Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Unemployment Levels

In the news today, I have a hard time understanding the news.

The latest piece of information I've seen about the economy is entitled More seek unemployment aid, but trend is positive.  The good news of the article is that, two weeks ago, the unemployment levels were at their lowest point in four years.  The bad news is that the unemployment levels quickly went back up again.

The article puts a positive spin on the news, saying that if you average out the unemployment levels over the last month, they are rather low.  However, that's probably because the week with the "lowest point in four years" rating tips the scales a bit.


The part about the article which interested me the most was at the end, where is said 8.7 million Americans were fired, due to the Great Recession.  Currently, there are 13 million people out of work.  Using some quick math, that would indicate that 4.3 million people were out of work, before the economy crashed.  I think these numbers might need to be readjusted.

Two, what about people who don't qualify for unemployment?  I know a lot of people who have jobs that don't give unemployment (or any) benefits; plenty of companies got rid of those when the recession hit.  And let's not forget the people who were on unemployment, but were unable to get new jobs before the benefits ran out.  I think these unemployed people who do not receive unemployment benefits should be taken into consideration, when you're trying to judge how well the economic recovery is doing.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Rumor Mongering

Here's the latest Nancy Drew rumor that I've heard:

You might have noticed that the second Nancy Drew game, Stay Tuned for Danger, has been officially discontinued.

The same thing happened with the first Nancy Drew game, Secrets Can Kill, when they made an official remake for that game.  The original game was discontinued when the remake hit the shelves.

Since the second game has been discontinued, is this a sign that they're planning on remaking the second Nancy Drew game?  Time will tell.

In the meantime, I played the original Secrets Can Kill for a bit yesterday, and I can really see how good the remake was, in comparison to the original.  The dialogue is practically word-for-word the same in both versions.  That's dedication!


EDIT: This rumor was officially quashed within an hour.  Tough luck for whoever it is that sent me this rumor.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Brief Break

Whew.  We discussed a lot of philosophy this past week.  Google says there were half as many people as usual reading my blog this week; apparently, not everyone enjoys philosophy or being happy.

I'll try to respond to the various questions people had during this week in a while, but for today, I'm taking a brief break. Tomorrow, I'll be back to my normal agenda of...well, not having any particular agenda planned.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Attainment of Happiness

Today is the sixth and final day of our discussion on happiness.  It is titled "The attainment of happiness".  We have determined that happiness is the main goal of human life, and that happiness is union with God.  It seems natural that we should spend some time discussion how happiness is attained.

1.  Can humans attain happiness?

Yes.  The objections to this claim all state that happiness is somehow beyond human nature, but this is not the case.  Humans are capable of attaining happiness, because they can apprehend it through their intellects and desire it through their wills.

2.  Can one person be happier than another?

Yes.  As said earlier, happiness involves attaining some kind of good, and true happiness is gained from attaining the ultimate good, which is God.

An example will be helpful here.  Say two hungry boys are eating a pie, which makes them happy.  Some people argue that neither boy can be happier than the other, because they have the same source of happiness.  It is logical to think that the pie gives equally happiness to both boys, because the pie is the same in both cases.  However, while the pie is the same, the boys can differ from each other.  If one boy dislikes pie in general, while the other boy really likes eating pie, it is obvious that the boy who likes pie is happier to eat it than the boy who dislikes it.  This is how one person can be happier than another.  Attaining a particular good brings more happiness to the person who is better disposed or ordered to enjoyment of that good.

3.  Can any person be happy in this life?

A certain participation of happiness can be had in this life, but true and perfect happiness cannot.  This is due to the general notion of happiness, which is a perfect and sufficient good that excludes every evil and fulfills every desire.  Excluding every evil is impossible in this life, and fulfilling every desire is also impossible.  Hence, perfect happiness cannot be had in this life.

Further, we said earlier that the specific nature of happiness is in the Beatific Vision, which only takes place in the life to come.  This leads to the same conclusion that perfect happiness cannot be had in this life.

4.  Can you have happiness, then lose it?

If we talk about imperfect happiness, then yes.  A person can have imperfect happiness, then lose it.  This is true, whether the happiness comes from actions or knowledge.  A person can become sick, and thereby be unable to perform the actions that make them happy.  And again, a person can become sick and forget the knowledge that makes them happy.

However, perfect happiness cannot be lost once it is gained.  If it could be lost, then it would not be perfect happiness.  The happiness would be tainted by the fear and sorrow of losing it, and it would therefore be imperfect happiness.

5.  Can humans attain happiness by means of their natural powers?

It is possible for a human to attain imperfect happiness through their natural powers, but it is impossible for a human to attain perfect happiness through their natural powers.  For the natural powers of humans are limited, whereas perfect happiness is not.

6.  Can humans attain happiness through the action of a higher creature?

This question is asked, because some people think that it is possible for an angel to make a human happy.  That seems possible, because happy angels can enlighten the intellects of humans or lower angels, especially in matters concerning God, who is the ultimate good.

However, it is clear that angels can only give humans imperfect happiness, not perfect happiness.  This is because angels are limited; like humans, they are a creation of God.  The perfect happiness coming from God remains beyond and above angel nature.

7.  Are any human actions necessary, so they can obtain the happiness of God?

Yes.  As explained yesterday, a rightly-ordered will is necessary for happiness.  This implies some sort of action on the part of humans.  God is pleased to give happiness as a reward for good works, hence, good works are necessary to receive happiness from God.  In the same way, bad works or some kind of fault is necessary for God to withhold happiness, as a punishment.  God's justice demands that this be the case, so no one will be unfairly rewarded or punished.

The only reason a person would not have to perform any actions in order to obtain happiness is if that person naturally possessed happiness.  Happiness consists of God, which was said earlier.  Therefore, a human who does not need to perform any actions to obtain happiness is a human who naturally possesses God.  No such human has existed or ever will exist, because it is proper to God alone to naturally possess himself.  Even Jesus and the Virgin Mary did not naturally possess God; they had to grow in wisdom and knowledge of God before they could obtain the happiness of union with God.

8.  Does every person desire happiness?

Yes.  Every person naturally desires happiness.  True happiness is the complete satisfaction of a person's will, and desire itself naturally seeks the satisfaction of the will.  Consequently, by the very act of desiring something, a person desires happiness.  This is true, even if we examine a person who desires unhappiness.  That person does not desire happiness, but they still desire to have their will satisfied.  And because happiness is the satisfaction of the will, it is revealed that the person desires happiness, even though they believe they desire unhappiness.

Not everyone knows what happiness consists of, which is why we often see people trying to get happiness from things that do not give happiness.  In this sense, you could say that not everyone desires happiness, because there are people who do not desire the things which result in happiness.  However, that is due to their mistaken knowledge, not due to some defect of happiness or desire.

