Archive for October, 2006

If A is success in life, then A equals X plus Y plus Z. Work is X; Y is play; and Z is keeping your mouth shut.

-Albert Einstein, Observer, Jan. 15, 1950

I have such an amazing headache

For my Creative Writing class that will meet later today, I have had to read three short stories written by class members. In class we will be discussing the stories, and offering criticisms to the authors.

After reading these stories I really think that I lost five or six IQ points.

The first story, the only reasonable one in the bunch, was cluttered, and if not for the last few paragraphs, was quite dull. The problem I had with the story, aside from the shoddy grammar, was that while the end of the story was supposed to be powerful, it was so disconnected from the rest of the story that it just felt out of place.

The second story was completely asinine. I don’t mind that the story was a disturbed and depraved, I really don’t. What I take issue with is when an author writes to solely embarrass, shock, or disturb their readers. After reading the story I got the impression that the author was derisively mocking the readers, saying “I made you read that. Weren’t you disgusted? I hope you feel as meaningless as I do, I want the world to be more miserable than I am.”

Not exactly my kind of fiction.

I couldn’t finish the last story. If asked my thoughts during class, I am going to readily admit I could not finish the story. Certainly many stores simply drop the reader into a situation, without background or character descriptions. I do not have problems with that particular literary form, but when the dialogue and the text offer no real ways of gleaning anything about the characters, it makes it very hard to read, especially when the story is quite lengthy.

Imagine attending an opera, one you have never seen before. The opera is to be performed in Italian, a language you do not understand. Normally, especially if you are familiar with opera, you can understand much of the story by paying close attention to the way the performers sing. The performance transcends language, and you “get it”.

Now imagine if those same performers did not sing, but simply read their pieces in a Ben Steinesque monotone voice. You would be confused and most likely would loose interest quickly. Well the third story did just that.

Hmmmmm

My wife keeps kosher. By proxy I do too, mostly.

Since I do not fully understand the rules and regulations regarding kosher foods, I often ask her “what if” questions. My wife, in addition to her religious studies, works for an insurance company. Thus I expect her to be the worlds most absolute authority on both her religion and all things insurance.

So I often ask things like:

What if scientists were able to make an Emu that could fly. Perhaps they could genetically modify its DNA structure. Technically it would not be a flightless bird, and you could eat it.

What if we found life on another planet…and it was tasty. Would kosher law apply to beings not of our planet?

What if I got a Catholic priest, an Islamic cleric, and a rabbi to ALL bless a pig. Could you eat it then? That pig would pee holy water with that much blessing!

Furthermore I wonder things like:

If a meteor hits our apartment, does our renters insurance cover meteor damage? If so does it cover us if the meteor carries with it an alien virus that eventually wipes out most of mankind? I really don’t want to see THAT lawsuit.

What happens if a rip in the space-time continuum opens in our living room and swallows my DVD collection? Is that covered, and if so, what kind of deductible is involved?

If I run over the people responsible for the programming on VH1, who is at fault? I say I can claim no fault since their unbelievably vapid programming MADE ME do it.

Cottage Cheese

Children often do not believe adults. Adults tell them fantastic and completely nonsensical things on a regular basis. For example children are often told that certain foods are not only good for them, but are quite tasty. I can clearly remember my parents lauding Brussel sprouts, asparagus, peas, tomatoes, and cottage cheese.

Like most younger children, I rejected their logic. My taste buds screamed “This tastes like Bantha fodder”. Yes, as a small child I related to most of the world via semi-obscure Star Wars references.

Yet, as I now approach thirty, I have had to make certain concessions that would drive my younger self into a lightsaber-wielded rage.

Asparagus is tasty – quite tasty, especially if prepared well.
Brussel sprouts are not a byproduct of the Bantha digestive tract.
Peas, while not exactly asparagus material, are tolerable.
Tomatoes do indeed make sandwiches taste better.

That is, however, where my food concessions end. After giving up more ground than Emperor Palpatine’s gardener (Ok, I don’t have a good Star Wars ground analogy ok… sorry) I have decided to hold fast. Cottage cheese is still disgusting.

This brings up an unusual problem. While I may enjoy my continued vilification of all things cottage cheese, I actually like it. So, I have decided that the recipe for cottage cheese must have been changed sometime in the past twenty years. It is the only rational explanation, especially if I am to keep up my anti-cottage tirade.

So… Mom…Dad… while you were right about naps, homework, and certain foods, COTTAGE CHEESE STILL SUCKS – at least the old nasty recipe you old people used in the 1980s.

Things lost

Cum ea oratio, quam M. Tullius in senatu in L. Catilinam praesentem a. d. VI Id. Novembres habuit, a senatoribus ita audita esset, ut plerique consuli adsentirentur et Catilinam hostem patriae atque parricidam appellarent, ille e senatu egressus proximaque nocte relictis P. Lentulo, C. Cethego aliisque in urbe sociis, qui ea, de quibus convenisset exsequerentur, ad Manlium profectus erat. Postridie eius diei M. Cicero contione convocata, ut populum de iis rebus, quae agitabantur, edoceret et invidiam a se deprecaretur, hanc, quae infra legitur, orationem habuit

That is an excerpt from the second oration of Cicero against Lucius Catilina. Once, a few years ago, I could have translated that, parts by sight. Now, all I can do is barely recognize it as one of Cicero’s orations, much less understand any meaning behind it.

I wonder if losing that ability means anything.

Sure, I remember hearing stories of how Cicero was perhaps the greatest orator of all history. I remember learning how, in order to improve his public speaking abilities, Cicero went to the ocean. Upon reaching the beach, he filled his mouth with small rocks and pebbles and began to shout his orations at the sea. He shouted until blood ran down his lips, the sharp rocks and pebbles cutting him sharply. And even then, he persisted, believing that if he could give a powerful oration with a mouth full of rocks, he could speak anywhere without worry or fear – he knew his abilities.

Is it enough that I even know who Cicero was – I doubt many of my peers can say that they do.

I realize that I cannot possibly remember everything. I realize that talents will come and go, especially since I do not have the determination to scream at the sea with a mouth of bloody rocks. But, what new things have I really learned as of late? If I am destined to forget much that I now know, would it not hold that I should make every effort to learn as much as possible, in the hopes that I will retain some small piece of that knowledge?

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