Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Excuses

Christmas is drawing closer with every passing hour, and the stresses of presents and cards and family have seen their welcomes worn. It's been a busy month, and I intend to apologize for the lack of content, but I'll be on a plane late this afternoon, so it will have to wait.

Below are a couple of photographs from this past summer. Keep your eyes out for a full album containing these photos in early January.



These photographs were taken during my time spent last summer on the road from Florida to Maine. The first photograph was taken in Newport, Rhode Island along the cliff walk there. The second two photos were taken in Hampden, Maine and Richmond, Virginia, respectively. The last picture was taken at a shiplock in Richmond. The photograph at the top was taken in Tavernier, FL, and features a Monroe County Police Officer and a man with conviction.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

December 5th is Repeal Day!

December 5, 1933 was the day that state conventions ratified the Twenty-First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, effectively ending prohibition and becoming the first and only amendment to constitutionalize a pleasurable activity. Jeffrey Morgenthaler has long been an advocate of officializing the celebration of Repeal Day, and it seems that Dewar's Scotch Whiskey has taken a shining to the idea as well.

video
Celebrate Repeal Day!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Fiscal Year '0X - The Brain Drain

Poor spending seems to be one of the many recurring themes of the Bush Administration, and striking a balance between the departments of Defense and Education is precisely what many critics suggest. But how many Americans actually know where their taxes are going? What exactly is this great disparity that has so severely burdened Bush's budget?

I took the time to peruse through some of our nation's spending habits and found some interesting information. The gap between the cost of war and our investment in knowledge isn't just large, it's unnerving. In 2006, the United States government spent nearly $500 billion in national defense, while only $93.4 billion was invested in education; and that was high. In 2005, $72 billion was spent on education, and the 2007 budget granted the Department of Education only $68 billion. Between 2004 and today, the US has spent over $1.95 trillion on defense. Comparitively, the Department of Education has recieved less than $300 billion.

In all fairness, the Department of Defense is not quite the fattest agency on the books. By year's end, the 2007 budget will encompass expenditures of over $671 billion on health and human services alone, a substantial increase from the $581 billion spent in 2005; impressive figures for a worthy cause. It seems odd, then, that nearly 47 million Americans (16%) were without health insurance in 2005. Odd, too, that this number was about 1.3 million higher than the year before it, despite a $40 billion budget increase.

In 2004, despite a record voter turnout, only 58% of Americans aged 18-24 were registered to vote. In the same category, only 47% actually voted, the lowest category by far. Based on these numbers, it would seem that young Americans are uncaring, uneducated, or otherwised discouraged from taking part in arguably the most important aspect of American Government.

What does all this mean? My guess is as good as anyone's, but it seems that the correlation between the ignorance of politics in American schools and an ailing education budget may be more than coincidental. If anything will help politicians desperately cling to a conservative platform, a collective brain drain will do it.

Poem - Needles

Despite my love of literature, English has never been one of my favorite subjects in school. No matter what level of education, I can never come to terms with the cavalcade of trivial exercises. The worst of these exercises have always involved poetry.

It was just such an exercise, oddly enough, which sparked the inspiration for the piece below. "Needles," as it is appropriately titled, was written in response to a poetry assignment in my Sophomore english class. What inspired me, I can't say, but the image of the ghastly flame haunted me for days.

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In the darkness a lighter flares,
a golden flame for vacant stares,
a friendly beacon for leaves and paper.
There are needles on the floor.

And in this darkness a figure stands.
His eyes are glazed. With shaking hands
the paper’s lit, the flame is gone,
there’s darkness and a scarlet glow,

A gentle light contorts the figure’s face beneath the muted glow.

Pale skin and sunken eyes,
a stubbled chin whose story cries
of clear-cut forests miles wide,
of a bushman’s pilfered home.

Now the embers are softly stoked
and, for a moment, marred by smoke.
Alone, a darkened figure stands
amongst the needles on the floor.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Obama: The End of a Headache

Tuesday night marked the end of my English course. Sure, I'll still be attending for several weeks, but I turned in my final paper for review, and the only reason to attend class at this point is the several remaining grammar tests.

This is good news, because now, hopefully, I will be able to devote more time to my own projects. In the meantime, check out my fairly biased dissertation on Barack Obama.







It was only two centuries ago that a band of colonies declared its sovereignty from Great Britain. This, the formation of the United States of America, would be a catalyst for change throughout much of Western society. In an era dominated primarily by monarchial societies, the emergence of democracy in the New World gradually became a beacon for the downtrodden. For the first time in centuries, people had a voice, if only a small one; and immigrants eventually came to the United States in droves, in search of better lives. It was the inherent liberalism in this form of government that paved the way for the freedoms we now know, and which provided the groundwork for the global powerhouse that we are today. Given the right leadership, democracy allowed the country to flourish, but in the past eight years, the United States has witnessed a decline in economics, civil liberties, and foreign relations. Since the beginning of 2001, the Bush Administration has overseen all of these changes and has been instrumental in obstructing the nation’s progress as a whole. Now, as 2007 draws to a close, it is evident that the coming elections are to be among the most momentous in recent memory, with consequences inherent not for just the United States, but for the entire world. With the primary elections drawing near, one thing is clear. America needs a leader who can unite the people, who can remain true to his ideals in the face of adversity, who has continually displayed perseverance and success in the face of great obstacles, and who can be the voice of change for the American people; Barack Obama is that leader.

