Sunday, November 20, 2005

Drunk Post #3

How sad is it htat it's only been 2 months since my lastr drunk post. BUt this time, I am legitimately messed up after only one stinkin' beer at 3am.

That's right: 3am. I got off of work about half an hour ago. "Jesus crap, Dan, why the piss were you at work until 2:30?" you may ask; well, thanks to a little tyke named Harry Potter we've got an 11:30pm show that doesn't get out until 2:20am. Oh, by the way, if you don't konw, I work as an assistant manager in a movei theatre ina hick town calle dArroyo Grande, California. Look it up--there's a lot of old people living there.

Anyway, Harry Potter was acutally quite tame this year. No protesters (I'm goingt to try and make a link here if I can in such a state) made it our way this time. Mabye Potter has finally achieved family happy ranks along side Bewitched. It otally spelled that right.

HOly pow, this aftger one friggin' beer. I swear this is the most messed up I've been when writing one ofh these drunk posts. Admittedly, I see the mistakes I tiype, but decide to not and go back to erase them. Today, however, I am quite wobbly. as you can see.

I've got 2 weeks left until finals, and I've got two 10 page term papers to write. To succincltly say, I' am thoroughly frightened. Why is it so difficult to even get started? Why is it so frightening? Is it vbecause there is a grade? Is it because I desire to impress? Why do I even worry about these things, a single paper isn't going to make or break either my college or professional careers. I just want to do well. I feel as though I'm a faker enough as it is. There are poeple in these classes o' mine htat are4 what I call "literary augurers" because it sounds like half the time the analyses and interpretations of the works we read could have been very well drawn fro mthe bloody entrails of a freshly deceased calf as it could be from thin air. I just feel soe damned out of place sometimes that I just want to walk away...again.

It's funny, too, because I find myself asking, um ,my self," Self, what would yo uconsider the dream life after college that could possibley be obtained?" honestly? This may sound incrediboly cheesy and stupid, but I wiould probably end up having to leave my beloved womb called California and move to a place wher ethere aren't many people. I wnat to be alone. Montana is a beautiful damned state. I would by a huge ranch (if I had the money) and just saddle up a horse (once I figured out how to do that), pack the saddle bags with the living essentials, a coupld of books, a notebook full of blank paper, and a few pens, and I'd wander aobut my private country for a few days ata time. Just reading and writing and thinking all by my damned self. That's what I want more htan anything else in the whole damned world. Can't I just do that? Why do I have to go through all this tension and stress and confusion? How long will it take for me to just be left alone by the people I don't care about and whom do not carea bout me?

Call me self-centered. But I would, of course, also hang out with my good friends. Spend as much time with them as possible. I would...

Don't lose our friends. My friends arelk and always have been the contraction that pumps my heart. I live with some great people right now. I respect them all and heartily hope that they realize how amazing they are as heroes of mine. I will write a story baout them someday.

Speaking of which, the Cal Poly Creative Writing contest hasn't come around yet. It usually drops on us during Fall quarter but, as I said earlier in the post, the fall wquarter is almost done. What the piss? I've got a story on the damned burner waiting to be accepted, but I guess it's been pushed back or something. I don't know.. I don't know a lot, come to think of it.

Read these:

-Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
-The SUn Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
-Prometheus bound by Aeschylus

See these:

-Deadwood
-Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit
- The Jerk (I saw it for the first time today. Freakin' awesome)

Drink these:

-Molson Canadian (what ahs messed me up right now)
-Moosehead (my favorite beer)
-Water-it's good for you and better htan anything else. Don't drink soda

zthank you and good night.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

More of a Bark than a Boast

With school back in session, I feel my time at the B.O.B. will become even more limited than it has been in the past--though, I make no promises.

Being an older student certainly makes me feel prematurely crochety, then again, it may just be my personality failing and not my psychology. It's bizarre to think about how young these kids around me are--most below the legal drinking age. I am at a disadvantage, being the quintessential "late bloomer", but I can't help but feel that these kids have no real idea what life is like. I readily believe I didn't achieve full consciousness until I was almost 22, and only then did I find myself with a goal, a future in mind.

In the meantime, people should go the following links (and it pains me to do this as it goes against my idea of what a good blog should be. I will eventually write about the topic of blogging someday; I've got a draft saved for it already and everything) to learn new things and for me to reveal a few more things about my mysterious yet uninteresting life:

Odysseus Unbound: For literature/history nerds like me. I got goosebumps when I heard about this. People should learn to trust writers because of incidents like this.

World of Froud: If you're a fan of either Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal, you should click on this link. Brian Froud is the art designer of both those films, a fantastically distinct style that combines a nearly-uncomfortable level of disgust with an unwieldly ability to create beauty.

Profound Darkness: One of my good friends and heroes more commonly known as Andy. He better get his website up and running soon. He's an extremist with interesting things to say. We sit about and talk about Ancient Rome together...then we go play video games.

Prarie Wind: The new album by Neil Young. It's absolutely great--then again, I'm a biased fan.

Yojimbo: My favorite movie. Directed by Akria Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune. Later remade (famously) into Fistful of Dollars (starring Clint Eastwood) and (not so famously) Last Man Standing (with Bruce Willis; not a bad movie). The film was adapted from the debut novel of crime noir pioneer Dashiell Hammett called Red Harvest.

The Iliad: My favorite book, though it may seem to be a cop-out as an English major.

Motherless Brooklyn: Probably my favorite modern book, with the author, Jonathan Lethem, coming in second to my favorite modern author, Michael Chabon who wrote masterpieces such as The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Wonder Boys, and the novella The Final Solution.

The Official Spiro Weblog: Of course, I have to plug my band.

