Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snowed in!

Quarter is finally done. Leavenworth went great as I enjoyed excessive Bavarian style food and drink. I'm more in the holiday spirit now, and am presently snowed in with over a foot of powder at the homestead. I'm going to enjoy some Irish mead my brother brought me from his last trip to the land of leprechauns. Mead works well on a cold day. I'm shutting off my brain for a few days. I suggest everyone do the same. Be well!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Paper Done - On to grading - Need to Catch 6am Flight

Quarter is nearly complete as I just turned in my research paper on early Christian identity formation under the domination of the Roman imperial structure. Fun times with violent martyr accounts in the arena and the dynamics of pagan criticism concerning perceptions of weakness and passivity. I argue for a Christian appropriation and redefinition of Roman martial virtues and conceptions of nobility in the face of death; a dynamic which would gradually embolden the early church and facilitate militant Christianity in later years. Essentially, an integration of Roman social violence and an emerging Christian identity. Initial response by Prof seems to be very favorable. Now, I must grade as much as I can until I go to LAX at 4am for a flight back to the NW. I will be spending the weekend in Leavenworth, WA at an early Xmas celebration with my daughter. I was able to escape the studio work for a couple of weeks while they move offices from Beverly Hills to Burbank for production. I should be in NW until Jan 3rd for some much needed mental decompression. Be well!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Return from a Good Thanksgiving Trip

I was able to spend an entire week at the homestead with my daughter. My brother and his wife were up for most of the week for the first collective Thanksgiving in years. All was good and it was a much needed period of relaxation. I'm trying to get this quarter wrapped up in 11 days so I can travel for an early Christmas-themed Bavarian style weekend in Leavenworth, Washington. Quite a bit to get done beforehand, but it should be a good time. I might have to fly back briefly for a meeting with studio-execs, but then I can spend most of a month de-tuning my brain for awhile. Be well!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Schedule Juggling

My new consulting job has kicked off respectably well, but I am worried about the time demands. I went into the first two production meetings with the writers armed with some good stuff. At this point, they are extremely receptive and grateful for the assistance. I am pleased with their own research and their willingness to grapple with the primary sources in trying to provide as much historical context as they can within the constraints of their theatrical vision. My input is being incorporated directly into plotline and script production and they have already structured the scenes of the pilot episode based on many of my direct contextual suggestions. I am also pleased that I will be given scripts to go over as they emerge in hopes of being able to identify potential problems before the script is finalized and sent to the director. So far, the working dynamic has been great and they are adding as much historical context as they feel they can feasibly afford. My main concern at this point is not losing too much time dealing with this because of my other academic commitments. I brought in help to split the workload and it looks like it can be managed. It will still be tough though. My other concern in terms of the show is how the writers vision will be executed during production and the demands of studio execs outside of the project. I am required to remain vague on the nature and specifics of the show at this point, but it has a respectable chance to turn out well based on the collaborative writing and the allotted budget. It still has to be properly captured on film though. We'll see. Other than this business, lots of grading and research in preparation for going home for Thanksgiving for a week. I do get a whole week though due to a scheduling advantage in my courses. It worked out favorably. Be well!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Apparently, I'm a Historical Consultant Now

I was offered the position as a historical consultant on a highly stylized TV show in my field of specialization. As long as I can make my schedule match, it could be a somewhat fun and entertaining way to make additional money. I was able to drag in a colleague of mine, whom I trust, in order to split some of the workload and have a degree of plausible deniability when the storyline deviates from the historical sources for cinematic reasons. We'll see how it goes. In other news, I have a fractured tooth from an old football injury that had to be re-resined in Italy during the dig this last summer. My original resin lasted 10 years then had to be redone 5 years later. I loved Italy, but the Italian dental work lasted 4 months before it broke apart. I also observed problematic medical care given to a couple of injured students in Italy. Despite the medical care issues in this country, reform needs to be done in a careful way that protects the overall quality of care while improving costs and accessibility. From my personal experience and observation, the European medical system is lacking in a variety of things. Believe me, you don't want to be in need of healthcare anywhere overseas.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Need to close the door on the last 45 years and Move Forward

I continue to wipe the slimy stain of democratic participation off myself following my act of voting today. Usually, my skepticism leaves me morally opposed to the democratic process because the masses are to malleable and stupid to realize what they are voting for or against. I want to institute a philosopher-king. Sound bites and factional politics designed to exploit general apathy and ignorance have led the electorate for decades. Despite this, I felt the absolute necessity to vote today in hopes of adding to the voice of opposition to the political dynamics that have dominated my entire lifetime. I'm old enough to remember the despair and frustration of the late 70's that enabled the rise of Reagan conservatism for 30 years. The 70's was the backwash of the social changes of the 60's and a decade of depressive disaster as society tried to stabilize itself after years of social turmoil. I'm not a big Reagan fan, he was not intellectually gifted and Reaganomics in combination with the S&L scandal of the 80's destroyed my families farming life. That said, the country required leadership and Reagan provided that in a way that unified the country when nobody else could. Leadership matters, sometimes providing a direction and vision, even if it is not always optimal, is better than the paralyzed stagnation of polarized factionalism. The attitude of the nation improved and the country advanced behind strong leadership - the nation moved out of a psychological despair. Attitudes in the 80's were improved, and it was a better time to live. I do not care about the marginal groups that were left out of this because the country needed to mobilized beyond Carter's ineptitude. He was not a leader; he was viewed as a joke and no recent attempts to rehabilitate his image will change how he was perceived at the time. I remember clearly what it was like. The only thing Reagan offered was manifest leadership, but it was enough. That transformation provided the nation what it needed until it devolved into the present conservative era of fissure politics that have dominated society. Even Clinton was still functioning in a conservative environment. My vote today was placed to try to end this era because it was necessary. Obama can provide dynamic leadership and has a chance to move the country in a time of need like Reagan did. Perhaps he can create a new era, but he must do it in a way that creates unity and not exacerbate factionalism. He can send a death blow to the conservative right if he does things properly. He needs to abandon cronyism and payback politics to eliminate backlash ammunition the far-right can use against him. He needs to incorporate and employ moderate right talent in appropriate areas. He needs to marginalize Pelosi and Reid because they are morons and always have been - they give fuel and fodder to right-wing attacks. He needs to throw them overboard on foreign policy, so that he can figure out a way to restore and project the appearance of military strength while improving European backing during the euphoria of his election. This still means getting out of Iraq, but engagements will continue around the Middle East and redeployment is more messy than the pacifist left will admit. Special operations and surgical strikes around the region will remain critical, but they need to be done properly. I have it on very high authority that the new strategy is to entice the factional leaders with the primary hallmark of civilization : greater access to power, leisure, money, and sex. Competing tribal factions are best pacified with these types of bribes. Nothing else is ever effective. Abstract concepts of democracy sure as hell aren't. It can all be boiled down to this and it is this present strategy that has enabled improvement. I'm not joking - I have it from the highest levels within my old contacts that this was an official policy change recently. These tactics are what has actually been implemented to a greater effect. Obama needs to use the military talent on the right to deal with defense issues. Powell needs to be brought in because he has respect across the board. Gates and Petraeus need to be left in place because they proved effective in the face of Bush's disaster and made the mess more manageable. Gates' PhD on Russian Studies is going to continue to be valuable as Russian nationalism rejuvenates under Putin. Obama needs to allow talented people to do what they specialize in, but incompetent people need to be held accountable. Obama needs to react shrewdly when he is tested on security. This type of test is how I wound up in Iraq during Clinton's first term. It will happen. Obama needs to let Petraeus and Gates craft a strong response that is not a knee-jerk Bush reaction. Allowing capable specialists to shape defense will improve Obama's credibility on defense in a way that will allow him to push for social program changes. If he allows the defense industrial complex to retain face, he can make gains in a variety of other social areas that will inoculate him from attacks from the far right. He needs to sell his middle class tax cut and couple it with infrastructure rebuilding that will provide jobs to build the tax base back up. He needs to tie social programs to public service in an attempt to get the disenfranchised engaged with the nation. Welfare and redistribution can't be unfettered entitlement - it must be tied to specific actions that build pride in accomplishment, self-sufficiency, and personal responsibility. It will defang the far-right attacks while accomplishing a greater cohesion throughout the nation. We must employ an inclusive policy where a wide variety of people can become mobilized to action because it is appealing and financially beneficial. The divisive loudmouth social activist champions of the politically correct left should be marginalized as the worthless whiners they are. They are as evil as the far-right loons - free discourse needs to be encouraged without the incessant fear that someone might say something wrong or offensive. Intent of speech should be the criteria as opposed to listener response. People need to toughen up and be less hyper-sensitive to everything. Speech, even hate-speech, should remain protected in this country. I was raised in the 70's indoctrinated in the old notion "I may hate what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." That concept was killed in the hyper-sensitivity of the 90's and it empowered the far-right nut-jobs on talk radio. It is the hyper-sensitivity that fuels the backlash flight to the far-right. Political correctness empowered the far-right much more than people realize because it took common sense and intent out of the equation. Obama has the leadership skills to close the door on the old divisive politics of Rove, Bush, Cheney, Gingrich, Delay, Pelosi, Reid, Clinton, and all those on both sides who made their living race-baiting. Obama is an exceptional figure with phenomenal leadership qualities and intellectual abilities. He has immense potential to possibly transform a nation. I want to be optimistically hopeful, but it goes against my skeptical nature. However, he is what the nation needed at the right time. I don't even care so much where he leads, as long as he leads everybody. However, if he mucks it up, you'll see the far-right re-energized with a vitriolic vengeance that could descend into a resurgence of fascism. He needs to succeed!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Interesting Meeting - I must Decide on a Course of Action

