Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Enlightened Mind

5:28 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
Do not ask me to believe in the rational human.

No society took to the enlightenment with the same vigor as the Germans. Granted, the French butchered each other and regularly overthrew their republican governments in their illuminated fervor, but they do not compare to the Germans when it comes to how deeply the enlightenment took in the middle and professional classes. One might question what drove this exceedingly advanced attitude--and unusual stability--I do not know quite enough to say, but I intend to find out.

This advanced society continued to flourish as the most progressive and cultivated society of the middle 19th and early 20th centuries. None equaled them in the field of academics, in the sciences or humanities. Yet all know that this great society went on to wage war against most of the world, and to kill off large segments of its own people, many of whom were the best and brightest of German progress.

They held the single most evil belief which has ever infiltrated the human race; they believed in the perfectibility of humanity. That through the magic of technological, literary, and sociological advancement a lasting, peaceful, society might be attainable. All that is necessary to the completion of the project, the accomplishment of this greatest human goal, is to remove all those who would resist perfection. To remove the ultimate roadblock to universal love, one must remove the unlovable and unloving.

The Jews have always been a people apart, governed by their own rules, customs, and quirks--really kind of amusing and lovable in a modern context. Quaint, perhaps. To the Germans, however, they represented two elements. One, they were an element which would not conform and consent to lose itself in the national whole, which made them the second element, the enemy within, who must be crushed and subjugated for the sake of national unity. After all, the ends justify the means, and a unified people, working together, is a prerequisite for societal well-being.

No society is ever perfect, so those who believe in perfection only know that something must be changed. Furthermore, since we are presently embroiled in injustice, a change from where we are must be for the better, and those who oppose this change, it follows, are not only the enemies of change, but the champions of injustice; monsters, to be dealt with firmly.

Change is a constant, and societies must obviously change to adapt to revelations in science and shifts in demographics. The point of difference comes with the view taken on change. To change suddenly and without thought is to invite disaster. In the case of Germany, an eternity of national regret, and universal embarrassment for more than half a century--not to mention having fostered the most--ok, Stalin wins--second most monstrous deeds of the age.

All change must be proceeded by careful thought and examination. Change for the sake of change is not good, any more than stasis for stasis sake is any good. I believe that governments primary duty is to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens, and thereafter, to encourage them in virtue. Yes, I believe that government has an interest in creating virtuous citizens by encouraging sound mores, so long as these measures do not impinge on life, liberty, or property.

Yet, as I reflect, the best virtues for the maintenance of peace and order in the city are not strictly rational. The human capacity for rationality is infinitely limited. I, perhaps egotistically, consider myself well beyond the norm in terms of the degree to which I engage rational thought in my everyday life, but purely rational--read calculating--thought would not be a great guarantor of my good behavior. I am, however, possessed of an irrational religious idea that it is my duty to be good, to accord basic dignity and respect to those I meet, and to hold--or try to hold--to a stark moral code.

Examine, again, the Germans. The greatest atrocities they committed came after German faith had waned. The enlightenment was not kind to either the Lutherans or the Catholics in Germany. Faith in a merciful God, who would, nonetheless, come again to judge the nations, ceased to be a serious part of the physiognomy of the German mind. Man was God, his kingdom would come, and it would never end.

Rationality is cold. The hot juices sloshing around in side us might lead to mistakes, but those same hot juices are the stuff of friendship, love, and Gemütlichkeit. I have never heard of love founded on cold rational.

I will not believe in the perfectly rational human for two reasons. First, because he does not exist. Second, God save us if he does.

Gifts.

9:24 AM Posted by Patrick 4 comments
I enjoy receiving gifts and, even more so, giving them. But it is with a certain antipathy that I consider the feeding frenzy of the Christmas shopping season. Every night the mall is packed, and on the weekends it is hard for someone like me to move without nearly mowing someone over. But it is not their poor sense in cramming themselves like sardines into the stores that irks me. I am frustrated, rather, by their frustration.

Many of them are buying their presents without any pleasure; they expect little gratefulness. Christmas gifts, instead of being recognized as an act of generosity and sacrifice on behalf of the giver for the sake of their love of the recipient, are seen as due by the receiver; these gifts are what they are owed, by right of merely existing. So much the worse for the giver, should their offering be found wanting, because scorn certainly waits in the wings to belittle their efforts.