So, I hope to get something worthwhile up here soon. I have a couple of ideas, ones I hope will generate discussion instead of falling flat. I thought of putting up examinations of Tim Burton's latest film, The Corpse Bride, but I'm afraid I don't have anything really unique to say. It's good, though it doesn't know whether it wants to be a musical or gothic fairy tale for it doesn't have enough songs to be considered a musical, I think. Hell, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had more songs in it than the Corpse Bride. Also, if you look for them, you can find a bunch of references to Hamlet. That's my two cents.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Historical Maladies or How To Make People Mad

DISCLAIMER: The Boasts of Bethel is intended to be the collection of personal ideas and comments of Dan Bethel. While this post has a religious connotation to it, Dan in no way means to insult anybody's religious convictions nor assault them. He claims to be neither an authority on the subject of religion, Christianity in this case, or in history. More than anything, he hopes to incur educated discussion as well as logical thought that would only benefit the reader. He does not want to change anyone's ideas about Jesus Christ, but merely wants to entertain and educate--dulce et utile. If you feel he is misinformed about any of his information presented below, feel free to post a response. Enjoy the post.

Were Jesus Christ and Julius Caesar the same person?

Whilst watching the new HBO series, Rome, the similarity happened upon me. It started small, noticing the two characters shared the same initials. Then I thought about the course of their lives, which led me to thinking about time, place, and influence of the Roman Empire.

I had to work backwards. Romans crucified Jesus. That would be empirical Rome because he was killed in, duh, Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi, or A.D. to put it simply, and Republican Rome had long been deceased by that time. This meant that greater Judea was under Roman control, which showed me that, yes, Jerusalem was part of the Roman Empire. Caesar was betrayed by "his people" (politicians, called the Optimates), Jesus was betrayed by "his people" (the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin). Both were loved by the people and hated by those in power. Julius Caesar was given the title Pater Patriae ("Father of the Fatherland"), Jesus was given the title of King of the Jews, and is often referred as the King of Kings in the Book of Revelations.

But let me stop there, and re-evaluate the facts. If I were to honestly believe Julius Caesar and Jesus Christ were the same person, I would have to believe, over anything else, that Jesus never existed and that the scholars got their dates completely wrong.

I don't believe this.

I find it hard to believe that such a strong faith in a single person (I emphasize 'person' in order to separate that from a god, which could be believed in without ever having met face to face) could come from a fantasy. To give a mythical prophet a normal name (Josh), a lineage (albeit a shallow one), and a life would be difficult for even the modern media machine to pull off effectively.

So, I believe Jesus was a real person, a prophet even. The problem is that during Jesus' time there was a bunch of people running around calling themselves 'prophets'. To the Romans, Jesus was just another crazy out of the throng. But he was a charismatic orator, apparently, and was able to draw a fair amount of support where others would fail.

Empirical Rome was a crazy mix between lawful order and religious zealotry. The people so loved Julius Caesar that upon his death, they immortalized him as a god, and his family line directly descended from Venus (formerly Aphrodite) herself.

So, if deifying beloved public figures was nothing new to the citizens of Rome, why would the Hebrew crowd do it to one of their own, especially if it hadn’t been done by them up until that point? (Please correct me if I am wrong)

The Roman Empire was a remarkably tolerant one, and (mostly) all who lived within the defeated countries became Roman citizens. Not a bad deal, considering what the Vikings or Mongols did to their defeated enemies. By the birth of Jesus, Caesar had been dead for about 40 years, and by that time already worshipped by Romans as a god. If his godly presence wasn’t felt in Jerusalem, a part of the Roman Empire by Julius’ day, then Caesar’s worldly presence was surely known in that realm. I mean we’re talking Julius effing Caesar, a dude who has a play named after him. This is a guy whose last name cultures have adopted as the word to mean king or emperor (Tsar and Kaiser pop into mind), and the dude was never officially Emperor of Rome. He was Dictator for Life for eleven days, but stepped down out of humility.

I just celebrated my 25th birthday, putting me officially in my mid-twenties. As a quarter-lifer still working on his bachelor’s degree, I find myself often in a state of panic, confusion, and fear. Should I be the ever ambiguous 'something' by now? What have I to show for my many years out of High School? Should I feel the need to show anything? One of the statistics I use against myself is that Buddy Holly died when he was 22 years old, meaning his entire career (given that it wasn’t very long), success, and wealth, had been occurring up until that point. I am now older than Buddy Holly was when he died and I have nothing to show for it, not even in the smallest way Mr. Holly did.

This is a common symptom of people my age, even those with degrees wonder what the hell they’re doing with their lives, if anything at all. It’s understandable. But while doing research for this post, I read that at 30 years old, Julius Caesar (by then a fledgling politician) fell weeping at a statue of Alexander the Great at a temple in Spain, saying:

“Do you think I have not just cause to weep, when I consider that Alexander at my age had conquered so many nations, and I have all this time done nothing that is memorable?”

At least, that’s what historian Suetonius (75AD-160AD) says in his book Twelve Caesars.

Roman-occupied Jerusalem would have known of Caesar’s exploits and popularity and may have admired it. But not wanting to idealize a Roman, many would have found it possible to find a parallel with a fellow Jew, and Jesus was a pretty good candidate.

When hearing people talk about Jesus, I usually become frustrated with them because it’s always “Jesuschristourlordinheaven died for our sins,” or “My relationship and faith in Lordgodjesuschristhallowedbethyname is my utmost passion in life,” when I would hope that they could calm down just a bit. Look at the person Jesus was, isn’t that enough to guide a person through life?

I wish people would just think for a second when (if ever) they contemplate their faith. Look at the whole thing from the outside instead of just believing in it because they were born into such a lifestyle. Look at it from a human perspective and then I believe you can see where people like me are coming from. I'm not saying that if you use intelligence you'll become a good ole atheist, that's the last thing I want. I would hope, though, that we could appreciate the man before the god, because that is something we can strive for and accomplish, and be happy with ourselves at the end of the day. Because that's the main thing that Julius Caesar and Jesus had in common, they were brilliant at convincing others to believe in themselves, which led to people believing in the causes of Julius and Jesus.

But there is this: Jesus never had a haircut and salad named after him, nor did he ever get to wear cool armor.

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
-Jesus
"Men willingly believe what they wish."
-Gaius Julius Caesar

Monday, September 05, 2005

Calm Before The Boast

Yet another diversion. I made a t-shirt this morning; I hope you enjoy it:



Its creation was birthed from a very early pounding on my bedroom door from one of my well-intentioned roommates. I had gone to bed very early that morning, having worked until 12:30 am and racing home to catch the new episode of Rome at 1:00am at my mother's HBO-infused house. I drove home after that, and when I finally settled into bed it was just after 3:00 am. Now, I'm not one who usually sleeps for 12 hours at a time, but on my birthday, at a time when I also would really like to sleep in (and am able, which is unusual), the last thing I really need is a well-intentioned roommate bashing on my door saying, "It's his birthday, he should be up and enjoying it."