My meeting with the studio execs was an interesting experience. They explained their vision of the subject matter to me - I must keep it under wraps for now. The emphasis would be on action and visual stylization - generally targeting a younger audience more attuned to that format, but without a rating restriction. I heard their proposals and I outlined my concerns centered around protecting my own potential position in the snooty halls of academia. The meeting went well and I submitted some teaser ideas to enhance their historical accuracy while augmenting their cinematic hooks for the audience. They were pretty impressed with those, but I might have placed so many restrictions on my participation in order to retain plausible deniability and address workload concerns that I might not be a viable option for them. However, I think I might have enticed them to consult with me on my terms. Either that, or they'll just use the teaser ideas I gave them as their own. Wouldn't surprise me in this town. We'll see. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Recovery and Upcoming Meeting

I took Thursday off from gradwork to go out for a much needed lunchdate. Lunch was very good, but it decimated my wallet because of Westwood prices and the amount of drinks. I no longer have access to the system of supplemental gambling income I enjoyed in Eugene, nor do I have any time to spare on my degenerate addiction to games of chance. After a wonderful afternoon Thursday, I attended a dinner party in Malibu at my adviser's house. Many good bottles of wine were had by all as I heard many stories about the politics of academic job placement. There is apparently no logic behind any of it and it is definitely a game of academic politics, social networks, and hierarchical protocol where placements are often determined due to a variety of factors well outside any semblance of rationality. It was a good evening with excellent wine, no 2 buck chuck there. In a strange coincidence, an anecdote regarding Trader Joe's came up because the actual Joe from Trader Joe's used to attend many of these dinner parties back in the day.
On another strange note, I have my first powerlunch Wed at noon in Beverly Hills with a studio exec and some writers exploring the development of a cable series set within my field of expertise (The barely visible photo above to the right is of me giving my gladiator lecture to students in an ancient Roman arena). I may serve as historical consultant for the project if I like what I hear, but I will remain cautious to not attach my name to anything that is likely to be crap. We'll see how it goes and how much time they need invested by me. If nothing else I'll get a great lunch paid for by the studio. Be well!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Historical Cycle of Empires

Random rantings on politics, corruption, the pitfalls of racial dynamics, and American laziness: As the fissures in the economic empire continue to be exposed, the question arises as to if it is an appropriate time to assemble my fearsome hordes and purge the present social order in lakes of fire and streams of blood. Given the magnitude of the greed and corruption being exposed in both the private and public sectors of our society, the opportunity for social reorganization is approaching. Despite that fact, things have not yet deteriorated enough through all segments of the populace to fully enable transformation on the scale necessary to make a difference. People think that the coming election is so critical to the future of the nation. Hah! Complete fallacy because no matter which candidate wins they will not be able to effect the necessary change to address the fundamental issues. McCain is past his prime and would be completely hamstrung by opposition from the reactionary politics of the fascist conservative right and the vitriolic mania of the misguided political correctness of the far left. Obama's vision of change sounds good but it will likely amount to a bunch of nothing because of some realities that will limit his effectiveness. Some overtly racist elements of the existing system will simply not cooperate and will hole up in a bunker mentality to protect their privileged positions against any hint of social reorganization in terms of class/race/etc.... Despite Obama's purported vision for a post-racial dynamic in politics, the elements of society that apply racial dynamics to everything in the name of political correctness will be disappointed that Obama's election will not have fundamentally changed much of anything. Obama might well become the first minority president, but if he gets the position he will be forced to pursue moderate policies on account of the fact that the drastic changes necessary to fully address the situation will be extremely controversial and risky. Racial political concerns and the risk of too rapid a social transformation will force Obama to take a safe course on most issues. I contend the first minority president, due to racial concerns, will not be allowed by the powers that be to take risks that might risk the legacy associated with the first minority presidency. Image will supersede substance because of the present dynamics surrounding racism and racial politics in this country. Conveniently or insidiously, depending on your view, the present financial crisis provides a built in justification for limiting the pragmatic application of any real policy of change. There isn't any money left in the system to embark on large scale social transformations of any type - public sector or private sector. The industrial capacity of the nation is too much in ruins to adopt a modern version of a New Deal system, the population no longer has the industrial training, discipline, or scientific skill to produce manufactured goods or effectively rebuild infrastructure, the populace is too lazy and mollified to work through the difficult times in a meaningful way. People can no longer tolerate hard work and boredom as they demand instant gratification and entertainment. Difficult times are needed to retrain and cleanse our worthless society through suffering and despair. Only then will expectations be lowered to a point where the simple pleasures of life can be enjoyed. While this will likely happen over many years, it will not happen quickly. The present population of whack job conservatives and idiotic liberals must die off or be killed off to allow the proper change in society to occur. It will take a long time and US imperial power will continue to erode. By the time it is done, most people will be worse off anyway. Either McCain or Obama will preside over this continued deterioration as the empire falls and they will be attached to this decline. It's happened many times before, and it will happen many times in the future. At some point the system will fall enough for this empire to be overthrown by ravaging hordes, but I might be on my deathbed by the time the carnage ensues - we'll see. Forgive the incoherence of this rant. Have a nice day!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Another Year Escapes My Grasp

More incoherent rambling. I'm now another year older. Although my emotional vacuousness allows me to stoically accept the gradual continued deterioration of my body and memory capacity, each year drifts by faster and faster. While it is logical that each year should seem to pass faster with each representing a smaller fraction of one's life, the rapid advance and changed perspective remain no less disconcerting. The only thing that is more disconcerting for me is the rapid growth of my daughter as I watch years slip away due to my ridiculous life circumstances. However, the present short term sacrifice should improve the balance of her life - hopefully making it worth it overall. We'll see. It's a calculated risk - maybe it won't be in vain. Although as our empire begins to fall, the outlook for her life could be more restrictive than I would like to imagine. Despite the present panic, I do expect this empire probably to survive until we are all old and crotchety (although KFR is already trying to reside there). While I personally have little problem with a collapse to anarchy, the truth is most people are sheep and they will not be able to handle the fallout. When this empire goes down, it will not raise the oppressed in the world, the poor will still be poor, a few rich will get sacrificed to the masses, most of the parasitic rich will find a new way to feed off of society, some newcomers will rise to prominent positions just to be corrupted by power and wealth like all that have preceded them, new ideologies will be promoted that will prove as vacant as the previous ones, a bloodbath will ensue to relieve some of the overpopulation pressure, and a new system will likely emerge to prove functional for awhile before it begins its devolution toward corruption. Such is the inevitable cycle of life. When this empire falls, humanity will sink into its cesspool default state for a time. Decadence must be purged through privation to reduce expectations, then the little pleasures in life can be appreciated once again - all hail strong drink, good food, and hedonistic sex. Unfortunately, most people that have been mollified by modern society need meaning and structure and cannot live in an abyss of anarchy. They will not be able to endure such changes and will simply become worthless piles of self-commiserating goo wishing for guarantees of safety and their prior enslavement to the old imperial order. The only way to avoid such a cruel fate and escape despair is to establish me as benevolent dictator for life so that I may rule with an iron fist and sage wisdom. My empire would be better - harsher, but alot more fun. I'm probably old enough now to meet the requisite age limit for the position. Just cross out president and just make sure to write me in on the ballot this November. When the election is stolen from me I will raise my forces to seize power. I'll fix congress through fatal proscription and replace them with my own brand of lackeys. They can't possibly be worse than what we have now. Rant done! Fine!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Attempting to Jumpstart my Brain

