Pining and Whining

31 05 2008

Spinning my wheels but never propelled

Bad thoughts once absorbed cannot be expelled

Why can’t they see anything but themselves?

The noblest virtue has too long been shelved.

My insides are wrenched whenever laughter

With its jeering tone jars me right after

The pain became dull; what part of matter

Can surpass the former for the latter?

– – –

Song of right now: So long, Astoria.

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…To break a sweat over a dying race

29 05 2008

One of my friends was surprised this morning to discover that he had actually passed his online Spanish 103 class; this meant that he had officially finished his college credits and was now a graduate. After a little bit of friendly ribbing and a mock graduation ceremony (I knew I saved that lei for a reason), he proceeded to talk about how little effort he had put into the class, even deciding not to do some of his homework and a test or two. In fact, he wrote a whole note about how proud he was of having finished college in general without putting in any sort of extraordinary effort whatsoever. Now, while his apparent apathy should be taken with a grain of salt, the fact remains that he sees finishing something like college as a mere footnote; in fact, the whole thing is kind of a joke to him. He sees his success as something to brag about (albeit in a half-joking sort of way) to those that have expended much more effort but might have little more (if anything) to show for it, other than some nebulous idea of self-satisfaction.

Now, this is in no way intended to disparage my friend. He would be one of the first people to recognize the value in hard work and self-discipline, but he simply doesn’t care enough about academics to apply those ideas to his education. He openly admits his apathy for expending effort in what he sees as the inconsequential areas of life, and it is more of a souce of amusement to him and others than anything else.

I simply have to ask myself, though, why such apathy in life is so attractive. In every single class I ever took, I never failed to encounter students who aimed to do the minimal amount of work in order to pass the class. Understanding that you can only put so much time and effort into each class, I still cringed each time someone would ask the professor to describe the lowest level of success they would need to attain, even when I was the one desperate to know the answer. In my classes, I inevitably made a choice about how hard was going to try. In Spanish, for instance, I made up my mind from day one that I was going to do my best on every project. Of course I let myself down at times, but I can trace a very distinct line of thought in my Spanish efforts in comparison to my work in a few journalism classes. For some reason, that sense of apathy just permeates my thought process if I don’t make up my mind to guard against it right off the bat.

Why is it so cool not to care about doing well? I’ve called plently of people nerds, both to their face and behind their back, simply because they were trying a lot harder than I was. Obviously this label might be appropriate at times, since there are always going to be clear instances in which one only needs to try so hard to get the job done well (See Exhibit A: Principles of Advertising). I’ll recognize that this might be more true for some people than others, since I know that we’re all gifted differently, but there is a marked difference between striving hard to do well in class so that you can get those honors or that high grade and trying hard in life in general.

One of my other friends always competed with me (and I with them) in classes that we shared to see who could get the better grade. I always fancied myself better than them because I would expend only as much effort as it took to threaten beating their score. Part of that, I’ll admit, is because I felt myself to be superior to them. I only played the grades game because I had no excuse not to; a C would be acceptable for some people, but to me, an A simply meant that I had not slacked off in the class too much. I know I could have gotten B’s and C’s all throughout school with almost no effort. I say this not because I’m proud of it, but because I can see how the system is really geared to make people like me succeed with ease while pushing those who are not very intellectually endowed. The problem, however, is that people in the former category are rarely pushed at all, and that people in the latter one usually recognize how much harder they have to work to pull a B than those that easily get an A-. Hence, they simply aim to get a B or a C and assume that they simply cannot get an A without expending more energy than it is worth.

You know what? They aren’t always wrong, either. Perhaps that’s just a testament to how flawed our grading system is. Dr. Tarpley always started off his classes talking about how much he hated having to grade students on such an impersonal level. He almost never gave tests in his class, preferring to make students read and talk and give presentations to others about what they learned. Guess what? This pushed me just as much, I think, as it pushed the C students. I dreaded most of those presentation days just as much, if not more, than they did because I knew how well I should be doing. Dr. Tarpley would have been able to tell if I had just phoned it in on presentation days, and this knowledge kept me honest in my work way more than any test or paper ever did. Is it a coincidence that public speaking is so greatly feared by this generation? When you are forced to talk openly about what you have learned and what you think, you have no excuses. I wish I could say that this worked to my advantage all the time, but it took me until my fourth semester (thanks Donna) to realize that I couldn’t coast through college and be happy, much less make my professors happy. After talking to Dr. Thoennes on Friday, I realized that I could have done so much better during my college years but that, like the workers in Matthew 20, I’d rather have come two years late than not at all.

Song of the Week: Apathetic Way to Be (Relient K)





The Best I Can

25 05 2008

What have we to distinguish ourselves

Man knows nothing but himself

And he denies himself for pleasure,

Or is it pain. Neither can serve

To ease the sensation of longing

That torments the cerebellum.

In the plain of the desolate, the full are mas vacio

For as the weeds overcome wheat

So shall determination arise.

Not as a force, but as a necessity;

One who sees what is needed

Needs nothing else.





Nostalgia Revisted (Dulce Domum)

19 05 2008

At the height of my selfishness sits my desire for home. I have been acutely aware of a yearning to run through my town, to see what I might never have bothered to look at and to store up every part of Los Osos in my memory so that it will live on until I die. (Or until we get a sewer)

It seems pretty straightforward: on the verge of leaving the last bastion of familiarity in my lifetime, I have now come face-to-face with adulthood, and my answer is to run home and hide under the bed (more accurately, on the floor next to my bed, with the shades halfway drawn as the sunlight streams in upon me, a book and a half-eaten carrot).

I love it.

