To Fuss is Human, To Rant, Divine!!

Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

On Milton and gun regulation

The reference to Milton's Moloch is a fascinating one that the author of this blog post seems to have missed.  While in his article, which was written post-Newtown and in reaction to those events, the author discusses Moloch as he is referenced in the Bible and in Book 1 of Paradise Lost, a demon that demands child sacrifice, a much better metaphor is found in Milton's Moloch from Book 2 of Paradise Lost. In failing to discuss Milton's Moloch at any length, the author of the article misses out on a much more apt metaphor.   

Milton's Moloch is a fallen angel, who, as a result of the fall, is given to despair and speaks of suicidal charges against the heavenly host after the rebel angels awake in hell.

no, let us rather choose
Arm'd with Hell flames and fury all at once
O're Heav'ns high Towrs to force resistless way,
Turning our Tortures into horrid Arms
Against the Torturer; when to meet the noise
Of his Almighty Engin he shall hear
Infernal Thunder, and for Lightning see
Black fire and horror shot with equal rage
Among his Angels; and his Throne it self
Mixt with Tartarean Sulphur, and strange fire,
His own invented Torments.

Paradise Lost, 2:60-70.
Moloch threatens to take the instruments of God's justice, or infernal versions thereof (versions of the heavenly thunder and lightning that defeated the rebel angels, and the fire that punishes them in Hell), and turn them upon the heavenly host, shooting among the host "black fire and horror" and alighting God's throne with "Tartarean Sulphur, and strange fire." 

The article's attribution of guns as a form of worshipping Moloch is thus very apt from the Miltonic perspective.  The instruments used to control and punish wrongdoers are also the same instruments that can be used to wreak horror and havoc for an infernal cause.  Yet, guns as instruments of law enforcement are only as effective and for lack of a better word, righteous, as the laws that are being enforced are just and reasonable.  Moloch's amorality, when discussing the instruments of violence, thus provides insights into the current argument regarding regulation of firearms. 

The anti-gun control argument is that to fight bad guys with guns, the good guys should have guns too.  But that argument is more or less a restatement of Moloch's amoral position - that violence should be met with violence, with no consideration of justice, and that immediate vengeance is its own virtue.

One way to re-state the author's argument then (and he acknowledges this in saying "Molochism is the one religion that can never be separate from the state") might be to say that our society does not so much as worship Moloch as we suffuse our social structure with instrumentalities of control.  And when we forget reason and refuse to enact just and reasonable laws, cleaving to extreme notions of how these instruments should be used, our instrumentalities of control turn infernal.  Moloch, after all was a warrior angel before the fall.  After the fall, his weapons no longer are enlightened - rather, he talks about twisted versions of those weapons and twisted uses for them.  Justice then, is not created by a populace wielding guns in self-defense.  Justice, for better or for worse, is created by the state.  And the abdication of that duty by the state invites disaster.   

We do not worship Moloch.  We summon him.  We let him into our very beings and let him dictate our acts.  The issue is not one of worship as the author of the article suggests, but of possession and the need for exorcism.   We are possessed by Moloch, who stands for immediate violence, biblical vengeance, and thoughtless retaliation.  And through inaction on the part of the State, we let fear of tyranny interfere with reasonable regulation, the exercise of which (and this is a naive statement, perhaps) lends legitimacy to the instrumentalities of control.  Through inaction, we undermine the legitimacy of our self-governance.  

To carry the possession metaphor to its logical conclusion, one might argue that we need to exorcise the infernal influence, while acknowledging that these instruments are deeply ingrained in our society and our concepts of justice and security.  But a lack of State action, and an adherence to the extreme and selfish view about the appropriate uses of weapons, only perpetuates the perspective of Moloch, that weapons are instruments to use one sees fit.

Perhaps even more compelling is a comparison between Moloch's argument and that of contemporary extremists.  Moloch exhorts the fallen angels to, without knowing whether or not they might succeed in their effort, mount a possibly suicidal charge:

Or if our substance be indeed Divine,
And cannot cease to be, we are at worst
On this side nothing; and by proof we feel
Our power sufficient to disturb his Heav'n,
And with perpetual inrodes to Allarme,
Though inaccessible, his fatal Throne:
Which if not Victory is yet Revenge.

Paradise Lost, 2:99-105.

Moloch does not know if his angelic body is still immortal, and he does not know if God can consign him to any worse fate than Hell.  But as shown in his rhetoric, he does not care.  Rather, his fight is merely for the sake of inflicting pain and horror, for proving a point:  "which if not Victory is yet Revenge" he exults, consumed by his words of self-indulgent, noble self-sacrifice.  As a result, Moloch echoes and personifies the hopeless and pointless violence of terrorism, and the flawed idealism of all extremists who resort to violence to prove a point, or do it just to get some attention.

Again, we see Milton's Moloch become a better metaphor for the violence that plagues our society, and a better lesson for its reasonable regulation by a just government.  

