Sunday, June 22, 2008

Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going to Bed

Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th'eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowery meads th'hills shadow steals.
Off with your wiry coronet and show
The hairy diadem which on you doth grow:
Now off with those shoes: and then safely tread
In this love's hallowed temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes heaven's angels used to be
Received by men; thou, Angel, bring'st with thee
A heaven like Mahomet's Paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
By this these Angels from an evil sprite:
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
License my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,
My mine of precious stones, my empery,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be,
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are as Atlanta's balls, cast in men's views,
That when a fool's eye lighteth on a gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them:
Like pictures, or like books' gay coverings made
For lay-men, are all women thus arrayed.
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)
Must see revealed. Then, since that I may know,
As liberally as to a midwife, show
Thyself: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
There is no penance due to innocence:
To teach thee, I am naked first; why than,
What need'st thou have more covering than a man?

by John Donne

Ok, I'm sorry to display my ignorance but when I first read this, I admit my first thought was, "Wow! Who knew John Donne had it in him!!" I had him pegged as being passionate, of course - but passionate only for God! So this was a nice surprise.
However, I'm a huge fan of the first line, but hate the last. My modern female mind construes it as overtly sexist.
And yes, I realize this is a cop-out post - the trouble is that every time I feel like posting in my blog, I'm too tired to actually write something original. Bah!

P.S. Check this out - Rebecca Ann Bach argues that Donne was actually gay. It seems a well written article, but I'm too tired to read it in full now, I'll have to look at it tomorrow.

(The photograph is of Julianne Moore and it's a favorite.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

'Grand, venerable, and sweet, all at once'

"I paused upon the bridge, and admired and wondered at the beauty and glory of this was grand, venerable, and sweet, all at once; I never saw so lovely and magnificent a scene, nor, being content with this, do I care to see a better."

- Nathaniel Hawthorne on Durham Cathedral, from "The English Notebooks"

(The photos are of Mont Saint Michel from my trip there in April.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The hilariously hypochondriacal Mr. Woodhouse on the danger of open windows

She was obliged to repeat and explain it, before it was fully comprehended; and then, being quite new, farther representations were necessary to make it acceptable.

"No; he thought it very far from an improvement—a very bad plan—much worse than the other. A room at an inn was always damp and dangerous; never properly aired, or fit to be inhabited. If they must dance, they had better dance at Randalls. He had never been in the room at the Crown in his life—did not know the people who kept it by sight.—Oh! no—a very bad plan. They would catch worse colds at the Crown than any where."

"I was going to observe, sir," said Frank Churchill, "that one of the great recommendations of this change would be the very little danger of any body's catching cold—so much less danger at the Crown than at Randalls! Mr. Perry might have reason to regret the alteration, but nobody else could."

"Sir," said Mr. Woodhouse, rather warmly, "you are very much mistaken if you suppose Mr. Perry to be that sort of character. Mr. Perry is extremely concerned when any of us are ill. But I do not understand how the room at the Crown can be safer for you than your father's house."

"From the very circumstance of its being larger, sir. We shall have no occasion to open the windows at all—not once the whole evening; and it is that dreadful habit of opening the windows, letting in cold air upon heated bodies, which (as you well know, sir) does the mischief."

"Open the windows!—but surely, Mr. Churchill, nobody would think of opening the windows at Randalls. Nobody could be so imprudent! I never heard of such a thing. Dancing with open windows!—I am sure, neither your father nor Mrs. Weston (poor Miss Taylor that was) would suffer it."

"Ah! sir—but a thoughtless young person will sometimes step behind a window-curtain, and throw up a sash, without its being suspected. I have often known it done myself."

"Have you indeed, sir?—Bless me! I never could have supposed it. But I live out of the world, and am often astonished at what I hear. However, this does make a difference; and, perhaps, when we come to talk it over—but these sort of things require a good deal of consideration. One cannot resolve upon them in a hurry. If Mr. and Mrs. Weston will be so obliging as to call here one morning, we may talk it over, and see what can be done."

from Jane Austen's Emma
(Chapter 29)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It may be possible to do without dancing entirely...

"It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been known of young people passing many, many months successively, without being at any ball of any description, and no material injury accrue either to body or mind;—but when a beginning is made—when the felicities of rapid motion have once been, though slightly, felt—it must be a very heavy set that does not ask for more.

Frank Churchill had danced once at Highbury, and longed to dance again; and the last half hour of an evening which Mr. Woodhouse was persuaded to spend with his daughter at Randalls, was passed by the two young people in schemes on the subject..."

from Jane Austen's Emma

(Illustration artist unknown)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Fist

The fist clenched round my heart
loosens a little, and I gasp
brightness; but it tightens
again. When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? But this has moved

past love to mania. This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
plunging howling into the abyss.