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1961, Barack Obama was a child of diverse parentage. His father, a foreign student from Kenya, separated from his mother, a middle class Kansan woman, when he was only two. His mother later married Lolo Soetoro, with whom she moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, where Obama attended school from the ages of six to ten before returning to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents. Because of the difficulties of his childhood and the hardships he faced in his early life, Obama has developed a set of beliefs and ideals that revolves around a strong sense of right and wrong on a global scale. This attitude has allowed him to succeed, first as a member of the community, and now as the incumbent senator of the state of Illinois.



It is this same attitude, this sense of justice, which accounts for what is perhaps Obama’s strongest suit. After two terms of controversy and fear driven policy, what the United States needs now more than ever is a leader who can unite the populace. Never in recent years has a presidential candidate so successfully rallied people behind him. He garners this support through fairness and reason, making certain to view issues from every possible perspective before passing judgement, and taking the well being of his fellow citizens into consideration before every momentous decision. In interviews, Obama is an everyman, speaking at ease and making connections through words and observations with everyone whom he comes in contact with. Through his actions and his beliefs, Barack Obama has single-handedly unified thousands of Americans of every race and creed. No other candidate has shown great enough success to rival the rapidly growing grassroots movement which has inspired Americans from every demographic to band together in support of one common cause.



As an individual, Barack Obama has proven himself to be absolutely resolute in his principles. As the first candidate in memory to reject the promise of campaign contributions from lobbyists and special interest groups, Obama has relied on the grassroots movement to be the core of his campaign. Within the first nine months, Obama raised over 58 million dollars – more than any other presidential candidate in history – from 365,000 individual contributors, none of which came from Washington lobbies.

While he is by no means the first candidate with religious ties, Obama is unique in that he speaks openly on faith and the importance of diversity in beliefs. In a realm where religion is often controversial, Obama draws from his faith to support his cause. He stands by his belief, but admits the doubts and uncertainties of religion. He draws strength and balance from faith and speaks with a fervor almost reminiscent of Martin Luther King, but allows only reason to be his sovereign.

Also indicative of Obama’s resolve is his voting record. While many candidates have voted dubiously on issues in reaction to pressure or popularity, Obama has remained true to his own beliefs on the ballot. In his time as a senator, he has established a steadfast voting record to support his views despite outside pressure. From the beginning, Obama has opposed the war in Iraq, and his voting record has firmly reflected this view. From the initial decision to go to war to a more recent bill which would have called for an increase in funding for the Department of Defense, he has voted decisively to prevent and reduce military deployment. Conversely, his support for more humanitarian efforts has shown in the endorsement of improvements to the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the restoration of habeas corpus for detainees of the United States. Barack Obama is a man of principle who acts upon his ideals, but is not ruled by them; he values honesty, both to himself and to others; and he stands as a pillar for the American people.



With his remarkable moral fortitude and his conscientious approach to issues, it’s not surprising that Obama is well suited as a legislator. Having been instilled by his mother with what can only be described as hard-working Midwestern values, Obama gained much of his initial experience in politics in the mid 1980's, when he became a community organizer for a church-based group in Chicago. It was here that he realized that in order to make true changes in the lives of people in communities all over the nation, he would need to make changes in the lawmaking and political process.

After he earned his degree from Harvard University in 1991, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, Obama returned to Chicago, where his advocacy work led to his eventual election to the Illinois State Senate. In 2004, after eight years as Senator of Illinois, Barack Obama became the third African American to be elected to the U.S. Senate. His time prior to his entry into politics as a civil rights lawyer and an instructor in constitutional law has left Obama well equipped to make progressive changes, and eleven years in politics has served as preparation to take the stand as the leader of the United States of America.



Obama’s entire campaign is representative of a change in the way America governs. By far one of the most ambitious and progressive candidates in years, Obama aims to improve the broken health care system, providing universal health care to all Americans; he understands the importance of protecting the Earth's climate, and is an advocate of alternative energy; he has plans for educational reform, with plans to raise the salaries of teachers and close the learning gap; he aims to restore and protect the American right to vote, making significant election reforms to prevent abuse; and he will continue to strive towards the reconciliation of faith and politics, with the intent of reducing hostilities between those of different faiths. He will be a pioneer for a new kind of Presidency.

At the age of 46, Obama will be among the youngest of American presidents, bringing a much-needed youthfulness to office. Also, even before the primary elections, an African-American campaigning for President of the United States has caused a stir around the world. Were Obama to be elected, it would represent the great leaps and strides that we have made as a nation towards equality, and – more importantly – his success would open the doors for future diversity in office. Obama’s unique standing as a candidate and his honest, progressive goals have captured the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Americans; and for the first time in decades, the youth of America have found inspiration to participate in politics.



