Not knowing is most intimate

Jizô asked Hôgen, "Where are you going, senior monk?"
Hôgen said, "I am on pilgrimage, following the wind."
Jizô said, "What are you on pilgrimage for?"
Hôgen said, "I don't know."
Jizô said, "Not knowing is most intimate."
Hôgen suddenly attained great enlightenment.

Book of Serenity, Case 20 – quoted after Illusory Flowers in an Empty Sky [link is dead]; - look at this.

My Dharma Friend and Zen Beginner A.W. wrote an extensive comment on Intimacy as Zen Lingo. In Zen "Intimacy" is a terminus technicus, whereas in common language it is misused in the same way as terms like "adult", "graphic", or "explicit" (always referring to fun and healthy stuff like sex, not to bad stuff like guns and violence). Intimate parts [NSFW in U.S.] are therefore "body parts usually covered in public" (Wikipedia). In French male private parts are called "bijoux de famille" (family jewelry).

Intimate Labors Cover
Screen Shot 2012-02-22 at 8.58.22 PM

Screen Shot 2012-02-22 at 8.58.22 PM

"What do home health aides, call center operators, prostitutes, sperm donors, nail manicurists, and housecleaners have in common?" asks the book Intimate Labors: Cultures, Technologies, and the Politics of Care. Ed. by Eileen Boris and Rhacel Salazar Parreñas. - Stanford UP, 2010. [Amazon]. On a side note: the paperback edition on Amazon is new $23.95 with "4 used from $125.82" (as of 2/22/12) - go figure what's so special about the used edition..."

I'm more interested in intimacy in Zen than in intimacy in Zen Center, especially where it refers to practice.  The most intimate relationship comes from the complete contact you need to make with an experience when you don't know - don't know what happens next, don't know why it happens. And in quite motionless sitting, where you know exactly where you are - on your cushion - and you know exactly what will happen next - nothing - for another 39 minutes - this experience is most direct, most intimate.

The translations of the Koans of the Book of Serenity can be found here. There is a discussion of the Koan also here.

Now - going skin-deep is this really intimate? preferably on your back where you can't see it? Check the Tattoo templates - the images are copyright protected and locked, so I cannot promote the work of Master Takase  here - you need to go to their website to see the tattoo on the back of the girl. But then, not knowing ... you get the idea

Read the Book of Serenity. [Amazon]

I have been studying with Marc Lesser for over 10 years, and he provides insights into this Koan:

“With not knowing, I am open, ready, willing to learn, to be surprised. I can see and hear others beyond my own ideas. Though my experience and knowledge are important, they can get in the way. When I let go of my own ideas, I can be present, humble. When I am humble, I am not afraid. I can enter this moment, engaged, moved, open – intimate.”

Read the complete text


An interesting discussion of Koans and this case by Melissa Myozen Blacker: Koans: One with the Question:

The truth within the koan “is revealed only when our whole being becomes the koan.”

This blog entry is work in progress and I will continue to add to it - so when you subscribe to floblogg you may get multiple email alerts.

Too practical to be useful - the Phonecamera

Too practical to be useful - the Phonecamera

Engineering marvels - especially consumer products - have a long history of being so practical and convenient that they are completely useless. Add-on lenses to smart phones are fast approaching this category. It is common knowledge that the best camera is the one you have with you, and unless you go on a specific photo shoot, this will be more many the smart phone in their pocket

The Xylophone of the Forest

The Hokkaido Garden Show 2015 features the Xylophone of forest created by the invisible designs lab "The creator group who changes an invisible sound into a work to see." I first wrote about this piece when it was created as an ad for the limited edition NTT DoCoMo wooden mobile phone in 2012 created by Drill. Inc. I could not find information if this is the same piece or a re-built version.

While Bach may be amused by this version of his Cantata 147, it has become a widely publicized piece with many videos - the one below being one of the better ones.


Morihiro Harano gave a TED talk on NTT Docomo's "Xylophone" campaign 

initially via BoingBoing

If you want to try something similar at home, the is a toy for this.


