Mar 30, 2008

No Country for Old Men

I spent last night with Mike and Bill watching No Country for Old Men. I saw this movie previously and not only enjoyed it, but found it fascinating. The second viewing revealed details that were not apparent to me when I watched it the first time. I think this film is great. I enjoyed the performances from all of the actors from Texas and Kelly Macdonald (who is from Scotland) did a fantastic job as the wife of Josh Brolin. Brolin looks like he could become could start taking on the roles that Tommy Lee Jones would have gotten 20 years ago. Tommy Lee Jones and Woody Harrelson were both fantastic, as well. My favorite scenes in the film are the exchange between Javier Bardem and a store keeper - he is the epitome of sinister in that scene, and the scene between Bardem and MacDonald at the end of the film - she conveys strength and vulnerability simultaneously, and I think that is amazing.. Bardem takes the role of a psychotic killer over the top, without making it laughable. In a film of stand out performances, Bardem's portrayal of Anton Chighur plays like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver or Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. The suspense is taut, the character actors are fantastic and the plot of the film is great. Even after seeing No Country for Old Men previously, I was on the edge of my seat watching it again.
It seems that people either love this film or don't connect with it at all. This is the case, I think, with most of the Coen Brother films, but I think that No Country for Old Men will be listed as one of the all time great films as time goes by.

Mar 29, 2008

Peaceful Saturday

SGI Kaikon by Finijo

I went to slow gongyo this morning and then spent the afternoon hanging out with friends and chanting. It was a very peaceful day. I've been stressed out lately and needed the respite, so it was very welcome.

I think one of the reasons that I have been drawn to Buddhism over the years is the connection I see between Buddhism and Existentialism. I identified Existentialism as a philosophy that I could relate to when I was still in high school (three cheers for Emerson). The feeling that I am ultimately responsible for my life, my choices, my happiness and the relationships I have, fits well with Buddhism and with Existentialism.

This is a prayer that was recently given to me, which epitomizes the way I hope that Buddhism will help me to deal with the negative aspects of my life and my attitude.

(Buddhist Apology)


For having the Gohonzon
For being able to change my Karma
For being alive at this time
For all the people around me
For everything being a teacher to me


Realize again that for every external cause (nyo ze en)
there is first an internal cause (nyo ze in)
Every hurt, anger, frustration, irritation,
or painful situation that
occurs is MY responsibility.
My karma forced that to happen, or forced them to behave that way
I can turn this poison into medicine (hendoku iyaku),
become aware of my own internal "hooks" that
drew such an experience to me.
I, ALONE am responsible for raising my life condition


For current slander in Thought, Word, and Action
Let me not want to do it anymore
Daimoku of altruism - chant for the health and
Well-being of the person(s) involved and that
they will deepen their faith. Ask the
Gohonzon, "What can I do to rectify the situation?"


To work harder for Kosen Rufu
To CREATE value in the area of family relations,
school, job, and activities


Frantic Friday

Yesterday Today and Tomorrow Blossoms by Finijo

I worked my ass off today. I was Downtown, Midtown, and way out West for work today. I got my review at work and it was quite favorable. It gave me a good chance to talk to the program director and ask some questions that I have had on my mind lately. I was not surprised to find out that I already knew the answers, but it is always good to verify facts before making decisions.

Orchid Tree Blossoms by Finijo

After work I went shopping and took Connor out to eat at Little Miyako. It was a good chance for us to just sit and talk to each other. His TAKS and Stanford scores came in this week, and he aced them both. He had 11 PHS (post high school) scores, which is two more than he had last year. When I told him, "You realize that you do so well on these tests because you are really smart, and that is why your mother and I ride you like a horse about your grades.?" He replied, "Yeah, that is the first thing I thought about when I saw the scores. That and the lecture I am going to get from Mom." Neither of us gave him much of a lecture and we both tried to focus on the positive. He is still screwing the royal pooch with regard to his grades, his classwork and his homework, but it could be worse, I suppose.

Mock Orange Blossoms by Finijo

I took these pictures of flowers from our yard. The spring flowers are in bloom, and I am really enjoying the view from the computer desk as I blog. The explosion of Spring me pondering the nature of change and impermanence. Looking at the beautiful blossoms, it is clear to me that change and impermanence may often be uncomfortable, but more often than not it is for the best.