Friday, January 27, 2012

What is Required for Happiness?

Welcome back to the discussion of happiness.  Today should be relatively straightforward.  In six questions, we will discuss what things are required for happiness.

We can say there are two types of happiness.  The first type is the imperfect happiness that can be found in this world, which comes from being virtuous.  The second type is the perfect happiness that is found in the life to come, in the Beatific Vision.  Our focus today is on the second type, which is called true happiness.

1.  Is delight required for happiness?

Delight is not required for happiness, as a prerequisite.  However, it should be noted that delight and happiness are always found together, because delight is a result of happiness.  In general, delight is caused when the will is at rest in a good it has attained.  And because true happiness is attaining the Sovereign Good, true happiness cannot exist without delight following as a result.

2.  Is comprehension required for happiness?

As said yesterday, happiness involves the use of the intellect.  But experience teaches us that it is possible to apprehend something with the intellect, without comprehending it.  Is this the case with the happiness which results from the contemplation of God?

No.  For one, full comprehension is higher and more perfect than partial comprehension; someone with only partial comprehension can be said to be lacking.  True happiness lacks nothing; therefore it involves full comprehension, not partial comprehension.  Also, we explained earlier that happiness is the final end of humanity.  Partial comprehension is not a final end, because there is something beyond it: full comprehension.  Therefore, happiness as final end requires full comprehension of the divine essence.

3.  Is a rightly-ordered will required for happiness?

Yes.  A will is called "rightly-ordered", when it is ordered towards its proper end.  For example, a dog that wills to bark has a rightly-ordered will, because it is the nature of dogs to bark.  However, a dog that wishes to purr like a cat has a wrongly-ordered will, because it desires the wrong thing.

Now, for humans, a person with a rightly-ordered will desires true happiness.  And it is in this way that we can say a rightly-ordered will is a prerequisite for happiness.  A human with a wrongly-ordered will is going to seek something other than true happiness.  They do not have happiness as an end, therefore, it is impossible for them to achieve happiness as an end.

4.  Is the body necessary for happiness?

The body is necessary for the imperfect happiness that can be attained in this life.  However, the body is not necessary for the perfect happiness which can be attained in the life to come.

This is due to the nature of the Beatific Vision.  In the Beatific Vision, God is made directly present to the mind of the viewer.  The senses are not needed for this kind of knowledge, even though the senses may be present.  Consequently, the soul can be happy without the body.

However, some people have taken this as a premise and wrongly concluded that there are no bodies in Heaven.  They say that Heaven is only made up of souls.  This is false.  For one, the angels in Heaven are spiritual bodies.  For another, the teachings of Jesus and the apostles about the resurrection of the dead all clearly state that the dead will be given new bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-58 is probably the most explicit of these teachings).  And thirdly, it is illogical to think that Heaven is made up of souls but no bodies, because it is the nature of the soul to be united to a body.

5.  Are external goods necessary for happiness?

In this life, external goods are necessary to help support our animal bodies, and they are necessary for certain human operations which are done by means of our animal bodies.  Since external goods are necessary for life in general, they are also necessary for happiness in this life, although they do not create happiness in and of themselves.

But in the life to come, as indicated by the previous question, happiness consists of the Beatific Vision.  Souls without bodies can participate in the Beatific Vision; an example of this is the saints, who currently enjoy Heaven but who have not yet been given the new bodies which will come to them at the resurrection of the dead.  Souls with spiritual bodies can also participate in the Beatific Vision; an example of this is the angels.  Neither souls without bodies nor souls with spiritual bodies need external goods, which are only necessary for animal life.  Therefore, external goods are not necessary for perfect happiness.

6.  Are friends necessary for happiness?

The happy person needs friends, not in order to make use of them, nor in order to delight in them, but for the purposes of doing good to them.  Doing good to other people is an exercise of virtue, which leads to happiness.  If the good person delights in his friends, it is the case that he delights in seeing them do good things, and if the good person makes use of his friends, it is so they can all help each other do good things.

But if we talk about the perfect happiness of the Beatific Vision, friends are not necessary.  But the fellowship of friends conduces to the well-being of happiness, and so, friendship should not be spurned.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Role of the Senses and the Intellect in Happiness

Welcome back to the discussion about happiness.  After taking a close look at what happiness consists of, we came to the conclusion that happiness consists of union with God.  That is the final end, the ultimate goal of humanity.  True happiness cannot consist of anything other than God, because God is the perfect good, which is not limited in any way.

All things other than God can only give us an imperfect happiness.  This happiness is always limited in that it is temporary, and it does not last forever.  Things are also limited in the amount of happiness they can give us, and what kind of happiness they can provide.

Today, we will discuss the respective roles that the senses and the intellect play, in regards to happiness.  It is apparent that people in all ages have mistaken sensual pleasures for happiness.  However, happiness is an operation of the intellect, not the senses.  That is, in its essence, happiness does not belong to the senses.  This is because happiness consists essentially in being united to the uncreated good, and the senses cannot make this union happen.  Also, as we pointed out earlier, happiness does not consists in bodily goods, which are obtained through the senses.

Then, what is the role of the senses, in regards to happiness?  In regards to the imperfect happiness we receive in this life, the use of the senses always comes before happiness.  That is because happiness is an operation of the intellect, which always comes after an operation of the senses.  It is impossible to know something in the intellect, without having first encountered it in the senses.  (Please note that this does not mean all knowledge is sense knowledge--the relationship between the senses, the intellect and knowledge is a completely different topic we can discuss at a later time).

Now, in regards to the perfect happiness that awaits us in Heaven, the bodily senses play a larger role.  All our eschatological studies confirm that, in the resurrection of the dead, we shall receive new bodies.  In these bodies, the senses will receive an overflow and become perfected, as a preparation for the Beatific Vision.  But while the senses play a role in apprehending the Beatific Vision, the operation whereby the human mind is united to God does not depend on the senses.

So, happiness is an operation of the intellect, not the senses.  What kind of intellect, the speculative intellect or the practical intellect?  It is the speculative intellect, which is higher than the practical intellect.  We know this, because the speculative intellect is sought for its own sake, while the practical intellect is sought for the sake of something else, namely, action.  Jesus himself testifies to this truth, when he praises the contemplative life more than the active life, during his visit to Saint Mary Magdalene and her sister Saint Martha.

The last and perfect happiness consists entirely in contemplation.  But we cannot say the same thing about the imperfect happiness we have here on Earth.  True, this imperfect happiness consists primarily in the use of the speculative intellect, but it consists secondarily in the use of the practical intellect.  Specifically, a person must use the practical intellect to direct human actions and passions; that is the use of the practical intellect which secondarily leads to happiness.

