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posted by [personal profile] jay_walk at 12:33pm on 08/10/2011 under ,
which means I'm back, from using the fact that I've got college applications to finish as an excuse for not writing or reading or fencing or anything, that is. Finished applying.

-I've read another book, The Master and Margarita. Its a fun book, and I might get to write a research paper about a history of depictions of Satan, that would be my chosen topic. The problem might be that the topic is a bit Europe-centric and nothing to do with globalisation or world politics.

-math class is awful, as I'm sure I've told everyone I know and a few people I don't know about at length. Just so stupid.

-german class is great, at least from my perspective. The book has an automaton in it which I take as an excuse to monologue about Frankenstein, Metropolis, Bladerunner, and anything else I can think of.

-maybe I should get a tumblr? But then again my problem is not lack of places to communicate, just having nothing to say.

- I'm lending my computer to my brother (to play darkspore on), so that's a test of how well an iPad can completely replace a laptop.

-trying out whether one can make mashed potatoes with soy milk and margarine instead of milk and butter.
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posted by [personal profile] jay_walk at 08:32pm on 11/09/2011 under ,
...and I'm just going to skip the beginning part about "I have no time and no ideas so here's something short and irrelevant", because it seems that type of situation is status quo.
And I ought to be translating a few lines of Metamorphoses right now. Which is way better than some things, but the fact that we've been on the Daphne story for a month and a probably not going to do much else is frustrating, because I already know that story, and because people have awful opinions on it.

So anyway, Paradise Lost.

It is brilliant. It's not too difficult either, easier than Shakespeare.
This is the book where Satan is the protagonist and is supposed to be evil but comes off as quite more reasonable and sympathetic than the other side.
The parts which retells genesis and the parts about Adam and Eve being in Paradise get a bit boring after a few pages of praising, but that's just about the only flaw, and even that is sometimes very nice when the cosmology is described, the layout and composition of the universe.
The newest developments:
Raphael is telling Adam about the war between angels and fallen angels, to warn him against sinning. In this story, Satan makes some nice speeches about not serving god (interestingly, questions whether god created angels, as he claims). Abdiel doesn't like it. Then there's a war, and they are about equal in numbers. On the first day it ends when Michael battles Satan and wounds him. On the second day, Satan invents cannons. I think this is the most awesome thing the author could have put in the story to make Satan human, because that's what humanity does, think of some really impressive invention when the problem doesn't solve itself through their preexisting abilities. Of course this looks evil, and cowardly, using machinery on angels. So this works for a while, until the angels go and throw mountains at them, which isn't so good for the dark side. On the third day, god sends his son, who of course throws them into hell. The Jesus in this book is not as peaceful and loving as other portrayals. He's mostly just an extension of God, who is the old testament version who does nothing but enforce worship.
After Raphael tells Adam this story, and retells genesis, Adam tells Raphael about his first few days of existing, and about god coming there personally to discuss creating Eve with him. Nothing about Adams previous wife in this story, so I don't know where I picked up the notion that there is such a thing. Also, god is male in this story, it says Eve is less in gods image than Adam. Adam and Raphael and Eve and the narrator go on for quite a bit about how great domestick, marital love is (theyre officially husband and wife without having gotten married, but i forgot why). Which is the less interesting bit and makes me want Satan to just get around to corrupting them already.
Also, apparently angels have love to, be running their essences through each other, or something like that, and the question makes Raphael blush. Which is slightly more interesting, I am now going to read some Satan/Raphael into this, because it makes me suddenly far less inclined to hate Raphael.
Raphael leaves ( there is some nice description of the angel, which also ameliorates my desire to punch his arrogant face for having been mean to Satan somewhat).
Adam and Eve are all blissful again for far to long, than they're worried about the whole Satan thing for a bit...
Satan posesses a snake, talks to Eve, and we all know how that turns out. Since I had been of the opinion that of course one should try eating it for years, I'm not having any new opinions on this.
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posted by [personal profile] jay_walk at 12:00pm on 27/08/2011 under , , ,
This morning I read Hoffman's Der Sandmann. How do I feel about this, besides awfully nerdy for having done my schoolwork first thing in the morning and way ahead of schedule?
It is a nice (and rather short) story. And it makes sense to me, although my teachers will impose some much less interesting and more didactic interpretation on it, and then ruin my liking for the story by making us write long boring tedious essays about their interpretation. So I had better write down what I think of it now:
Yes it is clearly all in his head,but that doesn't make it less real. The sandman stole his eyes = his father dying made him deluded and permanently dreaming. I think eyes and sleep are a theme in this because his mind sees things differently, and that's the problem. And then he just gets so frustrated nobody believes him, Olimpia never seems to think anything herself and Clara also doesn't say anything which is meaningful to him either, that he thinks they are automatons, which is the logical thing for him to suspect, given his fear of alchemy and experiments he'll blame that for everyone else seeming a bit off.
There, done. I can't write an essay about that and I really don't want to, what's fun about this is that it's so simple and logical in it's own way that that's all the interpreting I want to do. I am going to be so bored and annoyed at german class.
I like stories with automatons, robots, artificial humans, homunculi, alchemy, etc. in them, and this one also agrees with me that people are mostly just machines and pretty much indistinguishable anyway. This reminds me that the whole artificial life thing didn't begin with Frankenstein (this story was published two years earlier) and that the whole robot thing didn't begin with Metropolis. There are probably earlier stories for me to read involving people that run on clockwork (which is fascinating and creepy and is bound to be a theme in literature as a response to when society suddenly started running on clockwork) and alchemically created people.
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posted by [personal profile] jay_walk at 03:25pm on 27/07/2011 under ,
Still reading short stories by Isaac Asimov, and they're still great.