I'll try to get back into proper TIS form of barbaric simplicity over the next few days. Still having picture issues, but here is a relevant big club picture for this post.
After a very enjoyable, yet hectic, summer, I have spent the last few weeks actually trying to reassimilate Greek into my head in order to complete my Polybius paper from Spring Quarter. Finally, it is done and I can now start to look forward and prepare for a new quarter of teaching. The sections are twice as long as what I have done before, but I have considerable autonomy. Next week I have to try to get the students to digest Gilgamesh and the Law Code of Hammurabi. At least with Gilgamesh I get to debate the themes associated with the human condition under civilization versus a natural state of existence as essentially a wild beast - corruptive knowledge vs. blissful ignorance. We'll see which they think is better, and I will bring out the pitfalls of each side. Maybe, I'll extol the virtue of my barbaric big club political theory, but I doubt it.
In any case, I will get to elaborate on the insidious dangers and mollifying effects of love:

"for when he murmurs love to you the wild beasts that shared his life in the hills will reject him...as he lay on her murmuring love...For six days and seven night they lay together, for Enkidu had forgotten his home in the hills; but when he was satisfied he went back to the wild beasts. Then, when the wild creatures saw him they fled. Enkidu would have followed, but his body was bound as though with a cord, his knees gave way when he started to run, his swiftness was gone...; Enkidu was grown weak..." (The Coming of Enkidu: Epic of Gilgamesh) Love is false, Trust in Steel!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Being Worthless in the Valley

I've been relaxing in the mountains and spending time with Madaline since my return from Rome. Attended some large family functions, went to the Drive-In, wandered around the mountains, etc... . That has been wonderful, but my schedule has resulted in me falling way behind on my Polybius paper that had been extended from it's due date during my time in Italy. The course was the hardest I've ever taken and I still need to do well enough on this project. I've not been able to properly link my pictures from Picasa to this blog. I have at least 3000 pics. I haven't had time or the proper internet connection to deal with it. I forgot what I did before when I got the slideshow to link to this blog. I had trouble before because the link wouldn't paste right according to instructions and I can't recall how I fixed the problem earlier last spring. If anybody knows, send me an email. I'm completely broke until at least mid-Sept, so I'm not sure how the next month is going to go or if I can travel anywhere.

Madaline starts junior high in 8 days and I will be wrapped up in that and the local fair through Labor Day. I hope everyone else's summer is going well! I'll try to get at least a few pics operational. Be well!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Triumphal Return

After a grueling flight from Rome and some sleep in my own apartment, it feels good to be back stateside despite the great time I had in Italy over the last couple of months. The excavation went well although I was very busy and in a fairly remote area of the mountains of central Italy. I had a wonderful time my last week in Rome with lots of good company, food, and vino to go with the endless sites and museums I went through. My time in Naples and Pompeii was great also. I also actually really enjoyed some of the mid-sized Italian communities in the center of Italy like Sulmona, L'Aquila, Avezzano, and Rieti. These areas were not as blazing hot as Rome and had a more relaxed environment where you could connect with the local culture without all the tourists and craziness in Rome. I was in very high mountainous areas with lovely scenery and good weather to eat and drink at small establishments with friendly people. All in all a very good trip. I will not be able to drive to Oregon this next week as I have to get to see my daughter as quickly as possible following some meetings with faculty this week. I will likely be in Oregon until Sept 12th, and I will possibly try to visit during that time if I can work out transportation.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Off to the Heart of the Ancient Empire!

I leave in a half an hour for the flight to Rome. I am starting to amp up my repressed energy levels for this long awaited odyssey. Everything looks good to go. I will stay in communication via this blog as best I can, but we'll see how it goes. Be well and have a good summer! Ciao!!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

An End to the Quarter from Hell

I have basically concluded my Spring 08 quarter with the completion of my Greek translation final. It was a pretty difficult test, but it could have been worse. I performed respectably well in places, but the actual grading criteria are beyond brutal. In any case, it is done and I have to turn in the accompanying paper for this course in early September which should allow for a balancing out of the grading due to my ability to control the quality of the paper. My primary advisor is very happy with my progress and that is what counts the most. Anyway, I would not want to have to many quarters like this one. The final was further complicated by a minor sinus surgery that was performed on me Friday afternoon to repair some tissue that was damaged when I was exposed to some nasty stuff in the desert sands half-way around the world. They cut a calloused piece of tissue out that had been singed and healed in a less than optimal way. Apparently it is this area that has been collecting material around it that contributes to recurrent sinus infections. The cleaner air in Oregon likely made the problem less of an issue, but here it became more troublesome - I shake my fist at the vile entity that is smog! In any case, the surgery led to 3 days of migraines right before I took the worst final of my life. At least it looks like I survived. I fly back to see my daughter at 6am tomorrow before my departure to Italy on Monday. My family is doing well enough, but I have to have my daughter's birthday party early because of my schedule this summer. She at least gets one early, but it is not optimal. It will be good to see my daughter, the rest is relatively meaningless. Up through this weekend, despite the surgery, I was still attempting to integrate my schedule for dating. I even had a brunch date, which I hadn't done in years, - it seemed to go well, but I simply can't juggle to many things at once. At least I have a myriad of foundations in place for when I return from Italy and despite my inability to drink lately I've resurrected enough charm to be respectably appealing. Unfortunately, charm takes more energy than I would like. Maybe I can seem charming to the Italian ladies this summer as I will be feeling much better. Ciao!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

If I Fall to the Flames - It Will be Defiantly

The oppressive nature of my academic situation continues to drive colleagues away. The requirements placed upon people in my field now run at close to 700% of my previous academic situation. The person I knew from UO when I was recruited here last year was forced to take a leave of absence to realign her life before I even arrived here this past fall. I think it unlikely she will return to continue her program here despite the fact she was awarded a very prestigious package to continue - she declined it last year and left school. The person who was admitted with me was forced to withdraw this quarter and I don't know if she will be back in the future to continue. This is easily the worst quarter of my life for a variety of reasons but mostly because of endless hours of Greek translation that don't relent or allow for significant progression. Even though Latin is my most important language, and is difficult in it's own right, the Greek requirements here are something else entirely, akin to being tortured in the deepest bowels of hell. Up to this point, despite extreme difficulty, I have passed through my history classes with the absolute highest of marks. My situation with my advisor is ideal, but the obstacles placed in front of me by other scholars here are very formidable. I am improving, but the progression lies on a razor's edge. It is not necessarily likely I can pass the final in my current history seminar because it is purely Greek translation of multiple passages of Polybius drawn randomly from the 88 chapters of book 1. There are no aids whatsoever and the grading criteria is absolutely brutal. Even if I had a dictionary, it would be beyond formidable because of the nuances the instructor expects. Of the 4 people remaining in the class, I have the least amount of Greek by at least 2 years. All of the others are ABD or soon to be. It is entirely likely I will outright fai the final and I don't know if it will be close enough to pass the class with the B- or higher required when the paper and participation are figured in. I can't drop at this time without causing other problems and if I get lower than a B- in this course, my future job prospects and reference support could be compromised. Consequently, I may not be able to justify continuing this trek for 4 more years, even if I were allowed to, because it would be hard for me to continue to be willing to endure the time away from my daughter if the dubious nature of future job prospects became even more corrupted. I have eliminated my Italian course this week to provide more time for taking this final, but I don't like my last few years of academic life coming down to one test in a single course. If I get by this, I will be fine by the time my QE's are taken. I've got 11 days to prepare, but it wouldn't matter if it were ten more weeks - that's how screwy the situation is. In any case - wish me luck! If I flail, I will still fade to oblivion very defiantly. Hopefully, I will not be the latest casualty of many, but we'll see. In my field, I am wading at a level here well beyond my prior school - it's not even in the same realm. This was the reason I was sent here, but it's hard to gamble as many years as I have invested on this situation.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

