October 28, 2004

I hate the smell of stupid in the morning . . .

. . . smells like engineers in a lit class.

We had a debate this morning in American Lit I. I'd rather not talk about it, so I'll make this part short. We were debating, more or less, the War in Iraq . . . with a twist. The class was divided into four groups, and each group had to argue from the standpoint of one of the following: Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin. My group got stuck with Edwards. And I still don't want to talk about it . . . that isn't the point of this post.

A certain bass-ackwards mental cauliflower who was in my group (and who will remain nameless) decided to explain his view on Edwards's view on the war in the following way: "I think that if Edwards were to walk out of his house and see someone beating on someone else with a baseball bat, he wouldn't stand around wondering about purity and morality, he would just take the bat away without even thinking about it."

This was supposed to be conclusive evidence that Edwards would agree with the War in Iraq . . . and evidence that we should agree too.

I was crying on the inside.

Later, at lunch, Gallagher took the analogy and tweaked it for accuracy . . . And then I took it and ran with it some more . . . And we continued to play with it, etc. The result is the following account of what it would look like if Edwards actually agreed with the war.

Jonathan Edwards comes walking out of his house one day and sees the disgruntled circus midget who lives across the street beating a small child with a baseball bat. He also thinks he sees a shotgun tucked into the midget's pant leg (it's a sawed-off).

Side note: This called to mind the obvious "Is that a shotgun in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?"

Anyway, shotguns are illegal in that area, and Edwards expects the midget to wander into his house with it at the first opportunity and start shooting. (He, fortunately, has a sizable gun case of his own.) So he runs into his house, passes out baseball bats to his family and extended family, and then runs around the neighborhood whipping up support for his cause . . . After all, the midget has a shotgun.

A few people agree, but almost everyone (including the Neighborhood Watch Council) tells him to shut the hell up and go home. Instead, he hands out more baseball bats and everyone goes over and starts beating on the midget. Unfortunately, the little kid takes a few blows . . . alright, several blows . . . to the head. But the midget is really getting wasted.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the "shotgun" was really just a submarine sandwich that the midget was going to eat for lunch. But at least they saved the kid. Edwards leaves his oldest son in the house across the street to take care of the kid until he's old enough to take care of himself . . . but the house is still home to a few stray midgets with bats (in hiding), and the son spends the next several years getting his shins bruised.

Smooth move, "Edwards."

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October 25, 2004

I've said it before . . .

The best, funniest things are just flat-out unbloggable. I call it the "Unwritten" Law.

Get it?

Posted by Jared at 07:03 PM | TrackBack

October 24, 2004

Wilde Things


The Importance of Being Earnest (again) by Oscar Wilde

Wilson- Jack Worthing
Myself- Algernon Moncrieff
Anna- Gwendolen Fairfax, Laetitia Prism
Paige- Cecily Cardew, Lady Bracknell
Barbour- Dr. Chasuble
Scholl- Lane
Bryan- Merriman

It's that time again . . . just because this is still my favorite play, (and just about everyone else loves it, too) we did a repeat performance of Earnest with a slight change of cast.

I had forgotten that nearly every single line says the exact opposite of whatever makes logical sense. I mean, I knew it happened a lot, but geez . . . It's so funny . . .

We had, as you can see, a new face this week. I finally convinced Bryan to drop by . . . he had never read or seen the play before. Barbour, attending Stage Right rehearsal even as the play went on, managed to juggle things so that he could be around everytime Chasuble was onstage. Impressive.

I had a few things to say about this play . . . and they were to serve as a jumping off point to a broader discussion about Wilde's philosophy, which would in turn relate to my own.

But I'm going to save that for another post, because I think I know of one where it will fit better.

Anyway, after this brief break, I think it's time to return to Shakespeare this week . . . Yeah, definitely time for Shakespeare.

Posted by Jared at 05:02 PM | TrackBack

October 21, 2004

Jared is a cockeyed liar!

Hi. I wrote the following Op-Ed today in Journalism class after doing Google searches on "stolen honor" and "Sinclair + Kerry." I don't really know much about this particular controversy because I haven't been paying attention. And with that disclaimer:

John Kerry is a slimy alien from outer space, or perhaps he is just one of those evil French Arab-lovers. Either way, he hates America and especially Vietnam veterans. At least, that’s what Sinclair Broadcasting wants you to believe. That’s why they’re airing Stolen Honor in key election states across America. Stolen Honor is a 90-minute documentary that denounces Kerry as the man single-handedly responsible for the low opinion that Americans have of the Vietnam War and its veterans. In addition, Kerry is blamed for the horrible treatment that American POWs in Vietnam received at the hands of their captors.

