Boynton takes us on a fascinating ride, following U.S. campaign consultants with the firm [[Greenberg Carville Shrum]] and their client [w:Bolivia|Bolivian] presidential candidate [w:Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada|Gonzalo "Goni" Sanchez de Lozada].

so who's the biggest loser?

Submitted by la miller on 15 March, 2006 - 17:47

I don't watch much teevee. It's just who I am. Most of what I know about what's on teevee these days comes from flipping through the pages of [|Advertising Age]. I've even been known to utter remarks about commercials that go something like this: "Oh yeah, I read about this one in Ad Age just the other day. You know, [|Bob Garfield] gave it three-out-of-four stars."

Pathetic? Probably a little.

Earth House Hold

Submitted by la miller on 18 January, 2006 - 11:50

Sticking with my New Year's resolution to read more poetry and fiction, I picked up Gary Snyder's Earth House Hold. The first part is called "Lookout's Journal." It's a collection of journal entries from 1952 when he was apparently a lookout in Mt. Baker National Forest. He's in the back country and it's mostly simple observations of nature and of other humans -- voices over the 2-way radio, in diners, etc.