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Newsletter Number 43 • May 7, 2008

Books

Dena is a Rotarian. Before she became a Rotarian I knew virtually nothing about this fine organization. She was invited to join the Fairfield Rotary because of our ownership of the bookstore. Now that we spend slightly more than half the year here in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, she attends meetings at the Scottsdale Pinnacle Peak Rotary. The thing I admire about Rotary and the Rotarians is that it is a true service society. The Rotarians sponsor various charitable endeavors and it is a low key, low profile operation in which 100% of the donations or funds they raise go to the charities. Nobody is on a payroll and it is a perfect example of the charitable impulse of men and women who serve their community resulting in the betterment of all.

Rotarians meet once a week for breakfast or lunch. At most of the gatherings there is a guest speaker. Recently Larry Berle, author of A Golfer’s Dream: How a Regular Guy Conquered the Golf Digest List of America’s Top 100 Golf Courses, was the speaker du jour. Dena bought a copy of his book, and while Larry autographed it she chatted with him and got his contact information and he said he would like to play golf with me at some future time.

I read the book, contacted Larry, and twice we have played golf together in the Phoenix area. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to every golf aficionado.

Larry didn’t play golf until he was about 40, introduced to the game by Annie, whom he subsequently married. Larry was smitten by both Annie and golf. He is a good golfer, with a handicap in the low teens. In fact he would describe himself (as he did in the title of the book) as a “regular guy”. At some point Larry decided to go on a quest, to play golf at the top 100 courses in the U.S., as rated by Golf Digest. Many of these courses are at very exclusive and exclusionary private clubs.

While Larry does a wonderful job of describing each course and his experience playing it, what really makes this book compelling is Larry’s focus on how, over a 10 year period, he accomplished this feat. It began with desire, a dream, and he proceeded step by step, using creativity, cojones, and an abundance of networking.

It is a fun book to read. I could hardly put it down. As a golfer I learned much about the history of the game and the various venues. More importantly I learned a lot about Larry, human nature and how to have a dream and get it fulfilled.

I think just about any serious golfer would find this book extremely enjoyable and very informative.

Now that spring appears to finally be arriving in the Midwest it would make a nice gift for the golfer in your family to provide him or her joy and inspiration. It could be a perfect gift for Father’s Day.

My son, Mike, an aspiring author (and you can check out his essays and some of his fiction at his website http://www.mikeyopp.com ) insisted I read Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs* by Chuck Klosterman. I took his advice, and I am glad I did.

Mike said I had to read Klosterman because he was the voice of his (Mike’s) generation. Klosterman was born in 1972 and Mike in 1981, so I guess it can be said they are of the same generation—Gen Xers.

Klosterman’ book is a series of off the wall essays. I loved most of them—they are brilliant, insightful, intellectually stimulating, very funny, and totally politically incorrect. I am not sure that this is a book most females would like or appreciate, but it is clearly a classic written “by a guy and for the guys”.

Rather than bore you with my views and opinions I will quote some of Klosterman’s pithy statements to give you the flavor of his writing.

“Everybody is wrong about everything, just about all the time.”

“…I gave everybody two potential options for a hypothetical blind date and asked them to pick who they’d prefer. The only things they knew about the first candidate was that he or she was attractive and successful. The only things they knew about the second candidate was that he or she was attractive, successful, and “extremely patriotic”.

“All those original pundits were dead-on; for once, the media managed to define an entire demographic of Americans with absolute accuracy. Everything said about Gen Xers—both positive and negative—was completely true.”

“Solo’s brand of badass cool is something you can’t understand until you’re old enough to realize that being an arrogant jerk is an attractive male quality.”

“As of the writing of this particular book, I have 43 “close friends,” 196 “good friends,” and 2,200 “affable acquaintances.” [In footnotes he defines these as follows: Close friends are people I would phone immediately if I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Good friends are people whose death from lung cancer would make me profoundly sad. Affable Acquaintances are people I would generally hope could recover from lung cancer.]

In point of fact, I probably did a lousy job in choosing the above nuggets. Some of his best involve sexuality and/or profanity. Others are more convoluted or just too long to excerpt.

In sum, I agree with the following comment from the Tampa Tribune: “Klosterman is thoughtful, witty, and insightful about subjects most writers would dismiss as brainless, witless, and shallow”.

I have only one criticism for this book. It was “uneven”. By that I mean that some of the chapters were so profound and so funny that I kept thinking this guy is a real genius and I can’t believe he is not the most popular writer of his generation. A few of the chapters were weaker and worth skimming.

On balance, I agree with Mike, that this is a must read. And if you don’t want to read this then by all means go to www.mikeyopp.com because if Chuck Klosterman is not the great spokesman for his generation, perhaps Mike Oppenheim is. Please let me know what you think, as feedback is always appreciated.

Last month Tony recommended a fantastic little book, Six Word Memoirs, edited by Smith Magazine. I bought it, read it, and loved it! Both the famous and the not so famous are incredibly creative and clever. This book is so much fun to read and delivers all the great things—humor, pathos, and even fulfillment. This is a must read and must own for everyone.

My six-word memoir: Sought Truth, Found Concepts, Embraced Golf!

Len

I am excited about 2 recent titles from India.

The first is: New Lives : 50 Westerners Search for Themselves in Sacred India By Malcolm Tillis

A engrossing study of 50 Westerners living ascetic lives in India.. many have been there for decades and have renounced all ties to the Western world.

Among the individuals we meet are…

Vijayananda a devotee of the great saint Anandamayi Ma..

Ani Tenzin Palmo (Diana Perry)She lived and meditated in a cave over 12,000 feet in the mountains.

Swami Jnanananda spent years wandering and meditating in the Himalayas in the company of saints and yogis.

Lucia Osborne, wife of author Arthur Osborne, a close follower of the great sage Ramana Maharshi.

Father Bede Griffith a Benedictine monk who has formulated a synthesis of Christianity and Hinduism.

Many of the seekers have left successful material lives behind in exchange for the inner wealth of the spirit.

The book is in interview format and is a must for any one interested in the many diverse paths of the spiritual journey.

The second book deals with the sacred city of Banaras.

Banaras Region: A Spiritual Guide by Rana P.B. Singh and Pravin S. Rana is a encyclopedic study of the Banaras area. The book is broken down into 3 sections.

The first section deals with the historical background of Banaras as well as its many religious festivals. It includes a suggested detailed area walk specifically for spiritual pilgrims. The section also includes many drawings of local temples.

The second deals with the area immediately surrounding Banaras and includes visits to Goddess areas, and an ancient Shiva temple.

The third section covers areas further away such as Baijanath Dham city of Shiva.

A wonderful resource filled with maps and line drawings. This is a spiritual travel guide to an area where one’s self can easily be lost.

Following the same theme of travel to India, I would like to add one additional title:

Travelers’ Tales India: True Stories edited by James O’ Reilly and Larry Habegger.

A fascinating collection of true personal tales of India by many varied authors.

Through their eyes you experience the many subtle layers of this country that is unlike any other..

Take a bath with David Yeadon and 15 million Hindus at the world’s largest gathering

Stalk a tiger with Pallava Bagla

Talk to the caretakers of the dead with Jonah Blank on the burning ghats of the Ganges.

Feast with Madhur Jaffrey.

Learn about the ancient readings of tea leaves with Peter Holt.

Greet the Monsoon with Alexander Frater and participate in a traditional Indian wedding with Jan Haag.

The writing is excellent and the topics covered (which are many) are captivating. If you have ever been to India or have ever longed to visit then this book is a must for your library.

If you enjoy sacred poetry such as Rumi or Hafiz you will enjoy this collection of sublime poetry.

Poetry for the Spirit : Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty edited by Alan Jacobs

One of the most complete anthologies of sacred poetry that I have yet to come across. This inspiring work includes both Eastern and Western poets. Some of the poets included are Vivekananda , John Keats, Kahlil Gibran , DH Lawrence , Ramana Maharshi , Marcus Aurelius , Rumi, Charlotte Bronte . The poems span the history of civilization from the period of the Rg Veda and King Solomon to the 20th Century. If you have been looking for a collection of the greatest uplifting poetry all in one volume then your journey is over. Over 600 poems by more than 250 poets.

If to dive within is a requirement of becoming something greater, then there is always the chance the fall can destroy as well as create.

For years this risk has held me in fear and I continue to avoid the cliff. I choose to live in my safe house. I live quietly as is expected of me. One day, at a time not of my own choosing… I will face my cliff and not be afraid. I will perish for the sake of love, for the sake of something greater than me, yet me.

Love

Tony

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