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!).

Tuesday, June 20

The final question

“Answer this, Ellimist: Did I…did I make a difference? My life, and my…my death…was it worth it? Did my life really matter?”

“Yes,” he said. “You were brave. You were strong. You were good. You mattered.”

“Yeah. Okay, then. Okay, then.”
-Rachel and the Ellimist (K. A. Applegate’s The Beginning)

And so the first excerpt from my collection of profondities appears. I feel kind of cheap using this now after catching the end of the American Film Institute's 100 Years, 100 Cheers: America's Most Inspiring Movies and seeing It's Wonderful Life. The sentiment of that movie and this passage from the series that consumed me for some 4, 5 years are basically the same, and I feel so dirty having chosen it when the same idea is validated by some huge organization, especially one that lacked the taste to recognize neither Fight Club nor The Princess Bride in its 100 Greatest Films or 100 Greatest Movie Quotes.

Well, now that that rant is over, I still like the end to the Animorphs. Simple, yeah, but, really, that's the question I want to ask (minus the whole Ellimist bit) and what I want to hear. If that's how it ends, that will have made it all worth it.

Describe yourself

Here comes another scholarship essay, but one that actually worked. I was one of the finalists for an insane scholarship at Ithaca College. Full tuition, full room and board, living expenses and a one-time $2,500 computer stipend could have been mine if I hadn't screwed up the in-person stage of the whole thing. Whatever though. I am more than happy with my college of choice (which I remain vaguely apprehensive about revealing despite the likely fact that everyone who reads knows I go there). This essay developed from one I wrote in eighth grade. It's funny looking back on this now. My distaste for dances continued throughout high school, the only two I ever spent the whole evening at being my junior and senior proms because post-prom was so cool, but now I'm ready to take on a Dance minor. It's funny where life goes.

My four summers at the Minnesota Institute for Talented Youth (MITY) were among the most influential of my life. While there, I was separated from everything familiar to me, surrounded by diverse backgrounds and cultures, and learned a great deal about myself.

One especially memorable event occurred in my third summer. Art, the head counselor, revealed that a dance would be held that evening, and widespread approval greeted his announcement. I, however, felt apathy. In my hometown, I avoided dances. Those who enjoyed dances were a group I wasn’t comfortable with. They watched an unhealthy amount of MTV and used the word “hottie” on a regular basis.

When the announcements were finished, I went straight to the lounge and played card games with my friend Thu. After an hour of Slapjack, he left to read, and I wandered outside, hoping to find anyone else not at the dance.

Some friends caught me walking past the dance and urged me to come in, but I hurried past, mumbling a pathetic excuse. I was disgusted with myself for brushing them off. MITY was not Baudette, and my friends at MITY weren’t the people at home. Even knowing this, I couldn’t make myself turn and join them.

Eventually, I found an isolated bench overlooking a soccer field where college students were playing a game of shirts and skins. I stared at them, trying to understand how they could enjoy their game while I was tormented by my decision. For some players, sports obviously weren’t the first choice of entertainment, but they enjoyed themselves even as they missed shot after shot.

I decided then to go to the dance. It wasn’t my first choice, but, like the soccer players, I would give it a chance. The dance was moving full swing when I arrived and swept me up.

That summer, I did something new by going to the dance. I didn’t like the blaring music or flashing lights, but I did enjoy every second spent there with my friends, wonderful people I saw for two, short weeks. It was there that I learned to appreciate time spent with good friends and, even though the dance wasn’t that fun, to try new experiences. These lessons still guide my actions and will continue to do so for years to come.

Sunday, June 18

On the job

I don't like to use 'Spice of Life' to talk about my personal life. It's a place for my ideas and thoughts, that's all. However, what happened today is something that deserves to be written on. It's the first time I can remember yelling out in anger and frustration for a long time.

