Not Waiting for Godot

Another thing I wrote for school. I had to make some kind of adaptation of Waiting for Godot, so I decided to do a sequel.

Not Waiting For Godot

by Avi Kraft

Act I

VLADIMIR: This is the place, isn’t it?

ESTRAGON: Which place?

Vladimir: The one where we have been waiting.

Estragon: Why are you asking me? You’ve been waiting as long as I have.

Vladimir: Is that so?

Estragon: Perhaps.

Vladimir: Can’t you remember?

Estragon: All I remember is you telling me to wait for Gogot.

Vladimir: Godot?

Estragon: Ah, yes, yes. That was it.

Vladimir: Was what?

Estragon: Who we were waiting for.

Vladimir: Ah, yes, yes. It seems we have been waiting for a rather long time.

Estragon: How do you figure that?

Vladimir: Why are you asking me? You’ve been waiting as long as I have.

Estragon: Is that so?

Vladimir: Perhaps.

Estragon: Perhaps not.

Vladimir: I feel quite certain that you were here when he instructed us to wait.

Estragon: When who instructed us?
Vladimir: Godot.

Estragon: Ah, yes, yes. Are you quite sure he instructed us to wait here?

Vladimir: This is the place where we have been waiting, isn’t it?

Estragon: I’ve forgotten.

Vladimir: Of course. And I suppose you’ve forgotten about Pozzo and Lucky as well?

Estragon: Never heard of them.

Vladimir: You don’t remember a blind man coming by yesterday?

Estragon: Not in the least.

Vladimir: But, no doubt, you remember the beating you received the prior night?

Estragon: [angrily] Of course, how could I possibly forget?

Vladimir: Just as I thought. Fortunately I came prepared.

Estragon: Prepared for what?
Vladimir: For… well, you know… hang on… you haven’t got a bit of rope, have you?
GODOT: What for?

Godot enters

Estragon:  [whispering] Is that the man? You know…

Vladimir: Godot?
Estragon: Ah, yes, yes.

Vladimir: Don’t be absurd.

Estragon: I suppose he must be one of those other men, Lucky and… Bozzo…

Godot: My name is Godot.

Vladimir: Ah! Are you quite sure? If so, we have been waiting here for you.

Estragon: For a very long time.

Godot: Is that so?

Estragon: Perhaps.

Vladimir: Oh, certainly! It has been… say, Gogo, how long has it been exactly?

Estragon: Oh, I don’t know, surely since last Thursday at least. It is Wednesday, isn’t it?

Vladimir: [bizarrely offended] It’s Sunday I tell you.

Estragon: Ah… well my point stands.

Vladimir: Oh? And what point exactly?

Estragon: The point is that we have been waiting at least since last Thursday.

Vladimir: Since last Thursday?! Dear god, it is worse than I thought.

Estragon: What in God’s name are you talking about?

Vladimir: You don’t remember?! We have been waiting since… well, much longer than one week, I can tell you that much!

Estragon: Oh, I suppose you’re right. I suspect we have been waiting months, years…

Vladimir: It seems like millennia even.
Estragon: Sometimes I feel we have been waiting in this very spot since the world was formed.

Godot: What on Earth are you blathering on about?!

Estragon: Ah! Yes, yes, we have been waiting for you.

Vladimir: It is you we’ve been waiting for, isn’t it?

Godot: Oh… I think you know the answer to that question already.

Vladimir and Estragon move away from Godot.

Vladimir: Do you think it’s really him?

Estragon: He said we knew already.

Vladimir: Do you agree with that assessment?
Estragon: I don’t know.

Vladimir: Well then I suppose there’s only one way to find out.

Estragon: How do you figure?
Vladimir: Oh… I’ve forgotten.

Estragon: Perhaps we should ask him.

Vladimir: Of course! It’s so simple, yet so brilliant!

Vladimir walks up to Godot.

Vladimir: It is you we’ve been waiting for, isn’t it?

Godot: Didn’t you just ask me that?
Vladimir: I can’t remember.

Godot: Ah, the forgetfulness of humanity. I can’t say that I relate.

Estragon: [shouting from a distance] Well?!

Godot: Well what?

Estragon walks up to Vladimir and Godot.

Estragon: Be you he?

Godot: Who?
Estragon: You know, Godot.

Godot: Ah yes, yes.

Vladimir: Yes you know Godot or yes you are Godot?

Godot: Yes to the former, and yes to the latter. Although that does raise a very curious question. Can you be a man while not knowing that man? Could it be that though I am Godot, I know Godot not? Perhaps no man truly knows himself. Perhaps all of our true essences are defined by some quality perpetually beyond the scope of human understanding.

All three stand in silence for precisely one minute.

Estragon: Will you help us?

Godot: What with?

Vladimir: Oh come on, can’t you remember?

Godot: Of course; it is not in my nature to forget. Yet I must ask you to clarify what exactly it is that I remember.

Estragon: Can’t you remember why it is that we waited so long?

Godot: Has it really been very long?

Vladimir: So long I’ve lost track of time.

Estragon: Oh come on, can’t you remember?

Godot: Unfortunately no.

Estragon: You said it was not in your nature to forget.

Godot: Did I? I have no recollection of saying any such thing.

Estragon: How can you have forgotten already? It only just happened.

Godot: Yes, well, the memory is a funny thing. One day it seems like all of space and time might be hidden in some cavern of the mind, the next day one finds the world as though it’s brand new. There is no warning, no telling when a thing now known will be forgotten, yet at the same time we must inevitably reach that goal.

All three stand in silence for precisely 0.5 minutes.

Vladimir: Will you help us?

Godot: What with?

Estragon: You know, tell us what to do.

Godot: What on Earth makes you think I know any more than you do?

Vladimir: You told us so.

Godot: I most certainly did not.

Vladimir: You did! I remember it… [trying to mask his own uncertainty] very clearly…

Godot: What have you been doing all this time?

Vladimir: Oh, you know…

Estragon: Mostly chatting…

Vladimir: Blathering on about nothing in particular…
Estragon: I’ve gotten beaten from time to time…

Vladimir: Every now and then a slave driver shows up…

Estragon: I’ve gotten beaten from time to time…

Godot: Yes, you mentioned that. And you say that while you’ve been doing all this, you’ve been waiting for me?
Estragon: Ah yes! We hoped you could save us.

Godot: Save you from what?
Estragon: From the uncertainty.

Godot: Well, explain your uncertainty, and perhaps I will be able to explain the corresponding certainty.

Vladimir: Well, we’re not very sure of anything.

Godot: Ah, yes, I should have known. There are no certainties in life.

Estragon: Perhaps one or two.

Godot: No there aren’t.

Estragon: More likely.

Vladimir: I’m not quite certain.

Estragon: And there is the proof.

Godot: Are our own existences certain?

Vladimir and Estragon ponder the question for far longer than should be necessary.

Vladimir: I have no idea.

Estragon: I have always had the strong suspicion that I am merely a dream; perhaps in reality I am nothing more than a cockroach whose subconscious wishes to one day develop humanity. Why any creature should wish to one day evolve into a human being, I have no idea.

