Tuesday, December 26

Habit and schedule

To obtain virtue, Socrates thought that the cultivation of good habits was necessary. In The Art of Being, Erich Fromm writes about the need for concentration in habitual activities.

Before I can progress in this post, there is a fundamental question that must be asked. What are habits? The definition my philosophy professor of this past semester gave is a good one. Habits are those things we do again and again that have a cumulative effect and lead towards a single goal.

My problem lies in distinguishing between the daily practice of habits and scheduling. This, of course, requries further distinctions to be made between kinds of habits. You simply can't schedule habits of a moral, ethical nature, the ones that Socrates was speaking of. You cannot say, "I am going to spend this morning being honest and practice altruism in the afternoon." These should be taken into account and practiced in all of our interactions, every day. Ultimately, we should strive to develop virtues like justice and patience to the point that we no longer think of their practice but simply live them.

Lying in contrast to these habits of moral development are those of skill development, habits that are better aligned with Fromm's treatment of habits. Learning a new language or how to paint or whatever, those require our full attention and concentration. To some extent, we can integrate these into our daily lives in the same way as moral habits by trying to translate some phrases into our chosen language or practice motions that mimic those of a paintbrush. Still, these are the types of things that time must be devoted to specifically if one wants to make true progress in them. So, in order to acquire these skills, we schedule time to work on them.

Is it possible to overschedule in this regard? Of course. At the heart of this lies my dispute with any form of overscheduling, be it on vacation or in anyother aspect of one's life, or too much control over one's choices. To the extent that we remain committed to our schedules, we remove chaos from our lives, necessary for discovery and growth. If we remain in complete control of every aspect of our lives, we can never mature beyond ourselves. We are our limit. It's the same problem that news and blogs consumers run into these days. People immerse themselves in those that reinforce their own beliefs rather than challenging themselves with intelligent works of differing politics. Their beliefs are thusly never tested, and good ideas, often the result of synthesis, may never be found.

This all leads to a rather simple principle with regards to habits: flexibility. Rather than saying, "I will read this work in a foreign language from 3:30 to 4:00 today," you try instead to read a chapter sometime today while still being prepared to take advantage of alternative opportunities.

Friday, December 22

I write beyond this blog...

On the off-chance that someone reads this blog who doesn't personally know me, I am pleased to inform them that I do write and am published outside of this blog. Mostly, that is through various Gonzaga publications; the student newspaper and the jounals of opinion and art. If you lack access to hard copies of these, the following are links to pieces I have written.

My Charter submissions:
Cultural enlightenment 101: Education through travel
Happy Crossings
Archetypes of a political persuasion
The Smart One

The Gonzaga Bulletin submissions:
Actually I'm just going to provide a link to the website, The Gonzaga Bulletin. I wrote a fair number of editorials that can be found in the archives. My pieces are the ones preceded by the title 'Editorial:' rather than 'Letter to the editor:' Most of them deal with what the opinion pages should seek to be and are of a more general nature that is hopefully of interest to more people.

Reflection submission:
Unfortunately, these are not up yet. You'll just have to wait to see the brilliant fiction I write.

What is journalism all about?

I want to be a journalist. I'm not sure in what capacity (reporter most likely considering my recent experiences as Opinion editor) or in what medium (not TV) or, much less, publication (it is my hope that more time in the field will lend some guidance on these paths), but it's what I want to do.


There are practical considerations. It's a field one can actually get a job in and make a living on, and it's something I think I could enjoy doing. Not that these matter so much. I find it hard to believe I could not find these needs filled in any number of other occupations. In all truth, it probably wouldn't bother me to be a janitor or secretary if these were the only preconditions I looked to in a job.

No, my desire to professionally enter into journalism is based on what it's all about. Thomas Griffith called journalism "history on the run" in his essay The Pursuit of Journalism. I don't know who he is, except that he was an editor of Time and Nieman Fellow in 1943. In that same essay he referenced Matthew Arnold's quote, "Journalism is literature in a hurry." I respect Arnold as a poet, "Dover Beach" hangs in my dorm room. But I take a different view from both of these men.

Journalism, in its best form, is information, and information is a tool. With newspapers and magazines and the like, people are given what is necessary to make better decisions. They can choose to support or fight specific courses of action because of what they learned from the news. Money obscures the energies that go into production. In its way, journalism can disrupt that veil. That is what I want to do in my career. Whoo.

Tuesday, December 12

Volunteering and charity

They're a big deal, volunteering and charity. The amount of time you unselfishly donate to others is a quantitative element that others often use to judge if you as 'good.' Besides that, material benefits have accrued alongside the less tangible identification of one as a good person. Charity work is really pushed at the high school level and participation in it opens up all manner of scholarships and gives your college applications a bit of a boost. Or not because it has become the standard. You want to win a Citizen of the Year award? I understand that coaching Little Leauge and the like does a fair bit towards endearing oneself to whatever committee makes those selections. For some businesses, philanthropy or the appearance of such has become a major component of their operations, Product (RED) being the current pre-eminent example.

This post isn't about the larger issue so much as its appearance in my life as of late though that would make for a decent post.

By accident of birth, I have never been in need of anything in my life. The essentials and necessities have all been taken care of for me. Life certainly isn't fair, but I can bloody well try to make it a little more so in some way. That's why I volunteer and try to do good.

At Gonzaga, I have given time to a local elementary school this past semester and, last fall, an organization which I prefer to call a homeless service center to a shelter because its sleeping program is minor and it mostly provides some necessities and opportunities to the homeless who take advantage of it. In the first case, I took care of some minor things like putting together papers for the students and helping them with their writing to the small extent you can when they're in first grade. In the latter case, I sat behind a counter and handed hygienic items out to those who asked for them. In either placement, my job could have done by most anyone. They were not what I am looking for.

No, I think the best example of what I'm looking for is a project I took part in towards the end of the semester. Operating under the name 'A Warm Welcome' the intent of the project was to provide student-made scarves to incoming Karen Burmese refugees. In ideal practical terms, for the amount of energy we devoted to making these scarves, we could have held jobs and devoted our earnings to the refugee placement service, World Relief, and done them far more good. In more practical terms, it's very hard to get college students to part with their money in this manner while they are more than willing to give of their time. Furthermore, though the quality of the scarves was largely of inferior quality to those which could be purchased commercially, these scarves were the first crocheting project for many students so they gained a new skill, and I hope that they demonstrated a greater sense of welcome to the refugees than simple purchases could.

That it was what I am looking for. Actions with both tangibly good results and strong meanings behind them as well. Time to start looking harder.

Tuesday, December 5

Looking for truth

Besides the plays assigned through Literature III and the notable exception of Fight Club, my fiction reading habits have as of late been reprehensible. For myself, the last work of fiction I can remember reading, at least for the first time since I did power through most of my old Animorphs over the June, July and August, was Dr. Zhivago back in the early summer. Since then, it's been nothing but news articles and essays covering economics, religion, sociology, psychology, politics and what not. On my desk, ready to be read now, are In Defense of Elitism, Crossing the Postmodern Divide and The Condition of Postmodernity, and they aren't metaphors.

In no small part, I'm sure this change in reading habits is affected by the collision of my tendency towards stinginess with my money and fear of trying something without a reccomendation. These works of philosophy are freely available at the university library, and if they aren't directly spoken of during some class, they do touch on topics we do discuss. In contrast, I often leave the local independent bookstore empty-handed because I'm afraid of wasting my money on some poor work of fiction that I have heard nothing of.

I do believe, however, that there is a large issue at play here, and that is this search for truth I speak of in the title. Philosophical works and those of the social sciences have pretensions of explaining and making intelligible the many aspects of the world we live in through logic or empirical evidence or whatever while fiction is largely understood as amusement. Saying that fiction cannot contain great truths or whatever is hugely wrong of course, and the legs of the social sciences are hardly the strongest. They find it very hard to explain everything or their various adherents even find it difficult to agree on most things.

The important questions come last here. Am I right or perhaps just arrogant? Is this right to pursue truth in such a way?

Monday, December 4

Screw social justice

Actually, that title is just for impact. In a certain, very specific sense, I do agree with it, but in the sense that I'm sure first came to the minds of most people, I'm totally against it. Good grief. I go to a university where taking a class with a social justice requirement is necessary for graduation and am active in a number of groups who hold the concept of social justice near and dear. Most importantly perhaps, my friends are very much for this concept as well, and that statement could be one of the best possible if I desired to alienate them.

Offering my definition of social justice would no doubt help clarify my position. It is the ideal of making a more just world be it through economics or diginty or whatever. Aiding in the development of clean drinking water and reliable sources of food in the Third World is social justice. So is taking a hammer to concept that other ethnicities and races and sexes are inferior and don't deserve the same rights and potential as others. Short of believing that it's up to these people to raise themselves up, wholly on their own, I can see no way of arguing with this position.