Mar 26, 2008

Spa Day at the Park

Spa Day At The Park by Finijo

These are some shots of a recent visit to the Nature Discovery Center in Newcastle Park. My visit coincided with Spa Day for the animals. Before I left the park, I was able to get a shot of the hairdressers giving a few of the residents a blow dry.
Table of Taxidermy by Finijo
Upon entering the park, I was greeted by a table full of taxidermied specimens. At first glance, I could not believe that there were so many birds milling about on one picnic table, then I realised that they weren't exactly milling.
Spa Day at the Park 2
A couple of cool cats and a stone fox were hanging out waiting for their turn to receive the spa treatment.
Nature Discovery Fountain by Finijo
I never can get a good shot of this fountain because of the light and shadows that play across the water bearer. It is a lot prettier in person.
Fierce Opossum by Finijo
This little guy was a riot. He looks fierce, which is a little out of character for opossums, but funny as hell to behold.
Bobcat Fright by Finijo
I wish this shot came out just a little more clearly, but I had to post it anyway. The look on this bobcat's face is a scream. I can't tell if he is trying to scare me to death or if I am scaring him to death. Either way, it looks like CGI gone awry.

Mar 25, 2008

Dolphin Kitsch

Dolphin House by Finijo

I drive past this house several times a week and never fail to laugh out loud as I pass what must be one of the worst statues I have ever seen grace the lawn of an expensive home.
Dolphin Statue by Finijo
Money does not endow people with good taste. Marilyn thinks that they must be from Miami, given the dolphin statue, the palm trees on the door and the pastel yellow on the house. I don't have a clue, but their house is something else!

Mar 24, 2008

Easter With the Folks

Spring Cleaning with the Folks by Finijo

I went to Mom and Dad's house and helped them clean out their closet. I think they were surprised at how much they could easily get rid of (I know I was). Dad was a reluctant participant. For all of his complaining, he put forth an equal amount of effort and he is now minus about 50 shirts and other pieces of forgotten clothing. Mom gave up at least that much and most of the clothing and other items will go to men's and women's shelters around town.
Casa de Easterling con Estrellas by Finijo
We stopped by the old homestead before going out to eat tonight. It has been a good ten years since I have driven by it and it looks strangely much like it did when we first moved in. There are some changes from when we left her, like they tore out all of the landscaping and trees that we planted (WTF?) and they also added three large stars to the front of the house. She isn't what you call a great beauty, so I think the stars are kind of like putting diamonds on a pig (drawing too much attention to a dearth in the aesthetics department).

Tapas at JB's by Finijo
We went to a local barbecue joint, JB's Smokehouse, and were shocked to see the changes. In addition to the expansion of the restaurant, they have some new entertainment and eating options. They now offer live Jazz - which is strange, considering this is a barbecue place. But perhaps it is even stranger that they are passing off a bunch of appetizers as Tapas (with the exception of Ceviche, which is typical tapas fare). See typical tapas menu here. All in all, it was a very pleasant afternoon with Mom and Dad - thank you for the wonderful dinner and the work out - let me know when you have more to clear out.

Mar 22, 2008

The Path Of Tea

The Path of Tea by Finijo

I got up this morning and went to the Community Center for Slow Gongyo. I am as yet unable to recite the sutras at the same pace as the other children, so I decided to put myself back and join the remedial group. It helped. With some luck and a lot of effort, I will be playing with the big kids soon.
The Path of Tea Interior by Finijo
I went to The Path of Tea after the meeting, so I could read a bit and relax. This was my first visit and I found the owners to be very friendly and more than willing to talk to you about the various teas that are offered. They have a "sniffing bar" where you can sniff each variety of tea to determine what kind you would like. I went with an organic Oolong and was not disappointed. In addition to the wonderful tea, the atmosphere was very warm and inviting, and (as I had hoped) also quite relaxing.
The Path of Tea Cup by Finijo
In addition to tea, they offer a small variety of organic pastries. I had the lemon bar and a pumpkin cupcake, which were both wonderful. They do not offer meals at The Path of Tea, but you are permitted to bring food in from Field of Greens (the vegetarian restaurant next door). You can buy tea to take home and make, or you can buy a pot to have while you are there. They also have several tea sets on display that you can purchase. I also think that being able to pick out the tea cup you drink from (from a shelf on the back wall) is a very nice touch. I will definitely be going back.

Stop War

Stop War by Finijo

I have been seeing this defacement of stop signs all over town, and I have to say - KUDOS!!! I wouldn't do it, but it makes me feel like part of the underground movement in Orwell's 1984 to see the message getting out. After five years, I have had more than enough of this war and I can only hope that we don't pick another war anytime soon. I know it isn't politically correct to say that out loud, but I don't care and I hope that more and more people do. I support the troops, but I think they got screwed royally this time out, and more than that, I think most of them realize it.

