Friday, December 31, 2004

Poem for Friday

By Laure-Anne Bosselaar

On a platform, I heard someone call out your name:
No, Laetitia, no.
It wasn't my train — the doors were closing,
but I rushed in, searching for your face.

But no Laetitia. No.
No one in that car could have been you,
but I rushed in, searching for your face:
no longer an infant. A woman now, blond, thirty-two.

No one in that car could have been you.
Laetitia-Marie was the name I had chosen.
No longer an infant. A woman now, blond, thirty-two:
I sometimes go months without remembering you.

Laetitia-Marie was the name I had chosen:
I was told not to look. Not to get attached —
I sometimes go months without remembering you.
Some griefs bless us that way, not asking much space.

I was told not to look. Not to get attached.
It wasn't my train — the doors were closing.
Some griefs bless us that way, not asking much space.
On a platform, I heard someone call out your name.


Two for New Year's Resolutions drabble challenges:
: "In the Closet"
: "Catalogue of Failure"

So I might as well admit that I'm seriously thinking about one of my New Year's Resolutions being no more fan fiction until I've cranked out a sufficient quantity of non-fan fiction. In fact the main thing stopping me is that when I swear off fan fiction, I tend to get so many ideas that they overwhelm everything else in my head and demand to be written; I learned this in Voyager fandom, I learned this again with RPS, so I don't want to do anything stupid. On the other hand, the frustrations and trivialities are really overwhelming my enjoyment on so many levels at present. I'm tired of the cliquishness, I'm tired of feeling like there's always someone else I should be sucking up to if I want to have interesting conversations, I'm tired of the fact that things I really work on get three readers out of everyone on the planet -- my totally crappy erotica on which I spent less time and for which I got paid had more readers than that. I'm suffering from a be-careful-what-you-wish-for situation because, after being huffy over one of those exclusive communities a couple of weeks ago, I'm watching the usual "watch BNF rec 20 out of 23 stories and leave off the three by People We All Know She Doesn't Like, pretending that quality is the qualifier" bullshit go on in one such community; I should have stuck to my instincts and told my ego where to shove itself. My sense that this is not only a stupid waste of time but a too-often-poor way to make lasting friends is overwhelming my sense of community and love.

The thing is, I often think I organize and express my own thoughts better via fanfic than when I write reviews...there's a different kind of satisfaction from fic, even when no one reads it. But then what happens is that I meet people because of a particular fandom or a particular pairing, and I want to keep talking to those people about those characters, and I feel compelled to write with and for them, until I forget what was compelling the urge to write in the first place. My very, very best friends from fandom are writers or artists, and I met them because I was a writer, and I don't want to risk losing that...but at the same time, some of the people I thought I knew and loved best based on their writing and art have also not always proven to be the friends I thought they were, and I don't want to end next year feeling as frustrated as I am this year. I know I can change the things that are bothering me, it's just a matter of having the guts to say, "I am doing this, I am doing it now," and if fifteen people take me off their friends list in a single day or send me annoyed notes or just plain ignore me, I need to be able to keep the distance to say that those people were not really my friends anyway. There's a piece of me that's playing the "one more" game -- let me just finish this story that's already half-done, let me just sign up for this one more challenge, let me just write birthday fic for this one friend -- but I could go on doing that indefinitely, and when does it stop? How does it stop?

I am not in the best of moods. In fact I was running around a lot earlier, and between that and the time of the month, I am decidedly grouchy. For the fun part of my day, we all drove my older son to a friend's this morning so he could work on a school project and the rest of us could drop in on and (who looks wonderful) and their cats -- in fact they probably think we talk about nothing but cats, as we spent most of the time watching my younger son chase Georgie the kitten and trying to coax the three older cats into being sociable with us, which was really quite amusing though I fear I was not the thrilling diversion I had intended to be.