After finishing some work on the fishing pier at the state park, I drove past a dark spot just off the road. Until my mind caught up with what I had seen, I thought it was a torn garbage bag. Then I realized what it was. I got out of the truck and walked over. It was a painted turtle. It wouldn't have been so bad if it had been pasted by whatever had hit it. Then there would have been no suffering. The turtle had been clipped on the back right part of its shell. There was a huge bloody crack in the shell, but it still tried to scramble away when I got close. The other three legs were fine but, because the other was utterly useless, all the turtle could do was spin slowly to its left. I should have ended it then. There was no way that turtle would heal. All it was good for now was food for whatever scavenger happened upon it. Instead, I stopped my manager before he drove back to the office, took him to see the turtle and passed the decision off on him. He said to get it out of sight, into the woods a few feet, and that's what I did. The grass I put it in was thick, but I don't know if they eat grass. If it's still alive when I work again on Tuesday, I'm finishing it off. All it has to look forward to is that fox I saw earlier eating it, and I doubt it'll have the mercy to kill the turtle first. It was pathetic.

Advice, empathy, validation, I accept it all.

Friday, June 16

Seven Wonderful Things

Let's start off this whole Chris' past essays off small, in this case, a work that failed to get me a fairly decent scholarship at Marquette. I actually liked it a lot and was surprised to hear that I didn't advance. Perhaps it was too out there, having not hit upon the classics like family and love, or the applicant pool was just that insane? Or I just came across as arrogant, which is so easy with these things, or shallow. Come on, I said Dance Dance Revolution and Mystery Science Theater 3000 were some of the greatest things ever. Still, I really don't think this list would change too much if I had to write it afresh today. I maintain a great respect for all elements listed here.

Mystery Science Theater 3000. Cold. Dance Dance Revolution. The Princess Bride. The northern lights. The United Nations. Religion. These compose the greatest aspects of nature and humankind.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is one of the funniest and most original television shows ever created. The concept of turning unbearably bad movies into a television show by mocking everything about them is inspired. Unlike many modern shows, Mystery Science Theater did not insult the viewer’s intelligence by pandering to the lowest common denominator. Its frequent allusions required cultural literacy of the highest degree.

Beyond the laughs, though, existed a strong sense of humility, which truly made the show special. Every riff and verbal jab was directed at movies that thought too much of themselves and tried to capitalize on the success of more popular films. At the same time, Mystery Science Theater mocked its own budget limitations by casting its writers in acting positions and building its sets and puppets from spare parts.

My admiration of cold is born of necessity. If you can’t take the cold, you can’t live in Baudette, especially when one considers that the most northern point of the contiguous United States is only an hour from my house. Cold is the antipode of American culture, where life is frantic and delays are unacceptable. In the depths of winter, I have taken walks in the state park. When I stop, I feel a sense of utter stillness, as though the world were made of glass. It seems that a sharp sound would cause that moment, frozen in time, to shatter. It is at that moment I feel peace and calm, and the cold enables it.

Step on the arrows in time with the beat. It’s utterly simple. Then again, the greatest games are based on the simplest ideas, and Dance Dance Revolution is no exception, for it is the ultimate video game. For the uninitiated, it’s easy to get into. For veterans, it’s challenging. It’s both competitive and cooperative. Neither does it grow stale or forgotten when new games are released because its premise is simple and enduring. All of this and Dance Dance Revolution does not take over lives because it is nearly impossible to play for over an hour at a reasonable difficulty.

Never have I underestimated something as much as I underestimated The Princess Bride. When my sister first brought it home, I accused her of getting a chick flick. Still, I watched it with her and was rocked when I saw the greatest of modern fairy tales. The humor, action, and romance were wonderful, but what raised this movie to the highest echelons of excellence was the characters. I felt sympathy for them, and, by the end of the movie, they had earned their happily ever after.

The northern lights are the most beautiful of nature’s displays. In the television show Touched by an Angel, heaven was once described as the ultimate reality. Describing it would be like trying to tell a person who lived their entire life inside a closet about the outside world using only crayon drawings. The aurora borealis is the nearest we get to seeing heaven on earth. The beauty of its vibrant, pulsating colors cannot begin to be described to one who has never experienced them.

What is the United Nations? It is one of modern civilizations noblest goals; a cooperative organization whose mission is to create a world where human rights are guaranteed to all and peace reigns. Through negotiations and mediations hosted by the United Nations, conflicts can be and are solved. Despite the recent scandal and criticism directed towards it for not supporting the United States in its invasion of Iraq, the United Nations deserves our complete backing for its mission is worthy and cannot be completed by a single nation.

Religion is one of the most ancient institutions in human society. The various modern faiths have outlasted the civilizations that originally spawned them, and they will continue for centuries to come. Why? Religion is the improver of individuals. It sets down our moral codes, be they the Eightfold Path, Ten Commandments, or Five Pillars. Terrible atrocities have been committed in the name of religion, but great charity has been committed for the same reason.

