Tuesday, May 30

Writing a blog

Crud I write about this blog and writing a lot, and this post will be no different! I will continue to plumb this particular subject until I feel as though my footing is firm. Anyway, a friend decided to shut down his LiveJournal a few days ago. I read his reasons a few days ago. Among these reason was, what I understood as, a general loss of faith in writing. When he was posting to his blog, he wasn't doing other things, better, more useful things. Wow, looks like an opportunity to consider his position with relation to myself.

What, then, am I doing posting here? All the time I spend thinking of posts and later writing them is time not spent considering how I could be helping others. To be honest, I have to say I probably would not be thinking about those things, but, by maintaining Spice of Life, I choosing to devote time and thought in a manner that prevents it from being spent on other things. So, I most think there is some value to posting here, and I think the value of my blog can be traced to two sources.

The first relates to an earlier post, 'Posting to 'Spice of Life'' (put up in April if you care that much). In it I expressed my fear that posting was becoming an end in itself rather than the means to something more. Well, I actually confronted the example that post contained. I spoke to the teacher about her anecdote. She reassured me that she personally would always go for the cat rather than the picture but justified the character's decision to save the picture because it is art that allows us to find meaning in our lives. Well, that's reason number one for my continued upkeep of Spice of Life. My postings are attempts, sometimes successful and sometimes not, to find meaning in my actions and life.

My preference for absolutism, which I alluded to in an earlier post, is the second reason for this blog. If I believe that there is definitely something right and something wrong, I need to figure out which is which. Writing here is an opportunity to consider whatever issue or decision has enveloped my thoughts.

What do you know? A fairly firm position and post that doesn't end with some variation on "I'll have to think about it some more." Cool. Either I'm maturing or becoming more certain and arrogant.

Also, I'm sorry to see him stop posting to LiveJournal. His thoughts were interesting.

Sunday, May 28

When am I most myself?

It has been my experience that very rarely do people always act the same. I'm not merely talking about how they may act in front of a superior and then towards an inferior. Even more than that, you're with a friend within a group and then everyone else takes off except the two of you, and they're different. When they're with others, they're bombastic, eager to jump into any conversation, but then, when they're just with you, they're more subdued. The change may be more subtly, but one has still occurred. This change used to disgust me. I thought that one must be constant and true to their essential personality. Now, for some reason that I can't quite pinpoint (perhaps a less certain belief in an essential personality), I have decided to consider it further.

For some time, it has seemed to me as though people gravitate towards roles when they're in the group. So often, you can pick out 'the cynical one' or 'the funny one' or whatever. Whether these roles are imposed by the group or chosen by the individual is certainly up for debate, but I believe they exist, to varying degrees of nuance. The important question here is, "Are the roles we take ones that match us?" If they are, that's great, but I have a hard time believing that personality can be so simplified.

Then I look towards the one-on-one. Does our true personailty come out in this situation? I used to think so but doubt it now. I find that I get along with people so much better when it's just the other and I, and believe that is so because we try and please each other. If that's the case, then our true personality isn't really coming out.

You can't really be yourself when you're by yourself either because such a large part of our personality is dependent upon how we interact with others. Possibly this blog here is my true personality, seeing as how it includes both a public and private aspect, but I still censor myself so I'm not wholly open in this case.

So, is there such a thing as a constant, unalterable identity that always exists? I'm thinking no. Certainly not in the long term as we are always changing. I guess I could always fall back on believing in performative identity. I'll think on it some more.

Friday, May 26

Confronting evil

This particular issue has been bothering me for some time. I like to consider myself a moral person, one who believes that there is good and evil and that we must choose to pursue the good. Additionally, my morals are more on the absolute side of the fence than the relative or circumstantial. An action is good or it is evil. The circumstances and consequences are of little matter. I readily admit that this is not a perfect system, that there are plenty ready to tear into me for this and that I do cheat on it, but these matters are not the subject of this post.

Rather, I would like to take this time to consider what I ought to do when those around me engage in acts I consider immoral. Were I to be following my moral code to its fullest, I probably should be voicing a strong objection, jumping on that person's back, whatever I can to stop them. Mix in a belief in heaven and hell, and there is all the impetus I need to take necessary actions to stop a person from doing anything I find evil.

But I don't. Perhaps its because I believe trying to impose my will on a person would be a good way to wreck whatever relationship we have. Perhaps living my entire life, barring a few vacations to Canada and Europe, in the United States has driven the undeniable primacy of individuality deep and irrevocalby rooted it into my skull. Could be simple cowardice too. Or what if I'm wrong? What if what I believe is right and wrong doesn't really matter? that they're simply arbitrary distinctions that mean nothing? That's not a mistake I want to be making.

