Sunday, December 21, 2008

This Might Be Interesting...or Maybe Not

I'm reading a book right now (The Know-It-All) about a guy who read the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica - just for kicks. Well, he also has some inferiority issues regarding his father and brother-in-law, but it was, mainly, just for kicks. He's admitting, quite readily, that he's not retaining nearly as much information as he would have liked, and this brought up an interesting topic, concerning how we remember shit we read.

Do we have a better shot at remembering something we understand? Like if I read an article about some obscure legal matter, will I be less likely to remember it than, say, an article about Kobe Bryant's shooting technique? Or maybe it has to do with interest; you have a better chance of remembering if you're interested in the subject - the more interested, the better I imagine. So if I read an article about something I understand and I'm interested in it, I'll remember it better?

I have no idea.

But I do know that I'm not remembering nearly as much as I did when I was younger. I would read a book when I was 13, some Fantasy book about dragons and shit, and I'd remember everything - plots, names, events, etc. I would watch the news and remember all the stories and relevant details, and now I listen to the news and can't remember what station I was watching ten minutes later. My brain must be decreasing in ability or something, 'cause I clearly suck more than I used to.

Of course, that might be my fault. I was brilliant when I was 13, and then I stopped caring about learning and education for a good six years. I'm paying the price now as I feel like a dummmmer more often than I'd like. I spent six long years playing guitar, pretending to learn, reading only what classes assigned as homework, and playing Final Fantasy video games over and over again. I used to read a book a week, and BIG books, too, 1000 page tomes written by some author who enjoys producing treatises within the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. Now, I keep telling myself I don't have that much time to read, which is clearly a lie. But I'm doing better than high school, where I literally read 30 books in four years, which is awful for me. Going from a book every week/week and a half to one book every seven weeks? That's terrrrble.

But at least I'm makig progress, now. Hopefully, I can regain my brilliant prepubescent form, and remember what I read and hear, instead of barely engaging my brain when I read/hear things.

Getting old just makes you dumb, I guess. This chronology seems counterintuitive. Hmmm...Screw adulthood.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Non-Future

Print-based media is on the decline. Newspapers are filing for bankruptcy. The average American reads less and less every year. Books are being purchased at an alarmingly decreasing rate.

And I'm going to be a writer.

What the hell was I thinking? At least with philosophy I was always guaranteed a teaching position, even a meager one, in some corner of the States; people are taking philosophy classes with greater frequency (there's no change in the number of majors, just the number of people taking classes). So if I were to have continued philosophy, I was guaranteed a job, of some sort, even considering an ailing and soon to be depressed economy. But with writing, I'm guaranteed nothing but a good read every time I head to my throne (all men, in case you didn't know, are Toilet Kings). I'm going to have to work, really hard, for everything I get.

And the worst part is this: nearly every book we call a "classic" would never be printed if written today. If a book doesn't look marketable and doesn't sell right away, it's a dud, and it's sent packing. So the only feasible way of being a writer is to write trash - hence the popularity of Nicholas Sparks et al. Certainly, Sparks' writing isn't worthless, but he's nothing special. He sells, and in these trying times of print-based media recessions, that's the only thing to be.

Since I have a tendency to shy away from writing crap just so it will sell, I might not make it. But I hold on dearly to the sneaking suspicion (blind hope, really) that if something comes along that is GREAT it will sell. The logic there is that above average meal will not sell, probably, but way above average meal will sell because it's too good to be ignored. This implies that I'll actually write something that's way above average. At least I have a goal, I guess.

I could always, however, write short stories and essays. That seems to be the presiding way authors make their living in today's world. They write novels, for sure, but make their gravy through a combination of teaching and selling short stories and essays to magazines on a monthly basis. The novels they do write are only on occasion and sell mainly on the basis of the author's popularity from other ventures. So that's a possible "life design," if you will (you don't have to).

In spite of the economic woes and the downturn of general interest in literature by the American populace, I'll try to be a writer. Hopefully, I'll wind up somewhere better than a gutter in Atlantic City, wearing a dress, with a vague recollection of the night before. If nothing else, I can compare each event in my life to the previous and things should seem sterling.

