Friday, January 19, 2007

Atlas

I am currently reading amoung other things "Weight" by Jeanette Winterson. It is a re-telling of the myth of Atlas and Heracles. It is beautifully written and I just want to share a slice of its prose which I found especially vivid. This is Atlas talking about his parents.

"My father was Poseidon. My Mother was the Earth. My father loved the strong outlines of my mother's body. He loved her demarcations and her boundaries. He knew where he stood with her. She was solid, certain, shaped and material.

My mother loved my father becaused he recognised no boundaries. His ambitions were tidal. he swept, he sank, he flooded, he re-formed. Poseidon was a deluge of a man. Power flowed off him. He was deep, sometimes calm, but never still.

When my father wooed my mother she lapped it up. He was playful, he was warm, he waited for her in the bright blue shallows and came a little closer, then drew back, and his pull was to leave her a little gift on the shore; a peice of coral, mother of pearl, a shell spiralled as a dream.

Sometimes he was a long way out and she missed him and the beached fishes gasped for breath. Then he was all over her again, and they were mermaids together, because there was always something feminine about my father, for all his power. Earth and water are the same kind, just as fire and air are thier opposites.

She loved him because he showed him to herself. He was her moving mirror. He took her around the world, the world that she was, and held it up for her to see, her beauty of forests and cliffs and coastlines and wild places. To him she was both paradise and fear and he loved both. Together they went where no human had ever been. Places only they could go, places only they could be. Wherever he went, she was there; a gentle restraint, a serious reminder. He knew though, that while he could not cover the whole of her, she underpinned the whole of him. For all his strength, she was strong."

Monday, November 06, 2006

If


I have been having a bad day and am in need of some poetry. Thank god for Kipling.







If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

--Rudyard Kipling

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Plug of the Week.

So while on my roadtrip last week to UNI and home I was of course listening to NPR. During "Talk of the Nation" they brought up the issue of the spinach epidemic and how scientist may have found strong evidence tracing the spread back to certain farms in central California. What is important is that they stressed 'may have', and by no means tried to express 100% causality. They then discussed the difficulty in securing a definite source, genetic mutations in the bacteria and so forth. After a while I lost the KC NPR station and was not quite close enough to Des Moines to receive theirs. This being so, I turned the dial to 1040 AM radio out of Des Moines. As a member of Clear Channel their news sections are produced by Fox News Radio; during Fox's radio segment they too mentioned the spinach epidemic. However, their story differed in that they anounced that scientist had found the source, not may have, not suspected. The reason I bring this up is not because I care all too much about where the source is or if they have found it or not. I care because it reminded me of how very important quality reporting is to staying informed, and by how easily it is to be misinformed by simple changes to syntax. Not that NPR is perfect, without bias, or even objective, I do however enjoy their commitment to in-depth reporting and to giving the listener as much information as possible during a broadcast.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Atlas Shrugged

"Who is John Galt?" Well last week I finally fully found out. That's right I have finished reading Atlas Shrugged. It took me a little longer than I would have liked, I had a few breaks in-between and school didn't help. So what impression have I come away with? I will be honest that I went into this book absolutely expecting to hate every moment of it and take nothing out of it. But I really enjoyed it and I don't think you can spend 2 1/2 months and countless hours conversing with an author and not be impacted nor moved by the experience.

I won't give a summary of the book other than discussing the title and then I will spend just a few moments discussing some of the more interesting aspects of Ayn Rands philosophy. The title is an allusion to the mythical story of Atlas who lead the Titans in a revolt against the Olympians and after suffering defeat it forced to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders for all eternity. Two of the main characters Hank Rearden and Francisco are discussing the story early in the book and each provides insight into what they would do if they were Atlas. Francisco's response is, "I'd Shrug." In other-words we cannot allow others to place their weight upon us because of our ability and decision to follow what is in our rational self-interest.

Ayn Rand's philosophy is called objectivism, an egoist philosophy which believes that we should follow what is in our own self interest and not compromise our own value for others benefit nor should we allow ourselves to be coerced into sacrificing ourselves for the 'greater good'. Here are some of the more poignant quotations. "If any part of your uncertainty is a conflict between your heart and your mind--follow your mind." -pg. 802.

"My refusal to be born with original sin. I have never felt guilty of my ability. I have never felt guilty of my mind. I have never felt guilty of being a man. I accepted no unearned guilt and thus was free to earn and know my own value." John Galt pg. 745

"Contradictions do no exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong." -pg. 199

"If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose--because it contains all others--the fact that they were the people who created the phrase 'to make money'. No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity--to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality." - pg 414.

"Tell the bastard to look at me, then look in the mirror, then ask himself whether I would ever think that my moral stature is at the mercy of his actions." - John Galt pg 1114

"John Galt is Prometheus who changed his mind. After centuries of being torn by vultures in payment for having brought to men the fire of the gods, he broke his chains—and he withdrew his fire—until the day when men withdraw their vultures."


Enjoy. Currently reading "The Satanic Verses" a novel by Salman Rushdie which is a semi-satire of the Quran. Currently listening to a lot of old metal: Lamb of God, Zao, and At the Gates. Mixed in with some Coltrane and Monk.

Monday, September 18, 2006

An Addition

Alright, so snakes aren't the usual topic of this blog or for that matter the topic of much conversation unless it involves fear. However, I have kept snakes as pets for 2 years now and rather enjoy them: they are low maintenance, gorgeous, calming, and believe it or not have varying personalities. If you don't believe me ask my roommate the temperament of his Kingsnake Rico. This week I purchased my 3rd snake.

