Monday, 24 October 2011

How do I know?

There's reading to be done on William the Conqueror for Personal Tutor sessions at 3:15. I'm sick. Sore throat. In a few minutes I've got a lecture that lasts for two hours, and I've got to get dressed, presentable, and then I've got to find some food. I'm not a big fan of being sick.

It's proper Welsh weather outside at the moment; cold, dripping, and mournful. Lamenting my illness, no doubt.

I should finish this and get dressed and get reading. I will, in a bit. I feel I should keep everyone updated, so that's what I'm trying to do. Spent the weekend in Aberystwyth. It was good, but I'm exhausted and worn out a little, though I did manage to get some good hours of sleep in last night. And though I did go to Geoff Thomas's church in Aber, I didn't get a chance to meet him. Which means I have to go back at some point.

I missed not going to Lampeter Evangelical Church, my church here in Lampeter. Even though I've only been once on Sunday, I've been with them at the meetings they hold during the week and already I feel like I fit in and belong there. I hope to visit around and encourage the other churches in the area—we'll see how things go.

And with that, I depart. Here's to an end of sickness.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sundays

I was up too late last night, but I guess I don't mind. I woke up too early this morning, and didn't trust myself to fall asleep and not miss church. So I'm shivering on my bed at 8:15 after being up for half an hour, when I should be asleep till nearly 9:00. I don't know what I'm doing.

A little before 10:00 I'm off for church. I met an Irish fellow last night who said he'd come along, so we'll meet and walk over together.

After morning service, I'm off to spend the afternoon with a friend a little outside campus and eat Sunday lunch with the family she lives with. Normally, I'll be going somewhere Sunday evening but this week and next I'll be otherwise occupied.

I don't know what made me do it, but I guess it's because I can't say no. To almost anything. There's a Christian mini-conference and trip to Aberystwyth to spend time with the CU people there this coming weekend; I'm going. I don't even know my assignments, or my reading list. Hopefully I'll get that later today. I was gone all day Saturday, and that was hard enough. At some point I need to get into a schedule where I'm at home long enough to do some actual work, but for now it's a general rushing hither and thither, walking more than I deserve, but less than I should in a world of ideals (not ours, in case that wasn't clear).

I joined the Chapel Choir. Why??? I don't know how to sing the tenor line, I can't pick it out from the melody when it's played together, and it's every Friday (and Sundays when I can make it) plus services throughout the year. Why did I do it? Oh, right. The insanity of university.

I've written about 12 different paragraphs to go in this slot, but each time I delete it just before I post. Apparently, there's nothing that will fit just right. For now, this will have to do.

Friday, 14 October 2011

University Life

I'm writing a newsletter which will be out as soon as I can get it, so I won't be stealing much of my own thunder. I've nothing against spilling a few beans, though. This is instead of emailing my parents at the moment, as I'm knackered and shattered and other British words for exhausted that Americans don't know.

I arrived in Lampeter 3:00 Wednesday afternoon. I hadn't slept the night before, no more than an hour or two, but there was no time for exhaustion. After meeting a bunch of people I knew (and recognising dozens of others on campus and around town on the drive in) I started to run some errands, move into my room, get registered, and catch up with new old friends.

I have three modules I'm currently enrolled in. Study Skills, focussed on historians and what I'll need, which I haven't attended. Introduction to Archaeology which is my least favourite so far (too much science, but it's still pretty good) and my very favourite lecture which is Introduction to Medieval Studies and can be described simply as "utterly brilliant". It's taught by Dr. Abrams whom I knew and who interviewed me in 2009.

Already I've made more friends, made better friends, plotted to meet up with dozens as-yet-unmet friends, gone to folk band in the pub down the street, taken a late-night 5-mile walk outside Lampeter, slept in past a lecture (to my shame; now I own an alarm clock, it won't happen) joined the choir, the folk society, the Medieval society, the singing society, had dinner at the local Welsh church, bought and worn a Welsh rugby shirt in preparation for tomorrow's big match against France, and discovered that I truly am known all over campus.

Tomorrow I'm going to White Sands where Robin Hood (2010) was filmed in part, along with Harry Potter 7 parts 1 and 2 (the cottage where Dobby is buried), along with St. Davids, the town and Cathedral. I'm going tomorrow early, hoping not to miss the International bus at 9:00 so here's me trusting my 3 alarm clocks. Could be foolish. Will have pictures, but don't know when I'll update them.

I've just purchased a diary to record my schedule and it's hectic as anything—I don't have a free moment, or I won't once I find the rest of my societies and start joining up. I'll be attending as many extra lectures as I can, but for now I just need to access the required text books and purchase those, as well as become aware of assignments. I'm possibly moving halls to join the musicians from the Folk Society and leave my party hall, so we'll see if that works out. Either way, my mates in Walker are a loveable group if too loud when they get drunk at 3:00am.

That's all I've time for, as it's now past 11:00 which is much later than I anticipated. Will write when I can. Cheers.

Friday, 30 September 2011

I have a CAS...

...a fantasy. To help me through reality. But, this isn't ABBA. I actually do have a CAS. Cheers, guys.

Everything came through today, and it even looks like I'll be in Wales on the 12th October 2011, just three weeks late which, all things considered, isn't bad.

It's a funny world, though. In all of this, there have been dozens of people involved. People with the loan office, people with the admin office at my uni, people with the International Office especially. People, people, people. Hey, even I had a small part. But the thing is, the one who did the most, did the best, did, in a way, it all, won't ever get any credit.

I will probably never be able to tell him this in person. I'm just too weak. I'm too much of a brown turd. It's the way I've been for almost two decades.

I did my bit for the CAS; I did it a long time ago, and I sat around and waited. And I worried, and I made calls so that I could go to university because it was my dream and I wanted to follow it. The International Office and the admin office, and the loan office, and all the other offices did their bit for it too—and I'm the first to acknowledge it's been a pain in the rear and that Dr. Higgins and Ms. Brown have done above and beyond the call of duty for it. But see, they get paid for it. They might be personally invested in me, and I've no complaint to them—I love them. I really do. I have no such affection for the bureaucrats at the loan office, and maybe I'm not being fair, but they seem to have done a bit less than they're paid (by our taxes) to do. But, well, that's water under the boat. We've all done our bit, because we get paid to do it, or we get something out of it. Much as I'd like to think I did it for others, it was always about me. It was always about an education, or a job, or whatever reason those offices had to keep working at it.

Mainly, though, it's the Pops. Cause, he never got anything out of it, and he won't still—but from the very beginning to the very end, he made calls. And he gave money. And he gave time. And he made more calls. Then he yelled at some people cause I'm a wimp and I can't do that. Once that was all done, and he'd done everything that he could, he did it again, and he did it a few more times, then a bunch more, then at the very end of it he did it one final time and it came through and things happened. I won't ever thank him properly; I haven't done much properly at all in that respect. Everyone will be proud of me for what I did; they'll think the offices all finally pulled through and then God will get the credit from those in my circles. That's all good; it's fine, it's great. It's the way it is. I could change it, but I'm too weak.

Because it's well and good to do something for a dream. I don't recall the last time, though, that I spent that much time, money, effort, and ruthless persistence to fulfil the dream of a spoiled bastard who doesn't deserve a lick. Or the last time that I cared enough to do half of that for someone I loved. I would, probably; or I'd like to think that I'd like to do it.

It sure is a funny world. It's not a nice world, but it is funny. It's messed up, too. It's cracked, it is. All the same, whilst I wouldn't say there's hope for humanity, I suppose it says something about where you come from, and shouts something about what you've got to live up to. Well, what I've got to live up to. Here's trying, and failing. And the first few hundred times I fail I guess I'll just have to remember the dear old CAS.