Then we went to pick up the van, which is finally, finally repaired...only to discover that the insurance company had not yet cut a check and our choices were to shell out more than $2000 of our own cash or to wait! This is typical of the idiocy in the business, I suppose: rather than overnighting a check so that we can pick up the van before close of business tomorrow, which would cost them maybe $15, they are paying for us to keep the rental van over the weekend (at a cost of $50 a day to them) and sending the check via standard mail. It took numerous phone calls and a very long wait in the body shop to no avail to learn all this. I cannot think what to say besides GRRRR.

Finished out the evening taking younger son to violin, doing some shopping in the plaza near his lessons, watching Better Than Sex while folding laundry which strangely did nothing to improve my mood (am definitely blaming the time of the month for that) and trying to get caught up, again, unsuccessfully. Tomorrow it's supposed to be nearly 60 degrees and we are going to the Baltimore Zoo, so hopefully this shall revive me!

This plane is not, in fact, in The Udvar-Hazy Center but in The National Air and Space Museum itself. It's Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega, photo taken several years ago, but well worth a look.

And another look. In this plane Earhart crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Of course her Lockheed Electra is not on display, having been missing since she and Fred Noonan disappeared in it over the Pacific Ocean, but it still makes me feel good to look at this one.

Enola Gay, first to carry and deliver an atomic bomb in wartime. She's a beautiful plane -- silver and shapely. It's hard to hate her for what she was used to do, and at the same time it's hard to imagine what the world might have been like long WWII might have lasted, what the political situation in the world might be now. Same with the Holocaust for that matter...would there be an Israel had it not been for the Nazis? It's really hard to play should have beens or might have beens with history.

View from above of the aviation hangar in the Udvar-Hazy Center. There's a Concorde, a 747, numerous warplanes from all sides, some early experimental flight vehicles and a Blackbird.

Pan Am's Flying Cloud. This photo is here just because she's such a beautiful plane. That bit of Air France logo behind her is on the Concorde.

Among the more interesting artifacts are astronaut food that looks inedible, and, worse, the waste elimination systems (apparently astronauts nowadays wear Depends during spacewalks in case of emergencies). I have known for years that I could never have been an astronaut because I'm too claustrophobic to survive in the capsules, and it's worse up close to this one.

The disc of sounds and images from Earth sent up with both Voyager spacecraft. If you saw Carl Sagan's Cosmos in your youth as I did, you remember some of the things on here!

From outside the Udvar-Hazy Center. The tower offers views of Dulles Airport and Virginia farmland.

Focusing on the bigger picture and the problems in the world now, if you're looking for a place to make a donation, here is the Amazon Honor System Paybox for tsunami victims (link via Amazon Associates, anyone who's an Associate can get your own and if it identifies you by name, it's because there's a cookie on your computer keeping you signed in to Amazon)...

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Poem for Thursday

High Flight
By John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of -- wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew,
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.


I've posted this poem before, but it goes with the photos -- it was written by a pilot during the first world war, but the first time I ever heard it, Ronald Reagan was reading it at the memorial service for the Challenger astronauts. So of course I thought of it last February when Columbia failed to return from her last mission. Now, however, I have finally seen their predecessor with my own eyes, and -- I am about to confess to uber-geekdom here -- I feel quite possessive of the first space shuttle, because I was one of the thousands of Trekkies who wrote to NASA asking that the orbiter be named Enterprise in honor of Captain Kirk's. (In my defense, I also wrote to Gerald Ford asking why the US was not going to build a Halley's Comet fly-by, and got a nice letter back from someone in his administration assuring me that it wouldn't be necessary, so when the US was the only nation with significant capacity for spaceflight that did not study the comet from space and the newspapers were asking why, I could only harrumph.)

I know I promised to post various photos from the Smithsonian, Philadelphia and the Baltimore Zoo, but they will all have to wait, because since the weather report had changed, we decided to postpone the zoo until Friday and instead went to The National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center. My children had been there but I had not, and they were most entertaining tour guides -- they remembered where everything was and some of what they had learned from their previous trip. So I got lots of information about the tiles on the shuttle and which engines went with which rockets. Among the more interesting artifacts were astronaut food that looked inedible, and, worse, the waste elimination systems (apparently astronauts nowadays wear Depends during spacewalks in case of emergencies). I have known for years that I could never have been an astronaut because I'm too claustrophobic to survive in the capsules, and it's worse up close.

