Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Colours

I've reverted to the default colours. Really, I didn't think the greens worked for my template. I will tweak the colour scheme as time goes by, but I should go to bed now. I have an early morning tomorrow (returning to school).

Monday, 29 December 2008

American Gods

I just finished American Gods (see the post "Christmas Haul"). I have moved on to Rat. I have a few post upcoming: my day at the butterfly place, and reviews of Wall-E, Love Actually, and maybe some others. Also, a review of American Gods, and maybe an analysis of the comma.

In the meantime, here's a line from American Gods:

"One describes a tale best by telling the tale. You see? The way one describes a story, to oneself or to the world, is by telling the story. It is a balancing act and it is a dream. The more accurate the map, the more it resembles the territory. The most accurate map possible would be the territory, and thus would be perfectly accurate and perfectly useless.
"The tale is the map that is the territory.
"You must remember this.
"—from the Notebooks of Mr. Ibis"

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Movie Review: Money Train

For this review we harken back to 1995. This is most certainly a 90s cop movie. We've got all the necessary elements: difficult authority figures, sexual rivalry between friends, trademark 90s barscenes, a positive representation of the police force, and those sweaters. It follows a pair of adopted brothers who deal with the various criminal elements in the transit system while the transit commissioner seems above the law, so long as you're in his tunnels. The younger of the two, played by Woody Harrelson, is constantly getting into gambling trouble, needing rescue from Wesley Snipes' character. Add into the mix the new-comer to the team, the sultry and flirtatious Grace Santiago, who doesn't seem to mind getting it on with either guy, a psychopathic pyromaniac played by Chris Cooper (the Bourne series' Conklin, Breach's Robert Hansenn, The Patriot's Col. Harry Burwell), and some unfriendly loan sharks, and you get a decent movie.

What makes this movie interesting is that it's the cops who are constantly plotting to rob the money train and not any particular criminal mastermind. The bad guy is the boss, not the crook. The relationship between the Snipes and Harrelson is interesting, to say the least.

It's a solid movie. It's not award-winning stuff, but it's enjoyable. To a certain extent, I miss good old buddy cop movies like these.

Movie Review: Burn After Reading

As with Cleaner, I had no idea what to expect when I began watching this movie. I really mean that. I did not know what genre it was, or anything beyond the title and that George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and Brad Pitt were in it. After having watched it, I still don't really know. It's a comedy, yes, but also a spy movie, maybe.

The plot revolves around a CD, on which is written the incoherent and largely irrelevant memoir of a low-clearance ex-spy, found by gym trainers who try to return it to the writer of the memoir in exchange for enough money to pay off one character's cosmetic surgery. The ex-spy, however, doesn't know anything about the disc, considering his litigous and frosty wife has made it in preperation for her impending divorce. Things start getting out of control, people start getting paranoid, people start getting divorced, people start getting shot, and no one ever gets the complete picture.

What is interesting about the movie is not its bizarre plot, but its even more bizarre characters. George Clooney plays Harry Pfarrer, a paranoid, womanizing-yet-uxophilic illiterate who works for the treasury and jogs. Francis McDormand plays Linda Litzke, a plastic-surgery-obsessed gym trainer who who believes in positive thinking and has a weird metaphor for every situation. John Malkovich plays Osbourne Cox, the foul-mouthed, axe-wielding screw-up ex-spy with a drinking problem. Tilda Swinton plays Katie Cox, the vicious adulterous wife of Cox whose bedside manner makes her previous role as the White Witch look like the Tooth Fairy. Best of all is Brad Pitt, who plays a goofy, incapable gym trainer who has the most can-do attitude Linda Litzke has ever met. Each of these characters, not to mention the secondary characters and even many of the bit parts, are flawless gems, honed to perfection.

The movie is quirky, surprising, and very bizarre. The hilarious characters and situations turn these traits into its best characteristics. I suggest it for anyone who can handle unorthodox films.

---

I thought this up last night:

Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what your country can do for the world.

--adapted from Kennedy

Chrysalis

I went to a butterfly place today. I'll give you the whole story later. For now I'll throw you this photomanipulation of a chrysalis picture I took.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Movie Review: No Country for Old Men

[Note: spoilers]

No Country for Old Men: This is quite the tense movie. There's lots of shooting, lots of close calls, and lots of old Southern grit. It has some witty dialogue and I really enjoyed watching Moss and his wife. They were an interesting pair. What it lacks is any sense of resolution. The absence of any score highlights that, especially at the end, since this is where we expect music to ease the transition into the credits. There is no such transition here. The ending just...comes. For everyone, too. I did not expect the way in which characters died or lived.

In general, the camera work was great, the plot was engaging and original, and the acting was superb. The villian was excellent, if strangely reminiscent of Ledger's Joker. His voice was so creepy and yet still basically human.

I don't have much to say about this one.

Christmas Haul

Well, in the absence of any profound religious realizations this Christmas, and in light of the absolute ineffability of family bonding, I'm looking only at the consumer end of things right now. As far as that goes, Christmas was pretty good, though I have a lot of reading to do in the coming year. A lot.

1) A cloth snowman full of candy. This is traditional.
2) A box of Mike & Ikes or whatever they are.
3) A Tide stain spot remover thingbob.
4) A large coffee table book of rainforests.
5) Stardust by Neil Gaiman.
6) American Gods by same.
7) Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury,
8) Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (same guy as Empire of the Sun, I believe)
9) Rat: How the World's Most Notorious Rodent Clawed Its Way to the Top by Jerry Langton.
10) Luxor Mahjong, a computer game by Mumbo Jumbo.
11) The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (vampires, I think).
12) Monsters and Mysterious Places by Abbeydale Press.
13) Allen's English Phrases of the Penguin Reference Library.
14) The Sacred Bones by Michael Byrnes, said to be the next Dan Brown.
15) The Ultimate Guide to Digital Photography, 2nd edition.
16) The Joy of Photography, by the editors of Eastern Kodak Company
17) a President's Choice gift card
18) a Coles-Chapters-Indigo gift card
19) jeans
20) socks
21) Shawshank Repedemption
22) Get Smart
23) quarter "shares" in a board game called Such & Such.

Which seems to me to be a more than ample haul.

I gave, let me see, a calendar to my mother, a graphic novel and bag of coal to my brother (candy coal, that is, though when he was experimenting with blacksmithing, real coal would likely have been well received), and helped pay for a gift card for my Dad and a book of Rick Mercer's rants. There were other gift cards in there, too. I'm not a huge fan of giving gifts cards, but I often have difficulty thinking of anything else. And I'm too poor to get stuff for my friends at school right now.

Other things that are happening now is that I'm trying to get through the book Through Black Spruce, which won the Giller Prize. My university has given a copy to every English Language and Literature concentrator at the school, which includes your truly. It's an enjoyable book, but it takes time to get through.

Also, my brother and I have spent some time discussing a graphic novel we're working on. I wrote the script, and he's doing the art. The script will require editing, likely in the form of drastic cutting and condenscing. There are too many static scenes which work for pure dialogue but may not be visually interesting, cut with action sequences that will be exhausting. You can go to his blog to see some of the work he's done for it. That's here, here, here, and here.

There has also been time spent with family (extended and immediate) and with my dog Copper. When she's excited, Copper will put her nose and sometimes whole face under your arm--given that you're sitting and have your arms out ahead of you, as though you were typing or eating a meal--and then trash her head around, often beating her fuzzy brown skull against your torso, the table edge, etc. Or she'll give a more artful flip of her nose, which removes your hand from the mouse and onto her head. These are her key attention-getting techniques. Right now she's just lying on the floor, though.

That's been my Christmas holiday so far. I hope you've enjoyed the post.

God bless to all,

English Clergyman

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Movie Review: Cleaner

I went into this movie with no idea what to expect. All I saw was the cast, and that was a fairly good sign: Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendez, Ed Harris.
It's about Tom Cutler, an ex-cop who cleans up the mess of the recently deceased (and other biohazardous materials). He cleans up a routine homicide commissioned by the police, except when he returns after forgetting to leave the key under the mat, he discovers that the clean-up was not so routine after all...

I thought that this was a good movie. It was not your standard cop movie in that it did not have any action sequences. It was more like a detective film: ex-cop gets in trouble, tries to solve mystery, deals with family troubles, and delves into his own past. Even in that, though, it wasn't quite the same. It had less clue-following, in that Cutler tended to stumble into to clues and ask the wrong questions.
The filmwork was solid, though generally unimpressive--the highlights were the cleaning episodes. The acting was strong, which is necessary in a character-driven mystery. Samuel L. Jackson, when not being ridiculous, is usually impressive, and this was no exception. Eva Mendez was good, as were the supporting cast. Most interesting of all was the gradually unfolding of the characters' backstories. These were excellent.
I really have little else to say. The occupation is disgusting, but fascinating. Death-curiosity, I suppose, is a strong draw. I almost wrote that it would make a good exploitation flick, but then realized it would not. A good exploitation flick would not be able to deal with someone who cleans messes instead of makes them.

