|[a] Swimmingly RF|
Marine Biologist The Doorman Opposite George Newman's Mail The Bootleg Marriage
Just Dessert Sleep Desk Late Coffee High Stakes Motor Oil Downtown
Code Cracking Nonfat Yogurt Bad Boy It's Not You I Can't Be... Exploding Wallet
Elaine Flies Coach The Close Talker The Alliance Broccoli Coated Culture Dinner Party
George's Friend Jerry's Haircut Face Paint Mustachioed Smoking East River
Pool Man Dunkin' Joe Life Lessons Reckoning Dog Medicine Shower Heads
Looking Busy George Tips Kramer's Job Empty Tank
Click here for the reference to the "Argonauts" title, below.
Argonauts of the Seinfeldian Specific
Kramer swims for fun and chiropractic health. The problem is that the pool is like a "flabby armed spanking machine." His problems are solved when he finds the open waters (shared by only a few other floating bodies) of the East River. Take a look.
|[b] Social odor R|
It was his nephew (and student), Marcel Mauss (1872-1950) who took it to a new level, though. Mauss spoke of the intertwined necessities of social gathering and dispersal in a seminal article on Eskimo migration. You'll "get" to read a bit of that later in this post. For now, though, let's just think about the social imagination at work somewhere in the mental recesses of the Seinfeld writers when they crafted this episode. Not unlike the spark that created a Seinfeldian social fury of candy bar eating with utensils, the individual (solo) idea of swimming in the East River—free from kicks to the face and highboard divers—quickly becomes entwined with social life.
|[c] Lanes RF|
As individuals, it goes something like this. It is is 1994. You live in Boston, and say "I think I'll watch the NASCAR race this afternoon." You watch the bumper-rubbing near-chaos, transfixed. You take a nap on the couch (it's a long race). You hold your breath (as though you were listening to Mahler's Ninth) as you watch the restart at the end. Exhausted, you say to yourself, "This NASCAR thing is pretty interesting," and you think that you are the only symphony listening, Gruyère-savoring, Châteauneuf-du-Pape drinking urbanite to have noticed Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, and the Intimidator...or, in NASCAR parlance the 24-car, the 2-car, and the 3-car..
Something else has been going on for some time. You just haven't noticed your individual part in it. The return to eastern seaboard urban disinterest in NASCAR (c. 2006) worked the same way. "You" got bored just about the same time everyone else who isn't from Dover, Darlington, and Talladega did. So, too, with other nineteenth and twentieth century social phenomena, such as gold rushes, hula hoops, Rubik's cubes, supply-side economics, and marathoning (26.2).
|[d] Tugged RF|
And then there is East River pollution. That, for me, is just the Soylent Greenish backdrop for the power of social gathering and dispersal. We begin our theoretical readings this week with Durkheimian sociology (Marcel Mauss's classic essay) before moving on to considerations of Chinese river goddesses and New Guinea water education—each of which intersects in powerful ways with East River culture(s).
The East River....it's PEOPLE(d).
Marcel Mauss (1908)
|[e] Mauss ADV|
What is more, we have only to observe what goes on around us in our western societies to discover these same rhythms. About the end of July, there occurs a summer dispersion. Urban life enters that period of sustained languor known as vacances, the vacation period. which continues to the end of autumn. Life then tends to revive and goes on to increase steadily until it drops off again in June. Rural life follows the opposite pattern. In winter, the countryside is plunged into a kind of torpor, the population at this time scatters to specific points of seasonal migration; each small local or familial group turns in upon itself; there are neither means nor opportunities for gathering together; this is the time of dispersion. By contrast, in summer, everything becomes reanimated; workers return to the fields; people live out of doors in constant contact with one another. This is the time of festivities, of major projects and great revelry. Statistics reflect these regular variations in social life. Suicides, an urban phenomenon, increase from the end of autumn until June, whereas homicides, a rural phenomenon, increase from the beginning of spring until the end of summer, when they become fewer.
