Archive for October, 2010

The Drinking Commandments

October 30, 2010 Leave a comment

My drinking commandments, inspired by personal life experience and a google search for “drinking ten commandments.”

1) “Thou shalt learn that brown liquors are the holiest of liquors.”–Name a brown colored liquor that you can’t do a shot of and then order on the rocks. All Whiskeys, Bourbons, Scotches are pretty much universal in purpose booze, on the other hand you may be physically able to shoot gin but unless you are looking to throw up immediately you probably shouldn’t. One might object and say, “What about vodka?” Well, I must admit that I am a big vodka fan and occasionally drink it on the rocks, but it has no distinct taste. If you are drinking a glass full of Russian drinking water (“Vodka” is derived from the Slavic word for “Water”) you are looking to get drunk.

2)“There is no such thing as a Chocolate Martini.”–Or an appletini, or a stawberry martini. A martini is not the glass it comes in, it is the ingredients in it. Which should only consist of Vodka or Gin, Dry Vermouth, and a small olive. Some people use a cocktail onion but I’ve never done it. And ladies: stop stealing my olives!

3)”The Longer the Name the Weaker the Drink.”–I was tending bar once and a guy kept drinking a substance with Orange Juice, Cranberry juice, Peach Schnapps, and Vodka. I served it in a cup that was 1.5 Pints. For those of you who don’t know this is called a sex-on-the-beach. It will not get you drunk. The fruit juice and ice effectively water down the drink, you end up getting full before you get drunk. The long name indicates that it tastes good, is usually for women, and are reserved for times when you want to go all day.

4)”If your beer brags about being Low Calorie It Is NOT Worth Drinking” This seems to be common sense. Low calorie means low taste, usually. The thing about low calorie beer is that it is made for people trying to lose weight. If you want to lose weight don’t drink beer. On the other hand beers like Guinness have typically lower calories than Pilsners or Ales, but they don’t brag about it.

5)”Do Not Set Thy Shot Glass Down Until It Is Empty” You are sitting at the bar having a good time, and someone buys a couple of shots. You toast, then drink, then notice that the person next to you still has liquid in their glass after they put the glass down. I’m sorry do you not understand the meaning of a shot? If you can’t finish it, don’t take it.

6)”Honor thy Bartender” They are the ones that give you the drinks and they have to put up with a LOT of shit. Sure bartending may seem like the best of all possible jobs, but that’s only because you are drunk at the bar…they are working. Plus good bartenders know good customers (i.e. the ones that tip well) and usually can be relied upon to hand out a couple of free shots or at least turn your whiskey and coke into a coke and whiskey.

7)”Thou Shalt Not Refuse a Free Drink” Seriously, it’s free. Unless you have to drive, what have you got to lose? Just take the damn thing, but remember that you must reciprocate.

8)”Thou Shalt Always Know What is in Thy Favorite Drink” This was a complaint of a friend of mine and I never understood it until I was behind the bar myself. Example: “Can I have a {insert whatever stupid drink here}?”, “You know, I’m not really sure how to make it could you tell me what’s in it?” “No, the guy down the street makes them really good, are you sure you can’t do it?” The thing is that no, I’m not sure because I have no idea what is in it. In fact, it might be the guy down the street’s signature but more than likely it’s something simple with a stupid name or one stupid superfluous ingredient. Like a Screwdriver (Orange Juice and Vodka) with Blue Curacao and called the blue whale.

9)”The Franchise Bar Is Going to Rip You Off” This is because they take inventory quite seriously. They not only count beer but also liquor, some places even weigh the bottle at the end of the night. Most have magnetic shot pourers that cut the stream off after exactly one ounce, if you want to get drunk at these places skip their margarita menu and just stick to the oversize beers.

10)”Thou Shall Always Obey Thy Rule of Threes” If you plan on going out for one drink, you are always going to get three. The first one doesn’t count, and there is always, “ok one more” before you leave. While going out for “just a couple” usually means the whole night since the word “couple” is a vague term with no definitive meaning. And if you say “I’m going out for a bit” it means you are probably coming home at three in the morning in a cab…or a police car. 

