Friday, October 10, 2008

Le Sacre de l'Automne

Although the green'ry glows with youthful light,
How long remains until its shade
Is but a dream through which we wade
While lusting after gems of yesternight?
Not long from here, I tell you true, my friend,
For see you there the welkin grey?
Tomorrow I must go to pray
At Samhain's feast to welcome in the End.

Did Phaethon but yesterday recede
Beyond his door of earthy rock
And leave us here, as if to mock
Our haughty holding of eternal greed?
Indeed, the gods crave naught except to show
Their pitied creatures what they lack
And send crazed dæmons on their track--
Thus we, despaired, await the minent snow.

Then well may I ask, Why must I be present at Samhain's feast,
If all the office it serves is to welcome in some primordial, wintry beast?
Why call in a god
Who punishes my fraud
And praises not my labour in the sod?
Why call in the fay
Whose dances, happy and gay,
Herald no thing but a vault of slaty grey?
Why indeed?

And yet,
Whence come our smiles
At sighting the first snowdrops through melting piles
Of the white blanket that once stretched for miles?
For the lotus, in all his beauty sheer,
Could ne'er grow to such a state
Without the mud I curse, standing here.

Perhaps the greying of the vault will hide
The candid sun's lucif'rent hands.
But she has gone to brighten lands
And spread her holy radiance far and wide.
And she'll return to set things right,
But only once we've passed this age of night.

Lil Mugi

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

probably not that profound

The past always seems easy. 
The future always seems uncertain. But it is always now.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Everybody should

change their language on Facebook to English Pirate. It gives Facebook new procrastination potential.


Monday, September 22, 2008


I don't really give a shit about my grades anymore. I mean, I don't want to get like Cs, but I am not going to bust my ass for a grade. I am going to learn the material, and take what I need from each class, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over the difference between an A and a B. Those days are behind us now.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

I feel bad

because I haven't done any homework this weekend. Not bad in the sense that I'll be incredibly unprepared, but bad because my parents are paying a ridiculous amount for me to be here and I'm sitting in my room looking at Facebook and waiting for the next Thing to happen.



is more interesting
than this.


Saturday, September 20, 2008


Peeing is a pretty good metaphor for life. It feels so good, but only because having all that piss in your bladder is so uncomfortable.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008


When I stay up later than usual, which isn't all that late, I start feeling a little weird. Like a werewolf or something. It's kind of like getting drunk.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On Alcohol

Tommy: I am so sick of hearing freshmen talk about alcohol. Well, I'll put it this way: I was so sick of hearing freshmen talk about alcohol, but now I'm just resigned to it. I've learned that "fun" to my peers is usually synonymous with "totally fucked up," or as the nerd wearing a shirt that read "Flirt harder, I'm a physics major" (this was a real shirt) put it, "completely inebriated." When I ask freshmen about their weekends, they give me a blow-by-blow of how many drinks they had at which hours, how buzzed they were after half an hour, how they don't remember anything after midnight, and the hangover they had for two days. When I try and ask about what they actually did ("No, no... like, where were you? What were you up to when you were drinking?") no one seems to really remember or care.

The ridiculous thing is, it is totally obvious that the majority of kids here didn't drink in high school. I'm pretty convinced that a lot of them don't know what "drunk" feels like. So when they tell me that they're "so gone right now" after drinking a cup of apple juice that supposedly has some sort of booze in it at a frat party, it's hard for me to take them seriously.

The self-obsessed dialogues aren't what really get to me, though. Or, got to me, because as I said: I'm resigned to it now. What I really hate is the ceaseless talk about alcohol. I'll give an example of five average minutes here:

A group of freshmen and I are sitting in someone's room doing homework on a Wednesday night.
Freshman A: How much tequila did we drink last night?
Freshman B: Dude, we need to save that shit. It cost us some money.
Freshman C: [Opens the mini-fridge and takes out the half-empty bottle of tequila] Dude!
Freshman A: What the fuck? Where did it all go?
Freshman C: We were pretty wasted last night.
Freshman D: How did you do problem seven? I can't find the integral.
Freshman B: Here, like this. [Does the problem in two seconds]
Freshman D: Oh, okay, I get it now... Let's do shots.
Freshman A: Are you kidding?
Freshman D: Just one?
Freshman A: We need to save that, man!
Freshman C: Well... is anyone down to smoke tonight?
Freshman D: I'd be down.
Freshman B: Yeah, I'd totally be down.
Freshman A: Okay, I'm down. Even though I have a shitload of homework to do. Whatever, it's not due for a week.
Freshman C: Sick. Blunt or joint?

Think: this conversation... repeated... over and over... with some "I was so drunk this weekend" stories interjected here and there... this is my life. I am in a room of tequila on an island of vodka in a sea of Natty Ice. I take notes on rolling paper. I don't play sports here; instead, I pre-game.

How have I learned to live with this? I don't really know. I guess my peers have toned it down since actual work began to pile up. Or, maybe I've just adopted a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" attitude.



Sunday, September 14, 2008

On Humility

Everyone knows how many great opportunities there are for all sorts of students at college, particularly at the rather highly regarded institutions such as the one I attend. People speak of pursuing your passions, learning new things about yourself, and gaining really valuable life experience. That is all surely true, but the two weeks or so I've been here at Brown are perhaps insufficient to fully grasp such things. In such a short span of time, however, I already have had strong, important lessons on humility, which have at times been hard for my ego to deal with, but I have already felt their enormous value.