Godot: Then we are in agreement that nothing is certain in life.

Estragon: I suppose so.

Vladimir: Undoubtedly.

Godot: Our recourse then is clear. We must escape from life.

Estragon: Ah, that reminds me! Do you have a bit of rope? Enough that we could hang ourselves with.

Godot: [Taking an implausibly long rope out of his pocket] Indeed I do! Enough for all three of us!

Estragon: What are we waiting for then?

Vladimir: Let’s hang ourselves immediately!

All three hang themselves. They die.

THE END

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Pundit alignment chart

I’m a person who likes categorizing things. One of my favourite ways of categorizing people is using the Dungeons and Dragons alignment system. As much as people like to say that it only works with 2D characters, the reality is that the vast majority of interesting characters fit into it very well. In spite of this, I’ve only ever seen two accurate alignment charts. The first was about the most recent US election:

And the second was about Futurama:

Most other alignment charts I’ve seen have been garbage, although there are two more I liked enough to mention. One about US Presidents, which I like more for the choice of subject matter than for the actual content:

And finally, one involving websites, which is pretty good apart from the bizarre choice to put reddit in Lawful.

Well, no longer. I have created a third completely accurate alignment chart. Why? Because I can.

On Free Will And Objective Morality

Hi.

Do I know you?

You don’t remember me?

Uhhh… no… you look kinda generic.

Well, I am a generic hypothetical entity.

Wait, then how could I possibly recognize you?

You created me, remember? So you could explain to me what art was?

OH! You’re THAT guy!

What other generic hypothetical people do you know?

Uhhh…

Whatever. Let’s just get to the point.

…Which… is?

I’m actually not sure.

Uhhh… I think I was going to do something about free will.

Sounds good. I’m in.

Mind clarifying what your stance is? Do you think you have free will?

Me personally? Obviously not. I’m a fictional character controlled entirely by the writer of this dialogue.

Oh, you know what I mean.

Still no.

Well, let me then present my-wait. What? How can a generic hypothetical entity have such a specific opinion?

My purpose in existing is to help you find the best way to explain things. Most of the time that simply means not knowing things, but sometimes it requires actively opposing your opinion.

Interesting.

Indeed.

So, why do you reject free will?

Hey, I’m helping you explain this, right? You’ve got to present your argument first.

Fair enough.

Well?

Oh, right. It’s quite simple. Let me ask you this. What is physics?

Physics is the study of motion.

Correct. Now, is physics strictly deterministic?

As we presently understand it, no.

Why not?

There’s a… thing… called, uhmmm… the Uncertainty Principle.

Right, but what does that actually mean?

It means the more you know about a particle’s position, the less you know about its momentum, and vice versa.

So, to be clear, physics, at least on a quantum level, is considered indeterministic because the more you know about certain things, the less your ability to find out other things is.

It’s probably a bit more complex than that, but that’s basically my understanding.

In other words, the more we study, the less our predictive power.

At it’s most basic, yes.

And that makes it random?

Probably.

And you think that’s rational?

Yes, I think so.

But that’s randomness, not free will.

Right. Wait, aren’t you supposed to be disagreeing with me?

I’ll get to that. Now, then, what aspects of physics are deterministic?

Areas where Newtonian mechanics apply. Really, though, it’s a mistake to understand it as-

You’re going to take us waaaayyyyy off track if you finish that sentence, so let me ask you this: why is Newtonian mechanics deterministic?

What kind of a question is that? You know the answer.

I do, but explain it to me anyway. Try to make it as simple as possible.

You take an object with a certain initial position and velocity, forces are applied to it, and once you’ve got that it’s all just mathematical calculations to figure out exactly where it will be at a given time.

In other words, the more knowledge you have of the situation, the more easily you can calculate what you don’t already know.

Correct.

And it follows that the more we study, the greater our predictive power is.

Correct.

And that makes it deterministic.

Correct.

And you think that’s rational.

Indeed.

With that in mind, what would happen if you were to find a third form of physics, working in a way irreconcilable with either, in which studying neither improves nor lessens our predictive power?

I would say that that seems a rather pointless thing to study, then.

Yes, but would you call it deterministic or random?

It would be both or neither.

Both?

No, I guess it can’t be both. It would be neither.

So, what about psychology?

What about it?

What is it?

The study of the human mind.

Is psychology random?

No, of course not.

Is it deterministic?

I don’t think we can say definitively one way or the other.

Well, what if we treat it the same way we treat physics? As we study the human mind more and more, does our ability to predict people’s behaviour increase?

I’m not sure I understand the question. Are you talking about individuals or mankind in general?

I don’t think it should matter, if human nature is strictly deterministic.

You wouldn’t extrapolate universal laws of physics if you had only ever looked at one example of an object moving, would you?

No, I suppose that’s fair. I’m talking about the study of mankind in general. Do you think that the study of psychology has improved our ability to predict the behaviour of humans either as individuals or collectively?

…That’s a tough question.

Perhaps an example would help. We said earlier that Newtonian physics was deterministic, right?

Yes.

Can you think of three rules discovered from studying physics (outside of a quantum level) that aren’t immediately intuitive/observable?

Kepler’s Three Laws.

Any others?

Probably a lot, if I gave it time.

What about rules discovered from studying psychology? These have to be things that have actually been proven. Nothing which is still up for debate.

I can’t even think of one.

Neither can I. It would seem, then, that at least as far as we know, studying psychology does not give us the ability to predict behaviour based on simple rules, the same way physics and other “hard” sciences do.

It would seem not.

So, going by what we concluded before, it would seem psychology is neither random nor deterministic.

….Hmmm. I suppose so.

So then if the human mind’s behaviour is not predetermined by outside forces, and it is not random, it must therefore be self-controlling, and therefore have free will.

…Wait. This isn’t going as planned. You actually convinced me. I had a planned rebuttal, but now I’m not sure what to do.

Say your rebuttal anyway. Perhaps we will convince each other.

Okay, well, give me an example of something you did of your own free will.

I wrote this dialogue.

Why?

I wanted to find the best way to explain my stance.

And that prevented you from not writing it?

Well, no, I could have tried another way I thought was better.

And why didn’t you?

I couldn’t think of one, and this had worked the last time I tried it.

And that prevented you from trying another better way?

The fact that I couldn’t think of one? I suppose so.

I see. So the fact that you wanted to find the best way to explain your stance, and the fact that you couldn’t think of a better way, together prevented you from not writing this?

Hmmm. No, I could still have not done it.

And why didn’t you?

I think I see what you mean. You’re saying that we think of our actions as being intrinsically causal-in other words, whenever we perform an action, something must have prevented us from performing any other action.

Precisely.

And therefore we cannot truly make free decisions, if something must prevent us from making any other decision.

Correct.

Okay, now you’ve convinced me. Is there any way to reconcile that with the previous conclusion? It seems like one or the other must be fallacious.

Actually, I think there is a way. We talked earlier about studying humanity as a whole, correct?