I'm not one to usually announce these things...I'm just really proud of the shirt, though.

Keep a good thought,

-DCVB

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Drunk Post #2

Well, here I am after a successful SPiro show. WE played tonight at the wonderful Nautical Bean, a nice place, I guess though the stage was pretty much a time-out corner with a microphone. It went really well, and we played great, and the audience was great nad evnerything was just (can you guess?) great. Which is a good feeling being merely two gigs from the dreaded WMAs. Poop on them.

AFter the show, Ryan (the other half of Spiro), Katie (his wife), and myself went out for grub and drinks. ANd drinks we did and that is why I post now. Because I can and I haven't done one of these in awhile. Now give me a minute as I think of something to sayh in this state.

My next real post wil be quite interesting, I think. Nothing as controversial as the last one, but just interesting. I"m not done with the minimal amount of research I want to do before Ijump into it. IT's going to be a history post, dealing with Ancient Rome because I have recently been exposed to a wonderful History channel DVD collection dealing with Rome and Julius Caesar, especially, and also the premiere of the new HBO show Rome. The show was alright, but hopefully the writing will get stronger as it progresses. Unfortunately the first episode really seemed like a standard Xena/Hercules episode but with naked ladies and some pretty hardcore bloodshed.

Anyway, I'm done for now. I like September more than August because it's better. No offense, Andrew.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Changesbethel

"The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it."
Meditations

I had a History professor that described his craft as being "the study of change--over time," complete with pause and an additional Nigerian accent. That quote is the only information I took from that class, having failed it miserably, and it often gives me cause to devle deeper into my everyday thinking.

A buddy of mine recently visited after having been away for a good while, and his own homeward observations were a bit startling. The buzzword of his article was change, a word whose meaning increased in vagueness (like most words do) when repeated within a short span of time. It lead me to wonder what change meant, not only to him, but to myself. He said people had not changed whereas he had, but he never specified what changes had occured to him, leaving the possibility for interpretation wide open. Physical change? Economic? Emotional? Psychological? Political? Sexual? What qualifications specify a change, and what is the foundation he bases his critique on? That is, what does he consider change?

I guess this is where I shall try to define the term, though I promise it will be useless and without much meaning. The problem with saying something has or has not changed is that change itself is completely relative. On a quick skim of a person in front of me, all I could judge would be how much that person has changed from how I remember them being. But that does not mean that person is not different from when I last saw them. To truly find out how much a person has changed, I would have to sit and spend time with him/her, to converse and compare, gather data then compare notes at the end of the day. So, I would say change is the evaluation of a person's personality and examining the differences between the most recent point of interrogation and the last one.

But that's still not right, for to acknowledge that a change has occurred in your life, does that event need to be seconded by a second party? No. Change is whatever you want it to be. To every single person there is their own set of criteria for a gradation of change, those that determine small changes (such as eating cantaloupe for breakfast instead of Frosted Mini Wheats) to large (I think I'll change my name to Kunta Kinte and live for a year in silence). Change isn't only what is noticeable, but that which remains inside which counts for as much as anything else.

I would like to think that there is a gradation of change. As youths, people are 'looking for themselves', we are trying to find a way to be comfortable in the life around us. As we age and we find that comfort zone, I think that the change that we knew as youths would shrink away, because we are comfortable in our adult lives and our yearly processions are marked only by little, personal changes that probably affect us more than the 'large' changes of our youth. It could also be in the way we handle these changes, or the obstacles that cause us to change. Those who have grown comfortable will be able to "change" in stride and, as a matter of course; the "change" wouldn't be as noticeable as it would be in an unprepared younger person.

Everybody has hidden facets that won't be (or shouldn't be) revealed. Everybody is private to an extent, even those as shallow as a dinner plate. The funny thing is, I had reminisced during my friend's visit, relished even, in the fact that he had not changed at all since I first met him in the seventh grade. He was still the same guy I had always known and it was a comfort to know that underneath all the overt changes that happen to a person, that he would always be my good friend, a buddy I could always counting on being himself. So now, I'm actually interested to see what these big changes in his life are and if I would consider them to be "big changes" or if he's just acting in character, doing the things that makes sense within the limits of his personality (as I know it).

I don't know if the people my friend ran into had changed or not, but that's not the point. I think maybe he was hoping they hadn't because he felt his life was getting a bit unstable, or "full of changes". Or maybe he was projecting his fears at becoming stagnant onto the lives of those who he only sees in short, distanced intervals. The thing is that we're all changing whether we want to or not, or whether those close to us want us to or not, it's always happening. Big or small, people change everyday. My life changed a lot when my girlfriend's mother suddenly died, my life changed a little when I got straight A's last quarter. But what I can't change is the overly didactic, maniacal tone of this Boast of Bethel--I'm sorry and I'll stop now.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

BART

Bathroom ART, that is. Here are some pictures I took whilst sitting on the john making a deposit. Lucky that I had a camera within arm's reach to capture the beauty that is my bathroom. Enjoy!


My first attempt. Not art, but at least mildly interesting.


Looking straight up from the recepticle of my waste into the skylight.


Same shot, sans flash.

And there you go! My duty and doody was completed shortly after this shot and life went on as normal.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

My Beef Is With Burton--Step Aside, Willy.

I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and it pissed me off. The problem is that I also loved it. So, naturally, I started wondering how the hell I could love a movie and hate it at the same time.
It works like this: when I see the movie (3 times, now) I love the damned thing, but when afterwards, when I start thinking about the flick, that's when I start to lose all faith, not in the movie, but in its creator, the wily filmmaker Tim Wonka--er, Burton. But I'll get to that later.

One of the biggest things I encounter is the public's need to compare this production with the 1971 release, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. As my roommate Robert so artfully said about the two films, "Apples and oranges, man." And I would agree. While that may just sound like someone desiring to shirk the comparison, someone who doesn't want to accept that a new film was made, I think to argue which film is better would lead into a never-ending battle akin to those about abortion and gay-marriage--both sides defiantly know that their stance is the right one.

