Thursday, January 31, 2008

Blessings

Here are some of the blessings for which I'm thankful:

I'm thankful for my life, for the chance to be alive, to see and smell and taste and hear and feel.

I'm thankful for my wife. She is a wonderful lady with a beautiful heart. She is physically and spiritually attractive. She's friendly, helpful, hard working, smart, and kind. She's my best friend. I know her more than I know anybody else and I believe she knows me more than she knows anybody else.

I'm grateful for my family, for the parents who raised me, and the siblings I grew up with.

I'm thankful for music. Those vibrations in my ears have a tight connection to my heart. It's amazing how music can produce precious memories in my mind, tears in my eyes, and a tapping feeling in my feet.

I'm thankful for the goodness of the land, for the rich soil that God has provided the human family with, the land that furnishes our tables with food, bread, meat, fruits and vegetables. I'm thankful for rain and sunlight.

I'm thankful for the beauty of nature.

I'm thankful for the beauty of art.

I'm thankful for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The principles taught to me in that organization and in the home of my God-fearing parents have served me well all my days.

I'm thankful for the prayers of the righteous.

I'm thankful for Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.

It's been nice to remember some of the things God has given to me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was a very interesting character. He was a great writer. I love his thoughts on art. One of my favorite quotes of his comes from his preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray: "The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely."

However, even though he's charming and artistic and intellectual, overall he's not a guy that I'd like my children to spend time with.

Lately I've been reading The Soul of Man Under Socialism, one of Wilde's essays. The ideas are really intriguing, but here's some stuff he says that I just completely disagree with:

"With the abolition of private property, marriage in its present form must disappear. This is part of the programme. Individualism accepts this and makes it fine. It converts the abolition of legal restraint into a form of freedom that will help the full development of personality, and make the love of man and woman more wonderful, more beautiful, and more ennobling." He goes on to say that Jesus understood that marriage wasn't that important, because Jesus wasn't married and he left his family to go preach.

I have to disagree with Wilde's thoughts here. I think marriage is a wonderful stabilizing institution. I have great example of my parents. They've been married for over 30 years and they're doing just great. Marriage is wonderful. If there is any social/political/economical organization that eliminates marriage, I don't want to be a part of it. I also believe that family life is ordained of God. God created Adam and Eve and married them. That's the way he intended it.

Of course, Wilde was one to show us through example how unimportant the traditional family life is. He did his best to mess up his own. No, wait, that's mean. He loved his children and wrote fairy tales for their enjoyment. But still, he committed adultery and also dabbled in homosexual behavior.

Oscar Wilde says, that to the woman taken in adultery, "Jesus said that her sins were forgiven her, not because she repented, but because her love was so intense and wonderful" This is messed up, in my opinion.

Another quote: "When there is no punishment at all, crime will either cease to exist, or, if it occurs, will be treated by physicians as a very distressing form of dementia." This reminds me of people who insist on reforming monsters. I think some people are just monsters and should be punished.

"It is mentally and morally injurious to man to do anything in which he does not find pleasure." News flash, Oscar Wilde: life isn't all fun and games. Remember: "By the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread."

"An individual who has to make things for the use of others, and with reference to their wants and wishes, does not work with interest, and consequently cannot put into his work what is best in him." Wrong again, Wilde. Jesus lived for others. He lived, worked, and died for us. In fact, I refute the main premise of this whole essay. In the first paragraph, Wilde says, "The chief advantage that would result form the establishment of Socialism is, undoubtedly, the fact that Socialism would relieve us from that sordid necessity of living for others..." Living for others is a grand thing. I do not think I could live without the company of my family and the company of the people who I see every day. That does not make me codependent or mentally unstable or anything, it makes me normal. We all need somebody to lean on.

It's funny, though, because even though I disagree with so much of what Wilde says, I want to keep reading his writings. Sometimes I wonder if he says such outlandish things just for the argument. He seems to be challenging so much tradition and so much normality and so many assumptions.

I'm still an Oscar Wilde fan, don't get me wrong. I will continue to read his works, even though some of them are just wacky. Isn't that funny?

Speaking of reading books that I disagree with on moral grounds, isn't it funny that I kind of like reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson? I mean, there's a book that is really messed up, but I still kind of like it. Remember Matthew 18:7 "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" Think about it. OK, gotta go.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I Look at the Land Before Me and Weep

I wonder what's going on in Chad. Chad is a country in Africa east of Niger, west of Sudan, south of Libya, and north of Central African Republic. I've never heard of Chad before, but I have this big map of the world on the wall and I just found it. Hi Chad!

Have you ever thought about how much of the world you've never seen? Even if you're well-traveled, you've still probably only seen the cities and the roads, not the large uninhabited expanses of land. And then let's not forget the ocean. And the solid matter of the earth that you can't get inside because it's solid and you're solid and two solid things can't occupy the same place at the same time. The universe is overwhelming. At times I feel that there are too many smells for me to smell. There are so many possible arrangements of light information. I'm not sure if "light information" is a real scientific term, but I mean to say, there's so many possible combinations of visual stimuli that you can't see it all. You can't smell it all. Or feel it all.

The question is, does the realization of the grandeur of the universe make you feel overwhelmed, or does it make you marvel, or does it make you humble, or does it make you weep to know that you cannot experience the pain you want to experience, the relationships you want to experience, the adventure and the love that you know must be out there somewhere but isn't anywhere close to you?