Thanks, Pops.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Murder of a Dream

It was the cold, brutal murder of a dream, nursed close to the chest.
No swift killing, and no bed-rest.
Cut down in prime, with no chance to test
Just slaughtered on a whim, because it was "best".
It's just an old, dead dream now. Lay it to rest.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Watch

I watch them run, and laugh, and party
Whilst I stay home and grind my teeth.
But there's so much worse I could be doing
So much to life I still have left.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Interesting Chocolates With a Sprinkle of Cynicism

I have discovered the secret to an interesting blogger or diarist. The key is to lead an interesting life. This I will proceed to attempt, solely for the purpose of becoming a more interesting blogger. This will gain me followers, which will raise my self-esteem, thereby helping me achieve a completely unworthy and useless goal, pushing me further toward the height of stable insanity. Ah, life, how I have missed thee.

Forrest Gump once said, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." He was quoting his mother, but let's not quibble. I'd like to agree, with an amendment of my own making: "Life is like a box of chocolates after the fat kid got to it. It smells nice, but the rattling you hear when you shake it are just the husks of long-consumed truffles and nougats, milks and darks. The wrapping is pretty, but the promise of hidden delight is stifled with horror when, upon opening, you see it was just the memory of something good. You never know what you're gonna get, because maybe, just maybe, the fat kid left a half-eaten Mars Bar behind. He didn't, but you can always pretend."

Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Sap Runs Through the Trees

The hardest words we ever say
Come freely, several times a day.
But what they mean we'll never know
Till death us part and to heaven we go.
So often I would like to utter
Those three words; but I just stutter
And back away, because I've said
Them once already and it's now dead
The love I had, the one I needed,
The one I saw, that time my heart seceded.

So. "I love you," there I've said it, soul. You happy?
Well, did I mean it, is it real? Am I just being sappy?

Jane Eyre

I have never read Jane Eyre, the book. As with all well-known classics, bits and pieces of the story have floated into my hearing, so it was not without any knowledge of the train of events in Jane's life that I began the film.

It portrays an England that is as empty and lonely as Jane's life. Even when surrounded by the few people that make up the characters, there is a bleakness to it reminiscent of another Brontë's famous work. The image of Jane, alone on the moor, stays with us as a symbol of the life she lived, and seems destined to remain in.

The pieces were there; the locations, the actors, the script and score—and the direction was aesthetically very pleasing. Something was missing. I think perhaps it is a little too like the novels of the Brontë era. One way of saying it is that too much was told and too little shown. We know that Jane and Edward love each other because we are told so. We see very little time pass but are expected to know that it has. There was nothing unenjoyable about the depiction of events, but, perhaps indicative of the director's ideology of the times or story itself, there is a constant stiltedness of circumstance, wherein we view an emotional journey in broken pieces, as if the story were a collage providing the key results but not the important moments in between. As viewers we are given no chance to care for the relationships that grow, for the camera and story are shy, giving us a glimpse and then, as some self-conscious gift-giver, drawing them back so that never are we let fully into the story itself. For all its penchant for explanation, there is much the script has not given us, things that we are expected either to know of from prior reading, or things we are simply not to care about.

Do not misunderstand me. It was a grand film, and much in it is there to love. But I cannot do so unreservedly, for I feel as if it were a very long trailer, or detailed dissertation on Jane Eyre without being a story with blood and heart and raw emotion. I cared, but I could have cared so much more; a story-telling crime it is, to create potential and spoil it through misuse or lack of understanding.

A crime, yes; but a crime that is paid for by the beauty of what is left unmolested.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The End of an Era



The pipes they played their ageless tune,

As we drove away into the gloom.

One journey ended, another begun

One song closing, one to be sung.

I wept not to say goodbye;

I walked away, my eyelids dry.

Bittersweet my memories,

The tunes I learned—the mistakes I made.

And through it all, we continued on

But no more. Our song is done.


In death there is a fond farewell

But I hear in life a more final knell

What will come, who can tell?

I fear it more, the hollow shell

Of what might be, but never was

Of lives un-lived, and love unloved.

Do we meet again, when all is said?

When paths diverge in our yellow wood?

God didn’t say, so I don’t know

Still...I’d like to think—somewhere, somehow—that it might be so.


I hear the voice, I hear the war

I hear the sound on a distant shore

I feel the spirit of yesterday

I touch the past, when the pipers played.

The pipes kept playing, for you and me

They kept on saying, “You’ll soon be free”

And your soul will never fade away

You’ll live forever when the pipers play.

And yet, in those fond words, I find no hope:

A cliff and a scaffold. At the end of it...rope.


From that day on, where’er I went

I didn’t play—my song was spent

I didn’t sing, my life was sung

My musical soul on a gallows hung.

But in the far reaches of memory,

I sometimes recall, just to see,

The way I feel, the way I felt

The cards I had, how my hand was dealt.

And as I remember that long ride home

I can hear no pipes, and no snare drum.



Monday, 29 August 2011

Possession

There's very little to be said
About what goes on inside my head.
What cannot be seen or heard to shout
Is not what I want spread about
It's there, and it's mine, and I want it.
No, you can't have it.

A song, a dance, a mysterious glance
I'll keep you guessing, my mind undressing.
But for every layer you take off
You'll soon learn it's not enough
My thoughts are my own, my precious
You can't have them—so stuff it.

And yet, for lack of curiosity,
I'll feed you more, just to see
If I can get some small reaction
So I can give you some rejection
If you don't want them—
I don't either.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Juno

Just finished the 2008 film Juno, starring Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Michael Cera, and, as the title character, Ellen Page. It was a funny film, crudities aside. It was even less callous morally than a lot of films these days. But what did it actually say? What was the point of it? I'm going to spoil it, more or less, for those of you who haven't seen it. Read on if you don't care.

Juno is going to have a baby. She's 16 years old. Her dad and step-mom are shocked and horrified at the news. She wants to have it taken care of—abortion. But when she goes to get it done, she can't seem to manage it. She finds a couple who want a baby and would like to adopt hers, decides she likes them, and forms a relationship with them only to discover the husband is leaving his wife and might, possibly, consider Juno as a replacement. Juno has the baby, hooks up with her one night stand from school, and sings some songs as we see the child, after he's born, given to the now single mother of the adoptive parents Juno was interested in.

There's moments the film could have said something about abortion, or premarital sex, or steady relationships being a necessary and healthy part of a good family, or the evils of divorce, or the fact that God created people to be parents together—a husband, a wife; a mother, a father. That's the way it should work, and that's what should be endorsed by correctly-thinking people.

But take the moment the film answers the question of abortion: there are positives and negatives to getting an abortion, and with practised ease the story shoves the familiar idea that whatever you want to do is fine, it doesn't matter one way or the other—oh, and you should believe in yourself or something. Right. One opportunity wasted.

Thousands of opportunities come up to discuss premarital sex; most of them are taken—but it's never a subject taken on any other grounds than that it should be expected and, while it can have unfortunate consequences, it's no big deal really. After all, that's what condoms are for, and that's what we really need: berry flavoured protection. If we just had that, it'd be no big deal. A moral question, a big moral question, and it's ignored as heavily as the first.

But what about marriage in general? In some ways, the film speaks most strongly about this, more than any others. And that's not a good thing. The seemingly happy and perfect relationship between the attractive couple wanting to adopt is shattered in a senseless act of story-murder, and without reason or precedent, we are slapped in the face with the destruction of the lives of characters we've come to understand and expect differently from. There's no opportunity to fix what's happened; there's very little emotion involved whatsoever, in fact. It's just that people who don't love each other any more should get divorced, or are permitted to, and that's life. Right? There is one statement made, by Juno, that people who were in love once can be in love again, and that Mark needs to suck it up and stick around. But even this statement is given from a skewed perspective.

