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March 31, 2004

Life of Pi

Life of Pi Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
354 pages

Let me start by saying you must read this book. It is a rare occurence that I can honestly say everyone will enjoy a book, but in this case I can. Life of Pi is such a joy to read, such a burst of creativity and imagination, such a well written story I am still stunned by how good it was. I never re-read stories but I am sure down the road I will pick up this novel again. It is defintely the kind of book that a person could learn something new from no matter how many times it is read. This is due not only to the great story, but also the symbolism behind the story. It is a work of high literature that is sure to be read by generations to come.

The book is about a 16 year old Indian boy named Pi Patel. Pi grows up as the son of a zookeeper, and as a result knows a great deal about animals of all kinds. All this animal knowledge comes into play later in the book, but Pi's childhood also gives us a glimpse into the overall theme of the book. As a child Pi decides to become a practicing Christian, a practicing Muslim, and a practicing Hindu all at the same time. One day all of his different faiths come crashing together when his priest, imam, and pandit all converge on him at once. After much arguing Pi is asked to choose one faith, since it is impossible to truly practice all three at the same time. Pi responds, "I just want to love God." This satisfies Pi's father and they all go out for ice cream.

This scence is quite symbolic of religious life in general. Faith and belief are hard work and it is impossible not to doubt what you believe in. For Pi, it is so hard that to cover all of his bases he decides to practice three of the largest faiths at once. This satisfies his doubts and gives him peace. Am I saying it is possible or even better to practice three faiths at once? Of course not, but wouldn't it be nice to be able to erase the doubt that pesters all of us? Don't you just want to be so sure about it all sometimes and then just go out for some ice cream?

The second (and larger) part of the book deals with Pi as the lone survivor of a shipwreck at sea. Due to some policitical instability, his family decides to leave India to move to Canada. They also decide to bring many of the zoo animals with them in order to sell them to zoos in North America. Along the way the ship sinks and Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a spotted hyena, and a Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Eventually all that remain are Pi and the tiger, and Pi is forced to either tame Richard Parker or become tiger food. What follows is a story so fascinating, so miraculous, so full of life that the reader can scarcely put the book down. And that is amazing considering the story is about survival on a lifeboat. You would think it would be all about how hot they are, how hungry they are, how thristy they are, but there is so much more.

While on the lifeboat Pi's faith wavers. If your own faith wavers just in your normal everyday life, imagine what would happen to it if you were stuck in the middle of the Pacific on a lifeboat with a man eating tiger. This would be dishertening to say the least. Martel writes:

At such moments I tried to elevate myself. I would touch the turban I had made with the remnants of my shirt and I would say aloud, "THIS IS GOD'S HAT!"

I would pat my pants and say aloud, "THIS IS GOD'S ATTIRE!"

I would point to Richard Parker and say aloud, "THIS IS GOD'S CAT!"

I would point to the lifeboat and say aloud, "THIS IS GOD'S ARK!"

I would spread my hands wide and say aloud, "THESE ARE GOD'S WIDE ACRES!"

I would point at the sky and say aloud, "THIS IS GOD'S EAR!"

... But God's hat was always unravelling. God's pants were falling apart. God's cat was a constant danger. God's ark was a jail. God's wide acres were slowly killing me. God's ear didn't seem to be listening.

I won't even attempt to write about what should be plainly obvious to all.

Eventually the story becomes so fanciful that the reader can barely believe it. Towards the end of the novel Pi talks about an island he and Richard Parker stumble upon full of algae, trees, and meerkats. You can't help but ask, "Is this real? Or is it an hallucination?" Martel fills the story with such fine detail, such interesting imagery, such a convincing story that you can't help but believe. You want desperately to believe. But still your doubt lingers. Yann Martel! You crafty devil! In the end we as readers are asked what kind of story we would rather have, the magnificent or the mundane? The fact that we choose the magnificent is the essence of faith. The story is so good, detailed, awe inspiring, and complete it has to be true.

