Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fairy Tales

We've all heard them since we were kids. They all follow the same basic plot: "Once upon a time....They lived happily ever after. The end." The stuff in the middle changes, but it's all really basically the same. Especially if you limit it to just the fairy tales about princesses. Then they really are almost exactly the same story. Snow White may have had her seven dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty her 3 fairies, but they boil down to the same idea. As we grow up, we realize how fantastic the elements of the stories are, but instead of discarding them we cling to these stories. These fairy tales we've been told since our childhood through various media stick with us. They can, in fact, become a source of reassurance and comfort to us. The stories are simple and one-dimensional. There are good guys, and there are bad guys. There aren't any gray areas. In the end, the good guys win, and the bad guys lose--as it seems should always be the case in life. These stories offer hope of a better world, a better life. Real life is so much more complex than in the stories, and the lives the characters in the stories live just seem so much more ideal than our own. We look to these stories for hope--someday we too may slay the dragon and have peace and harmony throughout the kingdom.

And yet, sometimes I find these stories bring me despair. For who is it that is always marrying the princess and living happily ever after? It's Prince Charming, of course. Good for him. Unfortunately, I've never felt too much like a Prince Charming. The prince aspect I can sometimes manage to fit to myself, but never the Charming. First off, my last name is Sorensen, not Charming. But mostly, the actual adjective doesn't really fit me. While I do have a way with words, it never has been a charming way. More a dry and sarcastic way. My looks certainly aren't charming. I've never considered myself attractive enough or suave enough to be a Prince Charming. And if I'm not Prince Charming, what hope have I of ever marrying one of these princesses that are all around me? I might as well give up the quest.

In those times, however, it is important to remember those differences I brushed aside in the introductory paragraph. You see, it isn't always Prince Charming who rides in and saves the day. In some of the stories, it's just a knight in shining armor. He still gets to marry the princess and live happily ever after. Being a knight in shining armor instead of Prince Charming doesn't really make all that much of a difference. It is perfectly alright to be a knight in shining armor, which is a part I can see myself playing, and have been able to for awhile now (if I had access to it, I would post here a picture of me as a young 5-year-old in my knight in shining armor costume). Being a knight in shining armor is still not an automatic task, but it is much more achievable than being a Prince Charming.

So, for the boys that read this: remember that you don't have to be a Prince Charming to win the heart of the princess. You still can live happily ever after by being a knight in shining armor. Don't wallow away in misery because you weren't born heir to the Charming throne. Live the best life that you can live; live it honorably, and in kindness and service to those around you. Someday, you'll find a princess and marry her.

In your turn, girls: don't be so caught up in looking for Prince Charming that you miss the knight in shining armor. You are all princesses, and you do deserve to live happily ever after, but maybe it won't be with Prince Charming.

As a last note, realize that everything I've said about guys should also be followed by girls, and vice versa. I realize that it isn't just girls always looking for the Charming ones and missing out on other opportunities. Guys do it as much, if not more. And it isn't just guys who get downtrodden feeling they have to be Charming; girls have that problem too. I am, however, a guy, and so this has been written from the perspective of a guy.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What if Dave Barry Was A _______?

So kind of a cop-out post today. I haven't been able to post for a while, since my laptop's hard drive died and I really don't like using the library computers enough to write blog posts on them. However, I feel obligated to give you something, and this popped into my head. It was a term project for a class I took last semester. Meaning I wrote it in less than a day. It really isn't that great, but good enough that I felt it deserved a larger audience than just that professor.

What if Dave Barry Was A ______?
Written by:
David Sorensen

Dave Barry is a now-retired weekly humor columnist for the Miami Herald. He took elements from daily life in Miami, as well as general American society. Such writings are not uncommon in contemporary society. We don’t, however, have many documents that portray humor-based writing from ancient civilizations. Outside of Greek comedies, not much humor is to be found. I think it unlikely that people didn’t satirize elements of their societies, and so the purpose of this paper is to try and recreate what ancient humor columnists might have made fun of. Due to the lack of concrete evidence about how exactly life was like and the relatively large gaps in between historical details, some liberty has been taken in putting together elements of history that were not actually contemporary to each other, but no doubt the individual instances would have been treated much the same. With that introduction:

What if Dave Barry Was an Egyptian?

