Thursday, April 22, 2004

Buddha on a Bikini

My first reaction was to laugh when I found out about Victoria Secret's Buddha Bikini Debacle. I received an email this morning, a forward of a petition and call to contact not only Victoria's Secret, but OndadeMar for plastering the Buddha and Bodhisattvas on their bikinis. I've always enjoyed seeing Buddhist images on clothing. Not only do I belong to a fashionable religion, but if people are attracted to the images even for superficial reasons, great! What's gonna happen when someone who thought that booda dude image was cool actually sees a live person sitting serenely in the same position? Might something about that penetrate to a deeper need?

My second thought: can I work this into a respectful article for the Dharma News? (I should be working on those articles right now.) It's really hard for a person to be serious about this who has Mother of all Buddhas tattooed on her arm. This sacred image is exposed to my genitals every day. Some Buddhist sects consider it highly disrespectful to disrobe in front of a Buddha image, and certainly, wear one on those defiled parts of our body. Many innocent American converts I know have had Buddha images in their bedrooms for years. Somehow this little detail didn't get conveyed to us early on.

Both OndadeMar and Victoria's Secret have already removed the offending bikinis from their websites, or at least the links. Currently the OndadeMar can still be seen and ordered, only if you have the link. I have to say, it certainly is odd to see the Buddha hugging genitalia like that. My third thought: certainly this has been done with Jesus?

Looking for "jesus on a bikini", I found somebody else had the idea on April 19. Further searches yielded nothing. But jesus and underwear certainly did. I found boxers, thongs, and many other panties. Of course, all of those were poking fun of Christian Fundamentalism, none were major fashion industry corporations, and the context is completely different.

I can see how it might not flattering to one's religion to be so fashionable. It could be seen that the icons are treated merely as exotic myth and not as images to be respected and representations of aspirations. On the other hand, if one's religion is seen as sexy, isn't that a compliment?

Anyway, I found that the fashion industry and Buddhism aren't completely at odds. There's a fashion school in a Buddhist temple in Bangkok.

Of course I also couldn't get too excited about this because, well, they'll never make a Buddha bathing suit in my size.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Better Googling

I thought I'd search for a synonym by typing "synonym" and the word I was searching for in Google (it worked) but I also found a site stating if you used ~ along with your search term, Google will search for synonyms of that term as well. That got me excited, because I realized there could be a whole plethora of ways in which I could put Google to better use, so I did a search for "google tips". I found great stuff from Tech TV's Call For Help, Sree Sreenivason from WABC in New York, PC Magazine, and Google itself.

I put together my own list, thinking of my wish to search faster and more accurately, whether working reference on-call, or doing my own thing.

I played around with it, and found these operators won't necessarily make searching easier. Perhaps with use I'll find the appropriate ways to use these new functions. For instance, I looked for mention of the Multnomah County Library. In some cases the number of hits increased when I tried to limit it in various ways from including MCL's own web pages. I figure since MCL's own pages have the highest rankings when ordinary searches are done, when I did these unusual searches leaving those out, the Google rankings started losing their meaning. The hits returned were no longer the familiar front pages of web sites, but many single pages of web sites.

I also found some of the advanced operators don't work, or I couldn't get them to work, even though they're found on the Google help pages. Language: didn't work for returned pages in English.

Those terms with a colon are advanced operators, add them to your search terms. Most of these require no space between the operator colon and the search term. Example: "intitle:multnomah library" will return results with "multnomah" specifically in the web page title and "library" anywhere in the page.

Basic Reference directly from the Toolbar

Maps--Type the street address and the zip code, Google recognizes this as a map search
Phone book--Type name, city (optional), and state
Reverse Directory--Type the phone number in the search engine
bphonebook: specifies business listings for phonebook search
rphonebook: specifies residential listings for phonebook search
define: Provides a definition of the words you enter after it, gathered from various online sources. The definition will be for the entire phrase entered. You can also simply type the word, then click "definition" found on the right side of the results page. This yields the entry.