Moloch's argument is not a rational one.  His argument is one of insanity and self-destruction, an argument of one who has literally descended into hell, and confronted by its madness, only wishes to lash out at those who do not suffer as he does.  The gun lobby tries to legitimize its points through arguments that are facially logical and rational.  "The regulations won't stop criminals from getting guns, they will only restrict law abiding citizens," they argue.  "The regulations won't stop shooting spees," they say. 

But faced with the threat of one as deperate and irrational as Moloch, the duty of a responsible and rational government are twofold - to try to disarm the irrational and desperate, and to stop them from carrying out their infernal plans.  The latter duty is left to law enforcement and our investigative agencies.  The former, at least in some part, is the province of the legislature, state and federal.  When the legislature abdicates that duty, what remains?  That vacuum can never be adequately filled by law-abiding citizens who own guns, no matter how many guns they own or how many bullets they buy.  Even if their gun ownership represents some measure of order, that vacuum left by reasonable regulation by the government will inevitably be filled from time to time with the irrational and chaotic acts like the ones in Newtown and Aurora.  And Boston.

Naturally, another argument is one that Milton's Satan would be familar with, regarding tyrants and responses to threats of tyranny, but that is a separate argument that should not even be reached in a discussion of reasonable regulation, supported by a vast majority of the populace.  I won't discuss that here, but Milton's Satan teaches us lessons about that as well.

This week has seen several instances now of this Moloch-ian presence in our society - some of it is institutional (the power of the gun lobby) while some of it is individual (whoever perpetrated the acts at the Boston Marathon).  While the two do not bear any causal connection, at least for the purposes of this metaphor, it all comes from the same source.  And it wears on the rest of us, who don't believe in living in fear, who believe that our justice system and our political system can be fair and representative, and who are sick and tired of the sacrifice of innocents at the altar of self-righteous anger and violence.   

Thursday, June 24, 2010


This baseball season has already seen some incredible pitching, both in single-game performances and overall numbers to date.

There have been 2.97 perfect games this year, an astounding number considering that there had only been 15 in the modern era of baseball before this year.

There has been Ubaldo Jimenez, who threw a no hitter earlier this year, and whose overall numbers have made some wonder if he could make a run at Bob Gibson's record 1.12 ERA, set in 1968. That quest saw a sizable setback yesterday, as Jimenez gave up 6 earned runs against the Braves, raising his ERA to 1.60.

And of course, there has been Stephen Strasburg, who sets strikeout records every time he takes the mound.

It may be time though, to start watching Cliff Lee, who is flying under the radar this season because he didn't make his first start until the end of April. In fact, one might argue he's been flying under the radar since last post-season: the Phillies may have lost the series, but Lee did throw an absolute gem of a complete game in Game 1 - in fact, using Bill James's Game Score metric, it was the 9th best post-season performance since the mound was lowered in 1969.

And heck, the biggest news regarding Lee these days are probably the trade rumors (Cliff, the Mets welcome you with open arms).

After his complete game tonight against the Cubs, Lee's numbers to date this year might draw comparisons to his Cy Young campaign in 2008. Especially notable is the fact that after 86 and 2/3 innings pitched, Lee has 6 wins to show for it, and has walked 4 batters. People are starting to notice.

For those wondering, and really, it might just be me, pitchers don't often win more games in a season than they walk batters. It has happened once since 1919. The last player to do it was Bret Saberhagen, who won 14 games and walked 13 batters in 1994 for the New York Mets (as an aside, given the tendency these days to coddle young pitchers and limit their innings, it's fascinating to take a glance at Saberhagen's early years at Kansas City and wonder).

And it's not too early to start wondering if Lee can do it, either. In 2005, TWO pitchers on the Twins (Brad Radke and Carlos Silva) at one point in June had more wins than walks. And while Radke ended up losing his pace and walked a whopping 23 batters in his 200 innings pitched, Silva kept up his miserly walk rate the entire season, finishing with 9 walks in 188 innings pitched. Unfortunately for him, the Twins that year were dead last in runs scored in the AL, and Silva only won nine games.

And about as unfortunately for Lee, the Seattle Mariners are currently second to last in the AL in runs scored, ahead of only the Baltimore Orioles, who are looking to set some history by having the worst year ever for their storied franchise. So Lee will not be able to count on much run support. Nevertheless, ground-ball pitchers who don't give up many home runs, who strike out almost a batter an inning, and who give up fewer walks in a month than most pitchers do in a game tend to help their own cause pretty well. It's worth keeping an eye on.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I'm not sure why Roger Ebert would watch exactly 8 minutes and 5 seconds of a movie, decide that it stinks, give it a one-star rating, and then write a full review of the movie as if he's seen the entire movie, only disclosing in the last paragraph of the review that he barely watched it, and that oh, wait, this review only pertains to the first eight minutes of the movie. He even criticizes a cameo appearance, but the only reason he knows that there was a cameo appearance at all was by researching the film on IMDB (he confesses this at the end of the review).