The United States of America is a nation founded on freedom, equality, and choice. Over the past two hundred years, these foundations have been built upon and reinforced, but the Bush Administration has dealt a serious blow to that progress. Over the past seven years America has seen its economy plummet, its diplomacy fail, and its freedom maimed; it has seen war and, worse yet, its people have been divided. It is a critical moment in the history of America and the world, and ours is a country in desperate need of change. As a nominee, Barack Obama has the potential to be that change. He is a symbol of progress, a catalyst for change. In a time of division in a land of unity, Obama is a leader who can unite the nation. Never before has our fate been so clear: America needs a leader who can reunite the divided people, a leader who will remain moral and just in the face of immense adversity and who will persevere and thrive in the face of great obstacles. America needs a leader who will be the voice of change for Americans everywhere. Barack Obama is that leader.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Pleasant Surprise, and Thanksgiving Treats

Exactly how I found it, I can't really say. All I know is that I have absolutely fallen in love with Elise Bauer's food blog. Simply Recipes is a nice, clean, online index of recipes taken straight from the culinary scribblings of Elise's family and friends and organized by category. The recipe list is by no means extensive. Instead, we are treated to a diverse selection of family favorites not unlike the recipe collection our grandmothers might have have treated us to.


It's only two days from Thanksgiving, and I've been extended the privilege of sharing a family meal with some close friends. I've decided to bring along a loaf of banana bread, the recipe for which is delightfully more simple than my own; and some seasonal baked acorn squash, seeing that they are particularly hearty this time of year.

Photography - 'Sacrilege'

Though it's a bit late, it seemed appropriate to post something with a bit of an autumnal flare.

This photograph was taken in October of 2006. Just about anybody who lives in the upper Keys is familiar with this annual pumpkin display in front of the Burton Memorial Methodist church in Tavernier. The apparent embrace of Halloween - the very holiday which occasionally sparks a certain measure of controversy in several regions of the United States - holds a uniquely satisfying hint of sacrilege that catches my attention no matter how many times I see it.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Flying Cars Shot Down - The Onion

Fans of The Onion, a parody newspaper based out of New York, have undoubtedly been enamoured with the additions of Radio News and Network News pieces over the past several years. The straight-faced stories satirize history, popular culture, current events, and are consistently outrageous in the most delightful way. Featured below is the most recent headline:

Mean Automakers Dash Nation's Hope For Flying Cars


Poem - "To Adri"

Love is among the few things that frequently moves me to creation, and can be found at the core of a good deal of my writing. The subject of this poem holds a special place in my heart not as a lover, but as a dear friend. I can't rightly say what it was that drove me to write this particular piece, but as it took form under the direction of my fingertips there was absolutely no doubt in my mind what it meant to me. The poem is a confession of love, a labor of passion, and a token of trust. For your enjoyment, I present "To Adri."

---

In a place such as this,
Such a world without bliss,
Where at times happiness is unfound,
One must gain some small pleasure
From his one single treasure:
The Angel, for her love is unbound.
With complexion divine,
Disposition benign,
And a sparkle of stars in her eyes,
There are no greater features
In such wonderful creatures
As my love, the Angel in disguise.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Poem - But Love!

Some time ago, under the auspices of some infatuation, I felt moved to poetry. This following piece was written on an especially balmy day in Summer. I'm not sure how large a part the weather played in the creation of this poem, but it was certainly a fine afternoon.

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It is but love
as snow white doves do circles in the sky.
"It is but love!"
The man decries, as joyful tears he cries.
It is but love,
the sparkling diamonds dancing in her eyes!
"But what is love,
if one or all, that you should so surmise?"

Why, love is swelling ocean waves, crashing on the shore,
and love is future feelings, and those felt long before.
Love is every blade of grass, growing in the field,
and every blooming summer rose, so eager to appeal.
Love is on the mountaintops, rising eternally,
and even in the darkest depths, far beneath the sea.
‘But what is love?’ you ask, and I shall speak the truth,
for love is all these things and more, but most of all, it’s you.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Field Technician: Mobilized!

Considering that I aspire to fix computers for a living, I've decided to offer up my services locally for anybody interested. Below is a calendar with available time slots for computer repair which will be updated accordingly.



As a rule, I operate between Mile Markers 80 and 110, but may make exceptions upon request. Please feel free to contact me via phone or electronic mail to ask questions or schedule an appointment. Rates will be decided on a per-call basis, and there is currently no flat fee. Some jobs may entail sensitive or prolonged work on a computer and it's file system. In such cases it may be required that the client sign a release of liability.

Poem - In What Do You Believe?

Tonight I decided to share a poem that I wrote several years ago. I can't really say for certain what inspired me, but I was lying awake one night with this nagging feeling in the back of my mind, one single unifying thought that needed expression. Normally, like any sane person, I put it to the back of my mind and sleep it off; that night, though, seemed more important, so I got myself out of bed, found a pad, and started to write the rather flowy "In What Do You Believe?"

