Monday, December 18, 2006

postal scrotum: ass blasting and Ben Jonson

This first email comes from Richardson:

Re your ass-blasting day... when things are that close to blowing, I like to refer to it as the 'enemy at the gates.'

Bummer that it happened, something that happened to a former co-worker serves to remind that it could always be worse.

'John' was traveling in Africa, from Sierra Leone to Cote d'vore (or vice versa, don't remember which). At any rate, he ate a large meal of fish before departing on his flight. He felt fine until he got to the arriving airport. While waiting in the VIP lounge, he started sweating, breathing hard, getting dizzy, etc. Then he *HAD* to get to the toilet. It was so bad that he forgot his carry on bag (with passports, money, camera, etc.) as he staggered to the restroom (luckily nothing was stolen).

He got into the room, into a stall - but couldn't get his belt unfastened in time. Several food poisoning powered blasts occurred, the worst 'John' had ever had, he said. Down the legs into socks, on shoes. . . let your imagination run wild.

It gets better; 'John' spoke no French, and the VIP lounge attendant apparently didn't speak enough English to help him. He was in the restroom for about an hour, trying to clean his pants/self in the sink, before the escort found him.

I can only hope that I never experience a similar horror. In my case, I know part of the problem was a low-fiber breakfast and no Metamucil to harden the stool, which is why I ended up voiding generous quantities of pancake batter.

This next email, about the Ben Jonson poem, comes from Nathan:

Hi Kevin,

I think it's pretty clear that the real message of the poem is "it's not how big it is, but how you use it." Poor Mr. Ben was evidently a little defensive!

Cheers & jests,

Jonson on his johnson, eh?

And Charles offers his take on the Jonson poem as well:

Maybe I'm missing something, but the first two lines seem fairly obvious: unlike trees, growing big and strong does not necessarily make a man better. At least that's how I see it--which would make the entire poem a metaphor for human beauty and frailty, I suppose.

Hm. Interesting thought. I've been trying to find online commentary on this poem, with little success. JW's mother is hung up on what the "it" of the first line refers to, but I told her that I felt the "it" was an expletive (in the syntactic sense), as in the sentence "It is raining." Madame wasn't convinced.

If Charles's take is correct, I may have to revise my rendering of the subsequent lines. The way I saw the poem was this: it was constructed very roughly as a sonnet (in this case-- 4 lines, 4 lines, 2 lines; aabb ccdd ee) in three distinct sections, the first of which dealt primarily with the oak's characteristics, the second of which offered the lily in contrast, and the third of which concluded that the lily offers a better analogy for the nature of beauty.

Charles is suggesting that Jonson is not simply dispensing with or dismissing the oak and its characteristics, but is actually painting a grander picture encapsulating "human beauty and frailty." It hadn't occurred to me that the poem was specifically about human beauty; it struck me, at least initially, as about the nature of the beauty we find-- whether in human activity or in nature at large: not like the oak, but like the lily.

If anyone else wants to take a shot at this, I'm all ears. I think Charles may be on to something, but I'm still trying to unravel Jonson's turns of phrase in my mind.


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