Of Cookies and Colds

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It was the beast. I heard it. It was calling me. It has been calling me all week, but somehow I had managed to stiffen my emotions against its plaintive call. Until tonight.

This kitchen beast can be quite frightening; in fact, it can break your fingers without a second thought if you don't treat it right. But the only people who remain utterly terrified by the beast are those that don't truly understand it. Sure it growls when you're working with it, but the KitchenAid breed is a very old breed, and they just tend to do that. And it isn't in fact quite a growl; it's more like a giant purr of pleasure and satisfaction. So as long as you keep your fingers out of its whirling teeth, working with the beast is actually quite rewarding.

I had neglected the beast for a whole week. The beast doesn't like that. It is, in fact, quite a time-consuming companion, demanding my attention at the very least, once a week. Less than that, and it gets quite grumpy indeed. The beast's favorite time of year is at Christmas when I'm out of school and caught up in the Christmas baking spirit, but that is beside the point.

It seems I have two beasts in my life right now. The other beast - the energy-sapping type - I've been spending quite a bit of time with this past week. Maybe that's why my KitchenAid beast was so jealous. Anyway, this other beast happens to like it when I have to sleep a lot, and my throat hurts, and my eyes swell up so I look like I've been crying for the past week (which in fact I haven't). I don't really like this other beast, but it insists on staying at my house every time it's in town, and it seems inhospitable and rude to refuse (although I have to admit, I make its stay as unpleasant as possible). This week I had managed to be at least civil to the beast. Until tonight.

Tonight my KitchenAid beast's pleas became too touching to ignore any longer. In one last defiant act before that cold-hearted other beast unleashed its coup de grâce on my failing spirit, I abandoned it in favor of my KitchenAid beast.

It was a happy night. I started with no plan but to bake with my nose. In retrospect, that probably wasn't the best idea since I have no idea whether my nose works or not. Anyway, no expense was spared in that final desperate effort. Out came the treasured Mexican pure vanilla extract as well as the Vietnamese cinnamon. Orange oil, almond extract, cloves and the sweet, unspoiled unsalted butter worked their magic in my beast, calming and pacifying it. By the time I added a little bittersweet chocolate, it was in a heaven of spicy, sweet, bitter and tangy smells. It was gratified. I was happy. That other beast seemed far away.

I did make one mistake, the consequences of which are yet to be determined. I ate a cookie. I haven't eaten a cookie all week in protest of that other beast's rude and uninvited stay in my house. I hope it didn't notice. After all, it's probably so distracted by my desperate act of defiance against its coup de grâce... wait... I think I got that wrong. The real desperate act of defiance against its coup de grâce that threatens to extinguish my failing spirit is not eating the rest of the cookies. That would be good. Maybe it would get tired of the opposition and leave. Then I could go back to spending time with my KitchenAid beast.

He would like that.

So would I.

Illusio

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Illusio

With lethargic eyes, I stared blankly out of the window at the trees and fields rushing by. The gentle sway and rhythm of the train on the rails lulled me. Suddenly there was a jolt, and I sat up quickly, alarmed. Then I saw we were approaching the city, and the train now glided seamlessly over new rails. Buildings rushed by, brown-grey, drab concrete buildings. Buildings with windows, buildings without. Apartment buildings and warehouses. But they were all of the same hue, the dull color of concrete – cold, blank, and indifferent.

“I might as well live in the age of the black-and-white camera,” I thought dully, “so much color is there in the world.” And with other similar thoughts, I settled back in my seat as the train still slid seamlessly along the rails. I saw a dark, black tunnel ahead. Without warning, the train accelerated towards the tunnel. Faster and faster we went. Suddenly it was dark. Still we went faster. Becoming frightened, I leaned forward in my seat, trying to peer into the darkness of the tunnel. Still we zoomed along at this incredible speed. Then there was a terrific bump so big I thought surely we had come off the track. Then the train slowed, slowed, slowed and smoothly came to a stop.

There was silence. I looked around and waited.

Then over the loudspeaker came the words, “This is the end of the line. All passengers will please exit at this station.” I felt myself standing up and getting out of the train. There was a platform with a single bench. I tried to read the station sign because I couldn’t remember there ever being a station in the tunnel, but the sign was recondite, and I couldn’t read it. I saw a woman get out of the train further up the platform, and then without a sound, the train glided away and disappeared into the darkness. With confusion that grew by the second, I searched for stairs that would lead above ground, but I could see nothing in the intense gloom. Panicking, I tried again to read the station sign, but to no avail.

“If you’re looking for a way out, there isn’t one,” a voice made me jump. The woman I had seen getting out of the train stood next to me. “You’ll have to wait for the next train,” she said, peering at me through her hideous, pink-tinted, cracked glasses. Something about her glasses shook and disturbed me, yet I couldn’t take my eyes off of them.

With a hoarse voice I managed to ask her, “How often do the trains come?” She paused and reflected a moment and then replied, “I can’t really say; they aren’t very consistent.” Terrified at the strange circumstances, the woman with her hideous glasses, the station sign I couldn’t read, and the train that seemed to have a mind of its own, I shivered and moved closer to the lone streetlamp shining on the bench. The woman moved with me as if she and I were one unit. I sat on the bench, and she sat down likewise. Shaking with fright, I croaked out, “What is the name of this station?”