---

"In what do you believe?" I ask,
"In rolling hills? In blades of grass?
In ocean waves that caress the land?
Or in the feel of feet in sand?
Do you believe in forests, strong and proud?
Or in mountaintops, high in the clouds?
In blazing day, or cool night?
In rain? Or snow? Or lands of ice?
In temptation? Or desire?
Or stars above that glow like fire?
In jealousy and hatred, too?
That truth and love will see us through?
In good will towards one-and-all?
That one should never harm at all?"
And on I went, without subside.
When done, at last, she replied,
"It’s in all these that I believe,
and even more which aren’t perceived.
All these things combine to wend
from the beginning, until the end."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tune In With MiBod

Gimmicky gizmos and gadgets are a dime-a-dozen in the consumer electronics world, and from Griffin Technology's dubiously-ineffective iKaraoke to Sega's dancing iFish, Apple's iPod has contributed more than its fair share to the mix. It may not be entirely surprising that even more third party companies are jumping on the iPod peripheral bandwagon, but I'll be damned if I wasn't caught off guard when I heard about OhMiBod. Created and manufactured by Suki, LLC, OhMiBod is what can only be classified as a "Music Powered Vibrator." The product is remarkably aesthetic, and is being creatively billed as a "whole new way to plug 'n play."


OhMiBod has a variety of optional "Acsexories" and sells for a cool price of $69.00, and as of the time of this writing appears to be backordered by several weeks. The product comes in a variety of other models as well, probably the most perturbing of which is Suki's "Boditalk," a vibrator that is powered via a cell phone for more... intimate conversations.

Summary - We're Poor

In a feeble attempt to fill the fairly conspicuous gap in posts from the past few weeks, I present a summary of Floyd Dell's short story, "We're Poor." The essay itself was written as a companion to my previous essay, entitled "The Civilization," for the Example essay. "We're Poor" describes the series of events that leads to a child's realization that his family is poor.

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The example essay generally aims to prove a point or demonstrate a theme that acts essentially as a thesis. This is often achieved through the medium of a narrative and is commonly utilized in folk tales and fables to illustrate, through the events of a story, the value of a particular moral. Such stories are often organized in a cookie cutter fashion, opening with a point being stated and then supported by the follies of a main character. In the story, "We're Poor," author Floyd Dell refuses to subscribe to this template and instead attempts to recount - in startlingly vivid terms - the series of events that led to a child coming to the realization that his family is poor.

As is typical of any child of a young age, the narrator lives oblivious to the circumstances that set him apart in society. He accepts the conditions in which he lives to be normal and finds no need to further question his situation. Floyd Dell skillfully illustrates the various aspects of the child's life, incrementally revealing to the reader the extent of the poverty in which the narrator lives. The narrator examines these discrepancies individually, allowing the reader to connect with the character from the time the soles of his shoes are replaced with cardboard, to his embarrassment at having only pennies to donate to the poor, and finally - as all of the pieces drop into place - to the agonizing realization of why his family couldn't celebrate Christmas.

Innumerable contemporary texts have been written on the subject of the lower class and unemployment. While Floyd Dell could have easily written a dissertation on the hardships of poverty, he opted instead to show the reader a life of poverty in the most profound way that he could: from the eyes of a child. "We're Poor" takes the reader from a plodding, uncertain beginning through increasingly poignant imagery, only to climax in a wave of numbness.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

So It Goes

The last few weeks have been... interesting, to say the least. Concerning my writing, class was canceled the week of Columbus Day on Tuesday (which was Leif Erikson Day, oddly enough). I did manage to churn out my usual essays despite an awful case of writer's block, none of which are interesting enough to share.


What I will share, however, is a recommendation. When I wrote my original essay last week I also had to write, as per the usual, a companion summary of a text from our reference books. I instantly decided on a short story from the late Kurt Vonnegut, a wonderful little dystopian romp called "Harrison Bergeron" describing a future egalitarian society taken to extremes. The story can be found in it's entirety here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Civilization - Example

I was at a loss last weekend when I realized I needed to come up with a topic for Tuesday's essay, so I considered myself lucky when a friend of mine began telling me about his own writing assignment on human civilization. I decided that I was out of ideas, and I took civilization and ran with it. It might be worth noting now that I use "Civilization" intentionally as a physical object, and so as a proper noun.

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Since humanity first climbed from the clutches of its primordial hovel, it has sown the seeds of creation. It has striven to master its own world, to triumph over itself, and to rise to yet greater ingenuity. Mankind's greatest achievement is the Civilization, a complex system of agriculture and labour divisions contained within an intricate evolution of mankind's total social heredity. Yet, mankind's greatest talent is not creation, but destruction. It is fitting, then, that the nature of the Civilization is that of the phoenix, and that from smoldering ash arises a new era for mankind to bask in his own glory; for the Civilization is not merely a collection of farms and social ranks, it is a cage in which lies the brutal savagery inherent in the race of man.

