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The anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss left us last October but his mark on the world will forever be remembered by the numerous contributions he made to the fields of anthropology and philosophy. One of his more famous ideas, the idea of the bricoleur, is a type of person he defines in his world-renowned book The Savage Mind (La Pensée Sauvage), published in 1962. The French origin of bricoleur, “bricoler”, roughly translates to “do it yourself” in English. It aptly describes the daunting job of the modern scientist. The bricoleur, in Levi-Strauss’s mind, is one who works with his hands, one who devises groundbreaking ways of looking at unique situations. Those pursuing science (and even humanities) today ought to consider reading The Savage Mind, if only to understand the philosophical limitations we face today and how we can begin to overcome them.
bob le bricoleur
The bricoleur lives in a restricted reality (what one might call the subjective universe) and brings to the table three things: various preconceptions (ideas and theories previously engrained in his/her noggin), foresight (an idea of “what” needs to be accomplished, “what” needs to be learned or discovered), and what German philosopher Martin Heidegger would call “fore-having”, or various implements that the bricoleur can use to pry and probe.
the bighorn mountains – I did not take this picture
This summer I won a scholarship to attend field camp in the Bighorn Mountains. For six weeks, I studied the geology of Wyoming and various theories of how the Bighorns came into existence (back before America was America, before America was Pangaea, before Pangaea was Rodinia, and even before a massive asteroid (supposedly) crashed into Earth creating the Moon). I lived in an old concentration camp that once housed Japanese-Americans during World War II. Most interesting, I thought, was the opportunity I was given to study alongside geologists who came from the mid-west. There was a distinct culture shock at first, but we all became great friends despite our differences in values.
japanese-american concentration camps
For the most part, geologists in the northeast are trained in the art of environmental geology. We learn about climate change, buy Patagonia, read Greenpeace emails in our inbox, go hiking with our friends, and typically find employment with environmental remediation companies. Geologists from the interior of our country (I’m generalizing here) also like to hike with their friends but instead of environmental remediation, they seek employment with Exxon-Mobil, Shell, and other likeminded corporations. Their contributions to the scientific field, however, are vast and extremely worthwhile. Much of what we know about our Earth comes from the science produced by oil geologists, funded mostly by Exxon-Mobil.
So, with that said, it’s ironic to think that the science used by environmentalists who spend their lives denouncing those big bad oil guys is originally observed and created by those same big bad oil guys.
I spent the summer perplexed – how could these people ever want to work for an oil company? You can imagine the conversations we had:
“What are your opinions of climate change?”
“I don’t buy into it.”
“How can you justify drilling oil out of our ground?”
“I want to help the world get on with their day? How can you deny that we need oil?”
“i’m writing down that you suck, what are you writing down?”
Although mid-western geologists and I respected the earth and although we both studied the subject like priests while we were out there last June, no words could bridge the inherent gap in our framework of values. It was a strange phenomenon for a twenty-something to experience, especially one who was raised in a very liberal atmosphere.
One older gentleman from our field camp began his final paper (a ten page, single spaced summary of Wyoming’s 3.8 billion year geologic history) with a biblical reference, “As mentioned in Genesis 1:1, God created heaven and earth…”. Upon hearing this, I was struck with a crippling case of cognitive dissonance. This was blasphemy. I was meeting geologists who could rationalize working for oil companies, geologists who could believe in an organized idea of “God” – had I entered the Twilight Zone?
“please don’t say genesis in a scientific paper, please don’t say genesis in a scientific paper“
I wrestled over this question for many months. How could an objective science attract such subjective individuals?
The answer to my question rested in geology’s unique philosophy of science. Unlike the experimental sciences (i.e., physics and chemistry), which can be studied in a lab under controlled conditions – geology is a hermeneutic process. In order to understand the implication of a rock, a geologist must “read” the rock. It’s a “derivative science”, if you want to be a dick about it. Geologists, they say, look at the earth in the same manner that an art historian would view a painting by Picasso.
“what do you think of orogenic mountain building processes?”
Rocks are pale and boring without the stories geologists attach to them. As the new journalist John McPhee once put it, “geology is the study of metaphor.” Geology is phenomenology in a nutshell – an “objective” manner of viewing the “subjective”. We have but one earth to study. Geology cannot be studied in a laboratory without the help of physics or chemistry. So, sure, we can apply analytical philosophy to studying the Earth’s mysteries but just how certain can we be? Is physics really everything? Tectonic plates are subducted beneath other tectonic plates, pushed up against each other, and ultimately deformed to the point of zero recognition. Annals of geologic history are rewritten with a single hurricane.
you have to admit it’s weird that you can find coral reefs at the top of the himalayas
I attended field camp with the three things a good bricoleur should be equipped with. Ideas, a quest in mind, and the scientific tools of the trade. My undergrad experience taught me about the first islands (microcontinents) that Wyoming’s underlying bedrock was composed of. In other geology classes, I had already studied the formation of the shallow, epeiric seas that covered the Western Interior. These same seas were the ones that deposited the chromatic strata that today blankets most of western America.
the colors, THE COLORS!
Alongside my preconceived ideas, I had an idea of what I wanted to learn. I witnessed the oil rigs and I met the oil tycoons who tried to teach me petrology, the science of finding and extracting oil from the land. The first oil geologists conducted their fieldwork by riding across the countryside on horse. When they strolled over a slight hill, what they may have considered to be an anticline, they had an inkling that they were above a vast reservoir of black gold. One night we watched There Will Be Blood and we all stared wide-eyed, but for different reasons.
I had no interest in becoming an oil man.