Is this acceptable at all? Even if he uses the fact that he watched 8 minutes of a movie as a device to criticize the movie (he finds a lot of things wrong about the movie from the first 8 minutes, it seems), I think the basic assumption readers have of a critic is that they have experienced that which they criticize. That assumption informs the way the reader reads. And the way Ebert wrote the majority of the review does nothing to discourage this assumption.

In fact, his criticism of "Cameo Appearances" was not validated at all by the 8 minutes he saw, as the cameo appearance apparently takes place later in the film. In other words, he inflates his criticism of the eight minutes of the movie by criticizing a portion of the movie he never sees. This only serves to reinforce the reader's assumption that Ebert actually saw the entire movie.

Ebert posted about his own review on his blog and it has generated over 300 comments. It might be argued that the movie is just some indie film and a critic as well-known as Ebert has other movies to be concerned about. But isn't this about the biggest disservice anyone could give to a small-budget indie film? It's one thing to refuse to review an indie movie. It's another thing entirely to pretend to review it, give it a bad review, and confess that it wasn't worth your time to see more than 8 minutes of the movie.

Even if it's the worst movie ever, can you make that judgment without watching the whole movie? Ebert has sat through many other bad movies. Will he make it a habit not to sit through other ones in the future now that he's done this once?

In the comments to Ebert's blog post about his review (and yes, I understand the inherent silliness of writing a blog post about a blog post about a critical review about a movie. Luckily the movie is not about blogging or writing, as far as I know), some defenders say that a food critic would not have to sit through an entire meal to make an unfavorable review. He would not be expected to eat an unpalatable meal. Another defender argues that a movie, like copy in good marketing, should grab one's attention in the opening. I think both arguments are spurious. I could just as easily argue how horrible it would be for a Rolling Stone critic to give an album a bad review of after listening to one song. I think all those arguments (comparing movies to food, marketing and music) can be picked apart. For example, it's easily argued that my music critic comparison is different because songs on albums are so diverse; just because the first song is bad doesn't mean all the other ones are the same quality. To that argument, I argue "Nickelback."

That one-star rating also bugs me. How many people look at that graphic and don't both with reading the rest of the review? There's some kind of meta argument there, maybe, since it could be said that looking at the rating of a review and not reading the review is like sitting through 8 minutes of a movie, but I'm not going to go down that path, since I find it likely that Ebert truly did find the first 8 minutes of the movie to be horrendous. At the very least, Ebert is a Rotten Tomatoes critic, and I assume the other critics who reviewed it and gave it good or bad reviews saw the entire movie.

And if the first 8 minutes had been the best 8 minutes of film he had ever seen, would it have been excusable to stop watching and then give the movie a four-star review? I think not. While it may be improbable that the movie picked up if the first 8 minutes were that deplorable, it's not impossible. What if a particularly good character had been introduced? What if some actor that was not introduced in the first 8 minutes turned in an Oscar worthy performance? I thought the first 20 minutes of Spider-man were pretty great, but then that movie went south in a hurry. It would have been completely incorrect of me to watch those first twenty minutes and write a review as if the rest of the movie had been just as good.

Don't they teach kids not to do this in school? I was assigned to read Catcher in the Rye in 9th Grade. I despised that book. I still read the whole thing. (I read it again a couple of years later to see if I'd like it better when it wasn't part of a curriculum. Nope). I didn't read 20 pages about phonies and daddy issues and then look the rest of the plot of on the internet, and write a report as if I had read the book, only disclosing to my teacher at the end that I had not. I think that if I did, I would have gotten a failing grade.

Ebert's review isn't cute. It isn't novel. It's not the end of the world either. It's just plain lazy.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A couple of thoughts on Indy 4 **spoilers**

Please don't read this if you haven't seen the movie and you don't want any of it spoiled.

1) On Sounds: The traditional John Williams soundtrack was woefully underused. And maybe I'm the only one who thinks this, but the problem wasn't that Harrison Ford looks different after 19 years away from the role; it's that he SOUNDS different. When I first heard him talk, it was like a different actor. I suppose it makes sense because voices change with age, but for me, that rather than appearance was the most jarring aspect of the Indy character in this movie.

2) On Iconography: There are two icons in the Indy movies - the relic Indy is hunting, and Indy himself. Neither is very strong in this movie. Most viewers will understand Western iconography more than . . . well, Asian or South American iconography, and therefore, it will resonate more. It wasn't a coincidence that the first two movies seem more coherent for their use of the well-known Christian icons, the grail chalice and the ark of the covenant (forgive me for that, as the ark isn't actually a Christian archetype, really, is it).

So when the icon in this one is a crystal skull (born of a myth created in 19th century Britain and perpetuated by 20th century new-age ritual, neither of which feature prominently, or at least, with much explanation, in the movie), surrounded by Meso-American/Southern American imagery, it naturally won't go over as well as the Western icons. Additionally with the Western icons, the treasure hunting is more familiar; descending into a church in Venice after reading a code out of stained glass resonates with an audience. Descending into a pyramid in Peru, not as much. Also, any puzzle solving relating to the non-Western icons will need more exposition, which is notably absent.