It's an issue that's bothering me something fierce. Certainly deserves further thought.

Wednesday, May 24

Writing in books

Due to any number of reasons (among them my desire for everything to be clean, neat and organized and my belief that the written and published word ss borderline sacred and seeing my literature professor confused by his own markings and emphases years after making them), I have never been one to write or mark up any books in my possession, temporary or otherwise. In the future, my views and perceptions will undoubtedly change, and I fear that marking up my book now will cement me in a position I'm not willing or able to stay in (or I'll simply have no bleeding idea what I meant). Marking books is like littering for me. I simply can't take up a pencil or highlighter and go start emphasizing certain words and phrases. Every mark that appears on the page makes me shudder as the book grows farther and farther from its original, new appearance, even if I bought it used. Considering what I like to think I know of my personality, this is bleeding strange seeing as how much I love to customize and personalize everything else I own to some insane degree, my laptop and mp3 player for two.

Anyway, this really wasn't such a big deal in high school. In those few classes where we were actually encouraged to mark our books to aid in studying, I never did so because I felt that my memory was enough to pull me through most any test. Know what? I was right. Besides the readings were never all that difficult. Neither did many of my classmates use highlighters, so I never really considered it before. Like most elements of my life thus far, college has made me reconsider this notion. Now, considering the length, difficulty and sheer density of our readings, taking notes on the page is very near necessary. Besides, marking up your book makes finding the passage you want to discuss in class that much easier. Still, I refused to degrade my books as much as I possibly could. The bit that tore this whole thing with me and prompted this tardy post was seeing my friends writing in the books they read for pleasure.

I think I have done an adequate (though hardly admirable) job of explaining my reasons for abstaining from the marking of my books, and I readily accept that there are many good reasons to write in the margins to aid in your own understanding of the material. I'm certainly not going to be jumping around, snatching pens from the hands of my friends before they make some comment they can never take back.

Not really all that exciting of a post, so I guess I'll have to spice it up (it's a pun (kind of)! because the title is 'Spice of Life!' maybe I could become some cooking host on the Food Network with a great line like that?). There are certain passages of literature and poems that contain such profundity and meaning and humor that I never want to lose them. I believe, instead of picking them out with a highlighter as they appear in whatever source I find them, I will simply start a collection in a Word document on my computer, like a more organized version of my high school binder or permanent collection of the quotes I throw up on Facebook. Yeah, that would be so cool.

Monday, May 22

Summer reading list

Now that I'm out of college, I plan on milking the opportunity to read for fun for all that its worth. No more death marches through The Odyssey or Dorothy Wordsworth's freaking Grasmere Journals. It is wholly up to me now. This summer, I don't really plan on reading much new material. Likely some Jane Austen, seeing as how so many friends at college are familiar with her, and probably some Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson too to see what they're all about. Maybe even some poetry, freely available on-line, like Charles Baudelaire and Khalil Gibran. Otherwise, I plan on doing a great deal of rereading. I already returned to The Once and Future King and have started The Picture of Dorian Gray for the second time. Other novels I plan on coming back to include Catch-22, The Mists of Avalon (just can't get enough of those Arthurian legends), Watership Down, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, A Brave New World and A Clockwork Orange. I'm curious to see what my reaction will be to these years after my innocent, initial reading. Suggestions are always welcome.

Sunday, May 21


Coming back from college, where everywhere I wanted to go was within an easy walking or biking distance, and starting my job at the park where I have to drive a half hour each way makes me realize just how much I abhor driving. I truly find it to be one of the stupidest and most boring things in the world. It takes little skill, any moron can learn to drive (the thirty hours of class time are more than excessive), but demands so much of your attention that it's nigh impossible to form some decent thoughts lest you become distracted and wreck a rather expensive investment or yourself. If you prefer, I can spell this little progression out Yoda, Episode I style. Driving leads to boredom. Boredom leads to thinking. Thinking leads to distraction. Distraction leads to destruction. Obviously, we need to nip this one in the bud and stop the path to destruction early on, so we're stuck at boredom. Also, considering the collision between my natural cheapness and the price of gas, there is really nothing positive to say about driving. I don't dispute the current necessity of driving (I'm still hoping for the instant matter transportation machine), but boy do I ever hate it, if that point hasn't been made obvious yet.

