Monday, December 28, 2009

Cake and Grief Counselling Will be Availible...

Sick. I hate the phenomenon and it happens seldom enough that I have difficulty coping with the inactivity and mandatory stupidity. There are some things that help me cope. Oddly enough, books do not help me very much when I am actually sick. I can read, but retention and comprehension are minimal. I read the prologue to some interesting non-fiction last night, but my head hurt by the time I had finished an introduction to the commonalities between Epaminondas, Sherman, and Patton, and I went distinctly foggy.

In dire straits like these television is actually of some small use to me. But greater still, video games.

My stupidity is enough to render my strategy games a challenge, but not impossible. The best games for these deathbed moments are FPS and action type games, one in particular standing out. Portal. I find myself chuckling at the promises of cake and other "enhanced truths" told to you by your little guide. It has to be the most innovative game I've ever played. Amusing.

Catching Fire. This one was, I thought, more predictable than the first, but immensely satisfying none the less. The writing is just as good and the story advances. Toward what it advances, I know not.

My mother touched on something that separates this book from the majority of dystopia and makes it seem plausible, realistic, and not nearly so hopeless. When you think about the norm, the rebel is usually an intellectual, someone whose ideas and characteristics neatly mirror those of the author. A sort of conceited and inaccurate view of human nature and behavior. The lone intelligent hero stands against the machine, the people are sheep plodding along, too stupid to know they are slaves.

In Catching Fire the people, the hoi polloi, are the ones who are fighting back against the oppressive system. And so it is throughout history. Reform and revolution tend to come from the masses, not the brilliant, daring, attractive, genius type who sounds rather like the author.

I guess my complaint and malcontent with Dystopia are caused by the assumption that the working poor would always be sheep, easily enslaved and lead to the slaughter. Even if death was the only alternative, I have a feeling that a large portion of humanity would choose death in an attempt for freedom over a long life in bonds. Who knows though; I could be very wrong.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Where Was I?

4:30 PM Posted by Patrick , , , 3 comments
I think that reading is the thing I miss most about pre-college life. I really notice it now that I'm back to my several book a week regimen. And I really don't think that I gained more from that English class than I do from my normal 14 weeks of reading and writing.

At least a couple of my classes this semester will be using real books for our materials.

While one could certainly argue that some of my reading is much more substantial, it is not necessarily the substantial reading that gives the greatest benefit. I think that I gain a lot more as a writer from good books which capture my interests and emotions than great literature which bores me. *coughbrontecough*

The Hunger Games was well written and absolutely gripping. One of those books that made me laugh and cry and caused my dry tongue to cleave to the roof of my mouth in some of the more intense portions. Her varied tempo with the sentence structure is excellent and she manages to make it feel like natural human thought, even when the sentences were short and came in rapid bursts. I, who may never create natural thought or dialog in text, was awed. The doubt-- believable, palpable, and invasive--was a driving force which made the act of relinquishing the book in favour of food impossible.

One of the harsh and striking points of this book is the hungry eyes of the Capitol looking on as children kill children. When Rue dies (how the tears doth flow) and Katniss--who is looking on the face of the boy who killed Rue; the boy now peaceful in death--realizes it is the Capitol who is the enemy, you share the hatred; the burning anger at the atrocities that are commonplace. There is an enemy in the background that cannot even be fought. The tributes are left to kill each other as the real enemy remains totally unassailable and aloof; watching and enjoying their pain. But the fact that there is a foe that can be defeated is what keeps it from being utterly depressing...like all the rest of dystopia.

I normally despise dystopia, but I loved this book to the last page. I cannot wait to read the sequel...which is waiting for me just over there.

However, as I have not yet started it, I should feast on prime rib while I can; that way I can make it through the book without any hunger pangs.

Ache

12:06 AM Posted by Patrick No comments
Finished Hunger Games a few minutes ago. Will blog more about it later.

Aside from being very well written, it was also an emotional reaming.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2:08 PM Posted by Patrick , , No comments
One might think that having oodles of extra time would be conducive to increased blog traffic. One would be quite mistaken. During school my blog is more valuable as a repository for any thoughts which won't stop flitting around my brain. When I am home and totally relaxed I do not need such a device quite so much.