In addition, Indy himself isn't as strong a presence in this movie. In the two better movies, there's an inner search within Indy himself as well as a search for the treasure; in Raiders, it was his relationship with Marion. In Last Crusade, it was his relationship with his father. In theory, in this movie, it's supposed to be his relationship with Mutt but that's a bit lost in the movie, which is in part due to the lack of exposition, and also in part because of the re-introduction of the Marion character.

As if the lack of solid support around Indy to bolster his character wasn't enough, there was apparently reticence in giving Indy much in the way of action scenes. While he is certain in all the action scenes, Indy is really only at the center of a couple of them. And he uses his whip all of . . . twice? Three times? There's enough camera work on his fedora . . . but barely any on his bullwhip.

3) On Post-Modernism and Deconstruction: The movie is full of bits and pieces of the previous trilogy, as if scenes from those movies were like potsherds and cobbling them together could make this movie a new pot, or something like that. It doesn't really work. What ends up happening is that every once in a while, the viewer is jerked back into the past, by the sight of something from the previous movies, a camera shot reminiscent of Raiders, or the Ark itself, or pictures of Brody and Jones Sr. (a bit heavy-handed, that scene).

The only time it's effective is when Indy restrains Mutt before they explore a tomb, kind of a reference and yet not exactly a copy of when Indy restrained the Alfred Molina-character in the beginning of Raiders. The update was a cute reminder that this was still Indiana Jones on the screen. And a very necessary reminder too, because even though Indy scoffs at the suggestion that he's softened in his old age, there's clearly a "get off my lawn" kind of feeling to many of his lines.

The other times when the movie gets self-referential, it's actually kind of pitiful, which makes me think that when the filmmakers were making it, they wanted it to be purely nostalgic, and for us to understand that there is no going back. When Indy packs his case in this one (contrast with Indy packing in Last Crusade to go to Venice), it's not to go off on an adventure; his shirts are pressed, and he doesn't end the scene by throwing his whip and gun into the case. Indy is quite literally dragged into this adventure, and we're made to understand that unlike the heroes who ride off into the sunset at the end of Last Crusade, the passage of time turns all heroes into dusty relics sooner or later, until all they can do is find what happiness they can and pass the torch onto others who will continue the exploration.

4) On Espionage and Warfare: Spies don't really have any place in the Indy films; there's good and there's evil. So when we turn to the Cold War-era and we introduce a spy, it throws kind of a cog into the wheels of the film.

One of the romantic aspects of the previous Indiana Jones films was the idea that despite modernization (planes, trains and automobiles . . . see the red lines on the map, and the sheik in Last Crusade going ga-ga over the Rolls Royce rather than gold trinkets), there was always a place for Indy to explore, and somehow, something Indy would find there would be dragged from the past to have an impact on the present and future. With the introduction of psychological warfare, spying, and things like Red Scare, the relic that Indy hunts is less related to the present. It serves as an interesting metaphor, to be sure, and it's explained as a potential weapon, but the crystal skull hardly has the gravitas that the smiting power of the Ark and the immortality of the grail held. Indeed, it doesn't even look like the huge hunk of quartz has much heft to it when the characters handle it; shouldn't that thing weigh about 30 lbs?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Signal This: A Journal Completely Unrelated to Law Review, but Completely Necessary

I start this on the third day of writing my law review mini-note at home; the first day was spent finding my bearings, both in the library and in the law review material, while the second day was a revelation in several ways.

I put a status up on Facebook yesterday that bespoke of one of these revelations (the Facebook status is really a versatile doppleganger).

It occurred to me as I walked into the library the morning of the second day that something was wrong. Breakfast was sitting fine so it wasn't that, although the eggs on a roll would have been more palatable with some cheese, which is true about most food. I went upstairs, let myself into the personal study room, and turned my computer on. Then it hit me. I was in the library. One of the best public libraries in the country, of which I had vowed once to read the entirety (it was fourth grade. And I was used to a public library in Queens, NY which only let you borrow a certain number of books at a time. The first time I asked someone here what the limit was, they responded with a look and said . . . well, in theory, as much as you can carry, or something to that effect.) And here I was, fourteen years later, not walking around with a stack of books that I needed to peer around so as not to take out librarians and little old ladies (sometimes one and the same).

So I fixed that. I locked up my study room, went downstairs to the new fiction and new non-fiction sections, and went to town. I had to renew my library card, since I hadn’t used it in more than three years, having not really lived in this town for longer than that, but I did. And that in and of itself was renewing. For me, as well as for my library card.

I brought 7 books back up to the study room with me, where they sat and tempted me as I worked on trying to make a coherent note out of the law review cases. At lunch, I took one of the books, a free verse novel about werewolves in Los Angeles called "Sharp Teeth," down to the café with me, where I consumed a healthy chunk of it along with a bagel with lox and cream cheese, tomatoes, onions and capers, and washed it all down with a Diet Coke.