I now look upon this list, having never laid down my seven greatest things in this world before, for the first time. I consider what I would learn about another person if this list were theirs. In this list, I would see a poet writing about the cold and northern lights. I would learn of a romantic digging beneath the surface of Mystery Science Theater and The Princess Bride to a deeper meaning. I would discover an athlete in the player of Dance Dance Revolution, a stalwart supporter of the United Nations, and a faithful Catholic devoted to religion. In short, an individual with diverse interests and passions.

Thank you for considering my application for the Raynor Scholarship. Have a good day.

Thursday, June 15

100th? post

If you'll allow me, I would like now to draw a comparison from 'Spice of Life' to a far superior (at least in its earlier seasons. season 8 was the last really good one.) work, The Simpsons. For the chalkboard gag at the beginning of "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baddasssss Song," the series' 100th episode, Bart write something along the lines of "I will not celebrate meaningless milestones." And really what is there to celebrate at my arrival to this arbitrary number whose celebrated position is dependent upon the fact that we have 10 fingers? Well, it means that I've lasted for a while. It took me a little over a year to get this far, so there's certainly some dedication to 'Spice of Life.' And that's pretty cool.

So, what can we look forward to in upcoming posts? How will 'Spice of Life' be kept bold and refreshing, avant-garde but maintaining its respect for the past? For one, I plan on working harder on my posts, taking more time with them and actually rereading them before putting them on the site. If nothing else, you should see a higher quality in the grammar department. Also, I plan on starting two new styles of posts. First, call it laziness or that nod to the past, I plan on putting up some stuff I wrote in high school, scholarship and college essays, stuff that was supposed to reveal the real me. Some of them are kind of funny. Secondly, I have started what I call a 'Humanity' collection. Composed of lines and passages taken from all manner of sources (literature, poetry, song, comic, manga, movie), they are what I have found to be some of the most profound and meaningful things I have come across. So, I'll post those as I desire and write a little on what makes them click with me. I've also been working on a short story. As soon as that is at a good point, I plan on making that available here for open reviewing. Something to look forward to, I guess.

In all truth, I'm not even sure if this is the 100th post. Blogger, says that this is my 103rd post, but I'm fairly certain that I wrote two post drafts, which I never put up but may have counted towards the post total. And that's only what I remember. It's more than possible I wrote other drafts that never came up, so it's possible that a few posts back was the true milestone.

Wednesday, June 14

Habit, Routine, and Doing Things Over and Over

Well, it's summer now, as in school's out. Actually, it's been a month since my first year of college left, and I returned to my hometown. Work has replaced classes and free time has taken over the hours I spent on homework. So, to avoid wallowing in vice and shallow entertainment, I try and cultivate some positive habits and stuff to fill, at least in part, all of the free time I have found myself gifted with. Some writing, some exercising, some reading, some thinking, some learning. That's how I try and spend my time. A general mish-mash of things, all leading towards that ultimate goal of my becoming a decent person.

Now, as happens so often, I seek to justify these actions that I try to devote some of my day to. I'd like to meet the person that hasn't heard, "Practice makes perfect," and that cliche is the source of my discomfort and this post. I understand (seeing as how I've never fully partaken of either activity) that basketball players and hunters practice shooting over and over again in order to turn it into a reflex. When the pressure's on and there's no time to think, they're able to pull it off; drain the desperation shot or bring down a bolting deer. For some parts of my routine, this isn't a big deal, but I worry how my daily writings influence the works that actually matter. I've said it before, I don't even reread what I write here. I write my ideas as they come to me and decide on a whim, "This looks good," and publish the post. That is not the way to approach newspaper articles or anything that I would turn in at school (with the exception of Literature II journals which became a practice in seeing how fast I could write). If I remember right, in The Screwtape Letters (which I recommend in the strongest of terms to everyone) Screwtape tells his nephew that praying isn't such a big deal as long as it's turned into a meaningless, repetitive action. Praying as part of a routine does nothing to protect Wormwood's charge from Hell. There needs to be meaning and effort in the act and not a a vision that focuses solely upon the end, in this case, attaining Heaven.

