In her book titled » The Untouched Key, little Alice Miller quotes a guy (named Richard Blunck, on page 88) who devoted himself to Nietzsche's life & work for 40 years. This is possibly the best thing I've read on what it's like to actually read Nietzsche & grapple with his ideas .. something you might call » the Nietzsche experience. (Incoming!)

Friedrich Nietzsche sketchBlunck's comments confirm & validate my earlier impressions .. to a remarkable degree.

In an intro to a two-thousand-page biography on Nietzsche by Curt-Paul Janz, Blunck writes (my emphasis):

"Those who come across a book of Nietzsche's for the first time, immediately sense that more is required to understand it than mere intellect, that more is involved here than following someone's logic from premise to conclusion.

They will feel they have wandered into an immense force field that is emitting shock waves of a far deeper nature than can be registered by the intellect alone. They will be struck less by the opinions and insights expressed than by the person behind those opinions & insights.

Readers will often react defensively, as if they have something to defend. If readers pursue these ideas that confront, and sometimes even assault..."

That's right .. this is the guy selected to write the intro to a two-thousand-page biography (published 1987). The mother of all biographies. Now, here's what I wrote in a previous entry (dated Oct 11, 2010, before I found Alice's book):

* "Reading Nietzsche feels like someone walking thru your mind wearing a bandolier of grenades, lobbing them, one after another, at everything we (in the Christian Western world) hold sacred."

and also:

* "Need to armor-up before entering Nietzsche's garden .. cuz you know it's coming at you. Protective gear. Bulletproof vest. Kevlar, the lightweight one. Lock-n-load. Incoming!"

and also:

* "Reading Nietzsche feels like a self-induced spiritual crisis. Yes, it's good to challenge ourselves. (I hope.) Yo Friedrich, bring it, Dawg. Bring your Nazi-inspiring philosophy."

and also:

* "Nietzsche challenges me like that. Tho in a different way. He goes deep .. to the very foundations of our Western belief systems. An area normally off-limits."

If history could've buried Nietzsche, it would have. Cuz he said things that were not merely offensive, but downright heretical (.. such as 'God is dead'). The Dark Ages would've had him drawn & quartered. Progress.

Few people with whom I spoke -- and I chat with some fairly educated folk, including professors -- knew very much about the man. The ones who did tho, seemed to like him the least.

The more religious a person was, the more they disliked Nietzsche, as a general rule. And 'dislike' is putting it mildly. I mean, people got pretty fired up reading his aphorisms .. especially those on religion & morality.

NietzscheI'm like » Dude, I didn't write the book. Okay? I'm just reading it.

But you don't have to read many headlines these days to know that organized religion has had its share of problems. We're talking BIG problems.

Serious morality issues continue to plague the church. You know. You read the news. And that's hypocritical, cuz they claim to represent & champion the moral standard.

» Nietzsche & Religion

So, at least in our day, it's not unreasonable to find fault with religion. And I doubt things were much different back in Nietzsche's day.

The reason history hasn't been able to bury Nietzsche .. is cuz he was brilliant. Remarkably perceptive. No doubt about it. Anyone who grapples with his ideas - even on a casual level - will readily admit.

That's why he's still one of the youngest ever tenured professors (at age 24). And note that being a professor meant his intellect was highly developed.

Is God Dead?Most people associate Nietzsche with an arrogant 19th century intellectual who found fault with religion because of its hypocritical morality.

Yeah okay. But Nietzsche wasn't the first or only to do so. Remember what Jesus said?

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying the scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

For they say and do not. You don't hear that verse preached from many pulpits. Seems little has changed over the centuries.

No one is immune to error cuz we're all human, and therefore fallible (by definition). You know anybody who's not-capable of making a mistake? I don't.

But hypocrisy is particularly odious .. such as that practiced by politicians when they write laws to punish those who do the very same things they themselves do in secret (.. in an airport bathroom, for example).

Special treat today. Took my camera to the Back Back this weekend (.. here in Newport Beach). Major estuary .. where fresh water meets & mixes with ocean water (.. depending on the tide). It was overcast, but the light is nice for taking pictures when skies are gray. Bright sunlight tends to wash out colors.