Categories: daily observations

Random Disjointed Election/Politics Post

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

There are certain things that I am not good at predicting: for example the winners of sport’s championship games or the outcome of important court cases. I’ve almost a 0% in all of those. One thing that I have a high success rate in, hovering at 100%, are presidential elections. I’ve never been wrong and I’ve been doing it since Clinton’s second term even though I wasn’t able to actually vote in that election. I knew that Al Gore wasn’t going to win in 2000, the Kerry stood no chance in 2004, and that it began to seem that McCain didn’t actually want to win in 2008. Congressional elections I’ve never really dabbled in too much. This is mostly because of my preponderance for moving to different cities every couple of years I could never accurately or responsibly vote in them. I don’t follow party lines, I vote for whom I feel is the best candidate even if they stand no chance of winning, and I do try and vote on legitimate issues and not simply frivolous positions that have nothing to do with the actual business of government. This is also the first election year that I will be choosing a governor. It seems odd having been of the voting age for 13 years that this is the first time, but remember I’ve moved states as well as cities. It’s just worked out that way.

First prediction: Carl Paladino will not win, unless voter turnout is substantially less than the dismal rate that it usually is. It leads to two larger issues that I think need to be addressed in the current political climate. First off, Anger is not a position. Being angry and not liking the people in charge isn’t a position that you can stand on unless you have something to fill in the place. All I hear from the Paladino (and the Tea Party in general) is that we “need to clean up politics.” Yet, I hear of no actual method for doing so. They talk about cutting spending, which is something that I do support, but I never hear of anything that they actually want to cut. Is it too much to ask from the new-found fiscal conservatives to get some details on what kind of spending they will cut? Any line item will do for me and then we can have the argument around that, but that’s not happening. The only concrete thing I have heard is this ridiculous new cry to cut NPR’s federal funding (round 3 million a year), because I’m supposed to feel sorry for a guy who broke contractual obligations he just signed and who was immediately signed to a contract with Fox News for 2 million a year. Sorry, but I think kids could use Sesame Street, Nova, and I can certainly use more of the new Sherlock Holmes show. Even though I feel that this call (which has been numerous times before to no success) is absurd, it’s only 3 million–not near the scale that they seem to think is necessary.

Secondly, Paladino brings to the forefront the argument of why a business man is qualified to be a politician more so than a politician. People think there is an equivalence here which there is not. Business is about profit, government is always going to be a losing proposition financially. Certain aspects of the government lose money because that’s what they do. The prison system is a good example of this: it’s a cash sinkhole. A business person cannot see such a concept or else they would be out of business. I’m not saying that a Rockefeller was never qualified to run a state, but what I am saying is that they aren’t necessarily better than a politician. You have to look at their proposals on issues and then make the decisions. That’s called responsible democracy.

Second prediction: This whole “Tea Party” phenomenon fizzles out shortly after the election. The Republicans will probably take the House, I can’t be sure one way or the other because it’s hard enough to keep up with New York politics to start analyzing things nationally, but the predicted landslide victory for the right wing isn’t going to happen. When that fails the GOP will realize that the Tea Party was all “sound and fury” but in the end it signifies nothing. There isn’t a cohesive strategy among them, and for some reason they all went after GOP incumbents getting reasonable candidates knocked out of the campaign and replacing them with reactionaries (Paladino) and crazies (the Nazi* from Ohio and the anti-masturbation candidate from Delaware). From the Tea Party standpoint I think that they will come to the realization that they were being used. The GOP was riding their wave but won’t need them for another two years after this. As the election cycle draws to a close there are candidates that are shying away from them, and if I were a member of the group that would make me even angrier. What they ought to do is split from the GOP, develop a clear and uniform platform to form a new party. The media probably made them appear crazier than they are, but it seems to me that some of their ideas were worth consideration, just not their candidates.

Third Prediction: New York is still in the shit. It won’t matter the outcome here. This state is screwed. There is actually the possibility that state senate will end up in a 31-31 tie between parties, and that is the worst case scenario. In the end this place can’t change unless the new governor, Cuomo, really governs with an iron hand. Someone in the state needs to take charge and I don’t see anyone being able to do that.

Next Week Thursday: we see how my predictions end up.

*There is a clear line between dressing up for re-enactment purposes as a Nazi soldier and an SS Trooper.

Categories: current events, politics

And this Just Sounds Racist (The Twilight Walkthrough Pg. 349-354)

October 27, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s been decided that Bella is going to watch the vampires play ‘Thunderball’ later tonight. Edward is doing Bella a disservice here because Thunderball is one of the good Bond movies…but we aren’t talking about movies, we’re talking about some ridiculous game related to baseball that the vampires play during storms. Not having arrived at the game yet I must be emphatic that the only reason for them to do this is so that they look cool, dark, and mysterious in front of Bella. While the idea is no more ridiculous than Quidditch at least Quidditch served a purpose: to let the neophyte wizards learn their abilities and practice them competitively. To take a routine game like baseball and change it to night/thunderstorm baseball is pointless at best. It’s also not the vampires showing off, but Meyer showing off that the vampires are different. It’s like she needs to convince us that Bella needs to be impressed by them more so that she falls in love more, but by now if the reader doesn’t think she is hopelessly in his thrall they just aren’t paying attention.

