24 02 2009

Randall and I went to Downtown Disney the other night and enjoyed everything from the artificial smell of caramel popcorn to the tall tales of Jimmy.  I’ve been to Disneyland quite a few times, but there’s just something nice about having no intention to spend money and still having a really nice time.  I caught up on some of my reading in the Grand Californian while the piano man serenaded the visitors with ditties of synchopated Disney tunes and Elton John.  Actually, it was strange.  Good, but strange.  There’s something about the hotel’s spacious confines that really evoke my childhood.  I’m not sure why, but it was fairly nostalgic.  I plan on returning soon.

Lent is a strange time for me.  While some of my friends have talked about “giving something up” for the season, I always have this weird desire to keep my own intentions as muted as possible.  (Which of course means writing them here.  No danger of anyone noticing this.)  Many of my friends have a hesitant fascination with the idea of fasting, but their (and my) protestant background usually gives them pause before they go through with any actual fast.  I’ve yet to really “discover” the magical lenten spirit, as it were, but it is the only time of year when I honestly look forward to forsaking some of my greater pleasures.  The discipline is certainly no end in itself, but the strange, secular imitations of Lenten fasting often suggest otherwise.  Temperance is wise, but perhaps it is the thought of what such temperance implies that pushes away many of my friends from going through with it.

I’ve started dreaming (memorably) again lately, and it’s been a rare morning that hasn’t seen me waking up before my alarm with feelings of bemusement.  (That sentence just made me throw up, but I’m not changing it.)  I wonder if it’s just my inclination to melodramatics that has me thinking about my dreams so intensely;  I also wonder if it’s my guilty conscience begging for some supernatural reprieve.  On this of all Tuesdays, perhaps such reprieves are closer than I’m willing to admit.

Apologies to Jack Handey

20 02 2009

If you ever want to rule over some people, you should choose vegetarians.  That way, you could be as cruel and heartless as you wanted, but they could never get back at you by eating your family.

Proof of Quality Control’s Death

19 02 2009

If you have not found these commercials downright creepy, please raise your hand.  Now use your raised hand to hit yourself in the face, because you’re lying.  The guy honestly scares me, and I don’t scare easily except in rare instances involving sharks and alligators.  I’m not kidding.

This ad campaign has been lambasted by plenty of people already, but now you know that I agree with them.

If you want to do something productive about saving, go check out some thoughts that Randall wrote about the morality of saving money in the first place over at Champreign.  You’ll be better for it.

In the Eye of the Beekeeper: Our Word to the Beleaguered Women of the World

18 02 2009

Over the weekend, I talked to a few guys who expressed frustration in their dealings with women.  For you ignorant women who read the ol’ Robsteak Blogbake, here’s a few things my friends would apparently like to tell you:

  • Few things are as repugnant to us as the girl who consistently denies her beauty.
  • Claiming that one is unattractive is nothing more than fishing for compliments, even if you sincerely believe that you are repulsive.  Also, if you say how unattractive you are often enough, it will become true, aesthetically or otherwise.
  • Never think you’re too weird for men to be attracted to you.  I know men that are positively entranced by everything from the sound of internal combustion and exhaust fumes to a well-maintained defense in Starcraft.  Trust me, compared to most of what men spend their time around, any woman at all is usually going to look pretty good.
  • If a guy likes you, it is physically impossible for his mind to be changed by seeing you without your makeup and best shoes on.  It might be a little bit maddening, but anything beyond a paper bag passes for “acceptable” when it comes to clothing.  This doesn’t mean we won’t appreciate your good outfits (we won’t, usually, but that’s not what this specific statement means); it simply means that you could spend your time prepping for a date more effectively by checking the latest scores/standings in our favorite sport than by redoing your [insert stereotypical makeup item].
  • No, seriously, we’re really messed up.  We won’t tell anyone about how your new lipstick shade matches your pashmina, but we will never stop bragging to our friends about the time you changed a tire on your own.  It’s not hard, I promise.
  • Whining is bad.  Always.  Same for gossiping.
  • Work on your sense of humor.  As the smarter sex, we’re used to being the life of the party.  Making us laugh will not only impress us, but make us able to relate to you more like we relate to guys, which increases the comfort level of the relationship, which is the ultimate goal of any of our initial actions in a relationship.
  • Be disgusted by disgusting things.  It will encourage us to be less disgusting (which you should appreciate), and we will respect you for it.  If you’re not disgusted, just ignore it.  Indulging us will make us feel weird about it later because, although we generally prefer you to act like a guy in many respects, we secretely hope that you will be as good and judgmental to our future kids as our moms were to us.
  • Lie about how many kids you want.  You can lie either direction, but just don’t appear as certain about the number as you probably are.  We have no clue how many we want, so it’d be nice if you could pretend to be as clueless.
  • Be friendly with our friends.  If you don’t like our friends, then tell us so that we can dump you sooner.  By this point, you should know that we’re not gonna marry any girl that’s too terribly different from our guy friends (except in the obvious ways) anyway.
  • Don’t monopolize our time.  We usually can’t say “no” to hanging out with you without feeling like jerks or making up excuses, so if you could give us a couple of days a week, we’d really appreciate it.  Same for phone calls.  If you desperately need to tell us something that you think is important, then write it down and email it.  Better yet, just write it down and read it again yourself over and over until you realize that it really isn’t that important at all.  It usually isn’t.
  • Be nicer than we are to people in general, but show us your bitterness and resentful candor every now and then.  We don’t want to date Pollyanna, but we don’t want to date the mean friends of the lead actresses in chick flicks either.
  • Let us choose the music most of the time.  We’re better at it, and you’ll be better off for it.  Trust us.
  • Let us drive, always, unless it’s on a go-kart course, in which case we’ll use your inevitable crashing to further emphasize why we should always drive.
  • When you don’t understand something about us, tell us:  “You can’t really enjoy watching Yo Mamma! for three hours.”  We’ll then explain why you’re wrong, and you’ll be enlightened, and we’ll be able to squeeze in another episode while your brain is imploding.
  • Don’t lie about what you like in an effort to make us like you more.  If we know what you hate, we can know you better, which is always good.  If we end up liking each other, inevitable compromises will lead to new tastes/lies developing, and we’ll be happy then.  For now, tell us what makes you happy so we don’t get confused later when you start crying during the third overtime.  We won’t have time to care about you then anyway.
  • If you don’t get it, don’t laugh.  You can go back to watching Dane Cook while we go enjoy the good stuff, and your friends will all sympathize with you after we dump you for having a terrible sense of humor.

