Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Insidious Letters at the End of the Alphabet

I don't know why it is that I find the last few letters of the alphabet seem so much more devious to me. They just seem so dark and mysterious. Alluring, even. Seductive?

How can you think of the letters at the end of the alphabet like that, you ask? Think about it. What's in a name? I think names have power. You know, girls named monica and leslie are never far from the top of the social scale, small boys named damien are likely to have demons inside of them, men with middle names of van are often German...

But what of the letters that make up the names? Maybe that's just it! It's the letters that make a name sinister, and it's the name that makes the man. Or the fictional character.

As something of a writer, I know that the names of our fictional characters are a bit more influential concerning the character's personality. With regular people, they have their whole life to define their own name however they please. When I sit down and try to think up a name for one of my characters, I'm trying to sum up as much of my character's personality and past (or even future) as I can.

For instance, I named a main character of mine, a conflicted villain, Damien. It does not actually mean devil child or anything in the like. It means "to tame". I only gave my character that name after days of deliberation. It was perfect, once I finally found it. It's good because it has all the connotation of someone possessed by a devil, but none of the meaning. The meaning, to tame, may refer either to his leading armies against all the people of the land with great victory, or to his inner struggle to tame his feelings and the chaos inside.

Now Damien hasn't got the dark letters of the alphabet (I'd say they start at "R"ish). Another common "dark" letter seems to be "D". But there are a lot of sinister words and names that do have those last letters. DracUla, WereWolf, eVil, tWiSted, lUcifer, UnderWorld, Yeti, chUpacabra, monSTer, SuSpicioUS, etcetera etcetera etcetera. How many words can you find?

Some names start with these letters, others have them mixed up in the middle, and some words just have them tacked on the end. But then again I am talking about over a third of the alphabet, here. It must just all be coincidence. Yes, a sinister coincidence indeed.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ah, the good old Dark Ages...

As I sat through a droll college algebra class in the dark hours of the early morning I drifted in and out of the edge of consciousness. In one of my weaker, conscious moments, I heard my instructor spit out another one of those math teacher classics, a "real life" application.

Any math teacher worth his salt has used one. It must be some secret cardinal rule that every math instructor should come up with ridiculous, far fetched ways for his students to apply what they learn in the class room in real life. Sometimes an exponential something or another equation can help you to find out what rate your coffee cools at in a cold room. That's ridiculous. Drink it while it's hot. That's all you need to know.

Really, there's hundreds of applicable but ridiculous and time consuming uses for math for the not-mathematically-motivated people of the world, like myself. I'm going to college for a fine arts degree and an english degree. I don't need a whole lot of math. I think the highest level of math required for a college student in a non-scientific degree should be geometry and algebra 2.

For some reason or another, the application my teacher told us in my brief moment of consciousness struck me as particularly funny. We could use what we were learning today to find the trajectory if we fired a missile. If I fired a missile? Sure, it happens all the time! I smiled a little bit, into the face of this cruel irony. Why in all of God's green earth would I be allowed to or even want to fire a missile?

The most I'm going to use the little math I need to know is to budget my paycheck in order to have enough for groceries after I pay my bills. And that budget is laughably small (being a starving artist and all). I certainly don't need higher math to figure it out.

Math may be behind the whole of the physical universe. I will still regard it as magic, and the mathe-magicians should be glad we don't still burn them at the stake, like they did in the good old dark ages.