I'm no philosopher, and I apologize for my weak ramblings above, but I like to have something to think about every now and again. The Life of Pi is something I will be thinking about for a long time. Someone read it so I can discuss it with you!

Posted by snackeru at 12:00 PM | Comments (76)

March 30, 2004

Moving right along

Back to our regularly scheduled programming: stadiums in Minnesota! That is an issue we can all agree on! Right?

Last night Pawlenty's stadium bill "sailed" through the House Governmental Operations and Veteran Affairs Policy committee. If you are interested in the resulting newspaper articles:

First of all, let me say again that Larry Spooner is my hero! From what I can glean from the StarTrib article he took what could have been a very tense situation, lightened it up, and possibly gave the committee members an opportunity to pass the bill along due to his humorous testimony. Way to go Larry!

According to the Pioneer Press article the bill received only one amendment:

"In an attempt to resolve a thorny issue, Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, successfully sponsored an amendment that requires a team owner to share his gains from a team sale with the public, based on the proportion of public funds that went into the stadium. The bill already required an owner to share the increased value that results from a new stadium."

I thought this was already a part of the bill, and at least the Twins have already agreed to this kind of stipulation. So, I don't see that as a big problem. In fact, from a stadium boosters stand point, there really isn't anything to complain about concerning last night's proceedings. I don't know how it passed through this committee so quickly and with only one amendment, but I'm thankful that it did. Could Pawlenty be using his muscle to push it through?

Actually, I do have an idea why it passed through this committee so quickly. If you listen really carefully in the directon of the state capitol you should be able to hear Ron Abrams licking his chops in anticipation. In mid April, the bill will be heard by his House Taxes committee, and that is when the real changes and amendments will happen. The House Governmental Operations and Veteran Affairs Policy committee knew it and decided not to waste their time. Don't you think?

Anyway, this news will definitely put a little bounce in my step today. If anyone has any insightful commentary to add, please do so below!

Posted by snackeru at 9:28 AM | Comments (3)

March 29, 2004

Random Observations

So, did any of you catch the Gopher's hockey games on Victory Sports this weekend? I sure did. I switched Victory on as soon as they began broadcasting on Friday night just so I could say I saw it on the air. While I hope that Victory and the big cable companies end their squabble, I'm not going to hold my breath. One suggestion I have for Victory, however, when they finally get on the air for real, is to get some new commercials. Victory must have showed the Debt-Free consolidation commerical 100 times, along with the inventor commercial, and the coffee/tea pouch commercial. It was like I was watching Sally Jesse Raphael instead of a hockey game.

Speaking of the Gophers, their run in the NCAA tournament finally came to an end. Over these past few years I have really come to enjoy Gopher hockey so I was a little disappointed. Both living in Minnesota and working at the U have given me a new understanding about how important hockey is to this state. One thing I've learned is that the U of M can handle a mediocre football team. We can stomach a less than stellar season from the basketball team. But one thing the U and its fans will not tolerate is a poor hockey season. The U of M will always have a strong hockey team. It is almost a guarantee. I've already heard that some people are upset with this year, and the Gophers won the WCHA Final Five! High expectations are good though.

Not too much on the stadium front. Today, the bill will be heard by the Governmental Operations and Veterans Affairs Committee. And from what I understand, it will be after 5:00 today and the meeting will go long into the night. There was also a nice profile of Doug Stang in the StarTrib today. I've written Doug before and I got a nice response from him. He is one of the "good guys" in the legislature. Thoughtful, hard working, and always trying to do the right thing, no matter how controversial it is. I can't see his backing of this stadium bill hurting his chances of re-election. At least I hope it won't. Of course, I will be commenting on the committee's response to the stadium bill tomorrow.

Lastly, people in the Twin Cities actually got a chance to watch the Twins yesterday! Channel 45 showed a spring training game, so I of course watched as much of it as I could. Lohse looks good. And the StarTrib has a hilarious article about Doug Mientkiewicz and how Matt LeCroy was sent in as a pinch runner for him during the game. Other than that, the bullpen is shaping up, Santana is looking good (finally!), and the Twins are actually hitting for power this spring. I am really looking forward to this season! Should be fun. Hopefully we'll all be able to watch the games on TV!