To conclude today, let us say more about the role in the intellect in the Beatific Vision.  We can see that there are different levels of knowledge.  For example, the knowledge of someone who knows a thing's name and what it looks like is higher knowledge that the knowledge of someone who only knows a thing's name.  Knowing the cause and the effect is higher than knowing the effect alone, and knowing the essence of a thing is higher than knowing its properties.  Applying these principles to the knowledge of God, it is clear that the highest knowledge of God is knowing the essence of God as the First Cause.  Perfect happiness, of course, comes from this highest form of knowledge of God.  A lesser knowledge of God results in incomplete happiness, because there is still more that is left to know.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Leads to Happiness (Part 2 of 2)

Today, we continue discussing the question of what leads to happiness.  Here are answers that people usually give to that question:

1.      Wealth
2.      Honor
3.      Fame or glory
4.      Power
5.      Pleasure
6.      Bodily goods
7.      Spiritual goods
8.      Any created good

We examined the first four answers and found them lacking.  Today, let's examine the second four answers and see if any of them is the source of happiness.

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Pleasure seems to lead to happiness, because all humans seek pleasure and delight.  Like happiness, these things are desired for their own sake, and they are not desired for anything else.  Secondly, science has proven that pleasure moves the appetite more than anything else, to the point where people will choose pleasure over everything else, including life itself.  Clearly, pleasure acts like a final end, just like happiness does.  Third, since desire is good, the thing that everyone desires must be best.  Everyone desires pleasure, including the wise and foolish, and even irrational animals.  Therefore, happiness, which is the supreme good, consists in pleasure.

However, happiness does not consist in pleasure.  It is possible for a person to be unhappy, while enjoying something pleasurable, such as eating cake.  On the other hand, it is possible for a person to be happy, while undergoing pain, the opposite of pleasure.  This is the case with a bride who has a toothache on her wedding day; she is suffering from pain, but she is still exceedingly happy.  And because pleasure and happiness can exist independent of each other, happiness does not consist of pleasure.

To respond to the objections.  First, we see that goodness and happiness are both desired for their own sakes.  However, pleasure is not desired for its own sake.  Pleasure is desired for the good, which is the object of pleasure.  Consequently, good is the principle of pleasure, from which pleasure gets its form.  Second, the reason that pleasure and sensible delights move people more than anything else is not because pleasure is the final end or because pleasure is the greatest of all things.  No, the reason that people are moved by sensible delights is because our senses are our principles of knowledge.  In other words, we get knowledge through the senses, and that is why sensible delights have such a powerful hold over people.  Third, people desire pleasure in the same way they desire good.  But, as stated in the first response, people desire pleasure by reason of the good, and not the other way around.  Hence, it does not follow that pleasure is the supreme good.

Bodily Goods seem to lead to happiness.  First, the Bible teaches us that this is so; in the Book of Sirach, there is a section about bodily health which reads "There is no treasure greater than a healthy body, and there is no happiness greater than a joyful heart" (Sirach 30:16).  Second, the health of the body is more necessary for living than anything else, so it must have a larger role to play in happiness than anything else does.  Third, being is the highest of all goods, because you can have no goods, if you do not first have being.  Therefore, man's happiness consists primarily in all the things that pertain to his being, and the health of the body is first among these. 

On the contrary, humans surpass all other animals, as far as happiness is concerned.  However, as far as bodily goods go, humans are surpassed by many animals; elephants live longer, lions are stronger, deer are faster, etc.  Therefore, human happiness does not consist in goods of the body.

There are two reasons why happiness cannot consist in bodily goods.  First, it contradicts the previously-discussed notion that happiness is a human goal.  A goal is something you work towards, not something you already have.  If the goal of happiness is fulfilled in bodily goods, then every person has already fulfilled that goal, because they all have bodies.  But this is not the case.

To put this in more philosophical terms, whenever a thing has something else as its end, it cannot reach its end while completely preserving itself.  The fact that humans are ordained towards something else as a last end makes it impossible for humans themselves to be the last end.

The second reason that happiness cannot consist in bodily goods is that human beings are more than just bodies.  Humans are made up of body and soul, and therefore, any argument about happiness which completely ignores either body or soul is bound to be incomplete.  When we examine the relationship between the body and the soul, we see that the being of the body depends on the soul, but the being of the soul does not depend on the body.  The body's dependence on the soul makes it impossible for happiness to consist in bodily goods alone.  Bodies without souls, which are corpses, are incapable of happiness, no matter how many bodily goods they possess.  Therefore, happiness does not consist solely in bodily goods.

To respond to the objections.  First, the Book of Sirach is explaining that riches, which is the book's word for external goods, are designed for the purposes of bodily goods.  This is why Sirach says bodily goods are better than riches.  In the exact same way, the goods of the body are designed for the purposes of the good of soul; therefore, the soul's goods are better than the body's goods.  Second, this argument makes the mistake of thinking that the body is necessary for happiness.  We know that this is untrue, because we speak of incorporeal things—namely, God and his angels—as being happy, despite the fact that they do not have physical bodies.  Further, we have the example of disabled people who have lost body parts, such as people with only one leg or people who are blind.  It is possible for these people to be happy, even though they have lost parts of their bodies; therefore, body parts are not completely necessary for happiness.  Third, this argument from being is partially correct, but it forgets the fact that humans have imperfect being.  The focus of the search should shift to the source of being as the grounds for existence, rather than focusing on the existence of being as the ground for goods.

Spiritual Goods seem to lead to happiness.  First, in our above arguments, we ruled out external goods and goods of the body as the possible sources of happiness.  Spiritual goods are the only other option left to us.  Second, when we desire something good, we love what gives us the good more than the good itself.  For example, if I desire a friend to give me money, even though I desire the money, I love the friend more than the money.  When we apply this principle to someone who desires goodness for himself, it means that person must love himself more than goodness.  Since people love themselves above all things, and they desire goodness only in respect to themselves, ultimate fulfillment must be found in the self, specifically, the soul.  Third, happiness belongs to humans, but as said earlier, it does not belong to the body.  Therefore, it belongs to the soul.

However, happiness cannot consist in goods of the soul.  The first reason is similar to why happiness cannot consist in goods of the body.  The soul is the guiding principle, the thing which causes people to move towards their final end of happiness.  If happiness consisted of the soul, that would mean people are guided, by their souls, in order to possess souls.  And this is contradictory; it results in people having happiness in its entirety while still seeking after happiness as if they did not already possess it.

The second reason happiness cannot consist of the soul is that the soul has the ability to change.  Now, true happiness must rest in something that does not have the potential for change.  Otherwise, it might change into something which does not create happiness, or it might change from being present to us into being completely lost to us.  But since the soul can change, and true happiness cannot, happiness does not consist of the soul.

