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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sober Sam

It's honestly one of the best businesses around and I recommend it to anyone.  I hope they are eventually able to expand... we used them last night to get everyone home safely.

Put their number in your phone, if you're in the South Jersey area.  You never know when you may or may not need them.  Unless, of course, you really don't drink.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Christianity and Literature: As It is Understood

Throughout history, religion has been a strong force in the world.  The works of “Beowulf”, “Inferno” and “Everyman” reflect the importance of Christian values in the times in which they were written.  Beowulf” is a particularly interesting piece in light of this being that the story is actually based around pagans yet it is flavored with a Christian world-view as it was passed down and then formerly written.  Inferno” and “Everyman” would simply not exist if it were not for the religious beliefs that were held in high regard at the time in which they were created.  Throughout all three of these works, religious belief is not so much reflected upon or explained as it is understood to be common knowledge and is expected to be accepted as such. 
            In “Beowulf”, the first of the three monsters that Beowulf encounters in Grendel.  He is described as a “fiend out of hell” (Beowulf 1634) and we are told that he had lived “among the banished monsters, Cain’s clan”. (Beowulf 1634).  While this portion does give a little explanation as to who Cain is “For the killing of Abel the Eternal Lord had exacted a price”, there is still a lack of explanation as to who Abel is to the “Eternal Lord”.  It is expected, of the reader, to understand the context of the murder without further explanation.  Throughout the rest of the epic, references to the Christian God are made as they were common at that time.  In Beowulf, in particular, it appears that God ultimately makes the decisions as to what occurs “Almighty God rules over mankind and always has” (Beowulf 1647).  The story has been so strewn with these types of references that it becomes increasingly obvious that the writer did not want to misstep in the work and speak of the pagan gods in a way that would give them credit, regardless of context or placement of the story. 
            The literary masterpiece “Inferno” draws heavily and exclusively on Christian belief.  Dante provides the reader with a vivid picture of hell.  While the idea of hell is not an exclusively Christian belief in and of itself, in the context of a place of never-ending torment and punishment, Christianity, especially at the time of this writing, overwhelmingly holds it in high esteem of something to fear and avoid.  Dante paints us a landscape that no one would truly like to look upon.  “Abandon every hope, who enter here” (Alighieri 1843)  As Dante travels through the many levels, he addresses many of the issues and political beliefs that he holds in disdain.  His Christian beliefs as well as his political beliefs coincide on a grand scale, making his arguments of how they both compliment one another within his mind.  Throughout each Canto, sins are mentioned by name.  Not all of the sins are common knowledge unless the reader is schooled in Christianity.  For example, “the Simonists”, by secular standards, is not something the average Joe would know about.  The selling of sacred items means nothing without the knowledge of what a “sacred item” is.  Why this would lead to such a punishment “who take the things of God, that ought to be the brides of Righteousness, and make them fornicate for gold and silver!” (Alighieri 1891) would be of an even greater mystery. 
            Everyman” is a lesson for those who believe in Christianity and the beliefs that come with it. “You think sin in the beginning full sweet, Which in the end causeth the soul to weep” (Everyman 2121). While this can be looked upon as an explanation of Christian belief, the story itself resides and thrives on the fact that people already held Christianity as their belief system.  This story goes on to explain, to those who agree, why some things are bad for you and some things are not.  In the end, all the soul truly has is God.  Death comes first to explain what’s going on to Everyman.  As Everyman begins to ponder his own impending death and what it really means, he does an inventory of his life’s worth.  All aspects of the life he has lived eventually abandon him except for Good Deeds “All fleeth save Good Deeds” (Everyman 2140).  In the Christian belief system, good deeds are part of the soul.  Goods, strength, beauty, discretion, friends and even family can disregard a person as easily as they came to be a part of his (or her) life.  When the time comes to meet one’s maker, there will be little to speak of without the good deeds that have been done.  “And he that hath his account whole and sound, High in heaven he shall be crowned” (Everyman 2141)
            Christianity is still a very powerful force in the world today.  While it has since split many, many times over since the time that these writings took place, there is still a wide-held though not necessarily dominant following of the central teachings.  For many of the followers of this religion, these tenets are still alive and well, making the reading of these works comparably easier to understand.  At the time of these writings, however, the Christian religion was the dominant force on the planet.  It had, at the time, held an influence that not only concerned itself with the soul but also for the concerns of politics and power.  Dante addresses this continually and almost flawlessly when he mentions his well-known political enemies repeatedly.  These men are of little renown now but at the time it was important, it was necessary to align religious belief with political belief in order to be understood.  In “Beowulf”, the dominant influence of Christianity is seen when the author adds in Christian phrases in order to make the story an ultimately Christian tale.  In “Everyman” there is simply an assumption, well placed due to the audience who would have seen it, that everyone is on the same page in their belief system.  The profound influence that the Christian church had on not these writings is overwhelming once it is understood.  Since the time of these works the theme of Christianity has been largely understood.  It is a curious thing to wonder if in future generations these works will continue to be understood as clearly as they were then and still are today.  Or, if like many of the works in times before these, the Christian God’s many names will begin to be understood as something else.    

