Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Apocalypses

I remember the comet, a dusty smudge on the black of the sky, pacing our car as my family drove north through the Missouri night. I watched it out the window with the wonder and engagement of a young teen who has just had his first kiss days ago on an Arkansas hillside, the kind of awe which I know I've lost to some degree as an adult. Only vaguely do I remember hearing about the cult that committed suicide to escape what they expected to be the coming doom presaged by the Hale-Bopp comet.

That was my first apocalypse. And there have been more than I have known since (someone is always predicting a rapture or doomsday) but I missed out on most. Next for me came the secular end of the world scenario Y2K, the changeover on computer clocks that would - experts assured the public - cause nuclear meltdown or launches, power losses, and widespread technology failure. People stockpiled water and canned food only for the year to begin without a glitch. Dick Clark counted down in Time Square. The ball dropped. I watched it on TV. No blackouts. No nuclear fire raining from heaven. No radioactive clouds blooming from over-heated Midwestern reactors.

Over the last fear years, we've had a doomsday heyday fueled by gloom and pessimism over the recession and ongoing, quagmirish wars. Harold Camping convinced his followers to spend life savings advertising on billboards across America that Jesus would return on May 21, 2011. The sun came up on a world warming and crowded but still very much intact. The clouds did not part with a trumpet blast and I went to work and taught three sections of American literature.

And yesterday - the most popular doomsday of my life, apocalypse á-la Mayan calender, came and went. And life changed; ends came, at least for me - bad news about an old friend and, muted by national tragedy and political divide, the beginning of a Christmas season, happily white after months of dark and rain.

Our armageddons are personal and come without herald. They don't light up the sky. But before they come unannounced, we have this day and each other. Dear reader, I send you the fondest of Christmas tiding and, whatever dooms befall us, collectively or separately, I wish you a happy new year. My mind veers to an episode of M*A*S*H showing new year after new year ringing in during the Korean War. Colonel Potter  makes the same speech each time, repeating a toast I'll leave you with here: Here's to the new year...may she be a damn sight better than the old one and may we all be home before she's over.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lorca Whale

One of my students has been working on translations of Federico García Lorca's poetry. He's done some great work and, most gratifyingly, is discovering the pleasure of poetry, the way you can roll sounds around in the mouth and make a image sing in English through word choice or idiom shift. He's noticed one of Lorca's tics is the constant use of the verb temblar. He's been harried by Spanish verse for weeks. I've been pushing him to edit and submit his work for publication so my coworker drew this picture of him being attacked by a lorca whale.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Breast Cancer Awareness


I've seen everything from purses to cell phones colored the patent pink of breast cancer awareness and emblazoned with the Susan G. Komen Foundation ribbon. But two parts of the campaign strike me as a bit much.

While walking the sidestreets of Grand Rapids, I saw a breast cancer awareness trash bin. The motto for this is, kick breast cancer to the curb. An older yoplait campaign in which people could send the tin lids to yogurt cups to the company; for every lid received, the company would make a donation to fight breast cancer. The slogan for the campaign was together we can lick breast cancer.