Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ensnared at Dinner by an Impromptu Jane Austen Seminar

This one's for that zealous coven of females in Eugene engaging in the secret rites of their mystery cult dedicated to all things Jane Austen. You know who you are! During a wonderful Italian dinner at my adviser's house last night, my masculine sensibilities, derived from the Roman cardinal virtues of virtus (manly excellence) and gravitas (dignity and seriousness of character), were ensnared by that most insidious of all feminist plots designed to mollify the unbridled strength of men: academic deconstruction of the gender/power dynamics found in the world portrayed by Jane Austen. The wonderful hostess for the evening was a prominent Professor in the English department who has taught graduate seminars on the subject for years. As I listened to the very astute deconstruction of the period covered by Austen, I could not help but reflect back on a couple of my intoxicated viewings of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice in Eugene last spring. The Coven of Austen in Eugene would have been in a total state of bliss hearing this discussion over such a wonderful dinner. The entire dinner was a very good experience for me. However, with respect to Austen, I always become perturbed with the entire social/gender structure of that time. I do not consider the aristocratic men of that period to fall within my definition of actual men, they are weak figures who had allowed themselves to become trapped within a vacuous social structure that emasculated them within the same gilded cage the women fell prey to. The incessant hand-wringing and calculation exhibited by these women over such insignificant men precludes me from having any sympathy for their plight. Any truly virtuous woman would have decried all these men as impious and unworthy of either love or marriage. Out of contempt and utter disgust, I would have marshaled my hordes and purged the entire society with fire and steel. Such a mollified society could not have withstood the wrath of righteous conquest to establish a new social order. I will let my diatribe die here, so you can all rail against my lack of understanding for the nuances of the redeeming value of Austen. Have at it! Be well!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Confirmation of Italy Position Next Summer

First the good news: I received formal confirmation of my staff position at the San Martino Field School in Torano, Italy next summer. Hopefully, I can build some Italian linguistic skills over the next few months. In any case, it feels good to get moving in the right direction. My ability to secure future employment as a historian will be much improved with practical field work on my CV as many historians simply don't have it. I think I should be able to pick up a couple extra weeks in Rome at the conclusion of the excavation by linking up with a different tour conducted by a couple of my other professors. My decision to enter this program is proving very fortuitous due to the available opportunities. The benefits of my new program have surpassed the negative aspects thus far.
Now on to the bad news: the limited social interaction, high cost of living, and difficulty of living in LA. Case in point, I get involved with traffic jams within parking lots just going to the most affordable grocery store, one that is still almost twice as expensive as I am accustomed to. The crowding in stores and parking areas is so annoying that I find myself reverting back to my default disposition of despising all humanity. I tried to spend the last few years nurturing and developing the tolerant warm and fuzzy aspect of my personality. Believe it or not, my time in Eugene was about as warm and fuzzy as I get. LA is slowly starting to bring back some of the edge to my mollified spirit. I feel the need to resurrect some of my anger and intensity to recultivate a more severe demeanor to gain some personal space in public. From my perspective, one of the biggest problems in the world is crowding and overpopulation that creates considerable tension among people that do not have enough personal space and freedom of action. As people are crowded together in urban areas trying to get around within the constraints of busy schedules (enforced by deadlines, cell phones, internet connectivity, etc..), extreme tension tends to boil to the surface. Individual incidents of stupidity are magnified because of how they interfere with everyone's schedule - a person blocking traffic , holding up a line, or engaging in any other acts of stupidity raises the level of volatility and frustration of the moving masses. I am gradually being reminded of how much I have traditionally despised the inherent stupidity of the majority of humanity. My experiment in patience and tolerance is rapidly coming to an end. It is probably best I am not traveling for Thanksgiving this week due to the reports of this likely being the most frustrating travel week in the history of the world. I will miss my family on Thankgiving, as I sit imprisoned by academic requirements in my lonely room, but it is only a few weeks until I can have a month break back in the relaxing confines of my valley homestead for Xmas. I must endure till then! Be well!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Another Premiere Interfered with Dinner

Following my return flight, I was starving to death from the lack of any food on the plane. After dropping my stuff off in my apartment, I set out on a quest to find some quick food for dinner. My search was impeded by the Brangelina phenomenon associated with the Beowulf opening that closed off multiple streets and sidewalks on my way to food. The premiere event even placed a rock wall doorway 2 blocks from my house for the VIPS to enter into the party area associated with two adjacent theaters. Even though Angelina was quite striking, I found the mob scene very annoying given my ravenous mood. Angelina did do quite well in crossing the cordoned off area at the local coffee shop to actually make physical contact and mingle with the vulgar masses. Anthony Hopkins added some legitimate class to the operation, it made me want to enjoy a nice Chianti and discuss philosophy with Hannibal himself. The whole commotion further delayed my acquisition of food, leaving me quite vexed. Alas, at least I was in a generally good mood as my weekend trip finalized everything for the better. Hopefully, I can put some of the past issues behind for good. Be well!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Weekend Respite from Fatigue

After a very tiring couple of weeks, I will be taking a much needed trip to see my daughter. My brother and his wife will also be flying back home for a visit (having survived the San Jose earthquake that scared their cat and shook them up a bit). I am looking forward to some time in brisk mountain air to recharge my depleted batteries. I am having a hard time getting my body to produce the energy I need to accomplish everything. No amount of caffeine has been sufficient, and I am trying to increase my physical regimen to boost metabolism - so far, mixed results. I had a boring Halloween trying to get things done before my trip, but it will be worth it. Complete custody of my daughter should be mine by Monday, she is doing very well in the pastoral setting of my family farm. Another piece of good news is that I have been informed (unofficially) that I am most likely assured of getting the funded staff position on the excavation in Italy next summer. This will allow for hands on archaeological experience about an hour from Rome with every weekend free to travel Italy. I will be able to stay in Italy for a good portion of the summer (likely in future summers also). In addition, this will free up an additional few weeks to spend with my daughter. If I had to be stuck on campus, I would spend the majority of the summer engaged in more tedious research or less significant coursework. Thus, things are going respectably well as I try to impose my will upon the inconstant designs of human existence. I will prevail against the cruel lashes of tempestuous fate and temporarily vanquish a few of life's little miseries.
Vae Victis - "Woe to the vanquished!" (Livy 5.48)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tempering the Edge of my Spirit in Solitude