Given that it's Christmas Eve...

...I get the sense that I should write something all religious-y. I haven't done that in a while, which maybe doesn't upset too many people. However, it seems seasonal and I don't know how much I'll be writing tomorrow. That being said, I don't know that I have much to write about. It's really one of those things where I'd only produce a post if I had something in mind to say, and I don't suppose I do right now. Unless it's negative, like smashing Dawkins or saying where religious groups are going wrong with the Christmas furor. That all has its place, but I tend to think of Christmas as a time of peace, not of criticism.

Well, so much for seasonal.

Movie Review: Starship Troopers

[Note: spoilers]

Starship Troopers: I watched this one because I heard the book was one of the most important science fiction novels of all time. You know, one of the top twenty-five to have defined the genre. It's about war and its effects on people and society, written by a vet. You can see that influence in the movie itself, though I have to wonder how much of the genre-defining qualities were lost in the page-to-film translation. It comes out, for the most part, as a simple science-fiction bug-shooter blended with an army movie, but for little touches that make you forced to wonder how much more there is to it. For instance, there's the scene where the enroller says of the man character's acceptance into the Mobile Infantry, "The Infantry made me the man I am today," and then rolls back his chair to reveal that his cyber-prosthetic arm is the tip of the iceberg to his two missing legs. This makes you think a little more about the rhetoric of manhood and nation- or identity-forming through the military, but the moment is fleeting. Add to this the brutal training methods at boot camp and the creepy fascist undertones (particularly the Intelligence guys in the Nazi SS getup), and you get pro-war, pro-America jingoism played in enough of a minor key that you're forced to get that there's a bit more to it than what's on the surface.

There are two elements that make this movie really stand out for me, one good and one bad. The good comes first.

The romantic interest story in the movie, while fairly simple, is one of the most convincing I've seen. Boyfriend and girlfriend each have interests on the side; the guy has a girl from highschool after him who he's pushing away, and the girl has a guy from another school flirting with her to whom she's more than willing to give, shall we say, attention. After winding up in different arms of the military, she dumps him via a Dear John video. He falls into the other girl's arms--she's been assigned to his squad--and she's already started a dalliance with that other guy, who's her superior officer. The main girl (Christmas Jones from The World is Not Enough, incidentally) thinks the main guy dies, and things go on from there. But then the two side interests, after finally getting what they're after, up and die near the end of the movie, getting themselves conveniently out of the way for the inevitable reunion between main guy and main girl. Except that that reunion is never explicitly romantic, or the romantic side of it doesn't happen onscreen, at any rate. There are two other movies to deal with that, but I don't know for sure that they're in those movies. Anyway, that part of the story was actually enjoyable and not taken for granted by the scriptwriters.

The part I had trouble with is also near the end, so don't read if you want to watch the movie. The bugs have in their colonies a caste dubbed 'the brains,' which are old and intelligent insects that organize the bugs' attacks and defenses. They also suck out human brains either for analysis or for augmentation to their brain power; I'm not sure which. Anyway, by the end of the movie they catch one and the protagonist's best friend from highschool, a sensitive, manages to read its mind. With dramatic pause, out of the sunlight scene of victory, he says of the disabled creature, "It's . . . afraid." Everyone cheers. After this we see the three highschool friends chumming it up, reunited at last, and celebration goes out for the army trainer who finally made private. Yay! And then we are subjected to a news video montage about the progress of the war, the advances being made, the brave commanding troops, a call for enlistment, etc. Included is a shot of the brain bug in a lab being subjected to obviously painful experiments. All of this is packaged like the optimistic news war reports of the 40s-60s, with pluckly music in the background. And then we see starships flying out into space with a rising score almost akin to the famous introduction and conclusion music of Star Wars. And this makes me queasy, because all I see is this bug being tortured and terrified by oppressive captures. I realize this is the same bug that killed Christmas Jones' bf through brain-sucking, and that it instigated a reign of terror on several humans, but I still have a hard time dealing with the plucky and again jingoistic treatment of cruelty, even on enemies. What makes it even more disturbing is that I can't tell whether the film is intended to be understood this way, or whether it is at this point meant to be read on surface level. Any suggestions from folks who've seen the movie?

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas Colours

I've changed everthing into Christmas colours to match the season; I'll keep it up until the New Year.

More Phun on Photoshop

For this one I chose a photograph that had a more colourful subject. It turned out to be fairly difficult to determine what all was the flamingo I had chosen and what was not, so it may not have turned out so well after all.

Anyway, here it is.


Movie Review: Aeon Flux



[Note: spoilers.]

Aeon Flux: Perfectly mediocre. I did not expect much, and that's what I got. It's a serviceable sci-fi utopian deal, and the secret past gimmick was not a huge surprise. As always, they got the technology a little wrong--as with The Island, there's no reason cloning should work like that--but whatever. And the female assassin bit worked exactly as I expected, so nothing wrong there. I was a bit surprised when she was overcome with lust for her archenemy and proceeded to lay him, and I was also a little surprised when she handily killed him afterwards--but then didn't after all. I expected a bit more interesting characterization when she strangled him, but maybe I oughtn't have.

One thing that bothered me (as with Daredevil) was characters' ability to move at peak human performance despite crippling injuries. Aeon's four-handed sidekick managed to continue acrobatics after getting her hand-feet pierced by those nasty grass-razors, for instance, and the male lead managed to assault his clone-brother despite his bullet-wounds. Unlikely.

Everything said and done, it was an enjoyable movie, but not one that you should feel any qualms at all about missing. Likely, you've seen enough similar movies already that you needn't see this one. Unless you really care to see Charleze Theron in those bizarre supposedly futuristic outfits, which often double for no outfit at all (left). I'd also be interested in hearing ecocritical readings of the film.

No More Vacation

Apparently I am not traveling this Christmas after all. Well, that might just mean more blog posts. I will not bother changing my scheduled posts, though. They'll come when they come.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Movie Review: Daredevil

I have seen a few movies lately, so here are my thoughts on them (as promised). I'm going to space them out a bit at a time, because my reviews are sometimes long and because I'll be absent for a week or two around Christmas due to a vacation, so I'll be preparing content early and scheduling it to be published when I'm gone.

They all contain spoilers, so I wouldn't read them if you care.

Daredevil: This was not as bad as most people make it out to be, though I think I know why they recall it as being bad. The showcase fight scene, that one that has the most money put into it and has the most nifty bits, was awful. The graphics were poorly executed, the choreography was insufficient, and I just didn't feel it very much. This might have been because the villian involved was unimpressive. I enjoyed him where he was demonstratably evil, but in his assassination attempts I was simly unimpressed.

But let's look at the good parts: Affleck was decent in this, and Gardiner was more enjoyable in this movie than I usually find her. The story line was OK, and the "superpowers" were slightly more swallowable than, say, Spider-Man has been producing. I enjoyed the suit, and I enjoyed most of the characters. Michael Clarke Duncan, the man who played Kingpin (below), is always impressive. The sound-vision was also interesting, though it should not have revealed anyone's pupils. It had enough decent elements to make it enjoyable.

And where it went wrong: Elektra 'forgave' Daredevil way too quickly once she realized who he was. This should not have been a 'oh, well, if it's him he couldn't have done it' moment, but a even more horrible sense of betrayal. Her acceptance made no sense, since she'd have no more reason to believe him innocent after taking off the mask. Then the fight in the cathedral was poorly done, as described above. These two elements, one narrative and the other cinematic, were unfortunately positioned to colour the remembrance of the entire movie, as one is the emotion linchpin and the other is the special-effects extravaganza. Thus people recall it poorly. I can also see people being disappointed with Daredevil's decision at the end, but I thought it was inevitable--or, at least, it would have been a whole different movie had he acted differently.

Eventually, I plan to see Elektra.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Phun on Photoshop

I originally took these photographs at the African Lion Safari, and then photoshopped them.
By the time I got to the ostriches, I knew to change the colour balance before I touched desaturated and then history brushed the desired area. However, I did not do this below. I started off desaturating and realized when using the history brush that the colour needed tweaking. Thus, when I changed the balance of the eagle, I also wound up changing the colour of the background. I am sure there is a way of doing this, but I don't know what. The first is the final copy, the second is before I tweaked the colour.


Thursday, 18 December 2008

Google Image Labeler

So I've been playing Google Image Labeler lately. If you're curious, there's a Wikipedia entry (of course). Basically, it's an on-line game that pairs you with an unknown person across the Internet, and you try to match words labeling an image. It's easy to play but takes time to learn, and also helps Google improve their image search accuracy.

