Sunday, November 30, 2008

Things I have to be grateful for, not the least of which is that I finished my philosophy term paper.

Tuesday night Dad and I picked up Grandma at the airport. It's the first time we've all been home together since Christmas. I don't get homesick, but I don't know if I'm ever more content than when we're all here.

Grandma and Mom pulled a tag-team effort and made a beautiful spread. I wrote an eight-page paper—"Defining the Desperation of 'The Mass of Men': Actual Rationality in the Individual." My professor was trying to make it as easy as possible for us, requiring a prospectus, an outline, and a preliminary bibliography, but he just ended up making more work for me. I gave him a nebulous thesis and spotty citation, and then did almost all of my actual research as I wrote the paper. I just spread all of my books and annotated notes out around me and jumped in. It took at least eight hours, but it's how I work best.

Dad carved the turkey, as per usual.

Shannon made something delicious, as per usual.

And we all ate lots and lots, as per usual.

Grandma brought frozen rhubarb with her from Cleveland, because it can be hard to find out here.

And Dad chose the smallest, most uncomfortable seat in the house to eat it. I, frankly, thought it was hilarious.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

We usually try to predict when the first snow will fall in the mountains, but an early rainstorm pre-empted us this year.

I forgot how beautiful Hemet really is. When we were driving home down Domenigoni Tuesday night, I was almost shocked to see how abruptly the mountains rise out of the ground in the twilight. Thanksgiving morning, my mom and I tooled around town on the tandem and I got to admire it all in broad daylight. The breaking rainclouds created a constantly shifting canopy.

I rode in back, which meant I could take pictures, but also meant I had to trust my mom to navigate--not always an easy feat. She likes to cut corners.

Point Loma makes us sunset snobs, or at least connoisseurs, anyways. But Hemet can hold its own.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Paradise now.

A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.

We were reading from Paradise Lost in British Lit last week, which rekindled a concern I'd had about Adam and Eve. I've been troubled for a while by an alternative interpretation of the Eden account that goes something along the lines of, if knowledge is a good thing, why would God withhold it from us? There are some, most notably feminist, takes on this issue, that often cast the serpent, and therefore Eve, in a more favorable light. Instead of being vilified as the conduit of sin to the world, they celebrate Eve as the harbinger of knowledge.

I found such an interpretation seductively appealing, but I knew it had to be incorrect, not just because the Bible clearly does not portray it that way, but because the story would not work with what human nature is truly like. But Milton put me in mind of another possible perspective. What if the knowledge Adam and Eve gained from the fruit was experiential? What if they already had a priori knowledge of sin, but were lacking a posteriori knowledge?

Maybe Adam and Eve were just like oh, pretty much everyone else. They were given the right path to follow, someone who had a broader perspective and their best interests in mind asked them to trust him and take his advice, and yet they wanted to see for themselves anyways. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way. Live and learn. You don't know until you try. We have an awful lot of truisms that ring hollow in light of the garden.

The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They hand in hand with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

25 November 2008.

Last story of the semester! I decided to finish strong with a potentially unexciting topic. I actually really enjoyed all of the interviews; I love talking to people with ideals. I got an email from one of my sources saying I portrayed it well, and that's really all I can ask for.

Midway through our newspaper meeting today, we all just had to stop and go outside to watch the sunset. It was one of the most spectacular displays we've had all year—the sky was filled with clouds that held the most radiant pinks and oranges, and the water picked up the hues, casting the entire view in electric color.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

And we played the Jack Johnson song, of course.

I bought this bag of whole wheat flour last week so that Steph and I could make banana bread one afternoon. We were pretty successful, so we reprised our kitchen routine for dinner Saturday night—banana pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon.

It was the night of the Homecoming game, so we hurried down to the gym afterward in our matching shirts. I read a book. Everyone enjoyed themselves.

In other news, I gave myself a haircut last week, and as you can see from the picture, it doesn't look all that different, which I think means I did well. Of course, when you're perpetually disheveled, you probably can't tell, anyways.

Friday, November 21, 2008

We really thought it was for real this time.

Fog wraps the world in a robe of rediscovery. In the fog, each building stands discrete. Wherever you are, it is the only place. Mist makes everyone an island. No wonder we huddle inside, after drifting in the chill, so glad to find that other people still exist. Standing in the swirling grey, I might have been the only one.

It was cold here for exactly twenty-four hours. Then it wasn't all over again. Unseasonably warm doesn't even begin to describe it. November is rendered meaningless. Not that I'm complaining. It's just that I have a closet full of winter clothes that I've barely touched . . .

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

PLNU in the news.

So we've been ranked as the fifth best surf school in the nation. Frankly, we should be number one, but I think the whole religious-affiliation thing knocked us down a bit. The article ran in the Saturday Union-Tribune. When I sat down to brunch that morning, one of my friends asked me if I had seen his body in the paper. Apparently, he was the surfer in the foreground.