I continue to find myself in an environment that requires continual adjustments to how my life is structured. The academic requirements that have been placed on me are well above anything I have been accustomed to. Proper social interaction and necessary balance has been thrown out of whack. This situation is much more socially isolating than my previous academic habitat. An ironic truth: in more populous conditions, social isolation is more prevalent (many of the people in my cohort are actually only around for 3 days a week - then commute to home locales and families). Attempting to maintain my familial travel plans, academic schedule, physical activity, and moderate rest/entertainment has proven to be very challenging. I am trying to speed up my translation to allow more time, but the pace is about 8-10 times faster than grad level at Oregon. I do miss the academic/social dynamics I had enjoyed the past few years. My present environment is going to be much more domineering for awhile until I can restructure my life a bit. I will simply continue to persevere until this adjustment can be made. Be well!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Flying Back to Fall in the Mountains

I will be making a quick trip back home this weekend to spend time with my daughter Madaline. It should be a welcome respite from my current schedule, although I actually have to take an online Latin quiz while I'm there. It will be good to feel the crisp fall air in the mountains even though the weather in LA has been great so far. I'm enjoying all the new people I'm working with and I think this situation will work well for me if I can manage the time constraints on the linguistic side. I also have a meeting Monday to try to secure a funded place on an excavation in Italy next summer involving Roman tombs. Hopefully, I can convince the people in charge of my inherent greatness and wondrous personality! Be well!

Friday, October 5, 2007

A Better Setting for an Academic Lecture

I went to my first academic lecture in LA last night with a trip all the way down Sunset Blvd to the Getty Villa in Malibu. One of the most prominent scholars in my field (Erich Gruen - who recently retired after more than 3-4 decades at UCBerk) delivered a talk in the Getty auditorium on cultural identity theft and appropriation in the ancient world. Dr. Gruen will be serving as the Villa Professor this year at the Getty in his first year of quasi-retirement. As a consequence, he will likely be brought to speak as a guest in my courses at UCLA - an added bonus. The environment and following reception were excellent and I started to make the necessary political rounds at the reception to lay the groundwork for future connections. Hopefully, I've learned how to play the game well enough over the years - sadly, it's more important than most people in academia realize. The collection of antiquities was of highest quality. I'll need to go back when I have more time to stroll the villa and examine the artifacts in more detail. All in all, one of the better lecture events I've been to.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Adapting to the Rigors of a New Life

After my first few classes, I am still adapting to a very different academic environment within my new department. There are many positive aspects and great opportunities associated with my new situation that are somewhat overwhelming for me at this stage. I am able to enroll in highly specialized seminars on a variety of topics that are actually filled to capacity with people approaching things from very divergent perspectives. The level of academic expectation at all levels is distinctly higher than any previous environments I have been in. It is simultaneously stimulating and daunting, but I have confidence I can prevail once I become comfortable with the new environment. The scholars I will be working with are of the highest quality, and most are extremely socially gifted in terms of pragmatically dealing with Graduate Student issues. The situation will immeasurably advance the quality of my work. The only down side to this situation will be effectively balancing the more stringent academic expectations with some degree of living standard in order to retain some semblance of sanity. In past situations, I have been able to navigate these waters while still preserving the necessary degree of mental decompression. This will be very challenging for the time being. On a good note, I was able to get my DMV situation dealt with at the Santa Monica office (much nicer). I even went down the street to Beverly Hills to get a better lay of the land. I'm starting to be able to find my way around a wider area a bit better - if I actually had time or money I could even hit the trendy spots. Alas, woe unto me! On a better note, on Thursday, I'll be going down to the Getty Villa in Malibu to hear a lecture on Roman society by a most prominent scholar and view all the collection of Greek and Roman artifacts at the villa with many of the historians in my field. I'm off to bed to read for a bit - Strength and Honor!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Wasted Day of DMV Hell

Attempting to change my driver's license yesterday was foiled by the US State Department having my passport in process with my only birth certificate. California refused to acknowledge the validity of my Oregon Driver's License, even though they have to recognize it as valid ID to drive on the roads. The bureaucratic mess leaves me unable to change my residency status for at least a few more days. I should still be able to make the year and 1 day window for next fall, but now it is getting close because I have to count the 10 days allowed to change a license in the calculations for residency. I hate bureaucracy in all it's detestable forms. I met my cohort on Monday in the History Dept, it was described as particularly small this year at 30 (last year being 49) with a total dept grad population of roughly 180 at all levels - spread over roughly 100 professors. Everyone I met seemed of high quality with a very diverse range of topics. I'm off to do more paperwork - Be well!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Accidently Rolling at a Movie Premiere

In a uniquely LA moment, I was eating dinner at a Mexican place about 2 blocks from my new pad when crowds, limos, and an army of paparazzi showed up at the National Theatre across the street. I was cynically amused by the crowd reactions, choreographed photo shoots on the carpet, and the whole lifestyle of the famous. One of the limos even drove into a barricade which scratched down the whole side of the car. It is a very weird environment to observe. Eventually, Jessica Alba and Dane Cook emerged from one of the vehicles to promote their movie. She did a good job approaching the huddled masses across the street to sign autographs, she seemed at ease - he seemed a bit rigid. By random occurrence due to my dinner, I was about 25-35 ft behind and to the left of the included image when it was snapped by the enormous wall of photogs. What is scary is how tiny the actors are, even the men - the camera must really add 20-30 pounds (they look like mini-people up close) It was made all the more glaring when former Boston Celtics center Bill Russell walked by me and was contrasted towering over all the actors and actresses. He looked twice their size as a 60-70 year old 7ft giant. Eddie Murphy and 80's pop singer Debbie Gibson were the only other people I recognized. It made for an amusing dinner, but the police presence, ostentatious displays of wealth, endless lines of limos with anonymous studio figures was somewhat disgusting. Everyone in fantasyland does truly appear to be detached from the real world. One good thing about the numerous theaters where I live is that they are all monolithic with old Hollywood decor and can seat enormous audiences in the traditional opera house style. Although, there is a raised dais segregated section for fat cats and celebs to separate themselves from the peons during the shows. In any case these movie houses have much more ambiance than the mall style cineplexes that dominate the rest of the country. I wonder how long it will take for me to be corrupted by LA's emotional vacuousness? I'm too mentally tired now to prevent it. Finis.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Descent Complete: Time to Attempt an Ascension from the Clutches of a Tortuous Abyss

Disclaimer: This blog post is of a personal nature, but I felt it necessary to explain to any interested parties what has gone on since my last blog. This will be the last blog of this type.

