David Raffin

Movies for the seeing impaired

Jodi: Sometimes your facial expressions don’t match the situation. At all.
Me: Oh, no, they are always correct expressions. We are just out-of-sync.
Seeing a movie at the Capitol theater a week or so ago. The movie starts. WB logo comes on screen. A woman’s voice says, “LOGO, CENTER SCREEN.” It is a strange choice, I think, esthetically. The voice reads the text appearing on screen. “In space, survival is impossible.”
The voice starts to describe the action on screen. People float in space. One dances to music. One is frustrated. I am pleased the voice will be explaining facial expressions as we go.

The film stops cold. The blackness of space is replaced with the blackness of nothing. Two completely different blacknesses.
Someone says, “They are fixing the sound. It was playing the soundtrack for the visually impaired headsets.”
The film begins again at the beginning.

I watch the film regretting what could have been. As the film passed the previous stopping point I am left to wonder what the narrator would say. Probably information to enrich my moviegoing experience. In space narration is possible, but optional and limited.

By the way, I prefer the version of Charles Chaplin’s “Gold Rush” that he re-released after sound came in. Chaplin narrates the silent film all the way through. Critics revile this version. I love it.

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At the existential sandwich shop, your sandwich calls you

At the existential sandwich shop your sandwich talks to you. It is unclear if the power of speech and thought is conveyed by the quality ingredients or by the artisan construction. The sandwich philosopher behind the counter, when asked, shrugs her shoulders and says, “Who can say?”
Still, you eat it. What else can you do? When confronted with a talking sandwich in an existential sandwich shop it is a simple equation of eat or be eaten.
Still, you know it is wrong.

If I like you I will write you a poem. If not you will live the rest of your life without poetry.


Police procedural

I looked at the items assembled upon the table. I said to my partner, “These are the raw ingredients for trouble.”
He said, “Not to worry. They have to be assembled in exactly the correct order. At exactly the right temperature. For exactly the right amount of time. Anything less renders them inert.”
Our relief was short-lived. Even as he uttered his last word both our eyes wandered directly to the left. There, sitting upon the counter, open, was a cookbook. It was open to the chapter on trouble.
“Dammit,” uttered my partner. “Is there no end to the misery caused by cookbooks?”
Continue reading…

Your Swedish Ancestry

You, like many others, have doubtlessly spent long sleepless nights wondering, “Am I a Swede?”

Now it is possible for you to realize your full family history- from It’s humble beginnings in a young Swede named Leif Haagstrom to your distant cousin of today, the new Deputy Undersecretary to the Assistant Regent of the Communist Party of China, Hu Waang.

Leif, a prolific breeder, has initiated a line of descendants that include not only the Haagstroms and their derivatives, but all people named Bragg, Strommbol, Povorich, O’Riley, Chang, and thousands more.
Through some fluke that is best not explained, he is also the ancestor of every person living today with the first name “Craig.”
If you see a Craig at any time in the journey of life, please grasp him or her firmly to your breast and exclaim, “Cousin!”

In this way we can all learn to appreciate the struggles of our ancestors.

Thank you.
The Craig Foundation.
Please send money.

He’s not a bear doctor

Doctor: This is really quite serious. Your anxiety is now causing physical symptoms.
Me: I see. Will it break free all those emotions I jailed inside a cardboard box all those years ago?
Doctor: Perhaps. Wait, you did what?
Me: Confined all my emotions to a cardboard box and taped it up.
Doctor: I’m pretty sure you’re never supposed to do that.
Me: Yes, cardboard was a very poor choice. But, in my defense, it held a lot longer than you would think.
Doctor: When you look outside the window do you see something resembling Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream?
Me: Yes. Yes, that is exactly what I see. Isn’t that what everybody sees when they look outside the window?
Doctor: No.
Me: I also see a pack of wolves attacking a clown.
Doctor: Oh, I’m afraid that is very real. Wolves have to eat.

Doctor: I’m going to put you on an anti- anxiety drug.
Me: My fear is that I need my anxiety. I mean, what if an anti-anxiety drug dulls my ability to fight off a confrontation with a bear?
Doctor: When was the last time you had a confrontation with a bear?
Me: Oh Doctor, you know so little about bears. It is the readiness, at all times, to deal with a bear incursion that wards off bears.

A statement of belief

I believe in multiple universes, but I am willing to give this belief up if it’s proved otherwise or if all the other universes are destroyed.
All I ask is that you refrain from destroying all other parallel universes just to prove your point.

DR extra: Do the Math, Henry Rollins


This is a demo for a radio program from about two years ago.
Henry Rollins was not harmed during the recording of this show, nor was the Dalai Lama.
Also, a song is sung.
(MP3 at the end after the two bonus Dalai Lama stories. The audio is different than the stories.)