One of the most common arguments I hear in favor for Burton's escapade is the whiny, "It's closer to the book." How? Because it changed the title back to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Weird, because Roald Dahl actually wrote the screenplay for the first one (admittedly, he initially wasn't happy with the final product, but grew to accept it). It's true that the new film sticks decidedly to many details of the book, but the focus of the movie is entirely away from the book and into the mind of Tim Burton and the apparent psychological issues he needs to address.

The fact that the centerpiece for the story revolves upon Wonka's strained and troubled relationship with his father draws away any validity that the movie is "closer to the book" than its predecessor because Wilbur Wonka, D.D.S. is a figment of Burton's and his screenwriter's imagination. Not to say that this was a bad idea, far from it, but don't ignore that this flick isn't any truer a representation of Dahl's book than the 1971 production. In fact, I'm convinced that, in their own ways, both films are remarkably close to the book. As I watched the new movie I was startled at how often I was able to predict dialogue, referencing the scene to the same in the first movie. Since Burton openly stated that he did not use the 1971 version as a guide, I can only assume that the line was taken from the book. And these strange premonitions happened often as I watched Depp cavort around pale-faced and giddy.

The subject of the two films are actually inverted from their titles; that is, WWATCF focuses upon Charlie Bucket's morally strong character, while CATCF is an investigation of Willy Wonka's personal problems. As I thought about the new movie, I noticed that the deal with Wonka's father is not necessarily strange to Burton's movies and have become a central concern in his recent movies. Think about it, both this film and his previous jaunt, Big Fish, focus upon a son's broken relationship with his father. And in previous films the idea takes a supporting role, but the idea of a lost parent and the left behind child happens to pop up a lot (Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Ed Wood [Wood and his relationship with Bela Lugosi] come to mind). My initial reaction upon this realization was along the lines of, "Aw, dude--c'mon and get over it!" though part of me went wildly uproarious: "I'm onto you now, Burton."

But when I calmed, I realized that it doesn't really matter if Burton shoves this "Does my father love me?" crap at us all the time, because it is something he does rather well. A lot of writers/artists have a repeating theme within their works, most of whom I respect, and I won't try to slap them down because of it.

It's a good flick, a very good flick and everybody should check it out if they haven't already.

EDIT: I really like Tim Burton's movies or else I wouldn't dive in so deeply.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ren Faire and Stimpy

One time, when I was very young, I was with my mother visiting friends in a bayside town called Pacific Grove, a tiny 'burb basically a block away from Monterey. My mother bequeathed my supervision to the punked-out granddaughter of the family friends in order to give the adults time to drink and cuss, I guess. This granddaughter, whom I partly feared (for her looks) and admired (for her brazen threat to society), was old enough by this visit to have acquired a driver's license and a vehicle.

In an evening that will be remembered for the rest of my life, it all started when she told me that we would be going into Monterey, to "make fun of weird people." Part of this odyssey (and it was, for I desperately desired to return home) had us end up in a smarmy coffee shop, punctuated in the middle by a roaring fireplace.

"Do you want anything?" my chauffer of frightening nightly excursions asked.
"Do they have any soda?" I asked, the fear making my voice tremble.
"This is a coffee shop, jackass. I can get you a water."
"I'm good, thank you."

This conversation was a pretty good indication of the timbre of the evening, as well as every other point of contact I've had with her. I noticed a gathering of shadowy figures around the tall brick fireplace (which, in retrospect, wasn't really roaring as much as it was simply, um, burning). The throng was composed of lanky individuals in black garments, the men wearing frilly shirts and long-tailed coats with unusually large buckles on them. The females wore shape-bending dresses that accentuated the pleasures of a pinched bosom, crushed ribs, and fish-netted legs occasionally hidden beneath a cascade of fabric resembling that of a jellyfish's underparts. All of these darkly associating people seemed to be borrowing from the Communist color palette, but substituting the less popular yellow for black or violet. My guide to Monterey's underworld noticed my staring at the slowly moving group of people, and asked me if I'd like to visit them. I answered promptly, negatively.

“Did they come from a party?” I wondered aloud, at which my bringer of unwanted knowledge laughed.

No, I was told they were actually playing a game. Or, more appropriately, a role-playing game. I chuckled and wondered how it could have even been a game, since they weren’t even doing anything.

“What they’re doing,” I was told, “is living as their vampire characters.”

I nodded my head, though I still didn’t understand. Little did I know Vampire: The Masquerade was a place where ugly people with aspirations of acting greatness go. And when I say ugly, it’s out of kindness, for the people that play that game go out of their way to look pallid, sickly, and gaunt.

As I’ve grown, I’ve almost come to understand why those people do things like that (I actually know a few of them). It’s similar to the urges I have felt to escape from adulthood and social civility. It’s a desire to remain a kid, to live and be lost in your imagination; to continue hope that there lies a future you want instead of one you inherit, one that you have to step into.

Last weekend, for the first time in my life, I went to San Luis Obispo’s yearly Renaissance Festival. This has been an event I’ve heard about for years, as I have known many people who have been involved in its presentation (and post-presentation lechery). It has always intrigued me, more when I was younger and learned that vendors sold swords and other nerdy boy-stuff there, and now to see what level of historical accuracy they are trying to uphold.

The place: the fictional village of Donnybrook.

The year: 400 years ago (which would be 1605. The “Renaissance” in England is also called the “Elizabethan Era”, and she died in 1603. So, one could argue that the Renaissance in England had been reduced to a slow sizzle by 1605, but I’m not going to be a stickler for those kinds of details—it's just a natural result of counting time, and I got to see lots of sunburned boobs).

The patrons: Dan Bethel and his girlfriend, Nicole, the former of which was attending the festivities on the hunt for historical accuracy, the latter of which had been to many Ren Faires in the past and acted as the guide for the afternoon.

Even though I was looking for historical acuteness, the lovely ladies at the ticket kiosk brought me relief when they allowed me to use my credit card. Admittedly, it was an archaic method of swiping carbon paper over the card face, so I guess it was historical enough for my book.