And, on a related note, I have an interview with the ASU State Press. I applied to write an opinion column, and here's hoping that they let me do it.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Updates and Stuff

The Hawks just lost because Joe Johnson couldn't make a free throw. Well, they would have had to stop the Celtics from getting a shot off in under three seconds and THEN win overtime. But still, all he had to do was make the free throw...

I changed my layout. Again. I have a feeling I'll become similarly disgusted with this one, as with the rest, and it will change to something less repulsive. Maybe my egalitarian disgust with most templates I've found thus far will lead to me create my own. Maybe.

SEAN MARKS is playing in an ACTUAL REAL NOT FAKE NBA GAME. If you know who SEAN MARKS is, you'll be as EXCITED as I am. If not, just continue reading.

Philippi came over today. We had lunch. And tea. And, well, you know, that. He took a picture of a sword on my table (that's exactly what it sounds like) and now he put it on his blog. I should clearly get some credit for any additional traffic it brings.

I've been writing a lot of poetry lately, and I'm even working on an essay. It's all crap, I'm sure, but in the off chance it's something more than putrid, toxic waste, I may be on to something.

I don't know who half the players on the Hornets are. It's like after Paul, Peja, West, Chandler, and Posey, it's a series of people probably making more money than they deserve. With a lot of teams, especially the good ones, I can name whole rosters and know who everyone is and why they're (supposedly) important. But with the Hornets, that same explication is just not possible. Think they'll win a championship? Yeah, me neither.

I watched (yeah, so sue me) a special on the White House holiday decorations (now you know why you should sue me), and it was entertaining. It was on the Home and Garden channel, which, as of last week, I now have in HIGH DEFINITION. So top that, bitches: HGTV in HD. Hawesome (intentional 'h'). But it was kind of cool seeing all the things they do. Aside from the usual trees, lights, garlands, and what not, they had gingerbread representations of the houses (estates, really) of Jefferson (Monticello) and Washington (Mount Vernon). I thought these were particularly interesting. The big tree in some-specific-room-whose-name-escapes-me has an ornament from every state and they just happened to show the Arizona one, because it was especially badass or something (and by badass I mean: full of actual tomalies ['cause fake ones are lamesauce]). So that was cool.

SEAN MARKS is playing a lot of minutes in this game. Ridiculous. When he played garbage minutes in Phoenix, his most voluminous stat would be fouls and no one commits fouls in garbage minutes. So, you know, that's respectable, I guess. But he's actually a decent big-man-who-gets-paid-a-lot-because-he's-big. He's not doing too bad.

Keith's got a shindig on Friday for his birthday. Should be fun. I'm broke, but I'll manage.

And that's about it.


Monday, December 15, 2008

That Big Freakin' Hydra

I have too many books. They're fuckin' everywhere, man. I can't get away from them, and for every one I read, two more reveal themselves from under my bed, or behind others books on shelves. It's like the Community of Books is a big freakin' hydra that won't die. And that's debilitating to your psyche, you know, because every time you want to feel that beautiful feeling of accomplishment, of progress, you discover something (more books whose existence were as yet unknown) and it totally reverses all that good shit, replacing it with futility, exhaustion, and an attraction to nihilism. That's not good.

But the Community of Books isn't like a normal hydra (normal as far as a mythical constructs go), because a normal hydra can be stopped by putting acid on the recently decapitated stumps, where heads were a moment before. In the realm of fantasy, that kills that shit right out, and no more heads pop up. So to defeat hydras, you just need a sword, some acid, and some courage. But to defeat the Community of Books Hydra, you need to stop people from writing new books, at least until you catch up to a meaningful position in the race. But that's not really possible; acid won't even help you here, even though just seems like it would help you in most situations (think about it). So you're stuck. You have to just keep reading. Maybe a stop in the purchase of books until a sufficient amount have been read is a good idea? But no, I'll still see the new books even if I don't own them. Sigh. Such is my life.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Not Sure

I was going to write something deep for Philippi, again, but decided on fart jokes instead.

