30 November 2008

Post 169

A month or so ago, my New Testament professor made some passing reference to something Robert Frost wrote about God speaking to Job about the trials he had to endure. I didn't think much about it until a week or so ago. Turns out, this is a really hard thing to find. Near as I can tell, it isn't on the internet anywhere. Luckily, I live walking distance from one of the largest collegiate libraries in the nation, and I was able to find a dusty old copy there.

Anyway. Here it is: God explaining stuff to Job. Enjoy!

I've had you on my mind a thousand years
To thank you someday for the way you helped me
Establish once for all the principle
There's no connection man can reason out
Between his just deserts and what he gets.
Virtue may fail and wickedness succeed.
'Twas a great demonstration we put on.
I should have spoken sooner had I found
The word I wanted. You would have supposed
One who in the beginning was the Word
Would be in a position to command it.
I have to wait for words like anyone.
Too long I've owed you this apology
For the apparently unmeaning sorrow
You were afflicted with in those old days.
But it was the essence of the trial
You shouldn't understand it at the time.
It had to seem unmeaning to have meaning
And it came out all right. I have no doubt
You realize by now the part you played
To stultify the Deuteronomist
And change the tenor of religious thought.
My thanks are to you for releasing me
From moral bondage to the human race.

Frost, Robert. A Masque of Reason. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1945. 4.

23 November 2008

Post 168

Well, I'm rearranging things here in my little corner of blogdom again. Most of the changes are things you probably won't notice or care about (I made my labels more consistent and concise; I changed my "About Me"), but here is one thing you may care about: I've made a second blog.

This blog is The Eccentric Sage. I called it that because I didn't want this to be the sort of blog that is dedicated to the life and drama of its author; I wanted the posts to be things that would appeal to a much broader audience than people who know me personally. I like to think I've done an okay job at that. However, occasionally I do things that are so crazy that they deserve to be shouted into cyberspace, so I have created a place for them to go. The posts on my second blog will probably tend to be longish, but my hope is that they'll be worth reading. I don't really care if they aren't, though: I mostly just wanted a repository for my insanity. There isn't much there yet, but I will be adding to it a lot, I'm sure.


17 November 2008

Post 167

And now this amazing prophecy from the February 1959 issue of Time magazine:

Owlish Cellist Pablo Casals, 81, ventured a hopeful thought on a species of U.S.-bred cacophony scarcely ever ventured on his mellow instrument: " Rock' n' roll is a disease that shall pass away as quickly as it was created. It is a sad thing for your country. It is nothing, nothing. "

15 November 2008

Post 166

If the sentence I presented to you in Post 164 was the single greatest sentence in the history of the English language, then the sentence I here present to you may well be the worst:

It might have been being used to try to help avoid having to slide stuff across the floor.


07 November 2008

Post 165

So, a little while ago, there were these posts that people I know were putting on their blogs that listed their quirks. Cunfuzzled was first, and I thought, "Dude, Schmetterling, you totally got this," but when I started a new post, I came to the realization that I have no quirks.

(I can sense your eyebrows raising, dear readers, even as I type this.)

But I've been thinking about it some more, and I've decided that, yes, I do have a few quirks, and now I've managed to come up with a few that are worth mentioning, so here they are.

Quirk #1: I can't kill creeping things.

This quirk irks me occasionally because, frankly, it's pretty inconvenient. The worst thing is that I brought it on myself: when I was in high school, I decided that there was no reason for brazenly killing things on the sole basis of their number of legs, and so I stopped stepping on bugs. Somehow, that simple decision exploded into a condition that is now bigger than I am. For example, the last place I lived had this crazy flying ant infestation--no drone ants anywhere to be found, but flying ants all over the place! But I couldn't kill them. Nevertheless, their incessant buzzing got on my nerves, so I resorted to trapping them in a harmonica box and taking them outside. Very inefficient and fairly difficult, but I just couldn't bring myself to kill them.

A couple of days ago, a ginormous spider came out of nowhere while I was using my computer and scared the crap out of me (figuratively speaking). The thing was huge and I was chagrined to see it coming out from behind my monitor because that is right beside my bed, and I don't want fuzzy creepy crawlies sleeping with me. But I couldn't kill it. Spiders are faster and smarter than ants, so catching it was tricky, but I couldn't kill it and I didn't want it living in my room, so I persisted until I had successfully released it into the wild.

