there and back again


“Pinched.”
August 19, 2008, 6:25 pm
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I don’t really have all that much to say about life right now.  It’s always hard to find that your existence has become dull and mundane without you ever noticing.  Exams usually have that effect.  I’m behind in my work (as always) and struggling to bring myself to care about the results of this summer program.  I know I’ll be upset and disappointed with myself if I do poorly but of course right now I can’t imagine ever really caring about the results.  I just want more sleep, a chance to go on really long walks again, or go book shopping.  Soon, when I get that week at home, but not here and not yet.

Since at the moment I don’t have a lot going on, go off and read this brilliant essay on poverty by Heather Ryan over at Salon.com instead.  It’s heartbreakingly simple and honest.  Good stuff.



I saved Latin!
August 18, 2008, 6:31 am
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What did you ever do?

Please note that today I also took my first final exam of the summer.  Two more classes, two more papers, and one more final to go!  I was also supposed to write one of my papers today but I haven’t gotten around to that yet.  Ah well, the night is young. 



No more education for me!
August 17, 2008, 6:34 am
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Dear Final Exams, Final Papers, Intensive Lectures, and Any And All Activity that Falls Under the Heading of ‘School’,

I can’t ever miss you if you never go away.

Sincerely,
Me.



Rare? Yes. Legal? Definitely.
August 12, 2008, 6:15 pm
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The Democratic Party has presented its new platform language on choice, dropping the famous Clinton-era approach of “safe, legal, and rare.”  

I like the new section.  Something about “safe, legal, and rare” always got to me.  It seemed slightly cagey about the whole matter of abortion, as though in order to convince those who were uneasy about Roe v. Wade, you should just rattle off this list as fast as you could until you got to “rare,” to something everyone could agree upon.  It seemed like the kicker.  Yes, abortions should be rare.  But rare as a word choice seemed purposefully ambiguous in order to allow for a sort of wink in the direction of Roe v. Wade opponents.  Rare seemed to say, why don’t we just promise you that the number of abortions will drop to zero and we can forget about whether the act itself is right or wrong, okay?  

That shouldn’t be the approach of the Democratic Party.  They needed to say that abortion is legal.  We should give everyone better sex education, better access to contraception, better medical care for pregnant mothers and their children, and better funding and aid for mothers who are considering alternatives to abortions.  But we must never stop declaring that abortion must be legal.  I think that the new language is very successful.  It’s not perfect, but it’s direct and simple.  This is a policy that makes sense. 

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.

The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empowers people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.

The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

The 2008 Democratic National Platform can be found here; the section on choice is found on page forty-five.



And speaking of loving too much.
August 11, 2008, 4:51 pm
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This poem I feel for sure is definitely not deserving of the amount of love I give it.  It is a nice poem, clever and funny, but perhaps the joke goes on too long.  Doesn’t matter, I’m going to continue loving it too much, giggling and sighing on cue.  Don’t blame the writer!  The sestina made him do it!

Sestina: Bob

According to her housemate, she is out with Bob
tonight, and when she’s out with Bob
you never know when she’ll get in. Bob
is an English professor. Bob
used to be in a motorcycle gang, or something, or maybe Bob
rides a motorcycle now. How radical of you, Bob—

I wish I could ride a motorcycle, Bob,
and also talk about Chaucer intelligently. Bob
is very tall, bearded, reserved. I saw Bob
at a poetry reading last week—he had such a Bob-
like poise—so quintessentially Bob!
The leather jacket, the granny glasses, the beard—Bob!

and you were with my ex-girlfriend, Bob!
And you’re a professor, and I’m nobody, Bob,
nobody, just a flower-deliverer, Bob,
and a skinny one at that, Bob—
and you are a large person, and I am small, Bob,
and I hate my legs, Bob,

but why am I talking to you as if you were here, Bob?
I’ll try to be more objective. Bob
is probably a nice guy. Or that’s what one hears. Bob
is not, however, the most passionate person named Bob
you’ll ever meet. Quiet, polite, succinct, Bob
opens doors for people, is reticent in grocery stores. Bob

does not talk about himself excessively to girlfriends. Bob
does not have a drinking problem. Bob
does not worry about his body, even though he’s a little heavy. Bob
has never been in therapy. Bob,
also, though, does not have tenure—ha ha ha—and Bob
cannot cook as well as I can. Bob

never even heard of paella, and if he had, Bob
would not have changed his facial expression at all. Bob
is just so boring, and what I can’t understand, Bob—
yes I’m talking to you again, is why you, Bob,
could be more desirable than me. Granted, Bob,
you’re more stable, you’re older, more mature maybe but Bob . . .