Yes, and we concluded that its behaviour is neither random nor deterministic.

Not exactly. Or at least we shouldn’t have. What our argument showed, as far as I can tell, was that there are no deterministic rules governing the behaviour of humans collectively. Nothing about individuals.

True, true.

And I think it’s quite evident that knowing more about a given individual human allows you to better predict the behaviour of that particular person.

Indeed.

I would say, then, that going by the rules we established before, we must conclude that human behaviour is deterministic, it is just determined differently depending on the nature of the individual.

Perhaps. Does that then mean morality does not exist?

Not at all. Allow me to explain. Suppose that your house is on fire. The fire has no free will, correct?

Of course, which is why I would not attribute its consequences to immorality.

Ah, but you would still say that your house is burning down because of the fire, correct?

I have difficulty seeing how that would come into question, but if it did, I would probably get annoyed that someone was making such a stupid joke at such a time.

Okay, fine. You would still believe that your house is burning because of the fire, right?

Yes, obviously.

And you would attribute that to certain qualities of fire that makes it liable to destroy, right?

Well, the heat mostly.

Right. And you would then want the fire put out, right?

Naturally.

And, generally speaking, if you had to light something on fire in your house, you would do it in a way that prevents the destructive qualities from doing damage, right?

Right.

And no part of this implies that fire has free will?

I don’t see how it would.

Then it can be the same with people. If a person wrongs another, that must therefore be the result of some quality of the person that makes them predisposed to do wrong, to a greater or lesser degree. I don’t see what better name there could be for such a quality than immorality. Every person has some degree of it, and we all must do our best to control ourselves so that the quality does as little damage as possible. No part of this implies that we have free will.

I agree, insofar as I understand you.

From Hell

Not something I wrote for school, I just sort of came up with the general outline of this and liked it enough to write it down and then expand on it. I hope the story is less boring than the introduction. I might make a more expanded version later if people like it enough.

NOTE: The narrator of this story is the villain. He is not someone I believe you should emulate, nor do his views on events necessarily reflect my own.

From Hell(?)

Avi

Oh, hello there. Come in. I’ve been expecting you.

It is my understanding that you wish to know who I am, although you won’t say so outright. I may think that you think that you know, but-I mean, you may think that I think that you know, because you know who I say I am. But I realize you don’t trust me. Don’t object; you would be a fool to. Trust me, I mean, not object. In fact, I’m going to ask that you don’t speak at all until I am finished. I wish I could tell you something to prove to you that I am being truthful on this particular occasion, some detail of the events described that I could not possibly have known without personal experience. Alas, I am a very old man, and my memory very clouded; I strongly doubt anything of my past significant enough that I still remember it will be unbeknownst to you. In any case, if I were to give you a detail that you could verify, you might simply conclude that I have verified it in the same manner. As such, I shall have to swear to you that I will tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth until you leave and pretend that that is sufficient. I hope that you will see the truth of my story in my eyes.

Whether you believe my account or not, I do expect you to record all that I say exactly. If I find that you have done otherwise… well, I’ll have decided on what to do when the time comes.

Now then, it’s hard to say when my story begins. Actually, there isn’t really a “when” my story begins; this was befo- this was whe- phrases involving time don’t apply. But whatever.

Now, you know already that I was once a very different man (for lack of a better term) than I am today. But that’s not relevant to you, so I’ll skip over it. What you don’t know-though you likely have suspicions-is that I’ve always felt the need deep in my heart to be the best at every endeavour I take on. Despite this, I have never had any particular skill at anything.

I do believe I told you not to talk until I was finished. I can see that it feels weird to you to hear me say such a thing. (That I have never been particularly good at anything-not that I told you not to talk.) Many strange things have been said about me, but, to my knowledge, nobody has ever called me humble. But I did swear to you that I would speak nothing but the truth until you leave.

Now, what was I talking about again? Right. I’ve never been particularly good at anything. Now, this point in my story contains an endless amount of nothing happening (literally endless-that may not make sense to you, but I am beyond human logic), but I’ll skip over that. We will pick up at the point where it starts to become relevant to you: a few billion years or so ago, when I put the first life form onto the planet Earth. My initial creation wasn’t much, but it did have certain attributes lacked by the more impressive creatures of other planets. It could reproduce itself. It could mutate, and thereby create something else. It was… something. Yes, it was something.

So it seemed to me at the time, anyway. This turned out more a flaw than an advantage. You see, once these creatures had been given the ability to evolve to survive better, it was an inevitable next step for some to evolve to live by feeding on others. When I realized that this had happened, I was equal parts horrified and mortified. The idea of a system where life could only be perpetuated by its own taking went against every principle the universe was meant to be founded upon. This was such an affront, in fact, that the forces of Heaven made a number of attempts to destroy the planet. Alas, my creation had gotten more out of hand than I could have ever imagined; no matter how much destruction the wrath of Heaven wrought on this planet, some of my little horrors found some way to survive.

After a certain point, we gave up on wiping it out directly and decided to see if time would reverse this wrongdoing. Millions of years I waited hopefully, but to no avail. My frustrations only grew as Earth life forms got better and better at slaughtering one another, until one day, a few million years ago, my frustrations peaked. I… well, there’s no eloquent way of saying this: I hurled a rock at the planet. You may know this as “the K-T Extinction”. This changed a very fundamental part of me. I had seen destruction on such a scale before, but the effect had never been so obvious; the destruction had always been scattered amongst life in general. To see such an until-then-dominant group of creatures be wiped out so totally was… something unique. At that moment, I had an epiphany. If I were a force of good in the Universe, I was never going to be the best. But as a negative force, I could be the worst.

I probably engaged in a lot of acts of wanton destruction over the next few epochs that I can’t remember, but I’ll skip ahead to the period of my life that I suspect interests you most.

About two million years ago, a species emerged that was unlike anything that had lived on Earth before it. Now, the Universe is full of random chance (do not believe the lie that I or any other entity have a plan for you: remember, your mere existence is an error), but there are a few laws, a few things that are never allowed to happen. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. There are a few things that can happen only with direct divine intervention. One of these rules is that sentient life can never be completely destroyed. It was bad enough that all my simpler creations would perish eventually, but to have a being that is both mortal and intelligent-God refused to let this stand. And so man was given a soul, and a plane was created for them to be sent once they died. Since the existence of death was my fault to begin with, I was made ruler of this-I believe you would call it an “afterlife realm”. I’m not going to go into too much detail about what I did with the place; it’s mostly how you would imagine it, with the caveat that you all come to me-do not think that by being a good person, or anything else, you can be saved.