Bella needs to go home and get some new clothes so they take her truck back to her house. At the door are the Blacks waiting. Edward snarls. Bella is confused but then comes to a realization, “He came to warn Charlie?’ I guessed more horrified than angry.

This whole section spirals downhill faster than I thought possible. It’s symptomatic of the entire book, we get a pretty decent section (the cuteness between Edward and Bella in his room), a small descent (the whole scene with Alice and Jasper), then the sudden Wile E. Coyote drop off the side of the cliff. They’ve seen the Blacks, but it’s doubtful that the Blacks have seen them and Edward needs to pick up Bella later. This isn’t a problem because, as we know, he just shows up to check on her whenever he needs to. He tells her that he will be back, “After your get rid of them–.”

He snarls at the Blacks and it comes off as racist. We know that the Cullens don’t like the Blacks and vice-versa, but what we don’t know specifically is why. As readers going through the book for the first time none of this makes sense. The old cliche of the “Magical/Wise Native,” activates here for the reader. The Blacks know that the Cullens are vampires because their magical legends tell them so.* For the purposes of the story we can buy this as an explanation. What we don’t know is why the Cullens hate the Blacks and it seems unreasonable for Edward not to explain any of this to Bella. It’s not strange that he doesn’t, because he never tells her anything that might be considered important, but for him to snarl and talk about “them” he should offer up something. Perhaps, Bella could ask about the myths that Jacob told her.

Edward vanishes and Bella invites the Blacks in. That’s when Billy and Bella get into it. Billy wants to tell Charlie that he should watch out for his daughter because of who she is dating. Of course, it’s not about who but what she is dating. In this respect, the whole thing comes off as racist but there’s a problem. How does Billy know that they are dating? He’s seen them together once, and that just happened a few minutes ago. Jacob might know a bit more, but only from distant rumors as he doesn’t even go to school with her. Maybe Billy saw them together the last time he popped over but his leap from seeing them talking to assuming they’re dating is too big to make. We know that Billy is right, but he can only be making an assumption based on the theoretical one time he’s seen them together before tonight. Unless he has the foresight as well.

Billy explains that the Cullens have a reputation and that is why he is looking out for his friend’s daughter. A noble motivation, but he never says what that reputation is, without explaining why he just comes off as racist. Which is appropriate because we are talking about another species here. Bella rolls with it, “But that reputation couldn’t be deserved could it? Because the Cullens never set foot on the Reservation, do they?

This fact-of the Cullens never setting foot on the Reservation-brings us waaay back to the beach trip in the beginning of the book. Sure this is a correct assertion, the Cullens do not set foot on the Reservation, but Bella leaves out the why. They don’t come there because they aren’t allowed on the Reservation. The eldest Black made that explicitly clear. We know why, Billy Black knows why, Bella knows why, but it’s unclear why Billy should make that assumption about Bella. They aren’t allowed, it’s not their part of town and they need to ‘git. The book heads in the typical direction of disapproval of the new boyfriend, “Though it would be my business, again, whether or not I think that it’s Charlie’s business right?”

The problem is that neither Bella nor Billy seem to be addressing two important facts: the first being that Bella is a teenager. She doesn’t know anything so she doesn’t really get to make decisions for her father’s friends. Billy just admits that she is more informed than he thought she was and then backs off. Really!? Your best friend’s teenage daughter just told you off and you are going to walk away? This is some shitty adulthood, but it’s nothing worse than any of the other parents we’ve seen in Forks. Charlie lets his daughter treat him like they are equals, Carlisle really has no idea what is going on with his brood, and now Billy Black lets some smart ass teenage girl run him off.

It’s especially weird because the second important fact is that Edward isn’t human. It’s in his nature to murder people and drink their blood, an action he’s admitted to doing already, but Billy just ignores this small fact. A fact, that he knows to be true or else he wouldn’t be there to warn Charlie of his daughter’s new boyfriend which is the fact that he shouldn’t actually know. Speaking of Edward, how come none of the Blacks inquired as to where exactly he went earlier when they noticed him in the car? No wonder the werewolves always lose.