The harsh reality of our three dimensions is that no matter how far you travel, no matter how hard you try to put your mind in another person's head, you can't, and that's it. One must realize that even the closest of friends, the family, and lovers are all strangers with sealed minds. They might as well live in Chad.

But part of my life's mission is to make connections with the spirits of all humans, however distant, foreign, or dead they may be. No, I don't limit my curiosity to those who happen to be alive. I want to commune with the billions of dead and the billions of yet-to-be-alive. I want to soar across the land and across the eons to meet everyone and understand them all, intimately. I want to see through their eyes, literally, not figuratively.

The plants, the animals, the dirt and the rocks have something to offer me as well.

Enough of this kind of talk. I'm not a hippie. I gotta make a living. I have a bus to catch. Get out of my way.

Serenity

I want serenity.

Some of my favorite lyrics Bob Dylan ever wrote are as follows: "Build me a cabin in Utah. Marry me a wife, catch rainbow trout. Have a bunch a kids who call me 'Pa.' That must be what it's all about. That must be what it's all about."

I need a bench on a porch to sit on and a hammock strung between two tall trees somewhere on my acreage and a few squirrels around.

I used to be a Boy Scout. One time our troop went to a week-long Scout Camp. There were hundreds of Scouts out there for a week earning merit badges and putting on skits and buying junk food at the trading post and making leather pocketknife sheathes. The main thing we were supposed to do was earn merit badges.

At the time I went, I didn't have any aspirations to become an Eagle Scout. So that week in the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, I watched the fire burn, laid (layed? lie? lied? lay?) in a hammock, played a lot of chess, had a nice break from my parents, and that's about it. I didn't earn a single merit badge. Ha ha ha. My Scout leaders probably would have done something about my laziness, but they had bigger fish to fry, what with some of the other boys smoking pot and killing rattle snakes. Ha ha ha.

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd is a good band. Animal Farm is a good book. Bob Dylan is a good songwriter and singer. I have lots of opinions about lots of stuff.

I keep a journal. I've kept one pretty regularly for about seven or eight years now. Now that I have this blog, I find myself arguing with myself about whether to write in my journal or write on my blog.

I'm debating something. I have a really long cool journal entry that I'm working on typing up. It's about a job I had once, a job where I tried selling alarm systems door to door. To put it mildly, it didn't work out so well. I'd like to tell you all about it, and I think I might put it on Telemoonfa Time, but there's this guy I used to work with at the job who I still see now and then and I'm afraid of what would happen if he ever saw the stuff I wrote about him on my blog. You see, this guy's really big and intimidating.

Mitt Romney for President

I think you all should vote for Mitt Romney for President. From what I've seen of him, I really like him. Go to his website if you want to learn more about him.

I try not to follow the news too much, though. I think a lot of it is info-tainment. A really good book on TV news is How to Watch TV News by Neil Postman. Anything by Neil Postman is usually good, actually.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Lots of People. Lots of Cars.

Lots of People. Lots of Cars.

This car in front of me goes
quickly on the freeway,
and the truck to my left is tall.
It's afternoon and there
are lots of cars.

Now and then there are signs of the desert-
a saguaro or two peeking,
a tumbleweed in the median.
Mostly, though, it's city.

I'm not against modern transportation.
I like talking about engine sizes.
When my ribs feel the rumbling of
semi-trucks I am compelled to acknowledge
the power of all that metal, gas and grease,
well organized. The people get from A to B;
there is no evil in that.

And those buildings I see, the tall ones
above walls that hide the sights and sounds
of the freeway from houses, those buildings
were built straight out of the ground
by dark sweaty men yelling Spanish -
tool belts, forklifts, cranes, trucks,
cement, bricks, port-a-potties, black puffs
of exhaust and brown clouds of dust-
I would look at them longer if I wasn't driving.

A car just got cut off a few cars
up and there's honking.

I like camping. I can't explain why.
It makes no sense. To be cold in the middle
of the forest at night- why do people do it?
It's warmer in your house, and safer.

I brake as the traffic thickens.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Small Talk

Hi, how are you? Good to talk with you again.

My topic today is small talk. I like it. I like to talk to strangers now and then just to say, "Hi, how are you doing?"

And sometimes they say, "Oh, I'm hanging in there." Or, "Just another day." Or, "Well, things are going all right, I suppose. And how 'bout yourself?"

And then I say, "I guess I'm doing OK." Sometimes the conversation ends right there and sometimes it goes further. I had a nice conversation the other day with a bus driver.

The conversation started with me saying, "Hey, how are you doing?"

And he said, "I'm doing pretty good."

And then we got to talking about driving. More specifically, we got to talking about driving in adverse weather conditions. He said that driving a city bus was more exciting than driving a truck. He used to be a long distance truck driver. He said it was kind of neat to see some of the country, but it wasn't like he was a tourist. He had deadlines to meet.

We also talked about who owned the city buses and how they made their money. I thought that a lot of the profits came from the bus fares. But the bus driver informed me that the money made from bus fares only contributed to about 15% of the operating costs. The rest of the money comes from taxes. Interesting, huh?

I often feel like the subjects of these types of conversations aren't as important as the mere occurrence of these conversations. It's like the friendly verbal exchange, regardless of content, is enough. Whether your chatting about driving or the weather or what was on TV last night, underneath the audible dialogue there's a subtext that says, "I want to talk with you. I like talking with you." The wonderful thing about encounters like this is that there's no rhetoric involved.

