Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Poem for Tuesday


Drum
By Philip Levine


   Leo's Tool & Die, 1950

In the early morning before the shop
opens, men standing out in the yard
on pine planks over the umber mud.
The oil drum, squat, brooding, brimmed
with metal scraps, three-armed crosses,
silver shavings whitened with milky oil,
drill bits bitten off. The light diamonds
last night's rain; inside a buzzer purrs.
The overhead door stammers upward
to reveal the scene of our day.

                                 We sit
for lunch on crates before the open door.
Bobeck, the boss's nephew, squats to hug
the overflowing drum, gasps and lifts. Rain
comes down in sheets staining his gun-metal
covert suit. A stake truck sloshes off
as the sun returns through a low sky.
By four the office help has driven off. We
sweep, wash up, punch out, collect outside
for a final smoke. The great door crashes
down at last.

               In the darkness the scents
of mint, apples, asters. In the darkness
this could be a Carthaginian outpost sent
to guard the waters of the West, those mounds
could be elephants at rest, the acrid half light
the haze of stars striking armor if stars were out.
On the galvanized tin roof the tunes of sudden rain.
The slow light of Friday morning in Michigan,
the one we waited for, shows seven hills
of scraped earth topped with crab grass,
weeds, a black oil drum empty, glistening
at the exact center of the modern world.

--------


I didn't have much excitement in my day (other than cussing at the news and stuff) until my son's friend who gets no supervision at home and spends half his time over here managed to break the drawer of a 50+ year old desk that once belonged to my husband's grandfather. It's just old, not antique -- in lousy condition and not worth anything -- but this is just typical of what happens when this kid is in my house. Otherwise I had a relatively quiet morning, taking a walk in the gorgeous weather that we continue to have and reporting on such Trek events as James Darren's Time Tunnel being released on DVD and an Adelaide theatre company that usually adapts Terry Pratchett performing "The Trouble With Tribbles" as a stage comedy.

Older son had fencing, I had a perfectly lovely evening writing in and chatting with various people, we half-watched Digging For the Truth about Native American pyramids built in the Mississippi River Valley. And now I am distracted and must go. Vanity Fair is on one of the cable channels. James Purefoy is making love with Reese Witherspoon. It may not be a great adaptation of the novel, but this is a damned attractive sight nonetheless. *g*


One of the golden lion tamarins at the National Aquarium in Baltimore last weekend.


These little monkeys live in the rainforest on the roof of the oldest building, the one housing the giant ray tank, Atlantic exhibits and shark tank.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Poem for Monday


Three Sorts of Serpents Do Resemble Thee
By Michael Drayton


Three sorts of serpents do resemble thee:
That dangerous eye-killing cockatrice,
The enchanting siren, which doth so entice,
The weeping crocodile -- these vile pernicious three.
The basilisk his nature takes from thee,
Who for my life in secret wait dost lie,
And to my heart sendst poison from thine eye:
Thus do I feel the pain, the cause, yet cannot see.
Fair-maid no more, but Mer-maid be thy name,
Who with thy sweet alluring harmony
Hast played the thief, and stolen my heart from me,
And like a tyrant makst my grief thy game:
  Thou crocodile, who when thou hast me slain,
  Lamentst my death, with tears of thy disdain.

--------

Another from Poet's Choice in yesterday's Washington Post Book World, "another poem involving myth, fantasy and aggression (and a crocodile rather than an alligator), a love-sonnet by Shakespeare's contemporary," Robert Pinsky writes. "Art's reassurance is not in being nice, but in accepting what is not so nice in us. The slaying and death of Drayton's couplet...are pure fantasy -- they mean that he is in love, and that it hurts because all is not going perfectly. That is the sharp, fantastical, comical action of the imagination, straddling the gulf between perfection and reality."


Sunday started quietly because the kids had Hebrew school, and immediately afterward younger son was driven from the suburban center to the synagogue downtown for a yo-yo demonstration with the youth group while older son went straight to a friend's house. I fiddled with photos (am trying to figure out this technique described in Outdoor Photographer for bringing contrast into a rather gray original), wrote news bullets and an article on Alfre Woodard's TV movie that was on tonight (and skipped by me because I am not a Pat Conroy fan part two of Bleak House was on and it's so fantastic I don't know how I'm going to wait all these weeks until the end!)

I also watched the beginning of the Screen Actors Guild Awards and then caught the rest on the repeat on TNT. So I got the thrill of seeing Barbara Bain presenting with Peter Graves even though their cue cards weren't working, and Dominic Monaghan demonstrating that he will kiss any man on the lips at the slightest provocation (I don't watch Lost so I'm not even sure who the recipient was -- Naveen Whatshisname?), William Shatner introducing the history of actors in commercials and the beginning of the interminable tribute to Shirley Temple. Sandra Oh's victory speech rocked -- she thanked the casting director of Grey's Anatomy for the diversity in her casting choices and encouraged Asian-American actors to keep at it -- and wow, Rachel Weisz is now the Oscar front-runner in the supporting actress category, and I was delighted that Felicity Huffman beat Mary-Louise Parker for TV since I suspect she'll lose the Best Actress Oscar to Reese Witherspoon, which really is all right with me. (And it was nice to see all the other housewives hugging her...it was a dilemma night for Alfre Woodard fans, I guess, since she was live at the awards and in The Water Is Wide and in a DH rerun!)

I saw Sean Hayes beat Shatner and Spader on tape delay, which only made me momentarily sad because he rocks and I howled at his speech thanking Ang Lee for taking a chance on him since everyone knows it's such a risk to play a gay character. If Spader beat Shatner, I'd worry about Shatner's ego! I was very sorry the Boston Legal cast didn't win the best comedy ensemble award, though. I also saw delayed that Phillip Seymour Hoffman has won the best actor award...I love him and it's not like a victory for him takes anything away from gay characters but I am still pulling for Heath Ledger at the Oscars. And Paul Giamatti won best supporting actor award for Cinderella Man, though he thanked actors he met around the food services table and didn't mention anyone actually in that film with him...weird! I didn't see Crash but I suppose I had better, since it keeps winning awards and since Marina Sirtis is in it. (And speaking of Trek people, I hadn't really put together how many had died last year until the tribute...James Doohan, Brock Peters, Frank Gorshin, John Fiedler, Vincent Schiavelli...must've been weird to be Shatner watching all that.)


In between the articles and the nighttime TV, we took the kids to the Lunar New Year celebration at Lakeforest Mall. There were lots of local groups and performers all day -- we saw folk dancing, juggling, martial artists, a pantomime with giant dragon costumes and some fashion presentations. There were also bonsai and flowers on display, photographs of China and paintings by local artists. Happy New Year, those who celebrate! Here are a few photos:










Now we are watching the Spanish Armada on Battlefield Britain, which is very cool. I didn't know the British stiffed their own sailors and left them on their ships to die of dysentery! And Drake and Howard paid them out of their own pockets. Glad there were some actual heroes.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Poem for Sunday


Alligator Dark
By Stephen Dobyns


Stiff as a fireman's spray, his urine smacks
into the toilet bowl to spatter against
the two-inch remnant of a cigarette, either
a Camel or Lucky Strike both of which

his parents smoke. Perhaps he is eight.
A chaste delight in this pre-filter era
before Freudian notions could for him
ruin the simplest of pleasures. The butt's

lipstick-reddened tip bleeds into the murk --
Take that, Mom! -- till the paper splits apart
and tobacco bits skitter off like peewee
lifeboats. The boy zips his pants as his mother

shouts, What's taking you so long? Just
washing up, he calls back, before flushing
the tiny survivors of the stricken liner down,
down to the alligator dark beneath the streets.

--------

From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World, a poem so royally appropriate to fic I have posted that it made me screech when I saw it. "Poetry gives us the rages, transformations and rapes of Ovid and the scornful, engaging melancholies of Baudelaire," writes Pinsky. "Because it is free to use our strangest dreams as well as our most humdrum doings, our noblest yearnings as well our meanest fantasies, poetry is also free to combine them. It shows us how the weird and the ordinary are often not distinct but inseparably braided together...one kind of poetry lives in that borderland between the ordinary and the dreamy, the banal and the mysterious, the grandiose and the squalid." Pinsky calls Dobyns a master at that genre, adding, "The myth or urban legend of alligators living in the sewers is like the boy's idle, momentary but beautifully elaborate and realized myth of the cigarette butt as a stricken ocean liner. And is there aggression in the child's fantasy? Of course. And is such aggression part of love? Absolutely, as centuries of poetry affirm. Art's reassurance is not in being nice, but in accepting what is not so nice in us.