Refining Searches (we all know "", +, and -)

~ Looks for the term, and any synonyms of the term
.. Two periods between two numbers searches that number range. Specify the unit of measure, dollar sign, etc. ($150..200; 100..200 lbs; 1993..1997)
allintitle: Looks for all search terms only in the web page title.
intitle: Looks for web pages containing that word in the title.
intext: The opposite of intitle:, searches only the body text, ignoring titles, links, etc. (I found the terms could still be in the title. "-intitle:" will give results without the term in the title. Not sure that’s useful anyway.)
stocks: Treats search terms as stock ticker symbols, links directly to stock quote page. You can also just search the stock symbols, then click on the "Show stock quotes" link on the results page.
site: Limits the results to those websites in the given domain. Could be com, edu, etc. or the whole domain name. Useful to use in place of the search engine on a given site. Also useful with the minus sign to get results from anywhere but a given site.
allinurl: Looks for all search terms only in the url.
inurl: Looks for documents containing that word in the url.
related: Lists pages that are similar to the specified web page.
link: Finds pages linking to a particular web page. (Cannot be combined with other searches.)

Here's some samples of various searches I tried:

Approximate number of hits:

61,500.....multnomah library (mcl's homework center top hit)
527.........."multnomah library" (top hits: homework center, kids page, the county site)
19,600....."multnomah county library" (mcl site top hit)
3,680.......intitle:multnomah library (homework center top hit)
1,640.......allintitle: multnomah library (homework center top hit)
15,600....."multnomah county library" (top hits: county site, friends of library, county, ipac page)
56,900.....-inurl:multcolib multnomah library
none........-inurl:multcolib allintitle:multnomah library
1,920.......-inurl:multcolib intitle:multnomah library
54,000.....-inurl:multcolib intext:multnomah library
51,300.....-inurl:multcolib intext:multnomah library -intitle:multnomah
499..........-inurl:multcolib "multnomah library" (top hits: dailywireless on mcl’s access trial, Library Journal)
15,500.....-inurl:multcolib "multnomah county library"
14,700.....-inurl:multcolib "multnomah county library" -inurl:multnomah (a lot of very specific pages)
1, (top; results include the Official Site of the Portland Trail Blazers...hmmmm)

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Matter and Consciousness, Part 2

My Zen teacher had a problem with the movie What the #$*! Do We Know? because one of two spiritual scholars associated with it is a 30,000 year old channeled mystic. I asked him, and anyone else in my sangha that's online, "how about spontaneous appearance of relics from Kashapya and Ananda? what does that do for you? anybody?" and shared my already written thoughts on that. No one responded. Oh, except for my buddy The Twerp (he's always messing with me). He said I channelled him with that question.

I really liked the movie and want to see it again. The movie used fiction to demonstrate the science in a nifty way. Nine out of ten viewers agree, Marlee Matlin was awesome. While there are some problematic things in it, when I googled the scientists and "junk science", the only problematic science was that found in the fictional part of the film, the notion that water responds to words and prayer. (Oh my gosh, the author is coming to Portland.) While it can be delightful to see a movie which appears to validate wisdom passed down through the ages, I think it's important not to accept it at face value and investigate the science, since it does rely on science to make its point.

I really liked the stuff about the brain, and the notion that we become addicted to emotions. To me, the science of peptides associating with certain thoughts that trigger certain emotions fits right in with my experience of Buddhist practice. People generally are subject to negative habits of emotion, but it is possible to change these deeply worn grooves through the creation of the habit of meditation and of loving-kindness. The movie appears to make the point that consciousness can effect the physical world, and asks us "how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?"

The rabbit hole it leads me toward is this notion of matter and consciousness. Suppose we do rule out charlatanism in the case of the Buddhist Relics, and suppose our thoughts do have a measurable effect on our own bodies, even on water? What if it really is the case that enlightened masters reached out to us from beyond this time and space and gave us the gift of relics to revere? How is that so different from a 30,000 year old disembodied mystic channeling himself through a middle-aged woman? By going down the rabbit hole, I keep myself open to the possibilities, but at the same time, I'm a pretty smart girl, just as Alice is. For the most part, I figure there might be an easier explanation, but there also might be things I just don't know about the mind and the universe.

