Saturday, October 29, 2011

Spooky poetry

I got to participate in a spooky, halloweeny poetry night my ward did (how cool a ward is mine, no?). I read Edgar Allan Poe's classic The Raven (click the link: it's Christopher effing Walken reading it!). But as the night went on, I thought perhaps I should have done his lesser-known The Bells. I love it, so here it is:


Hear the sledges with the bells-
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


Hear the mellow wedding bells,
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And an in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!


Hear the loud alarum bells-
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor,
Now- now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows:
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells-
Of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!


Hear the tolling of the bells-
Iron Bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people- ah, the people-
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All Alone
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone-
They are neither man nor woman-
They are neither brute nor human-
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells-
Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells-
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells:
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells-
Bells, bells, bells-
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Do you have any favorite Halloween poems?

Best. Description. of Depression. Ever.

I'm not particularly a fan of Hyperbole and a Half, but this comic is great (for its explanatory power). I've never been that depressed, but the gist is spot on.

[oh and warning: some language]

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Thin Line (ba-dum ching!)

I don't diet too often, but when I do, I'm afraid I'm walking a thin line between eating less and getting an eating disorder. I'll be back to my unhealthy overeating soon enough though, I'm sure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

To the Saints

Here's to the Saints: the people who come to wherever you are, walk back up with you, and help you see things the way they really are again. God bless them that they can continue to be so utterly awesome.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Devil's advocate

Mormon argument regarding same-sex marriage: "marriage" has meant the union of a man and a woman forever. We can't re-write millennia of history and tradition by now re-defining marriage as something fundamentally different to include a much broader group of people.

Mormon argument regarding Christianity: "Christian" has meant a belief in the Nicene Creed (and others) for millennia, but now we as Mormons want to be included in the meaning of "Christian" even though we disagree with those creeds and call them abominations, arguably re-defining the term to include a much broader group of people.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Just Sayin', Gospel Edition

My gospel pet peeve for today: that Clive Staples Lewis quote that says
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Besides the false trilemma that I think this is (read the Wikipedia article for details), it also presents the difficult position for Mormons, if accepted, of what to do with the 1978 First Presidency statement that said
The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.
So if Mohammed, a man who claimed to have a vision from an angel and receive new scriptures that were literally the word of God, can validly be considered a "great religious leader" who "received a portion of God's light" and "[m]oral truths," why can't Jesus be considered the same? Why do we not accept the Q'uran as scripture, but we think it's impossible to separate Christ's claims of divinity from his other great teachings? I just don't see it.

A note of clarification: I do believe Jesus was the literal Son of God, divine, savior, redeemer, etc etc, but I also think Lewis' trilemma is a specious argument in favor of that position.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Law Power

Written for the Virginia Law Weekly, a law student-run weekly newspaper at UVA. Thus, the audience of this article isn't all that in line with the audience of this blog. Oh well.

Three men on a 1968 Mexico City Olympics medal stand after the 200-meter dash. Two African-Americans, heads bowed, boldly raise black-gloved fists in the air. You’re probably familiar with pictures of the event; maybe, like me, you even had one on your wall as an undergrad. Saturday evening, I got to hear John Carlos, the bronze medal winner in that picture, speak about his new book. I’m not going to be an Olympic athlete; I probably won’t ever get to bring international attention to human rights on anywhere near the scale that John Carlos and Tommie Smith did, but I was inspired to use this extremely influential bully pulpit of a Virginia Law Weekly column to think aloud a bit about how we as future lawyers can stand for something too.

First, why do people still care about what those men did in Mexico City in 1968? As with all enduring symbols, the image of that medal stand is multivalent. What values do you hold? You’ll be able to find them represented. Are you a member of a group that has been marginalized? The salute’s immediate context suggested Black Power, a declaration of sovereignty and self-worth from members of a group so long oppressed. Do you want to protect human rights around the world? Tommie Smith has said that it was, in fact, a human rights salute. Do you fight for workers’ rights? John Carlos wore his Olympic jacket unzipped (a breach of strict Olympic protocol) to honor the blue-collar workers he grew up with in Harlem. Are you concerned about the poor? Smith and Carlos are shoeless with black socks, representing black poverty. Are you religious? The two cited God as a source of strength in doing something they knew would create a tremendous backlash. Do you despise political correctness? So did they; many, including the audience that booed them, saw the gesture as an attempt to turn the games into a political platform. Are you a Second Amendment nut? Carlos’s hand, unlike Smith’s, wasn’t raised straight up—he said he wanted it cocked, ready to punch in self-defense in case someone tried to rush the stand. Whatever your cause is, you can find it on that podium — and you can probably also find one you don’t support. And whether you think they should have done it or not, no one can deny their courage.

