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Algernon D'Ammassa (Los Angeles, CA United States)
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Tao Te Ching Personal
Tao Te Ching Personal
by S Mitchell
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.36
15 used & new from CDN$ 6.87

4.0 out of 5 stars A personal work and NOT a definitive translation, July 31 2001
This review is from: Tao Te Ching Personal (Paperback)
On the cover of this "new English version" of the Tao Te Ching, Huston Smith is quoted describing this as a definitive translation. But it is not, and the author is open about that in his introduction: "...I have...paraphrased, expanded, contracted, interpreted, worked with the text, played with it, until it became embodied in a language that felt genuine to me."
Some of the ire this book has aroused may have to do with packaging. It is not Lao-Tzu's Tae Te Ching, and students seeking to become more familiar with that text had best consult other, more literal translations. Comparison and contrast with Mitchell's work is highly recommended, however, because Mitchell's version is informed by a deep understanding, nurtured by years of spiritual practice and Zen training, and the author's own considerable skill as a poet.

Impro for Storytellers (Theatre Arts (Routledge Paperback))
Impro for Storytellers (Theatre Arts (Routledge Paperback))
by Keith Johnstone
Edition: Paperback
21 used & new from CDN$ 19.36

5.0 out of 5 stars Handbook for practitioners, July 25 2001
Keith Johnstone's earlier work, IMPRO, has influenced and will continue to influence the way acting and improvisation for the theatre are taught. IMPRO is a book not only about theatre and improv, but about teaching and human interaction, loaded with insights making that book highly suitable for the general reader.
This follow-up is more specialized: a handbook for putting IMPRO into practice, including detailed improv structures for performance and for rehearsal, and chapters on how to teach these games. Sample run lists and notes from performances impart Johnstone's experiences, trials and errors over many years teaching in several countries. The book is exhaustive and beautifully written, but for the general reader, IMPRO is more appropriate.
One disappointment about the book is some sloppy copy-editing. It is rife with typos, of the sort that are not picked out by a computer spell-checker since the typos form actual words.
The title IMPRO FOR STORYTELLERS is, as Tim Sheppard pointed out below, potentially misleading. This is not a book that will help a solo performer generate material, though some of the exercises within can be translated for that purpose. Johnstone's concern is that improv not be restricted to a form of "light entertainment" (think "Who's Line Is It Anyway?"), but as a way of generating narrative and using it to explore human relationships.

Haroun And The Sea Of Stories
Haroun And The Sea Of Stories
by Salman Rushdie
Edition: Audio Cassette
7 used & new from CDN$ 122.77

5.0 out of 5 stars From seclusion and heartbreak, a joyous tale, July 24 2001
This delightful story becomes indomitable when you consider it was written while the author was in seclusion, constantly moved from one dwelling to another by British security in order to protect him from assassins.
In 1989, THE SATANIC VERSES came out and was answered with riots in several countries and a death sentence by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who was then the spiritual leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Rushdie spent several years in hiding. His marriage did not survive, and in the separation and divorce, Rushdie (an unwilling hermit) lost contact with his young son, Zafar. This novel, his first novel after SATANIC VERSES, is dedicated to his son.
The story is about a celebrated storyteller ("the shah of blah") who loses his talent for improvising stories when his wife leaves him. Haroun, his son, is unwillingly pulled into an adventure involving an arduous journey to the sea of stories to vanquish a powerful enemy and reclaim his father's gift of gab.
What is the force of evil in this story? Silence. An enforced silence. The quashing of language, fantasy, satire - even the truth itself. Something Rushdie was experiencing in an episode much darker and more terrifying than any of the events in this joyful fable.
There are plenty of allegories and light-hearted commentary woven into the tapestry. The braying and strident Princess Batcheat is a bit much to put up with - as are the people we must sometimes defend on principles such as freedom of expression.
Written beautifully, with a masterful feel for language punning in English and Hindustani. Try reading it out loud. This is suitable for the young dreamers in your family, but that is not to underestimate the maturity of this work. It could only have come out of Rushdie's experience at that time, an incomprehensible event with severe personal costs. Out of that sadness, he opened his mouth and something joyful and indomitable appeared.