Works Cited

Beowulf.  Lawall, Sarah and Maynard Mack, eds. The Norton Anthology of World Literature.
Second Edition. Volumes A, B and C. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002. 1632-1702.  Print.

Alighieri, Dante.  “Inferno”. Lawall, Sarah and Maynard Mack, eds. The Norton Anthology of
World Literature. Second Edition. Volumes A, B and C. New York: W. W. Norton &
Company, 2002. 1836-1942. Print.

Everyman. Lawall, Sarah and Maynard Mack, eds. The Norton Anthology of World Literature.
Second Edition. Volumes A, B and C. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002.  2121-41. Print.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Power of a Woman: An Examination of Women Characters

            The power of women in “Beowulf”, “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale” and in “The Miller’s Tale” varies but still remains a prominent part of not only the text but the subtext as well.  In “Beowulf”, we have the power of a woman regarded as a monster but also the power of a mother wanting to avenge her son’s death.  In the tale that the wife of Bath tells, we have an old woman who’s power resides in her knowledge and wisdom and in “The Miller’s Tale” we have an ultimately clueless young woman who’s main power is merely her sexuality. Her sexuality is something that she uses to get what she wants but also what leads her into trouble, hurting those who love her and ultimately herself as well.
            In the story of “Beowulf”, we meet a man named Beowulf who is a legend in his own time.  The toughest man that ever was, he can beat out any other man in any type of physical triumph that is needed.  Between swimming, fighting and saving those around him, he has proven himself time and time again.  When the people of Heorot need a hero, they receive one in Beowulf.  He comes and conquers their foe, Grendel, in a fight that leaves them in awe.  “But you have made yourself immortal by your glorious action” (Beowulf 1652).  This awe, however, is short-lived by the rise of Grendel’s mother from the deep.  She comes charging in to make them pay for the wrong that she feels has been done to her son.  “Grendel’s mother, monstrous hell-bride, brooded on her wrongs” (Beowulf 1661).  She attacks those in Heorot’s hall ferociously. “Her onslaught was less only by as much as an amazon warrior’s strength is less than an armed man’s” (Beowulf 1661).  While the people of Heorot thought their troubles were over, they had unleashed a mother’s rage on themselves, “now this powerful other one arrives, this force for evil driven to avenge her kinsman’s death” (Beowulf 1662).  In the end, Grendel’s mother does lose the fight but not without putting up a good one and taking others with her when she goes.
            In “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”, we are introduced first to a knight who has raped a woman along the side of the road.  In doing so he has gotten himself in a world of trouble.  His life is spared but only insofar as he can come to a proper answer to one question: “what is the thing most of all that women desire?” (Chaucer 2100).  He wanders for some time, trying to find the answer to this question, for surely a man who rapes a woman by the side of the road would not be able to find the answer within himself.  He receives many answers but none quite as good as that of an old woman he happens upon in the woods.  She lets him know immediately that she can give him an answer for that which he seeks, with an outright declaration of the knowledge that old age brings. “We old folk know a lot of things” (Chaucer 2102).  In order to save his own life, in desperation, he agrees to give her anything he can if she will provide him with the answer.  In this agreement, she holds the utmost power.  She has what he wants and he will do as she wishes in order to get it.  She holds his life in her hands.  For anyone, man or woman, the ability to save or end a life is one of the most – if not the most - powerful forces possible.  By her wisdom, she does, in the end, save his life.  The answer to the question: “Women desire to have the sovereignty and sit in rule and government above their husbands, and to have their way in love” (Chaucer 2102).  The truth of this statement is shown, not only when the old woman outwits the young knight at the end, demanding that he choose either the old woman or the young woman to marry.  Both of these choices having their benefits, both having their disadvantages.  The truth of this statement is also shown when the queen, the one seeking the answer to the question, has the power of giving or taking the life of the young man. 
            In “The Miller’s Tale”, we meet a completely different type of woman than in the two previously mentioned stories.  Her power is not so strong in that it is not made up of a mother’s love nor is it made up of a woman’s mind but, rather, it is made up of pure sexuality.  The power here does not only reside in the fact that this woman is attractive to many men “She was a prettier sight to see by far than the blossoms of the early pear tree are” (Chaucer 2070) but that she also knows she is attractive to these men.  This tale is not as serious as the others but the young woman, Alison, still holds a certain power in her hands.  There is the young man Nicholas, whom she wants and he wants her, there is the carpenter who is her husband and then there is Absolom, the man who pines for her.  “Till jolly Absolom was woebegone for wooing her, awake all night and day” (Chaucer 2073).  This power that she has leads all three men down a troublesome road.  Bringing them all to a different end, including herself when she abuses the power that she has over them.  She ends up with a husband, more jealous than ever, who is now looked upon by their town as absolutely crazy.   Nicholas ends up with “his bottom roasted well” (Chaucer 2082) and Absolom ends up having “kissed her nether eye” (Chaucer 2082).
           In all three of these works, women hold a very powerful place in the storyline.  Grendel’s mother is forlorn, as nearly any mother would be about her son’s death.  In pain, she attempts to avenge the taking of her son’s life.  In some ways, she does what she embarks upon even if she does not “win” in the end.  In the tale told by the wife of Bath, the old woman and the queen both show that what the old woman says is true.  In essence, women want to rule over men in all matters – including love.  Both of these women have the power to end the young knight’s life in their own way and both of these women appear to enjoy the power of doing so.  In the final tale mentioned, “The Miller’s Tale”, Alison does not hold the power to take or give life in the way the other women examined here do but she does hold a power over them nonetheless.  She does not give anyone their life back but she does destroy parts of their lives.  The poor carpenter in the story is now looked upon as a joke in his town, Absolom has lost his dignity and Nicholas simply learned that it is best to avoid playing with fire so one does not get burned.  All of these women held a certain type of fire and power inside themselves, all in different ways.     