Saturday, May 20

Prelude to a journal

Today, I start a daily journal. Why? For a couple of reasons. Most prominently, it’s a complement to my blog. There, I write my thoughts and musings, which, though based on what’s going on in my life, never really go into it. This will contain my reflections on the events of the day, a more narrative approach than the scattershot on Spice of Life. The necessity of this became apparent to me when I started on my short story, Home. Not much of it has been written, but it bears an unhealthy resemblance to a blog post, not something I want my fiction to look like. So, part of the reason for this journal is to give a chance to write something with a different style.

The second reason is that I no longer trust my memory. At the fundamental level, it’s strong. I pick up on facts and such easily enough and never had to really study for tests in high school, but, for important things like what happens between me and others, I no longer trust myself to be able to look back even a few days later and be able to recapture my initial feelings and such without recasting the event. Sure, I’ll be writing this in the evenings and will already be shifting my perception of what happens, but this journal will be something.

For awhile, I considered making this journal public by posting on LiveJournal, but then I realized I would have to omit names and would certainly not discuss somethings on it were anyone able to access it. Thus, it will remain private on my computer.

Here I go.

Friday, May 19

On writing here

As is my wont, my thoughts turn to my actual writing and posting to Spice of Life. My writing here is spontaneous. An idea comes into my head or won’t get out of it, and I release it here, writing as fast as I can. In all truth, I rarely even re-read what I put down before hitting the ‘Publish Post’ button. This blog is my opportunity to just write, caring little for what comes out. No one is going to grade it, and I’m not trying to sell it. Punctuation and coherent, reasoned-out arguments be cast into the Great Pit of Karkoon where they will be fed to the almighty Sarlaac and condemned to eternal suffering!

Then I consider writing here against those pieces which actually are graded or I want to sell, like the short story I’m working on now. Are my posts to Spice of Life beneficial to these writings that actually mean something? To a large extent, I believe that any writing at all is valuable to the rest of your writing. It gets you in the right mindset, and writing becomes more familiar to you. I worry, though, that this blog may cause bad habits. Writing with little thought is prone to clichés, something to otherwise be avoided. As I get used to not even looking over my work a second time, I may grow restless at the thought of having to do so four times or more when the writing is important. Of course, the blog may just as well become a simple distraction, no different from TV as I opt to write here for fun rather than grind through the difficult portions of something else. It’ll be something to monitor and be aware of in these coming weeks and months, and you, my faithful readers, will be kept up-to-date of my findings.

Thursday, May 18


When it takes you over a full day of driving to get through a freaking state, it tends to get on your mind and the only way to exorcise that obsession is to write about it, put down everything possible so there’s nothing left to mull over. I guess I like Montana. It’s a very pretty state, made even more so by the fact that my hometown is own the edge of the prairie and any significant elevation change is enough to excite me. On the western edge, you get some very impressive mountains, snow covered on top and with evergreens running all along the sides. The broken rocks that just jut out? Simply magnificent. Then you travel east and get into the badlands where the rocks are so old and worn down that they look like they’re a blanket covering some sleeping giant, and the layered coloration is simply amazing. One of the advantages of going back by car, rather than train, you drive by day and can actually see all of these sights, while a train is going through the mountains while it’s still dark and somehow manages to bypass the badlands and go straight into the freaking prairie.

So, yeah, I like it. Montana is beautiful, but there is something that bugs me. And that something is the lack of water. It’s so bleeding dry out here. The clouds in the sky are sparse and every time we take a break at a rest stop, I know the air is taking a little bit of the freshness out of the water I pour before it comes to my mouth. Gone are the lush, almost violent greens, of Washington, traded in for the year-round tan of the grass and constant dust. Yuck. Nice place to visit, not one I’d like to live in.

Wednesday, May 17

On thinking about yourself

To an extent, I think that people have a problem when they try and figure themselves out and put themselves into some role. They tell themselves, “I’m this way. I always do this.” “I’m a good person. I always do charity work.” “I’m clingy. I always need to attach myself to someone.” They explain their actions from this context.

Like I said earlier, I think this is a bad idea, especially in college. Freak, things change there. Good luck trying to know yourself in the middle of all that flux, flux I add that will always be present in your life and make wholly describing yourself for very long more than a bit difficult. You’ll condemn yourself to a good deal of frustration as you try and figure out who you are.

As I prefer it, we define ourselves by our ideals, what we want to become. Everyday, we seek to come closer to this ideal in our being and actions and relationships. When we don’t turn from it and fail to meet the ideal, we evaluate ourselves and consider how we will do better next time, what needs to be done to keep us on track towards that ideal.

You know, this is a way better life philosophy than my whole “Life is a game whose rules we need to break all over the place” thing. Not incompatible though.