Newport Back Bay | Newport Beach, CaliforniaFive photos. First one posted here » Newport Back Bay #1.

I cropped out most of the sky (using Fireworks) and resized down from the camera's default resolution (2272 x 1704). Used high-quality jpeg encoding, so each photo is ~100 KB (.. way down from ~2 megs each in the camera).

This one is the biggest, at 146 KB. The zillions of lines of grass are hard to encode without using lots of bytes, even with encoding quality set lower.

This one is my favorite. This place is the coolest, being there. Kinda spiritual.

Newport Back Bay | Newport Beach, CaliforniaHope you enjoy. The Back Bay is like my mental-health clinic. I go there to get away and lick my wounds. You'll usually find me there with a poet or two.

About 60,000 birds come to the Back Bay for the winter months .. from far away as Alaska.

Saw a coyote there this weekend. First one I've seen there. Big guy. Biggest coyote I've ever seen. Obviously well fed. Traipsing down the trail at a comfortable clip. Acting like he owned the place. The trickster.

It's good to challenge ourselves from time to time. To run a marathon, for example. Or log a new personal best for the 10K. Learn a new technology. A new sport. Anything that might test our mettle. Personal growth via increasingly challenging experiences. You know » Tony Robbins stuff.

Restricted area |  Keep outNietzsche challenges me like that. Tho in a different way. He goes deep .. to the very foundations of our Western belief systems. An area normally off-limits.

Anything considered part of our belief system automatically gets password-protected and receives appropriations from the defense budget. This area is heavily guarded and protected at all costs.

Normally I'm not receptive to people or things that question & challenge (attack) my most basic beliefs. (Few are, from what I can see.)

Seems however, like it might be a worthwhile exercise. Like weightlifting .. where we endure an uncomfortable struggle (temporarily) .. that leads to growth & development.

Friedrich Nietzsche» Grenades

Reading Nietzsche feels like someone walking thru your mind wearing a bandolier of grenades, lobbing them, one after another, at everything we (in the Christian Western world) hold sacred.

He does this with the following rationale » I have seen where your belief systems are taking you and it suks to the point of being pathetic.

Yet he also describes WHY (it suks). And here is where Nietzsche flexes his philosophical muscles. Rather impressively. He makes his points well.

The most prominent 'feeling' I got from reading Nietzsche is » What balls! What gigantic huevos rancheros!

He goes after (attacks) the very foundation of Western civilization itself .. and he doesn't stop until until he arrives (axe in hand) at the doorstep of Christian morality. Cajones gigantos.

Nietzsche's father was a Lutheran pastor, as was his daddy before him. Friedrich's use of scripture makes it clear he was familiar with both the bible & Christian doctrine.

From there, he takes the reader to the floors below Christian morality. When the elevator door opens, he starts poking around, saying (I'm paraphrasing):

"Look over here, dude. You're getting your knowledge from your beliefs. You got it backwards. There's the source of your problem. No wonder you're so screwed up. Can't believe nobody has pointed this out before. You should be getting your beliefs from your knowledge. You need to believe less and doubt more."

Nebuchadnezzar » Nebuchadnezzar & Insanity

Let's pause here a moment to note that Nietzsche went insane. He had a mental breakdown in his mid-40's and never recovered. Spent his last 10 years as toast. Then he died (August,1900, age 55).

Remember the story of Nebuchadnezzar? (~600 B.C.) He went crazy, too. God layeth down the smack on ol' king Nebby. Ka-blammo! Next thing you know, Nebby is out in the field munching grass beside the cows.

"You will .. live with the wild animals and eat grass like cattle .. until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign.."

Not very regal, is it? [ Some think it was syphilus, and not God that/who drove Nebby nuts. Sames goes for Nietzsche. ]

Auschwitz sign» The Sign

It's probably just my imagination .. but I see a foreboding sign hanging over the entrance to Nietzsche's garden (more like a minefield, maybe even an asylum):

Beware! All who dare enter here
Remember what happened to Nietzsche.
Signed: God
P.S. This is the guy who said 'God is dead'.