My problem is with how I see this ideal pursued. Social justice is achieved by turning other countries and societies into the United States. A simple search on Google for ecological footprint ought to demonstrate the impossibility of that situation, (Maybe I should be a little less cavalier in that statement as Malthus was proved wrong.) but the greater problem, for me, lies in a different direction. Do other societies really want to be like the United States? Materially, we're doing very well for ourselves. We have indoor heating, cooling, plumbing, a veritable multitude of entertainment options, all manner of food choices, amazing transportation abilities, need I go on? Largely, our needs and wants are met and exceeded, but we aren't happy. Stress and obesity are epidemics of a sort that are hammering all members of American society. Blame it on marketers trying to cultivate a mindset that believes it will be satisfied once they make that next purchase or whatever. The problem remains. By and large, we are not content or happy people. Social justice will fail if it can make the American lifestyle attainable to every person on the planet (barring the current economic impossibility) but still leave them unhappy.

I do not dispute the necessity of improving the situations of people whose basic needs are not met. Yesterday a friend questioned why another friend would go outside in the sub-twenty weather in a T-shirt to meditate. He said it was to attempt and transcend the cold. She said his transcendence would be better served by putting on a jacket or coat or something. This whole debate and my own thoughts are worth a post in itself, but I'll let it stand here to say transcendence is fine for we who have the option to put on our jackets or go inside. Let's not force it on those who don't have options. That's what social justice should be seeking to accomplish, the meeting of needs and the creation of societies where all people are allowed to match their potential and are judged according to their merit.

The next step is breeding contentment with what we have, something we Westerners would do well to learn ourselves. I don't remember thinking of this until I saw City of God. Those people lived in a Brazilian slum. Their lives were led amongst squalor, but they were not miserable people. Frustrated and angry? Yeah but not whiny. My mom is fond of quoting some study that found the happiest group of people in the United States are old black women. Not my first I guess and I suspect not that of most people. Why is that? Because happiness is not dependent on possession. So much of our entertainment seems to me to be nothing more than a distraction. Hear some clever lines and see some flashy explosions or exotic landscapes and forget about whatever is really bothering us, more likely than not, that unscratchable itch being wanting more; power, prestige, money, stuff, whatever. That needs to be killed.

Before I end this post, something needs to be clarified. I do not believe that all discontent is bad. After all, it is what drives progress, and no person should be content with settling for less than their best or not fulfiling their potential. We simply must identify those areas where discontent is wasted.

Saturday, December 2

Reflections of a former Opinion editor

This semester I took on the role of Opinion editor for my university newspaper, and now it is finished. The last issue of the semester was published today, and there really is nothing left for me to take care of except to e-mail those who continue to submit and tell them that they will have to await for publication in the spring, a semester will definitely not be working as an editor for. As is my modus operandi, my choices and all their consequences warrant some reflection.

Like so many axioms, "Hindsight is 20/20" is wrong. Looking back now, I have no bleeding idea why I applied for the position of Opinion editor. There certainly is no dearth of good reasons for me to have applied for the position: It is required for my Journalism major and also appeared to be a good way to form relationships with new people with similar interests. Arrogance may have played a part as I decided to take on editing before the reporting and writing classes as they seemed less difficult to me. I also looked towards the Opinion pages specfically because I felt they had been so abused in previous semesters and could be so much better.

Whatever the cas, I ended up with the position. At various points, I may have said it was all right. Those were the times I had plenty of opinions on a variety of subjects and was even able to hold a few just in case a drought of pieces in the next week required a back-up plan. Most of the time though, I would have called it a learning experience in that I learned I never wanted to be an editor again. There was simply too much stress. I demand a certain level of quality in those things I participate in and have an influence over, and the constant running around and speaking with people to arrange for (hopefully) intelligent and thought-provoking opinion pieces and then desparately waiting for their pieces to come in was plenty of stress. Add on the frustration I feel towards myself when I have to constantly pester my friends for a letter whenever they say something that sound mildly contentious and even more frustration with the general student body for generally not caring to respond to any number of potential topics, preferring instead to focus on abortion and the Take Back the Night group, and mine was a world of hurt and dread come Wednesday and page layout. The last two issues proved especially difficult as a number of meetings were forced and egos had to be assuaged as people got personal in their letters and fought for their (perceived) rights to appear on the Opinion pages and not be edited.

Any of the individual elements I would have been fine with. Copy editing, though boring and something I need a great deal more practice in, is fine. Page layout is fun. Both together with kind of assigning stories to people who you have no leverage over or incentives to offer makes it very rough.

You've made it this far. Congratulations. Now let me explain my future plans. I care very much about journalism as a whole and The Bulletin specifically and want to see them reach the highest levels of quality that they can. In the forseeable future, my contribution towards that goal will be through writing and reporting. In the vaguest of manners, I can see myself taking on the position again, maybe even Chief Editor. Unfortunately, that would more than likely involve dropping one of my minors. We'll wait and see.

For now, my semester as Opinion editor remains a learning experience, like so much of my life and as it should be.

Thursday, November 16

Literature classes

Some time ago I found an article on Slate that challenged the English departments of to justify their existence when what they did seemed so detached from reality (apparently "The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: A Study in Transrelational Gender Modes" is not that far off from the truth). Maybe the article provided its own answer or concluded that English departments really didn't deserve to exist. I don't remember, but the challenge has stayed with me, most pressingly when I'm trying to figure out why I care about female Edens in "A Midsummer's Night Dream" or Milton's brilliance in the use of 'or' in Paradise Lost.

Well, this wil likely be my last semester of Literature, barring space in my schedule opening up and hearing that Victorian Literature is all sorts of fun. Better late than never to find an answer to that question, "What is the use of directed readings of literature, poetry, drama and whatever else those writers can come up with and professors throw at you?" Because they're not psychology or chemistry or whatever else that can be demonstrated empirically. Those are averages and generalities. No one has 2.5 children, and attitudes toward life don't fit neatly into whatever stage of life we've reached. Literature reinforces these lessons we should have bleeding learned from our interactions with people. They're unique, complex and can't be reduced to the latest study or finding.

The problem at I arrive at here, is what makes Virginia Woolf and Homer and Oscar Wilde so important then that we have to spend so much time poring over their words? There are millions of writers. Why not them? Because some people have spent more time considering themselves or are simply more interesting.

Why then do we need professors? Hopefully, to guide us towards what the author intended. Rather than finding ourselves in their works, we find the writer. The professors know the writers, studied their other works and lives. They are best equipped to know the writer.

Here's the article, on the off chance you care. At this point, I'm about positive I've written about it before. Maybe I'll look it up sometime and look at how views have changed or realize just how redundant this post has been.

Wednesday, November 8

Insanity and chaos theory

It's a popular saying, "Insanity is trying the exact same thing over and over again and still expect different results." Actually, I'm not sure if it's popular. I've used it if that indicates anything.

If Edna St. Vincent Milay had heard this, she could combine it with, "Life is not one damn thing after another, life is the same damn thing over and over," and come to the conclusion that to live is to be insane.

But I'm digressing. My point is, chaos theory throws this all out the window and proceeds to run over it with a Hummer. Tiny, insignificant changes can impact the outcome in ways we cannot possibly imagine, so it's very possible that the results will change no matter how similar repeated actions appear.

I know it's a departure from my current thread on goodness, but it's just something I thought of.

Sunday, November 5

More thoughts on altruism and community

So, after further thought, altruism is less a good than a basic tenet of human survival. I'm fairly certain I've written on this before, but I'm going ahead with this next bit anyway. If communities are to survive, the members need to have reasonable expectations of how they will treat one another. Altruism is the answer to this. Treat others kindly and they will do the same in return. In some small way, we can control others in that way.

The point of this, besides reducing altruism in my eyes, is to point out the pre-eminence of the community. If the Golden Rule is what communities are built on, they have to be one of the most important elements of civilization. Why? Because humans cannot exist on their own. Even before all of the tending one needs as an infant, a man and a woman need to have sex to produce them. As trained adults, I guess humans can survive wholly on their own, given the right location. Still, they're merely surviving at that point. Animals survive, humans can be more. Now I just need to figure out what humans should be reaching for.

Wednesday, November 1


So, what must I do? I must be altruistic. As far as both Jesus and Confucius, major teachers of Western and Eastern morality, are concerned, and they are both heavyweights, this is a pretty good answer. I treat others as I wish to be treated. It's progress, but I now need to figure out what that it.

The problem with altruism lies on two levels. First, the separation between what I want and what I need, and the fact that what I need is sometimes painful. The second, and deals more with my interactions with others, am I wise enough to know what they need? Do I know all the necessary details? Just how much should I force necessities on another person? At some point, they need to fill their own needs.

A small answer and more questions. Progress of a sort, I guess.

Also, this is not that exciting of an answer but this journey must include equal parts meditation and participation in daily life. Buddha didn't sit underneath his bo tree until he left his palace and saw the old man, the sick person and monk. Jesus' ministry was preceded by a 40 day visit to the desert. These guys did pretty well for themselves, so if I could emulate them, that would be pretty rocking.

Geez, I really am comparing my journey to some of the biggest names.