Tuesday, May 16


For those who wish to do so, they can thank a Baudelaire scholar whose name escapes me at the moment for this post. I was reading her analysis of his “L’Albatros,” in Understanding ‘Les Fleurs du Mal’ and came across her evidence that the third stanza of that poem was added long after he initially wrote it. I found the section I needed and didn’t bother reading the entire essay, but the gist of it, as I understood it, was that she turned what seemed like a relatively simple poem about the Poet being unable to live on Earth into a look into aging and ‘mimesis,’ whate’er that may be. That’s not the point though, at least as far as this post is concerned. The point is Baudelaire revised his poem after years and that got me thinking.

I doubt that there are many who would argue against the necessity of revision to any creative work. A person needs time to fully develop their ideas and experiment to find the best way to present them. I guess one could argue that the creator’s intent is lost and distorted when others offer their advice, but I don’t buy it. We’re too close to our creations to see their weaknesses. The input of others is vital to their fruition. But this suggestion that Baudelaire played with one of his poems years after first writing it bugs me. I understand David Hume went put his Enquiry into Human Understanding through something like ten revisions, ending only with his death, but that was a philosophical work. That’s okay because arguments need to be shored up in the face of criticism. Art does not. What if William Butler Yeats had gone back and taken a second shot at "Easter 1916" in a later phase or T.S. Eliot came back to "The Waste Land" after converting to Christianity and taking his second wife? These are some heavy hitters of the English language, and, if their authors had come back after changing so much, their place in history may be much more precarious. I guess the questions for me are, “When are we done? When is a work complete and untouchable? Should we impose some arbitrary time limit on how long we can interfere with our works?” I think we ought to. Eventually, a work is done. It captures us at a moment in our lives, and we should be able to look back on it and appreciate it for that, even if we no longer like our past selves. That is what we were, good or bad. Let’s recognize it for what it is and plan our trajectory from there. Let’s not screw with it.

Coming back to Baudelaire, the scholar did say that his publisher requested a new stanza, and, considering the man’s money problems, I doubt he had much say in the matter if he wanted to eat.

Sunday, May 14


Someone once told me this was beautiful. Mostly, I made it up on the spot and think that she was flattering me, but hey, she said what she did. Here it is.

At some level, we all know who the person is we want to spend our life with, the person we want to marry. We know their mannerisms and how they will treat us. Then that fantasy runs into reality, and it seems like a dream that is impossible to realize. We falter as we come to believe that the person who we created in our minds may not exist. Then someone matches them perfectly, in some little way; their walk, their laugh, and we begin to believe that they may be the fantasy we have been searching for, and they become our crush.

I don’t even like the word ‘crush’ much. It’s what people giggled about and played at in middle school. Seeing as how a more appropriate word does not come to me, I’ll stick with it.

Saturday, May 13

The Last Two Matrix Movies

I really enjoyed the original The Matrix. My parents didn’t want me seeing ‘R’ movies when it came out so I didn’t see it until maybe four years after its release and its style was already popping up in other movies, but it still amazed me. The cinematography, the dialogue, the action, the music, the freaking EVERYTHING. It was such an amazingly well put together movie, and then I discovered the philosophy people came up with it and I fell in love with it all over again, devouring the papers like nothing. The only things that keep it from being my favorite is that I think it’s almost cliché to rank it so and The Princess Bride and Fight Club just resonate with me on a more personal level.

So, like quite a few other people, I awaited the sequels with great anticipation and met their eventual release with similar disappointment. Where did the magic go? How did the ball get dropped so hard-core? I’m sure any number of people would be more than willing to give you their take. Well, I’m one of them and here’s mine. More than anything else, the last two Matrices lost me on their fights. Sure, the dialogue lacked the luster it did in the original and there was that bizarre orgy scene in Zion, but the fights were the hardest swinging hammer on that coffin. It took me a while to put my finger on this too. The choreography was still as impressive and melee weapons were even introduced. What was the bleeding problem? And there was the answer. There was no blood, no result to the fighting. Neo fights the Merovingian’s death squad with swords, sai, maces and a whole pile of other cutting weapons, and nothing happened. The warriors just kind of fell down. It was even more apparent in the first fight between Neo and Agent Smith’s horde in Reloaded. Neo is getting pummeled and then turns around and beats the Smiths with a sign post that still has concrete on its base. One guy gets his sunglasses broken! They’re hardly even dirty at the end of that foray! They all just watch Neo fly off at the end and mill about, nary a scratch or bruise or broken pair of sunglasses. Even the one Twin (the two of them being the one of the movies’ few highlights) whose arm is turned into a bloody mash by Trinity simply regenerates it by reverting to his ghost form. In the original we had people getting tired, dirty and bloody. In Reloaded and Revolutions we had nothing.