This documentary was produced by Swift Boat Vets and POWs for Truth, an organization formed with the sole purpose of influencing the outcome of the upcoming election. And this isn’t their first big effort. A few months back, many people saw the television commercials produced by the organization (then known simply as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth), which attempted to belittle and besmirch Senator Kerry’s service record in Vietnam. Although many of the claims made in these ads were later debunked, the damage was done, and now they are at it again.

In spite of the fact that information is already surfacing which proves many of the claims made in the documentary to be either totally false or subtly misleading, Sinclair Broadcasting has gone ahead with the airing of the program. And that has Senator Kerry’s supporters ready to gnaw their own tongues off. Still, when you go out to win an election for the highest office in the nation, a little mud-slinging here and there is only to be expected. After all, you can’t expect the opposition to endorse your candidacy. What is the real issue here?

It is simply this: The job of the news media is, and always has been, to use their power and influence in the area of communication responsibly to present the truth to the American public. When one irresponsible company like Sinclair Broadcasting compromises their journalistic integrity for the sake of a presidential election, it isn’t John Kerry or the Democratic Party that loses. The media loses, and ultimately the viewer loses as well. No matter who you’re going to vote for, that shouldn’t make anyone happy.

I had fun. Can you tell?

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October 20, 2004

English Reviewed, or "Ow! My Grammar!"

This evening we were inspired (by a froshie exegesis paper) to compose the following list of terms that would look good in red ink at the top of a graded paper. I call it:

The ABCs of Wretched Writing

A is for Asinine
B is for Bollixed
C is for Crap
D is for Dregs
E is for Excruciating
F is for Freaking awful
G is for Godforsaken
H is for Hellacious
I is for Inhumane
J is for Jacked up
K is for Knife in the eye
L is for "Let me hack off your hands."
M is for Mercy killing
N is for Nauseating
O is for Opprobrious
P is for Putrid
Q is for Quite bad
R is for Really, really wrong
S is for Suck
T is for "Try again . . . No, wait. Go shoot yourself in the face."
U is for Unbearable
V is for Vacuous
W is for Why?!
X . . . just X
Y is for "You, hanging from the highest Yardarm."
Z is for Zzzz.

If you think of any delectable additions . . . Well, the comment section is open, please make use of it. C'mon, Drs. Johnson, Kubricht, Hummel, Coppinger, Watson, Solganick, Woodring, and Hood . . . you know you wanna . . .

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October 19, 2004

Freedom Costs a Buck-Oh-Five . . .

. . . And a ticket to see the matinee showing of Team America: World Police on opening day costs $5. Go figure.

I know this because I was at that showing (beginning 4:20 PM last Friday afternoon) with a few local patriotic types. We enjoyed ourselves immensely, in a subversive sort of way, but I'm not sure that the process of keeping things quiet and concocting multiple outlandish tales to further muddy the waters wasn't even more fun than going to the movie itself.

My personal rating of the feature was a 62%. I kinda hate makng value judgments on things like this because I can't help feeling that maybe it ought to be a good bit higher or (more likely) considerably lower. But this pretty much works. The humor was over-the-top, and largely low-brow . . . but it was entertaining. And, after months of listening to hardcore conservative schtick . . . I needed it.

Not that the jabs at liberals weren't vastly entertaining as well, but it isn't the frothy-mouthed liberal wackos that I have to put up with all the time, so it was less of a release.

I can't really recommend this movie to many people. I thought it was funny a lot more often than it was stupid. In addition to poking timely fun at all political extremes, there was much wry skewering of the action flick genre. They also made excellent (and unexpected) use of music. A good portion of the best laughs came from the songs, and it would not be far off to classify this movie as a musical (of sorts). My personal favorite was the parody of patriotic country-western sludge (the title of this post comes from that song), but there were plenty of great numbers. However . . .

If you aren't easily offended . . . no, scratch that. If you're very nearly impossible to offend, and you are sick unto death of the rhetoric of one or both political parties, or just of election news in general . . . go see this movie. Otherwise, stay far away. Really. (That goes for you, too, Anna . . . I know you're sick of election crap, but . . . don't.)

And . . . There it is. Mystery solved. I sneaked off campus and watched a movie that most of LeTourneau would not approve of, for one reason or another, and was generally entertained by my small corner of subversion and by messing with peoples' heads.