We spent a lovely day in Baltimore with all four of my childrens' grandparents, visiting the new Australia exhibit at the National Aquarium and then going out for dinner at Harborplace. The exhibit isn't as big as I was expecting -- I thought one would be able to walk to the upper level, closer to where the birds are, the way one can in the rainforest, though maybe that will be possible after they have retrained the flying foxes which were off exhibit because they kept flying into windows and food dishes -- there are many lizards and snakes in smaller exhibits, and a great many birds in the big walk-through room with the landscaping but most of the animals are at quite a distance. The place is beautifully designed, with waterfalls and big pools, and I am sure it is better for the animals to be at a greater distance from people.

We went through that part of the aquarium first, then to the dolphin show, which was 1) mobbed and 2) lower-key than usual because one of the dolphins, Nani, has a calf that was born in July (and, although they didn't talk about this, the aquarium lost a young dolphin just before the calf was born to a debilitating illness). The trainers demonstrated veterinary care and some of the behaviors they work on with the dolphins and there was video on the big screens of the calf's birth. The purpose of the "dolphin show" there is to educate the public about the dolphins frequently encountered by humans just off shore in the Atlantic, and they argue that the seven dolphins born in captivity there may be helping to save hundreds, which I buy -- maybe people will stop littering on the beaches after seeing the films.










From the dolphin auditorium, we went quickly through the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic exhibits in the oldest part of the aquarium on the way to the rainforest, where we saw the pygmy marmosets AND the sloth, so it must be considered a very successful day! However, our favorite Harborplace restaurant, City Lights, is gone! We all walked around the harbor as the sun was setting, in the gorgeous near-60 degree weather, only to find that the restaurant had closed...even its lovely fish tank was empty. So we settled for J. Paul's, where I had salmon which was quite good and younger son had a shrimp salad that he liked but where everyone who had crab cakes found them disappointing. Hmmph! I need a new favorite restaurant with great crab soup; Phillips doesn't count, it's way too expensive for the quality of the food which has declined a lot from my youth. Still, we enjoyed dinner and then wandered into the Discovery Channel Store and around Harborplace a bit before driving home.

I had forgotten that it was the anniversary of the Challenger disaster until we turned the news on, so now I am sad...I remember that day vividly, I was working at my college newspaper and when the news came over the AP wire we all assumed it was a sick joke at first because there was no television in the offices. Then I went home and watched. It's weird, because I was aware of the Apollo 1 anniversary the other day, but not of this one.

Sunday the kids have Hebrew school and then one has a synagogue youth event while the other has plans with a friend, so until late afternoon when we might take a ride over to a Chinese New Year celebration at a local mall, I will be child-free! Hee!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Poem for Saturday


since feeling is first...
by ee cummings


since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
- the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other; then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

--------

There's the follow-up cummings to "somewhere i have never travelled" that I promised the other day. I suppose I should do "i carry your heart" next.


Had a quiet day after anticipating a busy one. I was supposed to drive to Tacoma Park to interview a local folk singer I adore, but we got our signals crossed and by the time we made contact, it was too late...hopefully I will do the interview next week! I don't absolutely have to do it in person, phone would be fine, but she invited me to her studio and I really do not want to pass up this opportunity! Friday afternoon is always trouble in terms of getting babysitting, and this week it was chaos kids-wise; younger son was supposed to bring a friend home with him, but friend was in trouble with his parents and son last saw him being dragged away from school being yelled at. Meanwhile I had told older son he had to walk home so I didn't have to make younger son and his friend sit and wait at the bus stop for him, and it's a good thing I didn't try to pick him up at the usual time because his bus broke down; he was more than an hour late by the time I did pick him up.

Friday Fivers didn't interest me this week so I am sparing everyone. I am 46% gay, which is 10 % gayer than from whom I swiped the quiz...sounds about right! I got to talk to her today too, although by that time I was disorganized from having the interview postponed so I will not actually get to see her till next week. Instead I spent my early afternoon writing a review of "The Doomsday Machine", one of the many gems of the original Star Trek's second season, written by Spinrad, swiped from Saberhagen, with a great guest star turn and a bunch of classic lines...what more could anyone ask for? I also wrote the site columns, which involved summarizing my movie blather from here.

Tonight we sat down and watched The Mission, the movie with the greatest original soundtrack in the history of motion pictures as far as I'm concerned (I am of course not counting Amadeus). We half-watched it a couple of weekends ago but the kids were distracted, I was doing laundries and younger son had specifically asked to see it again, so I wasn't about to argue. I hadn't seen it literally in decades and was surprised both how much I remembered and how well it held up. I was amused how much The Mission had in common with Kingdom of Heaven and I don't just mean Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson as noble religious men struggling against corrupt ones. It had the same Good Church vs. Bad Church considerations, where the Bad Church is all about money and political influence while the Good Church is about spirituality, protecting local people, building churches and trying to decide what Jesus would do even if there's disagreement about whether that would be taking up arms or turning the other cheek. I didn't have any idea who Liam Neeson was when I last saw the movie, so it was a real treat to see him, Irons and Robert De Niro playing priests. (The urge to expound on the potential homoeroticism between Gabriel and Rodrigo is overwhelming, not to mention Gabriel and Fielding or Rodrigo and Fielding...please stop me.)


A campfire made by a scouting group at Gulf Branch Park...


...and the stream there, whose bank leads from the nature center to a field and playground.


We had Shabbat dinner with my parents, with whom we are going -- as well as my in-laws -- to the aquarium in Baltimore Saturday, since none of us have yet seen the Australia exhibit. Apparently we may be going out to dinner afterward. I am hoping to get to walk around the harbor a little, too.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Poem for Friday


'And Leave Show Business?'
By Ralph Burns


This elephant keeper shoved a hose up
The ass of an elephant every day. He
Told a man. The man said, So why don't
You quit? And the keeper said, You have
To understand: elephant bowels are fragile,

You only spray a little and shit flies
All over. . . . And the man said, I understand,
I think, someone has to, but why don't you
Quit? And the keeper said, And leave show
Business? I don't know who first told me,

You'll die someday, you can't live forever.
I don't know who took my hand and said,
Some things, not all things, are possible.
At a state mental hospital where I work
I asked a patient once what he remembered.
Everything. Everything that ever happened.
Thinking back, incompletely, I think
I must've disbelieved his ease, his willingness
To witness all his loss always, so I asked,
Just having heard the stupid elephant hoke:
Anything about elephants? pets? He had a dog:
Bean, Bingo, something like that. And he walked
Him every day on a leash and they bought

A hamburger every day on South Harrison
Or North Harrison, somewhere in Shelbyville.
I asked where the dog was. He said he loved
Him so much he'd drink out of the river
And the dog would too, he loved him
So much. I have to admit I had to say
Something and of course there was nothing
To say. His head was down as he drank.
The water was sweet. Easily I left him
Alone to walk myself out of the river
Of sense. I remember riding shotgun
In a truck with my Uncle Ralph across flat
Kansas. He said something. I said, Really?
And he said, Hell yes boy, do you think

I'd lie? Why do you always say really?
And I didn't know, God help me, I don't
Know. He was my uncle. He wouldn't lie.
Truth is I hadn't been listening,
But watching the long rows pass my window,
I was busy being elephant keeper
And elephant, the hose inside, the dog
That drank with a man, and the river, where
Everything is equal, is possible, where
I knew I'd die someday and live without
Sight or sound or touch, possibly forever.

--------


Tonight's Smallville wins my "Best Use of a Peter Gabriel Song In a Nighttime Soap" award. Oh, that's right, Smallville isn't a nighttime soap, it's sci-fi/fantasy! Except, you know, that it's a nighttime soap, and its 100th episode honored that very well. Don't get me wrong: I really enjoyed it. But when Clark is spending more time crying out someone's name than throwing that person over his shoulder to super-speed that person to a hospital...that's a nighttime soap.