So, what you would call the definition of a surprise?

A fart with a lump in it.


So this teacher asks one of her students, "Johnny, can you use the word 'definitely' in a sentence, please?"

Johnny replies "Hmmm...Do farts have lumps in them?"

The teacher, taken aback, responds "Well, no, they don't."

"Well," Johnny begins, "I definitely have shit in my pants."


Why do farts stink? Well, God's an equal opportunity employer. It wouldn't be very nice to leave the deaf people out of all the fun.


And now, one of my favorite blonde jokes. Enjoy.

There's this new blonde school teacher, and she's starting her first day at a nearby elementary school. She's really excited and wants to make a great first impression on all the kids. So during recess, while the kids are playing soccer, she sees a boy standing away from everyone else, all by his lonesome. She hears duty calling and hops to it.

"Are you alright?" She asks sweetly.

The boy quickly and awkwardly assures her that everything is fine and so she went back to where she was standing. After a few minutes, though, she noticed that the boy was still standing apart from all the other boys; he hadn't joined the group. Well, it was time for a teacher to be a teacher. She approached him again.

"Are you sure you're not feeling left out or anything? Do you want me to be your friend?"

The boy was clearly struggling with something, and through the embarrasment of it all, he responded, "Maybe. Sure."

The teacher, emboldened, continued, "Alright! So, tell me, why are you standing here all alone?"

"Because," the boy starts, "I'm the goalie."


That's some classic joke-telling right there. You won't here Dane Cook deliver this much gold in a single evening, much less a five minute blog post. Comedy Central should give me a 30 minute special, like they do with all the other average to poor comics. Also, I'm a winner.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Final Post from that Ridiculous History Class

I already posted something just before this class started, but then it began, and things started happening. I couldn't help but post a final blog, if only to include the following discussion that just took place.

So at the beginning of class, people (including the professor) started talking about changing the time of the final: instead of showing up at 7:30 am, we would show up at 8:00 or 8:15 or whatever. The "change talk" began because the prof decided that it would "totally uncool" if people came in late just because they didn't want to wake up early. And then it got stupid ludicrous.

First, people started calling out random times with passion and judicious authority, which meant they were whining and complaining and felt their opinion mattered. Then the prof said we should take a vote, at which point some girl, with all seriousness, said "Not everyone is here, so we can't take a fair vote."

Really? So, she was concerned with a truly egalitarian assessment rather than the fact that since everyone is not here today, which she alluded to with her statement, not everyone would know the time of the final was changed. I mean, honestly, she said that because not everyone is here, we can't take a fair vote, but she didn't think about that same "not everyone" knowing about the change we might make? Good Stephen Colbert, woman, you're in a PHILOSOPHY class.

Anyways, the professor started squinting and thinking really hard, and finally came up with "I just don't know guys. I just don't know if we can figure this out." Brilliant. And this guy wrote an incredible thesis for his doctorate on the interpretations of ancient philosophy and its relevance and importance in today's philosophical debate. No joke.

After another minute of this tomfoolery, we abandoned the cause, as a group, and moved on to the lesson he had planned for today. Now, we have a final Thursday, and he's teaching entirely new material Tuesday. That, more than anything else, sums up the absoludiculocity of this class.


Some Thoughts about Things

I think I'm becoming more and more disappointed with Obama's selections, but I suppose I should reserve the full extent of my judgment until a few months down the road.

I think the Lakers have a more talented squad than every other team in the NBA, but somehow, they're less consistent, less cohesive as a team than, say, the Celtics.

I think Finals Week is going to be easier than I thought (I'm 20% through and that's the case so far).

I think it's funny that Philippi has finals next week. Sucker!

I think I'm going to miss my history of philosophy class ("Democrats have always been poor"; "I'm not doing anything with your best interests in mind").

I think Bush is surprising me and the world with his lack of pardons, thus far. There's always Monday, January 19th!