Parents, friends, grandparents are held to ransom by expectations, and not by expectations of thoughtfulness. It is not the thought which counts, after all, but volume. I am regularly appalled when the people shopping at work look at an item, doubt whether the intended recipient would like it, but buy it anyway, because they need more for that person. They are stuck outbidding one another, hoping to secure the esteem of their friends and family by lavishing more gifts on them than others.

The ultimate perversion is that these gifts will often be begrudged. They will not be selected and given in spontaneous and exuberant love. The relationship preserved by our present custom is less a mirror of the tender love of God the Father, giving us His only Son, than it is a mirror of the enmity between the IRS and the taxpayer; presents will be given, or there shall be consequences.

There are, of course, many who still give gifts in love and charity, and I sincerely bid them Merry Christmas, but I fear they might be in the minority. The cranky, often rude, people I deal with on a regular basis certainly do not.

I love giving and receiving gifts, but the sickness of our present Christmas tradition turns my stomach and makes it difficult to find Christmas spirit.

Humbug.


Monday, December 3, 2012

And Isn't it an Unfornate Happenstance, Don't You Think?

9:03 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
A little bit too much of an unfortunate happenstance.

I spent my entire day yesterday, and the majority of my night, working on a paper, which was due this evening. I failed to make satisfactory progress yesterday, so I wound up calling off of work this morning, so that I might actually turn something in before the deadline which was not the literary equivalent of a heaping mound of organic waste product.

I spent my morning, and a decent part of my afternoon, hammering out something which I would not blush to own, only to discover upon arriving at class, that the professor had pushed the deadline to the end of the school year, to give us time to get him something polished.

Gratefulness and rage mingled momentarily, giving way to maniacal laughter. I found the email telling us that he was giving the extension in my spam folder. How it got there, I know not. He was not offering us any used cars, or massages we wouldn't forget, so I could not fathom what gmail was thinking; I believe it did this to me out of spite, because I refuse to use Chrome.

On the bright side, although the quantity of caffeine I consumed last night probably shortened my life, and certainly left me without appetite for the better part of the day--I was Clive, not Joe--I have one less project on which I may procrastinate, and all the time in the world with which to finish my last assignments.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Morning's Adventure.

2:25 PM Posted by Patrick 4 comments
I woke up at 6 to the deafening klaxon of my alarm. After I had chastised it in the most severe of terms for its sin, I proceeded to snooze it for the next 45 minutes or so. Astonished each time that I woke that the cheeky little thing had the impudence and courage to sound again in the face of my displeasure.

I dragged myself out of bed...correction, I spent the next five minutes pulling off my covers bit by painful bit, allowing the cold of the room to shock some wakefulness into me, without sending  me into immediate cardiac arrest. The shower was another struggle. The hot water was irresistible, and I had to call up every last ounce of my self-control to turn it off. Amazingly, I escaped after fewer than ten minutes had passed.

Dressing was an even more difficult challenge. I did not like clothes this morning, and the clothes I did like were not enough clothes, or else, did not match with my new jeans, which I felt it was my sacred duty to wear. It was the kind of morning which will drive you crazy, or worse, to Jefferson Pointe. Eventually I found my way into something that did not offend my person too much, being soft enough not to aggravate my incipient tie rash, warm enough to keep me from dying, and dressy enough to keep me from feeling like a hobo.

Breakfast was the ordinary affair: stick something in toaster, eat it with eggs, repeat. Perhaps slightly more extraordinary, for the loaf of Stollen on the counter. Jonathan had already made the coffee, so I was quickly able to dispel my remaining grogginess.

My dear mother made her appearance just before Eight, or thereabout, and I chatted with her briefly before making my way out to the car. I squared my shoulders, turned up the collar on my coat, and strode purposefully to my car: I had a mission.

In my back pocket was a wallet. In that wallet lay, 1) a speeding ticket, and 2) more cash than I care to have at a given time. The fact that I was soon to give away all that cash did not bother me so much; it was the necessary result of a foolish mistake--a chapter of life to be dealt with and done.

I made my way downtown, parking by the Star Bank on Berry Street; I walked to Citizens square to pay my ticket at the City Clerk's Office, only to have the very nice lady tell me that I had been cited for a State Statute, and the rules are different; that I must go to the "Right, Venerable, Bud Meeks Ultimate Justice Center" to have it taken care of.