Small talk is a way to fight off loneliness, I suppose. A way to cut through the isolation of one's own mind with kind words, given and received. It's a way to connect with your fellow bus rider, your fellow grocery store shopper, or your fellow terrestrial sojourner.

Sometimes the city bus is packed and nobody is talking. With all these people around, I think, surely somebody could think of something to say to somebody else. But the problem is, city bus relationships are so brief. Just when you get to know somebody, they'll get a car or get a different job or move or get arrested or whatever, but they're gone.

I'm not looking for a long term friendship when I yak with a stranger on the bus; I guess I'm looking for common ground. I'm looking for a moment when independent souls merge and become not so independent, when two strangers see common ground for a bit. I hate the distance I feel between myself and the other people around me who look, act, and sound human.

Now, I'm not saying we should all wave and smile to strangers walking down the street. I'm not even advocating talking to strangers on the bus. I just know I like it when I have an OK conversation with people on the bus now and then, that's all.

OK, well, hang in there, reader, and have a nice day. So long. Take care of yourself.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Poems

Hello my legions of fans,

Here's a bunch of poems I wrote. Some of them I think I wrote on my mission, which was from June 2002 to June 2004 and some of them I wrote while I was at Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, Arizona, during the fall of 2004 and the spring of 2005. Enjoy!

A Neglected Geometry Textbook Speaks

I have a circle inside of me.
Would you like to find its diameter?
I have a triangle inside of me.
Don’t you want to find its area?
I have a rectangle inside of me.
How does measuring its perimeter sound?

I have cones and cubes and spheres and cylinders and sixteen-sided polygrams spangled across within throughout my hundreds and hundreds and thousands of pages!

Look at me- now I say- touch me- now I say- open me- now I say-
Use me- use me- use me-

Violate me!

A Prince's Soliloquy

Out of the square I can see for miles;
Our fortress is tall and strong.
I can see all the transients camping there,
Men with no place to belong.

Inside my house there is comfort and ease,
Luxuries of every kind.
Outside my house there is sorrow and pain.
Frankly, I mostly don’t mind.


An Informed Gentleman’s Conversation Concerning the True Authorship of Holy Writ With Another Slightly Less Informed Man: Set to a Dance Beat. (Read it Fast)

Who wrote the Bible?
Shakespeare wrote the Bible!
Who wrote the Bible?
Shakespeare wrote the Bible!

Kick it!

Why did Shakespeare write the Bible?
Psalms 46 man Psalms 46!
Why did Shakespeare write the Bible?
Psalms 46 man Psalms 46!

Kick it!

Isn’t that wacktastic?
Yeah man that’s wacktastic! What of it?
Isn’t that wacktastic?
Yeah man that’s wacktastic! What of it?

Kick it!


Expatriation

I trudge for seeming eternity
Up unfamiliar steps
Down concrete hallways
With wrists quivering and
Backbone screaming.
Memories of leisure mock my
Nightmarish migration as the
Deadweight of meager possessions
Tightly strapped to my depleted frame
Incites strangers to
Jeer at my plight.

Man, I can’t believe they’re making me move to a different dorm room.

Licking a 9-volt battery twice

one two three
lick it-

yaaaaaahh!


one two three
lick it-

yaaaaaahh!

My Truthometer is 4 Feet High and Rising

Truthity truth truth
Truthity truth truth
Ooo that sounds good!
Truthity truth truth
Truthity truth truth
Gimmie some more of that truth!

Hey man, I’m going to take your truth from you.
My what?
You heard me. Your truth. I’m going to take it from you.
No way, man. I’m gonna run away from you, and keep my truth!

Truthity truth truth
Truthity truth truth
I just defended the truth!
Truthity truth truth
Truthity truth truth
Rejoice, rejoice, in truth!

Ineffective Beeps and a Perverted Chair

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
The alarm yells at me,
Curled,
Warm, and
Unconscious.

ABSENT ABSENT ABSENT ABSENT ABSENT ABSENT
The instructor yells at my empty chair,
Blue,
Stiff,
Yet yearning to get another feel of my hindquarters.

Walden Pond: Condensed and Hipafied for 2004

Blink it’s my Mother
Blink it’s my Dad
Blink it’s a teacher cuz my kid was bad

Blink it’s a salesman
Blink it’s my job
Blink it’s Ed Larry and Phil, Kevin and Bob

Blink it’s the preacher
Blink it’s the wife
Blink it’s the undercover people who control my life

Smash that’s the hammer
Zzzzz that’s the drill
Sparkle crack pow fizz- now tell us machine- how does that feel?

I’m going to a cabin
I’m going to the woods
Escape now flee from suburbia- set fire to all your goods.

Kimberly Doesn’t Grind Wheat Anymore

You have cuticle pushers, bikini wax, suntan lotion, toenail polish, matching fingernail
polish, and a loofa sponge.

But don’t forget the muffins and the meat, dear,
Don’t forget the muffins and the meat.

Rub Summa Dat Deer Urine On Ya Real Good, Cousin
Or,
Pretend I’m Ed Walton

Bangity bang bang, Gunnity gun-
Go grab your rifle ‘n we’ll have some fun.
We’ll shoot us some squirrel, we’ll shoot us some deer,
We’ll shoot any dern critter that dares to come near.

Vroomity vroom vroom, Truckity truck-
The bed’s big enough fer a eighty-point buck.
I got ma tools set, my camouflage, too,
Shootin’ time, huntin’ time, ruckus time- Hullabaloo!

