This That

It's one of those grey, dreary days where you just want to stay inside all day and drink tea, which is what I'm doing -- that and working on proposals, and now taking a break to download some of my brain to a blog. Many different snippets ...

I had a very lovely sushi dinner with my friends Maw and Lise last night. Both showered gifts on me -- late birthday presents (a fabulous orange and green poncho, seen here, -- very Irish! a beenie hat, and a book on patterns in nature) from Maw and some great additions of owls and mushrooms from Lise's mother's collection to add to my collection (my mother's collection)!

Lise recently found out that the film she co-produced with Lynn Hershman Leeson will be screening at Sundance in 2007! Very exciting. But more exciting to me is that Lise's current project is a short that she's writing specifically around, inspired by my Forever Summer installation and will be filmed onsite. Lise has shared the general storyline with me and I am thrilled! I couldn't sleep one night last week because I kept thinking through who would be the best actress to play the role -- two came to mind -- Gena Rowlands and Ellen Burstyn!!

Maw is busy getting ready to go to Sweden and Amsterdam. She also recently sent me one of her new poems The Contract, a strong, yet subtle reminder of the unwritten "rules" within institutional settings.

I'm getting ready to attend my 4th Vipassana meditation retreat. The last one I did was in Jaipur India (pictured) in December 2004. The meditation center was stunning! Up in the mountains and filled with peacocks. I never knew that peacocks could fly! -- they make so much noise when they do; and I never knew that their call sounds like a cat meowing!! Anyway, we (my friend Sarita and I) had to leave the course after 3 days because the center's administrators had scheduled for the meditation hall to be sanded and painted during our course! It was nuts. I'm very much looking forward to this one in Joshua Tree, where I've completed the other three (the new poncho will be perfect for sitting and meditating for 11 hours a day). For those interested in learning more about the practice of Vipassana, check out this website.

There's also a good movie called Doing Time, Doing Vipassana directed by Eilona Ariel and Ayelet Menahemi that I recommend. It's what got me interested in the practice in the first place.

From the Dhamma Website:
"In the mid-1970s Vipassana was first tried within a prison environment with two 10 day courses being conducted for jail officials and inmates of a prison in Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Despite the success of those courses, no further jail courses were conducted in India for almost 20 years. In 1993 a new Inspector General of Indian prisons, Kiran Bedi, was appointed and in the process of trying to reform the harsh Indian penal system, learned of the earlier Vipassana courses. She requested that additional courses be conducted in the largest prison in India, Tihar Jail outside of New Delhi. The results were dramatically sucessful. Based upon the success of these courses, another course was conducted in April 1994 by Goenkaji and a number of his assistant teachers for over one thousand inmates of Tihar prison with wonderful benefit for all of those who participated.

During the following winter of 1994-95, the Israeli filmmakers traveled to both Tihar and to the Baroda Jail in the India state of Gujarat, at which Vipassana courses had also been conducted. There they conducted and filmed extensive interviews with jail officials, including Karen Bedei, and inmates from many different countries who participated in the courses. The result of these efforts was an extremely powerful 52-minute documentary film entitled Doing Time, Doing Vipassana. The film describes the way in which Vipassana has been sucessfully used within the Indian prison system to dramatically change the behaviour and attitude of the inmates and jailers who participated in the courses and, thereby, improve the entire atmosphere of the prisons."

I can see how Vipassana would make a profound difference for prisoners. I remember visiting Alcatraz not too long ago and seeing the cells used for solitary confinement and reading that prisoners would be held for up to 30 days. My first thought was, "what a great opportunity for meditation!"

While down south, I'm also going to get to see my uncle Sande (dad's bro) and aunt Gail and cousins, Jeff and Mark. I haven't seen Sande and Gail since I visited them in 1994 in Vienna and I haven't seen my cousins since a family get-together in 1982!!!

Yes, my cousin Jeff also has red hair -- we're the only two in the family. I think we might also be the most fringe. I'm curious if Jeff still has a British accent. I can remember after they had moved to London and lived for four years, Jeff came back with a full on Brit accent. I was always so jealous that their family lived all over the world (Okinawa, Bangkok, Panama, London, Cyprus, Vienna, and I can't remember the others) -- though I'm sure this influenced my passion for traveling since my early twenties.