*Blink Blink*

Lucky that I am an adaptable animal--and that I dressed on the warm side--I went gallumphing back toward my car. Distracted by the Higher Grounds--and the distraction within the distraction--I took advantage of my pause to call the Casey Family Logistics Command Center to ascertain what was coming. Unfortunately, high command was unable to find any solid intel, so I was going it alone.

I walked the long, cold, lawyer infested stretch to the Hall of Justice. Upon walking in, I had to empty my pockets into a tray. In went my affects. Keys, coins, cellphone, and spring assisted knife: we had a problem. "Cell phones," declaimed the guard, "are banned from the building by court order! You actually violated a court order by walking in here with it. You must put it in your car, and then return, once you have put off your uncleanness." So I trudged all the way back to my car, feeling more than a bit of the latent anarchism that lurks within us all.

Two wrong turns, two unnecessary trips: I despaired that I would ever have time to get through the lines of people waiting to be helped. As I walked my solitary way back through the streets, I could already feel the pressing weight of failure. Yet I knew I had to try. I picked up the pace, and quickly made the return circuit.

Into the tray once more went the knife, keys, and coin. The guards waved me along--I think they were rather more amused by me than frustrated--and I stepped into the large atrium, where various malefactors were waiting to be brought before the Judge. It was then, and only then, that I realized the long line was not for me. I traipsed happily past the long line, to the empty window where tickets are taken care. After a brief, amiable, conversation with the wardens of that good office, they set about getting everything in order, which took a fraction of the time I had expected.

Another pleasant surprise waited at the end. The state ticket, with deferral, cost me about a hundred dollars less than the city ticket would have, and my ticket is waived in half the time.

I left the Hall of Justice feeling complete relief. Partly because it had cost less, but mostly because I knew that flukes in my schedule could no longer cause me to miss the payment deadline, resulting in a warrant for my arrest. My fetters were broken.

As I processed triumphantly toward my car, I realized that I was in closer proximity to Regal's than I would be at any time soon, so I stopped by for some celebratory pipe tobacco, to commemorate my exceeding virtue in getting the state citation as opposed to the city one.

I then found my way to the familiar confines of IPFW, from the library of which, Brethren, I write you this Epistle.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ramblings Inspired by Hunger

9:47 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
"History and German," I reply for the 47th time that day.

And everyone knows the question which follows after.

The question follows because my hearer misapprehends my purpose for studying German and History; not only that, they do not properly comprehend what I mean thereby; that is to say, those subjects signify to me.

To some, the study of history comprises the study and rote memorization of lists of dead men and the equally dead events of their lives, the only use for which is to torture the already wandering minds of bored children.

To others, thinking in a slightly more sophisticated way, it is the study of human development; perhaps the evolution of human civilization. Interesting, but not really of great utility. These sorts always respond with support, but perhaps with a shadow of amusement behind the eyes.

To others still, it is necessary. We must study history, or else we will keep making the mistakes of the past! If only people studied history, they would vote third party and the thousand year reign could begin in earnest.

No.

They are more impressed with German. I could teach that at a school too, and it is a rarer skill, so it should be in slightly higher demand. It is kind of cool as well. Impressive. I am yet to meet with a stranger who quite understood the importance of speaking the language of the worlds second largest export economy. Even then, that would fail to reach the mark.

My purpose in studying History and German resides in plain curiosity. I want to understand. More importantly, I want to understand ideas, and the nature of ideas. History is the complete record of philosophy, politics, culture, psychology, and literature in motion. Machiavelli refers to history as the laboratory of ideas, to which one must look to ascertain the nature of things, but what does he mean thereby?

To understand history is to have perspective. To understand any subject, outside of its greater context, is to understand it imperfectly.

Meaning without context is nonsense. A single word outside of a sentence, a sentence outside of the body of work, the body of work divorced from the author, the author removed from the context of history, all destroy meaning. If I tell my baby brother that I am going to run him over repeatedly with my car, he will probably giggle. If I say the same to a customer at work, I will be in exceedingly big trouble. The context has, without changing my words, fundamentally altered their meaning. All meaning is not derived from context--the literal message is unchanged--but accurately determining meaning is impossible without it. And if we are interested in the nature of things--truth, or what you will--then context, or perspective, is a prerequisite to any search.