"Galley Slave":
In 1957 it apparently seemed plausible that in the future we'd use a humanoid robot for the purpose of proofreading texts (on paper) for spelling, punctuation, &c.
Why not a computer?
"such a machine would require the galleys be translated into special symbols, at the least, transcribed on tapes. Any corrections would emerge as symbols. You would need to keep men employed translating words to symbols, symbols to words. Furthermore, such a computer could do no other job. It couldn't prepare the graph you hold in your hand, for instance".

Seriously, I only just realized that all only slightly old texts would have to have been proofread by people and then reprinted. Life without word-processing programs...
And they didn't have keyboards? They couldn't have typed something into a computer as simply as into a typewriter?
Now we can just scan texts and have the computer interpret the letters as letters, how cool is that? With really tiny devices that do unimaginable amounts of other stuff too.
So cool. Seriously, I am not calming down about this, in fact I'll continue being all like "Look people I have a tricorder, in real life, except even better!"
(We couldn't make holograms by putting tiny toroidal (?) magnetic fields into midair until it glows? Well probably not, I don't know much about this, wrong gas or something, or we'd be doing it. I want holograms and I'm out of ideas on this.)

Also I'd like to know whether widespread spellcheck has caused the development of neologisms, variant spellings, etc. to slow down, but I suppose we'll have to wait a few decades for that, and of course there's other possible factors for any acceleration or deceleration of language development which might be happening right now.
The & is a ligature for "et", and I don't think any new ligatures will spontaneously implement themselves either, just stuff like texting shorthand, which is different, because it's only new uses of preexisting symbols.
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posted by [personal profile] jay_walk at 07:13pm on 09/07/2011 under , , ,
books read for english class that end in suicide: 1/15
(Romeo and Juliet)

books read for german class (that I can remember) that end in suicide: 9/12

(the ones that didn't are about the holocaust, and that didn't end well for anyone either; and Antigone, which is the only one that isn't German, and also tragedy)

So much suicide.

Cultural problem or what.
Half my time in German class is spent on the topic "Why did this character kill themselves", "was it society's fault", "how planned was it", "just how suicidal were they". I'm beginning to believe it's just the standard formula ending for a profound, classic, meaningful etc. german book.

