Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Friend for Jasper, a Headache for Me

Normally, my Jasper is terrified of other dogs. He refuses to come near them, even actually shaking at the sight of them. The only exceptions are my parents' dogs, Mitzi and Abby, and my sister's dog, Nina. Actually, it even took Jasper weeks just to warm up to them! Today, much to my amazement, Jasper found himself a doggy friend who doesn't terrify him.

The funny thing is how much these two dogs have in common. Jasper, as my readers know, came from Korea. So did my brand new neighbor . . . and her dog. Like Jasper, this dog is also a Shih Tzu, with similar coloring. She's a very friendly, sweet little girl. And, she's quite pretty, which may partially explain how Jasper overcame his shyness enough to sniff her nose, wag his tail, and engage her in some very cute, albeit gentle, play. He was reluctant to come inside after meeting this nice little girl, but I had no option of letting him stay out - I have a very boring book, Brubaker's Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany, which I have to finish reading and attempt to write a review on. Jasper keeps looking wistfully at the door, already missing his adorable new playmate.

To be honest, I would much rather be outside letting my dog play than inside reading Brubaker's apparent attempt to kill grad students through sheer mental inertia. I am now convinced that the prof responsible for assigning this purgatory-between-two-covers has a secret desire to make his students suffer. He's a very nice professor, actually, and quite intelligent (I honestly like and respect him quite a bit), but every book that he has assigned this semester has been horrid. These books start at tedium and work their way to delirium with stop-offs at outright frustration. They take forever to read, regardless of length, because they are so difficult to follow. I read and reread, hoping to somehow track down at least the central argument of the book. This current book has me seeing red because of Brubaker's persistence in using passive voice throughout - honestly, I believe that should be unacceptable at his level. I mean, I learned not to do that as an UNDERGRAD, for pity's sake. (Sorry, I needed to rant a bit there, after staying up very late reading Brubaker and practically frothing at the mouth over his writing style - passive voice is only one of many complaints I have about the way Brubaker writes.) Every book in this class seems to cover nothing but history of identity, philosophy, consumerism, or some other "ism". As a military historian, I'm convinced that this class will be the death of me!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"