If history is the context of human ideas and actions, my tools for comprehending what I find therein are linguistic. There may be some genius in the world who may hold the pure essence of an idea in his head; I am not he. When I think about something, if I wish to think about it clearly, I must use words. Sure, I can have a misty hodge-podge of feelings and ideas in my head, but only words can focus then. If, then, language is the symbolic medium through which I assign meaning to history and--well--everything, why restrict myself to thinking in English? German gives me a second linguistic, or symbolic, perspective, with which to assign meaning.

To oversimplify: what I desire is to improve my mind. Therefore, I study history, which is everything, and language, which is a medium through which to try and make sense of everything.



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Asphyxiation

11:42 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
During this afternoon's edition of German Language Skills, the topic of loan words came up. Wolf Schneider, in Deutsch fuer Profis is against using transliterated words when simple--alltaeglich--German cognates exist. An example which Schneider used, and which Lee specifically highlighted, was the use of "asphyktisch" rather than atemlos. If one is trying to reach the widest audience, then one should use simpler language.

Six hours later, a realization puzzled me. I was unable to provide an etymology for the word "Asphyxia." I sat there--ok, so maybe I was playing Meerca Chase--and ran through all the possible Latin and Greek words for breath or anything remotely related that I could call to mind. Still nothing fit.

I had one of my research assistants look into it, and what he uncovered I found, if not ironic, at least amusing. If one means to say without breath, or atemlos, then asphyktisch, though it might often be used in such cases now, does not literally have anything to do with breath, the lungs, air, or wind.

Asphyxia is the α + σφύζ; the cessation of the pulse, or of throbbing. You asphyxiate, not when you stop breathing, but when your heart stops not too long thereafter.

I think Schneider's point is made twice over. When a universally understood word exists--in  German, in Germany--then why use a more complex loan word which is not literal, as the German synonym indeed is? This is not to say that one should just throw out all loan words. Heavens forefend! I argue, rather, that one should only use them when the meaning is clear, and when they add more flavour or nuance than a domestically cultivated word. There are also many cases where we simply have no cognate and must steal words--Gemuetlichkeit, anyone?

The real temptation, into which I often fall, springs from the desire to show off; to sound sophisticated, intelligent, well read, and savvy. The impulse to make things more complex than they need to be must be fought. One might imagine that ridiculous, extravagant language makes one sound like Proust,  but it does not. It reads more like Pompous, if the audience can even comprehend it.

Fall not into the dens of Jargon, nor tarry long in the courts of Technolegalbureaucraticpsychobabble. Plain English will do...oder Deutsch, wenn sie wollen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Where The Wild Things Are

6:25 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
Maurice Sendak died today and I feel a strangely strong sense of bereavement.

Where the Wild Things Are was  my favourite. I loved the book, I loved the Wild Things, and I loved Max. I identified myself with Max. I wanted to be Max. I wanted to have my solitary adventures into the night, through a day, in and out of weeks, and over a year. And I wanted to return back to where someone loved me best of all.

Where the Wild Things Are became a part of who I am, and to know the man who wrote it is gone kind of hurts. So I send my love and kind regards to Maurice Sendak. He will never receive them, but I am grateful nonetheless.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Deutsch und Laufen.

9:15 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
I ran harder and farther than I have for quite some time yesterday. As a natural result thereof, I bear more resemblance to a seventy year-old man in my movements than I should like. Be that as it may, I will run tomorrow morning, and as often as I must to ensure that my suits fit forever.

I am in desperate need of some totally fluffy light reading. I spend my days on campus with some Tome or other dealing with Pre-Colonial Africa or the Spanish American War, and while much of it is fascinating, there is only so much a body can take. Add to that that I was insane enough using pleasure reading time to read Dalrymple and Sowell, I need something that requires no mental taxation.

I am trying to figure out how I am going to do this German presentation. I have ideas as far as exercises and games go, but I am not sure what kind of theme I could incorporate into my topic. I am expressing probability with the future perfect. So: Er wird sicherlich Pizza gegessen haben--He certainly ate Pizza.

I need to develop a theme or backdrop in which to incorporate and teach this concept. Not ease.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

ما شاء الله

10:10 PM Posted by Patrick 2 comments
What willed God?

This exclamation comes in response to seeing great beauty, or to hearing good news. It is, of course, high praise.

