Sunday

Feb. 24, 2013

Long Term

by Stephen Dunn

On this they were in agreement:
everything that can happen between two people
happens after a while

or has been thought about so hard
there's almost no difference
between desire and deed.

Each day they stayed together, therefore,
was a day of forgiveness, tacit,
no reason to say the words.

It was easy to forgive, so much harder
to be forgiven. The forgiven had to agree
to eat dust in the house of the noble

and both knew this couldn't go on for long.
The forgiven would need to rise;
the forgiver need to remember the cruelty

in being correct.
Which is why, except in crises,
they spoke about the garden,

what happened at work,
the little ailments and aches
their familiar bodies separately felt.

"Long Term" by Stephen Dunn, from New and Selected Poems. © Norton, 1994. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Steve Jobs, born in San Francisco (1955), who dropped out of college after a semester, went to India in search of spiritual enlightenment, returned a devout Buddhist, experimented with LSD, and then got a job with a video game maker, where he was in charge of designing circuit boards for one of the company's games.

He co-founded Apple Computers, and in a commercial during the Super Bowl in January 1984 he unveiled the Macintosh. The commercial was filled with allusions to George Orwell's 1984. The Macintosh was the first small computer to catch on with the public that used a graphical user interface, or GUI (sometimes pronounced "gooey"). In the past, computers were run by text-based interfaces, which meant that a person had to type in textual commands or text labels to navigate their computers. But with a graphical user interface, people could simply click on icons instead of typing in hard-to-remember, precise text commands. He said his goal in computers was to "create a bicycle for the mind."

The graphic user interface revolutionized computers, and it's on almost all computers today. It's on a whole lot of other devices as well, like fancy vending machines and digital household appliances and photocopying machines and airport check-in kiosks. And graphical user interface is what's used with iPods and iPhones.

Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003. He opted for a variety of alternative treatments, but eventually — in 2004 — he underwent surgery to remove the tumor. His health began to decline in 2009, and the disease claimed him in October 2011. He was 56.

Jobs once said, "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

It's the birthday of a woman who has been called "one of the superstars of '90s academia" and "the most famous feminist philosopher in the United States": Judith Butler (books by this author), born in Cleveland, Ohio (1956).

She's best known for a book published 23 years ago, called Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990). It's used in gender studies classes all over the world, and it helped provide the foundation for the academic discipline of queer theory. The argument she makes draws, she says, "upon Simone de Beauvoir's claim that 'one is not born, but rather becomes a woman.'" In the book, she critiques the works of theorists like Foucault and Freud and Derrida, and she "deconstructs" gender and sex.

She argues, among other things, that the feminist movement had been wrong to try to classify "women" all together as a group of people sharing similar traits, that doing this just reinforced a binary approach to gender that limited people's options — when a person could choose from a spectrum of gender identifications. Ultimately, she argues that we "perform" our gender.

Her work is known for being really hard to understand. She once wrote this sentence: "The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."

But she's also composed sentences like: "Let's face it. We're undone by each other. And if we're not, we're missing something. If this seems so clearly the case with grief, it is only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact."

And, "I think that every sexual position is fundamentally comic."

It's the birthday of Wilhelm Karl Grimm (books by this author), born in Hanau, Germany (1786). He and Jacob, his older brother, published Grimm's Fairy Tales (1812), the first collection of folklore in modern publishing history. The Grimms enlisted the help of acquaintances to find stories, and one of their best collectors was a pretty young woman named Dorothea Wild, and she and Wilhelm got married.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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