Tuesday, October 31

A journey

Lately I've been feeling restless, as though something's out of sync in my life. Looking back on my journal, there is nothing much to worry about on the physical and material planes. I'm keeping up with my homework, eating well in spite of my parents' and grandparents' worries, getting exercise and spending plenty of time with my friends. Judged solely on these and the lack of anything really terrible in my life (though editing the Opinion pages is rather stressful) I ought to be happy, and I have no doubt many people would gladly switch positions with me.

Still, I realize this and my restlessness remains. Perhaps you could blame it on my recent reading material: Viktor Frankl's account of time in a concentration camp and on his theory of logotherapy in Man's Search for Meaning and an attack upon my lifestyle in Hooked!: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume. One demands that we find answers if we are to survive, the other provides answers and philosophy so distant from what I am familiar with, and I'm left with a yearning to find my answers.

I have questions, a lot of them, and not so many answers. Sure, you could ask me what the purpose of art is or how can we best understand it. I could probably give a decent response, but it probably came from someone else. I need my own answers and philosophies, ones that I have critically analyzed and considered.

So here I start out with only the vaguest of ideas what I'm doing. I have some basic questions like "What is right?" and "How do I do right?" I'm not even sure what the best way to go about answering these is. Solitary meditation? Participation in and observation of daily life? I'll try both I guess. The only other thing that occurs to me is the need to cultivate good productive habits and eliminate distractions.

So I'll use this space to record my thoughts and progress. Hopefully I'll find my answers. Barring that, I hope it will help you find and sharpen your own. Later.

Friday, October 6

Developing an idea

I don't remember if I have ever discussed this particular belief on 'Spice of Life' before, but, for simplicity's sake, I consider myself an anti-consumerist. Eventually I'll work up the energy and time to describe the associated beliefs in earnest, but, for now, it may just be simpler for you to read Consuming Religion and No Logo, both of which have been huge inspirations to me.

Among the attached ideas is a distaste for those brand names which seek to transcend the material and sell you an identity, a personality brought forth by your (typically and most commonly) clothes though cars and many other products suffer from this as well. My problem with brand names has been longstanding but has undergone some development as of late. Their products neither can nor should create an identity for us. We should create our own.

It's a simple dispute but bothers me because it eliminates an agency on the part of the consumer. What if they buy a certain product not because of its particular image but because it's quality and within their product? Do the intentions of the consumer matter not?

About a week ago, I think I came up with a solution for this. It works by analogy. A woman may enjoy wearing a low cut shirt and mini-skirt and feel pretty doing so, but the unwavering stare of a creepy guy can do a lot to disrupt their mood. He looks at her like a piece of meat, and it matters as do the intentions of marketers and producers. The nature of a marketer's intention is nowhere near as personal as an uncalled for stare, but the same idea is there.

What about that? Any obvious counter-points or kudos for my brilliance?

Saturday, September 30


I've heard friends complain that other friends change after they've been in a serious relationship for a while. I'm not sure why. Perhaps they believe that their friend is changing to better suit their partner. They've been in the relationship so long that they will undertake anything to perpuate its existence because they don't know what they would do without the other. Again, I don't know. These are mere possibilities.

My perspective is a bit different. If that person is better than you, can make you better, you change, no questions ask. Why hold onto an inferior identity and character when one can improve?

Of course, this is all dependent upon the other person being a good one. Should they not be so good, you change them or get out of there.

Thursday, September 28

Reflections on student newspapers making a bad thing worse

This is what happens when Chris' staff editorial gets shot down during the staff meeting. It gets posted here. Sure the audience is infinitesimally smaller, but, at least, his name is more apparent. Enjoy.

So it happened again. A newspaper dropped the ball. Shoddy editing led to the printing of factual errors. It was not the first time something of the sort has ever happened, and no one but a fool would believe it to be the last time. Mistakes happen to all manner of news organizations, at every conceivable level. It’s not hard to think of cases where national publications were forced to fire reporters and editors and publishing fabrications, and, just last week, our own Gonzaga Bulletin corrected errors in a front page story, and ran a letter to the editor identifying errors in another article. Still, this particular case is of interest because The Daily Illini simply gave up.

In a staff editorial berating the athletic department for not treating students fairly in regard to ticket distribution for a basketball game three egregious errors were made. The next day a correction and apology were run, both very appropriate, and that, short of being a poignant memory of what happens when fact checking is neglected, should have been the end of it. However, another editorial appeared the day after and, claiming those mistakes as merely the most recent in a long series, declared that the appearance of staff editorials on its Opinion page would be ended for “a couple of weeks.”

The editorial board of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s student newspaper, an award-winning production that began in 1874 and distributes over 20 thousand copies a day, failed to meet one of the most basic journalistic standards: getting its facts straight. Rather than resolve to confront the issue the next day with editors operating under the reminder of their recent failure, it preferred to remove itself from the public eye under the cover of re-evaluating the system under which the editorials are chosen, written and edited.

Cocaine addled celebrities run and hide. They have no obligations beyond providing entertainment, though stories of their recoveries or devastating descents back into drug use can still prove amusing for those who read People or Us Weekly. Newspapers, however, have a duty to the public and cannot back down from it.

In the editorial board’s last submission to its opinion pages for the foreseeable future, it called the newspaper editorial “a sacred institution” for offering “insight on issues, events and problems relevant to the community.” Now The Daily Illini has forsaken this status, not through its factual errors but through its refusal to meet the problem the next day.
Avoiding blunders like these are simple to those with the mildest understanding of journalism: make sure the editors do their job. I can sympathize with their failure in this instance. People get tired, focus on the wrong things or, more commonly, assume that the person who checked the story before them knew what they were doing and took care of the big problems.

Mistakes are excusable and remedied by apologies and notes under the heading “Correction.” Giving up is not.

Sunday, September 17


Conflict and its appearance in friendship made an interesting appearance in my daily life today. A friend came passed through the room, and I commented upon her bright red arm. I pointed out that there was ice in the freezer, and it would likely speed in the recovery of her sunburn. A second friend said you ought (okay, ought wasn't used, but i like the sound of it) never place ice on a sunburn. Memory gets a little imprecise here, but I believe I granted the point that ice should not straight up be placed on bare skin but maintained that putting some paper towels in between would still do fine. The friend countered that ice was a bad idea, you should only use aloe or cold water to heal a sunburn. We might have reiterated both of these points for a few rounds, but I eventually changed tacs. I had never used ice to heal my numerous sunburns but frequently utilized a cold gel pack. Perhaps we could compromise on that but no. I suggested using a cold gel pack, and she said it was only good for bruises. Finally I said that was what I put on all my sunburns, and the conversation just dropped into an awkward silence at that point and died. The friend with a sunburn had long since left.

I find it funny because, looking back, it seems as though that disagreement could have held much greater consequences than the yelling matches I get into with another friend on whether or not the ends justify the means or the means justify the ends (my position). Do practical disagreements carry more weight than theoretical? It appears so, at least in this case. You could bring up our current war on terror and how its between two opposing ideologies, but I sincerely doubt that the current situation would persist if there weren't certain economic problems behind them. Something to think on.

Monday, September 11


One of the more intersting things about picking up a Dance minor on a whim, besides the kudos from those shocked you would do something like that, especially when you have never seen a ballet and the only thing you have bordering on experience in dancing is Dance Dance Revolution, is the variety of classes you take. Well, in terms that all of the Dance related classes (Tai Chi, Sacred Dance and Ballet) I'm taking this semester involve movement, they aren't that different. It's in the theory that such stark and interesting divisions arise. In Tai Chi we're suppposed to feel our chi, feel it rise up from the earth and circulate through a spot three fingers below the navel. That's on Tuesday and Thursday mornings while Sacred Dance is held about ten hours later, and we're supposed to feel God's presence as if God were looking over your shoulder, asking "Can I step in?"

Why do I have to feel these semi-cosmic (or straight up cosmic with regards to God) forces? Can I categorize my motions such that I only feel them in the appropriate settings? What if I start feeling my chi in Sacred Dance and God in Tai Chi? What then? Or maybe I should merely focus on developing an awareness of one in all my activities. Freak. It's irritating when your instructors are working at cross-purposes like this.

Monday and Wednesday Ballet mornings are almost a relief when you only have to concentrate on your form and not worry about feeling these forces beyond yourself. Of course, Ballet is much more quantifiable than the other two, so someone can say, "You suck. I mean really suck. You make a vacuum look like a leaf blower. That's how much you suck,' and you can't really contest them.

Wednesday, August 16

Postmodern music (because it obscures the nerdy origins)

I believe I was looking for Dance Dance Revolution tracks at the time. You know, so I could enjoy such songs as Afronova and Burning Heat outside of the intensity of emotion that particular rhythm game leads to the creation of. In the course of this mildly illegal action I came upon OverClocked ReMix a site that promotes and hosts free remixes of video game soundtracks. Most of them are classics, pulled from such gems as Chrono Trigger and Sonic the Hedgehog and the Donkey Kong Country franchise, though more recent games like Zelda 64 and the later members of the Final Fantasy series are represented. The site lacked what I was looking for, but the design was excellent and it looked interesting. So, I bookmarked it.