I like the phrase better, however, when it is taken out of the context of fate. While there is obviously an inherent recognition of divine goodness in the original, it is within the larger text of man as the plaything of God--all the moves have been made and the game is over; you are just figuring out how it went.

The word الله is a difficult one. While it may be the transliterated Aramaic word for God, it has become deeply associated with Islam in particular. Arabic is a language where references to god are ubiquitous, as might be expected from a culture so thoroughly dominated by religion. The issue is that, when I ask what God has willed, I do so with the same words that others use to attribute a specific work to another entity, who most certainly is not God.

There is room for confusion here, and I am not so green to suggest that the only import in my use of language is what I mean, not the meaning others might divine. When I say to one of my classmates, 'peace be upon you,' it is very likely that he and I have a different peace in mind.

That said, there is a piety and courtesy that I have found in Arabic, which has thus far been appealing to me. It is just a matter of figuring out how to reconcile myself to using a language where all of the accepted and polite forms have included homage to a pagan god. Not easy.

In other news: I have to teach twenty minutes of German a week from tomorrow, and although I keep telling myself that it is going to be a piece of cake, there is a little voice screaming in the back of my head which thinks this could get hairy. The primary problem arose because, though my topic is not always easy to remember it is actually very easy to formulate. I mean the future and future perfect tenses.

Only now does it hit me that my early German classes spent multiple classes on teaching every verb tense and on perfecting its use...were we morons or what? No. I should not say that. I ordinarily had it down at once. Were they morons or what?

Not only do I have to teach it, I have to make it fresh and entertaining. I have to devise activities. And while I'm doing all of this, oh yeah, I need to finish my 15 page African history paper. Oh well. It will go fine, it always does, somehow or other.

Tomorrow morning I am setting my alarm early enough to get up and run. I hope to develop a M,W,F, routine. We'll see what kind of start I get off to tomorrow morning.

And in case youse guys didn't know, I gets the Shewoof in two days!

Monday, April 2, 2012

In Praise of Prejudice.

11:01 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
Reading the title alone is enough to raise an eyebrow as our well honed prejudices kick in. For those familiar with Dalrymple's previous work, the squirming is perhaps moderately ameliorated by the knowledge of the depth of his analysis. Yet we cringe, nonetheless.

In Praise of Prejudice is a challenge to examine the way we think and how we form our pictures of the world. Dalrymple does a masterful job of bringing the reader to the necessary realization that it is impossible to go through life in the total absence of prejudgements. The very act of automatically tying a concept or idea to a word or set of words--a phenomenon we discussed in pedagogy--is an act of judgement, id est, personal allocation of value. Every time we use the same concept, we are merely instantly accessing a previously made judgement.

To be free from all prejudice is to be a helpless infant. To believe that one is free from prejudice after one has developed object permanence is to be a buffoon, or at the very least one who has not given the matter any real thought.

The inability to avoid prejudices leaves us with the daunting task of fighting the effect of ill formed or foolish prejudgements and to condition and habituate ourselves to healthier prejudices. Fire will burn me is a prejudice and it is rational. You can't trust *insert racial type* is an obviously paranoid and destructive prejudice.

Dalrymple, however, not only stresses the importance of developing healthy prejudice, but illustrates in examples from his practice and from statistics, the negative impact of the prejudice against prejudice. Throughout the book he will cite many examples that we would not ordinarily think of when we hear "prejudice," but which have been negatively impacted by societal prejudices.

One example: In opening the essay, he takes a study done on early child obesity, which found that it was tied to junkfood advertisements. Where those who conducted the study took it as proof that governments should ban such ads, Dalrymple raises the fascinating question of agency. Are the five-year-olds buying themselves all of that junk?

The agency of the young tyrants comes about, because of a societal reaction against perceived parental tyranny and the more controlled and controlling families of previous decades. Because of a general reaction against parents holding strict authority over their children's diets and activities, there is now a societal prejudice in place which says that children should be free to make more of their own choices. The problem inherent therein, is that five-year-olds are not competent to make dietary choices, but have now become accustomed to telling, rather than being told.

This is one of the more purely abstract examples, and he obviously tells it with more style than I do here, but it is clear the social norms and attitudes are reflected in our lifestyles, and that with the adoption of any norm comes tremendous and unforeseen change in actual physical conditions.

