Thursday, December 2, 2010

Beginning Again

I have decided to pick up the strands of thought I left behind this summer, and continue with this blog, although the focus will obviously be different.

I like to write, and I like to travel, I like to taste, and I like to theorize.
Therefore, I propose to put some of my writing up here, and plans for adventures, and reviews of things I like, and theories about the thing that I care about most: What is religion, and what is its place in the development and life of man? I'll start today with beginning with a little bit of each.


Writing Away:
Today, I submitted three poems and a creative essay to Rice Review (or R2), the literary magazine of Rice University. Next semester, my friend Travis (you can find his excellent pictorial blog here: is hoping to start a news/opinion/literary magazine at Rice to rival the idiotic hipster-ish angst of the standard and the questionable quality of the Thresher (don't get me wrong—I love the Thresher, but there is a habit of bad writing). It will be called Rice Pudding. There is also a plan to emphasize the humanities students more, which I hope to get on board with.

Plans for adventures: 
I miss England, especially Oxford-area and Cumbria, dreadfully. Those were some of the happiest weeks of my life, and I am so utterly grateful to those people who made it such an adventure. But, alas, there is so much of the world to see and I cannot spend my entire life squatting at James' house, hiking the lakes, drinking his grog, and beating his friends at Texas Hold'em. So, besides going back to Cumbria and doing just that, I have some plans for adventures ahead, some trips that I shall take before I die. Here are a few of them:
1. An icy trip to the North. To see the setting for Northern Paganism, Expeditious Bravery, and Philip Pullman's Imagination. I'd like to go to Norway, Iceland, Svalbard, and then take a boat up to the North Pole.
2. Hiking with a Bedouin in the Atlas Mountains. Hopefully I'll do this with James, someday. In the heat of summer, I'd like to start in Marrakech, and go Eastward through Morocco.
3. Trans-Siberian Railway journey. I'd like to stop at the main Russian cities, and see if I can find any villages with real live shamans, perhaps out of my way up in the really cold parts of Sibera.
4. A Horseback ride through the Alps. Like I'm running from a spectral pursuer, or delivering a message to a Gothic King, I want to ride from Northern Italy through ancient mountain passes to Switzerland, and then turn Southwest and end up in Monaco.
5. Finding my roots. I want to take a pilgrimage of sorts through the lands of my family's ancestors, through the Pyrenees with the Basques, to Normandy, to Germany to meet the Tiekens and Henkhaus' there, to England again, and research the records kept there.
6. The Danube on a boat. I'd like to take some companions and buy or rent a riverboat at the head waters of the Danube, and make our way to the Black Sea, where we'll sell it or turn around and head back. Eastern Europe here we come, the little Huck Finns of Hungary.

That's the major ones I have in mind. I wonder which will be first?

On Woody Allen:
I watched Woody Allen's Love and Death last night. My GOD, that was funny. I'm pretty sure that not many people would find it funny though. I've discovered that my sense of humor focuses on the absurd, whether it's absurdly stupid (with a tinge of class) like Monty Python, or absurdly smart, like Woody Allen and Groucho Marx. Perhaps that's why I like British comedy and generally am not a fan of modern American comedy. Brits focus on wit and absurdity, Americans focus on awkward situations and character flaws (not to mention flatulence and stereotypes). Woody Allen does both, in an unobtrusive way.
My class on Neo-Paganism has ended. It was a mild success, I feel like the students learned a lot, but since they were primarily my friends, we had a really hard time staying on topic. For the last class period we watched Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit which is a light comedy about ghosts and women and this one "hag-ridden" man. I also found that enormously funny.

Brideshead Re-Revisited 
Tomorrow, I am doing a presentation in class about Evelyn Waugh's theories about the connection between sexuality and maturity and Roger Scruton's theories about sexuality and where the two intersect and disagree. I am bringing in my own conclusions about modern culture and the correlation between "constant revolution" and fear of permanence, and between the sexual liberation of the 60's and the fear of constraint, as I believe that certain passages in Brideshead Revisited point to an interesting conclusion of Waugh's that pre-dates, but somehow goes farther, than Roger Scruton does in his book Sexual Desire. Although I am not going to list my main points here, you are welcome to talk to me if you want to find out more about my "current epiphany" as my parents mockingly refer to these brief moments of clarity.

Anyway, that's the flavor that these will take hopefully as I move with you, O Reader, into the future. It might be a few days before I post another... It's finals-time at Rice, and with Christmas break (food, family, friends, and a fine-looking girl waiting patiently at home) on the horizon, it's hard to concentrate on Latin Translations and the social basis of Education. But, this hellish semester is drawing to a close, and I've learned my lesson... next semester, I'm taking fewer hours, dropping two majors (!), and no class is before eleven o'clock.


~Ross Arlen~

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