I realize that this is very stylized fighting, but come on. The fights need to actually cause something to happen.

Friday, May 12


I would like to credit my friend Emmet, the operator of Compos Mentis, for precipitating this particular post in his capitulation to instant messenger. My sister also bears some blame as she recently opened a Facebook account of her own.

In high school, I held out against instant messengers. In classes, I felt like I miss something important when people would talk about their instant messenger conversations that followed phone calls to the same people. Why didn’t you just stay on the phone with them if you had something to say? I ended up giving in shortly before taking for college. I had no cell phone and the opportunity to keep in touch with my friends for free was too much to pass up. So, I picked up an MSN Messenger account, the instant messenger of choice for most of my friends. And it was good.

Then I come to college and am introduced to two new ways to keep in touch, AIM (AOL’s own instant messenger) and Facebook. For those who are unaware of the addiction that is Facebook, here’s a quickie description. More than anything else, it’s a friend finder. You can list your hobbies, interests and favorite music, movies and television shows and put up pictures and stuff. Everything you post to your profile on Facebook is linked to an insane degree. With a few clicks, you can find everyone else in your school who enjoys rock climbing or Broadway musicals and pictures of them. On top of this, Facebook also offers some messaging capabilities in the form of a publicly viewable Wall and private mail system. I end up getting accounts with both, AIM because it’s the instant messenger of choice of about everyone who didn’t attend my high school and Facebook because it sounded fun.

Now I ponder the point of them. Why message someone far away when a phone call is so much more personal? What could possibly be meaningful said in the two lines that often compose a Facebook Wall post? I think I have to an answer. As one friend said in paraphrase after pushing a mutual friend to get on to Facebook, “It’s a matter of intimacy. I don’t know her well enough to give her a call or knock on her door.” Facebook is the mid-ground between tight friends and casual acquaintances. Messenger has the same benefits and, like I wrote before, it’s a free way to keep in touch that enables a higher degree of response than e-mail.

There we go. My justification for partaking in the sorts of hideously popular things I eschew.

Thursday, May 11

Good byes

To say that I hate saying “Good-bye” would be to oversimplify and obfuscate the whole thing. I like my social relationships clear. If we were randomly paired to be partners on some project, I want that to be out in the open. If we are merely co-workers, I hope we both realize it. If we are friends, I need to know, so I have an idea of what is appropriate and what is not. Can I give you a call out of the blue, for no purpose? The nature of our relationship needs to be clear otherwise something as simple as this drives me insane.

In the same way, I want the same clearness to be present in my time with others. I need to know when we are saying “Hey” just in passing and when it is meant to lead to further discussion or whatever (which is where my hatred for the phrase “What’s up?” comes from). The same goes for “Good-bye.” When one says “Good-bye,” they are released from the other person or group. The conversation and time together is over. Most of the time, this really is not a big deal, like when you see the person frequently, but it can get so much more difficult when it is a big deal “Good-bye.” These are not the “I’ll see you soon” “Good –byes,” these are the “I’ll see you in a few months” “Good-byes.” The kind you say before taking off for college or before going on summer break. When you say one of those, you are prepared to not see the person again for a long bleeding time. If I deliver one of those and then see the person again before one of us takes off, it just puts me into a tizzy. What am I supposed to say? Did not we just say everything that needed to be said a little while ago? So, more-often-than-not, I end up not saying “Good-bye” until I am literally walking to the car, plane, train, whatever, and I inevitably miss people in the process. Bummer and sorry to everyone who has ever been slighted by me like this.

It’s not that I hate “Good-bye.” “Good-bye” merely signifies a change, be it good or be it bad. It’s just complicated.

Geez, I stress a lot over something that ought to be so much more simple.

Wednesday, May 10

The End of Freshman Year

My grandparents came to pick me up from college a few days ago. Awfully decent of them when you consider that they made the 1500 mile trip in 20 hours of driving over two days. When they finally made it to campus on Monday afternoon, I was all over them as soon they got out of their car, hugging them, glad to see them. My parents had called two days earlier and suggested rather strongly that I take them walking all over the place, so they could stretch out a little and release their cramps. I was more than happy to comply. The first night, I gave them the walking tour of campus and took them to the off-campus gym where I practice kendo. The second night, we went downtown to eat and checked out the waterfall from all angles at multiple points along its path.