Some things I've learned and encountered playing and watching my folks at home play:

1) You sometimes get paired with people who are deliberately unhelpful.
2) Some people will not type in anything for half a minute and then want to pass, after you've put in virtually an entire dictionary.
3) If you put in a very low-pointer, like "blue" or "woman," you can guarantee the other person has put in the same low-pointer, and you'll get only 50 points instead of forcing the other person to try harder and earn 140 points on, say, "amphibian". I'm not sure which is the best tactic.
4) You cannot expect people to know celebrities.
5) You certainly cannot expect people to know semi-celebrities.
6) "Sexy," for any young-ish woman whatsoever, is an almost guaranteed 140 points. Yay to commonly-accepted answers!
7) There are commonly-accepted answers (and not the illegit ones the Wikipedia article mentions), such as "girl" and "tie" and "bikini" and "trees."
8) Some people are very good at realizing that text in the image is fair game and an easy high-points match. Other people are not.
9) Cars, scantily-clad women, unclad women, and poorly executed manga sketches come up a lot.
10) Typing is hard.
11) Plurals are always a good idea. Even when there's only one of an object in the picture. I once matched on 'pyramids' when there was only one pyramid in the picture.
12) The Hensel twins have come up twice for me, and that's strange. Neither time did my partner know their names, nor did their names ever appear in previously matched words.
13) When people are labeling quickly and just putting down what comes to mind, they are actually very biased, race-oriented, chauvinistic, and judgemental. Which makes a lot of sense, considering the filter shut-down.
14) Spelling is trickier than it seems.
15) People are generally not as knowledgeable about animals as I am, but more than I expected.
16) Google apparently has porn on it. All pretty standard, though.


16 things is enough for now. Have fun playing, if you do.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Home for the Holidays

I am the title.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Lately

G'day.

Sorry I haven't posted lately. I've had brainwaves for shockingly intelligent posts, but I really haven't gotten around to them and, anyway, since I don't actually recall what I was going to write about, perhaps they wouldn't have been so staggeringly stupendous after all (see, now I'm just being silly).

I might have wanted to write about the Grindhouse movies, or Aeon Flux, or Daredevil, or Starship Troopers. Actually, I know I wanted to write about Starship Troopers. I wanted to explore why that movie made me shiver in horror at the end. It may not have been intentional, but there were some scenes there which chilled me ("It's...afraid."). I might write about that.

However, I have an exam tomorrow and, like last time (did I tell you this?), it requires more than I anticipated. Apparently my easy-peasy-Miss-Louisey exam period isn't as easy after all. (Noticed: "as easy after all" is iambic.) I'm now preparing for it more than I wanted to, by which I mean wasting time before I prepare for it more than I want to. As usual.

However, as soon as I click "Publish Post" I really will work on this exam, and finish any studying I may want to do, and then I can goof off as late as ten or eleven, so I can get to bed and sleep for a reasonable amount of time.

So, yeah, go have fun or something for me. And don't spend too much money this Christmas! Spend time instead! Save the world!

I'm serious, by the way. Go save the world. It needs saving.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Idiocy

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen. The recent political duldrums in Canada helped make the president-elect of our friends south of the border look much more attractive. The world was finally feeling safe with America as a superpower--no more wanna-be cowboys in the driver's seat any more. The Americans as a people seemed to have made a good decision, and we were all pleased with them.


But that number of people who must have stepped out while the vote happened started talking again. It would mar the pleasure of Obama's victory, except that the elite stupidity of the people with keyboards and an Internet connection has confirmed for me that Obama actually did win. It has a sort of ring of the familiar that tells me this is the same world is was in October, just with the promise of a little more.

Monday, 8 December 2008

On Why Writing My Take-Home Is So Painful

[Warning: this post contains whining about my life on-line. If this does not appeal to you, get off the Internet entirely.]

I'm writing a take-home exam. It consists of three questions, each regarding three thinkers and consisting of roughly four pages, as I cannot exceed twelve altogether. The process has so far been more time-consuming and painful than I had anticipated.
The reason is not limited to the fact that I don't find the topic very interesting. The reason is not limited to the fact that this process consists of lots of skimming through the texts for relevant material. The reason is not limited to the fact that I do not feel like I am in any way contributing to the academic community while writing this. The reason is not limited to the fact that my boredom incites me to eating unhealthily and unnecessarily. These are all contributing factors, but they have not essentially ruined the last two days for me.
No, the reason is that I have no focus, and therefore spend upward of a third of the time allotted for "working" on ridiculous forms of procrastination that are only mariginally more satisfying than the work itself. Had I had the concentration to just finish the miserable question all in one shot--or even in two intensive shots--I would then be able to go and do something I actually enjoy. I could read a book, or work on something creative, or play a game, or whatever. But I could then spend a significant amount of time on some activity that I could walk away from and say, "I'm glad I did that."
Instead, though, I waste time on Facebook applications. What a stupid way of spending the day. I also researched who the Crazy Babysitter Twins are. (They were credited to the Grindhouse flicks, and apparently they're a big deal right now. I suppose if you're willing to do photoshoots like that, you would be.) I also spent better than an hour on xkcd.com. Penny Arcade got some attention, as did the blogosphere (some readers will note comments from me on their own blogs). I watched the fake Grindhouse trailers on YouTube. I am pretty sure I spent time on Wikipedia, but I don't actually recall what I did there. Oh, and I looked up the list of fetishes from the xkcd comic I posted previously. Yeah, weird, I know. But I had to know. You can look it up yourself you want. "Deviant Desires," I think, and throw in "fetish map." A Google search should get you there. The domain name has been removed, but enough people have blogged about it that the original image and some of the content are still available, at least at the time of writing this.
So I theoretically remember everything I did. I can guarantee, though, that I won't look back on today and think, "I am so glad I did that. It satisfied me deeply." No. If I look back on today at all, I'll think, "What a slave I am to the computer. And I abused time so badly. And I pushed my computer to it's physical limits, more than likely. How horrible."
I feel unclean, somehow.
But tomorrow...
I have a study class thing for an upcoming exam. That will get me out of the house and will force me to interact with people I haven't seen for more than a week.

And I have Running and Reading, which will force me to run and discipline children and walk long distances in the cold in running pants.

I will also do more of my take-home. But tomorrow might be worth something. More, at least, than today was worth.

To make up for the unhappiness, I will post some pictures that should hopefully improve everyone's mood.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

It Hurts...

...it's so funny. And true.
I'm thinking about this one: http://xkcd.com/481/

But this one will do: http://xkcd.com/513/


Oh, and this one! http://xkcd.com/468/ This sucker's pretty deep nerd. I was proud at first that I got it--you have to have a basic knowledge of the philosophy of mathematics--but then I realized how very very low I've sunk into nerdom that I was proud that I got a xkcd reference that I doubted many others got. It's something I'll have to live with, but...
And everytime I hear Whitehead is still imagine him as a giant pimple.

[Edit 7 Jan 09] Because of the remote possibility of a new democraphic of people reading this blog, I've removed certain elements from comments to this blog. Let's just say I didn't want anyone's feelings getting hurt. It's highly unlikely that it's you we were talking about, so there's no need to be paranoid; also, it wasn't all that bad; you'd probably just prefer you weren't used in the discussion at hand.

The parts of the posts that were fine, and need to be given for the following posts to make sense, are as follows:

Jon Wong says: Ick, while I don't pretend that comic 513 never happens, I don't like it because it gives nice guys a bad rep. I have a hardcore, anti-nice-guy friend (if you can believe it) who can't seem to break out of her extremely set conviction that all nice guys behave like that guy in comic 513.

English Clergyman says: The reason I posted it is because it's something I would have attempted in an earlier, stupider, more selfish and obsessive incarnation. Thus "It hurts". And that guy's not really a 'nice guy.' He's actually just a coward. There's a difference.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Computer Illiteracy

Apparently I am computer illiterate. I just spent 1 hour trying to rip Big Fish from DVD to my harddrive, and failed entirely. Well, no, not entirely. I did manage to get some garbled and useless files. What I did not get is anything I can use. Wonderful. Just wonderful.

DVD copyright protection: 1
English Clergyman aka petty criminal: 0

Recently and Soon

Recently...

1) I postponed writing my take-home exam some more. I really need to play catch-up tomorrow.

2) I watched Donnie Darko for the first time. It was enjoyable, though less creepy or confusing than everyone claimed. Also, it has re-enforced my dislike for Jake Gyllenhaal's face, though he's admittedly a good actor. About the biggest deal for me was that Donnie wasn't just crazy; his visions were partially true, even under most interpretations. [EDIT 05/12/08: If you want to read about more interpretations of this film, you can go to the blog of a friend of mine; he's written something that should be on this page somewhere.]

