On Halloween…

Hello loyal fans. Halloween has come and gone. Once again, no Trick-or-Treaters arrived at my door. Curses! A pox upon living in an apartment complex! I miss the Halloweiners showing up at my door begging for delicious confections. As curmudgeonly and misogynistic as I am, I never fail to have a few things on hand just in case the little ones actually come rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

And now, a word on the roots of Halloween. If you were unaware, the roots of Halloween can be found in the pagan traditions of Medieval Europe. The tradition of dressing up was supposed to pacify spirits who, according to these beliefs, were able to exist in the world of the living on October 31st. The day fell one day before All Hallows Day, a day in which all the Catholic saints were to be worshiped. Over time, All Hallows Day became All Saints Day and All Hallows Even (the day before) was shortened to Hallowe’en and, ultimately, Halloween. Most Americans did not celebrate Halloween until the late 1800s when Irish immigrants (the most hated of all immigrants at the time) brought the holiday into popular celebration. Presumably, the Puritan traditions still present in the U.S. presented the celebration of the day prior to this time. Halloween, in the form we know it, was not widely celebrated in the U.S. until the post WWII boom of the 1950s. The popularity of the holiday and the going ons surrounding it are evidenced by the preponderance of B Movies (e.g. The Blob and Creature From The Black Lagoon) and “creepy” TV shows (e.g. The Munsters and The Adams Family) which followed the Halloween theme.

I elected to honor our fine nation on this spooktacular day with a tribute to one of our most beloved presidents.

batchlincoln

Quote of the Day:

“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” – Abraham Lincoln

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Published in: on November 1, 2007 at 9:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Cupcakes, Physicals, And Japan…

Hello loyal fans.  I would like to speak to you today about a few things, two of which I do not particularly find enjoyable and one which I admire.  The first is the cupcake.  The second is the hernia check.  The last is Japan.  While I have not had cupcakes or a hernia checked in a number of years, over the weekend both subjects managed to come up.  Around the same point, the beauty of Japanese culture also arose.  No doubt, there is some sort of comparison to be made here between American and Japan and such.

All of this began with an innocent cupcake dessert (of which I did not partake).  I might have considered the cupcake option if they were the vanilla kind with the little colored candies inside, but alas they were chocolate…bane of my existence.  The aforementioned chocolate cupcakes were also frostinged (I just made that word up) liberally and covered in a variety of Halloween themed sprinkles…neither of which I can condone.  Nevertheless, I am sure they were delightful for those who do enjoy such confections.

The other topic of conversation was the physical.  Somehow, and at this point I cannot recall why, the concept of “turn your head and cough” arose.  The simple question was asked, “why turn your head?”.  The simple answer…so you do not cough on the doctor/nurse/etc.

While this was all going on I was reflecting on my perception of Japanese culture as quite beautiful.  While I came to the conclusion that my perception might have been based on my position as an outsider, I am not yet willing to conceded that the only reason for my admiration is that.
Whatever the case, as a result of all this silliness a haiku was born.  So, with mad props…thats right…I said “mad props” to Julie, I give to you our Haiku:

Gently rustling leaves.

Turn your head and cough, they say;

Warm cupcakes…cold balls.

Quote of the Day:

“Garth…that was a haiku!” – Mike Myers as Wayne Campbell in Wayne’s World

Published in: on October 1, 2007 at 9:46 pm  Comments (4)  

On Medical Marijuana…

Hello loyal fans. We had a couple of very interesting class discussions today on the issue of medical marijuana. They arose from a discussion of contemporary issues which developed as a result of the system of federalism as established in the Constitution. As I thought about the issue some more, I began to contemplate the issue of drug regulation in general. I definitely do not have a problem with medical marijuana, but when the discussion turns to the legalization of recreational drugs I have always been on a bit of a fence. Generally, I am in favor of the legalization and taxation of marijuana, but so called “hard drugs” has been a bit of another story; as I have meandered through life, I really find myself in a bit of a quandary over the issue. I have seen a number of people’s lives go down hill following their regular use of marijuana, but I have also seen a number of people have no problems at all. Ultimately, I do not think the wacky weed is responsible for their problems; rather, I think they had a number of issues already which I am not willing to conceded their marijuana use exacerbated. Even if it did, I have little doubt that their general life path would not have changed much had they not partaken of the marijuana.