Jerry the Leprechaun Strikes Again

Blast, you played a nasty trick.
I can’t believe that I am sick.
I should not have eaten your green bread.
I’m sure it’s tampered with my head.
A rash has spread across my arm.
I should not have fallen for your charm.
Jerry, exit, leave my lawn!
Audience, heed: Don’t give your trust to a leprechaun.

The Instructions for Housewives Trilogy


Instructions for Housewives: Plan A

1) Tidy up the house.
2) Wait until others untidy the house.
3) Promptly retidy the untidiness.
4) Repeat steps 2 and 3 in perpetuity.


Instructions for Housewives: Plan B

1) Tidy up the house.
2) Wait until others untidy the house.
3) Yell at others until others retidy the untidiness.
4) Repeat steps 2 and 3 in perpetuity.


Instructions for Housewives: Plan C

1) Tidy up the house.
2) Wait until others untidy the house.
3) Prevent others from locating your dynamite in the cupboard.
4) Use the dynamite.
5) Relocate.
6) Seduce a stupid rich male.
7) Take his money.
8) Repeat steps 5, 6, and 7 in perpetuity.

Paris and Britney Time 3000!!!

Hello everyone. As you have probably already seen, my blog doesn't have much of a theme or a direction. My blog is just whatever I want to talk about whenever I sign in to my blog. And sometimes I just copy and paste a bunch of stuff that I've already written. Which brings me to another important item of business: nobody, except for one stranger, has commented on my blog. What's up with that? Isn't my blog intellectually stimulating? Don't you want to talk about all my neat ideas? Because they are so neat!

Oh, hey, I know what the problem is! I'm not gossiping about celebrities enough!

OK, here it comes, America. It's what you want, Telemoonfa Time has morphed into:

Paris + Britney Time 3000!!!
Like, it's so Awesome, Like Hot Guy's Butts!

'Kay, like, so totally the other day I saw Paris Hilton and she was like so totally wasted I couldn't even believe it! omg!

It was, like, um, she was saying like, "Snuuhhh...I'm ... me Paris Hilton...sluhh.. buuuhhhh and I just have to...talk about... I want so many money... of me... nuhh.... uh...."

And then she totally, like, couldn't finish a sentence! lol! j/k! brb! lol! I would, like, never be her bff! 4-sure! lol!

Oh, and did you see Britney Spears' new cell phone? It was all pink and sparkly and the iPeople gave her, like, totally a million dollars just 4 her to have it and like, talk on it during her concerts, or whatever!

But like, Britney's in so much trouble right now with her agent 'cuz the agent was all like, "Britney, you really need to stop screaming profanities at your tweeny-bopper fans, like, the mini-van moms are all gripe-ing about it hardcore."

And then Britney was like, "I'm Britney, beep" (x-cept she didnt say beep, lol!) And then Britney just like totally smashed a big bottle of vodka over her agent's head! omg! brb!

j/k! lol! And there was blood everywhere and the cops came and they were like, "C'mon, Britney, we got to get you to a safe place." And then Britney was like, "Oops I did it again!" and then just smashed 'em all in the face!

It was so totally crazy, like, 4-sure! omg! brb! lol! rvsp!

But I don' t care B-cuz Britney is like, a part of my heart, U know? Like, I just love her sooooooo soooooooo much!

B-cuz even though Britney's like, a little in trouble right now, she like, totally changed my life when nobody else could.

'Kay, like, seriously, I was like, crying one time B-cuz my ex-bf was like, just a jerk, like, so totally and I just want to say to Britney, now that I, like, grew up with you, like, when you were singing and stuff, "I'm not that innocent!" lol!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Office Things Like Monster Things

Here's a poem I wrote in the Spring of 2006:

Office Things Like Monster Things

This napkin is a piece of cloth,
Actually it's paper.
I wish I had a piece of tape.
No wait I want a stapler.

All kinds of things like office things,
are deep inside the waster,
But these office things like human things
must be handled safer.

The tools I have like a safety pin,
a wrench and then a hammer,
A twisty-thing, a ratchet-club,
And a rickety-scrubber-wubber,

Fill my shed and fill my head,
Like a techno-brainy-washer.
The humans in my life are gone;
I have my rod and ledger.

My schoolmate is a farce,
My girlfriend, a lax-lover,
And my Uncle Steve, the one I like,
Well, he's only a mere glover.

My teacher is no sense teacher
My boss he is a liar,
Freddy could be very cool,
If he did not play with fire.

Yes office things and jobsite things,
Like human things are dead.
But human things like no good things,
Will not leave my bed.

The human things, the monster things,
Always spend the night.
Among building blocks and drawing pads,
The monster things give fright.

They sleep with me and talk of things
I'd rather do without,
But human-monsters with their office things
Will not journey out.

I want to tell them they should leave
but secretly I like them.
And deep within my secret dreams I know
I saw them dancin'.

They tangoed and waltzed around last night
And then they were fox-trottin'
The innocent and the sweet, it seemed,
preluded the twistedly rotten.

Yes first it was fun: initially nice,
All over my sheets of cotton.
But later on they did a dance,
That will not be forgotten.

They dipped and curved and beat and romped,
All on each others bodies.
(If Uncle Steve or Mommy saw,
They would have called them naughties.)

With wild arms they slashed the room,
Their legs were blurs of black,
By sudden moment, it could turn,
From a light dance to "Attack!"

