there and back again

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.

August 8, 2008, 9:51 am
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Oh my god will I ever do anything quite this awesome?  Doubtful.  Everyone?  The Mario Scarf.  Natalia love, this one’s clearly for you.

The truly unpopular opinions.
August 6, 2008, 3:47 pm
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I had two important realizations today.  Firstly.  If I live for another fifteen years without ever seeing another Monet, I would be quite happy.  I am sick to death of Monet.  His paintings don’t have any movement for me, any life—they’re just a pleasing arrangement of colors and shapes.  Earlier in my course here at Cambridge, all of us went to London for the day and many of us ended up at the Tate Modern.  Most people who went to the Tate came back raving about the large Water-Lilies painting that was on display.  I sat in front of this particular painting for about five minutes and almost fell asleep.  I don’t want to see any more art that lulls me into a stupor!  I want art that’s attempting to do something or provoke something.  No more Monet.

Secondly!  I am sick to death of reading about the phenomenon of the muse.  These lovely women (usually women, not always) who exist simply to provoke men to greater artistic, philosophical, literary heights.  Usually I think these women are regarded as fairly revolutionary.  Involved in the male dominated world, interacting with famous movers and shakers.  That’s all very nice, but from now on, I only want to learn about women who did things.  No more poetic and tragically beautiful empty vessels.  I want to learn about women with opinions, who were mean maybe, or rude, and definitely deeply uninterested in allowing anyone to project anything onto them.  This was the exact reason why I started to cool off on Haruki Murakami, former love of my literary life.  Write a real woman, dude.  A woman who has goals and journeys of her own and doesn’t conveniently disappear after providing our everyman hero with a night of poignant and rather passive sex.  No more beautiful, deep, charmingly quirky, willing to change your life, dances in the rain barefoot, wellspring of inspiration type women.  Guess what?  If you can project whatever you want onto her, if everyone can look at that woman and see what they truly love—she’s not real.

Also!  If you wanted another reason to hate Garden State, other than the fact that it’s a shallow, emotional manipulative piece of shit, Natalie Portman’s character is the classic quirky yet acceptably beautiful girl who dances funny and changes your life.  You know who thinks lying all the time is charming?  Crazy people!  The brilliant people over at The Onion’s A.V. Club have got this shit figured right out.

The things you learn and can’t forget.
July 30, 2008, 7:20 pm
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From Wikipedia:

Numbers stations are shortwave radio stations of uncertain origin. They generally broadcast mechanically generated voices reading streams of numbers, words, letters (sometimes using a spelling alphabet), tunes or Morse code. They are in a wide variety of languages and the voices are usually women’s, though sometimes men’s or children’s voices are used.

Evidence supports popular assumptions that the broadcasts are channels of communication used to send messages to spies.  Numbers stations appear and disappear over time (although some follow regular schedules), and their overall activity has increased slightly since the early 1990s. This increase suggests that, as spy-related phenomena, they were not unique to the Cold War.

So yeah, numbers stations were explained to me as I walked back from a football match this evening.  Something things are too fantastic to be anything but true.  Wilco used clips from numbers stations on the album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (That title makes a bit more sense now too, doesn’t it?).  With a particular kind of shortwave radio, you could tune into these broadcasts right now.