Saturday, November 28, 2009

Final Exam Prep - Part 5

Terry - Quevedo y el Concepto Metafisico

Stated purpose of article: "examinar algunas de las cuestiones planteadas por el término <>"

The next page criticizes other critics.

Two types of concepto: Ornamental y Orgánico

Ornamental, tambien llamado "meramente extravagante": Una obra de ingenio en sí misma completa, autosatisfecha, que no tiene ulterior propósito en su contexto."

Polifemo 109-112
Quevedo 67b

Organico: Ilumina un tema importante para, por lo menos, una gran parte del poema.

Example: Yellowness of gold (wealth) -> straw -> straw hut (poverty/el campo) -> death shroud (414a)
meaning: "el buen cristiano es feliz en su pobreza y acepta el hecho de que ha de morir." As the hut covers a poor christian in life, the shroud will cover him in death.

Metaphysical conceptos are a subset of organic conceptos. To be metaphysical, a concepto must contain tension - the constant reiteration of certain problems. Special emphasis on Constant - not just a one-time joining sino que "Los elementos de un concepto metafísico deben ser tales que integren una unión sólida y, al mismo tiempo, mantengan su separada y flagrante identidad."

Soneto 54b-55a of Quevedo:
Cabello connected to Leandro & Icaro -> mar & sol as sources of danger. Suffering for love is simply part of amor cortés and is in no way metaphysical - as a result, there's no tension, so it's an organic concepto, not a metaphysical one. Same thing with the idea of "tener y no tener" in the last tercet presented by Midas and Tántalo.

In the first tercet, however, "hay una distinción... entre razón y pasión. ¿Es una oposición metafísica genuina? No en sí misma; con todo, es una distinción (y por supuesto una fuente de tensión) que puede hacerse para remitir a una oposición de ese género. El poema trata, en efecto, de la eternidad del amor humano - es decir, de su aspecto espiritual... espíritu/sentidos... no es en sí una oposición metafísica. Pero puede llegar a serlo en la medida en que se ordene hacia el contraste eterno/temporal: 'el corazón actúa como el amor fuese eterno; la razón sabe que no lo es'... esta clase de contraste...reclama la metáfora para expresarse con plenitud."

The central contrast is presented as being between the heart and the phoenix. The joining 'concepto' is that they both burn but have a hope of rising again. The real contrast which overlays the entire poem is between "el corazón que cree que renacerá y la razón que sabe que ha de morir.

Another example of the same concept - soneto 63a: Good ol' "cerrar podrá mis ojos..." by the mix of llama y agua to demonstrate the same eternal/temporal principal.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Final Exam Prep - Part 4

Góngora's Polifemo: the Humor of Imitation.

Intro labels Góngora as an Erudite poet - those who "imitated the poets of Classical Antiquita and also the Italian Renaissance poets"

2 aspects of imitation: linguistic and poetic/thematic

Linguistic: "use of neologisms and Latinizing tendencies of his syntax."
"He is the poet who through imitation of the Latin language caused the balance to shift in favor of Spain in the debate between the ancients and the moderns."

Poetic/thematic aspect: "Góngora usually recalls specific lines of poetry, entire poems and the thematic material or topoi of Renaissance and Classical literature."
"Much of Góngora's poetry cannot be fully understood and appreciated if the context of the source is not borne in mind."

Goal of the chapter: "I would like to show how Góngora is using the literary principle of imitation as an important, if not a principal element in the narrative structure of the Polifemo."

"In its structure, Góngora's Polifemo consists of two principal parts, each of which has a different narrator. The narrator of the first part (80%) is Góngora, the poet, inspired by Talía... This second part is an imitation of the stanzas that have preceded it, and Góngora's final line before introducing the song of Polyphemus, "Referidlo, Piérides, os ruego" is intended rather humorously and with seeming exasperation to advise the reader that what follows are the words of a new narrator."

What follows is a LONG list of specific points in which Polyphemus's song is an imitation of Góngora - unfortunately, there really IS no way to boil that list down much. It pretty much goes line by line and says "This thing Polyphemus says is like this thing that Góngora says." Sorry.

Polyphemus imitates Garcilaso who, in turn, is imitating Ovid. Thus, Polyphemus is ALSO imitating Stigliani's overly wordy style at the climax.

"When one considers the Polifemo as the last, perhaps the most outstanding version in a long sequence of imitations, then Góngora's erudition comes into play and gives his thematic laitmotifs a complexity and depth that transcends the simpler process of reception and mutation."

Final Exam Prep - Part 3

Uses of Classical Mythology in the Soledades:

Explores the use of Ovidian mythology in Soledades - begins by mentioning last 4 lines "each of which is a periphrasis for a mythical character"

Góngora's predecesors - Theocritus, Virgil, Boccaccio, Sannazaro

At this point, the copy the professor has provided is missing 2 pages - hope there's nothing important in there!

Presence of graeco-roman religion in pastoral in Sannazaro and Góngora. Sannazaro's references are always explained, never obscure.

*** Major quote which sums up article*** "[Góngora] eschews the straightforward ornamental description of a mythological tableau. He certainly uses myth in his pastoral for atmospheric purposes, but more figuratively than directly. Allusions to mythology lie thick upon the ground in the Soledades, but they are intrinsic to his expression rather to his matter. They illustrate and emphasize his meaning but are not in themselves part of his subject."

"Thus Baco confuso, Vulcán coronado, tanta Ceres, Neptuno, Febo, Venus are mixed wine, shepherds round a fire, rich crops, the sea, sun, love respectively with no suggestion of divinity or worship."