There's a Bell in My Head

There's a Bell in My Head that Makes ding-dong and keeps me from thinking. Watch the craziness in the finale of Act 1 of Rossini's opera "An Italian Woman in Algiers", first performed in 1813. Rossini, often discounted as too shallow as a composer has captured in detail and with humor a common challenge when things start to get overwhelming and confusing: all you hear is a bell in your head and the clarity to understand the situation and make a decision is gone. “La mia testa è un campanello che suonando fa din din. Nella testa ho un gran martello mi percuote e fa tac tà. Sono come una cornacchia che spennata fa crà crà Come scoppio di cannone La mia testa fa bum bum.” (translation) — L'Italiana in Algeri, Finale Act 1. Gioacchino Rossini, 1813.

Take a look - and listen:

Maybe you should meditate. Just sit. Quietly, without moving. Yet this seems to you like the story of the guy admiring impeccable British lawn: How do you get it so perfect? – Oh just water twice a day, cut twice a month and roll twice a year – that's easy – just do it for 300 years... Yet, even if you manage once to sit for 20 minutes without moving, just breathing normally and instead of desperately trying to ban all though just let them come and go, you will experience why you want to do it again. Not so sure? Than you need to try again. No time to sit and meditate for 20 minutes? Then you should sit for 40 minutes.

Actually it's not even meditation, just sitting. So even when you think meditation is for wimps, there is a path for you: just sit. You can of course sit on the floor in full lotus position or somehow cross your legs in a way that your knees touch the ground (that's important to get the stability (think stool with three legs) and you will need a cushion or something to elevate your body to accomplish this – or sit on a chair, as long as your spine is straight.

Yes meditation is a powerful way to regulate emotion and prevent depression as well as many other benefits, including but not limited to enlightenment. But most important, it allows you to stop the bell ringing, the hammer that knocks and the radio that constantly plays in your head.

Try it and you will succeed and the moment you succeed, you will fail again and try again and you cannot graduate or get a black belt and advance. That's it - nothing else. This alone is worth the effort. And it's so simple that it is really hard.

And if nothing else helps, listen to Rossini - how they try to escape from Algiers and get back to their home in Italy to be free from the slavery of this crazy guy who keeps everybody with best intention in a luxurious palace. (You get the idea). 

Translation from the Italian text:

In my head I have a little bell which rings ding, ding
In my head I have a big hammer which knocks me and goes tick tack.
I'm like a crow which when plucked goes craw, craw.
Like a cannon shot my head goes boom, boom
(translation by Mark Wolston)

The complete opera is here.

The archaeological terrain of an idealised consumerist society

Moving into the future and looking back, you may find a huge abandoned architectural structure that may once have been some sort of temple or ritual center by a culture not clearly understood. For some reason yet to be discovered it was abandoned in a unused state. Welcome to the South China Mall: with its 892,000 square meters leasable space it still affords the title of the largest shopping center in the world. Yet less than one percent of the 2350 retail spaces are occupied. Archaeologists will have a hard time understanding what happened here based on excavation of other shopping malls. Grégoire Basdevant produced a 30 minute documentary of this vast Emptyness that describes itself as "…sunny and zealous South California Coast and San Francisco, clear and enchanting Amsterdam, elegant and romantic Champs- Elysees Ave (sic) in Paris, mysterious and passionate Venice, sensational and beautiful Caribbean coast and adventurous Tropical Rain Forest. Such zones display the world's famous water scenes and create relax and romantic shopping and living environment: you can enjoy yourself and have delicious foods while shopping and also enjoy cultural communication and body-building while in diversion. In terms of humanistic concern, it allows you to enjoy anywhere and delivers to you the higher spiritual enjoyment besides the creature comfort." (Unedited quote from the New South China Mall [Wikipedia] website via Domusweb)

This place has not been abandoned but never occupied in the first place. Watch the locals use it as a gym for their morning t'ai chi exercise

Via Gizmodo > DomusWeb

New South China Mall, Living City from Grégoire Basdevant on Vimeo.

"The archaeological terrain of an idealised consumerist society" quoted from DomusWeb

Seeing the Flowers

Standing behind a sash window experiencing the world outside, we carefully put our fingers out to feel the sun and the wind only to have them hit by the muntin that encases the glass we look through. Finding the little blocks we can use to squeeze into cracks to keep them open requires some practice and ingenuity. The random piece of wood that works well in this window will not suffice to keep a philosophical discourse flowing. Yet it's the little things, the disregarded scrap piece that suddenly gains value when it fits. Enough has been said about the square peg, keeping your window open requires you to find just the right means to stop it from hitting your fingers too often.