My wife and I recently decided to look into moving. Apparently, sharing the bed with crocodiles that crawl up from the river is getting to be too much for her, especially with a kid on the way. I suspect it’s largely just one of those weird pregnancy cravings, but I’m willing to humor her, which is why the other day we took a trip up the Nile to see what we could find.
The first city we stopped in was actually quite nice. A thriving economy, good access to administrative services, plenty of flood-plain--it had everything you’d want in a capital city. We got around talking to the residents, and it turns out there were actually plenty of job openings to be found. Sounds like they’ve got some big construction project going on that they need a lot of laborers. Unfortunately, to get the job, you have to be a slave, and that doesn’t exactly feed the family. Besides, I was told they were using some sort of wooden framework to try and build the huge pyramid that the king wants. I had to laugh at that. How on earth could wood hold the weight of that much rock? Even kids playing in the sand know that it’s easier to build a ramp than to lift something straight up. You have to wonder where they come up with these fantastic ideas.
Next, we came to a decent city, and they actually had a really good plot of land for sale. Far enough back from the river to not get washed away, but close enough to have a nice backyard pool during the floods. I was all for it, but my wife was a little leery of the hippopotamuses out in the river. I told her they were perfectly safe, and even went out to pet one to demonstrate it to her. I don’t think my running back screaming like a girl after it began to charge did anything to reassure her. Of course, I wasn’t convinced to leave until I met the people next door. The father of the family was actually a really good guy, despite being a priest. His kid, though, was absolutely out there. He kept claiming that some god had talked to him and told him that he shouldn’t be sacrificed. As if. What would the gods do without young innocent hearts to munch on? Boy was he loony. I couldn’t live next to him.
So, the search for a new house goes on. If you have any openings in your area, let me know. Right now I have to go feed the crocodiles so they stop gnawing on my legs.

What if Dave Barry Was an Athenian?

So if you’ve been awake at all the last week, you’ve probably heard about the trial of Socrates. His student Plato’s kind of made a big deal about it, going as far as to record an account of the trial and certain events leading up to it. One conversation he records between Socrates and Euthyphro and how Socrates questions Euthyphro to try and understand the definition for piety. Euthyphro, by the way, utterly failed at proving himself a religious expert. Everybody knows that in order to be a religious expert you have to say “no” to logic.
The trial ended today. By a mere 30 votes, Socrates was sentenced to death. So few votes can be the turning point to cut a thread short. Of course, even worse than that, Socrates was only 30 votes away from being fed free the rest of his life. How could they even consider that? Don’t these people realize what would happen as a result? All the free food I get would be split in half between us, and then where would we be as a society? It wasn’t 30 votes between life and death; it was 30 votes for one man to die so that an entire civilization (read that: me) could live.
Word is, though, that Plato plans to continue in Socrates’s work. He’s even planning on forming a school so people can be formally instructed instead of just following a guy around like a dog chasing a squirrel. It’s kind of a scary thought. Instead of one bratty old man roaming free, we’ll have a whole generation of bratty youngsters running around. Now they’ll start questioning things like whether or not we actually need humor columnists, and what good that Parthenon is doing standing empty all the time. Next thing you know, and we’ll be back to the days of barbarism and tyranny. We need to stand up and take a stand against this sort of behavior. Well, you do. I have to go pick up my shipment of food.

What if Dave Barry Was a Roman?