I knew the engagement business was coming from spoiler photos and may I just say how relieved I am that it isn't in the "real" timeline? I couldn't stop giggling during the Fortress of Solitude stuff...Clark took Lana to Disneyland! Everything I liked about their relationship all episode was stolen directly from Superman II with Christopher Reeve, including the come into my parlor stuff. "When you asked me if I believed in life on other planets, you had no idea how ironic the question was" -- ow! The reason for not having had that scene before isn't that it violates canon for Lana to know; it's that there's no way for Clark to tell her that isn't full of bad and predictable lines! Lana tells Clark he's just like everyone else, and he takes her flying and makes her a diamond to prove her wrong. I have never had any great investment in Lois and Clark -- in fact I very rarely watched Lois & Clark -- but the engagement business with Lana really bugged me anyway!

It's also not that I require Clark to end up with Lex or even to be gay. I dearly love the growing-up-superhero = growing-up-gay analogy, but I always expected it to remain just a metaphor, though Chloe's comment about all those years yanking on Clark's closet door made me howl. Oh, and Chloe breaks my heart faking being happy for Clark and Lana...please let her meet the right guy soon, since the writers seem determined not to let her be happily single as Lois is at present. Her speech about how so few people who know what they want and go for it...hello, girl! You have your job at the Daily Planet, now go get the rest!

And, okay, if we have to have Lana on this show and she has to be gratuitously paired with a major character, let it be Lex, because Michael Rosenbaum can generate chemistry with a tree. I like that getting drunk gives Lex an excuse to be a bastard -- in one timeline, telling Lana that she's better off with her parents dead, and in another, making a pass at her at what even Lex knows is a really bad moment. But in truth what I love best about their scenes together is Lex's inability to describe who he's jealous of. It sure doesn't seem to be that he wants Lana and Clark keeps her from him; it's a lot more he wants Clark's everything and he can't stand the idea that Lana has a piece of Clark he never will. Everything he says to her about how he can't believe she chose Clark after the lies he told her could apply to him and his "friendship" with Clark too! "Whatever it is he's been covering up all this time, you know, don't you." He's so envious and it sure isn't because Lana spreads her legs for Clark! I'm really sorry we didn't get more time for a reaction to Lex seeing Clark's super-speed. Lana is so much a secondary concern for him when Clark is on the scene.

And Clark doesn't trust Lana not to tattle or give him away. Bottom line, he trusts Pete, he trusts Chloe, but he doesn't trust her. And who can blame him? Her goo-goo eyes "Clark's not hiding anything" is pretty pathetic. Of course that whole timeline had to go away, just like in the movies, and then they had to tease us with maybe-dead-Lois and maybe-Jonathan-will-kill-Lionel. I was spoiled, but you may remember that several weeks ago I was hoping that Jonathan would win the Who's Gonna Buy It lottery and his widow would take over his just-elected congressional seat...which rocks in a way. I mean, it's sad about Jonathan and the funeral was very moving, particularly with the music, but if Martha takes over that job, then yay! There need to be more female politicians on TV and Martha should have been running instead of her husband in the first place. And, you know, I might have mentioned that I think Lionel should console her in her grief. Repeatedly and in as many positions as possible. Okay, I'm warped and should be grieving for the late Mr. Kent but I can't help but be relieved that it wasn't Lois, it wasn't Chloe, and whoooeee it wasn't Lionel.


I was going to post another ee cummings poem but I wanted a poem that somehow went with these pictures. I know I've been posting National Zoo photos anyway, but tonight's are particularly poignant for me because the elephant Toni was euthanized yesterday after her arthritis took a bad turn. There are articles and remembrances here and here at The Washington Post.


Toni the Elephant when we saw her the weekend before last. She died this week aged 40, which is quite young for an elephant.


Here is Toni with Shanthi and Kandula -- the baby elephant that was born at the National Zoo -- in the background.


The other elephant in this picture is Ambika, who was born in 1948 and made to work in a logging camp before she was given to the National Zoo as a gift from India.


Toni had arthritis from injuries sustained at another zoo.


Otherwise I don't have a lot of news since lunchtime...wrote up a fun George Takei interview in which he praised Howard Stern and took potshots at Shatner...George, I'm delighted you came out but give up the Bill grudge already, nobody wants to hear it. And I wrote a story on the company that now holds the Star Trek gaming license, which is literally ten minutes from my house...I could get a job there if I knew a damn thing about video game QA or programming, they're hiring! I should see if I can get my son an unpaid internship -- he'd probably report bugs to them in exchange for free Elder Scrolls, and if I can get him playing their Trek games, maybe he can make me understand what it means when these articles talk about "branching missions and multiple outcomes."

Dinner was tacos which we originally promised the kids Tuesday, but then we brought in pizza that night and my mother fed them last night. And we all watched "The Doomsday Machine" together so I could review it...again, I think Smallville suffers by comparison, because the original Star Trek has no peer. Not even DS9. Spock's all logical concern about the planet killer, then Kirk announces that he's going to stay on the Constellation to try to blow it up and suddenly it's "Jim...you'll be killed, just like Decker. Your chances of survival are not promising." Sigh!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Poem for Thursday


somewhere i have never travelled
by ee cummings


somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

--------


I am sure I've posted that poem before, though I can't find where at the moment, but I was in the mood for it because it reminds me of Woody Allen, since he had Michael Caine's character give a book with it to Barbara Hershey's character in Hannah and Her Sisters. Back then Woody's characters still had some qualms before rushing headlong into adultery and there was a certain romance involved. I saw Match Point earlier, and while it has its good points -- mostly excellent performances and gorgeous shots of London which encompass much of my personal fantasy of living there -- I thought the movie was a hell of a lot better the first time he made it, when it was set in New York and titled Crimes and Misdemeanors.

I think Crimes and Misdemeanors is not only Allen's best film but the best film of its decade and possibly its quarter century, so I should preface all this by saying I think Allen is completely insane to have pillaged from it. It isn't that Match Point is a bad movie; the pacing's a little slow but the central drama is compelling, and I suppose that if I'd never seen C&M, I might have thought MP was quite good. But comparisons are absolutely impossible to avoid. They are both films about men who grew up poor, became rich, married British women befitting the station to which they wished to rise in life, cheated on those women with lower-class women with issues, and then killed their mistresses when the mistresses threatened their wealth and position. The scene in which Nola shrieks that she wants to speak to Chris' wife Chloe in MP is nearly word for word identical to the scene in which Dolores shrieks that she wants to speak to Judah's wife Miriam in C&M, except that the former is set indoors while the latter is set on a street in London. The crisis of MP seems inflated compared to that in C&M -- the girlfriend is pregnant, she's already making public scenes, she has more connections to the male protagonist's family, the protagonist's wife is pregnant as well, the protagonist commits the crime himself and murders another woman just to strengthen the impression that the motive was robbery -- but making the crisis bigger doesn't make it better, because we never get a clue why the main character has absolutely no moral center.

In C&M, Woody Allen doesn't only make Judah's moral decay make sense, it's what the movie's about; his affair is a symptom of his deep malaise, not the cause of it. He grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust, which surfaces as a theme again and again in the film; the character played by Allen himself is making a movie about a philosophy professor trying to make sense of life and faith in the wake of the greatest atrocity known to humans, Judah's aunt insists that the Europeans "got away with" killing six million Jews because they've never been held accountable, both men are struggling with the question of whether morality is possible in a world where such a thing happened. The professor, who teaches the importance of a life-affirming attitude in the face of the atrocities he survived, commits suicide. Judah is an opthalmologist, a profession he says he chose because his father told him that the eyes of God see all, but his rabbi is going blind from glaucoma and it becomes increasingly apparent to Judah not only that God isn't looking, he isn't even there.