That's when you suddenly realize the knot. An almost ethereal confusion of material that sways in the wind from the open window. Realizing the knot is the first step.


Thank you A. M. - you know where the photos come from.

Bach on Copyright

The Open Goldberg Variations by Kimiko Ishizaka (J. S. Bach, BWV 988)

Would Johann Sebastian Bach have approved of the current Copyright machinations and fights about music rights? He was fast in disagreeing with authority and in 1717 even spent a month in jail for forcing his dismissal from his job at the ducal court in Weimar.

With a big family and lots of kids, he needed the money from his music but his work as an organist as well as a composer were experiences and not recordings. Today some of his works have become so closely intertwined with a performer that they can hardly be seen differently.

One of Bach's more complex, yet well-known pieces are the Goldberg Variations BWV 988 for Hapsichord and the two definitive recordings are both by Glen Gould recorded in 1955 and in 1981.;

Here is a video of Gould playing [updated 5/7/2013 as od link was dead]

in this spirit, an entirely new recording based on a newly revised score by Kimiko Douglass-Ishizaka is a breakthrough very much in the Spirit of Bach as it is entirely open source. The Open Goldberg Variations is a Kickstarter funded project that puts both the score and the complete recording in the open source.

"To help make this recording truly timeless, we need your help. Share it. Give it away. Introduce others to its beauty, and explain to them why you love it," said Robert Douglass who launched the Kickstarter project. "Make yourself responsible for converting another person to being a Bach fan." [via BoingBoing]

Download Page [Open Goldberg Variations] as MP3 or Flac (needs converter to play as AAC in iTunes)Goldberg variations BWV 988 Aria Open Goldberg Variations [Soundcloud (embeddable)] Sheet Music [Musescore]

Play [soundcloud url="" params="auto_play=false&show_artwork=true&color=ff7700" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /]



Lost in Time I always had this interest in seemingly lost and forgotten towns. Not the truly forgotten and therefore famous places. More the ones that are not even famous for being forgotten. Maybe not forgotten enough - yet. Anyone can exit the Autostrada A21 at Cremona to visit some tourist attractions. The next exit - almost blocked by spider webs due to its rare use - is the interesting one, arriving at a small town square completely asleep - maybe for years already, probably just for the siesta from 1 - 3.30. This is where the unexpected nothing happens. The great café that serves you nothing because it is closed, the store where you can't buy anything, the church you can't visit.

This Italian town is lost - I can't remember where it exactly was and poking around on Google maps led to nothing. Some places I visit on a more or less regular schedule. Among them is Buttonwillow, a place I discovered when LA Weekly ran a story in 1997 [needs reference] from a writer who spent a week at the Buttonwillow onramp. Since then whenever I drive I-5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco, I try to make time to go to Buttonwillow - a 4 mi detour into nowhere.

After a long time I've been back yesterday. The Buttonwillow onramp hosted the first Starbucks on I-5 across from the truck stop and now even has an Indian Restaurant.

Always a great place to shoot photos - no tourists run between you and your lens I added to my collection. Earlier shots are all analog and I will post them after scanning.

Buttonwillow has a lot of memories and no tangible paraphernalia. I do have the original LA Weekly story on paper - no URL available - maybe I can add it here.

If you drive I-5 in the Central Valley, take the time and visit Buttonwillow.



East of Amazon

  Klezmer music at Bird & Beckett

Chelm Feelharmonic.jpgSome experiences are offline only. Amazon cannot deliver on this. Yes - the book I got for my friend was a full 30% plus tax more expensive than online and I had to go there and get it. But then I had a nice chat with Eric and showed my daughter a real bookstore - "what they had in the old days", as she calls it.

It is unlikely that Amzon is opening a neighborhood bookstore that sells Trotzki, Jung, and Children's books new and used anytime soon - where you can sit on the floor reading and listening to the Klezmer Music performed by the pretty mixed group of the Chelm Feelharmonic.

Jazz most Friday evenings.

Not Really Real - Two Cities

Recently I received a link to a wonderfully real video of Vienna

Vienna Airlines Motionride - Full CG 3D Animation from immortal-arts on Vimeo.

that is completely computer generated.