That was maybe a month ago. A week ago I returned to the site looking for some new music having gone on a free music collecting binge. I didn't think so much of it at the time, but, once the downloads finished (a day later because there was over a gig of music) it hit me, just how nerdy I was. I was downloading video game soundtracks. Not only that, fan takes on them. People who found the original scores and replaced the symphony with guitars or rapped over the top. This had to be some sort of turning point. I can't remember a time I had a problem with the label of nerd. I liked to read. I liked Star Wars to an inane degree. I had glasses. I deserved the title. But this music was something different. If the general populace learned of this, I would be thrown into the lowest levels of nerdery. Kids with pocket protectors could dump my books and give me pink belly with impunity because I was even lower than them.

Still, I have a problem with throwing things out, so the music remained on my computer. A short while later I was reading The Selfish Gene (funny story there. i had been reading a friend's LiveJournal earlier that day and, when my mom asked what it was about, i told her 'a meme.' turns out she knew what those were because she had read Dawkin's most famous work (in that it's the only work i know he has written) and had what might be a first run edition because she had to read it in college. upon her finding of it (it was fifth printing i believe) i was in a goofy good mood. yeah, funny.) and couldn't concentrate on it while playing songs with lyrics. I was tired of John Williams and other film scores, so I, not without some trepidation, put the OverClocked ReMix on and was floored. Sure, there was a slight nostalgia factor, especially in the case of Secret of Mana remixes, a game which actually had me crying at the end (that was a long bleeding time ago), but I hadn't played most of the source games and came to the remixes fresh. They were actually pretty good. Very professional and clean sounding. The remixers had put a lot of effort and care into these bits of sound, and it came through, clear as the water around the Florida Keys.

So that is my story. The discovery of some great art in an unusual place, art not to be dismissed because of its humble, easily dismissable origins.

Tuesday, August 15


It and variants on it came up a lot on college scholarship applications. What do you think makes a good leader? What is the ideal leader? How do you consider yourself a good leader? A poor one? In many respects, high school tried to prepare me for these. There were leadership conferences and seminars and a whole pile of ways you could act in a position of authority. There was student government, class officers and club positions.

Mostly I wrote trash for those particular essays. They were insipid and mostly regurgitated whatever it was that I had heard in those training sessions. It showed. I don't think I ended up with any scholarships with 'leadership' in the title.

However, I think I have a handle on what leadership is all about now. Leaders are simply the ones who make a decision and go through with it, even the most petty things. There have been times when I was with the cross-country team or friends or whatever, and we'd be trying to decide on something. What movie to watch, where to go to eat, what to do next, whatever. People would be willing to throw out all sorts of suggestions, but it would take forever to get anyone to act on them. I guess people are afraid of stepping on the toes of others. They don't want to seem as though they're imposing their preferences and whatnot on others when they can't see any quantitative difference. That's when the leaders appear. They would say, "Let's do this," and we would follow them. They realize that no decision is going to please everyone the same amount and do the best with what they know and are willing to live with whatever consequences, small as they may be in the above mentioned cases. That's all leadership is, the willingness to make a decision and see it carried out. Good leaders are the ones that make the right decision and are ready to make changes as the need arises.

Friday, August 11


I've had two days to think about this and even spent a decent part of work today trying to figure it out. I have nothing, so I'm just streaming here. See what happens.

Woodie was a good dog. The closest she ever came to mean was barking when somebody she didn't know came to the house. As soon as they came inside, though, she'd just rush up and sniff them. She was even decent to other dogs, especially smaller ones, or maybe just afraid. They would sniff each other briefly and then the other dog would chase Woodie in a few circles. I thought it was funny at least. She listened to me too. Not like Molly, but she was going deaf by the time I was taking her on walks when my dad wasn't around to.

Anyway, she was put down on Wednesday. When I came back to Baudette from college she was doing all right. But then she had surgery to remove a tumor or something, and it all went downhill from there. It must have been a malignant tumor because she showed signs of lymphoma, nasty bumps all over and didn't spend anytime in her usual places. Even that wasn't so bad, but the last weekend she got worse still. My parents went on a camping trip, and I had to take care of her, walks and feeding and such. Actually, that was basically it, but she wouldn't get up or eat or anything. She did a little of that when my dad came back and took care of her, but it still wasn't much. Was she in pain? I don't know. I guess my parents were giving her aspirin, and she wasn't whimpering or anything. Still, she wasn't going to last much longer.

It wasn't so bad as when Molly was put down. I knew it was coming this time.

Monday, August 7


It seems to me that we humans are so very eager to slap the adjective 'my' on to those things we are involved with. 'Our,' in the sense that it is within the possession of a limited group, is often substituted as it makes the sayer appear less greedy. This struck me most strongly at work today where my partner and I were loading picnic tables on to a trailer. Always when we lowered the ramp, I would unhook the right side and he would take the left, and it seemed to me that were he to work on the right side, I would tell him to stop doing my work, though we did the exact same thing only on opposite sides. I believe he felt the same way because the two of us would do an awkward sort of dance around one another to get at our respective sides if it ended up that we were ready to lower or raise the ramp but on the wrong side.

What's with that? is the first question that comes to mind, and the second question that quickly follows for me Is this right? My example is petty. It really matters nothing, but it's ramifications are much more clear when land claims and other such things are considered. This perspective that influences so very much, from the minute in impact and importance to the international, is strongly influenced by the American culture I have lived my entire life within, and I want to know if it is right. Unfortunately, this observation will have to be the sum of tonight's post. I lack the drive to write any more on the matter now and have other things on my mind. Perhaps I'll give this question the analysis it deserves in a later post.

Thursday, August 3

Thinking about teachers and education and such

I was thinking earlier. You see, that's why I'm making a post. I thought some thoughts and found them to be of some value, something others might enjoy. Thus, I write now.

Anyway, Nietzsche wrote something along the lines of "Teachers are a necessary evil." That's wrong actually. He wrote in German and it was probably closer to "Lehrer sind ein notwendiges Übel (courtesy of FreeTranslation.com seeing as how my German vocabulary isn't extensive enough to come up with that line on my own, and I lack Nietzsche in German (not that I'd know where to look for it))." This is important though because I read an article through Arts & Letters Daily about folk science and how we as humans generally screw up science because of our limited perspective. At some point, the writer brought up heliocentricty and the earth as a globe as things we don't realize on our own. I know that. Those facts were ground into me in most every science book and I ever read and more than a few history books as well. The problem is I've never proven these for myself. I've been told that these are so, but I've never done the calculations, the figuring that proves them. How do I know for certain that these are true, and I'm not being mislead? I guess I don't. I could be living in some boring rip-off of The Truman Show, and everyone wants to know what ludicrous notion I'll swallow next.

I guess that's what labs like dissection and those that allow you to calculate acceleration due to gravity are for. They give us the opportunity to see that these are real. The problem with those, though, is that the students know what is supposed to happen, what results the teacher wants to see, and we, at least my friends and I in high school, fudged like mad. We accepted the established results even though our own results differed.

To quote another notable dead white man, Newton said (more likely wrote but whatever), "If I've seen farther than others its because I've stood on the shoulders of giants." The only way we can make significant progress is by building on the previous works of others. If everyone had to start off from the beginning, observing nature and working out gravity and whatever else, we as humans would not be at the level we are today. Then again, if one of these giants people are scrambling up today made some fundamental mistake, a whole lot of time would be lost in the development of a different approach to that particular field.

My history professor last semester backs Newton up against Nietzsche. He said something that I remember as, "You don't just give some chemistry set to a kid and say, 'Have fun!'" If I remember right, this is taken more than a bit out of context. He was drawing a comparison on whether ethics and morality should be taught to children when he delivered that line. Still works. Teachers are very necessary, both to overall progress and to safety.

Then again, I am more than likely reading Nietzsche a bit shallowly here and could be blasted off this planet by someone with a better background than I in his writings.

What was this post about? The fun one can have in comparing quotes, I guess. I should do this again sometime.

Wednesday, August 2

Mona Lisa

In my last post I made an example of La Joconde. Turns out my reflections on our history is worth a post. I took French for four years in high school, and, as I imagine most classes do, we went to France the summer after I graduated. It was one of those true whirlwind trips. No more than a night in any place and plenty of time on the bus. Not enough time to really visit any one place, which, very much unfortunately, was the case with the Louvre as well. If I remember correctly, we had two hours there. Most of that time I spent amongst the Greek, maybe Roman, sculptures, but, come on, it's the Lourvre. There are a few things you have to see, so I wandered a little bit. Managed to walk past the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Couldn't find David. The Mona Lisa was different. I find it easily enough, but couldn't get within twenty yards of it because of the mass of humanity surrounding it. Not that I actually wanted to see the picture. I was more interested in the security and all the preventive measures against light and environmental damage. Still, the crowd kept me from even seeing that much.

The people so eager to see this piece fascinated me though. What is the big deal about seeing it? The picture itself is not much bigger than a sheet of paper. You could probably get a better view of the picture from out in the hallway where ceiling to floor length banners of the painting were hung, yet people were still desperate to get in on it themselves. They held digital cameras above their heads to try for a shot, no doubt vastly inferior to those they could find in some gift shop or even online.

