Archive for August 2001

Hermes in His Own Words

August 5, 2001

I am Hermes: god of merchants, shepherds, weights and measures, oratory, literature, athletics, thieves, and land travel. As if that weren’t enough, I’m incredibly strong and manly, and I’ve fathered over twenty-five children. I am also worshiped by the Romans and Gauls. In a nutshell, I’m awesome.

I was just on my way to Athens to find more dead spirits. One of my jobs as messenger of the gods is to deliver the head to Hades; I also deliver dreams and send messages for Zeus.

My godliness literally began the morning after I was conceived. Zeus got together with Maia, considered the most beautiful of the Pleiades, in the dead of night while the other gods slept. At the break of dawn, I popped out. Zeus went back to Hera, leaving Maia to her own devices. She wrapped me in swaddling bands, laid down, and went to sleep. I, however, squirmed out of my clothing and ran to Thessaly, where Apollo tended his sheep. I stole them and then ran back to Arcadia.

On the way back, I caught a tortoise. I killed it, scooped out its innards, and strung the intestines of one of my cows over the shell. In so doing, I created the first lyre.

I hid my cows in a grotto near Pylos, ran home, and wrapped myself back in the swaddling bands. Then I went to sleep. When Apollo arrived, he accused me of stealing his herd. Maia said this was not possible because I had been sleeping. Zeus, the great father that he is, came down and snitched on me. While the three of them were arguing, I played my lyre. Apollo fell in love with the music and offered to give up the cows in exchange for the lyre. I agreed and thus became Hermes Kriophoros, the “ram bearer” and patron of shepherds and flocks.

This was not the last of my instrumental creations. Later I created the pan pipes and the flute, the latter of which I traded to Apollo for his golden wand: my herald’s staff. Some storytellers say that Zeus gave it to me. They’re wrong.

I participated in the Trojan War, mainly to save Odysseus’s arse. I used my cunning to persuade Calypso to release Odysseus from her charms. I also saved him and his men from being turned into pigs by Circe; I gave them an herb to resist the spell so they could continue their journey. I also had a part in the beginning of the war: I led Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena to Mount Ida to be judged by Paris.

I’ve had many partners and many children, almost as many as Big Daddy Zeus, but unfortunately none of my progeny are powerful yet. The result of my union with Aphrodite was Hermaphroditus. He was approached by the Naiad Salmacis but resisted her. Later she came up from the water while he was swimming, grabbed him, and kissed him. She prayed to the gods that they never be separated; the gods united their two bodies into one, so from then on Hermaphroditus had both male and female sex organs. And he’s my most famous child! Others you may have heard of are Pan, half-man and half-goat, and Abderus, companion to Heracles.

But enough about me. I’ve really got to get to Athens and escort their dead. Hopefully, you now understand me enough to want to worship me for reasons besides my irresistible body. Thank you for this interview. Really. Moments like this help me remember how important I am. See you around!

Advertisements

Stalking

August 4, 2001

The “relationship” began with a lunch break. Laura Black and Richard Wade Farley, employees at a high-tech defense firm, ESL, were introduced by a co-workers on a lazy afternoon in April of 1984. Black thought nothing of it; Farley claimed it was love at first sight and idealized Black as the perfect woman. For years, he followed her around town and attempted to win her love with gifts and letters (many including hand-drawn pictures of Black in a leotard). Farley’s desperation grew after he lost his job in 1986 for harassment. His letters mentioned guns, murders, and suicide. Black decided to secure a permanent restraining order. The day before the hearing, Farley donned army fatigues, a knife, a semiautomatic shotgun, a .357 magnum revolver, and a .22 automatic revolver and stormed Laura’s workplace. He intended to ask her to drop the restraining order, but he snapped on the way in and put his weapons to use, killing seven and wounding four. Among the wounded was Laura Black.

Farley was a stalker. Stalking, “the willful, malicious, and repeated following or harassing of another person”, is often referred to as “The Crime of the Nineties”. Stalking has only recently received legislative and public attention. The press has brought about legislative advances, but the current laws prohibiting stalking still give insufficient protection to victims.

The frequency and danger of stalking crimes cannot be disputed. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than a million women and 370,000 men are stalked each year, and about half never report it; the National Institute of Justice estimates that 8% of women and 2% of men have been stalked at some point in their lives. In Japan, there were 11,543 stalking complaints in the first half of 2000, and one Japanese survey found that 25% of women in their 20s and 30s had been stalked. In 1992, 1500 women were stalked and murdered by their former boyfriends. Stalking more frequently receives press in the case of celebrities; the stalker of Martina Hingis was recently convicted and jailed for that crime. Stalking is not just a fringe crime; it is a societal problem.