I think we could all use a break, even if Finals are easy. Sometimes you need to kick back and watch six hours of television.

I think December is a good time to reflect on the stupid shit we did the past 15 weeks, and why repeating it would be a bad idea.

I don't think January works nearly as well for that same reflection.

I think Christmas, or the Holidays or whatever, is a little less vivid this year, but only because I feel more frantic and busy than I did last year, or any year.

I think I might actually go somewhere with writing, and no, not to the gutter of some forgotten road in the still slightly romantic Midwest (though that would make a good story).

I think if my history teacher showed up on time, we may have actually learned something this semester.

I think if that same teacher would stop wearing a lame excuse for cowboy hat, I wouldn't mind so much that we didn't learning anything.

I think I shouldn't have to pay $100 for a passport.

I think it's funny that I'm better at speaking Chinese after one night of vaguely serious application than half of Paco's 101 class (which meets five days a weeeeeeeeeek).

I think putting a horrendous amount of extra vowels in words is ridiculous, but I do it anyyyyyywaaaaaaays ('y' is a vowel and not a vowel in the same word!).

I think I'm actually learning French.

I think it's funny how I go through ASU and never say a word to the dozens of people I see regularly whom I was friends with/knew in high school.

I think you should be able to wear a sweatshirt in Arizona to escape the frigid winter mornings and not have to worry about sweating through the afternoon hours later that same day.

What do you think?


Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Coming Apocalypse: Finals Week

Normally, finals week wouldn't be such a big deal, but somehow I've managed to put off studying until, like, this morning. That usually means I've looked over things and attained a general idea of what I need to study and how long it will take, but this time, nothing. I've done jack and it may show in my grades.

So I devoted this whole day to studying and crapping my pants. I may eat, intermittently, and only in small portions. The less time I spend in the bathroom, the more time I have to study. And, you know, post a blog.

All of these images illustrate how I feel about the next seven days. If words don't do it, these pics will. I think my sentiments lie exactly between the "Oh Shit Them's a Lot of Guns" picture and the one below, where children find out why they shouldn't bury themselves in the sand.

So feel free to vent on this post about how much you feel like dying because of finals. And if you don't feel this way, say something anyways so we can all hate you (read: be jealous).


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Birthdays, High School, and Retardation

In what is surely not a coincidence, today is International Disabled Persons Day.

My birthday is, like, now. I’m a year older, and they say you’re supposed to sit back and contemplate these things the more they happen. I’m 21, which is approaching geriatric, so I’ll sit down and pontificate on birthdays and shit.

I’m immediately reminded of high school, which means I’m not far enough removed to forget the Glory Days. And, let’s be honest, if you had been there for my Glory Days, you wouldn’t forget them either. Anyways, birthdays in high school were often many things: stupid, boring, exciting, full of hugs and cookies, wedgies from “friends,” and the occasional shout out in the middle of class by the teacher that you spent too much time with off school premises (whoa!).

My favorite parts about high school birthdays, though, were the reactions from people, who, inevitably, forgot. While everyone was congratulating you on another year survived, inquiring about presents and birthday parties, and wondering when would be a good time to buy you dinner (because they’re too cheap to buy you a present), these people were standing around, sheepishly, trying not to radiate the “I Forgot” aura. They failed, of course.

But what’s interesting about these reactions is that they can be broken down into two distinct groups: Male and Female. Every reaction goes one of two ways, and I’ll give general examples. The actual reaction is in quotes, and the inevitable internal commentary in response is in parentheses.

The Male Reaction:

“Ah, man, I forgot your birthday, bro! Totally sorry, dude, but I’ll make it up to you: you can forget my birthday.”

(Well, at least he understands that other guys, like me, don’t like responsibility. He’s revoking my obligation to remember his birthday because he forgot mine. Good man.)

The Female Reaction:

“Oh, it’s your birthday? I’m so sorry! I totally forgot!”

(Fake sympathy is terrible. Stop it. And, wait, do I even know you?) “Oh, I wish you would have told me!”