"Góngora, following Renaissance tradition, humanizes the world of nature by using metaphors from man and his activities, because he often uses Ovid's stories in reverse

"In the matter of classical pastoral Góngora depends more upon Virgil than upon any other classical author."

Accusation of obscurity rests on:
"constant use of allusive metaphor, an erudite and neologistic vocabulary, and different syntax."

Recurrent images:
Land/sea antithesis indicative of mistrust of commerce.
Ganymede and Adonis as types of masculine beauty.
Castor & Pollux in sonnets (320, 379) = St. Elmo's fire = hope amid the storm.
Power of Orpheus' song
Plants and animals - Nature

Menosprecio de corte etc.:
Bienaventurado albergue (I, 94-135)

Inserts poem into mythical realm:
II 460-464
II 584-597
"Whereas the rest of the Soledades can be explained and accepted on the plane of realism, these two episodes, and the hymeneal invocation they already discussed, seem to destroy for a moment the poise of the poem between fantasy and the poetical expression of reality"

Why did Góngora leave the Soledad segunda unfinished?
"In the Soledad segunda, the four references to this story [of Proserpina] serve no apparent purpose than that of periphrasis, in spite of the potential emotional and symbological significances the story offers. This is a very noticable falling away from the variety, aptness and ingenuity of the earlier parts of the poem. It does seem to suggest that one reason why Góngora left it unfinished was that he found his inventiveness failing, his pen diverging from his original intention."

"the legend of the mares who are made pregnant by the wind... is taken up by Góngora and applied with local patriotism to the horses of Andalusia (II, 724-728). This is the unique instance of precise geographical location of the Soledades and it is yet another distinction between the latter part of the poem and the rest, and again shows how far Góngora had moved from his original careful poise of uncommittedness."

Other examples of mythology in text:
I 7-8
I 1028-34
II 418-20
II 612-625
Spring and stream -> Snake (II 320-27)
Ocean -> centaur (9-13)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Final Exam Prep - Part 2

Cap. 4 "The Greatest Love: Lisi.

First 2 pages are a discussion of why applying biography to Quevedo's poetry is a waste of time. So why did you waste our time talking about it?

Author dismisses the idea that the love for Lisi is platonic, citing references to Lisi's lap as a bed for a child and to touching (No. 477 - "Descansa en sueño, ¡oh tierno y dulce pecho!")

Bulls as a symbol of passion.
Love at first sight leads to (442)
Carpe Diem leads to
Desire for revenge for jilted love leads to (467)
Desperation/helpnessness in the face of impossible love - escarmiento (475, 478)
Deterrent to others (461)
Lisi "is the conventional 'belle dame sans merci'"

Author finally gets to the point!
*Imitation of Petrarch in this cycle of poems to Lisi* (starting on page 113 of article)

(491) declares 22 years since first encounter - Petrarch's love for Laura lasted 21 years.

452 uses Hercules
453 uses Jupiter

Love and death: 460 - also suggests persistance of love after death

Concern with death: (474, 475, 479, etc.)

"The passing of time and the consciousness of death are at the root of perhaps the profoundest and most elusive theme in Quevedo's love poetry, which has been variously defined as the 'ceniza enamorada' and 'amor constante' theme. It revolves around the assertion that the body, like the soul and its faculties, is eternal and as such retains its amatory significance even after death." (472)

Last few pages are about "Cerrar podrán mis ojos" and concludes with:
"In Lisi's poems, more than in any other collection of love poetry from the Spanish Golden Age, we have a poetic document of the fullness and complexity of human love."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Final Exam Prep - part 1

For those who have been reading my blog for any length of time (if that list includes anyone other than my family, I'll be surprised), feel free to ignore this post and others which come under similar titles. One of my professors is giving us a final exam on Tuesday which is . . . shall we say all-inclusive. I'm working with a small study group to prepare for this exam and, toward that end, I'm posting my analysis of a few of the articles we've read for the class here.

El contexto poético de Góngora y los primeros poemas de Quevedo

Basically, his first page is spent in a discussion of how difficult and complex his topic is - lovely. From there, he discusses the gradual drift from Pertrarquist poetic style.

Central question of the article:
"¿Cómo han llegado a converger en ese momento dos corrientes aparentemente tan distantes en un solo tono de época, el que anuncia el esplendor de las jácaras y de la novela picaresca?"

Central point of the article: Define and explore "manierismo" in the context of Góngora and Garcilaso.

Potentially important quotes:
"La difusión del petrarquismo es, con toda seguridad, el comienzo de su decadencia como modo poético prestigioso."

"Si consideramos que la poesía renacentista triunfa entre 1545 y 1565, y que el barroco aparece muy en las postrimerías del siglo XVI, el manierismo ocuparía ese hueco del último tercio del siglo XVI del que pretendemos hablar."

"Estéticamente se romperá la unidad entro lo formal y lo espiritual. . . En esta distorción el manierismo intenta liberar a lo espiritual de su costra formal."

"El manierismo se reencuentra con viejas corrientes clásicas, el estoicismo particularmente, que le prestan su tono rancio y meditativo. Pero por "manierismo" entendemos también la sobreimportancia de los elementos decorativos y formales. . . para mostrar la "manera" como ésta se ha fabricado."

**"El petrarquismo tardío se proyecta, pues, hacia varios caminos esencialmente: el refinamiento artístico, el desvío moral y neoestoico que busca nuevas fuentes en el inagotable minero de los clásicos, el distanciamiento irónico, el espiritualismo exagerado o tortuoso."**

"En general todas las colecciones de la última década contienen poemas que anuncial el mundo picaresco y la carcajada barroca. Y por lo que se refiere a esta última colección, inserta ya, como se sabe, algunos de los primeros romances de Góngora." This has a footnote: "Por ejemplo el Ciego que apuntas y atinas... Arrojóse al mancebito."