My tools of the trade (my “fore-knowing”) were my trusty Brunton compass, my map, my pencil, and my yellow Write-in-the-Rain. With these tools, I was able to make observations with which I would later construct interpretations. As we wrote our final paper, we were told not to plunder the conclusions made in other papers. The idea was to use the scientific method and become a logical positivist. Karl Popper, somewhere in the ground, was rolling his eyes.
Was “science” the best way to understand reality? In 1962, the same year Levi-Strauss published The Savage Mind, philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn published his own book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn shocked the world. His theory – that knowledge cannot be separated from human interests – blew the door open on analytical philosophy. What was the objective truth scientists had once mentioned was out there? Where was it hiding?
Kuhn undercut the main body of assumptions in analytical philosophy by looking at this style of inquiry through the eyes of a continental philosopher. Continental philosophy aims to find truth by defining the limits of scientific inquiry while, simultaneously utilizing other types of thought (literary criticism, dialectics, for example).
do you have any grey poupon?
Using continental philosophy, the question of how to “fix” America’s energy crisis (for example) changes. Are we trying to find more oil or are we trying to learn how to conserve oil more effectively? Both ideologies require a separate set of preconceived ideas and theories. Both require different tools of the trade. Both can be aided by scientific reasoning. The range of facts produced by scientists studying the two problems will create different facts and solutions.
It was a surreal experience being out west. I realized that I was neither right nor wrong with my approach to “saving the world”. That world that I wished to save was a text, I’ve come to find, and it’s how we read this text that determines pretty much everything.
Tyson Bottenus is a writer who now lives in a barn.
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By Dan Creed
In many of Edgar Allen Poe’s tales, women, though not the main character, are very important. They are mostly the object of obsession and victimization and sometimes immortalized through enclosure or death. However, these are not ordinary women. Poe describes them as beautiful. Why does Poe only tell stories including beautiful women? In his essay entitled “The Philosophy of Composition,” Poe states, “the death of a beautiful women is, unquestionably, the most poetic topic in the world.” Poe obviously holds the notion of beautiful women close to his heart, as he writes about them often, but also treats these women with a common feature: most all of them die.
Obsession is a huge theme within all of Poe’s stories. Whether it involves cats, paintings, or revenge, the idea is almost always present. However, Poe also writes that women can be the objects of obsession. In “The Raven,” the unnamed narrator is grief stricken over the loss of his “rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.” Throughout the poem, Lenore is mentioned numerous times by the bereaved, supporting the fact that Lenore is the object of obsession. In the Simpson’s adaptation, Lenore (Marge) is shown in a huge portrait hanging on the wall in vibrant red and blue. This obsession of a lost one through a painting of lighter colors is also used to detract away from the blackness surrounding the story. “Midnight dreary” sets up a very dark and ominous tone, and yet the object of the narrator’s obsession is shown in red and blue, colors that stand out against the darkness of the night. This detracts from the horror the setting produces and shows that women, or beauty, can be found in even the darkest of times. But, women are not always the main obsession of the story, as the raven soon becomes the narrator’s new addiction.
Sometimes, Poe uses an object as the first obsession and then moves to beauty and women. In “The Oval Portrait,” the narrator’s first infatuation is that of a book describing all the paintings in the room. It is not until he moves the candle that he locates his second: the painting of a “maiden of rarest beauty.” As the narrator reads to find out more about the portrait, the audience learns that the painter was obsessed with the woman and had “deep love for her,” enough for him to sit for days and paint her. But, this longing for the subject betrays the painter because she dies right after he finishes the picture. She is no longer alive, but she will live forever through art. The beauty of the woman, and the woman herself, are immortalized through the painting. The text within the story then reveals that the room she is being painted in is a “dark high turret-chamber,” giving off an image of a small, round room, literally closing in the woman, trapping her in the surrounding environment. Though the concentration of beauty is on the subject of the painting, Poe makes note of another element that contains this trait: the picture frame. Poe describes it as “radiant” and “richly guilded.” This obsession with beauty in all aspects, human or art, reiterates that Poe wanted to accentuate the externalization of beauty and of the woman. But, everything about this story is not beautiful. The girl is a victim to her husband. She thinks that it was a “terrible thing [to hear] the painter speak of his desire to pourtray [her].” She doesn’t want to be painted and is prey among her husband. Poe’s portrayal of women as victims continues throughout his tales “The Black Cat” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
Though the women in these two tales, the wife and Madeline, are not so much an obsession, they are victimized by their significant others and then immortalized through death and enclosure. The wife in “The Black Cat” serves as a voice of reason to the narrator, and through this, she is killed. Poe tells the audience about the relationship between the narrator and his wife. He berates her with “intemperate language” and even offers her “personal violence.” When the narrator tries to kill the cat in the basement, the “blow was arrested by the hand of [his] wife.” The narrator then “withdrew [his] arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain.” The wife, who the narrator was “happy” with when they were first married, is abused both physically and mentally in the story, playing on the idea of women as victims in Poe’s tales. He then entombs her within the chimney of the basement. This space in particular is very significant to the notion of encapsulating the beauty of women forever. To be apart of the house means to withstand the weathering of time (for the most part). However, the wife is not the only thing encapsulated within the chimney. The cat itself, which the narrator calls “beautiful,” is also enclosed. This helps strengthens the idea that Poe wants to immortalize beauty of all kind. Madeline in “The Fall of the House of Usher”is also a victim through Poe’s infliction of sickness and later by Roderick enclosing her in a “vault” that was “small, damp, and entirely without means of admission for light” when she was still alive. Poe gives Madeline a “disease” which entitles her to a “gradual wasting away.” Though Madeline follows the typical woman character in Poe (a victim who later dies), he never mentions her to be beautiful like the women in his other tales. Instead, after she dies, Poe makes mention of the makeup that Madeline was wearing, implying beauty. She wore “a faint blush upon the bossom and face, and [a] suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip.” Though Madeline was not beautiful to begin with, the makeup implies that before she was being entombed, she was made to look beautiful, thus solidifying Poe’s ever longing quest to help beauty withstand time. However, Madeline was not dead when Roderick put her in the vault. She comes back with “blood upon her white robes” and leaps at Roderick and “bore him to the floor a corpse.” As the narrator escapes, the house of Usher falls, entombing both Roderick and Madeline. Though this scene does not lend itself to something of beauty, the end result sort of is. Through all the betrayal and death, a brother and sister who love each other are now at peace, buried side by side. This ending is one of Poe’s more “poetic” endings, as the beautiful woman dies with her bereaved lover (so to speak) at her side. Though Poe uses the text to describe images that trap women and others, sometimes he uses the text itself to get the job done. In order to see this, “The Raven” must come back into view.