I continue to adjust to life in LA having battled my way through the myriad planes of hell this summer, I emerge spiritually purged by another test rife with life's incessant miseries. Hopefully, enduring perpetual hammering while transfixed on the anvil of life's journey has further tempered the steel in my soul so that I do not break. One way or another, I return to the blogosphere after a significant hiatus brought about by circumstances beyond my control. My daughter's well-being was severely assailed by the continued deterioration of her environment. All of my energies this past summer have been centered around providing my daughter an avenue of escape from a circumstance that was imploding around her. The situation has been dire and threatens to limit my ability to continue on in LA, but I am still working on measures to protect my daughter's future prosperity. I should be able to attain legal custody within the next 10 days, but obstacles may still emerge. My entire situation is still being evaluated, but all my decisions will be predicated upon what will give my daughter the best chance to have the highest quality of life. Her long-term prosperity may still be a function of the successful of my PhD program, but I will continue to weigh her present development against my absence in LA. After considerable deliberation with my family, she will reside with my family in her familiar environment of the sheltered valley farm where I grew up. I am unwilling to further disturb her life with a move to the chaos of LA in a time of such turmoil. In addition, it seems dubious that I could provide the best environment as a single parent in LA due to the requirements, constraints, and realities of my particular PhD program. For now, I will proceed with my program and see how things develop. At this point, that is all that can be done - but the future of this entire endeavor hangs on a precipice. Such is life, but I will just try to keep moving forward and make the best decisions I can. In any case, my future blogs will go back to their old style as best I can - I hope everyone is doing well.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Apologies for my Lack of Blogging

I apologize for my recent inability to post anything, but my present circumstances have inhibited my opportunities. My recent move, while allowing me great amounts of time with my daughter before UCLA, has been complicated by an extreme upheaval in her environment that I have been trying to rectify. I do not know the outcome yet, but I think things have been moved in the right direction. I am hoping the situation stabilizes, but it is to early to determine at this time. It has served as a reminder, however, that the stresses of the academic world are not as significant as many people think that they are. I will be thrilled to get back to worrying about things of an academic nature as a pleasant break from what life can actually throw at you from the bowels of hell! "Tell your heathen gods to ready for blood!" - Deadwood.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I've found myself in an extreme heat wave with temperatures as high as 109 degrees for the past few days. I was on a nostalgic tour last night and took my daughter to the drive-in in my hometown. I hadn't been to the drive-in since I moved to Eugene. It was good, but the evening was simply too hot to be comfortable. There were also an extremely high number of annoying people and screaming kids, but it was an experience. I recently enrolled in classes at UCLA and my schedule looks very favorable. I will not have classes on Mondays or Fridays (yaaay to 4 day weekends!) - there will not be any annoying required methodology courses as all my requirements are directly in my field or linguistic. I will have a seminar on Ancient Rome on Wed afternoons, a two-quarter Medieval seminar on Tuesdays, and a Latin Literature survey course Tues and Thursday mornings from 9:30-10:45. All in all, the most favorable schedule I've had as a grad student. I'm very happy to have no teaching or grading! I'm progressing slowly with my preparation this summer, but it is going well. My only real problem this summer is a severe financial crunch that is limiting my ability to do anything. I want to make a brief trip to Eugene in the middle of July to visit everyone when KFR comes up, but it is dubious at this point - maybe I can work something out, we'll see. Be well!

Monday, July 2, 2007


I have started to integrate myself back into my old home environment. My daughter's birthday went well and I had a great past week with her. I'm kind of in limbo for the next two months, but it will have some advantages. I must be vigilant in avoiding being sucked back in to the stormy tempest that was my prior life - unfortunately, extreme complications continue. I'm posting this from one of my favorite asian restaurants - so my time is brief. My connectivity in this town is very limited, so I will post as frequently as possible - but it will be limited until I descend to UCLA on Sept 1. Hope everyone is doing well!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Good Send-off Weekend

My last weekend in Eugene was highlighted by a great wine-tasting sojourn with many of the wonderful friends that have entered my life since my time at UO. Quality food and wine was had by all, topped off with a nice dinner at Marche. Fond farewells were given to Austin and Nina (until the wedding in July) along with Morgan and Bob. I will have to bid an additional farewell to E today with a drop-off at the airport (preceded by some final drinks at Rennies) for her impending trip this week. I will begin to load up my car tomorrow for my departure from Eugene, anything I can't fit into my car gets either sold or donated by Tuesday. As I leave town on Tuesday I will bid farewell to the BCC and go to Toys R Us to get some presents for my daughters 10th birthday this week. At that point, I will begin my return and ascent to the mountainous lair of my familial homestead for the next two months in preparation for my move to LA in September. My four years in Eugene provided a great opportunity to meet some wonderful people whose friendship and support allowed me to navigate through an extremely difficult period of transition and transformation in my life. For all my ideological cynicism (which I still feel is completely justified), the presence of quality people in one's life is all that enhances the good times that make life memorable and worth living - the rest is all meaningless. Contrary to what my distrustful nature, harsh rhetoric, and bitter personal experiences might suggest, loyalty to friends and family remains my primary virtue and the cornerstone of my moral system (the rest of it has considerable pragmatic flexibility). In any case, my loyalty to my Eugene cohort will remain unquestioned - anytime anybody needs anything, I'm usually a steadfast and imposing ally to have on one's side. This is about as soft and mushy as I get. Thanks to All! Stay in Touch! Have a Great Summer!