It's a deeply philosophical movie in which Allen's character insists that in a world without judgment, people have to take the responsibility for morality themselves -- that a murderer should turn himself in if he gets away with it -- but Judah says that only happens in the movies, and goes off to dance with his wife. It's stunning and chilling, not least because Judah is sympathetic even while he's having his lover killed -- even as I was hating Allen the director for the disposable woman syndrome, where a man has an epiphany over the dead body of a love interest, I was in awe of the way he'd made me understand what a terribly sad person Judah was, a man still reflecting the damage of what happened to his people decades before and across the ocean. I don't think anyone has ever made a better movie about trying (and failing) to live a meaningful life in a post-Holocaust world.

Match Point? Is a story about a poor Irish brat who wants to be a rich English brat. He marries a sweet but very spoiled girl ("Daddy, I want a modern art gallery!"), lives all the benefits of sharing a life with her, feels a lack of passion because he once had a hot roll in the hay (literally, in a field) with a very sexy, somewhat unfocused girl with whom he might be in love though it's hard to tell because it's really hard to see whether he's connecting with anything besides her sexiness and their common working class origins...we don't see or hear of him growing up in tragic circumstances, there's no catalyzing event to explain why material success is so damned important to him.

I mean, I'd like to live in a stunning penthouse apartment overlooking the Thames and work in an office in the Gherkin and go to the opera and on cruises and see West End musicals too, wouldn't we all? But the idea that these things represent the consummate achievement in life is really sad, and this guy isn't suffering any deep malaise over the thought, let alone the act, of murder. He cries a little, because murder is hard -- aww gee -- and he has a single night of being haunted by ghosts (which are not as well done as the ghosts in previous Allen movies), but then he brings home his wife and baby and looks out at the Thames and thinks about the scratchy opera recordings he had to listen to before he married into money, and it's absolutely repugnant. Really, everyone in the movie is repugnant. It's hard to feel much for his oblivious princess wife who loves life because she gets everything she wants and has cranky tantrums when she can't get pregnant on schedule; it's hard to feel much for the girlfriend, who storms out rather than fighting back against the snobs who put down her acting career and her person, who remains a beautiful, fucked-up enigma; and it's impossible to like Chris even before he becomes a murderer, because all he is, is lucky -- in the right place at the right time, spitting out the right words, sucking up to people who take his adoration of their lifestyle to be all the validation they need. What's the point -- that the rich and despicable can get away with murder? Thank you, but we've known that for centuries.


Anyway, I can talk about Crimes and Misdemeanors all day (in fact, I have -- I've taught it -- somewhere around here I even have my notes, and the diagram of connections between Judah and Cliff, Lester and Cliff, Lester and Ben, and Ben and Judah that I used to pass out to my class). Bottom line: if you've never seen it, forget anything else Woody Allen has done since, cinematically or in his private life, and see that one. Not only is it a vastly better film but the comedy in it is absolutely hilarious; Alan Alda has the role of a lifetime as a selfish, snotty movie producer, and there's a subplot about how maybe it's impossible to have a love life without getting shit on by those you think you love.

The reason I got to go to the movies tonight is that my mother, who unexpectedly invited me out to lunch, also unexpectedly offered to babysit tonight as my father was going to be at a meeting or something and my mother's dinner plans got cancelled. So I had lunch at the cafe in Borders (I had to be in that mall to go to the post office), came home, wrote two articles, then had leftover pizza with my husband and went out to the movies, which we very rarely get to do on weeknights (well, on weekends either, since my parents almost always have plans and it's cheaper to buy a DVD to watch at home than hire a babysitter and pay for a movie in the theater). Woo hoo, an R-rated film! So I ended up having a very nice day. And my good friend from London sent me Nelson and Napoleon, the catalogue of the exhibit that we just missed last spring at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. I have only barely flipped through it but I am squealing in joy.








Obviously since I was out so much I am way behind on comments and e-mail and stuff! Sorry! I will try to do better tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Poem for Wednesday


Hour of Peaceful Rest
By William Bingham Tappan


There is an hour of peaceful rest
  To mourning wanderers given;
There is a joy for souls distrest,
A balm for every wounded breast,
  'T is found alone in heaven.

There is a soft, a downy bed,
  Far from these shades of even—
A couch for weary mortals spread,
Where they may rest the aching head,
  And find repose, in heaven.

There is a home for weary souls
  By sin and sorrow driven;
When tossed on life's tempestuous shoals,
Where storms arise, and ocean rolls,
  And all is drear but heaven.

There faith lifts up her cheerful eye,
  To brighter prospects given;
And views the tempest passing by,
The evening shadows quickly fly,
  And all serene in heaven.

There fragrant flowers immortal bloom,
  And joys supreme are given;
There rays divine disperse the gloom:
Beyond the confines of the tomb
  Appears the dawn of heaven.

--------


This morning I was sidetracked by a Stupid Project, and by the time I had finished it, UPN and the WB had announced plans to merge, thus necessitating that I check news sites so I could write an article on that (and another on a Kate Mulgrew movie that was supposed to be direct-to-DVD but opened in New York last weekend, and yet another on Desperate Housewives and ABC's preferring to run Grey's Anatomy in the highly desirable spot right after the Super Bowl). Then I had the usual Tuesday carpool and Hebrew school runaround, hubby decided to bring in pizza after I mentioned that I was craving it and boys responded enthusiastically, and this evening one son had a meltdown of indeterminate origins after I had a couple of long phone calls with people having various crises...

By the time I blinked it was 9 p.m. and time for Commander in Chief. Have I mentioned lately how much I love Geena Davis? The script was reasonably interesting this week -- not predictable, at least, though way too much time spent on sleazoid campaign manager for no good reason and the kids' party storyline could have been half the length as well. The West Wing would at least have nodded to what else was going on in the world while dealing with the campaign issues and the domestic crisis of the week.

And then Boston Legal, which was fantastic even though there was almost no Denny/Alan interaction. It was really "managed health care sucks!" night on ABC, wasn't it! Only William Shatner can pull off griping that people at the firm are being coddled while getting a manicure. And of course he assumes Shirley must be jealous of Bev rather than having a legitimate beef about Bev's behavior...it makes very little sense that Shirley would be the person doing the beefing, since of course Denny would assume that whereas he might not with Paul, but it's so much funnier with Shirley. After she storms out, his manicurist says, "Happy ending, Mr. Crane?" and he says, "Not today, I'm engaged now!"

Now, I can't quite figure Bev out. If she's just a gold-digger, then the joke has gone on too long and Denny is going to look like an idiot when they give her the boot. She's so manipulative, and a little bit of a lunatic...the business with the sandwich guy came close to being this week's over-the-top moment though compared to previous weeks, this week was pretty focused and low-key. The Catherine storyline was the straightforward comic relief -- little old lady repeatedly robs convenience store at gunpoint. ("Now HER I know we fired!" Denny announces when Catherine suggests his brain is like a sieve, and then Alan offers her money and she thinks he wants sex!) I keep wondering exactly how much money Alan makes...he seems to have a lot of cash and cars and things to throw around to his assistants, friends, etc. And then there's Brad with his half a million to make the Bev problem go away! (When he suggests to Shirley and Paul that he take care of it, their only demand is, "No chopping off fingers." Hee!) Well, Brad made partner, so presumably he's in good shape anyway...

Oh, and Alan, speaking for David Kelley again with his HMO profit numbers and his absolutely brilliant closing argument. That Irma Levine has his number. She invites him to the shelter to help poor women in need of legal counsel, he asks if they're cute, she says, "You don't fool me. You're a compassionate man." That's because he's only passingly interested in women; Denny is the great love of his life! "There you are! I've hardly seen you this episode," they greet each other for the cigars at the end, where Alan briefly lectures on the lack of privacy on the internet in case we somehow missed that during the HMO case. Denny says his life's an open book, he tells everyone he has mad cow anyway. Alan explains that he doesn't want to know what it says about him on internet: "I don't want to know me." And Denny says, "I know you. You're not so bad." Then they talk about whether Alan should take Irma Levine to Denny's wedding and Alan gazes adoringly while Denny smokes. Happy sigh. If only Denise and Daniel could get a happy ending, too...



I haven't even posted my National Zoo snakes yet! But I figured I would post this bullfrog, because he is so large and lovely...


