Saturday, April 30, 2011

Poem for Saturday, Azaleas, Royal Wedding

By Sappho
Translated by A. E. Housman

Happy bridegroom, Hesper brings
All desired and timely things.
All whom morning sends to roam,
Hesper loves to lead them home.
Home return who him behold,
Child to mother, sheep to fold,
Bird to nest from wandering wide:
Happy bridegroom, seek your bride.


I'm too tired to see straight, let alone type straight, because I got up early to watch William marry Catherine. My taste in ceremonies runs to the less formal and less religious -- I like personal speeches by the celebrants about what binds them or at least readings that are relevant to their relationship -- but Kate and William looked far more happy than they did nervous, and their families were adorable (who knew Camilla had such a cute granddaughter). I know he is not very popular but Prince Philip looks amazing for a man who's going to be 90. Other than Cameron and Clegg, Elton John, the Beckhams, and Prince Albert, I am not enough of a British celebrity-watcher to have recognized who was there, though I was delighted by Prince Andrew's daughter's most ridiculous hat in the history of hats, which trump even some of the things Cher wore to the Academy Awards in days of yore.

I did watch Charles marry Diana back in the day, but my interest was really as much in Westminster Abbey and the route through London as in the ceremony; I've always been ambivalent about monarchy as an institution, being very aware as an American of how lucky I am to live someplace where in principle at least there are no born aristocrats -- as much as I love the idea of the British monarch, in an unbroken line from William the Conqueror, I really dislike the idea of all the princes and dukes and titled cousins. Of the royal weddings of my lifetime, this one was my favorite, in large part because the bride and groom really seem attached to one another and not merely to the idea of sharing titles and properties.

I did have to go looking for royal wedding video -- Albert and Elizabeth's, not William and Kate's -- after the choir started singing "I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me" (which of course made me recite, "They do sing it for a very long time"). This week's Fannish5 is 5 favorite/least favorite royal characters, which the mods claim has nothing to do with the royal wedding. I did favorites and had to declare Shakespeare ineligible or the entire list of characters would be from his plays; then, to be fair, I also left off royal characters based on real people like Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, plus Queen Esther and other Biblical characters, and all Disney princesses.

1. Pirate King Elizabeth Swann, Pirates of the Caribbean
2. Lady Eowyn, The Lord of the Rings
3. Princess Leia, Star Wars
4. Princess Nausicaa, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
5. Queen Morgaine of North Wales, The Mists of Avalon

As for the rest of my day, I posted a review of the animated Star Trek episode "One Of Our Planets Is Missing, I enjoyed the gorgeous cool weather in the woods and the ongoing azalea show in the neighborhood, I had dinner with my family and my parents. We watched Smallville, which had three of my five favorite men from the series but was too 300 for my taste, and Camelot, which decided to pay lip service at least to rape being a bad thing -- a nice change after all the rapes on fantasy shows I watched last week. We also watched the NFL draft on and off, but both the Ravens and the Redskins spent as much time trading picks as picking players, so I really have no idea what state either team is in. Here are some more neighborhood flower pics:

Friday, April 29, 2011

Poem for Friday and Neighborhood Spring

Spring Wedding
By Andrew Motion

I took your news outdoors, and strolled a while
In silence on my square of garden-ground
Where I could dim the roar of arguments,
Ignore the scandal-flywheel whirring round,

And hear instead the green fuse in the flower
Ignite, the breeze stretch out a shadow-hand
To ruffle blossom on its sticking points,
The blackbirds sing, and singing take their stand.

I took your news outdoors, and found the Spring
Had honoured all its promises to start
Disclosing how the principles of earth
Can make a common purpose with the heart.

The heart which slips and sidles like a stream
Weighed down by winter-wreckage near its source -
But given time, and come the clearing rain,
Breaks loose to revel in its proper course.