The film had a storyline filled with potential truth or falsehood. Instead, the only thing that it's actually saying is, it's all good—premarital sex, maybe even waiting; abortion, if that's what's right for you, and if not, give it up for adoption; he doesn't like the idea of being a father? well, he can get a divorce, that's cool, and she'll raise the kid, that's cool; oh, and I'll shack up with my friend turned boyfriend, cause that's true love, and that proves that people can stick together and relationships can last.

But the fact is, the books, films, motivational speeches, and friendly advice that is written, portrayed, or spoken have as much to say as Juno did. And as crudely. Absolutely nothing. Words, words, words. Hamlet would be as unhappy in our day as he was with his own. Be yourself, trust in yourself, believe in yourself, have faith, in yourself, or in belief itself, or in spirituality—hang on, what? There's no substance. It's words, designed to make us feel better about ourselves, designed to cover up the feelings of guilt we may deserve to wear, or the idea that maybe there's something else that matters, something that isn't people or earth gods—something, someone, rather, who's in charge and says that it does matter, actually, what you do, who you are, how you act. Someone who says, "I created you. Do as you're told."

No one wants to know that, unless they already know it, though. And I know that. I expect it. But if you're afraid to come out and say something one way or the other, if you won't stand up for your belief, right or sinfully wrong, then you might as well say nothing at all.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Heedless, the Fool

Heedless, the fool, who knows his folly
And will not look back to stop.
Headlong toward the brink he runs
So unafraid of death.

Heading for a lover's dark demise
Knowing well the many lies
Are wisps of truth dressed in black ties.
So he runs, as his heart cries.

Reckless, foolish, brave, the fool
Makes fleet footsteps toward the gate
Loving what cannot be loved
Choosing the wrath of care than the pain of hate.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Cryptocity is a Word Unto Itself

How can you know
A feeling is genuine?
How do you know
That it's real?

What do you make
Of a first impression?
And how do you keep
The heart still?

A wandering organ
To put it quite crassly;
A vessel of blood
Very wild.

It does what it wills
And never obeys me
A bastardised son:
My brain child.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

I miss the sweet sound of grass in the springtime
And the scent a smile has, just before it fades.

I look for the sweet perfume a flower has,
But I cannot find it—only an empty pit.

Nothing for me there, nothing for me here.
And so I walk away, thinking on the past.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

It Is Finished.

A Bitter Pill

Cold, like ice, but far, far worse. Bitter the taste of bitterness itself. I hear the sounds, but I want to run, to shut my ears and hide, because I cannot face the pain. So I stop my heart, I block my eyes from a sight I cannot face.

She's calling me, and I do not listen; I hear, but my spirit trembles. Fear, bright and garish, loud, a screaming in my head—the fear of loss, of letting go, a thing I will not do. Deep inside I want to touch her, but the years of ache have left me calloused, used to turning away, accustomed to escaping the snare that love so quickly sets. That rule of nature that what we love, when taken, must break us. No, I shall not fall prey again.

And so I run, and I shelter, but in my mind I see her, hear her, and when I reach to touch her I cannot. The body, so broken; the vulgar, base cries for help, which I so ruthlessly ignore; I staunch the avalanche of feeling that threatens me—she, who I so long have loved, I cannot hold. Disgust fills me, and now washes o'er me anew—disdain for my own disgust, revulsion at my weak, so-very-human repulsion.

Of all creatures created best, now of all creatures basest, the actions of my own race fill me with a holy, white rage—anger at who I am, where I come from, the weakness that runs at the very core of humanity. Death, of all things most ugly, and no part of it more so than the threshold between the twin worlds. Her body, ravaged by want of food, heaves and every bone juts sharply from thread-thin skin. Fur, jagged and unkempt, eyes bulging—the beauty has left her cold body, the brightness of life already dimming. And the smell, of sickness, disease, and death. What to love in the creature that pants for breath on a dirty floor, so lonely, so ready to go?

Even as I think it, the wall gives a violent shudder. The ramparts tremble threateningly. I bow my head. The Gate of Weeping makes ready to burst asunder, and a wild grief and remorse at my very thoughts crouches before me. Is there truly no Beauty in her? Why, then, with whose eyes do I look?

She, once so noble, is crowned with the wisdom of years, the grace of elders. She, who bears the shadow of a once-strong and vibrant body is the claimant of a life, long and full and happy; loveliness is not found in the vestige of what lies before me. It is the strength of spirit, even now so bowed down by troubles, and yet so determined, so persevering—trusting, fearful but ready, buoyed up by the knowledge that she has done no wrong and will face no judgement upon the other side. Did I see, or hear, or scent ugliness in her? I stand corrected. She lies glorious, clothed in the memory of happy past, of great deeds, in the graceful mantle of long life.

Thus breaks my bitter heart.


Sunday, 24 July 2011

Twelve Months On

Spurned by love, a love I sought,
But had no skill to own.

Monday, 18 July 2011

What Love Doesn't

I smiled because you knew,
Perhaps you'd always known
Everything about me
Everything there is to know
I smiled because I loved you
And I knew that you loved me
But love wasn't enough, you see.

Love doesn't keep you safe
It doesn't keep me well
It doesn't stop the crushing wheel
The wheel of time itself.
It doesn't keep you faithful
It doesn't keep me pure
And it didn't stop you leaving me
Of that I am quite sure.

Cliché, But Mine

I've run, and I think I've run right past
Whatever it was I was running toward.
I keep on running, and I don't look back
But I've forgotten what I was running for.

It seems to me life's a bit like that,
Sometimes you get going and you're going too fast
Running so fast you're afraid to fall
...But if you don't stop now you might lose it all.


Sunday, 17 July 2011

Child

Never mind what I told you, child,
Forget all that you can
It's a cruel world I've made you, child,
Full of broken plans.
Don't listen to the rain, child,
It only turns to mud
Forget about your pain, child,
Try to look past the blood.

Somewhere, beneath, there's a faded smile
The vestige of something beautiful
Somewhere behind the broken glass
There's a child, waiting to be asked

You're all that can save us, child
We don't deserve your love
Make our world clean again, child
White as a new-hatched dove.
Lessons are wasted on the young
And useless on the wise.
But what if they're pointless for anyone?
That'd be a nasty surprise.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

It All Ends

There was a rumble, and it was thunder;
Sprang the lightning from God's great hand.
Then crashing in almighty splendour
A thousand angels, a holy band.
Sang God's hosts an awful chorus,
Joined by rows of cherubim;
The king is coming, riding for us
In his hand a flaming brand.
Clad in stars and ringed by Saturn
There He stands, aloof, on high
Causing all the world to know him
The one who lives, the one who died.


Friday, 8 July 2011

Read This

http://www.sennapoem.blogspot.com/

That's the link to a new blog by a friend of mine from Wales. Check it out, become a follower, and give her some encouragement and critique!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

A Piece of it

Kenna shook her head, looking away from his eyes. “I have said what I will say, and you do not listen. So go, and leave me alone, for I will be alone.”

Tal knelt and plucked a flower from the ground. It was a daisy. She sighed and pushed him away—though she was not unfriendly. “You have made your choice, Tallidwr,” she told him. “I will not stop you.”

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

More than a moment wouldn't do
Any less and I would miss it all.
Turn back and see what I have in my hand,
I'm holding it for you.
There's sun here and it's warm,
Won't you come out to play?
I know sometimes you're frightened
But I've driven them away.

And now it's safe
To do what we're here to do.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

And it wasn't till she turned back I realised, I didn't want her to go at all.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Flailing at Failure

Bitter the taste
of long-dreaded failure
Ill the cup I drink

Soon, soon a prisoner—
and my gaoler:
The thing that makes me think.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Cracking Camels

One more straw, this camel might crack;
Another feather could break his back
Too much, too much, I say too much!
If it's wrong it happened and I tell you such
A week full of blessings I've never had
From grim to worse, and worse to bad.
Though I'd like to say it's done that would be premature
But if I want it to get worse well I know for sure
All I've got to do is say that it's over
Life's sure to get worse before it gets better.