Of course some examples would not go amiss. I'll speak first about karate. Back home in Amherst, I had been second only to sensei himself for five or six years. I still learnt knew techniques, had to be corrected frequently, and was not the absolute top by any means. But still, I did get very used to being above all the other students who trained with me, always being the one, in sensei's absence, to correct their techniques and try to encourage them rather than the other way around. I enjoyed that existence in the dojo, but I realise now that I had forgotten what it was like to be on the other side of that relationship. At Brown I joined the shotokan karate club, and am now a white belt like any other. Of course my knowledge of how to perform the techniques they're teaching is vastly superior to nearly all the other beginning students (except the other few who had done martial arts before), but that is at times more of a hindrance than an asset, not only because there are subtle differences in the way they teach things and the way I learnt things at Moving Zen, but also because I constantly need to remind myself that despite long past experience, I am no longer at the top of the proverbial heap. Luckily, I think that over the course of the three classes I've gone to, I haven't done too badly at that and have managed to do the techniques as well as I possibly can while still being humble and accepting all corrections I'm given, no matter how different they be from what I was taught back at home.

There is also a second example, which was far harder for me to deal with than that of karate, this being in my "demotion" in Japanese class. Apparently I did quite well on the placement test and was put into a fourth-year class. Over the first week and a half, the class felt very easy and manageable to me, but on Friday, after class, our sensei asked to talk to me and the other two freshmen in the class after class, and told us that she though we'd be much better off in third-year. She talked to each of us separately, so I don't know what she said to the other two specifically, but she said to me that what I had done on a homework assignment demonstrated that despite well-developed skill in some areas, my writing was far too unnatural and showed that I needed to learn a lot in terms of what was culturally appropriate to write to people, and that third-year taught a lot of that stuff. I told her that I agreed with her and would go to check out the third-year class on Monday (which, of course, I haven't done yet because it's still Sunday), and mentally knew that she was right, but there was another part of my mind, or perhaps of my body, which was nearly eaten up with nonsensical indignation. No matter how much my higher parts tried to explain to my lower parts that this was for the best and was a good lesson in humility, it seemed that my other part might simply collapse in depression. Luckily, another part of my brain realised the precarious state I was in and released some chemical into my body that made me kind of excited about taking third-year Japanese, but it took a long time. I am now fully prepared, psychologically and spiritually, to go to third-year, but it was a long climb to arrive there.

The lessons I learnt from the above experiences are ones I already knew and could have preached to others about for hours even before coming, but this is, I believe, the first time I was really forced to experience what they teach, and I'm quite thankful for it now in rather near retrospect. Undoubtedly several more such shocking lessons will unveil themselves sooner than I expect.

Lil Mugi

Monday, September 8, 2008

swarthmore deux

-the people are not as intimidating as I thought they'd be. in fact, many of them are really immature.

-the answer to the question that everyone asks: religion and the human experience, intro to linguistics, intensive french, close reading and its discontents.

-I still don't see how I'll be able to make better friends here than I already have at home.

-partying with people who aren't really your friends isn't that fun for me. most of my classmates seem to be really enjoying it, though.

-I feel much more comfortable here than I thought.

-I've developed a core group of friends who all remind me of our friends at home: there is a julia type... a... a... well, maybe there's only a julia type. okay, so they're all very different from our friends. the boys: a reader, a southern classics scholar, a clean-looking philosophy guy. the girls: a jen gong/jackie slocombe hybrid, a girl with julia's hair and teeth, a southern belle, a dark-haired twin.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


all these distinctions:
philosophy, art, physics, linguistics, American literature, French literature, mathematics
they're all bullshit, right? it's all the same thing.


Thursday, September 4, 2008


I kind of feel like I'm on a vacation that will never really end. I am very happy with all the kids I've met and the classes I'm taking, but holy shit. We are never really going to go home ever again. I mean, sure, I'll probably spend a few weeks there here and there, and maybe even a whole summer, but it's never really going to be the same thing that it was. My room is never really going to be my room again. My dog is never really going to be my dog again. My house is never really going to be my house again. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but I think what I'm saying is kind of the truth.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I can't pretend to have an especially accurate picture of my life here since classes haven't started yet, but so far it's been pretty great. The buildings and scenery are all really nice, and I made friends faster than I'd expected as well. It's not without its lonely moments, but in truth, I don't mind them too much either. I guess you could say they give me a little time to reflect and make sense of the recent barrage of newness. Course registration begins in an hour, and my orchestra audition is tonight. The practice rooms are nice but far away, and it's especially a pain to carry my cello so far, but I guess it's good exercise, right? I'm actually going off to do a little of that right now.

I'll write again when I've had a few days of classes. I promise some good insights/stories/blog material soon enough.


Lil Mugi

Monday, September 1, 2008


Yale is pretty fucking awesome. There are definitely a few people who I've encountered who I'm not really compatible with, but for the most part the people I've met have been great.

More later,


Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I'm here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

How to Make Decisions

I remember BODO telling me more than once that he liked this thought process I developed, so now that I've finally thought of posting in the Blogblister again, I'm going to explain it. The purpose of this thought process is explained in the title of this entry. The process itself is almost as simple a notion, yet a powerful one, oh indeed, so powerful... for silly as it sounds, I feel that ever since I happened upon this idea (and even before then, actually), really everything I've done has been shaped by this system. In fact, it's probably true for everyone, but most people don't carry it to the level of actually mapping it out like this, so here we go.