(You want me to go around shooting my load about how my birthday is coming up? Yeah, that’s not vain.)

“If you would have told me, I would have made you cookies! Or brownies!”

(Treats don’t make it better, especially not conditional treats that might have been. And you’re offering cookies and brownies? Why not a cake? Oh yeah, because a cake actually takes effort, and it’s meaningful. Cookies are what you do when you forget to make food for the company picnic.)

“Alright, you know what? I’m going to make you cookies tonight, and I’m going to bring them tomorrow. That’s what I’m going to do.”

(Sigh. I hate you. Go die in a ditch somewhere. Ugh! No! Don’t hug me! Gaaaahhhh…)

And that’s the other thing: it’s apparently an acceptable practice in high school to hug everyone on their birthday. People who would never think about touching you, much less coming near you, feel the sudden urge to hug you. It’s all very strange. Girls will come up and say “happy birthday!” and then do one of those Girl Hugs where their body is into it, but their mind is counting to three. Guys try to do some intricate handshake and usually end up Man Hugging you. You know, where you grasp hands and then tightly and awkwardly clap each other on the back for a few seconds until you separate and try not to look into the other guy’s eyes.

Birthdays in high school are very strange. The whole day, the person is bombarded with people hugging them but not meaning it; people hugging them, meaning it, and trying not to show it; and people trying to make up for forgetting.

I suppose this is why we all graduate in four years (unless you’re a dummmmmer!): we can’t stand having another birthday under these circumstances. In college, no one knows, remembers, or cares, and that’s a good thing, because birthdays should be left to friends and family. Who wants strangers and mildly friendly peers wishing you a happy birthday?

Unless of course it’s that girl whose number you’re trying to get. Playfully using her ignorance of your birthday to get her to pay for your next meal (and thus go out with you in public) is a totally cool thing to do.

Now some final, and general, birthday thoughts:

I’ve survived another year and I’m no better for it.

Apparently I can buy alcohol, as if they means something.

My dad’s birthday is also today. When I was born, he lost his job. Interpretation: I was the best birthday present EVER!

December is full of birthdays: Mine, my late Great-Grandmother (2nd), my 7th grade teacher’s daughter (7th), Keith (19th), my uncle (10th), my ex-step-grandparents' next doors neighbor's son (7th), and my other uncle (31st).

A bunch of people have my same birthday (and it is my birthday, not theirs): Ozzy Osbourne, my dad, Warren Jeffs, Julianne Moore, Bucky Lasek, Lindsey Hunter (old NBA player), and Marcus Williams (young NBA player).

Today, in 1929, Herbert Hoover told the Congress that the worst effects of the stock market crash were over. Man, was he a prophet.

So here’s to me: may I survive another year.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Thoughts and Things About Tolerance and Stuff

(Due to the stream of consciousness nature of this post, I’ve left it unedited. So ideas and things that don’t make sense and that don’t fit together are probably side by side. But it’s how I was thinking at the moment. So the second idea might supersede the first, though I may not have made that clear. Have fun, kids.)

There’s a prevailing idea that we should be tolerant of other people’s beliefs and ideas. There’s another idea that says that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I’ve been wondering lately if maybe both of these statements are incorrect, or at least misguided. Of course, these are just thoughts and do not necessarily reflect any definitive position on my part. I have to include that statement, otherwise I’ll be quoted as believing something I might not believe. These are thoughts, wanderings, musings, and should be treated as such. If I solidify my position on anything that follows, I’ll be sure to send out postcards letting everyone know. (har har)

It’s usually assumed that we should be tolerant of what other people think and that we should be tolerant of someone else’s opinion, even if we think it sucks. But I’ve been thinking about racism and discrimination: should we tolerate racist beliefs? Should we allow someone to perpetually hold that one group of people is inferior to another and thus deserves less attention legislatively (or whatever)? The standard response is to say that they can hold those beliefs but that their practices should be voted down by ‘the people.’ Well, why even let them hold the beliefs? If our society takes a hard stand on certain issues, such as racism, then why should we ‘let’ people hold beliefs that go against those positions? I think we can agree that the Civil Rights Act of ’64 and the Voting Rights Act of ’65 will not and should not be overturned, so why should be let people think differently? Shouldn’t they be punished or ostracized?