Ha ha ha.

P. S. Keep this little incident in mind when we watch Rashomon in a few weeks. That is all.

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October 16, 2004

Use the Life Force, Tanner


Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw

Gallagher- John Tanner, Mrs. Whitefield, Miss Ramsden, Don Juan, Rowdy Social-Democrat
Paige- Ann Whitefield, Violet Robinson, Maid, Doña Ana, Anarchist
Myself- Roebuck Ramsden, The Statue, Malone Sr., Narrator, Sulky Social-Democrat
Wilson- Octavius Robinson, Mendoza, The Devil, Duval
Barbour- Hector Malone, Henry Straker
Scholl- Narrator, Henry Straker

This play is . . . Well, I suppose that depends on how you read it. Sans Act III, this is a witty, light-hearted comedy with some great twists and turns, on a level with something like The Importance of Being Earnest. With Act III, however, what we have is . . . something altogether different and a good deal more like Faust. So much so that it hardly seems as if it could possibly have been intended for performance on the stage in this form, functioning rather more as a vehicle for Shavian philosophy (Shavian, by the way, is an extremely cool word) than something meant to entertain the shallow, theater-going public.

The extended (as in "comprising roughly a third of the play") dream sequence in Act III is a magnificent tour de force. It consists chiefly of a debate/discussion that takes place in hell between Don Juan (yes, the Don Juan), his former lover Doña Ana, a statue of her father (visiting from heaven, killed by Don Juan in a duel), and Satan himself. The first half of the dream focuses on the natures of heaven, hell, life, death, the human race, civilization, and other such trivialities. The second half is devoted to Woman.

It is very long, but as the Statue observes: "Instead of merely killing time we have to kill eternity."

The result of all this (Don Juan does most of the talking) is a crystallized brand of cynicism that is as . . . "advanced" as any I have ever seen. Everything is turned completely on its ear (see themes mentioned above for a partial listing of "everything"), with the institution of marriage being scorned and ridiculed above all things. Ultimate cynicism is a black, black pit indeed.

I think, after reading this play, that I have noticed at least that distinct difference between "Christian" and "secular" cynicism. The Christian cynic believes, or at least I believe, that having faith in the existence of pure motives behind any action taken by any human being, and above all in the purity of your own motives, is a mistake.

The secular cynic applies the same principle, not only to his fellow humans, but to their Creator . . . Not that he believes in a Creator, of course. That is precisely the problem. For if there is no Creator, then human beings uphold all of the wrong institutions and social conventions for all of the wrong reasons, constrained by a nonexistent morality which the secular cynic does not even perceive. After all, if there's no reason for it to be there, why should it trouble you? In other words, as Oscar Wilde put it, the undiluted cynic is "a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Perhaps a further discussion of the particular -isms which I subscribe to or admire, sometimes with reservations, sometimes without (romanticism, idealism, and aestheticism in addition to cynicism . . . just to name a few) is in order sometime in the future. For now, I sense that I have gotten far off track.

Read the play.

I will leave you with this quote from the end of the last act, which is so devastatingly and inevitably true (although, perhaps, not so tragic as it might at first seem) that it almost seems depressing to attempt denial:

"There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it."

And also with this quote, another piece of Shavian (I love that word!!!) wit. Though it is not from this play, keep it in mind if ever you read it lest you be swept away by an encroaching tide of semi-nihilistic philosophy and mock theology that sounds a good deal more convincing than it has any right to:

"Reading made Don Quixote a gentleman. Believing what he read made him mad."

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October 15, 2004

Texans' Night Out

As a few of you may know, there were roughly four mysterious disappearances this afternoon before supper. I and my fellow SC Texans (Randy, Gallagher, and Wilson) walked out of the Ice Cave and left campus in a very sudden and clandestine manner . . . This is our story.

About a week ago I noticed an ad in the Longview paper for a miniature golfing tournament (teams of four) at the local Putt-Putt. They were offering a widescreen version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as first prize and, Wilson having failed to acquire said movie at Wal-Mart a few weeks ago, I thought perhaps we ought to go for it.

I already knew that Randy wields a mean putter on the greens, and a quick poll of the Ice Cavers who were present at the time (Wilson and Gallagher, obviously) revealed that if the four of us organized ourselves we would be a force to be reckoned with out on the course.