End of Quarter Near

Disclaimer: Elements in this fatigued and incoherently brutal rant are designed to tweak all you commies that just won't let go - sometimes I just like to be deliberately contrary, very politically incorrect, and generally insensitive. I'll go back to my default fuzzy and warm-hearted persona when I feel a bit better. I'm presently embracing darkness as an old friend; so read on at your own peril, or wait till my next post. The most miserable quarter of my life is approaching an end. If all quarters were like this one, I would not continue down this torturous path. I knew all along this would be my worst quarter, but I hoped it would go better than this. At least I'm within 3 weeks of Italy - I'm simply holding on til I can decompress my brain for the summer. I did go to the Indiana Jones midnight premiere across the street from my house because I couldn't sleep anyway and I thought I could get in an archaeological mood. All throughout the evening there were rogue packs of drunk sorority she-wolves howling the Indy theme song at the top of their lungs up and down the streets, so I felt unable to concentrate and justified abandoning my Greek at 11:30pm to go to the movie. Very convenient! I set my expectations as low as possible for the movie because nothing can ever live up to seeing the original when I was ten years old and still embraced hope and optimism in life. In this new movie, I didn't like the 50's motif and Stalinist Commies in film never make as formidable bad guys as the Nazi's do, although I always like Cate Blanchett in any role. Nazi's are always representative of an earthly manifestation of pure evil that is oppressively efficient and aristocratic in ways that posed a tangible threat to western notions of individual liberty. A concrete threat that had to be opposed at all costs. Commies tend to viewed as mindless promoters of a misguided ideology of unrealistic visions that exploited the desires of largely servile societies accustomed to being dominated by central authorities, essentially a bunch of lowly peasants that knew nothing but allowing themselves to be dominated. It is better to die than to be such an abject creature subservient to the state. Commies were never a threat to succeed over the long haul. Sorry to all you people out there who take commies seriously in any way, either on the far left as fans or the far right as 'Red Scare' mongers, but I'm much too concerned with the pursuit of self-agrandizing valor and glory from the vanquishment of a formidable enemy to give any credence to such an unworthy adversary, especially one so rooted in the base consciousness of the lowly peasantry. I remain much too narcissistic and elitist to validate commies as any real threat to western civilization - their movements tend to devolve into the eating of their own as in the Maoist and Stalinist examples, and they represent tragic, yet ultimately meaningless, exercises in population control of the vulgar throng. Thus, these commies and their ideologies are best resigned to the dustbin of history, a closet where you lock up the ugly and deformed step-child to avoid shame being conferred on the rest of the family. I pretty much feel the same way about inappropriate attempts to revive Marxist historiographical methodology in academia. Sorry friends, sometimes you just have to let it go when it dies and starts to decompose! Some applications of it can work in certain circumstances, but many are anachronistic projections. Anytime a scholar attempts to impose it on my field it invariably proves to be an absolute disaster, but you'd be surprised at the amount of articles in the last few decades that have tried. In any case, enough on the unworthy nature of villainous commies. Forgive the digression! Back to the film! The movie includes some nostalgic moments of proper Indy fare, but was doomed from inception to be unable to measure up to it's own iconic standards. With that said, I'm sure I will see it many times with my daughter over the years to come and it provided a much needed distraction from school. On a similar note, I have confirmed that a new Conan movie is in production at Lionsgate with a reported $100million budget. They did not consult me on the script, so I'm sure I will have to bring down the wrath of Crom on them if they screw this up too bad. I unabashedly state I could write the best script for Conan, one true to original vision, if only I had the right connections. I don't know who they are going to get to play the new Conan with the Gubernator being too old and physically deteriorated for this role, as he was always his most effective as an actor when he played a cyborg or a barely evolved human. Such was his wheelhouse. I hope whoever they get doesn't piss me off too much. I'll let this rant end now - Fine!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Much Needed Dinner Party

Disclaimer: Here's a largely incoherent rant on a variety of topics. It lacks proper focus or methodology. Forgive me - I am tired! Following my torturous sleep study experience, I've been told my sinus issues and the perpetual physical and emotional pain my mind has been consciously blocking out for years may be manifesting in ways that disrupt my sleep patterns. After being hooked up to over 100 wires Monday night, I woke up partially paralyzed and with severe back pain at 4am from not properly repositioning my back in the night due to the feeling of ensnarement associated with the wires and the lousy bed. The experience ruined my entire day and I bombed an Italian quiz and couldn't concentrate during my Greek seminar. After sleeping better Tuesday night I was able to attend a good dinner party last night at my adviser's house for a friend of mine who will receive his PhD in a couple of weeks before going off to a tenure track job in Denver. They had him here 7 years after he came in with an MA. I played the political game at dinner pretty well, and spent alot of time conversing with the adviser of my adviser at UO who has been teaching at this school since the 50's. He even taught this fall for one quarter, and I hope my mind holds up half as well after that many years. In any case, I heard alot of good stories and had a very good evening. Although, the brain power in the room displayed by the 6 Profs in attendance made me feel intellectual deficient. I very rarely feel that way in any circumstance, but it sometimes happens. I think most view me favorably- at least I hope so! If I could get the medical people to help me get a bit more focus and brain capacity I should be fine. I'm in a weird hybrid situation where I do exceptional on the history side of things in my home department, and I do alright with my archaeology and somewhat well with my Classics courses. The History Dept has a very good dynamic that is very great to work in, but the Classics program I am required to work in has a much more cutthroat dynamic of deliberate attrition and competition - and these people usually specialize in philological analysis. I employ a wider approach in my historiography, which has many advantages, but I have a built in philological disadvantage because I'm not as narrowly specialized. Therefore, when I have to take courses in their departments I'm not on equal footing, while these students very rarely look to engage in historically themed courses. I'm all for overt competition when it is of the martial combat variety because the validity of the superiority of the victor is obvious and validated by the killing and/or subjugation of the shamed opponent. When might makes right, as it often does because morality tends to be a justified construct of delusional self-righteousness, argument over the nuances is meaningless. The subjective nature of intellectual valuation and combat I find to be inaccurate in many cases. Some people that do certain philological tasks often allow arguments to become lost in a quagmire of literary analysis, or they are so hyper-specialized they are completely irrelevant in any practical way. I sometimes think I come across this when dealing with certain elements I find in other departments and certain sub-fields in history. My field of Ancient History is a hybrid field that will require me to be able to function in a wide variety of other departments. Unfortunately, this dynamic may slow my progression and the timing of my completion, if they don't toss me out with the over 50% that don't make it, as I address the requirements and approaches in other departments. This may cost me a shot at possible job openings I would be well-positioned to pursue. I'm trying to get done in 4-5, but it may not be possible because of the external departments I have to deal with. Now, I must return to Greek translation. That is all!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Electrodes to the Brain

I am about to go stay in the hospital for the evening so the medical powers that be can study my sleep patterns and oxygen intake. My brain capacity continues to deteriorate and I feel increasingly lethargic. I'll be my pessimistic self and anticipate them finding an inoperable brain tumor. After establishing such low expectations, I'll be mildly relieved to find out from them that I will be likely to live for a few more decades in this veil of tears. Maybe I'll get lucky, and they'll have some ideas of ways that might improve my situation. Unfortunately, this overnight diagnostic will cause me to flail at an Italian test and in my Greek translation tomorrow. They'll release me just in time to mess up my entire schedule even worse. I just need this hellish quarter to be over. I'll post again soon if I make it out of the hospital. Fine!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Losing Brain Capacity

I'm embroiled in the worst quarter of my life, experiencing an annoying level of brain atrophy. I am overloaded with Greek translation and a slavery seminar. I have adapted my time and brain capacity to accommodate these important aspects, but it allowed my Italian course to lapse to the point where I was ambushed by a test. I hate the communicative approach to languages and I missed enough class with illness and my grandfather's death that I had to morph my enrollment schedule to allow me to drop Italian in the last week of the course. I'll probably complete most of the work for the course in preparation for my trip to Italy, but I may not take the final due to my Greek final requirements. I find my brain unable to process anything outside of my ancient languages or history at present. Age and stress are allowing my mind to become very forgetful of little things. I think I left my Greek notebook in class this week with a full quarter of intensive word lists and translation notes in it, I can't find it and it will really hurt my preparation for the final in this class. I can't remember anybody's name anymore. I can't process what my Italian instructor is saying fast enough because I can't concentrate on the stupid and inane material presented in lower level languages courses that meet 5 days a week. My brain capacity is deteriorating and I can only focus on the most important tasks at hand. The medical bureaucracy is a hassle in scheduling all of my sleep tests. I need to sleep better for my brain to work, and I'm just not. I'm contemplating trying to talk the doc's into loading me up some of the teen ADD meds to see if I can boost my concentration levels, but it is dubious. I need the summer to get here so I can be away from class for awhile. Italy should help me recharge, but we'll see. I don't know when my brain will allow me to remember to blog again. For now, that is all!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Scourge of Fatigue