Hold hard then, heart. This way at least you live.

by Derek Walcott

(I find it interesting that the person this reminds me of is also the same person who told me they disliked all poetry. How is that even possible...??)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Books Read in 2007

A somewhat belated list...


The Wizard (Part 2) by Gene Wolfe
Our Town by Thornton Wilder
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Grey King by Susan Cooper
The Secret Island by Enid Blyton
Greenwitch by Susan Cooper
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
The Playboy Book of Science Fiction by Alice K. Turner
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Selected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Eifelheim by Michael Flynn (only read half)
Atonement by Ian McEwan (the book is better than the movie, but the movie is still gorgeous and well-done)
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Crisis on Conshelf 10 by Monica Hughes
The War With Mr. Wizzle by Gordon Korman
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
The Englishman's Boy by Guy Vanderhaeghe
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Old Songs for New Ears by Pygmalion Books
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
Brain Wave by Poul Anderson
Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (for which I wrote one of my most favorite entries)
Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut (I'm not a fan of his fiction but I am of his person)
I Never Liked You by Chester Brown
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Ara Pacis Augustae by Erika Simon
The War for Children's Minds by Stephen Law
Woman of Letters: The Life of Virginia Woolf by Phyllis Rose
Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World by Louis Fischer
No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu
Experiencing the World's Religions by Michael Molloy
An introduction to Philosophy of Education by Barrow & Woods

(There's a sad lack of much non-fiction. Actually, though, the list is kind of deceiving - I did read a lot of non-fiction in 2007 for my classes but what I read was mostly just parts of books along with a ton of journal articles.)

* * * * * * *

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

(I feel a bit weird putting The Time Traveler's Wife next to To the Lighthouse as TTL was possibly the greatest book I've ever read. But still, they were both really good in their own ways.)

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn (Its one of Elliot's favorites and it has a really interesting premise, but I found it really slow moving and dull. It some ways it seemed like a less well-written Doomsday Book.)
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (Compared to The Night Watch - which is one of my favorites - or Affinity, this was not up to par.)

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
The Englishman's Boy by Guy Vanderhaeghe
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

There are a fair number of "kids" books and re-reads on my list. When I'm stressed out with school work or when its dark winter, I think I tend to find familiar or really light-reads comforting.

Further annoying categorization for no one's pleasure but my own...

The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe
The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Playboy Book of Science Fiction by Alice K. Turner
Eifelheim by Michael Flynn
Crisis on Conshelf 10 by Monica Hughes
Old Songs for New Ears by Pygmalion Books
His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
Brain Wave by Paol Anderson
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Selected Poems
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Woman of Letters: The Life of Virginia Woolf by Phyllis Rose

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Margaret Atwood on "God"

BT: When The Handmaid's Tale was published, Contemporary Authors listed your religion as "Pessimistic Pantheist," which you defined as the belief that "God is everywhere, but losing." Is this still an accurate description of your spiritual philosophy?

MA: I expect you don't have the foggiest what I meant in the first place. On bad days, neither do I. But let's argue it through. In the Biblical version—Genesis-God created the heaven and the earth—out of nothing, we presume. Or else out of God, since there was nothing else around that God could use as substance. Big Bang theory says much the same, without using the word God. That is: once there was nothing, or else "a singularity." Then poof. Big Bang. Result: the universe. So since the universe can't be made of anything else, it must be made of singularity-stuff, or God-stuff—whatever term you wish to employ. Whether this God-stuff was a thought form such as a series of mathematical formulae, an energy form, or some sort of extremely condensed cosmic plasma, is open to discussion. Therefore everything has "God" in it. The forms of "God," both inorganic and organic, have since multiplied exceedingly. You might say that each new combination of atoms, molecules, amino acids, and DNA is a different expression of "God." Therefore each time we terminate a species, "God" becomes more limited. The human race is terminating species at an alarming rate. It is thereby diminishing God, or the expressions of God. If I were the Biblical God, I would be very annoyed. He made the thing and saw that it was good. And now people are scribbling all over the artwork. It is noteworthy that the covenant made by God after the flood was not just with Noah, but with every living thing. I assume that the "God's Gardeners" organization in I used this kind of insight as a cornerstone of their theology. Is that any clearer?

from the BoldType interview

* * * * *

I imagine that if Margaret Atwood were an English prof, she would be a tough one. She seems like she has an excellent, dry sense of humor but also a no-nonsense, straight-up attitude.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

In thy face I see
The map of honour, truth, and loyalty!