The strange thing is, I'm pretty sure I could kill a cow or a deer or even a cute little bunny if I needed the food--certainly wouldn't do it for sport, but for food, I really think I could. But I can't kill bugs. This, I think, makes me completely backward in modern American society.

Quirk#2: My eating habits lack luster.

I have eaten French toast virtually every morning that I've made myself breakfast (easily above 90% of the time) for more than three years now. I never get sick of it. I thought I would a long time ago, but I never have. In fact, sometime, as I'm drifting off to sleep, I think, "Oh boy! I get to have French toast in the morning!" and that thought actually makes me so excited that I have trouble falling asleep.

I am not the sort of man who requires much culinary variety in general, come to think of it. It is not unusual for me to eat the same thing for lunch and dinner in a given day, and that's generally the meal I've been making for dinner every day for weeks on end. Right now, this is chicken and rice. A couple of months ago, it was pasta with chicken and sauce. I'm considering a return to pasta. But chicken is always the same--always.

French toast every morning, chicken for lunch and dinner. Is it any wonder I got salmonella? Just a matter of time, really.

While we're talking about my strange eating habits, were any of you my readers when I talked about my drinking problem? We'll call that Quirk#3.

And now you know that I'm not so normal as I seem. Whoda thunk, huh?

05 November 2008

Post 164

Yesterday, while I was cleaning dorm bathrooms, my mind wandering as it is typically wont to do in such times, I composed the single greatest sentence in the history of the English language. It's true! I'm not being prideful, just honest. And so I'd like to share this sentence with you, but what's a sentence without context, right? Right. Ergo the following fictional story:

So there were these two roommates, and one of them had a dolly--ya know, the kind you use to haul boxes and stuff. And he always kept it in the same place. Well, one day, he got home from classes, and he noticed that his dolly was missing. But he was a pretty chill sort of kid, so he didn't freak out or anything. Later that night, he noticed that his dolly had returned, so he said to his roommate, "Hey, do you know where my dolly's been?"

"I dunno," his roommate said. "It might have been being used to help move stuff."


03 November 2008

Post 163

This comes from an essay written by H. L. Mencken in 1936. It's called "The New Deal Mentality," and it really is very timely (also, I really love the language used; why don't people write like this anymore? Nevermind--it's because people wouldn't give the effort to read it). The moral of the story is beware the quick fix! (And if you can't take time to read the whole thing, at least take a gander at the second to last paragraph--though it'll make a good deal more sense in context, so I'd like you to read the whole excerpt--especially since I'm taking the time to type it by hand!) This was originally published in The American Mercury (whatever the crap that was); I am copying it from a book called the Anxious Years, edited by Louis Filler:

At every time of stress and storm in history one notes the appearance of wizards with sure cures for all the sorrows of humanity. They flourished, you may be certain, in Sumer and Akkad, in the Egypt of all the long dynasties, and in the lands of the Hittites and Scythians. They swarmed in Greece, and in Rome some of them actually became Emperors. For always the great majority of human beings sweat and fume under the social system prevailing in the world they live in--always they are convinced that they are carrying an undue share of its burdens, and getting too little of its milk and honey. And always it is easy to convince them that by some facile device, invented by its vendor and offered freely out of the bigness of his heart, all these injustices may be forced to cease and desist, and a Golden Age brought in that will give every man whatever he wants, and charge him nothing for it.

There is thus no actual newness in the so-called New Deal. Its fundamental pretension goes back to the dark abysm of time, and even its most lunatic details are not novel to students of world-saving. If it differs from the other current panaceas--for instance, Communism, Fascism, and Nazi-ism--it is only in its greater looseness and catholicity, its more reckless hospitality to miscellaneous nonsense. It is a grand and gaudy synthesis of all the political, economic, social, socio-political, and politico-economic quackeries recorded in the books, from the days of Wat Tyler to those of Bryan, the La Follettes, Lloyd George, Borah, Norris, and Debs. Indeed, it goes far beyond Wat to the Republic of Plato, and on the way down the ages it sucks in the discordant perunas of Augustine, Martin Luther, J. J. Rousseau, Robert Owen, Claude Henri Saint-Simon, Karl Marx, Sockless Jerry Simpson, Thorstein Veblen, and Henry George. This mess, boiling violently in a red-hot pot, is now ladled out to the confiding in horse-doctor's doses, to the music of a jazz band. Let them swallow enough of it, so they are assured, and all their sorrows will vanish. Let them trust the wizards manning the spoons, and they will presently enter upon fields of asphodel, where every yen that is native to the human breast will be realized automatically, and all the immemorial pains of doing-without will be no more, and what goes up need never come down again, and two and two will make five, five and a half, six, ten, a hundred, a million, [sic]

