28 December 2006

Homo Faber

So hanging out in the apartment alone is very conducive to blogging. This is a reply to Ben's post on technophobia in the older generation.

A factor you didn't list: a lot of older people don't see the need for computers in their lives. My grandmother is totally computer illiterate as in "can't check her email or use Word" illiterate. She does use a cell phone and she's a pretty active business person. (She and my aunt have a bridal store in Bountiful.) Lots of people in the family have offered to teach her the ropes, and she seems amiable to the idea.

However, I think the main factor that's keeping her from it is that she doesn't really see a need for it in her life. Email, you say? She already has a cell phone and more people over at her house everyday to talk to than she can handle. Photo sharing? The relatives bring over their scrapbooks or send her pics in the mail, and she can see everything else. News? That's what she takes the paper for. Specialized information? I think libraries are still in existence, with real, actual people to help you. No need for word processing or spreadsheets or blogging or games. There's simply no viable reason to learn how. In fact, I think the only reason my grandmother even contemplates it is that she would get to spend some time with her grandchildren as they teach her.

We young people are convinced that the elderly are missing out on something tremendously important, and maybe they are. But we forget that people got along fine before computers. Most of the things we do via computer can still be done by hand or by phone. What, in the end, are they really missing out on?

Really, the only true reason for the "older" people to learn computers is in order to land a job. Similarly to the immigrants-learning-English analogy, they will only learn what they need and nothing more. They don't need computers to have fun or be personally productive. They already know a rich, fulfilling way of life without it.

More and more I envy these people. I spend a lot of time on my computer, and I'm sure only 10-20% of it is productive. A lot of what I do on here is not very concrete. Wouldn't I rather be out in their world, producing tangible things? Cooking and sewing and crafting and making--this is one point where Karl Marx and I can agree. Isn't it more satisfying to be Man the Maker than Man the Thinker? Digital creation and data pushing just doesn't cut it.

Sock Monkeys

All right, Marisa, fine. Here's a blog post for you! I'm sorry it's been a while, but it's rather difficult to blog from home due to the dial-up 28.8k internet connection (bleh!). But now I'm back in Provo (for two days), so there's no excuse.

So I survived Christmas. It was extremely hectic because of how late finals went. I was on campus until 5:30pm on the Friday before because I still needed to finish my History of Rhetoric paper, but the paper turned out really well. The highlight of my research was finding this quote in a Mormon public-speaking book written in 1898:

[When we are in sacrament meeting,] one of three things happens: we sleep—blessed escape!—we wander, or we are mentally tortured. (N. L. Nelson, Preaching and Public Speaking, p. 6)
All the research for this paper was extremely interesting. It seems little has changed with regards to Mormon rhetoric. :D Doing this research has merely firmed up my belief in preparing beforehand to speak in church. We need to arrange our words so that they "offer the least resistance to [the Spirit’s] guidance" (Nelson, p. 435-436), so that our audience gets something besides warm fuzzies out of our 15-20 ramblings. As Nelson points out, if all I can say about your talk is that you expounded upon the gospel, I derive no more benefit than if I just stayed at home and read my scriptures. It is a testimony to the dedication of the LDS people that we continue to go to sacrament meeting despite its innanity.

(I guess it could be worse. I read some of Brigham Young's talks in the Journal of Discourses--hour-long talks with no focus! They just range from topic to topic with no apparent connection. Which is great, I guess, except if you are trying to do research on his opinions on public speaking and you have to look up 20 different talks, each with only one paragraph on speaking!)

But the research finally got done, and I drove home to SLC. By the time I got there, it was too late to go shopping, so I officially had one day to finish all of my Christmas shopping. Yay! Luckily, I purchased two CDs in the Black Friday madness that I could give to my parents, and I had already bought the yarn for the sock monkey hats for two of my brothers, so I only really had to look for 3 presents.

Speaking of those sock monkey hats, I hadn't actually started them. I had hoped to get time to make them during finals week, but it just didn't happen. (Cursed roommates wanting to do fun things!) When I wasn't out shopping, I was inside watching movies and frantically knitting away. I finally finished at 1 am on Christmas morning and dropped onto my bed exhausted (well, onto the couch, actually, since I don't have a room at home anymore *sniff*). But it was all worth it because my brothers absolutely loved the hats! I love them too--they are totally adorable (the hats, not my brothers . . . though they are pretty cute as well). Anyway, here you can see the finished products, as modeled by my youngest two brothers, Josh and Mike. I need to sew on some nostrils so that the brim will stop falling down, but other than that they are totally done.

I actually kinda want one myself. Would you people think I was odd to wear one on campus? They are 100% wool and very warm!

21 December 2006

Harry Potter and the . . . !