Works Cited

Beowulf.  Lawall, Sarah and Maynard Mack, eds. The Norton Anthology of World Literature.
Second Edition. Volumes A, B and C. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002.  1632-1702. Print.

Chaucer, Geoffrey.  The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath’s Tale”. Lawall, Sarah and
Maynard Mack, eds. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Second Edition.
Volumes A, B and C. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002. 2099-2106. Print.

Chaucer, Geoffrey.  The Canterbury Tales: The Miller’s Tale”. Lawall, Sarah
and Maynard Mack, eds. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Second Edition.
Volumes A, B and C. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002. 2067-82. Print.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Jalapeno Glazed Steaks

Glaze:  1/4 cup jalapeno pepper jelly and 1/4 cup ketchup - mix together in small bowl and set aside.


2 tbsp pepper jelly
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
10 oz frozen corn - thawed
3/4 cup chopped red pepper
1 seeded jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)

Cook and stir jelly and seasonings in saucepan until jelly is melted and bubbly.  Add corn and pepper, heat through and stir occasionally, season w/ salt to taste.

Broil or grill steaks to taste.  Covering with glaze before cooking and before flipping.

Serve with relish covering steaks.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Overwhelming Emotions: Examining the Role of Death in Greek Literature

           Only one thing in all of life is absolutely certain – even more so than taxes.  That certainty would be death itself, the end of this life.  This is a fact that people are aware of, yet, understanding it is not only difficult but it is an idea that few can easily get used to.  For this reason, the subject matter of death should be presented not only with the respect it is due but also with the reverence that great loss deserves.  In “Oedipus the King”, “Antigone” and “The Odyssey”, we are presented with a variety of deaths within the context of various relationships – most of which are handled either with care by those feeling the loss or with the wrath that dishonor can bring out in someone consumed with the need for justice.  In the multitude of deaths in these tales, death is not seen as something that means nothing but, rather, something that means nearly everything to the characters.  It is the passion of their emotions that drive them in each of these stories – even leading many characters to death’s door. 
            In “Oedipus the King”, the death that does not occur appears to be the one that would have meant the most in saving so many from future pains.  Yet, it is precisely because Oedipus’s death as a baby does not occur that the grief of death meets Oedipus so cruelly.  His wife’s suicide, once all comes out into the open, is not taken lightly.  “I am agony.” (Sophocles 652)  This agony he feels is for a variety of reasons but it is overwhelmingly because he sees his wife hanging from a noose – all they had has been lost.  “The joy they had so lately, the fortune of their old ancestral house was deep joy indeed”.  (Sophocles 651)  It is because they loved one another that both of them end up in a place of pain and darkness.  To see his wife’s body hanging, dead is too much for him to bare – along with the many other pains of that day.  He was going to kill her himself, in this scene, but the reality of it hits him hard and he is simply unable to take the sight.  With her pins, he makes it clear that he does not want to see the truth of it yet he cannot escape the pain.     