Now, man while alive presented to me an opportunity unlike any other life form on Earth. It was intelligent enough that I could communicate with it, but being (unlike any other intelligent life form in the Universe) still descended from my original, fundamentally flawed creations, it was stupid enough to be easily manipulated and tricked to suit my own ends. Perhaps my most famous act of trickery-which is now far more so than I could have ever predicted-came when I dabbled in writing. I’m not quite sure how or why my work took off the way it did, but… it did. Of course it did, why am I bothering to tell you? Completely redundant. But that’s beside the point. My book was written over an inordinately long time, though to tell you the truth there was no good reason for it to be; granted that it would have been for any human author, but being still technically an angel and therefore not having any needs, there was no reason why I couldn’t have given it every minute of my life until it was completed. Nevertheless, it was inadvisable that anyone know who I was when they read it, so I decided to make it seem as though it was written over a period too long for any single person to have been alive for. This delaying did carry a certain advantage; by avoiding working on my project for sometimes as much as centuries at a time, I could give the unfinished project to any group of people I so chose, tell them it was completed, and nobody would ever know I lied. It’s a bit pathetic, I grant, but I’ll take any opportunity to be deceitful. This is probably a bad time to say that.

Do you ever have that feeling where the minute you finish writing something, you feel as though you’ve done everything wrong, but everyone else who sees it feels it’s perfect? That was rhetorical, keep not talking. This is exactly what happened. Eventually, anyway. The first portion of my book that I wrote was actually based on a true story, though of course it was still quite far from the truth. There was a Job, and I did put him through the same torments that I claimed, but he was far from a perfect man, even before. Have you read the Book of Job? I said, HAVE YOU READ THE BOOK OF-oh, that’s right, you can’t speak. Very well then, if you haven’t, you can do it on your own damn time, this is for getting out the stuff no one (of your species) knows about yet. I only claimed that he was-I mean, that Job was flawless-to make myself look worse. He was also not well-liked by God, who has always seen my entire, ehrmm, “body of work” as horrible. Which it is. Sort of the point. The dislike was not mutual, though. Job was very devoted to his religion-this much is true. His reactions were also described with a reasonable degree of accuracy, insofar as I could actually remember them. It did come as a slight surprise to me that he reacted so very little when I killed his children, but far be it for me to discourage men from not caring about others. God also never appeared to Job in person; that detail was made up from whole cloth. Anyways, again, you can read Job on your own time.

It felt a bit wrong (or should I say right?) to spread ideas that were basically the truth, so the rest of my writing was mostly just putting down whatever ridiculous ideas popped into my head. It continually amazes me how easy it is to deceive a human being.

Corrupting people was, for most of ancient and medieval times, my raison d’être. Having the ability to get others to do evil on my behalf was an exciting new opportunity! This wasn’t like those who rallied behind me when I first fell from grace. They, like me, made a point of being evil. And besides, there were so few of them anyway. A human, on the other hand, can easily be corrupted without ever knowing it. I paid little attention to affairs I was not involved in, and I rarely wondered how much I actually influenced the outcome of events. Now- you know, I think it’s best if I get back to that thought later.

Much later, I came to a realization. Because I had gotten so used to getting other people to do my dirty work for me, I had totally forgotten how it felt to kill someone. Oh, sure, I had done so indirectly. But to hold a person’s life entirely in your own hands, to watch it fade from their eyes… it is a euphoric sensation I had been giving to others, almost a gift, without ever indulging in it myself. Such an altruistic mode of operation, even if those it benefited were themselves evil, could not be allowed to stand. So during the 19th century, I made a decision to try my hand at being a serial killer myself. You know already that I go by many names; what you don’t know is that one of my many titles is “Jack the Ripper”. Disappointingly, I only took a grand total of 7 victims, of which 4 have since been discovered. By this point I was growing quite tired of messing with humanity and with Earth in general. Whether I attempted to corrupt, deceive, murder, rape, or whathaveyou, it was simply too easy. My creations had already gone so wrong that there was no pride to be taken in screwing it up further.

So now we come to the 20th century. It would be my guess that this part interests you the most-truth be told, though, it’s not terribly interesting. I missed it. The 20th century, I mean. Well, I didn’t miss it exactly, I was alive and awake for all of it (literally), but I wasn’t doing anything. Well, anything of note. I found that humans, as I said, were too easy to corrupt, deceive, and kill, so I decided to try my hand at bringing evil to other worlds, but I was too late. All the other worlds that had life on them had perpetuated themselves without the intervention of myself or my minions for billions of years. Every extraterrestrial I encountered was too used to living in service of Heaven by that point for me to have any sway. It seems I missed a big window of opportunity in my excitement over the creation of people. I’m not sure if it’s actually possible to corrupt an alien, anyway. If I recall correctly, free will was supposed to only be for angels like myself-that humans have it is just a product of my own incompetence at being “good”.

So, I returned a while later, it was in the 1940s I believe. You were probably expecting me, I suppose, to claim some involvement in all the atrocities of the 20th Century before that point. And after. I wish I could, but I did swear that I would tell you nothing but the truth until you leave. When I came back to Earth, I had expected that without me to spurn people into committing atrocities, Earth would quickly reach the same borderline utopic (is utopic a word? Utopian, I think) state that most other planets had always been in. I was… wrong.

In the time I was gone, there was World War One. Not that bad. I mean, sure, millions of people died, but I could handle it. It wasn’t the first time a huge conflict had come about without my direct instigation. Besides, no one person could be said to have caused it all.

And, then, there was another. This one was a bit harder to accept. I had long thought of myself as the source of all evil on Earth, or at least the bulk of it. Yet here was the most destructive war ever fought, coinciding with one of the most massive genocides in history, and it came about completely by human hands. That alone would have shook my perception of the world greatly. But, to me, the magnitude of destruction was not the truly shocking thing, but the way it ended, shortly after I returned.

It is often asked who was the most evil man that ever lived. The conventional answer is Adolf Hitler; a reasonable answer, of course, but to me the one villain who stands out above all others is Harry S. Truman. Here was a man who had in his access weapons of unprecedented power, weapons that, if unleashed, could destroy the whole of human civilization. And he went ahead and used them. Twice. If it were only once I could perhaps say that he didn’t understand the power. But he did, and he did it twice anyway. I have done many horrible things in my time, Alan. But I never once in all of my eternal life attempted to destroy my own species. Truman did, and he wasn’t the last.

And unlike Hitler, Truman still is celebrated as a hero. And people still see the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as good decisions. And nuclear weapons are still a thing. You have come so close to destroying yourselves, so many times. I don’t understand how such malice can exist in the human mind.

So, seeing Hitler, and Truman, among so many others, all coming about without my help, this changed my view. I once saw humans as tools, pawns, things that could be manipulated to suit my own ends; I used to laugh at the medieval stories of me making vampires, werewolves, and other such things; well, I may not have made any of those things specifically, but I had made monsters.

And while this seems like something I should take pride in, I was overcome above all else by horror. How could such things happen without my having to do… anything? My taste for depravity had been surpassed by my own creation. I had come to terms with not being “the best”, but now I was no longer even “the worst”. What place is left for me in the Universe then?

This should have been where my story ended; but, as an immortal being, I stand before you still, my life full, my death impossible. All that’s left to do now is tell someone my story-well, no, actually, I suppose I’ve now done that too. I suppose I can only turn the question to you, then: what is there left for me to do?