It's so strange seeing Nippon and US rockets next to one another in the space hangar, then walking into the aviation hangar and seeing the kamikaze planes and the Enola Gay, and realizing that these things were all built within my parents' lifetimes, as well as the Concorde and the 747 -- the planes and computers that brought the world together, and the ones that nearly tore it apart. I remember how, when my children learned that the first atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan by the United States, they were absolutely flabbergasted -- to them Japan is our greatest friend and ally, home of Nintendo and Sony -- how was it possible that during the century in which they were born, there could have been a war in which Japan was the enemy? I suppose this is how my grandparents felt when I didn't understand their residual knee-jerk superstitious Yiddish muttering whenever Germany was mentioned; my sense of the Holocaust when I was much younger was as ancient history, whereas to them it was something that had happened during their lifetimes to people they knew. And yet I understood when they explained their terror of Sputnik rather than any thrill that humans had put a satellite in orbit. My kids know Russia only as a big European country, not a piece of a terrifying bloc that could have triggered global annihilation, which was my sense of the USSR when I was in elementary school. The world feels so much safer than it did when I was younger, and I keep wondering how we've ended up with people scared enough to elect a president whose ominous lies about weapons of mass destruction has given him the power to make it less safe for the rest of us.

This evening, in keeping with the theme for the day, sort of, we watched Airplane II: The Sequel. The kids had seen Airplane for the first time not long ago, so they finally know why and I are always saying, "Looks like I quit the wrong week to quit smoking," even though neither of us has ever smoked, but they did not know the reference for, "First the earth cooled, and then the dinosaurs came..." whenever someone asked what happened. So now they do, and they also know that according to the insane producers of this movie, it was taken for granted not only that there would be commercial space shuttle flights to the moon but that gay marriage would be legal and unremarkable by the dawn of the 21st century (and, well, that all men would know about some clinic in Des Moines because the writers did not predict Viagra but you can't have everything). The sequel is still not nearly as good as the original but still a lot funnier than a lot of what passes for comedies these days anyway. And, you know, William Shatner turning out the lights on the bridge.

The shuttle Enterprise in the space hangar at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Many of the tiles have been removed from the outside for use on later shuttles, and the inside contains no equipment (even the front viewports are gone), but this massive frame that once took off from the back of a 747 can be walked around completely.

Here's a rear view, with Spacelab on the right.

And here's one of the engines -- those big round things in the previous photo, including the interior wiring that can't be seen on the orbiter itself.

Just to give a sense of the size of the thing, here's a shot where you can see the people on the other side of the hangar from beneath the shuttle. For another perspective, there's also a suit from a space walk hanging from the ceiling.

NASA's astronaut quarantine facility for the first men on the moon, lest they should have brought rare lunar bacteria back with them. I'm sure this useless piece of equipment cost a fortune to build.

The descent module of a Vega spacecraft. The Soviet Union launched two, each of which sent a module to Venus where they broadcast for less than an hour about the planet's atmosphere and soil before burning up. The larger part of each craft then did a flyby of Comet Halley and revealed that its surface temperature was much warmer than expected. See, someone was doing the work on Halley...

A miniature R2-D2 on the model of the mothership used in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which also has a cemetery, a Volkswagen, some airplanes, beer cans and other anachronisms built in that the model designers knew would not be visible in the film, given the planned angles and lighting effects. (You had to figure I'd get some more sci-fi geekery in, didn't you?)

I'm sad about Susan Sontag and Jerry Orbach, feeling odd for being sad about a couple of famous individuals when there are so many thousands dead, but it's always the ones who touched your life in some way whose loss you really feel, you know? I'm so pissed at how little money my government is willing to pledge and how US citizens affected by the disaster have apparently been left to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, in the spirit of denial or at least distraction: apparently I am wrong about Harry being way, way too young for me, as I thought I was putting in the right answers to get Lupin or Black or Snape but noooo...