Now, in no way am I trying to promote the use of marijuana or other drugs, but I think there is something to be said for the legalization, regulation, and sale of marijuana as a product. Eighty years ago, during prohibition, America discovered that it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to legislate morality; making alcohol illegal, in fact, likely increased consumption. Making tobacco illegal certainly seems unlikely to decrease the amount of smokers (if those lovely “Truth” commercials have not done it…why would laws which nobody reads). I can only assume that, given the number of marijuana users, the sale and taxation of said product would be a profitable venture; beyond that, it would likely alleviate much of the petty theft and street crime associated with the drug.

As I was logging in today I came across an interesting review of 60 Minutes’ special on medical marijuana in California. If you are interested in the debate it might be worth checking out: Click Here!

Quote of the Day:

“Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.” – Ronald Reagan

Published in: on September 24, 2007 at 5:14 pm  Comments (1)  

On The Cell Phone Problem…

Hello loyal fans. I was reading a great little article on the “Cell Phone Problem” as I like to call it. As school begins I am always shocked by the attachment all the kids seem to have to their cell phones. The kids literally feel like they have to be on their phones every free moment of the day. I concede that it is convenient to have a cell phone from time to time, but in actuality, the feeling of constant connection has always created more consternation than security for me. Why would someone want to always be able to be found? I do not understand it. Beyond that, it is somewhat disheartening to me that the expectation is one’s cell phone will always be at the ready. If you do not return a call within a few minutes it seems people think you are somehow “bad” or “uncaring”. Beyond that, people really have no clue what the proper time to use a cell phone may be. Have I spoken on the phone while driving? Yes. Do I do it regularly? No. Have I spoken on the phone in a store? Yes…but generally only long enough to tell someone I will call them back. Have I spoken on the phone in a restaurant or theater? Never!

I say, read the article and give some of the suggestions a shot. Try turning off your phone for a weekend and see if you can survive. When you think about it, man had survived for thousands of years without cell phones…why do we now believe we cannot? Has society programmed us so effectively to believe we are that incompetent and helpless?

Quote of the Day:

“Yes, terrorism has scared (and scarred) us, but realistically, if a nuclear bomb hits Los Angeles, my cell phone is not going to do much to help me.” – Patrick Moore

Published in: on September 8, 2007 at 10:42 am  Leave a Comment  

On Happy Violence…

Hello loyal fans. Let me give a big “huzzah” to the researchers at the UCLA School of Public Health! They have been checking out PG-13 rated films and, according to the article, the vast majority of these films are filled with what they have come to call “Happy Violence”… As defined in the article, Happy Violence is violence from which the consequences are never seen. George Gerbner defined it as violence which is “cool, swift, and painless”. I think it is impossible not to agree that, in general, our entertainment is literally full of Happy violence. Apparently, nearly 90% of PG-13 films contain this so called Happy Violence.

I think this study explains a great deal about the poor decisions being made by adolescents (and many adults). Interestingly, I do not usually ascribe to theories which promote the notion of media unduly influencing the decisions of rational humans. What I have come to realize, however, is that most Americans are simply not rational humans. Fundamentally, our nation is one of undereducated, irrational, unthinking buffoons who rarely put more than a moments thought into anything they do. In a world where television is perceived as reality by so many adults, I can only assume that they are simply too stupid to realize the difference. If that is the case, I can only assume that the children of these idiots are, in fact, likely to believe that violence (and their actions in general) do, in fact, have no consequences. It explains so much. When the American empire falls, we will know the cause! Television.

Quote of the Day:

“One of television’s great contributions is that it brought murder back into the home, where it belongs.” – Alfred Hitchcock

“I think that parents only get so offended by television because they rely on it as a babysitter and the sole educator of their kids.” – Trey Parker and Matt Stone

Published in: on August 8, 2007 at 10:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Personification…

Hello loyal fans. I checked out The Simpsons movie a few days ago with some friends; it was most satisfactory. If you are a fan of The Simpsons you will, no doubt, love it as there were a lot of great references back to some of the great past TV episodes. If you are not a big fan of The Simpsons, you will still have a good time.

But, to the point of my entry for today: personification. Do not misunderstand, I appreciate some personification now and again…who among us does not? While at the film, however, it was pointed out to me that nearly every time a dog appears in film it is personified. Think about it…the dog comes around the corner, sees somebody making out on a couch, tilts its head, raises its eyebrows and makes some sort of “rwrrr?” noise…it never fails! The dog is running and almost falls off a cliff…it raises its eyebrows and says “rwrrr”… The dog’s master burns himself down below while cooking naked…the dog tips its head, raises its eyebrows and makes that same annoying “rwrrr” noise.