*Which in fiction is always portrayed as being 100% accurate. If the wise old Indian says so it must be, and this tends to blend in with real life unfortunately. Just look at how many idiots believe in this Mayan Doomsday bullshit.

My First Presentation: John Dewey

October 21, 2010 Leave a comment

“The Place of Intelligence in Conduct”

Section I: Habit and Intelligence

    We can define “habit” in its general sense of the word, as the things that we do everyday that we don’t consciously think about. Taking this definition doesn’t give us an identification for how they affect us or their role in everyday life. For Dewey habits are “conditions of intellectual efficiency.[1]” They don’t occupy are daily thoughts, indeed if they did our minds would be more occupied by what our bodies are doing. Things such as driving a car or even typing are better served if we are not consciously aware of the mechanistic exercises of each. When we type it is better to be unaware of the particular finger movements than it is to be aware of what we are typing. In these case habit is nothing detrimental it is necessary. “All habit-forming involves the beginning of an intellectual specialization which if unchecked ends in thoughtless action.[2]

            This “thoughtless action” eventually becomes absentmindedness and can be dangerous when it passes the realm of activity replacing actions that need to be thought about. Habits are about ease. It is easier to just blindly perform an action rather than maintain awareness about what one is doing. Of course it all depends on the action in question, generally speaking moral actions can be dangerous when they lead into the realm of habit. While our normal everyday choices are not of any supreme importance, moral and political choices shouldn’t be determined by habitual undertakings. This is where “love of ease” becomes “masqueraded morally as love of perfection.[3]

            We then attach a false equivalence to habits and choices. Thinking to ourselves that what is right, is that which we have always done for ourselves. It is in this that intelligence is surrendered. The obvious cause of this is the reluctance of the human mind to expand into new venues or initiate new changes. It is a cliché that people fear change, and as Machiavelli has said, “it must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, no more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.[4]” Habit leads to complacency which suspends inquiry and then attaches itself almost as necessity veiled in a false morality.

            This is rooted in a demonization of desire, “desire and need have been treated as signs of deficiency, and endeavor proof not of power but of incompletion.”[5] If someone desires that which they do not have, it is viewed not as a striving but as a deficiency. Freeing oneself from the desire of anything, whether it be material goods, achievement, or just simple wants has been the goal of moral thinking both religious and secular since Aristotle and the Stoics. For Aristotle it was teleology that was the “definition of the highest excellence.[6]” This is not alone in Western thinking either, Eastern morals such as Buddhism and Taoism (and their pseudo-hybrid Zen) all preach the detachment of the self from desire, in which the final phase is the release of the desire for the self.

            For Dewey this false analogy appears as late as Kant, “who begins with a complete scorn for happiness ends with an ‘ideal’ of the eternal and undisturbed union of virtue and joy, though in his case nothing but a symbolic approximation is admitted to be feasible.[7]” It would seem that almost all moral thinking is based along the lines that desire to break free from habit is immoral or at the very least can lead to immorality. True morality then, must be living in habit a mechanistic automaton existence that is defined as unconscious action.

            The fallacy involved is a generalization from specific to abstract. If a thirsty man desires water and is satisfied with water, then that person should be utterly ecstatic while drowning. Dewey observes that what people forget is that the thirsty man finds satisfaction in a particular token demand. It is not water that makes him generally happy but only happy in that instant. Anytime such a generalization is made about what makes a person happy is fallacious because it divorces that satisfaction with the particular demand or desire of the person at that time.[8]

            Habits are limits because they originate as positive agents. The more habits we involve ourselves with, the easier it becomes to foretell our actions. This is especially true with regard to the anecdotal life of Immanuel Kant, for whom it is said took his walks with such regularity that people could set their clocks to the time in which he passed their houses. This kind of rigidity, while seemingly ineffective on the mind of one such as Kant, is detrimental to the ordinary man for whom the habits will be constricting in both thought and action. If habits are not rigid, but are flexible, “the more refined is perception in its discrimination and the more delicate the presentation evoked by imagination.[9]

            This does not prepare the way for the primacy of impulse as being the better alternative. It is not the Nietzschean Dionysus that should triumph over the Apollo, habit is indispensible. It is concrete habits which perform such necessary actions such as “perceiving, recognizing, imagining, recalling, judging, conceiving, and reasoning…[10]” One might wish to classify language as a habit and in this case it would not be so far off. Since we think, and thus perceive, in terms of language as we consider our thoughts it is rooted in habit. Education is therefore to instill certain habits in the student. Here though, we have a conundrum. For in order to educate the student we must instill not only habit but also the realization that habit needs to be broken in order for intellectual and cultural progress.