It is hardly necessary to rehearse the constituent imbecilities of this grandiose evangel--its proposal to ease the privations of the poor by destroying food and raising the cost of living, its proposal to dispose of the burden of debt by laying on more and more debt, its proposal to restore the impaired common capital by outlawing and demolishing what is left, and so on and so on. The details are of no more significance that they were when an oldtime doctor sat down to write a shotgun prescription. It is, in fact, only by accident that this or that crazy device gets out in front. Each wizard roots with undeviating devotion for his own, and a large part of the money wasted so far has gone into helping Wallace to prevail against Hopkins, and Hopkins to upset and flabbergast Ickes. Whenever one of the brethren gets a new hunch, there is a sharpening of activity, and the taxpayer goes on the block for another squeeze. And whenever one of them comes to grief, which is almost every day, the others rush into the gap with something worse.

That under all this furious medication there lies a sub-stratum of veritable pathology may be accepted without argument. Even the dumbest yokel does not succumb to even the most eloquent hawker of snake-oil on days when his liver and lights are ideally quiescent. It takes a flicker of pain along the midrifff [sic] to bring him up to the booth, and something more than a flicker to make him buy. In the present case there are qualms and tremors all over the communal carcass, for the whole world was lately mauled by a long, wasteful, and fruitless war, and the end of that war saw many millions of people reduced to poverty, terror, and despair. Immeasurable values had been destroyed, and the standard of living had declined everywhere. There was, of course, only one way to restore what had been lost, and that was for all hands to return to work, and earn it over again by patient industry. But in the post-war years any such scheme seemed too slow and painful, especially to romantic Americans, so resort was had to what appeared to be quicker contrivances. One of them, as everybody knows, was the anticipation of income by credit buying, and another was the accumulation of bogus values by gambling. These contrivances appeared to work for a while, and we were assured by high academic authority that a New Economy had come in; but suddenly they ceased to work, and there ensued a great bust, with the losses of the war multiplied two or three times, and every participant in the joy-ride rubbing his pocket, his occiput, and his shins. Nor did the spectators fare much better. Indeed, some of them were hurt even worse than the joy-riders.

What to do? The old prescription was still indicated--patience, industry, frugality. A few austere souls began to preach it, albeit somewhat timorously, and some even ventured to take it, but for the majority it was far too unpalatable to be endured. They craved a master elixir taht would cure them instantly and without burning their gullets, a single magical dose whose essences would run up and down their legs like electricity, and purge them of all their malaises at one lick, and waft them whole and happy to the topmost towers of Utopia. In brief, what they craved was quackery, and that is precisely what they got. Fro all points of the compass "the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers" came galloping--some from near and some from far, some from college classrooms and some from chicken-farms, some from the voluptuous dens of Rotary and Kiwanis and some from the chill crypts of the Y.M.C.A., some in glittering military uniforms and some in the flapping chemises of prophets and martyrs--but all busting with enlightened self-interest, all eager to grab favorable spots and loose their spiels.

For a while it was very confusing, but gradually something resembling order began to emerge from chaos. Upon the troubled face of the waters there appeared the shine of a serene and benignant Smile, the calming influence of a Master Mind. Why should inspired men fight like cats and dogs? Why should the Uplift be pulled to pieces on the very day of Armageddon, with an unparalleled chance for Service in front of it? Why not gang the suckers, and take them en masse? Why not, in Hopkins' immortal words to his stooge Williams, "give everyone a job"? To see the way was to consummate the dizzy deed. There and then the New Deal was born.

01 November 2008

Post 162

Last night, I went to a little Halloween party, and we watched Disturbia.

Lame, lame, lame, laaaaaaaaame.

It's nice to see a movie like this every now and then, though, because I'm not torn over whether or not I liked it, and I can point to specific details as to why it was bad.

The movie starts out with a father and son fishing, having a nice time, and then, on the ride home, they get in a car wreck, and Dad dies. This is to establish angst in our teen protagonist because, as we all know, teenagers have to have some kind of terrible trauma in order to have angst: generally, teens are a mature, sensible, and, above all, level-headed group on the whole.