Post Papal Nirvana Blues
by David Raffin

Is a retired Pope “Pope” or “ex-Pope”?
The Pope’s a quitter. 
Remember, the Dalai Lama retired. So he could move to Florida. Learn to meditate. 
Roomies? Sitcom?

The Pope & Dalai Lama living together in Florida sitcom will be called “Post Papal Nirvana Blues.”
In the sitcom, when the Pope enters the apartment he will always forget to duck and his hat will nearly be knocked off.
At the end of the pilot episode the Pope will shrug his shoulders and say, “So I’m not infallible.”

Sparks fly when the Dalai Lama has a lady over and she starts a fight over doctrine. The Pope refuses his blessing. Also, noisy neighbor.
The Dalai Lama’s catch phrase is, “I’m trying to reach Nirvana here!” Also, he surfs. It makes the Pope nervous. He worries.
In one episode the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and a Rabbi walk into a bar. It’s a three parter. Same story, three points of view.

Please mail me my Emmy. I’m playing clarinet the night of the awards. For the first time.
“Post Papal Nirvana Blues” stars Artie Lange as the Pope, Tommy Chong as the Dalai Lama, and Gilbert Gottfried as himself.
 My Rom-Com will be about a sous chef who falls in love with a head chef and complications that ensue. It will be titled “Whisk You Away!” Delivered entirely in Dr. Seuss style verse. Also stars Gilbert Gottfried.

New Dalai Lama, same as the old Dalai Lama
by David Raffin

The Dalai Lama is retiring. He’ll likely move to Florida. What will he do with his time? Same as anybody, relax, learn to meditate.

When the Dalai Lama retires to Florida I fear that he will not be able to relax. He will always have followers standing over him inquiring about his impending passing and subsequent rebirth. They’ll lean over and say, “When will you die? Soon? We need a new Dalai Lama. Could you hurry, please?”

Being the Dalai Lama is a strange thing, a never ending job. In order for there to be a new Dalai Lama, the old Dalai Lama must die. Then he will be reincarnated and resume leadership as the new Dalai Lama. New. Not improved. The Dalai Lama, being an awakened one, is done improving. Meet the new Dalai Lama, same as the old one. Only the packaging changes. The package change is done in the old, traditional way and does not include the input of focus groups. The old Dalai Lama has warned the Chinese government of this, because they are new to the game of marketing and are eager.
Also, you can’t aspire to be the next Dalai Lama. The old Dalai Lama, and I mean the really old one, the first, is monopolizing the position. There is no upward mobility. It is a static system. Sure, you can become enlightened, but you can’t become the Dalai Lama. Parents don’t tell their children they can become the Dalai Lama if they just work hard enough at it. But they could become a Lama.

My favorite Dali Llama is the painting of a Llama done by Salvador Dali. The Salvador Dali Llama.

I do not understand why the Dalai Lama must always be a man. I think this robs the Lama of a wider experience he could have in the world. In Hinduism, which, like Buddhism, started in India, you can be reincarnated as anything. Some things are higher prestige and some are lower.
I would like the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama to come packaged as a Llama. He would be the Dalai Lama Llama. I think this would be a fine thing, and give the Lama a change of pace.
The faithful would go out into the field and spread a blanket before the llamas to seek out which one may be the Dalai Llama. Among the items on the blanket would be an item that belonged to the previous package of the Dalai Lama.
One faithful would say to another, “I think this is the Lama. Yes, this one, he has kind eyes.”
And that one would be the Dalai Lama Llama.
Unless he chooses not to pick the item on the blanket. Then he could live a quiet life of llama contemplation. But this would leave his followers without either a Lama or a llama, which would be doubly sad.

Privately, the Dalai Lama refers to his privates as the “Dalai Lama’s package.”

I saw the current package of the Dalai Lama give a talk before a crowd of people and celebrities. Someone in the crowd asked him if, since a goal of Buddhism is the elimination of suffering, whether he, the Dalai Lama, an enlightened one, suffered.
And he said that “yes” he did. So we know that he suffers. He carries his share of baggage. It is possible the Dalai Lama Llama could carry more baggage than the previous incarnation of the Dalai Lama.
Luckily, enlightenment shields him from depression.
In the west, depression is an epidemic. Even pets suffer from it, and there is prescription medication available for them that you may “ask your vet about.”

In the west, depression is defined as those suffering from a lack of desire; people who may be sitting under a tree waiting in vain for enlightenment to strike.
Buddhism teaches that life is suffering, that suffering is caused by desire; desire being the root. Therefore, in order to stop suffering you must quell your desire.
You become enlightened when you no longer want things. This makes it hard to become enlightened, if your desire is to become enlightened. The old dharma catch-22. This is why working hard on your enlightenment bears less fruit than simply sitting under a tree.

If you have a “lack of desire” in a Buddhist culture you are “enlightened.”
Meanwhile, in the west, you’re just sick. Sorry.