Sunday, January 27, 2008

More on failure

I watched a show on trans-orbital lobotomy and Dr. Freeman, the man who worked most of his career to pioneer/popularize it.

The show disturbed me for 3 reasons:

1. There were pictures of people with metal spikes in their eyes who were having the procedure.

2. Anything that screws up the brain makes me nervous.

3. People who get them and their family members didn't always get the chance to give permission.

4. The procedure fell out of favor with the larger medical community in almost all cases and Dr. Freeman spent the last years of his life searching out his old patients and trying to see how they did. I don't know how I would react if, during my lifetime, all my work was rejected. It would make me really sad. I would not have the courage to abandon my life's work in the face of compelling evidence that my well-intentioned work was actually quite deleterious. That I lack this courage makes me worried about if I'll ever attempt anything of import.


I went to a poetry reading. L. Gregerson was the name of the lady who came.

I had a physics class at the same hour as the reading and I had the distinct feeling that I was being unfaithful to physics. I can imagine the headlines in the tabloids: Archiblog snubs long-time interest, seen spending afternoon with other discipline.

The reading was truly excellent as far as I can tell, which to be perfectly honest isn't very far. When I listen to poetry, I have trouble parsing more than 5 or 6 words in a row. As the poet reads, I mostly think, "Ah, yes, those words in that order comprise a short phrase that could have some meaning." By the time this thought is done, though, I've missed several lines. It's almost like I'm just spot-checking each poem for syntactical errors.

I love the aura of the poetry reading. The poems are a sort of lyrical bath. I never absorb them, but I love how artsy I feel when I'm exposed to them. For a moment, I feel that my life is entirely cliche and that this lady, with her eloquent artsiness, has liberated me by endowing me with the vague aspiration not to be so cliche. It wears off, but I still like it.

The whole time I struggle with the urge to start writing "poetically" right then and there. Now, when I say "poetically," I mostly mean that when I think the words in my head, I imagine that I'm saying them with the sort of intonation a beatnik at a poetry jam would use. I also struggle with the uncontrollable urge to write "Hope. . . springs. . ." just like the guy in that Hyundai commercial did (you know: the one with the poetry slam).

I spend a lot of time looking at the people and trying to find evidence for many stereotypes I maintain for poetry enthusiasts. My stereotypes have mostly to do with personality. My evidence is gleaned entirely from their looks. It was quite easy to confirm all of my stereotypes.

I also spent some time trying to decide if I should have a crush on the English professor who introduced the poet. I didn't see a ring and she seems young. She is also well-spoken, educated and has a real job.

At the end, they gave us bagels and let us mingle with the poet. I'll confess: I was more excited to be able to tell my friends that I've eaten a bagel with cream cheese in the special collections section of the library (where normally no food is allowed) than I was to meet the poet (to whom I did not even speak).


So long for now,


Failure and other thoughts from last Friday

Item: I saw a headline in the NYT: "French Bank Says Rogue Trader Lost $7 Billion." When I saw it, a huge grin creeped across my face. I eagerly read both articles about the unfortunate escapades of Mr. Jerome Kerviel.

What induced my euphoria? I'm not sure. I think part of it is that failure on this scale is truly exceptional--so much that it is almost cartoonish. Imagine reading a list of the world's failures: students fail classes, CEOs post bad quarters, alcoholics relapse, I did not win an essay contest I entered and Jerome Kerviel single-handedly and (so far) inexplicably subverts every safeguard in place to make thousands of unauthorized, unprofitable trades, thereby losing more money than the entire GDP of Cambodia. Remember: this is just one guy in just one year!

If it doesn't inspire you that otherwise undistinguished people in free societies can fail so abjectly, I don't know what does.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

WARNING: Posts that seem short are actually quite long.

I just discovered that my last post (which I thought rather short) was really medium-length.

I was thinking the other day about roommates. There's a rumor that if one's roommate dies during the semester, one gets straight A's automatically. Needless to say, this has altered considerably my conception of the ideal roommate.

So, I guess this is a vindication for anyone whose ever been stiffed by a potential roommate because they do drugs, drive recklessly or are affiliated with a professional crime organization.

Hello World!

I send all my readers my most cordial salutations.

They say the key to writing a well-read blog is to write often. I, obviously, subscribe to the theory that less is more. Actually I write today to say that I'm taking my blog offline.

Just kidding! As I was writing, I wanted to feel what it felt like to type that sentence--not much different than other sentences in case you're wondering.

The truth is I write for two reasons:

1. I very much dislike my last post and I'm a tinge embarrassed to direct people to it. It's kind of whiny and self-indulgent. It demonstrated excessive insecurity and was written way too late at night. It's not that it's immoral or insincere, it's just that it's a voice I don't usually use (or is it a voice the world's not ready to hear? no, I don't think so). It's still up, but anyway.

2. I am writing an essay for an essay contest. It doesn't have to be long, but I'm suffering from writer's block.

I know what you're thinking: "But Mr. Archiblog--isn't it ironic that you divert yourself from your inability to write by writing something?"

Yes, it is, but I'm sure you're all actually thinking: "Mr. Archiblog, why don't you just submit some playful banter about whatever comes into you're head. It's certainly good enough for the likes of me based on the fact that I'm reading this very paragraph this very instant."

Well, thanks.

Onto other news:

I found a place to live. What's that? You weren't even worried? Well, considering that I was barely worried myself until about a week after school started, I don't blame you. I did feel a little bit like the Palestinian people: displaced and perfectly willing to accept without hesitation offers that were available in the past, but are no longer possible.