3) I rewatched Big Fish, which was yet again enjoyable. I also watched some of the features, and was sad to see that they didn't have anything about how they animated Ping & Ying. That's something I was disappointed about. Nonetheless, I want to write things like that movie now (and also like Stardust, incidentally).

4) I rewatched The Fellowship of the Ring the other day, and enjoyed it more than my previous reviewings. I really felt the setting this time, and it made the movie more engaging and real to me. Similar rewatchings of The Two Towers failed to create the same response, possibly because the settings were less familiar to me, being more extravagent.

5) I bought friends nanaimo bars. They were cheap and good, and helped these friends de-stress (I hope).

6) I read some of Lake Effect from the library. I am excited!

Soon...

1) I am going on a "Downtown Encounter" tonight with my small group. This will be a way of thinking about the urban poor and engaging in Christ.

2) Tomorrow I am going to do extra work on my take-home to make up for the lack of work these days. In fact, I may start after small group tonight!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Truths to Write

I have a piece of paper, and at the top of it I have written a paraphrase of C. S. Lewis:
Do not worry about being original...
tell the truth, and you will find that you will be original as a byproduct.
Below this I have listed a list of things I consider "truths" about which I would like to write:

  • No good has ever come without sacrifice. This is not sacrifice in the sense of payment or investment. This is sacrifice for someone else, without the expectation of return.

  • Sometimes people do not need help, but to be asked for help.

  • Look to your needs only as part of the means to the end of helping others. This may, of course, be a very important part of those means, because you are human.

  • There is beauty is simplicity.

  • There is also beauty in complexity. This truth, and not the previous one, explains beauty in the world.

  • You must be observant.

  • Just because someone doesn't do what they should do does not free you from your obligations to them. It only makes those obligations harder.

  • The world may look ugly and bleak. This is either because it is or because you have been taught to think it is. In the first case, imagination and false hope are paramount to ethical behaviour and survival; in the second case, imagination and hope are necessary to uncover the true beauty of the world.

We'll see how that goes! It may not, or it may. We shall see.

And some marginalia I wrote about, The Fellowship of the Ring, which I was watching while compiling the list of truths:

  • There is nowhere I'd rather be than the Shire.
  • 0:10:24 or so when the little hobbit girl runs up yelling, "Gandalf! Gandalf!" is maybe my favourite moment n the whole movie. [up until 0:10:55, Gandalf's smile]
  • "I think in his heart Frodo's still in love with the Shire."
  • "He is summoning all evil to him. Soon he will have an army large enough to [conquer?] Middle-earth."
  • "Where are you taking us?" "Into the wild."
  • Write a landscape you can see.
  • When Frodo is in Rivendell, feeling homesick, we know that he's hardly begun. This is the sad part. "I am ready to go home." By the end of the trilogy, that dream will lost forever.

Friday, 28 November 2008

;

The semicolon is a much-maligned creature. It is hated. It is misused. There have been people who call it pretentious. More often, there have been people who use other punctuations where the semicolon ought to be used. I think the semicolon must feel in these circumstances like Betty when she realizes Archie has taken Veronica out when they had agreed that it was Betty's turn. This all likely derives from the poor education we receive. I do not recall ever being taught how to use a semicolon, or not in such a way that the teaching stuck. Instead, I taught myself out of a grammar book when I got to university. This is also how I learned how to correct comma splices and what the difference between 'affect' and 'effect' is. Our education system is a monstrosity, focusing on literature without equipping us with the mechanical expertise required. If this seems like your education, then I beseech you to take it into your own hands!

I will suggest reading A Canadian Writer's Reference by Diana Hacker. I use the third edition. This is the official rule book for the English Department at Queen's University, and I think that that's enough authority to do for the country. Of course, if you're not Canadian, these rules may not fix accurately on to your dialect, but since Canada is about as middle-of-the-road as you can get, straddling the old guard of England English and the neutered, plastic American English, this guide should do for just about anyone in the English-speaking world, at least as a compromise.

But to the semicolon...

I have said that the semicolon is disliked because it is misunderstood. This is partly true. However, there are those who understand the functions of a semicolon perfectly well and still dislike them. Consider the following:


I am not a fan of the semicolon. I think of it as the hermaphrodite of punctuation. It’s both a period and a comma, with the neither the personality nor the passion of either. It even looks like a hermaphrodite, with both organs, as it were. And when it is used, it generally has a tentativeness to it that seems to me to indicate it doesn’t know which part of itself to emphasize. So often a period, or a comma, would be better to use than a semicolon. I think one of its only consistently legitimate uses is in a series of lists in which commas and conjunctions are seriously involved. There, they can save the reader from confusion. Otherwise, I leave it in storage.


This can be found on pages 93 and 94 of Goodman's book The Soul of Creative Writing. Evidentally this is not praise. However, he does say elsewhere in the book, "I have my favourite punctuations and my not so favourites. But it’s more a matter, I think, of trying to understand how these marks are employed and determining how they can be used in creative ways" (90). So I think we can chalk this up to personal opinion, though I will look at his language a little more closely.

Vonnegut has also expressed dislike for semicolons. He has reportedly said, "But do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites, standing for absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college." From what little I know of Vonnegut, I'd suggest that his opinions are about as scattered as buckshot; in my opinion, that's a good thing, because it suggests that he's non-partisan and actually thinks. However, it also means I'll disagree with about half of what he says, and this is one of those cases. Among other things, he seems uncharacteristically opposed to ambiguity here.

What strikes me most about these comments on the semi-colon is their connection between the semicolon and hybridity. Specifically, both reference hermaphrodites. Here is what I think on the matter:

You have a problem with semi-colons? Semi-colons rock. They're both commas and colons. They're like mermaids or gryphons or Obama: they defy categorical bounds! They're like the border between Ontario and Quebec, stitching together two seperate but inseperable parts. They're just generally excellent, and the only reason people don't like them is that people are afraid of ambiguity. People are afraid of hermaphrodites, cyborgs, conjoined twins, and semi-colons, all for the same reason.

I've hyperlinked to previous posts that give some theoretical framework for harmaphrodites and conjoined twins.

The reason that people are afraid of them is, as is surely implied, their perceived ambiguity. Of course, the semicolon isn't ambiguous at all, in that it has a clear and precise role. However, there are thinkers who have noticed a sort of hybridity, and so I'd like to look at that. Semicolons, by design, hold together two equal parts. They hold together parts that are generally considered independent, but that the writer believes need to be conjoined because of some relationship. A semicolon is thus like a wedding vow, or wedding rings, or, if you care to be particularly naughty, like a wedding consummation. They fuse two into one. It is in fact very like the wish of the nymph Salmacis, that Hermaphroditus be joined with her forever (this is a reference to Ovid's Metamorphosis, by the way). I've discussed this in the hermaphrodites section. The semicolon is also like the band of tissue that held together Cheng and Eng, the brothers after whom the moniker "Siamese twins" is derived. It is the midriff of the amphisbaena. Its ambiguity lies thus in the created relationships, in the equality of independents, and not in its function. After all, it has a very specific function.

According the Hacker, the semicolon's most basic goal is "to separate major sentence elements of equal grammatical rank" (250). Subfunctions include the following: "Use a semicolon between closely related independent clauses not joined with a coordinating conjunction" (251), "Use a semicolon between independent clauses linked with a transitional expression" (251), and "Use a semicolon between items in a series containing internal punctuation" (252). Respectively, she gives these examples: "Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. --H. L. Mencken" (251), "Most singers gain fame through hard work and dedication; Evita, however, found other means" (252), and "Classic science fiction sagas are Star Trek, with Mr. Spock and his large pointed ears; Battlestar Galactica, with its Cylon Raiders; and Star Wars, with Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader" (252). In her explanations, Hacker provides all you need to know about how to use a semicolon.

There are common misuses as well, where the semicolon dates Archie when it's actually the comma's turn, though it's usually the other way around. Hacker says that these include using it to connect a subordinate clause with the rest of the sentence, to connect an appositive to the word to which it refers, and with the seven conjunctions used to connect independent clauses (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet). A semicolon also ought not be used to introduce a list, which is technically a colon's job. However, creative prose writers have found exceptions, where a semicolon improves either clarity or effect on the reader. These should be embraced and used with caution. This is because the semicolon has a longer pause then a comma and emphasizes the equal weight of the parts. A comma makes one part subjugated to the other. Function is paramount.