My favourite sentiment with regard to the preparing of any plan is one neatly posited by Thomas Sowell in his Applied Economics. Though I will need to refresh my memory of the exact quotation later, it runs to the effect that 'one should never confuse intent with outcome.' One might intend to give children greater choice and control in their day to day lives, but one may--on such a path--allow the unlearned and inexperienced to make destructive choices before they have the prerequisite knowledge to understand the consequences of their actions.

I think Americans trend even moreso toward this prejudice against authority, which is probably for the same reason we become so angry when we feel others have been inconsiderate toward us, and that is because we are our own highest deity; the all important I. The god-king of popular sovereignty. We are so worried about the yoke of illegitimate authority--granted, in large part a legitimate fear--that we react caustically against legitimate authority: pastors, parents, professors, and those generally wiser and more experienced.

We lack perspective; we no longer define ourselves according to religion, family, or like groupings, because they are restrictive and pose limitations on our license. Anything that keeps us tied down must be cast off.

We just need to be free to be ourselves.

And what is a single individual apart from the society of his fellow men or with God?

He is sad, lonely, pathetic, meat. Love and friendship, family and community are the best companions men may hope to enjoy on earth, and yet we stubbornly refuse to define ourselves according to those things. We insist on being something sovereign from them, alienated from them by right of our eternal ego. The folly of finding oneself, is that those who utter that trite little sentiment often mean that they intend to cut themselves off from the influences that formed them and made them the person that they now are. If it is not self hatred speaking, then it is at least shallowness of thought.

Absolute license and the rejection of all authority might be freedom, but it certainly is not liberty. It is the absolute freedom of the branch which is cut from the tree. With the tree the branch would have flowered and born fruit, given shelter to the weary, and shared life with the tree; distinct, unique, and separate, growing as it will, but still connected. I think the alternative in my metaphor is also pretty clear.

Where then is the just limit of authority? Where does parental concern cross the line from being healthy into being arbitrary? I would answer that this depends in every case upon the specific children and parents. There can be no general rule.

Amongst men and governments I still enjoy the general rule of thumb espoused by Condorcet; that it should extend only so far as to prevent malefaction by one party in society against another, and should never go beyond what is strictly necessary to that means. That said, I do not think that one can rightly say that only representative authority is legitimate. I would point to the biblical judges and kings and some of the wise kings of antiquity, not least of which were the Five Good Emperors, under whom Rome enjoyed a degree of good government and peace not seen for a long age after.

I prefer Platonic/Aristotelian approach. Good government legislates moderately with the common good as the aim. Legitimacy is a function of goodness and wisdom, which necessarily will respect the natural rights of the citizen.

But I have rambled on long enough and wandered to more places than I intended when I sat down...this was supposed to be a brief blurb about a book.

My bottom line. Go to your library and get this book. It is well written with irony, humor, poignancy, and humanity to spare. It bears Dalrymple's normal mark, which is one of deep consideration and cool logic, furthered by his extraordinary experiences of human life in all levels, from third world villages up. This book forces one to think about thinking, which is in itself reason enough to read it.

Now, the internet beckons.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games

3:23 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
It is time, Ladies and Gentlemen, for the most reliable and original movie reviewer in the world to make his voice heard! A brief glance at the title might have clued you in, but The Hunger Games (The movie which inspired the best selling books!) is the topic of today's ramblings.

I begin by noting that I was going into this film with little to no optimism, and a biased predisposition to hate on anything that was not true to the books--which feelings were exacerbated by the Harry Potter movies, which were good , but seldom true to the book...but I digress.

Hunger Games. It begins the movie in District 12, which was almost certainly filmed in West Virginia, or some equally dismal third world environment. From the very beginning the movie fosters an atmosphere of ever settling unease. The same pit of the stomach, something is wrong, kind of feeling that one gets from movies set in poverty stricken sub-Saharan Africa, or in screwed up apartheid settings. Very effective.

The cinematography, especially for the first 25 odd minutes, was almost certainly coordinated by the people who did the Blair Witch Project. It feeds into the tense atmosphere and sense of unease, but it might be a little hard on those who get motion sick. I spent the first 15 minutes adjusting, and longer than that wondering what the devil they were doing.

