Tuesday Feb. 14, 2017

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Weather Systems

Sugar maples, little fires in the trees, every blazing gradation
of orange to red, and this makes me think of you, the way
you press the long length of your body against me, the heat
seeping through flannel, my own private furnace.
If only hands and feet had a color, it would be blue.
From November until May, I cannot get warm.
Even my bones have cores of ice. But you
are a house on fire, an internal combustion system,
Sriracha sauce/ jalapeño poppers/Thai curry. I stay up
late, read until you’re asleep, so I can slip my icy feet,
frozen toes, under the smoldering log of your torso.
Even in the dark, you radiate. I am a cold front, a polar low
coming down from the arctic. And you, why you,
you’re the sun.

“Weather Systems” by Barbara Crooker from Les Fauves. © C & R Press, 2017. Reprinted by permission.  (buy now)

Today is Valentine’s Day. On this day, more than a billion letters of affection are sent and 60 million pounds of chocolate are purchased.

One of the most famous Valentine’s Day poems appeared in Gammer Gurton’s Garland (1784), a collection of verse and nursery rhyme:

The rose is red, the violet’s blue,

The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,

And Fortune said it shou’d be you

It’s the birthday of one-half of the journalism team that broke the Watergate story, one of the defining moment of 20th-century politics: Carl Bernstein (books by this author) (1944) turns 73 years old today. In 1972, he and fellow Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward worked together to uncover what seemed like a routine burglary at the Watergate office complex, home of the Democratic Party Committee headquarters, but turned out to be a wiretapping operation that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Bernstein and Woodward went on to write a book about unraveling the story, called All The President’s Men (1974). It was later made into a very popular film starring Dustin Hoffman (as Bernstein) and Robert Redford (as Woodward). Bernstein and Woodward won a Pulitzer Prize (1973) for their reportage of the Watergate scandal.

Carl Bernstein was born in Washington, D.C., and, at 16, began his life in the newsroom as a copyboy for the Washington Star. In his book Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir (1989), he revealed that his family was under FBI surveillance for more than 30 years. His father was an investigative attorney on Capitol Hill and his mother worked to desegregate swimming pools. Over 2,500 pages of documents were compiled by the FBI in their quest to prove Bernstein’s parents were members of the Communist Party. The FBI even staked out Bernstein’s bar mitzvah.

Carl Bernstein’s books include The Final Days (1976), His Holiness: John Paul II & the History of Our Time (2005), and A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton (2007).

 In 1992, in a cover story for The New Republic, Carl Bernstein wrote: “For, next to race, the story of the contemporary American media is the great uncovered story in America today. We need to start asking the same fundamental questions about the press that we do of the other powerful institutions in this society — about who is served, about standards, about self-interest and its eclipse of the public interest and the interest of truth. For the reality is that the media are probably the most powerful of all our institutions today; and they are squandering their power and ignoring their obligation. They — or more precisely, we — have abdicated our responsibility, and the consequence of our abdication is the spectacle, and the triumph, of the idiot culture.”

On this day in 1895, Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest opened in London. He wrote the first draft in just 21 days, the fastest he’d ever written anything. The play tells the story of a man named Jack Worthing, who pretends to have a younger brother named Ernest. Jack uses the imaginary Ernest as an excuse for getting out of all kinds of situations, and even pretends to be Ernest when that suits his purposes. At the same time, Jack’s friend Algernon Moncrieff also begins impersonating the imaginary Ernest. When two women fall in love with Jack and Algernon, they both think they are in love with a man named Ernest. It comes out in the end that Jack and Algernon are themselves actually long lost brothers.

Wilde said that The Importance of Being Earnest expressed his philosophy that “we should treat all the trivial things of life very seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality.

Wilde showed up at a rehearsal for the play a few days before the opening, wearing his trademark green carnation pinned onto a three-piece maroon suit. After watching the actors for a few minutes he said: “Yes, it is quite a good play. I remember I wrote one very like it myself, but it was even more brilliant than this.”

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