(Months later, on the Bob-front: My former girlfriend finally married Bob.
Of Bob, she says, “No one has taken me higher or lower than Bob.”
Me? On a dark and stormy sea of Bob-thoughts, desperately, I bob.)

-Jonah Winter



Thoughts on Eliot.
August 11, 2008, 4:34 pm
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I have not yet read all of T.S. Eliot’s poetry, so if I sound as if I’m speaking of things I don’t understand, I probably am.  Apologies.  Let’s call these “thoughts so far.”

I didn’t read “The Waste Land” until this spring.  I have known and loved “Prufrock” since I was pretty small—my dad used to quote from that piece fairly often.  “Let us go then you and I,/When the evening is spread out across the sky/Like a patient etherized upon a table.”  I don’t think there are many ten year olds who could have quoted you that line, but I could, thanks to my dad’s totally bizarre reading suggestions for me.  I would probably defend “Prufrock” until my death.  It’s been quoted to death, it’s trite at this point, and beloved mainly by pretentious folk who major in English and quote the line about coffee spoons to each other and smirk.  Yeah, all of that’s true.  

But that poem is beautiful nonetheless.  I don’t think much about growing old, I don’t think much about the crisis of middle aged men, or of Edwardian England, but I cry when I read that poem because despite what some might see as its impenetrability, it lays out the tangled bed of emotions in the mind of a single individual and asks you if you’ve ever felt just this way.  

To say that I love “Prufrock” is easy.  I cannot much say that I love Eliot.  “The Waste Land” was hard going and simply removed.  I smiled at familiar lines, finally in their rightful context, and wondered at the allusions and metaphors but ultimately I finished the poem and said, “Well, that’s it then.”  No crying or moment of instant recognition.  It was simply an interesting and nice poem.  I didn’t much care for the rather grotesque sexual imagery.  I can deal with poems that portray female sexuality as something fearful and rather violent (I actually wrote one this year which I’ve still got mixed feelings about.) but the images in “The Waste Land” just made me feel disgusting.  I haven’t read “The Hollow Man,” I haven’t read “Four Quartets.”  I will eventually but I wasn’t going to rush to read them, until just a little while ago.  I stumbled across a line from “Four Quartets.”  I like poetry that lays things out for me.  I think that poetry should strive for bareness, not opaqueness, I value simplicity over frills, and I’m a little too fond of clever word play (Please note this poem from McSweeney’s which I haven’t yet stopped loving.).  I don’t think these are elements that can be said to characterize Eliot’s poetry.  And yet.  And yet.

You are the music while the music lasts.

I may have to get around to reading “Four Quartets” sooner than I had intended.  I didn’t think he had it in him. 



Yum. And sometimes not.
August 9, 2008, 3:41 pm
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An important distinction to take under account.  It occurred to me suddenly, during my evening of leisure, that a fundamental difference between England and Baltimore can be illustrated gastronomically.  I was sitting, watching Man Men, my new favorite TV show, drinking a glass of wine (oh so civilized yes), and eating a cookie, when I realized just how sad and tasteless my cookie really was.  

This is the national cookie of England. 

The digestive biscuit was invented by McVitie’s in Edinburgh in 1799 by Alexander Grant.  They were advertised as aiding digestion, and subsequent scientific research has concluded this is true.

And here is the cookie that represents Baltimore.

The Berger Cookie recipe was brought to America from Germany by George and Henry Berger in 1835.  The Berger Cookie is a buttery vanilla wafer topped with thick creamy chocolate icing.