I think today I found the greatest factor. These last few days have been tremendously lazy; consumed by books, movies, and shopping. Today, however, I stayed home and cleaned like a little maniac. Suddenly, after the last sweet phrase of my third album, I felt the burning need to write something. It can then be assumed that I write more when I am busy. Activity provides food for my brain, which makes sense because I think better when moving.

You are free to assume that, if I have not blogged for a few days, I am acting the part of the lazy little layabout.

Moving on...

I went back and read Oliver Twist. Horridly depressing, as I expected. The facetious irony was good for the first 50 pages, after that it lost any of the cleverness which it thereto possessed. Dickens persistent insincerity and and constant sarcasm lose their novelty and become annoying quickly. This phenomenon is worse in Twist than in the others I have read.

I was disappointed that Fagin was hanged. Evil though he may have been, he at least possessed something of a human side. His was not the wanton brutality of Bill Sykes. Fagin was a schemer, not a brute or an assassin and the deadliest weapon he wielded was the police and his knowledge of the guilt of others. Should Fagin have spent the rest of his life in prison? Certainly. In the end he was an old man, a fence, a thief, and general fiend, none of which is generally punishable by death. Oh well.

Sykes had it coming.

Now I'm reading The Hunger Games. We'll see how that goes.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

First Semester Grades.

2:02 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
I didn't think that I had garnered any -A or any such thing. But confirmation is always nice. Three A's and a couple +A's.

Now I can really rest.

Will post about Christmas with the Harris family when I feel like writing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cinch.

11:41 AM Posted by Patrick 7 comments
English was a cinch. Nowhere near as difficult as I thought...and I really did think it would be easy.

German is my last final, and it is not a question of whether I do well, but whether my score is as high as the other boy wonder in the class, J.D. He consistently scores a little higher than I do, and since most of my errors are carelessness, not ignorance, I think I might do it this time!

*Rapid shift of thought and Topic*

I must be careful about using this facebook thing again. I realize that it is winter and that outside is not exactly the place to be. But I need to be sure I don't cut into my constructive time with that brain eating cancer of a social networking site.

Alright. Time to go find people.

The Cats

8:31 AM Posted by Patrick , , No comments
Every morning I face the same challenge; a veritable dance of death. When I stumble my way down the hall--rather in the manner of a stunned moose--toward the shower, I do so with the constant company of danger. As I go down the hall I wonder exactly how my end will come? Will my end come from a sideways tumble down the stairs? Perhaps a sudden heart attack? Maybe it will just cut off my legs and maul me?

No matter where they were three minutes before, there is almost always a cat sprinting to position itself beneath my raised foot.

I say: there is danger in the morning. As surely as there are cats; there is danger.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Who Was It?

You cannot understand the present unless you understand the past. The present is only the momentary continuation of the past and is part and parcel with the same.

So why is it that when American history is discussed, be it in schools or books, that we seem to skip from the freeing of the slaves right to the beginning of the first World War?

One would almost think that slavery ended with the end of the civil war. It did not. It might have ended in name, but it was not over in reality.

The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were obeyed in the south only because the union troops, underneath the command of the brutal but efficient Sherman, ensured it with force. The black populace voted for the republicans; the party of the abolition.

Republican power during this short span was greater than it ever was and will ever be again. And the black populace enjoyed greater civil rights than they would until the mid twentieth century.

1866 saw the formation of the KKK; the, evil, white trash, scrub bastard, paramilitary wing of the democrat party. When Grant ran for office the first time, he won by a wide margin, but not as wide as he expected. The reason was poor black voter turnout in the south. To be precise, in at least 11 counties in Alabama, Grant did not receive a single vote. In fact, oddly enough, the normally enthusiastically political black populace had not cast a single vote, even though they made up 45% of the population of those counties.

The truth was that grant received almost no black votes in the south, except near 100% black turnout in places where the federal army was strong. The abuse of blacks and republicans by white democrats had begun...I don't think it is probably totally over either.

