Sunday, October 18, 2009

Poem for Sunday

Rules of Contact
By Jill Bialosky

A Ball is cracked into the air and the underlings
In their red caps field it. A line drive; another
to the boy at third. Get under it. Don't be afraid.

Let's hear some chatter. It's late in the day.
Have you noticed that everyone is separating?

A mother from the bleachers remarks, knitting
her anxiety into careful knots. Where are the sparrows?
The sun rests over the awning of trees,

wind's compass stopped, gone awry.
One boy refusing to comply steals second.

Is disorder a rally against resignation?
Boys bow their heads beneath the sun's glare.

The boats along the Hudson move in slow motion,
unmoored from the dock.

How to quell the current rising against the boat?
How to trust what moves beneath it?

The Lord of the Field hits a high fly,
in homage to his disciples. Look alive.

Get behind the ball. Stay on top of it.
Hurled faster than the speed of light

the ball travels from one boy's mitt
to another boy's in perfect orchestration.

My son won't let me kiss him anymore,
a mother on the bleachers decries.


"There is a poetic synchronicity to the game of baseball, to the rhythms on the field and a lolling trance the observer falls under," writes Bialosky in Poet's Choice. "For the last four years my 14-year-old son has been infatuated with the art of baseball. He has played on a baseball travel team, and I have spent many a humid summer afternoon or wind-swept evening watching his games in baseball is the secret language between fathers and sons, players and coaches, teammates and rivals, mothers chatting with one another in the bleachers that has enchanted me and inspired this poem."

So far this weekend has been a real washout. The Frederick Festival of the Farm was taking place today, where in previous years we visited lots of sheep and alpacas and piggies, but it rained even harder than it did on Friday, so after lunch we grumbled and acknowledged that it probably wouldn't be much fun to walk around in the mud in such chilly temperatures. Instead we did chores closer to home -- Mom's Organic Market (for the best bulk nuts in the area), Petco (for kitty litter, though we had the added amusement of watching the dogs in line for the low-cost rabies shot clinic), Michael's (because it was next door to Petco and had entertaining Halloween decorations), CVS (for shampoo, since I had $14 in CVS Bucks that had to be used this weekend) -- see how boring we were? I've had enough of the rain, and it's supposed to continue nearly all of Sunday!

A 1918 Hebern Electric Code Machine with single rotor on display at the National Cryptologic Museum.

A book for decoding Union ciphers sent by telegram during the Civil War.

This reproduced slave quilt illustrates some symbols that had secret meaning for would-be freedom-seekers. The wagon wheel may have signified a place where a slave could find a wagon in which to hide during travel. The basket pattern, four down on the far left, warned slaves to weave a different route. The pattern with four diamonds, fourth from the left at the top, is a crossroads, in this case indicating Cleveland, Ohio from which escapees could cross Lake Erie to Canada. The boat pattern two below probably also signified Lake Erie. The "tumbling blocks" two in and three down meant that a fugitive should hurry on. The quilts could be hung on laundry lines where anyone passing could see them but only those familiar with the code would understand the meanings.

An exhibit on how the Japanese code known as Purple was broken, including several parts of cipher machines captured after World War II. The U.S. had broken the code by 1941 and a decrypting machine was used to decipher the message on December 6th telling the Japanese ambassador to break off diplomatic relations with the United States, but it contained no information about an imminent attack.

The Enigma machine, invented by the Germans and sold commercially between the world wars. The Nazis kept using it during the war and Allied codebreakers, particularly the British, decrypted many messages that helped their struggle.

The government of Sweden, which came into possession of captured Nazi encryption machines after the war, loaned this one to the museum.

As the sign says, these were America's first spy satellites, designed to observe and transmit intelligence information.

This painting from the display on Civil War encrypted messages is called "Signals From Little Round Top" where we are likely going with my in-laws tomorrow...or, if the weather is truly terrible in Gettysburg, then we will do the battlefield driving tour and not leave the van!

We finally watched the first episode of Merlin of the second season, and I must admit to being rather disappointed -- I was expecting something bigger somehow, not necessarily the start of an arc but at least an indication that the characters had grown somewhat from where we left them. If anything, they appear to have gone backward -- far from being willing to give his life for Merlin, Arthur is ready to replace him over a few minor mishaps, while Morgana is waking up screaming without looking for ways to console herself and Uther is still muttering about sorcery. Mackenzie Crook is always entertaining but his character loses all interest once possessed. Only Gaius seems ready to make leaps forward; he's actively encouraging Merlin to use magic now, and to seek out the dragon, not warning him about the dangers. It's enjoyable enough, but really fluffy.

Then we watched the two-parter that started the third season of The Sarah Jane Adventures, which I enjoyed a great deal more. It still has the limitations of the show itself -- apparently Sarah Jane must make a speech about the wonders of the universe and having people to share them with in every single episode -- but I much prefer that to the dooooooom that has overtaken Doctor Who, and I really like all three of the kids -- I still miss Maria, and I miss Sarah Jane's relationship with her, though it makes sense that Luke rather than the girl across the way would be the child she's closest to and mentoring most directly. There were lots of silly moments that made me laugh out loud -- Clyde's padawan joke to Luke, the Judoon concluding that human females are smarter than men because the females know enough to stay out of the way, Rani's "Who do you think you are, Jack Bauer?" And all the moments where the Judoon tripped themselves up being sticklers for rules made me snicker, too.

But really, the contrast with the Doctor is my favorite part, even though he's clearly been talking to her or at least sending information to Mr. Smith since she knows things about the Judoon that Unit doesn't. Despair is linked to evil here -- the villain is lost in his own grief for his own world, it's made him destructive, very much the way the Daleks paint the Doctor and at times the Daleks don't seem so far from wrong. The Androvax gives a very Torchwoodesque warning that someone will destroy Sarah Jane, but unlike the gloom that follows Jack Harkness as well as the Doctor, Sarah Jane shrugs it off in a very no-nonsense way -- the universe for her is not about decay but new things being born all the time. She's such a breath of fresh air in the franchise and on TV in general, definitely my favorite corner of Whoverse.

Happy Diwali!

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