Forgive the blog hiatus, but my life has been rather oppressive lately. Time and energy have been at a premium. I flew home a couple weekends ago to see my daughter and help my mother with my grandfather's estate. It is difficult to go through 86 years worth of accumulation in a household. There was a strange paradox in being in a house so full of material things, yet still feeling an inherent emptiness of the house that had so many memories for me. It affected me a bit more than I expected, but I was glad iwas there for my mother. My 7 sets of aunts and uncles went through most of the stuff and took many personal things for themselves, but I was very grateful to be able to get some very personal items for myself that were related to some significant memories and experiences I had with my grandparents - including a hunting knife my father had purchased for my grandfather's birthday in the 1960's. I was also able to have a good weekend with Madaline, but due to a combination of exhaustion/stress/food poisoning/fatigue or something my body shut down when I got back and I had to miss my brutal Polybius seminar in greek translation. I'm still trying to catch up and I have to start putting together my paper on the archaeology surrounding the gladiatorial barracks at Pompeii - which I will see in person in a couple of months. I need to get to Italy to reenergize myself, the next few weeks will be grueling until it happens. I'm still getting limited sleep and my sinus doctors ran a CT scan and are sending me to a sleep study center when the paperwork is completed. I'm hoping they can improve my sleep and oxygen intake. Maybe I can gain a few IQ points and energy with more oxygen to my brain. My brain feels slow right now, and my body is deteriorating under the grad school lifestyle. I'm forcing some changes. I did go to a few Gradbar get togethers for free food and drinks, and decided to summon up from the depths elements of my old romance skills from the days when I actually gave a damn. I masked my emotional vacuousness behind a moderate veil of player smoothness to achieve a fairly surprising level of success with a plethora of lovely ladies. I now have to try to reshuffle my schedule to allow for that most difficult and delicate of all romantic endeavors: multiple person dating. I haven't had to date juggle in over 15 years and my disposition toward this is much different at age 36 than it was at age 22, but for now it is better to explore my range of options without getting entangled in an emotionally invested situation that requires a higher level of maintenance. At present, I just don't have the time or patience to be too emotionally invested in anyone other than my daughter. Disclaimer: Before anyone takes umbrage toward my strategy in this matter, know at this point in my life the situation has been fully disclosed to all parties involved as I've never been one to operate in a sleazy manner, even when I was 22. Hopefully, this strategic casual dating will provide some needed distraction from the oppressive nature of my academic schedule, but finding the time will be difficult. It should go well, as long as i can remain immune to the scourge of any semblance of deep emotion. Drinks, dinners, movies of a casual nature are much needed for me at this point. Be well!
P.S. I was almost mobbed by a swarm of screaming females a few minutes ago. I started to feel even better about myself until I realized Ashton Kutcher was behind me premiering his new movie with Cameron Diaz. Then I was almost crushed by the crazy paparazzi. That life has it's advantages, but I think at some point I would snap and descend into a berserker Conan rage that would leave the world light quite a few photogs. Sorry for the length of this diatribe, but I thought I would make up for the past couple of weeks. I'll try to maintain future brevity and consistency until I go to Italy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Familial Remembrance

My present entanglement in largely inane academic concerns was disrupted by the death of my maternal grandfather Wednesday afternoon. My focus was retrained to remembrance of a man who lived life very much on his own terms in the face of a rapidly changing world. He was an Oregon logger of the old school who started falling trees with axe in hand during the Great Depression. I have inherited most aspects of my physical stature and strength from him along with an obstinacy and general animosity toward modern 'civilized' society. He was still trying to subsistence farm and herd his handful of goats last week despite failing health. I have numerous images and memories of my time with a man who was most comfortable working independently in the woods or on a farm without submitting to the daily oppression or grind of punching a time clock for wages at a company. He paid an economic price for his autonomy and refusal to submit to the changed economy, but he was more content living his life without being trapped like a rat in the maze of urbanized life. He was a usually good-natured and simple man who retained a level of superficial, yet lighthearted, orneriness throughout his life - underneath he was a surprisingly caring and sensitive person. He'd argue just to be obstinate and stir the pot in a teasing way, while grinning to let people know he was usually agitating for the sake of agitating. This is probably the root of my deteriorating boyish mischievousness that used to soften aspects of my personality and make me more interesting and likable. Hopefully, I can retain and reclaim some of this heritage before I lose the playful side of my nature to emotional vacancy and my atrophied bitterness. I think I can set forth myself as a decent legacy and representation of this man in this world.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Good Spring Break with Madaline

Here are some pictures in a slideshow on the right from a fun time this last week. In 5 days Madaline and I went to an Egyptian Mummy Exhibit at the Bowers Museum, Sea World to dine with Shamu, San Diego Zoo, Universal Studios, Getty Villa, La Brea Tar Pits, Museum of Natural History to see dinosaur bones, Getty Villa and Museum, and Medieval Times. The image above is from the Museum of Torture at Medieval Times that Madaline demanded we pay $2 extra to go through. This is a lovely snippet I thought the feminists among you might like to rail against. The images of the masks used are among the pictures linked in the slideshow album next to this picture. There are many images of Shamu and other animals from the San Diego Zoo - along with the instruments of torture at Medieval times. Madaline had a great time and did not want to leave from her vacation and fun, but she also understands the advantage of living in the security of the familial homestead after seeing how different a large city is compared to what she is accustomed to. She wants to visit and play quite a bit though, which is good. I hope everyone had a good week - I did!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Emerge from my Writing Stupor to Grade

After very little sleep this weekend, I finished my paper and turned it in Monday night at the end-of-quarter bash at my Prof's house. It is good to have that paper out of the way, but it didn't come together as well as last quarter's. Hopefully, it will be sufficient to not disappoint her before she leaves for Oxford for a year. I'm still tired, but I have to grade all week until my daughter Madaline arrives on Sunday for a week of SoCal touristy stuff. It will be fun. I was able to get my summer funding activated along with the additional plane ticket to Italy from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, so I'll be in Italy from June 16th - Aug 4th with free weeks on each end. I'll visit as many sites as the weak dollar will allow. I'm confident it will be great. Now, I'm back to grading a bunch of mediocre papers. Be well!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Successful Networking at an Absolute Top Level Colloquium

After 12hours of presentations, discussions, dining, and drinks at the Getty Villa, I emerged having successfully networked with some of the very top scholars in the world in my field on the topic of Representations of the Alien. Three of the speakers were some of Oxford's best trained PhD's with a litany of books and publications - one now a Harvard professor the other at Cambridge. The best speaker has been Head of Ancient History Dept in Scotland for the last decade after separate stints at Oxford and Cambridge. Another speaker was the Vice-President of the American Institute of Archaeology and had been Head of the American Academy at Athens. All these speakers were real heavy hitters and some of the smartest people and elite scholars on the planet, leaving me feeling very much out of my depth and feeling completely inadequate as though I were a complete mental midget as one of the very few Grad Students invited. It became even more intimidating when I watched some of these eminent figures being totally dissected by Prof Erich Gruen who was the moderator of the event and had been UC Berkeley's Head of Classics and Ancient History since the late 60's. From the top of his head he could whip out the most obscure Greek and Latin sources to decimate even the slightest crack in any of the arguments or statements. He is an extremely amicable person and treated everyone well for most of the day, but then toward the end he said "I think this excellent discussion has been a bit too cordial in nature, so I will remedy that from here on out." He then proceeded to perform intellectual jujitsu on some of the best minds in the world. I did the best I could to get in on some of it as one of the few Grad students in attendance, but I was pretty far down the pecking order as all the Prof's wanted to do battle and I couldn't get much access to the microphone. Because it was on barbarian representations I was somewhat equipped to engage in some precision slice and dice intellectual forays, but the intellectual battlefield was a pretty gory mess. Everybody seemed happy with the robust debate and the day went very well. I used the drinks and dinner period to make some very good networking inroads, and I pulled this off better than any of the other Grad Students. I had a great individual discourse with Prof Gruen who was very supportive. Later, I even had to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a choking Professor of Archaeology. It's a weird feeling to do that at such an uppity reception event, but she was very grateful after having been in real trouble. Weird things happen to me, my life is just bizarre. In any case, I networked better than all others and most people seemed to think highly of me as far as I could tell. I effectively veiled the fact I was so far out of my depth and all in all it was a good day, but it took quite awhile to effectively swim in the deep end of the pool. Be well and have a good weekend while I write a paper for the next 72 hours straight - I will reemerge by Tuesday.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Computer Gaming is a Strange Cult