And then a few days ago I received a link to wonderfully artificial video of San Francisco

that is completely real and shot in the city

Compare the two impressions - make sure you watch them in full-screen mode and post a comment


O glücklich, wer noch hoffen kann,Aus diesem Meer des Irrtums aufzutauchen! Was man nicht weiß, das eben brauchte man, Und was man weiß, kann man nicht brauchen. - Goethe: Faust I, Vers 1064 ff.

Somewhat interesting Information on the verge of being useless is at the core of the Web - and not by coincidence. The constant complaints about "information overload" are rooted in the idea that information aggregation and dissemination follows a simplistic model of sender and receiver and being at the receiving end, all you can do, is to hold the funnel and explore/experience all the stuff that comes in.

Looking for "really high-up" restaurant for M. in San Francisco - she wants to look down onto toy-sized cars and people - I came across The Most Unusual Restaurants in the World - a comprehensive, interesting, list of eating places outside the "usual" (sic!). I had a hard time selecting one for a picture for this blog entry and ultimately settled for a Kiew restaurant serving as dessert: pork fat covered in chocolate: not kosher, not healthy and probably not very desirable - but it's Ungewöhnlich (unusual).

Information overload is directly related to the search for the unusual. A day spent with the "very usual", nothing special, just living and breathing is more special than the most special, exciting, unusual experience that often not delivers what it is hoping to promise. (to be continued).

Kiew Restaurant


Domi No - TEDx Vienna 2011 is Ramping Up Fast

UPDATE: First speakers confirmed for TEDx Vienna 2011; The TED conference idea, concept, and execution is so inherently Californian that it is quite amazing to see a spin-out emerging in Vienna - one of the more unlikely places at first sight. San Francisco? Sure - Berkeley? Yes - But Vienna?

Looking closer at the fine mesh that interweaves technology, entertainment and design. In the 1830s, when Yerba Buena ("good herb" , Span.) -  "San Francisco" since 1847) was merely an anchorage with barely a few houses, Vienna had probably the most advanced integration of technology, entertainment and design. The Imperial Court as well as the Vienna society on all levels participated in all aspects of scientific explorations as well as artistic work both as ways of innovation as well as entertainment.

Rudolf von Alt - Die Jägerzeile in Wien - 1844The access to world-class scientists and artists in the Reichshaupt- und Residenzstadt Wien - de-facto center of the Holy Roman Empire. Vienna has always integrated art, technology, design and science in a way rarely found anywhere else and it is about time that Vienna regains this status in the domain of digital technology, entertainment and design. As much as one element requires the others, it creates a domino effect that allows new forms to rise and take shape. Take a look the two events TEDx SanFrancisco and TEDx Vienna to see how both events in their own rights create completely different domains of competence.

This year's topic at the TEDx Vienna is the "Domino Effect" - I'll integrate the opening video as soon as I can figure out how.

I had the chance to speak at the 2010 conference on Bridging the Gap via Skype and look forward to be live at the event this October.



Come on Baby...

... Let the Good Times Roll a 1973 pseudo-documentary was the only movie where I went from the exit straight back into the movie at the Tottenham Court Road Cinema. The movie directed by Bob Abel whom I met much later when we all worked on early multimedia projects in Los Angeles - I worked with Bob Stein at Voyager and he was the "other Bob" in multimedia. The movie features Chuck Berry , Little Richard , Fats Domino , Chubby Checker,playing themselves and lots of real and fake archive footage about the music of the '50s as the main reason for juvenile delinquency.

The movie is an interesting time document from the 50s and a time document from the 70s - it was shot in 70 mm 6-channel sound and used complex multi-screen layouts. The movie is rarely shown on TCM and a trailer exists on their website. The DVD is available here.

I tried to embed the trailer with the code provided on the TCM site - but it does not work - click here:  Trailer

Turning mediocre photos into "art"

During my brief stint as a fashion photographer and assistant to a studio owner in Vienna, we had a drawer marked "ART" where the slides and prints ended up that were unusable for professional presentation. This included discolored slides when the film ruptured or at the end of the roll. And whenever we received an invitation to a competition or exhibition we went through the drawer and submitted with a success rate that was in no relation to the work put into the creation of these pieces of art. Today even a most boring photo can be "raised" to art inside of a smartphone (in this case Instagram) and distributed globally