This was getting way to fun to be healthy, and I still have at least a dozen things I could throw on there.  I’m open for debate, of course.  Mainly because you will lose.

Jackson Enraged

14 02 2009

I have to replace a picture of me (ME!) with a quote from Old Hickory?

Addressing the nullifcation of tariff laws by South Carolina, Andrew Jackon gave an impassioned oration about the value of the union.  I enjoyed this one:

Without union our independence and liberty would never have been achieved; without union they can never be maintained.  Divided into twenty-four, or even a smaller number, of separate communities, we shall see our internal trade burdened with numberless restraints and exactions; communication between distant points and sections obstructed or cut off; our sons made soldiers to deluge with blood the fields they now till in peace; the mass of our people borne down and imporverished by taxes to support armies and navies, and military leaders at the head of their victorious legions becoming our lawgivers and judges.  The loss of liberty, of all good government, of peace, plenty. and happiness, must inevitably follow a dissolution of the Union.  In supporting it, therefore, we support all that is dear to the freeman and the philanthropist.

The time at which I stand before you is full of interest.  The eyes of all nations are fixed on our Republic.  The event of the existing crisis will be decisive in the opinion of mankind of the practicability of our federal system of government.  Great is the stake placed in our hands; great is the responsibility which must rest upon the people of the United States.  Let us realize the importance of the attitude in which we stand before our country from the dangers which surround it and learn wisdom from the lessons they inculcate.

Another excerpt from the same book:

Six days later, the president named a postmaster for New Salem, Illinois, a twenty-four-year-old lawyer who had lost a race for the state legislature.  He was a [Henry] Clay man, but the post was hardly major, and Abraham Lincoln was happy to accept the appointment.

From American Lion, by Jon Meacham

Beautiful Girl

11 02 2009


The problem with beauty pageants really stems from our misunderstanding of beauty itself.  My friend expressed her view more bluntly:  There is really no point to the blasted things.  They make little girls squeal, old women smile, and young ladies, save (sometimes) one, cry.  In a very real way, it’s a sad thing to see so many people deceive themselves into believing that a parade of glossed-up girls displaying their talents/beliefs/natural endowments is in any way beautiful.

While the archetype of the feminine no longer resides in the forest of Diana, it hasn’t fully succumbed to Tomb Raider either.  Our culture seems to yearn for the innocent girl of fairy tales, but unlike ancient Anglo ideals, she must also be noticeably tanned by years of experience.  The Real Lady must both recognize the base for what it is, but she should not flee from it; the princess can now wield her own sword, but she must never be thought of as a common warrior.  A king dying in battle is noble, but the princess does not join combat with impunity — she must eventually revert to at least an outward austerity that displays the beauty of the female, both aware of and above men’s petty battles.  This is why many of the girls at the pageant chose to display their kickboxing talents instead of dancing or singing.  They know that more (“other” would be a better word, perhaps?) is expected of the female than a simply demure and coquettish demeanor.  She must be capable of deciding before deferring to man.