(humorous aside: this is when Grant established the National Rifle Association for the purpose of shooting those Klan S.o.Bs and to protect republican and black voters)

When Hayes claimed a narrow victory in 1877, the republicans agreed to compromise. The gutless weasels were compromising more than they knew.

The compromise of 1877 pulled the federal military out of the south. The 13,000 confederate landholders pardoned by Johnson went right back to their land and started using every trick they knew to re-enslave the now free blacks. Jim crow laws, exorbitant taxes if you tried to do anything but sharecrop a white person's land or clean a white person's house. They functionally re-instated slavery.

And are we surprised, after seeing black republicans elected to office during federal occupation, that we saw no more black legislators or officials from the south after the army left? That once the protection stopped the KKK and poor whites, with the direction of rich whites and democrat bosses(a senator included), started terrorizing the black citizens and republicans. Republicans got a choice, leave or die. Blacks got a choice, dance or die.

1877 destroyed the republican party in the south and doomed republicans in general to a slow slide into mediocrity, and they deserved it. Their spineless self interest condemned the blacks of the south to a slow, torturous, humiliating, gratuitous descent into abused second-class citizen status, which condition they were held in until just 40 years ago.

What is sickening is that the democrats made the black population love them. Despite the fact that the men who loosed dogs on civil rights protesters were good southern democrats. Despite the fact that there is an ex Kleagle of the Klan sitting in the senate with a D by his name. I will save my rant about our current brand of benign racism for a later date.

I know when the shift came and it was not democrats who brought it about. The change in perception was brought about by another force who found a ready home with both republicans and democrats. This force, however, found that the democrats made an infinitely more loyal and obeisant host. But this is another history lesson.

Republicans were the party of abolition, of freedom. They may just be democrat light now, but there was a time when they had potential.

Know the past. The democrats take power wherever and however they can. Republicans are gutless and faithless, willing to sell their principles--perhaps their very souls--for the democrat's political scraps. The republicans sold out the black populace 132 years ago, and, in typical fashion, the democrats bought.

Some Short Time.

3:28 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
Girding my loins for tonight's final, I feel no stress. This is history; it comes so naturally and makes perfect sense. None of it is purposeless. It is a million threads which wind together to create a breathtaking tapestry of humanity. No thread hangs alone and none is without its purpose and meaning in the tapestry. This final is going to be fun.

It is the same way for my other finals that lie ahead. German will be difficult; a puzzle. But it will be an enjoyable puzzle.

English will be English, which is to say, second nature and totally comfortable.

My only tedious final is already behind me.

Now my greatest source of anxiety is those late library books that I need to return tonight. I hope I don't get one of the surly librarians.

Now, I must finish up with this and go practice disarming smiles.

Monday, December 14, 2009

When Did University Cease to Be?

12:04 AM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
I have always wondered when university transferred its mission from education for educations sake to career orientation and training. When did their focus morph from creating thinkers and refining minds into creating employees and glorified merchants?

I think I found part of the answer earlier. After WWII we passed a GI bill that allowed American veterans to go to college free of charge. The rates of student graduation plummeted into the low 40% area and it never made it back to the previous rates in the 80-90% range. We are now hovering just below 60%, which is about 10% lower than our rate in the 70s.

The GI bill permanently changed the nature of the American university system. The young veterans of WWII were not there to study human nature or the course and formation of history. They were there because they thought it was the way to get ahead in life, and the system, led by the enticement of doubled and tripled budgets, changed to accommodate them.

Only about 25% of the WWII GIs ever graduated. That is the number who completed college with free tuition. They didn't even have to pay and the number was still that depressingly low.

But do you thing that the GIs were a lesser sampling of intelligence than the schools found 20-30 years later? Guess again. After receiving that kind of boost to their holdings and empires, their precious research budgets, the kings of the realms of academia were not about to let that money go. They expanded the purpose of the university to include job training for the less academically inclined. Admissions standards were lowered, programs were developed to provide classes to teach professions and careers that were previously handled by apprenticeship.