Friday, 24 June 2011

The Poetry of Death

****

Softly now, and gentle
The hands of heaven descend
They touch us once and leave us
Whilst our hearts rend
Torn by the taste
Of what might be, and will
Leaving us bereft
For home so ill.

****

Dark, dark the veil of tears
In a silver boat we face our fears
Sailing away from a red-gold sky
Cresting each wave, on our way to die.
The journey over, we're just passing through
This earth holds no more, for me, for you
On into love and warmth and light
No sea and no sun—and no more night
Death is a step in the right direction
The first thing toward a heavenly connection
Fear, the natural dread of all unknown,
In time, they say, even that will be gone.
The final countdown to a heavenly peace
Where quiet reigns and all is grace.

****

Black, black the water
But bright is the shore
Across the heavenly ocean
Where our life pours
Like so much blackened water
Over the blessed shore
May God forgive our trespass
And make us black no more.

****

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

So recently my friend and I, author at worksofperception.blogspot.com (check it out) swapped blogs for a post, me writing a poem on his, he writing a poem on mine. We were curious to see if the styles would be obviously different, and how the audiences would react. Go to the above-posted link to check out my poem: Lying in Secret.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Beneath heavens hung thick with grief
Where leaves are squandered on the earth
And riches squandered on the thief
and doughnuts squandered on my girth--

There lie I, beneath the vaults
(this earth is but the grave of heaven)
and watch the squandered universe-waltz
Wheeling stars, the sum of seven.

The sum of seven--it's simple math--
this swirling batch of chemistry--
the universe-waltz is a simple laugh
grieving, squandered, but boasting free.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Yr Ddraig Croniclau

Pardon my possibly faulty English to Welsh translation. It's the new blog title, and more generally appropriate. It's actually the name of my University Life newsletter and means, in the Queen's English, The Dragon Chronicles. It refers, of course, to my time in Wales, where the national animal is a dragon (yes, indeed, no joke), and so symbolic of anything I do there. Chronicle merely refers to the fact that I will be recording my heroic deeds, and to signify that it is a newspaper of sorts.

So, not sure how to say this, but thanks to the tightened visa application guidelines in the UK to prevent fraud, I have to do a video interview with University of Wales Trinity Saint David in order for them to formally assess my academic qualifications. Does this mean that if I don't measure up, I won't be going to Wales? Yes. It does. Can't explain it all very well, but the fact is it's theoretically possible my education is in jeopardy. I don't think it will turn out badly, but that doesn't mean I'm not nervous, and it certainly doesn't mean it couldn't turn out badly whatever my personal thoughts on it. Upsetting, much? A little. I try not to think about it.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Blog Submission

My university is offering the chance to be a representative blogger for them in the coming year. I don't know how long it would last, probably just the one year, but starting sometime soon, three bloggers will be offering their thoughts and opinions to the upcoming year, and discussing what goes on as soon as term starts. I was deeply interested in being one of those representatives, so I made a submission that went something like this. The rules are: 250 words, about anything. I wasn't sure what to write about, so I just tried to write some interesting thoughts in an interesting way. I have no idea what other people think because I can't see it from their perspective, but I'm hoping that that, along with some of my credentials slipped into the introduction to the submission may swing the chances in my favour. The more I think about it, the more I would be interested. They even give you a camera so you can "vlog" around campus. The blogs would, I believe, be posted directly to the university website, to provide potential students with incentives to go based on the awesomeness recorded by current freshers. I think I could make it sound so amazing, no one would be able to resist. Either way, here's the gist of my submission. If you want to, you can let me know what you think.


Well, there goes my Oriental Wall Hanging. I can always tell when Summer's here, because the posters start to come down. Once it's hot enough to leave the fan on, last year's masking tape begins to peel off, one corner at a time. Still, inside it’s not too hot, despite temperatures over 90 outside. Haven’t had to turn the air co on yet.


I’ve been thinking about the future—my future—lately, and comedy in particular. Mainly, how to establish my own brand of it, and find audiences for it whilst I’m in university. I love to rant—and am an avid David Mitchellite—but I’d like to have a broader range of comedic options than just that.


Relatedly, I’ve been thinking more seriously about being an historical advisor on films. I wouldn’t want to give up writing and teaching, especially because it’s not a steady job, but when I could get it, I have to say it sounds perfect. I would get to work on films, like I’ve always wanted, and maybe wheedle my way into a small role if I get close to the director. Maybe it would be an incentive to become a real historian.


Well, it’s that time of day now, and there’s a can of Pringles beside me with a rapidly diminishing stock. I should probably close this so there’s some left for later. They are, after all, salt & vinegar flavoured.


Till next time,


Liam

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Two and a half weeks, could it really be over now? The longest days in my life, and the worst, I think. Did I learn anything? Plenty. Will it stick? Don't know. Am I sorry it ended the way it did? In some ways; in some ways I'm glad. Hard to believe I won't be going back, that this is it—all I'll have to do, and I'll never be back, but that's the way it is I suppose. I may be only 19 years old, but I won't be patronised; I won't be pushed around; I won't be treated as an inferior just because people think I'm a "needy college student". I'll be treated like an adult, because I'm doing an adult's job, and should be getting an adult's pay. I won't sweat so you can make money—you or anyone else. And that's how it is.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Futon

I am the proud owner of a futon now. My room is, as always, delightful. I switched it out for my bed to save room, and to have a better place to write, read, and get things done. It's just easier when there's a little more space, and a place to sit that isn't my chair. Sometimes, if I'm working on several things at once, or I have my things spread out around me, the la-z-boy isn't big enough, and the bed is too high, and too much like a bed (which does, indeed, make sense). I don't know that it's more comfortable than my bed to sleep on, but I'm sure I'll work out someway or other to get a good night's sleep. After all, if I'm truly desperate I can always sleep on the floor. The summer's so hot anyway that a bed gets to be too much a lot of the time as it is.

So there you have it; with a futon in my life now, there's no going back.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Hero

I know what it is to be a hero. To go on, when every trembling part would turn back. I know what it is to fear, and in that fear wish for such escape, only to keep going on. This is what it is to be a hero, though hero I am not; I am only the frightened labourer, who plods from place to place. I am not a hero, though like a hero I have wept with grief and despair for the odds against me. No, I am not a hero.

And yet...I go on, still, though my heart trembles at even the thought of another moment on that accursed route. Is it pride, or courage, that pushes me on? I cannot say, for I do not know. I know only that were it in my hands alone, I would give it up, and yet...still, I go on.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

My Mom

My mom could kick your mom's tail. But she won't, cause she's my mom.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MUTHER!

Friday, 22 April 2011

My Room

The weather's too warm now, and I won't be needing it anymore. Even so, it was with some sadness that I took my electric blanket off my bed and packed it away. Not because I have any emotional attachment to the blanket itself, but by the time the weather is cold again, I'll be gone.

Gone. There's that word, and with it a sinking feeling right at the bottom of my stomach.

Gone. Such a vulgar, crass-sounding word, hard and Anglo-Saxon. Pitiless, and alone.

It's early to pack everything away, but as I slowly begin to dismantle this chamber that is my fortress, it touches me again, in realer ways, that it's all over.

Rather like the sad-but-happy ending to a series of good books that comes after a long journey with characters who feel as real as ice and fire, with you turning each last page with trepidation, that sinking feeling growing, knowing that when you reach the end of the last sentence, and read the death knell that is the final period: there's never going back. Oh, you can reread a series of books, and sometimes, if you're lucky, feel the same way about them as you did the first time; or almost. Life is different, in that way, and for that harder, and more poignant (a word I strangely despise right now).