That poem was actually written for Charles and Camilla's wedding; I couldn't find Carol Ann Duffy's poem for William and Kate online anywhere. Maybe in the morning (yes, I am getting up at 6, and shut up, I bet a lot of you stayed up for the NFL draft).

I let Paul have the van with working air conditioning again, so it was another quiet day -- "quiet" being relative since we had several big thunderstorms, plus a tornado warning for the area as the kids were leaving for school. The heat, at least, had broken, and after lunch I took a nice long walk in the woods surrounded by fallen crabapple blossoms, inchworms hanging from trees, and azaleas in full bloom. Plus I watched the adaptation of Camille that Colin Firth is in; he's good, but she is the one who's really memorable, despite an uneven screenplay and too much swelling music.

I met Gblvr at the mall for dinner (Indian) and a bit of shopping (white tank top, $7 leggings). Then I came home and watched Nikita (which made me very sad because of the bad thing they did to one of the women characters, because I absolutely loved her and will really miss her), and then caught up on last week's Smallville, which amused me both because of Booster and because Clark Kent as a mature adult is still as insecure as the kids on Glee. Here are some of the neighborhood flowers I saw yesterday and today:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Poem for Thursday, UMCP, Indianapolis Zoo, New Who

By Kevin Young

To allow silence
To admit it in us

always moving
Just past

senses, the darkness
What swallows us

and we live amongst
What lives amongst us


These grim anchors
That brief sanctity

the sea
Cast quite far

when you seek
—in your hats black

and kerchiefs—
to bury me


Do not weep
but once, and a long

time then
Thereafter eat till

your stomach spills over
No more! you'll cry

too full for your eyes
to leak


The words will wait


Place me in a plain
pine box I have been

for years building
It is splinters

not silver
It is filled of hair


Even the tongues
of bells shall still


You who will bear
my body along

Spirit me into the six
Do not startle

at its lack of weight
How light


I let Paul take the van with working air conditioning because we had a forecast for temperatures in the mid-80s, so since I didn't want to drive without air conditioning, I stayed close to home today. It wasn't oppressive in the woods, and it was overcast for most of the afternoon, but when the sun was out it was pretty beastly hot. Huge thunderstorms have arrived now and a lot of the area is under a tornado watch, but hopefully when this passes, it will cool off a bit.

I am still not caught up on Game of Thrones or The Borgias or Camelot or Smallville, but we did finally watch the Doctor Who season premiere and My Sarah Jane. The latter made me cry -- Sladen's death is so upsetting, I think because it seemed so sudden (I was waiting eagerly for another season of SJA -- and how come the last one isn't out on DVD yet?). "The Impossible Astronaut" left me, well, meh, except for River Song, though I remain convinced that Moffat et al are going to do something so awful to her that I'll wish I never cared. It wouldn't surprise me if the same were true of Amy, either, but she remains so much a tabula rasa that I have less investment.

Daniel has accepted his offer of admission from the University of Maryland and enrolled in the Science, Technology, and Society division of the College Park Scholars program. There were a bunch of reasons for this decision -- UMCP has superb opportunities for undergraduate robotics, it's highly ranked among engineering programs overall, and because we live in the state, he'll be able to graduate without any of us being in debt. It's also a beautiful campus on a subway line into a major city, and the male-female ratio is a lot more balanced than Georgia Tech or Carnegie Mellon. Plus he'll know some people attending, which he seems pleased about. So it's all good. The Purdue trip was worthwhile just to get a sense of the campus (lovely but isolated), and to see the Indianapolis Zoo:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Poem for Wednesday and Indianapolis Lemurs

Here and Now
By Stephen Dunn

          for Barbara

      There are words
I've had to save myself from,
like My Lord and Blessed Mother,
words I said and never meant,
though I admit a part of me misses
the ornamental stateliness
of High Mass, that smell

      of incense. Heaven did exist,
I discovered, but was reciprocal
and momentary, like lust
felt at exactly the same time—
two mortals, say, on a resilient bed,
making a small case for themselves.