My first, Socrates, I only had for a few weeks before it learned to escape and for all I know is still living in Seymour Hall at Knox College. After getting a new lid I bought Plato, a Male Red Albino Corn Snake, whom I have had going on two years now. This week I bought Chanel, a Super Oketee Female Corn. That's right Plato now has a girlfriend.


Below is Plato: my juvenile male, currently a little over 2 feet, he should max out around 5-6 feet.






Chanel: only a few weeks old she is hard to photograph as she is very squirmy and about the size of a pencil. She will grow to about 4 feet, maybe 5.




They don't live together yet, but once Chanel gains some mass they will be roommates.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Other Beirut ... The drowned out one


Beirut has long been a scene of constant frustration. After a destructive civil war in the 80's it emerged in the 90's and into this century as a truly cosmopolitan, tolerant, and groundbreaking city. While the news may tell you of Hezbollah and assassinations in Lebanon. I believe this country has or now perhaps had, more potential than any other city in the region to develop itself as a truly International force and emergent power.

I was first drawn towards Lebanon about three years ago when I was presented with an opportunity to travel there for a month, but due to various reasons went to South Africa instead. But through talking to various individuals over the years and through various readings I have much respect for this overlooked nation. First, though the government structure needs much work at a systemic level; Lebanon has a strong tradition of being able to successfully balance radically diverse interests in a respectful manner. The population is mostly Arab with a small Armenian population. This then is split religiously between mutually large Christian and Muslim populations representing various sects therein. Further this is illustrated in their government whose executive forms what they call the troika: sharing power agmounst the religious sects. The presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian; the prime minister, a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament, a Shi'a Muslim. Next the driving force of their economy has increasing been interaction through a free-market economy with foreign firms and a developed banking system creating an average of %5 annual real GDP growth.

If you get the chance the Travel Channel is currently running a documentary entitled "Bourdain in Beirut". It will not tell you much of the news or about the political events precipitating the war, however it will allow one to see the beauty of this marvelous city and the potential it had and how all of that has seemingly come crashing down in the past few weeks.

While I do not in any form condone the acts of Hezbollah, I do feel immense empathy for the people of Lebanon and all that they have lost due to the careless and malicious acts of people both inside and outside their country. With so much hope following the removal of Syrian troops from Lebanon earlier this year, I have been truly crushed by the events of the past few weeks. As an International Studies major I make it my aim to follow most events around the world and to know general information about as many nations as possible and their political/economic situation. history, and potential. However, a few of these nations hold a special place with me--near the top is Lebanon. So I leave with this. The people of Beirut and Lebanon have overcome the Romans, Ottomans, British, and most recently the Syrians--still able to hold onto their distinct culture and way of life. Beirut may take 20 more years to regain its position but I have no doubt that it will do so.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Food and an Update

Alright.... Wow, it has been a really long time since I have posted. So I am currently working on transitioning my blog so that I can create the pages on my new iMac. Anyhow, the summer is beginning to slow to a stop in less than a week as I continually grow more anxious for the start of a new school year. There is nothing like Fall: cooler days, excellent fashion, college football and the formation of new relationships. It should be a fairly challenging academic year but one of much growth as well, both in my maturity and intellect. I am always reminded of my days running cross country when I go into a new school year; your soul is filled with butterflies of anticipation and before you lay a challenge. I always halfway second guess myself but inside I know that I have prepared and will continue to move forward, advancing past each obstacle as I come to it and ultimately I will be successful. Yet there is always that challenge and few things are more exciting.



Also, I have been reading Atlas Shrugged and am about 2/3 the way done. It is much more provocative than I had origininally estimated and I think a part of me didn't want to like it at all, and though I do disagree with much Ayn Rand speaks on, when I am finished I expect to have gained several new insights. More on that when I have finished. For music this has been more than ever the summer of Jazz. I currently really like Blue Train by John Coltrane and Home Cookin by Jimmy Smith. Also thanks to Mr. Jones I have been overly impressed by Surprise by Paul Simon. Aesthetically the album is beautifully composed but it is the mature and reflective lyrics which truly define the recording.



Food. We all eat, for me it will change from 3 times a day in the summer to a solid 1 or lucky 2 as the school year starts, nonetheless food is about far more than food. American's have been accused of eating too much and placing perhaps too great an emphasis on social situations surrounding food. Perhaps rightfully so, yet I love a great dinner with a few friends. I am a decent cook and so when I go out to dinner I am hardly looking to eat a meal and go home. This is why places like buffets confuse me. I go out to eat (and I am talking now $10/15 up eating) firstly for original, freshly cooked food in an atmosphere where just as much thought has been placed in the service and setting as in the food itself. The restraunt and food should compliment each other. Secondly, on the topic of wine. I love wine with a meal, it so often provides that extra edge to the food that takes it to an entirely different level. But here are my two pet peeves. First far too often the red wine is too warm and white wine too cold. Next, 4-5 ounces please! in my glass and give me an appropriate glass for what I am drinking. More than anything this means at least a 12 ounce--preferably a 20 ounce glass. Sorry I needed to vent. A few of my favorite restraunts that I feel do it right are: Splash-Des Moines, Tremont-Marshalltown, Taki-Des Moines, Pachamama's-Lawrence, The Taj Mahal- KC, La Frou Frog - KC, Teller's -- Lawrence, The Eldridge - Lawrence, Jerusalem Cafe - KC, The Cafe - Ames, and 126 in Iowa City. Cheers. Go out and treat yourself to a good meal.