Monday, November 26, 2007

Upfront apologies and then a lot of talking

Alright, I apologize in advance if this blog comes off as over the top deep or perhaps pretentious in its origins.* At least I recognize my annoying habits.

Yes, I am reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and it is quite good. I just came off reading two other Eastern European writers' books (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn and The Castle by Franz Kafka) which I didn't really enjoy so I was pleased to find I wasn't totally put off by books from that geographic region.

One of the things I most enjoy about the book (as I think should happen with most novels) is the relatability (I've got one of those red lines under that last word but I swear it's a word and is on my side). No, unfortunately I have never fallen into a scandalous affair with a beautiful Russian princess** but there are minute human emotions or experiences that after reading a particular paragraph/chapter/etc, I immediately referred to my own life and felt a kinship to the particular character. Anyhow, way to go Leo! You've impressed me.

Now on to my original thought.*** This one isn't so much relatable**** as it simply just instigated a thought process for me. Levin is one of the main characters of the book. Maybe my favorite character. He doesn't conform very well to the Aristocratic Russian society of which he is a part which is part of the reason, I believe, that he runs a farm. Now don't get me wrong, he's still Aristocracy and the fact that he has hundreds of servants doing the manual labor partly proves this. Near the beginning of the book, he proposes to a girl named Kitty and is rejected due to Kitty being confused with another possible suitor even though she really loves Levin. Regardless, the next x hundred number of pages is a lot to do with Levin trying to distract himself or get over this girl when everyone knows he'll never really get over her. So yes, this is a refined chic flick ... in book form.

Gosh, I'm not even to my thought. OK. Levin's half-brother (who's from the city) comes to visit Levin in the country and they go hunting. The half-brother (I forget his name) has all these refined ideas from a lot of talking with other people just like him***** and Levin doesn't necessarily agree with all that the half-brother spews.

Now we've arrived: as they walk into the country they come across a stream (or some other scenic part) and the half-brother says something about the beauty of nature. Levin's mental response is what I love. Leo lets us into Levin's thought process. Levin loves nature and all things associated with it. He finds that words only soil the perfected nature of ... nature.

And this is what got me thinking.

I have found a lot of enjoyment/pleasure in well written books. So instead of turning on and denying my respect of words, I think the opposite has happened. The importance of words is only magnified. When something incredible is experienced, this only calls for a description (and use of words) that is equally incredible. Surely there is a use of words that can accurately describe and equal in beauty whatever is being described.

Yes, I partly agree with my boy Levin when I say that I don't like it when beautiful things are tainted by words but I think the reason I would say that is because these beautiful things are often given a mediocre description in which little mental effort is put into. Instead of abandoning the effort to try to put life experiences into words, I would strive to improve my skill of describing to match that of what I have felt or thought.

And how do I do that? Reading others' well written material (i.e. Anna Karenina, anything by Elie Wiesel, etc.) and putting forth the effort in speech or writing. I encourage you to do the same.

I'm also fairly sure Leo Tolstoy would agree. I don't think he would be writing books if he thought words ruined the feeling of human emotions.

(Oh, and I realize I talk/write a lot of crap ... I'm working on it ... which I think we're all doing.)

*Classic Russian literature.
**One day maybe.
***I like that I have 3 introductory paragraphs for 1 thought.
**** Ditto on my last discourse on "relatable" (and its various forms) being real words.
*****Pretty much like most discussions at Taylor.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Little Pre-Thanksgiving Blog

Alright, so I've been at work for a while now, have beaten Spider Solitaire 3 times in a row, written 1 of 6 pages for a paper due next Monday, and blogging seems to be the only activity which will be able to keep me from falling into a boredom coma.

Today for lunch, us USofAmericans are meeting up in the middle of town and then finding a restaurant. I believe we're thinking pizza. I had Pizza Hut last night but can always eat (and cherish) more pizza. I asked my host-family if it was alright and of course they said "of course" but I wonder if in some way it's not OK... once I eat a pizza I'll get over any sort of guilty feeling.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Surprise. We're skipping our business class at night and I'm hoping we don't have Spanish class during the day... but we'll see. We're all (including our host families) getting together for a Thanksgiving feast! I'm not totally sure how it'll turn out but I know that I've got five boxes of StoveTop dressing (thanks Heather) that should turn out fairly well. The directions make it look easier than Mac&Cheese so I'm not too worried.

