Wednesday, 31 July 2019

WW: Homesick

(Sagebrush [Artemisia tridentata] collected on my last trip to the Gold Side hangs on the foot of my cot.)

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Best Thing In Years

Zen monasteries traditionally close in midsummer, when the zendo gets too hot for comfortable (or safe) sitting and the travelling is good. Then the sangha put the altar Buddha in cryostasis – wrapping him in black cloth till autumn – take stick, and leave, posting a skeleton crew to mind the store.

The Internet does that too. Around July readership drops sharply as more attractive options open up on the northern half of our planet, where most users live. Thus, I learned long ago that I can do pretty much anything I want around now; ain't nobody home no how.

Hence the yearly ritual of the rock groups, with sporadic even weirder vacations from Zen, strictly spoke. So let this post be one of the latter.

Over the past year I've become attached to a Youtube trend so awesome I have to share it. By measured steps, short-subject filmmaking has advanced on that platform, quietly improving and proliferating, in the absence of all profit motive or likelihood of fame. Today, as fans often remark in the comments, these labours of love and passion can rival anything coming out of major studios or corporate television.

Probably the most prominent example is Dust (above). Though devoted to science fiction, in the best tradition of that genre this channel's definition of same is decidedly liberal. So much so that choosing an embed is agonising. The one I finally went with is both typical (quality of concept, writing, performance, production) and unusual (subject). But I'm unable to discern a "normal" Dust subject; any redundancy in their catalogue is well-camouflaged.

Note also that the suggested video is only 12 minutes. That's on the long side. If Dust uploaded a 20-minute film, they'd probably have to put an intermission in it.

The Omeleto vault, for its part, might be summed up as "O. Henry meets Rod Serling". Again, my search for an archetype was fruitless, but the video below is representative of the humour, insight, and fearless young writing.

Some of the actors you'll see are familiar, particularly in the Dust entrées. But if you recognise one, you won't recognise two; the rest will be brilliant aspirants. This means those few name artists are doing it for joy more than career, and I for one tend to love that sort of thing out of all proportion to objective merit.

Which is also awesome here. Just to be clear.

Likewise, some scripts are complete, taking the audience two hours' distance in ten minutes, while others play like opening scenes from non-existent features. But in both cases the raw power of the writers behind them makes me want to get out of the business.

All in, this movement is a perpetual mitzvah: the best movies you'll see all summer, free, bottomless, on demand, fully portable, and each one shorter than a sitcom. (Even without adverts.) "Hang on, I gotta watch this BAFTA-calibre movie. No worries; it's eight minutes long."

And the manna pelts on unabated, for in addition to further Dust and Omeleto suggestions, you'll find other nuggets of comparable genius from still more independent short channels in the margins. If you're not careful, this could become a problem.

But don't come running to me; my own Watch Later list is so long it'll be months before I get back to you.

So much of the hope we had for the Internet never materialised, or rotted into horrors we scarce suspected. In such times, this-here is a fair-dinkum boon; a manifestation of wish fulfillment.

So load 'em up. We've earned it.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

WW: Long-toed salamander

(Ambystoma macrodactylum. Politely displaying the reason for both the common name and binomial.)

Thursday, 18 July 2019

The Hermit Path

Bontebok in fynbos

"There was an anchorite who was grazing with the antelopes and who prayed to God, saying, 'Lord, teach me something more.' And a voice came to him, saying, 'Go into this monastery and do whatever they tell you.'

"He went there and remained in the monastery, but he did not know the work of the brothers. The young monks began to teach him how to work and they would say to him, 'Do this, you idiot' and 'Do that, you fool.'

"When he had borne it, he prayed to God, saying, 'Lord, I do not know the work of men; send me back to the antelopes.'

"And having been freed by God, he went back into the country to graze with the antelopes."

The Paradise of the Desert Fathers

(Photo courtesy of Hein Waschefort and Wikimedia Commons.)

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Rock Groups 2019

It's July, aka the Rock Moon here at the Ring, in which I share with the world my preternatural gift for naming rock groups.

Even rock groups that don't exist.

Even rock groups that should exist. So get on that, OK?

The rules remain constant:

1. All names inscribed here are available to anybody who wants one, free of any charge or obligation. You like it, you take it.

2. I can't guarantee somebody hasn't committed psychic plagiary by already naming their group one of these, so Google thoroughly before adopting one.

3. Any genre suggestions are gratuitous. If you think Les Sœurs Hospitalières would be a great name for your gritty alt-country band… have at it, pardner.

4. All I ask is that if in future someone asks you where you got that awesome name, tell them it was conferred upon you by a Zen hermit monk. Because that's a fantastic story.

And so, to those of you who are about to rock, I give you:

Rock Groups 2019

Les Ignares
The Wogs of Door (like last year's Dogs of War, but… not)
The Pie is Gone
Les Sœurs Hospitalières (all-female medieval folk rock group)
Jessica's Bad Idea (grrrl punk)
Stream of Conscience
Dino Arduino
Standup Tragedy
Bikini Chain
Drop D
Spew (gotta be metal)
Lolo Pass (country, as above)
Humphrey Dumfries and The Egg
Toxic Mail
The Latchkey Kids
The Knights of Stairwell
The Recipe
The Massage
Hot Mess
Cherry Red
The Synoptic Gospels and John
Pepper's Ghost
Punk Muppet
Pious Ponce
Pilot Error
Gooseberry Jam (upbeat country rock)
Greek Fire
Devil's Club

(Photo courtesy of and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

WW: Real eggs

(They have to be steamed, not boiled, but it's totally worth the hassle.)

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Entire Zen Teaching

Sit down.
Shut up.
Pay attention.

(Photo courtesy of Benjamin Balazs and

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

WW: Coulee country

(Open in a new window to better appreciate the beauty of this unique habitat.)
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