            In “Antigone”, the death of Antigone’s brother begins a domino effect – with several of the characters being dead before the play is complete, all of which stems from the grief of a sister who has lost her brothers.  “But if I had allowed my own mother’s son to rot, an unburied corpse – that would have been agony.” (Sophocles 670).  Antigone has been sentenced to death herself for burying her brother so he may be accepted into the underworld by the gods.  Without this burial, the belief of the time was that he could not go on in life after death.  Antigone is put to death, which leads to the death of her fiance – in his grief.  The death of Haemon by suicide causes his mother to then commit suicide also.  For all of these characters, it was the intensity of the emotional pain that drove them to want to die as well as to follow through with such actions.       
            In “The Odyssey”, it is Odysseus’s rage and need for what he perceives as justice that brings about the largest loss of life throughout the story.  Though it is the unknown status of Odysseus’s life that actively drives the story, his death is assumed by most – including the suitors - though not accepted by Penelope or Telemakhos.  When Odysseus returns home and takes his anger out on the suitors, it is a punishment for their disrespect not only of him but also of his household and his wife.  “They respected no one, good or bad, who came their way.  For this, and folly, a bad end befell them.” (Homer 505)  Had they not assumed him to be dead but waited for an answer to the question, they would not have met such an end.  Telemakhos takes out his anger on the harlots for being disrespectful of his mother.  “I would not give the clean death of a beat to trulls who made a mockery of my mother and of me too.”  (Homer 506) 
            Though there are many deaths in each of these stories, none of them are handled lightly.  Each of them is handled with an intense burst of emotion – whether in grief or in anger.  Particularly in “Oedipus the King” and “Antigone” does the reader feel a connection, an understanding and a sense of what has been lost.  Men and women both have a profound reaction to the death of their loved ones.
  In “The Odyssey”, it is a feeling of what has been found instead – a sense of justice for a family that has suffered deeply.  By today’s standards these deaths would be seen as extreme, yet, in “The Odyssey”, it seems to be what is owed to Odysseus and his family for all they have withstood.  To be so blatantly disrespectful of a king and his queen at this time in history would have meant death and death is what was given out.  Before Penelope recognizes Odysseus as her husband, she states that this type of behavior was punished by the gods.  “Some god has killed the suitors, a god, sick of their arrogance and brutal malice.” (Homer 509)  They all believe, to the core, that these deaths are justified – not only in their eyes but also in the eyes of the gods.
Each of these works present us with a dramatic look at death.  Though, at the time, death was not considered the absolute end.  There is an afterlife for those who die.  Antigone makes this clear when she defies her king and buries her brother openly.  In “The Odyssey”, there is not only mention of an afterlife but a full description as to what happens to those who have died.  “Meanwhile the suitors’ ghosts were called away by Hermes of Kyllene.” (Homer 516)  In “Oedipus the King” the afterlife does not play as large a part as in “The Odyssey” or “Antigone”.  Oedipus asks Creon to bury his wife.  “the woman inside, bury her as you see fit.  It’s the only decent thing, to give your own the last rites.”  (Homer 655).  He does not go into much more about the afterlife as he is too consumed with grief at that moment – it seems he simply cannot go that distance in his thoughts.
In all three of these stories, death is seen as something very serious – regardless of how often it happens or how it happens. The gravity of the situations that lead to death is fully explored by the characters left behind – whether the characters are in pain or grateful for the death of their enemies.  

Works Cited

Lawall, Sarah and Maynard Mack, eds. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Second Edition. Volumes A, B and C. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002.  Print.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Parent-Child Relationships in Greek Literature: The Human Bond