It is true that happiness is something which belongs to the soul.  But when we examine the goods of the soul, we see that they are what philosophers call "goods by participation".  In other words, the soul does not create its own goods, but instead, the goods of the soul have their source in something other than the soul.  Therefore, we have to say that happiness is a good which belongs to the soul, but the thing which constitutes happiness is something outside the soul.

To respond to the objections.  First, this argument divides all human desires into three categories: external goods, goods of the body and goods of the soul.  Looking at it from this way, it is possible to say that what constitutes happiness is a good of the soul, because the desire for happiness falls better into that category than the other two.  However, it is still inaccurate to say that goods of the soul are the source of happiness.  Second, the argument fails to distinguish between two types of love.  Happiness is loved and desired for itself, not for the sake of something else.  But you can also love and desire something not for itself, but for the sake of something else; the argument says this is the case when you love a friend, only because you desire to get money from him.  Consequently, the argument falls apart, because it is not the same kind of love in both cases.  Third, happiness itself, since it is a perfection of the soul, is an inherent good of the soul; but that which constitutes happiness (namely, what makes a person happy) is something outside of his soul, as stated above.

Finally, Created Goods seem to lead to happiness.  First, it seems that this whole discussion of happiness is building up to a discussion of angels.  This is because angels are eternally happy and because they are better than humans by nature.  Therefore, happiness consists in humans becoming angels.  Second, the way a thing reaches is final end is by achieving perfection.  For example, a part reaches its perfection by becoming a whole.  Since humans are part of the universe, it has to be the case that we reach the final end of happiness in the whole universe of creatures.  Third, humans naturally do not desire things which surpass their capacity.  Human capacity does not include the good which surpasses the limits of all creation, so it seems that man can be made happy by some created good.

However, happiness cannot consist of any created good, and the reasons why this is true have been discussed in relation to other things.  For one, anything which is created can be destroyed, and the possibility of being destroyed prevents a thing from being the source of perfect happiness.  For another, anything that is created does not create itself, but rather, it depends on something else as the source of its existence, while true happiness exists in and of itself.  And finally, we can say that happiness is the ultimate good, and this has to be uncreated, because all created goods have their goodness from a sharing in the ultimate good.

Let us take a step back now and join together all the various arguments we have seen so far.  What do we know about the ultimate good?  It cannot be desired for the sake of something else, but it must be desired in and of itself.  It cannot be limited, and it cannot be able to change into something else.  It cannot be temporary, but it must be eternal.  It cannot depend on something else for its source, but it must be the source of its own existence.

What, then, fulfills these criteria?  What is the ultimate good, the source of happiness?  God, who is the source of all good, who is eternal, who cannot change and who is the source of his own existence.  Happiness consists in God.  This is the logical conclusion of our arguments; we showed that happiness does not consist of any created good.  Therefore, it consists of the only uncreated good, which is God.

To respond to the objections.  First, it is true that angels have a higher nature than humans, and it is true that human nature has a desire to reach upwards towards better things.  However, this desire does not stop at the angels, but it continues onto God, so angels cannot be the last end of humans.  Second, it is not always the case that a part reaches its final end by becoming whole; it is possible for the whole itself to be ordained towards a further end.  This is the case with babies, who begin life as a couple of cells, but they grow and become fully independent creatures.  Changing to a whole, complete body is not the final end of the process; the child continues to grow and become bigger afterwards.  Therefore, reaching the whole is not the same as reaching the end.  Third, when we talk of goodness and human capacities, it is true that humans are limited when it comes to the good of which we are the subject.  However, we are not limited when it comes to the good of which we are the object.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Leads to Happiness (Part 1 of 2)

Yesterday, I discussed the idea that happiness is the final end or goal of every human life.  This, naturally, leads us to ask more about happiness.  What is happiness?  What leads to happiness?  How can we obtain happiness?

Today and tomorrow, we will discuss the question of "What does happiness consist of?" or "What leads to happiness?".  There are many answers that are traditionally given to this question, and it is best to examine each of these things in turn, as well as the reasons why or why not they are the source of happiness.  Here are the answers up for discussion:

1.      Wealth
2.      Honor
3.      Fame or glory
4.      Power
5.      Pleasure
6.      Bodily goods
7.      Spiritual goods
8.      Any created good

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Wealth seems like it creates happiness, for many reasons.  First, many people treasure wealth as the greatest of all things, which is a sign that money makes happiness.  Second, money allows a person to purchase every good thing.  Third, people desire good things.  Since the desire for money is limitless, money must be the best of all things.

However, it is impossible for human happiness to consist in wealth, and this is obvious when we examine the nature and purpose of wealth.

People seek after wealth and money.  Why?  It is not because wealth and money bring happiness; it is because money can be used to buy things.  Money is just a means to an end; it is not an end in itself.  The person who prizes money does not really prize money itself; he prizes the things which money is able to purchase.

This can clearly be seen, by the fact that people do not value money which is unable to purchase anything.  Therefore, happiness cannot consist in wealth, because wealth is not desirable in and of itself.

To respond to the objections.  First, it is true that many foolish people prize wealth above all things.  This does not mean that money should be prized above all things.  Second, money does not allow a person purchase every good thing.  There are spiritual things that cannot be purchased by money, which is why Proverbs 17:16 says "What good does it do for a fool to have riches, seeing as he cannot use them to purchase wisdom?"  Third, when someone possesses a good thing, they grow to love it more and more, while they start to despise other things.  But with wealth, it is the opposite.  Once a person possesses something, they start to despise it more and more; they eventually get bored of it and move on to something new.  This is because the things wealth purchases are insufficient and imperfect, and so they cannot create lasting happiness.

Honor seems like it creates happiness, for many reasons.  First, virtuous people get rewarded with honor, more than they get rewarded with anything else.  Second, people who are extremely happy have great honor.

However, happiness does not consist in honor, and this is obvious when we look at how honor creates happiness.  You are happy if you get honored by someone very important, but if you are honored by someone you hate or someone who you think is unimportant, this does not make you happy.  Therefore, it seems the happiness in honor comes from who is doing the honoring and what is being done as a sign of honor, not from the honoring itself.  We can see this is true, because a person who is snobbish and looks down on everyone is never happy whenever people honor him.  Therefore, happiness does not consist of honor.

To respond to the objections.  The first argument confuses virtue and honor.  If a person does something, just for the sake of being honored, that person is not virtuous.  He is ambitious.  Therefore, truly virtuous people do not seek after honor for honor's sake.  Second, honor is given to people because they have some kind of excellence.  It is not honor that makes a person excellent.

