Header Image (book)


Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Annual Odious Task (And My Consolation Prize: The Life of Pi)

(If you must have politics, please keep scrolling)

I have never enjoyed shopping — especially Christmas shopping.

The crowds.

Our unfamiliarity with the layout of the mall and the department stores.

Too many decisions to make.

Nevertheless, yesterday Mr. AOW and I ventured out to one of the largest of our local malls.  Off Mr. AOW went on his scooter to do his own shopping while I spent most of the day at Macy's, where I purchased a few items of clothing for myself.  While at Macy's, I ran into a former student, a staunch fellow conservative, and chatted with him for a while  — a highlight of the day for me.  He and I get together all too rarely.

Unfortunately, yesterday's shopping trip  yielded few results with regard to locating suitable Christmas gifts for the few with whom we exchange gifts every Christmas.  More Christmas shopping to do!  **sigh**  I may have to resort to handing people gift cards instead of actual presents.

After our mostly-fruitless shopping expedition ended in the early afternoon, I brought Mr. AOW home. Thanks to the excellent physical therapy that he's been getting, this year's Christmas-shopping trip was much easier for him than last year's.  In fact, yesterday's shopping trip marked a landmark day since 2009: Mr. AOW did his own shopping without any help from me.  That he can now manage a shopping trip on his own indicates how much progress he has made in his stroke recovery!

As my consolation prize for enduring a trip to the mall, in the evening I made a rare trip to the cinema and watched The Life of Pi:

Mr. AOW didn't go to see the film because he's not much on going to the movie theater.  He prefers to wait for the DVD version.  Besides, as I mentioned above, a marathon shopping expedition wears him out.  He was fast asleep by the time I returned home.

Have you seen The Life of Pi? If so, what did you think of the film?

Perhaps Thersites will visit this thread to discuss The Life of Pi. He has indicated a willingness to do so.


  1. I reead recebtly that you can buy most anything on-line now and have sent gift wraped wherever. But, then you wouldn't get to see a movie.

  2. So, what did you think? I hadn't read the book before seeing the movie, so went in without any set expectations, other than "entertainment". You, on the other hand, having read the book, may have had some different ones. Did it live up to them? As you already know, it vastly exceeded mine. :)

  3. I am the kind of shopper local retailers hate. I sat at a computer and pushed buttons at Amazon. Now I wait and the packages come to my door.

  4. Looks like a good number of excellent films this holiday season. Waiting for your review!

  5. Silverfiddle,
    I've ordered quite a bit from Amazon this year. I joined Amazon Prime and have some presents shipped directly to my friends' houses -- especially those friends who live out of state.

    I also order the meat-o-gram to be delivered to Warren and his wife.

    This morning, after yesterday's mostly-fruitless shopping trip, I ordered from Shari's Berries. The shipping is quite expensive, but I know that the people who will received those chocolate-covered strawberries will love them.

    Next stop for Christmas shopping: the liquor store. I need to pick up a gift card for Steve, Mr. AOW's best friend, who helps us out all the time. I also need to pick up a bottle of Crown Royal for my cousin's husband. 'Tis the season for holiday cheer!

  6. Thersites,
    The movie was every bit as good as the book -- and adhered to the book as well.

    The main theme that I discerned: All things work together for our own good -- even if we don't recognize that our refining is personal progress. Based on the insurance adjusters' not wanting to believe the true story, I would say that the human race doesn't want to recognize the part that Divinity plays in our lives.

    Of course, there was some syncretism and a strong coexist message involved: the three truths that Pi learned via Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam.

    Pi also learned lessons from his "objectivist" father.

    It is so true that we usually don't get to thank those who have made wonderful differences in our lives! As Pi pointed out toward the end of the film, not thanking those people who have helped us is one of the great drawbacks to life.

    The entire film is an extended metaphor comparing life to a voyage.

    I did enjoy the 3D experience -- a first for me. Worth the extra bucks, IMO.

    So, what was your take, Thersites?

  7. Bunkerville,
    The Life of Pi is a difficult film to describe. Are you familiar at all with the storyline?

  8. I took the first 2/3 of the film at face value. When Pi told the second story to the insurance investigators, THAT is when all the light bulbs starting going off for me. What a depressing life "realists" must lead. I now truly feel sorry for them. They entirely miss the point that ALL our human and animal knowledge exists on a symbolic plane. And words are but one of the means we use to access it.