(Spoilers by listing which of those german books end in suicide, I suppose)

I cannot stand Werther, or the romantic plays (3), dreadful pompous language in those too. By contrast I like "the New Sorrows" a bit better, though not much.
Frisch (2) can make reading of potentially interesting things singularly unenjoyable.
I loved Perfume and only technically count that as a suicide.
Spring Awakening wasn't too bad, or too suicide-focused, either.
The Prodigy is the one book in which the whole depressiveness is beautiful.

But I loved all of brit lit and american literature.

I am not fond of most of what the curriculum considers to be good german literature, or of german class in general.
Suicide-obsession, gravity, nothing spirited: all the whole enlightenment and romanticism brought to literature, it seems, is grandiose language.
Which isn't to say there aren't german works I love, or even depressive german works I like (I like Kafka for example, but then again I wasn't forced to read that). There's Sturm und Drang things I like too, I like Goethe's Prometheus. But they seem to have chosen just the most tedious stuff they could find for school.
It's just not a good curriculum, the general mood in germany is that education should not be fun or interesting. It also involves a lot of learning about grammar, for native speakers, which english class doesn't. And I have my complaints about the whole "Rechtschreibung" thing too, and about the language purists.
(One more year of it to go, and I do try to appreciate the nice things I pick up in that class, even of it's like 10 % instead of 99 % in other classes.)
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posted by [personal profile] jay_walk at 07:37pm on 08/07/2011 under , , ,
(Or rather first impressions thereof, I only just started it)

-It is surprisingly easy to read. Neither complex nor tedious. I could theoretically have read it in a day. Somehow I was under the impression Nietzsche was going to be a step below James Joyce in difficulty. It just has a reputation for being philosophical and complex, and the title sounds sophisticated. But it's rather simple, not even too old-fashioned, and certainly not overly flowery.

-Reading this in german, because it was written in German, and stuff gets lost in translation (for example Geist is a different concept than the translation of Ghost...)
And of course because I conveniently speak German, as much as I'd like too I don't have the endurance to read french or latin things in the original.

-It is rather nice German. The language serves the narrative perfectly. I have never read German which is beautiful, except a few passages in The Prodigy. But it does have exactly the right mix of gravity, sobriety, functionality and lightness for this text.

-The other thing I expected to be a bit of a problem: this whole Übermensch thing sounds like Naziism, and I expected to find a lot of ideas which Nazis later agreed with. Again, surprised. As far as I have read what Nietzsche means with Übermensch is enlightened being, one that is spiritually beyond human. Like Buddha or Jesus, allthough I doubt he likes Jesus much. Not even
hints of racism or fascism. A general cynism and contempt for people, however, and the belief that the unenlightened masses are inferior, and enmity towards the state, among other institutions (That state would have been the German Empire then I suppose).

-And this book has a negative reputation for the nihilism. I am not very shocked by the whole "god is dead" thing, because I conveniently already agreed with that, I am made a bit more uncomfortable by the proposition that the state is the new god and we are wrong to follow it. Really up until then I haven't found this book very complicated because what it says was already self-evident in the 21st century, but with embellishments. Maybe I ought to go read something I disagree with instead, then I wouldn't feel so in the right either, getting awfully convinced of my intelligence again.
-I was under the impression that Nietsche had a reputation for being immoral. Should have thought about that assumption a bit further: nihilism is rather amoral. And I did not expect the ideas of enlightenment, love for humanity, creation.
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posted by [personal profile] jay_walk at 01:42pm on 07/07/2011 under , , ,
So Oscar Wilde went religious. I was not sure I was going to like that: Wilde writes fascinating things, but I've never heard catholicism (?) told in a fascinating way.

First it's about suffering and art, then it's about Jesus. And I like Wilde's views on Jesus. I don't have anything against Jesus in general, I agree he was a visionary, is humanity's most enduring icon, was probably enlightened (if not uniquely so), and had the general right idea. The whole suffering and martyrdom thing, Jesus pulled it off right; for the right reasons. This isn't going to convince me to become religious, but Jesus is an interesting entity.