Curious behavior.

Tuesday, August 1

Ideal of art

Here's a problem that has been running through my mind since I started my first college literature course. Should art aspire towards ambiguity or certainty? Is Paradise Lost, where such basic questions as whether Eve was a positive or negative character were debated over in Literature I, or To Kill a Mockingbird, "Walk a mile in their shoes before judging them?" sounds pretty clear to me, to be lauded? Not that certainty is all that certain anymore, not when you can make Fight Club into an adult Calvin and Hobbes, but there are times when the creator's intent is bleeding clear as in 1984.

Why is Mona Lisa the most famous painting in the world? Well besides the intriguing mathematical principles da Vinci used, all I ever hear about is the smile, enigmatic and different to every person who views it. Ambiguity wins here.

But then again, when did ambiguity ever lead to something besides a great thesis or theory? The world's greatest and longest standing religions? All have nice numbered lists with elements that are nigh impossible to take in any other direction at the center of their faith. The Ten Commandments? The Five Pillars of Faith? The Four Noble Truths? The Eightfold Path? The Golden Rule? Not much wiggle room in those.

It's kind of cheating though to bring these in. They have their artistic and literary elements, but, centrally, they're not about those. Wait a minute though. This just occured to me. What is art but one's perception of reality, and what is religion if not what reality is and how we should exist within it? How does this relate? I'm not sure, but it sounds pretty cool to me.

How about this then? You want to change the world? Give it something distinct and clear. Want to be remembered? Give people the ability to choose the perception they find in your own. Neither can be placed higher than the other (unless, I guess, if you're going to argue against the existence of an ultimate truth that a religion can lay claim to). Art can introduce nuance to religion, but you can't very well live by it while you can live by a religion. They both have their places and must be recognized for what they are.

Monday, July 31

Sky bingo

Sun beams are cool. The clouds are beginning to break on an overcast day and you see yellow rays coming through, standing out against the otherwise gray of the sky. Unfortunately, they're cliche. Angels descend from the heavens, people do something particularly heroic, or a war ends or the storm is over and the survivors are highlighted by God's spotlight. Not so special as they could be.

I discovered something a bit more interesting a few days ago. Discovered is a strong word. I sincerely doubt I was the first to see them and I'd be disappointed in myself for never noticing them before. However, this is the I was actually aware of them. They're the inverse of a sun beam, the shadows cast by clouds that pass in front of the sun. Instead of a happy splash of yellow, it's a bit of dark against sky. They're a bit tricky to see because they don't expand out as far as sun beams but still cool.

Another reason to watch the skies. You may need sunglasses though. Preferably, darly tinted black. That's how I saw my first.

Thursday, July 27

The Moment

I saw the very quirky and fun French film Amelie a little while back. The scene that has most stayed with me besides discovering the secret of the man on all the photo booth pictures? The mean grocer trying to grab the bathroom handle that Amelie switched earlier in the day. So much of the movie, to me and some fine people at Metaphilm, thought this movie was about "the moment." Enjoying it. Living in it. Sucking the marrow out of life. All that. The grocer, the name of whom I'm not inspired enough to look up, goes through the motions, doesn't appreciate every moment, thus he is tricked so fully. A reminder to appreciate the moments I guess.

Not much of a post. Okay, go watch Amelie. It's different and French and Audrey Tatou has a charming smile. There, more substance. Enjoy it.

Monday, July 24

The bumper sticker my friend saw

I don't remember where I heard about this one. Possibly it was a friend's LiveJournal post, or it might have been brought up in some conversation. Not that it matters. It's the content I care about here. The bumper sticker said something along the lines of "Tolerance is for those who lack convictions." I heard about it months ago, and it's stuck with me. Not often at the center of my thoughts but always at the fringes. And now I direct my thoughts towards it. Enjoy the ruminations.

I remember my friend treating the sentiment with some disdain, but I'm not so sure I agree. Of course, it is only six words long and more than open to some interpretation so we may see it in different ways, but I find myself agreeing with it in my own way. If you truly and wholly believe something, say "All killing is wrong," can you be tolerant to murder and capital punishment and abortion and the meat industry? I can't see how. To not burn and rave against what you absolutely know and feel is wrong.

I guess the problem is when we mix up people with ideas. Should we fight those ideals we know wholly and totally to be wrong? Yes. Do we fight the people who hold them? No. This gets into another belief I hold. I try very hard to never think, "I wish that person were dead." Death is the end. After that no can ever do any good. Rather, I wish that person would grow into someone better, more charitable or empathetic or whatever. You fight the person, you lose the opportunity to change them. Fight the idea.

Of course, this all hinges on your belief being a true conviction. If you have analyzed the arguments on all sides of the issue, discussioned the matter with both those who disagree and agree, spent time on personal reflection and meditation, know with your reason and feel in your heart and soul that your position is the right one, that is a conviction. Anything less than an absolute belief leaves room for one to be wrong, and open-mindedness is still necessary to find the truth then. I'm getting into rough waters here considering my feelings on my inability to be certain of anything, but that'll have to be ignored for now.

Disregard the previous if you don't believe in absolutes or if you find my reasoning poor.

Sunday, July 23

Talking and conversing

It's amazing how little it's possible to think while you talk to someone. There are all these trite sayings and phrases hard-wired into my mind, stuff I've picked up from friends and family and TV and sytheses of them. When I talk to someone, I listen for some cue and drop the appropriate line in return. Throw in all the common place pleasantries from "Hey" to "How are you?" to "Later" and you have a minute or two of small talk, a meaningless exchange that does nothing more than express that you were willing to spend a few minutes of your time with someone if not any brain waves.

That's talk. What I desire is conversation, where you actually think about your questions and answers and statements. Pauses? No problem if you're thinking about what to say next. Geez, I even find an uncomfortable silence better where you're actively trying to think of something to say better than simple talk.

Life is short. Talk ought to be worth our time. Our topics may not always be on the weightiest matters, but the effort we put into them can make them so much better.

Monday, July 17


I watched the sunrise this morning. In and of itself, that's nothing spectacular. My hometown's at a latitude far enough north that the sun sometimes first appeared midway through first period in high school. This, however, was the first time I woke up early expressly for that purpose. I'm not really sure what drove me to do it. A weekend or two ago I had planned on doing so by staying up all night, a way to celebrate the end of the work and the beginning of a few days off. Mostly, I figure, it's something I never bothered to appreciate before.

The colors aren't as intense as those at sunset. They were much subtler, more pale and washed out. Actually, the colors were pretty similar to those at the earliest stages of sunset, before the brilliant reds and purples start to form. There's this little band between the pale blue of the sky and the yellow tint that precedes the sun's rising. If you focus on it, you miss, but look at something else, how the horizon loses all distinction and is nothing more than a black mass, and you catch this vibration between the two of them.

Actually, I didn't see the sunrise. There were tall trees on the horizon that would have blocked me from seeing it proper, but I was missing half the show looking only to the east. Colors were shifting all over. Above, the sky was moving towards sky blue, pale but distinct from a band that ran along the horizon. At the east it was wheat gold but became berry blue and purple and red in the west.


Sunday, July 16


Truly watched Waking Life a few nights ago. The first time I ever saw it was on an airplane. On someone else's laptop. No sound because they were being polite to the other travellers and using headphones. Fascinating experience watching a dialogue/ monologue intensive movie with such a fascinating, unique visual style, made even more so when they played Y tu mamá también right after. It's an amazing movie, Waking Life, it's not so much people talking to each other as at one another, there are no professional actors, and really no plot in the traditional sense, but it's ultimately an arresting movie. It's one that I didn't want to tune out for a second in fear of missing something cool. I certainly give it a hardy recommendation. Not for Friday Fun, unless you are a complete philosophy nerd, but pretty good for a Thoughtful Thursday.

A number of points were touched upon in Waking Life: evolution, fate, choice, existentialism, collective consciousness, eternity in a moment and, the topic of this post, dreams. Actually, the whole movie is a guy's dream. At one point he meets up with three friends and they discuss the various aspects of dreams. One is all about lucidity, the realization that one is dreaming and then taking control of it. He suggests a number of ways you can figure out that you're in a dream which leads to one of my favorite scenes. This, specifically, is what concerns me. My personal trick for identifying a dream is asking myself what I had for breakfast that morning because my dreams tend to be in media res. If I can't remember waking up, I'm pretty sure I'm in a dream. Not that this would work in Waking Life. The character wakes up multiple times only to realize later that they're "false awakenings." I guess I'm special. To get back to the movie, lucidity is huge. Once people realize they're in a dream they start flying or doing whatever. Me, I let it ride. I like to see what happens next. There have been more than a few occassions where woke up at a really good part and just laid in bed for a while longer still finishing the episode in my mind. What's really cool? I don't feel as though I'm making it all up. I'm just dreaming with my eyes open. Screw my conscious. The unconscious is where it's at.

Okay, not much substance. Just an alternate viewpoint and mild movie review.