In the beginning of the poem, the beautiful woman in question, Lenore, is already dead. Though she is not a victim in the text of the poem, her death implies she was a victim previous to the story. Her suffering has already ended and she is already immortalized by the time the tale begins. But, the painting of Lenore is not the only element keeping her immortalized. The text itself, aided by the rhyme scheme, is helping Lenore survive time. The ABCBBB rhyme scheme traps her name between the C rhyme and last B rhyme (her name is repeated twice). “But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token, / And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, ‘Lenore!’ / This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word ‘Lenore!’ / Merely this and nothing more.” This, in a way, is encapsulating her name within the text itself, entombing her literally between lines. This shows that Poe was consciously structuring some of his tales to go along with this idea of immortalizing beauty within stories. It’s not just an image within the text, but it’s the text itself.
What about the stories that do not include women in the context of beauty? Though there are many women in the story of “The Man That Was Used Up,” none of them die or are said to be beautiful. However, the character of Brevet Brigadier General John A. B. C. Smith is portrayed as perfect in every sense. He has the “hair that would have done honor to Brutus,” “the handsomest whiskers,” “a mouth utterly unequaled,” “the finest bust,” etc. The man is the quintessential outline for beauty. But, after being extraordinarily injured during a campaign against the Indians, the audience learns that all this beauty is made up, literally. This man is made up of different parts from all over the world. However, these parts, though not human, will last longer than any human part, thus, once again, taking beauty and immortalizing it.
Why does Poe insist on making beauty last forever, to write about beautiful women, and why are they victimized and put to death? The preservation of beautiful women could lend itself to the “mummy complex” thought up by Andre Bazin in his essay “The Ontology of the Photographic Image.” In basic terms, the “mummy complex” is exactly what it sounds like: the idea that the mummification of body and possession was the only way that the Egyptians could insure that they would survive throughout the ages and live in the afterlife. Poe, though not explicitly stated, is sort of accomplishing this, not with himself, but with the women in his own life. Poe experienced the death of many women he was close to, including his mother and his wife/cousin. It is said that Poe writes about women as victims and preserving their beauty because he has witnessed these horrors himself. Both his wife and mother were victims of illness and died from it. And writing about immortalizing beauty and the death of a woman is a type of insurance similar to the “mummy complex:” it insures that his loved ones will always withstand the sand of time, not through art or entombment, but through Poe’s own poems and tales.
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Dispatch Number One: Introversion
Villanova University. You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Well, that’s probably not true, but Obi Wan Kenobi is on to something. This elite Catholic university is on the outskirts of Philadelphia, more commonly known as the “Main Line”. The Main Line is the richest suburb in America. Within a half mile of the school is a Maserati dealership. Needless to say, the student body happens to be quite wealthy. Yet, as Tom Buchanan from the Great Gatsby taught us, wealth does not equal class.
A Day in the Life of an Introvert
8:17 AM The gusts of wind continue to barrage me as I walk to class, head down, prodding along with the rest of the hairless upright lemmings. I’m walking to Augustinian Cultural Seminar, which is a bizarre collage of religion, philosophy, politics, and ethics. My teacher is young, stunningly eloquent, and pulled right out of “Mad Men”. He’s in phenomenal shape which accentuated by his expensive Italian suits. I eagerly anticipate his class.
8:36 AM The Christian has spoken. In my ACS class, there is one man-child who consistently prefaces his statements with “Being a Christian…”. The Christian mildly enjoyed “Avatar”. Avatar is, according to my teacher, a direct descendant of Rousseau-ian thought. I like Rousseau, but Hobbes is far more accurate (and enjoyable). The Christian airs his criticisms of the movie: “I like, liked some of it, like the action scenes and stuff. But, being a Christian, I found the treehugger parts, like, I dunno, bad.”
This person is part of the reason why Sarah Palin is a popular politician and not a weekend newscaster in Boise.
Do I retort his ridiculous claim? Do I deride him for saying “like” as if he were a guffawing idiot? Should I put him to shame? “Being an agnostic, I feel that “Avatar” was a blockbuster with a conscience. Considering you’re a conservative, I would expect you to be interested in the conservation of the Earth. But, you’re too dumb to comprehend the implications of your carbon addiction, so I wouldn’t expect you to be capable of foresight.”
I say nothing. The conversation moves on. The ignorance is accepted.
3:14 PM I eat a modest lunch of water, a vegetable salad, and a parfait in the student center. Ever since coming here, I have preferred to eat by myself. Typically, dinner time conversations turn to how many Keystones were consumed in the past weekend or some trivial pissing match about regional rivalries. This late lunch represents the cessation of the first six hours of class that I have on Mondays and some well deserved alone time. I observe my roommate’s friends eating with two sorority sisters. I have a fondness for his friends. They’re goofy and quite potentially alcoholics, but they’re sincere. Sincerity is hard to come by in this institution which mixes capitalism and Catholicism. I begin to eat my lunch and read the Huffington Post. No good news for Obama. I bet the Christian is happy.
