Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Stream of Thoughts that would make Faulkner Jealous

Today seems a good day to ramble about nothing in particular, so I'm going to do that. To start out, I'd like to note that the spacebar on this keyboard is really noisy. Pressing it gives me a feeling analogous to putting my hand on the old rope swing in my backyard--lots of annoying tingles. I think I might endeavor to utilize unnecessarily elongated words, to minimize the sensation. That being said, that rope swing in my yard has lots of positive memories associated with it--it wasn't always such a nasty, spiny thing. I remember when it was brand new, when I looked out the window and realized that my backyard had been taken over by a gigantic playset. My excitement was such that I went outside and spent the whole day swinging. The rope swing was unique in that it could go in any direction, not just back and forth. I see that as a metaphor for thinking; you can think in straight lines or you can think all over the place. Unfortunately, I would like to think in all directions, but the text on the screen can only go one way at a time. I'm trapped by the format. The only solution, from what I can see, is to make my writing as disjointed as possible, in order to escape from linearity. Cats are cool. My dad brought home a catnip mouse for my cat Gandalf yesterday, and he (the cat, not my dad) spent all evening ripping it to pieces. Such devotion, and for no apparent reason. Chemicals, I suppose. But it was really entertaining to watch, and was probably the most fun my cat has had in a while. Sometimes it's fun to just put all your effort into something, illogically and for no reason. It can be a great learning experience. When I got a Lord of the Rings computer game and discovered that one of its features was too demanding and crashed my computer, I set out to fix the problem. I fiddled with every graphics setting my computer possessed, messing with shortcut properties and virtual memory, until finally I reduced my graphics low enough to play the game. It took several hours, and after that evening I never really put much use into the feature I'd enabled, but it gave me a much better sense of how that computer of mine actually works. Computers in general are fun to learn about and understand, but sometimes it seems as if they do completely illogical things just to mess with you. My brothers are like that too. Probably more so, except with a computer you expect it to do just what you tell it to. My brothers, meanwhile, are human beings, and they make human decisions that you can't predict. This is debatable by science--I was reading something about determinism last night, and it's quite thought-provoking. The idea is that, although quantum mechanics only allows you to find the probability that something happens, the probabilities evolve over time according to a precise formula, so you can still extrapolate events as far into the future as you want. No, I don't get it either, but it's fun to read about. Know what else I don't get? Squirrels. For the last five years or so, my dad has been implementing every hare-brained scheme he can think of to try and keep the squirrels off our front-yard birdfeeder. But the little critters thwart him every time and eat all the birdseed. They seem like geniuses. Maybe we could use quantum-mechanical wave functions to predict whether my dad will ever stop the squirrels. Or we could not, and say we did. Actually, those squirrels seem so smart that they could probably figure out quantum mechanics themselves. And if this is the case, then we probably have no hope of keeping them off the birdfeeder, and we're better off putting our energy into something more important. Like configuring computer graphics options, for example. I think it really doesn't matter what random activities you put your time into, as long as they're enjoyable. That should really be the point of life in general. If our fate is to be conquered by scientifically elite squirrels, then we might as well have fun until it happens. Yahoo.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Fast Rode the Knight", by Stephen Crane

Fast rode the knight
With spurs, hot and reeking,
Ever waving an eager sword,
"To save my lady!"
Fast rode the knight,
And leaped from saddle to war.
Men of steel flickered and gleamed
Like riot of silver lights,
And the gold of the knight's good banner
Still waved on a castle wall..
. . . .
A horse,
Blowing, staggering, bloody thing,
Forgotten at foot of castle wall.
A horse
Dead at foot of castle wall.
I first linked to this poem because the imagery in the title caught my eye (it stood out among the masses of gushy love poems out there, at least). I enjoyed reading it because it was concise and had a clear yet deep message. The two contrasting stanzas of the poem served to create a powerful metaphor, which I'll talk about below.

The title in this poem refers, rather obviously, to its central image of a bold knight riding into battle. It evokes thoughts of glory and courage, and sounds kind of cliched (purposefully, to heighten the contrast later).

The knight in this poem is symbolic of boldness, ambition, and seeking of personal glory. Imagery is created in the first few lines, which depict the knight nobly riding across the plains, sword waving. Though he succeeds in his quest to rescue the maiden (or so I guess), he leaves his horse, dying and forgotten, by the castle wall. The whole poem is a metaphor for the oft-ignored negative effects that one person's quest for glory can have on others. This is established by the contrasting images of knight and horse, which show the reader how the horse is miserable despite the knight's personal success. Feeling is created by the connotations of words--the knight's stanza is filled with positive connotations, while the description of the horse evokes anguish, loneliness, and sorrow.

The tone in the first stanza is that of a medieval storyteller--the knight is glorified as he charges into the castle to save the damsel in distress. In the second stanza, the tone shifts completely, showing the horse's miserable perspective on things. The tone is created by the connotations of words.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Question that Needs to be Asked

Before I get into writing too many super-creative pieces, there's a groundwork philosophical question that I need to get out of the way. It is, simply: Why is there anything? Honestly. We can debate all we want over the finer points of corporate income taxes, or why the sky is blue, or whether Batman could beat Spider-Man in a fight. But underlying these fun little arguments, we always take for granted that we're here to argue about them -- we are humans rather than amorphous patches of empty space. This doesn't seem to bother most people, but to me it seems a gaping void in our knowledge. The philosophy of civilization itself is a castle built upon a black murky nothingness that may or may not be stable enough to hold it up. The truth behind reality will be what determines "good" and "bad," so we shouldn't purport to know right from wrong until we can figure out what in the world decides such things anyway.

Somebody religious will tell you, simply and self-righteously, that things exist because God made them. But that doesn't really answer the question -- because where's God come from? Not to sound atheist, but not even God can postulate himself from nothing. Therein lies the problem: the only way to create an unshakable foundation for reality is to define something, and to define it without using anything else in the definition. That seems kinda hard.

But now I'm just rambling philosophy, which will soon get caught up in itself and get us nowhere. Physics, meanwhile, is just as confused as I am. By all accounts, and even if particle physics can be proven to be true without any underlying assumptions, the universe should create equal amounts of matter and anti-matter, and this should all cancel itself out and result in nothing. Yahoo.

Anyway, I'll keep pondering that, although I doubt I'll get anywhere with it. In the meantime I'll write about some other stuff -- there's plenty of interesting topics in the world, even if we can't figure out why...

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Bunch of Writing about Writing

As a reader, I tend to shy away from reading actual fiction novels. Every once in a while I'll find a novel that looks really fascinating, but usually I tend to pick up nonfiction books about random topics I'm interested in. I have a stack of books by my bed right now, waiting to be read, but I don't manage more than a few pages per night. I read Time magazine and Scientific American when I get around to it, too.

As far as writing, I tend to avoid all-out narrative stories, since I know I won't have the patience to finish one. When I get the urge to just sit down and write something, it usually comes out as either a poem or a generic philosophical rant. Sometimes I'll imagine up a world (fantasy, sci-fi, that kind of thing) and just write whatever comes into my head about it. If I have thoughts that bottle up in my head over a long period of time, I might link them together into a story of some kind, but as I said, I never finish them. I only write things on my own if I haven't been assigned any writing for school, which means I write about the same amount whether or not I'm in school.