Evidentally, semicolons have particular, unambiguous uses, unless you want to be creative. What instills the most fear, then, is miseducation, pretention, and the strange relationships semicolons produce. The first should scare us very much, but we can try and overcome that. The other two oughtn't scare us at all. If a semicolon makes you sound pretention, then it is very likely the case that you are pretentious in the first place, because otherwise you wouldn't be using the semicolon in a showy sort of way. And strange relationships are perfectly acceptable--in fact, laudable--in writing. We must examine strange relationships somewhere, and better in art than in your own life. Thus, there is nothing to fear in the lofty semicolon. She is beautiful; she is pratical; she is exotic; she is supple. I implore you, place her where she can do her best work.

I'll leave you with this quotation, which will give you an inkling as to how you can use a semicolon to best affect your reader:

I have grown fond of semicolons in recent years. . . . It is almost always a greater pleasure to come across a semicolon than a period. The period tells you that that is that; if you didn't get all the meaning you wanted or expected, anyway you got all the writer intended to parcel out and now you have to move along. But with a semicolon there you get a pleasant little feeling of expectancy; there is more to come; read on; it will get clearer.
__ Lewis Thomas

Thursday, 27 November 2008

One Last Day

I have one last day.

And then I have no more classes.

I handed in my last essay last night.

My next assignment, a take-home exam, is due on the 11th. The 11th. And then I have an exam on the 15th. Yeah, that's right. Over a month away. And then I'm homeward bound.

W00T!

One more 8:30. Granted, that's tomorrow, and I NEED to go to bed, but, hey, only one more.

And it's not like I don't have stuff to do. HOH-NO. I have stuff to do. Stuff I finally have the time to do. And I'll edit other people's papers. I'll be plugged in. I'll be active. I'll clean. I still have my extra-curricullar. Just...no school-stuff.

But think of the low stress. Think of the sleep! Ah, it will be sweet.

That is all, I suppose.

To bed.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Wanted: Dead and Alive

This is an assignment I just had returned from an American Literature class. I did well on it--better than I expected. I thought I'd share it here. Unfortunately, you may have needed to be in the class to fully participate in it... unless you've by chance read Emily Dickenson, Whitman's Song of Myself, Spofford's "Amber Gods" and "The Circumstance," Frederick Douglas' slave narrative, Edgar Alan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket and "The Man Who Was Used Up," Mary Rowlandson's captivity narrative, Edwar Taylor's Meditations, Hawthorne's "The Black Veil" and "Artist of the Beautiful," Emerson's "Experience," and other seminal or not-so-seminal American Literature.

Wanted: Dead and Alive

I was born upon the sea in a land under sweltering suns:
my tongue and every atom of my blood formed from this soil
this air, the grey sky, obscured by no deathly blot.
ghostlike we glide through nature
on every visage a black veil—
wild wartunes endow the living with tears you squander on the dead.
"O graft me in this Tree of Life within,"
again gurgles the mouth of my dying general,
knocked on the head.
with her voice ceased her existence yet she could not sing.
(I had as well be killed running as die standing
—the dead thing in my bosom rising and falling—
I in perfect health begin, hoping to cease not till death.)
forsaken songs rose from that frightful aerie
weeping wailing tunes that sob from age to age,
"gone, gone, sold and gone."
from the symbol beneath which I lived,
and die with overflowing grace doth killing,
cure the sinner, and kills sin right:
we do not play on graves
because these murtherous wretches went on,
burning and destroying all before them the golden dore of glory.
is the grave too sacred for us?
I do not desire to live to forget this,
in one sense it is the elixer of immortality
(posion with the falling dews)—
it cannot be that I shall live and die
a slave as scarcely loving my life, my health.
to be alive is power—omnipotence enough:
we could not but shout to the dead for help!
no man can understand the science of the grave,
look through the eyes of the dead,
feed on the spectres in books;
nature's practices extend to necromancy and the trades,
the notion of putting spirit into machinery.
the lords of life, the lords of life:
beautiful, beautiful, is it alive?
and in the wide arc of some eternal descent she was falling.
there really is no end to the march of invention.


Poet-scholar's statement:

In looking through the course material of the semester, I caught a common theme: the middling areas of life and death. Whether narratives come from the other side of the shade—or as good as do, in the case of the strangely returned Pym—or follow individuals who oddly survive their own death, such as Lackabreath and Wakefield, there is a sense that not only does poetry acheive immortality, it preserves the very act of immortalizing itself. Alternately, the texts may dwell on death—defying it like Rowlandson, lusting for it like Taylor, or philosophizing it like Emerson—and thereby underscore their own vitality by their current survival. Most question that fundamental boundary, or the obviousness of it, using such figures as ghost ships, speaking corpses, living machines, and assembled men. Each text's complexity only tangles in comparison with the others, and any discussion of the matter must exceed strictly academic discourse.

As such, I have constructed a poem about the intersection of these two realms, using lines torn from the texts. I have been liberal with punctuation, and some of the lines might not be entirely recognizable, pieced as they are from different sources. Nonetheless, I hope to have caught some of the sense life and death play in the varied works and, in the process, defamiliarized many of the original meanings.

Yeah, as with other academic work I've posted here, there's a lot of name-dropping. Sorry about that, if you're not of a background which presents to you all of those writers.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Cat--DID

G'day.

I found a fascinating blog written by a woman with disassociative identity disorder (I specifically did not use "suffering from"). I suggest you take a look at it: http://aspenleafhosting.com/cat/. I'll blog more about this later, once my life has gotten back on track (ie. when I hand this last paper in).

Friday, 21 November 2008

My Campus Has Exploded

That investors are apparently not investing in my university at the rate they used to could easily be attributed (I think) to the economic downturn and everyone playing safe and stupid with their money. However, the campus bubble seems intent on blaming it on a number of factors, most of which seem reason enough to withdraw funds. Overall, you see, it seems as though my campus is going insane.

Want to know what happened lately?

[NEGATIVITY ALERT: the following contains little happiness. Do not procede if of a sensitive constitution.]

There. Now everyone will read this.

If you're from the area (or anywhere in the country, apparently), you'll have heard of the Homecoming street party fiasco back in my first year. In September of '05, there was an unprecedentedly large illegal street party on Aberdeen Street, which involved abuse against paramedics (I'm serious), abuse against a police animal (someone punched a horse), trespassing, numerous incidents of public and underaged drunkenness, arrests for selling liquour without a license, lacerations from thrown and shattered beer bottles, and most spectacularly, a flipped and flaming car upon which people danced. Until about 10:30, so I hear, people stayed on the sidewalk, but with cries of "F-ck the police!" students swarmed onto the street itself, which has become the default mode of the Aberdeen Street Party in the years since.

This warranted national news, apparently; people got uncomfortable calls from their parents back in BC who saw their child's drunken disorder in a special edition of whatever their closest major paper happened to be. It was on the cover of the Toronto Star and warranted a full report in the Edmonton Star as well.

Since then, donations have been a little slower coming in.

And since then, campus newspapers CANNOT stop talking about Aberdeen. It's almost as though there isn't anything else to talk about, except the flagrant misuse of student fees and tuition, which is hardly new.

Then, last year, some students in Engineering jackets (read: some Engineers) forced a female, Middle-eastern professor off of the sidewalk and made slurs of some sort towards her. The campus rags wouldn't actually tell anyone anything about the professor, of course, which was acceptable in this case--but it will be less so later on.

There was a students-against-racism rally that year. Someone pointed out that it was a few montsh too late, and then the rest of us pointed out that rallies usually take months or so to plan anyway, and that's when you know you're going to have a rally. When some incident happens, there won't be a rally the next day. Maybe it could have been a little sooner, but this particular student was being an idiot about it, and it seems he set the tone for the rest of the school ever since.

All of this was bad enough, but this year...

1) Some AMS employee left the T4s of ever student who worked for any AMS-affiliated business that year in the hallway, unguarded and unlocked, in a couple boxes label TAX RECEIPTS, for the entire summer. Someone code-named "The Cold Canuck" took one of these boxes and delivered it anonymously to the 'official' student newspaper, the Journal, so that they could deal with it. At this point, the Journal decided that the best course of action was to 1) not ask the AMS about it, 2) not publish anything about it, and 3) ask their lawyers to get back to them in a few weeks about any ramifications it might have if they did anything about this. After a few weeks, The Canuck, apparently seeing three Journal editions go by without a single response, left a sampling from yet another box for The Golden Words, the campus comedy paper, to deal with. The GW did an admirable job. They went to the AMS, made sure they dealt with the issue, and then printed a full expose on it, legal ramifications be damned. Once this happened, the Journal decided that maybe it ought to run a piece, and so it did, and then alternated between slamming the AMS and glossing over the issue. Talia Radcliffe, the AMS prez, decided not alert former employees about the problem, though, and so a friend of mine, who worked in an AMS business last year, found out through the newspaper that all of her personal information--name, SIN, date of birth, credit card numbers, everything required to perform identity theft--could have been compromised. Radcliffe has still not seen fit to apologize for this gross misconduct. The Journal refuses to call her out on it. No one's quite sure whether the Journal controls the AMS (whichever candidate the paper endorses always wins) or the AMS controls the Journal (they can cut the paper's funding whenever they want), but it seems like there's some serious puppetry going on. Diatribe, an anarchic-libertarian student-submitted magazine, has frothed about how badly both papers handled the situation, which I read as whining about not getting to be the one to do the expose. GW has gone back to comedy. Nothing happens about this issue ever again.