If you listen, you can hear the howls of FN echoing from the nearby forest .. where he's searching for more tasty grass. Same forest Nebby roamed.

Been looking at Nietzsche (1844-1900), digging into his life. (He was born in October.) Finding lots of interesting stuff there. Not only did he say many thought-provoking things, but he was also a fascinating character (.. if not a bit of an @sshole). Remarkably perceptive.

NietzscheHis quotes are more easily weaponized than those of most other philosophers.

I'm considering doing a Rad bit on him .. trying to figure out how to keep it short-n-sweet. (The bit I did on Che grew rather long.) Nietzsche short & sweet .. could be a challenge.

Reading Nietzsche makes my brain/mind feel like it did on Calculus (.. fit, trim, strong, surplus of intellectual energy) which is probably the most finely tuned it has ever been.

Does this suggest that Nietzsche (& his ideas) employ a larger portion of your brain than normal?

If not careful here I could easily slip into Nietzsche-mode and get carried away. But Nietzsche deserves a well-planned entry.

It will be fun. Nietzsche is a trip. I like to play Freud and try to figure out what makes a person tick (.. even if I'm totally wrong) .. what motivates a person to do & say the things they do.

Tell me about your childhood, Friedrich. Was it happy?

Nietzsche is intellectually stimulating. He has a sense of humor and is not afraid to offend. That's sorta the price you pay to do Nietzsche.

Controversy surrounding his ideas .. cuz he said many controversial things. He had a nervous breakdown and was basically toast his last 10 years, so some feel he was always a bit of a lunatic.

The dividing line on opinions about Nietzsche, I feel, falls along whether or not a particular reader takes offense to his ideas. I mean, cuz he can pretty offensive.

But there's no denying he was remarkably perceptive & insightful, and dedicated to things like truth & knowledge .. to a ruthlessly admirable degree. [ He begins BG&E with 'truth'. ]

Hey, Fancy Pants! an Asian boy called out .. wearing a smile, early one morning this week .. happy ring in his voice .. hurrying toward his classroom (I assumed). Hey! the Bug responded with a waive .. as I locked his bike at school. The boy was obviously older.

Pooh & PigletWhat'd he call you? I asked.

That's my nickname, dad, he said. They call me 'Fancy Pants' here. That boy there started it.

Hey, Fancy! another kid called out, half-running in the same direction. Also older.

While we walked toward the place where the Bug assembles with his class, I heard someone say » Hey, Mister Fancy Pants! But I didn't see who said it, cuz there were so many kids everywhere. But it was a boy's voice.

Seems the school has a computer lab .. where kids learn basic computer skills. The Bug said » Fancy Pants is way harder than the stuff we do there. They also have some high-end gaming PCs at an after-school daycare there, along with a Nintendo Wii (.. or was it an Xbox?).

Fancy Pants 2 Pant-Colors & Trophies» Mr. Fancy Pants Himself

One of the girls who works there later told me (about the Bug, aka Mr. Fancy Pants) » Yeah, he taught all the kids how to play.

Does he play Fancy Pants, too? I asked the Bug about the Asian boy.
Is he good?
I asked.
He's okay. But sometimes I have to help him.

Seems the Bug is teaching upperclassmen to play Fancy Pants and helping them when they get in trouble. Making a name for himself. Literally. (Cracks me up.)

Tho here at the ranch, he has moved on to a new game called » Chaos Faction 2 .. very fast game. [ Totally kicks my butt. ]

He loves that game. The neighbors can hear his cries of laughter & delight. Hey, dad, he called out. Watch me rock his butt! =)

Video Games in the Classroom» Video Games in the Classroom

Speaking of 'games' .. perhaps you've heard about the experiment being conducted at a noncharter public school in New York City (.. in Manhattan, near Gramercy Park).

The NY Times published a series of articles recently on the use of video games in the classroom, as a tool to help kids learn.

Watch the video & hear for yourself the kids (& parents) saying how much better they enjoy school now. See here » Learning by Playing.