I was pleased upon entering. Right off the bat, a row of busty wenches had been lined up, and modern day wanderers were being pulled aside to toss small objects into one of the ladies’ cleft of cleavage. It was, I must say, very awesome.

And it continued for a while, seeing not only blurry peasants, but knights (of the British and French variety) and nobles walking around carrying on conversations if not in accent, then in the content of the times. The bag was nicely mixed between the pretty and the painfully decrepit—but those were the times and it was nice to see that they weren’t sugarcoating anything.

We stopped for a bit to watch a dude with some very clever parrots, and as I stood there the truth began to seep through, via sights and sounds. I realized that this was no more an attempt to educate and replicate history as it was for Dungeons & Dragons fans to walk around and show off their startling levels of nerd.

It started with little things, modern conveniences that most of us wouldn’t notice or, if we had, wouldn’t have bothered mentioning since it made life easier for the individual. And why not, right? Everybody should have a chance at dressing up like a fool.

Then I started seeing more of it—people in time appropriate clothing but carrying a samurai sword—a katana, properly—which isn’t time inappropriate, I guess, just locale. Peasants in Birkenstocks, sunglasses, denim jeans, phone numbers on signs—the atrocities never ended. In all honesty, I don’t know how much tattooing and facial piercing was going on back then, either. But I can stand to be corrected. It just seemed that most of these people got their historical references from Xena: Warrior Princess or Hercules: the Legendary Journeys (great shows, no doubt, and great for the mythology…but complete fantasy on the whole).

The pinnacle came at the joust, where I gathered most of the documentation I needed against the historical aspects of the Faire. A peasant with a digital watch, for example; a bonny wench taking digital photographs for posterity, as well. It boggled me how out in the open these people were with their insolence toward history. But the worst came in the form of a humble squire, employed to attend on the jousters, whose job it was to set up the various games and armor the competitors as they prepared for combat. But this gentleman yielded to all his desires, not necessarily uncharacteristic of a bitter squire of the day, I guess. But he became the loudmouth who made the whole thing a sham, screaming modernity-laced comments such as: “Sexual harassment in the workplace! You all saw it!” and “Get the old man a wheelchair if he can’t ride!” or something like that. It was very distracting…and annoying.

For me, it spiraled out of control from there and I nearly lost my footing on academic reality. Flashbacks of vampires in a very dark coffee shop in Monterey filled my head and all I wanted was to get away, to end the odyssey with a prophecy from goofy old Teiresias and a good slaughter of some haughty suitors. A meltdown was kept in check, however, by Nicole’s presence and the eventual teaming up with fellow friends and roommates, Eben and Jessica, whom we followed as Eben documented the latent markings of sexual games lurking within the Renaissance Faire.

By the time we left I was okay, if not a little sunburned. I had to realize that this event was a place to make money and have some fun—a small-scale amusement park with wenches instead of sweet rides.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Nostalgia Works Its Magic

Bewitched came in second place behind Batman Begins ("Why was Batman so scary?" I heard a child ask after watching) in its opening weekend, proof positive that men in pointy headgear always beat out an emaciated Aussie and her hopelessly mugging sidekick. But it still came in second place, and not a far second at that.

For those of you who don't know me too well, I have worked at the same movie theater (minus 370 days) for 5 years. I'm by no means overly proud of this accomplishment, in fact I'm downright shamed by it (watching the years tick by), but I've become so integrated in its operations that I've noted interesting things that the outside world does when it comes to see movies. I've seen picketers outside of the Harry Potter movies (opening weekend only), I've seen hordes of children being led in by their pastor to see The Passion of the Christ, and I've seen husbands and wives take their entire families (children and grandparents included) to see cinematic masterpieces such as House of 1,000 Corpses, Dawn of the Dead (the remake), and Hannibal. I wish I could apologize to them, if anything, for how bad Hannibal was. But let's focus on Harry Potter.

The debate by Christian fundamentalists around the world has been well documented by now, and I'll try not to go too far into it. The problem is that I can see their point, and would agree with it if it weren't totally unfounded. They fear the "ever-imminent" domination of pagan religions (witchcraft or wicca, in this case) over the once all-powerful Judeo-Christian denomination of worldly religions.

I find a couple problems with their offensive strategy--first, I had no idea that witchcraft on the level of explosive spells and reality-bending theatrics presented as wizardry in the J.K. Rowling's books was on the rise around the world. I would have thought that we would have heard more instances on the news about people being ballooned and found floating above their neighborhoods after being cited as UFOs, or whiny fat kids suddenly being found with curly pig's tails coming out of their rear ends. I also haven't heard of a recent flooding of flightpaths above major cities with gangs of kids on airbound brooms delighting in the fact that they're halting the transitory needs of "muggles" through their insolence. I wasn't aware that this was even a burgeoning problem much less the rampant threat that many consider it to be.

Secondly, that the opposition to the Boy Who Survived is openly acknowledging witchcraft to be a threat to traditional Christian values cheapens the very values they're defending. Why? Up until the whole Harry Potter controversy I don't think there were very many people (and there probably still aren't many) who thought of Wicca as a viable and valid religion. The Christian tirade against pagan beliefs only strengthens pagan practices in the eyes of everybody looking on who never gave them a second glance before.

Christians believe (as it may very well be true, I'm not here to make this assertion) that their god is the one and only god, all others are false and not real, being merely constructs of the imagination (insert biblical notation). If that's true, and for the moment let's assume that it is, then why do they fear Harry Potter and Wicca if we are positive and confident in the existence of the one and only God? I guess it has to do with that "worshipping of false idols"-thing (insert biblical notation here). Why do they fear Wicca? If they know that any other religion is not real, and therefore is no threat, the worst that can happen is that (hopefully) people will recognize their folly and go, "Woah, I hope nobody saw me doing that!"and go back to the "true" religion. It shouldn't be that difficult to show those who've strayed from the narrow path the true way. No harm, no foul, right? Is this wiccan offensive just an empty threat, then? Or is it some bizarre paradox of the fundamentalist war on everything?

Keep your children away from Harry Potter, for he is a tousle-haired Devil-worshipper.