Peter Norman (the white guy) also deserves mention. He was the Australian silver-medalist and a vocal critic of his country’s own racist policies. He supported the two Americans wholeheartedly, wearing, like Carlos and Smith, a badge from the Olympic Project for Human Rights, an organization that urged African-Americans to boycott the games. He also came up with the idea for the two to share Smith’s pair of gloves after Carlos forgot his in the Olympic Village. Carlos said he expected to see fear in Norman’s eyes when they told him of their plan for the medal ceremony, but instead, he said, “I saw love.”

All three athletes were censured by the International Olympic Committee, disciplined by their national Olympic authorities, and withstood intense negative media coverage. Carlos and Smith received death threats. Norman was not invited by Australia to compete in the 1972 Olympic Games.

So what does that have to do with U.Va. Law? After all, most of us are going to end up working in law firms, where the bottom line is profit, not justice. No Law Weekly article is going to change that, especially when its author is hypocritically going to be one of those soulless corporate lackeys himself. But even if you aren’t going to be working at a non-profit, tirelessly advocating for those who can’t afford to wield significant legal power on their own behalf (and many, many props to you public service people who will do just that), something John Carlos said Saturday strikes me as appropriate for us. He talked about how sports were never his primary focus. He was good at them and worked hard at them, but he realized at a young age that his talent as an athlete was, for him, a tool for something more important. He knew that people don’t listen to some guy in Harlem talk about racial inequality, but they do pay attention to an Olympic medalist.

When you’re making scads of money (and relative to the world’s population as a whole, all of us will), what are you going to do with it? Some of us will use our wealth and influence to stop people like Troy Davis from being put to death. Some of us will be entrepreneurs, creating new technologies that create unimaginable opportunities for everyone. Some of us will be legislators, or draft legislation, and have the chance to influence society in ways large and small. Some of us will volunteer for local charitable organizations. Some will try to implement Ayn Randian capitalism to achieve ultra-efficient economies. Some of us will be the ones raising our fists to the sky, and some of us will be the Peter Normans, doing what we can to help.

I don’t care what it is, and I can’t agree with all of your projects, but I think John Carlos and Tommie Smith teach all of us something important: Think beyond yourself. Use your power for something you can call the greater good. We’ve all gone from bright-eyed world-changers to cynically resigned law students — even you, 1Ls! The disillusionment happens quickly, as Civ Pro grinds hope out of even the most stalwart idealists, and realism has its place. I’m hoping not to be naive. But think, at least sometimes, of this education we’re receiving as a gift — an opportunity to do something in the coming years to make the world better in some way.

Make sure you piss off The Man at least once with your black-gloved law degree.

Monday, October 3, 2011

In which I proclaim my non-racist-ness

I confused an Asian girl with another one today. I fear that I mess up minorities' names they judge me, like I think "they all look alike." But really, I confuse white people all the time too. I still can't tell apart two of my white law school "Peer Advisors" (upperclassmen who mentor 1L's) from last year. Crap.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What Rules My Life

The following is an exact transcript of an English class essay I wrote in middle school (9/29/98, to be exact) recently rediscovered by my parents in our basement. I was such a brat.

What Rules My Life

People often talk about how hard it is to live with a teenager, but they never seem to talk about how hard it is to be a teenager and live with your parents. Parents can be nice, but a lot of the time they are mean or annoying. For instance, I'll be up in my room, doing homework or listening to music, when all of a sudden my dad calls me to come down. I get up, put down my homework or turn off the radio and start down. After about two seconds, my dad will yell up

"Come on Austin!!!"

Which, of course, is exactly what I'm doing, so I yell back down to him

"I AM!!! I can't get there in two seconds!!!"

Which by then gets both of us mad. There are a lot of things like this that make my parents seem a lot meaner than they are. Take for example, piano lessons. I HATE playing the piano. I think it's boring, hard, and useless (unless I could get a job for playing the piano which I couldn't). But my mom, a piano teacher, couldn't possibly have a son who isn't another Beethoven or Mozart, so I've been taking piano lessons for about six or seven years, hating every minute of it.

Parents also make me do stuff like staying up 'til 10:00 to do English assignments instead of doing them in the morning, eating stuff I hate (like peas) and doing so many chores I could probably sue them for child labor and win (we're lucky to earn one hour of minimum wage in a WEEK!).

Then of course, there are grades. My parents have this idea that all their kids should get all A+'s on every report . [sic] They might let a B slip by now and then, providing it's a B+. In other words, we have to be almost perfect on our report cards. One little slip and they take away TV, computer, N64, food (well, not quite food YET, but maybe soon).

This is the end of my wonderfully fabulous essay about my parents, my Supreme Dictators for Life. Please give me a good grade, because if you don't, you never know. I might not come to school, one day, then the next, then the next. Finally you get curious and call home, but my parents completely deny ever having a son named Austin...