A Poetic Thought for the Weekend

My lovely friend who feeds me poetry and tea on wednesdays and fridays brought me this poem from one of my favorite poets.

First Love

They say
the first love's most important.
That's very romantic,
but not my experience.

Something was and wasn't there between us,
something went on and went away.
My hands never tremble
when I stumble on silly keepsakes
and a sheaf of letters tied with string-
not even ribbon.

Our only meeting after years:
the conversation of two chairs at a chilly table.

Other loves
still breathe deep inside me.
This one's too short of breath even to sigh.

Yet, just exactly as it is,
it does what the others still can't manage:
not even seen in dreams,
it introduces me to death.

-Wislawa Szymborska
( translated from the Polish, by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

"For me, success is the aftermath of education"
-excerpt from student essay

I only have ten exams, twelve short essays, and twenty-eight long essays to grade, which means I have between 200-268 pages of student writing to read by Thursday.

The horror.....the horror...

What the hell is up with those twisted hamster ads for Quiznos?

I was grading exams last night when one came on. I'm not saying it comes up to the level of being a crime against humanity but who looks at those things and gets HUNGRY? All I could think was "Ok what the hell were those people on that they came up with THAT as ad campaign? And what did they reject for that? And who on earth thought any of elements involved with this commercial were even vaguely close to good adverstising? I mean it's like hiring William S Burroughs to do your ad campaign.'"

It makes me glad I'm not a kid again, because otherwise I'd be having nightmares about those things for years.

Can you please have your nervous breakdown on your own time?

I was going to write a more detailed analysis of the final episode of "Sex in the City" ( somehow I got way off topic last night), but instead I'm going to give you a little bit of drama. This morning several of my students were missing and the rest were unfocused. I finally get them together enough to talk about the reading and what happens?

The door opens. "At exactly 9:07 this morning, I lost it." It's the Bad Buddhist. He comes in and launches a diatribe AT MY CLASS about how apathetic his class is. Finally I manage to shoo him out of room, and I keep a straight face long enough for the door to close.

As soon as it closed, I started laughing. My class, at first stunned by the presence of the Bad Buddhist, even more stunned by his ranting and utter lack of control, finally follow my lead and start laughing too. I mean I can see ranting and raving at his own class, but must he infect my class with his aggressive nuttiness?

The guy is losing it.

"I'm going to miss you, you cunt."-Samantha to Carrie in "An American Girl in Paris: Part One"

"This one's too big. That one's too small. Who are you? Goldicocks?" Carrie to Samantha about her last two love interests

"I really want to go out and get dressed and have a 'Sex in the City' kind of night.'"-a friend explaining to me what she wanted to do this weekend

Well, the last episode of "Sex in the City" has just aired. I've never been a big fan. In fact, my watching has been sporadic at best, but "Sex in the City" seems to have touched something in the viewers, or maybe more accurately the young women of urbania.( And by extension many of the boyfriends of the young women in urbania. I know many a man who has been pressed into service tonight to tape the show or to help host a "finale" party.) The other night I was walking by a store, and in the window were four mannequins. Each wore a tank top in a different pastel shade (oh how I wish we could forget that part of the 80s) and proudly pronounced "I am a Miranda", "I am a Samantha", "I am a Charlotte", and "I am a Carrie." I was struck by the juxtapositioning of such a forceful assertion of identity (I am) with submergence into a group. Isn't the whole allure of these characters supposed to be that they are unique? And what the hell is is one saying when one says "I am a Samantha"? It is as simple as saying " I'm a woman who is ok with taking purely sexual pleasure from a man" or is it a more complex identity that the woman is assigning herself? In short, what is the "I am a samantha" short hand for?

The other day I was standing in the line for the elevator and two young girls were talking about "Sex in the City" behind me. I was surprised to hear them talking about it in such an animated way as generally I think of the show being for somewhat older women ( in other words women closer to the ages of the character on the show). But what struck me as even more interesting was the passion with which they discussed the situations of the characters. (Both were adamant that Carrie shouldn't have gone to Paris, but that Miranda should have been more supportive of the move. "After all, she DOES have a family to think about now.") Had I not known they were talking about "Sex in the City", I would have thought they were gossiping about friends.

Robert Scholesin his essay "On Reading a Video Text" has suggested that the analysis of video, including commercials, should be taught in schools. In fact, he argued that it is of more value than instruction in analyzing written texts. ( He classified novels in the same category as Homeric epic- a dead form.)

Part of what made the show such a success was that many individuals identified with the characters on the show. (Perhaps why the show failed for me was that I was never able to complete that identification.) Identification with characters and emotional investment in the outcome has, for me, generally been a property of literature, but if Scholes is correct, television has overtaken that role for the majority of Americans. Jung argued that in order for art to be successful it needed to fuse archetypes with the particular needs and conventions of the culture and time period. ( On a side note, he also claimed that what a culture most lacks is the most over-represented in its art, but that's a different post.) Such a claim would support the transformation of fairy tales and fables into cartoons that stress the importance of accepting multiculturalism. For example, the "Ugly Duckling", originally a Hans Christian Anderson tale, was transformed into the "Queer Duckling" for HBO. According to Scholes, Jung didn't quite go far enough. It isn't just the form the characters take that changes with the needs of the culture, it is the format in which the story is presented. In other words, it isn't just the shift from "ugly" to "queer", but from print to video.

So if we accept the claim that video texts are indeed as legitimate as literature and serve a similar function (catharsis, identification), then hasn't "Sex in the City" become a classic?

In an essay entitled "Why Do We Still Read Homer?", by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, he talks about when "classical antiquity still served as the matrix within which leading intellectuals could debate the most urgent issues of their own time....No matter what profession a student was preparing for, he or she was expected to have some acquaintance with the classics." It seems that in the modern era television has replaced the classics. It has become a way for us to discuss all kinds of material including politics, mythology, and gender roles. It seems "Sex in the City" has been, for many people, a way to talk about sex, relationships, and careers in the same way that in the "golden age" politicians could use classical texts to argue the legitimacy of divorce. Perhaps "Sex in the City" is the new Homeric epic. It has it's own mythology (for example it keeps the romantic mythology of "the One" intact), but it also has managed to capture some of the truth of the single girl's existence. (I was totally down with the "post-it" break up episode. Carrie's claim that "Do you not see that it is your refusal to be the bad guy is what, in fact, makes you the bad guy?")

No matter the verdict, it is clear it has had a huge impact of quite a few people.

It will be missed.

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