It's kind of a "Don't respond to Billy's tantrums, you'll just encourage him" mentality that the Christian militia seems to be missing.

Anyway, with the wild success of Bewitched this weekend I was surprised to see absolutely no throngs of people surrounding our box office with tall signs with scribbled stick figures of Samantha being burned at the stake. Where were the concerned housewives that cared deeply about their children's souls? I believe I saw a good chunk of them taking their kids to see the film, that's where.

The fate of Wicca-Christian relations lies in the hands of nostalgia, I think, for that is why we see no opposition to Bewitched. If these parents had been raised with Harry Potter they would be first in line to buy tickets for the upcoming movie (the rhymingly titled Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). How much difference is there between the two, anyway? Both must hide their powers from the greater non-magical world, only letting those very close to them in on how much pull they have on the forces of the natural world. I might be reaching, but I think the parallel could be made.

So, there you go. Harry Potter, a boy who's life is chronicled with strong storytelling and compelling characterization, living in a world full of literary innuendo that would indubitably drive the most curious young reader to the classics of Ancient cultures and learn not only about the history and mythology that made the cultures of the world, but also about modern society and its downfalls and successes, will lead all of today's youth from the path of Christianity to the world of witchcraft. But Bewitched's Samantha, whose open and ready manipulation of the people and objects around her, with no remorse shown for its consequences, provides nothing but comfort for the viewer who looks forward to seeing Darrin falling down again because of her wiles. Good times, good times. Just wholesome, family entertainment.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Deadwood, Part 2: Not Just An E.D. Anymore

I really dig on movies, as those close to me know (for those that don't, I own upward of 180 DVDs). I don't think it really comes across in my personality, though. I'm not really the guy who spouts random movie quotes, or says, "This reminds me of a scene from [insert movie here]."

At least I don't think so--please correct me if I'm wrong.

But I do love movies, usually the long ones. I like the long ones usually because there is a higher level of immersion than you'll find in a standard 90 minute film (though, now that I think about it, the Evil Dead movies are a notable exception). By immersion I mean that by watching these movies you absorb more than just the story and the characters, but also the world in which they live their lives. To fall upon a standard cliche, you become "sucked into" the reality of the story so that you're "living it" with the characters more than just watching it.

Films such as The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Open Range, The Postman, and Wyatt Earp all accomplish this feat, at least for me they do. And while many (most) people would disagree with these choices as being good films, I think if they could watch these films without any biased opinions they would at least agree with me on their quality of replica reality.

I think that's also why I enjoy a certain brand of video game nowadays; games such as the Metal Gear Solid series and the Way of the Samurai I thought, on the whole, were fantastic games. Maybe they weren't the most action-oriented of games (the latter is much more the case than MGS), but their engrossing environments and stories really drew me in.

I don't think it's needless escapism, either. For those who disagree, I refer them to my post concerning dulce et utile, a term that regular readers of this blog have already impressed their friends and family with by now.

Anyhow, this desire for immersion (the key word of this post) I think is the ultimate (or maybe just the current) manifestation of my innate desire to be something. If I can't be a samurai/cowboy/covert ops agent, then at least I can be with them in their respective forms. And be with them in a way that I can not just follow them around, but actually stop and take a gander at the world that normally rushes by them.

After relinquishing the sharpened devotion of a samurai and the hounded soul of a bluesman, I found my life was blandly devoid of unreachable goals--that is until about a year and a half ago when I rediscovered the Western. Interestingly enough, it turns out that this growth was organic, spawning directly out of my love of ancient Japanese military culture.

When I was young I was in martial arts and did fairly well at it, progressing far enough to become formidable against those who dared to pick a fight with me (which only happened twice that I can recall). As a practitioner of this activity, I was also exposed to the art's history. This really marks the first time I became interested in a timeline other than those of my favorite comic books.

So, through this I found out about the Samurai, through which I fell in love with the beauty and art of the samurai sword. After much work, I was even exposed to a little sword training before I stopped training due to a combination of an educational agreement with my parents and a waning desire to learn due to the realization that this particular martial arts school was teaching the tradition as a sport instead of something much more serious--a lifestyle, I guess. I wanted to do this for real (keep in mind, this was the beginning, and as a result, the most hardcore of my "wanting to be a samurai" days). Luckily no photos exist of me brandishing blades in full-on karate attire, for no matter the coolness of the activity, I still looked like a goober.

In the midst of this obsession I was by chance introduced to what would become my favorite film ever--Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo. No, not this yojimbo. The flick is in every single way an embodiment of the term bad-ass. Apparently, even other filmmakers agreed with my sentiment, including an Italian one named Sergio Leone. George Lucas is an admitted Kurosawa thief as well.

Leone loved the movie so much that he wanted to make the movie instead of just wishing that he had done so. So, in an attempt to shuffle theft beneath originality, he rewrote the script as a Western and was released as the immortal Per un pugno di dollari, eventually released Stateside as A Fistful of Dollars. This movie not only brought the Yojimbo story to a broad American audience, but it also indoctrinated a young actor into stardom, a dude from San Francisco named Clint Eastwood.

Hearing that it was a remake of Yojimbo, I eagerly sought out Fistful and enjoyed it, shelving it in my brain. It wasn't for many years when I visited the Western genre again, but when I did, it attracted me in the same way Ancient Japan had--I completely immersed myself in the history. What was better, the "Old West" was a little more tangible than Ancient Japan, and in order to completely understand it I wouldn't have to learn a new language.

Just like Ancient Japan, though, I became fascinated with the period's weaponry, most notably the classic revolver. When I was a prospective samurai, I detested all weapons involving gunpowder, thinking them barbaric, unfair, clumsy, and uncivilized. To be fair, the use of firearms are all those things, what makes it different, and more specifically, appropriate, for the United States' unsettled West was the fact that it was an uncivilized place sparsely populated with people that lived without the codes and respect the samurai held most dear.

But I also found, after some convincing, that the firearms from about 1860-c.1890 to contain as much beauty and craftsmanship as the swords of the samurai had during their heyday. In fact, I think the Colt 1860 Army is the most beautiful handgun ever molded. So, again, just like my fascination with Samurai culture, I became the most ardent student of a period's weapons of choice. So much so that even my go-to old west firearm experts have expressed growing concern that my knowledge is evening out with theirs.