What this looks like, however, is much less a “whole woman” and much more a quasi-hermaphroditic display of every conceivably desirable trait of humanity.  Even the “health and fitness” (read: swimsuit) competition is as much about muscles as it is about form.  We demand a woman who is tame, but only because she chooses to be.  In one of the more disgusting comparisons I can think of, the desire for such a being most closely resembles the master-pet relationship.  (HEADS UP:  This is not misogyny. This is nothing but an illustration of how perverted the world’s perception of gender and beauty has become.  I love the ladies.)  Lara Croft is “attractive” both because she is supposed to possess the ideal womanly form and because she can shoot dead anyone she wants without a second thought.  Put simply, the ideal woman can both wield a gun and be convinced to holster it by the ideal man.  The powerful woman is desirable both because she is dangerous and because she can be subdued.

Dante (to take a few liberties) portrayed the Beautiful as being best seen in the face of Beatrice because that was/is the most obvious place to look for echoes of God’s beauty.  If a beautiful woman is a rose, Dante sought to show what part of beauty a rose recalls for us.  The Beautiful cannot be truly seen by our mortal eyes, but we can perhaps see a glimpse of it in the best part of a rose.

Our culture, however, has done precisely the opposite.  To express why a rose is beautiful, they seek to add more thorns.  The world cannot express real beauty because it denies What It Is that beautiful things point to, so it instead seeks to cover everything else with so much dross that any meager reflection of beauty we have on earth begins to look brighter by comparison.

I’m hardly qualified to delve even this far into such a discussion, but those were some of the thoughts that made watching a “beauty pageant” so saddening.  As one who has been prone (and, far too often, continues) to search for beauty in all the wrong places, the ostensible discovery and display of “beauty” in such a context serves only to highlight my own hypocrisy.  We truly do live in the bad but long for the good.

I could not ask for more beautiful things
Could not dream of truer eyes
Could not want to touch a softer hand
But I also realize

That I am not the man to hold you
Every second more I stay
I become the thief of all the things
This is not the time to give away

You beautiful girl
You beautiful girl

You said you think that I give up too soon
On the nice girls that I find
So I stayed here, and we waited
For love to ripen like the wine

Did I stay because I’m lonely
Did I stay because I care
All I know is I would rather take a bullet
Than hurt what I hold dear

You beautiful girl
Beautiful girl

And the hardest pain is leaving
It’d be so simple just to stay
But the truth it is the loving thing
So it’s best for me to walk away

Because I always break what’s fragile
Because I always break what’s fragile
I always break what’s fragile
I always break what’s fragile

Beautiful girl
Beautiful girl
Beautiful girl
Beautiful girl

– “Beautiful Girl”

By Andrew Osenga


9 02 2009

As narcissism already reigns in this, my sacred realm of self, I will now waste time when I should be working by gettin’ the old writing juices flowing in a vaguely-familiar fashion.  I’ll do this every now and then  (I do so loathe the phrase “now and again” when used by those who read it in a British book.)

1.  I enjoy candy to a bad extreme.  I thought I had begun to slake my need for it until my junior year of college, when I started bringing some sort of candy to my Monday class each week.  This lasted the next three semesters, and has since tapered off slightly.  I will freely share it (my old coworker Veronica called my earlier tendency to hide my candy the “fat kid” syndrome.) with anyone who asks, but I will almost never offer it.  This is because I want to see the same desire in others that I know lies within my own fat-kid heart.  It’s really pretty sick, but I feel better about shoveling candy down my gullet when I know other people are doing the same.  Lately, I’ve been able to supplant my desire for candy while reading a good book with coffee or raw carrots.

2.  I am very competitive, but I take pride in not letting it show most of the time.  This tends to madden people on my team, as my efforts to mask my dangerously competitive spirit are often mistaken for ennui/treachery.

3.  I allow myself to use “real” as an adverb in certain company.   This frightens me, but I rationalize this usage by arguing (to myself) that I mean “real” to express a different thought than “really” on those occasions.  Sometimes I even convince myself of this.

4.  I am pained whenenver I notice that I have begun three sentences in a row with the same part of speech.  This is all Andrew Pudewa’s fault.

5.  I suspect that my greatest strength may be observation and deduction.  Incongruously, I would make a terrible detective/investigate reporter.  I can, however, often discern who likes whom in most summer camp-type situations!

This feels so, so prideful to me.  I can’t imagine doing this 25 times…is that my false humility talking?