Alright, since I'm such a nice person, I won't spoil it for anyone who wants to go solve the puzzle themselves on JK Rowling's website, but the title of the seventh (and final) Harry Potter book is out! (Go here if you want to find out without all the work.)

Holy crap, I'm so excited! Now I have to go do some research on the title and look up the past time gaps between title release and book release. I swear, if it comes out while I am in England, I will dance for joy on the rooftops (wearing non-slip shoes, of course)!

16 December 2006

Random Notes

Yay for snow! That was pretty much the only thing that got me up for OChem this morning: the chance to be out in the snow before anyone else. :D

After taking my final and working in the WC for a few hours, I went over to hang out with Harold (the library, of course.) I was doing research for my paper on Mormon rhetoric in special collections, when suddenly I look up at the clock and it's 6 pm! I spent 5 hours in the HBLL without realizing it. How did that happen? I was supposed to go see a movie with Marisa at 4:45 . . . . Ah well. It is a happy day when what I'm reading on the microfilm is more exciting than a movie. Or maybe that's a bad thing.

So, apparently, intramural Quidditch is catching on at college campuses on the east coast. (If you're a BYU student, you can get the full article on ProQuest.) Anyone want to start a BYU squad? This could be awesome.

14 December 2006


Art is not safe,
Not safe at all.
If once you turn the key,
It grips your soul like a vice,
Shakes it like a rag-doll,
Putting windows and vaulted ceilings
Where you had only asked for wall paper
And a new coat of paint.

Wear your life jacket
And put up sea walls,
But so much as wet a toe—
It drags you under
Presses out old life
Filling your breath with new air.

Art is vivisection
Examining pulsing organs
Pushing and prodding
Watching your breath die.
I struggle to let it live
But every color I touch
Becomes white
Or brown like oatmeal.

Canon: A Parlor Game for the Liberally Educated

The object of Canon is to be the least well-read person in the group. (If this seems backwards to you, see the Pride Variation.) The first player names a literary work that they have not read which they think most of the other players will have read. This player scores one point for each person who has read the book. Reading a significant portion of the work counts. (The definition of "significant portion" is left to the group.) Play continues clockwise with each player naming one book until everyone is too ashamed of their ignorance to continue. The one with the most points wins?

Challenges: If a player names a book which you do not consider "canon," you may challenge their book. When a challenge occurs, the player who named the book must justify why they believe the book to be canon. The challenger can then rebut the speech, stating why the book is not a classic. The remaining players vote on whether the book is a classic or not. If the book is declared canon, the challenger loses a turn. If the book is declared not canonical, the player who named the book loses their turn.

Special Situations:

  • If everyone else in the room has read the book, the player receives double points on account of being shamelessly ignorant.
  • If no one else has read the book either, all other players receive a point.
  • If the classic named is originally written in a language other than English, a player scores an extra point for every player who has read the book in the original language, two points if the book was originally in Latin or ancient Greek.
  • If the player who names the book was supposed to have read it for a class and didn't, they receive an extra point for being a slacker. An additional point is awarded if they wrote an essay on it anyway.
  • If a player cannot think of a book, they may elicit suggestions from the other players, but may not pass.
Pride Variation: Invert the rules of the game to prove yourself the most educated person in the room. Score points for classics you have read that others have not. If you have read the book in the original language, get a bonus point. This version is not quite as enlightening, but still pretty fun.

This game has undergone extensive testing at the BYU Writing Center and proven to be a great deal of fun. It probably works best with a bunch of brilliant but insecure humanities students. Canon is a very cathartic game--there's much solace to be had in finding that the people you look up to are at least as ignorant as you are.

12 December 2006

11 December 2006

Thought Stew

So I have a whole bunch of things to blog about, but school is currently consuming my life. And I do mean consuming in its fully literal sense. Once we hit reading day, things should slow down considerably. (I never work during finals' week (should that be possessive?), so I have a ton of free time.) Until then, I doubt I'll have time to pull together anything decent for you to read. But since I feel guilty leaving you out in the cold, consider this post a preview of things to come. Here's what's been occupying my mind:

