Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Worst (but at least funny) Graduation Speech Ever

Hello Principal Diamond, faculty, teachers, students, parents, grandparents, my girlfriend Sara who is in college, my cousin Sarah who is not my girlfriend and has an H in her name, our school janitor Boris, and also, to my favorite part of our school, hello vending machines. I will miss getting Starbursts from you.
My name is Alex Simpson and this is a graduation speech. I’m giving a graduation speech because we’re graduating. This is nice, right? I love giving graduation speeches. I wish I’d done this more in high school. Right now, you’re probably wondering why I was chosen to give the graduation speech. It’s not because I am the valedictorian. It’s not because I am abnormally good-looking, although, as you can see, I certainly am. It’s because my father’s company gave a large donation to the school. This speech is sponsored by your local Simpson’s Toyota dealer. Come on down and get your hands on some recently recalled vehicles with 0% APR financing. Ask for Alexander Simpson Senior.
So, I’ve been told that graduation is a time for inspiration and reflection. I think reflection is difficult because it requires us to think.
Thinking is hard. This is a nugget of wisdom I want you to take away and remember forever. My dad told me that in order to make a speech to be effective, you have to repeat things more than once, so again, let me say, thinking is hard.
That’s one of the reasons I’m glad to be graduating from Mount Pleasant High School. I won’t have to think all that much, because when I go to college, I plan on having my father make donations there too. No more reflection for me. The only kind of reflection I like is the one I see the mirror. You like it too, right?
Even though I didn’t want to do that much thinking, I wanted everyone in the Class of 2010 to feel like this speech was really one of the best speeches they’ve ever heard, right on par with the Gettysburg address, the “ I Have a Dream Speech,” or my personal favorite, “The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” That’s some life-changing stuff, right? Right, people?
Barack Obama is a very good speaker. He gives great speeches too. That’s why we are talking about him. I like him because he’s good at basketball and because yes, I do in fact have a crush on Sasha. One thing Barack does in his speeches is repeat phrases. Which I did before too, remember? He also says, yes we can.
So that is what I am saying to you, Class of 2010. Yes we can. Yes we can graduate school. Yes we can get accepted into colleges because our dads are powerful businessmen. Yes we can now forget the elements in the periodic tables. Yes we can live in dorms and hang up posters to make people think we are interesting and smart. Yes we can forget how to forge our doctor’s signatures to get out of gym. Yes we can flunk Spanish and still graduate. Yes we can enjoy our summers, and if you’re me or one of my three friends, you can enjoy the summer at my lake house sipping on virgin daiquiris, but pretending to be drunk.
That part of the speech was called the “Yes We Can Reprise.” Now is the part of the speech where I ask: Does anybody have a sandwich?
In the event that no one stands up to offer me a sandwich, I have alerted my friend Daniel to stand up and bring me some Subway I purchased this morning. Though it is a few hours old and a bit soggy, I still want Danny to bring it to me. Danny?
This is the part of the speech where I take a bite of the sandwich. I was going to say something about how Mount Pleasant High School is kind of like a sandwich. We too are made up of a lot of different ingredients—athletes, gangsters, people who read. Together, we make up one really tasty thing. Also, our school cafeteria has awesome pokie sticks and Subway has really good bread, so in my mind that’s similar too. I was going to say more, but I've decided I want to end early. My parents are throwing me a graduation party at the Simpson Toyota dealer. It’s just up the road. There will be hotdogs, hamburgers and virgin daiquiris, but no Subway sandwiches. Please pretend you’re drunk and that my speech changed your life. And remember, thinking is hard.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Final Term Paper

This is my final draft of my final term paper. Hope you like it, I'm rather proud of it myself. :)

Just a note: In the paragraph that cites Vanauken, the long quote is meant to be a block quote, but I couldn't format it as such in the blogger format. Just a heads up.