      You and I became the words
I'd say before I'd lay me down to sleep,
and again when I'd wake—wishful
words, no belief in them yet.
It seemed you'd been put on earth
to distract me
from what was doctrinal and dry.
Electricity may start things,
but if they're to last
I've come to understand
a steady, low-voltage hum

      of affection
must be arrived at. How else to offset
the occasional slide
into neglect and ill temper?
I learned, in time, to let heaven
go its mythy way, to never again

      be a supplicant
of any single idea. For you and me
it's here and now from here on in.
Nothing can save us, nor do we wish
to be saved.

      Let night come
with its austere grandeur,
ancient superstitions and fears.
It can do us no harm.
We'll put some music on,
open the curtains, let things darken
as they will.


Tuesday was a catch-up day for me, though a reasonably successful one. I had a morning dentist appointment (no cavities, go me), then finished all the laundry from our trip and folded it while watching A Summer in Genoa (thank you, Sandra). I liked it, didn't love it, thought the acting was better than the dialogue in many scenes; was glad the older daughter was treated sympathetically but wished her character had been better fleshed out and a bit less stereotypical-teenage-girl-in-rebellion, and was baffled what to make of the state of mind of the younger daughter in the end. As grieving professors played by Colin Firth go, I preferred George in A Single Man for a whole host of reasons, but I must note to be fair that I wouldn't blame anyone for having a crush on any professor played by Colin Firth.

The kids were less than thrilled to be back at school, though apparently they both got to watch movies in various classes whose teachers weren't back yet. Adam and I both went out to take photos of neighborhood flowers -- the azaleas started coming into bloom while we were out of town, and the trees have gone from budding to fully green, plus it was 80 degrees again and gorgeous in the woods -- and I shifted my closet, which anyone reading this who has a too-small or weirdly-shaped closet knows is a major seasonal chore (winter stuff in the back inaccessible corner, summer stuff to the front). We all watched the expanded Glee episode, which felt like a hypocritical after-school special but at least had terrific music this week (even without Sue, it was such a pleasure to get so much Kurt, some decent Santana, and Rachel in an actual storyline instead of getting songs other people should have been allowed to sing).

Here is the lemur colony at the Indianapolis Zoo, which can be seen from all sides, including the picnic area -- we ate lunch while watching them. In addition to the adults, whom we think have been studying behavior from our cat Daisy, there are two adorable tiny babies!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Greetings From Home

We spent nearly all day Monday in the car after gorging ourselves at the hotel breakfast buffet (and a good thing we did, since the first Subway we stopped at for lunch, outside Frostburg, Maryland, did not have veggie patties, so we had to go on to the next town to find them). We hadn't packed a picnic since rain was forecast on and off, but after a bit of morning drizzle in Ohio, we drove through the mountains in West Virginia and the southwestern tip of Pennsylvania in sunshine and 80-degree temperatures even at elevation. We stopped very briefly at God's Ark of Safety, the Noah's Ark "replica" being built by an evangelical church off Interstate 68, and we wanted to stop at Sidelong Hill in the Allegheny Mountains, but the visitor center was closed.

We got home in time for dinner (grilled cheese, since that was what we could do quickly), fed our poor neglected cats (who were spoiled by my mother and Hufflepants while we were away), and started unpacking and laundry (which is going to be a multi-day project, particularly since I have a dentist appointment in the morning that I'd forgotten all about till we got back). One of the Turner channels is showing Civil War movies this week, so we watched Glory, which we haven't seen since it was new, and the beginning of Gettysburg, which is still on but I'm too tired for it now. Here are some photos from Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, including some more of the mounds and some of the pipes, beads, and tools found buried inside the mounds:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Greetings From Ohio