But you should have seen this wreck. It was pretty spectacular. They were driving a car down a highway, and they ran into the back of a similar sized car that was stopped on the highway. Did you know that when one car plows into the back of another, the moving car gets airborne, flips upside down and sails a few hundred feet before hitting the ground and then skidding and spinning to a stop? (When I got rearended, the car behind me just disappeared into my trunk--I totally got gypped!) And then some guy cruising along in a little pickup somehow didn't see this inverted car in the middle of the road and runs into it at full speed. More spinning and sliding. Dad is now dead.

Six months later, kid is in Spanish class, and he obviously hasn't done any work. He has no idea what's going on. He's sleeping in class. He isn't doing his homework. Teacher says, "What would your father think?" and kid punches him in the face, earning himself a summer vacation of house arrest. He's given a little ankle tracker thing and isn't allowed to leave the property. To compound the injustice, his mom discontinues his X-Box Live subscription and iTunes membership. So what's a boy to do but spy on his neighbors?

A pretty girl (I guess; am I the only one who finds nothing attractive about seductively dressed teens?) moves in next door. He doesn't even see her face: he sees her from behind as she's carrying a box. Of course it's love. A few days later, she notices he and a friend spying on her as she's swimming, so she comes over and they all become friends.

This--doesn't make any sense....

Later, she comes over all angry and asks why he spies on her, and he tells her, when he's watching her, he sees how she's different from other people: she reads books instead of magazines; she looks out her windows at the world, contemplating how to make it better; she looks in the mirror, not cockily, but pensively, wondering, "Who am I really?"

(Funny, every time he looked out the window at her, the camera gave us a close up of her butt.)

"That's either the creepiest or the sweetest thing anybody's ever said to me," she says, and then they dive into perhaps the longest make-out session in teen movie history (though I don't doubt there have been longer, I have thankfully avoided them).

Of course, in the meantime, the guy and the girl and the goofy-friend character (every movie needs one of those) are spying on the man they think is a murderer. They have nothing to go off of except for the kind of car he drives. But they are sure he's a murderer, so main character dude sets up a stake-out in his house and sends girl and goofy to follow this guy around and break into his house and stuff. One time, goofy gets locked in the house, so main character guy crosses the property line, which brings his parole officer running. The police, at main character's insistence, poke around serial killer's house, but they don't find anything suspicious, and then they leave.

And then serial killer--who is so methodical that he has built a surgery room behind a secret door in his hallway--suddenly goes crazy and starts attacking main character's mom and goofy friend and main character himself. Goofy gets homerunned in the face with an aluminum bat--full wind-up swing from a grown man--but, don't worry, he's okay: no permenant damage, just a little bruise on his temple.

Ya know, I hear that, if you're gonna get hit with a bat, the temple's a good place to go because it's so--strong--and not fragile.

Long story short, there's a chase that ends with main character stabbing serial killer with gardening sheers and pushing him into a sess pool full of the remains of murdered women.

This, of course, doesn't affect him too badly: the next day, he's back to making out with his girl friend and hanging out with goofy friend, and the police decide to take off his tracker because, hey, he killed a murderer, let's forgive his punching a teacher in the face, ya know?

Crappy, crappy movie.

And it was full of cheap shots, too. Knife-weilding murderer approaches a woman while the music swells tensely--haha, he just cut a price tag off of her dress; bet you didn't see that coming! I'm pretty sure it's never been done before. Pretty sure it wasn't horribly obvious. Or when the camera man walks with a staggering step toward the main character, appearing to be a POV shot from the antagonist but--nope--it really is just the camera man. And when goofy gets locked in the crazy man's house, he has a video camera. The cops show up and don't find goofy. Then main character starts getting video feed of goofy--and he's dead! But wait, that looks like my closet; better go investigate--haha, goofy, funny joke, man.

Anyway, if your a budding movie critic like me who occasionally enjoys watching a move that is easily lambasted, this is a good one for you. I haven't told you everything that's wrong with it because, if you do want a movie whose problems are numberless and ubiquitous, this is the movie for you, and I'd hate to ruin all the little flaws. But if you're looking for an enjoyable, worthwhile movie with character development and reasonable plot progression, this is not a good choice. Perhaps you could pick up Rear Window instead.

But you know what you really ought to do? Call off watching this movies to spend your time drafting a novel. Happy NaNoWriMo, everyone!