I figured out what they were doing when it got around to the violence, and I can say in retrospect that they did it remarkably well. Although the shifting angles and often chaotic feel smooths out considerably during the time the Capitol, it returns full force in the arena scenes. And at this point, instead of the shaky angles and rapid panning being introduced during major action scenes, the viewer has already been acclimated to the unorthodox style during calm scenes. By doing this, all the violence and brutality is present as described, but because of the chaotic presentation, one does not have to see it in maddeningly gory detail. The violent scenes were, I thought, fantastic. I wasn't grossed out, but neither was it a case of the ridiculous depiction of battle as something clean and choreographed.

The movie was largely very true to the books, and although some things were left out, very little was added. I am very well pleased with its fidelity to the books.

The score was by James Newton Howard; 'nuff said.

The casting was, in a word, fantastic. I was prepared for a Katniss performance in the school of Kristin Stewart; instead, she was remarkably well acted; no gross over-acting, and she made excellent use of facial expression. At no point did I feel like I was being subjected to child or Teen acting. Donald Sutherland makes a good President Snow. To quote Mutti "He exudes genial evil." Woody Harrelson not only refrained from being insufferable, but played his role really, really, well. Subtlety is not an attribute I would have thought to allow him, but he had it, humor, and muted intensity. Very good.

I give this movie a high recommendation for those who have read the book. For those who have not read the book, it will still be enjoyable, but probably not as much so. The general less-is-more style the film seems to take is nicely augmented if you know what is running through the character's heads, and some of the additional back story and motivation.

I do not recommend this movie for young children, nor those who lack maturity. I found it to be more deeply unsettling than many of the more violent movies I have seen; if you also got that feeling in your gut at times while watching District 9, you might know the feeling I mean.

I thought Hunger Games was a better adaptation than any I have seen in a long while, and I very much look forward to the next installation.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Da Mojo

9:53 PM Posted by Patrick 2 comments
Dear internet diary...thing.

This winter, to put it plainly, it felt like I just did not have my mojo. I was feeling lackluster, tired, and generally in a less than decent mood. My laughter was not coming so easily as I thought it should, and everything seemed like a bigger deal than it actually was.

These days, thankfully, are passed. I have rediscovered a liking for people--at least for the time being--and my crinkly-eyed smile along with it. I am feeling this in my daily life, and in my work. I do not dread the work, and have a much better attitude attitude about it. And I also feel like talking again.

This last statement might be somewhat odd, but I can say quite honestly, that I have not really wanted to talk for the last several months. I have been quieter than has ever been my wont, and it only now strikes me that such quietness--when I see it in others--strikes me with as standoffish. Whoops.

Maybe it was not enough sunlight, or perhaps a little too much...something or other. Or it might have been too little of something else. Whatever it was; it is gone. I am more myself than I was earlier this year, and a thousand times over from this last fall.

Whatever has happened, my mojo is restored...

...which, horribly enough, shows up most in how much I flirt. Oh well.


I'd also be lying if I said that I thought the Disney movies had nothing to do with it.

Perhaps there is something in that. I have been so concerned with ideas, ideals, and philosophy ( all of which I was steeping in) this last year, that I lost my sense of romance. I was so concerned with the idea of philadelphia and the highest good that I lost sight of the fact that there are more beautiful things than these. Womankind, to name one. But let us be serious on that count; the love of man and woman and of family was the first love, and is the nearest reflection of God's love for man. It is no accident that the imagery of Christ's love for the church is that of a bridegroom for his bride.

While our love is a dim shadow of that which Christ has shown for us; it still remains that this is the greatest virtue of which humans are capable, and it is not unobtainable, like the perfect republics built in words, but exists everyday. It is something well beyond philadelphia. It is philadelphia and eros and even shades of agape.

I will not pretend that I feel such a thing, or that I expect to feel it in the near future, but I will. I wait, and grow, and continue to mature. And I am anything but impatient; I will be ready in good time, and until then--and forevermore--I rest secure in the love of God.

And isn't that a pleasant thought now? All prompted by Beauty and the Beast.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dutch Empire and Trade

10:25 PM Posted by Patrick 3 comments

A rare sunny it is, and a good day to write while there is a spot in the sun to be found.

Class today was focused on the Dutch Empire, and it was most satisfying. Dutch independence laid the groundwork for the first major market economy in early modern Europe. Little mystery, then, that the Dutch totally dominated trade over the next century, only to brought done by 80 years of sustained war, completed by a combined invasion of French forces, and heavy British naval assaults.