Even in Sumer, the cradle of civilization, is this aggression evident. The great cities that birthed writing, astronomy, arithmetic, legal systems, the calendar, and the wheel laid siege to themselves and fell to obscurity as they were annexed by another rising power. Two thousand years later along the banks of the river Tiber the great Roman Empire raised the Colosseum, a grandiose achievement in architecture and engineering devoted to the entertainment of man through spectacles of bloodshed and battle. A full millennium later on a continent halfway around the world the Aztecs erected the first Great Temple, a man-made mountain paying tribute to Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli, the gods of rain and fire. For days on end, human sacrifices would be conducted atop the great pyramid, and the bodies would be cast down the steep sides to pile at the base of the sacred grounds. This civilization, like all others before it, eroded itself from within only to be devoured by another larger, more destructive culture.

Six thousand years have passed since humanity first ascended from its cradle, and little has emerged to keep its brutality in check. Even today, so-called "humanitarian" efforts against mankind's nature uniformly fail to prevent sectarian bloodshed across the globe. In more "refined" societies around the world, violence is siphoned away from its homeland through war, only to fuel more destruction. Often, even the prospects of war and administrative action fail to completely stifle a population's violent tendencies as crime runs rampant in urban areas. Not even the impending depletion of resources could manage to abate mankind's thirst for the blood of his own; rather, it has thrown him into a panic and further stimulated his aggression. Modern civilization has no Colosseums, no warlords, and no sacrificial temples; the hunger of the populace is stymied only by rigorous regimes of violent media. Humanity has found not a way to tame its brutality, but to divert it with technology, effectively moving the gladiator from the arena to the television screen.

From the construction of the first ziggurat to the launching of the first space shuttle, mankind has struggled to contain his aggression, to move forward unhindered by his savage tendencies. Instead, he has merely set it aside, channeling his talent through his rage in order to create. The fatal flaw in the Civilization lies here, in that humanity does not overcome its brutality insomuch as it harnesses it as impetus for growth, encouraging mankind's killer instinct to grow and elevating itself higher still to create, eventually, a destructive force well beyond imagination. It is the self-destructive aspect of the Civilization that is imperative to its remarkable ability to renew itself. Like the phoenix, the Civilization will crumble with age and fall to fire, only to emerge from the ashes anew and stronger than before. Even so, all things must come to an end, and the question must be asked: can the ultimate destruction of humanity's greatest invention be deterred; or will the Civilization at last collapse - as it has so many times before - once and for all?

---

Friday, September 28, 2007

Soundscapes: Zero 7

Some months ago, last winter I believe, a friend of mine introduced me to a band called Zero 7. These guys were perhaps the single most defining feature of my road trip this summer: for almost two months I listened to these melodies almost daily. With an alternative, synthetic, downtempo groove, lilting harmonies, and moving lyrics, Zero 7 creates an absolutely unique soundscape that tantalizes the senses. So why is this important? A sizeable selection of Zero 7 music videos have appeared on Youtube, so now is a good time to get a taste of an excellent band.

The video below is a live performance of "Somersault" from the album When It Falls. It should be noted that Zero 7 is made up of only two members - Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker - and that the band's vocals are done by stand-in artists. The singers in "Somersault" are Tina Dico (in black) and Sia Furler (in the polka dots).

video
Zero 7 - Live on the Jimmy Kimmel show

To Rule a Nation - Process

My most recent assignment was to write a Process essay: how to make a peanut butter sandwich, how to tie your shoes, what to do to get out of a speeding ticket - you know the stuff. I opted, as per the usual, for a more creative approach. I ask you, dear reader, to envision as you read an aging ex-vice president sitting fireside with you in a remote hovel in the mountains. Enjoy.

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The principles which Machiavelli had so explicitly unveiled are still relevant today. They are the sound foundation upon which I had once striven to erect my own empire, to become my own prince. For a time I had ruled the world; I know now how to accomplish the feat as clearly as I knew then. Hindsight, however, is 20/20, and I understand now the mistakes that led to how I exist today, aged and decrepit. It is a simple matter, to rule a nation, and easily attainable by one so ambitious and inventive as yourself.

One must first bide their time in preparation for the critical moment to act, you will know the time when it comes. The proper groundwork is tantamount to the success of your endeavors, and will make all of the difference in your bid for power. As with any worthwhile endeavor, resources are crucial, and the time spent in wait should be invested in accumulating funds. Oil companies are desirable in today's market, as they were in my own time.

The road to power should not be traveled alone, and your efforts should also be directed towards gathering the henchmen who would assist you on your eventual rise to power. Your leadership should include a representative of the minorities within your population. This will not likely convince any minority of your benevolence, but will help smooth the insecurities of a skeptic majority. You should also enlist the aid of a talented spinster to divert the prying eyes of the masses in times of need. Most importantly, you must find a figurehead. As tempting as it may seem to take credit for your scheming, you must not allow yourself to be held responsible for your actions. You must seek out a marionette, a veritable everyman capable of shedding blame as if it were water. He must not be intelligent, nor may he be ambitious. Be wary that he is not too small-minded, however, for it was a simpleton that was instrumental in my own demise.