...and this box turtle with his beautiful markings, sorry about the distortion from the glass...


...and this underwater stinkpot turtle which lives up to its name when disturbed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

TV News!

Hot on the heels of NBC's announcement that The West Wing will not return in the fall, CBS and Warner Bros. announce that they plan to merge UPN and The WB! They're creating a new network, The CW. Presumably this means both current networks will lose at least half the shows they air now. This could affect Smallville, Veronica Mars, Supernatural, Gilmore Girls...I'm betting it means that Smackdown! is gone from prime time broadcast at the very least, since the WWE's deal with Paramount is up anyway.

And it probably means a new Star Trek show has less chance than ever of being developed in the near future, since the new network intends to keep current UPN and WB target audiences...namely, young women. UPN was launched on the strength of Voyager and canned Enterprise when Dawn Ostroff -- who will be head of programming at The CW -- decided to target female viewers instead of the fickle young male demographic. Apparently she believes women don't watch SF; she must not look at Sci-Fi and USA's audience numbers. Hmmph.

Poem for Tuesday


A Winter Without Snow
By J.D. McClatchy


Even the sky here in Connecticut has it,
That wry look of accomplished conspiracy,
The look of those who've gotten away

With a petty but regular white collar crime.
When I pick up my shirts at the laundry,
A black woman, putting down her Daily News,

Wonders why and how much longer out luck
Will hold. "Months now and no kiss of the witch."
The whole state overcast with such particulars.

For Emerson, a century ago and farther north,
Where the country has an ode's jagged edges,
It was "frolic architecture." Frozen blue-

Print of extravagance, shapes of a shared life
Left knee-deep in transcendental drifts:
The isolate forms of snow are its hardest fact.

Down here, the plain tercets of provision do,
Their picket snow-fence peeling, gritty,
Holding nothing back, nothing in, nothing at all.

Down here, we've come to prefer the raw material
Of everyday and this year have kept an eye
On it, shriveling but still recognizable--

A sight that disappoints even as it adds
A clearing second guess to winter. It's
As if, in the third year of a "relocation"

To a promising notch way out on the Sunbelt,
You've grown used to the prefab housing,
The quick turnover in neighbors, the constant

Smell of factory smoke--like Plato's cave,
You sometimes think--and the stumpy trees
That summer slighted and winter just ignores,

And all the snow that never falls is now
Back home and mixed up with other piercing
Memories of childhood days you were kept in

With a Negro schoolmate, of later storms
Through which you drove and drove for hours
Without ever seeing where you were going.

Or as if you've cheated on a cold sickly wife.
Not in some overheated turnpike motel room
With an old flame, herself the mother of two,

Who looks steamy in summer-weight slacks
And a parrot-green pullover. Not her.
Not anyone. But every day after lunch

You go off by yourself, deep in a brown study,
Not doing much of anything for an hour or two,
Just staring out the window, or at a patch

On the wall where a picture had hung for ages,
A woman with planets in her hair, the gravity
Of perfection in her features--oh! her hair

The lengthening shadow of the galaxy's sweep.
As a young man you used to stand outside
On warm nights and watch her through the trees.

You remember how she disappeared in winter,
Obscured by snow that fell blindly on the heart,
On the house, on a world of possibilities.

--------


No one told me that Hoodwinked was Rashomon with Little Red Riding Hood! Although I agree with everyone who said the animation was amateurish, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. So did my kids. We all laughed a lot, as did pretty much everyone in the packed theater (county schools were closed today for teacher's administrative stuff); the ages ranged from three year olds through teenagers and then a bunch of parents and a handful of elderly couples. I love Glenn Close and I like Anne Hathaway, so I was probably predisposed to like characters with their voices, but I wasn't particularly expecting kick-ass female characters in a kids' cartoon...with the exception of Mulan they've almost all been disappointments. This one rocked! No love interests, no making decisions to make oneself more palatable to men...Granny bucked social expectations and got her granddaughter to do so as well. Plus there were Star Wars jokes. What a delightful surprise!

Trek news today was both Patrick Stewart and Michael Dorn asserting their opinions that there will be another Star Trek movie starring the Next Generation cast, with Stewart saying he hoped Shatner would be in it as well because he likes Shatner. There was also something about a new Trek video game for the Nintendo DS, which interests me not at all but maybe I can track down a review copy for my kids. Pocket Books sent me Orion's Hounds but I haven't read the first two Titan novels and given how much I loathe the DS9 "relaunch" novels, I can't imagine I want to read the current Pocket stable's take on Riker in command.

Right now I am watching The American Experience on John and Abigail Adams, which is fascinating -- I was always under the impression that they had a very happy marriage and didn't realize he was away so much and it bothered her so much. It's nice to know that they were both friendly with Thomas Jefferson, not just collegial, though it's a shame Adams' ambitions and politics came between them for so long, but at least it had a happy ending and Adams was thinking of Jefferson with his last breath. I really am a sucker for historical reenactments in these documentaries! Makes me think of this historical reenactment of Sunday:


Gulf Branch Nature Center in Arlington, Virginia is also home to the Blacksmiths Guild of the Potomac...


...which gathers and works in the second of these locally constructed log cabins.


And I have finished my usual TV-watching activity of the past several months. I don't swear that every entry is complete, but I have finally finished tagging my entire journal back to its beginning in 2002, with most entries indexed though not in as much detail in my memories. (Like, I didn't differentiate among genres of movies in the memories, but when I discovered that -60 is as far back as one can go with tags before hitting the day view, I split the movies into categories.) Now I wish ljArchive let one import tags with entries!

Does anyone know a program that will let you import images in bulk to be printed on standard size pages? I think Pagemaker can do that, but the version I have is something like 6.5 and I'm not sure whether it will mess up my Photoshop if I try to install it. I want to print my Tarot cards but can't seem to figure out an easy way to line them up for printing and cutting!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Poem for Monday


Fire
By Meleager
Translated by Sherod Santos


It was midafternoon when I saw Alexis
loitering in the marketplace, the late-
season harvest of fruits and vegetables
heaped in panniers and wooden tubs.

And while the world seemed all of overfill,
standing out in that shadeless square
I got burned twice, once by the sun
and once by the way he glanced at me.

Even so, the dark was little comfort
when it finally came, for though the sun
was safely laid to rest, my dreams
refreshed the lifelong memory of that scald

across my cheek, the elemental mark
that burns from appetite and carnal fire.

--------

Another from Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World on American poet Sherod Santos' new book Greek Lyric Poetry: A New Translation. "The singular of 'a' translation (rather than 'new translations') indicates that this book is meant as a work of art: In it, a single approach, even something like a single voice, unifies works by many different poets over many centuries," writes Pinsky. "For all, Santos creates an idiom based on plain American English, with only touches of special vocabulary, like 'panniers' in Meleager's poem about a quick, lasting erotic burn. Much later than Meleager, long before Sherod Santos, the European conventions of the sonnet form described love as burning, contracted from the painful, sudden enchantment of a glance. By arranging his translation, quite anachronistically, in the 14-line pattern of a sonnet, Santos calls attention to the underground streams that connect any reader to this ancient, yet immediate, sunlit scene."


I don't have quite as much to babble about today as yesterday. *g* We half-watched the beginning of Batman and Robin when we stumbled across it on cable this morning, and I'd forgotten how much fun it is: George Clooney/Chris O'Donnell! John Glover/Uma Thurman! Then, after we picked the kids up from Hebrew school, we went hiking at Gulf Branch Nature Center in Virginia, where there is a small nature center with a local history display including a tulip tree canoe and an exhibit on the Powhatan confederacy and culture. It was a gorgeous day again, not quite so warm as yesterday but perfect walking weather. When we came home to watch the football games, the kids went to a friend's house for awhile so I wrote news bullets while hubby cooked (since we have a TV in the kitchen, he tends to make big dinners on nights when there are sports to watch!)