I notice that the two sorority sisters have left. One of those sisters is the reincarnation of Medusa, with the personality of Richard Nixon. She’s very cold and has been in my room exactly two times, eliciting exactly the same reaction from me both times: “Wow, she’s conceited.” The other is a very sweet girl, who represents the proverbial ying to sorority sister number one’s yang. I throw away my lunch and leave.
11:07 PM The multi-story lounge is filled with shrieks. Three sorority sisters are grinding on a Public Safety officer. All of their roommates, friends, and acquaintances are guffawing at their antics, applauding them with praise and a chorus of “oh my gawds!”. The funny thing about Villanova is the sexual frustration that pervades every action. The culture of Catholicism has made the students rebellious yet fearful. They’re willing to be provocative in the purview of the public. But in private, people become reserved and mere shells of the promiscuity that they so boldly and brazenly display to the masses.
One of the most promiscuous girls here proudly displays her cross that dangles between her cleavage. Crosses are omnipresent on campus. In every class room, Jesus is looking at you, weeping and bleeding for what your dirty mind is thinking. On every official document, a bleeding heart and a cross comprise the logo on the letterhead. Logos define this campus. Greek letters. The Villanova “V”. American Eagle. North Face. Uggs. Nike.
I’ve found that the most rebellious thing to do is not to fit into any social grouping and not to wear any overtly branded clothing. The best way to be a rebel is to be an anti-rebel, to become an introvert amongst a crowd of extroverts.
Welcome to Villanova, Anti-Rebel.
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About eleven o’clock, Lucille Henderson, observing that her party was soaring at the proper height, and just having been smiled at by Jack Delroy, forced herself to glance over in the direction of Edna Phillips, who since eight o’clock had been sitting in the big red chair, smoking cigarettes and yodeling hellos and wearing a very bright eye which young men were not bothering to catch. Edna’s direction still the same, Lucille Henderson sighed as heavily as her dress would allow, and then, knitting what there was of her brows, gazed about the room at the noisy young people she had invited to drink up her father’s scotch. Then abruptly, she swished to where William Jameson Junior sat, biting his fingernails and staring at a small blonde girl sitting on the floor with three young men from Rutgers.
“Hello there,” Lucille Henderson said, clutching William Jameson Junior’s arm. “Come on,” she said. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”
“This girl. She’s swell.” And Jameson followed her across the room, at the same time trying to make short work of a hangnail on his thumb.
“Edna baby,” Lucille Henderson said, “I’d love you to really know Bill Jameson. Bill—Edna Phillips. Or have you two birds met already?”
“No,” said Edna, taking in Jameson’s large nose, flabby mouth, narrow shoulders. “I’m awfully glad to meet you,” she told him.
“Gladda know ya,” Jameson replied, mentally contrasting Edna’s all with the all of the small blonde across the room.
“Bill’s a very good friend of Jack Delroy’s,” Lucille reported.
“I don’t know him so good,” said Jameson.
“Well. I gotta beat it. See ya later, you two!”
“Take it easy!” Edna called after her. Then, “Won’t you sit down?”
“Well, I don’t know,” Jameson said. “I been sitting down all night, kinda.”
“I didn’t know you were a good friend of Jack Delroy’s,” Edna said. “He’s a grand person, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, he’s alright, I guess. I don’t know him so good. I never went around with his crowd much.”
“Oh, really? I thought I heard Lu say you were a good friend of his.”
“Yeah, she did. Only I don’t know him so good. I really oughtta be gettin’ home. I got this theme for Monday I’m supposed to do. I wasn’t really gonna come home this week end.”
“Oh, but the party’s young!” Edna said. “The shank of the evening!”
“The shank of the evening. I mean it’s so early yet.”
“Yeah,” said Jameson. “But I wasn’t even gonna come t’night. Accounta this theme. Honest. I wasn’t gonna come home this weekend at all.”
“But it’s so early I mean!” Edna said.
“Yeah, I know, but—”
“What’s your theme on, anyway?”
Suddenly, from the other side of the room, the small blonde shrieked with laughter, the three young men from Rutgers anxiously joined her.
“I say what’s your theme on, anyway?” Edna repeated.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Jameson said. “About this description of some cathedral. This cathedral in Europe. I don’t know.”
“Well, I mean what do you have to do?”
“I don’t know. I’m supposed to criticize it, sort of. I got it written down.”
Again the small blonde and her friends went off into high laughter.
“Criticize it? Oh, then you’ve seen it?”
“Seen what?” said Jameson.
“Me. Hell, no.”
“Well, I mean how can you criticize it if you’ve never seen it?”
“Oh. Yeah. It’s not me. It’s this guy that wrote it. I’m supposed to criticize it from what he wrote, kinda.”
“Mmm. I see. That sounds hard.”
“I say that sounds hard. I know. I’ve wrestled with that stuff puhlenty myself.”
“Who’s the rat that wrote it?” Edna said.
Exuberance again from the locale of the small blonde.
“What?” Jameson said.
“I say who wrote it?”
“I don’t know. John Ruskin.”
“Oh, boy,” Edna said. “You’re in for it fella.”
“I say you’re in for it. I mean that stuff’s hard.”
“Oh. Yeah. I guess so.”
Edna said, “Who’re ya looking at? I know most of the gang here tonight.”