Even when not followed by violence, stalking causes great psychological damage to the victim. One example is Crystal Peterson of Independence, Oregon. She was stalked by an older man beginning when she was age seven. At first, her parents thought the love letters she received were from a young boy, but when the letters took on a darker and more violent tone, the Petersons took action. They kept their blinds drawn and hesitated to let their children play outside. One parent walked Crystal to school every day, and school authorities kept a constant watch over her. She slept near her mother, who kept fireplace pokers nearby at all hours of the night. The girl was robbed of her innocence and freedom. “I have to stay where they can see me during recess,” she complained. “If my friends want to play somewhere else, I’m left there all alone.” Fortunately, her stalker was apprehended, but many children and adults must go their entire lives fearing and mistrusting people, especially of the opposite sex, because of post-stalking trauma.

The aforementioned failure to stop stalkers is the precise problem with the law today. While there have been legislative advances against stalking, the problem is still not adequately addressed. Stalking only recently became a crime; the first anti-stalking law was enacted in California on January 1, 1991, after the stalking and murdering of actress Rebecca Schaeffer. By October 1993, every state in the nation had legislation against stalking. Starting in 1994, U.S. Congress passed a series of laws which became known together as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). On May 18, 2000, the Japanese Diet passed its first anti-stalking law.

These laws are sometimes too weak, too specific, or unconstitutional. Many state laws require the victim to be followed or assaulted before the police can make an arrest; this allows the stalker to wreak psychological terror without being arrested, and sometimes assaults cannot be prevented until it is too late. Sometimes bail is set too low; on December 9, 1998, a Ventura County hairstylist was stabbed to death by her former boyfriend, Roland Sheehan, after he was released on $20,000 bail. Sheehan had violated his restraining orders 15 times.

Other laws are too specific. In Kansas a person must be both harassed and followed for the stalker to be charged with a crime. This means the stalker can follow his victim everywhere but escapes litigation if there is no other harassment, and a person who floods another person with email, telephone calls, or letters cannot be arrested if they do not also follow their victim. Such loopholes allow a stalker to continue his behavior.

Conversely, stalking laws can run afoul of the Constitution. On July 16, 2000, U.S. District Judge Richard Enslen ruled that Michigan’s stalking law, among the nation’s toughest, is “unconstitutionally broad” and could undercut “the media’s ability to gather news”, “jeopardize commercial speech”, and hinder citizens’ rights to “redress political or legal grievances”.

There are problems not only in the writing of the law but also in their enforcement, which is lackluster. Among the problems is that some judges do not take stalking seriously. In one case, Brooklyn judge Lorin Duckman released Nenito Oliver, a convicted stalker and woman beater, from a court case for violation of restraining orders. Oliver argued to the court that he was not stalking his girlfriend but rather trying to retrieve his dog from her. Duckman believed him, saying “he has been in jail long enough for a person who is charged with these crimes. I want to know about that dog.” Three weeks later, Oliver came to his girlfriend’s workplace and shop her in the head with a revolver. Duckman was eventually dismissed. Not only judges, but prison guards, parole boards, and officials often consider stalkers harmless because they are courteous, model prisoners. Even in celebrity cases, stalkers are treated leniently; a German judge sentenced the man who stabbed tennis player Monica Seles in the back during a match to two years in prison but then suspended his sentence and let him go free.

The general public also lacks awareness of the issue. Society supports the idea of romantic pursuit. The Police’s 1983 hit “Every Breath You Take” was intended to depict an obsessed stalker, but it is usually heard as a love song. The Japanese Konjaku Monogatari tales written in about 1120 recount an aristocrat’s lifelong fixation on a beautiful court aristocrat who composes intricate plans to evade him. As long as society does not take stalking seriously, there will not be pressure to write laws against it.

The problem of stalking is serious and requires state acknowledgment. Stalkers cause physical and psychological damage to their victims, and new laws should be written accordingly and also enforced. The American people deserve as much.

Authors Cited: Goodnough, Landau, Silverman

Analysis of Larry from “The Stand”

August 3, 2001

One of the most human characters in The Stand is Larry Underwood. He grows and develops more than most, and he also seems to be the one who has the hardest decisions to make. I watching Larry grow was fascinating, and I was always pulling for him to make it out all right.