  9. Amazon is the way to go.

    As for The Life of Pi I'm mixed. I become very aware of the green screening despite the tiger being very well done in this case. Acting, camera and script are becoming almost trivia in these blockbusters. The Hobbit is another example and upping the frame rate may actually lower its visual appeal.

    We all try to build a philosophy that explains events. In this case the events were so absurd that they weaken the theme.

  10. I'm inspired enough that I'm going to rent "Flatland" over the weekend. A friend of mine lent me the book, but I was stuggling with it.

  11. ...and ducky, unless you have ever experienced a psychological "break" you haven't a clue as to the nature of the "absurd".

  12. ...and I contend, that it was on the "floating island" that the "break" occurred.

  13. ...and events were "transformed" into something that "Pi" could "live with".

  14. I'm braving the Mall today. I actually enjoy it.

  15. Odie,
    Different strokes for different folks!

  16. Thersites,
    And the symbolism of the floating island is?

  17. Thersites,
    I've been thinking a lot about those meerkats.

  18. According to Wikipedia:

    According to African popular belief (mainly in the Zambian/Zimbabwean region), the meerkat is also known as the sun angel, as it protects villages from the moon devil or the werewolf which is believed to attack stray cattle or lone tribesmen.

  19. Duck,
    We all try to build a philosophy that explains events. In this case the events were so absurd that they weaken the theme.

    I'm not so sure about that. Life itself is filled with absurdities -- and I'm not at all referring to politics.

    Acting, camera and script are becoming almost trivia in these blockbusters.

    Absolutely! For that reason, I rarely go to the cinema these days.

    But I loved The Life of Pi when I read it. Typically, I don't like fantasy. But this particular story resonated with me -- maybe because I feel as if I'm flotsam on the sea and struggling to survive. We all are, I think.

    I don't plan to see The Hobbit. I'm not at all favorably inclined toward Tolkien's fantasies. I'm not sure why.

  20. The floating island, IMO, was another metaphor for existence. We must all "eat or be eaten" and Pi's decision to "leave the island" was a DELIBERATE choice NOT to be eaten (as the island's previous occupants -sailor/mother HAD been). The horror of what has transpired with the cook, the sailor, and his mother had been too much, had been "eating at him".

    His decision to "leave the island" gave birth to the fantastical aspects of the "original" story, as something he could "live with". The meerkats were, IMO, the "benign" transposition of of the "tiger".. symbolically into "mere cats". A recovery of his former ego ideal that had been forced to "depart" during the ordeal (the "psychic break").

  21. Of course, my "mere cats" to meerkats transposition is a language based Freudian-symbolic one.

  22. Nietzsche, "Gay Science"

    62. Ecce Homo

    Yes, I know from where I came!
    Ever hungry like a flame,
    I consume myself and glow.
    Light grows all that I conceive,
    Ashes everything I leave:
    Flame I am assuredly.

  23. How does the victim of a horrible situation, too difficult for a civilized person to comprehend, relate his story to others. Does he keep it bottled up inside, or does he attempt make it comprehensible to himself and others? Who could "blame" Pi for battling the hyena? And how does one who has "unleashed the tiger" convince it return to the "jungle from whence it came?

    Religious rites often preserve ancient meanings through rituals. And stories like that told by Pi, preserve similar underlying meanings as well. Symbols transform into symbols, some involving language, others, not.

  24. Just wondered if you thought it was worth $10bucks.

  25. Sorry to be pedantic...

    Nietzsche, "Geneology of Morals"