            The conflict is that habit is too adapted to the environment, too organized, to need to indulge in imagination while impulses are too chaotic and confused to do the same even if they wanted to.[11] We’ve seen this sort of conflict before in Plato’s allegory of the chariot in The Phaedrus[12] where the black horse, representing animalistic impulses must be whipped by reason into driving in a line, while the white horse runs straight and true. Dewey’s definitions are void of judgments though stating that they are both necessary to the human condition. Impulses are just as necessary, and indeed habit can rein them in but they must work together. The problem with impulses are not what they lead to but that they cannot lead to anything since they are unintelligible without habit to guide them.

            It’s important to note that habit is knowledge but it is a type of knowledge: that of building, getting on and getting off, writing letters, and such, but it is craft knowledge. The other kind of knowledge, the kind gleaned from[13] reflection and conscious thought is almost entirely unaccounted for. Yet it is only through this latter type of knowledge that anything remotely representing progress has been made or is possible to be made. Ironically even though progress is reliant on this type of knowledge it has been demonized.

            Only the most ardent of pessimists would regard un-habitual action, or any deviation from the total conformity of the person to their surroundings as being diseased. Dystopian literature from 1984 to We, and films such as Equilibrium and Metropolis all portray the dark side of complete automation, for which the pessimist could only equate automation with well-being/sanity.[14]

            A person going through their everyday life encounters numerous disturbances in their habitual actions. Yet most of the time these are ignored as the consciousness uses habit to distribute impulse into the intellect so as to recover from the shock of the disturbance. I should note that these shocks are not necessarily of supreme importance. They can be as simple as walking down the street and hearing a loud noise which disturbs the habitual, “automatic pilot,” of the walking person. It is “In this period of redistribution impulse determines the direction of movement…It is, in logical language, the movement into the unknown, not into the immense inane of the unknown at large, but into that special unknown which when it is hit upon restores an ordered unified action.[15]

            Again we must stress the importance of habit. While rigid, extensive and expansive habit are detrimental, “without habit there is only irritation and confused hesitation. With habit alone there is machine-like repition, a duplicating recurrence of old acts. With conflict of habits and release of impulse there is conscious search.[16]

[1] Pg. 172 Dewey, John; Human Nature and Conduct; ©1930 Modern Library

[2] Pg. 173 Dewey

[3] Pg. 173 Dewey

[4] Pg. 21 Machiavelli, Niccolo; The Prince; c.f. The Prince and the Discourses trans. Luigi Ricci ©1950 Modern Library

[5] Pg. 174 Dewey

[6] Pg. 174 Dewey

[7] Pg. 174,175 Dewey

[8] Pg. 175 Dewey

[9] Pg. 176 Dewey

[10] Pg. 177 Dewey

[11] Pg. 177 Dewey

[12] 246a,b Plato: The Phaedrus

[13] Pg. 178 Dewey

[14] Pg. 178 Dewey

[15] Pg. 180 Dewey

[16] Pg. 180 Dewey

Categories: philosophy

Circus Maximus

October 21, 2010 Leave a comment

If the New York gubernatorial debate showed us anything, it was that the current state of US Democracy simply doesn’t work. When Carl Paladino doesn’t come off as the craziest person running for Governor you know there is a problem. Back in 2005/2006 being in Toledo watching the mayoral elections with the crazy bible thumping prophetess of doom telling people that god would punish the city if they didn’t vote for her and the Garth Brooks clone who gave his opening statement in a song, I remember thinking to myself “this wouldn’t happen in New York.”

By the Ravens of Odin, this is New York. Our current system of just having enough signatures on the ballot has shown its flaws. Or maybe it isn’t the system, it’s the people…yes it is probably the people of this state who are at fault. After all, any idiot can want to run for office, but it takes a special kind of idiot to sign a piece of paper that says, “yes, I want you to be governor here’s my signature.”

Who am I to say that we should have a qualification system to run for office? I guess it’s just my silly academic ivory tower elitism that says, “if you want a job you should know at least what that job is, or what it can and cannot do.”

Specifically I’m looking at the guy running on the “Rent is Too Damn High” Party line (seriously–that’s the name of the party) Jimmy McMillan and his seriously intimidating beard. You know who doesn’t control the rent of everyone who has an apartment in New York State? Answer: The New York Government. Furthermore take a little glance at a map of this state, see how most of the state is not located on that little thing that juts out into the sea, and a surrounding area just to the left of it? See how there is this whole section of the state? Yeah most of that is not rent controlled, most of that is occupied by people who also pay rent, but don’t live in New York City. There are even people that own their homes…but I do like your stance on shoe marriage I can stand behind that. Plus that beard is something else, on the internet alone you would win among readers of Something Awful and Cracked.