"En muchos de ellos Góngora dialoga con el género que practica, pero con una clave artístico-lírica, de muchos quilates, o en tono humorístico, tal el 'Ensíllenme el potro rucio...' "

Mention is made of "mezclar metros, incluso romances y formas italianas."

Major point: "En estas dos décadas finales del siglo XVI existe una clara conciencia de tradición gastada, de final de ciclo. . . lo gastado es el tono meloso, el exceso lírico, el lenguaje petrarquista, la metaforización imaginativa en el mundo morisco y - menos - pastoril; el exceso expresivo; la propia retórica de lo uno y de lo otro."

"En el 'alma' del sujeto burgués que se paraba a contemplar Garcilaso ya no habita exclusivamente el amor, como fuerza poderosa y cósmica que todo lo llena. . . es también el espacio de la angustia, la soledad, el placer... que no provoca el amor tan solo."

"[e]l tono grave y meditativo de las epístolas y de las odas: las ruinas, el paso del tiempo, la amistad, el estudio... son temas muy característicos de esta poesía. . . hasta que el joven Quevedo, hacia 1603, creyó encontrar en la silva estaciana el modelo clásico. . ."

"La otra gran novedad - la primera hubo de ser la de la poesía neoestoica - . . . habían aprendido a versificar a partir del endecasílabo, y volvían a cantar en versos de arte menor."

Boiling it down - Góngora, by expertly mixing classical italianate forms with recent poetic sentiments and ideas, functioned as a transitional agent between poesia renacentista and the barroco. This transitional period, which we call manierismo, saw an abandonment of certain clasical ideals and forms (see bolded paragraph) in favor of current cultural concepts such as irony and burla metapoética.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hi again, at long last!

Hey out there, friends, fans and family, I'm stopping by here briefly in between things to give everyone some updates! First of all, let me apologize for the long gap between entries - I've got a heavy workload in my classes that just keeps getting more interesting as time goes on. I think I'm starting to get a handle on things now. First, a list of what's keeping me busy:

1. Golden Age Literature. So far this semester, I've written a 5-page (a full page and a half of which hinged on the interpretation of a single word) analysis (on which I got a 94% - YAY) of a sonnet by Góngora (one of the giants of his century) and given a presentation about my final project for the class, which will be a 15-20 page paper whose major focus is a comparative analysis of the sonnets of Garcilaso de la Vega of Spain and Sá de Miranda of Portugal - so chosen because they've got really similar backgrounds (to the point that it was rumored ((my instructor believes that the rumor is false, however) that they were both in love with the same woman!) as the men who brought Petrarchan Italianate verse to their respective countries. Some fun, eh? Not to mention, what an incredibly long and rambling sentence! What am I, some kind of literature student? Oh yeah . . .

2. Modern Hispano-American Poetry. I recently turned in (and got 8/10 on, which I take as a good thing since some others in the class have simply been asked to rewrite their paper from scratch) a 5-page paper about a poem written by Jorge Luis Borges (one of the coolest modern authors I've ever run across - if he's good enough to quote at my convocation opening ceremonies (not to mention in General Conference!!), then he's good in my book!) titled, in translation, John 1:14. The title of my paper: The gospel of Sartre (The guy who basically founded the philosophy of existentialism) according to Saint Borges. With the underlying concept of existentialism as defined by Sartre being "existence precedes essence," it really is amazing how existential John 1: 1-14 is! I'm currently in the middle of a similar paper on a poem by Octavio Paz, a major surrealist poet. Besides a simple analysis of his poem Olvido, I'll be comparing it to the works of Salvador Dalí, most particularly The Broken Bridge and the Dream. This blog entry represents a brief mental respite from that one. My final project for this class will be a 15-20 page analysis of Borges's abandonment of Ultraism (a school of thought of which he was one of the major founders). Borges's departure from Ultraism was sufficiently severe that he later rewrote a lot of his early poetry when his "complete works" were assembled. I'll be focusing on the differences between the original and the updated version.

3. Literary Approach to the Spanish Civil War. Each week for this class, we read a THICK tome (generally between 400-600 pages, though we've had some plays of late which has helped) about the Spanish Civil War, mostly works which take an autobiographical look at the author's experiences during the war. We then (each week) write a couple of informal pages of our thoughts about what we've read. My final project for this class has taken an interesting turn. I had originally thought to take a "War: What is it good for - according to each of the authors we've looked at?" approach for my final (15-20 page) paper but our instructor doesn't want us to base our final paper on what we're reading for class. That's right, he doesn't want us to use the approximately 3,500 pages of material we will have read by the end of this class. My current thought, after a brief discussion with him, is to base my paper on "Political Applications of Religious Archetypes in Art and Iconography of the Spanish Civil War." At least with that, I don't have to read quite as many thousands of additional pages, I just have to talk about pictures. All three of my instructors seem to love tying in visual arts to the literature - good thing I took those Art History classes back at SBCC! Thank you, Professor Handloser, wherever you are!

4. Work at UConn Residential Life's Front Desk. I spend 20 hours a week waiting for phone calls from people who either have maintenance issues or have foolishly locked themselves out of their dorm rooms. Thankfully, not a whole lot of calls come in between midnight and 3:00 AM (which is part of my shift on Wednesday-going-into-Thursday) so there's hypothetically time to get some reading done. Unfortunately, between the TV, the interruptions and the siren song of Facebook, it's not really a productive place to get my schoolwork done.

