Monday, February 17, 2020

Poem for Monday and The King's Speech

If I Were King
By William Ernest Henley

If I were king, my pipe should be premier.
The skies of time and chance are seldom clear,
We would inform them all with bland blue weather.
Delight alone would need to shed a tear,
For dream and deed should war no more together.

Art should aspire, yet ugliness be dear;
Beauty, the shaft, should speed with wit for feather;
And love, sweet love, should never fall to sere,
If I were king.

But politics should find no harbour near;
The Philistine should fear to slip his tether;
Tobacco should be duty free, and beer;
In fact, in room of this, the age of leather,
An age of gold all radiant should appear,
If I were king.

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I had an awesome Sunday with Paul and Cheryl, with whom I went downtown to see The King's Speech on stage at the National Theatre. This is the play David Seidler started writing before shifting his attention to the screenplay of the movie, though parts of it have been reworked since it opened in England after the film's run (no nudity). I deliberately have not watched the movie recently so I wouldn't draw too many direct comparisons, though I can pretty much recite the film so I could tell you every line that was or was not kept in the play. (Yes, the shouting-swear-words scene with the F bombs stays!)

Lionel's wife Myrtle has a lot more character and motivation -- she isn't merely a wife and mother, though I missed their kids and indeed you can't tell from the play that they have children (the princesses do not appear either, and I missed the scene where Elizabeth curtsies when Bertie just wants a hug). Myrtle wants to move back to Australia, is not overly impressed to meet the Duchess of York in her kitchen, and isn't as supportive of Lionel's dream of being an actor, something he's much more upset about in the play; in the film he seems already resigned to it and satisfied with his success as a speech therapist and teacher.

David a.k.a. Edward VIII isn't merely selfish and oblivious, but a Hitler-supporting villain. There's an attempt to blame this on Wallis, whom we hear is responsible for his belief that the Jews are what's wrong with Hitler's Germany -- he also says she told him his father is dying prematurely to make his succession more difficult -- but we only see Wallis flirt with Edward, much like in the movie. If she's a monster, it's told, not shown. (Critics of the play claiming it's relevant now because Wallis has so much in common with Meghan make me furious; both American, but Meghan is not an anti-Semite who had affairs with Nazis!)

Archbishop Lang has a bigger role, not just manipulative but power hungry, though played for comedy against an outraged Churchill who also gets funny lines. PM Baldwin is only there for exposition and has fewer lines than in the film, as does George V, who is suitably terrifying though I miss Queen Mary. The core of the show, though, are Lionel and Bertie, and they're wonderful, closer in age in this production so a little less like father-son. They actually waltz together as part of speech therapy and we get the historical moment when George VI gives Lionel the medal of the Royal Victorian Order, which is lovely!

After the play we stopped in a souvenir shop around the corner, then headed back to Maryland and had Ethiopian food at Sheba, where we all shared an enormous vegetarian platter with extra shiro wat and three side dishes of injera. I didn't think there was any way we'd finish it but we ate the whole thing. After Cheryl went home, we watched Batwoman and Supergirl (the former, with Kate having to choose between Beth and Alice, much more powerful than the latter, with ugh why are Winn and his man-pain back). Then CNN had the first episode in a series on the Windsors on, so that was an appropriate end for the day!

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Poem for Sunday and Hanover Afternoon

Upon The Horse And His Rider
By John Bunyan

There's one rides very sagely on the road,
Showing that he affects the gravest mode.
Another rides tantivy, or full trot,
To show much gravity he matters not.
Lo, here comes one amain, he rides full speed,
Hedge, ditch, nor miry bog, he doth not heed.
One claws it up-hill without stop or check,
Another down as if he'd break his neck.
Now every horse has his especial guider;
Then by his going you may know the rider.

Now let us turn our horse into a man,
His rider to a spirit, if we can.
Then let us, by the methods of the guider,
Tell every horse how he should know his rider.

Some go, as men, direct in a right way,
Nor are they suffered to go astray;
As with a bridle they are governed,
And kept from paths which lead unto the dead.
Now this good man has his especial guider,
Then by his going let him know his rider.

Some go as if they did not greatly care,
Whether of heaven or hell they should be heir.
The rein, it seems, is laid upon their neck,
They seem to go their way without a check.
Now this man too has his especial guider,
And by his going he may know his rider.

Some again run as if resolved to die,
Body and soul, to all eternity.
Good counsel they by no means can abide;
They'll have their course whatever them betide.
Now these poor men have their especial guider,
Were they not fools they soon might know their rider.

There's one makes head against all godliness,
Those too, that do profess it, he'll distress;
He'll taunt and flout if goodness doth appear,
And at its countenancers mock and jeer.
Now this man, too, has his especial guider,
And by his going he might know his rider.