Then he gets around to writing about God. This is the part of religion I don't agree with (unfortunately a rather central part too). Which is to say, I have nothing against believing in God or gods or whatever, but against that weird abusive relationship with their own imagination some people seem to be in. Imagining the world is doing stuff to oneself with a purpose, and whenever God doesn't answer or seems to be punishing people telling oneself it's our fault and we are guilty and God loves us. I just think the whole thing with fear and original sin and guilt isn't going to help anyone. And that people don't think of that kind of a thing for themselves, it's doctrine. So I'm surprised Wilde considers humans unworthy of God's love or forgiveness (paraphrased) for no reason at all.

And then two pages later he mentions (that Christ taught that) people ought to have less orthodoxy and more understanding the whole religion thing for themselves, which is what I had been saying. So never mind that I thought I disagreed?

(And I think I'm seeing some of Emerson's type of philosophy in this, more than that one time Wilde quotes him. Really, such a lack of diversity of thought, even in our best thinkers? My other theory would be that the reader's brain likes to synthesize similar stuff together and forget original stuff that doesn't fit, this would make as much sense and be more optimistic about the writer's capabilities, but not about my own.)

It is altogether an interesting book. Not very funny of course, and Wilde minus the wittiness leaves just sentimentality and tragedy.

And now that I've finished a book I'll get around to organizing some university stuff while I wait for the mail to bring me the next Aubrey-Maturin book.
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posted by [personal profile] jay_walk at 10:20pm on 06/07/2011 under , ,
"very nice" - this is awful diction, objectively. Use less adverbs, stronger adjectives, etc..

But this particular phrase makes me think of serial killers every time I accidentally use it.

Fun fact: "I send you half the Kidne I took from one women prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nice" - Jack the Ripper

Furthermore every time I write something like "it was very nice" I am reminded of Clegg. The Collector contains some revoltingly bland writing. I don't know how he does it exactly, but it is brilliantly alienating.
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posted by [personal profile] jay_walk at 09:19pm on 06/07/2011 under
This website: totally a good idea.


Well maybe not for me, because it relies on "social networking" type stuff, but before I remembered that I was having huge amounts of fun checking off all the books I've ever read. Turns out it's a really long list. And I have opinions on most of them too.
Before I did that, I was having an "I do not want to read any of these books ever again; they are full of straight cissexual people and it is really annoying" moment. But now I'm all like "Must read every single one of all those books I haven't read yet now!". And write some opinions in case other people want to know what I think of them.

Finished another Sherlock Holmes collection, I want to read more but I don't want to run out.

And also, I've had the Game of Thrones theme playing in my head for hours. And it is awesome. I have no clue what that particular quality of string sound is called but it's nice. (The series itself: perfectly constructed setting, the best characters ever, but OMGarghhhhh people can they please stop screwing every ten minutes?! Allthough objectively I suppose all those scenes are absolutely vital to plot and character development...)
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Interesting information for the day:

(when actually I was just trying to find out what his type of glasses is called)

Everything I have read in the last five years, there's been a phrase somewhere to remind me of one of those songs. Caliban is half a person... Nice to know it's not just me, Morrissey is conspiring with everything I read.

"-is that clever?
Everybody's clever nowadays"
I will never get these echoes out of my head.

Allright then, I shall now go watch versions of The Importance of Being Earnest.

I love allusions, references, quoting, stealing, etc.. Because you put all the meaning of the whole referenced work into those few words. Intertextuality = favorite literary device. Especially if it makes no sense, the less logical sense it makes the more true it will be to someone, or to everyone in different ways.
Morrissey: "I'm almost quite speechless now, it's a very historic place and obviously it means a great deal to me... to be sitting here staring at Oscar's television and the very video that Oscar watched The Leather Boys on."
Yeah, like that. I wish I'd even dare come up with that kind of thing that seems like it'll make sense to me and nobody else. But Morrissey proves it can be done, quoting confusing lines from obscure plays and having people like it and understand a meaning.


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