She glanced up at the station sign and said, “You can read it for yourself, can’t you?” I shook my head. She looked puzzled for a moment, but then a look of understanding crossed her face. She took off her glasses and held them out to me. With horror, I shrank back from her. Still holding out the glasses, she said, “Try these on and see if you can read it.” Then I noticed that she had her eyes closed very tightly as if she didn’t want to let a single ray of light in. Trembling, I gathered up the shreds of my courage and took the glasses. I paused, then put them on.
Instantly, like a deflating balloon, all my fear left me, and I gasped at what I saw. Everything was a rosy pink color. I could read the station sign easily now; the walls of the tunnel had beautiful, bright murals painted on them. The station’s name was “Illusion,” but everything looked very real to me. The woman’s voice floated to me.

“Can you read the sign now?” she asked. I looked over at her and was amazed to see that her skin was pale blue, and her hair was a lovely pink color.

“Yes, I can read the sign,” I answered the woman in wonder, “and I can see such things!”

“Yes,” the woman laughed, her eyes still tightly shut.

I looked down at my own skin and saw that it was a dark, forest green; my hair made a beautiful contrast with a mix of silver and gold. I heard a rumbling in the distance and looked down the tunnel which was now ablaze with many colored lights. A magnificent silver train glided towards the platform, and as it moved, it reflected the colored light all around the tunnel. With the woman at my side, I boarded the train, and it moved away from the platform. I stared out of the window in awe as the murals flashed by. Here I saw a cheetah running beside us, there a splendid purple castle. Presently the train left the tunnel and emerged into the city. All the concrete buildings now were overlaid with gold and silver, and intense colored light shone on everything. Looking up into the green sky, I saw the sun, a sphere that shone first green light, then pink, purple, blue, silver, and gold. I gazed out at the pink city as the sun turned purple, coloring the city purple.

A thought nagged at me. Everything seemed so unreal. Even as the thought crossed my mind, the sun turned everything an intense blue, and the woman said, “Keep the glasses for as long as you’d like.”

Suddenly I was afraid, more afraid than I had been in the dark tunnel.

“I don’t want your glasses,” I shouted at the woman, and I started to take them off.

She pushed the glasses back on as the city turned a brilliant silver and said, “Please keep them on.”

“No!” I screamed as the city turned a radiant gold, and with a mighty effort, I tore the glasses from my face.

Instantly it was dark. I could see the end of the tunnel ahead, and the train rocked and swayed toward it. We emerged from the tunnel, and the drab, ugly, gray-brown concrete buildings greeted me. The woman was nowhere to be seen. I put my hand to my face and was surprised to feel glasses. I took them off and gazed out of the window. With delight in reality, I wondered at the stark and simple concrete buildings. They were beautiful.

Verba potentia sunt.

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Hello everyone! It has obviously been a very long time since I posted, but I thought this an idoneous time to revive my once-dormant blog. I have been off saving the world by listening to jazz, writing about Shakespeare (with a bit of acting thrown in), reading Greek epic poetry, analyzing aviation accidents, and surviving differential equations.










I have come to realize yet again how much I love language. Words are powerful. No, not in the Marxist sense of Deconstruction. But really, words are powerful. Not only are their meanings determined by their context - both culturally and historically - but they're also determined by the individual thoughts and perceptions of those to whom the words are communicated.

What is communication? Is it knowing exactly what someone is saying literally? Or is it knowing the idea or feeling that the person is trying to convey? I would argue for the latter. It is of paramount importance, then, to consider how words and language fit into effective communication. With our definition of communication as an idea or feeling conveyed to another person, communication can be seen to include not only words and their literal meanings, but also body language, facial expression, and speech inflection. However, as important as these other elements are, the words themselves must not be underrated.

How do words contribute to effective communication? This is an important issue to consider, especially given the obvious successful communication achieved by written works such as novels, stories, and poems. In those cases, language must stand by itself and, in a sense, provide the reader with all of the sensory information of interpersonal communication using just written words.

Words are powerful, first, in their meanings. The essence of effective written communication is using powerful words. For example, contrast the words "scared" and "terrified." It is obvious that the second word is much stronger, for it not only conveys the same emotion, but it goes a step further and introduces a nuance of emotion. Next consider "scared" and "uneasy." Again, the second word is stronger and gives a different mental picture to the reader. Contrasting "terrified" and "uneasy," we can see that although the two words have essentially the same root meaning, they communicate radically different ideas. This illustrates how heavily effective communication relies on the use of the right word at the right time. Using powerful words that work together to communicate the same idea can create an extremely compelling picture for the reader.

Flowing from the idea of using words that work together, the combination of words is also part of effective communication. For example, two similar-sounding words placed in close proximity can catch the reader's attention and provide aural support for the idea being communicated.

Powerful words can also be used to describe objects, scenes, landscapes, facial expressions, actions, and even ideas to create vivid mental pictures in the reader's mind. These descriptions can stimulate the reader's mind and create communication that includes all of the senses.

The power of language, then, is the foundation for the other sensory aspects of communication. If words are spoken out loud, their sounds - especially those of onomatopoetic words - can enhance the meaning of the words. The more obvious aspects of the physical delivery of the words can also help to elucidate the idea being communicated. Again, however, effective communication relies most heavily on the words themselves, for words, indeed, are power.


I was going to post a story tonight, but it looks as if you got an essay on the power of language instead. I think I'm still in school mode. Incidentally, I wrote an essay for my humanities class on how technology has contributed to the deterioration of effective, meaningful communication; I suppose that could be considered a "prequel" of sorts to this essay.

And I'll let you in on a little secret: the real power of language is its power to keep me up late. :)I'll get the story up soon, but all this serious thought about language and words is reminding me how inept I am at using them. :P

I'm still trying to come up with a title for it. I'm thinking, "Illusio."