When I wasn’t with them or enjoying my last nights with my friends, I was thinking, reflecting. My first year of college was coming to an end. It was finals week and my grandparents weren’t there to hang out but to take me back to my hometown. Except for a few brief stretches, mostly around the time of Ann’s death, if you had asked me how I was enjoying college, as more than a few people did, I would answer that I was ‘mildly euphoric.’ In no way did I regret my choice in colleges. The people, the classes, the area; I enjoyed them all. Playing “Madden” and later “Fight Night” with my suitemates, roof hopping in winter, conversations that went until two in the morning, asking a girl out for the first time; there are so many memories that I never want to slip away.

Sure, there are things I wish hadn’t happened and things I’m disappointed didn’t happen, but I can still live with myself and know that I am capable of feeling feelings that I thought I had killed off.

Were I motivated solely by self-interest, I don’t see how my year at college could be seen as less than a success. I am a better person now than I was coming into it all. I am more comfortable in social situations and have learned to think better as I came against viewpoints that weren’t my own. I have been pushed like I ne’er was before in my classes and feel that, if I didn’t succeed, I certainly didn’t fall apart. At the beginning of the year, I was worried about how I’d deal with being away from my parents and their influence, but I think that I proved to myself that I can do better than muddle through without them. College has been a developmental time too.

Something else to consider too. My grandparents arriving on campus mark an intrusion of sorts, an intrusion into my college life. Not that is was such a big intrusion. They weren’t on campus long and didn’t have the opportunity to speak much with my friends. To a certain point, I expect most people experience this duality of lives between college and family. In my case, it’s a bit more clear, something that arises when you choose to go to a college so far from where you were raised. My friends at college and my friends from high school do not know each other. Except for a single instant messenger conversation, no one in one of these groups knows the members of the other. If I talk about my experiences with one to the other, they have to depend entirely on me. They lack the interaction to add their own thoughts in at all. My hometown and college lives are entirely separate. I don’t think I’m different in them, but the problem remains that they don’t connect. It kind of depresses me. It was my decision, though, and I’ll have to deal with it.

But it’s over now. I’m with my grandparents, driving back. People would ask me if I’m sad to be going back to my hometown. I answer, “It’s what happens. There are things I’m looking forward to and things I’ll miss.” The important thing it seems to me as I sit here is that I never let my experiences go. They happened to me and have meaning. They must never be lost.

Two days of driving

This is what happens when you spend over twenty hours in the backseat of your grandparents’ Jetta on the way back home after college gets out for the summer. Mounds and pounds and loads and piles and bunches of writing. Expect, for the next few days, nothing but posts composed during the long drive back.

Monday, May 8

Swearing, Cursing, Cussing, Naughty Words

You know what? On LiveJournal, my friends write their thoughts on the end of our first year at college. Events they never want to forget, how they have grown and matured and become better people. Whatever. Here, on Blogger, I write my thoughts on swearing. Actually, I'll undoubtedly end up posting my on reflection. I just need to sort out my ideas a little more first. On to swearing!

Just like drinking, I don't swear. Even in the fifth and sixth grades, when swearing and cursing were acts of petty rebellion, I never used certain words, or I did until I learned that they were curses. Then I stopped saying them. Back then, it was like littering to me. I simply could not force myself to say a number of four-letter words. Perhaps it was the result of being terribly afraid of what my parents would do if they heard me swear, though I heard them do so on more than one occasion. For whatever reason though, the point remains that I didn't swear. Instead, I picked up a number of proxies. Among them were such gems as 'darn,' 'heck,' 'geez' and 'freak.' After watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 'bugger' and 'bloody' were added to my repetoire, even after being informed that they were considered curses by our friends across the pond. They just sounded funny to me.

Even now, in college, I still don't swear, though this statement requires a bit of clarification as my own understanding and perception of language has changed. First of all, when you read the classics like Dante's Inferno and Milton Paradise Lost, you learn to say certain words, mostly 'damn' and 'hell,' if you do not want to be thought of as the greatest prude ever. Great, so there are now I few words commonly considered curses that I can now say. The story gets better.

Well, I happen to have a passing interest in linguistics and communications and came across this whole theory of semiotics and the whole separation of things into 'signifier' and 'signified' and the primacy of context in understanding most anything at some point.' This caused me to reconsider my views on swearing. Why are 'damn' and 'hell' considered curses? Because they are, respectively, the worst thing thing we could wish upon a person and the worst place in existence. Do you really wish these things when you use them towards friends? No, their use towards people you are close to typically is sarcasm and exaggeration. As long as everyone is clear on the intent and use, there is no harm. On the other hand, when we are in a passion and sincerely wish these things upon a person, even if we use some proxy word, our intent is radically different. How can 'darn' in the context of a yelling match not be considered a curse when the intent is there?