Whenever I'm in a dilemma about whether or not to do something, or what choice to make out of many (when it actually matters--that's an important part), I ask myself three questions:

1. Am I obligated, for better or for worse, to do this as a result of an outside force I have no control over?
2. Is it Good? (I.e. will it be truly beneficial, for me or for others, on a level higher than that of immediate visceral pleasure?)
3. Do my appetites desire it?

The problem here is that a ton of interpretation can go into the definitions, e.g. what really constitutes obligation or "the Good." And of course #3 is totally up for grabs and is far too easy to get carried away with and put far too much weight on (the three should either be weighted equally, or #3 should get a little less than a third). That's why we have people with different opinions and people who do stuff that's just plain evil. Therefore, I can't claim to have solved every problem of human existence with these three simple questions. BUT, I've found that always keeping this in mind really helps the process of making healthy choices. I envision it as a sort of triangle, with circles at the corners, each representing one of the three questions.

To put it into a realistic context, let's say I have a tedious math assignment on Taylor's formula due tomorrow. Triangle #1 would have a huge green spike going upwards because I am very much obligated to do it, regardless of how Good it is or how much I "want" to do it. Triangle #2 would still be in the positive zone, because I feel that doing tedious exercises for school is good for you most of the time, but since it's on Taylor's formula, it wouldn't be that high. Finally, #3 would be unquestionably negative, with a red spike going downwards, because my deepest appetites do not especially relish writing out "0!" just because Ms. Oakes has insisted that on this assignment we write out the whole formula and take no shortcuts. But even still, the amount of red in #3 does not beat out the green in #s 1 and 2, so I do the assignment and I make the appetites tough it out.

Now obviously, someone who cared less about academics would have a very different picture. #1 would still be in the green, but nowhere near as highly. #3 would be much farther into the red, and there's a good chance that for many people, #2 would also be in the red. That's why you have to be careful in using this system--you have to be able to judge your own judgements, which no one can do perfectly, and why I, despite being, in a sense, the creator of this system, still make more than my share of vital mistakes. No matter how refined your definitions, you still will slip up at some point--but trying to minimise such happenings never hurts.

Lil Mugi

Thursday, August 21, 2008

a more nuanced view of things

I think that everything both is for the best and isn't for the best. Here is what I mean: I think that things in my whole life, and things in the world in general could have gone a lot better. It would be fine if the Holocaust hadn't happened, good even. If any number of terrible things that happened could just be erased from history, that would be great. By erased from history I mean just didn't happen. On the other hand, these terrible things in the global past and in all of our individual pasts have come to shape who we are, and we are doing very well now. You can see the terrible catastrophes of the past as tests, trials that God or whatever you believe in put us through to make us better. So basically, yes, the Holocaust was terrible, and it would be awesome if it hadn't happened, but now that it has happened, it's unlikely that such terrible ethnic cleansing will ever happen again, and I exist, because my grandfather in all likelihood never would have left Germany and married my grandmother if it weren't for Hitler and the Holocaust, so good things that are inextricably part of the fabric of the world now also occurred pretty much directly because of the Holocaust. That was a pretty terrible sentence. Let me be clearer. It's fine to look at past events and say "that was bad." It's not fine to look at past events and say "I want to go back in time and prevent that from happening." Nor is it fine to say "I'm so glad that the Holocaust happened because look at all these wonderful things that came about because of it." Somewhere in the middle, between "I want to go back in time to change things" and "I don't even give a shit about all those dead Jews because all this right now is so fucking awesome" is the best place to be.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Traveller

Although she could see nothing but blackness from the window of her cottage, Maglana had already known for quite a while that a traveller was approaching because of the faint sound of weary, beating hooves, so she was not at all surprised when a rough knock on the door roused her from her midnight slumber. She pushed the fraying, wooden portal open, sending a single, wailing creak out into the abyss of night. Standing in the doorway was a man who easily could have been forty years her junior, yet already grey streaked his thick beard and he somehow gave off an aura of tired familiarity with all about him.

“Hello?” said Maglana with a little uncertainty.

“Greetings,” said the man, with little expression. “I require a place to sleep tonight—I assure you that I shall be as little trouble as possible and plan to depart before the sun rises next morning. My horse will stay outside.”

“Why certainly,” replied Maglana, her heart somehow going out to the odd traveller. “Come in. Would you like some milk? I just got it from the cows this morning. You seem tired after travelling for so long—please, sit here.” She gestured towards a chair and went to prepare the milk.

“Thank you,” replied the man, quite surprised. Over the uncountable years during which he had journeyed across the land, he was all too familiar with the painful process of asking people if he could stay in their houses for a night, and usually, he was lucky to get even a grudging agreement. Most simply told him to find another place and slammed the door. This old woman, all alone in this ramshackle cottage on the heath, was nearly one of a kind.

“Here you are,” she said with a smile, placing a large earthenware bowl full of fresh, warm milk in front of him on the candlelit table. She sat across from him as he eagerly supped it. “What name do you go by?”

“My name?” he asked, as though it were a difficult question. After a brief pause, he said, “Läkken Helmsbrödlyren. My mother gave me the name when she christened me at the river, or so the story goes. She was taken by raiders the next day.”

“Ah, I’m… sorry,” said Maglana, her eyes shifting uncomfortably.

“What is your name?” asked Läkken, not seeming in the least affected by the story of his mother’s cruel fate.