Last week, I decided to take the wife and kids to a gladiator fight in the Flavian Amphitheater. I thought it would be a good opportunity to spend some quality time with my family while watching other human beings do their very best to rip each other to shreds. Plus, it was a tax deductible expense (our local tax collector was involved in one the fights that day; we wanted to heartily cheer on his opponents in hopes that he would be killed and unable to collect our taxes).
I’d heard that a Roman was not a true Roman until he’d been to an event in the Flavian. I never realized that being a Roman involved so much standing in lines and confusion over where you were to supposed to sit. Virgil never talked about standing around in a crowd trying to get to where you can sit around in a crowd in The Aeneid. I don’t recall Livy telling any stories about trying to differentiate between archway XLII and XLIII and how heroic people are who confuse them. I guess I must have missed those chapters. If only they would print the tickets a little clearer so I could tell if I was supposed to sit in archway XLV section CXX seat XIV or if it was archway CXX section XIV seat XLV. If they don’t have the budget to make that change, why do I have to spend a week’s worth of wages to get in?
Of course, I don’t want to complain too much. The Flavian really does have some excellent features, and a very proud history, almost as proud a history as the sport which it displays. Gladiator fights date back to the Horatii brothers, and their famous battle with the Curiatii. Ever since their shining example, we’ve been trying to prove our true manhood to each other by seeing who was the best at beating the others into a pulp. With that kind of tradition, it’s no wonder the Republic fell.
My family and I really did have a great time at the Flavian Amphitheater, though. It was a great venue, once you got past the feeling that it was going to collapse at any second because there isn’t a solid wall in the whole building. We enjoyed watching the animals they brought in, and the lions were fun to watch too. Next time you have some money to burn (and by some, I mean more than I’m going to get for writing this), you should take your family and go watch a fight at the Flavian. Just don’t blame me if you can’t find your seat.

What if Dave Barry Was a Serf in Middle Age England?

King Alfred has done it again. He lead hundreds of our brother, fathers, and husbands to glory against the Viking invaders over the weekend. Praises be to him. I think he has the talent and ability to lead the whole country to greater heights. Or deeper depths, depending on whether we’ve paid our indulgences or not. Alfred really does a great job leading our soldiers into battle. I just wish he was slightly better at leading them back out of battle, but that may be asking too much of him.
In all reality, I’m not sure why we need to fight the Vikings at all. Sure, I’ve heard the stories of the sacking of Rome, and I know they’re pagans. I’m just not sure I’d be so quick to label them as barbarians. A couple of weeks ago, a band came through town here. I met one, by the name of Olaf the Oaf-icious.  We had a nice conversation. He told me about his family, and how many people he needed to kill in order to be sure to feed his family. He sounded just like any other low class person, struggling to make ends meet and doing whatever it takes to provide a good life for his family. Plus, he spared my life and killed Joe up the street, so he’s got pretty good judgment, I’d say. I’m actually thinking of starting up a collection to help supplement his pillaging. If you’d like to help support Olaf and his family, go to the nearest consignment station and join the army. That way, Olaf will be able to kill you and get a bigger bonus. Any size donation accepted, as long as they can wear a helmet and wield a sword.
Of course, there’s always the chance that Alfred will someday be victorious against the Vikings, leaving the door open to conquest by another group. That’s the problem with living on an island: even if you repel people from one shore, there’s plenty of other coastline to land a ship on. Makes you wonder why we don’t have a stronger navy, the better to repel would-be invaders. Maybe Alfred gets seasick.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Countdown to the Finish

As of when I am typing this, there are 81 days, 16 hours, 50 minutes, and 50 seconds until noon on the day I enter the MTC (I can't have an exact timer for when I enter the MTC because I don't know when that will be yet). That's not very long. There have almost been breaks between posts on this blog that were that long, and I'll bet none of those breaks felt very long. 6 more weeks of classes, 1 week of finals, and then 5 weeks later I'm gone. Which means this blog may come to an end. It may continue on as a place to put emails I send home to my family, but probably not. More than likely, I'll just compile a list of email addresses for my mom to forward those on to. And, honestly, I don't foresee rejuvenating this blog after I get home. I barely get any readership now; a two-year hiatus will just make it worse. Admittedly, I haven't put any effort into garnering readers. I've only posted a link for it publicly one or two times. The template is horrendous, the color scheme more so, and the writing only marginally better (seriously, I just reread through all my previous posts, and I am amazed some of you have stuck to reading this). I do think I've accomplished my goal with it, however. "Rants and Raves and Maybe Some Deep Thoughts" I've certainly had rants, and I've had a few raves. Hopefully, I've expressed some somewhat deep thoughts. I certainly was able to do the writing I wanted to when I wanted to do it, which was the real purpose for this. Well, that and placating Dania Frandsen, but she's practically admitted to me that she's stopped reading this. I may have a few good posts left in me, and rereading what I have written has given me some ideas as to what I could write on. Thanks for being willing to participate with me in this experiment. I hope you enjoy these next two years as much as I plan to.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Obligatory Title

100% obedience. I hear it so often from all my missionary friends. Realize you may never get there, but strive for perfect obedience to the mission rules. I think there is a fair number of missionaries with that same attitude. They recognize that life is actually better when you follow all the rules, not just the ones you like or that are convenient or easy. Sure, you may not get to listen to Vocal Point's absolutely beautiful voices sing brilliant harmonies and create mind-blowing sounds, but what you get is worth so much more than that.