Monday, June 18, 2007

I Graded My Last Green Book

Following a hectic weekend of graduation celebration and tortuous moving (an activity I despise more than any other), I just graded my last green book for quite a while. This particular batch of finals was particularly poor. I think it was the worst group of tests I have graded since I've been at UO, even though it was largely upper division (must have been an acutely severe case of senioritis and warm weather laziness). In any case, it feels very good to be truly done, but I'm still having to clean the office (KFR, Matto, and E left massive piles of tests in cabinets, shelves, and boxes - things that should have been forced back on the Prof's to store last year). After sending a pick-up load of stuff from my apartment this last weekend, I have to reduce the remainder of my possessions down to what I can fit in 1 car load when I leave Eugene on June 26 (I might try to make it back down when KFR comes up in July - we'll see). Graduation festivities went very well this weekend and my family thought all my friends and Prof's were great people. I hope everyone is doing well and having a great summer!

Friday, June 8, 2007

The End of Western Civilization is Near

I'm amazed I'm going to blog on this, it is disgusting by nature. It is a sign of the dysfunctional nature of our present justice system that the Paris Hilton circus has devolved into utter chaos. What started out as a farce has actually developed into a real story involving the exposure of the hollow, corrupt , and subjective nature of our justice system. The administrative laws and bureaucracies are so convoluted that the system is starting to devour itself. Historical perspective on the consequences of excessive bureaucratic legal complexity for society can be found in the hallowed primary sources of antiquity:

"And now bills were passed, not only for national objects but for individual cases, and laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt." - Tacitus

The more laws and regulations that are imposed upon society allows for the legal system to be increasingly tailored to individual circumstances, which increases the arbitrary power of corrupt bureaucracies motivated in self-preservation that causes stasis in society. The manipulation of the legal system for specific individual cases is a symptom of immense corruption. Strangely enough, this is the most significant and substantial moment in this shallow twits (Paris Hilton) life - it might actually cause increased reflection on the system as a whole. Surprisingly, this fiasco has done as much to highlight the problems of wealth, race, and the subjective application of the law in terms of the justice system as anything else in recent memory - this is scary in it's own way given the ridiculous nature of the personalities involved. I will take solace in the fact that as the system becomes more and more dysfunctional, the social structure will be made more susceptible to my future horde of anarchists and the impending revolutionary struggle to cleanse the system of it's filth. Eventually, a new order must be imposed upon this decaying empire. I'm embarrassed to have felt compelled to blog on this.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Thesis Approved!

The Grad School formatting police just sent word that my thesis has been approved as no corrections were needed. Naturally, somebody just published an article in a prominent journal this week that reinforced an important yet obscure aspect of my thesis (the most original part I had). Oh well, it feels very good to be done with this portion of my academic career. I might even change the course of my study quite a bit over the next two years. I could emphasize more Classical Archaeology and Egyptology in order to set myself apart in the future job market. It will also get me on a funding track to explore Mediterranean digsites. Good day all - Drink and Be Merry!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

I Need to Clear my Head for a Bit

Sorry for the hiatus, but my brain has been thrown into coasting speed as I do mindless formatting revisions for my Thesis. I am none to thrilled to be dealing with another bureaucracy like the Grad school editing division. I've already had to deal with too many bureaucratic nightmares from my injury days. E and C provided a good respite last night with E fashioning a good pizza and chilled wine (Thanks E, it was good!) At least, I've been going out most nights to celebrate the end of my time here with what few drinks I can afford on the piddly income this school provides. I think I will turn in my final revisions to the Grad school tomorrow, and that will feel really great! Hopefully, more celebration will ensue. Hope everyone is doing well - I think I'll go work out and try to undo some of the damage done to my body by days of thesis writing.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Victory is Mine!

I emerged from my defense victorious. After suffering the mental challenges posed to me by the tribunal of academic inquisitors, I embarked on an extensive night of celebration with too wide a variety of spirits. (Thanks E, M, and C!) Despite feeling the ill effects, I managed to properly represent at the department History Conference consistent with the tradition of KFR, Matto, and El Machetito from last year. The evening was topped off with a wonderful dinner at E's new pad, courtesy of Morgan and E, accompanied by considerable vino and a viewing of KFR's montage of favorite music videos. Great Stuff!!! I will try to savor my victory for a few days before delving back into the murky quagmire that is Latin and Greek for the remainder of the summer.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I Endure the Defense Tomorrow

Here is how I envision my Friday afternoon engaged in my MA Thesis defense. Hopefully, it will be slightly more enjoyable than this, but I don't want to set my expectations too high. Have a nice day, and I will report the outcome of this trial by ordeal in the next couple of days.

Friday, May 4, 2007

A Thesis is an Irrelevant Exercise in Torture

Please forgive my lack of blog productivity lately. I will not be updating again until after I turn in my Thesis to my readers next Friday. I am vehemently opposed to the modern concept of an MA Thesis. They are too long to publish and too short to be a comprehensive study of anything. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem likely I will get any significant credit for it at UCLA. I have come to the conclusion it is simply a torture from the ninth plane of hell (the one occupied by tyrannical bureaucrats with esteem issues) inflicted upon grad students as punishment for having a fake life. In any case, I hope everyone is doing well, and I will be out of contact for the next week battling the thesis demons of the underworld. Cheers!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

My Return from LA

I have returned from a very enjoyable 4 day trip to UCLA. The weather (75, cloudless blue skies, surprisingly no smog) was a considerable improvement from what I had been experiencing for days prior to my journey. I was treated to a high end Italian restaurant by four of my future Professors and two students (one I actually knew from years past). Much food was consumed, the numerous bottles of wine were first rate. I strolled up onto Sunset Blvd, Bel Air, and down into the village. Housing will be a significant upgrade from the present situation I live in, pretty close to the beach and a good night life. As I was driving down for food on unfamiliar streets, I passed by a theater just in time to be blinded by a wall of flashes from the paparazzi at a movie premiere. They were all herded like sheep behind a velvet rope while bodyguards cleared space for a star I couldn't recognize from the rear at driving speed. The wall of flashes was ridiculous, and I think I would charge into them like a raging beast if I was a star. No worries about that ever happening. I tried to visit my best friend from my undergrad days in one of the investment banking towers near campus. The minute I entered I was confronted by the goon-squad that restricts access until I could legitimate my business to them. All in all, the campus was far superior aesthetically and in many other respects to what I am used to. It is a bonus the research library is right next to my future class area and office. Everyone I dealt with in my field seemed very personable. I should have a good chance to succeed. The only potential tripping point will be the Greek field of my studies as the speed expectation of the Ancient Greek translation in required history seminars looks to be as much as 8 times my present grad level. I have two to three years to achieve that skill level, but it will be very daunting. If I should fall short, this would be what would prevent my from getting my PhD. Everything else looks very favorable. Have a nice day!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

