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from Tuesday, March22nd of the year2011.

This post, I should confess up front, is actually two posts combined into one enormously tardy one. A combination of overworking, a very strange palsy in my right arm (now cured; turns out it was a muscle spasm) and ambitious travel plans have precluded any serious blogging.

I’ve taken a sort of aggressive mental & physical health tactic over the last few weeks. The first strategy was to purchase an outrageously expensive juicer; into which I have been introducing countless bundles (is it?) of kale, bushels (I think that’s right) of apples, alarming amounts of celery, little chaotic parcels of beet tops, as well as the merest slivers of the beetroot flesh it requires to turn the entire project into the art department for a crime scene reënactment. The secret, I have found, is to chuck in enormous amounts of ginger during various stages of the juicing, which ensures that the result, even if it looks like graveslime, will have a firm, medicinal interface with the body. I have subsisted on these juices until sundown, at which point I’ve been eating like normal. I think that this is a compromised step in the right direction. I was delighted to find, then, that all of this is possible in London, too. A pop-up juice cart on Earlham-Street (manned by one of these laser-precisely and sculpted bearded Turkish men whose recreation seems to consist entirely of scrolling through the possible ringtones on his mobile) in combination with the food court in what appears to be a Thai massage parlor just north of St Martin’s Lane…I think it’s going to be fine.

I am planning on being in London for about three months this spring and summer, all leading up to the premiere of Two Boys at the English National Opera on June 24. I have rented a claustrophobic aerie in Villiers-Street just next to Charing Cross Station (and, I’m told, the nightclub Heaven; I’ve not yet been, but have been told many tales by my friend B—, who, despite not having had alcohol in nine months, insisted on being erotically hand-fed a gherkin at table the other night). I had a magical two hours free the other day, and managed to perform serious neighborhood reconnaissance: the dry-cleaner, the disreputable wine-bar, the upscale hotel bar, the coffee shop, the in-a-pinch sushi fast-food, the chemist. I love that procedure: trying to map out future mornings’ itineraries, imagining the route home by the wineshop and greengrocer, or an afternoon of trying to compel friends to bring supplies for an evening up the narrow stairs.

Now, I’m back from London, and after a frantic but mercifully focused week in New York, I’m on my first real Vacation in some time, in Wyoming. I’ve only brought five pieces of manuscript paper — one for each day — so I will be physically forbidden to go crazy writing. The advantage of this is that I can think about distant-future projects, or theoretical projects, or projects I know I will never get to do but are fun to think about.

For instance, I’d love to score a procession for St Lucia’s day in Sweden:

I’d love to write music for this woman:

I’d love to write music for Natural History cabinets of curiosities:

from nicolas-lamas.blogspot.com

Wyoming! It’s wild. I’ve never been to the Mountainous West, save for a fortnight in Littleton, CO, a few years ago, and it is outrageously gorgeous. Yesterday, we went on a sort of wildlife tour and beheld:

10 Moose
Hundreds of Female Elk
A Half-Dozen Male Elk
A Badger atop his House
Two Great Grey Owls
Two Bald Eagles (I tried to convince them to hold still and pose with one tear coming off of one eye in front of the American flag but they were uncooperative)
Several Longhorn Sheep
A Mountain Blue Jay

I’d volunteer pictures of the same, but it doesn’t do it justice, but I can offer this view from the porch:

I’ve been meaning, for several years, to go know more about Buddhism as a political reality — as in, when one goes to, say, Angkor, there is a lot written about the very long-lasting clashes between Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms, and even as Buddhism is practiced in the West, there are doctrinal schisms; I’m not planning on becoming Buddhist. So it is with great displeasure that I have found a relative dearth of books handily available that offer a political history of it. I took my woes to Twitter, and was roundly recommended Buddhism: A Concise Introduction by Huston Smith and Philip Novak. The text begins:

Buddhism begins with a man. In his later years, when India was afire with his message and kings themselves were bowing before him, people came to him and even as they were to come to Jesus asking what he was. How many people have provoked this question—not “Who are you?” with respect to name, origin, or ancestry, but “What are you? What order of being do you belong to? What species do you represent.” Not Caesar, certainly. Not Napoleon, or even Socrates. Only two: Jesus and Buddha.