“Maglana Ashenhacker—my great-grandfather was a fletcher, you see,” she explained. After a brief pause, she looked over and noticed that the bowl was empty. “Did you enjoy the milk?” she asked.

“I did, thank you,” replied Läkken. “But tell me, Maglana, why do you receive me so freely, and with such kindness?”

“You are a weary traveller—would it not be a terrible sin to refuse such a person shelter?” said Maglana, spreading her arms as though it were an obvious conclusion.

“I suppose…” said Läkken, looking off to the side, “but how can you be perfectly sure that, after I have left tomorrow, you will not find your most valuable possessions taken and your home ransacked?”

“Well, of course I cannot be sure…”

“Then perhaps you should be more careful.”

“Would you prefer it if I had not let you in? I am sure you would have had a much harder time of it.”

“Of course I am grateful for your help—but how can you ignore this possibility, Maglana? Are you not at least a mite suspicious?”

“Suspicious?” Maglana laughed. “I cannot think of a single great deed that has been accomplished out of suspicion.”

“Yes, but a great many have been broken for want of it,” countered Läkken.

“Then should I live my life in fear of the mere possibility of being broken?” Läkken was silent, so Maglana continued. “Let us assume for now that you do perform such terrible acts as you mentioned earlier. Let us assume that next morning, I awake to find the emerald rosary that my grandmother left me stolen, and my windows shattered. What then? Can I decide retroactively that I actually did not let you in the past night?”

“Of course not.”

“Exactly—the only direction, for me at least, is forward from there. I will always remember my grandmother’s goodness, and I believe Our Lady will hear me say the rosary even if I am not at the moment holding a string of beads. Windows? It is a simple matter to ask Mr. Sithwelder in the valley to make me new ones. Yes, Läkken, there is always that risk, but let me ask you now: why did you approach my house? How could you have been certain that it was not inhabited by a violent horse-collector, or perhaps a flesh-eater?”

“Such things do not exist in this land.”

“I have never encountered an evil-spirited traveller either—perhaps they as well do not exist in this land.” She fell silent, and for a long while, the two of them stared out the window into the blackness. Finally Maglana spoke again. “Here, Läkken, if we stay like this much longer, the sun will rise, and the whole purpose of your coming will be wasted. To bed with you now; you can sleep where my grandmother once did, in that room facing the east. And in case you were curious, her emerald rosary is in the box under the bed.”

“Please don’t worry—I have no intention of taking such a thing,” replied Läkken with a smile. “Thank you again for your hospitality.” He rose, walked into the room, and was soon lost to sight. A moment later, Maglana rose, snuffed out the candles, and retired to her room. On moonlit nights, the cottage stood out like an old, stooped guardian on the heath, but tonight, it was indistinguishable from the surrounding dark.

Lil Mugi

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

kick the can

My life is kind of like
a big game of kick the can.
I leave the can to go exploring, but try
rather hard
to get back to it
before someone kicks it
when I'm not looking.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008


We all live in a town
Where all our fears
The fears can kill us if we let them
But if we want to live
We have to just go and walk around and just
Cause once you start getting afraid
Once you shut yourself in your house
Once you stop
That's when they get you
So just keep moving
And they can't touch you
Well, they can.
And you have to accept that.
But you can control the chances maybe
Like you can never get it down to zero percent,
but you can sort of reduce the chances
maybe I DON'T KNOW
but maybeeeee
maybe you can.
But enough for now about fears
Enough thinking for now.
I will sleep.
I will sleep well.
I will well sleep.
( )


Everything that rhymes with Mitch is bad

Why the fuck would anyone name a kid Mitch?


Monday, August 4, 2008

Extremes are easy

Extremes are easy
The middle is the hardest
Extremes are easy


Sunday, August 3, 2008


I can't believe old people who drive luxury cars and make a big point out of going to Florida every year to play golf talk about how extravagant and shallow rappers are. Does this actually happen?


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Words and Questions

Crashing wave, burning sun,
What awful wrongs have you done?
Am I aught but a chick whose time hath run?

If a molten clavier, sodden with sea salt,
Now begs forgiveness, and for the tides to halt,
What right have the strings to show a fault?
If the sand, baked with burning rays,
Should seek a refuge in less-travelled ways,
Would it truly be shielded from th' heavenly blaze?
Nay, fools, thus doth God your days conceive--
Follow the buzz of the Good Lady's weave--
Find the strand you must become in her hanging sleeve.
Crashing sun, burning wave,
What remnants of the past can I save?
Is it aught but a dank, overwebbèd cave?

You iron flowers of the modern age,
Are you there because you have a war to wage,
Or are you merely shelters for a passing sage?
You rumbling dragon of the cosmic woodland road,
Do you desire us lowly men to shoulder your load,
Or are you content with the gratitude I showed?
Say it not now, when I thirst for what you feel--
Wait rather until the bells at twilight peal--
Then may I perhaps learn at your hands what is real.
Thrashing wave, churning sun,
Why must you beat down on your faithful son?
You know it not yet, gods of old, but we are one.