THE END(?)

The Cadism Manifesto

Another thing i wrote for school, this time for drama class. I had to write a manifesto explaining what art means to me. I couldn’t come up with a name for my philosophy, so I asked a nearby classmate to name 3 letters. I then took the first word with those 3 letters I thought of (which coincidentally was a 3-letter word) and added “-ism” to it. Here is the result.

The Cadism Manifesto

by Avi Kraft

What is art?

That’s what I’m getting to. Be patient.

Is everything art?

No, now please be quiet.

Is this art?

Shut up!

Now then, what you should instead ask is “why is art?”

OK. Why is art?

I said SHUT UP!

But-you just said…

IT WAS RHETORICAL!

Now then, art is because it is art, and art is that which can be identified as art.

Uhhhmmmm…. What?

It’s really quite self-evident, isn’t it?

Yeah, but it doesn’t actually mean anything.

Sure it does.

Then what does it mean?

It’s simple. First, art is because it is art. Let me illustrate with another question. Why do you put lights in a room?

So you can see more easily.

Exactly. That is a practical consideration. Insects have no concept of art, yet they still need light to see. Because a lightbulb fulfills a practical need, it is technology, not art.

Now then, a second question. Why do you exist?

Uhmmm… well, you see, when a boy and a girl love each other very much-

That’s not what I mean. What I’m asking you is, for what purpose were you created?

What, you mean like… God’s plan for me?

I’m an atheist, actually.

Then your question makes no sense.

Exactly. People and animals, and natural things are not made to fulfill any need, so they aren’t art.

So art can’t fulfill a need, and art can’t not fulfill a need?

No, art fulfills needs, just not practical ones. Art is things that we feel the need to make just because we feel the need to make them. Art fulfills our need to make beauty, to express our ideas, to entertain those around us… in a word, art fulfills the need to make art, and no other. Thus, art exists because it is art.

Okay, I think I get it now. So a manifesto, which exists for the purpose of establishing rules, is not art. But the dialogue at the beginning of this manifesto, which explained nothing whatsoever and had no point except to amuse the author, was art.

Yes, exactly.

Okay, but what about the other thing? That art is anything which can be identified as art? That’s definitely meaningless.

Not at all. Let me explain. You know those modern art pieces where they paint it all white and it just looks like a blank canvas?

Yeah, I think I’ve seen that before.

Well, a blank canvas isn’t art. It exists to fulfill a painter’s need for something to paint on, which is a practical consideration. Thus, a blank canvas is not art, and anything which you can’t distinguish from a blank cavas without being told cannot be identified as art, and therefore isn’t.

I think I understand what you’re saying now, but still I disagree.

What-how? You’re just a hypothetical generic individual I’m pretending exists in order to find a good way of explaining this concept. How can you form your own opinions?

I kinda think that no two people really agree on what “art” means.

Yes, I suppose that’s probably true, but I’m the author of this manifesto, so within this manifesto, I make the rules.

Yes, I suppose that’s also true.

Out of curiosity, what do you think art is?

I dunno. I guess I just know it when I see it.

Well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree then.

Guess so. Well, I’ve gotta be going now. Goodbye.

Bye.

Seymour

This is a story I wrote for English class. I liked it enough that I thought I would upload it to my blog. I had to do an assignment on a postmodern novel of my choosing, and part of the assignment was to write an 800-word media work inspired by the novel. My book was Catch-22, and I wrote this story in an attempt to emulate Heller’s style of humour. In keeping with the methods of the real Joseph Heller, I started by coming up with the beginning and ending and then made up the plot from there.

Seymour

by Avi Kraft

Seymour was a very well-liked man. Everyone hated him for it.

It would have been alright, they all thought to themselves, if there was even the slightest indication that anyone else felt the same way they did, but to watch how much everyone adored him was just infuriating. When in private, people tended to confide this to each other in secret. Typically, whomever they confided in would nod and angrily express their agreement about how much easier it would be to tolerate Seymour if only they could find someone else who would agree with them. Most people would confide their hatred in multiple people, all of whom agreed about how much they wished someone else agreed. Yet whenever Seymour went out in public, not a bad word was said. With unease, everyone praised him uncomfortably, all the while praying on the inside that he would leave soon so they could discuss with everyone else how intolerable Seymour was and how unwilling everyone else was to discuss with them how intolerable Seymour was. “Thank God he’s gone”, people would shout when he finally left, “now if only everyone didn’t love him so much, so I wouldn’t have to shut up about it in public for fear of drawing everyone else’s ire”, they would say as everyone else in the room nodded and shouted agreement.

Hatred is a strange thing, and especially so in Seymour’s case. Usually, when a lot of people hate someone, there is some quality of the person which engenders them to hatred. This quality may not be enough to justify the hatred necessarily, but it is at least enough to explain it. With Seymour, nobody really knew what exactly caused him to be so hated. Many blamed it on the Incident in New York, but everyone hated him long before that. Others blamed it on the Notorious Quilt Mess-Up, but in reality that was more an effect of the hatred than a cause. One or two insisted that it was because he killed JFK; most people realized this was ridiculous, but voiced agreement when it came up anyway so they could feel like they had a reason to hate Seymour, quietly ignoring the fact that JFK was not even dead yet. No, there was no real explanation for why Seymour drew as much hatred as he did.

Part of the problem with trying to figure out why people hated Seymour is that there was never really any point in time at which people didn’t hate Seymour. It had grown somewhat with time, however; when he first entered the army, there was a relatively small group who hated him. It’s hard to say why; it was hatred at first sight, and it was difficult to even blame it on appearance. He was, after all, a fairly average-looking man. His face was plain, his hands were plain, and his voice was particularly plain; were it not for the hatred everyone felt when they saw him, probably nobody would have even been able to pick him out of a crowd. Were I not an omniscient narrator, I would not be able to tell that any of them ever were able to pick him out of a crowd. A few people swore they had seen him somewhere before, but he insisted it must just be a case of mistaken identity.

Seymour’s personality, too, was fairly plain; he was not exactly likeable, but he was not exactly mean either; he was not very clever, but he was certainly no idiot. He was equally a man you could talk to easily as one you could not talk to easily. It has occurred to me from time to time that perhaps people really just hated him because there was so little to hate about him, but then I used my omniscience to determine that it was not so. Now you may be wondering: if you’re omniscient, how could you ever have thought it was so to begin with? And the answer to your question is: …actually, I don’t know. But back to Seymour.

Y’know, I’m nearing the end of the story and I haven’t even really told you about a single event yet. Let me tell you the story to illustrate to you how much everyone hated how liked Seymour was.

Seymour used to wear around his neck a gold medal. Nobody ever asked where he had gotten it from because everyone minimized how much they said to him in order to not reveal to him that they didn’t like him as much as everyone else did. One day, one man who knew Seymour about as well as anyone else did spontaneously convinced himself that he had never seen the medal before, and assumed that it had been awarded to him in a competition which neither he nor Seymour had bothered to show up for. He then told everyone else how mad he was that everyone else was congratulating him on winning a medal he hadn’t earned. Within a day everyone was furious about how nobody was furious about this event which was made up solely so they could have something to be furious about. Let’s see, anything else I should talk about…

Oh yeah! A few years later, Seymour killed JFK.

