Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On Irony

Alanis Morrisette’s song “Ironic” from her album “Jagged Little Pill” is ironic in that every situation mentioned is not the least bit ironic, at least not in the way the term is used by prescriptivists. Irony can be properly defined as discrepancy between the expected result and actual results. Having read lots of blogs of current and former Mormons, one thing (well, several things, but this post is labeled “On Irony” after all) caught my attention. A lot of former Mormons state ad naseum that the reason they left the Mormon church was their perceived incongruity between the teachings of the church and the ‘empirical evidence.’ That’s all fine and dandy with me. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I believe that religion boils down to pure choice and that any post hoc rationalization of that choice is inherently unjustifiable whether you stay or go. The emphasis on science and empiricism is remarkable because rather than reject the teachings they find unjustified, they embark on a path that is different from what one would suspect. For instance, several former Mormons brag about their inhibitions and ability to drink alcohol, coffee and tea. They also loudly proclaim that their lives are much better now they don’t spend Sunday stuck in a three-hour block meeting. The irony is this: scientific studies show that religious groups that abstain from tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea and illegal drugs tend to have longer life spans than those who don’t abstain from those substances. A lot of people would assume that observant Mormons have, on average, the longest life spans in the United States. They would be completely wrong, however. In actuality, that title belongs to the Seventh Day Adventists, who in addition to forsaking the aforesaid substances, also do not consume meat. As far as church-going is concerned, there are scientific studies that suggest that regularly going to church can increase your life span. The irony of all this, therefore, is why would people who claim to swayed by scientific arguments jettison the beliefs that appear to be scientifically justified?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

On Chocolat by Joanne Harris

I hate this book. Sure, it's not the worst novel of all time, but I'm not sure what other people like about it. Joanne Harris trots out every stereotypical archetype known to English literature. Witch with heart of gold (Vianne). Check. Hardworking, misunderstood handsome vagabond (Roux). Check. Evil father-figure (Father Reynaud). Check. Abusive husband (Mr. Musgrave). Check. Abused wife (Mrs. Musgrave). Check. Free-spirited old lady (Armande). Check. Bigoted, materialistic daughter (Caroline). Check. There's nothing wrong with using archetypes, but she could have at least tried to make them somewhat more deep and substantial.

Plus, there is no suspense in the plot whatsoever. Is Vianne going to triumph in the end? Of course she is. Anybody who reads the first fifteen pages knows that. So why does Ms. Harris make us read an additional 290 pages when we already know how it's going to end? There is no suspense and I had no real interest in what happened next.

For the life of me, I'm not sure why this book garnered so much praise. If you want to read about chocolate and feel hungry, I suggest a desert cookbook instead of this predictable tripe.