And then comes that masochistic instinct of mine, to linger on every sad moment like this one, knowing it's being sad that means you have reason at other times to be happy, and seeing the very fringe of loss the best way to show what you've gained.

My bedroom really is my best friend, in a sense. It knows my darkest secrets, my deepest hopes, my greatest desires, my ugliest weaknesses, and most terrible fears. It can't talk or think, and that's why it has become to me what it is. It is my fortress, a strong shelter when I grow too angry at the world to face it, or too shunned by it to try. It keeps me safe when my heart breaks—once every few months or so, you know how it is—and it Never, Ever tells.

My room has seen the triumphs I've had, or many of them; the moments of glorious ascension as I write my own end to a novel, or read someone else's. And however far I go, however much I distance myself from it, till now it's always been something to come back to. When I've turned monster on those least worthy, and retreat in fear of my own created gore, it does not judge me, or ask me why: and while it lasted, it was good.

A fortress of my own making, a place to store my soul. Now, I oversee the destruction of it, watching it fall in pieces from now till September. A mighty fortress is my room, a bulwark rarely failing; A helper, it, amid the floods, of mortal ill prevailing. No longer now, to shelter thou from darkness penetrating. I'll hit the road and go to Wales, and...have a good life, or something.

I don't want to end on a lamely happy note, or dwell melodramatically on a sad one; my feelings are as mixed up as my soul, and just about anyone can tell you that's saying something. For now, my room's a wreck—yes, I did stop to write this in the middle of my work—and I should get on that, doing my best to let that tinglingly-sad feeling linger, savouring the pain by the drop.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Swallowing

You get that nervous feeling, when you're talking, or you're thinking about talking, and you don't really want to, except you do, and you think it's the right thing...and you swallow, and you're sure everyone can see you, and that everyone notices, and you're actually probably right, and swallowing, on top of that, is just proof that you really are nervous, which is just the impression you'd like to avoid, but then you can't help it because, being nervous, and knowing you should speak but not exactly feeling full of a desire to do so, you do anyway...and really, it didn't matter so much after all now it's over, and perhaps you should've kept your mouth shut, now you see how people are looking at you funny like maybe your head isn't screwed on as properly as you think.

Still, it's too late now, isn't it?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Curiouser

Pain is a funny thing. It's not hilarious, but it is funny. There's pain that just bugs you, and that's body pain. I almost said physical, but emotional pain hurts physically too. And that's the other sort of pain: the kind that comes on strong, then dissipates to lure you into the sense that you're over it...and just when you really could use some peace and quiet, hits you over the head again as if to say, "Hah! You thought I'd gone! But I'll never leave!" and cackles evilly, running away to plan another ambush.

Does pain actually think about this and premeditate how it strikes? I wouldn't put it past it, but I don't think so. It's just the inanimate nature of pain, and if it were planned around the times when it wouldn't hurt, that wouldn't be pain anyway. You have this hole in your heart, or your soul more-like, and you can't fill it with anything because it's a hole: whatever you put in it just falls through. It's not like a hole in the ground which isn't a hole but a pockmark; this is a hole all the way through, the kind you can look into and see the other side, like a glittering black she-devil. Or he-devil.

Pain, pain, pain. We wouldn't know we were human if we didn't feel, because we wouldn't know anything with it. I'm not complaining. But sometimes you do wonder how long it takes to disappear.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Gradual Changes - Scene and Screen

Until recently, it took time for a film to be made out of a book. I mean this in both senses: a book had to be proven as a popular or worthy story for years, and often decades or longer, and not only that but more time went into adaptations of novels.

Maybe I'm partly imagining things, or being selective in my thinking, but even if that accounts for some of it, there is a fact that the book-into-film method is beginning to shift, or has already shifted.

I Am Number Four, a book released in August 2010 about an alien in high school (to simplify the storyline) had its own movie come out in March 2011. Not only did the film makers start work on the adaptation before the book came out, but they did it all at breakneck speed.

Twilight as a franchise has been pumped out every year, or even every six months, and work on the first film couldn't have begun much after the book turned into a hit.

One might list Harry Potter among these, but while I think it is itself part of the shift I think it happened during the tide and managed to escape the mistakes made in other examples.

Why is this happening?

It's quite simple. People's interest and taste changes constantly, more so these days when we have so many new books, movies, music, and electronic gadgets to choose from. Trends in the "what's popular among teenage girls" are in and out at a moment's notice, and if you want to climb on that bandwagon you'd best do it fast.

Someone, whether it be a publisher, author, or affiliate of I Am Number Four let someone else in some film studio know about it, and work got started before it came out. Why? It was a popular book or film formula currently, and expected to be a hit. But not only do books usually take longer to become hits, a book has to become and then stay a hit before it establishes a fanbase that will follow it to the box office.

Twilight is a similar example. The books were a raging success, but for how long? I'm sure people realised that the quality of the story and writing wouldn't allow it to be successful for longer than the fashion stays "in" and if you wanted a piece of that action, you would have to be quick. Which is precisely what went on: before the books were all released, before the blaze could die down, the movies were pumped out lightning-quick because if they produced them in the normal way, their chances of big rakings at the office would drop significantly.

With Twilight, it worked. At least, they made money and lots of it. With I Am Number Four, they got ahead of themselves and it was a complete flop. But when you start with books that follow the current fashion and produce them with such blazing speed not only are you starting with something less than great, but you're rush creating a cinematic version which can only mean one thing: good or bad, whatever you started with will be degraded in your absurd and money-hungry haste.

Even when it does what the movie producers were hoping, and makes box office gold, the films suffer, from the acting to the editing. Though cinema has always had its sections of dedicated filmmakers who make it for the art (a small section, surely), always had its somewhat larger section of those dedicated to making as much money as possible, along with blends of the two mentioned, these days with more and more films being made and people turning to bestsellers for ideas or even possible hits in literature not yet released, it seems a newer and more shameful sort of scratching for money.

However things go, whether we as a society entrench ourselves deeper and deeper into this habit or break it for some other one, the culture's reasons for and ways of making movies will find someway to deprave itself, I have to say, I'd rather it wasn't this one.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Excerpts Again

"You fools! The innocent perished, while you, bastards of coin and purchased flesh, live in chains of freedom that bind you more fast to a cold death than those same cords could ever bind him.


"Your fathers whored to the Zargos, and gave up my country to be a whore to them. Now have you whored yourselves to the enemy again, and turned us over so the Zargos may whore away our lives. So be it, you may have your whores and be your whores—until the whore chokes on her own blood, damned to fall deep into the Pit of Scorca.


"Bastards, all, and you will not see me again till the blood you shed has been unspilt. I will leave you to the wiles of your lover till she tires of you, a time not unsoon. Then will she send you, bleeding, to the teeth of night. They have asked me if I will kill you, but I said to them only this: 'No, for the blood that would land upon my dagger would be worth more than the lives they own.' Thus it is, and thus your whoring has brought you. So it will prove that your incest be your own undoing."


-Tallidwr ap Dyllanwr, to the Council of the Seven Lords of Carnwntir, 1246 C.C. (Capel Cerig)

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Hole in One

A hole in anything can be filled only with something the size of the hole. Smaller, and it is useless. Larger, and it will tear the original. So a heart, once made holey, must be repaired only with that which fits perfectly. And perfect fits, from clothes to heaven-made matches, are as few and far between as they sound in this imperfect place we suffer to dwell. I know that. Really, I do.


So why do I expect the hole to go away on its own?


Weary with Toil

I haste me to my bed.

