Monday, August 29, 2011

Why Helen really left.

Menelaus was a ginger. Need I say anything else?

Monday, June 27, 2011

What if God was a Dick?

I know Agamemnon is no one’s favorite character but I just have to point out that the guy to whom he prays kind of dicked him over. It’s fairly well established that if a deity sends you a message in a dream, they’re trying to communicate something important to you and you should act accordingly. So what do you do when your god uses this to deceive you and bring about disaster. In modern society (at least in Abrahamic Religions), we’ve redefined God to be generally benevolent, going so far to lead to one of the great questions of faith (If God is omnipotent and benevolent, why does he allow bad things to happen?). So what happens if your god is omnipotent but doesn’t really care about you?

Whether you have faith or not, it was understood by both the founders of our republic and the ancient greeks that the idea of god was a reflection of the nature of the universe. Either man was created in the image chosen by his creator to fit within the system that god (or gods) created or god was something man created to makes sense of the universe. Either way my question remains the same: How can we, as a people that view the universe as a place that, at least passively, wishes us well, be the intellectual heirs of a people whose outlook was much different?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rage- Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles

Like all epic poetry, The Iliad, begins In Media Res, or in the middle of things; It’s a story teling approach that still exists to this day. And it is this story that begins that trend.

More important than this, however, are the ideas from the piece that continue to shape our society more than 2700 years later. And standing chief among them is the idea of rage. Achilles is dishonored by Agamemnon and his anger is only stopped by the divine intervention of Pallas Athena. So great is his rage that, not only does he refuse to fight, he prays that the greeks will lose so bad that they will beg him to return to the battlefield. While none claim that Achilles wasn’t wronged here, it is this rage, that will be revisited throughout the story, that is our protagonist’s fatal flaw and the chief warning of The Iliad

Friday, June 24, 2011

The First Epic

I knew I bit off a large task when I endeavored to do this summer list but now that I’ve started re-reading The Iliad I’m beginning to see how big. Anyway, The Iliad is a big piece so I’m going to have to break it into sections, each of which will probably be one or two books (of a total of 24). I could write pages but I’m going to do my best to keep it about the ideas that shape who we are as a people today. Yeah, It’s going to take me a bit to get through but this is an amazing story so it’s worth it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
I added John Donne’s “The Flea” because I always thought that was how you were supposed to love a woman: fiercely, unapologetically, and without regard to societies rules. And I still do believe all of that. But when I read it again, I realized that what I thought was a perfect relationship was missing one of its two vital ingredients: A willing lover. Our speaker is trying to persuade her to give up both her family’s and society’s expectations. Yet, for all the classical allusions, this poem will alway be bittersweet because she doesn’t feel the same way.

I added John Donne’s “The Flea” because I always thought that was how you were supposed to love a woman: fiercely, unapologetically, and without regard to societies rules. And I still do believe all of that. But when I read it again, I realized that what I thought was a perfect relationship was missing one of its two vital ingredients: A willing lover. Our speaker is trying to persuade her to give up both her family’s and society’s expectations. Yet, for all the classical allusions, this poem will alway be bittersweet because she doesn’t feel the same way.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I could write pages upon pages about how great Kennedy’s Inaugural Address was. I could write for hours on end about the promises that were made, separating the ones that were kept and the ones that were not. But in reality, the only pertinent parts of this for this blog are the facts that: 1) President Kennedy refused to believe that we had to choose between being citizens of America and citizens of the world. 2) He refused to believe that there was a conflict between what was prudent and what was right. 3) Most importantly President John F. Kennedy rejected fear in the pursuit of hope. Quite simply, the reason Kennedy is so beloved is because he appealed to our greatest aspirations instead of our basest demons. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Stark Resilient

So comic books may not be the first thing people think of when you say literature that teaches but I would argue that comic books, especially the ones with super heroes are deeply valuable literary works because they show us what our ideals could be.Since comics are serials in nature, I’m going to treat the entire arc as one literary piece (this one was 9 issues so 198 pages is pretty close to a short novel). 

My first comic arc that I’m going to use as a literary tool for personal improvement (which is what this has really been about) an arc of The Invincible Iron Man by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca entitled ”Stark Resilient.” The premise behind “Resilient” is quite exceptional in the fact that it is Tony Stark who is the main hero, with his alter ego playing support. In a nut shell Tony proposes to abandon his past as a weapons manufacturer and focus on one thing for the rest of his life: “[He’s] going to power the world with cheap, wireless, infinitely replenishable energy with zero dependence on fossil fuels.” Problems arrise when former industry rivals Justine and Sasha Hammer remember the last time Stark said he was out of weapons manufacturing and his subsequent return to the field.

First of all, this is something we should be doing. We can already do the wireless, infinitely replenishable, and zero dependence on fossil fuels. Now all we need is to put it all together and make it cheap. But more importantly, this arc shows that the thing that is going to save the world isn’t super strength or repulsor rays (the energy rays Iron Man shoots) but this singular idea and it’s realization.

Second, just as powerful is the idea that people will oppose you, not for anything you are doing, but simply for things you have done in the past. I love the idea of forgiveness but it is important to note that your past, especially if you’ve turned against your word, will be used to evaluate your current self by those around you. Now, most people won’t try to blow you up over it, but still. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mission Creep

First of all, let me say that I’ve been bad at keeping up the reading mission. I promise that I haven’t lost faith in the mission, quite the opposite. But between my writing (which you can see here: Things We Learn From Sex) and reading things that aren’t on the list, I haven’t been keeping up with the report of my findings. So, I’m going to make two changes to the plan. First, I will include any piece written including movies, music, and comic books that I think answer the questions I set out in the beginning: understand what it means to be American, act as a good and moral person, and, of course, save the world. Second, I’m going to endeavor to read at least one item. I’ve managed to accomplish that so far so I think I can keep it up. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The important things in “The Importance of Being Earnest”

So I added The Importance of Being Earnest to my summer book list just to have something in there solely for fun, but even leisure reading can have important worldly lessons. 

In Earnest, conflict arrises because Jack, our protagonist who leads separate lives, finds trouble when those lives interact. While it is important to note that Wilde’s work seems to only be a vessel for the delivery of witty comment (which I adore) this conflict speaks to me. Wilde doubles up on the theme of being different people by having our male characters be different in two distinct ways. The first is the superficial distinction between their city and their country lives. The more important one is both men assuming an identity for the purpose of wooing a girl they fancy. Wilde even makes a point to state that behaviors with women must be inherently different than interactions with the rest of the world.

While an enjoyable read, The Importance of Being Earnest brings a lighthearted look at people’s natural predisposition to change who they are for the people they are around. In this story it all worked out for the best but it was still the source of conflict in the play. What does this say about this vital skill that we all use to lubricate our social interactions? And is it worth it

Algernon: When a man does exactly what a woman expects him to do she doesn’t think much of him. Wilde, Oscar The Importance of Being Earnest 1895