    At this point, I can no longer avoid setting out, in an initial, provisional statement, my own hypothesis about the origin of “bad conscience.” It is not easy to get people to attend to it, and it requires them to consider it at length, to guard it, and to sleep on it. I consider bad conscience the profound illness which human beings had to come down with under the pressure of that most fundamental of all the changes which they ever experienced—that change when they finally found themselves locked within the confines of society and peace. Just like the things water animals must have gone though when they were forced either to become land animals or to die off, so events must have played themselves out with this half-beast so happily adapted to the wilderness, war, wandering around, adventure—suddenly all its instincts were devalued and “disengaged.” From this point on, these animals were to go on foot and “carry themselves”; whereas previously they had been supported by the water. A terrible heaviness weighed them down. In performing the simplest things they felt ungainly. In dealing with this new unknown world, they no longer had their old leaders, the ruling unconscious drives which guided them safely—these unfortunate creatures were reduced to thinking, inferring, calculating, bringing together cause and effect, reduced to their “consciousness,” their most impoverished and error-prone organ! I believe that never on earth has there been such a feeling of misery, such a leaden discomfort—while at the same time those old instincts had not all of a sudden stopped imposing their demands! Only it was difficult and seldom possible to do their bidding. For the most part, they had to find new and, as it were, underground satisfactions for themselves. All instincts which are not discharged to the outside are turned back inside—this is what I call the internalization [Verinnerlichung] of man. From this first grows in man what people later call his “soul.” The entire inner world, originally as thin as if stretched between two layers of skin, expanded and extended itself, acquired depth, width, and height, to the extent that what a person discharged out into the world was obstructed. Those frightening fortifications with which the organization of the state protected itself against the old instincts for freedom—punishments belong above all to these fortifications—brought it about that all those instincts of the wild, free, roaming man turned themselves backwards, against man himself. Enmity, cruelty, joy in pursuit, in attack, in change, in destruction—all those turned themselves against the possessors of such instincts. That is the origin of “bad conscience.” The man who, because of a lack of external enemies and opposition, was forced into an oppressive narrowness and regularity of custom impatiently tore himself apart, persecuted himself, gnawed away at himself, grew upset, and did himself damage—this animal which scraped itself raw against the bars of its cage, which people want to “tame,” this impoverished creature, consumed with longing for the wild, which had to create out of its own self an adventure, a torture chamber, an uncertain and dangerous wilderness—this fool, this yearning and puzzled prisoner, became the inventor of “bad conscience.”

  26. (cont)

    But with him was introduced the greatest and weirdest illness, from which humanity up to the present time has not recovered, the suffering of man from man, from himself, a consequence of the forcible separation from his animal past, a leap and, so to speak, a fall into new situations and living conditions, a declaration of war against the old instincts, on which, up to that point, his power, joy, and ability to inspire fear had been based. Let us at once add that, on the other hand, the fact that there was on earth an animal soul turned against itself, taking sides against itself, meant there was something so new, profound, unheard of, enigmatic, contradictory, and full of the future, that with it the picture of the earth was fundamentally changed. In fact, it required divine spectators to appreciate the dramatic performance which then began and whose conclusion is by no means yet in sight—a spectacle too fine, too wonderful, too paradoxical, to be allowed to play itself out senselessly and unobserved on some ridiculous star or other! Since then man has been included among the most unexpected and most thrillingly lucky rolls of the dice in the game played by Heraclitus’ “great child,” whether he’s called Zeus or chance.* For himself he arouses a certain interest, a tension, a hope, almost a certainty, as if something is announcing itself with him, something is preparing itself, as if the human being were not the goal but only a way, an episode, a bridge, a great promise . . .

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. I hate shopping more and more each year, I do most of mine via the internet. My husband does 99% of his by pointing and clicking. Free shipping helps.

    We've been going to the movies as often as we can, depending on what is showing. There doesn't seem to be very many worthwhile movies out of Hollywood these days.

    Right Truth

  30. Count your blessings!!! All the really decent people in my family are dead and gone and the ones left are the drug addicts and psychopaths, which unfortunately is genetic on my father's side. I have nothing to do with any of them out of necessity, and that includes my children, unfortunately.

    So I don't Christmas shop anymore, something I used to love to do, finding gifts that would express my love for those now long dead.

    Be glad that there are loved ones in your lives, and if Christmas is the only day that you show caring for them, do it sincerely and do it well, because the day will come when you can't anymore. Don't look back with regret.

  31. Thersites,
    I'll be back to this discussion. I have some errands to run today.

  32. Black Sheep,
    gifts that would express my love for those now long dead

    The above is the saddest part of life, IMO. Those that Mr. AOW and I so loved are gone now. At the Thanksgiving dinner table, I sense too many empty chairs!