It's interesting, however, that such an attitude on a mission doesn't necessarily carry over into normal life. I see, for example, a young man that tries to uphold certain rules a large group of people have agreed to live by for a period of time. He goes about it in terrible fashion, but his public ridicule is not due to his method so much as his intention. Now, could this young man find someone violating the rules in more fragrantly? I'm sure of it. It probably wouldn't have taken much searching to do so. The target of his attempt at constructive criticism was certainly not the person at the time going farthest outside the rules, but what has been glossed over--and many times denied entirely--was that she was, in fact, outside the rules: "Dresses, skirts, and shorts must be knee length or longer." Seems like a pretty cut and dried rule to me. The dress of the young woman who was the recipient of the criticism quite clearly did not meet that requirement. Whether the top was cut low enough to be "revealing" is up for debate (I personally fall on the side that it was), but it's pretty hard to debate that a dress is knee-length when it isn't.

Now, I recognize that it can be difficult and sometimes very inconvenient to find clothing that fits this standard and is cute. It is inconvenient and expensive for me to be clean-shaven every day, yet I strive to do so. Until recently, I would forgo shaving on Saturday because my facial hair really wasn't that long, and after all it is Saturday, and I like to be freshly shaved for church on Sunday, and shaving every day really is overkill for how much/fast my facial hair grows, so I either shave two days in a row or don't shave Sunday if I shave Saturday, and neither option sounds very good. The last few weeks, however, I've taken a step back to look in the mirror, and decided that the hair really was long enough that I couldn't fit the clean shaven bill. Yes, it means I'll spend more money on shaving cream and razor blades because I'll use them more often, but it's a small price to pay to be a little bit closer to 100% obedient.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Life. Go Ahead and Talk to me About Life

A week ago yesterday, we had a funeral for my Grandma Sorensen. It still is difficult to write this post. I was able to write one for Grandpa Cobabe much easier. Partially, it's because I liked Grandma Sorensen a little bit more, even though I loved them both equally. Mostly, though, I think the way in which they died has a lot to do with it. Grandpa Cobabe was taken suddenly. He'd had heart and blood problems for a long time, but I'd gone to see him the week before he died, and he still seemed very strong. The suddenness of it kept me from thinking about his condition and reflect on the life he had lived. Grandma Sorensen was different. She struggled with Alzheimer's for several years before she died. It was hard to see her slowly forget so much. It became clear around Christmas that she was coming to the end of her life, and that she probably wouldn't live long enough to see me go on a mission. I got to observe her slowly slipping away, and, as backward as it seems, that makes it more difficult.

What do I remember about Grandma Sorensen? I remember going up to her house fondly. I remember playing with all the toys that they had, especially doing so with my cousins. I remember running my fingers up and down and all around the sculpture she had done, just feeling the interesting texture. Most of all, I remember Grandma pulling me into her lap to read a book. As much as my parents nurtured a love of reading, I think it was Grandma Sorensen who planted that love in me. It was never Grandma reading to me. It was always reading with Grandma, even when I couldn't actually read the words. She freely shared her library with us, even if we were just a bunch of rowdy boys. She understood that books were meant to be read and loved, not kept prettily on a shelf.

Another love my Grandma Sorensen passed on to me was of BYU sports. She was one of the biggest Cougar fans I've ever known. We used to go up to my Aunt and Uncle's cabin for Thanksgiving, and the BYU-U. of U. rivalry football game often falls that weekend as well (or at least it did when they were in the same conference). I can distinctly remember one year listening to it on the radio up at the cabin and my cousin David, who is a Utah fan, coming out in all his Utah gear and cheering loudly for the Utes. Grandma wasn't going to sit quietly for that; she went up and put on her BYU sweatshirt and called out "Go Cougars!" As much as I looked up to David, I loved Grandma more. That moment was the beginning of my now full-fledged Cougar fanship. I remember going to numerous football and men's basketball games with Grandma Sorensen. Our parents kept buying season tickets for them even as Grandma got older. It was one thing she enjoyed even as she forgot other things, and she went as long as she was able to. She may not have been able to steer all her grandchildren onto the correct sports path, but she certainly helped this one.