With Which Harry Potter Male Are You Most Sexually Compatible?

brought to you by Quizilla

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Gratuitous Phantom Babble

and I stayed up far too late last night talking about The Phantom of the Opera, the book Phantom by Susan Kay, and some of the things that originally got talked about in the comments to this post, which contains spoilers for the movie. I am fascinated by how many fans -- women -- have told me that they wanted an ending in which Christine ended up with the Phantom, or how they would have chosen the Phantom themselves had they been her. Now, I completely understand why it would bother people that she ends up with Raoul, for reasons I stated previously. For me, Raoul is the Phantom Lite: many of the same character flaws and none of the charisma, eroticism or deep understanding of music as an art. That said, however, if Christine's only choices in the world are the Phantom and Raoul (both of whom she associates deeply with her father, which I find a little icky), I'm glad she went for the wealthy aristocrat who adores her and will at least apparently not try to stop her from singing, the way Prince Rainier apparently insisted that Grace Kelly stop making movies after she became Princess of Monaco.

So I understand that in Kay's book, which three people have now recommended to me, Christine does end up with the Phantom and ends up eventually dying for love of him. To me this is not a romantic ending and certainly not a better ending -- this is so typical of what happens to women too damn often in "romantic" literature, where they pay for their great passions with their lives and, worse, their other passions -- obviously Christine can't sing if she's dead. Her saving grace for me as a character is that she's an artist, who will make whatever sacrifice she deems necessary for her art, sort of like the Lady of Shalott: she speaks of the Phantom as her teacher and the man who inspires her voice long after she knows he's not an angel and he is a murderer. I like that she's a teenager in the film, rather than a grownup like all previous Christines I've seen onstage; it makes her naivete, her narrow focus and her selfishness easier to forgive. Does she react in a shallow manner when she finds out that her teacher and patron is hideous? Yes, but it doesn't help matters any that he goes on the attack the moment she removes his mask -- it's hard to tell whether she's recoiling from his ugliness or his screaming "Damn you!" and calling her names from the split second she sees his face. She says terrible things about what the Phantom looks like to Raoul later, but it's hard to say whether she's telling the truth about her perception or lying to Raoul and to herself. If she can deceive herself enough to believe that she's in love with Raoul at that point, she could certainly convince herself that it's the Phantom's ugliness she fears, rather than her own temptation.

Of course the Phantom is the hero of the musical and we're supposed to root for him. He has all the best music -- just like Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar and Eva Peron in Evita. I saw the latter when I was 15, apparently the same age a lot of people were first exposed to Phantom (being ancient by LJ standards, I was in college before that opened on Broadway). I will never forget sitting in the orchestra during "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" began, the point of which song is ostensibly to show how the people of Argentina were seduced by Eva, but the side effect of which is that the audience, sitting as an extension of the crowd below the balcony in the scene, undergo the same experience and if the show is done well, we're supposed to be just as seduced. All the political babble immediately afterward becomes promptly forgettable; we're there to see Eva, after all, like a Shakespearean tragic heroine, not to root against her. It's very similar with the Phantom; we're given excuses for his horrific behavior, while we're supposed to loathe and be disgusted with such relatively harmless beings as Carlotta, Andre and Fermin. They may be producing shitty operas, but the Phantom almost reminds me of Ayn Rand's Howard Roark, bringing down the house (literally) when he can't get the music produced according to his own vision. The Phantom and Christine are the real artists in the show, while everyone else (including Raoul) is a dilettante or a capitalist or both. And since Christine is an ingenue in every sense, the Phantom is the only one we can really trust with the opera and the passions it inspires; he gets it in a way no one else does, except perhaps Madame Giry but more on her later.