Henry VI

(Ok, the quote and the pics don't match, but I'm a fan of Desdemona. Especially Irene Jacob's portrayal.)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

More evil than Walmart

"...controlling the seeds is not some abstraction. Whoever provides the world’s seeds controls the world’s food supply."

Monsanto's Harvest of Fear (from Vanity Fair, May 2008)

Every time I read about Monsanto I'm reminded of the Umbrella Corporation from Resident Evil. Now that I've read Margaret Atwood's amazing, scarily possible Oryx & Crake another comparison might be to OrganInc or HelthWyzer.

One of the VF article's most damning tales is of the town of Nitro where Monsanto ran a chemical plant:

On March 8, 1949, a massive explosion rocked Monsanto’s Nitro plant when a pressure valve blew on a container cooking up a batch of herbicide. The noise from the release was a scream so loud that it drowned out the emergency steam whistle for five minutes. A plume of vapor and white smoke drifted across the plant and out over town.Residue from the explosion coated the interior of the building and those inside with what workers described as “a fine black powder.” Many felt their skin prickle and were told to scrub down.

Within days, workers experienced skin eruptions. Many were soon diagnosed with chloracne, a condition similar to common acne but more severe, longer lasting, and potentially disfiguring. Others felt intense pains in their legs, chest, and trunk. A confidential medical report at the time said the explosion “caused a systemic intoxication in the workers involving most major organ systems.” Doctors who examined four of the most seriously injured men detected a strong odor coming from them when they were all together in a closed room. “We believe these men are excreting a foreign chemical through their skins,” the confidential report to Monsanto noted. Court records indicate that 226 plant workers became ill.

According to court documents that have surfaced in a West Virginia court case, Monsanto downplayed the impact, stating that the contaminant affecting workers was “fairly slow acting” and caused “only an irritation of the skin.”....

....In 1981 several former Nitro employees filed lawsuits in federal court, charging that Monsanto had knowingly exposed them to chemicals that caused long-term health problems, including cancer and heart disease. They alleged that Monsanto knew that many chemicals used at Nitro were potentially harmful, but had kept that information from them. On the eve of a trial, in 1988, Monsanto agreed to settle most of the cases by making a single lump payment of $1.5 million. Monsanto also agreed to drop its claim to collect $305,000 in court costs from six retired Monsanto workers who had unsuccessfully charged in another lawsuit that Monsanto had recklessly exposed them to dioxin. Monsanto had attached liens to the retirees’ homes to guarantee collection of the debt.

Monsanto stopped producing dioxin in Nitro in 1969, but the toxic chemical can still be found well beyond the Nitro plant site. Repeated studies have found elevated levels of dioxin in nearby rivers, streams, and fish. Residents have sued to seek damages from Monsanto and Solutia. Earlier this year, a West Virginia judge merged those lawsuits into a class-action suit. A Monsanto spokesman said, “We believe the allegations are without merit and we’ll defend ourselves vigorously.” The suit will no doubt take years to play out. Time is one thing that Monsanto always has, and that the plaintiffs usually don’t."...

...What had Monsanto known—or what should it have known—about the potential dangers of the chemicals it was manufacturing? There’s considerable documentation lurking in court records from many lawsuits indicating that Monsanto knew quite a lot. Let’s look just at the example of PCBs.

The evidence that Monsanto refused to face questions about their toxicity is quite clear. In 1956 the company tried to sell the navy a hydraulic fluid for its submarines called Pydraul 150, which contained PCBs. Monsanto supplied the navy with test results for the product. But the navy decided to run its own tests. Afterward, navy officials informed Monsanto that they wouldn’t be buying the product. “Applications of Pydraul 150 caused death in all of the rabbits tested” and indicated “definite liver damage,” navy officials told Monsanto, according to an internal Monsanto memo divulged in the course of a court proceeding. “No matter how we discussed the situation,” complained Monsanto’s medical director, R. Emmet Kelly, “it was impossible to change their thinking that Pydraul 150 is just too toxic for use in submarines.”

Ten years later, a biologist conducting studies for Monsanto in streams near the Anniston plant got quick results when he submerged his test fish. As he reported to Monsanto, according to The Washington Post, “All 25 fish lost equilibrium and turned on their sides in 10 seconds and all were dead in 3½ minutes.”

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The More Loving One
by W. H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

(The rest of the poem sucks, so I'm only posting the first part.)

"The places you love that you can never return to are also places
you can never leave.
They become part of your own small portion of eternity."