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We spent Saturday in Hanover with Paul's parents, taking them out to lunch to celebrate his father's 80th birthday which is in two days. We went to the Hibachi Buffet, where we often eat with them, and the waitresses brought Clair a "cake" with a candle made mostly of non-dairy whipped cream so he wouldn't have to worry about lactose. Then we went to Hanover Shoe Farms to see the foals (and the black cat who always greets us when we arrive). Most of the mares are still pregnant and were out in the fields frolicking, though it was pretty chilly!

We skyped our kids and our niece Noelle, who just had a baby, so we got to see the little one (who slept like an angel for the whole call, though apparently as a preemie she has digestive issues and can really scream). Then we drove home under a pretty sunset past fields of horses and cows. We watched Eva Doesn't Sleep, a movie about Eva Peron's corpse, which was excellent, creepy, and more political than I was expecting. Then we watched Evita because I was in the mood (really I was since seeing Jonathan Pryce at the Oscars) and of course it was awesome!

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Saturday, February 15, 2020

Greetings for Valentine's Day

Friday was one of those days where everything took three times as long as I thought it was going to, so I didn't get in a couple of shopping stops I needed to make and I am way behind on correspondence and social media. I did get most of my chores done at home and had dinner with my parents, who gave me Valentine candy!

Paul also gave me Valentine candy and the card below (I gave him candy and ebooks, and sent my kids candy). We watched the final two episodes of Runaways, which were reasonably satisfying though I didn't like the last season nearly as much as the first two -- the parents don't get off the hook because there's a witch in town!

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Friday, February 14, 2020

Poem for Friday and Rainy Flowers

Love's Philosophy
By Percy Bysshe Shelley

The fountains mingle with the river
   And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
   With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
   All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
   Why not I with thine?—

See the mountains kiss high heaven
   And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
   If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
   And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
   If thou kiss not me?

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We were back to rain most of Thursday, but it was pretty warm out, so I don't know whether to complain or not -- I feel like we pretty much missed winter, which says bad things about the climate and everything is blooming too early (which everything may regret on Friday when we're supposed to have temperatures in the 30s), but I mind walking in the rain a lot less when it's not miserably cold.

It was otherwise not an eventful day -- I folded laundry while watching some Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I made some charms, I researched pharmacies and now have heard terrible stories about every single one from which I could get my prescriptions. We discovered we did not have enough leftover fake beef and noodles for dinner, so we had it with leftover pizza, which was kind of a weird combination.

After dinner, we watched two episodes of Inspector Morse, one of which (from the '90s, so not that ancient) was excruciatingly misogynistic, so I miss Lewis and Endeavour. Colbert and John Oliver just made me cry describing fake movies they could be in together, though -- Les Expendables! Here are some more wet premature flowers blooming in the warm rain in my neighborhood this week:

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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Poem for Thursday and Longwood Orchids

The Orchid
By David Van-Cauter

The end of term,
a long, dry spell.
Someone gave you an orchid with seven flowers.

On the mantelpiece,
each pink head seemed to loll its tongue,
its mouth wide open,

holding its breath,
clinging to the stalk
that drooped to the left.

We fed the orchid, watered it,
and then the good news came.
The image showed us nothing more

than a tiny dot,
but you kept it by your bed,
kissed it at night.

We encased our secret,
spent those hot days
trying not to spill,

every day
another notch
on the strained barometer.

A hosepipe ban,
and the garden was crying
long, dry tears.

It took six weeks
for the first flower head to fall
and the rain to come:

the garden spread out like a swan,
its wings drinking the air.

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I actually was out of the house most of Wednesday! And it didn't rain till sunset! I met Kay for lunch at Tara Thai, then walked around Washingtonian Lake, managed not to spend any money in Target or Kohl's (mostly because they didn't have exactly what I wanted), and generally enjoyed the sunshine and being honked at by geese. Plus I raided a 98% Tornadus with strange men.

The rest of the afternoon was not as satisfying, since I spent literally hours on the phone with CVS Caremark, which tried to convince me that 1) my prescription was not my prescription and 2) my account was not my account. When I got THAT straightened out, they tried to convince me that my non-generic should cost $300. Now I'm waiting for my doctor to call back and do something about that!

We watched The Masked Singer, which is always mindless delight (Gronk is still a masked tiger even though he can't sing), then half-watched Lego Masters where I hate that they Chopped the middle aged women home, and finally Stumptown, which I predicted early on but still enjoyed. Here is some color from the orchid extravaganza in the conservatory at Longwood Gardens last weekend:

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Poem for Wednesday and Neighborhood Flowers

Picking Willow
By Li T'ai-Po
Translated by Florence Ayscough and Amy Lowell

The drooping willow brushes the very clear water,
Beautifully it flickers in this East-wind time of the year.
Its flowers are bright as the snow of the Jade Pass,
Its leaves soft as smoke against the gold window.
She, the Lovely One, bound in her long thoughts;
Facing them, her heart is burnt with grief.
Pull down a branch,
Gather the Spring colour,
And send it far,
Even to that place
Before the Dragon Gate.