Well, after putting some thought into it, this isn't such a big worry, not in my writing and not in my other habits. As long as I keep my perspective on what's important and what isn't and remain aware of my writing and whatever else, this is of no matter. Besides, writing here gives me the opportunity to try out new styles for their sake alone, for no reason other than to see how I like them (how often I actually do this is up to dispute. probably not that much. my posts don't vary that much in style). Simple awareness and a vivacious perspective that brings meaning to an action beyond the goal that lays beyond it the counters to the apathy that comes from repetition.

Pretty cool. It's not that exciting of a post, but I came to some manner of conclusion and feel better at the end of it. Unlike that whole 'What can I be sure of knowing?' post. Freak.

Monday, June 12

Steal this Book

'Steal this Book,' a piece of counterculture literature written from jail that suggests any number of ways for its readers to join Abbie Hoffman in there, was suggested to me by a friend mid- April. Somewhere, I wrote down that I should check it sometime but made no effort to do so. It was actually random chance that I came upon it online here. Appropriately, the text was copied from a copy stolen from the Library of Congress.

So I skimmed over it, reading up on the best ways to perform petty thievery, grow marijuana, streetfight and start my own pirate radio station or underground newspaper. Well besides, the fact that so much of the information and advice is outdate with the advent of the Internet and all where anyone can write and record and broadcast whatever they want and various security measures have been improved. A lot of contact information concerning various communes and sympathetic legal counsel is almost certainly obsolete. What does that leave worth reading? Well, I guess it captures the zeitgeist (such a great, pretentious vocabulary! on a purely aesthetic level, it's not too bad either!) of a more radical form of counterculture, one that asserts violence against the system as one of its tenets.

I'm not such a fan of capitalism and the consumerism which follows it, but I simply do not like Hoffman's philosophy. It's the same problem I had with Rent actually. They merely seem to espouse counterculture for the sake of counterculture. There is no consideration of what the decent and positive elements of the prevailing culture are. Everything is rejected. Hoffman's counterculture has no values of its own. It's wholly defined againt the system its under. Were that culture to disappear so would the counterculture. It's lazy.

If you want to see some unadulterated hatred and observe another mindset, it's worth a look. I just don't think very much of it.

Sunday, June 11


The motto of my graduating class was "Give me a place to stand, and I will move the earth." Archimedes supposedly said it, though I remember something about a lever long enough being necessary. Not the greatest quote but better than "Hakuna Matata" by any number of Olympic class discus throws. Most of this is beside the point. I was just trying to be clever and original.

My concern is what that "place to stand" is. Is it economic security? A great thing to have but hardly something a high school diploma can guarantee you and not an ideal position to move the earth from. Discontentment is what breeds a desire to change the world.

No, I believe my place to stand is my convictions, those things I believe in so strongly that I wholly subordinate myself to their propagation. Spice of Life is, in part, an attempt to discover what these things are as I work them over, consider them and present my thoughts to others in a public forum. But how sure can I be about any of these things. Descartes worried about some demon or malevolent being obscuring the truth from him. I worry that I am too limited to realize it. I'm not perfect, and I've been wrong and screwed things up before. It's certainly not unlikely that what little reasoning I apply to my thoughts here is flawed. What reassurance do I have that the convictions I hold now aren't wrong? I can't even be sure of the effects of even my most minor actions and what their repercussions may be (stupid muderous butterflies in China and all).

This lack of certainty disturbs me. As much as I'd like to move the world, it be nice to merely exist with some level of confidence in what I do and believe in. Where can I find it?

Saturday, June 10


So, I leave college and see friends I haven't seen in months. What's one of the first things we start doing? Fighting. With our fists and even a sword. Well, with only one friend actually, and it's entirely mutual. It started a few weeks into the spring semester. We were instant messaging one another, and he was telling me about the Tae Kwon Do class he had enrolled in. I followed that up with a report on my kendo classes (you can check out my post on kendo in the April 2006 archives). At some point, I jokingly suggested that we match our respective martial arts against each other, which really is a moronic idea seeing as how Tae Kwon Do is unarmed while kendo utilizes a long sword. Anyway, for whatever reason, we eventually did do it. We were at his house, and I brought along my short hardwood sword. We went back maybe a quarter mile into the sandpit next to his house and went at it. It quickly became apparent that the sword was a mistake. Though it kept my friend at a respectful distance, I was completely unwilling to actually use it and risk hurting him too bad. Once I put my bokken away, it was on, if by "on" you mean a lot of grappling, which sucks when you're on top of a mud track. Anyway, after a half hour, we were done. Last night, we had our second fight, this time in my backyard where there is a merciful lack of mud though more dangerous obstacles like a firepit and low clothesline.

