Thursday, September 27, 2007

Existential Crisis

We recently finally switched to the Bartow County library and we all are impressed with the facility. N4, our youngest, was very pleased with a book on butterflies. As he learned more and more he seemed to get, well, a little upset. Finally, during a discussion with his mom about toys, he dissolved into tears and ran to his room.

After a few questions I learned that he had cried that he didn't know enough. I joined him in his room and asked him what the problem was. The conversation went like this.

Me: "N4, what's wrong?"

N4: "I don't know anything!"

Me: "Well, you are still very young. As you get older, you will learn more and more. For a kid your age you know quite a bit."

N4: "No, Dad! There is so much to know! How will I ever learn even half of all there is? Dad, no one knows anything, really!"

I really couldn't argue with him. Knowledge is important and can point to God, but - in the end - all of our knowledge is as a match next to the sun.

I just never expected my 4 year old to see it so soon!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook

This is a very lightly edited version of one of my all-time favorite satires. Please enjoy.

The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook
We have recently been lucky enough to discover several previously lost diaries of French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre stuck in between the cushions of our office sofa. These diaries reveal a young Sartre obsessed not with the void, but with food. Apparently Sartre, before discovering philosophy, had hoped to write "a cookbook that will put to rest all notions of flavour forever." The diaries are excerpted here for your perusal.

October 3

Spoke with Camus today about my cookbook. Though he has never actually eaten, he gave me much encouragement. I rushed home immediately to begin work. How excited I am! I have begun my formula for a Denver omelet.

October 4

Still working on the omelet. There have been stumbling blocks. I keep creating omelets one after another, like soldiers marching into the sea, but each one seems empty, hollow, like stone. I want to create an omelet that expresses the meaninglessness of existence, and instead they taste like cheese. I look at them on the plate, but they do not look back. I tried eating them with the lights off. It did not help. Malraux suggested paprika.

October 6

I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of a cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked. I am encouraged, but my journey is still long.

October 7

Today I again modified my omelet recipe. While my previous attempts had expressed my own bitterness, they communicated only illness to the eater. In an attempt to reach the bourgeoisie, I taped two fried eggs over my eyes and walked the streets of Paris for an hour. I ran into Camus at the Select. He called me a pathetic dork; and told me to go home and wash my face. Angered, I poured a bowl of bouillabaisse into his lap. He became enraged, and, seizing a straw wrapped in paper, tore off one end of the wrapper and blew through the straw propelling the wrapper into my eye. "Ow! You jerk!" I cried. I leaped up, cursing and holding my eye, and fled.

October 10

I find myself trying ever more radical interpretations of traditional dishes, in an effort to somehow express the void I feel so acutely. Today I tried this recipe: Tuna Casserole.

Ingredients: 1 large casserole dish.
Directions: Place the casserole dish in a cold oven. Place a chair facing the oven and sit in it forever. Think about how hungry you are. When night falls, do not turn on the light.

While a void is expressed in this recipe, I am struck by its inapplicability to the bourgeois lifestyle. How can the eater recognize that the food denied him is a tuna casserole and not some other dish? I am becoming more and more frustrated.

October 12

My eye has become inflamed. I hate Camus.

October 25

I have been forced to abandon the project of producing an entire cookbook. Rather, I now seek a single recipe which will, by itself, embody the plight of man in a world ruled by an unfeeling God, as well as providing the eater with at least one ingredient from each of the four basic food groups. To this end, I purchased six hundred pounds of foodstuffs from the corner grocery and locked myself in the kitchen, refusing to admit anyone. After several weeks of work, I produced a recipe calling for two eggs, half a cup of flour, four tons of beef, and a leek. While this is a start, I am afraid I still have much work ahead.

November 15

I feel that I may be very close to a great breakthrough. I had been creating meal after meal, but none seemed to express the futility of existence any better than would ordering a pizza. I left the house this morning in a most depressed state, and wandered aimlessly through the streets. Suddenly, it was as if the heavens had opened. My brain was electrified with an influx of new ideas. "Juice, toast, milk" I muttered aloud. I realized with a start that I was one ingredient away from creating the nutritious breakfast. Loathsome, true, but filled with existential authenticity I rushed home to begin work anew.

November 18

Today I tried yet another variation: Juice, toast, milk and Cheetos. Again, a dismal failure. I have tried everything. Juice, toast, milk and whiskey; juice, toast, milk and chicken fat; juice, toast, milk and someone else's spit. Nothing helps. I am in agony. Juice, toast, milk, they race about my fevered brain like fire, like an unholy trinity of cruel denial. And the fourth ingredient! What could it be? It eludes me like the lost chord, the Holy Grail. I must see the completion of my task, but I have no more money to spend on food. Perhaps man is not meant to know...

November 21

Camus came into the restaurant today. He did not know I was in the kitchen and before I sent out his meal I loogied in his soup. Sic semper tyrannis.

November 23

Ran into some opposition at the restaurant. Some of the patrons complained that my breakfast special (a page out of Remembrance of Things Past and a blowtorch with which to set it on fire) did not satisfy their hunger. As if their hunger was of any consequence! But we're starving, they say. So what? They're going to die eventually anyway. They make me want to puke. I have quit the job. It is stupid for Jean- Paul Sartre to sling hash. I have enough money to continue my work for a little while.