In comparison with your efforts thus far, gaining a foothold of power will seem elementary. Your election, provided that you act in a free nation, should be won, not bought. Calling in favors, mudslinging, and tampering with voting machines are all fair game. Do not hesitate to alienate potential voters if it ensures your victory here, as you will not likely have need for them by the time the next election rolls around. Once you have established yourself in office, the real work of building your empire begins.

Your time in office is likely intended to be temporary, and you should treat it as such. You will need to rally the people behind you, enabling you to more quickly and efficiently further your own goals. This is easily accomplished by starting a war. Then, when media attention has ceased and support has dwindled, start another war. I was fortunate enough to have lived in a country that was hated by the rest of the world, but simple excuses may not be enough to sway the populace; you should not neglect the effectiveness of poor diplomacy. In the likely event that the people grow tired of war, you may temporarily stave off dissent by making a victory speech. Accompany this with some subtle adjustment to your war strategy, the most obvious being an ideological shift from an assault to an aggressive occupation to buy yourself the time to instate the appropriate legislation to ensure your whim remains de facto. Be lenient, however, and do not fear to withdraw from battle if pressure becomes too intense. Were I so wise in my own time, I'd not be where I am today.

The final ace up your sleeve is intimidation. People tend to be a sensitive lot, and will not respond for long to displays of brutality. A much more emphatic response may be elicited through muttered threats and indefinite certainties. Were you to accidentally shoot your friend in the face, the message would not be misconstrued.

The matter of ruling is never a simple one, however, and no amount of foresight can prepare one for every eventuality. Because of my own failure to act, my time has long since come and passed. There can be no second chances for those such as ourselves, only a swift and decisive victory or a terrible, crushing defeat. You must act in complete confidence, but never fail to check your decisions and adapt to your mistakes. Bullheadedness, ultimately, can rend a potential leader asunder. You, my protégé, must not allow yourself the same mistakes that I have made. With that, I leave you to begin your work.

---

William Three-Name

Last week I read an interesting piece by American author William Carlos Williams. "Tract" was the subject of a rather mediocre paper that I wrote to meet an essay deadline, so I won't bother posting it here, but take a look at the poem if you get the chance.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

An Inconvenient Narrative - Narrative

A week late, here's a short narrative that pays homage to Al Gore's good friend, the polar bear.

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It was mid-January, and a blistering New York sun beat down on the transparent shell of the New York Ministry of Culture. The Ministry of Culture, or NYMOC as it had been affectionately dubbed, was but one of innumerable Bio Dome Districts that had sprouted up across the globe after the dissolution of the United States government. Nobody had questioned the president's decision to relinquish their sovereignty to the UWA, and after losing half of the Eastern Seaboard, how could they? Ceding control to the United Western Alliance had been relatively painless; and after nearly a decade of pressure from the super-government, the people could finally breathe a collective sigh of relief. Now the United States, all of North America and Europe for that matter, was but a fading memory in an aging populace, and the BDDs were the ultimate answer to the challenges of a changing world.

The domes themselves were perhaps mankind's greatest engineering achievement. Constructed of massive glass panels supported by a web of alloy support beams, the domes often had a diameter of several miles across, and rose nearly a mile high at their centers. In addition to the vertical supports which gave shape to the domes there was a series of circumferential structures that ran parallel to the ground, and which housed the immense cooling systems required to keep the internal temperature at a crisp 73° Fahrenheit. Inside the NYMOC dome, an elderly man sat hunched alone on a bench in the crowded Pod station. The man stared lazily at the wavering sun through the torrents of water that continually cascaded down the outside of the dome, the waste product of the cooling systems above. The waste water, he knew, would enter a reservoir at the base of the dome, where it would be treated and redistributed where it was needed.

The sudden, harsh sound of a hydraulic pod door woke the man from his reverie, and he gathered himself, giving a careful tilt to his hat, before standing up. The child who exited the pod walked with the painstakingly sullen gait of every pubescent child since the dawn of time. Upon noticing the elderly man watching him, however, he smiled, and trotted over to his side. The man patted the child on the shoulder, and they walked for some time in silence. After awhile, the child lost interest in the bustle within the dome, and instead looked to the man. "I've never been to the Natural History Exhibit before."

The man nodded and gestured towards the intersection ahead of them. "Now you will," he said, and they turned the corner in silence. It was a nice day.

Around the corner was the Natural History Exhibit of the West Atlantic. The elaborate, imposing building stood imperiously above the rest of the district. The Exhibit was one of a series of similar museums that had been constructed in every major region of UWA territory, but this one was different. Inside the ornate facade was a complete record of the world as it had existed before the temperatures began to rise. The pair marveled at the impressive structure as they approached the massive gilded doors, and they entered.

For hours they wandered the halls of the museum, a life-sized narrative of their ailing world chronicling the delicate balance in which the planet had existed, and the disruption of that balance which had thrown the world into chaos. They progressed through room after room of displays recounting the melting of great fields of natural ice that had existed in the north, the opening of the fabled Northwest Passages, and the subsequent and dramatic rise in the oceans' water levels that had destroyed coastal regions worldwide. They experienced, as if through their own eyes, the mass extinction of species as the planet heated and began to wither, the widespread drought and famine, and the frenzied destruction across the globe as the newly-formed UWA struggled to gain control of the panic-stricken population. The old man gazed achingly at each exhibit, as if reliving a distant memory that had too soon passed him by. The child stared in open wonder at each of the detailed displays.