How did I ever turn out this way? It was only a three months ago that I advised an acquaintance, after he informed me that he was working out to prepare for fights in the summer, to instead spend that time making friends with them and to "Think of the fun you could have frolicking together rather than trading blows." What changed? Well, there are two things I can pinpoint and another that may have an indirect influence on this new past time. The first is kendo. I realized that one can fight merely for the sake of fighting. There doesn't need to be pent-up frustration and rage and a desire to hurt another. All there really needs to be is a desire to see who can best the other in this particular form of physical contest.

The second major reason is Fight Club. Watch enough of that, and it warps your mind. Even once is enough. Fought a friend at college after she saw it for the first time. Really, really didn't want to hurt her though, so that was rather silly. I think it ended up with me tossing her to the ground seven times. Some friends who were watching said it looked like I was raping her. Wow! Look at that digression go! but it's over now. Fight Club just gets into your mind with its eminently quotable little lines like "How much can you know about yourself, you've never been in a fight? I don't wanna die without any scars," or "I want you to hit me as hard as you can." Like, I said, it just gets into your head, and you want to try it out. So far, it's worked out. No permanent damage, and I haven't lost control and gone off in a violent rage on my friend.

Then we come to the possible reason, Battle Angel Alita, a hyper-, ultra-, mega-, uber-, ura-, violent manga by Yukito Kishiro. Worth a look. At the very least, the art is beautiful, and I've pulled off a few Knowledge Bowl answers from it. I call it possible because I hadn't read it in months before my first fight, but I went through my collection a few weeks ago and came to realize how much some of it applied to my present situation. One line, in particular, sticks out. It's delivered by Jashugan, the greatest motorball fighter ever, while he's beating the snot out of Alita during their second fight, one that exists completely in her mind as it occurs while she is enthralled by the mind control program of the mad karma scientist Desty Nova. How could you not want to check this series out after a situation like that? Anyway, it goes something like this. “I have not begun to attain the ultimate levels! All I have done is come to grips with my own limits, and the purpose of battle is to attain the greatest heights within your own limits! Doubt! Wonder! That is where you find your path!” After hearing this, Alita gains the tricky, mad skills, defeats Jashugan in her next move and never loses another fight. Hasn't achieved the same effect with me, but the sentiment resonates with me.

And that is why I fight.

Who wins between the two of us? Well, we don't follow any scoring systems or anything, but I'm the only the one who has ever called "Stop" because my friend has actually practiced grappling and knows how to make a headlock really hurt. But that's not the point.

Tuesday, June 6


Great. I had a real horrorshow post planned for today, but then I see a comment on a friend's LiveJournal that deals with the maturity of males and finish Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, which deals with maturity alongside evil and language. So, I decided to take this whole idea of maturity on while allowing my other idea to ferment a while longer.

There are a number of arbitrary ages at which maturity is assumed to be reached. In the United States, you can vote and buy cigarettes and pornography at eighteen and legally drink alochol at twenty-one. In Minnesota, you can get your driver's license at sixteen. In the Roman Catholic tradition, the sacrament of confirmation is witheld until one reaches the 'age of discretion or reason,' an age which I didn't find a set age for but believe to be around twelve. To round off this brief list, Jews celebrate the maturation of their children at thirteen (Bar Mitzvah) and twelve (Bat Mitzvah). With little effort, one could come up with a multitude of arbitrary ages in a variety of traditions and systems that denote when one has become 'mature,' but this list suffices in serving my purpose of demonstrating the disparity in when groups recognize that maturity has been reached.

As I've been asking so many variations of lately, what does 'mature' mean? Part of it has to do with age, as we can see in my list. Few would suggest that a five year old was mature, even ten is stretching it. There are other quantitative measures of maturity, like killing your first moose, but many use age for at least one good reason. Puberty. Things get kooky at that point and typically take a long while for people to sort out afterwards.