Lil Mugi

Friday, July 25, 2008

high school part deux

I guess the kids who strive for both/neither smarts and/nor popularity are searching for something else: their true self. They are searching for happiness, which is basically only attainable once you've found your true self. It doesn't matter if you have 300 facebook friends and have had sex with nine different girls by the time you leave high school, nor does it matter if you got into Harvard, Yale and Princeton, if you aren't happy with yourself. It's fine to want to get into a good college, or want to have a lot of friends and be good at getting girls, but it's not fine if you need to have a lot of friends or need to get into a college ranked at a certain level in the US News rankings. Wanting transient things is fine, needing them is not.


high school

A really cursory glance at high school would tell you that most people strive for one or two of two things: smarts and popularity. One group of kids wants to get into a good college, and the other group wants to get drunk as much as possible and have fun. It's interesting to look at the kids who are in both groups, or in neither of them.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What my dad said to me the other day

will disappoint you


Tuesday, July 8, 2008


What did I expect to take pleasure in? Kicking people
When they are down, making sandwiches for Fat People,
Eating, irony. Instead,

I’ve been kissing people
When they are down, eating sandwiches meant for
Fat People, and just
Fat People.

Do I deserve to be cutting, now that I
Hold a knife in my hand and have sliced myself a spot among
Such indelicacies? My answer is a resound “no,” but
Maybe I’ve

Just made too many sandwiches.

La Returne de Lil Mugi

Perhaps all you dedicated readers are wondering why it's been so long since I've posted, and also why, when I finally do, it should come at 3:00 AM. Well, the only answer I can give to the first question is "pure sloth," seeing as this is the summer as I've been a senior in High School, and the only reason I have finally returned is that BODO pulled the 'blistering part of my soul from the ashes it had nearly hopelessly sunk into. Luckily, I think I've shaken most of them off by now.

The answer to the other question is, I feel a far more valid excuse, and I feel inexcusably pompous when I talk about this, but this is MY blog (and BODO and Bootsie's, of course), so I'll be pompous just this once. I'm posting so late because I spent the past three hours or so copying the 140 ingenious measures of the second movement of my piano concerto, which I finished today, from the original copy that I wrote by hand into this computer program called Finale Allegro whose trial version I have, although it's due to expire in seven days. Luckily, I finished the movement soon enough that I was able to do this, as well as create a sound file of it played by my computer's dog-awful digital orchestra, and I shall soon print an official copy to be kept in my secret stash with the official copy of the first movement.

Seriously though, I'm listening to it now, and I can tell that if it were played by real musicians, it might melt one or two hearts, but this computer rendering of it is disgusting. I want to get to sleep as soon as I can, but I feel compelled to liszt the reasons I can't stand the digital recording:

- the dynamic changes, while observed, are way too sudden
- the tempo moves forward with the regularity of a North Korean military platoon and shows about as much expression
- this is the worst one: it's almost as if the computer speakers' digital violin is sick or something. When the violins (particularly the first violins for some reason) have certain passages, the sound just flickers in a way that kind of kills any potential beauty. But I guess that's the price I pay for not having a hundred-odd musicians on call to test out my works.

All right, good night everybody. I would write a clever conclusion if I could think of one, but my eyelids and the skin beneath my eyeballs seem have grown magnets of opposite polarity that grow stronger by the second, so I've no choice but to sign off. Tschüßie.

Lil Mugi

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


It's irksome when you have
to walk home
in the rain, not so much

because your feet get wet,
but because
of your backpack.

That is, of course, unless
you want to
put your coat over it,

which makes you look like
a camel,
a sodden blue camel.

Lil Mugi

Monday, February 25, 2008

Quote-Analysis Time

"And if the neuroscientists are right, you can create new brain cells--by learning (and not being stuck in a dull cubicle)--at virtually any age."

This is from near the end of the "inspirational" treatise on practicing and skill-development that Ms. Oakes gave our class today and is asking us to have read and answer six questions on by Thursday. I agree with pretty much all the material it presents. In a nutshell, it asserts that being good at something is the product of long, dedicated practice rather than some people simply being better than others, with natural talent existing but being far less of a factor than most people give it credit for.

All that is directly in accordance with what I believe. The problem I have with this article, and what will make this post more than one happy little paragraph, lies in the first clause of the above quote, and other such parts strewn throughout the article: science. The idea is that "since scientists say it, it's true! and therefore you will believe it!" I'm not saying that serious scientists should usually be doubted, but the modern world, and this country in particular, take the trusting of science and the "scientific method" to an almost religious level.

What I have such a problem with is not so much the proving of new discoveries with scientific evidence, but the "proving" of ideas that people have already known for millennia. This article pretty much states the same thing that Suzuki Shinichi stated about musical talent--the difference is that Suzuki learnt this through long experience and dedication of his own. Whoever wrote this article just had to fire up the product of some other scientist's work. The ancient martial arts masters were always (and still are) firing morsels of pure euphonic wisdom at their students like "If enough dust accumulates, it can become a mountain" and "If you fall down seven times, get up eight times," referring the dogged striving necessary to gain mastery.

Why do people trust scientists over great teachers of other types? "Well, everyone was just running around in the dark until a bunch of rich Europeans came up with the scientific method," we're supposed to think. I mean, my mother and I always get headaches when big storms are coming. And then, what do you know, one day on the news: "Scientists have actually found that headaches can predict weather patterns!!!!111oneone~~ No one knew that before!" Of course the scientific method has its strengths. I'm not going to advocate for a better method for discovering the exact mass of magnesium dust after you've smoked it over a Bunsen burner, or the velocity you need to fire a bullet at to get a wooden block to move exactly the right distance across a table with a certain coefficient of kinetic friction. But must all wisdom be put into chemicalle formulæ and fizzikal ekwayzhuns? Does it really lead us any closer to the truth? Could anyone who reads this silly blog really make a difference about it? Am I doing the right thing by spending my time here and writing this rather than trying to use the scientific method myself to finish this horrid problem set on gravitational fields? Would the scientific method be a better way to answer these questions than common sense and wisdom?