We sing about it at Christmas time, hear about it from our pastors, and read about it in the Bible, but do we honestly know what it means? The true meaning of joy is a matter that has left many perplexed and mistaken. In their attempts to define the term, many have equated joy with the emotions that follow it, typically happiness, making it a cliché term. Undoubtedly, there is a distinct connection between joy and happiness. This affiliation is universally accepted. Joy frequently results in happiness as well as other similar emotions. Although many believe joy to be an extreme form of happiness, joy is actually a meaningful acceleration in the rhythm of our relationship with God and our understanding of Him and His character, because such a rhythmic acceleration is confirmed by both Scripture and vicarious experiences.

Many people believe that the meaning of the term “joy” is an extreme form of happiness. A leading dictionary definition of joy is as follows: Joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires. As this definition suggests, those who hold this view of joy treat it as if it were an emotion. By treating joy as an emotion, it becomes possible for joy to be administered by everyone, rather than just God. Those who hold this view argue for its validity by quoting Jesus’ example which he gives to his disciples about joy. Jesus says, while trying to comfort His disciples, “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world” (New American Standard Bible, John. 16.21). Those who believe that joy is an emotion would interpret this passage to mean that other people, a newborn baby in this specific instance, can administer joy. The recognition of who can and cannot administer joy is essential to understanding what it actually is because, if joy is directly connected to God and His character, joy can only be instituted by God, whereas if joy were an emotion, it could be brought about by anyone or anything.

Moreover, joy is not something with a simple definition, as some might believe, but rather, it is something with a complex meaning and spiritual implications. As stated before, there is a blatant connection between joy and happiness. Joy typically results in happiness and other parallel emotions, such as pleasure and contentment. However, this correlation between joy and happiness does not in any way equate the two. Those who support the idea that joy is directly linked to happiness argue that because Jesus used an example in which joy is administered by someone other than God, it is, therefore, an emotion. However, Jesus says in the very next verse, “No one will take your joy away from you” (John. 16.22). If joy is something that is interminable, it cannot be an emotion in and of itself because emotions are fickle and short-lived by their very nature. Additionally, Scripture references joy on multiple occasions, but it is ambiguous about its actual meaning. Therefore, joy has a meaning that is not succinctly defined in Scripture, and clearly consists of spiritual connotations.

Joy, to be specific, is the acceleration in the rhythm of one’s relationship with God and understanding of Him. Joy is an experience of God’s character which allows us to further our knowledge of Him and our relationship with Him. This is substantiated through both Scripture vicarious experiences. Because joy can only be experienced through God, He is therefore the source of it. Thus, the deepening of man’s relationship with God provokes the experience of joy. Jesus says in his metaphor of the vine and the branches, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John. 15. 11-12). In this passage, the term abide indicates a union and intimate relationship with Christ, not merely the knowledge of Him. Additionally, the imagery of the branches growing out from the Vine, which represents Christ, suggests that life is derived from Christ. Moreover, Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “Those who are united with God in eternity share His splendor and power and joy” (137). Here, Lewis is saying essentially the same thing as the passages from John, that is, it is through only unity with God that His joy is shared. Therefore, our personal experiences that are derived from our life in Christ and model His nature result in the experience of joy.

Furthermore, the observation of vicarious actions can prove instrumental in the understanding of joy. In Charles Williams’ Descent Into Hell, the actions and results of those actions of the character Pauline illustrates this concept well. Pauline experiences joy when she takes on her ancestor’s fear and carries his burden for him (Williams, Descent 166-172). Here, it is through virtuous actions that joy is experienced. Joy is experienced through virtuous actions because, in this example, they are parallel with one’s relationship with God. However, virtuous actions on their own do not result in joy, because they do not in of themselves indicate a healthy relationship with God. Virtuous actions, even those completed by Christians, are sometimes carried out in selfish spirit. However, as illustrated in the metaphor of the Vine and the branches, it is only through an intimate relationship and total engrossment in Christ that joy can be experienced. Virtuous actions are typically the result of such a relationship, but they do not in and of themselves provoke the experience of joy. Through the experience of Pauline and her ancestor, it is clear that virtuous actions, only while coupled with an abiding relationship with God, can lead to joy.