Saturday, July 15

Something to consider

For the past three years, I have worked as a natural resources worker at Zippel Bay State Park. Doesn't really tell you much about what I do, does it? For simplicity's sake, if someone asks, I typically call myself an outdoor janitor. I make the park look nice from cleaning out firepits to picking up litter to generally being a great piece of eye candy for the park visitors. This job also includes the rather illustrious duty of tidying up the outhouses, vault toilets, whatever it is that you call them. A week or two back, we installed (not the best word. it's not really a permanent part of the structure. perhaps incorporated would be better) generic plastic garbage cans into them to reduce the amount of trash being thrown down the actual toilet, something we in the park cleaning business frown upon. Today I looked into these garbages for the first time, curious as to what artifical waste people disposed while they were relieving themselves of biological waste. Mostly, I found juice boxes and candy wrappers. You know what this means? While the necessary muscles in the posterior were tightening and relaxing, others were going at it in and around the jaw. Disgusting. At the moment you're most aware of what it's going to turn out as, more food is being taken in. I wonder what Freud and his psychoanalytic development would have to say about that. Forget that last one. I really don't care to know.

For those generous souls who seek to defend or find excuses for what I found, I can think of none. These aren't obvious garbages, they were recently implemented inside a wholly enclosed structure. It's highly unlikely that someone find this trash on the ground and thought to theirself Geez, I better throw this away in one of the outhouses, especially when other, more obvious garbages are a short distance away. Also, it simply seems unlikely to me that someone would keep an empty juice box in their pocket until that moment.

At least the trash isn't going down the toilet.

Wednesday, July 12

Calm retorts

Victory for Chris! Well, not in that I changed the man's mind or really made much of a difference, but I do feel better about my own reason and ability to construct a decent argument. Anyway, I called the writer of the editorial I alluded to in my last post. That's an hour of my life that I'm not getting back, but, like I said, I feel better about myself after it. First of all, I didn't let 'Spice of Life' become an end. I followed it up. Second, for the reason stated above. Let me regale you with some anecdotes. I promise you'll feel better about your own debate abilities at the end of this. Note that the italics indicate what I wish I had said.

"There are only 11 rights the federal government has in the Constitution. Everything else is reserved to the states."
"Well, I was taught that the Constitution was intended to be a flexible document that could change with the times."
"Then your teacher was a Communist. You're at a malleable age and need to understand that he's wrong. He's been teaching his ideology."
-Later on, after I reveal that I support big government when he asks if I would be willing to support some lawsuit against the government.
"I'm sorry, but I can't do anything for you then."
But wait, I'm at a malleable age! Please give me a chance!

"After Reconstruction, when public transportation was privately owned and operated, their was harmony between the colors. It wasn't until the federal government started to subsidize buses and stuff that their was segregation."
Later on, while complaining about the liberal media.
"Three companies own all the print media, and there are only three major networks. They're all biased against the president."
It appears that your support for capitalism has failed.

"You know why the government went after Bill Gates? There was no trust. He just wasn't giving the political parties enough money. Now he donates to both parties, and everything's fine."
"You hear about that Congressman with the money in his freezer? That was from bribes, and that's what you get when you let all those lobbyists into government. People can buy preferential treatment."
"So you're saying Bill Gates wasn't buying enough preferential treatment before or does he donate just enough not to get harassed?"

"Direct election of senators ruined our government. The Senate used to be a gentleman's club. Now it's a pig sty. When they were chosen by state representatives, people cared about those elections."
Doesn't that make the whole system more susceptible to bribery?

After finally getting him to admit that anarchy was the wrong word to use in his article.
"Well that's piss poor reasoning. I'd like to keep this all above that, and you're getting childish."
Yeah, I just wanted you to admit you were wrong about something.

Closing remarks.
"Well, I'm a busy man, so, if you want to phone me again, do your homework first. Do some research and reading. For god's sake don't read The Grand Forks Herald or Minneapolis Star Tribune."
I'll get right to all that non-reading, sir.

I fully admit that these are simplifications, and I may have gotten things wrong in an attempt make myself sound better. Still, the general sentiment is about right, and the closing remarks are about spot on.

Angry editorials

Let me give you all a taste of what has appeared on my hometown's 'Opinion' page.

"This abdication of local government to Central Planning only lacks a firing squad to rival the old Soviet Union. Our three Federal Legislators and our County Attorney forced the abdication upon us. They sold us, our Constitutions and the Rule of Law for what campaign financing, tenure or maybe some freezer cash?

My requests for redress of grievances, guaranteed by our constitution, ignored. My requests to be shown how this usurpation of power could be justified under our recognized Rule of Law, ignored.

Elected officials, who allow tyrants into positions of power, need to be replaced. Until they can show how they are upholding their oaths of office, we are living under the first stage of anarchy. (The second stage is the firing squads.)"

How does one reply to this blanket of venomous criticism and rage? There's no reasoning to refute (okay, is he suggesting that our county attorney was paid to give more work to Central Planning, whatever that is?), a whole bunch of vague assertions (what exactly is Central Planning?) and the grammar is atrocious.

I guess I could always mock some of the more blatantly wrong things we writes of. Soviet Union? Fascist. Abdicating local government to a centralized power? Fascist Tyrants? Fascist NOT freaking anarchist. Constitutions? About positive there's only one in America. Sure it's childish and I would come off as unsufferably arrogant, but it's such a temptation.

More than a few times, I've been told that people like these should be allowed to vent and rage all they want. Others will realize how foolish they sound and not pay them any heed. Really, though, there's no fun in that, and the man, who frequently contributes these pieces of trash, is bringing down our newspaper. Perhaps the best response would be get others interested enough to write enough decent pieces of their own that there's no room for his.

Tuesday, July 11

Pride and Prejudice (again)

How much Pride and Prejudice does it take to make your head spin and nose bleed and your mannerisms to permanently change? More than the novel, two viewings of the 2005 movie, once with director's commentary, and the BBC mini-series over the course of a week. That is a lot of the Bennets and Bingleys and Collinses and Darcy. Onward with my commentary then.

I may as well get this one over with in the beginning. Pride and Prejudice is not now my favorite novel and probably will never take that position. I'd consider it fortunate to make the Top 10 if I was ever bored enough to make a list, but I certainly did end up feeling as though the time I took reading it was a waste of time. So, I'm not grasping at the opportunity to read anymore Austen, but I'm far from scared off from another try at something of hers. Just in case you, gentle reader, were wondering.

I very much enjoy Austen's dialogue. I rank it up there with Oscar Wilde's as what I'd like to people say like. Everything comes off as elegant and even the fools have a greater eloquency than anyone I talk to. Some consider this artificial, a sentiment I can fully sympathize with, but I prefer to think of it as a very cool ideal. Besides, there's a certain, undeniable element of style, which one can barely hope to attain, to a character that leaves the woman who rejected his proposal of marriage by saying, "Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness."

Also, I know feel better qualified to comment upon the two film versions having read the source material. The BBC is the book on screen. Little is cut or edited from the novel and dialogue is added to fit in more of Austen's commentary. The most recent movie is as much a creation of the director, Joe Wright if I remember correctly, as Austen's. He casts certain characters, most notably Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh, in a different light and makes it very much his own. I find this faintly amusing since Tom Hollander, Mr. Collins and Cutler from the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel (almost burst out in laughter at his appearance), said in one of the special features that casting for the movie is difficult because everyone makes Pride and Prejudice their own and has already selected their cast.

Still wrestling with my thoughts concerning its portrayal of romance. Think that'll be worthy of its own blog post. Ooh, something to look forward to.

So, now it's time for something coarse and depressing enough to subdue this whole 'True love prevails' theme. Sylvia Plath's The Belljar, perhaps. If only I could find a copy somewhere....

Monday, July 10

Night walk and night sky

I went for a walk tonight. The stars should have been amazing. Overhead, the sky was clear, the only clouds were on the horizon, and the humidity was low. There was nothing to impair their beauty, except for the moon. The brilliant moon. I didn't notice it at the beginning of my walk, as it was hidden behind a cloud bank, but when the moon crested it, it was magnificent. If it wasn't full, I couldn't tell the difference, and the light coming off from it was amazing, strong enough to cast a distinct shadow. At one point I passed a home with a lamp post in the yard, and the shadow it threw off me was still less distinct than that which came from the moon. Cool.

For a while, I simply laid upon the path I was following to enjoy the moon and the sky.

In their own way, the stars grew in their own splendor even with the moon's interference. Not as many of them could be seen, but, if you focused on a small patch of night sky, you could begin to make out more of them. They were a tease saying, "The more you watch, the more you will find and delight in. Watching us is worth it."

Makes me appreciate living in a small city, at the edges evenmore, and being able to so easily escape constant, artificial light.

Sunday, July 9

Handstands and other tomfoolery

For those who care, my special project for the summer (kind of late to be posting on this) is getting ready for my upcoming Dance classes, as not to make a fool of myself. Mostly this comprises of raising my currently atrocious level of flexibility and learning what will surely be the most useful of moves in ballet. Currently, that move is the handstand. Once it is mastered, which I hope to be soon, I will move on to the kip and, assuming that there is even time after that, cartwheels and all other manner of flipping craziness.