They whooped and barked and bled and crouched,
And tightly hugged the air.
With eyes big wide and muscles tight,
They stripped till they were bare.

Their bodies being naked now,
They quickened with their pace,
More beastly now and more evil now,
They called on Satan's face.

With bloody hands and darkened mouths,
"Come dance" they said to me.
I must admit I crumbled fast,
My strength was wont to flee.

My heart felt missing, gone for good,
And pumping in its place,
Was a growing monster, shadowed and hard
With hatred on it's face.

My flesh responded to their call;
I pulled my covers off,
And in seconds I declothed for them,
My blue pajamas lost.

I moved with them, then, that hellish night,
With Mommy down the hall,
I hollered and ranted and raged with them,
I heeded Beelzebub’s call.

At dawn I awoke with pen in hand,
And a calculator for math,
They reminded me of the unrighteous ones,
Who last night danced in wrath.

Ah, yes, I remember my safety pin,
a wrench and then a hammer,
A twisty-thing, a ratchet-club,
And a rickety-scrubber-wubber.

I looked inside my ant farm
I smacked it with a ruler
I wish that I had crushed the thing
That would’ve been much cooler.

I will not leave my room again,
I will not venture thither,
Waiting for night’s arrival
I’ll watch some humans wither.

Art Cannot Scientifically Be Known

The following is an essay I submitted for a writing contest at Northern Arizona University. The topic was, "The Limits of Scientific Knowledge." Enjoy.

Art Cannot Scientifically Be Known

Throughout history, science, or, more precisely, the implementation of the scientific method, has uncovered many mysteries of the universe and explained much of nature’s previously unknown workings. For example, the implementation of the scientific method has allowed scientists to understand the water cycle. Science has also revealed principles that have been the springboard for modern technology. Indeed, we owe the invention of the telegraph, the automobile, the computer and countless other modern technologies to the work done by scientists. But how far can science take us? Can science, and the methods that science espouses, eventually reveal everything about nature and answer every question put forth by the minds of humans?
These are tough questions. They are questions that philosophers, theologians, scientists and other thinkers have grappled with for ages. And here I am, another thinker, trying to answer the same questions. I do so with caution. Remember that I do not speak with the voice of a god, a demigod, or even a professional scientist. I humbly address you as a twenty-something undergraduate attending Northern Arizona University. My thoughts and opinions will likely change over the forthcoming years, but change is not a bad thing. Many things change. And when confronting the transitory nature of my seemingly permanent pronouncements on subjects ranging from baseball to pizza to the eternity of the soul, I like to remind myself of the words of a very wise man, Walt Whitman. Among the lines of Song of Myself, this gem can be found: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself” (Whitman, 78). This quote makes me feel comfortable with changing my mind. I even sometimes feel that if I am not retracting my previous statements now and then, if I am not occasionally reversing sentiments I once held dear, I am not growing.
Nevertheless, the question remains: can science provide us with all the answers we want? My answer is that no, scientific inquiry cannot ultimately reveal all we want to know. Science is inherently incapable of answering fundamental questions about many things. In this paper, I will narrow my focus to how science falls short of answering fundamental questions about the creation and the analysis of art.
Let the scientist calculate the brush strokes on Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night; let the most clear-minded and objective of humans quantify the beauty of a great story; these attempts will come to nothing. Notwithstanding all their respectability and thoroughness, all these hypothetical scientific observations and experiments on art will not sufficiently explain what makes great art.
Attempts to understand the mysterious inner workings of art through scientific means have been made. I have heard of (but unfortunately did not find the source) proponents of statistical analysis applying their methods to the theatre. Scientists, using statistical analysis, measured such things as the amount of lines a main character had, the distance on the stage between lovers, distance on the stage between enemies, the volume of speech at different times during a play, and so on. In short, they quantified everything they could think of to quantify. They ended up with not a fool-proof formula for making a good play, but a long list of practically meaningless numbers.
I did find the source, though, for an experiment done by some professors trying to apply scientific principles to the aesthetic experience. V.S. Ramachandran, a professor in the Psychology Department and Neurosciences Programat the University of California, San Diego, and William Hirstein, chair of the philosophy department at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Illinois, endeavored to record measurable activity in the brain while the brain is exposed to art. Their research is very interesting, but in the end it does not provide aspiring artists with a guide on how to make good art, and it does not answer the question, “What makes art pleasurable?” In the conclusion of their findings, they conceded, “much of art is idiosyncratic, ineffable and defies analysis” (Ramachandran and Hirstein, 34).
Since art seems to defy scientific analysis, I am led to say that there is a je ne sais quoi to art, and it is therefore out of the jurisdiction of scientific inquiry. Reflect for a moment on the variety present in art. There are millions of different paintings, plays, books, sculptures and so on. I would think that if art could undergo the analytic rigors of the scientific method and be refined by science’s operations, experts would conclude on one perfect sample from each art medium. (Or perhaps they would conclude on one perfect art medium!) In a way, applying scientific principles to determine the best of something makes sense. Science has been successful in determining the best of some things. For example, science can identify the best brick for a certain purpose. Brick manufacturers have determined what type of brick is the most efficient- what gives the most amount of output for the least amount of input. In other words, it can be determined, by subjecting a brick to tests designed to reveal durability, size, weight, and other such characteristics, what brick is best for the job.
It follows that if theatre was a science, scientists could find the best play- the play that is short enough so as to not be boring, long enough to convince audiences that they got a full night of entertainment and received their money’s worth, possessing just the right amount of suspense, humor and sword-fighting. Once the perfect play was found, that play would be performed over and over again, in every playhouse in every city every night, because it was perfect.
Why hasn’t this perfect play been found? With all our technological advances and with all our highly educated scientists who implement the scientific method, surely the ‘best’ play, novel, poem, could be discovered and reproduced indefinitely. But of course this scenario of finding the perfect play through scientific means is absurd. Playmaking is an art, and not a science.
And I would like to add here that even if science could eventually answer all the questions humans could ever want to know, given enough time and space, that’s still not good enough. We need answers now. We cannot afford to pour grant after grant into universities and wait until the scientists emerge from their labs with the fundamental questions of the universe answered. We have choices to make now.
For instance, a choice we make on a daily basis is what to wear. Every morning I look in my closet and select a shirt to put on. I don’t know how I make this decision; I just make it. If I was pressed about why I wore a particular shirt today, I would most likely say something like, “I don’t know. I just kind of felt like wearing this shirt today.” If pressed further, I would probably say, “Well, I guess the color is nice and I liked the way it fit me. I mean, I guess that other shirt over there is nice, too, and it’s even more comfortable. But, I don’t know. I just felt like wearing this one.” And if further pressed, I would most likely say, “Why do you care so much about my shirt? Let’s go get some breakfast.”
So, not having a scientific explanation concerning why I wear what I wear, I either have to supplant some sort of non-scientific intuitive explanation or be satisfied without an explanation.
Furthermore, not only can I not explain why I wear what I wear, I don’t believe any scientist could accurately explain why I wore a particular shirt either. In fact, I hereby issue a challenge: If any scientist can come into my dormitory, run some tests, meticulously going through each step of the scientific process, and eventually generate a satisfying conclusion, explaining to my and the general scientific community’s satisfaction why I wore a particular shirt, I will forfeit to him or her all the money that I might gain should I win this writing contest. Just contact Telemoonfa at Northern Arizona University to arrange the experiment. I am willing to subject myself to any human experimentation, provided the experiments are not extremely painful or nasty.
In closing, art, as well as wardrobe selection, cannot be explained scientifically. Something as big as art and something as small as picking out a shirt are things that simply cannot become illuminated by the light of a Bunsen burner, and cannot become sufficiently magnified under the lenses of a microscope. And so, to answer some of the questions that will come along as we wonder about the universe and our place in it, let us become broader-minded, more holistic people. Let us not squeeze science out of things that are inherently not under the realm of scientific knowledge. Let us find other academic disciplines, other intuitive, gutsy avenues, or perhaps faith-involved systems for answering those questions that science cannot.