Eventually they came to an enormous spherical chamber, immaculately polished and filled with reproductions of the thousands of creatures that had been extinguished in the climate shift. Immediately in front of the pair atop a large pedestal loomed a bulky, menacing form, the first casualty of the planet's warming. The child stepped closer, frowning suspiciously.
"This is stupid, that can't be real."

The elderly man looked down at the child in startled confusion.

"Look at this!" He waved his arms. "Grandpa, who's ever heard of a white bear?"

---

Monday, September 17, 2007

Summary - The Tell-Tale Heart

Less of a summary and more of a tragically underdeveloped treatise on the inherent power in the effective manipulation of rhetoric, this week I write about Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart.

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The art of the narrative opens the door to limitless possibilities for style. The development of this style is absolutely imperative in creating the ideal environment in which the story will take place. Equally important, however, is perspective, for it is perspective that is responsible for the way in which the reader relates to the material. Horror writers in particular rely on the manipulation of perspective to evoke reader response. The tales of Edgar Allan Poe, the heralded master of macabre, are fine examples of the effectiveness of well-developed style and perspective, as the majority of his works place the reader inside the mind of the main character, or else as a sort of confidante. Poe's short story, The Tell-Tale Heart, is no exception to this rule.

The Tell-Tale Heart tells the story of a man's deadly obsession with a physical imperfection which drives him to murder. The tale is often told in short, exclamatory bursts, which become more frequent as the plot progresses. This fragmented style helps to give an already-bizarre story a surreal, disjointed edge. The story is presented from the first-person perspective of the culprit, who continually asserts his sanity to the reader. The narrator attempts to support his suspicious claims by recounting the increasingly bizarre measures that he took in the plotting and execution of the murder, his increasingly fervent and repetitious words confirming the extent of his madness as he finally cries out in an imagined agony a confession of guilt.

There is certainly more than rhetoric to be held accountable for the success of a tale, but it's important to note that the story would not have been as effective had it been written from a more detached point of view. Edgar Allan Poe weaves a careful tapestry of the bizarre and grotesque, mingled with the unsettling paranoia of a stark madman; these elements combine with frightening efficacy to make The Tell-Tale Heart a truly harrowing read.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Cartographers, rejoice!

Here's an interesting, if not subtly disturbing story: the massive fields of ice that have for so long prevented maritime shipping along the Northwest Passage have receded to the lowest levels since satellite measurements began some 30 years ago. With the region navigable, thousands of miles could be cleft from current shipping routes which rely on the Panama Canal for passage between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, resulting in a drop in travel distance from nearly 13,000 nautical miles to less than 8,000. The previous low for Arctic ice levels was in 2005, when the ice had dropped to around 1.5 million square miles. What's particularly unsettling is the two-year, 500 thousand square mile drop that has brought the ice in the region to a paltry 1 million square miles.



Interestingly enough, sovereignty disagreements are beginning to stir regarding the seemingly-valuable region.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

One Foot Football

Every once in awhile I'll come across something by chance that just blows my mind away. Despite having spent much of my youth engaged in the game, soccer just isn't one of those things. At least that's what I thought, until I was made aware of the existance of the Sierra Leone amputee football team, an african soccer team composed entirely of one-legged amputees (many having lost their limbs in landmine accidents) based, not surprisingly, out of Sierra Leone.

The Amputees in Action


video



The Sierra Leonean squad, called the Single Leg Amputee Sports Club (SLASC), competed in the 2003 'Play4Hope' tour in England, generating a measure of positive feedback and leading to the formation of two additional amputee teams. The teams consist of 6 one-legged players and 1 one-armed goalie. Nic Bothma of the European Pressphoto Agency has been recognized for his photography of the sport, and Bob Jones has written an article on the growth of the SLASC. Read the article here, or you can watch more of them in action.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Summary - The Lament

Today I submit to you a paper summarizing a story by Anton Chekhov. The formula I used to write it is admittedly generic and a bit stuffy, but I feel that there is still some truth behind the words. Enjoy.

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It goes without saying that the human condition - this collective experience, if you will - has long been the subject of deliberation by poets and pundits alike. It is this universal theme which has unified the minds of innumerable artists in a common pursuit, only to spawn equally as many unique perspectives, each obscured in their own singularity; and it is this of which countless volumes have been recorded. It is not wholly remarkable, then, that Russian writer and physician Anton Chekhov's The Lament endeavors to relate to us exactly that. Rather, what is truly surprising is the extent to which Chekhov succeeds in his depiction.