When we first meet Larry, he’s a selfish guy. In the past, he threw his childhood friend out of the apartment in which they lived together because of an argument over five dollars (Uncut Version 224). His longest-lasting relationship, 14 months with a topless dancer named Yvonne, were the best days of his life “until the last six weeks or so, when Yvonne got to be kind of a b—-“ – and those days were long gone. He’s just made it to the big time with his hit single “Baby, Can You Dig Your Man?” (35), and he decides to throw a big party at his house. As the night goes on, the bills pile up. Luckily, a bandmate of his, Wayne Stukey, wakes him up and straightens him out: Larry’s in debt, and he needs to escape from it all and let the money take care of itself. Larry says he can’t just tell all the people to live his house, and his friend replies, “You’ll tell them. Because there’s a hard streak in you. There’s something in you that’s like biting on tinfoil. You’ll have a nice little career. Middle-of-the-road pop no one will remember in five years. The junior high boppers will collect your records. You’ll make money” (42).

With these none-too-encouraging words in mind, Larry flees to New York. He holes up with his mother and has a one-night stand with an oral hygienist, who repeatedly screams “You ain’t no nice guy!” as he leaves. “I hope you rot! I hope you fall in front of some f—in’ subway train! You ain’t no singer! You’re s—ty in bed! You louse! Pound this up you’re a–! Take this to your mother, you louse!” (82-83).

Indeed, there is something in Larry that’s like biting on tinfoil. In the beginning, he isn’t a nice guy. He’s selfish and insensitive. He only cares about self-preservation, the kind of attitude a man needs in the hard-boiled land of entertainment where people take every opportunity to rip each other off. A friend of mine said he didn’t like Larry in the beginning because he didn’t know if Larry was good or bad, and I would have to concur.

The plague changes Larry. He returns home to find his mother dead (155), and a few days later, he meets Rita Blakemoor. She’s a lady in her 50s, used to worldly ways and weighed down by pills. She tags along with him; upon starting their trip out of New York, she says “the beginning of a journey” and then quotes Tolkien: “the way leads ever on” (297). Yet she soon shows she’s not the survivor type. On the way out of the city, he finds that her feet have been bleeding from the sandals she’s wearing. ”Your feet have been hurting you for twenty f—ing blocks and you didn’t say anything?” he shouts (300). After a long exchange, he leaves her behind. Voices torment his mind, especially his mother’s, who says “you’re a taker, Larry” (301). This idea of selfishness haunts him for most of the story.

Yet he finds he truly cannot work with Rita. He reunites with her in the Lincoln Tunnel and promises to be her protector, a sign that his life is not all about self-preservation anymore. He protects her while continuing to be selfish, alternatively enjoying her company (including sex) and exasperated with her pampered lack of toughness.

After a rough night on July 3rd, he awakens on the Fourth and goes outside to sing, expecting to have sex after his song. When he returns to the tent, however, he finds Rita has died of a pill overdose (368). He never buries her; he’s too afraid to do it. He packs up this things and leaves. At first he feels exhilarated to be alone, but then he’s saddened and lonely. “So why wasn’t he feeling so bad, anyway? He was telling the truth, wasn’t he? Yes. And the worst of the truth was that he felt relief, wasn’t it? That the stone around his neck was gone? No, the worst is being alone. Being lonely” (370). Larry acknowledges that he needs other people in his life. Without Rita, he grows. He thinks about the things he did and how they might have contributed to her death. He learns to be responsible.

Later, he meets Nadine and Joe and in his relationship with them shows his newfound sense of responsibility and his growth. When he meets Joe, Joe is a savage boy who wants to kill him, but Larry finds that he and Joe both love the guitar. ”Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast,” he muses (441) when he gives Joe the guitar. He finds Joe is very talented, and their relationship begins. As the story develops, Larry and Joe become even better friends, and Joe comes out of his shell to become a real person.

Nadine, however, is a different story. They are mutually attracted to each other, but Nadine refuses to have a relationship with him. If she did, she would be saved from Flagg, but she holds out until the end. When that end comes, Larry is too far into a relationship with another woman; if he took Nadine, he would be ruined. “Whatever you want from me, you could have had. You could have had it last week or the week before. The week before that I asked you to take it. I wanted you to have it” (759). He refuses her, and she leaves his life forever, opting instead to follow Randall Flagg and Harold, whom Larry once had admiration for (662-669).

Larry’s refusal of Nadine is one of the gray-area decisions of the book: he could have saved her, but it would have destroyed him. He sticks with his decision. It shows his mastery over sexual desire and the deepening of his sense of responsibility. He also shows this in his relationships with Lucy and Joe and his nomination for and acceptance of a post on the Free Zone Permanent Committee: “Anyway, the Judge told Nick that Larry’s just the kind we’re looking for. He said Larry was just getting around to finding out he was good for something, and that he was going to get a lot better,” Stu says of him then (687).