Why do my petty plans deserve a post? I'm not sure in the least. My best guess is that I would like to express the enjoyment I find in doing something different. It's not particularly useful, more a silly wish than anything else. The only instance I can find it being worth spending my time on is if I can find a capoeira instructor and months to study it. Still, it's fun. Like I said, it's different, far outside of my usual activities, and it's so simple. I merely walk out the door and go at it when the desire comes upon me.

Perhaps there's this to say, if profundity is what you're after here, try something new. Woo, like that hasn't been said before. Make it something different, a challenge.

Saturday, July 8

Dr. Zhivago

For a summer that started so well in terms of reading, Dr. Zhivago was the piece that threw me off my stride. Before Boris Pasternak's most famous work, I was tearing through my personal library, knocking down The Once and Future King and The Picture of Dorian Gray, enjoying them, reflecting and moving on. Then I try the first new novel of the summer and flounder. The work schedule got more intense, and my readings grew spotty. After two weeks of this, I thought Screw it and pounded the last half of the book down over two days. No doubt this affected my enjoyment of the novel, but I still insist upon regaling and edifying you all with my thoughts on it.

On a very shallow level (a sandbar at low tide would be a reasonable approximation of the depth), I would like to express my distaste for Russian names. I simply find it impossible to follow which character is which and who is doing what to whom at any given moment what with the interchangeable and frequent uses of their last name alone, first two names, childhood name or the name used by their lover. Gah!

Beyond that little quibble created by a lack of cultural exposure, the heart of Dr. Zhivago, what made it worth reading for me, was ideas, centering around the most important developments that arose from the New Testament and revolution. Sure, there was some beautiful imagery, and I really ought to try it again sometime, albeit at a more leisurely pace, because I'm positive I overlooked more than a few things, but the ideas ruled for me. Without them, I would have found finishing the novel all the more difficult because the other elements didn't appeal to me enough, especially the character of Yurii Andreievich Zhivago. I really wanted to like him for all he did and put up with, but the way he treated woman drove me batty. Perhaps, my personal sense of the romantic and appropriate execution of erotic love is one that doesn't gel with that presented in Dr. Zhivago.

In that way, it resembled my experience with Crime and Punishment. After the crime, the only thing that kept me reading were Raskolnikov's conversations with Petrovich and the hope that other such discussions might arise. Could be I simply like my themes straightforward, sans the deep, continuing themes.

As a bit of an afterthought, I very much enjoyed the poems that followed the epilogue.

Wednesday, July 5


"My name is Jake. My name is Rachel. My name is Tobias. My name is Casse. My name is Marco. My name is Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthil." I could have skipped the first chapter or two that followed these lines. They were never much more than quick summaries, but I always read them, every freaking word. I was competely in thrall to the majesty that was Animorphs.

For five years, K. A. Applegate's master series sustained me, even when there was that span of completely ludicrous, poorly edited trash that preceded the big finale. If I ever drew near that yawning abyss which inspired thoughts such as My God! How can I go on with junior high and the drudgery that is my various classes I would remember Oh yeah, the Animorphs book coming out next month! That preview chapter has me so hooked! Living in a small town that lacked a book store and lacking the ability to ordering online left me anticipating out-of-town trips where I could buy the next book, along with the other one or two I had missed from previous months, or begging others to pick them up on their own beyond Baudette adventures.

So, why write about this now, a series that ended five years ago and should have ended a year and a half earlier than that to keep the quality at a reasonable level? Because I started reading them again. You know, a quickie before bed. The literary equivalent of Shock Tarts to balance out the delicately constructed, full flavored rhubarb tarts that are Dr. Zhivago and Pride and Prejudice. My tastes in reading material have matured, and this return to my long time favorite series has been fascinating. I can still remember my sides literally hurting when I read the chapter where Marco stole the truck in the first Megamorphs, and it brought a smile to my face when I came back to it again. Even Ax playing with mouth sounds, and Marco making fun of "your minutes" (both of which were overdone) made me happy.

And there has been so much more I've rediscoverd. The fantastic images that came from them plowing a private jet into an unfinished building to reach the Yeerk Pool to save Cassie, and Tobias stealing the Dracon beam and burning the transport ship, leaving his friends to morph to bird in mid-air. The insane, overly complicated plans of The Arrival and The Solution. The spectacular, untouchable The Attack and The Departure. The sheer ridiculousness and shoddy writing of The Unexpected and The Journey. Megamorphs and Chronicles, which were like Christmas early since they were released alongside the regular book-of-the month. And the utterly amazing six book finale. Only Shinichiro Watanabe's Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo have endings that can touch it (Yes, I know very well they're anime, not books. Sue me.) Good times.

Not to let myself be blinded by nostalgia, I'll own up to some of the glaring weaknesses. The characters, though complex for their intended age group and some of my favorites ever, are largely defined by a single flaw. Jake's sometimes questionable leadership. Rachel's love of battle. Tobias' loss of humanity. Cassie's moralizing. Marco's mommy problem, and Ax's conflicting loyalties between the Andalites and Animorphs. I'm simplifying. Other stuff is going on, like their various relationships with the other characters, but that is minor to what I just listed. None of the characters ever really moved beyond these problems. They just dealt with them over and over, in different situations, and ended being up rather static. Also, like I mentioned several times before, the plots of more than a few were simply silly. The Helmacrons were an enormous (shameless pun now that I think about it) mistake and Cassie's trip to Australia and Jake's trippy adventure into the future were stupid, stupid, stupid. Less good times.

Not much substance to this post, but it was fun to wax nostalgic and re-examine what I once loved.

In case you're wondering, my favorite character is a toss-up between Marco and Tobias, and my favorite book is probably The Attack, the Back to Before, the last Megamorphs makes a strong run at it.

Sunday, July 2


“What are you?”
“To define is to limit.”
-Duchess of Monmouth and Lord Henry Wotton (Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray)

“It’s a good thing when a man is different from your image of him. It shows he isn’t a type. If he were, it would be the end of him as a man. But if you can’t place him in a category, it means that at least a part of him is what a human being ought to be. He has risen above himself, he has a grain of immortality.”
-Yurii Andreievich Zhivago (Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago)

Roles, stereotypes, they have long interested me. Seeing others fill them, seeing myself take part, I find it all fascinating. It's liking we're trying to make reality and our everyday lives more like some TV show by playing a role, or, perhaps, we're just trying to make our lives and relationships simpler. If we can cast ourselves as one type of person and others as others types of people, then we know what is expected of them and ourselves. Less thinking is required in our words and actions then. In effort to appear more educated than I really am, I now suggest that this all has something to do with Baudrillard's hyperreality and refuse to elaborate further. Fear the dropping of a French philosopher's name! Fear it!

Of course, it's possible that roles are so plentiful and contain so many variations that they lose much of their meaning. There are so many roles that the people we define as someway may very well fit the concept entirely because the role was made for them.

I doubt either extreme is the case. They both exist, and I do not believe that either dominates.

But I stray from my point. The two quotes which opened this post are the best I have yet seen pertaining to roles, as far as they eloquently put into words my own beliefs that is. The first is one of the few lines Lord Henry delivers in The Picture of Dorian Gray that isn't insidiously amoral. I hate roles, and that is one of the reasons why. Setting down what a thing, a person, is necessarily places limitations upon it and limits its potential. The nerd can't go to a dance without acting the fool. The jock can't get a decent grade without cheating. Screw that. Do what you want and can (while following the Golden Rule, of course). Define yourself by your ambitions, not what you are at this moment.

Second, we've got some thoughts from the inestimable Dr. Zhivago pertaining to Lara's husband. The authentic people are the ones who, no matter how hard you try, simply can't be defined. You can't call them "the goth" or "goody two shoes" or whatever because they don't fit. If you insist on it, you'll never understand them and their actions will constantly surprise you. These people live according to their own ideals, not those grafted on by others. None who preceded them were like them and none will be. It's the highest of compliments to not be "one in a million" but "the one." (Again this is all assuming that they believe in altruism and act according to it. I imagine psychotic killers are unique people. Scum, no doubt, but unique.)

Thursday, June 29


Right. So, I think my short story is decent and ready for revision. You want a copy? Leave a comment with your e-mail, and I'll send it along. I'm not going to post any description of it or my intentions to keep your reaction pure.

Also, if you've been following along for the past week or so and read the 'Identify a success or failure....' post, you know I recognize the necessity of revision and honest opinion. Bring it on.

Wednesday, June 28


“If I were to be made a knight,” said the Wart, staring dreamily into the fire, “I should insist on doing my vigil by myself, as Hob does with his hawks, and I should pray to God to let me encounter all the evil in the world in my own person, so that if I conquered there would be none left, and, if I were defeated, I would be the one to suffer for it.”

“That would be extremely presumptuous of you,” said Merlyn, “and you would be conquered, and you would suffer for it.”