As I dove deeper into this newfound addiction I did something that I hadn't done until this point: I recognized it and accepted it. Though this doesn't mean much, I feel I have control over this river of enthusiasm and am able to focus it when I need to toward creative and non-creative endeavors. Most importantly, I think it has allowed me to truly immerse when a good Western reveals itself. One has done so in the name of HBO's nearly perfect television show, Deadwood.

This is a show that breathes and does everything I wish for. What's more is that, on a level, it's history, too. Seth Bullock, Al Swearengen, Sol Star, Charlie Utter, Jane Cannary, and E.B. Farnum were all real people. Naturally, there are plenty of fictional characters, and the show in now way is trying to emulate a daily re-creation of life in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Deadwood is just a cap on the amalgam of emotions and attitudes I hold toward my interests throughout my life. So, as a response to a comment made regarding Part I of this rant, a statment made by a generally good person, I say the following: it doesn't matter whether the show is good or bad (though it is amazingly good), all that matters to me is that Deadwood shows me the life I instinctively want to live, even though I have a firm grasp on my escapist sentiments this time around, the urge is still there. And because of Deadwood and the recognition of this tendency in my personality, I have noticed an irreversible forward momentum in my life that I was only pretending to search for before.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Frolicking Tumbleweeds in the B.O.B.

Sorry for the immense gap in legitimate posts, but (as is the usual excuse concerning internet thingies) my schedule has become a little packed with various extracurricular appointments (because we all know that writing for the B.O.B. is my full-time job).

I do have a new post in the works, though. And I'll be (hopefully) posting it by the end of this week, or, at the latest, the beginning of next.

Keep a good thought,

-Dan

Here are some cool links that I waste my time with.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Drunk Post #1

Yes, I'm deciding to start a new tradition here on good ole B.O.B., a series that will be a no-holds-barred feast of non-literary insight, kind of like a slam poetry open mic. No links (unless I try really hard), no spelling corrections, no rough drafts (yup, I work that hard on my normal posts). Just stream of consciousness in concise packages.

I'm watching Troy right now, being one of the few people (and what I'd consider, at least, a minimal Homeric scholar) who enjoyed the film. Not enough naked ladies in the movie, I must admit, but enjoyable enough, though it squishes the 10 year long Trojan war into a scant weekend adventure. Sean Bean's Odysseus is bar none the best casting decision of the whole movie (just behind, and in order, Brian Cox (heh, heh) as Agamemnon, then Eric Bana as Hektor).

I am currently intoxicated on the following:

-long day of work,
-three days of little sleep, and here's why: My girlfriend is currently housesitting in Arroyo Grande, a foggy polis about 15 miles South of San Luis Obispo, California. She pretends to be scared of noises and crap in the night. The plan wasn't to stay there for the night, but as a man easily swayed, I did, though I knew I wouldn't get any sleep until Sunday night. I don't have school on Fridays, so I was actually looking forward to sleeping in, but I didn't. Mornings are early at this Arroyo Grande house because the owner has many animals that become quite mobile at around 6:30 am. So, I stayed and woke up early. Friday night I worked, and because George Lucas has made a Faustian deal and ahs been able to make everybody his bitch, kept me at work until 2:30 am. I went to bed and promptly woke up at 6:30 am the next morning so I could fall into a car and drive down to Magic Mountain (yeah, the night of that crazy riot thing, but we didn't get kicked out of hte park for some reason). I got home around 1:30 am, fell asleep around 2 and woke up at 6:00 am so I could get to work at 8:00 am. So, that's why I'm really tired right now, and probably the biggest influence in my current state of increased susceptibility to fermented drinks.
-Low tolerance: I'm quite the lightweight despite my massive physique (HA!)
-Alcohol: With the combination of all the above (and a late dinner) I have also added on 2 bottles of Smirnoff Ice (to wet the whistle), and now I'm on my second glass of RUMandcoke.

I'm a little wobbly.

What I love about The Iliad over The Odyssey is it's sheer depth. It's a complicated story compared to the latter's. It's a wonder, though, that you don't see more modern interpretations of The Iliad as you do The Odyssey. Maybe it's just more fun with a cyclops.

I'm nodding off as I'm writing this, so I'm going to stop. Until next time, let's hope these posts aren't more frequent than te normal ones.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Dulce et Utile: The Supremacy of Solid Snake

Homer Simpson is not a poet, but when someone mentions an epic poem by the great poet, Homer, to a passerby, said passerby usually shoots an awkward glance to the speaker as they picture the Duff-drinking Homer Simpson spouting rambling verse over accompanying bongo-induced syncopations.

Homer was a greek poet who wrote the seminal classics The Iliad and The Odyssey. His works (a play by play of torrential warfare and a travel adventure steeped in fantastical events and beings, respectively) were archived a good 300 years before what we know as classical Greece started, of which the above poems became their religious doctrine (how cool would that be to have the Odyssey be the basis of your religious faith?).

When Rome took over the world, and Greece with it, their very adaptive culture embraced Homer's writings. Eventually the first Emperor, Augustus, wanted an epic poem that would explain the history of Rome and how it was directly involved with the Trojan War (the subject that The Iliad deals with). For this task, he patronized the already popular poet Virgil to draft this daunting task. He did and thus gave the world the obviously derivative Aeneid.

Like any modern author, Virgil ran with a group of other writers. One of the fellow aficionados was a dude named Horace, the Mark Twain of his day. Horace, like Twain, seems to be known for coming up with memorable quips that people like to memorize and repeat. Maybe you've heard of some? Carpe Diem, Aurea Mediocritas, among others. But the phrase I'm paying particular attention to is one called dulce et utile, that is, 'sweet and useful'.

This is a literary concept created by the dead poet that decrees what he feels all good literature (in his case, poetry) should do. It should teach a lesson, say something useful, within its text that will cause the reader to learn or question a particular aspect of his or her life, but do it in a way that isn't overtly preachy or didactic.

Over the years, and with the advancing benefits of technology, this concept has spread beyond literature and has proven true for comics, movies, and, now, video games. The latter is most evident within Hideo Kojima's canon, the Metal Gear Solid series.