I relish the fact that I will never have years like those again because it means I will always remember what they were like. No reading spot (save, perhaps, some heretofore undiscovered place on Britain’s coast) shall ever approach that bench by the bay. No bike ride will ever be as anticipated as those trips to the Baywood Market, buying Tart N’ Tinys before heading off to my secret sand dune. What evening constituional would ever dare to compare itself with walking to Round Table and blowing $5 on Metal Slug and hardware store licorice with John for the twentieth time?

What these memories are starting to mean to me now, however, is simple.

The best is yet to come.

But it will never be quite as “best” as ten years ago. And that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be.

Song of the Week: The New Year, Death Cab for Cutie





Keeping Busy?

17 05 2008

I have really reached the end of my foreseeable future.

I went to college and I’m graduating.

At our department dinner last night, I was struck by how much more I could have done. Sure, I did just about everything that was asked of me, and I tried to do it well. I excelled in some classes, and I scraped by (proudly) in some others. Like Biology. About which I am still bitter, so don’t bring it up.

The class I was really remembering, though, was MCOM 107, tv/radio journalism.  Having not owned a video camera before the preceding summer, I was reasonably sure that my time as a premier journalism student was coming to a premature end. After all, I have a face for radio and a voice for miming (or so Micah tells me) and this is one area that requires charisma, which I can summon at random times, but not usually at will. To top it all off, the professor teaching it was Tom Nash, who had retired from the department the year before I got there, and was now living out of his RV and grudgingly (he unabashedly told us) returned to teach the class because no one else was able to do it. “Oh boy,” I though, “We’re really cooking now.”

Turns out, this class was as good for me as anything has ever been. I acquired actual proficiency, albeit on a basic level, in both radio and television productions of newscasts. I don’t really want to do either in the long run, but the fact that I managed to scrape an A minus out of a class that scared the C plus out of me was really encouraging to me. I took a course, and learned to do something. I did well in it, all things considered (curse you Andrew Mollenbeck, the eternal grade curve wrecker), and I will take that knowledge with me forever. Or until I forget it because I don’t care.

Bottom line: I wish more of my classes had been like that in some way. Philosophy of Journalism approached that, but on a very different and theoretical level. Spanish was practical, I guess, although I felt like I deserved the grades from the opposite professors from which I received them. Que es la vida de un peridisto, no?

Here’s to practical knowledge and wishful thinking. May theoretical musings always be actualized by abilities, and may good company always trump self-congratulations.





Slowly coming, and becoming

14 05 2008

Michael Ward gave an inspired talk about his theory regarding the Chronicles of Narnia on Monday night. You can find an excellent summary of his view here: http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=20-10-022-f

I was telling a friend last night that I don’t really feel like I belong at Biola anymore. Not in a negative sense, as if I am being rejected, but almost as if I have discovered all the secrets it harbors and now must move on. Discovering that things are never like what you think they are is probably my favorite part of life this week, and I can’t wait to start finding out some new secrets.

Although, I could start charging for the secrets that I know until I’m making a bit more. There’s ingenuity for ya Jeff.





Rest Stop Karma

12 05 2008

I’m spending more time lately working on my humor writing portfolio. One of my biggest aspirations has always been to be the next Dave Barry, and unless I start writing horrible crap now, I’ll never get to the halfway-decent crap that people pay for!

– – – –

So, two Buddhist monks walk into a rest stop bathroom. A homeless guy in sleeping on the floor next to his bike while Robert is using the can.

No, it’s not a joke. It’s the fulfillment of Rest Stop Karma (RSK), which states that you will never be able to imagine something more random than what actually occurs at Rest Stops. RSK is what makes it pretty standard fare to read about a hidden KGB plutonium mine buried beneath a Rest Stop. You have to admit that, if a lobster were to crawl out of the urinal you were using and recite the Ten Commandments in Spanish, you most likely wouldn’t mention it to your wife when you got back to the car. Not because she wouldn’t believe you, but because it would bore her to death. After all, she met Neil Armstrong in the Ladies’ room. Of course, that’s not really surprising considering the axiom that all women’s restrooms must be at least 258% nicer than their corresponding men’s rooms. Although, the question of why Neil Armstrong was in the Ladies’ room in the first place is certainly an interesting one. In fact, whether or not his being in there would actually make it nicer at all might be an even more interesting question. (I bet Buzz Aldrin has a good joke about why he was in there). Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is that Buddhist monks should help people like that homeless guy. I mean, why are they wearing bright orange robes in the first place if they don’t want to brag to everyone else about how selfless and compassionate they are? Buddhist monk conventions probably have lots of gossip among the different sects about how Djarmang and Tiechlin are wearing way too orange of robes this year and how someone should give them wedgies to take them down a peg. You can vividly imagine, I’m sure, the confrontation between the tough-guy monks at the convention and those goody two-shoes, over-the-top-orange-wearing guys. And really, even if their robes aren’t too orange (how do you know when something is too orange?), I kind of hope that they get wedgies anyway, because the idea of orange-clad tough-guy monks giving wedgies to two guys named Djarmang and Tiechlin is just really, really funny in the first place.

So when they walked out of the bathroom a minute after I did, I was really disappointed—I heard absolutely NO mention of compassion or mercy or wedgies whatsoever. They just got back in their minivan and drove away, probably laughing about me while I was standing next to my old Hyundai. Jerks.

While I was waiting for my wife to stop talking to Neil Armstrong, I thought about going back inside to help the homeless guy. Maybe I could give him a blanket or some extra clothes to keep him warm. Maybe Buddhist Monks aren’t the only ones who can be selfless and compassionate.

In the end, however, I decided not to go back inside. The only extra piece of clothing I have is an old, orange robe I stole from the back of a minivan, and I’m saving it for my next software convention. Jeff’s gonna be so jealous.