What I would nominate for Room 101

What I would put in Room 101

[WARNING: THIS POST IS REALLY LONG]

[WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SEVERAL PICTURES OF SPIDERS-ARACHNOPHOBES BEWARE]

Room 101 is a British TV show in which celebrity guests try to persuade the host to put the things they hate most into Room 101. The show is named after the room in 1984 where people are tortured with whatever they consider “the worst thing in the world”. In the TV show, this is generalized to a containment facility for the worst things in the world, from people who laugh at their own jokes to laugh tracks in sitcoms. If one looks around the Internet, one can find a number of lists from various people saying what they would put in if they were on the show, and I decided to make one of my own.

But wait a minute. All these lists are missing something. Guests on the show don’t just say what they hate and then put it in. There’s almost always at least one item that gets rejected. So I got to thinking, not only about what I would nominate, but which ones don’t deserve to go in.

I tried to limit myself to 8 items, since that is the most anyone ever nominated on the actual show. As with many of the guests on the actual show, I had a number of things I hated that didn’t quite make the cut. These are some of the ones I considered strongly: People who clap during movies (this was originally going to be on my list until I remembered a certain movie), Mispronunciations of my own name, We’re The Millers, People that don’t know how to argue (borrowed from the actual show, put in by Nick Hancock), Unnecessary interruptions, My former cabin mates at summer camp, Sunburns, Elton John, Mosquitoes, Death (Borrowed, nominated by John Peel but rejected), Math textbooks, The fact that humans need to breathe, Advertisements, Days spent largely in a car

Without further ado, onto the actual list! These are in a rough ranking by order of how much I hate them.

Starting with what is probably the worst book I’ve ever read:

The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time

Hoo boy. This one’s going to be controversial.

I used to love reading. I mean, I still do love reading. But this book changed something about my love of reading. It used to be that every time I read a book, I would indulge in it. I’d get addicted to it. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Then, this book came.

When I first read this book, I devoured it. I’m not really sure why. I hated it from beginning to end. I had to read it for school, but it wasn’t really out of a desire to just get it over with. Devouring books was just what I did.

As I said, I hated it from beginning to end. I hated it so much, in fact, that every time I’ve read a book since, no matter how much I’ve liked it, I’ve found myself unable to read more than one chapter at a time, just because this one book was so damn hard to get through.

But enough about my problems. Let’s talk about the book. I didn’t realize this when I first read it, since I hadn’t read it’s better predecessor, but this is really just a poor man’s Catcher In The Rye, somehow made even slower and less enjoyable. Where Catcher In The Rye presents a realistic (albeit dated) portrayal of the mindset of a teenager, the protagonist of The Curious Incident is deliberately designed so that anyone reading the novel will regard him as a weirdo. The book is often praised for how well it portrays the mind of an autistic child, despite the fact that Mark Haddon has explicitly stated that the book was not made about somebody on the autistic spectrum, just someone who was an “outsider”. Real autistic people tend not to agree, and that makes sense, because the main character is the exact same “insufferable genius” archetype that gets called an unrealistic fetishized version of autism in shows like Sherlock and The Big Bang Theory that also aren’t actually about autistic people. He ticks all the stereotypes: socially awkward, brilliant at math and science, takes everything literally, looks down on the religious and others who hold “irrational” beliefs, etc. What distinguishes Christopher and Sheldon Cooper? Their ages, obviously, and Sheldon is slightly  more intelligent, but beyond that, nothing really. But that’s not what bugged me about it the first time I read it. Unlike Catcher, Curious Incident actually has a plot-a “murder” mystery, to be precise-but goes out of its way to delay any advancement whatsoever until the very end. 99% of the novel is just long and detailed descriptions of things nobody cares about. The worst part of the novel is when Haddon/Christopher devotes an entire chapter to explaining why he doesn’t believe in God and you shouldn’t either. It’s not even relevant to what’s going on or is about to happen in the book, and it’s not like it even established character since Christopher has already made it clear that he is an atheist. There is absolutely no reason for it to be there, but Haddon just couldn’t resist explaining to theistic readers (of which I am not one) why he is right and they are wrong.

It’s gotta go in.

It’s a TV show next, and while there are oh so many TV shows I would love to see rot in Room 101, it was surprisingly easy to figure out which one was the absolute most abhorrent:

How I Met Your Mother

Another controversial choice, I know. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot make it through a single episode of this God-forsaken show. First of all, watch that clip up there. That’s supposedly the show at its best. At no point in watching that video was I even close to laughing or even smiling at a line. I’ve been told I need to watch five episodes or so to get “into it”; I start to feel my brain cells dying after five seconds.

But let’s ignore for the moment subjective judgments of humour. The basic premise of the show doesn’t make a lick of sense. How do you get NINE YEARS of television out of a father telling his kids a story? Not stories, mind you, but *one story*? Is this in some kind of alternate universe where people never have to do anything? The premise is really just a gimmicky distraction, anyway; the show is largely just about typical ensemble sitcom hijinx.

There are tons and tons of bad shows out there, but this is the only show I’ve ever hated so much that I find myself physically incapable of making it through an episode.

It’s an accomplishment, making a show this bad, but I don’t think I’m going to let it in. See, all sitcoms with laugh tracks are already in Room 101, so there is no point really.

The next one is a little hard to describe, so I’ll just tell you what it is:

It means cute nicknames:

Cutesy nicknames

This one is for purely personal reasons. My mother uses these CONSTANTLY. She has one for just about everybody. She even has cutesy nicknames for her cutesy nicknames. She tells me it’s her way of expressing love. And that may be. But surely there’s some other way to do so? One you don’t know that I hate?

Somehow, knowing there’s nothing really bad about cutesy nicknames that I can think of just makes me hate them more. I guess because I know it means I’ll never be able to get her to use them even slightly less.

Perhaps a part of it, is that I dislike reasonless cheerfulness. When you’re sad, angry, scared, bored, or even just apathetic towards your current situation, there’s nothing worse than a cheerful person. A cheerful person to me is a constant reminder that I’m not cheerful, and since, by definition, they’re always so happy being cheerful, I feel like I should be cheerful, and then I feel even worse because I feel like I’m doing something wrong by not being happy.

Hmmm… I don’t know. It’s really cheerful people that I object to, not cutesy nicknames, isn’t it? I guess it doesn’t go in then.

Up next is my most hated animal, and this is one I’m betting will be a popular choice:

Spiders

I’ve had a phobia of spiders for a long time. No other living thing on Earth fills me with nearly as much revulsion as these little monsters. I’ve mostly gotten over it, but it used to be so bad that every time I turned around I would get this feeling that there would be a huge spider right behind me. I knew there was no way it would actually happen, but that didn’t make me any less constantly terrified.