Mar 21, 2008

Villa Incognito

I finished Tom Robbins' Villa Incognito today and I really enjoyed it. He writes odd novels that are quirky and funny, and after reading Still Life with Woodpecker and Villa Incognito, I think Robbins is now among my top 5 favorite authors (also making the list are Douglas Coupland, Chuck Palhaniuk, David Sedaris, and Caleb Carr).

Tom Robbins may have started Villa Incognito with the funniest beginning to a novel ever written, when he wrote:

It has been reported that Tanuki fell from the sky using his scrotum as a parachute. That is not so ridiculous when we take into account the unusual size of Tanuki's scrotum. Well, okay, it's still pretty ridiculous - and no less so just because in relation to his overall body mass, Tanuki's scrotum is proportionately larger than the scrota of elephants, whales and the Jolly Green Giant.
There are several more lines to that paragraph describing Tanuki's testicles in detail, but I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone. I will say that Robbins managed to fit alien animals, Vietnam era MIA/POW's, Asian circus acrobats, and a lesbian clown into this novel in his beautifully offbeat way. I wish I new more adjectives to describe his writing. Odd, strange, silly, and unique are all appropriate, bearing in mind that I mean them in a good way.
I am on to my next Tom Robbins novel, Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, and I also went to Half Priced Books and picked up Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas for good measure.

Mar 20, 2008

St. Mary's Condos

St. Mary's Condos by Finijo

I had a little accident a couple of days ago, so I spent yesterday doing all of the follow up that follows up an accident. I met with the adjuster, dropped my car off at the dealership for repairs, and picked up a rental car. BTW - Chevy Aveos (my rental) are cute, but ultimately crap cars.

St. Mary's Condos Courtyard by Finijo
Which leads me to these pictures. Joy, my Enterprise leasing agent, had to drive me to someplace off of 45 South to pick up the car and once again my stellar sense of direction caused me to get turned around and end up off of the 610 South Loop East in error. Before eventually finding my way home, I ran across St. Mary's Condos. You can imagine that the larger than life St. Mary caught my eye from the feeder road next to the freeway - so, I had to stop and take pictures of this amazing scene. Note the small black hand chair with crimson fingernails among the cement benches/pews.

St. Mary's Condos Courtyard 2 by Finijo
Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to set up an outdoor chapel. This is the most spectacularly kitchy place I have seen in a long time. It is reminiscent of something from the 1950's that you might find on Route 66 or in some backwater town in podunk Arkansas, but not along a bustling freeway in Houston, Texas. I can't help but wonder if they would let me take pictures during a service...

Mar 19, 2008

Obama Commentary

I was driving on S. Shepherd today when I saw this commentary on Obama. I posted the Obama mural a few weeks ago, so I thought I would post this, also, since it is essentially the same image - well, not any more.

Mar 18, 2008

Red Bull Art

Redbull Art photograph by Finijo

I noticed this bit of Houston art on a strip mall building on S. Rice over the weekend. I was able to get back to it today and take this photo. It really is striking because of its scope and its funky subject matter.

Mar 17, 2008

Kosen Rufu Day

Water Tree by Finijo

Connor and I went to the Kosen Rufu Day event for SGI at the University of Houston at Clear Lake. It was a beautiful day and I got a lot of pictures of some statues at the university and also of a park that we visited afterwards.
Water Trunk by Finijo
The day was overcast and blustery, but it was beautiful and we enjoyed being outside near the water and amid the trees.

Three Birds by Finijo
I loved how these three birds lined themselves up and just sat there like that for the longest. This video is not the best, but it shows some of the park and Connor and Emerson . Connor is pointing out how there are some coat hangars with pantyhose on them submerged in the lake.

Mar 13, 2008

Yucky Day

Not sure if it is just hormonal, but today seemed to be pretty crappy. I know things will look up tomorrow, but today they just didn't. Maybe it was a phase of the moon, because several people I talked to today seemed to be having the same experience.
On the way to an appointment this morning, I got stuck in traffic due to the accident that is depicted in these photos.
It seemed bad, but I was really surprised to see the 18 wheeler on it's side and these giant cement cylinders out on the freeway.
At the appointment, I was stood up by both clients, so I just twiddled my thumbs for an hour and a half. I was finally able to reach one of them and he managed to spare 20 minutes for me.
I got to work and snapped a shot from my new assigned parking space for my agency car. I am facing the building off in the distance (behind the trees) where I have to walk to get to my office. I have very little motivation to use that vehicle at this point unless I am transporting others. I know I am bitching at this point, but today was pretty yucky and I am counting on tomorrow being better. At least it will be Friday.