I was walking to dinner and a movie last night when I passed by a line outside the local Game-Stop. Not giving it much thought I proceeded to take my evening meal at a Japanese restaurant, went to watch my movie, then stopped by a local bar to have a couple drinks as many drunk people were out after the basketball game. When I walked back by a few hours later, it appeared that the line had barely moved at the game place and now extended down and around the street. The army of gaming drones that had descended on the Game-Stop to wait on the sidewalk for hours for the release of some game on a Saturday night was pathetic and appalling. It was lamer than the Gas-n-Sip losers mocked by John Cusack in "Say Anything". I usually am tolerant of such things, but these people shouldn't, and probably won't ever have the opportunity, to reproduce. Yet, tech-society churns more and more out each year from scratch. My roommate is a virtual non-entity to me because he is an online gamer who plays every second of the day when he is not in class or sleeping. His car has not moved even once this quarter, and I have probably had 250 words with the guy this entire year because he lives with his headset on permanently attached to the computer. That's all fine, but the fact that all socialization goes on through the headset of a computer is a sad state of affairs as to the direction modern society is tilting. I'm generally very understanding of most aspects of the socially marginalized. In high school, exploiting a respect all groups had for my intense demeanor and combination of physical/intellectual capacities as both the top jock and smartest student, I enforced my will upon the social dynamics of the school to largely inhibit the jocks and preppies from the standard brand of nerd bashing endemic to most schools. Despite this, the level of lameness I observed Saturday night went a bit beyond - these people actually need to get a life. I am not ignorant of the fact my normal level of socialization right now is temporarily corrupted by circumstance and a brutal schedule, but I have very specific requirements and goals in preparation for my summer in Italy. It looks like I gained a few extra weeks of funding. Even with present constraints, I do get out as much as possible and I have already had more life experiences than the people in the game line ever will in their enitre lives. In addition, I probably still have over half my life to go. Despite the condemnatory nature of this rant, I am forced in a hypocritical manner to interact with many of you via blogging on the computer. Most of UCLA, even the History Grad Student Association enrollment, is set up through Facebook or other electronic communications I have been co-opted into. In many ways I am forced to function in a computerized world that makes me feel entrapped like I'm in a life-sustaining pod like Neo in the Matrix. Alas, I still long for the bygone world where I could have taken my trusty blade and struggled on the field of battle in a berserker rage to crush a foul enemy for personal glory and wealth. If I survived, victorious, I would have retired back to a village where I could relax under the shade of a lush tree and rest my head the on the breasts of a lovely female who would stroke my hair and sing soothing Celtic lullabies into my ears to calm the rage in my brain. For some reason, modern society doesn't allow for such simple dynamics anymore. I guess I'll just remain an out of place unevolved neanderthal gradually being mollified by the oppressive cage of modernity. Don't judge me too harshly with your modern sense of morality!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

In Response to KFR's Tribute

Here's a crazy rant to purge the depths of the soul. (For the unfamiliar: this post may contain numerous, and possibly mentally damaging, D+D references as a continuation of my comments on KFR's blogsite - some references may seem unintelligible without casting the appropriate spells to unlock the arcane language) As to the inherent value of engaging in fantasy in order to temporarily escape the mind-numbing oppression of reality, I assert that the despotic tyranny of modern reality and social constraint is as life-draining and soul-stealing as the infernal gaze of an Arch-Lich. I must roll to successfully Turn this undead fiend by drawing on my virtuous nature and moral purity. Ooops, that didn't work too well as I seem to be falling into Lolth's Demonweb Pits. Back in the day when the original game expansion happened in the late 70's and early 80's, the game actually extended into a more diverse strata of social groups than one might think. As an 8th grader, I distinctly, and quite fondly, remember an alcohol enhanced game (wine coolers and Boone's farm of course, because that's all we could get) attracting a rogue band of wannabe valley girls of Charisma 15-17 who felt moved to check up on a minor shoulder injury I'd suffered in a football game the day before. Or more likely, as later experiences would teach me, they were employing their wiles to raid our hard-won horde of alcohol. In any case, it turned out well as they joined in the D+D game and everyone had a great old time engaging in juvenile innuendo. I actually had quite a few games go this way: atypical for standard D+D socialization, but back then my mischievous boyish charm, faux brooding intensity, and youthful visage played well until I was bludgeoned by the assault of my most recent decade of pain and torment. Life has hit me with a Ray of Enfeeblement and all of my attribute scores keep dropping from the slew of 18's I was originally born with toward those of an untenable character destined to die at level 1. The Arch-Lich that is the oppression of modern reality is gradually winning and I need to role a critical hit soon or face Entrapment. I miss those carefree times of junior high innocence when I still had passion and a spark in my eye. Now, honing bitterness and resentment into a Vorpal Blade, I stagger through the Minotaur's lair of the real world until Orcus emerges from the depths to drag me down to the infernal plane of perpetual shade. Thankfully, I still have enough obstinacy to refuse to yield to anything while I search for the means by which to rekindle my failing spirit. Hope remains, while the fellowship is true! I need a good get together with friends. Strength and Honor!!!

Monday, February 25, 2008

An Invite to an Imposing Colloquium

I was graced with an impromptu visit from my brother this weekend. We had some high-end Japanese cuisine (so good) and an extended talk for the first time in a while. He was down for an upper brass award function for the Air Force due to his accumulating commendations and his acceptance into the war college by 2010. He's already made his Major board and he will soon be one of the youngest most highly decorated Major's in the Air Force (he should be cleared to Colonel or higher by the time he's ready to retire after 20 years). He is very much what our military should be composed of and remains very much outside of the ideological box the political polarization and media stereotyping try to project. Apparently, all hell had broken loose among the generals at the function due to the B-2 fiasco and F-15 collision this week. Heads will apparently have to roll, as it should be.
On a different note, I received an invite to an imposing colloquium at the Getty Villa on March 14th hosted by this years Villa Professor Erich Gruen. The full day of presentations will be on the identity formation and the image of the barbarian in Roman society and literature. I'm looking forward to it, but the presenters will be of the highest quality and I've got to try to engage in the discussion at the highest level possible. Prof Gruen is one of the absolute top scholars in my field in the world. He chaired the majority of PhD's at Berkeley in Roman History over the past 40 years. I'm still waiting on the reading material to be sent to me to critique. This is my first real chance to 'make my bones' in the field. Hopefully, I won't come off as out of my depth and a complete dumbass. I usually don't stress on much, but this one will be a bit more significant than most. I was very fortunate to get one of these invites and I need to try to make the most of it. I've been up for more than 24 hours on a draft deadline for a big paper and I'm wired on energy drinks and coffee. I think I'll go workout and burn some of the energy off before the impending crash. Hopefully, my heart won't explode. Farewell!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Christian Propaganda Against the Vikings

I attended a lecture last night on Vikings employing a synthesis of raid and trade tactics given by a most prominent professor of all things Norse from the University of Iceland - Helgi Thorlakkson (I wish I had that last name to fit my personality). The Icelandic accent was hard to understand and he had to deliver his lecture in English very slowly, but the concept along with the historical use of the sagas and archaelogical record was very compelling. The Christian propaganda resulting from the raiding of the monasteries gave the Vikings a somewhat unfair reputation because of them being vilified as the heathen other by the corrupt and wealth hoarding Christian clergy they robbed. This type of robbery was common all over Europe and was not limited to the Vikings, they just struck more rapidly and disappeared on their ships with their newly acquired booty. It was politically and religiously acceptable to demonize them more than the nominally Christian warrior bands of marauders that were ravaging Europe as well. What was interesting was that the Vikings would often steal people and items in raids, call a truce for a week or so, and trade goods like walrus tusks they broguht with them and/or ransom back the hostages for other goods they could parley elsewhere. They would then sail with the newly acquired goods from the raid/trade to more remote markets to get highly specialized luxury items like Frankish glassware, pottery, beads, etc... . The economies they were raiding were actually in decline (verified by the archaeological record) before the rise of the Viking age. The Viking raiding and trading actually stimulated the economy in the areas they terrorized preventing these settlements from being starved out and abandoned due to the collapsing economies. Hence, although it is counterintuitive: pillage and plunder is beneficial for the larger trade economy as long as the settlements are not completely decimated, which the Vikings rarely did. The truces for trade were very common and one could function as a maruader and merchant during the same engagement within the same week. I should have lived in these conditions where one could use an axe as a negotiating tool, rather than being forced to use predatory and exploiting interest rates to get ahead in business. It is more honest. I attest Viking tactics more honorable than the past US forced trade policy employing gunboats in foreign ports or modern corporate greed in a globalized economy. American culture is boring and lame in it's self-righteous hypocrisy. Vikings are cool because they didn't veil the baseness of human nature, yet they weren't quite as simplistically brutal as Christian propaganda has perpetuated. I did use coercive threats to get compensation from Alaska Airlines this week due to the past weekend's flight debacle. They trembled in fear, but we'll see how much compensation I get by next week. That is all!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I Shake My Fist at Cruel Fate