In exactly one month, we'll be leaving Cuenca. I've spent a lot of time missing home but there was a moment last night in which I was talking to my host-parents in Spanish (well... they were doing most of the talking...) and I thought to myself, 'I'm not going to have this again.' I suppose it made me appreciate to a fuller degree the privilege it is of having this experience. I realize this is easy to say when home is within sight (and classes/practicum are even closer) but I don't think it detracts from its truthfulness. (Sorry about the sappiness of this past paragraph.)

OK, I think I'm good. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, say hello to your families for me, and don't do homework.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New Experiences.


Yesterday brought two new experiences.

1. I received a new iPod. After ordering it online a while ago, having it sent to Jordan's parents, Jordan's parents arriving yesterday, and after stopping by his house to pick it up, I finally have it. It's pretty. It also holds a buttload of music, etc.

2. While trying to download a newer version of iTunes on Ecuador's slightly slower internet connection, I heard a few of the guitars on the wall bumping up against the wall and was wondering what was going on. My sister told me to come downstairs. I then felt shaking. There was a 6.8 sized earthquake! I'm not going to lie, it was awesome.

[The picture is a reenactment of my excitement both after initially getting my iPod and after feeling out the earthquake.]

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tardy Da Vinci

I watched The Da Vinci Code last night. In my efforts to do more than mindlessly take in mass amounts of movies, I thought I would share a few thoughts even if I may be a few years late on this one.

First off, I have not read the book. I can't make any comparisons.

Going into the movie (on a bored Saturday afternoon), I realized a lot of the controversy the book/movie has had with the evangelical church party peeps (mainly, Family Christian Bookstores...). My typical reaction to church reactions like this is simply that it's not that big of a deal. True, it may be errant theology and such but is raising such a stink over it that important? Perhaps I'm too passive but I'd rather be known for encouraging good things as opposed to condemning faulty things.

OK, enough intro. I watched the movie.

While watching, I simply thought of the crappiness of it. Honestly, I felt like the writing/acting was pretty weak. Tom Hanks played this dumb smarty who always knew how to reach the next step. Annoyed me. He would falter for a couple seconds... "wait, maybe its a crypto blah blah blah or no, it's not a cup, it's a person!..." and then he would always figure out what to do next. And that's with me entering the movie liking Tom Hanks.

Next, I felt like it was a slightly blasphemous, less entertaining National Treasure (which I'm not really even a fan of b/c it put a pretty big damper on my senior prom night...). Wasn't really on the edge of my seat and I can't remember ever laughing.

What I do sort of like about the movie (and book, I assume) is that it should get one thinking. It pretty much comes right out and says things that are completely opposite than what historic Christianity has thought/believed since... ever. For me, I hope it would make me think if there actually were differences than what is traditionally thought, does that change my faith? In what ways? (Rob Bell goes into this a little bit in Velvet Elvis... which I need to re-read.) Granted, Da Vinci almost seems to get a little preachy about it (if it were a Christian movie with the opposite message, I may have puked a little) but that's probably why it created such a stir (and so much revenue) in the first place.

I'm pretty sure it didn't change any of my beliefs... for those of which it did alter some beliefs, I'm kind of assuming they haven't really thought about Christianity that much before hand anyways.

Yeah that's pretty much it for now. I want to do other things even though this blog isn't really totally thought out. Oh, I like Jean Reno (the French police officer).

Monday, November 5, 2007


This past week I went to Quito and then the Galapagos Islands. Please share in my little adventure by perusing my photos.
Galapagos 1
Galapagos 2
[I took a little over 500 pictures... I posted just over 150... I think I downsized decently...]

It's always nice to get away. And things like the equator, cathedrals, exoctic animals, snorkeling, amazing scenery, kayaking, and untouched beaches all add to the "nice-ness" of vacationing. To me, it's just cool to see more of Ecuador. I feel like the more I see, the more I feel accustomed and a part of the country.

The pictures tell a better story than I would.