I love my Grandma Sorensen. It was very hard to watch Alzheimer's overwhelm her life, especially in the last month or two of it. I know, however, that she is now continuing her life of love and service. I know that didn't stop when her mind and body failed her. As sad as I am to see her go, I know the truth of the resurrection, and I know I will see her again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yes, I am Just Sending you Somewhere Else

Quite a bit's been going on in my life this month. I actually have stuff to right about. Instead, I'm just going to post a link tonight. I intended to write a few words, and I'm sure I will, but for now I'll let you read some writing that's actually good from someone who knows the source a whole lot better than I do:

I'll have my own words to add soon, I'm sure. For tonight, my dad's words are enough for me.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Harry Potter...Again

Yes, yes, I know. You've heard it before, and you're sick of it, but I need to write about something. Besides a distressing lack of snow, not much has gone on in my life. Well, I guess there was Thanksgiving, finals week, my birthday, and Christmas, but there isn't a whole to write about it in there. I could also talk about BYU sports (heart-breaking basketball loss to Baylor, blow-out at St. Mary's, stunning comeback in the Armed Forces Bowl) but I get the feeling that most of you who read this aren't big sports fans. I think I am safe in a assuming, however, that a very large percentage of you are Harry Potter fans. You can read previous posts (here and here) that demonstrate my general disregard for the series. Last night, however, in the midst of a Star Wars, it was brought up again that I don't like Harry Potter. I have thought about it for awhile now, and I think I have one more reason why I am opposed to the book that I have yet to state clearly that should be stated.

In the genre of fantasy, to me, there are two basic sub-genres: epic fantasy and, for lack of a better term, fun-story fantasy. Fun-story fantasy is not meant as a derogatory category (i.e. it's not meant in the "it's just a fun story" sense); I would classify C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia as fun-story fantasy. Narnia is a series of loosely connected stories that occur in the same world. J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, is epic fantasy: it deals with one central plot line, and everything contained in it is connected to that central plot line. The first four books of the Harry Potter series are fun-story fantasy. The first four books are a series of stories surrounding Harry Potter. They do not really advance a central plot. The events of one book do not have a very large impact on the events of the next book. It's just a well-written series of exciting stories about Harry Potter and his friends, which means I ate it up.

After the fourth book, with Voldemort revived, J.K. Rowling decided to take the series in a new direction. She decided to make it an epic story about Harry Potter vanquishing the Dark Lord. It was, by my estimation, a good decision. In order for the stories to be good, Voldemort had to come back at some point. Once he's back, you can't ignore him, and you can't continue to have the same sort of isolated battles as were present in the first four books. An evil that powerful can't stay in obscurity. Unfortunately, that good decision had very poor execution. First of all, the decision wasn't even clearly made in the fifth book. You had epic fantasy in the underlying elements of the plot, but the confrontation with Umbridge and creation of Dumbledore's Army that was such a central part of the book was really just a continuation of the type of stories that were depicted in the first four books. The ending of the fourth book set up a transition; you didn't need a whole book dedicated to switching sub-genres. Rowling could have picked up the fifth book and started straight in with epic fantasy, but she didn't. Mostly, however, she just didn't know how to write epic fantasy for the Harry Potter world. She didn't seem to have it set up very well for how the story would progress. She knew that she should rely on details from earlier books, so she included them, but she didn't have an overall picture of how to make it work. Instead of dealing with previously learned knowledge about the way the Harry Potter world works, she invented entirely new explanations. Good epic fantasy should not leave readers saying a confused "wait, what?" or "where on earth did that come from?" There can be newly revealed tricks, rules, or magics, but they should be based on the foundation that is already laid. I haven't read the seventh book, so I don't know if it violated the rule (based on what I've heard from Daniel, it does, by the way), but the idea of Horcruxes in the sixth book basically came from out of the sky. J.K. Rowling fell into the great trap of magic: she made it practically infinitely expandable. That works just fine for fun-story fantasy; it doesn't work for epic fantasy.