It is not surprise, then, that Larry finally becomes the leader of the small group of men going to Las Vegas to face off with Randall Flagg (1041). Stu is the first leader, but after his injury leaves him unable to continue, Larry takes over and leads the group until his death. He comes a long way from the man he once was, and this is never more evident than in the Las Vegas Prison. He knows God must exist after witnessing Mother Abigail’s amazing last moments (906-909), so that’s whom he supports. “I will fear no evil,” he says to comfort himself (1054).

As the day of execution comes closer, he’s not afraid. “He had felt the two people that he had been in his life – the real one and the ideal one – merged into one living being. His mother would have liked this Larry. And Rita Blakemoor. It was a Larry to whom Wayne Stukey never would have had to tell the facts. It was a Larry that even that long-ago oral hygienist would have liked. I’m going to die. If there’s a God – and now I believe there must be – that’s His will. We’re going to die and somehow all of this will end as a result of our dying” (1060).

Larry has become a giver, not a taker, and he’s a generally likeable man. Larry’s life ends in the brilliant flash of light of an atomic bomb, and he leaves the world a happy, peaceful, and successful man.

Characters like Stu and Nick are good from the start, and we know we can stick with them until the end. People like Harold and Nadine have the potential for good but throw it away for evil. It is Larry who really fulfills his potential by becoming a good man at the end of the story. In death, he is victorious. He’s an emotional, inspiring character, and if he were real, I would admire him.

Analysis of Harold from “The Stand”

August 2, 2001

There are many excellent characters in Stephen King’s novel The Stand: Stu Redman, Larry Underwood, Tom Cullen, Nick Andros, and Frannie Goldsmith are among the most varied and human personalities I have yet encountered in my reading and give life to this 1141-page book. The one who I feel is the most real and most dynamic is Harold Emery Lauder. He is not my favorite character, but his actions and motivations are very human.

Harold doesn’t make a smashing first impression: he is rather unattractive, an outcast of Oginquit at eighteen years old. His hair is black and greasy; he weighs two hundred forty pounds, and in the words of his sister Amy, he “whacks off in his pants”. Frannie doesn’t really care, but nonetheless she feels “as if she sensed by low-grade telepathy that almost every thought Harold had was coated lightly with slime” (Uncut Version 238). His personality doesn’t win her over, either; he reacts rather casually to the death of his own parents. When Frannie leaves the scene where they meet, “she knew Harold would be watching her jiggling buttocks, storing up the footage for whatever X-rated movie played constantly in his head, and that made her angrier, sadder, and more weepy than ever” (242).

There is more to Harold than meets the eye, however. Later, he talks about the deaths in his family, which he had casually brushed off earlier: “I want my mother…I thought when it happened, when she died, ‘Now that wasn’t so bad’…But I never knew how I would take it when they passed away. I’m a very sensitive person. That’s why I was so persecuted by the cretins at that house of horrors the town fathers saw fit to call a high school. I thought it might drive me mad with grief, their passing, or at least prostrate me for a year…my interior sun, so to speak, would…I would say to myself, ‘now that wasn’t so bad’…Why can’t I say what I mean? I’ve always been able to say what I meant! It’s a writer’s job to carve with language, to hew close to the bone, so why can’t I say what it feels like?” (318)

Indeed, on the inside, Harold is a frightened, lonely boy. He was a pariah in high school and even in his own family. He always feels like he’s on the outside, and even when he is accepted, he doesn’t realize it. This is true even near the end of the book: “Although Nadine had said little about her reasons for coming back to him, Harold had an idea that she had been excluded in some way, too, rebuffed, turned back. They were a couple of outsiders, and outsiders hatch plots. It’s perhaps the only thing that keeps them sane” (816). When she becomes aware of this, Frannie pities him and promises to be his friend. Harold falls in love with her; when Stu Redman joins them, Harold’s love becomes a major conflict in the story.

Harold’s strongest emotion toward Stu is jealousy. This is apparent even when the two first meet; Harold already sees him as a threat. He accuses Stu of being a liar, tries to take ownership over Frannie, and refuses his companionship on the journey. Stu observes, “…the boy impressed him as a frightened blowhard. And a frightened blowhard could be a very dangerous man, under the right circumstances…or the wrong ones” (377).

The real problem behind the love triangle of Harold, Stu, and Frannie is Harold’s lack of self-confidence. “He [Harold] wasn’t just jealous of the girl; that had been a bald oversimplification on his [Stu’s] part.” His personal dignity was wrapped up in it, and his new image of himself as the girl’s protector. God knew what kind of a f—up he had been before all this, with this wad of belly and his pointy-toed boots and his stuck-up way of talking. But underneath the new image was the belief that he was still a f—up and always would be. Underneath was the certainty that there was no such thing as a fresh start. He would have reacted the same way to Bateman, or to a twelve-year old kid. In any triangle situation he was going to see himself as the lowest point” (381).