Tonight's West Wing did not enthrall me, as I felt lectured to about the dangers of nuclear power rather than shown a dramatization. It did let CJ say that priceless line early on when Bartlet asks how to speed up an evacuation of Southern California in the case of a reactor meltdown and she replies that telling people you're about to vent radioactive material into the atmosphere will generally speed it up, and she had some lovely moments near the end too facing the tragedy of the situation, but overall I felt that I was being shown far too much of the nobility of Santos and Vinick and an utterly unrealistic press corps that sat on information purely in the hope of breaking it dramatically. Oh, and Josh is a shit and Donna can do better...but I've been saying that for years now, and since she doesn't seem to give a rat's ass, I suppose it must really be True Love or something. (I mean, Matt can probably do better too and I still think Josh should tell Matt how he feels!)

Then we watched Bleak House on Masterpiece Theatre. Now, I have never read Bleak House -- I am not a big fan of the 19th century English novel, not even the ones by women that I am supposed to worship as proto-feminist (I despise George Eliot, barely made it through most Austen, have never liked the Brontes...and I don't particularly enjoy Harding, Thackeray, etc.) Dickens is my exception but Bleak House was the one I managed to miss. So I have no idea what is coming, and I am quite frankly enthralled and cannot wait! Not only is this production wonderfully acted but it plays like a gripping murder mystery, not English literature. We were making guesses about many plot points -- correctly, in a few cases, as this seems to be the prototype for many inferior later stories, and I'm willing to make bets on who is whose illegitimate child and who will end up dead before the story ends (just please tell me that all the lawyers get what Shakespeare says they deserve), but I never expected it to be so much fun!

We were just watching Battlefield Britain on Wales and the long Welsh struggle for independence, which was quite interesting but much more dry. And in and around all this, I occasionally paid attention to the two rather boring blowout playoff games. I had no really strong feelings about either one, but I am glad Seattle won since they beat the Redskins and it's always less embarrassing to have lost to a winner than a loser, and I am glad Pittsburgh won because they so clearly deserved it. At the Super Bowl party thrown by my very oldest friend that we go to every year, everyone must bet a dollar in the pool, picking the winning team and the total score -- one year my younger son won -- so now I must figure out who is likely to win and by how much and how well each defense will play!


The bees of Gulf Branch Nature Center in Arlington, Virginia, which are apparently all-season bees...


...traveling outdoors through this tube...


...to look for whatever pollen they can find at this time of year.


Kids are off school tomorrow for teachers' meetings and I think I am being forced to take them to Hoodwinked!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Barbie Tarot: Minor Arcana Post 8

These are the last of the Barbie Tarot cards. A couple of people asked me about my Star Trek Tarot deck, which is constructed not from photos but from drawings by my husband on a deck of blank cards; the icon for this entry is The Chariot. *g* If you are on my friends list, you can see the cards here -- the entries are locked because I really don't want the artwork stolen. If you are not on my friends list, you can see a few of the cards here.

A few people also asked for Tarot links that I have posted in the comments to these entries, but I will reiterate them here, because I love sharing Tarot stuff and I've found that even most people who say that they're not into Tarot change their minds after visiting Aeclectic and realizing just how many interest-themed decks there are, from theme decks like those based on Greek myth or Arthurian legend to decks incorporating the work of artists such as Klimt or Da Vinci to really delightful fun decks like The Housewives Tarot and The Halloween Tarot. I have never read the cards for divination; I read them for the archetypes, because they help break blocks both psychological and writing-specific, because meditating with them relaxes me; I know that there are people who have had mystical and precognitive experiences using Tarot cards but for me the spiritual connection is on a simpler level.

I used the Waite deck as a basis for my decks not only because Pamela Coleman Smith's drawings are so familiar to so many readers, but also because the deck she and Waite constructed is the basis for many, many other popular decks with illustrated Minor Arcana cards. (People who are involved with contemporary Kabbalah may tell you that Waite's deck violates certain Kabbalistic principles but this has never concerned me.) Waite's The Pictorial Key to the Tarot is online, as is P.D. Ouspensky's somewhat more obscure but equally important to occultists The Symbolism of the Tarot, both at sacred-texts.com. Tarot Journey has a page for each card in the Tarot showing images from several different decks and a bunch of interpretations, including Waite's and Ouspensky's. Robert M. Place, whose web site is The Alchemical Egg, has a book, The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination, that I like a lot, and I have also found Rachel Pollack's Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom interesting. But really, I think Robin Wood has it right when it comes to reading the cards as opposed to studying them -- I tend to read more from the gut than from any particular interpretive system.

All images of Barbie dolls, the background imagery from the boxes and the names Barbie, Ken, Teresa, Stacie, Christy, etc. are copyright and trademark Mattel Inc. All Rider-Waite card images are copyright US Games Systems Inc. No infringement is intended and no profits are being made; this is a labor of love. If you want to save or print these for your own personal use, wonderful, but please don't repost them or hotlink directly to the images.



Princess of Purses      Pinstripe Power from the Barbie Millicent Roberts Collection
The princess must work hard to reap her rewards, so Barbie is being practical as she heads to the workplace with her coffee and oversized bag. (Rider-Waite)

Prince of Purses      1 Modern Circle Ken
The prince in this suit can be unwavering to the point of stubbornness, insisting on self-reliance, yet he is also trustworthy and hard-working. Ken may be wearing a leather jacket but you can be certain he's more concerned with the work to be done in that portfolio of his. (Rider-Waite)



Queen of Purses      Lilly Pulitzer Barbie and Stacie from the Designer Series
Intelligence, creativity, resourcefulness and nurturing are the strongest aspects of this Queen, here played by a Barbie who has dressed her little sister in matching clothes as they stand in front of their house. Think Barbie will be persuaded to take Stacie out with her? Maybe if Stacie puts on her shoes. (Rider-Waite)

King of Purses      James Bond 007 Set
It's James Bond, the man with the best gadgets in the world and always a beautiful woman on his arm! Think he has government secrets or a bomb in that case? Barbie may need her gun in a thigh holster but Bond doesn't even bother to show his piece. The card represents a reliable and enterprising person, someone who can be counted on to pull people out of scrapes. (Rider-Waite)

All the cards in the Barbie Tarot are in this gallery.

Poem for Sunday


Hypnos
By Alcman
Translated by Sherod Santos


The rills and gullies and saddleback hills are sleeping now,
the talus slopes of the mountain are asleep,
and the low scrub thickets, and the riverine glades.
Sleep gathers in the sound of the water's fall,
in the trade winds riffling the coral shoals;
and all four-footed creatures the black earth breeds--
the race of bees, the gathering tribe of broad-winged birds,
the monsters plundering the bloodshot sea--
all are asleep in the depthless conjuring of that sound.

--------

From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World. "This poem by Alcman, a pre-classical Greek poet, has the quality of immediacy, that sensation of nothing coming between experience and feeling," writes the critic. "'Hypnos' describes various forms of this sensation. The hypnotic sound of the falling water seems directly connected to the sleepy feeling invoked by different terrains and animals: mountains along with thickets, rivers along with coral shoals; animals and insects, birds and fish. The poem's language feels transparent, creating another kind of immediacy: My feelings as a reader seem to grow directly from the poet's imagining of these landscapes and creatures. That sense of an unmediated feeling, from nature directly to the emotion, and from the artist's imagination directly to the audience, is a powerful creation: the illusion of no distance. Other kinds of art are gloriously dark, mediated, gradual. With "Hypnos," the effect of immediacy is especially pleasing because the closeness is paradoxical; the poem is among the most distant from us in time, written in the 7th century B.C.E."


We saw King Kong this afternoon and I feel like I sat through three separate hour-long movies. I absolutely loved the first one, really didn't like the second and was a little confused by the theme and tone of the third, though overall I would have to say it was enjoyable and I am glad my family persuaded me to see that one on the big screen (my vote had been to rush to The New World opening weekend, though it was 60 degrees here and there was almost nobody at any movie, so I imagine this weekend's box office is going to be a disappointment to Hollywood at least in the DC area). King Kong confirmed my fears that Peter Jackson has gotten rather self-indulgent and has no idea when his film might benefit from some editing by someone not in love with the material -- something I felt during The Return of the King as well -- though with ROTK, I don't think the excess hurt the film artistically since Jackson had already sold the universe so well in Fellowship and Two Towers. But to a non-historical fan like me, I was left so cold by parts of this King Kong that I wasn't as moved as I might have been later in the film when it was more emotional.