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On Tuesday I started doing a little project to rearrange things near my desk, so I can reach my flatbed scanner more easily for another project involving scanning photos, and it turned into a half-day thing that required moving stuff down to the basement and shuffling books. It rained most of the day again, and very little else got accomplished, though I did take a walk when it was only a bit drizzly and though it's not even mid-February, the warm wet weather meant lots of early flowers!

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We watched The Flash, in which I was so excited that Iris was finally getting a life not totally focused on Barry until they reminded us it was Mirror!Iris so arrrgh despite great hilarious musical cues, then Legends of Tomorrow, a little too horror-movie storywise for me but I always appreciate the characters. We watched the first episode of For Life, which was somewhat better acted than scripted but still well worth watching. And we Skyped Daniel in Seattle about his new work team!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Poem for Tuesday and Strathmore Home

Billie Holiday
By E. Ethelbert Miller

sometimes the deaf
hear better than the blind

some men
when they first
heard her sing

were only attracted
to the flower in her hair

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I spent an insane amount of Monday reorganizing my camera stuff. After having saved for two years for a really powerful superzoom, I decided once I got it that since it was just as heavy as my DSLR with the 18-200 lens, I should actually take the DSLR out more often. So I bought new batteries and a new double charger, plus a little USB card reader that lets me send photos to my phone without needing a camera with wi-fi, and I needed convenient places to grab them from if a bird appeared on the deck or something. So by the time I was done throwing out the boxes my phones came in 10 years ago and things like that, I was more organized but no one besides me would think anything was neater!

It rained pretty much all day, so I only took a short walk and was otherwise fairly boring, though I set up a new scratching post for the cats so they would disagree with that assessment. We caught up on last night's Doctor Who, which I liked intermittently, though I don't understand how the Doctor continues to be so insensitive to the humans she claims to care about when they have fears about health or death -- not wanting to get to attached is one thing, but sometimes she's just obtuse compared to, say, Ten -- plus we watched The New Pope, which is such insane, glorious crack that I can't look away. From the Strathmore mansion yesterday, some of the works in the Home exhibit:

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Sea Rise by George Lorio

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Letting Go by Judy Buelow

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Adolescence by Stephen Brucker

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Homesick by MK Bailey

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This House by Alexandra Mihalski

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Aftermath by Ruth Lozner

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Feeding Time by Emily Gilman Beezley

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Clothesline by Trisha Gupta and Grace: Blessings of Home by MH Rowland

Monday, February 10, 2020

Greetings from Cabin John Park

I had a very nice Sunday morning and afternoon. First I rearranged my desk area. Then I did an EX raid plus a Tornadus raid at Locust Grove and, since it was gorgeous out, took a walk along the creek in Cabin John Park with Paul by the nature center. From there we went to Strathmore to see the Home exhibit plus David Scheirer's nautical watercolors, and we stopped at Giant for the week's food on the way home. But more about the art later, because the rest of the day was taken up with the Oscars red carpet and then the ceremony as I did various online stuff while watching, ate nachos and dinner and hot fudge sundae cake -- given the last news week, I'm allowed to enjoy the Oscars.

Loved "Oscar Winner Taika Waititi" and Natalie Portman's face when he won, "Into the Unknown" in all those languages, 1917 winning the two awards it clearly deserved over everyone else, Billie Eilish's face when Maya and Kristen were singing off-key and even more during Eminem. I got much joy from James and Rebel in Cats costumes and Elton John + Bernie Taupin. I haven't seen Parasite but I'm happy for everyone involved with it -- that was exciting energy and now I need to watch the film. I guess I should see Ford vs. Ferrari even though I don't care about cars? I feel like Mangold should have been in the directing category, so like Best Picture they should allow up to 10.

I love Laura Dern, but I was rooting for Scarlett to win for Jojo Rabbit so that movie would get more viewers. If Little Women had to win something, it might as well have been for costumes, though they weren't convincingly poor any more than they were convincingly American. I appreciated Brad's cracks at Trump, but I still loathe everything about his movie and I'm glad Tarantino won nothing. I'm so ambivalent about seeing Joker -- please give me some reasons besides Phoenix's performance, because I'm just not sure that's enough reason for me, even with DCU continuity at stake (and how much did I love Gal with Brie and Sigourney?). From the park earlier:

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