Dutch Merchant shipping during this time period went from being almost non-existent, to being much greater than the cumulative shipping tonnage of the rest of Europe combined. The Bank of Amsterdam was the first fully functioning merchant bank in the world, and issued the first stable bills of exchange.

My professor, in a move not foreseen, pointed out the power of corporate ventures to allow groups of middle class people to split the risk on an innovative venture, and how this led to the massive fiscal success of the Dutch middle class. 30% of all land and properties were in the hands of the urban middle classes; a fact previously unseen in history, possible only under a free market, where risk taking and group ventures are rewarding propects.

Dutch power was only brought low after 100 years if sustained war, with the final blow coming from a combined effort of England and France. The amusing thing is that the Dutch won these wars, but collapsed because of the disruptions to their trade fleets. They simply ran out of capital to continue their trade.

One might ask why England and France felt the need to bring the Dutch low.

The answer, quite simply, is that trade is that malicious acts of trade are just as damaging as malicious acts of war; the Dutch were masters of wresting trade from their competitors. Because there was such widespread wealth in the United Provinces, the Dutch were able to fund their efforts from many different sources. The Dutch middle classed was composed of hundreds of thousands of persons, willing to help finance massive commercial ventures in return for a share of the rewards. In the rest of Europe, one does not find the same phenomenon. All costs, in say France, Portugal, or Spain, were fronted by the crown, and the crown reaped all rewards. But the crowns were risk averse, and not only were they not as decisive, they also did not have the same amount of flexible capital as the Dutch merchant classes. Competitive Dutch trade companies did things more efficiently, and instead of consistently trading only in the same goods, actually assessed the wants of their Indian counterparts, and worked to supply higher value commodities to Indian spice traders. In time, the Dutch were masters of the Spice, slave, textile, and grain trades, and also were supplying the bulk of loans to the other European powers.

There was only one way that Spain, France, and England could hope to become competitive again. They attacked the Dutch.

The competitive trade of the Dutch was not harmless to these other nations. England went from being the foremost supplier of textiles to a distant second, not to mention the hunger caused by the UP using their grain monopoly to drive up prices. Portugal’s trade empire was wiped from the map. Spain lost their slave trade, was getting gauged on grain, and was being forced to borrow money from Dutch lenders in order to keep from starvation. France lost their trade in the Mediterranean as soon as the Spanish, driven by debt, were forced to open the strait of Gibraltar to the Dutch.

The world is and will always be at war. Trade is war. An act that damages another country’s trade has always been understood as an act of hostility, and nations have always fought to protect their economic best interests. Think of the Greeks, attacking one another for plunder, slaves, and land. Economic motivations have always been one of the strongest reasons for war, and it will always be that way.

Hostilities are not always commenced by the barrel of a gun, as the Dutch proved. The most brutally devastating warfare is waged in the market place. The Dutch won the Dutch-Anglo wars; a series of lopsided military victories, all three of them. But they were destroyed because of disruptions in trade.

George Washington’s farewell address is among the greatest orations in history; it also espouses some impossible ideals. There is no such thing as avoiding foreign entanglement, unless you intend to only trade amongst yourselves, and even then, your act of abstinence from trade may be seen as an affront by those who would like to engage in trade with your people. A free nation can never avoid foreign attachments, because there are simply greater goods to be gained by trading with the world than there are in remaining aloof.

Think on our involvement in the Quasi War with France. The French attacked because we were engaging in trade with England. We argued that our English trade shouldn’t matter, because we traded with France as well. But France understood what we were yet to learn. The act of trading with someone is a kind of alliance, to trade with someone’s enemies is an act of war. It has been, and always will be. In this era of global trade, we are tied to all at once, and we are directly interested in the maintenance of marshal peace in the world. Those who attack our partners in trade are our enemies, whether we own them or not.

By what right do we play world police? By what right do you jump in when someone attacks your friend on Facebook, or in a bar. We are responsible for our friends, whether we like it or not. Even when they have done something stupid, you protect your friend in the immediate future, but do everything in your power to ensure they do not make the mistake again.

Then there are those who just keep getting into fights and counting on you to jump in; they are leaches, and not true friends, and there may come a day when you must leave them to the wolves.