    Locally, Mr. AOW and I have one family member worth interacting with. The rest of the family here in our area? Nope. They are takers -- for lack of a better term. Once Mr. AOW had a stroke, these takers have been nowhere to be found -- unless they WANT something from me. Disgusting.

    Now, we do have our dear friend Steve. Today, he's coming over yet again -- this time to install a new battery in my Mustang convertible; the battery died last week, and the car just sits there in the carport. Steve is our ONE friend who takes Mr. AOW on regular outings.

    We also have one neighbor who has stood by us and invites us to dinner even though getting Mr. AOW into their house is a difficult task. We are grateful for these people and always get them something nice for Christmas.

    The lady who gave us our new kitten Amber is also a good friend and has stood by us. Mr. AOW got her something very special for Christmas.

    Here's the ugly truth: for the vast most part, some of the friends I've made on the Internet -- I met these people via blogging, then made face-to-face or telephone acquaintance -- are among our loved ones now instead of family.

  33. Now now, AOW! What could be "ugly" about developing internet friendships -- as long as they are sincere?

    So often people we see "in the flesh" all the time -- even family -- never really get to know us, nor we them, for in the face-to-face world most of us feel it necessary to wear "masks" of one kind or another.

    Here in Cyberspace we have a better possibility of knowing each other through our minds than we do in "real life."

    I always think of that poignant scene in Our Town where the deceased Emily is allowed to go back to earth for one day, and becomes painfully aware that when she and her family were together they never really LOOKED at each other or appreciated each other with any DEPTH. The lesson we're supposed to learn, of course, is that we should make the most of our opportunities life while we still can.

    At any rate, the freedom to communicate widely with so many I would never have the chance to meet otherwise is one of the few things about this technologically-advanced "modern life" I enjoy and am most grateful for.

    We all know the downside, and discuss it too much. It's time to look more at the plusses, and the "silver linings."

    "This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it."


    ~ FT

  34. FT,
    It is NOT not Internet friendships are ugly. Far from it!

    What IS ugly is that family often fails, particularly when the going gets rough.

    And, now, I'm off for most of the morning and for part of the afternoon. Errands galore!

  35. Thersites,
    I haven't yet read all your comments, but I want to address the following one:

    When Pi told the second story to the insurance investigators, THAT is when all the light bulbs starting going off for me. What a depressing life "realists" must lead. I now truly feel sorry for them. They entirely miss the point that ALL our human and animal knowledge exists on a symbolic plane.

    Could it also be that The Life of Pi is also implying that mankind would rather believe in a horror than in beauty and/or a loving God?

    The insurance people preferred the story of a psycho's (or a pure savage's) killing person after person instead of learning to survive while afloat (the hyena = the psycho or a pure savage).

    It also occurs to me that the film is commenting on the preference of mankind to refuse to recognize the hand of God in our flotsam lives.

  36. Thersites,
    The floating island, IMO, was another metaphor for existence. We must all "eat or be eaten" and Pi's decision to "leave the island" was a DELIBERATE choice NOT to be eaten (as the island's previous occupants -sailor/mother HAD been).

    I also thought that the island represents the idea of the following: that we human beings think that all is well when all is going well -- until we realize that halcyon days have the savage night beneath them as an integral part of those halcyon days. Two sides of the same coin, so to speak. Yin and yang, so to speak.

    While we are living through what we believe is out deliverance, we are actually living with something that can turn on us -- unless we are on our guard during the moments when we're least likely to be on our guard. Hey! That might even be a metaphor for today's global economy.

  37. From Wikipedia and the first association that I made for the name "Richard Parker" (I've read all of Poe's writings):In Edgar Allan Poe's only novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, published in 1838, Richard Parker is a mutinous sailor on the whaling ship Grampus. After the ship capsizes in a storm, he and three other survivors draw lots upon Parker's suggestion to kill one of them to sustain the others. Parker then gets cannibalized.

  38. Some very interesting ideas. I agree, most people DO prefer to believe the "worst" about mankind.

    Ooops gotta run. Dinner is ready! :(

  39. ...and yes, there is a bias AGAINST "good news".


We welcome civil dialogue at Always on Watch. Comments that include any of the following are subject to deletion:
1. Any use of profanity or abusive language
2. Off topic comments and spam
3. Use of personal invective