“Me?” Jameson said. “Nobody. I think maybe I’ll get a drink.”
“Hey! You took the words right out of my mouth.”
They arose simultaneously. Edna was taller than Jameson, and Jameson was shorter than Edna.
“I think,” Edna said, “there’s some stuff out on the terrace. Some kind of junk, anyway. Not sure. We can try. Might as well get a breath of fresh air.”
“All right,” said Jameson.
They moved on toward the terrace, Edna crouching slightly and brushing off imaginary ashes from what had been her lap since eight o’clock. Jameson followed her, looking behind him and gnawing on the index finger of his left hand.
For reading, sewing, mastering crossword puzzles, the Henderson terrace was inadequately lighted. Lightly charging through the screen door, Edna was almost immediately aware of hushed vocal tones coming from a much darker vicinity to her left. But she walked directly to the front of the terrace, leaned heavily on the white railing, took a very deep breath, and then turned and looked behind her for Jameson.
“I hear somebody talkin’,” Jameson said, joining her.
“Shhh….Isn’t it a gorgeous night? Just take a deep breath.”
“Yeah. Where’s the stuff? The scotch?”
“Just a second,” Edna said. “Take a deep breath. Just once.”
“Yeah, I did. Maybe that’s it over there.” He left her and went over to a table. Edna turned and watched him. By silhouette mostly, she saw him lift and set things on the table.
“Nothing left!” Jameson called back.
“Shhh. Not so loud. C’mere a minute.”
He went over to her.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“Just look at that sky,” Edna said.
“Yeah. I can hear somebody talkin’ over there, can’t you?”
“Yes, you ninny.”
“Wuddaya mean ninny?”
“Some people,” Edna said, “wanna be alone.”
“Oh. Yeah. I get it.”
“Not so loud. How would you like it, if someone spoiled it for you?”
“Yeah. Sure,” Jameson said.
“I think I’d kill somebody, wouldn’t you?”
“I don’t know. Yeah. I guess so.”
“What do you do most of the time when you’re home week ends, anyway? Edna asked.
“Me? I don’t know.”
“Sow the old wild oats, I guess, huh?”
“I don’t getcha,” Jameson said.
“You know. Chase around. Joe College stuff.”
“Naa. I don’t know. Not much.”
“You know something,” Edna said abruptly, “you remind me a lot of this boy I used to go around with last summer. I mean the way you look and all. And Barry was your build almost exactly. You know. Wiry.”
“Mmm. He was an artist. Oh, Lord!”
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing. Only I’ll never forget this time he wanted to do a portrait of me. He used to always say to me—serious as the devil, too— ‘Eddie, you’re not beautiful according to conventional standards, but there’s something in your face I wanna catch.’ Serious as the devil he’d say it, I mean. Well. I only posed for him this once.”
“Yeah,” said Jameson. “Hey, I could go in and bring out some stuff—”
“No,” Edna said, “let’s just have a cigarette. It’s so grand out here. Amorous voices and all, what?”
“I don’t think I got any more with me. I got some in the other room, I think.”
“No, don’t bother,” Edna told him. “I have some right here.” She opened her evening bag and brought out a small black, rhinestoned case, opened it, and offered one of three cigarettes to Jameson. Taking one, Jameson remarked that he really oughtta get going; that he had told her about this theme he had for Monday. He finally found his matches, and struck a light.
“Oh,” Edna said, puffing on her cigarette, “it’ll be breaking up pretty soon. Did you notice Doris Leggett, by the way?”
“Which one is she?”
“Terribly short? Rather blonde? Used to go with Pete Ilesner? Oh, you must have seen her. She was sitting on the floor per usual, laughing at the top of her voice.”
“That her? You know her?” Jameson said.
“Well, sort of,” Edna told him. “We never went around much together. I really know her mostly by what Pete Ilesner used to tell me.”
“Petie Ilesner? Don’t you know Petie? Oh, he’s a grand guy. He went around with Doris Leggett for a while. And in my opinion she gave him a pretty raw deal. Simply rotten, I think.”
“How?” Jameson said. “Wuddaya mean?”
“Oh, let’s drop it. You know me. I hate to put my two cents in when I’m not sure and all. Not any more. Only I don’t think Petie would lie to me though. After all, I mean.”
“She’s not bad,” said Jameson. “Doris Liggett?”
“Leggett,” Edna said. “I guess Doris is attractive to men. I don’t know. I think I really liked her better though—her looks, I mean—when her hair was natural. I mean bleached hair—to me anyway—always looks sort of artificial when you see it in the light or something. I don’t know. I may be wrong. Everybody does it, I guess. Lord! I’ll bet Dad would kill me if I ever came home with my hair touched up even a little! You don’t know Dad. He’s terribly old fashioned. I honestly don’t think I ever would have it touched up, when you come right down to it. But you know. Sometimes you do the craziest things. Lord! Dad’s not the only one! I think Barry even would kill me if I ever did!”
“Who?” said Jameson.
“Barry. This boy I told you about.”
“He here t’night?”
“Barry? Lord, no! I can just picture Barry at one of these things. You don’t know Barry.”
“Barry? Mmm, he did. Princeton. I think Barry got out in thirty-four. Not sure. I really haven’t seen Barry since last summer. Well, not to talk to. Parties and stuff. I always managed to look the other way when he looked at me. Or ran out to the john or something.”
“I thought you liked him, this guy,” Jameson said.
“Mmm. I did. Up to a point.”
“I don’t getcha.”
“Let it go. I’d rather not talk about it. He just asked too much of me; that’s all.”
“Oh,” said Jameson.
“I’m not a prude or anything. I don’t know. Maybe I am. I just have my own standards and in my funny little way I try to live up to them. The best I can, anyway.”