Moreover, the experiences of Sheldon and Davy Vanauken, as documented in A Severe Mercy can be observed as an illustration of the joy experienced when unity with God is present. Shortly before Davy’s death, Sheldon and Davy focus their relationship entirely on God. They go about this by trusting completely in His will, even if His plan brings about death for Davy (Vanauken, Severe, 158-160). This act of trusting that God’s will is the perfect plan and will ultimately result in good brings about joy, because Sheldon and Davy are both unified with God. Sheldon writes, in retrospect:
It seems strange to say it, but these were the most purely happy days… For this one brief period, the awareness of death was lifted from her [Davy]. And I was filled with a wild hope that, somehow, God might make me His instrument to save her, pour His strength through me into her. There was a sort of joy between us (Severe, 170).
Here, it is through unity with Christ that joy is experienced. In addition to the experience of joy, Sheldon’s unity with Christ also produces virtuous actions, as he makes it clear that his hope is that God will use him somehow to help save his wife from her illness. So then, it is palpable from the teachings of Scripture and vicarious examples that joy is experienced only when one Christian is in unity with Christ.

Furthermore, the antithesis of joy can be used as a subsidiary to the discernment of the full meaning of joy. According to Lewis and Williams, the antithesis of joy is the rejection of reality, which, in turn, leads to Hell. In The Great Divorce, the ghosts live a completely apathetic lifestyle in the apocryphal “Grey town,” but when they travel to heaven, which is depicted as reality, they shun joy as if it were the real evil (Lewis, 9-16, 39, 70-71, 129). The narrator’s guide says to Lewis [the narrator] about the ghosts, “There is always something they insist of keeping even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy-that is, to reality” (Divorce, 71). Additionally, in Descent Into Hell, Wentworth imagines a phantom Adela to fulfill his lusts, however, due to his rejection of reality, anger towards friends and colleagues, and his increasing dependence on his phantasm, Wentworth ultimately descends into hell (Williams, 82, 214-222). In both of these examples, the rejection of reality leads to hell, a place where God, and therefore joy, cannot be experienced. This confirms the assertion that joy only results from unity with God, as joy can certainly not be experienced when those are in severance from Christ.

Additionally, T.S. Eliot illustrates a similar concept in his poem, “The Hollow Men.” Through the imagery of his poem, he asserts that a lack of God’s presence results in apathy. In his poem, Eliot depicts the hollow men as living in a dead and desolate land, in which the “eyes,” representing God, are not present (“Hollow,” 4.1-4.3). Eliot depicts the hollow men as “sightless unless/the eyes reappear… …the only hope/of empty men” (“Hollow,” 4.10-4.11, 4.15-4.16). It is made clear by Eliot that the eyes, which, again, represent God, are not only absent in the dead land but are also the only hope of the empty men. In conjunction with discussing God’s lack of presence in the dead land, Eliot describes the land as a desolate and terribly apathetic place. Eliot portrays it as having an obvious apathetic mood, describing it by saying, “This is the dead land/This is the cactus land” (“Hollow,” 3.1-3.2). So then, through the imagery of Eliot’s poetry, an important concept is illustrated. That concept being, a lack of God’s presence results in apathy.

Despite the fact that many view joy and happiness to be equal, joy is actually an increase in one's relationship with God and understanding of Him, as illustrated through Scripture and the experiences of others. Those who equate joy and happiness argue that others apart from God can administer joy; however, this belief is contrary to Scripture. In opposition to the belief that joy and happiness are equal is the understanding that joy is an acceleration in the rhythm of one’s relationship with God. This belief is substantiated through two things, firstly, Scripture, and secondly, vicarious experiences. In conclusion, joy has become a cliché term due to the overuse of its improper meaning; however, it actually has a much deeper meaning with strong spiritual implications. In application, the next time you read in your Bible about joy, hear about it from your pastor, or sing about it in a Christmas carol, don’t be confused by it’s cliché interpretation, but instead, remember the true meaning of joy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Robin Hood Review

