I feel like August has been a slow month for me here at the ol’ blog. Which it has been. Not sure why, exactly, apart from all of the Very Busy in my life. I’ve had a couple of good things rolling around in my head, but have yet to put them into clear focus.
The lack of clear focus is, undoubtedly, caused by the cold I picked up this week. My head is currently draining all available goo and my handkerchief is having a helluva time keeping up.
So, while I might not be able to write a particularly revealing, insightful, well-thought-out post with a good punch line, I do want to point your eyes in a couple of directions.
Last week everyone’s favorite local columnist Jon Carroll made some interesting remarks about Obama vacationing in Hawai’i, or, rather, how this “vacation” was played up by the media. The “Beltway mentality” of the media described Hawai’i as “exotic,” as if Obama had flown to Tahiti to waste some time in one of those grass huts on stilts above some pristine lagoon rather than hanging out with his grandmother in, need I remind you, one of these United States. He points out, rightly I think, that to those of us out here on the West Coast, Hawai’i isn’t all that exotic. It’s no more exotic to us than I’m sure Florida is to folks in Massachusetts. And the media’s image of Hawai’i betrays, among other things, a significant East Coast bias. (I could go on about recent election year shenanigans. But I’m not in the mood.)
It got me thinking. It got me thinking in part because of arunlikhat’s post on Georgia and the lack of coverage this little war has received in the Buddhist “mainstream media.” What got me thinking was that Tricycle and some other “mainstream” Buddhist publications and publishing houses (not to mention the academic institutions that fancy themselves to be the premiere Buddhist studies centers) are also firmly fixed on the East Coast. I don’t know what sort of effect this accident of geography has had on either the academic study of Buddhism or its representation in pop-culture, but I wonder. In California, to the extent that we have had a historically larger Asian population, to the extent that Buddhism has been in California since the Gold Rush, Buddhism never seemed particularly exotic to me. It seemed like another option in the buffet of American religion. Sometimes, when I read stuff written about Buddhism from the East Coast, its as if the writers have suddenly discovered this new and shiny thing that no one knows anything about (except those wacky hippies “out West”; but they’re getting it wrong, seems to be the assumption).
At any rate, I don’t know if there anything to this or not. It’s just something that’s been rolling around in my head this week along with all this stuffy head-cold badness. If what I’m speculating on seems to resonate with anyone out there, by all means, here’s the ball: run with it.
Speaking of arunlikhat’s post one the Tibet-Burma-centric focus of the Buddhist mainstream, there’s an interesting article on Burma in the current issue of the New Yorker. But, be warned. I say “interesting” very loosely because I’ve only read the first half of it. And I don’t know if it has very much at all to do with Buddhism (except broad generalities), but thought I would direct your eyeballs that way as well.
And last but not least, I thought I’d take another picture of my office. Why? Because it looked so sad and lonely the first time I took a picture when I moved in here just shy of a year and a half ago. As you can see in this picture, I’ve filled it up quite nicely with an eccentric collection of gadgets and books and papers. Somehow, in all of this chaos, I actually get some work done.
Which is really what I should be doing right now. That stack of books in the background and the pile of heavily marked-up papers in the foreground represent that nearly complete first draft of the first book of the revised dissertation which really needs to be done in just about thirty days. Gotta get a move on.