  • I GOT INTO MY STUDY ABROAD!! I was so nervous, but it's really happening! I'm going to England in the spring to walk all over and write stuff. Joni is coming too, and it's going to be miraculous! I can't think of a better way to spend two months! Although, this does mean I have to get in shape for the hiking bit . . . drat.
  • I finished reading Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, and holy crap! it is amazing. I want to write about it in more detail later, but here's a two page summary of the book that I whipped out as part of my ELang final project. Hurrah for classes that motivate you to do what you already want to do. Sorry about the yucky formatting. No time for making it look better. Read it, or better yet, read the book. It will improve your consciousness of good writing. I can already feel a difference in how I think about things.
  • On Friday, I had an epiphanic moment in History of Rhetoric class: I found my philosopher! I've always found at least some truth in each philosopher I've read, but I also invariably find problems which make their philosophies unacceptable. On December 8, I discovered Kenneth Burke. His theory of dramatism explains exactly why I feel so uncomfortable with experimental fiction that tries to eliminate storytelling *coughVirginiaWoolfcough*. And he has a pyramid theory of rhetoric that almost exactly echoes my circle theory that I've been ranting about for so long! I almost gasped when the teacher introduced it to us. It was like someone read my thoughts and deemed them worthy. It made me want to sing for joy! (I know; I'm a nerd.) I'm now planning to read at least some of his works over the break. I'll write when I find out more.
  • Speaking of History of Rhetoric, I'm writing my final paper on early Mormon rhetoric. It's making me think a lot about the previous debate on what makes a good talk.
  • I'm planning out some Christmas personal essays. Hope you guys are up to some of my crummy attempts at dialog.
  • I saw Happy Feet over Thanksgiving break, which has strangely inspired an essay on dealing with the institutional Church in Mormon literature. I promise I'll explain later, though reading Orson Scott Card's review of the movie might help you see where I'm going. (The review is towards the end, but this column also has some stuff about Scotch tape and Bill Bryson, one of my favorite nonfiction authors, so you should just read the whole thing.)
  • Also, some thoughts on lit crit provoked by CS Lewis' essay "Fern Seed and Elephants" are in the works. For anyone keeping score in my creativity/criticism debate, creativity is beating the snot out of criticism, but we'll find some virtue in her yet.
  • And I promise I have a follow-up for Ben's rebuttal to my Santa post. I will defend Saint Nick to the end. "I believe in Santa Claus like I believe in love . . . ." (Maybe that's not so apt after the last two posts.)
And people wonder why I'm so distracted.

07 December 2006


The new Megatokyo comic makes a good conclusion to the last post, so here it is. :D Yea for emotional honesty . . . and learning about relationships through comic books.

Ah, the sad but the true.

And Facebook now has a browser toolbar. I have a bad feeling about this.

05 December 2006

Essence of Romance

One of the reasons I've always felt under-qualified to write fiction is my lack of experience in the most essential points of life. My life has been primarily academic: I eat, sleep, and breathe knowledge, school, and the like. There's not a whole lot of plot you can draw from that. As interesting as a novel full of intellectuals would be (I did think about writing one once), what a book really needs is life, life in all its myriad forms. There must be variation in experience and character.

All right, let me stop dancing around the issue: I never felt comfortable writing about love. There, I said it. I've never been the sort of person who was big about finding someone to crush on or flirt with. That's just never been part of my style. Other than a few dark periods, one of which revived this blog, I was okay with being that way. Romance wasn't something I felt a strong need for.

Frankly, I just didn't understand it at all. Love didn't seem all that desirable. I figured sometime it would just happen and then I would understand it, but I was in no rush to get to such a position. For some reason I had this idea in my head that having some sort of romantic experience would suddenly illuminate my understanding. The principle of experience seems to hold for everything else--it's difficult to understand everyday activities like sports or cooking unless you have practical experience. The same with academics--experience reading literary criticism yields better ability to understand further literary criticism.

How wrong I was.

Looking from this end of things, love still isn't very desireable, and that worries me a bit. I'd say romantic love is another one of those spherical chickens I so adore: quite easy and obvious to deal with if you gloss over the reality of it, but in any particular application, impossible to predict or explain. The best side to understand love from is the outside. Once you embroil yourself in it, extrication and even feigned objectivity are impossible. It's so ridiculously painful and impossible: any logical person would throw it away, like Plato says in the Phaedrus. And yet, we keep sticking around for it, writing songs about it, making millions off the royalties.

And I must disagree with Oscar Wilde: the very essence of romance is certainty, certainty that something can go on forever, despite all evidence that it doesn't. Or maybe Oscar Wilde was right, and the uncertainty inherent in romance is why I reject it. What I want is not any sort of thrill; I want the sort of romance you only see in couples who have been married for 40 years. A quiet knowledge, a day-to-day dependability, a soft completeness. Can't I just skip over the first bit?

Update: Ooh! Multimedia extension of my thoughts: the three most recent Megatokyo comics.

04 December 2006

Finding the Atonement

Too lazy to write anything new today, so here's an poem thing I threw together for the Christchild Fireside our ward had last night. The idea was to make something using your talents that you would give to Christ, then exchange the gifts with people in the ward. I hope I would do better than this if I was actually to write something for Christ, but this will have to do for now.