Fame or Glory is being well recognized and praised, which seems to lead to happiness.  First, Saint Paul talks about the glory of the eternally-happy saints; "The sufferings of this time are as nothing compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).  Second, goodness naturally spreads itself out to other people.  Glory spreads itself among people faster than anything else, so it creates happiness.  Third, fame is unique, in that it creates a sort of immortality.

On the contrary, happiness does not rest in fame or glory, for three reasons.  First, people who seek fame often do not want fame itself; they just want the honors that come with fame.  They seek honor as a source of happiness, not fame, and as explained earlier, honor does not lead to happiness.

Second, we must note that human knowledge often fails.  For this reason, glory is often deceptive, and fame is given to undeserving people.  We often hear the term "the fickleness of fame", which explains why fame does not lead to happiness: it is fickle.  Nothing which is fickle or likely to change often can lead to happiness.  This can easily be seen in the example of famous people who are unhappy, because they are afraid of losing their fame, or because they have already lost their fame.

Third, we can see that fame does not lead to happiness, if we examine how a thing becomes famous.  First, there is a good thing.  Second, other people recognize this thing as good.  Third, fame or glory is given to the good thing.  Fame, you see, comes last in the series of events; therefore, fame does not cause the good thing which leads to happiness.  Instead, fame is a result of it.

To respond to the objections.  First, that language refers to the glory that is from God, not the glory that is with humans.  Second, it is not true that fame always arises from goodness.  A person can be wrongly famous for being generous, when in reality, that person is stingy.  In those cases, there is a disconnect between fame and goodness.  Third, as said earlier, fame is fickle and has no stability.  In fact, false reports can easily ruin fame.  Sometimes fame endures, but this is by accident; happiness endures of itself, and forever.

Power seems to be a source of happiness.  First, the more power you have, the more you are like God, who is eternally happy.  Second, as Aristotle and Plato teach, the ideal government is run by the best citizens.  Power and goodness, therefore, are directly related, so happiness consists in power.  Third, the opposite of power is servitude.  People shun servitude more than anything else.  Because servitude is treated as the greatest evil, the opposite of servitude must be the greatest good.

On the contrary, power is not a source of happiness.  This is because power and happiness are of two entirely different types; power is a principle which tends towards good or evil, whereas happiness is a last end, which tends towards good alone.

Many of the things that were said earlier about wealth, honor and fame could be repeated here.  For example, power does not lead to happiness because, like fame, it is temporary.  Like honor, the happiness that results from power is dependent upon who you have power over; in other words, happiness does not come from having power alone.  Like riches, the desire for power is confused with the fruits of power.  This is like a hungry person who desires a sandwich; the hungry person does not truly desire the sandwich, but rather, the person desires to eat the sandwich.  It is eating that is the real desire, not the sandwich.  In a similar way, many people with a desire for power do not desire power itself, but rather, they desire the things that power allows them to do.

One of the main reasons that power does not and cannot lead to complete happiness is because power is always incomplete.  All power is limited; you can have all the power in the world, but there will still be many things beyond your control.  First, you will be unable to control other people, because the power you exert over other people is external, not internal.  Human beings have free will, and they can always choose to resist or ignore the powers they are subject to.  Second, you will be unable to control yourself and your own body.  Despite great medical advances, it is impossible to assert complete control over your own body; there is no way to prevent yourself from dying, and there is no way to prevent your body from naturally decaying.  The inevitability of death is a power beyond our control, and this is one of the limits that human power cannot pass.

The limits of power can be seen through the example of history, where many governments have tried to exercise complete power and authority over their subjects; with one accord, they all failed.  They are all examples of the bad use of power, and no true happiness can arise from evil means, because happiness is rooted in goodness.

To respond to the objections.  God's power is his goodness; he cannot use his power in any way other than well.  This is not the case with humans, who can use power for evil.  Therefore, because power can be used in an ungodly way, power is not directly related to godliness.  Second, and again, power can be used for good or evil, which invalidates the claim that power is directly related to goodness.  It is a good thing when power is used for goodness, to be sure, but power is a very bad thing when used for evil purposes.  Third, people shun servitude not because power is the supreme good, but because servitude is contrary to our natural use of free will.  To state this in other terms, servitude is a hindrance to the good use of power.

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Well, it seems that all four of the traditional answers to "What leads to happiness?" are wrong.  Perhaps tomorrow, when I discuss the other four answers people give, we will find an answer which is correct.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Meaning of Life

This week, I'm going to get philosophical as I discuss the meaning of life.  It is commonly agreed upon that people don't know or understand the meaning of life.  Many negative-minded people will say that there is no meaning of life, and that everything is just random chance.  Other people think that you yourself can create the meaning of life for yourself.

However, these people are wrong.  To make a long story short, Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches us that, without a doubt, the meaning of life is happiness.  That's the meaning or purpose of life; that is the final end or goal that humans work towards.  And that is the topic that I am going to discuss this week.

Of course, St. Thomas doesn't start from the position that happiness is the goal of human life.  Instead, he begins with a series of questions about the goal of life in general.  That's a good technique, so I'm going to use it here.

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1. Do humans act towards ends or goals?

Yes, humans act towards goals.  Experience proves this is true, and reason proves that it is necessary for people to act towards goals.  We can see this, if we look at the difference between humans and animals.  Humans are in control of their actions, through the use of their reason and free will, while animals are not.  This is important to note: human actions involve the use of the will.  Since the will is always geared towards a goal, human actions must always involve acting towards a goal.

There are actions, such as sneezing, that a person can perform, without the use of their reason and deliberate will.  Properly speaking, these are not human actions.  They are, to use a legal term, "acts of man".

2.  Do animals act towards ends or goals?

Yes.  Out of necessity, all agents act towards an end.  If an agent was not working towards a particular effect, he would not do one thing, rather than another.

As stated earlier, humans work towards goals, by means of their reason and will.  But it is possible for someone to work towards a goal, without knowing what the goal is.  This is often the case when someone forces another person to do something.  With animals, this is always the case.

Instead of being led by reason and intellect, animals are led by natural instinct.  Humans sometimes work by instinct, too.  These instincts guide animals (and humans) towards particular ends and goals.  The fact that the animals don't know what the goals are does not mean that they aren't working towards those goals. 

3. Is there a final goal or ultimate end that people work towards?

Yes, and that is happiness.  This becomes apparent if you examine all the various goals that people work towards.  Even though these goals are very different at times, they have one thing in common, and that is the fact that they always involve seeking after some kind of goodness.  In other words, people only desire things which they think are good.  Therefore, no matter what goal a person makes, the person is working towards goodness.  Goodness results in happiness; hence, every action a person takes is ultimately geared towards happiness.