My professor today endorsed Kristin Davis, the former madame who is basically bragging about the fact that she ran a prostitution ring and is therefore the only person qualified to run the state. At least she came prepared, as opposed to Paladino who looked like he was still sweating off a hangover. I’ll say this about her, she’s got a lot of balls running for office. Allegedly she is the one that supplied former Governor Spitzer with his prostitute, which led him to resign, which meant the “sheriff of Wall Street” couldn’t be there to regulate the financial district, which sinkholed the NY economy, which led to his replacement making loads of unpopular (but necessary) decisions, which gave us this circus to begin with. The whole situation in NY can be directly linked to Spitzer’s resignation and she has the balls to ask us to vote for her? Fuck you.

Furthermore she is about as unrealistic as the Green Party’s candidate Howie Hawkins. The US attorney has already told California that any attempt to legalize marijuana won’t be federally legal, but Davis apparently doesn’t read the news. Although I am curious if her promises to legalize both prostitution and gambling are legal, and I think as long as you don’t take a hooker across state lines you are federally kosher.

Hawkins, and the Green Party? Ugh, they have decent, if impractical ideas. It would be nice if we had a single payer system, but it’s not going to happen. It would also be nice if I didn’t have to pay for school, but again…it’s not going to happen. Like Bill Clinton said back in his election run–it’s the economy stupid. We don’t have the money, and even if we did the right wingers wouldn’t let you spend a time on a poor person anyway.

Carl Paladino’s problem is that he has no position on anything. He’s just mad, he’s going to stop corruption, he’s going to end the tyranny of Albany, etc. These are things that I could get behind if I saw any kind of plan or policy in place that would contribute anything to his slogans. Anger isn’t a policy position, neither is being against the establishment for the sake of not being the establishment, just ask John Kerry how that worked out for him in 2004. I guess the only bright spot for him was that he didn’t screw up. Almost like Sarah Palin in the VP debate, almost…she messed up.

Andrew Cuomo is like a guy planning to get drunk playing beer pong while everyone else is pounding shots of Bacardi 151. He wants to get to the same place as everyone else but he’s the only one on a schedule. The guy isn’t the best possible governor we could get, but he’s the best candidate. It must be nice for him to be able to explain his policy positions without one opponent questioning them or offering another solution. Too bad the general population of the state doesn’t care about policy or position.

Categories: current events, politics

It Just Doesn’t Sound Right (The Twilight Walkthrough Pg. 343-349)

October 19, 2010 2 comments

We’ve dispensed with the story of Dr. Carlisle and now Edward wants to show off his room to Bella. Normal stuff for bringing home the girlfriend at that age…or at 17 which Edward certainly is not. Either way, they have some privacy but now the pair want actual privacy. Edward’s room is large and has a bunch of CDs. I suppose this is supposed to give us a clue as to Edward’s musical talent, but it begs the question about how exactly one shows off their music collection now.

Going to school I see a number of students plodding along with headphones and little red and pink squares attached to their bags. These are obviously their iPods and MP3 players. It’s a scene right out of the nightmares of Ray Bradbury,* but how does one show off their music collection nowadays? I’ve never been a big music person myself, my collection is maybe one hundred albums and all of them are in my computer. I carry around with me, maybe 200 songs on my cellphone, how do the kids do it now? Do they have to impress their paramours with actual conversation or do they just toss their little plastic cubes over and let that person scroll through their playlists?

We can’t really fault Meyer for this idiosyncrasy, the book was published in 2005 and iPods were certainly popular then and the digital music player goes back to 1979, but only very recently has the idea of buying music without actually paying for a thing (i.e. a physical medium) really taken off. The next Video Game Consoles probably won’t even have drives on them, yet most people keep their cds that they have already bought if for nothing else than a testament to what they paid for.

The two have a some banter, it’s nothing of note until Bella again asserts that she’s not afraid of being in the house alone with a bunch of vampires. That’s when Edward bares his fangs and leaps at her in playful wrestling. It’s sort of cute and how I imagine the children of Krypton flirted…until that is I remember that it orbited a red sun. It’s at this point, when the making out is about to ensue that Alice and Jasper walk into the room, “It sounded like you were having Bella for lunch, and we came to see if you would share,’ Alice announced.”