5. Emotional issues. First, a bit of history. As those of you who either know me or have followed this blog know (if you're one of those people, feel free to skip down to number 6 unless you'd really like a synopsis), I've been dealing with cyclical bouts of depression since January of 2004 (at which time I was ministering to a small congregation on the Guatemalan coast). The diagnosis given at that time was clinical depression and, after some experiments with Prozac (during which time I wrote this poem) they settled me in on Zoloft. This kept me, if not happy then at least functional through the beginning of 2006. My then-fiancee, Emilee, pointed out that, even though the Zoloft kept my bouts of depression down to about once a month, it also blanded me out so that I never seemed really happy. I left the Zoloft behind, convinced that my newfound love would banish my doubts and depression.
It didn't.
I saw a new psychologist in Provo, Doctor Griffin, who declared, "you're not just depressed - you're bipolar!" and prescribed Lamictal (for the depression) and Lithium (for manic moments) My bouts of depression began to come much less frequently, eventually only striking when I was under significant stress (read that as Finals Week).
That all changed when we got to UConn.
With the stress of a new environment, homesickness, financial pressures of student debt, missing our friends in Provo, missing our families in Utah and California, being thrust into graduate school without much guidance as to what the heck I was supposed to be doing here (not to mention the question pounding in the back of my head - what the heck AM I doing here?? Every time I tell people I came here from Southern California for graduate school, they ask that exact same question, reinforcing the issue), the depression became an almost constant burden. Finally, realizing that I needed more help, I set up an appointment to talk to someone at UConn's mental heath facilities.

6. New meds and a new diagnosis! After meeting with Doctor Powers (Psychologist) and Doctor Grace (Psychiatrist) at UConn's mental health facilities, they became convinced that I wasn't bipolar after all - especially since the dosage of the lithium was, clinically speaking, insufficient to have any real affect! Finding that I had a history with A.D.D. (I took Ritalin through high school), Doctor Grace took me back to cyclical clinical depression - A.D.H.D. just makes my normal, happy times SEEM like manic moments! Last week, they took me off the lithium and, instead, put me on VyVance - a fun little drug that's kind of like Ritalin, but with a very important difference. It doesn't take time to build up in the bloodstream - it's more like a 12-hour aspirin (if aspirin cured chaos as well as pain). On day one, I noticed a difference - as though my brain was reawakening to a level of intelligence which it and I had forgotten. This effect lessened over the next couple of days and I felt somewhat emotionally fragile. This Tuesday, I spoke with Doctor Grace again who said of my experience, "Perfect! That's exactly what I expected! Now we have to play with the dosage so you can feel that smart every day!*" She told me to experiment with different dosages - take 2 or 3 and observe the results. "You'll know if it's too much - you'll kind of bland out." Where have I heard that analysis of my personality before? Today I tried taking 2. I feel that I have been more productive and Emilee notes that I seem happier today. Yay for modern medicine!
*at least, for 12 hours of every day. Today's twelve hours, coincidentally, ended shortly before I began this blog entry.

I'm still hoping to get Emilee to post something about our trip to the Omaha zoo but that can wait. Come on, world - I'm ready for ya!!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

We interrupt this travelogue . . .

To bring you a Charity Challenge!

**Step 1**
For all of you out there with a spouse/significant other who is NOT currently in the room or very close by:
  • Think of 3 reasons why you love them.
  • Contact them immediately and share your feelings.
  • DO NOT mention this challenge in the process. If you do, you score no points!
For all of you out there with a spouse/significant other or other close family member who IS currently in the room or very close by:
  • Go right now and give them a hug.
  • Look them in the eye and tell them that you love them.
  • If you laugh, you score no points!
  • Sometime this week, do them a special, secret favor.
  • If you call attention to it or tell them you did it because of this challenge, lose 10 points!
For all of you out there without a spouse/significant other (bonus points for those who do have one!):
  • Take a moment to think of a friend, family member or neighbor whose life you can bless today by either your presence or your words.
  • Pray about it, then act on it!
  • DO NOT mention this challenge in the process. If you do, you score no points!
  • If you can't think of anything/anyone, lose 5 points!
  • If you think of something you could do to bless someone's life and you don't do it, lose 10 points!
**Step 2**
For everyone:
  • Do someone in your life (other than the person from Step 1) a favor today.
  • Say something kind to someone else today.
  • Say an extra prayer for someone today.
  • Introduce yourself to someone you don't know this week.
  • If you call attention to doing any of these things or mention this challenge as your impetus, no points for you!
**Step 3**
  • Your score is determined by how happy you feel when you finish.
  • Are you satisfied with your score?
  • If so, doesn't it feel nice? Keep up the great work!
  • If not, keep trying!
  • Regardless, try to be charitable every day. I promise that your life will be blessed for it even more than the lives you personally touch!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Road Trippin' to CT. Chapter 1: Getting out of Utah

We got internet hooked up in our new apartment today, so it's time to share some of our experience with everyone.

First, a huge thank you to everyone who helped us move out (especially our good buddies, the Auds), those who helped us move in (Jason, you da' man!) and, most of all, to my parents who made the whole enterprise possible. Without their old van (which we have redubbed "Cosmo" in honor of BYU's mascot) and them behind the wheel of their new van (St. Lawrence), we would pretty much have nothing left.

Our first stop on the trip was an unscheduled one just a few miles up Provo Canyon. As we began reaching higher speeds, the mattress and box springs atop the vans were wobbling and shifting uncomfortably. While bungees are supposed to stretch, it was enough to worry us. Mom and Dad noticed first and called us to let us know they had pulled over. We stopped by Bridal Veil falls to give them a chance to take a look and snapped our first photos of the voyage.