Back in Town
Back in Town
Price: CDN$ 12.50
25 used & new from CDN$ 5.92

3.0 out of 5 stars The second-best of "Air Marshall Carlin", July 23 2001
This review is from: Back in Town (Audio CD)
Call it the "Air Marshall Carlin" period. Far from the days of the hippy-dippy weatherman, this is George Carlin the statesman of digusted cynicism. By taking the foibles of American culture and exaggerating them, Carlin has hit on a winning brand of topical humor: witty, on-target, and ruthless... In the liner notes, Carlin claims this is his best album... But for my money, his previous JAMMIN' IN NEW YORK features the best balance of harsh social commentary and timeless humor. On this offering, "free-floating hostility" upsets the balance and makes for an album angrier than it is funny. But it's still pretty funny.

Zen Teachings Of Bodhidharma
Zen Teachings Of Bodhidharma
by Bodhidharma
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.55
42 used & new from CDN$ 4.19

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Do not doubt that your mind is basically pure.", July 23 2001
Red Pine (aka Bill Porter, author of ROAD TO HEAVEN and a celebrated translator of Buddhist poetry and scripture) gives us a spirited translation of four talks attributed to Bodhidharma even though debates over authorship, and even the existence of Bodhidharma as more than a legend, have not rested.
Bodhidharma's "Outline of Practice" outlines the dharma as this Brahman-born monk taught it in China after being sent there by his teacher, Prajnatara. A confusing distinction made in these talks, especially the "Outline," has to do with what Bodhidharma calls "reason" (again, in this translation) and meditation practice. They are presented as two avenues to "zen," but the definitions make it hard to distinguish them. Throughout, there is an inside/outside (or mind/body) kind of thinking which may be expedient thinking for the sake of his students, or his own enduring mind-habit.
Otherwise, his teaching is very clear: attain your true self, attain what the Heart Sutra is talking about; and at that point, what is there to do? Realizing the paramitas without a trace of actor or action, the student can use form with a clear mind and help others.
In the "Bloodstream Sermon," there are questions and answers, as Bodhidharma teaches and occasionally spars with monks in China (at a time when Buddhism in China was heavily philosophical). Bodhidharma has mastered the philosophy enough to turn it on its ear and make it point these sleepy students to "just doing it." If you do not find your true self, he says, all invocations, offerings and precepts are useless. "The thousands of sutras and shastras only amount to a clear mind."
With the "Breakthrough Sermon," the conceptualizing gets pretty convoluted. Dharma speeches are like acupuncture needles, and what may have pointed directly 1,500 years ago becomes mysterious. This talk refers to the Nirvana Sutra and the Sutra of the Ten Stages, which were revolutionizing Buddhism in China.
It is interesting to watch how Bodhidharma intercepts questions which are often reverently Buddhist and spin them around to the three poisons (anger, greed, delusion) and their need to practice just now. And yet one might wonder that even as he criticizes external devotions, he seems to be making something special about "inner" work and enlightenment. Is there such thing as practice without inside and outside?

Bones of the Master: A Buddhist Monk's Search for the Lost Heart of China
Bones of the Master: A Buddhist Monk's Search for the Lost Heart of China
by George Crane
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.96

4.0 out of 5 stars An amazing journey, but there is even more here, July 16 2001
The story is amazing enough, the likes of a good novel or film. The oddest couple ever - an impulsive American poet and an elderly Chinese Buddhist monk - set out on an improbable journey into Mongolia and Hong Kong to locate his late master's bones and conduct a proper ceremony over them.
The back story is astonishing. This elderly monk escaped the Red Army as it marched on his monastery in 1959. He fled across thousands of miles during a period of intense famine - at one point clinging to a train through a tunnel so narrow it scraped the skin off his knuckles. He left his teacher behind to cope with the revolution. George Crane's account of that escape is vivid and, at times, horrifying.
What else is wonderful about this book? The relationship between the writer and the monk, Tsung Tsai, is established with their meeting in Woodstock, New York, and steeped in their shared love of life and language. To read of them working together intensely to translate poetry from Chinese into English, catching one poet's appreciation and giving it like a precious gift to another language, is another rather miraculous event in the book.

The Groucho Letters: Letter From and to Groucho Marx
The Groucho Letters: Letter From and to Groucho Marx
by Groucho Marx
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.75
23 used & new from CDN$ 2.55

4.0 out of 5 stars It loses one star because I want more!, July 12 2001
For some, a criterion of great art is: it makes you feel creative. Reading Groucho's letters makes one look around for pen and paper.
It is a pity Groucho Marx's prose isn't better known, because it was quite good. He found a voice all his own, with due influence or inspiration from Robert Benchley and, most certainly, S.J. Perelman.
This collection of letters ranges from warm and teasing, to wry and satirical, to scathing (a section entitled "Short Shrift" showcases letters designed to sting and fly away, like a wasp). Yet throughout, Marx's wit is belied by a language that is literate and witty but uses an ordinary vocabulary. They reflect the man himself, who had a third-grade education and hit the books in later years. His willingness to address himself to unknown corporate officers, well-known politicians, or to put on a major film studio work the way much of Groucho's humor worked: he comes from the level of the ordinary person, caring not a whit for ceremony or status; and he is willing to talk circles around just about anybody, to their vexation and our delight.