I think King Kong might have been a brilliant two-hour film without the dinosaur flick in the middle. The opening movie, the one about the Depression and the entertainment industry and the steamship voyage, is utterly delightful -- my favorite Jack Black performance ever, and Naomi Watts is lovely and sympathetic and the rest of the cast is quite good too, though I felt Adrien Brody was somewhat wasted in a role that could have been so much more developed. There's a decent blend of humor, drama and historical detail and such beautiful filmmaking, particularly the lighting...during the first hour I was wondering whether everyone I knew who had hated the film might have been nuts because it was so well done and the title character hadn't even shown up yet.

Then the dinosaur flick started. I had going in, and continue to have, qualms about Skull Island, a place where flamboyant racism can be exploited first via the brutish vicious natives, then via King Kong himself, but given that that's in the much older source material, it's not something for which I particularly blame the filmmakers, though I can't help but feel that if they could update the special effects and turn Ann from a screaming victim into a compelling character, it wouldn't have killed them to play around a little with our expectation of island savages. And wouldn't it be amazing if someone made a King Kong with a woman of color as beauty to the beast -- it wasn't unheard of for actresses to put on wigs and pass, and that would add a whole different level to the idea of illusion and self-deception where love and beauty are concerned. We're supposed to buy that Ann's hair stays fluffy, that her flimsy gown never rips, and that she doesn't get a single major blemish let alone any serious bruising from being tossed from one of Kong's hands to the other and all that, so given the suspension of disbelief already necessary to believe in Ann, asking me to believe that she's not a pretty white girl beneath the surface would hardly be a problem.

Anyway, accepting for the moment that "beauty" means "slender pale blonde female with big blue eyes" -- I'd like to say it's just Carl and his ilk who believe that, but the portrayal of the dark-skinned, dark-eyed natives underlines it -- I still think that the touching story of how Kong falls for Ann and vice versa is dramatically undercut by the dinosaur flick. Carl and Bruce's Excellent Adventure contradicts the half-assed Heart of Darkness theme where the kid actually articulates that it isn't supposed to be an adventure story at all; of course it's cool that they go into the jungle and see dinosaurs! Of course we're supposed to relate more to Carl wanting to chase and photograph the dinos than Bruce wanting to run away! And what's at first set up as a nice subplot -- the relationship between the first officer (and token good guy person of color) and the boy he'd adopted -- gets thrown out in favor of lengthy shots of stampeding dinos, which might be forgivable if they weren't followed up by just as long a sequence with creepy gigantic bugs. Don't tell me that this is Kong canon, because even if it is, the dino sequence could have been ten minutes and the bugs three. In exchange for endless cool creature effects, we get the kid mourning his mentor and growing up and learning to use a gun and...disappearing entirely out of the film, all in the space of five minutes! What the hell!

I was a little tired and drained by Act III, which should have been the climax of the film, and by the time Kong actually fell off the Empire State Building, I was long past being able to be moved enough to cry. The sequence in the Broadway theater, with Kong breaking free, is wonderfully done -- intercutting between the poor captive ape and Driscoll (who's been parallelled halfheartedly with the ape all along; he sails to the island in an animal cage, he falls for Ann's warmth and humor, he wants to be her rescuer). But then there's that cutesy-absurd ape/girl romantic sequence with the swelling music! I realize that everyone takes their dates skating in Central Park in every romance movie, but when the woman is wearing a sleeveless dress and the ice is not cracking under a massive jungle ape, I'm rolling my eyes at the preposterousness far more than I'm sighing over the sweetness. By the time Kong climbs the skyscraper of the mysteriously people-free city which is suddenly reminding me of Minas Tirith in long shots, I've long since strained my credulity past the breaking point, no matter how realistically he moves.

And he is remarkable; I was totally believing in King Kong until that skating business. I totally believe in the dinosaurs too. The special effects are so stunning, so seamless, that it's like someone forgot to notice that there are just too many, that there's a point where it's overkill; those realistic insects started to make me think that Jackson wanted to outdo Aragog, not that he wanted to make any sort of dramatic point or even thrill in the moment. It detracts from the phenomenal achievement of Kong when there's so much attention to vine-climbing and avalanches and pop-up Sarlaacs.

And the final shots just plain irritated me. Of course Ann and Driscoll are supposed to end up together, but her throwing herself into his arms right then feels wrong to me...she's still mourning Kong, the central character of the film, as are we, she's just risked her life to try to save his...I wanted her to be accepting Driscoll's hand and letting him help her down the ladder maybe, showing that maybe now they would finally talk, but not some cheap embrace with the city around them implying they get married and live happily ever after. And then Kong lying intact on the intact street below...did Jackson not see any footage of what people looked like who jumped from the World Trade Center, what happened to their bodies, what happened to the sidewalk? Showing a perfectly intact dead body threw me completely out of the film and took away whatever I might have been feeling for Kong -- at that moment he became just another special effect. So much better to have let us see the fall and then never shown the aftermath up close.

Anyway, I am always happy to see a movie with a well-shot ocean voyage and I have nothing against dinosaur flicks...I just think that if Jackson wanted to make Jurassic Park, he would have been better off doing so in a separate movie. So while I like King Kong in bits and pieces, it's nothing that will ever make my personal favorites list, despite a very good cast, some stunning cinematography and absolutely breathtaking creature work.


Otherwise I wrote a couple of unenthralling Star Trek articles, updated several web pages -- I wanted the Barbie Tarot at The Little Review and realized that I needed to move the photos somewhere other than my Livejournal scrapbook to do that -- played with my kids, ate dinner and sort of paid attention to the Maryland game (I still cannot believe Georgetown beat Duke -- Georgetown is my father's alma mater so I loathe them as a matter of principle but Duke is the bane of all ACC teams!) I am sad about the whale but I had a feeling yesterday that it was headed to this sort of ending. There are probably parallels I could make with King Kong but it would probably also be tacky. Instead some other urban animals:


Remember the cheetah cubs at the National Zoo last year? They have grown up into these big rugby-playing cats! (That one lying down is devouring a ball.)


A second litter was born later in the spring. Here they are trying to lounge in the shade.


While one tiger rests, the other paces. There were three tiger cubs born at the zoo a couple of years ago, but they have been sent off to other zoos, I think to gear the parents up to try to produce some more.


Neither of the lions, however, could be bothered to sit up and roar even a little; they were too busy doing what cats do best.


Now that I have finished with the Barbie Tarot, I am thinking about doing a Fine Art Tarot -- I may limit it to European art from the 18th-19th century for simplicity's sake, since that is what I know best and I will feel less awkward leaving other eras, styles and locations out. I am very open to suggestions and would love to make this a collaborative project if people are interested.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Barbie Tarot: Minor Arcana Post 7

Traditionally, this is the suit of coins. Barbie very rarely carries money with her, yet she nearly always has a purse. The Suit of Pentacles represents Earth (sometimes the coins are portrayed as stones), symbolizing reliability, endurance and resourcefulness, though their flip side can be inflexibility, miserliness and an obsession with material things.

All images of Barbie dolls, the background imagery from the boxes and the names Barbie, Ken, Teresa, Stacie, Christy, etc. are copyright and trademark Mattel Inc. All Rider-Waite card images are copyright US Games Systems Inc. No infringement is intended and no profits are being made; this is a labor of love. If you want to save or print these for your own personal use, wonderful, but please don't repost them or hotlink directly to the images.



