Fat Buddha Vs. Skinny Buddha. PBS Let’s Richard Gere Do His Buddha Thing

Siddhārtha Gautama. PBS. Richard Gere. Well there you go, right? That’s our reverse path to enlightenment right? From the known to the unknown. Sound a little cynical? What I can say, last night my car got stolen. So I’m experiencing “impermanence” on a personal level. But I’m watching this program as a “refresher” course. And certainly PBS is no stranger to the world of the material, note the prompt to get on Facebook…

See I’ve had some weird things happen in my life that have allowed me to see “a lot.” SO when PBS programs airs programs like this (which if you think about it, isn’t so often) I try to at least catch some of it. I’ll watch the first hour anyway, before South Park comes on What can I say? I also need a little humor tonight. So what can YOU expect from the program if you catching right now or if you catch a reply in the future. Well you’ll get “the story.” The Buddha is considered to be one of the Big Three; Jesus, Allah and him. I mean you can throw a lot of other guys out there, from Mazda to John the Baptist, but those are the 3.

In the East and a good part of the West the Buddha is seen in many different lights; hence we have so many depictions of him. Obviously there are ZERO depictions of Allah, and most of the ones for Jesus pretty much look like 70’s motorcycle hippie. But if you look around you can find all kinds of Buddhas; fat, skinny, long hair, short hair, naked, robed, loinclothed. Just endless. Why? Well the obvious reason is that in society we all depict people and things as we want them. Hell, the “Chinese food” I’ve had in different countries would shock you. But another possible reason is the legend of the Buddha is that in his existence he is supposed to have taken many incarnations. Basically EVERY. And of course; he went through a period where he thought skinny would be good then later he realized he didn’t NEED to be super skinny (ascetic) to be enlightened. I guess you could say he’s the world’s first recovered anorexic. And of course the world’s greatest sitter.

The program goes out and gets the right people to tell the stories. A bunch of folks who were born Jewish and realized they had a different path  (I’m looking at your Richard Alpert). For the 10 years I lived in LA and actively pursued “Eastern Philosophy” I met many, many, many of these folks. A few people in Asia and India. Oh, and Doc Thurman is there too. When I was studying Japanese language at Columbia University I passed an office one day and looked in on an old guy and the name on his door was “Thurman” so I asked one of my teachers who he was. She said he’s one of the, if not the top, most respected professor of Eastern Study in the US. Oh and he’s Uma’s dad. A few hours later I bumped into a kid who was looking for first year Japanese class named Sean. Turned out to be Lennon’s son. A WEEK later I meet a guy in passing named Gautama “I said, like the Buddha?” He says yeah, his dad DEEPAK named him that, but he’s going to start using a different one. I said, I’ll see you later Chopra. What a place, huh?

Like I said, weird life. But at some point this poor black kid managed to find himself in California and I did all that “road to enlightenment” stuff. I had had so much misery brought on by my wants and desire. Many years prior I had accidentally met the Dalai Lama, but it was a life changing moment. I really felt his “touch” gave me my woman. And now some twenty years later after being apart from her for many years, that was the woman I wrote today when I was distressed about the “loss” of my car. Some years ago, (15?)  I was set on my path to learning when after a trip to Japan I learned my closest friend had been strangled to death on some back street.

I just couldn’t make sense of it. I had been hit by a car, the accident led to me getting a sum of money, the money was so much I gave some to him, had the money caused his death? Did every bad lead to a good. Did every good lead to a bad? Today I wrote a long email about how many downs I’ve had in life. And how even the times I’m lifted seem to only be so I can be dropped from greater heights….

Be here now

Monkey mind

Compassion

Great Ship, Lower

Wheel of Dharma

Middle Way

Om Mani Padme Hum

This is That, That is That and That’s all Folks!

Did We Really Need Stacy Peralta’s Look at the Bloods and the Crips?

I’m torn. I mean, I’m really on the fence about this PBS special. It aired May 12th on the station’s Independent Lens series and I watched the whole thing. From Terrence Howards’ intro right on through to the credits. And as a Black man I’m torn. On the one hand I guess I feel like “the message” can’t be gotten out there enough. But as a person who has seen a LOT of movies (including many, many documentaries like this) and who has seen a lot of PBS in general, this film had an eerily “familiar” look and feel to it. So much so that it ALMOST seemed like a parody. I almost expected to hear a raspy voiced narrator saying “It was the best of times, it was the worst of time…” with Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” playing in the background.

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Bloods and Crips: Made in America. Whew, I mean, that’s like a conversation from 15 years ago right? Or twenty-FIVE years ago if you wanna talk crack in it’s hey day. So what compelled Stacy to drag all this out like it’s something new? For those of you (probably most) who don’t know Peralta is a a film director, but really he’s a skateboard guy. I’m a 41 year old guy and I first heard his name from precisely 26 years ago as I ventured outside of Chicago’s version of Los Angeles’ South Central (called the South Side) and made my way into the “white part of town” and discovered punk rock and skateboarding. And for those of you who don’t know Chicago is the home of the 2 other largest waring Black gangs; the Disciples and the El Rukins.