2) The Queen's University Muslims Students Association prayer-space gets broken into several times. A QUMSA banner is burnt. Student-aged individuals (presumably students) publically heckle a female Muslim student walking down the street with religion-derived insults. What's being called Islamaphobia seems to be writhing in the campus' bowels. Muslim students are obviously not happy. I am not happy.

3) Strange banners which may have been homophobic are found in the student ghetto during the Aberdeen street party. People don't know how to respond, largely because the slogans on the banners don't make any sense. No one knows what the creators of the banners were trying to say, other than that homosexuality has something to do with it. It fizzles after a bit, because it's so weird.

4) Jacob Mantle, the ASUS president, makes a remark on someone's photo on Facebook. Within hours, the paper finds out. The remark is, "Nice Taliban picture." The Journal says that he comments on students wearing headscarves. Because the Journal refuses to mention people's ethnicities, everyone assumes that these were Muslim students. They were not. They were white. He knew them, and knew they were not Muslim. However, most of the campus, thanks to the Journal's negligent journalistic practices, thinks that he said that to Muslim students. It hits the Globe and Mail. There's an explosion. People from left, right, and centre are asking him to step down. He refuses to apologize. The AMS announces that they would like him to step down, but cannot constitutionally impeach him. People yell and scream and want him impeached anyway. Then people figure out that the Journal misrepresented the event, and, despite it being an ignorant comment, swing to support him en masse. The Journal cannot report on anything else. It's crazy, and blown well out of proportion. People start hollering about racism at Queen's, despite the fact that the comment was not racist but Islamaphobic. Then things get even stupider.

5) On Hallowe'en, there was graffiti on campus. One incident said, "Expect Resistance." Another said, "Kill the cracker in yur head." White paint was dumped on the Queen's sign. People are obviously put off by this, and Mantle gains more public support. Yes, there's a culture of whiteness at Queen's (well, white-ness and Asian-ness--there are more Asian groups than any other category of club on campus). But the other two I don't understand. Does "cracker" help anti-racism? I don't think so. And what's this resistence? Should I wear a vest? What? This is why we have twenty-odd campus papers: if the bleeding-heart Journal won't publish your opinion (and they'll publish pretty near anything), then surely the hell-bent-subversive Diatribe will. I mean, somebody, somewhere, will publish what you want to say, and, if they won't, you can actually start your own newspaper whenever you want around here. Expressing yourself is easy. Being intelligent is apparently a lot harder. So let's avoid graffiti, shall we?

6) There's some sort of public forum about whether Mantle will step down. Word has it there might be a referendum, where members of the Queen's electorate can impeach him or something. I'm not sure what it was; I do know it was unconstitutional and would have had no binding power. The meeting exceeded fire capacity and was filled with angry people from both sides of the issue. Someone pulled the fire alarm, and everyone had to leave. The meeting was not resumed later. Mantle did not step down.

7) Radcliffe publically criticizes Mantle for not apologizing. A letter to the editor in the Journal rightfully points out that Radcliffe has yet to apologize for a much more heinious offence than Mantle.

8) Swastikas and the phrase "Dirty Jew" are soaped onto a Jewish student's car. That she was targeted implies that the culprit knows her. People really start freaking out. The Journal doesn't get around to mentioning that the student in question is Jewish on the front page, which is where the story featured, but part-way through the continuation of the story inside. I think this is relevant information, personally. The targeted student says she no longer feels safe here. Queen's Hillel says that they've never seen this before on campus; this was formerly one of the most Jewish-friendly campuses they know of. Everyone is shocked and appalled. And rightly so. This is disgusting behaviour, and I would break the perpetrator's knee-caps if I knew who he was.

9) The Journal editor, likely feeling under attack, writes a column about the paper's struggles with journalistic integrity and how it's easy to come and talk to her about the problems in a rational manner. She is right about most of it. The problem is not (entirely) with her editorship. It's with the structure of the paper, its reporters, and its over-developed sense of self worth.

10) The new principal, Tom Williams, cancels the Aberdeen Street Party, following conversations with donating alumni and, get this, a student plebiscite which supported the cancelling. Students are outraged. "How dare Mr. Williams," they say, "cancel Homecoming just because it's worsening town-gown relations, alumni have stopped donating, our degrees are worth less, and the majority of the voting student body wants it cancelled? That plebiscite shouldn't be binding, they say. You know the partying demographic doesn't vote (even though that that issue would be on the ballot was published in the Journal weeks in advance and there were Facebook groups exhorting you to go and vote against cancellation). It's not fair!" Stupid people. If you haven't figured it out, I support the cancellation whole-heartedly.

11) People from within the university and without are calling for Queen's to be more proactive in fighting racism. That the incidents have been entirely religion or sexual-orientation based seems to be lost on these individuals. Let me repeat: racism is not the problem; religious and sexual intolerance is. DO NOT CONFUSE THESE!

11) The university introduces a new task force of facilitators whose job is to listen in on conversations taking place in public spaces and interject if they hear gender slurs, homophobic language, racially-tinted insults, or the discussion of "social issues." Yeah, that's right. "Social issues." Now, these conversation cops (as they've been dubbed by the Globe and Mail) have no authoratative power besides publically confronting and "sensitively leading the conversation," but I don't think we should be surprised that the G&M has name-dropped Kafka and that students are voraciously arguing about this. Now it's not student stupidity that's dropped the reputation of our school, but the actual adminstration. Great job, guys. Just great. Now, I understand what they wanted out of this program and that they meant well. However, I'm also sure it's an immense screw-up. It'll be terribly ineffective, it will make people angry and confrontational, and it will at best drive racism 'underground' instead of dealing with it openly. Also, I love the blanc carte with "social issues." What does this cover? Can I talk about, say, creationism or abortion without getting molested by the thought police?

Apparently not...

12) In the most recent Diatribe, which was way better than usual, a submission pointed out that a particular Canadian university student union that is campaigning for lowered student fees and other student "rights" has as one of its issues the banning of pro-life groups from campus. That's right. If you're group is anti-abortion, this student union thinks that you shouldn't be eligible for your cut of the student fee dollars--or university recognition, for that matter. Pro-choice groups are still OK, though, and this union is in fact in the works of distributing pro-choice kits and helping with abortion advertising on campuses. Why is this the case? Well, apparently pro-life clubs espouse violence. Somehow. Despite being, you know, pro-life. Oh, and they're woman-haters. Despite being usually more than 50% women themselves. The submitter, pro-choice herself, thought this was stupid and inexcusable in a university, which was supposed to be about discussing ideas. Disallowing one of the members in the discussion to talk is not exactly the way to espouse conversation. And, yet, no one seems to be opposing this platform of the union. People just see "lower student fees" and jump on board.

Remember when I complained about Internet commenters? Apparently receiving an education only ensures that your idiocy is more articulate, more complex, and more in line with the rabidly liberal dogma of Canadian academia.

And let me be clear: I do not endorse Islamaphobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, racism, sexism, or any other form of repression. Neither am I a fan of unrestricted free speech. I think the stupidest and most hateful people involved are the ones making the slurs and comments. However, I think the reaction to it has also been moronic, lamentable, and not even well-meant, for the most part. I am frustrated with most of those involved, but I have no idea how to make a change myself. My fear is that, even if I did articulate this, no one would be able to hear in the media frenzy that's taking place right now.

Also, I've just stripped another layer of anonymity by revealing which school I attend. Oh, well.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Disinterest

G'day.

As you may have noticed from the lack of such posts, I am growing disinterested in disproving Dawkins' silliness. I will tackle a few other posts as time goes on--there's one about salvation theory, there's one about the role of the veil, there's one speculating about his Darwinian biases--but I feel like I have covered sufficient ground. I am bored of him and don't want to give him much more attention, which will only flatter him. Also, it has been brought to my attention in small group that such arguments only "lower myself to their level," as I believe the phrase went, and that's their turf, where presumably they will win anyway. Now, I think I've done a pretty solid job, but there's maybe some truth to what he said. If I allow myself to get distracted into tight little arguments over minutae, I'll lose sight of the big picture and the important stuff goes undone (not unsaid...things that are said are usually unimportant anyway).