All this suggests that we have come upon a law that is probably of considerable generality. Social life does not continue at the same level throughout the year; it goes through regular, successive phases of increased and decreased intensity of activity and repose, of exertion and recuperation. We might almost say that social life does violence to the minds and bodies of individuals which they can only sustain for a time; and there comes a pone when they must slow down and partially withdraw from it. We have seen examples if this rhythm of dispersion and concentration, of individual life and collective life. Instead of being the necessary and determining cause of an entire system, truly seasonal factors may merely mark the most opportune occasions in the year for these two phases to occur. After the long revelries of the collective life which fill the winter, each Eskimo needs to live a more individual life; after long months of communal living filled with feasts and religious ceremonies, an Eskimo needs a profane existence. We know, in fact, that the Eskimo are delighted with this change, for it seems to come as a response to a natural need...
Edward Schafer (1973)
|[f] Divine ADV|
The only goddess who literary repute as as great as those of the southern goddesses of Wu shan and the Hsiang River was the goddess of the Lo. The antiquity of her cult is not known. Classical tradition, at least, claimed that sacrifice had been made to the spirit of that river in the very earliest times. To be precise where precision is laughable, this happened in the fiftieth year of the reign of the high god and innovator of civilization, Huang Ti, "The Yellow Divinity." There is other ancient evidence of the reverence in which the river was held. But we have no way of knowing whether the river deity was pictured as a female in antiquity...
The fame of the Lo Divinity in poetry is rather late. It rests mainly on a popular rhapsodic treatment of her written by Ts'ao Chih in the third century A.D. That work owes much to the style of the ancient Sung Yü poems but lacks almost entirely the sense of reverence that informed them. Ts'ao Chih seems to have regarded the goddess of the Lo merely as a suitable romantic subject for poetic treatment, without feeling the need to commit himself to a view about her holy power or her real existence. In the introduction to his famous pastiche, he tells us that in the year A.D. 222 he was returning home from a formal visit to the court at Lo-Yang. Crossing the Lo River, he recalls the old tradition that the deity of the river is in fact Fu Fei—"Consort Fu"...The charioteer speaks of her in glowing verses, partly reminiscent of Sung Yü's rhapsody:
As to her form—
She flutters like a startled swan,
She twists and turns like a roving dragon.
Margaret Mead (1925)
|[g] Mead ADV|
Swimming is not taught: the small waders imitate their slightly older brothers and sisters, and after floundering about in waist-deep water begin to strike out for themselves. Sure-footedness on land and swimming come almost together, so that the charm which is recited over a newly delivered woman says, "May you not have another until this one can walk and swim." As soon as the children can swim a little, in a rough and tumble overhand stroke which has not style but great speed, they are given small canoes of their own...Now that they have learned to swim a little, they climb freely about the large canoes, diving off the bow, climbing in again at the stern, or clambering out over the outrigger to swim along with one hand on the flexible outrigger float. The parents are never in such a hurry that they have to forbid this useful play...
The test of this kind of training is in the results. The Manus children are perfectly at home in the water. They neither fear it nor regard it as presenting special difficulties and dangers. The demands upon them have made them keen-eyed, quick-witted, and physically competent like their parents. There is not a child of five who can't swim well. A Manus child who couldn't swim would be as aberrant , as definitely subnormal as an American child of five who couldn't walk. Before I went to Manus I was puzzled by the problem of how I would be able to collect the little children in one spot. i had visions of a kind of collecting canoe which would go about every morning and gather them aboard. I need not have worried. A child was never at a loss to get from house to house, whether he went in a large canoe or a small one, or swam the distance with a knife in his teeth.
 Marcel Mauss, Seasonal Variation of the Eskimo: A Study of Social Morphology (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), 78-79.
 Edward H. Schafer, The Divine Woman: Dragon Ladies and Rain Maidens (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1980), 68-69.
 Margaret Mead, Growing Up in New Guinea (New York: Harper Collins, 1930), 24-25.
|[h] Workout RF|
Wednesday, January 25th
Structure meets function when Kramer visits the Costanzas.