My family and I spent a delightful day at the Columbus Zoo with my friend Lori, whom I have known for nearly two decades -- mostly in online fandoms, though we met a few times back when Star Trek was still a television franchise. We had been to the zoo several years ago but only saw a third of it because of a massive thunderstorm, so today we got to see the rest, including several sections that are new, like a huge arctic bear exhibit, where the sister polar bears were pacing sedately compared to the two wrestling brown bears. We saw too many animals to list, some of the highlights being a pair of gorillas who had adopted young gorillas abandoned by their mothers; an Australia exhibit with ninja mice, fisher cats, tree kangaroos, a kookaburra, and a kiwi; a large collection of snakes and reptiles, including a few that we got to pet; a very hyper echidna in an enclosure with a sleepy koala; langur monkeys swinging from one another's tails; several manatees in the zoo's large aquarium; and numerous great cats, every single one of which was either asleep or lounging around lazily.

But we were also enchanted with the zoo itself, which has an attached amusement park and water slides that we never got close enough to get a good look at. We had lunch at the food court -- we'd brought sandwiches in case there weren't veggie options, but in fact there were several, and we split cheese fries, plus we got Klondike bars at the polar bear enclosure. There are many tulip beds and flowering trees planted around the enclosures, a path to the river, and lots of local songbirds. We spotted a few rabbits living wild in the zoo's open areas and our first Canada goose chick of the season, just one of the dozens of Canada geese who have taken up residence in the zoo along with mallards and some domestic geese. Near the end of the afternoon we went to see the new animal rescue show, which is a lot like the one at Sea World with dogs and cats from local shelters performing along with wild animals. Then we said farewell to Lori and came back to the hotel to finish our leftovers, since we're going home on Monday.

The Columbus Zoo was decorated for Easter, though between the holiday and the rain, there weren't a lot of people around. In fact, there may have been more geese.

We visited the lorikeet landing, where birds landed on us and ate out of our hands.

Lori and I posed for a photo outside the home of the manatees, all of whom were injured or abandoned in the wild and can't survive there.

Adam takes a photo in the zoo's beautiful pheasant enclosure.

The Humboldt penguins were grumpy and refused to come outside on a rainy morning at the end of moulting season.

The brown bears are named for Ohio State's mascot -- Brutus and Buckeye.

These are two of a large herd of kangaroos who were being trained while we were in their enclosure. They can leap across the paths for zoo visitors.

This is Colo, the first gorilla ever born in a zoo in 1956. She has children and grandchildren at the zoo now.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Greetings from Columbus

This will be another quickie after a delightful evening with my friend Siobhan Wolf and her daughters -- apparently in addition to visiting colleges, this is going to be my midwest tour of friends I met because of Star Trek: Voyager, which is awesome. We spent most of Saturday at the Indianapolis Zoo, which is terrific -- three kinds of penguins, a dolphin show, a large colony of lemurs with several babies, a giraffe-feeding station, a big shark touch tank, a baby elephant, a desert region with meerkats, an Africa region with lions, a woodland region with bats, and dozens of other animals, plus several vegetarian options for lunch. The highlight for us, however, was the Penguin Art Adventure, in which we got to meet and pet two rockhopper penguins who then painted on canvas for us with their feet (and bit our shoelaces, and let us pet their backs, and became very colorful in the process):

After visiting the zoo, we went through the adjacent White River Gardens, which has many orchids in its conservatory and many hundreds of tulips in the formal beds outdoors. Then we drove three hours to Columbus (in a bit of drizzle, but nothing like the rain on Friday) to see my friend, whom I last saw when Adam was a newborn and long before her two girls arrived. She and I went out to get pizza and caught up a bit while we left Paul in charge of all the kids -- she lives in a very pretty neighborhood and has bunnies in her backyard, and while Daniel discussed video games with her younger daughter, the rest of us discussed wildlife photography and news. We are pleased the Capitols have advanced and not all that sorry to have to wait to see Doctor Who, though don't spoil me please, since we are staying overnight in Columbus and going to the zoo here tomorrow with Lori, another friend from Trek of long ago.

Happy Easter if you celebrate! If not, happy Sunday!