Khan and the Television 

Most of my teenage years was spent in front of a television catching up on all of the pop-culture that was available during the early and mid-eighties. I'm sure that I have seen almost all of the episodes of the Twilight Zone, Gilligan's Island, Lavern and Shirley, Good Times, Three's Company, WKRP in Cincinnati, and most of the lineup that currently runs on the TV land cable channel. However, my absolute favorite show was Star Trek the original series. Like most teenagers, my imagination got the best of me, and I was captivated by Mr. Spock, Bones McCoy, and Capt. Kirk. Yet, I'm not a trekkie; although if life had been different and my connection Star Trek had been stronger than the other shows, I might have been.

Recently, AMC has been repeatedly playing Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, I had occasion to watch it again. With this latest viewing, I was surprised by how the movie has aged, and how well Ricardo Montalban did in this role. He definitely makes a good bad guy. All of this is a long way to get to another recent discovery of mine on the internet: Capt. Kirk's anger at Khan Noonien Singh for being maliciously marooned within the caverns at the center of a lifeless planet. It's hard for me not to be amused by this.

26 April 2004

M.I.A. in the Blogosphere 

I must confess that I have been rather in lax in posting of late. So lax, in fact, that I have been listed as missing on the Pax Nortona blog. (Soon, I will also try to make time for another round of Bout Rames.) Briefly stated, my reason for not posting has been the need to devote more time to my continuing studies, and more time to my relationship with a wonderful girlfriend, of whom not enough can be said about how wonderful she is. Had I been just slightly more prepared return here, I would have thought more about what I might say, but as this is a lunchtime blog post, I figure I would talk about my class and our study of rhetoric and rhetorical figures.

We have finished not-Cicero's Rhetorica ad Herennium, blown past his contemporary Longinus, and are now talking discussing the theories of Saint Augustine, Geoffrey of Vinsauf, and Bede, completing our move from classical Greece and Rome to the European middle ages. It is interesting to think about how people have changed their conceptions of the use of language. Unlike the various physical sciences, where the ancients could be ignorant of the electro-chemical mechanism that drives nerve impulses, or not be aware of fractal geometry, they did have complete access and understanding of their own language. Consequently, they could develop as complete or accomplished theory about language as a contemporary person could. I would attribute the differences one sees between modern and ancient scholarship as arising primarily from culture or world view.

The book written by St. Augustine that we have read is called "On Christian Doctrine." For him, since the ultimate Truth has been revealed by God, it is not as necessary to discover truth through the operation of the rhetorical process of making a case, supporting it with evidence, and persuading an audience which of the various arguments that have been made are the best. To crudely essentialize his thesis, the function of understanding Rhetoric is to guide our understanding of the figures in Biblical scripture. After all, God is the greatest rhetorician, the most perfect artist. The other function would be to convert those who were not already Christian, which aligns a little more with the classical conception of rhetoric in that it involves persuasion a bit more. Of course, for St. Augustine, all of this can be over-ridden through the operation of the Holy Spirit. One can be learned in the Bible without knowing figures, or one can be moved to tell non-believers what will make them believe, by the Holy Spirit.

Obviously, religion was a big deal for St. Augustine. It would be nice to know more about him. Although he was made a saint by the church after his death, I wonder what his position was during the time in which he wrote. How would he convert a Roman who believed in the traditional Olympic gods? Did he have any authority over early Christians? I haven't read his more famous "Confessions," and I won't have time to. However, since I asked these very questions in our class this morning, the instructor suggested I should look them up and bring the answers back to the class next Monday. Normally, I would find that sort of research interesting, but it's hard not to think of it as homework on top of the homework I already have--homework that has been partially responsible for my MIA status in the blogosphere, homework which presses even now. Although, the first thing I'll be doing after this post is not homework but grading papers. I enjoy being a grad. student, but sometimes it can be a lot of work. Not that I'm complaining.

19 April 2004

Rhetorica Ad Herennium 

Currently, I'm busy reading this long treatise of Roman rhetoric, Rhetorica Ad Herennium, not written by Cicero despite several scholars thinking that for a couple of centuries. According to the editor of the particular edition I'm reading, this prescriptive set of rules on how to give speeches was written by a young student who was likely copying down what he heard his instructor was saying. So, rather than being something that carefully crafted with attention to style, this book is actually millennium old student class notes hurriedly put down (somehow) in clay. Imagine reading Chilton's Auto Guide for repairing a 1985 Toyota for its crackling wit and sparkling elegance of prose, then you have the idea.

Therefore, I have taken a break to participate in the Bouts Rames offered here. What's a Bout Rames you ask? I'm not one hundred percent sure myself, except to say that it like a poetry competition without the competition. Given a set of rhymes and a particular rhyme scheme, participants (which could be you!) are challenged write a poem. This is my entry:

I will not play Rick James' guitar,
Nor inhale his cigarrette's fume.
I will not drink at his crowded bar,
Or bother to touch that funky plume

Nested in his cowboy hat. "Ripe
Decorum" suggests a handy credo
to these pop temptations, a honeycomb tripe.
Still, James' music is the best beat torpedo.

Obviously, I'm not much of a poet, but when I do write poems, I sometimes like to write about American pop-culture. Partly thanks to Dave Chappelle, I've rediscovered my (admittedly odd) taste for Rick James; and thus I have expressed my current musical preferences in the above poem. Good Lord, I am such a nerd. Oh well, I needed the break from Latin rhetoric, but now the break is over. Book III, here I come.

02 April 2004

Wherefore Art Thou Varnoon? 

My jumpdrive remains a useless piece of plastic, and the letter that I was expecting from Varnoon still hasn't arrived. I almost wished he promised to call me as I would have immediately recognized the classic kiss-off sooner; The variation "I'll send you a letter" threw me. When I have time away from homework, I'll try reaching him again online.

Furthermore, I just recently found out that my membership to a local fitness club was inadvertently cancelled. This cancellation occurred without my knowing about it for three months due to their computers being b0rked and my not exercising a single time during that same period. Thinking that I didn't have anything to worry about since I originally had an electronic funds transfer (EFT) set-up, I finally noticed I was not being charged when I checked my bank statement more closely than usual. (My normal method consists of looking at the balance and saying "Yep, there's still money in there. Good!") Obviously, as one can see, I'm not a fitness nut. In the face of crushing seminar papers and my winter classes, fitness was not a priority last term, but that is something I hope to change.

Frankly, it is a little hard not to feel like this guy sometimes. Thankfully, the problem with the fitness club has been resolved. Although it took wrangling with the aforementioned unwilling technological computer beasts, I was reinstated without too much hassle. The operations manager for this particular club eventually convinced HAL to reconsider his earlier refusal. I can, once again, look forward to working off all the accumulated Big Macs of my errant youth comfortably lodged on my belly. Now, all I need to is to hear from Varnoon.

01 April 2004