Works Cited (in MLA format)

Ramachandran, V. S.; Hirstein, William. “The Science of Art: A Neurological Theory of Aesthetic Experience.” Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6.6-7 (1999): 15-51.
Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.

The Birth of Jesus According to the Bible and the Koran, and Thoughts on Reading Scripture to Study a Religion.

I have lots of books on my bookshelf that I intend on reading. One of them is the Koran. It seems like such a monumental, influential book that one ought to at least peruse. Well, last night I picked it up and was surprised to find that it had a lot of Biblical references in it. The Koran contains stories of Noah, Abraham, Joseph who was sold into Egypt, Moses, and many other biblical characters. I was particularly interested in the account of the birth of Jesus Christ found in the Koran. After I read the Koran version, I read the Christian version from the King James Version of the Bible. How about I compare and contrast the two accounts for a bit?

In the Koran, the story of Jesus Christ's birth is found in the surah titled "Mary." In the Bible, the sames story is found in Luke chapters one and two. Between the two accounts there are similarities and differences.

Similarities:
Both the Bible and the Koran have an angel visiting and talking with Mary.
Both say Mary was a virgin.
Both tell how Mary was persecuted some by people who did not believe that she had been chaste.
Both say that Christ is destined to be an important man.

Differences:
The major difference between the Bible account and the Koran account is the Bible makes it clear that Jesus is the Son of God. In Luke 1:35, the Angel Gabriel says to Mary, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."

Contrarily, the Koran declares that Jesus, although miraculously born of a virgin, is not the Son of God. In the surah "Mary," an unnamed angel of sorts, explained as "Our spirit in the semblance of a full-grown man." says to Mary,

"I am but your Lord's emissary," he replied, "and have come to give you a holy son."
"How shall I bear a child," she answered, "when I have neither been touched by any man nor ever been unchaste?"
"Thus did your Lord speak," he replied. "'That is easy enough for Me. He shall be a sign to mankind and a blessing from Ourself. Our decree shall come to pass.' " Thereupon she conceived him.

Later the Koran says, "Such was Jesus son of Mary. That is the whole truth, which they still doubt. God forbid that He Himself should beget a son! When He decrees a thing He need only say: "Be," and it is."

Thus, to the Muslims, Jesus is a wise man and even a prophet, but not a God. Allah is the only God to the Muslims, and Muhammad, as far as I understand the doctrine, is the most important prophet. And to the Christians, Jesus is both the Son of God and a God.

Another difference: The Koran, as far as I can tell, makes no mention of Joseph, wife of Mary and the adoptive father of Jesus. But the Bible includes him as a very important character.