**Spoiler Alert**
Just a heads up :)

Although benefiting from stunning visuals that beautifully capture rural England, as well as a few intense action scenes, Robin Hood is brought down by a plot that changes even other more loose adaptions so much that the newest installment to the folklore tale "series" can hardly be called "Robin Hood" in good conscience.  Additionally, Robin Hood, which attempts to recreate Russell Crowe's well known epic Gladiator, fails to do so because of the lack of the adventure thrill Gladiator had. With that being said, Robin Hood is undoubtedly an intense and entertaining action flick, yet it does not rival Gladiator due to it's lack of thrill. 

However, it's more than just the lack of thrill that doesn't make Robin Hood a great movie, it's the plot that hardly deserves to call itself by the name of Robin Hood because of it's total lack of resemblance to any other movie or TV adaption of the folklore tale. The very fact that I had to put a spoiler warning for seemingly such a well known story confirms the fact that the plot to Robin Hood is so dissimilar to other adaptions. In fact, it's more than just dissimilar. It's the complete opposite. Literally, the plot to Robin Hood undermines the entire spirit and nature of the whole tale by producing a movie with a plot practically opposite to any other adaption. 

The primary change in the plot is the relationship of Robin Hood and King John. In the movie, Robin Hood and King John, two bitter enimies in all other adaptions, actually fight alongside each other. King John, although implementing a heavy tax on peasants in the beginning, promises to lift the tax for his subjects' support in the defense of Englad from a French invasion. It is not until the very end of the movie that King John actually declares Robin Hood to be an outlaw, and even still, it is done abruptly and without explanation- almost as if it were done to make screenwriter Brian Helgeland feel better about himself for completely changing the plot of Robin Hood from the traditional adaptions.

But it's more than just the relationship of Robin Hood and King John that is completely changed in the newest adaption of the tale, it's also the feel and spirit of the tale that is lost. This feel and spirit that I'm referring to is the defining principle of Robin Hood: "stealing from the rich and giving to the poor." Despite it's central role in the tale, the principle of stealing from the rich to give to the poor is not at all made the focus of the movie, and is actually only portrayed in one scene. The principle is introduced again, however, it is at the very end of the movie and is portrayed very briefly as more of refuge or aid for peasants rather than the stealing of food and money from aristocrat landlords, as Robin Hood is typically portrayed as doing. 

Now despite all it's plot changes and lack of the tale's spirit, Robin Hood benefits greatly from good performances from Russel Crowe (Robin Hood) and Mark Strong (Sir Godfrey), the main protagonist and antagonist in the movie. As always, Russel Crowe brings a sort of excitement and epicness (even though I hate sounding like a middle schooler) to his characters. Mark Strong, on the other hand, portrays well a bitter, heartless, and power-hungry military leader who ultimately betrays John and turns to the French to aid them in their invasion. But it's no surprise- Strong always plays the antagonist well, as illustrated in Sherlock Holmes and Kick-Ass. 

Additionally, Robin Hood benefits from amazing visuals and intense battle scenes that make the movie undoubtedly entertaining and one definitely worth seeing in theaters. The film's sweeping wide angles capture beautifully the lushness of England's forests and countries, as well as the castles scattered across such a landscape. Furthermore, the film is benefited from intense action scenes propelled by Russel Crowe and Kevin Durand's (Little John) performances. While Crowe delivers his usual intensity to battle scenes, Durand, along with other characters from Nottingham, bring a sort of comedic presence to bits of the film, particularly in action scenes. For example, when Nottingham is being overtaken by Godfrey's men in the name of the King's tax enforcement, Friar Took (Mark Addy) sneaks out of the church where he was subdued and returns with several bee hives which he throws at the French soldiers. This subtle comedic presence balances out well the intensity Crowe presents in battle scenes. 