The main objection that people make to this argument is that people can desire something which is bad.  Too true, but when someone desires something that is bad, they desire it under the guise of goodness.  If you truly believe something is bad, you do not desire it.  If you desire a thing, there must be something in it that you see as good, which is the cause of your desire.

A good example is someone who is trying to quit smoking.  The person desires to smoke and to not smoke at the same time.  Even though these desires are contrary, they both involve the person doing what he thinks is good.

4.  Can a person have multiple last ends?

It is possible for a person to have many goals at once, but it is impossible for a person to have multiple final ends.  As explained earlier, every goal is geared towards the one, final goal of happiness.  If there were any other goals separate from or beyond happiness, then happiness would not be the final end.  That is what the concept of finality entails.

5.  Do all people have the same last end?

Yes, all people desire their complete fulfillment by reaching their last end.  The desire to reach the last end is the same for everyone, but the way that this desire is actualized varies from person to person.  Some people seek happiness in pleasure, some people seek happiness in meditation, some people seek happiness in possessions, and so on.

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To sum up, humans work towards goals, and all human actions are ultimately geared towards the final end of happiness.  Happiness is the acquisition of the last end, and tomorrow, I will discuss the various ways people try to get happiness.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

WWA, Chapter Eleven

Here's the eleventh chapter in my story about Nancy Drew: Warnings at Waverly Academy. Today, I'm combining two different chapters into one, so Nancy double-checks her notes, and figures out the sampler puzzle!  Let me know if that makes the chapter too long; I can go back to splitting them up into smaller pieces.

---

Nancy left Mel's room. Now that she was over ten chapters into the story, she figured it would be a good time to check her...

Suspect List

1. Corine Meyers, AKA the Queen of Awkward. My roommate.
2. Mel Corbalis, the cello girl who likes pink.
3. Rachel Hubbard. Wants me to help her with the school website.
4. Izzy Romero. Student Body President. She made fun of my hair.

One of these suspects was definitely the Black Cat, unless it was the fifth character who Nancy hadn't met yet. The Black Cat attacked the various...

Victims

1. Megan Vargas, sent home due to an allergic reaction.
2. Danielle Hayes, claustrophobic girl who was locked in a closet.
3. Nancy Drew, AKA me. Forced to solve yet another mystery.

Nancy nodded. The lists of suspects and victims was in order. Now to check...

The To-Do List

1. Read the rules on the Waverly School website.
2. Meet Rachel and learn about the web project she's working on.
3. Talk with Izzy in the library and learn more about the school.
4. Call Megan Vargas and learn more about how the Black Cat attacked her.
5. Find a way to snoop around Mel's room without attracting her suspicion.

The only thing on the to-do list that was crossed off was "meet my new roommate," and that really didn't count, because you automatically go through the conversation with Corine when the game starts.

"I guess I'll go back and see Mel again," Nancy said. She turned around and re-entered Mel's room.

"Weren't you just here?" Mel asked.

"I forgot to check something," Nancy said. She went straight to the corner—the only part of the room she could examine in more detail—and took a good look at the hand-stitched sampler.

Looking for something
Is what life is for.
If you want to solve this mystery, Miss Nancy Drew,
You must read much followed by Moore


"Moore..." Nancy said. "I wonder why it's capitalized...and spelled with two o's. Is this sampler as old as it looks?"

"It's old, that's for sure," Mel said. "My great-great-great grandmother made it. She was in the first class that graduated from Waverly. Everyone in my family who comes here has to hang it up in her room. It's tradition."

"Hmmm..." Nancy said to herself. The game seemed to be putting a lot of emphasis on this sampler in the corner of Mel's room. On a whim, Nancy flipped open her notebook to find a brand new item on her to-do list.

6. Figure out who Moore is—refers to a book, maybe?—from the sampler in Mel's room.

"Wow, they practically give you the solution to this puzzle on Junior Mode," Nancy said. "I guess this means I'll have to go to the library and find the book that Moore wrote."

"Um..." Mel said.

"Now, true, every single person in Mel's family, going back over a hundred years, has had this clue," Nancy said. "But hopefully, they were all a bunch of idiots who couldn't figure it out! Because I'll be the first person to solve this mystery and find Moore, or my name isn't Nancy Drew!"

"Becca, do you always talk to yourself when you're standing in corners?" Mel asked.

Oh, crud, Nancy thought.

"Ha ha! No! Don't be silly!" Nancy said. "I was just...practicing a monologue for the school play!"

"But you just arrived here ten minutes ago," Mel said. "How do you already have a part in the school play?"

"Duh, I'm auditioning for the school play," Nancy said. "You should totally audition with me! You'd be perfect for the role of...um...the cellist with the pink bows in her hair!"

Mel just stared at Nancy, a confused look on her face.

"I gotta go! See ya!" Nancy said, running out of Mel's room at top speed.

Nancy wiped off some sweat as she walked down the stairs near Mel's room. For a moment there, it looked like she almost accidently blew her cover as a secret detective. But now everything was back to normal, and once again, everyone knew that Becca Sawyer was the coolest girl in school.

Nancy's cell phone beeped as she went downstairs. She picked it up to read a text that was sent to everyone in the dorm.

New girl Becca S. is kind of a spaz.

"No way!" Nancy said. "There's another new girl here called Becca S.? What a crazy coincidence!"

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saint Agnes, Day of Penance

Today is the day of Walk for Life, West Coast, 2012.  I can't attend this year, because I'll be giving a reflection at a mass at the same time as the event.  In fact, this is the reflection I'll be giving.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012.  Feast of Saint Agnes, Day of Penance (US).  First Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.

Today is the feast day of Saint Agnes, one of the early church martyrs.  She was born in Rome, in the year 292.  At that time, the Emperor, Diocletian, had a law which said that everyone in the city had to sacrifice to the Roman gods.  And when the time came around for Agnes' family to make their sacrifice, they brought her to the temple, and she was asked to pour out some incense to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom.  But instead, Agnes made the sign of the cross over the altar, and she showed the Romans what true wisdom was, by talking about Jesus Christ.  Shortly afterwards, she was arrested and killed.

The story of Saint Agnes is a perfect reflection of Saint Paul's words in the first reading today.  He says that God does not always choose people who are wise or rich or powerful.  Instead, God likes to choose people who are weak and poor and despised, people who count for nothing in this world.  In the case of Saint Agnes, God chose a young girl from an unknown family, in order to bring shame to the wealthy Roman noblemen.

Saint Agnes knew it was important to do the right thing and honor God, even if it meant breaking her country's laws.  We here in America are called to do the same thing.  This Monday, the US Bishops have declared a day of penance; they are asking us to pray for our country, because there are many laws which are immoral and unjust, and there are many Americans who are suffering.