I do think there is merit in defeating Dawkins' position, because it holds cultural currency and really oughtn't. This militant atheism doesn't look very good, and I would like it's soldiers to recognize that and desert. However, it would also be fair to suggest that many of them wouldn't get through my arguments, and wouldn't really listen even if they did. I hope that is not the case--I've been assured that it's not the case--but I am scared that it is.

So, you'll see a few more of these yet, but they'll be few and produced slowly. I don't feel argumentative. I am growing sick of argument. Very, very sick. The world is being rotted by it.

And yes, I know this follows a new Dawkins-related post, but I'll be honest with you. I through the final two lines on tonight, but the rest of it I had written over a month ago and then let grow stale in my drafts. I thought I'd get it out tonight so that I could get the process of the Dawkins' Dispute over.

I should go to bed.

God bless.
___________
To Directory.

Disputing Dawkins IV

So far I have dealt with Dawkins' attempts to demonstrate that religion is unlikely. I will no longer deal with this at length because Dawkins has nothing more to add on the topic. Dawkins tries to demonstrate that religion could have evolutionary origins. If you want to read a better account of such speculation than Dawkins, you can read Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer. This doesn't really worry me at all, though, and I'm not going to deal with it. Instead, I will move on to Dawkins' discussion of morality. Namely, Dawkins argues for

Religion's Disconnection from Morality

The general direction of Dawkins' arguement is that religion does not generate morality, and therefore appeals to morality are not sufficient to argue in favour of religion. He also claims that major religious traditions are somewhat immoral, and he uses Christianity as an example.

Of course, Dawkins presupposes here that there is no God. Unlike in previous posts, I will not accept Dawkins' premises for the sake of arguement. I will try as much as possible to refrain from religious explanations, but there are particular points where I will demonstrate that Dawkins' logic falls apart if these premises are not adhered to.

To begin, I will look at the following statement: "the only reason that you try to be good is to gain God's approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment" (p 226). I'm going to clarify that Dawkins isn't saying that approval-seeking is the only reason people are good; he's more implying that this is the religious sense of ethics. One of his criticisms is that morality of this sense isn't really moral at all, but strictly self-interested. First, I'm going to emphasize that, even if this were true of Western religions, it's not true of all religions--Confucianism, for instance, or traditional Native beliefs do not even suggest that there is a personal reward for goodness, or anyone's approval to seek. Second, the Western religions do not universally support this either. Certainly, there is a sort of popular, media-based belief that Christians are moral in order to please God and receive his blessing by means of a ticket into heaven and perhaps worldly goods. First off, this is not a particularly Protestant view, nor is it even an entirely Catholic view. Islam perhaps espouses this philosophy more, but it is far more nuanced than that. So, what is the Christian view?

The grass-roots theology that I have heard is that we are good as a way of giving thanks to God. We are grateful for our life, for God's love, and for our undeserved salvation. Therefore, as a way of paying back, even though we know it does not come close to matching that which we received, we act in ways we believe please God. Do you see the difference? Dawkins suggest we are cashing in morality tokens for rewards; Christians believe we already have all the rewards and are behaving morally as a response.

Obviously this requires that the practitioners believe in God in order for this to be at all sensible. But note that, if you yourself do not believe in God, this doesn't mean that the Christians are only moral for self-interested purposes. So long as they believe that God has already rewarded them, morality of a non-self-interested nature can follow; the actual existence of God is not necessary for this to be true.

As an aside, the Zoroastrians are good because good behaviour saves the universe from destruction; the Confucians are good because proper relations ensure social harmony; those adopting Native beliefs are good because proper conduct prevents illness in the community and disorder in nature. Again, we see non-selfish motives for morality.

Now, Dawkins does concede that there are more sophisticated moral arguements than the caricatures he provides. Good for him. The question then is, why doesn't he refute them? Because he does not have the time? If this is the case, why did he spend so much time attacking the caricatures? Is it because he does not have the knowledge? Then why doesn't he gain the knowledge? Or it it because he does not know how to refute them? My supposition is that it is for some combination of the three: he hasn't sufficient time, knowledge, or ability. Regardless, he can hardly have considered the case closed (as he seems to do) if he doesn't deal with the objections that he acknowledges exist.

Dawkins also structures an arguement as follows: if you will not follow all of the religious text but will instead only choose those parts you agree with and those parts you don't, then can you really say morality comes from that text? In other words, what are the criteria by which you choose which passages to follow, and why not simply adopt those criteria as your moral standard? Dawkins suggests removing "the middle man," as it were.

This is where Dawkins' atheism comes in. This only makes sense if you already agree that there is no God--or, in this case, Holy Spirit. Christian theology, you see, has an answer for this. St. Paul, in fact, provides it. This is that the Holy Spirit moves us through our conscience, prompting us to do what is right and to avoid what is wrong. This even applies to deciding whether or not it is right to follow particular instances of the Jewish law. Biblical scholars suggest that Paul did not want to make authoritative judgements on certain issues (ie. whether to eat meat from pagan sacrifices) but to tell people to follow the Spirit; he only made these judgements because early Christian communities wanted a firm hand. Obviously many Christians will dispute this claim, but I think the point remains: the criterion used is nonetheless a religious one, so even if you dropped "the middle man," what you have is the Holy Spirit's hand.

Unlike my previous arguement, this one may seem to require religious belief in order to be valid. This is not quite true: it requires that the reader at least concede that a Holy Spirit might exist. This is different from believing in that doctrine. Dawkins, of course, is unwilling to concede this. I hope that by now any readers I have will be more inclined to concede it by dint of my other arguements. Even more importantly, it seems to me that Dawkins is trying to use this idea--that by picking and choosing parts of the Bible, we implicitly indicate that we have a morality not derived from God--to convince people yet again that religious claims are internally contradictory. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit provides an explanation for this problem by positing an entity, 'powered' by God, that helps us make the correct selections. Dawkins' attack on Christian doctrine through implicit concession of a non-religious morality is thus blocked by the Holy Spirit. I understand that other religions have similar features that will provide the same internal explanation. I know that Islam posits an inherent, God-given, human capacity for goodness, among other things.

Dawkins does provide some explanations of how morality could have evolved as an innate capacity in humans. Again, if you want a better account of it than Dawkins provides, you can turn to Boyer. However, I want to emphasize quite clearly that if you're a Christian (or other religious person) who accepts evolutionary biology, you'd generally consider that evolution is guided by the Divine. Therefore, there is nothing inconsistent in saying that we evolved to be moral and that God made us moral. If you're not a religious person who accepts evolutionary biology, then I don't suppose Dawkins' explanations mean anything to you at all. The up-shot is that an evolutionary account of morality does not effectively de-couple morality from religion unless you are already of an atheistic (and closed-mindedly so) mindframe.

Dawkins goes one further in his separation of religion and morality: he actually claims that Jesus' moral wisdom is exclusive to the in-group. Dawkins says, "'Love thy neighbour' didn't mean what we now think it means. It meant only 'Love another Jew'" (253). This is patently ridiculous...but my explanation belongs in a post of my own. Dawkins Delusion has a strong refutation of it, so I may not need to deal with it. I likely will, however, when I have the time.

So, a summary:
1) Dawkins claims that religious 'versions' of morality are not moral, but inherently selfish, because they are a based on a reward-punishment system; while some religions may have such a system, Christianity 'proper' and most other traditions I know of do not; Dawkins' criticism is invalid.
2) Dawkins claims that religions which have sacred texts practitioners 'pick and choose' through must have a criterion for said picking and choosing, and this will do for a moral standard without the sacred text; at least one tradition in which practitioners sometimes pick and choose explains this phenomenon through a particular mechanism called 'the Holy Spirit'; removing the sacred text makes the morality no less religious; Dawkins suggestion is invalid.

Any questions?

-------------------------------
To Directory.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

College Humour Understands

Hey.

Remember when I complained about commenters?

College Humour gets it: http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1771556

Cthulhu

G'day.

Basically, I just want to direct you to something in this post. I think my brother did a most awesome job drawing Cthulhu's head, and I thought I'd send you his way to check it out. The link is "his way," in case you didn't pick up on that.

Also, I started reading Lovecraft, and does that man love modifiers! Geez, if I tried to pull that off in my CWRI classes, I'd get told, that's for sure. Take a look at this: "Over the valley's rim a wan, waning cresent moon peered through the noisome vapours that seemed to emanate from unheard-of catacombs, and by its feeble, wavering beams I could distinguish a repellent array of antique slabs, urns, cenotaphs, and masuoleum facades; all crumbling, moss-grown, and moisture-stained, and partly concealed by the gross luxuiance of the unhealthy vegetation." Gross luxuriance indeed! Don't get me wrong, he has some excellent prose, but he also has lines like this, that are almost incredible, but instead coated with a layer of unnecessary atmospheric modifiers. Phah!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Profile Picture & More

G'day.