We didn't want to get everyone's hopes up, of course, so we kept it a secret all week. The tournament was due to start at 4:30 and we jetted out of here very abruptly at 3:55.

Well, to make a long story as short as possible, we did really well. Wilson choked a bit on the 13th hole (his allergies were really acting up), and that was what ultimately did us in. When all was said and done, we lost by three strokes to a team of local girls.

Oh, well. I suppose it might be really galling . . . but we got their phone numbers. I'm so giving Peggy Sue a call. I'll keep you all up-to-date on how that develops, but for now I'm off for a continued evening of Friday fun. Oh, and be sure to read what my partners in crime have to say (follow the links above). Ciao.

Posted by Jared at 07:22 PM | TrackBack

October 11, 2004

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."

--Isaac Asimov

It occured to me tonight as I studied for my American Lit I midterm that there are many who still operate under a common misconception about our relations with Native American tribes. Namely, most people think that we continually pushed Indians westward, then eastward, then into the grave as we settled North America simply because we wanted their land. These same people are under the impression that we couldn't have it while they were on it because settlers who tried that had a nasty habit of winding up scalpless.

These people would be wrong. And if you'll hold on for just a second, I will dramatically change paragraphs and tell you why.

Okay, you still with me? Good. The reason we couldn't suffer the Indians to stay put clearly had nothing to do with pretty fields or bloody heads. It was a matter of national pride. It was a matter of self-respect. It was a matter of no longer having to feel the pricks of the razor-edged, rapier wit of an "inferior" people.

In short, we couldn't take the zingers anymore.

I had to read some Native American oratory and one speech in particular made me cringe, separated though I am by two hundred years and half a continent. I give you (and don't worry, it's pretty short):

The Speech of Red Jacket - Having lived as an MK for the lion's share of my life to date, I couldn't help but empathize with the targets of this speech (missionaries asking for permission to set up a mission among his people). In fact, I'm almost positive that one of my first thoughts was, "Ha! Sucks to be them!"

Brother! This council fire was kindled by you. It was at your request that we came together at this time. We have listened with attention to what you have said. You have requested us to speak our minds freely. This gives us great joy, for we now consider that we stand upright before you, and can speak what we think. All have heard your voice and all speak to you as one man. Our minds are agreed.

Brother! Our seats were once large, and yours were very small. You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country, but you are not satisfied. You want to force your religion upon us.

Brother! Continue to listen. You say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to his mind; and if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right, and we are lost. How do you know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for us as well as for you, why has not the Great Spirit given it to us; and not only to us, but why did he not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that book, with the means of understanding it rightly? We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?

Brother! You say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agreed, as you can all read the book?

Brother! We do not understand these things. We are told that your religion was given to your forefathers and has been handed down, father to son. We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us, their children. We worship that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we received, to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion.

Brother! The Great Spirit has made us all. But he has made a great difference between his white and red children. He has given us a different complexion and different customs. To you he has given the arts; to these he has not opened our eyes. We know these things to be true. Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may not we conclude that he has given us a different religion, according to our understanding? The Great Spirit does right. He knows what is best for his children. We are satisfied.

Brother! We do not wish to destroy your religion, or to take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own.

Brother! We are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while, and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good and makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again what you have said.

Ouch. I mean . . . what do you . . . can you . . . even say to that? Nothing!

1)Hang head, 2)Tuck tail between legs, and 3)Go home. And take the other whites with you. You lose.

Or . . .

Well, you could just . . .

*whispers* Kill them . . .

Y'know, it just flat-out sucks that the intellectual victory is never really enough. Might doesn't make right . . . But then, it doesn't need to.

Put that in your peace pipe and smoke it.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

October 07, 2004

"And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs."

-- King John, Act III, Sc. i


King John by William Shakespeare

Gallagher- King John, Austria, Hubert De Burgh
Wilson- Essex, Faulconbridge, Dauphin, Chatillon, French Herald, Bigot
Myself- Philip the Bastard, Arthur, First Citizen, Cardinal Pandulph
Barbour- Pembroke, James Gurney, King Philip, English Herald, Hubert De Burgh
Paige- Eleanor of Aquitaine, Blanch, Peter of Pomfret, Pembroke
Anna- Constance, Lady Falcounbridge, Messenger, Melun
Scott- Salisbury, Hubert De Burgh, Cardinal Pandulph
Scholl- Salisbury

People just don't do this play, so much. And it's one that I had never read before now . . . but you may recall my recently stated desire to spend more time in the 11th-13th centuries, and this seemed like just the ticket. And it was a good play!