We started on our way and realized that the mattress on our roof was having trouble, too. I fished out the 200 ft. length of twine we had purchased and wound it through the eyelets of the tarp, around the car's windows and vents and over the top of the mattress. Feeling slightly more secure, we continued driving - until we heard a loud SHUNK behind us - the sound of the twine snapping.

We pulled over again and contemplated ditching the mattress - it was a $500 investment, but we'd never get to Connecticut this way. Mom, ever the crafter, crocheted the twine into a triple-thick line which we wound over the top of the mattress. With that reinforcement, we were able to make it to Heber (a normally 20 minute drive which became a 2-hour journey) and a hardware store. Dad purchased a set of 8 ratcheting bands which we fastened around the mattress and box springs to lock them in place, which gave us peace of mind through the journey.

Okay, I admit it, I was still paranoid about it through the journey, but at least it provided some amusement. At one point, the side view of our mattress with its billowing tarp resembled, as my parents put it, "a low-slung Italian sports car." Mom and Dad, having a less flexible bundle, looked more like this through the rest of the trip:

Stay tuned for Chapter 2: Going to the Zoo

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, ladies gotta have girl time

Note to begin: If the person/people who inspired this thought process read this blog entry (unlikely, but possible), please don't take this personally - you just gave me some food for thought. Thank you.

Moving on. Everyone knows that, no matter how much you love your spouse (or Significant Other, as the case may be), there are times in life when you just need to spend time with people of your same gender, people who more or less think like you do. Ladies needing "girl time," or guys needing "man time" (or whatever your group calls it) is understandable and perfectly okay. How this is accomplished, however, may need some review. The following options assume that there is a goal of a gender-specific get-together of some sort. We also assume that your Significant Other gets along with the S.O.s of the other people in your group. Ready? Here we go.

Option 1: Regularly scheduled meeting, probably on a more-or-less weekly basis. Examples could include gaming groups, singing groups, lunch dates, etc. This is, in my opinion, the best option. Your significant other knows exactly when you're going to be having your gender-specific time and can plan appropriately, perhaps arranging for some gender-specific time with his/her friends or pursuing a hobby you find annoying since you won't be around to be annoyed. It's a beautiful thing.

Option 2: Call up your buddies and say, "Hey, let's get together next week and do X." This isn't bad - gives some time for you to sit down with your S.O. and find something they would enjoy doing while you'll be away. You also have a specific plan so your S.O. knows you're not getting into trouble (assuming you've got the whole "relationship of trust" thing running smoothly). If you're too spontaneous/flaky for Option 1, this is the way to go.

Option 3: Call up your buddies and say, "Hey, let's ditch our S.O.s tomorrow night and go have some fun." Even setting aside the attitude issues, this is entering the realm of tacky for several reasons. First, there's no plan for either of the concerned parties and probably won't be until you meet up. Once you get together, you'll probably spend half the time trying to figure out what you want to do, assuming you don't just give up, order a pizza and tell stupid jokes/gossip until you pass out, several pounds heavier and not a ounce wiser. If that sounds like your idea of an ideal get-together, power to you and best of luck. Second, there's no time for the S.O.s to make plans. They'll probably hurriedly get together and be in the same less-fun-than-it-would-be-if-you-planned-it-out state as you are. If not, they'll spend the evening by themselves, probably doing something that they enjoy, but it's still tacky.

Option 4: Call up your buddies and say, "Hey, let's dump our S.O.s off to go do X while we hang out." This is bad. There's worse, but this is bad. You have the audacity to set the destiny/plans of not just your S.O. but of every other S.O. from your group of friends, doing something which, if they really all enjoyed it, they'd probably be getting together to do anyway, while leaving no plan for yourself. Basically, you'll be doing the less-than-ideal Option 3 while your S.O. and their friends end up doing something they probably didn't want to do in the first place. If any of you are ever tempted to do this, do yourself a favor and AT LEAST get the consent of all concerned S.O.s to participate in the activity you've planned for them. Much resentment will be avoided if you do so.

Option 5: Show up at their front door expecting to be entertained. Unless you're really, truly BFFs, so close that you would consider adopting each other and would take bullets for each other, this approach shouldn't have survived beyond grade school. It was tacky back then and it hasn't gotten any better in the meantime. You're making yourself an annoying door-to-door salesman with nothing to sell. Calling with anything less than 24 hours notice fits roughly into this category. And no, even if you've said, "We should hang out sometime," and they have agreed, that doesn't make this any better.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer reflections

It was the best of months, it was the worst of months, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us . . .

July is always a fun month. With Emilee's birthday to kick it off, my birthday toward the end and one of our BFF's birthdays in the middle, there are parties, presents, excuses to spend extra time with family and friends and, of course, cake, ice cream and Tucano's.

July is always a hard month. With cake, ice cream and Tucano's comes another notch on the belt, another article of clothing that just doesn't fit like it used to, a more disgusting visage in the mirror, more reluctance to shower and contemplate my body in all its corpulence. With the heat of July comes difficulty sleeping and a sapping of energy, even with our wonderful air conditioner, that brings malaise and a lack of motivation to do much of anything, let alone exercise.

This July has been laid back for me. Not having a job for the moment, while I do my best to maintain the house (doing dishes and cooking dinner for Emilee being the main daily responsibilities) and pack a box every day, I have plenty of free time to read, write, play games, make blog entries, load music onto my iPod, etc.

