Erin Virginia

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Romantic, Enchanted?

As a child, I remember watching a movie based on the true story of Sonora Webster, who dove horses in Atlantic City in the late 1800's. The diving girls would ride horses up a ramp (as high as 60 feet) and leap into a pool of water below. In the movie, Sonora runs away from home and mucks out horse stalls in order to be considered for the diving position. She carries with her a ragged magazine page idealizing Atlantic City and sings a simple lyric, "Romantic, enchanted, Atlantic City - where all your dreams come true."

Let me tell you this: Modern day Atlantic City is no city of dreams. Perhaps my ill opinion can be blamed on the cold, winter climate, since the amusement rides were shut down. Maybe it has to do with the fact that along the weathered boardwalk, bums congregate and beg for cash - one had his hat out while he swigged down a liter of Vodka. Even the casinos felt run-down and outdated with smudged mirrors and worn carpet. Neither Chris nor I gamble, except for a random hand of black-jack, so it was more a matter of touring the sites.

We didn't stay long. Chris and I, along with Chris' friend Tony, spent a few hours there before heading to New York City. Last time Tony visited, we also drove to New York City, so since we had already seen most of the tourist attractions, we ate lunch in Little Italy, did a bit of shopping along Canal Street in Chinatown and spent a couple hours in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We stayed in Boston on Monday.

I didn't take many pictures but below is a shot along the boardwalk in Atlantic City. The second picture shows the view (albeit a bit blocked) from the top of the Prudential Tower in Boston.

Friday, February 08, 2008


This past Tuesday morning, Chris and I drove about a mile to the Belmont Fire Headquarters to cast our ballots in the Massachusetts primary. As the elderly volunteer, crowned with a Navy cap, scrolled his papery finger down the voting roster and tapped on my name, I felt almost jittery, the realization that while my vote will be engulfed by the millions of other people voting, I still retain this right to declare my choice. Starbucks coffee in hand, I walked to the booth next to Chris, shaded my choices and fed the ballot into the machine.

During my forty-five minute drive to work, I flipped through channels of radio hosts, intermittent commercials and songs on my own ipod. Simultaneously, my mind worked over an article I was reading for class the next night, an excerpt from Harold Bloom's book, The Anxiety of Influence. Even though Bloom is discussing the influence of one poet on another, I could see the correlation between literary theory and politics. "Change" seems to remain the buzzword for this election, but how did these candidates sift through their own ideas and the pull of other politicians, present and dead, to forge their own identities? At the end of his article, Bloom lists out six types of influence (much inspired by mythology) that I've generalized below:

  • Clinamen: A sudden swerving away from a predecessor, as though the precursor only had it right to a certain point.
  • Tessera: Retaining the basic terms of the predecessor but applying them in new ways.
  • Kenosis: While this is inherently a theological term (Jesus relinquishing the divine form of God through human birth), here it can mean a humble emptying-out but still a discontinuity with predecessors.
  • Daemonization: A daemon is mythical figure, between God and man. This principle suggests reaching for a power above the predecessor.
  • Askesis: Self-discipline, yielding up part of yourself and in the process, truncating the influence of the predecessor, as well.
  • Apophrades: Return of the dead. The idea is that after a person has differentiated herself, the influence of the predecessor may re-emerge. However, to others it may appear that the influence has been reversed. Rather than the predecessor influencing this person, it almost appears as though the later person influenced the predecessor.
I can see elements of these types of influences in many politicians as they compare themselves to great politicians of the past and simultaneously attempt to separate themselves from those looked poorly upon today. Candidates may follow the ideas of someone to a point then swerve away or retain the principles of a single party but apply them in a new manner. Perhaps they reach for the principles that made a great President great or revolutionize themselves to a point and then hearken back to old influences in order to publically subjugate them.

So while I was driving to work, drinking coffee and listening to the radio, I thought about the candidates individually and then thought about my own influences. What have I inherited and what have I overpowered? In the end, perhaps it is not something to dwell on for long because our influences will always emerge. In this moment, we see influence materialize as it guides our hands to shade a ballot.