Sperrstund is

I have been invited to submit a paper about the future for a forthcoming book on "Ideas for Tomorrow". The future, tomorrow, great new ideas that will change everything for the better are exciting prospects but I'm not so sure how helpful it is to look at the "future" as a point forward on an imaginary unidirectional time line. Looking at the present may be more inspiring and educational. Looking at the present is also more about social interactions and less about prospective technical achievements. Over the past 50 years a lot of "future" has turned into a past without ever becoming present reality. Robot maids are a perfect example. "Morgen ist heute schon gestern" (Tomorrow, today will already be yesterday) was part of an advertising campaign of the Austrian shoe manufacturer Humanic in the 1970s. (the other one was "In Wirklichkeit ist die Wirklichkeit nicht wirklich wirklich, aber wirklich ist so doch" - in reality, reality is not really real, but it is real nevertheless) - but I digress).

Looking at today - in their presence  - and looking at how things evolve, start, end may be a much more solid approach that I will try to explore.

It is getting late - here something about closing up: Irgendwann macht jedes Lokal a bissl zu:

Hans Moser - Sperrstund is -


Social Media: Spain, 17. Century - Il factotum della città

Social media – "media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques" (Wikipedia reviewed Feb 2011) " are relatively inexpensive and accessible to enable anyone (even private individuals) to publish or access information, compared to industrial media, which generally require significant resources to publish information." (ibid) As with many developments in multimedia and digital publishing, social media are considered a recent development, overcoming the limitations of "traditional" publishing. The potential  of Facebook are rooted in the fact that it connects everyone with everyone, becoming the factotum of the city, knowing every story, every love affair and speculation. There is high demand by everyone: tutti mi chiedono, tutti mi vogliono, everyone asks for me, everyone wants me, and good compensation for social media services.  Ahimè, che furia! Ahimè, che folla! Ah, what frenzy, Ah, what a crowd! What Zuckerberg can learn from an expert in social media in the 17th century is the integration of communication services with a brick and mortar presence in a shop. Definitely a good combination: a te fortuna non mancherà.  (and he has to learn to sing). John Rawnsley - Largo al factotum - Il barbiere di Siviglia, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, 2004.

Imagine the Lights go out - What would You Do?

Life is much easier today - when the lights go out because it rains a bit and the electrical installations in one of the major cities of one of the world's biggest economic power - California - shorten out, then smart phones become wonderful flashlights. The Droid with it's built-in LEDs is much more powerful than the iPhone with a white screen - we tested that today at M's dance school. Right after the performance ended - everything went dark.  The kids enjoyed the WWW-fun in the WorldWideWest. Back home, there was a much more romantic interpretation. I often get asked - "What is the difference between the Silicon Valley and Vienna?" – Just imagine the lights go out... enjoy!

Here and Now: We are there - yet

"Are we there yet?" - "When will we be there" - " I'm telling my five year old daughter that we're here and that this is as good a place as the one we're going to and that accepting and enjoying being here is essential practice. She understands the concepts of practice and mindfulness and asks "when are we away from this place". I'm not going to tell her that we are away from this place never and always before she's six (next month on my birthday). I recently found this comment on journey and destination by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur:

Some people say: “It’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey.” I agree except if you don’t know where you are going… you can enjoy the sun, the dolphins or the octopuses swimming around you all day long, but it will still feel empty and boring.

Desperately looking for a "destination", stuck in "are we there yet"-mode, everything becomes boring. For bored kids in the back of the car, the problem (?) is easily solved with LCD screens, DVD players with integrated game console - preferably separate so there is no fight over the remote control  - and re-runs of entertaining time killers. (What does a mediocre Disney movie show that a look outside the window cannot easily compete with?)

We do the same - we're bored with the sun, the dolphins and feel empty when not entertained. We don't know where we're going. Unsatisfactory feelings and suffering (the Buddhists call it Dukkha) is largely driven by our desperate search for the direction to go to find what we enjoy.

Once we give up the desperate search for the destination, every step on our path becomes exciting, rewarding and part of the destination. Once we give up on the destination, we are in a much better place to pursue our goals, define destinations we want to reach in work, love, life and enjoy the ride there on every step.

180 Sout Soundtrack coverThe movie "180º South - Conquerors of the Useless" is a perfect description of a 5000 mile trip south from Ventura, CA to Patagonian Chile to climb a mountain that ultimately cannot be climbed to the top as the crumbling stone on the last 500 feet is not worth risking lives. You can see a trailer here. The movie is is on Netflix.