Of course, closely associated with age is experience. Were a person to grow up in a controlled environment, reading all there is to know about good and evil, and be released into the wide world at thirty, even, could we call them mature? Of course, they're no more mature than a person who learned a language solely from a book could be considered fluent. One must know suffering and joy, satiation and hunger, victory and defeat and whole bunch of other dialectics. But what do once we know these opposing forces? Do we abandon ourselves to the idea that the universe is composed of naught but a single side? No, we accept that they both exist and then try to bring about the better side as much as possible.

Maturity is coming to grips with who we are and what we can be, things that cannot be wholly known until that crucial period where we gain the ability and desire to pass on our genetic material, and what the world outside us is and what it can be.

Monday, June 5

Women and men

In my younger years, I never put any real thought into the issues of sex and gender. They were of no consequence to me. My parents and teachers and Sesame Street had taught me that boys and girls are equal, and I accepted it. As I understood it, the feminist revolution was something that had succeeded long ago when women were granted the vote in the United States. Like issues of race, I thought gender and sex had been solved. The deepest my thoughts or actions ever strayed on this topic were to place the scores of the girls' team before the boys in my track articles and to reason that, since girls wanted to be equal with boys, they couldn't claim, "You can't hit me because I'm a girl." (Boy does that make me sound like a jerk.)

Now (if you've been following my blog long enough I imagine you can anticipate what is coming up) college has once again forced me to reconsider my beliefs on this topic. First of all, I have Literature I where the war between the sexes lay at the heart of every work we read,from The Odyssey to Paradise Lost, and Colloquium where we were spent a couple of weeks discussing identity and stereotypes and such associated with the sexes. Then, in second semester, we have Literature II and the notion of 'gendered writing,' that how men and women use language is of a diametrically different nature (might have this idea wrong since I have yet to read Alicia Ostriker who is, apparently, a major proponent of this).

Well, after having all of this happen in my classes, I began to take more notice of it in the rest of my life, in many mediums, from many sources. In Dr. Zhivago, the good doctor realizes that Tanya has become a woman and something has fundamentally changed between him and her. In When Harry Met Sally, it's asked if men and women can simply be friends. Crud, now I'm going to go and prove how much of a nerd I am. In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Kaji says that the Japanese kanji for 'she' is 'a woman far away' and suggests that the two sexes will always be separated, unable to be together.

I certainly won't suggest that I have answer for this like I did when I considered the masses (seeing how well that worked out from the comments I received), but there are some things I'd like to work out for myself and vent on. First of all, this whole 'gendered writing' thing bugs me. I must confess, I know only what I've heard and actually haven't read anything about it, so it's more than likely I'm misconstruing and misunderstanding more than a few points. Anyway, one of its components, as I understand it, is that men write to gain mastery over their surroundings, and women are merely observing or something like that. Since I haven't read the writings that promote this style of analysis, I can't attack any arguments, but I will say that the whole concept seems unnecessary, merely a grandiose, unifying statement and way to reinforce the idea that there is an inherent and uncrossable division of the sexes, something I don't agree with. Yes, there are biological differences, but we still face the same hungers and thirsts and victories and losses in our lives. How can one say that the two can never come together by ignoring or marginalizing the similarities and drawing out the very obvious differences too far? Are a few fundamental differences enough to overwhelm as many fundamental similarities?

I guess these issues go even farther. Though we all have common experiences, our perception of them and their sum total are different for all of us. Can we never connect with others because of this? Is any bond we feel with others merely built on a shallow foundation? Is empathy a big lie?

I don't believe so, but this is a fair bit deeper than I intended to go with this post. Mostly I wanted to complain about gendered writing and gender roles and wasn't prepared to talk about these things. I'll be sure, though, to give them more thought and come back to them soon.

Sunday, June 4

Video games

Well, know that I'm out of college for the summer and living with my parents, I have the time and desire to actually play video games again. The most recent culmination of this rediscovered amusement was my completion of Hideo Kojima's excellent Metal Gear Solid. The game is simply amazing. The story, considering how much I already I knew about it from friends and the webcomic The Last Days of Foxhound, was still fun, the characters were memorable and, most importantly, the game was straight up fun to play, even if it was ridiculous how impossible to kill Liquid Snake was. So, what do I do after that? I post to my blog about video games.