What is the difference between being a racist and institutionalizing racism? The difference, it seems, is the scale of effect. In the first instance, only those in the immediate vicinity are affected, but in the second, whole towns, cities, and states are affected. So should we discriminate between objects of which we are tolerant? We are being legislatively intolerant but socially tolerant. If we are going to be intolerant of legislative discrimination, shouldn’t we be intolerant of social discrimination? It seems a person should be penalized when they act in a racist manner.

I’m really not sure on any of this. The original thought stems from an ongoing discussion I’ve been having with my brother about a friend of his. The general discussion concerns marriage (whoa!) and his friend voting for Proposition 102. Jon and I have been trying to rationalize why he voted for the proposition, and other things, and we came to a place where I started thinking about being tolerant of thoughts but not laws.

This friend of Jon’s voted for Prop 102 for a number of reasons. One reason was that a school in Massachusetts apparently sent home a “diversity backpack” that included a number of children’s books that were meant to introduce children to different races, different cultures, and different ‘lifestyles’ (one book involved a child’s life growing up two fathers). Jon’s friend was afraid that if Prop 102 passed, his child might be introduced to things he either a) didn’t want his son to know about or b) he wanted to first teach his child about.

I can see his reaction, to an extent. I suppose it would seem natural to want to teach my child about something like homosexuality, sex, and so on. But then I started thinking: why? Why should I feel the need to be the first to let my kid know about vaginas, black people, and men kissing men? If I feel the schools are doing an adequate (for argument’s sake) job of teaching my kid history, math, and so on, why should I do the job myself on other issues? But this is an issue I’m not entirely certain on, so I’ll let it go.

Another thing is that I think our schools need to teach tolerance, aggressively. A lot of parents don’t want their children to know about this or that and so they fight the school until they school drops the issue. And then their children grow up hating non-whites, Jews, gays, and so on. Why should be let this continue in our society? It only seems natural that people grow up and start voting down equality if no one is educating them properly.

So why should we let Johnny Smith go through school without learning tolerance for other cultures, other ideas, other lifestyles? I think Jon’s friend’s kid should be taught these things in school, otherwise, he’s a longshot to grow up tolerant and egalitarian-minded. He’ll grow up just like his dad, voting away the rights of his fellow humans.

The other focal reason as to why his friend voted for Prop 102 was that he himself didn’t believe in homosexuality or marriages between them, and he didn’t want his kid to believe so either. It stems from his belief in the Mormon Church; he is, as is the lingo nowadays, LDS. This is what brought me to this notion of social tolerance of what our laws deem to be bad ideas. I think this man is very backwards in this thinking and that his judgment is clouded. Moreover, his beliefs appear irrational to me. But the standard operating procedure is to be tolerant socially and then vote down his ideas in the legislative arena.

I find a problem with this, however. To me, the issue of marriage and homosexuality is one of equality, and if ‘the people’ don’t vote ‘correctly,’ then inequality is being encouraged and augmented in an apparently free state. So what happens here? What happens when a majority of the electorate thinks along non-egalitarian lines? Can we have a society that works on equality? I think not. And so that’s where I get this idea of being socially intolerant of bad ideas.

This, of course, brings up the issue of what’s bad/good/etc. and whether or not each person should be entitled to live in an area that fits his belief system. That’s all nice and everything, but I sure as hell ain’t moving so some discriminatory Mormon can have all the land. But then again, why should he move? And there’s the problem: who moves? Who leaves and forms a separate state? I think he’s an idiot, he thinks I’m a sinner: and who’s right?

Well, obviously, I am.

This has been a lot of rambling and wandering. Somewhere in there I may have formed a loose connective of rational thought. If that’s the case, awesome. If not, have fun trying to fit something together.