The intensity and passion of parent-child relationships in “The Odyssey”, “Oedipus the King” and “Antigone” greet the reader with a sense of family devotion and the importance of family legacy that either grows stronger over time or dissolves quickly before the reader’s eyes. Within these texts much time is focused on familial relationships. The love and admiration that the family members have for one another is undeniable though as will be seen in “Antigone”, the bonds that child rearing has developed can be broken within no time at all. “And you will never see me, never set eyes on my face again. Rage your heart out, rage with friends who can stand the sight of you.” (Sophocles 678)  In “The Odyssey” the love is cherished and in “Oedipus the King”, it is twisted and turned, eventually breaking under the pressure.
In “The Odyssey” a son leaves home quickly slipping away into the night to find his father – a man who has been missing for ten years.  He does so not only because he is motivated by the gods but also because his future and his father’s honor are at stake.  His father, meanwhile, longs for nothing more than to see his wife and child again.  The two men are now attempting to meet in the middle without the knowledge that either one is even trying to do so.  Odysseus’s son, Telemakhos, leaves behind a mother who now grieves his disappearance from her life.  Her crying, day and night, turns into tears for both her husband and her child.  Telemakhos has left her quietly, attempting to keep her from worry any longer than need be.  When both of them return home, Telemakhos is empty-handed and his father is hidden in a disguise.  When Odysseus reveals himself to Telemakhos, the bond that would have appeared broken to outsiders is clearly seen.  Odysseus trusts his son without question, handing over to him the knowledge that he has returned in secret.  Telemakhos keeps this secret for his father.  The trust and care that goes into all of these interactions reflects greatly how much they mean to one another; both between Odysseus and his son as well as between Telemakhos and Penelope.  Toward the end of “The Odyssey”, there is one more parent-child relationship that is examined.  The one between Odysseus and his own father, Laertes.  In his joy, Laertes – who had grown increasingly feeble over time is suddenly rejuvenated in both body and spirit.  This is directly linked to the love between all of them.  “Ah, what a day for me, dear gods!  To see my son and grandson vie in courage!” (Homer 529)  The respect and admiration among them is not only impressive but truly beautiful.
“Oedipus the King” takes a much different turn though the love within their family is also very profound.  Oedipus was essentially abandoned as a child – his mother fearing that he would kill her in time due to a prophecy.  He was slated to die but in one man’s mercy he was saved from this fate, only to come upon what he would consider a much worse fate.  Eventually, the realization that this prophecy has or is becoming true takes over what could have been seen as a wonderful life for Oedipus, his wife and children.  Jocasta, his mother and wife, is so distraught when the turn of events is revealed that she hangs herself.  The revelation that her child did not die, that he now knows she attempted to kill him as a baby and that she has now mothered her own son’s children appears to be too much for her to take – it is also too much for Oedipus as well.  He gouges out his eyes in the rage that follows.  At the end of the play, he feels terrible remorse for the daughters he loves and whom he now feels are disgraced.  “How I weep for you – I cannot see you now… just thinking of all the days to come, the bitterness, the life that rough mankind will thrust upon you.” (Sophocles 656)  This turn of events destroys every parental bond in this play yet it is not through anger but simply grief that this bond is broken – and grief will not come unless there is a loss.  This loss, for Oedipus and his family, is simply the loss of love.
In Antigone, the focus of the play is one of Oedipus’s daughters.  Yet, the parent-child relationship that this play examines most thoroughly would be the relationship between Antigone’s fiance, Haemon and his father, Creon.  This is a relationship that starts out full of respect and admiration but quickly turns to anger and then a fast break of the bond they shared altogether.  Though it does not seem to occur to Creon that his son may stand behind the woman he loves over his own father until the time is at hand – not only because this would not have been customary at the time - but his father is a king, not just an average man.  King’s are not defied by anyone, not even one’s son.  In their heated argument, however, Creon’s words focus mainly on the disappointment he feels as a father whose son does not stand behind him.  “What wound cuts deeper than a loved one turned against you?” (Sophocles 675)  In the end, Haemon ends up dead due to the reason for their disagreement.  His father, too late, discovers his own mistakes in what he has done.  “not through your stupidity, no, my own.” (Sophocles 691)  In his wife’s grief she takes her own life, having lost a child she truly loved.
In all of these works, there is a nearly undeniable and deep understanding of parents and children alike and how much their love can either destroy them or make them stronger.  In “The Odyssey” the love they feel is an obvious source of strength – right down to the very end with Odysseus’s father.  In Oedipus, there is much love between them – though the true love of Jocasta for her child might be considered questionable since she had attempted to have him killed.  It was her love for him as a wife that appeared stronger than the mother-child bond.  Oedipus’s love for his own daughters, however, is apparent through his pain for what has unwittingly happened to them in their innocence.  In “Antigone”, it is the pain of a disagreement and pride that does the family in.  The disagreement, while based on very real and necessary issues that needed confronting, did not have to go the way it did.  The father did not truly consider what his son was saying but only saw himself as the true source of wisdom – something that a man of wisdom should know is not a sign of wisdom at all.  “You’d do well, my lord, if he’s speaking to the point, to learn from him, and you, my boy, from him.  You both are talking sense.”  (Sophocles 677)  All respect, by the end of the argument had disappeared and this loss cost them all what was most dear – as can happen in any parent-child relationship, if one is not careful to take the very essence of such a strong yet delicate relationship into consideration. 

Works Cited

Lawall, Sarah and Maynard Mack, eds. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Second Edition. Volumes A, B and C. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002.  Print.