Good Omens
Good Omens
by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
63 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A nice and saucy apocalypse, July 11 2001
This review is from: Good Omens (Mass Market Paperback)
Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, both distinctive authors in their own rights, combine beautifully into one voice with a novel rich in characters, plot lines that cross delightfully, wry satire, and verbal play.
They weave an antic fable about the apocalypse as the agents of Hell and Heaven on Earth, Crowley and Aziraphale, decide to sabotage the destruction of a world they have come to...well, they rather like the place, that's all. Part of their operation is to find the antichrist child (and his little yipping hellhound) before the four motorcyclists of the apocalypse (along with some mortal tagalongs) find him.
A lot of humor and joy is found in mediocrity. There is a book of utterly accurate prophecies by a witch who, all those centuries ago, didn't quite understand what her visions of VCR's and current events actually meant. There is a motley witch-hunter, and a hellhound embarrassed to manifest as a tiny, domesticated yapper.
As the story turns suspenseful, the narrative can get frustrating. You don't want to miss one word of the exposition and character development - which often includes hilarious footnotes - and there is a feeling of being yanked out of the action as the chase is on and time begins to run out.

Buswell: Tracing Back the Radiance
Buswell: Tracing Back the Radiance
by Robert E., Jr. Buswell
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 23.39
20 used & new from CDN$ 17.93

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Go drink tea, and taste Korean Zen, July 10 2001
This is an abridged edition of a more comprehensive collection and commentary on Chinul (1158-1210), whose writings and talks, as well as his personal practice, re-defined Korean Zen Buddhism during the Koryo dynasty. Disgruntled with the ecclesia of the time, he established a retreat society and set down a range of practice techniques which are still taught. He also did his best to address the schism between sutra study and meditation practice.
Robert Buswell, himself a practitioner and former monk, renders translations of Chinul's "Secrets On Cultivating the Mind," "Straight Talk on the True Mind," and excerpts from Chinul's "Dharma Collection and Special Practice Record with Personal Notes" that are accessible, challenging to the general reader, and - for the practitioner - a long finger pointing us to our own mind.
This is not, however, practice-oriented material, so the Zen student looking for encouragement in practice will not find much "dharma candy" here. With Buswell's extensive introduction, the book offers us a history of Buddhism in Korea, a biography and extensive critique of his philosophy and methods, in addition to the translations. This offers some edifying history to a Zen student with a scholarly bent, but with this caveat: these are dead words! They were set down at a certain time as medicine for the kinds of dharma sickness Chinul confronted. Don't let this old medicine become a disease!

Shakespeare's Kings: The Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages: 1337-1485
Shakespeare's Kings: The Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages: 1337-1485
by John Julius Norwich
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 28.02
23 used & new from CDN$ 3.73

4.0 out of 5 stars For God's sake let us sit upon the ground..., July 10 2001
John Julius Norwich recounts the stories of the English monarchs through the Middle Ages alongside Shakespeare's dramatizations, noting the liberties taken by the Bard with an appreciation for his dramatic art.
There are gaps in Shakespeare's histories, some of which may soon be filled. EDWARD III has found acceptance as being at least partially Shakespeare's work, and a defense is being prepared for a more recent find which, if it holds up as being some or all of Shakespeare's work, amounts to a RICHARD II PART 1 (whereas the RICHARD II already in the canon starts so late in his reign).
Norwich fills in those gaps with a history that, while immensely readable and briskly-paced, suffers from such a density of information. We are given helpful maps of England and France and charts showing us the descent of the various houses, but the general reader may still be overwhelmed by the concentration of the middle ages into such a neat paperback.
"...To a dramatist," Norwich writes, "accuracy is at most of secondary importance...The average playgoer...will have come away with a mental picture which, for all its bold lines and high color, will not be so very far wrong." This idea and the potential for controversy (especially with respect to the much-maligned Richard III) might be within the scope of the book, but are not fully examined here. What is the merit of theatre as a historical medium? Given the necessity of combining, omitting, or even fabricating events, how does a play convey an accurate experience of history, and how does it fail?

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