Monday's New York Times included an article about a local news site, Voice of San Diego. A PLNU grad works there, and she and one of her coworkers spoke in intro to journalism a few weeks ago. My prof is quoted, and he mentions his class, which made me feel a little bit like I was in the Times, too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

17 November 2008.

It was a much better week for the paper. The typos were minor, and none happened to be an innuendo. We published in full color for the first time this year, because it's Homecoming Week and tons of alumni will be on campus picking copies up. So I'm on the back page, in the flesh[tone].

I got an email from the director today, and she was really pleased with the review. It's nice to run pieces that don't have to be antagonistic in the name of impartiality. It's hard to be a journalist. Two more issues to go.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Definitely just finished a 1,000-word essay.

You know what I really liked about The Scarlet Letter, though? The heavy-handed hey-wait-if-you-missed-it moral at the end.

If you never read the book, never immerse yourself in the intricate aesthetics of Hawthorne's New England sensibility or wrestle with his complex discussion of morality and propriety in society, just live out his parting imparting.
Among many morals which press upon us from the poor minister's miserable experience, we put only this into a sentence: "Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred!"

Friday, November 14, 2008

The headline was "A Writer in a Living Novel." I couldn't resist.

Something about this picture really appealed to me. And then I read the story and it appealed to me even more.

So I put the picture on my wall, and asked my photography-minor friend Liz what she thought about it. Then I made her repeat herself so that I could write down some of what she said.

"Her green bandanna contrasts with his red shirt, signifying dominance."
"What's the first thing you look at? His shirt, which leads your eye up to his hat and her bandanna, then down and around."
"Look at the chairs on the left and the sticks on the right. Domestic and rugged."
"Look at the guns; his is pointing up and hers is pointing down."
"The short depth of field. All good movies use short depth of field, unless they want you to look at something in the background."
"Overall, I didn't really like it, but it's a good picture."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It took three readings, but I think I've finally got it.

When I first decided to tackle classic literature, The Scarlet Letter was one of my first essays into that strange and daunting idea. I understood the thrust of it, but was mostly indifferent to it by the time I finished it. A couple of years later, I found myself in an AP Lit classroom, obligated to rehash Hawthorne in the painstaking let's-find-the-literary-device sort of way. But this time around, in American Lit, I think I'm finally at a place where I can appreciate what a work the novel really is. Hawthorne's words evoke early wild coastal New England: "little boats out of birch-bark," "scintillating," "sprite," "lichens," "sparkling sand," "shells and tangled sea-weed." And Hester's sin functions not so much as an instructive example to her Puritan neighbors, but more as a vehicle through which she, as an outsider, can detachedly observe her society and contemplate its development.
It is remarkable, that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society. . . . Indeed, the same dark question often rose into her mind, with reference to the whole race of womanhood. Was existence worth accepting even to the happiest among them? As concerned her own individual existence, she had long ago decided in the negative, and dismissed the point as settled. A tendency to speculation, though it may keep woman quiet, as it does man, yet makes her sad. She discerns, it may be, such a hopeless task before her. As a first step, the whole system of society is to be torn down, and built up anew. Then, the very nature of the opposite sex, or its long hereditary habit, which has become like nature, is to be essentially modified, before woman can be allowed to assume what seems a fair and suitable position. Finally, all other difficulties being obviated, woman cannot take advantage of these preliminary reforms, until she herself shall have undergone a still mightier change; in which, perhaps, the ethereal essence, wherein she has her truest life, will be found to have evaporated. A woman never overcomes these problems by any exercise of thought. They are not to be solved, or only in one way. If her heart chance to come uppermost, they vanish.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

10 November 2008.

I spent Wednesday and Thursday combing the campus for people who would submit to a head shot and a quick quote regarding the election results. The only critique I got was that it was a little heavy on communication majors, but they were the ones who were most willing to talk...

The really interesting part of this week's paper, though, was the typos. Okay, here's your chance to play copy editor. As a warm-up, here's the headline that ran on our front-page piece: "Obama overcomes oppostion." Spot the error? I didn't until one of the editors pointed it out the next day.

It's in the fourth column. Go ahead and click on the picture to enlarge.

Catch it? Last line?

"Pubic Safety." Yeah. We keep all of the student body protected. In my defense, each story passes through at least three sets of eyes, and I'm only one of them. The rest of the paper was, in fact, error-free. I guess if we had to miss something, it might as well be something this perfectly terrible.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Palm reading.

During American Writers a few weeks ago, I was studying the back of my hand (so that I would not be lying when I said that I knew something as well as I knew it?) and I noticed that a web of cracks had mystically appeared there, a dry spread that felt rough on my lips when I pressed my mouth against it. I have a curious habit of resting my elbow on my desk and pressing my face behind my fist when I'm trying to sustain my attention in class.

I don't like being talked down to. I lose interest rapidly. I mused on my hand, both literally and figuratively, and realized that the Santa Anas that had begun blustering might have had something to do with the state of my skin. What do you do when your lit prof asks the class how much of the reading they had understood, and while tentative murmurs signal not so much for everyone else, you had understood every word?