I am presently stuck in the Seattle Airport on a disatrous trip. I was left on the tarmac for an hour and a half yesterday at LAX before we were sent back to the gate for a maintenance/paperwork issue. This caused me to be late into Seattle missing my connecting flight to Walla Walla on the only flight in to such a small airport. I could not get rerouted to Pasco, Yakima, or Pendleton before the next morning. The airline scheduled me to arrive on the first plane into Walla Walla Saturday morning and put me in a hotel in Seattle. I got up at 7am and went to Sea-Tac airport for my flight. The new plane was delayed and then the flight was outright canceled with it's own maintenance problem. Presently, I am scheduled to depart at 2:25 to arrive in Walla Walla on a different plane at 3:25. I am wearing the same clothes and the same disposable contacts because I don't have access to my checked bag. I've effectively yelled at 4 different customer service desks, but cannot get additional compensation until I fight with the national customer service center that won't open till Tuesday after the holiday. I'm getting hammered and am ordering the most expensive food in the Sea-Tac airport for lunch to maximize the vouchers. I think I'll get the wild alder plank salmon before my flight. My daughter has been heartbroken by this loss of a day on my "3-day weeekend" - there will be hell to pay! Have a good weekend, I'll try to salvage mine!

Friday, February 15, 2008

An Abyss of Emptiness on Valentine's Day

On that most oppressive of all days, V-Day, I was actually required to attend a lecture on Byzantine iconography given by one of the world's foremost experts on Saint Valentinus. Walking back I found it amusing how much the modern concept of V-day is so superficially detached from the historical context of it's origin. As I watched with horror the ritual rush of couples and flowers trying to make something of the scourge of expectation that is V-day, I reconfirmed my position that love is usually a self-deluded falsehood of conditioned brain chemical responses that allow spiritually grotesque (and often physically grotesque) people to find each other appealing. There are exceptions, but they are more rare than most people think. Unfortunately, modern concepts of love are usually driven by self-serving needs to feel desired or special, rather than any selfless disposition toward the other party. It is akin to spiritual prostitution. On every V-day, the level of desperation in the air by people trying to tangibly confirm their ideas of love can be seen as comically tragic. I find this neediness weak and pathetic, people need to learn to cleanse their souls in the pit of despair and loneliness in order to truly find themselves and become a self-contained whole. On the real side of the emotion, I am about to fly back to Oregon today to spend the weekend with my daughter. I will be looking forward to a completely lovely 3 day weekend! Until next week, be well!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Food Coma after a Large Dinner

After a prominent guest speaker today, I was able to gorge myself on a dinner of very high quality at the faculty center (usually no grad student rifraff allowed). As a poor grad student, the opportunity for a free dinner invitation is always welcome. However, this evening offered especially appealing group conversation over drinks and appetizers, followed by a full menu of quality cuisine options and first rate bottles of vino. All the Byzantinists and Late Antiquity people went with a variety of elegantly prepared fish dishes consistent with the prominent Christian iconography associated with fish. The guest speaker actually made a light-hearted comment on the choice similarities reflecting areas of study. Maybe her assessment had something to it as reflected by the conspicuous contrast with the arrival of my dish. A couple hours before, I had just delivered my preliminary paper topic outline to this group. The outline emphasized the importance of gladiatorial games and spectacles in reinforcing Roman imperial order with the executions of Christians in the arena (I also was able to do it without getting bogged down in the quagmire that is Foucault). True to form, the arrival of my succulently juicy medium rare prime-rib dinner confirmed the bloodlust and brutality of my particular area of historical inquiry. In any case, this delicious dinner was followed by a most excellent dessert of the tiramisu variety and more vino. I hadn't eaten a quality meal in quite a while - it was good to gorge myself in true Roman fashion. Now I must lay around in a worthless fashion for a bit. Fine!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Witness to Job Search Carnage

I'm feeling a bit better after going to the doctor to get checked out physically. Apparently, my respiratory system is somewhat compromised due to chronic air-flow restriction. The situation may require sinus surgery at some point, but other medications will be tried first. I have had some relief with what they tried this week. The situation could be congenital, but it is conspicuous that a majority of my old military unit suffered severe respiratory ailments that forced a great many out on medical disability. We were collectively exposed, without proper equipment, to some nasty stuff that neither our government nor Saddam himself would own up to. The mysterious "fire" that supposedly destroyed the stacks of medical records my unit submitted upon our return to Georgia leaves the situation conveniently ambiguous. Some of my records have been whitewashed to the point that I am shown on a flight from Rota, Spain to Kuwait City then I disappear until I miraculously reappear in Rome months later in preparation for a flight back through Ireland to Hunter Army Air Field in Savannah, Georgia. According to the omniscient federal bureaucracy, I dropped off the planet for awhile despite the existence of archived CBS news footage of me behind 'Slick Willy' Clinton on a platform, an off-camera interview with Connie Chung, and a mild personal confrontation with Clinton's press secretary at the time Dee Dee Myers. This is the specific reason for my personal animosity toward the Clinton political machine. Bill was personable, but his public statements to my unit and the things he briefly said to me about our status turned out to be politically expedient lies. Hillary will function in much the same way with the remnants of this same corrupt machine. Maybe Obama can prevail, but I have my doubts it would be allowed to happen by the party hierarchy. With respect to my politically convenient disappearance from the planet, I guess I must have had access to somekind of intra-dimensional rift in the space-time continuum that allowed me to be nowhere and somewhere at the same time. In any case, my body has remained more resistant to what I was exposed to than most of my comrades, and I guess I'm obstinate enough that it takes quite a bit to kill me off. Maybe, I'm becoming too cranky to die in my old age!
On a side note: I witnessed one of Princeton's top grad students in Classics come to UCLA and try to compete for a job opening. He delivered his presentation and was summarily destroyed by a barrage of questions and attacks, some fair and some not so fair. These attacks left his argument a gutted corpse on the side of the road. I've never seen anything quite so brutal in academia. It was good to see a willingness to to tear down the vacuous pretentiousness that often comes out of the Ivy League, as confirmed by my adviser who did get his PhD from Princeton (of course - C exhibits none of the traits of Ivy corruption). However, this presentation wasn't quite as bad as what this inquisition made it out to be. The candidate was a finalist in this process and did not exude any signs of pretentiousness like what I had seen from Harvard's top-grad a couple of years ago during Oregon's hiring process in Classics. Oregon actually made a tenure offer for an inferior presentation and was turned down when the Harvard grad took a better offer. Once again, institutional repuation trumped intellectual production. The candidate I saw this week was actually better and has no chance at all. I'll be well prepared by the faculty here, but I am not looking forward to losing my secondary adviser next year while she teaches at Oxford for a year. She'll be back to help me in my third year by the time I have to face these same inquisitors, but the preparation is very oppressive. I guess I'll continue to stick to Friedrich's maxim of "that which does not kill you, makes you stronger!" - but it remains daunting. I often feel over my head. I'm off to workout while I have air flow after taking my meds. That is all!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Wiping Off the Filth of Political Participation