Well, this evening, anyway. My weeks pass with reckless abandon, day into day as blinks the eye. Does time, when rote, begin to hasten its pace and so lessen the chore of boredom on sad minds? Or is it that with age it speeds on ever more and more quickly, and so I will be an old man before I have felt young? Can the wanting of time's passage bring it, or is time our master, and we useless minions in a flood of what-happens-ings and has-happened-ings? Will life, once it has reached the place for which I wait and long for, pause so that I may breathe a while and sip, even once, or more, that tasteful and sweet nectar of life's faint and all-too-easily-dulled pleasures? What hope might I have, or make, for the future that appears ever more bright than the lifeless life I lead from now till September's bright midday? Will it be a hope that every week and day be distinct from each other in that other-time, or must I grin and bear the bitter truth, if it be so, that once reached, that plateau will as easily be passed over, into something less looked-forward-to, and so fade in a breath my brief span of life?

I do not know; I can say less so. But I wonder, and think; and believe. But still, I will not say it.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Mystery

Mystery! how it came to be
How I felt it then as I never felt
Anything since, and anything hence:
That tingling from head to toe.

I loved once, but Love lost,
Though it fought in many wars.
And I needed then what I still need most:
But need cannot create.

First comes love, then comes rejection
Then comes torment and endless dejection.
This is life, after the fact
But if I'd known it then I still wouldn't go back.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Pops

My dad could be the most selfless man I've ever met.

The trouble with selfless people is that the very last thing to draw your attention is their selflessness. They don't lord it over you, even when they have the chance; even when they might want to; even when they probably should.

Parents have a certain duty to help their children. They produced their children, they have a responsibility. No one will deny this. There's a level of "selflessness" that should be expected in every parent. That most don't have this doesn't negate this fact. A man, in a Christian home at least, has a responsibility ordinarily to provide for his wife as well. There's a lot that should be expected of him in this regard. Things that should be natural.

But...


...there's a big difference between the parents' responsibility to further their children's lives; a man's devotion to providing for his wife and...this.

I don't spend my Saturdays making phone calls or writing dozens of emails that probably won't help my life, that probably won't do anything but add more to my schedule, and fill up my inbox. I don't get up early every morning (actually I usually do, but wait) to work, come home, and head back to work at my second job to give somebody else a better life. It might help my financial stress, but it will only add to a dozen other stresses.

I have things to do. I have a life to live, goals, and dreams; and I don't often throw those aside in favour of helping someone else.

And, anyway, if I did do any of that, you'd hear about it when I needed a favour in return; and you'd certainly hear about it if it went any worse than I was expecting or allowing for.

There's always someone you don't know about behind someone you do. Like the stand holding up the cardboard cutout; or the nail holding up the picture frame. I've seen myself for a long time turning into something great; famous, at least. Some of my siblings probably will too. But in a way, it won't really be me, or them; we're just the picture frames, and the cutouts, and the figurehead, and the media spokesmen.

You know?

Monday, 7 February 2011

Brian Jacques 1939 - 2011

You're walking, and then you stop, and you can't think because you can barely hear what you're hearing. You listen, but only to laugh at a clever, though macabre, April Fool's Prank. You've heard it before, more than once. This time it's real. You don't know that yet, you're holding the mouse, letting it hover over a link that will make it true: you can't go back and you can't let yourself not click...but until you do, you don't have to believe. There's a choice. And then you watch while it loads, and the picture starts to haze and words appear. You read, but even then you don't quite trust any of your senses. You feel nothing...nothing.

It all starts to fall, like the beginning of a rockslide. It doesn't begin rapid; but you can't stop it now that it's going. And you're lost, and alone.

I thought I would tell you for myself, one day.
Didn't imagine it could end this way.
Dreams are a vapour,
And the wind comes from nowhere
To blow them away.
Your songs and your stories, might live on and long
Right now, so what? I'm alone; forlorn.
"Friend" I would call you If I'd had the chance.
Yarn-spinner most skilled, with pen and with lance.
Hero, you were, to many like me
Father and husband—only to three.
You did great deeds, greater than Felldoh
And Martin, and Gonff—yea e'en Rose of Noonvale.
For now, tis just grief, and then comes rememb'ring
But one day I'll smile as I sit there just reading,
Thinking about all that you did
The man that you were, who really lived.


Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall series and Castaways of the Flying Dutchmen, died of a heart attack 5 February 2011.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

High School Romance - A Flawed Genre

Though the genre's been around for a while, there are a lot more of them these days than there used to be. Partly because there's more people making movies, so there's more of every genre (saving, perhaps, Westerns) and partly because the number of teenage girls has grown in this country (due to the fact that the population is bigger than it used to be). It's getting more popular: it's a sign of degenerative taste buds in films, widespread and getting wider, because the nobler arts of good films and good books are lost on the products of government-run schools.

(I have nothing against those who choose or are forced to for one reason or another attend a public school. But the by-product of teaching everyone the same things in a rigid and strictly-monitored setting is that they end up having similar interests, or tastes, or habits. Don't talk to me about those who break the moulds; if you break the mould, I'm not talking about you. Generalities, for all their faults, are the only things that allow us to write essays about any cultural topic. If everyone was entirely different and we could make no generalities, we can only write letters to one another, as whatever you have to say can only address an issue within a single person.)

Now, on to the topic at hand. High-school romance films. A subdivision of the chick flick category, including films such as 10 Things I Hate About You, She's The Man, and for an older pick: Grease.

Certain scenes or directorial choices resulting in objectionable material aside, there's something else deeply, deeply wrong with the way these movies unfold. On the surface, we care a good deal about the (usually) good-looking male and female leads. The other "romance" threads in the film may spark our interest as well. Speaking for those who would willingly watch these films, the story is very important to us. We want--sometimes desperately--for the obstacles separating the stars to be removed so we can watch them get together. Easy though it is, the films at least make us care for the characters on some level. Sometimes very much.

These sorts of films (and perhaps books; I've never read this genre of book, so I don't know) often begin with the main character (the male or the female) dumping or being dumped in some way by the person he or she was in a relationship with. At some point in the beginning, we see relationships that fail, characters splitting up with other characters, all to give us the desire to care for the main characters and see them find some happiness in life.

The stories take us through the setup of male and female characters, present insurmountable obstacles they must face, and bring them closer, gradually, together. The fireworks go off and the credits roll when they have had their most-likely-inappropriate-even-if-the-actors-were-actually-dating snog and we hope desperately that they'll live happily ever after.

The high-school romance genre characters are usually between the ages of 15 and 18. Most often right in the middle. Sometimes seniors; someties we don't know. It doesn't, in the end, matter. Why?

The beginning of the film shows us the unhappiness a breakup can give the characters; it presents what the filmmakers want us to think is a realistic view of what happens in high-school--showing us happiness lost, or never even gained, so that we'll want that happiness for the girl and guy, one of whom we secretly begin to envision ourselves as.

So what's ultimately horribly and insanely wrong with this picture?

I have no qualms in saying that I have enjoyed the sort of film often labelled as "chick flick" more than a few times. I like films from every genre; murder mystery, horror, thriller, action, romance, drama, comedy--and any mixture of those. (Not to be confused with the statement "I like every film from every genre"...some genres have a minimal selection I can enjoy.) I think love is a good thing--though a very rare thing in our world. I think stories about love are the most powerful ones ever created. Whether it be romantic, familial, or any other sort of love, we have no good reason for doing anything unless it is out of love. Love for others; love for God. Love for beauty, and art, and life. What is not done out of love for others is done out of "love" for ourselves: a love which really has no place being called such.

Why, then, if love is a good thing, and love stories are often the best and greatest stories written or performed on screen--what's wrong with high-school romance films?

When I say wrong, I don't necessarily mean it's immoral to watch or enjoy them. I can enjoy them on some level, if I care about the characters, if it's a halfway-decently-written script. I can enjoy watching them overcome their obstacles. But from a view of what makes a good story, what the filmmakers' intentions are for their story, and what actually comes of their efforts, the high-school romance is indeed wrong.