A couple of weeks later, I sat in the same seat before class started. The winds had died down and my skin had returned to its normal dewiness. I love the way the back of my hand smells at 8:30 in the morning, lotion and chapstick and a close sense of I-just-got-out-of-bed-an-hour-ago-ness. The usually silent classroom had an early nervy quiver, the fluorescent stillness stung with commiseration about the day's assigned reading.

"I haven't read more than a page of the chapters..."

"I have no idea what's going on..."

"We should tell him that this is a waste of time..."

I kept my mouth shut against my hand. Our prof had asked me, when we passed each other outside the library recently, what I thought of the text we were reading. I told him honestly. "It's dry in parts, but it definitely makes sense. I like knowing how American literature was formed." How was it that I was now sitting in a room full of literature majors who didn't get the literature reading?

I listened to the lecture pensively and took notes self-consciously. Was I not supposed to be enjoying this? Didn't everyone else want to deconstruct the text and figure out where the discipline of American lit came from? My sense of solidarity was suddenly undermined.

None of them told him that they thought the book was a waste of time, but I knew it was there. Knuckle to mouth, I stared over my fingers and had to hand it to them.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I caught myself singing out loud in the library—that's when you know it's true love.

This song has been stuck in my head for the past three weeks. No reason, of course. I was listening to Morning Becomes Eclectic, a radio show on the Los Angeles NPR affiliate KCRW, and the featured artist for the day was Aqualung, who did a cover of this Paul Simon song, "Slip Slidin' Away." I thought it was the cover I loved, until I listened to the original and realized that you can't really improve on it. I'm a sucker for folksy pathos.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Obama.

I went into Election Day fairly sure that it was going to be a victory for the Democrats, but it was still odd to see the results come in. I'm glad, though. If a Democrat had to win (and, after the last eight years, a Democrat pretty much had to win), I'm glad it was someone who represents people who have never seen someone who looks like them hold such a position of power. I still remember my black classmate Michael's presentation on Colin Powell in second grade. He said that though Powell had been asked to run for president, he had declined. I wondered, why would he say no? Why haven't we had a black president? It's about time. I'm fairly confident that the economic crisis will stymie any grand plans on Obama's part. The economy will gain traction slowly, and in four years, we'll most likely see another Republican in office.

I was still really excited to vote.

I rode my bike a couple of streets over in the rain (perfect timing, of course). I really enjoyed the propositions and local measures. Voting gives me a sense of voice and connection. I don't care how miniscule my vote is—something is infinitely better than nothing.

I'm not the only one who's sanguine about the national results. William Kristol, in the New York Times two days ago, predicted that "we conservatives will greet the news with our usual resolute stoicism or cheerful fatalism. Being conservative means never being too surprised by disappointment."

And yesterday, the Times ran a piece on how conservatives and liberals perceive humor. It included this excellent aside:
“Conservatives tend to be happier than liberals in general,” said Dr. Martin, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario. “A conservative outlook rationalizes social inequality, accepting the world as it is, and making it less of a threat to one’s well-being, whereas a liberal outlook leads to dissatisfaction with the world as it is, and a sense that things need to change before one can be really happy.”

Monday, November 3, 2008

And, considering the school I go to, Nathanael's initial question is that much more evocative.

I spent some time with Cotton Mather this weekend. His commentary on John is set up as a series of questions and answers, and I came across one that I really liked. Nathanael has always been one of my favorite New Testament figures—skeptical, funny, and forthright ("Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?").

Q. 26 Why does our Lord, in his Commendation of Nathanael, rather use the Name of Israel, than the Name of Jacob? Hee said, Behold an Israelite indeed! v. 47.

A. The commendation here given to Nathanael is, that hee was, Without guile. Now Jacob, whose very Name carries a Supplantation in the Signification of it, oftentimes did use much Guile in his Affairs, none of which Guile wee find used by him, after hee came to wear the Name of Israel. It was most proper then, that Nathanael, when applauded for Sincerity, should have his Name fetch’d from Israel, rather than from Jacob. You must note, That Nathanael had newly been in a mistake about the Messiah; but our Lord seems to excuse the mistake, from the Sincerity of the Man. A mistake in a man, who with Sincerity always aims at the Truth, is very Excusable with all Reasonable Men.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"Four-year-olds . . . won't have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching Gilligan's Island"

I knew there had to be valid justification for user-generated content. Read the article. It's beautiful. And I guarantee that you have time to do it. Author Clay Shirky points out that the sitcom, which has sucked up everyone's free time since people started having free time around the middle of the last century, created a method through which to quantify leisure hours. Shirky calls it a "cognitive surplus." For instance, all of Wikipedia represents roughly the same amount of free time (100 million thought-hours) that Americans spend watching commercials every weekend. Every weekend.

We're moving to a culture in which entertainment means engagement. Instead of passively staring at screens, we're beginning to react and interact and create content of our own. Who has time to Facebook? Who has time to blog? Who has time to read online magazines and journals? Everyone does. Guaranteed.