This July has been tense for me. With every piece of furniture that leaves the apartment, with every box I pack, every time I look at the new van, every time I say good night to my friends, every time I listen to music from the CD I made with Impact, I think of what we have lost and are losing as we move to Connecticut. Every time I read my email, every time I look at paperwork still to be filled out, every time I think about spending so much as a dollar, my mind shifts to the doubt, debt and uncertainty which await us in Connecticut. Every time Emilee asks if she really does have to go to work today or if she can come home early (jokingly done almost daily), my heart is filled with guilt as I know I'm not contributing enough.

My friends and family encourage me to be excited for the adventure to come but I'm kinda having trouble feeling adventurous through the doubt.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hypothetical birthday wish list

It might seem odd to make a birthday wish list 2 days after one's birthday, but this is being done with a purpose. This isn't a true birthday wish list but, rather, a list of things I'd love to either receive or obtain if funds for utterly-useless-but-still-cool birthday presents were unlimited. In other words, there are things I'd MUCH rather get for giftable occasions and there are far more useful things on which to spend one's money but it would be cool to have this stuff:

The Master Sword and Hylian Shield from The Legend of Zelda. Combined Cost: $120. The tunic would be nice, too, but I doubt they make that in 3XL
What gamer wouldn't want his own health and mana potions? Even if they are just well-marketed energy drinks, this would be super cool. Cost: $20 for a six-packA new, superpowerful computer (yes, with all the bells and whistles, including the lighting effects - that's the part the makes a computer upgrade fit into the "useless" category) like this one. Cost: Starts at $7,000.

Assorted Star Trek memorabilia - outfits, equipment, starship models (too bad the real thing won't be on the market for a few hundred years!), the works. Cost: maybe if I got on Bill Gates's good side . . .

Where are we going?

No, this isn't a post about getting ready for Connecticut - that would be counterproductive to my state of denial which is allowing me to keep going in my swiftly emptying apartment.

What this IS is a chance for you, my loyal readers (and yes, I know that this mostly means my parents and brother), to influence the direction this blog is headed. What would you like to see more of here?
  • Mental Meanderings - Steve's inner thought process and psychoanalytic journey
  • Modern Superhero - More stories/input from Sapphire Sting
  • Photo blogs
  • Spiritual musings
  • Political ramblings
  • Somehow convincing Emilee to actively participate
  • Something else entirely
Please sound off and let me know!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Birthday Party at the Zoo

As part of our ongoing celebration of our birthdays, Emilee and I decided to head to the zoo with whoever else could come along. We picked up in-laws Stacy and Jared Loveless and bestest buds Derek and Stephanie Aud, packed a light picnic lunch and headed down to the Hogle Zoo. Photo time!

The curtain of water parts to reveal our cast of characters.

Yes, the kitty was my favorite thing at the zoo. Can I take it home with me, pweeeze?

Their bird show is really quite impressive. Our group agreed that it by itself was worth the price of admission.

Steve the Prarie Dog

This little fellow (you'll want to click the picture to zoom in) perched on Stephanie's shoulder for a long time before we bopped it off. We jokingly referred to it as her attacker.

The only thing "light" about this picnic lunch is the fact that we followed it up with a trip to Toucano's. You ladies outdid yourselves!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Saying goodbye

Over the last few months, Emilee and I have been preparing for our upcoming journey to Connecticut - putting stuff into storage, spending time with friends and family in the area, going to the Hogle Zoo one last time, etc. As we get closer to the time of departure (only a few more weeks now), we're coping with the emotions times like these bring. In the midst of this, we have had a sudden blow. As previously mentioned, our old car, Virginia, died on us. At the time, this was a worrying inconvenience which, thanks to my parents, had a fairly rapid solution - we now drive their 2006 minivan.

Today, however, we had to say goodbye. I called an auto wrecking shop and, feeling like Judas Iscariot, signed away my old friend for a few silvers. I followed her to her resting place, her headlights looking back at me from the back of the truck as I drove. We reached the yard and the doors opened, revealing a yard full of wrecked bodies and hacked-off engines. And there, with tears in my eyes, I bade her my final farewell. I retrieved her new tires, the forklift hauled her away and the gates closed on her forever.

It's silly to invest so much emotion in a car - it's an inanimate object, after all - but she's been part of our family for 3 years, our companion through our greatest adventures. She's bailed out friends, escaped fires and survived so much, only to be destroyed from the inside by rusted antifreeze and sold to men who will destroy her without remorse or feeling. She deserves better, somehow and it breaks my heart to leave her to die.

I need a kitty.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why are you here?

If you visit this blog on a regular basis, you're probably a family member or, at least, a close friend. There are many people who stumble across here for other reasons, though. Some recent things people have come here looking for include:

Wii related questions:
How to thrust nunchuck forward
Assorted Wii game reviews

Random search terms
Disney Pixar short Slightly Cloudy
Skit about LDS Pioneers
Helpless Superheroines

The Blue Whale bones at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
The Fireworks Stand

One of the odd search items that brings people here most frequently is Vibroman, usually searched for from Spanish-speaking countries. Could it be that I have tapped into some cultural icon by accident? Searching for it on my own turns up very little. On the other hand, maybe I don't want to know what lies deeper on this one.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A blessed? event

She's been in a delicate state for quite some time. But now, it's all said and done - the anxiety, the almost weekly checkups, the moodiness - they're all behind us now. On Saturday, her water broke after we got back from work and we rushed her in. That's right, folks, we're the proud parents of a new car!

What, you thought I was talking about something else?

