Monday, July 8, 2013

Sex and the City (Politic), Curse of the Cursive, Summer Memories

I blame the Yankees. 

You might have noticed I'm blogging less often these days. It's not for lack of something to say, but rather because I'm spending hours watching NY Yankees baseball games. I had every intention of blogging Sunday afternoon but wound up hooked on the Yankees-Orioles game. After Mariano Rivera blew his second save of the season by giving up a two-run homer to Adam Jones in the top of the ninth, I was too depressed to write. 

That explains Sunday. What about the rest of the week? Well, most Yankees games are in the evening, so I while away (some would say, waste away) my time staring at the TV screen. I better finish this blog and post it before the first pitch this evening. ...

Sex and the City: Now that Eliot Spitzer has declared his candidacy for comptroller of New York City on the heels (stiletto heels?) of Anthony Weiner’s bid to become mayor, it is not too presumptuous to say the Big Apple has a taste for scandal-plagued politicians. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. I never really followed Weiner’s rise (pun intended) to stardom, but I was a fan of the former governor. Two years ago when Spitzer appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher and began writing Op-Ed pieces I foresaw his return to politics. You might not agree with his zeal or holier-than-thou attitude (not really tempered since his fall from grace), but one cannot deny that his positions are progressive and that he voices noble sentiment for the masses not often heard from most politicians.  

Will Weiner’s and Spitzer’s sexual indiscretions hamper their electability? Doubtful. Even in socially conservative areas like South Carolina and Georgia voters supported Mark Sanford and Newt Gingrich despite their failure to live up to their wedding vows. And many New Yorkers still like Rudy Giuliani despite his less than faithful allegiance to his former wife. 

Bottom line—As long as their campaign platforms don’t undermine their name recognition advantage, Weiner and Spitzer are in strong positions to win their contests.

Curse of the Cursive: When I went off to journalism graduate school at Syracuse University back in the late summer of 1971, I took along for hanging on my apartment wall a copy of the Declaration of Independence reprinted on the full back page of the first section of the July 4th edition of The New York Times. (Time out for a short history lesson: for those who might not be aware of it, the Declaration was not in fact signed on July 4, 1776. Independence was voted on and declared on July 2. The text of the Declaration was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4. Most of the signatures were affixed on August 2. And that famous picture of the delegates signing the document, which hangs in the rotunda of the Capitol—never happened. A figment of the artist’s imagination.)

Back to the point at hand. It was, admittedly, not easy reading the text of the Declaration. Written in script common to the colonial era—a large lower case “f” where an “s” would normally be, and other oddities of the day—the document is dense reading, in its appearance and content. When I left Syracuse the following June with my diploma I didn’t take the Declaration with me. No matter. Each July 4 The Times would reprint a copy. Sometimes at Independence Day barbecues my friends and I would read the text out loud, haltingly, to be sure, as we struggled to decipher the cursive writing. 

I’m not sure if this was the first year The Times did it, but it was the first time I noticed the newspaper no longer reprints the Declaration in its original form across the full back page of the first section. Instead, the reproduction is an inset while the text is printed in regular type. Sure, it’s easier to read, but is The Times sending a subtle message that our population’s script-reading skills have deteriorated to the point where a majority of us cannot read cursive writing? For a look at some of the debate on the value of cursive writing, check out these articles and opinion pieces:

Summer Memories: While we’re on the subject of the Fourth of July, I was reminded that for 15 years I attended summer camp but cannot recall with any clarity any celebration of our nation’s birthday. True, these were Jewish, Zionist, sleepaway camps in the 1950s and 1960s, but we did raise the American flag every day and pledged allegiance. 

What I do vividly recall is another commemoration, more somber. Tisha B’Av. The ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, the day attributed to many calamities that befell the Jewish people through the ages, including the destruction of the First and Second Temples in, respectively, 586 BCE and 70 CE. 

Tisha B’Av is a fast day, and since Jewish days begin at sunset, we’d eat dinner early. After the meal the staff would rearrange the dining hall, turning benches over on their sides. Lights were shut off. On top of every bench, four to a bench, candles inside scooped out potatoes, were placed, to provide light by which we sang the Book of Lamentations. You can imagine the first impression this austere ceremony had on a boy of seven, and my subsequent years at camp. The fireworks of the Fourth of July did not hold a candle to the evocative sorrow of Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av will begin next Monday night. 

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