Video games are an entertainment medium, no different from most movies, music and books. The two important differences, and the reasons I believe that video games receive so much attention as a corrupter of society, are that its the newest of these and it requires so much of a person's attention. When I watch TV or listen to music, I'm often doing homework or practicing juggling or (like right now when I'm doing both) posting to my blog, but these actions are impossible while playing a game. One must wholly devote themselves when playing a video game if they are to get the same enjoyment out of it as someone who has some music on in the background. As to video games being new, it's atypical for people and society to not fear what is new because they are not sure yets of its effects. While its hard to say that video games are new, seeing as how they've been popular since the 70's, their rapid evolution in terms of everything can easily keep people afraid of them.

Coming back to Metal Gear Solid, I believe part of the reason that it captured my attention so forcibly was that it was so cinematic in presentation. There were more than a few hours of dialogue via Codec, basically a video phone conversation, and cut scenes where the player didn't participate at all. Though the action was unique and the play almost resembled a puzzle game when players had to figure out the best tool or method to avoid enemies when all out violence didn't work, the story and characters were truly at the heart of this game. Which is interesting when compared to the big games of today. Grand Theft Auto, Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games like World of Warcraft and even The Sims are all about giving the player choice. Do whatever you want. They're open ended to a degree that comes close to real life. There's hardly even a definitive goal to pursue in these games. To me, these games I just listed are truly games. They offer an experience that other forms of entertainment can't touch. A movie may bear some resemblance to a video game, but it cannot provide the same level of interactivity. Comparing these to Metal Gear Solid, I think is fascinating. While video game inspired movies and recently become popular with the studios and so many of them have tanked (I understand that there are plans for both Grand Theft Auto and World of Warcraft movies) Metal Gear Solid will never become a movie because it isn't necessary. There's nothing to add. The game is already a movie, albeit an interactive one.

Some thoughts, perhaps less interesting than normal because of their less universal topic.

Thursday, June 1

The masses

In mass media and communication theory, two fields which I enjoy studying and such on my own time(come on, I'm a journalism major, what can you expect?), the idea of the masses comes up all of the time, yet I don't believe that there is a good, commonly accepted definition of this term. It's simply one that these otherwise decent theorists, researchers and thinkers seem to understand as, "Not me." I guess it's up to me to define it, in fifteen minutes or less since I'm predicting that's all I have the patience for.

First of all , does anyone ever consider theirself a member of the masses? After reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra, does anyone who agrees with Nietzsche's philosophy say, "I'm no overman?" Or, since the term philosophy may drive some away from that particular work, let's consider George Orwell's second, shorter high school staple, Animal Farm. Has anyone who read it ever say, "That's me, a sheep?" Perhaps the right question here is, "Does anyone want to be a part of the masses?" Considering the American predilection towards individuality, I'm guessing not in this country. Not that these rhetorical questions do anything for my investigation. Just because you don't believe you're a certain way, doesn't mean you aren't.

Okay, so I have another rhetorical question, the difference being that the answer to this one actually applies to the larger question. Does partaking in mass media make one a part of the masses or is there more to it? Two people go to the latest multi-million dollar blockbuster, one to heckle and the other to enjoy it. Are they both part of the masses? I imagine the studios prefer the ones who enjoy the movie for what is, so they fit more of the mold the studios are looking for, but let's take a look at it from another angle. Now two people watch Plan 9 From Outer Space, one of the most famous bad movies of all time. Again, one heckles and the other goes to appreciate a distinct piece of movie history. This time, the hecklers make up the majority of that movie's viewing population. Is that person a part of the masses now since they are part of the majority? Furthermore, releases of Plan 9 From Outer Space are targeted towards this demographic of movie watchers, and hecklers now fit their marketing mold. I think I'll hold on to these questions until the next paragraph, a cliffhanger of sorts. Of course, I imagine it's near impossible to find an American who is completely oblivious to mass media. I really think it's impossible to completely avoid it in Western countries.

Personally, I believe being a member of the masses relates closely to one's level of self-awareness. If one participates in mass media while being conscious of the originators intentions and act and think on their own volition after considering all choices, they are not part of the masses. For me, mass membership is closely tied to mob mentality (and not only because they're both alliterative). When one ceases to think and consider before acting, they have become part of a larger entity. So, with this loose definition, both people in both examples could be part of the masses. It all depends upon one's level of awareness.