We do not get that pre-GI bill education. Even the great universities no longer require that you read the classics in the original languages, or even learn the classical languages.

Some might answer to that, indeed, some have responded to my pursuit of ancient languages "How are those useful? What can you do with them?" Which is an illustration of my point. Everything has to have utility now. Young people rarely learn anything for the love of knowledge. For the love of thought. It has become a gateway to material success. People ask first what you are majoring in; then they ask what you are going to do with that.

I am going to pursue reason; I will try.

Ack! I just spent over two hours reading and trying to find a factoid that I now absolutely must know! The thing that bugs me is that the sources who could actually help me are all asleep.

In sight of my obsession, I think that the last phrase that jumped out at me sums things nicely.

"No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness."

Though I do not think that genius is probably a prerequisite for said madness...

:-P

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Whims Like Caffeine

7:07 PM Posted by Patrick , , No comments
There I was, gloomy, tired, and downcast, no inspiration daring enough to venture into the presence of my melancholy. My research paper just wasn't coming along. I needed to find certain statistics, not flattering to the current administrators of the university system. I did not lose faith, the fact that the opposition had published no statistics in favour of their position on the issue heartened me. But the total lack of evidence from the opposition did not necessarily mean that my needs would be fulfilled; the haughty poobahs of the arcane tower do not publish their research if it does not agree with that which they hoped to find.

But...

Even arcane poobahs slip up.

I caught a series of inconsistencies and hypocrisies that lend me all the munitions I require. I can finish my piece much stronger than I hoped to this morning.

Funny enough...

This revelation, this majestic Whim of Wit which shattered my uncertainty and gloom, struck me after hours of fruitless toil. Why did it wait so long? The answer is all to easy. I was gloomy and tired and utterly unappealing to any kind of whim; in a fog too deep for inspiration to find me. The whim came to me almost exactly five minutes after I finished consuming the first cup of a fresh pot of coffee. Coincidence, I think not.

The hard part is done and I just need to finish restructuring tomorrow.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

And in that Day Did He Mooch to His Hearts Content

9:58 PM Posted by Patrick 2 comments
There are multitudinous bonuses to having a brilliant and gorgeous older Sister.

The bonus we are concerned with in this entry is food. Namely, the worldly lawyers throw feasts and I get invited for no other reason than the Shewoof's goodness and generosity toward lesser beings, like me. So, this night, I joined in the revelry of her office Christmas party at Chops.

I feasted.

I will sleep soundly with the remembered taste of lamb chop and creme brulee tickling the tip of my tongue.

Tonight, I am the Moocher King.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mirror

9:02 AM Posted by Patrick , , 3 comments
I woke up this morning to a morbid reality of taupe and white. The soft pall of white announces this land as dead and covers over all the grass that would try to say different. The flowers wither and everything takes on a stillness. The world is in mourning.

But even as we pass into winter, we do so in the knowledge that spring is coming. Light and color will return to the world. The white pall will be cast aside and the grass and flowers with burst forth more splendid than when last we saw them. Song will return to the air and our mourning will at last be over.

Winter has come. It is not a happy thought.

However.

Be of good cheer.

Spring is coming.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Rest and Dead-Week

1:25 PM Posted by Patrick , No comments
I almost feel guilty when I hear about the daunting mountain of homework that Win is laboring under. Almost.

Self study for the final is not exactly difficult. Two or three hours of my time, at my leisure and good pleasure, seems easier than the hour and fifteen minutes spent in the company of the professor. Here I have endless supplies of coffee. I may stretch and walk around when I please. I can even listen to my music while I am working. It is an easy schedule and I find myself unwinding very nicely from all accumulated stress that I collected during my research process.

However, not being in the presence of the professor does make it difficult to drag feedback out of them. I am still waiting for a certain professor's feedback, in light of which I was supposed to begin my revision on a certain paper. While there is oodles of time before I really need this info, it is usually my preference to get all this nonsense out of the war early. I dislike last minute jobs.