The Lament tells the story of Iona Potapov, a poor Russian cabdriver who is inundated with grief at the loss of his only son. The archetypal Potapov appears as silent, pale, and still as the heavy snow that wraps itself around his hunched shoulders and back. Numb from his overwhelming sadness, Iona perches on his carriage in deep thought, doubled over himself and rigid, waiting for a fare to temporarily deliver him from the agony of his solitude. The prison of his own mind is unbearable for Iona, his thoughts tormenting him with every moment of silence, and he welcomes the transient company of his fares, hoping for a friendly soul with whom to share his immeasurable grief, to properly recount his, Iona Potapov's, tragic tale in its entirety. The company momentarily relieves his anguish, but as the night progresses and fares come and go, Iona realizes that there is no one willing to share his burden. Iona's desperation eventually becomes too much for him, and he turns to his faithful horse, to whom he can finally, properly recount the grotesque reality of an ailing old man outliving his young, healthy son.

Chekhov's character is at first glance a pitiful wretch, a shell of a man who has lost his touch with reality; yet the reader feels a sense of sorrow, of empathy for an aging man who, having lost his most beloved treasure, is wracked with grief as he struggles to reach out to his fellow man. It is this struggle that exemplifies the human condition. As Iona turns, so turns Humanity to seek solace in his fellow, to seek validation through shared sorrow, and to seek reprieve from his fear. Ultimately he must carry on, for grief, he will learn, can never be shared.

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Archetypal: Word of the Day

I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm a big fan of dictionary.reference. Anyway, for whatever reason, I realized at one point today that "archetype" is a really excellent word. Not as excellent as "effervescence," perhaps, but still pretty good. Looking up the definition left me with this bit of knowledge that I had never even bothered to consider.

You learn something new every day.

ARCHETYPE (är'kĭ-tīp')
n.
  1. An original model or type after which other similar things are patterned; a prototype: "'Frankenstein' . . . 'Dracula' . . . 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' . . . the archetypes that have influenced all subsequent horror stories" (New York Times).
  2. An ideal example of a type; quintessence: an archetype of the successful entrepreneur.
  3. In Jungian psychology, an inherited pattern of thought or symbolic imagery derived from the past collective experience and present in the individual unconscious.

And then a gem:

Usage Note: The ch in archetype, and in other English words of Greek origin such as architect and chorus, represents a transliteration of Greek X (chi), and is usually pronounced like (k). In a recent survey, 94 percent of the Usage Panel indicated that they pronounce archetype (är'kĭ-tīp'), with a (k) sound, while 6 percent preferred the pronunciation (är'chĭ-tīp'), with a (ch) sound. Of those who preferred the traditional (k) pronunciation, 10 percent noted that the (ch) pronunciation was also acceptable. Only the traditional pronunciation is widely accepted as standard, however.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Travisty

A new Writing and Technology blog has sprouted up. Go check out Travis, the blog is called The Travisty.

A Peach - Descriptive

Every Tuesday evening I attend an English Composition class at the local community college as a way of circumventing more conventional methods of... learning. Last Tuesday we were charged with the task of writing a one page description of a topic of our choice: I chose a peach. A peach, as we all know, is fairly unremarkable in itself. A mysterious, sensual encounter, on the other hand, tends to draw considerably more attention.

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Your skin is of velvet cloth, with a blanket of hairs like uncountable cilia: fine and soft and uniform. It is firm, but supple, and conforms to the touch as the finest feathered downs, packed tightly as they are, conform all the same. Your sweat beads on your taut skin, so easily bruised, and glistens in the faintest light as pearlescent droplets of clean, cool water slide easily across the warm tones of yellow and red that so sensuously mottle your tender skin before dipping down into full, round cleavage, further stimulating the hunger.

Beyond this fetching complexion of voluptuous curves and healthy red and yellow hues lies flesh full and deceptively sinewy beneath the smooth surface of such amorous skin. The taste of your flesh to my lips is exquisite - bitter and tantalizingly sweet - and my fancy implores me to indulge but I resist, instead savoring with relish the fleeting taste of your sweet, sticky nectar. That I will soon yearn for the flesh of another is of no consequence to you. Our time together is the only relevancy, and it is this sublime truth that spurs me further to press my teeth to your yielding skin, aching with the hunger as your sweet flesh is engulfed by a greedy maw desperate to sate the most base of needs. A groan escapes from my throat in primal joy as your juices mingle with saliva and linger on the cusp of a lip before streaming down my chin, my tongue twisting to lap up the sweet, sticky rivulets.

As my taste buds alight with the sweetness of your juices, so are my senses arrested by the irresistible aroma that wafts from your delicate flesh, and I am held helpless in ecstasy. Though your shape is flawless, I will soon long for another. For now, my desire is singular and unwavering, and this is perfection. Though the next may never hold the same enchantment, I am eternally held captive by that which is rapture: promiscuous, perfect, peach.

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I'm a Blog/You're a Blog

I've never been much of a blogger. The time taken to record musings generally outweighs the returns, so I get bored.

With that said, here's another blog to clog the tubes of the internet. I expect to write a great deal of papers this year, so you can expect to see a great deal of papers.

Ciao!
nick

About Me

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Nick Woll grew up in the Florida Keys, and is furthering himself in the fields of writing, software development, and web design. You can contact him at nwoll27 at gmail dot com.