“Look,” Jameson said. “This railing is kinda shaky—”
Edna said, “It isn’t that I can’t appreciate how a boy feels after he dates you all summer and spends money he hasn’t any right to spend on theater tickets and night spots and all. I mean, I can understand. He feels you owe him something. Well, I’m not that way. I guess I’m just not built that way. It’s gotta be the real thing with me. Before, you know. I mean, love and all.”
“Yeah. Look, uh. I really oughtta get goin’. I got this theme for Monday. Hell, I shoulda been home hours ago. So I think I’ll go in and get a drink and get goin’.”
“Yes,” Edna said. “Go on in.”
“In a minute. Go ahead.”
“Well. See ya,” Jameson said.
Edna shifted her position at the railing. She lighted the remaining cigarette in her case. Inside, somebody had turned on the radio, or the volume suddenly had increased. A girl vocalist was huskying through the refrain from that new show, which even the delivery boys were beginning to whistle.
No door slams like a screen door.
“Edna!” Lucille Henderson greeted.
“Hey, hey,” said Edna. “Hello Harry.”
“Bill’s inside,” Lucille said. “Get me a drink, willya, Harry?”
“What happened?” Lucille wanted to know. “Didn’t you and Bill hit it off? Is that Frances and Eddie over there?”
“I don’t know. He hadda leave. He had a lot of work to do for Monday.”
“Well, right now he’s in there on the floor with Dottie Leggett. Delroy’s putting peanuts down her back. That is Frances and Eddie over there.”
“Your little Bill is quite a guy.”
“Yeah? How? Wuttaya mean?” said Lucille.
Edna fish-lipped her mouth and tapped her cigarette ashes.
“A trifle warm-blooded, shall I say?”
“Well,” said Edna, “I’m still in one piece. Only keep that guy away from me, willya?”
“Hmm. Live and learn,” said Lucille Henderson. “Where is that dope Harry? I’ll see ya later, Ed.”
When she finished her cigarette, Edna went in too. She walked quickly, directly up the stairs into the section of Lucille Henderson’s mother’s home barred to young hands holding lighted cigarettes and wet highball glasses. She remained upstairs nearly twenty minutes. When she came down, she went back into the living room. William Jameson, Junior, a glass in his right hand and the fingers of his left hand in or close to his mouth, was sitting a few men away from the small blonde. Edna sat down in the big red chair. No one had taken it. She opened her evening bag and took out her small black, rhinestoned case, and extracted one of ten or twelve cigarettes.
“Hey!” she called, tapping her cigarette on the arm of the big red chair. “Hey, Lu! Bobby! See if you can’t get something better on the radio! I mean who can dance to that stuff?”
J. D. Salinger, who is twenty-one years old, was born in New York. He attended public grammar schools, one military academy, and three colleges, and has spent one year in Europe. He is particularly interested in playwriting.
(short story reprinted from the pages of this recording)
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It’s coming. It cannot be stopped. We’re divided: some of us embrace it fully, others yearn to be part of it, and still others despise it with every fiber of their being. Yes, I am talking about Valentine’s Day. In my experience, men are pretty ambivalent about the holiday. The guys that are in relationships will celebrate it, possibly taking their partner out to dinner, giving them flowers and/or chocolates, and ultimately ending the evening with “romantic” sex (complete with tea light candles). The men that are not in relationships tend to treat it like a normal day. Never have I heard about a group of single guys sitting around talking about how they wish they had someone to spend the night with. Never have I heard about them watching romantic movies, picturing themselves as the male lead that gets the girl in the end. This could be secret single guy behavior, but I have severe doubts.
Women however, tend to have distinct feelings about the holiday. The ones in relationships have tender evenings with their partners, many probably feeling privileged and lucky compared to their single girlfriends. Some single girls wish they had a date, a boyfriend, or simply someone special to spend the holiday with. (This year, these single girls will probably all go together to see the annual chick-flick released in the nick of time for the holiday, these year oh so cleverly titled Valentine’s Day).
Still, there is a third group of women with another feeling on this holiday. They HATE it. They are a mixed of single and taken women. Usually, their main arguments against the holiday are something along the lines of its creation being by greeting card companies, that they don’t need a holiday to declare love for their partner, and that they don’t see the point in wasting money on lame teddy bears and other astonishingly useless gifts. I know this because I used to be one of these women. To briefly chronicle my ever-changing feelings on the holiday:
In high school, I loved Valentine’s Day (probably in part because I always had a boyfriend or date that treated me well). I got the flowers, the chocolates, even a set of kissing bears & a slightly vulgar bear that I still have (wink wink). Once, I even got a “Happy Valentine’s Day Marissa” sign posted for the whole town to see. Until recently, I had been a single gal. This morphed me into a negative, Valentine’s Day hating monster. I thought I was getting wiser, that I was seeing love and relationships in a new light that didn’t require a designated holiday. Now, I have found myself in a lovely relationship that makes me very happy. The boyfriend and I were talking about our Valentine’s Day plans and I suddenly realized how hypocritical I was being.
If the 2009 version of me heard what I recently planned and said about the holiday, I would get verbally clobbered. The current Marissa would hear all about how the holiday has no ties to love, how commercialized it is, and how anyone in a sophisticated and adult relationship would not need February 14th’s existence. The older version of me loved pictures and poems like this:
Hearts and roses and kisses galore…
What the hell is all that shit for?
People get mushy and start acting queer
It is definitely the most annoying day of the year
This day needs to get the hell over with and pass
Before I shove a dozen roses up Cupid’s ass
I’ll spend the day so drunk I can’t speak
And wear all black for the rest of the week
Guys act all sweet, but it soon will fade
For all they are doing is trying to get laid
The arrow Cupid shot at me must not have hit
Because I think love is a crock of shit
So there’s the story… what else can I say?