In conclusion, Robin Hood is certainly an entertaining film with many good characteristics- good preformances from Crowe and Strong, excellent visuals, and intense battle scenes-, however, it lacks completely the traditional feel of the tale and changes the plot so much other adaptions that it hardly deserves to call itself Robin Hood. 

*** Out of *****

Friday, April 30, 2010

Whole Lotta Stuff... In One Post

My apologies if the changes to the layout and name of the blog got to you... I think it's for good this time. :-P

Anyway, saw a lot of movies, so many that I'll probably leave out a few, but I'm just gonna run down the list of which ones I do remember and give a short take on each one.

Casino Royale- Honestly, I think Craig pulled off the best Bond yet. His performance, coupled with a wonderfully done emotional approach to the Bond films that is unique to the series' previous installments earns Casino Royale a high position on my favorite movies list.

Quantum of Solace- More of the same emotional material from Craig, with some more action than Casino Royale. However, it is simply not done nearly as well Craig's first success as Bond.

The Departed- What can I say, but wow. The Departed features a dream cast, heck, even Mark Walburg was good, and I pretty much hate every movie he's ever acted in. All it's leads, Nicholson, Damon, and DiCaprio deliver incredible performances. I can't say it's Scorsese's best, because unfortunately I haven't seen as much of his films as I've liked, but I can honestly say this is now one of my new favorite films.

I know there's a few more that I'm not remembering, but I can't right now, even though I've tried remembering for a while. lol But here's my list to see next:

- I'm Not There <-- I've procrastinated far too long on seeing this one
- The Godfather films <-- I know, I'm terrible for not having seen these, but I honestly can't wait until I do
- Inglorious Bastards <-- Heard good and bad things about this movie, but I love Tarrantino, so I wanna find out for myself

Any other suggestions?


Summer Playlist: coming along. Got a rough draft of it one day, and haven't touched it since. haha I'm currently looking for stuff outside my iTunes library. Hopefully have an update/somewhat finalized songlist soon.


Me: Been pretty busy with school lately. When it's due, which will probably be in like two weeks or so, I'll post my final term paper, written on the subject of joy. I'm rather proud of it. : ) Also, gotten back into photography again. It's sorta taking up the extra time that tennis used to fill. I still kinda suck, but I'd like to think I'm getting better. Might be posting some of my recent stuff on here.


In the news:

-- Noah's art found?

The original FOX Article (of course, they're the main source covering this story)

But even FOX has big doubts about the claim that Chinese and Turkish evangelist explorers made-- See this article
Honestly, judging by the recent actions of some people claiming to be Christians, I don't think it's for real. It really is sad when an evangelist claiming to be from your religion makes such a bold assertion and you can't even trust them. Perhaps I'm being unrealistic, or perhaps it is just the significance of the discovering of Noah's ark that sheds the most doubt on the evangelists' claim. Any thoughts?


Monday, April 5, 2010

Summer Playlist-- suggestions?

I'm currently working on a summer playlist for... um.. the summer? I know it's Spring, but it feels like summer, especially after a blistering cold winter with record low temperatures. Anyway, I'm still working on it, but if you have any suggestions, please comment. I'm mostly going for classic rock (CCR, The Beatles, and The Stones are just a few examples), just because it captures the persona of summer well, I think, but there's also a decent amount of newer stuff (MGMT, The Killers, Kasbian) that I plan on putting on. Please just lemme know whatever you think would fit. : )

Monday, March 22, 2010

3 Notable Musicians/Groups

This is just a short list of a few guitarists/artists/musicians which I think are noteworthy.

1. Chad Urmstead/Dispatch

Props to you if you actually know who this guy is. If you don't know, he's the lead guitarist for the indie band Dispatch. Essentially, the reason he's on this list is because of his ability to combine genres of music. In "The General," he combines folk with a sort of balladsy rock. All throughout Dispatch's music there can be strong traces of genres ranging from reggae to folk to rock to hip hop to even some Spanish roots. They can play it all. And do it really good too. The reason, I think, for their ability to do this is Dispatch's members can play such a wide variety of instruments. Look 'em up, check 'em out. They're awesome.