My Particular Perspective on the Gun Issue

This is a very long rant that is somewhat rambling as a quickly written stream of consciousness. I respect all divergent opinions, but it is unlikely I will be moved from my entrenched position. The Virginia Tech senseless destruction is a tragedy, and I am moved in a variety of ways. I have had comrades killed by mines and other horrific ways in my relatively short life. In perspective, violence in this country has been reducing fairly consistently for the last 15 years, and McVeigh did much more damage without a gun. A truly disturbed mind will find a way. That said, guns are too accessible to people that shouldn't have them. In this rant I will only talk in broad conceptual terms on this issue as the specifics of any incident do not need to be characterized one way or the other by me. In broad political terms I view this rant as a realistic assessment, it is unrealistic to assume the present government or society will retain it's present stability over time. All governments, empires, and social structures rise and eventually fall in a tumult of transformation. (Disclaimer ends here)
In response to the thoughtful critiques on the the gun issue posted by kungfuramone and dolce vita, I feel comfortable throwing an additional perspective into the mix. Growing up in the mountains during the 1970's, I have a different attitude toward guns that is convoluted in its own way. My father was born in the suburbs of Kansas City, he specifically moved to Oregon to live as a kind of nostalgic mountain man. As a consequence, I was virtually born with a firearm in my hand hunting in the woods from a very young age. My cousin was confronted in his house at age 15 by a burglar and pulled out a gun to hold the would be thief at bay while he called the cops. My mother has been in situation where she has had to threaten scary individuals in woods at gunpoint for her own survival, shoot an aggressive bear, coyotes preying on our herds, among numerous other incidents. We even had legitimate cattle rustler issues when I was young. In the area where I grew up, small children have been taken by cougars from the front yard. My family has a full scale arsenal that includes a variety of guns (rifle and hand), it makes Sasha's arsenal look small. Gun ownership has been a part of my life and was fundamental in terms of my identity formation. I only bring this up because a very large segment of the population (mostly rural) identify themselves in this way. The US govt is not as stable as people think, eventually this government will fall and be unable to provide security as internal divisions tear it down, when that happens I don't want the remnants of the government to have a monopoly on firearms. As an expert military marksman, I personally find the concept of firearm combat repugnant, it is for the weak and cowardly to try to level the odds. Guns are too often used by the weak and disturbed to try to impose their pathetic wills on the world. Wars should be fought in single hand-to-hand combat, warlike politicians should have to take their life into their own hands and stand face to face with their enemies - there would be fewer wars!
That said, in rural areas, there is a distinct distrust of governmental interference regarding increasing restrictions on water rights, property rights, hunting regulation, and a myriad of other traditional aspects associated with rural life. The slippery slope of regulation has been increasing over the last few decades, regardless of what anyone says. I know from first hand experience my rights are more restricted now than they were years ago. There are more laws in all aspects of life, speech is more restricted, property rights are no longer secure, the thought police are becoming more prevalent. Today I could not say certain things that could be said before 9/11 without sending up security flags, people are monitored everywhere, the rise of the PC thought police try to correct aspects of speech and thought. When I was young I was assured in grade school these rights would never be infringed upon, that was the great lie associated with the American system. The old liberal mantra I was indoctrinated with in grade school was "I might not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." That has been completely eroded and corrupted into imposed conformity of thought in the last 20 years. My parents generation was taught to question everything, and US education reached it's height in the 1950's and 60's. This ignited the social movements of the 1960's that created great upheaval for the ruling order. Since then, education has been deliberately dumbed down to make a more ignorant and malleable mass lacking analytical skill. This present populace is easily controlled by sound bites in the 24 hour news cycles that provide no context or substantive analysis - it's all emotional rhetoric and gut reaction to events without consideration of all ramifications.
Gun control advocates need to realize many elements of the rural populace will oppose gun regulation at all costs, no argument will sway this position. The incidents like Virginia Tech do not usually occur in the heavily armed rural areas (the recent exception being the Amish school incident that did not require a gun), they occur in the suburbs and cities with people that do not have any familiarity or respect for the serious effects of firearms. I knew the devastating effects firearms could have on an organic body first hand from a very young age. I was drilled daily with the real consequences of pulling a trigger, in terms of destructive capacity, safety, and personal responsibility for the action. Urbanized children rarely have these experiences, and the pressures of a crowded urban life magnify the anti-social behaviors of dysfunctional whack-jobs like this most recent mental meltdown. As a result, I would be willing to increase gun restrictions in urban areas and make it a localized regulation issue within a federally monitored database akin to New York City restrictions. Regulations can be overhauled to try to continue to close gaps in the system, but under no circumstances will I yield the basic rights to have access to a wide variety of modern firearms. In large populations, a certain amount of aberrant personalities is inescapable, and the pressures of urban life magnify the dysfunctional consequences when these crazies lash out. Gun violence will never be eliminated in this country, people need to realize Europe has a different culture that cannot be replicated here, and an attempt to ban guns is completely impossible and politically dangerous due to extreme backlash. Criminals and crack-pots can always get guns, just like drugs. I want access to guns, because you can be sure criminals have them, and I also don't trust the police due to my personal experiences with corrupt cops. The government is also not worthy of my trust or respect, I will not rely on the govt to provide security for my family.
The fear of the slippery slope of governmental infringement on rights fueled the recruitment abilities of the militia movements of the early 1990's, allowing an unfortunate increase in dangerous reactionary movements. This increasing governmental regulation over the last few decades has created a situation where largely urban lawmakers are ignorantly making laws without understanding the animosity this creates in a politically powerful segment of the population. This segment of the rural population composes much of the remnant of the land-owning frontier settlers tied to the mythology perpetrated on the American psyche in historical representations involving the building of the country. The power of this propagandist mythology is often underestimated in the present day, it will not be undone in our lifetime. Unfortunately, the backlash created by the increasing governmental regulation in rural areas has given the corrupt corporate right wing elements of the country an issue they can exploit for political purposes. Hence, gun rights were tied to urban gun violence for political manipulation by both the right and the left.
The ultimate problem is that gun rights have been politically merged with urban gun violence. This situation has fueled the polarized the political environment along the Red State - Blue State lines that have paralyzed the political dynamics of the country. The backlash against much of the gun legislation attempted by President Clinton in the 90's (I've personally heard Clinton state how misunderstood this issue is) contributed heavily to the election of the ignorant Yale cheerleader and his gang of reactionary thugs we presently have in executive power. Even though the rural segment of the population is shrinking as the cities grow, they still have landed interests that make their political influence relatively higher in sparsely populated areas. As a result, no significant gun reform is likely to occur in our lifetimes. To attempt to do so is presently a waste of political capital by the left. In this sense, kungfuramone is correct because most people do not understand how heavily armed the U.S. population is - guns are so ubiquitous in the U.S. society it is completely impracticable, and largely untraceable. The government couldn't take away the guns without a full scale revolutionary revolt of a heavily armed population. There are not that many soldiers or police. Maybe in the future the attitude will change, but not now. The mentality for a large segment of the population is simple, the right to guns is worth more than any number of Virginia Tech incidents - no ideological arguments will persuade otherwise. This is not meant to indict any opposing view, and for my own personal reasons I do consider guns to have caused more ill in the world than almost any other invention. However, I will not have a government have a monopoly on their usage. This government will eventually collapse and what will emerge in the power vacuum will make our present administration look like peace loving doves of the highest order. It will require a heavily armed alternative group to combat the reactionary and revolutionary armed elements left and right that will eventually make a grab for power when the decayed corpse of our present government falls into the dust bin of history. Forgive this endless digression!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Graduation Junk is Expensive