The filmmakers would have us believe that love can be found in high-school. Real love, they would like us to think. Okay, sure; I know people who found love in high-school. They found it, and often kept it. Nothing wrong with that. But what happens two weeks, or six months, or during the next summer, of every high-school romance film?

How long does it take the characters to grow sick of each other and repeat the same story over, and over, and over again? We have no reason to think the "true love" they found is any more lasting than any other relationship portrayed in the film. The high-school dating scene, in real life, is chock full of breakups and hookups and more breakups; those involved rarely on the large scale believe the one they've found is actually the one they want to spend the rest of their life with.

What makes this particular genre so antithetical to what it is trying to say, is that the filmmakers know this. They know the love won't last; and they don't care. Because they would like us to think that it's all right, that love doesn't need to last, that it's enough that they "got together" and that it's real love whatever happens. They aren't even trying to make us believe, and certainly aren't giving us reasons to think, that the characters we now care for will stay in their "true love" for any longer than any real high school romance.

A popular genre today is the conflict saga, sometimes fantasy, sometimes historical, sometimes alternate-universe. For example: Say we made a story about a real-world conflict between two nations, a historical conflict, where nation A defeated and ruined nation B. Nation B is who we root for, though, and we don't want to make a story that shows how ruined and depressed nation B is after nation A destroys them so wretchedly; so we give nation B a skirmish in which, after much fighting, they emerge victorious. Cut, end film. White on black words show up on the screen: "Three months after this battle, Nation A defeated and killed three hundred thousand people in Nation B. Nation B never did gain independence, and to this day are under the cruel regime of Nation A."

What do you think of that? Where's the real and lasting resolution? On the one hand, I grant you, stories can be and probably have been made about my example; if you intend it to be a statement on life, a comment on war and its evils, it can definitely work. But if you want us to think that Nation B's short-lived victory means anything at all, you have to make a different story.

Maybe this isn't a good example; nothing really compares. Love is the most powerful story; when you cheapen it by thrusting the message down our throats that it doesn't matter as long as they're together when the credits roll, and you expect us to think it was a lasting relationship, it feels not only patronising but insulting and demeaning to the word love. It's not just high-school romances that do this, that give a promise of love with no reason for us to think it will last; but with other settings, we have the ability, usually, to hope at least a little.

Take the story of 10 Things I Hate About You. Likable characters; likable actors. But Kat and Patrick, as they find "happiness" at the end aren't thinking about love that lasts; neither are the filmmakers.

What is wrong with high-school romances? A single glance tells us they are empty. We are cheated and betrayed by the use of the word "love" in a setting so temporary, so based on physical appearance and selfishness that it can be almost sickening. Those who say that characters stop wherever they were when the book closes, or when the credits finish, have never actually cared about any story or any character. Stories are based on characters that feel real to us, human or not. If they cease to act and think and exist when the author ceases to write, then they are characters too shallow for us to believe in. A drug user in a story, or an alcoholic, or a nicotine-addict who begins the story and ends it continuing his habits give us not even a trace of hope that somehow, now that the book is shut, they will stop using. Stop drinking. Stop smoking. The rightness or wrongness of these actions are irrelevant: characters actions once the pages stop are determined by what we know of them in previous pages. The changes they undergo, lasting changes, we expect them to continue. An alcoholic who fights to rid himself of the crippling and sinful urge to drink more to excess, and ends the book by winning one or more battles, gives us hope that, though he may fail in future, he will also continue to fight, to grow. One who fights, and ends the book by giving up, tells us that in future he will always give up.

We may expect Kat and Patrick to find love some day, however likely or unlikely that may be; but if we think about it, why would it be with each other? High school will finish, college will be looming, and they'll split because it's too much, it's too stressful; he might follow her, she might follow him, but they're done. They're over. Why? It's what we know of them. Maybe in or after college, they'll mature and meet someone else, maybe Kat will meet William and Patrick will meet Diana. Maybe they'll get married and live together, happily more or less, for a long time. But the story we saw, we invested in, we cared for, the characters we grew to love, have been wasted.

Can there be a way to make a high-school romance film that deals with lasting love? Yes. There most certainly is. I wish they would make it. If they've already made it, let me know. The flaws in stories can be fixed, if you work hard enough. But the flaw in cheap romances that we can't invest in beyond the "now" of them could prove fatal. We begin to lose our trust in the word of a man who vows every day to stop drinking to excess, and gets drunk the next day; that very night; within the hour. He is redeemable; all are redeemable. But only with great change.

This is a bit long-winded. Cheers if you made it all the way through. I've thought about this subject for some time. In the end, you see, calling them "romance films" is, in a way, just a big, fat lie.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

List'en

Listening to what we say
It's the hardest part of talking.
Talking without thought
Is an evil wrought
On all humanity.
Sometimes you listen
To someone else
But even then you're missing
Listening to yourself.

You're definitely right -
Nothing else matters
You're in the clear -
And we're all mad as hatters.
You can prove it all,
It's in the Bible
Mark it with your finger.

Trouble is, no one's ever right
Even when they are.
And no one ever has everything wrong
Unless it's everyone.
Even if you think it's true
We, no less than you,
Don't quite agree
With your reality
And pretty soon we're fighting.

Fight club starts,
It falls apart,
And truth goes out the window
It's about who wins, even when it's not
And long after you should have stopped
You're still panting, giving blows.
Does it ever matter? No
Except to all of us
Who ever live, or breathe, or die (not yet).

Don't cliché the situation
With your "it's the war, not the battles"
Or "be happy don't be right";
That's not really what I'm saying
Well, maybe, kind of sort of
But in a different way.
Otherwise minds run and hide
Cause it just sounds the same.

This is only half a poem,
And I don't mean incomplete.
More than that it's a bird-like thought,
Quite tiny and en route
To somewhere else, you see.

I've prob'ly said enough,
It seems that way to me.
But it doesn't make me happy
When we're not listening.
Sure, it's my fault too, I guess,
Wait, what did I just say?
Never mind, I'll think on it not
It's better to move on.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Health and Food

"Studies have recently shown that all foods grown in America are bad for you. Stop eating if you want to live!"

This is a short post, but I want to say a couple of things. First: honestly, while it's fine to watch your health, to a point, the studies that seem to come out all the time for foods we all eat and have eaten for thousands of years (dairy products, certain vegetables) claiming we've suddenly realised are bad for us - what exactly is that even supposed to mean?

(Above sentence structure intended.)

I'm waiting for them to release some study that says well water contains poisonous nutrients in it and you'll die if you eat it. If certain foods really were deadly, we'd know about it because a lot more people would be dying from it. If milk or gluten or sugar were that dangerous, why haven't we died out?

Purposefully, I'm making this a far-reaching post, and many things that are more recent food introductions (maize, for instance, in its many forms) or modern medicine are definitely terrible for you. Like smoking is. But seriously. Get a grip.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Picking up the slack

So, despite my somewhat satirical last post, this deals with a more serious question.

The role of government in the life of the people it governs is a hotly debated topic. Most conservatives argue for limited government, including things like dropping welfare, government medication/socialised medicine, etc.

The argument is not that poor people should be left on their own, but that it is the responsibility of the church to help those in need, Christians and non Christians. The trouble with the argument is not so much one of principle, but that of practicality and reality: the church is not doing its bit. Partly because the church isn't big enough to help the people who need help. You might say most of the people who need help aren't doing their part to help themselves. That might be true, but you're left with a huge question:

When the church, Christians, conservatives, or anyone else doesn't fulfill their role, what do you do? Does someone else step in to dam the dike? Do you leave it alone?

Welfare is mishandled in many countries. All, if I'm not mistaken. In no countries is the church responsible for caring for the poor. While some churches take care of some poor and needy, even if those churches did all they could, the numbers of the uncared for would be staggering. Hundreds of thousands; millions, even, just in this country. That's a number too big to ignore.