November 26

Today I made a Black Forest cake out of five pounds of cherries and a live beaver, challenging the very definition of the word cake. I was very pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but could not stay for dessert. Still, I feel that this may be my most profound achievement yet, and have resolved to enter it in the Betty Crocker Bake-Off.

November 30

Today was the day of the Bake-Off. Alas, things did not go as I had hoped. During the judging, the beaver became agitated and bit Betty Crocker on the wrist. The beaver's powerful jaws are capable of felling blue spruce in less than ten minutes and proved, needless to say, more than a match for the tender limbs of America's favorite homemaker. I only got third place. Moreover, I am now the subject of a rather nasty lawsuit.

December 1

I have been gaining twenty-five pounds a week for two months, and I am now experiencing light tides. It is stupid to be so fat. My pain and ultimate solitude are still as authentic as they were when I was thin, but seem to impress girls far less. From now on, I will live on cigarettes and black coffee.


Sartre died in Paris in 1981. His last word is reputed to have been, simply, "Trix".

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I'm So Smart! S-M-R-T

Please go here and take the civics quiz. I'll wait.

How did you do? Really? I got a 95%

Yes, really.

No, I didn't cheat.

No, you may not know what I missed.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The King of the Geeks casts his vote for Best Conservative Super Hero

OK, time for a public confession.

I am a geek. Indeed, I am the King of the Geeks. I have played Dungeons and Dragons for more than 30 years and have had D&D books published.. I can speak a little Elvish from the Tolkien novels and was able to recognize the dialects in the movies. I am working on making my own language. I think micronations are fascinating. I got a degree in systematic theology because I thought it was the most fun thing I could study!

It should be no surprise that I once collected comic books. I started with the usual – Superman. I loved the old TV series and started getting the comics. Before too long I had learned to go to the local comic shop and troll through the quarter bin to find old issues I had missed. I moved on to Green Lantern and the Fantastic Four. In 1975 I discovered the X-Men (with about, oh, every other comic book reader on Earth) and began to read X-Men and Alpha Flight.

I enjoyed comic books for the same reasons I enjoy Edgar Rice Burroughs and the pulps – action, clear morality, heroics. If I want boring, I’ll re-read The Catcher in the Rye (I loathe that book), if I want moral ambiguity I’ll read crime novels, and if I want anti-heroes I’ll read Moorcock. Burroughs, pulps, and comics share in the simple joy of having fun. Bad guys are bad, good guys are good, there it is.

Don’t get me wrong – there is more complexity to comics and the stories than a 1930’s singing cowboy serial (which I also love). While critics complained that the movie The Hulk was ‘too cerebral and not enough like a comic book’, the comic book is actually pretty talky with the main theme being the anger and violence inside all men. The X-Men are used as a metaphor for race relations; Spider Man is about the transition from childhood to adulthood, etc. In the end, though, they all get to punch evil people in the face, which is fun fiction.

As young as I was, though, I started to realize that many comic books had a political and social agenda, too. This was the worst in the old Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories of the 1970’s. When your attempts to promote a liberal agenda is so transparent and ham-handed that a 7 year old tires of it, you’ve gone overboard! I eventually quit collecting comics entirely in 1988 – in addition to the more overt liberal bias in so many comics, the rush of dark, gritty comics in the ‘80’s sucked the fun out of them. I quit collecting about 15 years ago.

Anyway, this long exposition/rant leads up to this point – I am excited about the upcoming Iron Man movie. Despite the overwhelming majority position of liberals within comic book writers and artists, Iron Man has remained conservative. Sure, that means he is often portrayed as a jerk by his liberal editors and writers, but the character (like the Hal Jordan Green Lantern) remains a law and order type with a respect for society and tradition. Originally one of the “anti-commie” heroes of the Cold War early 1960’s Iron Man remains a successful business man and inventor. Iron Man has always been my favorite superhero character, though never for reasons of his politics. He is my favorite because, in the end, he is uniquely normal. Spiderman? Changed permanently by an accident. The Hulk? Just like a ton of others, altered by radiation. Batman? So obsessed he is off the deep end and so highly trained in everything he must be 90 years old. The X-Men? Mutant DNA. Superman? He’s not even human.

Iron Man is, in the end, a smart guy with a good education. He builds his super powers. He turns around and makes a ton of money and employs thousands of workers from the inventions he uses for his super powers. Superman might give hope to the world, but Iron Man gives thousands of working men their paychecks! Iron Man is, like almost every superhero, a metaphor. In his case, he symbolizes Mankind’s creativity and drive to build things. He is the stand-in for people who build and expand civilization by working with their hands and their minds.

Listen to the King of the Gooks – go see Iron Man next Spring.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Big Bad Wolf Spider

The sister blog to AAD, Aquinas Academy, recently told the story of the Giant Spider Invasion. Here is the picture.

I don't mind killing spiders. Heck, I don't like them, either! But there is something here that wigs me out a little. Please click on the picture to enlarge it and look at the spider itself. Go ahead, I'll wait.

See that little light on the spider? That is the camera's flash reflecting back from one of its eyes, just like with Rosie the cat. That's right - this spider was so big I could tell it was looking at me! That was a little weird.