Love bites my ass… Fuck Valentine’s Day!
Instead of continuing this identity crisis, I decided to do research on the holiday in a positive way. The main point of this was to kick 2009 Marissa’s ass. Thanks to the History Channel’s website (yes I know, shameless plug), I learned a few important facts. The Roman and Catholic Churches have a few different versions of Saint Valentine and what he did, ranging from a man who went against Emperor Claudius II’s ruling that single men made better soldiers than those who had familial ties to a man who sent the first Valentine greeting. Many of the versions of St. Valentine involve his martyrdom, which is probably why he is known at all to us today through his holiday. Even as early as the 1710s, British men and women would give one another small tokens for Valentine’s Day, similar to what we do nowadays (although there is no known origin of children having to send mandatory valentines to their classes with Barbie/Bratz or Spongebob/Transformers on them….) The site even cites that the earliest commercial Valentine came out in 1840. So what did my History Channel skimming confirm? Not much.
If no one knows the true story of Saint Valentine and what he actually did that was so important, why do we have a holiday for him? I guess it’s another mystery, like why we celebrate Columbus Day. Maybe my views on the holiday shift with age, maturity, and vision. Or maybe I’m just a sucker that buys into the holiday when I have someone “special” to spend it with. Or maybe I am a hypocrite.
Truthfully, this article has no point. It’s just a means of pointing out what I’ve observed in relation to the holiday and a way to gauge my own history with Valentine’s Day. But ladies, I do have some closing comments: for those of you that love the holiday, have a blast and I hope you have someone to spend it with. If you don’t, you will soon. And to the group of cynical Miranda Hobbes types, I feel you. But maybe when you find your person, it will all melt away and turn you into one of those saps that you’ve always despised. It can happen, trust me: I’m one of them.
Marissa now believes the wise badass Sean Connery: “Love may not make the world go round, but I must admit that it makes the ride worthwhile.”
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Currently, my brain is processing the vibrations made by “Symphony No. 7 in A Major” that cut their way through the once-serene air. The emotive strings, the bucolic and dazzling aerophones, all of their noise can be boiled down to a wave, a pattern that replicates itself and is measurable in hertz. The plucking and playing of strings is so pleasing to us because we are simply vibrating strings, strings which have only one dimension and continually oscillate, much like the waves produced by the London Symphonic Orchestra. Of course, the fundamental unit of string theory is not limited to just strings. In fact, any one dimensional surface or point will suffice. Some people may share the bellowing and boisterous roundness that characterizes a timpani, and others may share the twangy and simplistic shape of a triangle. Everything in the universe is comprised of these infinitesimally small “strings”, which are the building blocks for subatomic particles, such as the electron and quarks.
The most destructive weapon ever created by man was made by the splitting of an atom. How ironic, that such an abstract and minute thing could cause so much destruction. Atoms, of course, consist of electrons and neutrons and protons and quarks and all of these have different flavors and directions and charges and masses and spins. These collections of strings are not equal in size. Neutrons, being quite dense, have a relatively “massive” gravitational pull on electrons. The relation between electron and neutron is like a football stadium made of air (electrons) with an ultra dense pea in the middle of the stadium. Protons attach themselves to the neutrons, probably because the vastness of their known universe scares them and they undergo an existential crisis and realize that finding a nice home in suburbia (Neutronville) will keep them hidden from negative thoughts or ideas. Yet, the electrons continue to encircle this fusion of proton and neutron, waiting for the day in which they will take charge and turn the tide of the atom in a negative direction. These subatomic villains continue to shock and awe us to this very day.
Spaghetti, like most foods, is consumable. Spaghetti has a lot of carbohydrates. The formula for spaghetti does not lie in your Grandmother’s cookbook. Nope. Instead, place together a few million carbon atoms with a few million hydrogen atoms, with special guest stars oxygen and nitrogen, maybe some phosphorous and sodium (if it’s sweeps period) and BAM! Spaghetti! You may be scratching your head. What are carbon and oxygen and phosphorous and sodium and nitrogen?! These, of course, are atomic elements! When atoms have a party with one another, they tend to become cliques. Some elements, like hydrogen are introverts. Others, like ununoctium are a barrel of monkeys! Often, these atoms stick together. When they stick together, it really “matters”. Things that matter: you, the earth, trees, water, air, Native Americans, soda pop, sororities, windows (they’re actually liquids!). All of these “matter”; unless you get sucked into a black hole and your body becomes an unsavory piece of spaghetti flying through space with no chance of escape. Then you don’t matter.
Finally, a joke for carpenters! What are the dimensions of a piece of wood that is 2′ by 5′? The answer: 3(4)! A lot of things have 3 dimensions! But almost everything has 4 dimensions! The first three dimensions are of course, depth (something that the Jonas Brothers lack! Hardy har har!), length, and width. The fourth, as discovered by our friend Albert Einstein, is time, which is something almost nobody seems to have!
Chemistry teacher puns aside, the universe is far more fascinating than the trials and tribulations of man. Our lives will come and go. The elements from which we are made of will be the elements to which we return to. We are simply hairless and gargantuan chimpanzees armed with nuclear weaponry and the power of the press. The Universe, God, and all other forms of omnipotence have no reverence for our meekness. The Universe is infinite, continually expanding and stretching into places unseen and unimaginable to the thoughts of man. Within each man is a universe and each man is a vibrating string within our Universe. The things that matter in our lives are not made of matter. They are ideas and thoughts and passions and secrets and doubts and fears and loves. They are the unquantifiable and the unmeasurable.