I still harbor bitter feelings of hypocrisy that have left me tainted due to my recent electoral participation. My sheer disgust at the electoral dynamics of this country's party system has been magnified by the staggering simplicity and intellectual vacuousness of the media coverage surrounding this circus of lies. The inherent fallacy and blind ideology of party politics is confounding. Political ideology is an abyss of falsehood, from which nothing good can emerge.
"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected."
I consider the present administration to be possibly the worst in the history of this nation (and for me it has absolutely nothing to do with Iraq), necessitating a significant change of trajectory to counteract the damage that has been done to the nation and it's position in the world. I find it disconcerting that McCain could survive and preserve his personal sense of duty and honor as a POW for six years in the Hanoi Hilton - yet he has allowed himself to be corrupted by participation in the electoral cycle of the last 8 years. He has devolved into a cranky old man who has proven willing to sacrifice his personal ideals and sense of independence on the false altar associated with the oppressive legacy of the Reagan theocracy. Six years of captivity and torture could not break the man, but political participation and proximity to this conservative heresy did : absolutely disgusting!
Hillary is completely soulless and is not even a real person, but a caricature of an actual person. My personal dialogue with Bill Clinton at least let me know he was somewhat genuine despite his slick southern style and egomaniacal tendencies. Everything about Hillary is fake - from the selective employment of her contrived southern drawl and cackling shrill laugh that hurts my ears, to her equivocating positions that constantly test the political winds. She is a complete embodiment of the 20 year scourge of polarized Washington politics - that mass of maggots that presently feed on the decaying carcass of this nation. A Bush - Clinton - Bush - Clinton dynastic progression would represent the darkest era in this nation's history, although publicly exposing the oligarchic nature behind the facade of modern democracy would be comically tragic in an entertaining way. But the masses are too stupid to know the difference anyway:
"Men are ruled, at this minute by the clock, by liars who refuse them news, and by fools who cannot govern."
The other alternative being support for the cult of personality that has emerged around Obama. The optimism surrounding this development does have the potential to move the country away from the stasis brought about by twenty years of increasing polarization, but the policy issues are very vague and this type of movement is probably to dependent on the unrealistic idealism of the worthless youth of this nation. My time in classrooms leaves me pessimistic that such a lazy, spoiled, entitled, and ignorant group can affect anything. Maybe if voting happened through an X-Box, text message, or at the end of the keg-line! Modern youth are lazy and stupid - devoid of any analytical capacity, while the old are senile and cranky - blindly clinging to the nationalistic, theocratic, or progressive fallacies of a bygone age. Both groups are too easily led by the mindless soundbites and shallow political analysis of the corporate media dominated by the false gods of religious dogma, materialism, and political correctness.

Alas, such feelings are not new:

"O god of earth and altar
bow down and hear our cry
our earthly rulers falter
our people drift and die
walls of gold entomb us
the swords of songs divine
take not thy thunder from us
take away our pride"

It is with much reluctance that I announce my candidacy for benevolent tyrant to replace the corrupted facade of democracy we now live in. Your write in support is much appreciated!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Destruction and Rebirth in the Cesspool of Life

Excuse my somewhat foul mood today, but people are scum! I have cultivated the art of optimistic depression to a highly evolved level while refusing to submit in any way to the oppressiveness of this veil of tears. Sometimes I trudge forward in life simply so I can defiantly give the finger to the cesspool that is humanity. Life in urban areas tends to reinforce my disgust for people and contempt for social order as most people are a waste of oxygen. My apologies to those of you who still cling to the false gods of tolerance and goodness with respect to the human condition as a whole, the world just doesn't work that way -nor will it ever. Transformation and destruction are inevitable: visions of any form of stabilized lasting social order, whether in the form of utopian pipe-dreams or reactionary oppression, are just delusional ways for people to shoot rays of sunshine up their ass. The filth that is life in the city exemplifies this, it will only get worse as population pressure increases.
Despite my inherent rage toward society and life in general, I have learned to appreciate and enjoy the transitory good times and select people that make this confined existence tolerable. As such, I felt it necessary to comment on KFR's latest blog in this forum as opposed to his comments section in order to directly address the UO cohort in general. Sorry to hear about KFR's rent, but such is life in Cali. I know exactly how KFR feels in terms of cohort dynamics. Although, some of you probably don't realize how much had already changed by last year as things were drastically restructured in a department undergoing a form of identity crisis. It had a very different feel to it - adrift without a viable sense of direction or cohesion. Most of the newer people were incredibly lame. The nature of the admissions process was altering the target group in negative ways. KFR's cohort year, and a few fabulous individuals that followed in later years, provided a unique constellation of good times which cruel fate deemed necessary to crush in the relentless onslaught of life's waves of transformation, destruction, and misery. It has been my experience that anything good or worthwhile in life will always be either destroyed, stolen, or corrupted in the most vile and unforgiving of ways. Despite this, I stand defiant in the knowledge new opportunities for transient happiness purified in the blood of the preceding carnage will always arise. Revel in the hedonistic pleasures of life until the next wave of destruction hits, then once again struggle out of this ocean of filth to warm yourself under the rays of sun. All states are transitory!
On a side-note of pure hypocrisy, I went against my better nature and temporarily suspended my opposition toward participation in the political process in order to vote by mail in the California primary. Because the present system is still too powerful to be overthrown at this time and the level of decay has not yet reached a state that will allow me to assemble my hordes, I will temporarily allow this exception in an attempt to mitigate the level of evil perpetuated by this government. Unfortunately, this participation in such a corrupted political system has left me feeling every bit as dirty and hungover as the morning after a drunken one-night stand when you're trying to escape out the door without being trapped into a situation you know you'll regret. Have a nice day! Sorry for the magnitude of today's pessimism - it will pass.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sleep Deprivation in the Rain

The rain has returned and I'm hoping it enhances my ability to sleep tonight. My sleep cycle has been particularly disrupted lately due to some kind of nerve irritation (hopefully temporary!) in my hip and back injuries. I have been forcing workouts to try to manipulate my knotted muscle groups, but things continue to linger in ways that detract from sleep. Even when I drift off, I don't feel rested when I wake up. Hopefully, these things will pass soon. I'm off to a departmental grad student meeting tonight with free drinks and pizza. Maybe I can kill some of the pain with drinks and sleep well tonight. I guess I should probably translate some Greek before I go, although it might look a bit more understandable after some drinks. Maybe I'll actually meet some interesting people tonight, but the dynamics in a department so large remain somewhat specialized and isolating thus far. I'm trying to get my new digital camera up and running sometime in the next few weeks, although I'm a pretty lazy photog.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Weak Return to the Blogosphere

I apologize for my considerable hiatus from the world of blog addiction, although I doubt anybody missed my self-indulgent rantings very much. Either way, this one's a bit long due to the hiatus. It probably sucks because I have not been feeling all that well lately. I was down with some form of influenza the week after Christmas, then I was without power for a few days in Oregon as winds between 90-135 mph severely damaged the top of the house. Then the rain and snow came to further damage the back bedrooms of the house with numerous leaks - contractors still have not caught up from the widespread damage and the house is still in severe need of repair. I unwillingly returned to LA with my daughter and mother still without power, and my father working around the clock for a week to restore power throughout the valley. Things have finally settled down, but my relentless academic schedule has been made more difficult with my first Greek course in awhile, at least it is the relatively easy Herodotus. Unfortunately, I have to prepare for a very intensive history seminar on Polybius next quarter that will be conducted almost exclusively in Greek. The history professor came from a Classics tradition where the introduction to his Grad program was the "look to your left, look to your right - one of these people will fail due to an attrition rate in excess of 50%, you will not sleep, and you will wish there was 25 hours in the day due to the impossible amount of translation we will assign you, face this truth and despair, etc..." Hunched over in translation for too long remains one of the most problematic things with respect to my back injury. My current schedule requires between 3-5 times the workload expected in my prior program. The program is way better for me, but the rest of my life is not as enjoyable as what I had before. I have paid a severe physical and social price, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I'm trying to force a workout schedule in order to try to feel better, but it remains very difficult with limited results for the valuable time invested. I think I need some Human Growth Hormone or Anabolic Steroids so I could have the energy and stamina of my testosterone driven teenage years again, but I'd probably revert back to my youthful intensity and even more excessive hostility toward society as a whole. Believe it or not, my present emotional vacuousness allows me to put forward the moderated and rosy version of my personality most of you know. Although, I did get alot more play from the female of the species when I was an intense brooding character of exceptional vitality. Now that my peculiar life has beaten most of the feeling and inherent beauty from my personage, it remains obvious emotional apathy and physical deterioration must just be too unappealing - even though I am much more amicable and sensitive for the most part. If I can spare any time, I think I'll start to resurrect my asshole persona this weekend and see how that plays out. Unfortunately, it remains hard to muster up the ambition to engage in such hedonistic pursuits as a distraction from my oppressive schedule. Any votes as to which way I should go? Alas, all things change eventually and I'll just continue to endure until I get a more balanced life to cycle back through at some point. I'll just remain focused on my time in Italy this summer!