There was a time in my life and my Buddhist practice that I paid close attention to my dreams. I shared with friends a frightening dream where I was killed, and I knew it had something to do with my being a prostitute and with money the killers were searching for. To my surprise, they took seriously my joke about it being a past life, and so did my other Zen teacher. Was it a past life, or rather, death? More on this human body, consciousness, and the notion of self and past selves coming soon.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Driving While Black

Hey, here I am, in the front right, holding up the sign with the Buddha icon.

An unarmed black man was killed by a police officer. The man was still strapped in his seat belt. The police officer claims he 'resisted arrest' and that he thought he had a weapon. I still can't shake the feeling this was a deliberate hit, but why would they want this young man dead? The coroner's office says he had cocaine in his body that would have killed an ordinary person. (Black man as beast.) I have to wonder, why did the shooting officer's partner taser the victim for THREE MINUTES after he was shot. After he was dead. I wonder, is there any way to know whether this would keep the blood pumping, send drugs into the system? You see where I'm going here: like the victim's family, I have to wonder if the cops planted those drugs.

As you can see from the photo there were quite a mix of people there. This photo might lead you to believe a lot of Caucasions were there. Not really. About ten percent. I didn't think that was enough. While all the media settled on "hundreds", I would say there were at least a 1000 people there. At least.

Both James Perez' aunt, and another woman whose child had a run-in with the Portland police spoke of their comfort zone, how they'd been in their 'comfort zone' and these instances shocked them out of it. This issue should be one of the top issues of the mayoral campaign, yet I'm afraid it won't be, because we are in our comfort zone.

Portland has a larger majority of white people than most other urban centers. Perhaps that is why this issue has not been addressed the way it should have been, before now, before another unarmed black person was killed by the police. Our "liberal" mayor believes racial profiling indeed exists in Portland. Perhaps she felt she addressed the issue. Clearly she didn't.

I have to say this really brings home for me how, even though I have an active imagination, I cannot imagine what it must be like for a person of color to live and work and raise a family in the midst of racism. It has never crossed my mind that I could be beaten if I was approached by a police officer. I have never feared for my life when pulled over for a traffic infraction. I haven't even been afraid they might search my car. I have never been pulled over for failing to signal correctly, nor did it even occur to me I could be. It's become pretty clear all of these things occur to a person of color in Portland.

Sadly, whether black or white, or whatever race, as long as we are in our "comfort zone", we do little to change society for the better. In some ways, we as peace activists are stretched too thin. We try to bring in all the issues, show how they are interconnected, then cannot address each one as deeply as they need to be.

Also, as James Perez' aunt said, this is not just a black issue, this is a white issue too, a human issue. The Portland Police are trained a mere ten weeks. As one speaker pointed out, cosmetologists get more training. I happened to be standing next to one who told me it took a minimum of six months to get her license. The national standard of police training is 22 weeks (still too low). When police are trained to shoot, that's what they do. They don't have training in diffusing conflict. Don't have training in dealing with the mentally ill. Don't have training in communication. Don't have training on dealing with stress. If they do, it's not enough.

Often people will excuse the police. They have a tough job. They put their life on the line. And they do. All the more reason that this should change. For their own sake they should have better training. For our sake, they should be held to the highest standard, because they have our lives in their hands. As my sign said, NO ONE should be afraid of a TRAFFIC STOP. And NO ONE should be targetted as suspicious because of the color of their skin. NO ONE should be guilty for Driving While Black.

One of the speakers had us point to the Justice Center. Engraved on that building is a quote by MLK Jr. She started reciting it, and we all joined in: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." This injustice hurts us all, and we all really need to do something about it, need to make the change happen.