I decided to purchase the required graduation materials today. I was going to go the cheapo root, as a starving grad student, but I had complaints come in from my family. I was pushed into one of the graduation packages for extended family, it was extremely expensive. I think the bookstore is operating like a corrupt monopoly of the highest order. Personally, I despise graduation ceremonies in all varieties and I feel hypocritical even attending my own. I get bored about 30 seconds in, and the entire audience usually wants to get it over with as soon as possible. Graduations are one of those strange self-perpetuating social rituals that most people dislike, yet everyone feels obligated to go to. I am such a sellout to cave in to my family's request, but I don't want to have to live it down for the next few years. I hope everyone has a lovely week and enjoys the rejuvenation of spring! That's about as cheery as I get lately as I have not been sleeping well.

Monday, April 9, 2007

A Strange Combo for Easter Weekend

I ventured to the new theater again this weekend to see the new Rodriguez/Tarantino flick. It was pure homage to the 70's style B-movie genre dominated by extreme violence, revenge, sexual exploitation, porno music, and all other things not politically correct in this present world of feigned hyper-sensitivity. Grindhouse even employed ridiculous caricatures of the cliche of 70's power feminism that had seeped into the ultra-exploitive movies of that era. The audience loved it, especially the retro feel to the mock trailers (Machete, Werewolf Women of the SS, Don't, and Thanksgiving), in addition to other internal advertisements and missing reel notices. I was one of the few people old enough in the audience to actually remember those types of films and trailers prevalent in the 70's because my hometown in the sticks still has one of the few drive-ins around that used to run that stuff into the early 80's. While this film is definitely not for all, I think El Machetito, Matto, and especially Kungfuramone might find it hilarious as a spoof of formulaic B-movies. I found the deliberate nature of the Easter weekend release date fitting for this type of self-mockery, even though box-office receipts are likely to lag compared to Kill Bill or Sin City.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Time to Head to the Mountains for Break

Following a Rome viewing, accompanied by a much anticipated pasta dinner with Elizabeth and Morgan tonight, I will be heading home to the family ranch this week. I will be able to spend some needed quality time with my daughter in the mountains. I must inform her this week that I will be able to move back all summer before embarking on my next move to LA. Fortunately, I believe I have figured out the financial means by which I can see her on roughly the same schedule that I do from Eugene. I'll simply be flying fewer hours shuttling from LA instead of driving 13 hours every trip in Oregon. My body has finally purged the allergy or contagion I encountered last week, so I will look forward to the being back in the mountains with my daughter over break. Here are a number of internet (click to get a bigger view) images of the valley where my family ranch is. This is the foothill area of the river valley and the hills where I would hike up and down as a child. I had many joyous years nestled in the shelter of these hills, before venturing out into the cruel world beyond. Views from the bottom of valley.
From this point (image below), on clear day, you can see the Columbia River at a distance 50 miles, and Mt. Hood, St. Helens, and Adams at up to 250 miles. Familial land lies at the bottom of this valley a couple of miles down.

The elevation of the valley drops down thousands of feet rapidly at this point. Very steep and difficult hiking, a trek not for the faint of heart, especially in the dead of winter thru drifts of snow. When the present social order eventually crumbles, I will head to these hills until new strategies can be devised and implemented.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Allergy or Sickness?

After a very stressful quarter, I have either come down with some kind of sinus contagion, or spring allergy season is getting to me. Compared to most people in Eugene, I usually make it through the early blooms of spring. However, I am now talking very poorly and sneezing has commenced. Maybe I need a shot of whiskey? Too bad I'm so broke until next week. I'm presently eating off of the generosity of others until next Thursday. Alas, I miss my supplemental income from last year. Oh well! I'll get my finals to grade today, and do them quickly so I can leave town next week. Hopefully, I'm not actually sick, and I just have allergies this year. May my temporary misery lead to blessings for everyone else in the grand cosmic scheme. Any opinions on 'Lost' last night?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

No more Classes or Tests

I took my final language exam in Greek on Friday, and I am finally to the point where I don't have to take any classes at UO anymore. I will be glad to be done with this aspect of my academic life. I received good news yesterday as UCLA upgraded my funding status and awarded me a Chancellor's Fellowship with travel money, summer funding, summer travel money, and a moving stipend for next fall.