Well, shit, y’all. I can’t work with this. Leaving aside the completely insane grammar in the second sentence, are these people tripping? Later, they say, “It is impossible to read the accounts of that life without emerging with the impression that one has been in touch with one of the greatest personalities of all time.” Ugh. What I want is a thorough overview of, like, iconography in border areas; I want the same kind of fabulous political histories you can read about Crusade-era Christianity or Islam in Spain. If anybody has any suggestions, leave them in the comments or @nicomuhly or anywhere. Also if one more person says “The Land of Snows” I don’t know what I’m gonna do.


  • i recently crossed the country with a couple of friends (a la Kerouac) and i have to concur that Wyoming is gorgeous! We spent about 4 days (+-) in Yellowstone and between the mountainous forest and dessert it over-all was a psychic/emotional workout!

  • matthew maclellan
    March 23rd, 2011 at 10:46 am

    – echoes of John’s gospel in this introduction! And the wonderful Gibbons’ anthem, ‘This Is the Record of John’ by extension, I suppose.

    If you get curious, add some aloe vera juice to the juices – some friends of mine used to have evenings of juicing and that was their big thing, usually coupled with large amounts of ginger.

  • Finding a sprawling history of South Asian Buddhism can be a challenge — the field of Buddhist Studies is kind of a mess. But for a general Indian cultural and religious history, check out Sheldon Pollock’s “The Language of the Gods in a World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture and Power” (although that’s more of a philological as opposed to social history). For more of a direct Buddhist slant, try Gregory Schopen’s Bones, Stones and Buddhist Monks. Or for Chinese history, try Alan Cole’s Fathering Your Father: The Zen of Fabrication in T’ang Buddhism.

  • My German friend says that the würst in Herman ze German on Villiers St are quite authentic and good. Also, see if you can get membership of Two Brydges – its next door to the Coliseum.

  • OUP:Keown – Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction

    Nico responds: thanks JoAnne!

  • “In his later years, when India was afire with his message and kings themselves were bowing before him, people came to him and even as they were to come to Jesus asking what he was.”

    Take out the second “and” and it gets much better.

  • For a very specific example of Buddhism in action, in the best and most mysterious sense, try Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard, in which the most elusive of the great cats, and the meaning of his wife’s death, seem just out of reach of one of our best writers, and the earnest language of pilgrimage, in the Himalayas.

  • I suggested this on twitter, but in case you missed it: Karen Armstrong http://amzn.to/ejmric

  • Buddha, juices, London


    Buddha juices, London


    Buddha juices London

  • Nico – the latest installment made me guffaw – so funny and so amusingly ‘you,’ but the “nervous” piece brought up a little tear. Your affection for the kids is so endearing — and yes, they should have gotten more than a name drop in the review, but acknowledgment from you is what really counts. thank you. big hug/kiss.

  • “The Snow Leopard,” mentioned above, mostly a beautiful memoir of a difficult journey, has some interesting passages about the varying forms of Buddhism found in different regions of Tibet. Peter Mathiesson, the author, writes about how various local traditions and gods were absorbed into the regional versions of Buddhism. The rest of the book is heartbreaking and mysterious.

    Your blog is always fascinating and fun to read. Not to mention your music which has given me lots of joy. Thank you!

  • @nicomuhly- how about the The Tao of Pooh?

  • East coasters + West = Buddhism; it’s awesome… as a Southwest girl this equation gives me a lot of pride.

    And, as mentioned before, I’ve heard that the Tao of Pooh is a good pick.

  • Dear Nico, I really think ur music is between blood and organs, is archetipal in a way and simply splendid. I will talk about u in a talk show for MDR in Germany, Leipzig in next week and I am working on a solo dance with one member of the Tanztheater. I am a Choreographer…
    let us get in contact and plan something for Berlin where I also work and live… and that u will probably love or u already do!! u can find me on facebook.. of course of course!!
    Big Hug!!

  • For a solidly academic (but still interesting and readable) history of Tibetan Buddhism check out John Powers’ ‘Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism’. It’s obviously focused on Tibet’s role but it still gives a good start.