Wait, I saw this movie. It used to air at 2am on Cinemax right? I thought this was a book written by a Mormon for teenage girls. Does the film adaptation star Alyssa Milano and Charlotte Lewis? They’ve aged well if the movie posters are any indication. Obviously I’m reading into this more than is necessary, but what is the other conclusion that I am to draw? That they are joking about murdering her? The fact about this book is that there are so many unlikable characters that I want to like Alice and Jasper so I’m forced to think that they are making a sex joke and not a murder joke because of the two choices that’s the better one. Adding to that is that Alice doesn’t laugh through the comment, she announces it then gracefully dances through the room. It has to be a sex joke.

Their proclaimed reason for coming in the room is to ask Edward if he wants to go play thunderball with them later tonight. This is something, related to baseball, that the Vampires do when there is a thunder storm. I’ll let the ridiculousness of this slide since it’s no more outrageous than Quidditch. Also thunderball is just another really obvious way to show that Vampires are cool: they play baseball in the rain! duh duh DUH.

Alice then has an idea, “Let’s go see if Carlisle will come,’ Alice bounded up and to the door in a fashion that would break any ballerina’s heart. “Like you don’t know,’ Jasper teased.”

Aside from the really difficult time I had imagining the layout of Edward’s room these two sentences really made me think. I don’t think that Jasper is actually teasing Alice here, I think he’s rolling his eyes. It’s been established that Alice is Delphic Pythian of the group and given her carefree cute nature I’m willing to bet she’s just a pain in the ass to live with. If she can correctly prophesy whether or not Carlisle is going to play a game, a trite prediction no matter how you look at it, then she just has to be the most annoying person in the world. Especially since the limit to the power she has is that it is only really accurate when it has to do with others of her own kind. If Jasper sits down to watch a hockey game, he’s interacting with that game–albeit passively, but that’s interaction as he is involved in the game. That activates Alice’s power and if she wants to be a jerk she can just tell him who wins…all the damn time. There’s a funny scene in Scary Movie 3 where this is portrayed as the “Oracle” ruins a basketball game for “Morpheus,” who then laments, “I get shit for women I ain’t even slept with yet.”

It’s such a trite prediction for her too, usually the device of fortune telling in fiction is used for important plot points not things like choosing to play a game. In this I think that Meyer gets it right. For my part, skepticism has obliterated any faith I put in prophecy and the greatest weight of my skepticism comes from Cicero’s “De Divinatione.” Cicero makes a great point of mentioning that all of the examples of accurate fortune telling have to do with great events. As if the soothsayers** are building in an excuse for why the Delphic couldn’t predict the outcome of the Olympic games, or the Augurs various matches in the Arena, or why John Edwards hasn’t made a ridiculous killing betting the ponies or the Superbowl. If Alice can make these types of prediction, on day to day affairs it actually gives her credit toward her ability. Even more so that Jasper makes his comment.

He doesn’t know, but he knows that she does and all they are doing is going through the motions of actually having to ask him. This is probably the best thing Meyer has written so far, but it’s subtle. We believe Alice has the gift because everyone else is annoyed with it. It’s too bad this kind of subtlety doesn’t prevade the rest of the writing.
*If you ask him, Fahrenheit 451 isn’t about censorship and burning books, it’s about not reading and becoming detached from society through media like the personal radio.

**I know I’m using terms that different types of prophesying as if they were interchangeable.

The Prodigal Son (The Twilight Walkthrough Pg. 341-343)

October 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Continuing on from the strange origin of Dr. Carlisle, we have him in the New World more than likely prior to the American Revolution.* At this point Carlisle has probably been established as a doctor of medicine in Italy and travelling to the English Colonies would mean that he’s probably got a job and estate already set up there. At the very least he has the means to do it himself. It’s odd though, “He dreamed of finding others like himself. He was very lonely you see.

He’s in Italy among members of his own kind. They have a rift over human blood and he leaves for the undiscovered countries of the Americas so that he can find others like himself. It’s quite a leap of reasoning to assume that there will be other vampires in the West. Which works with the story very well because he doesn’t. He’s alone for two centuries, well not alone, I’m sure with his outrageous perfection he’s at least making friends. This is like the Jesus story in the bible, you read all about his infancy to middle childhood (in some versions anyway) and then bam, he’s thirty with followers and on his way out. I would be more interested in a story that dealt with these two centuries of Carlisle rather than this tired story of two sociopaths getting together.