Now, I have known a lot of dogs and I have never known a dog which would raise its eyebrows and proclaim “rwrrr” at the appropriate moment. No, dogs definitely do not do that. Dogs chase tennis balls, drool, and wear sunglasses on their tails.

dogsunglasses

Shame on the film industry for degrading the noble canine in this manner. This is, as pointed out by my esteemed associate, the most stupid and annoying trend in modern film making. Hopefully it will go away just as other annoying film trends of the past have done. Rarely do we see The Matrix style camera effects which were all the rage for a few years; gone are the days of crazy dance sequences performed by body doubles (see Flashdance); eventually, our fascination with Scream style films has waned and no longer do we see hundreds of kids in ghost masks every Halloween; the annoying shaky camera a la The Blair Witch Project has disappeared all together. Hopefully, the dog thing will go the way of these other annoying movie gimmicks.

Because of my outrage over this idiocy, despite my love for the cartoon version of Underdog, I will not be seeing the upcoming film of the same name. Of course, the fact that the film looks to be absolute drivel may have influenced my decision as well…

Quote of the Day:

“Better not take a dog on the space shuttle, because if he sticks his head out when you’re coming home his face might burn up.” – Jack Handy

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

Published in: on August 3, 2007 at 10:54 am  Leave a Comment  

On The Metaphor And The Simile…

Hello loyal fans. The metaphor and the simile are lost from our lexicon like an ancient treasure ship cast under during an intense storm on the Mediterranean. Our linguistic stylings have become as bland as a low sodium cracker. As Vodoun sorcers revive the dead, so too must Americans revive the simile and the metaphor. Text without metaphor is shape without form, and as we read text without metaphor, our dried voices are quiet and meaningless.

What brought this to my mind today was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation I happened to (re)watch. This particular episode, titled “Darmok“, involves Picard and a Tamarian (alien) named Dathon. Dathon and Picard are stranded on a dangerous planet inhabited by some sort of angry creature intent on killing them. While, presumably, the two would easily defeat the creature were they able to communicate effectively, they are not able to do so. Picard’s universal translator, though still functional, is unable to translate the metaphors the Tamarian language relies upon to explain core concepts. It is fascinating to watch Picard and Dathon develop common linguistic ground across these metaphors. Despite its inconvenience to outsiders, a little part of me wishes we spoke this way. I think it might make us a bit more cognizant of our global history as well.

For example:

“I hate you” would become “Hitler and the Jews”

“It will not work” would become simply “Communism”

“Lost and alone” would become “Amelia Earhart in a plane”

“Amazing” would become “Pyramids with hand tools”

“Coming together/unity” would become “Oda Nobunaga and his samurai on the islands”

“Dishonor/unfaithfulness” would become “Tristan and Iseult in the forest”

Anyway, it sounds good to me!  Hooray for metaphors!  Hooray for not being ignorant Americans!
Quote of the Day:

“Gilgamesh and Enkidu at Uruk.” – Patrick Stewart as Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Published in: on June 6, 2007 at 6:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Existentialism…

Hello loyals fans. Recent events have brought existentialism back to the forefront of my mind. I was first exposed to this philosophy in high school when reading The Stranger by Albert Camus and The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Fascinated by the ideology, I later read The Plague, also by Camus. I found a great deal of validity in the system of thought he presented; this inspired me to read No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre, and from then on I have, to a degree, attempted to bear in mind existential philosophy as I go through life.

The basic tenets of existentialism lend a great deal of illumination to man’s plight on earth. Humanity, it seems, always seeks to create order out of chaos; existential thinking recognizes this and points out the absolute absurdity of attempting to do so. Rather than the universe (and life) being a place of order, existential thought asserts that life is, in fact, the antithesis of order. There is no “greater meaning” or “purpose” for existence. Because humans generally operate under the assumption that life has some sort of order and structure, existentialists argue that traditional means of thought serve only to delude and misguide people. Existentialism, instead, teaches a sort of individualism in which each person is responsible for making his own meaning in every moment without reliance on society and the order it attempts to impose on the sheer chaos which is life. Many existentialists reject outright the notion of God; if there were some sort of higher power, they argue, the world would, in fact, have meaning and structure. In an irrational universe it is illogical to search for personal satisfaction through the value set of a failed society.