At the heart of the Learning-by-Playing model, you'll find this quote:

Not learning with games, but rather problem-based learning, in which kids practice skills as they solve problems. Today our schools focus on facts and information, but not problem solving. Thus, many students cannot solve problems, even when they can pass tests on facts and information.

and this one:

"To keep me from getting the big head," wrote Paul to the Corinthians, "because of all these super-cool things God has been doing for me .. there was given me a pain in the @ss » a messenger of the Evil One himself, sent to chew on my butt .. like an insatiable alligator." [ the Rad Contemporary translation, loosely paraphrased ]

"There was given me..." I'm no apostle, but I know that feeling.

It is not a feeling you get after a week, or a month. Or even a year. Takes *years* to get there. Hope springs eternal. To a point.

For years, well-meaning people have been telling me, It's gonna get better. To which I always reply » I've been hearing that for years.

If you keep reading, you'll notice where Paul himself (the guy who wrote 2/3rds of the New Testament) seems frustrated, where he wrote:

I repeatedly asked God to get this thing off me. But he said..."

Can Rad come out & play?» Resignation & Hungry Gators

Now you can interpret that verse however you like, and even reflect on the notion (as Nietzsche puts it) that » we are punished best for our virtues (.. BG&E #132).

Complete this sentence » No good deed...

Many different explanations exist as to what exactly God's response there means. But you must admit it doesn't sound as cool as (God saying) » I'll handle it for you.

My point is .. I've reached a point -- after half a decade -- where I finally accept the fact that hungry gators are a part of my life .. and they really like the taste of my butt. Hear that 'chomping' sound? Yeah, that's my butt you hear.

An academic might term this feeling » resignation. An investor » capitulation. I'm resigned to the fact that the feeling of 'Incoming!' will never end. Not for good, anyway. So I might as well get used to it (.. which, unfortunately, I have).

Don't get me wrong. The final outcome is always positive. Good things always follow bad. (So far.) So I no longer freak out like I used to. But it's just so surprising .. how many dang alligators there are in the world.

And having your butt gnawed by a toothy reptile is never a very pleasant experience .. no matter how well you're able to spin the uncomfortable sensation.

» BurritosThe Elusive Bean Burrito

The Bug loves bean-n-cheese burritos. He even tried a little hot sauce this week.

At Del Taco, they have 3 hot sauces » mild, the 'scorcher', and the 'inferno' (.. guaranteed to torch your BVDs).

After we finished splitting the first one, he wanted a second. But I only had 72 cents left, so I broke out the plastic (.. for a 99-cent burrito).

The girl swipes my card. Denied, she says.

No way, I said. I got 20 bucks in there. I checked just yesterday. Swipe it again.

Same result. She hands me the card. Long line behind me. Pretty embarrassing. Okay, I said. Lemme call my bank.

Did you order the burrito, dad?
No, pun'kin.
Why not?

Autumn begins today .. at 8:09 tonight PDT. That's when the sun slips quietly across the equator, heading south. Adios, amigo. Say hi to our friends down under. See you next spring.

Alfred Lord TennysonMy favorite time of year. Warm days, brisk nights. The weather lends itself to clear-headed thinking.

I grew up back East (in Connecticut) where the leaves change color. Dramatically so. People would come from all over to see.

No matter where I've lived -- and I've lived in a dozen different states over the years -- I've always felt a special affinity for the beginning of autumn. Even in Hawaii, you can feel autumn's arrival. (Comes in the air.)

Sunday I got into the spirit by riding my bike to the Back Bay (here in Newport Beach), where I said 'goodbye' to summer .. by enjoying its last weekend of the year.

Gorgeous day. One hand rested on the rubber grip of my handlebar; the other held a book of poetry .. by Tennyson (1809-1892), which included Charge of the Light Brigade. What a poem. (True story. Brits vs the Russians. October, 1854)

Alfred Lord TennysonHalf a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!' he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd.
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Can you hear the hooves pounding the ground as the horses gallop? That's the first two stanzas. (I can recite the first three from memory.) The poem can be viewed as glorifying military ineptitude (something I'm familiar with) .. but still incredibly lyrical.