Posted by snackeru at 9:26 AM

March 24, 2004

Kids and poop

I hope you don't mind if I take a break from stadiums every once and a while and write about other things. For example, my kids and family in general provide me with ample blog material on a regular basis. This blog can provide me with a sort of therapy for what my family puts me through, as a matter of fact. So, kids and poop. For those of you that are parents, are you as sick of poop as I am? I am so sick of poop I can't even think straight. You think it ends when they get out of diapers, but you would be wrong. Let me put this all into context.

Last night I was looking forward to watching the T-Wolves and Gophers hockey. I was in the middle of brainwashing my oldest son, Alex, ("You don't want to watch Nickelodeon ... you want to watch basketball with me ... you like basketball") when my youngest son, Anders, runs by with a pained expression on his face. Now this isn't an odd occurence in itself. Again, for those of you that have kids you know that kids run everywhere. From the moment their feet hit the ground upon waking up and getting out of bed they are sprinting wherever they go. I am always amazed by this. Anyway, Anders runs by and I kind of shrug and carry on with Alex. Mistake number one. I should have helped him immediately. About 10 mintues later Anders comes back with a sheepish look on his face. Uh oh, I thought, what has happened? Well, Anders literally had a poop explosion fly out of his butt with which he has made a trail of poop all through the house. Ahh! What the? ... how could? ... why did? ... I'm speechless. Not only that, he has also taken his pants off and kind of shook them to spread little poop chunks everywhere in his room. I swear I will be finding them years from now. I would be lying if I said I didn't get angry with Anders, and that is mistake number two. No matter what you think your kids should do or what you think are able to do, accidents happen. So, after calming myself down I apologized to Anders, gave him a bath, and put him to bed. Of course, when I get back to the TV my oldest son is watching Nickelodeon. Being a parent is truly the hardest job I have ever had!

I have an idea for a Hallmark card for people who are about to become parents. On the front it will have a smiling baby and it will say, "Get Ready!" And then on the inside it will say "For Poop." Thankfully I can laugh about it even now, but I really can't wait for all this poop business to end. And now, in closing, a little advice for all of you soon-to-be parents: get a wet/dry vacuum of some sort like a Bissel or a steam cleaner because you are going to need it. My Bissel is one of the best purchases I ever made. I just spent a half an hour cleaning poop off my carpet, and I know it won't be the last time.

Posted by snackeru at 10:25 PM | Comments (3)

March 10, 2004

The Inevitable Fall

Last Friday I was walking across the mighty Mississippi on the Washington Ave. bridge to Walter Library to get a couple of books to read. I'm always kind of amazed by walking across the Mississippi, the longest river in North America, on a daily basis but that is beside the point. While walking, Old Man Winter almost had his way with me. For those of you that live in a "wintry" area, you know what I am talking about: the inevitable fall. At least one time every winter I slip on some patch of hidden ice, fall down on the ground in spectacular fashion, and generally embarass myself immensely. And I'm a relatively tall person, 6' 5", so when I fall my gangly arms and legs go flying in all directions as I take up an entire sidewalk with my flailing body. Anyway, I was walking across the bridge when I came to a large puddle of water. Unfortunately it was so large that I decided I had to walk through it. Unbeknownst to me, the puddle featured quite possibly the slickest spot of ice underneath it that the world has ever seen. So, I hit that slippery spot, and I started to flail as I tried to catch myself. And amazingly, catch myself I did! Old Man Winter, I beat you! If I had fallen I probably would have had to go home due to the huge puddle of water I was walking through, but I didn't! So, I want the world to know that I mock winter! I'm throwing down the gauntlet and challenging winter to just try and make me fall! Because this year, it isn't going to happen!

Posted by snackeru at 10:26 PM

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