When I look around at my neighbors in the study rooms, I wonder if they have similar thoughts. I suspect not, from the lack of any reading that looks remotely pleasurable that they’ve brought with them. Some of them look downright pained as they work through whatever it is they’re slogging through. One person has been here every day that I have, and is evidently very restless. The first day, he was in the room across from me (all the rooms are glass-paned). The next, he was a room down when I got to the library. Today, he’s around the corner in the very back. It feels like he’s the king in a chess game slowly moving around the board trying to avoid checkmate. But he’s cornered himself now; I could probably check him pretty quickly, with a pawn and possibly anything else but anther pawn.

But when I go downstairs for lunch, some of the people reading down there look pained too. Brighten up people. You’re reading for pleasure. You should look like it. There’s no way you can enjoy what you read when you’re grimacing like that. There’s obviously something else on your mind. The first obstacle to reading comprehension and reading with any depth isn’t vocabulary; it’s concentration, and when you look like you’re being tortured, you’re probably not concentrating on the pages. I could have reminded myself of that more than a few times, probably, during the school year. I bet if I were being filmed or if people saw me in the library, I likely didn’t always have a placid look on my face.

I went home last night and read another book before going to bed (a new Weis and Hickman book; I keep reading their books in the hope that they write something good again - no luck so far), and also read the first chapter of a sci-fi book I picked up for its cover (it wasn’t worth it, and that says a lot because most books are worth reading in some way or another, even if it’s dreck so that one can appreciate a good book all the more, so I returned both of those books today). To compensate, I picked another one up this morning, a historical fiction on the Fourth Crusade written by some gypsy (no, really, that’s what the author note says; she was a former gypsy) and 125 pages into it, it’s proving a worthier choice.

Update: it's 10:00 PM and I have to say, it was a pretty good book. Kind of reminiscient of a first-person Edgar Rice Burroughs book I read once, crossed with most contemporary fiction that can't seem to exist without a partially-omnicient narrator.

It’s nice reading again. And I realize that I can do it while still working. I kind of knew this during the school year too, as evidenced when I got my book on cosmology and C.S. Lewis, but I didn’t really understand it.

I haven’t been myself for a while. I haven’t been devouring books at the pace I used to, and as such, I was starving. Law and the occasional pleasure read were somewhat satiating due to the mental stimulus necessary to engage with the material, but it didn’t make me feel quite as alive as I do when I’m reading at my normal pace. And I actually think my interactions with other people suffer for it; I feel like I had become a bit bland and colorless for that lack of stimulation in my life. I honestly believe that if one can’t enjoy some form of art passionately, whether it be literature, film, music, even cooking, one can’t live passionately. Maybe that's the problem in the profession I've chosen, and really, any profession that requires that much investment of one's time. I can imagine being passionate about the law (really, I can), but I think I'll need other habits too. I told someone cynically once that I thought law may be one of those professions where all your habits exist in theory. I was wrong. It doesn't have to be that way.

I've been collecting books the past couple years, as evidenced by my time in DC and my trip to Cape Cod, as I went with a large cooler of groceries and returned with a large cooler of . . . books. I got out to see the rest of the Cape, baseball games and beaches and all that, but I also went book hunting. But that’s not the same when some of those are books I had already read, or books that I bought because they were collectible.

The upshot of it is that I’m reading again. And law review doesn’t seem so bad for it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Assistant Pig-Keepers and Time Cats

I saw the sad news today that Lloyd Alexander had died at the age of 83.

It is no exaggeration to say that Mr. Alexander's novels were more beloved and important to me than almost any other authors that I read as a child. More than Tolkien, more than C.S. Lewis, more than Susan Cooper. More than any other author I read voraciously, from Scott O'Dell to Madeline L'engle. John Bellairs is probably the only children's author (maybe any author, for that matter) who comes even close to having the effect that Lloyd Alexander has had on me.

If North Mianus Elementary School still has its hardcover copies of the Prydain Chronicles, you might be able to verify my statement. For two years, I borrowed The High King, the last book of the quintet, constantly, and my name is the only one on the library cards. It got to the point that the librarians would give me strange looks every other week, as if to say "haven't you memorized this book yet?"

Perhaps I had, but re-reading books isn't about finding missed details or becoming somehow more familiar with the characters. It was like reminiscing about past exploits and adventures with an old friend.

And I grew so familiar with Mr. Alexander (dare I say that he was my friend?) recounting to me the Welsh mythology-based adventures of Taran, Gurgi, Eilonwy and Fflewdur Flam that I needed to know where the stories came from. I was instantly enchanted by his stories, which are sometimes more tragic, and thus more human, than you would expect of a children's author. The Prydain Chronicles officially set me on the road to becoming an anglo-phile (although Britophile might be a more accurate term).