Whatever you think of welfare, and the people who began it, and the fact that it's taking from us and giving to people who often are less deserving, you have to understand: if there had been no people in need of it, it would not have been started. If there were no people in need, no poor people, no people ailing alone lacking friends, money, and family, even the government of this country wouldn't have invented welfare to stop a problem they invented. The church isn't strong enough or godly enough to deal with this problem. Does that mean it should be untended? Should the government step in?

What do you do?

There's a problem here, lots of problems; it might have bigger issues at the root of it, but what are you going to do? The medical system is a for-profit industry, unless you're Catholic. Doesn't mean it's wrong, of course; doesn't make it cheap. If people don't have money, should they die? If they can't afford insurance, what do you want to do? Millions of people, for whatever reason, are in situations those of us reading this can't imagine. A lot of those people are in this country. Their lives are considerably better than they might be in other, oppressed place. They are considerably worse off than we are. The church isn't helping them. Because the church wasn't helping them, we got stuck with welfare. Is it a problem that feeds itself? Does welfare need reform? Of course. Do people need reform? Of course.

But despite the fact that some of you will always raise your hand and say, "Teacher, the problem is sin and until people stop sinning or try to follow Jesus, there will be problems," you have to realise that that will never happen. You know that, of course. We still have a responsibility to make things better, on small and big scales. The government's job is to protect us, even libertarians agree with that. If the people who ought to be helping people aren't helping people, should other people who have the resources (even borrowed or "stolen" resources) step in? Or should we leave them be, and let them lie often in filth that they may or may not deserve? You can argue all day about who should be helping people; you can argue that they not only should but they can. Truth is, the government is the only institution outside the church wide enough and broad enough to create a programme to help those in need. Yes, it's a bad system we have; no one denies that in their right mind. It's enabling, it's wasteful, yes, yes, yes. The principle might be flawed, but you can't fault the government, in the end.

Of course it's a hard question. I said that from the start. I think it's one that deserves more consideration from conservatives. You have to understand, ideals are okay; but they never fixed anyone's problems. And they never will.

Whose job is it to pick up the slack, then?


Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Living Lonely

Are there moral implications to living "alone" vs. socially?

For thousands of years, it has been the practise of those known as the most godly of men to seek seclusion, either in monasteries, or hermitages (the one being less-secluded from society than the other). It reached its height in the Middle Ages, wherein Christian piety (some real, some put-on) was valued above much else.

The question is: were they sacrificing themselves for the sake of pursuing God, or simply getting away from a life burdened by humanity? Was it escape, or confinement? Does it matter?

Instinctively, most of us would say that if they were seeking an out from humanity, it's a less noble thing to be a hermit than for the socialite to sacrifice the company of society for a higher call. Here's the thing:

Some societies I wouldn't have the slightest qualm about leaving. Today's society comes close. Early centuries AD might fall in that category. But there is something you need to understand about the Middle Ages.

Everyone who left society in the Middle Ages had a resolve of steel. Think of it this way. If you could be in heaven, but it were possible to be more spiritual by going back to earth (obviously, hypothetical; run with me here) would you do it? And how much would it hurt?

The society of the Middle Ages fell a step beyond perfect. For any single human being to actually get the nerve to leave it, a spirituality above and beyond Paul the Apostle is required. It takes something like the spiritual nerves of steel that Simon Peter and his brother Andrew (patron saint of Scotland, Greece, and several other European nations) had, like woven titanium, or rope twenty miles long, a mile in diameter.

Living a life of solitude was nothing but self-suicide in those days.

But today, things have changed. The sacrifice is living with and around and among people; it's dealing with all the loo you take from them day in and day out. Piety is easy on your own these days. If staying on earth keeps you spiritual, it's like taking the chance to spring for Heaven and taking it. Cowardly, disgusting, but understandable.

Thus, purity as it relates to solitude must be recognised as a relative thing: sacrifice of self is the true source of life-altering piety.

Friday, 21 January 2011

On Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling

I'm guilty of doing this myself; most of us who consider ourselves to be good with spelling, grammar, punctuation are.

There's a billboard going up for Circle K marts and petrol stations all over Charlotte. It reads: Wake Up People! and has an advert for some deal on coffee. Now, those of you who know how to use a comma know that rather than encouraging people to wake up by drinking their coffee, Circle K is actually encouraging us (or someone) to wake people up, rather than, say, animals? I don't know, something.

The error "Happy Birthday Josiah!" (one of the most common) turns Happy Birthday into part of my name; or, conversely, uses my name as part of a greeting or salutation.

"wat r u doing tmro?" "nto to muchhhh. Uuuu?" Before I give a shudder of...something...let me say that this isn't necessarily the best example; it does, however, fit into the principle of what I am about to bring up.

This relates to my writing habits, in that during my study and practise of writing, I've had several revelations concerning this. And the principle is this: however much we may dislike, or like to make fun of, or look down on spelling like that above, or punctuation, or grammar errors, there is one fact that cannot be changed: Punctuation, like Grammar, and Spelling, are tools to help us communicate, to regulate our use of language so that others know what we are talking about, and know what others are saying; it is a TOOL and nothing more.

The "rules" of grammar, however much they should be adhered to as a means of reducing chaos in the communicatory world, should, I say, be changed to the Tools of Grammar.

It is understandable to become uptight about the way people speak, or, especially, write. To a certain extent. But take the first example: a billboard, the authors of which should know better, write a sign that should say, Wake Up, People! and they leave out a comma. What? Now it says something entirely different! Idiots!

Well, yes, something of that sort might apply; but what about the fact that we all know what they mean, and are only upset because they should know better, not because it affects the way we read the sign? Suddenly, it's not about Grammar and Punctuation being a tool, it's become the rule and the rule is what matters, not punctuation.

You are given a hoe. The task before you is simple: hoe the garden. Instead of using the tool, however, you ditch it, and use your hands. Your overseer approaches you, enraged: not because you aren't doing your job properly; in fact, no one could ask for better work. But you didn't use the tool! Idiot!

As soon as we stop using Grammar (Grammar serving as a stand in for itself, Punctuation, and Spelling) as a tool and start using it because that's what "proper" English is and for no other reason save that "proper" is best, it's lost its function. It's no mortal sin; in fact, it's probably no sin either way, using it for its own sake, or ditching it completely. Most of the time we need structure; without it, our conversations would fall apart. Especially written ones. Spelling is important, as without it we could end up over our head in faux pas; punctuation determines who we're talking to, how we're talking, and the way we want it said. Grammar, of course, makes it all make sense.

But what about those times when ditching the rule still gets the job done? Are we getting angry because the garden isn't hoed, or because we didn't like the way it was done?

In writing, I, and every writer, follow certain rules, most of the time. It's good writing, usually; it's the standard, accepted method for essays, or novels, or poems, etc. But as a writer, the unexpected becomes commonplace; a bump in the road means I'll have to go over it, or move it out of the way. As soon as the tools of communication stop being tools, or become unnecessary, there are times when these "rules" must be abandoned.

Because I know good punctuation, and because spelling is natural to me, and grammar, for my faults, is only a small one, it's faster, easier, and smarter for me to use it when I write. Most the mistakes I make don't make it just as easy to understand for them either. (Though that sentence, purposely awkward, still probably gives you the gist.) Some people need to work on their spelling; sometimes it does create a difficulty. There are times when I don't have any idea as to what I'm being told, because it's been misspelled, or mis-written. There are roots and rocks in the garden, and the hoe sure comes in useful. If you can use it, and you know how, you'd be foolish to cut your hands and waste your time when for less effort you could use the tool provided.

But remember. It's just a tool. It's not the rule of life; communication is what we're trying to accomplish. Does that one comma really, actually, matter?