Just my thoughts, though I still refrain from using most curses. I figure my intent will be very clear when I end up using them in earnest.

Sunday, May 7

Project Gutenberg

Everyone get up out of their seats and applaud for the latest addition to 'must see,' Project Gutenberg. It is an awesome site that provides classic works whose copyrights have run out for free, as in no fee for downloading. It's beautiful. Scoff at those chain bookstores that try and get you to pay for your copy of The Communist Manifesto. Fight capitalism! If you happen to disagree with me on this point and believe that buying into our current economic system is a good idea, you can still appreciate the stellar variety of titles and authors on Project Gutenberg. Just checking the Top 100 EBooks Yesterday, and I'm finding everything from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice to the Kamasutra to Les Miserables. All of this and the site is very easy to navigate, lacking the hordes of advertisements that so many other sites that offer free things prefer.

As with all seemingly beautiful things, there are negative aspects present as well. First of all, you'll likely have to do more than a little formatting yourself. Many texts are available solely in plain text format which is a pain to look at. I guess this could turn into a positive though as you can make the text size and font perfectly suited for your own predilections. Just takes a little effort. Also, as much as I'm a fan of not paying for things, it's still hard to read things on a computer screen. Where's the romance in cuddling up on your sofa on a winter weekend with your computer? Also, the collection is far from complete and some foreign texts lack an English translation so this is not something to put your complete faith in if you are some struggling college student. There are enough heavy hitters, though, to satisfy anyone looking to prove how erudite they are on a shoestring.

Check it out and enjoy.

Saturday, May 6

Favorite films

Tell me, how do you reconcile it when your two favorite movies are The Princess Bride and Fight Club? On the one hand, I have "Not just your basic, average, everyday, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum fairy tale" and in the other am maintaining a firm grip on "Mischief. Mayhem. Soap." a wonderful family movie and a movie that contains two of the most disturbing, intense scenes in cinematic history. Sounds like a challenge, to figure out what can make me appreciate them both at the same time. Also, I would like to point out that for a long time, I considered The Girl Next Door my third favorite movie. After considering for a while, I have come to the decision that, though it is a fine movie, a great deal of my appreciation for it comes from the fact I had about zero hope that I would like it. Thus, it is further down on my list of all-time great and no longer deserves to be considered against these other movies. Would have made the mix all the more interesting though.

As far as common threads go, I can only see two. The frequent use of humor, darker, of course, in Fight Club, and the self-awareness these movies demonstrate. Over and over again, they blatantly demonstrate that they know that they are movies, The Princess Bride through the grandson's interruptions and in a multitude of ways in Fight Club, the 'cigarette burns,' the porn splices and the 'flashback humor' line among others. At all times, these movies hold their viewers at arm's length, constantly reminding them that these are movies, the stories of a few people, not the world. If you find the values they extol worthy, adopt them as your own. Otherwise, do not.

As I think about it more, I think I find a third thread, one that appeals to my sense of idealism. The characters in these movies, as cool as they are, are cariactures, exaggerations. They are ideals. The most beautiful woman, the greatest swordsman, the strongest man, an insane, successful revolutionary group. It is impossible for us to achieve these levels, but trying, even though failure is almost a given, to become them makes me happy all over. These are not movies about life. They are movies about the way life could be.

There it is then. Once and for all, I have resolved how I can hold both of these movies in such high esteem at the same time.

Thursday, May 4


In high school, I guess I could be considered pretty liberal. It's not that I really did anything different like follow Buddhism or become a vegetarian, but I guess my ideas were fairly out there for small town Minnesota. I didn't really care about getting my driver's license and didn't go hunting and supported communism for the longest time. Anyway, I developed some sort of complex as a result of all this, one that made me reject most all ideas that I saw mainstream. I wanted to go around protesting, if I could have found anyone to come with me or if I could think of anything worth protesting. Vive la revolution. That was me, in thought if not in action.

Then I go to college and things change. Things resembling protests and civil disobedience go on around me, and I don't participate. I'm sure there are other reasons I don't join in (things I'd rather do and such), but I've thought about protests more now that they're actually present. This is the philosophy that has arisen from my contemplation. There is an essential problem with protests. You are admitting that you have no power to affect a change yourself and are asking others to do it. Screw that. If you want to make a change, you take responsibility and do it yourself. You don't ask for permission first. If that particular action is illegal, you get yourself into a position to make it legal.