Especially from the point of view of a doctor. When exactly did leeches go out of style? Was there some sort of medical establishment backlash against not using leeches? How did Darwin’s theory impact the study of medicine? What about the advent of psychology? There is so much that happens in those two centuries from a purely scientific standpoint that it would be a far more interesting story, but no, we skip ahead.

When the influenza epidemic hit, he was working nights a hospital in Chicago.” Suddenly it’s 1918 in this flashback and Edward gets turned. Edward thinks it’s of note that Carlisle chose him because he was already dying, that somehow that makes Carlisle ethical in his choices. However, that’s like asking a person if they want to take an experimental drug to prevent their terminal cancer. A dying person is going to say yes to just about anything that gives them a small fraction of hope for survival. Just look at what we do to keep 90 year old people alive. Fear of death is one of the most primal habits** man possesses. When Carlisle asks Edward (we assume) if he wants to live or die, that isn’t a choice. Instinct answers that question. Carlisle isn’t morally better because Edward is already on his way out, it actually makes him worse. Ethically you have to be very careful when you experiment with inmates in a prison, because they will agree to most anything just to break the routine. A dying person has more than just monotony to worry about.

Edward being the first of the new brood is instructed by Carlisle to ignore the raging blood lust in his mind and just eat animals. It’s a nice sentiment and all but this is like asking a cat to start eating its veggies. So Edward splits. He relates the tale of his murdering for food by trying to portray himself as some sort of avenging angel. He would only stalk and kill criminals. One time he saves a young girl from being murdered by mauling the would-be perpetrator and Bella wonders when the girl sees him, “would she have been grateful, that girl, or more frightened than before?

The question would be pertinent if this were a well thought out idea. It works in stories like Batman or the Punisher where a murderer/rapist is brutally attacked by a shadowy figure saving a young, usually female, victim. Here, because we have been constantly reminded of how beautiful Edward is it comes down to looks. Would she be grateful if the angelic Adonis Edward had saved her? Bella, we know, thinks yes. The question is abnormal for another reason as well, and that is the manner of saving. When Batman beats someone up or the Punisher shoots someone; those are normal things. They are scary and dangerous, to be sure, and no one wants to be such a close witness to that kind of extreme violence, but they are normal fitting in with the rules of our world. When Edward attacks the murderer it breaks those rules and defies expectations.

It’s not the flip of the cloak and the blur of a shadow that saves the her. It’s something that has come to feed, an ultra fast human that is drinking the blood of another human being. No matter Edward’s victims’ intent, it’s still a human being and one of the rules of the world is that people don’t get eaten by people. In this case, surely the woman must have been in abject terror.

After years of this behavior Edward comes back to Carlisle and now Esme, “They welcomed me back like the prodigal. It was more than I deserved.”

“The prodigal,” is obviously an allusion to the parable of the prodigal son in the Christian Bible. Summarizing, a father gives his two sons their inheritance early. One stays at the farm and works while the other gets as drunk as a poet on payday, consorts with loose women, blows through his money. Poor he returns home looking to work for his money earning the enmity of his brother. The moral of the story is that it is good that the prodigal son returns and we should rejoice rather than hate him for his ways.

The problem is that most people misunderstand the word “prodigal.” It isn’t the fact that the son left home that makes him prodigal, it’s that he spend all of his money on women, wine, and parties. He could have been prodigal without ever leaving his home…which actually would have been a better story.

It’s a misunderstanding that most people fall into because those that speak from the pulpit get it wrong when they speak of the moral of the story. Because oddly enough, the moral of story doesn’t change one bit if the person telling the story doesn’t know what the word “prodigal” actually means. As said earlier the moral of the story is about welcoming back one who has become lost, perhaps that is where the misunderstanding actually comes in: we tend to think of “lost” primarily in a spatial sense. The prodigal son was lost both in location and in his ways so again, it oddly works.

For Edward’s example it works accidentally as well. It all depends on what he meant by “prodigal.” Was he referring to himself as being like the person from the story? If the answer to that is “yes” then he is completely wrong. He wasn’t prodigal, he was merely bloodthirsty, and Jesus’ tale wasn’t about a person who left the home to go on a murder spree. Edward wasn’t throwing parties and such. Only if his reference was to the welcoming back by Carlisle does the allusion work in the correct sense. Unfortunately the structure of the sentence doesn’t support the latter claim.

Not even the religious can get the religious stories right most of the time. I do wonder if Carlisle’s father at least had it right.

*Since it kind of ceased to be called “the New World” once
**I stress the word “habit” in the vein of American Philosopher John Dewey.