Hemingway. Picasso. Matisse. Van Gogh. Names synonymous with creativity. Were they really more creative than you & me? Or did they merely have better tools? .. to capture inspiration when the Muse spoke.

PicassoMy quest for the perfect notebook began last week, when the Bug started kindergarten. I wanted to capture some of the precious things he was saying. [ So cute. ]

Which led me to Moleskine (pronounced mol-a-skeen'-a). The company is based in Italy (Milan), hence the pronunciation. Tho the notebooks themselves are made in China.

But most Americans just call them mole-skin .. like the blister aid you buy when backpacking Yosemite.

If you walked into a bookstore and asked for a "mol-a-skeen-a," the sales-person would probably hand you their wallet and say, "Please don't shoot."

Avant-garde artists & writers such as those mentioned above used a notebook of similar design .. to what the folks at Moleskine manufacture today .. which comes with the following features:

  • lays flat when open. Its most important feature (Most bindings tend to spring shut)
  • quality paper that won't bleed thru with wet ink
  • paper has a slight yellow tint (creamy, like they made in the old days .. not bright white like the stuff made for today's laser printers)
  • elastic enclosure to keep it shut when you're done. No crumpled corners
  • accordion pocket in the rear, to hold your receipts & things
  • single satin marker ribbon
  • hard-cover, wrapped with black oil-cloth .. for a classic look with tactile sensuality. Feels better than leather & far more cow-friendly. I saw one leather knock-off which looked horrible (shiny) & felt 'cold'

Matisse La DanseMoleskine's marketing is gimmicky -- The Legendary Notebook of Hemingway, Picasso, Chatwin -- because the company was only formed in 1998.

So they are not the originator of the product used by Hemingway & Picasso. They merely re-launched a style that had been lost & forgotten.

Their prices are .. pricey. MSRP $18. Even $12 for a discounted book, with no words, no story, is hard to ju$ify in this economy. So many (like me) opt for knock-offs.

But you still might wanna take an original for a test-drive .. just to see what everybody is raving about. Cuz Moleskine is the standard by which all knock-offs are judged.

Hey dad, the Bug said, as I arrived at his classroom to pick him up. Did you see that girl that just left?

Kindergarten classYou mean the one with the black shirt? I asked, squatting to get my hug.

That's my girlfriend, he said, matter-of-factly, giving me a kiss & handing me his lunch box.

You're pretty fast, I said, standing up. First week of school. I waited 'til 6th grade before I had a girlfriend.

She couldn't open her sandwich container at lunch, he said, as we headed for his bike. So I opened it for her.

Cuz you're so strong? I asked. Yeah, he said, returning a high-five.

This was his first week of kindergarten .. something I've been dreading. Already I've caught myself dividing his childhood into before & after .. with this week representing the imposing demarcation.

Feels like a major shift. Like a big change. Whole new world.

Feels weird, too .. handing off your child to someone you hardly know. Can't really say it feels natural. His teacher however, seems very nice.

The kids all line up outside, and she goes down the line after the last bell rings, and greets each child by name, and says something personal to them, and is able to elicit a smile from each one. Every day. With parents watching. No small feat. Hard not to be impressed.

Need somebody good to ensure their initial scholastic experience is positive. 25 kids in his class. Kindergarten gets out early. I was there, first in line, when they unlocked the gate to let in the parents. [ # They wouldn't let me pitch a tent outside the gate. It wasn't very big. ]

And you shoulda seen the lunch I made for him. Enough to feed 10 kids. [ How am I ever gonna fit this dang turkey into his lunch box? ]

Fancy Pants 2 Pant-Colors & TrophiesI put a note in an envelope in his lunch box .. for the first lunch I made this week.

The envelope contained a print-out of the pant-colors & trophies he won in Fancy Pants 2 .. over the course of the summer. He really liked that.

Those trophies were hard to get .. especially the purple pants and the Afro-Ninja trophy. He explodes with happiness whenever we're able to win one.

And we even beat the Big Bad Bunny .. at the very end .. to win the game. Very difficult. That BBB is one bad dude.

[ # One of the best dads I ever knew said, Find out what your kids like to do .. and go do that with them. ]

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