I need someone to explain to me outside of sheer eroticism why any woman would want Christine to end up with the Phantom if one is identifying with Christine as a woman and an artist, rather than if one is identifying with the Phantom (which as pointed out to me makes so much more sense, as he's not only the smartest and most powerful character in the musical but also suffering the same fate as so many women who aren't born -- excuse me, who haven't Had A Little Work Done -- to look like Nicole Kidman and are therefore rejected as too ugly for society and for the careers and lovers they want). I still have a hard time with heroes who treat their heroines like crap, though, and even if, as he claims, he did it all for Christine, the Phantom does not treat her better than Raoul does. He isn't trying to liberate her voice and her sexuality for herself or for the artistic world, but to fulfill his own fantasies; it's never about her, no more than Raoul's search for a trophy wife is. They're so very similar to me -- less so in the movie where Raoul is closer to Christine's own age than her father's (they took out the line about her having been a gawkish girl since the London cast recording, though I think that may have been true when I last saw it staged as well). That's my objection to her with Raoul -- not that I wish she had ended up with a man who not only stalked her but attempted to maim and kill the competition and to shape a career for her not because it was her dream but because he wanted to hear her singing his songs.

I must admit I rather wanted Christine to get away from all of them, to become a star and have as many lovers as she wanted before settling down (or, if she really wanted Raoul because her life had had so little stability, then I imagine that after what she's learned and seen that he didn't get the lovely compliant girl he was expecting but a woman whose gravestone might have said "singer" as well as "wife and mother"). I wanted to see who she'd become without all these people pushing her around. With Raoul she might have had a chance for some independence -- he did not see her as "his voice," an extension of himself, in the way the Phantom did, and though perhaps if she chose him freely the Phantom would have stopped yanking her chains, I'm inclined to believe that someone whose entire life had been brutality and darkness would not forgive her for the first time he saw her laughing with another man. In the musical she asks if he's going to rape her -- "Am I now to be prey to your lust for flesh?" and instead of saying no, I would never, he says, "The fate that condemns me to wallow in blood has also denied me the joys of the flesh" -- in essence, "I wish I could but I can't"! My reaction is exactly like Christine's at that point: the tortured face holds no horror, it's his soul that's warped. So on rethinking, I rather like the ending. It's not as if I expect the teenage Christine to break free and take over the Opera Populaire. She has learned that she has this dark, erotic side and also that she can hold her own against any man, no longer passive, no longer willing to be the person whichever powerful man around her wants her to be.

All that said...the female character who intrigues me the most in the film, to my surprise, is Madame Giry. She rescues the Phantom in his youth, hides him, covers for him...then she offers up a girl whom she describes as almost like a daughter to him, knowing full well what manner of man as well as what manner of artist he is. Is she trying to help Christine? To protect her own daughter, who seems all to happy to be the pretty, sweet, unambitious dancer and chorus girl on track to end up a ballet mistress like her mother rather than a star? (Where is the Christine/Meg slash...oops did I say that?) The way Giry covers for the Phantom, the way she seems to have thrown Christine at him to protect her own daughter, seems interesting and fucked up to me. We get no backstory on her in the movie so all kinds of questions can be asked: who is Meg's father, how come Madame Giry is in charge of the girls in the opera dormitories and seems to have no more life outside the theatre than does the Phantom? And what's she looking for at the auction in the end that is also the she buying souvenirs for herself of a long ago passion, or is she collecting for someone who dares not show his face? There is definitely material to be speculated upon there!

There are drawings of Gerard as the Phantom by Kim Schultz on her web page.

Poem for Wednesday

Imprisoned Music
By Nizam-ud-din-Ahmad

Oh, had I but the poet's voice to sing,
Then would the music prisoned in my heart
(Panting in vain its message to impart)
Hover around thee, Love, on trembling wing,
To tell thee of the soft-eyed hopes that cling
To Love's white feet, the doubts and fears that start
And pierce his bosom with a poisoned dart —
The smiles that soothe, the cold hard looks that sting!

But 'tis not mine, the soaring joy of Song:
I strive to voice my soul, but strive in vain.
Though passion thrills, and eager fancies throng,
Deckt in the varying hues of joy and pain,
Yet the weak voice—as weak as Love is strong—
Dies murm'ring on Love's throbbing heart again.