Another difference: This isn't a doctrinal difference, but it is a cultural difference, I think. In the Koran, the "spirit in the semblance of a full-grown man" says to Mary, "if you shake the trunk of the palm tree it will drop fresh ripe dates into your lap." There are no palm trees or dates mentioned in the biblical account.

It's interesting to compare and contrast different books of scripture. Many religious studies professors like to compare and contrast the canonical and non-canonical works. I saw a show on the History Channel once comparing and contrasting Daniel from the Old Testament/ Hebrew Bible and Daniel from the Apocrypha, "The History of the Destruction of Bel and the Dragon cut off from the end of Daniel." It was an interesting comparison.

But at times I feel like when I read scripture, I'm studying literature more than I'm studying religion. That is, what the Bible says and how Christians act are two very different things. Likewise, what the Koran says and how the Muslims act are also two very different things. Here's a really academic-sounding but relevant quote from Kurt Rudolph, quoted by Dr. Jason BeDuhn in his preface to The Manichaean Body: In Discipline and Ritual. "The preponderate orientation of the history of religions towards "ideology"... should recede in favor of a greater emphasis on the practical field of the cultus.... Religious communities are chiefly cultic communities...It is from practice that mythology derives its religious significance; otherwise, it is only literature."

So Kurt Rudolph is saying that studying religious practice is more important than studying religious scripture, since practice gets closer to the heart of what makes a religion tick. But since I have been trained more as an English student than a religious studies or an anthropology student, I tend to examine the literature more than the believers themselves. Plus, reading a book in my house is a lot more comfortable and socially acceptable than tracking down people from different religions and studying them.

I once directed a one-act play in college called "The Youngest Shall Ask," by David Shaber. It was about a Jewish family. In preparation for the play, I read up a little on Judaism. After researching a bit, I felt that there was much of the history and doctrine of Jews that really didn't help me direct the play at all. Because to direct the play well, I had to be a little bit of a psychologist and a little bit of an hands-on anthropologist, rather than a detached reader. The textbooks, while interesting, weren't helping me direct the play. I wanted to know what the day-to-day interactions among the Jews were. What ended up helping me more than anything was talking to a Jewish man who had participated in several Seders.

The experience of researching for that play made me come to this conclusion: official statements and even scripture don't give an accurate portrait of how believers live. Reading the official literature of a religion can only take you so far. I think to really understand a religion, you have to live among the believers, and almost become one of them. I learned more about Catholicism, I think, by going to a mass with some of my Catholic friends than I did from reading things about Catholicism in books.

But I'm not against scripture, of course. I think the holy written word is necessary for a religion to maintain a collective sense of values and history. Plus, I believe that God has decreed that scripture must be written, and who am I that I can withstand the decrees of God? I'm just saying that if you really want to learn about Islam, maybe you should live among them.

That's enough for today, or at least this afternoon. I need to go do school work. (It's funny, but while I was writing this blog entry, I felt like I was already doing school work.) Goodbye for now.

P.S. The Angel Gabriel seems to be a much bigger figure in the Koran than he is in the Bible. In fact, the introduction to the Koran that I'm reading from penguin classics, published in 2003 translated by N. J. Dawood, says that the Koran "was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel." (By the way, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believe that the Angel Gabriel is none other than the great hero of the Flood, Noah. Cool, huh?)

Letter to the Editor

Greetings, my many scores of readers! I have more of my writing available for your reading pleasure. Here's a letter to the editor I wrote that got published in my college's student newspaper last year:

Dear Editor,


I am strongly opposed to the building and funding of the proposed Recreation, Health and Wellness Center. Here are a few reasons why I am opposed:

First, I think that a university education is already expensive enough. Adding more fees will discourage prospective students from attending NAU and current students from continuing their schooling at NAU.


Second, many students will not use the facilities no matter how fancy they are. If the project goes through, these students will be paying a lot of money for something that they will not benefit from.

Third, many students already have health insurance totally unaffiliated with NAU. Likewise, many students already belong to gyms off-campus. If the proposed complex is built, these students will be paying twice for the same services.


Fourth, there are many other avenues besides the NAU recreation center available to students who want to exercise. There are gyms, urban trails, parks, and fitness equipment for sale off campus. Counseling and medical care are also available in Flagstaff to those who are interested. These off-campus methods of staying healthy work well, and the local economy will actually be stimulated by NAU students utilizing local doctors’ offices, gyms, stores and other health-related businesses.

The final reason I have for opposing the proposed complex is more intangible than the others, but perhaps more important. I am opposed to the new complex because the funding and building of it do not fall under the category of what a university ought to be doing.


Let me explain. I do not think that a university’s job is to provide all the services that a college student could want. For example, while entertainment, excessive transportation options, non-academic conferences, and elaborate recreation/health/wellness centers are nice, they do not belong in the realm of what a university ought to be concerned with. A university’s main goal, in my opinion, should be the refining, disciplining and enlightenment of the mind. All other concerns are (or should be) subordinate to this goal.

But I don’t mean to get highfalutin. The purpose of this comment is to simply explain to you why I oppose the building of a new recreation/health/wellness center.


I am simply voicing my opinion as an NAU student concerned with the future of the institution of higher learning that I love.

Sincerely,
Telemoonfa

In the actual newspaper, my real name was published, but on this blog, I'm keeping my identity secret, remember?

It's time to do laundry. I hope you enjoyed that letter to the editor. It's really the only thing I have ever got published. In my next couple of blogs, I will probably put more essays, poems and etc. that I have written on here. See you later.