Having finished Rutherfurd's New York, I am pleased with it as an effort overall. Though, I couldn't help but notice, Rutherfurd dragged this piece into the present and, in the process, was unable to keep his own political views separate. I think it a pity. Rutherfurd usually keeps everything so objective and adding political tones takes away from the grand scale feel which his books carry, and which this book carried until he got closer to modern times. Part of the mark of a good historian is the ability to veil opinion and present subject matter objectively, with the only opinion that matters belonging to the parties involved. The material in this book must have come to close; it shows in the way it colors his language and characters. I am afraid that his mask cracked on this one. Let us hope he sticks to history next time.

...I should mention that it was a pretty good read until it got to the twentieth century. Politics don't enter until much later, but the characters in the twentieth century are sort of flat and weak, somewhat petty. I would have been better pleased if I just read the first two thirds...no I wouldn't, I would have been curious. I just wish now that I had stopped then. ;-)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lamp Posts in the Rain

11:29 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
I do not know why it is that I so love the sight of them. There is something about the bleary, radiant, veiled quality of that light that I love.

Better even than the sight of them; walking on a dark rainy night with said orbs as the only illumination on the path and that tangy worm-smell in the air.

And also, the soft caress of rain, even if bitter cold, I have always found so soothing. It is like the drops, which roll off of my face, carry my worries and stress away with them. Even after the longest days, the rain always makes me feel light again.

With the darkness and the solitude and the steady, measured, and ceaseless patter of the rain, the smallest spark of imagination or breath of a whim leads to the most wondrous realms of thought.

It really is a pity that it is so late and I have class tomorrow; I should love a little walk in the rain.

Or better yet: a long walk.

Victory.

9:22 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
Basketball, every single class, someone says we should face the IPFW women players. Everyone would then agree that this was crazy talk and that the individual needs be institutionalized. We would be destroyed.

Today, three intrepid teammates and I put that assertion to the test.

I had already been working out since eight, as had the other three, yet we were the only ones from the class who had the energy to play the girls. We were easily the strongest physical specimens. We would have to see how it went.

Playing to fifteen by ones and twos, we took them best two out of three in 2 sets. We went ahead and played the third, but they beat us at that one, partially because it was half-court and cut down on our speed advantage. Still, for not having played basketball in a long time, winning that match against legit college players felt good.

If only I could play as well during class as I did in those matches.

More suspicious free food today. The grilled cheese turned out to be edible. I did not risk the bisque...which really looked very frightening. Company and I ate our food to the mediocre musical stylings of a pair of bearded posers with prerecorded faux-instrumentals. While there I nabbed one of the free t-shirts that they were using to bribe us into voting for homecoming. After that I went to find a corner to hide in and study. Corner was found. Study commenced until idiots with popcorn also found corner. Made a glorious oblique to higher ground, on which high ground study recommenced until time for german.

Beyond silence has blown what little potential it had in my estimation. Poor editing, terrible screenwriting, and acting that was the equal of either, ruined any chance it had of being a decent film. The characters were detestible and the plot went nowhere fast. Not a film I would choose to view again.

MSL was more interesting than usual; this was largely due to the fact that the regular personage of a one Sgt. Seitz was replaced by Cpt. Brittenberg, for whom all attending, aside from my little civilian self, had the utmost fear and respect. A nice guy, told me to call him John...at which recommendation I thought Steve's eyes would come out of his head. Made for good people watching.

And now I have only minutes ago finished with the gastronomical wonders of salmon with goat cheese a bed of fresh greens, wild rice, and wonderfully crisp green beans, baked with a thin coating of olive oil. Beautiful.

Now I am about to go out and grab a brownie and some decaf. Life is good my friends. Life is very good.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Trading Integrity for A Christmas Tree

12:19 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
The front page of the Journal Gazette Metro section sickened me. There were two stories at the top. One of the stories was about a pizza delivery man who was murdered, the thieves apparently killed him in order to take his pizzas. The second story was about a man who had a twelve foot blue spruce in his front yard; had is the operative word. Someone cut it down and stole it during the night.

What the hell is wrong with people.

Murder for pizza.

How can you look your children in the eyes as you decorate a tree that you stole from someone's front yard?

Sickening