I hope everyone has a wonderful St. Patrick's Day drinking green beer, and laughing at the endless hordes of drunk people stumbling around town. Should I try to stay out of trouble this year? Maybe, but maybe not?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Once Again, Hollywood Morphs History

In response to seeing 300 last night, Hollywood has chosen to distort history for it's own purposes, leaving the audience as ignorant as ever. Although 300 is visually impressive in places, the distortion of the Spartan society is drastic. I feel obliged to put forth this brief, and probably unwanted, history lesson. While some in the modern audience may be bothered by the exaggeration of the godlike persona adopted by the Persian God-King Xerxes, including negative racial and sexual characterizations of the fusion of eastern societies ruled by the Persians, these characterizations were at least thematically consistent with the extreme xenophobia prevalent in most of the Greek historical sources. The bigger thematic distortion actually occurred regarding the issue of slavery as a moral dynamic. The Spartan 300 are represented as the last bastion of democracy and freedom against the enslavement of Greece by the Persian hordes. While it is true that this battle was critical in preserving emerging western traditions involving democracy from being subjugated by a highly stratified Persian social structure, the Spartans only allowed the 300 to be sent because of concerns they had involving the potential revolt of their massive slave population of helots. The majority of the army remained behind to maintain control over the slave population. It was this massive slave population that allowed the Spartans to create their totalitarian society of professional soldiers (taken from their mothers by the state at the age of 7, and brutally trained for 11-12 years before entering the military). So while Spartan society did not live in opulent splendor, and upper class Spartan women had the highest level of female agency in the ancient world at this time, it was not a bastion of freedom. This battle was a conflict between two different forms of highly stratified societies. Eventually, Greek intellectual freedom would continue to develop in ways that would allow a greater degree of philosophical dissension in the western world, and Alexander the Great would spread these values throughout much of Asia when he conquered the Persian Empire. The Spartan training regimen did allow them to become the best soldiers of this period, but they would not have fought individually, or barely covered, as the movie depicts. They had an extreme armor advantage (very covered) and fought in highly organized, tightly compacted phalanxes. The Greek formations could not be penetrated by the cavalry dominated, lightly armored, and poorly equipped Persians. The 300 Spartans, at a very narrow pass (along with 8000-10000 other Greeks in reserve), held Xerxes army of probably 300,000 (Herodotus reports in the millions) long enough to galvanize Greek solidarity and expose the potential weakness of Xerxes supply lines. An army of that size needed enormous supplies by sea, which the Athenian navy, led by Themistocles, kept bottled up on a narrow strait of the sea. Even after all of this success, it only delayed Xerxes; Athens was evacuated, and Xerxes burned it to the ground. However, despite the destruction of Athens, weaknesses of the Persian army were exposed at Thermopylae. In later land and sea battles, Xerxes was defeated and chased back to Asia. Please forgive the historical digression, or I will be forced to strap you to the "wheel of pain".

Thursday, March 8, 2007

A Grand Opening for 300

In honor of the opening of 300 on Friday night, and the Grand Opening of the new theater (free drinks and popcorn!) in Valley River Center, I thought I would give a sample of some of the primary source references employed by the movie involving the accounts of the Battle of Thermopylae ("warm gates") in 480 BC recorded within the histories of Herodotus.

"Of all the Spartans and Thespians who fought so valiantly, it is said the best man (who provided an example of courage), was the Spartan Dieneces. It is said that before the battle he was told...when the Persians (Medes) fire their arrows, there were so many of them they hid the sun...

(I tried to enter the Greek here but the blogsite wouldn't support it.)

... in his contempt for the multitude of Persians said,'that this is good news the stranger from Trachis announces to us: if the Persians hide the sun, we shall fight the battle under the shade, and not in the sun.'"
- (Herodotus, 7.226.1-2)

My Greek translation is getting consistently better, as you can see. However, it is extremely difficult to express the elegance and nuance of Greek utilizing modern English. Some things simply do not translate properly. Although this movie will be shot in an over-the-top mythological and visually unique style (akin to Frank Miller's Sin City), it is good that some primary references are included. It will be interesting to see how the script and imagery incorporates Herodotus.

In the trailer for 300, I found it amusing that they also lifted this line from Conan the Barbarian - "few stood against many" which is related to this personal rendition of a classic Conan prayer. "Crom, I seldom pray to you I have no tongue for it, not even you, will know (remember), if we were good men or bad, why we fought or why we died, know that few stood against many, that's what is important. Valor pleases you Crom, so grant me one request, grant me revenge, and if you do not listen, then to hell with you!"

Monday, March 5, 2007

Lethargy on a Monday

After completing a major overhaul of the introduction of my thesis this past weekend, I ran out of energy for Greek translation and felt obliged to miss class on Monday. I have taken myself off of energy drinks, and just can't seem to summon up the appropriate drive to overcome my state of lethargy on a Monday afternoon. I have the feeling I will be worthless tonight and watch TV most of the evening; the Monday night lineup has been improving considerably in recent months. If I was like most Grad students, I would feel guilty at the lack of production. However, I have skillfully cultivated my ability allow my brain to engage in short, yet frequent, states of ambivalence toward academic endeavors. It helps retain a degree of sanity, and prevents descent into the dark region that is exemplified by crazed postal worker behavior.