Ace of Purses      Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie
Jeannie doesn't actually possess a carryall, but is possessed by one; she spends much of her time in that genie bottle. She brings with her luck, confidence and prosperity, three of the qualities of this first coin card. (Rider-Waite)

Two of Purses      Birthday Wishes from the Birthday Series
Barbie arrives at a party balancing the large bag that matches her dress so that she can pause and pose for her dramatic entrance. This card signifies fun and flexibility and often features a juggler. (Rider-Waite)

Three of Purses      Kate Spade Barbie from the Designer Series
This spring-bright Barbie is carrying her shopping bag, her purse and her dog all over one arm. This is a card of teamwork, industry and reward, and Barbie looks quite pleased to be enjoying a spring day out. (Rider-Waite)



Four of Purses      Judith Leiber from the Designer Series
Here is Barbie on the red carpet, presumably for a premiere, dressed in gold and more gold: her dress, her bracelet, her purse, her earrings, her shoes are all lovely, and yet she is not smiling and waving. (Rider-Waite)

Five of Purses      French Quarter Barbie from Club Exclusives
The Five of Pentacles portrays want amidst plenty, showing beggars outside a brightly lit church. This Barbie is wearing expensive and elegant clothing for her night out in New Orleans, but can any of us really think of that city without remembering the images of those stranded there when Hurricane Katrina hit? This particular fantasy of The Big Easy is difficult to maintain. (Rider-Waite)

Six of Purses      Fabulous Forties from Great Fashions of the 20th Century
A card of shared assets, redistribution of wealth and the importance of charity, this Six features Barbie during the era of the Second World War, when the map of the world and its alliances changed so dramatically. (Rider-Waite)



Seven of Purses      Peace and Love '70s from Great Fashions of the 20th Century
Growth, reevaluation and a change in direction are the hallmarks of this card, which is illustrated by Barbie in late hippie-era getup. She probably matches a bit too well, but hopefully she is expanding her mind. (Rider-Waite)

Eight of Purses      Bowling Champ from Barbie Loves Sports
The Eight is the card of the artisan, where hard work leads to rewards both financial and personal. This Barbie's bowling practice has paid off, and she is now the queen of her team with her matching accessories. (Rider-Waite)



Nine of Purses      Nichelle Urban Hipster from Model of the Moment
Self-reliance, refinement and solitude are celebrated on this card, which here features an elegantly dressed model carrying a leather purse with golden clasps. She does not need to be on a runway or in a crowd to strike a confident pose. (Rider-Waite)

Ten of Purses      Commuter Set from the Collectors Request Series
You know you've arrived when you have your own monogrammed luggage set. This retro Barbie carries her oversized bag through the airport, unhurried, as if the whole world is hers. (Rider-Waite)

Poem for Saturday


Yonder
By Rae Armantrout


1

Anything cancels
everything out.

If each point
is a singularity,

thrusting all else
aside for good,

"good" takes the form
of a throng
of empty chairs.

Or it's ants
swarming a bone.


2

I'm afraid
I don't love
my mother
who's dead

though I once –
what does "once" mean? –
did love her.

So who'll meet me over yonder?
I don’t recognize the place names.

Or I do, but they come
from televised wars.

--------


I don't have a lot exciting to report because I spent part of today on the phone with my dentist's office and my insurance, trying to figure out why, after I had been preapproved for a bite guard, I was being billed for $750. By the time that was settled it was too late to go to lunch with , since I hadn't even made it into the shower, so while I was upstairs getting dressed I started trying on things in my closet to make room for new things and ended up spending more than three hours organizing my and my son's closets, getting rid of two big bags full of stuff that will be going to Value Village or Purple Heart depending on who's picking up first.

And that was my daily excitement. In the afternoon I wrote a review of "The Apple" and site columns (poll for the week: if Shatner could get $25,000 for his kidney stone, how much could he get for his toupee?), then picked up kids from the friend whose house they had been taken to after school and had dinner with my parents (California Tortilla, always fine with me). I half-watched Alexander this evening on HBO while trying to work on other son's closet but that is really a hopeless case; we did, however, find the missing Catwings books, which, believe me, is an accomplishment. Alexander is still an hour too long -- in fact I believe one single battle sequence may be an hour too long -- and some of the dialogue is so bad that I don't know how that fine cast didn't simply burst into tears and refuse to go on until it was improved. It's so sad to see such a fantastic group of actors dealing with such mediocrity of script and directorial self-indulgence. What's really sad is that I kind of like the movie anyway, particularly the Alexander/Hephastion storyline. *g*

: Sam I Am
1. What do you normally eat for breakfast?
A bowl of bran flakes. On very rare occasion I substitute Mini-Wheats. But it's always cereal.
2. Are you more likely to drink coffee or tea? Tea. I only drink coffee if it's a dessert drink with lots of cream and sugar and sometimes cocoa.
3. Would you consider yourself a good cook? Hahahaha, I am a terrible cook! My mother, husband and mother-in-law are all very good cooks and I get spoiled eating with them!
4. What is your favorite meal? Really good seafood. Crabs, salmon, swordfish, sole...depends on my mood but there is almost no seafood I don't like except really heavily fried shellfish and . Along with some kind of flavorful potatoes, sweet fruit and something chocolate for dessert.
5. Green eggs and ham: would you eat it? The ham, not unless it was meatless ham substitute. The eggs, it would depend whether they were green from being dyed for Easter or were decaying!

: News
1. What is your preferred trusted news source?
I don't know that I have one trusted news source -- I tend to get news from a lot of sources because they all have biases. I pick up headlines from Yahoo at random times during the day and then go see how different sources are covering the stories. I read The Washington Post pretty much every morning and skim The New York Times headlines online, watch my local news in the evening most nights, and read AlterNet every week, but I also check a whole bunch of other sites.
2. What is a news source that you will never trust? Never is a long time. I can't imagine ever trusting Fox News but there was a time I could not imagine distrusting CBS News as much as I do now.
3. What is the news topic during the last calendar year that you feel got the worst coverage? Every year I feel that the situation in the Middle East, particularly Israel, is covered horribly by pretty much ever major venue on the planet.
4. What news item do you feel got too much coverage in the last calendar year? That chick who disappeared in the Caribbean, Michael Jackson, and pick your favorite over-hyped celebrity couple.
5. If you had complete control of your favored news source(s) (answer to question 1), what would you do with it that is not already being done? For the major newspapers, be a hell of a lot more focused on the legal violations of the Bush administration and stop reporting every war casualty like it's an anomaly rather than a horrific pattern. For AlterNet, I don't know, because what's most important is getting more people to read the alternative news sources -- I am constantly amazed at how many people just don't seem to know or care what's going on in terms of both domestic and foreign policy.


And speaking of news, some things I read online today that made me smile, besides the northern bottlenose whale in the Thames which made for some neat photos in London but is really sad for the whale: Popbitch linked to both the South Park "Tom Cruise won't come out of the closet" skit and unintentionally sexual comic book covers (superboy getting spankings, wild monkey love and a man with serious wood), both of which made me howl. linked me to 's Smallville icons including a suggested Luthorcest snippet from the third season blooper reel that I just adore. And The Theban Band illustrated my Goblet of Fire OTP, Ron/Viktor!








All photos of animals this week have been from The National Zoo in Washington, by the way, even when I have forgotten to say so!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Barbie Tarot: Minor Arcana Post 6

All images of Barbie dolls, the background imagery from the boxes and the names Barbie, Ken, Teresa, Stacie, Christy, etc. are copyright and trademark Mattel Inc. All Rider-Waite card images are copyright US Games Systems Inc. No infringement is intended and no profits are being made; this is a labor of love. If you want to save or print these for your own personal use, wonderful, but please don't repost them or hotlink directly to the images.



Princess of Flowers      Rose from A Garden of Flowers
This Rose wears buds on her shoulders and her gown looks almost bridal, suggesting greenness and innocence. The card indicates a person who is sensitive and emotional, or sometimes young at heart instead of in years. (Rider-Waite)

Prince of Flowers      Prince Daniel from Swan Lake
The card of the romantic dreamer, this prince is in danger of deluding himself. In the Barbie version of the ballet, of course, the prince marries the right Barbie, they banish the evil sorcerer and they live happily ever after, but not all fairy tales end so well and the prince's story might serve as a warning about being easily led. (Rider-Waite)



Queen of Flowers      Antique Rose Barbie from FAO Exclusives
A vision of beauty and imagination representing a good mother or gentle person. This Barbie appears to have old-fashioned values or tastes but she is also a bit showy. (Rider-Waite)

King of Flowers      The Tango Set
A rather formal figure, sometimes symbolizing a lawyer or politician, this king also appreciates the arts and things that move the emotions as well as reason. Here he is dancing a traditional yet passionate dance with Barbie. (Rider-Waite)