Mar 11, 2008

Objects of Devotion

Today I was out and about for work and while I was waiting on a client, I was able to snap some pictures. I thought this mural in a really run down part of town (off of Canal Street near downtown) was very colorful and hopeful.
I also enjoyed this yard "art" by a home owner near Hays Street in Fifth Ward. I was able to get pretty close to the display and was struck by the various objects that were arranged for the public's viewing pleasure.

There is a variety of religious objects, steer skulls, sea shells, cacti, succulent plants and ceramic bric-a-brack. If you click on the photo, it will enlarge and you can see that the creator of the display has placed a carousel and a windmill among the rocks. This kind of display fascinates me because it is like peeking into someone's mind or soul. Nobody can really explain it except for the person who created it.

Mar 9, 2008


My Gohonzon was enshrined today and it was an interesting and wonderful experience. My altar did not arrive, but we put together a temporary altar, so it went off without a hitch. I was not sure exactly what was involved with the enshrinement, but it was pretty simple and not a lot of pomp and circumstance (which was more than fine with me). We chanted and did our Gongyo and the Gohonzon was enshrined in the butsudan. Then we all sat around and talked for a bit. If there had been more to it, I might have felt weird about it. This is all new to me and I am glad that I am involved in a form of Buddhism that is laid back. I don't think I could be comfortable with a lot of ceremony for the sake of show - it would make me uncomfortable.

Mar 8, 2008

Derelict Buildings

Gash by Finijo
While out in the city today, I took some pictures of derelict buildings. These are some of my favorites. I thought that the sky through the gash in the facade of the Tennison WFO CO building was striking.

Tennison WFO Co by Finijo

This building was in the process of being hollowed out by a demolition crew. The inside is all gnarled steel and broken bricks and cement. I think the outside of the building was holding up remarkably well considering what was happening on the inside. It reminds me a little bit of The Alamo.

Rusted Pipe by Finijo
I especially liked the contrasting materials in this photo. The lush greenery that sprouted up through the cracked, barren cement against the red of the bricks (which look almost as vivid as they must have the day they were laid) and the deep russet of the rusty pipe was quite striking to me.
Stuffed Elephant by Finijo
I was surprised to find a stuffed elephant hanging from the bars on one window and a stuffed pink dinosaur hanging from another. Odd since both windows were boarded from the inside.

Iron Cross Window by Finijo
I thought this window looked like it was some kind of forbidding religious symbol with the iron cross in the center. This building is so solid and well built, that it is still very beautiful, if you really look at it.
Window Plant by Finijo
This view would look like someone put a potted plant out on their balcony, if it weren't for all of the boarded up windows. It was fascinating to find this building downtown has been seeded with all kinds of vegetation as it sat in decay over the years. There are parts of it that are teeming with plants, and I would hazard to guess other life forms, as well.

Rocky Racoon Rides Again

As I was walking through the parking lot at work, I did a double take when I passed this truck. I have no idea why they have a giant stuffed racoon strapped to a plastic chair, which is strapped into the bed of their truck - but I am glad that they do. It makes for a neat photo op and it made me laugh. I forgot to check my settings before taking the shot and ended up filming it instead of photographing it.

Mar 2, 2008

Derelict Beauty

This was once a beauty salon called Carmen's. I have driven by the closed down husk of a business countless times over the last 20 years and I cannot remember it being open any during that time.
Today I decided to take some shot of the exterior, because I like the mossy green color, and the fact that nobody has bought the building/land in all this time is intriguing to me.

I was quite surprised as I approached the side door to find it not only open, but also to find the contents of the beauty salon still inside the building.

I had to go in for a peek. I was really surprised at what I found. Not only are the original work stations and chairs still in the building, but it seems like someone has taken shelter in the building recently. If you click on the picture, you will find a couple of cans of corn, a can of sardines and other items used by the occupant.

I went into a few rooms and found that the bathroom had a fresh roll of toilet paper and some bleach. The faded sign on the wall says,"Please throw paper in waste basket, not in commode." It was surprising that there is no bad smell in the place at all, so the water in the bathroom must still be running. It made me a little sad to think that someone is staying there - but even sadder to think that they probably came from a decent enough background to feel compelled to hang the toilet paper and to clean the bathroom with bleach.