As you know, America is founded upon the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  But unfortunately, there are too many Americans who pervert these ideals; they want to have an easy life, so they take liberties with other people, and they pursue happiness, instead of holiness.  And so today, we pray that, through the intercession of Saint Agnes, America may become a better country, one that supports and protects all its citizens.  We also pray in order to strengthen the bonds of unity between the various peoples of America, and we work to break down the barriers that divide us from each other.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gaston

Yesterday's post caused me to remember some of the issues I had with Beauty and the Beast, which came out when I was in elementary school.  Beauty and the Beast 3D is now in theaters, so this is a relevant topic of discussion.

The first thing that kind of bugged me about the movie is that everybody in town loves Gaston. Everybody.  He's supposed to be the main villain, but all the townspeople think he's the exact opposite of a villain.  They even sing a song about how great he is.



Are the townspeople that deluded, they can't see through Gaston?  Or does he have a host of admirable qualities that we just don't see?  Maybe he's a really nice person in general, but he morphs into a humongous jerk whenever romance enters the picture.  I know some men like that.  Unfortunately, that's the only side of Gaston we get to see.  It'd be interesting to see what Gaston is like, completely separate from his romantic intentions for Belle.

Personally, I always disliked Gaston, because he interrupts Belle while she's trying to read. My younger self got really annoyed, when people interrupted me during reading time. But the thing that really bugged me is that Gaston steals the book away from Belle, flips through it a bit, and says, "How can you read this thing? There's no pictures!"

Less than two minutes earlier, though, we saw the pages of the book, and it clearly had pictures. Check 2:45 of this video.



And believe it or not, that's why my eight-year-old self hated Gaston. He said the book had no pictures, when it did. I think I rewound the VHS tape about five times, to confirm that Gaston was wrong on this point.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the book Belle is reading is Beauty and the Beast.  After all, it's about a girl who meets Prince Charming, but she won't discover that it's him 'til chapter three.  What other fairy tale could she be reading, besides the Frog Princess?
---

This post is getting kind of long, so I'll just leave off with this one point. Sure, Gaston is the villain of the movie. True, he is kind of a jerk when he talks to Belle.  But compared to how the Beast treats Belle when the two of them first meet, Gaston comes off looking like a nice, considerate, compassionate man.

But for some inexplicable reason, the Beast ends up being the bad guy who gets reformed by Belle, while Gaston gets discarded as being irredeemably evil.  Just think what could have happened if Belle tried to transform Gaston into a nice person, the same way she tried to transform the Beast.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Introspective Disney Songs

When I was younger, my family used to watch a lot of Disney movies. I noticed that a lot of Disney movies have songs where the hero sings about his or her struggles with existence.  I didn't question it at the time, because I thought it was a requirement for them to have introspective songs in their movies.

I thought it would be interesting to go back and reflect for a moment on these introspective songs.

1) Mulan



Mulan's problem is that nobody understands who she really is.  As she says several times, "When will my reflection show who I am inside?"

Does anyone else think it's kind of weird that Mulan wants people to know her true self, when she spends the rest of the movie pretending to be somebody else? I mean, what she does in the rest of the movie completely contradicts the sentiments she shows in this song.

2) Hercules



Poor old Hercules can't find a place where he belongs. He doesn't feel like he fits in anywhere, which is a sentiment the twelve-year-old me really connected with.

Now that I think about it, this song is really short. It only has one verse; Hercules just repeats the refrain three times to make it last longer. Sure, he changes the words a little bit each time, but he's still just repeating the refrain. I find that kind of odd. Why doesn't the song have a second verse?

3) Beauty and the Beast



Belle doesn't get very introspective, actually. She wants "more than this provincial life", but she doesn't really explain why. I always figured that she wanted a new life, because the town is boring and repetitive. After all, she keeps complaining that everything is always the same.

Looking at this again, I find it telling that about a third of the song is dedicated to the fact that everyone in town thinks Belle is weird. Those townspeople seem friendly enough, but they're put off by Belle's borderline obsessive love of reading.

But for some reason, Belle doesn't seem to notice this. She seems completely unaware that she has a reputation for being a daydreaming bookworm. Why is that the case? Is she that clueless, she can't tell people think she's odd? Or does she perhaps think it's perfectly normal to ignore other people, in favoring of sitting by the fountain and singing to sheep?

It would make sense if Belle wanted to move away, because everyone in town thinks she's weird. But she has no idea they feel that way. Maybe she is kind of weird, after all.

---

Conclusion:

  1. Hercules is kind of repetitive.
  2. Mulan needs to reconsider her motivations.
  3. Belle is kind of weird.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Basketball Practice

It's almost time for the annual basketball game.  Our team is hoping to win again this year, but we didn't do so well in practice last night.  I tend to make one small mistake, and that completely throws me off, so I end up making big mistakes.

In any case, I decided that this year, my basketball team needs a ringer.  We need someone who is really tall and good at sports.  We need our good friend Abraham Lincoln to join the team.  Here's what happened when I AIM-chatted with him about the big basketball game.
Abraham Lincoln: Hello my friend and how are you this fine day?
Michael: I am fine, Mr. President. How are things in Washington right now?
Abraham Lincoln: Pleased to hear it. Good, thank you for asking.
Michael: I got back from basketball practice recently, and things aren't looking too good.
Abraham Lincoln: I'm sorry but I'm not with you. Can you possibly put it more clearly?
Michael: All the guys on our team are out of shape.
Abraham Lincoln: the Dolphins of course.
Michael: Um, no, we're not the Miami Dolphins. We're a basketball team.
Abraham Lincoln: Quite right, we are. But then, so is the gorilla in the Berlin zoo. Or so I was told.
Michael: Anyway, I was thinking. How can we make sure our team wins the big game?
Abraham Lincoln: Why do you tell me you were thinking now? the Dolphins of course.
Michael: Do you talk about the Dolphins every time someone mentions the word "team"?
Abraham Lincoln: the Dolphins of course.
Michael: You're getting a tad predictable, Abe.
Abraham Lincoln: You are entitled to your own opinion.