Sincerely,
Telemoonfa

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Thoughts On My Involvement in Theatre.

Cyberspace is exciting. I don't know who I'm talking to. I don't know who may be reading this. But I think blogging is safer than chatting in chat rooms or even having a facebook or myspace account. I want to keep my identity a secret not because there are people looking for me, but because, a) I just feel safer that way; and, b) I'm a teacher and I don't want my students to Google me and find out what my political, religious and other controversial sentiments are.

Speaking of subjects you aren't supposed to talk about at work, let me tell you about my faith. I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have been my whole life. I've served a mission and have been married in the temple. I go to church every Sunday, and I hope to be a righteous follower of Jesus Christ for the rest of my life.

I used to have aspirations to be an actor, a comic book artist, a movie director, an author, or something exciting like that, and I still sort of do have those aspirations, like a ga-zillion other Americans in love with popular culture and jealous of celebrities' fame. But nowadays I'm happy without worldly acclaim or notoriety. I'm happy in my community and my home.

Or maybe I really do want fame and this blog is a small way to achieve a small amount of fame. I don't know.

I've been involved in theatre in high school and in college. I started acting because my older sisters were both involved in it in high school and they thought I would enjoy it. They were right. So I owe my involvement with theatre to my sister's influence. When I was young, I thought my sisters were great actors and that they acted for the love of the art and for self-expression and for all those noble reasons that Oscar winners cite during acceptance speeches. But I had a conversation with my sister not too long ago about her high school theatre experiences. She said something like, "Oh, I don't know if I really liked acting or was any good at it; I think I just wanted attention." That threw me for a loop. All that time I thought she really wanted to be an actress, but she just dropped out of college and turned into a hippie and then got married and had kids, so it never really worked out. But here she was telling me that theatre was merely filling an immature psychological need. And then I got to thinking about my own involvement in theatre. Was I sincerely interested in the art of theatre, or did theatre just give me a chance to get some attention?

I still don't know the answer to that question. Probably my love of theatre comes from a combination of three desires: a desire to develop my talents, a desire to satisfy my ego, and a desire to study an art form.

Introspection is good for me. It's good for you too. Think about why you do the things you do, and you may soon come to realize that your actions are motivated by less than noble considerations.

A Poem Plus More

I'm a poet. I'll try to write a new poem right now. Here it is:

In an Office Downtown.

He's in a clean, warm room,
picking through papers,
circling things, highlighting
things, typing memos to
co-workers, business associates
and customers on a computer.
There are walls around him.
He feels as though the walls are fine.

Chirping and ocean
waves come from
a little stereo nearby.

OK, that's it. That's the poem. It's not supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but it's original, and it's mine. I have a lot of poems written in notebooks. I think it's a good idea to transfer them to a computer so if I lose the notebooks, I'll still have the poems.

I wonder what the legal status of stuff on blogs is. Am I an owner of what I write here? I care enough to ask the question, but not enough to go look for an answer. I might want to be an author someday, so I'm curious.

Moving on, the best book I've read in a long time is Sufferings in Africa: The Incredible True Story of a Shipwreck, Enslavement, and Survival on the Sahara by Captain James Riley. It's a personal narrative first published in 1817.

May the force be with you.

Welcome to my blog

Welcome to Telemoonfa Time, my first and new blog. Thanks for reading. I hope you like it. I plan to use this blog as a type of personal journal, but I want to invite others to respond to it and read it and things like that. I'm sure the purpose of this blog will change as I change, but I'll try to write well and think well about important things.

I have a real name, of course, but I'm a little paranoid about revealing my identity, home address and personal stuff like that to a bunch of strangers, so I will go by "telemoonfa."

Perhaps you're wondering about the title of this new blog. "Telemoonfa" doesn't really mean anything. It's a cool-sounding word, though.

Actually, I had an algebra class in high school a long time ago, and I remember one of the word problems said something like, "Moonfa and Roger whizzed off to Jupiter." Moonfa was going such and such a speed and Roger was going such and such a speed... and you had to figure out who got there first or something like that. What the question said isn't really important. What's important here is the guy's name is Moonfa. That's just an intriguing name. A weird name. I've never met anyone named Moonfa. Moonfa only exists to me in the artificial world of an outdated textbook, a textbook that is probably at the bottom of a pile of trash somewhere.

But I digress. The point here is, I liked the sound of Moonfa. And the prefix "tele" is great because it sounds like the future. Long story short, I put them together and I got "telemoonfa."

I will work on this blog very irregularly, I'm sure. So don't set your watch by it. Lots of watches and cell phones and other time keeping devices are automatically set by super intelligent hunks of metal orbiting planet Earth, anyway. Good for us!

I am a book lover. I love the idea of books. There's nothing quite like a clear-minded literate person with a good set of books. You'll notice that there are no pictures in this blog. That's mostly because I don't have a digital camera and I'm not good with technology so I don't want to figure out how to put pictures on here. But here's another reason there are no pictures or videos in Telemoonfa Time: I don't want this blog to be one of those cutesy-wutesy blogs that look like family Christmas Newsletters. You know, the ones that sound like, "Well our Christmas was just wonderful!!! We ate way too much chocolate of course, and Brandon is just so so so excited about his new Wii- just look at the expression on his face in this adorable little pic!" Don't expect any anytime soon.

OK, well, I'm gonna go now. It's nice to meet you. I'll talk to you later. Check back in for more cool stuff from Telemoonfa Time.