Monday, July 31

Sky bingo

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

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

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

Thursday, July 27

The Moment

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

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

Monday, July 24

The bumper sticker my friend saw

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 23

Talking and conversing

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

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

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

Monday, July 17


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

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

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


Sunday, July 16


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

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

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

Saturday, July 15

Something to consider

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 12

Calm retorts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angry editorials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 11

Pride and Prejudice (again)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 10

Night walk and night sky

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 9

Handstands and other tomfoolery

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

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

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

Saturday, July 8

Dr. Zhivago

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 5


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 2


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

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

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

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

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

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

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