Like most all of my philosophies, this one has problems. What if you want to stop something that is wrong and occurs outside of your being? Say racism or sweatshop labor? Fine, you can respect your fellows based on their virtue and treat everyone who works for you fairly, but that is not helping in other situations. What do you do then? The best I can come up with is use reason and engage in dialogue. Hopefully those who engage in these practices will come to understand what is wrong and stop of their own accord.

Wednesday, May 3

Family and lineage

My family sent me a number of e-mails today, all about family; deceased relatives being a certain age today and the recent internment of a great aunt. They asked me to post about them, so here it goes. I guess some context is required here. The only relatives I regularly visit are my paternal grandparents, who maybe seven miles from my home in Baudette. Otherwise, I have family in California, Ohio, North Carolina and just across the border from New York. I have aunts and uncles who I can count the number of times I can remember having visited in the single digits. Still, meeting family is something I look forward to, not something I regard with disgust. Anyway...

A few winters back, my mom's project was a needlepoint family tree. A cousin of hers sent her information and everything and she made it out to something like four generations back. For a while there, she wanted my sister and me to memorize them all. Neither us of did. I'm not really sure why, but I suspect it is because I saw no point to it. I knew nothing about most of these people, and, when your culture's obsessed with stories about heirs-to-the-throne trying to escape their inherited destiny and Romeo and Juliet where family is the cause of tragedy, you tend to treat things beyond your control with more than a little caution. We are urged to find ourselves outside of those things we are a part of. I guess I use to ascribe to this fierce individualism, but the truth is we and our identities are not formed in a vacuum. We become according to what we identify with and what we are set against. Family and lineage is another one of those things. If we see things to be proud of in our heritage, we adopt them into our being. If the things we see are not so great, we avoid them.

More important though, family is a community, one of the strongest that exists because it is the first and the one that cannot be escaped from. No matter what we do, we will always be a Heinrich or Rodriguez or whatever. Before we are an American or member of the NRA, we learn about responsibility and obligation from our families. It is the family that allows us to form greater communities, and, as we consider it, so we consider all other communities.

Besides, thinking back on that family tree, for which my mom won the grand prize at the county fair, now, it is more than a bit awe inspiring to think that I am the result of all these relationships. If they did nothing else, which I doubt rather strongly, they participated in the creation of me, and I ought to commemorate that by being the best person I can.

My LiveJournal post

So I compared the Blogger and LiveJournal that existed in my mind a few posts back. Well now I am thowing myself fully into one of those stereotypical LiveJournal posts that so irritate me. Expect emo and such. Perhaps it's one of those cries for attention. Please don't hate me for this.

Do you ever feel as though you are the only person in the world who is the least bit content or happy with their life? There are times that I feel that way as though the pieces of my life are falling into place. Then, I find out about problems my friends are dealing with and then I think about the problems of people I hear about on in the news, sweatshop laborers and refugees. Am I wrong to be happy while others suffer? Do I shelter myself from what's going on around me to protect my own happiness? I tell myself and believe that I should be willing to subordinate my own pleasure for that of others, but then I see myself now and know that either that philosophy is wrong or that I am failing at it. Neither is that pleasing to consider. One, the way I want to live my life is impossible. The other, I am not good enough.

A second problem arises from this, though. I want people to be happy and content, but what am I willing to sacrifice for that? I am not even talking about myself here but my ideals. If it made a person happy to cut themselves, would I do nothing? Would I not have the strength to make them stop and just hope that someone better than me would come along to fix things? If a person were to do something I thought wrong, to the very core of my being, would I not step in because of endangering whatever relationship we had? I worry.


As many of my friends can tell you, I have some problems with verbal English or, at least, the direction its moving in. Particular favorite sources of hate are unnecessary acronyms, RBF for rootbeer flota and WTF are particularly vexing in that they aren't even shorter than the words which they're shortening, WTF actually having more syllables than the phrase it replaces, and using business names as general nouns and verbs, Kleenex and Google spring to mind in these occasions. In the case of acronyms, I believe the source of my rage is clear though not everyone may agree with it. I simply dislike unnecessary things. Strip life and language down to the essentials. Remove the clutter. As far as business names becoming a part of the vernacular my problem lies in seeing business become such a large part of our culture that begins to permeate our everyday speech. Mostly a knee jerk reaction against business I guess. Not that there's much I can do about it on a broad scale. Language is simply too large an element of culture for a single person to change it. George Bernard Shaw tried and failed, and I think he had more than a few things going for him that I don't.

I realize this isn't that great of a post seeing as how it lacks any deep insights or decisive philosophies, but I do hope that it causes you to think and be a bit more aware of something we engage in everyday, speech. Life and all its elements must not be taken for granted.