On a positive note, I will be flown down to UCLA for wining and dining in the middle of April. I will try to make it the equivalent of a nice little working vacation before my thesis defense. Here is an appropriate image of how I envision my thesis defense going. Of course, I will emerge bloody, but victorious, after I beat the academic high council back into the shelter of their ivory towers.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

"Lost" is Losing Itself

After a night of food and pool with E, and collecting C from the subterranean metal-smithing forges of the EMU underbelly, many fresh baked cookies (thanks other E!) were mixed with vodka tonics while watching the new episode of "Lost". After a promising episode last week, the writing has once again strayed from the bizarre themes and characters that are interesting. Although I appreciated the generic brand Dharma BEER, character dynamics were uninspired. The hippy van in the jungle was mildly amusing, but then it reminded me how much I am annoyed by hippies in general (especially the ones in Eugene).

My general attitude on hippies is reflected in this inspired quote from the one true cinematic masterpiece:

"Children of Doom, Doom's children, it is they who told my master how to find his way to the Mountain of Power. They told my lord to throw down his sword and return to the earth.
HAH! Time enough for the earth in the grave!"

I will not miss the endless supply of hippies when I move from Eugene.

An additional thanks to C for her industrious metal production. She made many inspired trinkets for a variety of people - not least of which includes a metal bracelet stamped with "Credite Ferro" (Trust in Steel) for yours truly.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A Quashed Socialist Revolution in the Depths of Space

As I was watching mindless TV in hopes of allowing my brain to decompress, following hours of stuffing my head full of Greek verbal forms, I was mildly amused by the failed class-based revolution fomented by Baltar on the new Battlestar Galactica. Even in outer space, the great revolution to impose social justice falters due to moderation for partial reforms, the leadership of a corrupt demagogue, and the ruthlessness of those protecting their own power structure. This latest defeat must come as a particular blow to my Marxist friends drowning in their own frustrated idealism. As I have said to you on many occasions, you must entice amoral and heavily armed mercenary types with vast quantities of drink, food, and coin to implement the initial stages of your plan. Once these enforcers have succeeded in bringing down the opposition, you off them in their drunken stupor of victory before they set up their own feudal aristocracy. Until you Marxist's figure out how to implement this on a grand scale, you will remain trapped in the capitalist quagmire of personal greed and self-serving justification. As you gradually age, you will be yuppified by frustration, futility, and laziness as time exacts it's merciless toll from your zealous ambition. Remember - "Life is pain princess, anyone who says otherwise is selling something" - Paraphrased freely from the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Self-Indulgent Rant Inspired by a Rainy Saturday

After a painful workout in the rec center, in which I attempted to beat back the deterioration of my battle ravaged and severely damaged body, I was forced to run back in a typical rainy day in Eugene. As I frantically sprinted through the rain, a song randomly blared from my ipod that contained rare political commentary from the usually soulless and hedonistic days of old school 80's metal.

"The white man came across the sea
he brought us pain and misery
he killed our tribes
he killed our creed
he took our game for his own need
we fought him hard, we fought him well
out on the plains we gave him hell..."
(second verse from Anglo-Saxon perspective)
- "Run to the Hills" - Iron Maiden

After seeing and discussing "Amazing Grace" with E and C last night, prompting deconstruction of the capitalistic and imperialistic nature of slavery and European expansion, it resonated in my head that I am the frontier by-product of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic subjugation of my great-great maternal grandmother's Native American tribe. I exist as a very small remnant and mixture of the imperial expansion of one civilization imposing it's frontier upon another civilization. Although I am obviously a member of the dominant civilization, trace elements of the other remain; my grandmother remembers her grandmother riding off to the hills for days when angry and fed up with the world, or my great-great grandfather. Hence, my maternal ancestry is a feisty mixture of a warlike native tribe combined with Saxon, Celtic, and Hunic invading hordes from Europe. This unstable brew combines with my paternal ancestry that contains very direct links to political agitators like John Brown and William Bradford. It must be the genes that make me so annoyed and disenchanted with the world. I simply despise authority in all forms, unless it emanates from me imposing my will on the world. Oh well, now I must sell my soul and jump through bureaucratic hoops in preparation for a test on Monday. Alas, I don't like having to subjugate and tame my inherent nature to exist in the present world.

Forgive such a self-indulgent rant, or I will have you contemplate this on the "Tree of Woe" for your insolence. Have a Nice Day!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Major Syllabus Exam

As I write this, Sasha is enduring his major syllabus exam on the WWII Eastern Front. I think it will be followed by a sojourn to Rennie's in order to provide an appropriate respite from academic drudgery on a Friday afternoon. My head nearly exploded in Greek this morning in a way that suggests I should reduce the inflammation of the brain cells with moderate to large quantities of appropriate spirits.

P.S. For disturbing images of a strange and unclassifiable sea creature check out this beast.

That is all!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Descending from my Mountainous Lair into the Infernal Basin of Los Angeles

At the specific request of Kungfuramone, I relay the details of my Five-Year Fellowship to study Ancient History at UCLA. After years of study, I hope to establish a benevolent tyranny that casts aside the present world order. Until then, no teaching in years 1, 4, and 5 with a high-end yearly stipend that obliterates my present funding situation by considerably more than two-fold, plus the inclusion of all tuition, registration fees (Yay, no fees! - unlike some places), and health insurance. Years 2 and 3 contain a TA-ship provision which has the bonus perk of an additional paid summer month in Rome accompanying selected students from the Roman Empire course I hope to TA for. An additional year of external supplemental funding is anticipated to work around a classical archaeological site in the Mediterranean. Of course, all of this is dependent on my continued assimilation of at least 5 languages, in addition to the successful completion of 3 oral comprehensives, and a written, before I get to write anything of academic substance. With this daunting task laid before me, I will retreat to my mountainous lair this summer in order to purge my mind before the descent into the labyrinth of lost souls that is Los Angeles. Fortune favors the bold!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Crossing into the Abyss

This is my initial venture into the nefarious netherworld that is the blogosphere. I have resisted being corrupted for as long as possible. However, my impending move to UCLA, and the corrupting temptations of the City of Fallen Angels, has caused me to cast away my virtue in a hedonistic display of indulgence. I expect Orcus to ascend from the depths and carry me off to the halls of perpetual shade at any time. In reality, I have found the ability to keep track of departed friends with limited effort a useful tool. Isn't laziness a powerful force? Congrats to El Machetito on his great funding and impending move to the midwest!

As always: Bibamus, moriendum est!