For those of you unfamiliar with our recent troubles with Virginia, this has been a long time in coming. It started with some expensive and complex repairs at the beginning of the year. Then we had more fixes for the Safety and Emissions checks, a process which took weeks of going to Ray's on a daily basis (as described earlier) and left some major problems unresolved. On Saturday, after dropping Emilee off at work, I was staying with my friends Ryan and Becky Sultana who were going to borrow the car and take it to work, where Emilee would then retrieve it to come home. Little did we know that they would come outside to pick it up and see this: Calling it a mess would be a severe understatement. Orange/brown fluid had made a large trail under the car. This turned out to be bad antifreeze mingled with rust. The nearby mechanic told us the damage would take $600-900 to repair. I called Ray and he said he could do it a little more cheaply, but towing her back to Provo is out of the question. And so, the time has come to say goodbye to our little lady.

Virginia Seville Watson
1990-June 27, 2009
Rust In Peace

P.S. More pictures (and the resolution to our story) forthcoming.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The strangest dream

It's been a while since I gave you folks a good glimpse into my psyche, so I'd like to give you something new to analyze - last night's dream. What's particularly strange about it is that it had absolutely nothing to do with the book I was reading into the wee small hours - more on that later. This post may not hold much interest for most of you but I wanted to record this one for posterity since it's unique in several ways.

Chapter 1: Disney World
The dream opened with Emie, Dad and me at Disney World together. We passed by a colorful plaza and into a restaurant. I'm guessing that it was the Brown Derby, one of Dad's favorites, since there was a definite Hollywood atmosphere. The dream skipped ahead a bit to when we had been waiting a very long time for our food and we had been given some cookies to compensate for the wait. I decided to go enjoy Disney World since the food showed no signs of coming. As I left the restaurant, I noticed a sign board where you could order pizza by writing down your order and placing it on the board. I did so, thinking that it might be faster than the Brown Derby. Abruptly, the dream cut away from Disney World to . . .

Chapter 2: The Creamery
I worked at the old BYU Creamery for a semester shortly before it was torn down. In my dream, the old place was brought back to life and filled with nostalgic memorabilia, like a shiny pre-credit card cash register that looked like a miniature pipe organ - the whole place looked like an old fashioned malt shop, as though the clock had been turned back almost a century The place was strangely empty so I wandered around for a moment looking at everything. My old boss, Brian (incidentally, Facebook suggested him to me as a friend last night - there is no love lost between us, however, and I declined) showed up and told me breathlessly that all of his workers had called in sick and he needed my help. We negotiated my temporary wage and I told him that I had somewhere to be right now but that I would return once I was done. The somewhere I needed to be turned out to be . . .

Chapter 3: Jane Austen meets Charles Dickens
I dreamed that I (when I say I here, I mean it somewhat loosely, as I was apparently inhabiting a female host - the first time I've portrayed a woman in my dreams) was entering the garden of a lavish Victorian manor house where a man whose circumstances had prematurely aged him (he reminded me of Ebeneezer Scrooge but not as old in reality) sat outside grumpily. He had come outside to look at his flowers and the colorful pigeons (and I mean colorful - red, blue, green, etc.) for whom he had left a feeder. The pigeons, however, had become aggressive and were pecking at the miser and eating his flowers. I devised a solution to his problem (the dream kinda skipped over the details) and we entered the manor to figure out a solution to his other problem . . .

Chapter 4: The "Haunted" House
The old man had begun hearing odd sounds in his house at night and was convinced that the place was haunted. I agreed to spend the night in the fellow's room (on the floor while he took the bed) to observe. (The inside of his manor house looked like the inside of my church building in Santa Barbara. After a while, we began to hear the noises and I arose to investigate. As I turned a corner, I nearly collided with a kid whose arms were laden with the man's possessions. I looked through the lighted doorway beyond and saw a woman who I presumed to be the boy's mother also looting the man's home. I clamped a firm hand on the boy's shoulder and pulled out my anachronistic cell phone to call the police as the boy's parents fled.

Chapter 4.5: The Austenian Ending
The scene cut away and I found that I was reading the book in which the events of chapters 3 and 4 took place and had reached the ending, in which the man's youth and heath were restored by the woman's actions and she declared her love for him. "I don't even know your last name but it doesn't matter - I know your heart and I love you." I closed the book and found myself . . .

Chapter 5: Back at the Creamery
I was in the creamery's back room where I found bright red and blue uniforms, again reminiscent of years gone by, as well as another employee Brian had managed to locate. I was again female so moved to the appropriate section of uniforms/costumes and selected one. As I began slipping it on . . .

Chapter 6: Return to Disney World - the Circle is Complete
I found myself walking across the same colorful square toward the restaurant. As I passed, a fellow at the pizza sign board called my name and said that my pizza was ready. I told him to wait a moment while I fetched my family and I hurried to the restaurant. I found my father and wife still waiting for their food, sitting together with a fellow who looked like Groucho Marx except that he had Harpo's hair. I told them that pizza was available outside and they began to rise.

Epilogue: Waking up is Hard to do
I awoke in my old room in Santa Barbara and opened my door as my wife opened the door across the way. I told her "I had a (I hesitated for a moment as I decided not to call it weird) great dream last night, and you were in it." "Was it about a cookie?" "Actually, there WERE cookies involved." As she smiled . . .

I really woke up. I came out of the bedroom and saw Emie on the couch. I told her "I had a (I hesitated for a moment as I decided not to call it weird) great dream last night and you were in it." "Was it about a cookie?" "Actually, there WERE cookies involved. And we had the exact same conversation in my dream."

Time travel, Deja Vu, gender bending, meta-fiction . . . quite the dream, eh?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Silly sites and dreams of the future

From a friend's blog, I decided to try out an interesting website - Put in a couple of photos and see what your future babies might, hypothetically, look like. So, meet the twins: Stephanie and Miles.