“I wouldn’t mind.”
-T.H. White’s The Once and Future King

It's about sacrifice. The willingness to wholly put others before yourself. That's all, and that's beautiful.

Yeah, I know these posts are kind of lazy, no more than filler really. There really isn't too much thought put into them. Somebody else took care of that. I just happened to like what they wrote. The pay-off in my own writing will be worth it though. I have more than a few decent blog ideas running through my mind, maturing, and I'm currently working on what I hope will believe my best news article yet and that short story I keep hinting at, hopefully available for revision here in a few days. How exciting.

Monday, June 26

Valedictorian Speech

Here we go, the final post in the whole 'Chris' High School Writings' series, my valedictorian speech. I don't think it's my best stuff, but I believed in what I wrote enough to say it in front of hundreds. I didn't visit any webpages or read any books on what to say. It's all original as far as I'm concerned. There really isn't much else to say, so here it is.

Hello everybody. To all of who came here today, I extend my gratitude. Your being here shows great respect for our class. Thank you.

There’s a saying I like that’s particularly well suited to this occasion. “It’s not the destination, but the journey on the way that counts.” Nothing illustrates this better than life itself. After all, our final destination is death, and life is merely the journey towards it.

Our time in school was a journey as well, and here we are at its destination. What is it then that we have spent 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 9 months a year, and 13 years working towards? The right to leave. Seems pretty silly to me, and you have wasted this journey if you spent it only wishing for the end, not living in the moment.

So, what happened on this journey? What made it special and worth living through?

Well, we learned things, I hope. The knowledge we have gained here is part of the place which we will stand upon when we move the earth. Even if we plan on becoming truckers or electricians or hairdressers and never expect to use our knowledge of Shakespeare or Congressional powers again, we know about them and become something else if we want to.

Still, with all the importance I attach to the knowledge we’ve gained here, I don’t believe it is the most important part of our journey through school. Rather, it’s our experiences and memories that are of the greatest importance. They make us unique and will always be a part of us.

We have all done and seen good and bad things. Done things we were proud of and things we were ashamed of. There have been fun and boring things, as well. These compose our experiences, none of them worth less than another.

We are who we are today because of them. We may not be as smart or athletic or charismatic as other people, but our experiences are unique and make us all special.

Still, we must remember that even though these experiences have made the people who sit here today, they don’t determine who we will be. Change is always possible.

Furthermore, memories are lasting. Do any of us really expect to wear the same clothes in 10 years or even be driving the same car? When these goods have been upgraded or cast off, our memories of school will still be with us. Keep them close and share your experiences with your children. The world may not remember our names, but our children and theirs will.

This journey is a part of who we are. Don’t ever forget about school and the things that happened here.

Good-bye everyone, I wish you all a good life.

Sunday, June 25

Identify a success or failure in your life....

Here's an essay that advanced me to the interviews and eventually landed me where I am today, in the Honors Program at Gonzaga University, so far one of the best things to have happened to me in a long time. I was kind of worried about how this one would look coming back to it after seeing the essays submitted by the applicants for this coming semester, but I think it holds up well and continue to like it. Here we go.

At various times in my life, I’ve wanted to be a writer, to publish something great and be remembered forever. The first time this urge struck me was in the 5th grade. At the time, my favorite series of books was Animorphs, and while checking a website for a preview of the upcoming book, I found a short story writing contest. Winning it would have been a good start to accomplishing my goal of lasting fame. I thought first place was assured since I had imagined myself in volumes of Animorphs stories, fighting Yeerks as a cheetah. I went straight to work and, by the end of the day, presented Dad with the winning story.

He took a red pen in hand, and, by the time he finished, my story looked as though it had plugged a bloody nose. There was hardly a line where he hadn’t edited my punctuation or noted an ambiguous passage. Every mistake was circled and underlined, and no one could miss them. I had not written the perfect story. When Dad started to explain why he suggested these changes, I buried my head under a pile of blankets to hide my tears. When he stopped talking, I pulled my head out and yelled at him, saying that he had no idea what he was doing, that I had only wanted him to admire my story before I sent it off, and that he had no right to offer suggestions I hadn’t asked for.

When I had finished yelling and wiped away the last of my tears, he explained that my work could be improved and should be if I wanted to win the contest. He took me back to the computer, and we reviewed my story, word-by-word, line-by-line. The minutes painfully ground by. Several times, he pointed out mistakes so blatant that I nearly started to cry in embarrassment. When we finished, Mom looked at it, and we returned to the computer, again. After several more revisions, my story was finished to my parents’ satisfaction and was set on its way.

I didn’t win the contest, receiving a “Thank you for participating” letter instead, but that incident was a turning point in my life. My prior arrogance submitted to a burgeoning feeling of humility. The agony of acknowledging and correcting my mistakes killed my urge to write for a little while, but I ultimately accepted those mistakes. It took some time, but I came to realize that before one can become great, or even improve, they must admit that mistakes have been made and the possibility for improvement exists.

There is a happy ending to this story beyond my lesson. Years later, when Animorphs was nearing its end, I found another writing contest. This time, I went straight to my parents with my rough draft and took their suggestions seriously. I didn’t win again but was one of the 10 runners-up and received the complete Everworld series among other prizes for my work.

Thank you for considering my application to the Gonzaga Honors Program. Have a good day.

Saturday, June 24

The Sick Rose

O rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

It's a William Blake poem. Except for 'The Tiger,' which is rather cliche considering how well-known and widely popular that one is, I'm not much of a fan. His themes seem overly simplistic to me. Anyway, in Literature II, our professor had us break into groups and come up with our own analyses of this poem's symbolism. For whatever reason, perhaps I had been reading too much Metaphilm or was infuriated with the poem's vagueness or was just irritated at the world, I decided it was all a huge metaphor for communism, despite the poem being published about two decades before Marx was even born, much less a communist state was succesfully established. My explanation for that mild problem: Blake claimed that a number of his ideas came from an angel or his dead brother, and they must have clued him into this upcoming event.

Anyway, the rose is communism, and the worm is the lure of individual possession and capitalism. Why is the rose communism? Mostly because the picture that accompanies the poem is of a red rose and a reference is made to the rose's 'crimson joy,' colors closely associated with the major communist revolutions and states. That's not so clever, but my whole interpretation of the worm is pretty cool, I think. "That flies in the night,/ In the howling storm" are the American radio and television stations that silently move on electromagnetic waves and present images of happy capitalists. That dark secret love? It's the love of individual ownership that destroys a society built on communal ownership and means of production.


Friday, June 23

Internet radio

Found a new website for everyone to visit. Pandora Internet Radio. First came across it in the comments on a friend's LiveJournal, and, later that day, I saw it mentioned in an article on Slate. When coincidences like that come rushing at me like Liquid Snake on top of Metal Gear Rex, I just have to pay attention. Anyway the site is designed to expose you to new music that has the same qualities as music you already enjoy. You create personal stations by adding your favorite artists and songs (the library is pretty good. doesn't include everything you might enjoy, but I've been pleasantly surprised by its size more than a few times), and new music with the qualities shared by your listed items will play. Further features allow you to identify songs you especially enjoy and never again listen to those you dislike. Nice.

I'll throw a link for AccuRadio up to since I'm on the subject. It kept me rocking during my early morning (before 8) work study hours. Another excellent Internet radio station whose customizablity rivals that of Pandora. There are 24 diverse stations, ranging from Chinese pop to country to cabaret, each with multiple sub-divisions. Even more, all the artists featured on these stations appear on a sidebar, and you can choose which ones you don't want to hear anymore. If you stick with a single sub-set for too long, you're sure to hear repeats, but there are a lot of other options available when you get irritated with that selection. Perhaps that's why it won a Webby award. Don't know how good that is, but it does sound like something I'd like to see this blog pick up.

Oh yeah. They're both free, thus making them even cooler than cool.

Thursday, June 22

Something I'm in favor of

So, if it ever came up for a public vote, I would be all over a mandatory two year draft for all people. Not because I think a large standing army is an especially good form of national defense (I'd actually prefer for the militant nature of the army to be eschewed in favor of the sort of domestic activities the National Guard commonly took on before their current patrol of the border, like disaster relief) but because society needs a meaningful cultural touchstone.

There are so many things that fragment people in modern Western culture and hinder connection. There's class. There's gender. There's region. Even when two people share these characteristics, let's say me and an old schoolmate (two middle class white guys from rural northern Minnesota), it's still very possible for severe blocks to stand in the way of our mutual understanding because of the abundance of choice in entertainment and news and art and everything else. It's difficult for a lover of rap and a jazz fan to relate if they know nothing of the other's preferred musical genre despite their shared appreciation for music.

That's what I hope a draft would make possible. Meaningful connections. Everyone, regardless of all those things I listed earlier, would be forced to come together and undertake the same training. Their experiences would be the same. An artist and a lawyer meet years later, and they have something they can both relate to, hopefully allowing for a greater relationship. That's what I'd like to see happen.

I just thought I'd throw this out here. The posts from high school and my selected profondities are kind of pre-packaged and require little preparation, and I wanted to make a main course tonight (ooh! a metaphor!).