Sorry about the two days of poetry. I'm in an obscure mood lately. I've also become fairly obsessed with allusions to the scriptures. Is there a genre of poetry for people who simply rearrange and juxtapose preexisting scriptures? (Perhaps similar to this song?) If so, I have a great one involving John. I apologize for this being a really rough draft--I only had an hour to write it. It sounded better in my head, I think. The punctuation needs work. (It feels odd to say that, and actually mean it too.)

In welts rising--
from thrown stones
or stinging lashes.

Not in a lavish house or fine linen
but in a finger writing sins in the dirt
and washing them away with tears.

In those yearning to brush a hem,
looking down in shame
bound in chains,

Plucked from a bed of sin
straightway leaving entangling nets
beginning to till hardened souls,

Leaving the dead to bury themselves
in whitened sepulchers
and untended sheepfolds,

As disciples, ascending the mountain,
find more than a teacher
ready to lift and be lifted

On a tree--
a rain of blood
baptism to my soul.

The crown
plaited from
thorns of my flesh.

The vinegar
and bitter loss.

The dice
of random fate
parting all.

The words:
"The King of the Jews"
interred under stony weight.

An angel rolls it back.
A scent of lingering spices:
He enters

In my heart--
a gentle whisper
salve of peace.

03 December 2006

The Mark of Reality

I was reading through an old writing notebook from senior year of high school and found this poem. I rather like it, and it expresses well some thoughts I've been having about our modern dependence on logic and scientific thinking.

If it runs through your hands
before you can grasp its purpose
it is a sign of reality.

Something so true and pure
cannot be contained in
plastic dixie cups.

A glimpse of reality
will leave you drained
but also overflowing.

Trying to trap it
will only release it.

02 December 2006

Perfect Day

Human emotions are a weird thing. (I know, I know, another famous understatement from Liz.) Sometimes it takes so little to swing our mood from joyous to depressed or vice versa. The wrong inflection in a voice throws us into doubt, but then a grade on an assignment sends us back up. Every little thing causes us to be tossed to and fro. At other times, a mood is inexplicably immovable, resistant to all outside forces--you could fail a test and not even notice it happened.

Yesterday was one of the latter days for me. For some inexplicable reason, I was up on a high that nothing could bring down. And strangely, everything that would have been bad turned out well. I woke up too late to purchase tickets to the BYU bowl game for my dad, but he managed to get some anyway. I hadn't finished my math homework, but then my rhetoric class got cancelled so I suddenly had time. I did poorly on a test, but miraculously the teacher decided to offer a make-up quiz. It was bizarre how everything went my way yesterday.

And then there was my miraculous timing. Since I was trying to figure out the bowl ticket thing in the morning, I was late to OChem, but I arrived just in time for the in-class quiz, which I wouldn't have been able to make up. Then just as I was leaving class, the computer repair place called to tell me my part had come in. (My power cord blew over Thanksgiving break, and I had been waiting for one to come in.) I ran into a couple of people just when I was thinking about them.

When I got home from school, I flipped on the TV to find an episode of Star Trek was just beginning! I had been dying to watch some TNG for quite a while. (It was even a Data episode, which is my favorite kind. They always deal with issues of what it means to be human--very interesting. To top off the goodness, the next episode was a time travel one!) I used the commerical break to go start some laundry, and just as I had finished loading the machines, a whole bunch of other people walked in. Had I been five minutes later, I would have been out of luck for at least an hour. All very small things, but put together, it made me feel like I had entered some strange twilight zone.

This whole experience begs the question: which is the cause and which is the effect? Does the quality of our day control our attitude, or is it our attitude that makes a day seem so wonderful? And if it's the latter, as I suspect it is, what is responsible for an inexplicably good attitude? You can try to convince yourself that today will be good, but it never seems to quite work as long as you're aware you're tricking yourself. A good day has to spring up on you suddenly.

Then again, there's something about good days that can be even worse than having a bad day. If you realize that you're having a good day, then you have to take care not to do anything that might break whatever magic controls these things. About noon yesterday when I realized things were going perfectly, I went into a minor panic. I was almost afraid to do anything that might risk shattering this mood. Perfection is a burden. When I was a kid, I would concentrate hard on making each day perfect, doing things in a ritual way to prevent anything uncertain from damaging the day. After a while, my mom used to tell me that I had to make five mistakes a day, just to keep me from obsessing about messing it up.

Like most good things, perfection only works in small doses. But when you have it, the power is intoxicating.

01 December 2006

Timing is Everything

Woah, I'm having the best timing in the world today. If you need anything done that requires impeccable timing, call me before the favor of the gods runs out.

Further elaboration pending.