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Peralta is “old school” having been a part of that original crew of Dogtown skaters in the 70’s (for this history lesson we’re gonna skip over the 60’s “sidewalk surfin’” era). Eventually he began to skate a little less and video tape younger skaters more and more. And voila; film director. So he’s no stranger to documenting LA based, sub cultures. And by him being an LA native who has lived so adjacent to one of the most largest Black communities in the America (a community that has affected so much of the PLANET via violence, style, music and attitude) I can understand him being compelled to FINALLY saying to himself, “Man, I really ought to see what’s going on in my own back yard. I’ve already got the cameras…” But isn’t everybody who watches PBS gonna be up to speed on this issue? I mean I don’t think any FOX News viewers will ever see/care about this film.

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But with this film I see a lot of “hack” standards (from a film making point of view) and in terms of ground covered I see a lot of stereotypical elements re-hased (as a guy with a degree in Anthropology, point of view). All the favorites are there.

The soundtrack ripped straight from about 3 shows on KCRW’s night time line up

The look back at the 60’s Civil Rights movement as the “start” part of cycle

Dragging out 60’s Lefty Tom Hayden

The footage of Black kids with gang paraphernalia and guns

The photos of dead bodies

The footage of (primarily White) cops abusing Black people of all ages and sexes

The former gang members talking about “giving back” and “changing things”

The interviews of young current gangsters talking about “no way out” “it’s all I know”

Rodney of course, can’t talk about angry Black people without Rodney King

The montage of sad/crying Black parents

And the warehousing of people (Black men) by the prison complex

So, the phrase “Black on Black Crime” isn’t actually verbalized, but the…look and feel is tried and true “Black people as surrounded by/causing violence and being victims of a culture that created a quicksand of despair that we can’t seem to break away from.” Again, I guess the word needs to be put out there…but as an educated Black man it’s also a little tiring. Really? This is still new knowledge to white people? Really? This is still something you think would make an insightful thing to put all that money and time into? Really? I’ve seen this done so many times. In fact I’ve seen it done better several times (hey, I like the morphing photo effect a lot too but I’m not sure if it really reaches my heart in this context). I’ve seen where they give the kids cameras and let them film their lives for a few months and we see what’s important to THEM. What story they think should be told. But a project like this where you can’t personally follow individual just seems like it’s glossing over Standard Black Problem. It just affirms that violence/victim model.

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But I’m torn. People think we have “overcome” because they see Obama; and he is close to being a Martian than he is to most Black people, so it’s good to get this reminder of what’s truly a part of OUR daily existence. But maybe there are different problems that need to be addressed or maybe this film could have tackled why so many efforts to change things have been ineffective. I’m not sure, but I DO know that if I had had access to Peralta before this project was done it would not have looked like this when the finished product was done.

The Story of India on PBS This Week Looks at the Muslim Influence

These days “India” is on people’s minds. Well actually MANY things are on people’s minds. So let’s reframe that. These days when people think of India, they don’t just think of convenience store jokes like Apu on The Simpsons. They think of irritating phone calls to customer service. Hold it! OK, third time’s the charm. These days people are enjoying the interesting movies and music that India has to offer; like Slumdog Millionaire. How’s that? Better? So PBS has been running a series called The Story of India. And India is a place with a lot of people and history; it’s a good idea for this series to be out there. Especially since PBS tends to have online access to shows after they air. But so MANY things, ideas, even words, come from India that are so much a part of the daily lives of people all over the world.

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The entire rap industry would be an entirely different place without the word THUG. A bunch of very casually attired wasp would have to dress totally differently without the word MADRAS. And Hollywood. Where would they be without the word/concept of MOGUL? And how about philosophy? Could Ram Dass have written Be Here Now if he hadn’t gone to India and met Bhagwan Das? At any rate I suppose that’s a enough stuff from my own trivia vault. Let’s talk about the episode!

Primarily it takes a historical timeline of how the Muslim influence worked its way into India’s Hindu culture and ultimately led to the Partition of 1947. I believe the first time I’d ever heard about the Partition was my second year of college in a book called Baumgartner’s Bombay by Anita Desi. It’s a book full of imagery both vibrantly rich and hellishly graphic. But what stuck in my mind these last 20 years is the massive levels of person on person violence that was a part of the Partition. When India split and became the 2 countries of India and Pakistan. I don’t think a religious separation on that level exist in the modern world outside of that one event.

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So I have to admit I had always wondered HOW it happens. The Muslim influence in Africa is understandable, the one in India was a mystery. So the program talks about how the more mystic leaning Sufis were able to appeal to the Hindu sensibilities and that foothold eventually blossomed. Obviously it took hundreds of years, but now I have some idea how it started. And the end, as I said, was the British finally being pushed out in 1947 by Gandhi, Nehru, et al and the decision to Partition. This reminds me of something else the British did in 1947. Have you ever heard of British Mandate of Palestine. It was the policy from the League of Nations in 1920 that allowed the Brits to control Palestine. It really had more to do with Turkey, Arab self rule and even Lawrence of Arabia. But ultimately the Brits decided to partition Palestine for a Jews/Arab split, but the Jews declared independence a few months early. Voila; Israel.

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Anyway, just one last piece of trivia. I’m into comic books. And that decision to declare that State of Israel? A man named David Ben-Gurion. He also was the first prime minister. Now hold that thought. You may or may not know that tons of comic writers and artists are Jewish and created all kinds of characters like Superman and Spider-Man. But also characters like the Green Lantern. Well in the Green Lantern mythology there are these characters called the Guardians of the Universe. Guess who the were modeled on?

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