Disney-Pixar's UP in 3D

Pixar's scriptwriters have a way of tugging at your heartstrings. Toy Story made grownups want to run home and dig out their old teddy bears (or monsters, rubber ducks, sheep, etc.). The Incredibles made grown men want to run home to their wife and kids. UP makes grown men weep, hold their wives closer and keep every promise they ever made, no matter how silly.
But it's not all tears and soppy sentiment. The overenthusiastic cub scout, Russel, plays wonderfully off of the crusty, 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen. Carl manages to be simultaneously a dreamer and a sarcastic straightman as he unwillingly leads Russell on a grand adventure to the wilds of South America in search of his boyhood dream.

What truly makes UP unique is how realistic the characters are. I'm not talking about their physical appearance but, rather, their personalities. Russell is everything Pinocchio wants to be - a real boy through and through.
Dug the talking dog is a very real dog, with such memorable lines as "Hi! My name is Dug. I have just met you and I love you SQUIRREL!!! . . . . . . . Hi there!"

Needless to say, the visuals are fabulous. Unlike most 3D movies (I'm looking at YOU, Journey to the Center of the Earth - much as I love Brendan Fraser, please don't make him spit on me in 3D ever again), UP doesn't resort to a lot of what the Muppets would refer to as "cheap 3D tricks." Just the opening pan around Cinderella's Castle with the fireworks brought a tear of joy to my eye. The attention to detail is incredible, down to stubble slowly growing on Carl's chin as he neglects to shave through his journey and Russell getting progressively dirtier. No wonder Disney had previews/trailers for 3 other films "in Disney Digital 3D." The effect is astounding.
While the film does have a direct antagonist, Carl's real enemy, from the very beginning, is time. Time to do the things he wants to do, time before he goes senile and gets put in a nursing home, time before his balloons lose their lift and his house becomes immobile. This universal theme can appeal to anyone - if you are a human being and you can breathe, you should watch this movie.
Also, as a side note, the pre-film short, Slightly Cloudy, is destined to be one of the greatest Pixar shorts - just trust me on this one.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Of vehicles, forgiveness and the Atonement

Sunday, particularly Fast Sunday, is a time for reflection, for pondering the things of God and the blessing he has given us. Today, my mind turned to a recent tremendous blessing we received at the hands of a kind and honest man. Kind and honest are not words one usually associates with mechanics, but in Ray's case, they fit.
He offers a special "student discount," the amount of which is rarely expressly stated but which has always saved us a bit when we've taken our car, Virginia (named for a kind and generous aunt from whom we received the car), in for routine check-ups and oil changes.

Recently, Virginia's cruise control stopped working. This is an annoyance for Emilee, whose hour-long daily commute is made somewhat harder because of it. It was somewhat more of an annoyance during our recent trip to California. Considering our impending journey to Connecticut, we realized that we would really like to have it working. Since we were taking Virginia in for Safety and Emissions inspections (and the new tires and oxygen sensor needed to pass those inspections), we figured it would be a good time to have Ray's people look at the cruise control.

We had the misfortune to be placed under the management of Randy, Ray's number two in command. Randy has a politician's smile, a salesman's smooth talk, a coal miner's handshake and an unfortunate tendency to neglect to call you when he says he will. After several hours of examination Randy told us that we needed a whole new engine computer and that we could either find one ourselves or he could procure one for about $200.

A quick search on eBay revealed an appropriate part for $45. We ordered it, got it in and handed it to Randy. Blake, the beleaguered mechanic who actually did the work, spent a couple of hours prying open our car to get at the engine computer and said, "This isn't the right engine computer - the color coding doesn't match!"

The person from whom we acquired the part refunded our payment without any hassle. I quickly found (using part numbers this time instead of just a description) a correct computer, ordered it and presented it to Randy. Blake confirmed that it was the right part and proceeded to spend a few hours installing it.

It didn't fix the cruise control.

Randy said, at this point, "Well, we've only been able to have a few hours at a time with your car so far - if you let me have it for an entire day, we'll be able to get it fixed." Accordingly, we left Virginia in Randy and Blake's care for over 8 hours on the following Monday, which Emilee happened to have off of work. The word now was that we needed a new Cruise Control Module (Question here: Why skip the Cruise Control Module and go straight for the Engine Computer when you're trying to fix the Cruise Control? Maybe it's because I'm not a mechanic, but that doesn't make much sense to me . . .), with similar options for acquiring one.

At this point, Emilee and I decided to cut our losses. As a friend took me to Ray's, I began a fretful calculation in my head of the number of hours of labor for which we would be charged and the hundreds of dollars we would have sunk into a wild goose chase. When I arrived, I found Ray behind the counter - Monday is Randy's day off. Ray had familiarized himself with our situation and said, "After everything Randy's had you do to try and fix this problem, making you find your own parts and everything . . . I'm not gonna charge you for the labor."

Now THAT'S what I call a Student Discount! Instantly, through nothing I had done, just the simple kindness and generosity of one man, my debt was forgiven. I was elated as I brought Virginia home, feeling truly blessed.

I reflected today that we, as a human race, spend much of our time broken in a spiritual sense. We stumble about through life, looking for help to get fixed but, in the end, no earthly power can truly fix us. The worst of it is that, the longer we're broken, the more spiritual debt we rack up. In the end, though, after all we can do, the great Mechanic of our souls says to us, "After all you've done, I forgive your debt - you owe me nothing. Welcome home." And then He fixes our cruise control anyway.

Which classic Superhero are you?

Your results:
You are Superman
Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz