Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Tattoo!!

Bodhi Tree Tattoo (Imagine it without the circular border, though)

So I’m putting some serious thought into getting another tattoo. For those of you who don’t know me or have just forgotten, I have four tattoos already and yes the rumor is true, they are addictive. I’ve been pretty good at holding out though, as I was last inked almost eight years ago in 2001. My newest idea for a tattoo is a bodhi tree, (or at least a version of one, the tree in the picture is a variation, not exactly what you'd see if you googled "bodhi tree"). I’ve been toying with this idea for quite a while and although I’m convinced that this is the tattoo for me, I still don’t know exactly where to put it.

Now a little back story on what this is and why it is significant:

The Bodhi Tree ("Tree of Awakening," ) in Bodhgaya is a direct descendent of the tree under which Siddharta Gautama attained enlightenment. According to Buddhist tradition, Siddharta Gautama finally abandoned years of rigorous fasting and asceticism by accepting milk and honey from a young woman. He then sat down beneath the Bodhi Tree and vowed not to move until he attained enlightenment. After 49 days of concentrated meditation and several battles with Mara (illusion), Siddharta became Buddha or “the Enlightened One”.
The Bodhi Tree is a species of fig. The Bodhi Tree that exists today is not the exact one that shaded the Buddha's meditation 2,500 years ago, but it may well be a direct descendent.
Because of its close association with enlightenment, which is the goal of all Buddhists, the tree has great sacred and symbolic significance. According to some Buddhists, the Bodhi Tree is the center of the world and the site at which all Buddhas (enlightened ones) attain enlightenment.
In early Buddhist art, before the Buddha image was used, the image of a tree was one of the symbols used to represent him. Still today, it is customary to plant a Bodhi Tree in every Buddhist monastery to symbolize the presence of the dharma (Buddhist teachings).
At Bodhgaya, the Bodhi Tree is a favorite place for pilgrims to meditate and contemplate the Buddha's teachings. Many also hang prayer flags or leave offerings at the sacred site.

As for Buddhism itself, it is basically a family of beliefs and practices, considered by many to be a religion. Buddhism is based on the teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, (Buddha) who lived in the northeastern India and died somewhere around 400 BCE. Buddha himself was an awakened teacher who shared his insights to help people end their suffering and escape the cycle of rebirths (samsara). At it’s core, (although the idea of a common definition is debatable) what I can appreciate about Buddhism is the goals of ethical conduct and altruistic behaviour, devotional practices,renunciation of worldly matters,meditation, physical exercises like hatha yoga, study, and the cultivation of wisdom. A quick glance at the eight-fold path ( the path to end suffering) gives an idea of Buddhism’s beliefs. Some of the principals are: view reality as it is not just as it appears to be, speak in a truthful and non hurtful way, act in a non harmful way, and make an effort to improve. Pretty good stuff, huh?

Whenever I get a tattoo I try to make sure that it is something meaningful to me. I don’t want to put something permanent on my body that I just got at the last minute because it looked cool at the time. I don’t want to regret getting inked, and so far, I haven’t. So, after writing this I’m all the more convinced and ready to get my Bodhi tree. I think I’m forgetting something though… don’t tattoos hurt?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Landscape Photographers

Part of my passion for travel pertains also to a love of photography. I am a sucker for exceptional landscape photography, and although I’m not a professional photographer yet, I do aim to be one day. In the meantime I am working at a portrait studio trying to learn the ins and outs of basic camera techniques. It is not outdoor photography, but it is a start. When the time for that comes, classes will be in order.

I’ve been surfing the internet trying to get posing ideas from different portrait photography websites. Unfortunately, I usually get sidetracked by landscape and nature photos and after several hours looking at photos, I realize I’m no closer to finishing my “homework”. While getting caught in my usual unproductive cycle the other day, I stumbled across the works of two freelance photographers with some pretty eye-catching photographs: Jeremy Turner and Tony Howell.

Jeremy Turner has an interesting background. Only after completing a BS (with honors) in biochemistry and a PhD in molecular biology, did he become completely interested in photography. It’s pretty amazing that he found the time between his studies, odd jobs as a painter and decorator, in the retail industry, and in a commercial photo-processing lab, and playing classical piano and long-distance cycle touring. Impressive. He has since won various awards for his photography, held exhibitions, and contributed to magazines such as Smart Photography. Way to start out on one path and end up so successful in another. For me, that’s very encouraging.

Jeremy mainly uses a Pentax 645 medium format (MF) camera, combined with the following Pentax SMC-A lenses: 35mm f/3.5, 45mm f/2.8, 75mm f/2.8, 120mm f/4 macro and 200mm, f/4.
Tony Howell is one of England’s best-known landscape photographers. His images have been used everywhere from books and greeting cards to billboards and even movies (The Number 23). The amazing thing about this photographer is that he is completely self-taught. He acknowledges that he has no qualifications, but credits practice, dedication, and a love for the craft. He also notes the difficulties of freelance photography and that it is less photographic skills than marketing skills and patience that have helped him become successful.
Tony uses a Phase One P45 Digital Back with Mamiya 645AFD and a Canon 1DS MkII Professional Full-frame Digital Camera.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Hallows' Even

So now that Halloween is over and i've eaten all of the candy I care to for the rest of the year, I thought i'd find out more about this strange holiday where people go door to door and beg their neighbors for cheap goods.

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. The festival is a celebration of the end of the harvest season and is sometimes regarded as the "Celtic New Year." Originally, the festival was a time when Celtic Pagans would take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock to store for the winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31st the boundary between the living and the deceased dissolved, and the dead become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops. Costumes and masks were then worn at the festivals in an attempt to placate the evil spirits.
Interestingly enough, apparantly Detroit, MI is where "Devil's Night", the day before Halloween, originated. Starting in the 1930's, it involved petty vandalism by children and teens such as rubbing wax on car windows or egging houses. In the 1970's though, it escalated to serious acts of arson, and today Detroit organizes volunteer neighborhood patrols to keep the violence in check. (

While looking for relevant information about Halloween traditions, I stumbled upon a site touting religious intolerance. It claims that "A growing Halloween tradition among Evangelical Christians is to provide a type of horror tableau which promotes public awareness of conservative Christian concerns. In Arvida, CO, the Abundant Life Christian Center built a haunted house for Halloween 1997. It includes simulations of a bloody abortion in progress, a ritual human sacrifice by a Satanic cult, a teen committing suicide, the funeral of a homosexual AIDS victim, and a live action date rape scene" ( ).

Wow... I think they win top prize for scariest haunted house. I think they kind of missed the spirit and fun of Halloween. I'd much rather have childlike fun and naiveté.

All politically incorrect church demonstrations aside, besides the candy, the true essence of Halloween is the costumes. People spend more time and money than they should picking out the perfect accessories to win prizes and admiration. While the top costumes of 2008 are said to be a pirate and witch for adults, and Spiderman and Hannah Montana for kids, I think i'd give the top prize to an acquaintance of mine. While all of her costume ideas are usually of the wall, this Halloween she decided to go as... Michelle Obama. While that may not seem strange by itself, I think I need to add that this friend is Caucasian and that her dedication to creating the perfect costume leaves no detail ignored. (She is a stout Obama supporter, by the way). Although I was a bit offended, i'd say you have to give it to her for ingenuity.