Everything about spiders is utterly disgusting. Let’s start with their hair. Anything with hair that isn’t a mammal is just not right. Then there are the eyes. Y’know how they say the eyes are the windows to the soul? Have you ever looked into the eyes of a spider? They’re totally coal black. Then there are the webs. Did you know Darwin’s bark spiders have been known to spin webs of up to 82 feet? It’s really quite terrifying. The worst, though, are the ones that don’t spin webs-the tarantulas. Mostly because of what I said earlier-anything with hair that isn’t a mammal is just wrong. Hair is a sensory organ in most spiders, but for tarantulas it serves a second purpose-they can shoot hairs off their bodies at attackers! This won’t kill you, but it can cause you a lot of pain and, if it gets in your eyes, blindness. Did you know there exists a tarantula that preys on mice, rats, lizards, and hummingbirds? It’s called the goliath bird-eating spider, and width-wise, it’s about the size of a human face. It’s also not the largest spider in the world. If that doesn’t belong in Room 101, I don’t know what does. Then there are the handful that can kill you, of which the most venomous is the Brazilian wandering spider. Its venom can not only cause paralysis, asphyxiation, intense pain, and inflammation, it can also cause priapism. For those unaware, that is a painful erection that lasts for four hours or longer. Why? At what point in the course of evolution was there any kind of incentive to do that? Brazilian wandering spiders, like the aforementioned goliath, aren’t limited to eating insects-they also prey on frogs and lizards. Did I mention this is actually a genus, not a species? There are eight kinds of Brazilian wandering spider, because God exists, and he hates you very much. But at least you’re fine if you stay out of Brazil, right? Wrong! Not only is the Brazilian wandering spider native to several other parts of Central and South America, but it’s also known as the banana spider because it will sometimes hide inside banana plants, and banana shipping has transported them as far as England. Then there is the Sydney funnel-web spider, which is another highly toxic one. The Sydney funnel-web has a toxin which doesn’t affect mammals, except primates. If you’re reading this, that’s probably the kind of mammal you are. It’s not even some kind of weird monkey-eating spider. Like all things that come from Australia, it just really wants to kill you. Its venom can kill human children within as little as 15 minutes. Did I mention the funnel-web spider often bites repeatedly? Then there is one of the most horrifying, the wolf spider. It’s actually pretty harmless, but-well, just look at it:

Even Steve Irwin, who you may know as “the Crocodile Hunter”, or possibly the man who was once bit by a snake on live TV and didn’t even flinch, was freaked out by large spiders. They’re just utterly horrible.

But do they deserve to go into Room 101? I don’t think so. Sure, I’d never have to see one again, but so many mosquitoes and flies would be saved that it would just be a pyrrhic victory.

From my least favourite kind of animals, to my least favourite kind of humans, illustrated by this clip from The Princess Bride:

Hoi polloi which avail capacious altercation extending to hale pert externally percipient what they adumbrate

which is the thesaurusized version of:

People who use big words to sound smart without knowing what they mean

This, in my opinion, is the single most annoying thing a person can do. If at any point when reading someone’s writing, I ascertain that even a single word was taken directly from the thesaurus, I immediately stop taking anything they’ve written seriously. Really, when you do this, what you are saying is “my ideas are so stupid, that if I were to use all the right words to explain them, I would look even dumber.” Here are some rather amusing examples of this from around the web:

http://i.imgur.com/717mpyV.jpg – “[C]athartic abduction of my contacting device”? So it was forcibly taken in a way that provided psychological relief through the open expression of strong emotions? And “gone […] vacuous”? So your phone has become lacking in thought or intelligence?

http://i.imgur.com/HEGpU2a.png –It’s kind of nice of this guy to leave a clarifying note for those of us who do know what the word “epitome” means.

http://imgur.com/btCbQhM –There is no way anyone has ever said “utilize bipedal locomotion” instead of “walk” in real life. You also can’t “traverse to” somewhere, only “traverse” something.

http://i.imgur.com/I24R329.png –Apparently a state of forced balance between musical forces can be foreseen at the point at which escape from the gravity of a black hole becomes impossible.

http://imgur.com/HqRvI12 –”Menacingly melodic malcontent metaphors”? What?

http://imgur.com/SyHZxJj –I have no idea where to even begin with this one.

http://imgur.com/eHVRjMr –This has too many errors to list, but most egregiously “derivate” isn’t even a verb.

http://imgur.com/E14Dr2r –Apparently the Salvation Army’s bell is angry and bitter.

These people always seem to have a certain reverence for anyone who wrote something considered a “classic”, and Shakespeare in particular. But what do the great authors think of them? Since this is Room 101, let’s start off with George Orwell:

“The key words in this kind of writing are ‘death’, ‘life’, ‘birth’, ‘sun’, ‘moon’, ‘womb’, ‘cosmic’ and ‘catastrophe’, and by free use of them the most banal statement can be made to sound picturesque, while what is outright meaningless can be given an air of mystery and profundity. Even the title of this book, ‘The Cosmological Eye’, doesn’t actually mean anything, but it sounds as though it ought to mean something.”

That’s from his review of Henry Miller’s The Cosmological Eye, and I think you can guess how he felt. Any other classic authors who could share their thoughts?

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”-Ernest Hemingway.

“Eschew surplusage.”-Mark Twain

“The sun becomes “that round orb of day” (as opposed, I expect, to those square orbs you see about so much lately); maple syrup is “Springtide’s liquid love gift from the heart of the maple wood”; the forest, by a stroke of inspiration, turns out to be “a cathedral of stately grandeur and never ceasing wonder and awe” (argue, if you will, for “cloying quicksand” as the phrase superb, but me, I’ll hold out for “stately grandeur”); the ocean – you’ll never guess – is “a broad expanse of sparkling silver” […] It is difficult to say whether Mrs. McPherson is happier in her crackling exclamations or in her bead-curtain-and-chenille-fringe style. Presumably the lady is happy in both manners. That would make her two up on me.”-Dorothy Parker, on Aimee Simple McPherson’s autobiography.