When I was a child, romping and stomping on a playground that has since ceased to exist, a question was asked of me. “How do you want to die?”. Rather morbid, but totally within in the realm of reason for an eight year old, who is beginning to contemplate the world outside of Saturday morning cartoons. I forget how I responded, but when I was asked the same question years later as a star-cross’d teenager, I responded in a manner that was typical of my sullen demeanor. “I want to traverse the event horizon of a black hole to see what it would be like.” Pointless, unrealistic, yet surprisingly characteristic of a teenager searching for meaning between the spiritual and material. I think that is the very moment in which man can most easily approach the infiniteness of space itself. We become spaghetti strings, torn apart by centrifugal and inescapable forces. I guess those destructive forces symbolize the pains of puberty and growth. I figure that when I am old and gray and my sight and hearing and looks have left me and I’m feeble and unable to understand the new fangled kids culture and technology has rocketed on past me, I’ll say that I want to die in my sleep. Why my sleep? Sleep is the venue in which dreams occur. Dreams are limitless and bound to no physical laws. They are both fleeting and constant. The very nature of dreams is paradoxical and nonsensical. But our dreams and thoughts and imaginations and all of the things that the small thing that our skull protects can do allow us to approach and transverse the infinite. Dreams, in all of their ethereal substance, are the only things we own.
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A cheer rose up on the deck of the Farley Mowat in 2005 when Captain Paul Watson, the notorious “environmentalist” gave word to his crew that the Belize government had confiscated their flag back.
“Now you’re on a pirate ship.”
(sry paul, but i club baby seals, jk jk)
The unpaid crew of vegans, environmentalists, and idealists – all half the age of Watson (who holds no formal captain’s license) – begin to raise their own flag, symbolizing and cementing their detachment from unsympathetic countries. Black, with it’s own take of the Jolly Roger – the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s flag features a skull, trident, and a shepherd’s crook. Their jihadic leader, at age 57, sports a white beard and isn’t beginning to show signs that his crusade will end anytime soon.
He began his quest to save the whales in 1975 when, as he’s described to many journalists, a dying gray whale looked Watson in the eye as it bled to death from the blow of a Soviet harpoon.
Watson even went so far as to tattoo a melodramatic quote on his Myspace to signify his devotion (before shutting this down in November 2009): “icebergs are the floating tears of harpooned whales.” Watson, a radical at heart, has led – what he would see and some others would see as – a noble mission in life to wage war on those who wage war against the environment. His weapons include endless rhetoric, direct action against whaling nations, and celebrity fundraising from the likes of Martin Sheen, Pierce Brosnan, and Christian Bale. As author Peter Heller quips in his book Whale Warriors, “with the president, James Bond, and Batman on his side, how can Paul Watson go wrong?”
Since 1979, Watson has claimed to have sunk over eight whaling ships and inflicted damage upon at least four drift netters. In 1988, when he was accused of these crimes by Iceland, Watson traveled to the country in order to testify on behalf of his crimes. Smart, as the trial acted as a sort of free publicity. Iceland responded by deporting him.
live free or die….
Watson hasn’t just targeted Iceland. His first naval battle ever, against the Sierra from Norway, ended when his minions attached a small limpet mine to her hull, sinking the trawler when it was tied to a dock in Portugal. Before resorting to limpets, the idea was to ram the Portuguese ship until it sunk. While this did inflict some damage, Watson did not accomplish his goal – hence, use of the limpets. After being sent to trial, a judge in Lisbon ordered that Watson pay indemnities to Captain Arvid Nordengen of the Sierra, but Watson, like a noble samurai facing the prospect of defeat, scuttled his own ship in retaliation.
Even when he found himself without a ship, Watson was able to shy away from ending his vendetta. Fortunately, the Society gained a significant sum by selling the film rights to the story. An identical trawler was purchased, the Sea Shephard II, and more ships from Iceland and the Soviet Union found their way to the bottom of the sea.
Aside from countries that have felt the sting of butyric acid hurtled from Watson’s ships towards theirs, many others disagree with the Sea Shepherd’s idea of violent benevolence and state that Watson should be brought to court. Whether he acts in the name of the environment, the whales, or even as a harbinger of future environmental action, Watson’s method remains flawed. Even some members of the anti-whaling community feel that his actions have diminished their cause. But Watson, forever steadfast, stands by his mission to attract attention to his cause. The key to his mission lies in the vague laws and lack of enforcement that plague international waters.
With over 361 million square kilometers of ocean to patrol, there isn’t a navy large enough to provide protection against either illegal whaling ships or those who intend to engage in naval battle against the aforementioned.
Taking a page out of the 16th century philosopher John Selden’s treatise Mare Clausum, Paul Watson argues in a 1998 essay, “Neptune’s Manifesto”, that, “on the high seas, might makes right.” Watson rhetorically switches the argument, contending that it’s the technologically advanced fishing ships that pirate the world’s oceans today. He advocates that the Sea Shepherds are the framework for a future navy that the United Nations should enact an enforcement body around.
Until then, he ominously foreshadows, his actions will remain “nongovernmental”.
“It may be argued that our actions are undemocratic (though many of the nations that are signatory to treaties are non-democratic). I feel that our actions are democratic in the extreme, because we represent a far greater constituency. We act on behalf of all other species and on behalf of thousands of unborn human generations. Our great democracies represent only a small planetary minority — people — and only of this generation, and generally excluding children, and, of course, excluding the millions of other species that also are entitled to rights on this planet. – Paul Watson, 1998.
Tyson Bottenus lives in southern Rhode Island and worries that the future of “environmentalism” entails militant action…