Though it wasn't very apparent in the original Metal Gear series (or at least the first one released for the NES), when I finished Metal Gear Solid I declared, in probably one of my nerdiest moments, "I've just finished the best game ever made." Later, realizing how pre-teen that sounded, I wondered why I even said it. It wasn't only until recently, when I discovered my new favorite latin term, did I understand my fascination, and consequential devotion, to Mr. Kojima's bizarre bastard children (but not all of them).

Despite the incredible convolutions, the storylines are quite engaging and usually focus around particular themes, one usually emotional, the other more political. In Metal Gear Solid, the emotional center was about what defines life, how a person decides their own fate (in that case, though this is for a different discussion, destiny) no matter how much science says otherwise. The political leaning is toward nuclear armaments and their continuing impending danger.

The second MGS (as it's known by hardcore fans and lazy internet junkies) was, by far, the most surreal and fantastic of the three, focuses on the validity of reality and the state of politics in America (or maybe just Capitalist-driven governments and how they are as susceptible to corruption as Communism is to despotism). It also examines how much your past affects your mind more than your future, and it's the decisions you make, using the information from your past, that press you through present. If you are "driven by what made you what you are," you're actually just admitting that you're not able to overcome the psychological damage events of the past have done to you (which ties in nicely to the political statement the game makes).

Lastly, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is the ultimate game of the series. Not only does the story make sense, but it ends up being the most poignant of the bunch. It asks the main character a very simple question that echoes the main theme of all literature, most notably with novels, "Who are you?" And Kojima answers it rather nicely. It also questions the modern soldier's sense of duty and how loyal a soldier ought to be. A fantastic game. Buy it, rent it, I don't care, just play it, beat it and learn.

The Metal Gear series looks to be going in new directions now that the next generation consoles are beginning to percolate into the scene. And Kojima himself has said that he will hand off the mythology to the young upstarts so that he can focus on other things. Though that may stop me from playing future MGS games, it won't stop me from gushing over his previous endeavors.

I've never experienced a gaming experience since MGS where I feel I actually gained something because I played the game. But it's probably easy to see how the dulce et utile receives a perfect example through these games: they probe important themes, ideas, and questions without beating you over the head with a wooden club of ideology yet are unabashedly fun to play. I have never stopped during play and said, "Jeez, I get it, guys, come on already," instead I only think about what an incredible game I'm immersed in. And in the process, Kojima has created a hero not unlike Achilles or Odysseus, a nearly infallible hero who is confident in his abilities but still has space in his battle-torn brain for the bigger questions. It makes me wonder, if Metal Gear is itself an epic, how will it be viewed by people in the future if everybody praised it with as much enthusaism as I do?

And that's the best game review I can possibly do.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Getting Smarter All The Time

My buddy Eben found this article that reiterates nearly the exact same things I stated in my post 3 Simple Steps to Sounding Smarter. It doesn't give a publication date, but I'm almost willing to bet mine came first. Maybe I should sue. Maybe I should be mad, but, truthfully, I'm just glad the information is out there for people to live and learn by. Happy belated Constitution Memorial Day!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Crowe Is No Fighter For Seeming Sloshed

"A crow is no whiter for being washed."
-French Proverb
"I'd like to play passionate women, but no one will let me."
-Russell Crowe


I like Russell Crowe, now. It turns out he's not a full time jerk, as most people suspect, but when we see him react with his well-known "personality quirks" he's merely lashing out against people that are seriously bugging him.

My newly found respect for the man did not arise from a moving performance (though he was in a few good movies), nor did I swoon over his startingly mediocre music, and I hardly gained the respect I now have for him because of his public fisticuffs. This newly purchased affinity toward the begrudgingly plain actor came about after sitting down this morning to watch the latter half of an Inside the Actor[']s Studio episode that featured the Aussie export.

This 44-minute hour-long show revealed a surprisingly cogent man of entertainment that convinced me that he is not a muscled brute yearning for bloodshed as much as he is a chained rottweiler that only desires peace and quiet alone in his tiny, tiny doghouse. His approach to his craft was realistic yet respectful and his modesty was overwhelming.

That's the beauty of Inside the Actor[']s Studio (or ITAS to the hardcore fans), it opens an actor's vulnerability to the audience, because an audience is actually present at the filming. An actor interviewed is almost regarded as a substitute teacher or a guest lecturer for the period of time that host James Lipton's spotlight shifts to the chair across from his big oak desk.

It's really the new Behind the Music except the artist actually speaks about his or her craft in addition to all the tribulations they've experienced in front of adoring fans and box office grosses. It adds onto the interest factor that the former show lacked (did we really need an hour about the Bay City Rollers?). It seems as if the viewer is actually learning something about a trade that has become mysticized in media-centric modernity.

Like a lot of Behind the Music episodes, one comes out at the end of an ITAS with a newfound respect for the artist at the center (most of the time. I found that I had even less respect for Vanilla Ice at the end of his BTM than I did when the show started). And with this in mind, you can understand my newfound headnod to Russell Crowe.

Maybe it's a part of UK-thing, why even though the bastard dropped out of High School, he's still smarter than most of the student body at American universities. He can form a complete sentence and can speak in great detail, and at great lengths, about a particular subject without losing his focus or structure, and he values that quality in the people he meets as well. So, that's why I gave him the thumbs up earlier.

Many people today, and I've addressed this in a previous post at greater length, simply go to school to get a job. And why do they want to get a job? Simply to make money.

Don't lose me, now; I'm all for making money, but that's not the only reason why I'm making decisions about my future. There's a kid in my History class who says he'd love to major in the subject, but he won't specifically because there's no money in it. How unfortunate is that? He would rather get a degree he doesn't want to get a job he doesn't like just so he can make a lot of money. What about satisfaction with your life? I would rather have a job where I could come home at night and feel that my contribution was worthwhile. Is this just a pipe dream? Is this really beyond what I should expect out of my life on this planet? The only life I've got? To that I say fuck no--pardon my french.

Keep a good thought, and thank you, Mr. Crowe (and a slight smirk for the other Crowe), for keeping me from falling into a funk.