Of course, it was Shakespeare.

The title quote, by the way, comes from a really funny running joke that . . . would take too long to explain. It was a great play to read after watching The Lion in Winter about a month back. Kind of like a sequel, basically. John, Eleanor, and Philip II are all back, and all of the other major characters have spouses or hellspawn floating around. That alone makes it worthwhile.

I know Gallagher enjoyed himself as King John, Wilson as the Dauphin, and Barbour as King Philip II. The breakdown largely worked . . . I could really see them squaring off like this. I had a great deal of fun playing Philip, the bastard son of Richard Coeur-de-lion, who is an unusual combination of fearless, capable leader (hero), scoundrel (anti-hero), and court jester (comic relief). He is particularly interesting as the one competent leader on the English side . . . and through a trick of fate he has no chance of becoming king. And that doesn't bother him at all. I'll have to remember his character for possible fun literary analysis and historical research later . . .

In fact, for all that King John is largely ignored, it has a very lively cast of compelling characters. I had no trouble imagining any of them as real people. Definitely worthwhile.

Posted by Jared at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

October 06, 2004

You almost filmed WHAT?!

Okay, it's been over two months since I devoted a post to something sufficiently geeky (and English geekiness doesn't count) so here we go.

Return of the King: Extended Edition will be released on December 14th. This is clearly unacceptable . . . a full month after the last installment was released a year ago. What is that?! That doesn't leave me nearly enough of a comfortable margin to squeeze in a trilogy marathon before we go our separate ways at Christmas.


They'll try to make up for this with the promise of 50 extra minutes of footage . . . and I'll admit that I am slightly mollified by the prospect. Here is a fairly detailed listing of the new stuff we'll see. I am even more mollified.

And there is a floating rumor of a possible Thanksgiving-ish theatrical release of the EE in select theaters. It is possible that I will be even less upset, but I'm not banking on it.

Oh, and by the way, if any of you have a problem with new material that screws with the canon, I found something that might provide a bit of perspective. While scrolling through the titles of various special features that will be included in the two discs of "Appendices" I came across the following: "Abandoned Concept: Aragorn Battles Sauron."

*sigh of relief* That was a close one, my friends.

Posted by Jared at 04:30 PM | TrackBack

October 05, 2004

Why I Changed

Within an hour the morning classes were under way. At an ink-stained desk, with his chin cupped in his hands, Titus was contemplating, as in a dream, the chalk-marks on the blackboard. They represented a sum in short division, but might as well have been some hieroglyphic message from a moonstruck prophet to his lost tribe a thousand years ago. His mind, and the minds of his small companions in that leather-walled schoolroom, was far away, but in a world, not of prophets, but of swopped marbles, birds' eggs, wooden daggers, secrets and catapults, midnight feasts, heroes, deadly rivalries and desperate friendships.

--Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast

Posted by Jared at 02:56 PM | TrackBack

October 04, 2004

The Cure for Rainy Monday Mornings

I woke up in our recliner, TOKAR, at about 8:30 this morning, and the apartment was uncharacteristically dim. Suddenly, a peal of thunder sounded from outside. Peering groggily out through the blinds, I could see rain falling lightly from a heavily overcast sky. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

When Gallagher woke me about an hour and a half later to go to chapel, everything looked more or less the same, and I informed him (very eloquently, I'm sure) that I would not be attending. Then I went back to sleep again.

I woke up again, about an hour later I think, to the sound of more thunder outside. As I buried myself deeper under the warm blankets the clouds thundered twice more in rapid succession. Then the noise from outside subsided once more into the gentle pattering of raindrops. I allowed the sound to lull me back to sleep.

When I finally got up at about 1:30 (with plenty of time to find some lunch and still make it to my 2:35 class) I realized that it has been a long time indeed since I felt so content with a pleasant night's/morning's rest. Few things make sleep as satisfying as the knowledge that the alternative involves getting up and tromping around in the cold and the wet and sitting in an uncomfortable chair in class or chapel listening to someone drone . . .

You should know, however, that I did not do what I did this morning only for myself. I did it for all people everywhere, glorying in my blissful rest all the more knowing that you would love to have been where I was. You, for whatever reason, were unable to sleep in, and so I did it for you.

I extended my weekend and napped in a recliner under warm blankets all morning for you, dear reader.

You're welcome.

Posted by Jared at 04:13 PM | TrackBack