In sixth grade, I found a copy of the Mabinogion, the major book of Welsh mythology, in my library. I have to admit, I still can't pronounce half the names in the book, but it got me started in seriously reading about Arthur and his Knights, which of course gave me a nice grounding for Chaucer and Milton (whose first idea for an epic was Arthurian and NOT Adamic).

More importantly, it got me interested in discovering the origins of stories, which has honestly informed every major undertaking I've set out for academically since then, from my undergraduate Milton thesis investigating the origins of Milton's conceptions of image and narcissism to my (unfortunately dormant) dream to document fan accounts of Negro League Baseball to my love of anthropology classes and the literature of Zora Neale Hurston.

I read all his other books too - The Westmark Trilogy, the Vesper Holly books, the Town Cats...

In my desk at work are two hardcover copies of the latter two books from the Westmark Trilogy, which I happily found at a used book sale last Spring. On the stand next to my bed, there's a copy of The Drackenburg Adventure (Vesper Holly), which I found at the same book sale.

I'm not sure if my interest in gender studies stems from Mr. Alexander's strong and unconventional female characters, but it's certainly possible. But it's absolutely a fact that Eilonwy from the Prydain Chronicles was my first crush. Yes, my first crush was on a character in a novel with a fantasy setting. Is that so strange? It's not as if the movie stars or singers idolized by others are any more attainable.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Lloyd Alexander affected my taste in women, but that's also certainly possible. Another fact is that when I used to tell Jen stories, some of the ones I turned to when I ran out of personal anecdotes and mythological tales were from Lloyd Alexander's writings. I basically have The Town Cats (and Other Tales) memorized, so it was a logical source for stories, as the stories are more or less fairy tales with humorous twists involving cats.

I wonder how many people can say that the literature of Lloyd Alexander played a role in their relationships? Probably not many.

So I mourn the passing of this man, who, despite being six decades my senior, whom I never had the honor of meeting, has had such an amazing and deep influence on my life.

Would I be able to touch a fraction of the lives you reached through your books, Mr. Alexander, I would consider myself an incredibly successful and rich individual.

May your voyage to the Summer Country be a pleasant one, and may you live forever there with your loved ones, the ones you encountered in life and the ones you created to enrich us all.

"And so they lived many happy years, and the promised tasks were accomplished. Yet long afterward, when all had passed away into distant memory, there were many who wondered whether [the] companions had indeed walked the earth, or whether they had been no more than dreams in a tale set down to beguile children. And, in time, only the bards knew the truth of it."
-- The High King by Lloyd Alexander

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Completely Random

This thought just popped into my head. It's kind of a trivia question, I guess, and I'd be curious to know the answer.

What is the fewest number of states I would have to visit so that in a list of states including states that I visited and states bordering the ones I visited, I cover all 48 continental US States? (Obviously Hawaii and Alaska represent two states you would be required to visit, so we don't need to count them.)

Friday, April 20, 2007

A little tardy

I didn't notice this until today, but the Humbug Journal has one of the two best tributes to Jackie Robinson I've seen yet. The other, of course, being the the post over at The Dugout.

A Spenserian sonnet and an acrostic in the poetic tribute to Jackie Robinson? I think it's pure brilliance. It helps that both posts make reference to The Hitchhiker's Guide, of course.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

RIP, Brian Bluhm (aka VTTigers)

I was shocked this morning to open up my baseball blogs to find out that one of the regular contributors to John Sickels' had been killed in yesterday's Virginia Tech shootings.

I know for a fact that VTTigers joined the site not long after John established it in 2005. Back then, I read and commented much more on the site (Sickels is my favorite baseball prospect analyst), and VTTigers was one of the most insightful posters we had. His knowledge of Detroit Tigers prospects was unparalleled - I know I learned a lot about Cameron Maybin from him, and he was an invaluable source of information on prospects. His posts were articulate and smart, and contributed to a great atmosphere for discussing baseball prospects.

His commentary on Sickels' site will be missed. The same will hold true for other baseball sites, as he was an active contributor to several Tigers message boards.

I do have a new favorite baseball player now, Curtis Granderson, the Tigers CF, as he put Brian to the top of his MySpace friends list when he heard the news, and left a message on Brian's page. It's a touching gesture. I know Brian often praised Granderson on Sickels' site, especially for his outfield defense.

My condolences to Brian's friends and family and to everyone else who lost a loved one yesterday.

Addendum: Anyone landing on my site through a search - Brian's comments on John Sickels' site can be found here, and here is John's tribute to him yesterday. I understand that a fund is being set up for the victims families by the Virginia Tech memorial fund.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I look forward to Opening Day every year. This year was no exception; I'm participating in as many fantasy leagues as I normally do, I half-heartedly filled out a couple March Madness brackets to pass the time, and I paid scant attention to much else (which led to me nearly forgetting I had to have a law school deposit in on April 2nd).

There was one difference this year though - for the first time in five years, I was single on Opening Day. It's a bit strange to think about it that way, but considering how much Jen and I both loved baseball, I couldn't help but see it in that light.