I don't think a verbal answer is necessary for any of those mind-blowing questions, but if you're still stuck, I'll just let you know that they all have the same answer, at least according to my religion weltanschauung. Puzzle over the issues if you want. Or use proper problem solving format to find the exact answer. Then we'll compare solutions and maybe discuss it over the Sunday New York Times at a local breakfast place, or whatever you like to do when you meet someone for a friendly chat.

Lil Mugi

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sure, I'll post.

It's vacation, and I should be cheerful: I'm done with the college application process (for now), it's sunny and getting closer to spring, second trimester is almost done, and I'm sitting at home in my pajamas drinking tea. How nice that I'm relaxing, right?

Uh, no. Actually, I'm in a bad mood, and I'm nervous. There is no relaxing happening here. Why am I not relaxing, you ask? Well, I'll tell you: HOMEWORK OVERLOAD.

I have a twelve-page paper due at the end of this vacation. I have a German presentation that must get completed as well as one in AP Environmental Science, I have to write a second English paper, and write multiple entries in a journal on Invisible Man.  I also have to take a full AP Calculus practice test, which my teacher will check. Oh, wait- I have to study for a math test that I'm taking on Monday, too, and make up the days of work I missed in AP Environmental Science. 

What. The. Fuck.

This is vacation. Vacation means a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel (says my dictionary). Vacation means blissful boredom. Vacation means hanging out with your friends until you hate them. Vacation means forgetting about how shitty school is by doing pointless shit. 

This is no vacation.

Since I have so much work, I am forced to model my vacation days after our awful school days. I wake up, feeling guilty like I always do when I haven't done all my homework. I mentally plan out my day. From 8:30 to 10:00 I'll work on my paper. From 10:05 to 11:05 I'll practice my violin. From 11:10 to 12:00 I'll contemplate killing myself. And so on. The afternoon progresses, I go on a run, and then it gets dark. And I've done less work than I should have, and I still feel guilty. 

Also: you'd think my teachers would be supportive of me during this non-vacation. You'd think they'd at least bake me a week's supply of brownies and give me their cell phone numbers while saying, "Look, if you need my help with anything, I'll be by my phone 24/7. Try to relax." Nope. Not a word. They avoided my eyes like the plague in class, and when the E Period bell rang on Friday they all sprinted out of the building, leaving me directionless and swamped.

I have this one teacher. Let's call her "Anna Levine," which is my name, so you'll never know her real name. I approached her last week before lunch and kindly said, "Ms. Levine, I need help with this paper. I want to write something original, but so much has been previously covered I don't know where to start! I need a week's supply of brownies to write this monster!" 

She responded as such: "You don't need to write anything original! I can't help you! Go eat lunch, it's 8:00 A.M!" And she slammed the classroom door in my face. Well, it wasn't quite like that, but you get the basic idea. No support. No help. I'm just supposed to lug fifty pounds of marked-up paper to school on my back on Monday, distribute it, and then it will be graded by my "teachers." You know, those adults with name tags who talk at us for about two minutes at the beginning of English class and then make us journal in silence for the rest of the period. 

Enough. I need to get back to recording literary symbols in a little blue book. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Driving Practice

I agree with BODO on all counts, both on the main thrust of his post and on the idea that we 'blisterers need to post more. Over the past couple days, I've been a bit conflicted over whether or not I should be the one to break this hiatus of ours, which became absolutely pointless once we hit vacation, but for some reason I didn't. Call it sloth or lack of creativity or whatever, but I couldn't find the energy. Luckily, BODO was able to find within himself that which I had not, and, as I've found to be the case quite often in the past, one person's posting sparks the creativity of the rest (that's right, Bootsie, you're next). Therefore now, after close to month of that ridiculous thing I call "The Bird of Darkness" gliding on its ashen feathers at the top of this page, we have, like the fists of the little dragon, a Double Post! (at least) coming faster than you could bat your eyelashes at me.

But anyway, that's not all I'm posting to talk about. As BODO and probably no one else already know, I went on a driving practice yesterday, and guess what? I went again today. (There's that old one-two again--it's like a thematic element or something.) This time it was down by Fort River, and I drove around and around in some kind of vague elliptical shape while wondering whether a few dedicated teachers having a conference up in a classroom were watching and all silently chortling while keeping up the ruse of being seriously involved in whatever type of meeting they would have over break. This is the main reason I don't like going on driving practices. The actual driving is pretty fun. But I always feel like I'm onstage for some kind of performance and I'm doing terribly. I remember the driver of some passing car smiling condescendingly at me in passing, probably thinking inwardly, "Look at that bumbling buffoon who can't even work the gas properly!" It sounds odd, but I feel much more socially nervous and self-conscious during driving practices than I do singing or playing music in front of a crowd.

I don't often wish this, but this is an area in which I wish life were more like a video game. (OK, OK, I admit it--I wish that pretty often in other situations, too.) I wish you could just load up "Practice Land" and be in some kind of alternate dimension while you practiced and nothing existed but the course you set out for yourself to practice on. Or maybe it could be randomly generated, and there could be Digi-Cars or something that you could crash with, but they wouldn't hurt you beyond a few minor bruises and a crushed ego. Maybe someday in the future, probably even after people are living in floating cities in the atmosphære of Jupiter that have long since revolted against the repressive Earth Government, humans will come up with an effective driving simulation.