2. Jón Þór Birgisson/Sigur Rós

Just by looking at this picture you can get an idea of why.... Jon (I'm just gonna call him that for right now) is mentioned here. He plays the guitar with a Cello bow. I mean, c'mon, how boss is that? But seriously, Jon and his band are on here because their experiments with different instruments have yielded a unique post-rock sound that differs from other groups. Take Jon's use of a bow, for example. This has given them, not a drastically different sound, but a subtly changed one that allows them to emphasize on the classical sound of their music. Just another thing that I found cool about this band is the fact that they sing in Icelandic, which makes sense because their from Iceland. It allows them to sing about things that would sound terrible in English, but make it sound beautiful because they're singing in Icelandic. In their song, "Heysatan," (which actually means hay stack in Icelandic) one line of their song goes, "And I slipped... fuck." In English, that would just sound terrible, but in Icelandic, it sounds as beautiful as any other line in the song.

3. Joanna Newsom

This picture also sorta gives it away, but at least in this case the uniqueness is not how Joanna plays the harp, but rather the mere fact that she does, and is amazing at it. Not only is she incredibly good at harp (I would know, I listen to it for an hour or two every day =P), but she has the ability to combine it with other instruments to create a very unique sound. You might, however, find some of her earlier stuff hard to listen to, just because her voice was honestly atrocious. And it's not just one of those acquired tastes, like Billy Corgan or Mark Kozelek. If it were I'd have acquired it by now-I listen to a lot of her stuff, new and old. She has, thank God, recently developed her once incredibly annoying voice into a set of decent pipes. Apart from being a harpist, she also plays keyboards for the San Fransisco indie rock band The Pleased.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Alice in Wonderland... ...Wait, who?

Jonny Depp and Tim Burton have an amazing actor/director relationship, one that typically produces good results, as seen through Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, and Sweeny Todd. However, in Burton’s new film Alice in Wonderland, Jonny Depp’s role as the mad hatter takes too much of the film’s focus. The over-focus on the Depp as well as plot changes to the books the movie is based on (Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass) adds to the loss of character and mood of the original books.

To be blunt, Tim Burton’s changes to the mood and tone of the story don’t do the books justice. Now, granted, whatever source material you give Burton he will turn into a weird and dark movie. And this is the same in the case of Alice in Wonderland. This would be fine, if the books had a similar tone to them. They don’t, however, and the mood that Burton gives to the movies is therefore incompatible with the books. An example of such a change in mood (spooiler alllert!) is the portrayal of Alice as solely a warrior, rather than a judge as she is portrayed in Alice in Wonderland (the book, I know this could get confusing). I’m not saying the movie was an action flick, nor am I saying that it was trying to be, but my point is this: the many little changes, coupled with Burton’s style in general make for a film that doesn’t fit the mood of its source material.

Burton’s deviance to the original books is only further illustrated through the over-focus of Jonny Depp’s character of the mad hatter. Now, I know Tim Burton loves Jonny Depp’s ability to play eccentric and unorthodox roles, and the mad hatter allowed Depp to do just that, but compared to the mad hatter’s appearances in the books, some may find Depp’s character to be largely over-played.

Despite the fact that Burton makes changes to the movie that deviate from the mood of the books, Alice in Wonderland benefits from stunning visuals. The setting of the movie itself, a somewhat vaguely illustrated world, allowed much room for creativity to be implemented, and the filmmakers capitalized on this. They created a world that glowed with creativity as well as accuracy to whatever descriptions are offered in the book.

In conclusion, Alice in Wonderland is a movie that, honestly, can only be truly enjoyed by those who appreciate Burton’s style, but also benefits from a brilliantly creative “Wonderland” that is a true visual treat.

*** Out of *****