Baseball was one of the first things we connected on. I'm a Mets fan; she's a Braves fan. So we immediately began a good-natured rivalry, and of course she never failed to hold all those division titles over my head. It's a strange coincidence that our relationship ended the same year the Braves' streak did. It's a strange coincidence in my melancholy mind at least; I know there's no connection, but I like to romanticize.

Everyone romanticizes the sport of baseball and parallels the sport to their lives. While I don't know that I want to draw parallels, I do know that baseball was a pretty important part of my relationship, and as such, it's impossible not to reflect in the young days of this new season of what was.

I liked to make predictions to her about the game. I predicted way back in 2002 that the AL Central would be the strongest division in baseball within 3 years. I'm proud of that one.

One night in August, 2003, we were watching a Red Sox game on NESN, and we had to run out to print something at the library. Jason Varitek was up to bat, and on a hunch, I said "wait, I need to see Varitek go deep."

On the next pitch, Varitek blasted one over the Green Monster, and we walked over to the library, marveling over my prescience. She actually bragged about it to some camp counselors when she was doing her senior research, but apparently she got her names crossed up and called him Varekai (like the Cirque Du Soleil show) and confused them.

Since TBS broadcasts a lot of Braves game, we got to watch a lot of them.

We were watching on TV one Spring afternoon when one of her former Braves, Kevin Millwood, pitched a no-hitter for the Giants against the Phillies.

We watched early one season when Chipper Jones snagged his foot trying to field a bunt and has been bit by the injury bug since.

We watch Ben Sheets K 18 Braves, and Randy Johnson throw a perfect game the next day.

More recently, we were supposed to go out with her friend, another Braves fan, but we had to keep putting off dinner because the Braves were playing an extra innings playoff game against the Astros.

We groaned when Adam LaRoche was sent around third to get nailed at the plate. We groaned when Bobby Cox had Marcus Giles bunt (he popped it up, I believe). We were astonished when light hitting Chris Burke finally ended the game in the bottom of the 18th inning, sending us to our long delayed meal.

There are other playoff memories too - Jose Cruz dropping an easy fly ball to help doom the Giants . . . Josh Beckett throwing a gem against the Yankees . . . the Red Sox coming back from 3-0 in the 2004 ALCS (which was a great experience in NH - I don't think anything got done on campus that week and a half - incidentally, that series was the subject my worst prediction ever - "the Red Sox need to win one of the first two, or they won't win the series").

There were many days when we'd watch an early afternoon game, and then head out for coffee and lunch afterwards. There were plenty of night games for which we got lazy and ordered EBAs and sat around commenting on the goings on around the league and in the game.

The first time I went down to Atlanta, I think it was Spring 2002, for the Music Midtown concert instead of studying for a chemistry midterm, I slept on a pull-out sofa under a Braves blanket, and prompt got hit by horrible allergies due to the two dogs and cat residing in her house.

I remember walking around her grandfather's medical office, which is decorated with framed newspaper pages of Braves headlines.

For her birthday in 2005, I got her a Braves jersey - of her favorite new player, a hot-shot right fielder who had come up from the minors and tore up the league, both with his torrid hitting and his rifle outfield arm.

During out Spring Training trip to Disney World (we saw three Braves games - against the Nationals, the Phillies and the Indians), she was fortunate to get the jersey signed. I think having Jeff Francoeur sign her jersey was the highlight of her trip.

During our relationship, the Braves went through several right fielders - Gary Sheffield, JD Drew, and finally her favorite, Jeff Francoeur.

We probably went to 8-10 Nationals games over the course of our year and a half here in DC.

We got to see a Braves/Nats game where one of my favorite young MLBers, Ryan Zimmerman, hit a ball off John Smoltz that was about as hard hit a ball as I've ever seen. It was a line drive that went all the way to the right centerfield wall, but it was damn impressive. Francoeur's Franks were obviously present.

This season's very different, obviously. There won't be any games to watch or attend together, or any predictions to impart, or fantasy performances to brag about (yes, I did). But the game goes on, and so will I. I'll be at RFK on April 16th, and hopefully the Nationals will have won another game by then. I'll score the game, and cheer for Zimmerman, and perhaps enjoy the April nighttime air.

Play ball, Go Mets, and don't forget to tip your beerman.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

200 Steps

Do I believe in God? Maybe that's too heady a question to tackle the morning after St. Patrick's Day.

Do I believe in a subconscious drive that manifests itself in my actions and choices in often surprising and apparently mysterious ways? I'm not sure, but let me explain why I'm posing the question.

On the recommendation of a friend about a month ago, I picked up the book "In the Heart of the Sea," by Nathaniel Philbrick. The book is the true story of the sailors on the whaling ship Essex, and Philbrick does an amazing job in not only narrating their harrowing tale of survival, but in delivering a vivid account of Nantucket whaling culture in the early 19th century.