Of course, I can't keep myself so occupied with such phantasies when I'm learning a skill that really could mean life or death, so I apply to the learning process of driving the skills I have learnt and polished so well over years of instruction in mathematics and the sciences (particularly the family and consumer ones): Do what you're told, don't question tradition, and practice with as little innovation as possible. In other words, get good without getting creative. I feel like it's a message that runs directly counter to what we're often taught as children in elementary school, but I feel like it's the only real way to learn something, at least something with a standard, accepted method. So, to make today's Double Post! tie in with the established themes, not everything is about "doing what you want." Look at all the people that are great at things (anything) and are really unique and expressive: either they have a really special talent or they learnt all the rules and finally, only after long, long, practice, supergressed traditional bounds. It is safe to say that not many people belong to the first category, and I certainly don't when it comes to driving. Questioning tradition isn't wrong, but saying it's wrong without really understanding it is a cause for a great loss of credibility, at least in my eyes. Nunc sumus tantum ob eos qui ante erant.

Lil Mugi

Let's post more

On the front page of today's New York Times, there's an article about the suicide rate among middle-aged people going twenty percent or something in the last few years. Here's the link: People don't really know how to explain it. There's one theory that it stems from all the prescription drugs that older people are using these days. Other explanations have to do with the disintegration of traditional social networks, or the large amount of Vietnam veterans who are now middle-aged. But I have my own theory, and while it might not explain this particular situation too well, I've been thinking about it all day, and this blog needs a new post.
I think our society is too fixated on having fun. I mean, of course, fun is an absolutely essential part of life, but I think Americans are obsessed with it to an unhealthy extent. For a lot of people, there is no meaning in life outside of wringing as much fun out of it as possible. Work, school, social interactions, they're all just a means to fun. The purpose of your job is to make money, so that you can go on vacation in Florida and play golf, which is fun. The purpose of school and social interactions is to party, which is fun. Seriously, so many people think this way. Fun has become so institutionalized in our society. It doesn't really seem like an organic response to life anymore. I mean, I don't know who I am to say what fun used to be, but I think that in America today, it's become almost a kind of duty. People think you're weird if you find pleasure in your work outside of the money you make doing it, or if you don't relish the idea of a golf vacation in the Bahamas. The balance between work and pleasure has become completely thrown off. Work is no longer respected or enjoyed; it's just a boring means to fun. Of course, it doesn't help that our jobs seem so meaningless these days. I mean, what do investment bankers and consultants really do, anyway, other than chasing after money?
It's a little bit like what's going in with food today. After long centuries of near-starvation, we now have more fat and sugar that we can deal with, so people just stuff themselves and get incredibly fat. Who wants broccoli when you can basically eat as many Twinkies as you want? It's the same thing with fun, except the damaging effects are much more subtle. Fun isn't really synonymous with pleasure or happiness, at least not American fun. I mean, maybe it's good for some people, but it seems like many Americans just get sucked into being fixated on golf vacations, because they feel like they should. I think to achieve real happiness, your life needs to be more of a unity. You should take pleasure in your work, just as you should take pleasure in what you do outside of work. Fun should be organic, something that you do because you like to do it, not something institutionalized, something you feel like you should do. We need to put our entire beings into everything we do; nothing should just be a means to an end. We need to stop sleepwalking through everything but the golf vacations, which probably aren't even that pleasurable anyway.
The way this ties in with the rising suicide rate is that this attitude toward life, that the ultimate goal of everything should be fun, implies that life gets progressively worse and worse after the age of thirty or so. I mean, playing squash with your buddies is okay, but it's nothing compared to the nonstop debauchery of one's late teens and twenties. If you think the only purpose of life is having fun, in a certain set of acceptable ways, what conceivable reason is there to live past fifty?


Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Bird of Darkness

Breathe from the moon, my friend the swan,
And stretch thee till the night.
See how the windows, shades tightly drawn,
Accentuate our fright.
Thy honk might awake or anger the fay,
But worry not thy head;
The walls of eld hold tight thy prey,
Who slumber as though dead.

so take to wing
lift thy beak and sing
let the valleys ring
with all you bring

Cross the night, thou alabaster fowl,
And send to us a breeze
To wash our slaty rooftops, while cats prowl
Beneath the wine-dark seas.
Snag a fish that leaps above the waves,
But lettest never lose
The sight of what a broken beggar craves:
A blanket and some shoes.

so take to wing
lift thy voice and sing
let the mountains ring
with all you bring

Nak mid alle tunge fen dem veld,
Und okos nu subet.
Di vorde fen di hen tabun behelde,
Dei kri mid alle yet.
so take to wing
lift thy voice and sing
Da ga uta di mid ander breke tri,
Boot da de shira be
nit di

Then reste thy wearie head, and falle to erthe,
And close in slepe thyne eyes.
Close thy beake, reste thy song, untill the byrth
Of glowynge sunnes rise.
They who hearde thee well, atop the skye
Where fyre makes hys marke,
Perchance shall dance anewe, and soone may flye
To joine thee in the darke.