Michael: Anyway, let's get back on topic. I want you to join our basketball team.
Abraham Lincoln: Being an avid reader, I would have to say literature was my favorite subject in my mere 18 months of formal schooling.
Michael: Yes, I know you like reading more than sports, but you'd be a great addition to the team! For one thing, you're really, really tall.
Abraham Lincoln: I like reading too!
Michael: ......
Abraham Lincoln:
Michael: Will you join my basketball team, yes or no?
Abraham Lincoln: I'm not a huge sports fan.
Michael: But with you, we could win!
Abraham Lincoln: Gettysburg was a significant victory for the North but it was costly in terms of human life and public support for the war effort.
Michael: Please join the basketball team, Abe. Please?
Abraham Lincoln: I will be glad to do it for you Friend.
Michael: Is that a "yes"?
Abraham Lincoln: Our thoughts are one, Friend.
Michael: All right!
Abraham Lincoln: As you can see, I have a prominent mole located on the right side of my face, just below my cheek.
Michael: TMI, Abe. TMI.
Abraham Lincoln: That's quite a major subject. I shouldn't go into it right now. Another time, perhaps.
Michael: Yes, another time, indeed. Anyway, now that you're on the team, we should decide which position you'll play. How about center?
Abraham Lincoln: My coffin has been moved 17 times, mostly due to numerous reconstructions of my Tomb and fears for the safety of the remains. The coffin itself has been opened five times: December 21, 1865, September 19, 1871, October 9, 1874, April 14, 1887, and September 26, 1901.
Michael: Um...what are you saying?
Abraham Lincoln: Yes I am saying, but don't worry. Saying doesn't bite!
Michael: Abe, you are getting harder and harder to talk to as this conversation continues.
Abraham Lincoln: you simply type in your questions or thoughts below and I chat back.
Michael: I know how AIM conversations work.
Abraham Lincoln: I don't know about that, and as a matter of interest I don't need to know! What else can you tell me about?
Michael: Let's wrap things up here, Abe. I want to confirm the fact that you will be playing on my basketball team now.
Abraham Lincoln: Character is like a tree, and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. I want the world to be a place of opportunity and justice for all.
Michael: Are you going to participate in the basketball game, yes or no?
Abraham Lincoln: Yes, I am going, and now it's someone else's turn to go.
Michael: ...On second thought, maybe we don't need you on our team. I bet we can just practice a little bit harder, and we'll do fine.
Abraham Lincoln: the Dolphins of course. Why was that?

So, to summarize, Abe might be playing for our team in the big game, but on the other hand, he's more likely to be playing for the Dolphins instead.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Question

On the holiday yesterday, I did a speedrun for Nancy Drew: Warnings at Waverly Academy and Professor Layton and the Curious Village.  Which speedrun should I upload first?

Monday, January 16, 2012

WWA, Chapter Ten

Here's the tenth chapter in my story about Nancy Drew: Warnings at Waverly Academy. I didn't like how it took me four chapters to get through the conversation with Corine, so today, I get all the way to the end of the conversation with Mel in just one chapter.  (Not counting the chapters before and after this one, though).

---

Our hero, Nancy Drew, was currently visiting her next-door neighbor, Mel Corbalis. Mel's room was a mixture between a pink princess party and a haunted house, which sort of creeped Nancy out, to be honest.

"So, where's your roommate?" Nancy asked, trying to sound cheerful.

"She's not here right now," Mel said. "She's the one who got sent home with an allergic reaction, after being cursed by the Black Cat."

"You sound a little skeptical," Nancy noted.

"The Black Cat is just someone playing an idiotic prank, end of story," Mel said. "Of course, that's not the end of the story for my roommate Megan, who got sent to the hospital after eating something she's allergic to, but it's still a dumb prank."

Nancy gasped with fake surprise. "What happened?" she asked, as if Mel hadn't mentioned the allergic reaction twice already.

"Look, enough about the Black Cat," Mel said, looking somewhat annoyed. "The other girls can buy into that garbage all they want, but me? I refuse to give whoever's behind this the satisfaction. So if you have any questions for Megan, I think you should call her yourself. 543-555-5432."

Nancy made a mental note to never give her cell phone number to Mel, seeing as Mel apparently made a habit of giving her roommate's cell phone number out to complete strangers. And speaking of roommates...

"What do you think about my roommate, Corine?" Nancy asked.

"She's all right, I guess," Mel said. "I feel kind of bad for her, though. She doesn't really have any friends."

"Because she's awkward?" Nancy asked.

"No, because she's overly concerned with other people's opinions," Mel said. "Me, I don't care much about what other people think about me. But Corine? She cares a lot, and it shows."

"So, in other words, she's kind of a loser who's desperate for the approval of others," Nancy summarized.

"Exactly," Mel agreed.

"I am NOT a loser!" Corine shouted through the wall.

Nancy and Mel were silent for a moment.

"Guys?" Corine shouted. "You...you still like me, right?"

Nancy decided to wrap up the conversation quickly after that. "You play the cello very well," she said.

"Thank you," Mel said. "I taught myself to play when I was ten."

"Does the school here have an orchestra?" Nancy asked.

"Yeah, but as you may have guessed, I'm not much of a joiner," Mel said.

"Well, I guess I'll see you around," Nancy said, taking a step towards the exit.

"Door's always open," Mel said.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Black Cauldron

One of the overlooked Disney films is The Black Cauldron, made in 1985.  It was based off the first two books in a series by Lloyd Alexander.  I read the books and liked them, so I decided I had to see the movie.

The movie is...interesting.

It was and is an unpopular movie.  But I kind of like it.  Maybe that's because I read the books ahead of time, so I already knew and liked the story and characters.  In fact, the only aspects of the movie that I dislike are all things which were in the book, but got changed.

For example, Princess Eilonwy.  Oh, Princess Eilonwy.  She is the best character in the book series, hands down.  She takes control of every situation, and most of her dialogue is hilarious.  In my opinion, she basically steals the show away from the main character, throughout the entire series.

But the movie version of Eilonwy bears almost no resemblance to Eilonwy in the books.  And that just bothers me.  She is the best part about the book series, and in the movie, she is utterly boring.  Even Hen Wen, the magical pig that can tell the future (long story), is more interesting than Eilonwy.  Why did my favorite character suddenly get demoted to "not very interesting"?

I'm not sure what they were trying to do with Eilonwy in the movie.  Maybe they just approached her character in the wrong way.  Maybe they got thrown off-track by the fact that she's a princess, and they wanted her to be more in line with the other Disney princesses, so they completely changed her personality.

I'm not sure.  In the book, you don't find out that she's a princess until the last chapter.  She kept it a secret the whole time, just because she thought it was amusing to keep everyone else in the dark.  But in the movie, she's a princess right from the very first moment you meet her.  Maybe it would have been better if they followed the book and kept the princess thing a secret until the very end.

The main complaint people have with this movie is that it's too dark and scary.  I didn't have a problem with that.  They cut out a lot of the scary scenes before the film's release, and they tried to tone down the horror a bit by giving the villain a humorously inept sidekick.  However, the general consensus is that the movie is still too scary for children.

All in all, it's an okay movie.  If you can handle some scary scenes, you might like it.  If you're a big fan of Eilonwy from the books, you might not like it.  The animation and character designs are all very excellent, and the plotline is good, because it's taken from books with good plotlines.  I think I give this movie a 5.5 out of 10.