140 pages into the book, as the men of Essex endeavor to survive after the loss of their ship, there is a mention of Pitcairn Island, "an island whose history was inextricably linked with Nantucket. . . [i]n 1808, a sealing captain from Nantucket . . . discovered the answer to a nineteen-year-old mystery: what had happened to Fletcher Christian and the Bounty."

The mention is a fleeting one, an aside which serves to place the location of the sailors not only geographically, but historically as well. One of Philbrick's most well-executed literary maneuvers is his depiction of the sea as a vast historical entity as well as a vast physical entity, such that when ships and men cross historically, it is as notable as when ships encounter each other on the expanses of the Pacific.

This is how I've felt over the past three books I have read. My literary journeys have taken me from Nantucket, to the South Pacific, to Savannah, Georgia, to the Caribbean. And these have not seemed so much stops as they have been fluid portions of the same trip, as somehow, there have been unifying elements and references in each book.

After I read "In the Heart of the Sea," I picked up several books at the Holly Hill Book Repository in Greenwich. The first one I read was "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," a book which I've always been meaning to read, but which I just got around to now.

And to my surprise, on page 36 of "Midnight," after a brief discussion of a Savannahian poet's love of ships, the following passage floated across my eyes.

"It seemed to me that Savannah was in some respects as remote as Pitcairn Island, that tiny rock in the middle of the Pacific where the descendants of the mutineers of the H.M.S. Bounty had lived in inbred isolation since the eighteenth century."

Immediately, I thought of the lines from "In the Heart of the Sea," and indeed, it seemed to me that the best part of "Midnight" was the first half of the book, in which various characters in Savannah, Georgia enter and depart the narrator's life like ships passing in the water, each ship with its unique quirks and traits.

Next, I picked up "Love in the Time of Cholera," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, another book I have never gotten around to reading, even though I enjoyed "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "Chronicle of a Death Foretold."

Almost as soon as I began reading, I reached a passage that reminded me of "Midnight."

In "Midnight," Jim Williams is an antique dealer and Savannah aristocrat. After establishing himself as "nouveau riche" ("it's the riche that counts," he says), Williams begins a Savannah tradition, a meticulously and elaborately planned black-tie Christmas party which "soon became a permanent fixture on Savannah's social calendar."

On page 33 of "Love in the Time of Cholera," Dr. Urbina and his wife Fermina Daza depart tardy for a party hosted by "Aminta Dechamps, Dr. Lacides Olivella's wife, and her seven equally diligent daughters, [who] had arranged every detail so that the silver anniversary luncheon would be the social event of the year."

Perhaps this isn't an exact parallel, but somehow, the placement within the framework of the story makes them curiously resonant.

I almost feel compelled now to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's first book - "The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor." But I don't think I will. Rather than turn my journey full circle, I think I would rather keep letting my random choices flow together in unpredictable ways. Am I choosing these books for a strange subconscious reason? Or perhaps I am reading less now than before, and I'm seizing on these unifying threads, remote and bizarre as they are, as a way to connect my rather isolated literary selections.

Are my three books like the three lifeboats that the sailors of the Essex find themselves in after their ship sinks, bobbing almost helplessly in the water, struggling to maintain contact and visibility with the others?

I also feel compelled now to take a trip up to Nantucket this June, as several elements seem to be conspiring to drive me there. The aforementioned Philbrick book is one, but aside from that, I need to take a trip before starting law school. I want to go up to Yarmouth Port to see the Edward Gorey House. I want to see some Cape Cod League Baseball games. I want to spend a couple lazy days at a Bed and Breakfast, with nothing planned for the day aside from a walk on the beach or hike down a nature trail in the morning and some browsing of a used book sale in the afternoon.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Satisfied Mind

One of these weekends, not next weekend since I'm going back to CT, but perhaps sometime in April, I'm going to drive up to Dartmouth.

I'm going to take Friday off, and leave in the morning, around 6:00, with nothing but the clothes on my back and a book.

I'll drive the nine or so hours up to Dartmouth, and get there before Dirt Cowboy closes. Then I'm going to get myself a large Yirgacheffe, and just walk around campus a few times. At some point, I'll go to Molly's and have dinner. Although I suppose not eating meat means I'll be having one of their salads or pastas. Still good though. And sweet potato fries. I could go for some of those. And their bread. Drool.

In any case, this will be followed with more rambling, a few hours of pool in the Collis basement, if they'll let me, and at some point, I figure I'll follow a student into one of the dorms (since my card won't open doors anymore), plant myself in one of the hall lounges, and read until either I fall asleep or Safety and Security gets suspicious and kicks me out.

The next morning, it's breakfast at Lou's of course (though no meat means no corned beef hash...), and then another coffee from Dirt Cowboy before I start to drive back. Maybe I'll stop home in CT for the day. That's probably more manageable.

Is it strange that food is one of the things I miss most about Dartmouth and Hanover? There isn't even that much of a selection in town. I just need something to take me back, so to speak, and food is what will do the job at this point, considering I don't know any of the students there now, and I'm going to resist stealing books from Baker Library.