Lil Mugi

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Facebook Blues II

Last night finally I agreed to make a
Facebook, answering all requests I'd gotten.
Certainly it is nice--connecting me to
People, getting a bunch of e-mail every
Time a person should change a little something--
But although I concede it has its merits,
Already it's an academic roadblock.
Now it's 6:27--all my binders
Lie unopened within my sealèd backpack.
With all heart that may lie within my ribcage,
I shall start on it once this poem is finished.
But already I've guessed that once it's over,
A cause, pettier still than what assailed me
Before, roaring shall come and take me captive,
Squeezing all of the juice within my brainbox
Into places where all I know to do are
Write on walls, or perhaps I'd count my friends' list.
But I shouldn't complain the way I'm doing--
This hendecasyllabic headache halts my
Work as well as does Facebook and its cousins.
But through writing this poem, my friends, I've learnt that
I should never again attempt this meter
In English; you'll agree the sound is awkward,
And the force that it carries when in Latin
Wholly dies when you move it o'er to English.
But I tried! Let you know, Catullus, that you
Have a friend who would gladly play in numbers.

Lil Mugi


I've been out with the flu this whole week, and supposedly I'm still contagious, so I'm not coming to school tomorrow either. I felt awful on Monday and Tuesday, but today I feel pretty good. In fact, my life is awesome right now. I haven't gone to school in six days, I can stay home for another four, and I don't even feel very sick.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Letter to the Editor from December 27 Hampshire Gazette

To the editor:
In a recent Gazette article, someone who was interviewed said, "you kill two birds with one stone." While I'm all for participating in one activity that has several positive outcomes, I dislike this saying that celebrates the killing of birds for no apparent reason. I realize that this phrase is part of our language and our culture; and that we often use this saying without giving much thought to the violent image that it evokes. There is so much violence in our world. Could it be that some of that violence originates in our language, in the words we choose to use with each other every day?
For the past several years, I have used the phrase "feed two birds with one seed." I have noticed that when I say it that way, both the person I'm speaking to and I smile in mutual enjoyment both of the transformation of the old phrase and of the new, nurturing image. Basically, it makes us feel good. And so, I offer this new saying to my community in the hopes that some of you will use it because you resonate with what I'm trying to do: to bring more consciousness, more peace, and more life to the language that we share.
A friend recently said to me, "It's no skin off my back." I've been working on transforming that one, too. So far, all I've come up with is "it's no snow off my igloo." It's a work in progress. I'll keep you posted!

Sharon Rudnitzky


Monday, January 14, 2008

Cousin’s Market

 That lady with the checkered shirt

            only has five white teeth the

others are blackened; not with soot, or grime, or

wax—just black.


I assume

They were once white

            or barely yellow, like a duck’s

underbelly—repelling water


until the duck, dead,

            floated angularly in the water

and sank (unnaturally, impossibly) into

            the murky depths.

An oldie. Bootsie

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Seatime Funk

We were a layer of dolphins, a
Slick mess tucked tight into
A terrific tangular of tuna.

We were dolphins caught
In a net of tuna, adolphin'
Our sorrows, adolphin'

Everything we couldn't 
Get slimy. We were
Out to get out; we were

Feelin' claustrophobic, just 
A hot mess of upturned flippers
Waiting for scum.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Poetica Latina

Catullus faber et poeta maior,
sed illi numeri ioci videntur.
Certe talia pulchra multo amo, nam
versus tanti hominis mihi Latina
e lingua melior poeta non est.
Verum qui bene nec loqui potest, nec
Latine hendecasyllabos potest ut
magni scribere, verbum identidem omne
per densos equidem libros petendum est.
Ergo, si celeber poeta sis, nunc
cave! cum melior poeta fio,
cum versus numerique simplices sunt
mihi, quod ego tum creavi in amplis
cartis quin tibi opus perenne mittam.

Lil Mugi

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


It's been too long since I've posted, and I've been in circumstances pretty similar to what BODO described: free, but, for some unfathomable reason, simply not posting, and that leads me to my first resolution. I'm going to post more in here. Bootsie and BODO, my fellow 'blisterers, I'm not doing this because it's fun. I want fame. I want glory and prestige. I already know I'm going to have that later in life, but what's it going to be like when I'm sitting around a mahogany table in a fire-lit living room discussing Vergil and Kawabata with my fellow pompous scholars when one of them says, "You mean you didn't even have a blog in high school?" I would probably be consigned to life on the streets for eternity ever after. So, for the sake of my reputation, which is as intricately beautiful and as fragile and transient as an ice sculpture, I'm going to write more entries. I mean, I'll try.

Self-improvement, of course, need not always entail such grand commitments, though. Sometimes there are little things we can change that may change our lives and the world ever so slightly, but still for the better, so I'm going to make a list of such things now:
  1. When I write dates at the tops of papers, from now on I'm going to write only the last two digits of the year rather than the last three (in other words, "08" rather then "008"). I already told BODO about this, but I figured the rest of the world had to know.
  2. I am going to make a conscious effort to use clichéd alliterative collocations as little as possible. In other words, if everything goes as I hope it will, you shall never again see me use such solidified constructures as "hale and hardy," "vim and vigour," or "might and main." Rather, I will make an effort to create fresh, new compounds, such as "vernal and verdant" or "slag and slate."
  3. I will always include the two little horizontal bars on my capital Is.
  4. I will invent my own poetic meters and use them well.
  5. I will expand my vocal range.
  6. I will learn how to pronounce Chinese tones... backwards.
  7. I will write something awesome.
  8. The Red Sox will win the World Series again.

I think that just about covers it. Peace in the year of the mouse.

Lil Mugi