Stu makes a promise that he won’t try to take Frannie away from Harold, and Harold believes him. Life isn’t that simply, however; at dinner that very night, Stu watched Frannie, “And that was the beginning of his knowing that he did want her, after all” (382).

Harold’s image through the first half of Book II is of a contrasting figure: brilliant but insufferably snotty. He’s constantly looking for arguments; according to Frannie, “…one of the things that makes Harold hard to like is how eager he is to show off how much he knows” (521). He keeps himself between Stu and Frannie, causing problems for both. Frannie writes in her diary one night, “(Oh dear, I’m falling in love with him [Stu], I think I’ve got the world’s most crushable crush, if only it wasn’t for Harold I’d take my damn chances!”) (525)

Ultimately, his hopes of a relationship with Frannie are crushed on two separate nights. On July 19th, he confesses his love to Frannie in hopes of having sex with her. She refuses and tells him she doesn’t love him. Then on August 1st, Stu and Frannie begin their relationship with sex – while Harold watches in the bushes.

This throws Harold over the edge. He reads Frannie’s diary, learning the truth about how she feels, and subsequently starts his own. The first line: “My great pleasure this delightful post-Apocalypse summer will be to kill Mr. Stuart Dog-Cock Redman; and just maybe I will kill her, too” (858). Harold learns to h ate. He develops a politician’s façade to cover his contempt, and the other Boulderites fall for it, Ralph for one. “Ralph liked Harold, who always seemed to have time to listen and commiserate with whoever had a sad tale to tell…and Harold never seemed to want anything in return” (717). Other characters are very suspicious, namely Stu (“Harold’s eyes didn’t waver from Stu’s, and they kept their slightly humorous, pleasant light, but Stu had a momentary feeling that Harold’s smiling eyes were like sunshine on the water of Brakeman’s Quarry back home – the water looked so pleasant, but it went down and down to black depths where the sun had never reached, and four boys had lost their lives in pleasant-looking Brakeman’s Quarry over the years” (717-718), Fran (“He’s changed…even if I don’t know how or why or even if it’s for the best…and sometimes I’m afraid”) (675), and Leo (“But he’s not like us. He smiles a lot. But I think there might be worms inside him, making him smile. Big white worms eating up his brain. Like maggots”) (682). Nevertheless, Harold becomes a popular man in the community and even earns a nickname, “Hawk”.

Leo’s comment really hits the mark about Harold at this stage. He acts friendly by day and spews hate into his Ledger by night. One memorable quote from it is “It is said that the two great human sins are pride and hate. Are they? I elect to think of them as the two great virtues. To give away pride and hate is to say you will change for the good of the world. To embrace them, to vent them, is more noble; that is to say that the world must change for the good of you. I am on a great adventure” (672). Words like this display the terribly misguided path Harold is taking. He embraces Randall Flagg’s way (817-818), accepts Nadine Cross into his life, and then builds a bomb to kill off The Committee (839-841). When he reaches the point of no return, he looks back. “Maybe I don’t want to anymore,” Harold whispers to Nadine. “Too late, Harold,” she replies. And so Harold leaves town (865).

When we hear from Harold one more time at the end of the book, he is once again a changed man. He’s been abandoned by Randall Flagg and Nadine; he is a tool that has outlived its usefulness. He realizes this and reflects sadly on his downfall. “He had fallen victim to his own protracted adolescence; it was as simple as that. He had been poisoned by his own lethal visions.” “I could have been something on Boulder” (965). He has realized the error of his ways and taken responsibility for them. This, and his feelings of remorse, are shown in his final message:

“I apologize for the destructive things I have done, but do not deny that I did them of my own free will. On my school papers, I have signed my name Harold Emery Lauder. I signed my manuscripts – poor things that they were – the same way. God help me, I once wrote it on the roof of a barn three feet high. I want to sign this by a name given me in Boulder. I could not accept it then, but I take it now freely. I am going to die in my right mind.” Then he shoots himself and dies an honorable man.

Harold is a tragic yet dynamic character. He goes from a lonely, sensitive boy to a jealous egomaniac to a deceptive hater to an honorable man. It’s quite a shift and the reason I think he’s the most interesting and realistic character. We can learn from Harold’s mistakes: do not hate; develop self-confidence and be comfortable with oneself; reach out to other people…Harold is an amazing character in an amazing story which I highly recommend.