To many (especially those who have explored existentialism superficially), the world of the existentialist seems completely devoid of meaning. Existentialism is often connected with alienation, malaise, and dread, particularly in literature; this is often a result of the tendency for protagonists in existential literature to embody such character traits. In many cases, however, the reason these characters experience these feelings is not a result of existential philosophy, but in fact their inability to conform to the standards of social order which they feel do not apply to the world around them. They find that the lack of meaning in their lives is a direct result of society and “order”. Existentialism is, therefore, incredibly rich in meaning; far more rich than the constraining world of so called “social order” to which many attempt to conform. The existentialist looks for value and significance in every instant of life, rather than committing time and energy straining to subjugate his individuality to the social suppositions superimposed by society. In an irrational universe there is great meaning, it simply must be made, not found.

The moment, and the individual, are everything to the existentialist. This pure individualism in the face of irrational existence is, in a way, incredibly reasonable. Self reliance is an important aspect of existentialism; one cannot rely on others for support and assistance in a world without structure. As we see every day, social regulations naturally fail; it is individual regulation which is the key.

Bear in mind that existentialism is a very personal philosophy (naturally). People tend to interpret the philosophy in their own unique way. The more one reads the deeper that understanding becomes and the more refined that interpretation becomes.

For further consideration of existential philosophy, consider the following films and books which embody many aspects of existential philosophy:

Literature (other than that mentioned above):

Steppenwolf – Herman Hesse
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Notes From The Underground – Fydor Dostoevsky
The works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Soren Kierkegaard, and Martin Heidegger

Films:

Fight Club
Taxi Driver
Deliverance
Apocalypse Now
Groundhog Day
Trainspotting
Cool Hand Luke
Bad Lands
Leaving Las Vegas

Quotes of the Day:

“So long as a man can look into the eyes of his oppressor, he is free.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

“We have nothing to lose except everything.” – Albert Camus

Published in: on June 1, 2007 at 10:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

On The National Anthem…

Hello loyal fans. I am not trying to be “unpatriotic” here, but our National Anthem is terribly inferior to many around the world. Whenever I hear The Star Spangled Banner I cringe just a little bit. I love Francis Scott Key and all, and he writes a fine poem, but nothing about The Star Spangled Banner strikes fear in the heart of our foes nor brings honor to our national heritage. Where is the inspiration to bathe in the blood of my recently slaughtered enemies?

Think about the song for a moment. The poem it is composed of was written not about glorious victory or the bloody death of enemies, as one would hope, but about Fort McHenry in Baltimore, MD simply not being destroyed during the War of 1812. In fact, Key wrote the poem from within a British prison vessel. That is our finest moment? A moment immortalized in our National Anthem? Some guy sitting in a prison being happy that a fort was not destroyed in a war we unquestionably lost? Even the music is based off a British drinking song, the very nation we were at war with in 1814.

I submit to you the French National Anthem, La Marseillaise. The French are a people with a fine National Anthem and heritage. The entire song is about the death of their enemies. Granted, the French have not actually managed to win a war (let a lone a battle) in a while, but at least La Marseillaise makes you think they might be able to.

Next, I submit for your consideration the German National Anthem, Das Lied der Deutschen, informally known as Deutschland über alles. The entire song expresses German superiority to all other nations of the world. Unlike the French, we know the Germans will back that one up with some firepower.

I will continue to remove my hat and stand respectfully during The Star Spangled Banner, but, frankly, I simply can not get fired up by our song. I wish we had something a bit more…inspiring; it does not rise in me the blood lust a national anthem really should. But hey, at least we aren’t England…and the music is okay…so death to our enemies! Glory, glory, hallelujah…the truth is marching on!

Quote of the Day:

“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.” – Albert Einstein

Published in: on May 23, 2007 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Linguistic Incompetence…

Hello loyal fans. This flyer was posted on my door this morning by the apartment manager (click for full size).

aptflyer

Now, I freely concede that I make a typo or grammatical error from time to time, especially in my blog. This notice, however, is something to be widely distributed to people for whom the complex provides a service. I can not fathom how so many errors can be allowed in a document which represents a business. In simply glancing over the document I counted 23 errors. I am not trying to single out this one business; this general level of linguistic incompetence is incredibly common.

I wonder if such error-riddled documents are a result of simple ineptitude or if, perhaps, the problem is laziness. I also wonder if this is as troublesome to others as it is to me. Whether it be laziness or incompetence, this certainly speaks volumes about the valus of our nation.

Quote of the Day:

“In the commerce of speech use only coin of gold and silver.” – Joseph Joubert

Published in: on May 13, 2007 at 8:22 pm  Leave a Comment