1) I have a profile picture now. It's a hawk, as you can tell. However, I would like another one, so if anyone who's artistically inclined and reading this can come up with something, I'd like to see it. (Obviously it has to be something somewhat appropriate to me, so it'd help, I suppose, if you knew me, but anyone who's followed my blog must have some sort of sense of things that interest me and my intellectual rhythms, so perhaps this is more open than real-world friends...)

2) I am struggling with my creative faculties. I have a rather scattered range of interests, and I'm trying to come up with some project which i) I could conceivably finish and ii) contains at least a fair amount of the buckshot of my obsessions. This is difficult, because I am committed to producing something of value. The idea of just producing work which turns my own crank does not seem worth it to me. I want whatever I write to instill upon the reader something grander than themselves, some hint or edge of a cause to follow; some sliver of the morality that underlies our universe; some faint flavour of beauty and of truth. It needn't be much, but... escapism is wonderful, and it has it's place, but I challenge myself and all others to find meaning in everything, and I'd be remiss if what I wrote did not fulfill that mandate. I need to know that what I wrote could make a difference, however slight.
What makes matters worse is that I also have high standards of my writing quality, and--here's the real kicker--the almost unmasterable desire to have epic battles, awesome villians, idealistic heroes, and warrior women. Given everything said above, I think I'm screwed.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

007

I saw Quantum of Solace.

Except I'm brutal at telling the story from the beginning to the end (which is a total lie--I'm a decent storyteller, if I do say so myself, though I needn't, because lots of folks say I am, and in fact insist that I tell the story they told me, even though I wasn't there for it, because, apparently, I'm good at that sort of thing), but I've got to give it a shot nonetheless.

And I'll try to stop sounding like a moron (reference previous parentheses).

Almost a month ago a friend of mine--Jon, actually, you may have seen him post around here--suggested I have a half-birthday party, considering that I never get to have my birthday with my friends. Unbeknownst to him, I hardly get a birthday at all, and haven't for donkey's years. At first I felt like it was a stupid and selfish idea--even though I'd thought of it myself a few years back, once I'd heard of half-birthday parties--because it seemed tantamount to asking for attention. I dislike this (I know, I know, I have a blog, what could be more asking for attention? Well, streaking, for one, and talking loudly on a cellphone in a fancy restaurant, and wearing fur, and dressing like a gangsta, or a punk, or a quean, or...).

Anyway, the night he suggested it I found out my dog had died (see my archives). I was pretty bummed. So I didn't really savour the idea of a party, if you follow. When asked what I wanted to do, I said, "I cannot think of anything that I would like to do." So people went and planned stuff on my actual half-birthday with my permission, because I was sad and didn't want to think about doing fun things.

And then I found out that Quantum of Solace came out this weekend.

So there was some unnecessary stress and distress as I tried to organize an expedition to the local theatre to watch the aforementioned flick, since everyone had gone and assumed that nothing was happening (rough paraphrase--some folks hadn't heard of the whole half-birthday scheme yet, and so hadn't even gotten to the point of assuming that nothing was happening). Anyway, eventually we settled on Sunday night, after Navs.

I pre-ordered the tickets yesterday, as I posted. And then I prepared a pork shoulder with taters and carrots in the crock pot while my housemate had a martial arts movie fest with his Tae Kwon Do club.

Today went fairly well. Church in the morning (turned on the crock pot before I left), procrastination in the later morning and around noon. Lunch. Eventually, I got on to that essay I've supposed to have finished a rough draft for for a while now. I pushed through most of it in a few hours, and will easily be able to finish it off tomorrow. Then, got my stuff together, and my housemate helped me carry the crockpot and necessary ingredients to Geneva House, where Navs meets, so that I can prepare for the dinner (which I was charged with cooking).

Before I left, my housemate spilled the beans that there would be a cake when I returned home. I am sure he thought I knew.

So here's what I made for Navigator's Sunday night Dinner:

A pork shoulder in the crock pot for 8 hours on high, accompanied by sliced potatoes, sliced carrots, basil, thyme, and rosemary, in enough water to thoroughly cook the tubers.

What I am calling Garden Pasta, which consists of fusilini and elbow noodles in tomato sauce, accompanied by diced peppers, largely-chopped snap peas, and green beans, along with basil and orageno.

A store-bought veggie platter.

Joanna, who was assigned to help me cook, made excellent 'Joanna Brownies.'

I was worried about the pork, but I needn't have been. The meat fell right off the bone, and parted so well I hardly had to try. Everyone was impressed, and complimented me on breaking the stereotype. That's right. I'm a man, and I can COOK!

We then watched a very good nooma video, and had a discussion. It concerned Jesus' choosing the unwanted to be his disciples, and what that says about us.

And then I had to bolt homeward. As expected, a bunch of friends waited for me. There was cake, which was vanilla (they remembered!) with frosting, and Oreos on top, pulled in half, with sprinkles on the cream, each half with a different letter, so that arranged on the cake it said, "Twenty 1 1/2." Clever girls. There is still more cake waiting for me downstairs, of which I will partake when I am done with this post.

Instead of regular candles, they used sparklers, which I couldn't blow out. So I get 5 girlfriends this year. Except I cheated, and blew a second time, just before the last sparkler went out--trying to arrange to have just one.
(Awwwwww, say the female readership, and I blush, which I do all too easily.)

And then we exodized to the Empire (cinema), and I dramatically passed out the pre-ordered tickets, and we went and waited in the second line for Quantum. My cronies saved the spot while I ordered junk food and a Diet Coke I am at this point thinking was a bad idea (if you can't tell from my style, I am so so so so wired). They went into the movie theatre, and wound up having to save the whole row for all of us--we fit exactly. There were 12 in all.

And then I loved the movie. Not everyone did--some hated it, apparently. But I thought it was tops. [AMBIGUOUS SPOILERS ALERT] The Goldfinger nod? Sad, indeed, but nonetheless... And the sequences. My golly, what a show. [AMBIGUOUS SPOILERS ALERT ENDS] And I'll stop using silly antiquated lingo now. If I can.

And now I'm back home, hoping tomorrow's class will be cancelled, though no sign that it will be yet. Not a false hope, entirely, as the prof indicated it might be. The reason I hope so is so that I can sleep in and maybe get my essay done earlier, at the same time. Because I am wired right now, and sleep is likely a while off.

Anyway, sleep's distance notwithstanding, I will at least go through the motions of preparing for bed. Cake, shower, maybe light reading, bed.

Fare thee well, my readership. Good night.

(And despite whatever troubles saw me to this point, I am on the moon right now...)

Idiots on Comment Threads

I don't know why I do it. I really don't.

Sometimes, I read comment threads.

And then I get angry.

I really need to stop. Every time I read an article--be it on a news site, a blog, a Facebook group--I always see the end of the article, and then continue to scroll down into the blustering fen known as the comments section.

In some places the comments are pretty safe. You see '2 comments' or '4 comments' and you can be sure it's at least not apopolexy-inducing. But even though I see '64 comments,' and even though I KNOW this means that there are monkeys with keyboards drooling on the comments form, I have to keep reading. I so really want to know what people think. Unfortunately, I already know what people think, and all the comments section does is indicate how poorly and maliciously people express what (little) they think. Occasionally someone witty comes along and punches another commenter in the ego, but that's rare and maybe not so great after all.

Some things I've seen include comments spouting out ideological catch-phrases in ALL-CAPS, AS THOUGH THAT'S SOMEHOW WAY MORE CONVINCING THAN REGULAR TYPE (AND EASIER TO READ, TO BOOT). I've also seen two people--one from Norway, one from the Netherlands--comment on how happy they are with their free, tax-supported health care, only to be followed with an American saying that, having visited both Norway and Holland, she thinks all the left-wingers can go across the Atlantic while the real Americans live and die in freedom instead of turning into a bunch of immasculated neuters like the Europeans. Way to go, lady. Insult a) about half of your own country, b) the people who posted just above you, c) your Canadian neighbours, also health-care socialists, and d) every other socialist in the whole world, and not even make a legitimate point while you're at it. Why are people so mindlessly confrontational when they get this veneer of anonymity that is the Internet persona?

It seems as though about 10 points of your average person's IQ just disappears as soon as they get near a keyboard. Feel out of touch with your id? Then just log on, and your more animal nature will communicate with you by posting on comment boards on your behalf. Sure, the rest of the world gets to be insulted and enraged by your infantile opinions, but, hey, that let's them reconnect with their primitive self as well!

Obviously I get way too worked up about this, but I don't see how we can have much hope for the world while we still have the Internet (says he, the compulsive blogger).

OK, off to do work now.
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