“The slightest matters have their vulgarity fumigated out of them by the same elevated style. Commonplace people would say that a copy of Shakspeare lay on a drawing-room table; but the authoress of “The Enigma,” bent on edifying periphrasis, tells you that there lay on the table, “that fund of human thought and feeling, which teaches the heart through the little name, ‘Shakspeare.'” A watchman sees a light burning in an upper window rather longer than usual, and thinks that people are foolish to sit up late when they have an opportunity of going to bed; but, lest this fact should seem too low and common, it is presented to us in the following striking and metaphysical manner: “He marvelled–as man will think for others in a necessarily separate personality, consequently (though disallowing it) in false mental premise,–how differently he should act, how gladly he should prize the rest so lightly held of within.” A footman–an ordinary Jeames, with large calves and aspirated vowels–answers the door-bell, and the opportunity is seized to tell you that he was a “type of the large class of pampered menials, who follow the curse of Cain–’vagabonds’ on the face of the earth, and whose estimate of the human class varies in the graduated scale of money and expenditure…. These, and such as these, O England, be the false lights of thy morbid civilization!” We have heard of various “false lights,” from Dr. Cumming to Robert Owen, from Dr. Pusey to the Spirit-rappers, but we never before heard of the false light that emanates from plush and powder.”-George Eliot, Silly Novels by Lady Novelists

“In his long-vanished day the Southern author had a passion for “eloquence”; it was his pet, his darling. He would be eloquent, or perish. And he recognized only one kind of eloquence—the lurid, the tempestuous, the volcanic. He liked words—big words, fine words, grand words, rumbling, thundering, reverberating words; with sense attaching if it could be got in without marring the sound, but not otherwise. He loved to stand up before a dazed world, and pour forth flame and smoke and lava and pumice-stone into the skies, and work his subterranean thunders, and shake himself with earthquakes, and stench himself with sulphur fumes. If he consumed his own fields and vineyards, that was a pity, yes; but he would have his eruption at any cost. Mr. Mc Clintock’s eloquence— and he is always eloquent, his crater is always spouting—is of the pattern common to his day, but he departs from the custom of the time in one respect: his brethren allowed sense to intrude when it did not mar the sound, but he does not allow it to intrude at all. For example, consider this figure, which he used in the village “Address” referred to with such candid complacency in the title-page above quoted—”like the topmost topaz of an ancient tower.” Please read it again; contemplate it; measure it; walk around it; climb up it; try to get at an approximate realization of the size of it. Is the fellow to that to be found in literature, ancient or modern, foreign or domestic, living or dead, drunk or sober? One notices how fine and grand it sounds. We know that if it was loftily uttered, it got a noble burst of applause from the villagers; yet there isn’t a ray of sense in it, or meaning to it.”-Mark Twain, “A Cure for the Blues”

“One superlatively important effect of wide reading is the enlargement of vocabulary which always accompanies it. The average student is gravely impeded by the narrow range of words from which he must choose, and he soon discovers that in long compositions he cannot avoid monotony. In reading, the novice should note the varied mode of expression practiced by good authors, and should keep in his mind for future use the many appropriate synonyms he encounters. Never should an unfamiliar word be passed over without elucidation; for with a little conscientious research we may each day add to our conquests in the realm of philology, and become more and more ready for graceful independent expression. But in enlarging the vocabulary, we must beware lest we misuse our new possessions. We must remember that there are fine distinctions betwixt apparently similar words, and that language must ever be selected with intelligent care.”-HP Lovecraft, emphasis mine

“13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.”-Mark Twain again, Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences

I think the point is made. That said, I don’t think these people can go in. They serve a very valuable purpose, you see. If these people didn’t use big words in this manner, I would have to read through all of what they write before realizing they have nothing of value to say.

Next up, it’s a movie. I considered many movies for this, but ultimately one stood out below all others:

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Lightning Thief Poster

The Lightning Thief

Now it’s not so much The Lightning Thief as-well, no, it’s completely The Lightning Thief. But the bigger trend it represents, I suppose, is pointless changes in adaptations. That word there, “pointless”-that’s important. I don’t mind movie adaptations that change a lot from the book, so long as I can get a sense that they were trying to do something with it. The movie versions of The Hunger Games, for instance, make a lot of changes from the book. For example, the movies are much less focused on romance than the books. Also, while the books are told entirely from Katniss’s perspective, the movies add in a few scenes showing the inner workings of the Capitol. This isn’t to say that the film is better or worse, but the changes were in a specific direction.

By contrast, The Lightning Thief has more of a “change as many details as you can and hope something improves in the process” approach. Nothing does. It makes The Hunger Games look like a carbon copy of its source, and yet I honestly can’t tell you that it was more or less anything than the book. Aside from that it was more crappy, of course. This isn’t to say that it’s a horrible adaptation but a good movie on its own, as I have heard people say. The whole idea makes no sense because of the changes. In the book, it’s explained that the Greek gods and monsters go wherever the centre of Western civilization goes, which is why they are in America now. In the movie, the gods apparently just randomly moved to the top of the Empire State Building, and the monsters to America with them. In the book, it’s stated that monsters and other life forms without souls can’t die permanently-they crumble to dust if killed, but will regenerate with time. In the movie, monsters that were killed in Greek mythology are just suddenly alive again, for no reason whatsoever. In the book, the existence of the supernatural is kept secret from normal people, hence normal people not knowing about it. The movie OPENS with Poseidon appearing in giant form RIGHT IN FRONT of an apparently-normal fisherman!  This could’ve easily been explained away if they had kept the Mist from the novel, but it isn’t mentioned (something rectified in the film’s only-barely-better sequel). I could go on.

There’s an off chance I could have tolerated all the nonsensical changes to the plot and world, were it not for the alterations made to the character’s personalities. “[A]lterations” is a poor choice of words there-the effects would be more accurately described as “obliterations”. As far as depth of characterization goes, the books may not be in level with spiritual predecessor Harry Potter, but everyone has some kind of a personality and almost every character has some endearing quality. In the movie… well, I’ve already told you.

And the film’s myriad pointless changes culminate in the ending, in which Luke Castellan, one of the MAIN CHARACTERS of the books, is killed off in the first movie. Yes, I know the second bullshitted its way out of this by explaining that Luke “can swim”, which explains why he didn’t drown, and how he survived being stabbed in the neck with a trident. Wait, that doesn’t sound right…

Even if everything else wasn’t already enough, that one scene would more than merit the film being put into Room 101.

Now, another group of people next:

How-to-train-your-dog-for-new-owners

Dog owners

[EDIT: With the exceptions of my friends Aleks and Mika, and my cousins the Arons. You guys are all awesome. In my defense, when I wrote this I hadn’t met Mika yet and didn’t realize Aleks had a dog. I have no excuse regarding the Arons.]

Now, it’s not all dog owners that I hate. What I’m really nominating is dog owners who can’t seem to comprehend that someone can not like dogs.

I have a mild phobia of big dogs. I don’t get scared just by looking at them, I just get nervous when they come near me. If I go to a house with a dog and I tell the owner this, 90% of the time I can guess the response: something along the lines of “It’s okay, he’s friendly”. I. DON’T. FUCKING. CARE. Phobias aren’t articles of clothing, you can’t just throw them out when you don’t want/need them.

I feel like I should say a little more, but this post is way too long as is, so I’ll just skip straight to the part where they’re going in.

Now, my final nomination. It’s another group of people, my most hated occupation this time:
camera tour

Professional photographers

First of all, I don’t like having my picture taken. That’s not enough to get me to put them in, but it’s a contributing factor in my decision.

Secondly, and this is the biggest, I don’t like being lied to. There are two kinds of professional photographers, in my experience. There’s the kind that tells you “one more” and then takes another fifty, and there’s the kind that tells you “one more” fifty times. That’s it. There is no third option.

Since I’m sure we both want to get this over with at this point, I’ll tell you now that they’re going in.

In conclusion, here’s a clip on special reprieve from Room 101 of a choir which can’t decide whether it’s more bored or confused.