Had a nice day in Philadelphia with my parents and kids. Went to the visitor's center to get tickets for the Independence Hall tour, ate lunch at The Bourse (Philly's original commodities exchange, now containing the food court where Diane Kruger hid from Sean Bean's cronies in National Treasure), walked to Elfreth's Alley -- the oldest residential street in the USA -- and Franklin Court -- site of Benjamin Franklin's house, post office and printing press -- then went through security to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, Old City Hall and the various buildings in the national park. On the way home we stopped in Baltimore to have seafood at the Inner Harbor, where we saw the Constellation lit up for the holidays. So I am very tired and shall discuss details better in the near future, as well as posting the Ben Franklin photos. Tonight, the cradle of American democracy...

Thomas Jefferson's walking stick resting on the table where it is believed the delegates from Virginia sat when the secret vote was taken to determine whether a resolution to declare independence from Great Britain would pass. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both brought into existence in this room.

Independence Hall from the outside. It was cold and overcast, and we did not get onto a tour until 3:30 p.m., hence the pale sky. We arrived here almost exactly at three as the bell was tolling the hour.

At the front of the room, the table upon which the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were both signed.

The courtroom for the colonies of Delaware and Pennsylvania, where an appointed judge of England presided until the revolting colonists tore down the seal of the king.

The original meeting room of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The most famous non-ringing bell in the United States.

A close-up of the crack that stopped the Liberty Bell from ringing -- it wasn't the big front gap that made them take it out of use, but the hairline that goes up from "STOW" through "LIBERTY."

In the morning we are going to the Baltimore Zoo, which is closing many of its exhibits after the first of the year to do reconstruction and removation. They swap memberships with the National Zoo so I think we can still get in for free and must take advantage of this while we can!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Poem for Tuesday

By Edith Södergran
Translated by O'Paque

Should I not succeed in toppling
the tower in reality's city,
I will sing the stars from heaven
as no one yet has done.
I shall sing so that my longing ceases,
she who never yet stopped to rest,
that she pushes the lyre away from her
as if the riddle of the song were solved.


Thanks everyone so much for DVD cap advice! Am still working on the ideal program for this system. I had a lovely day seeing A Series of Unfortunate Events, which I liked but did not love -- it was very well-made and I was entirely engrossed while watching, but there wasn't a single character I really loved, as much as I really wanted to love Violet -- it remained just a tad too cryptic, just a tad too mean-spirited, and I felt a kind of emotional distance from it that the witty parts actually made worse instead of better. I will say, however, that the acting was great, the cinematography was delightful and it may have the best closing credits of any film in history. I have read surprisingly few reviews by people here, and am very curious to know what other people thought; my kids loved it, my husband liked it, but we didn't talk about it for long after we left the theater, unlike Phantom which even my kids are still discussing. I had thought we would have one day without seeing my parents, but we ran into them at the movie theater -- they were on the way to Meet the Fockers.

On the other hand we may have thoroughly distracted them by going from the movie to the Winter Lights Festival at Seneca Creek State Park. Our original plan was to go to Red Lobster first with the gift card that received from his aunt and uncle for Christmas, but Red Lobster was mobbed, so we went directly to the drive-through light display. Every year I promise myself that I will make my own winter holiday music mix instead of listening to the awful stuff they broadcast within the park and every year I forget, but despite the cheesy music and the lack of snow on the ground this year, it was still very pretty, enhanced by a nearly-full moon. From there we went to a pizza-and-pasta buffet since it's inexpensive and always makes my children happy. We could have had leftovers with my parents again -- they invited us at the movies -- but I could not tolerate the idea of yet another serving of increasingly dried-out turkey and stuffing. Besides, we are spending all day with them tomorrow in Philadelphia; my father asked if the could join us, and we said sure.

Gacked from , the first of what I am sure will be several year-end memes:

Things that happened in 2004...
January: The C&O Canal froze solid.
February: I wrote my last two LOTR stories; the love affair must have been over.
March: My younger son decided he wanted to take violin lessons, thanks to Russell Crowe.
April: And while I'm on a theme...Master and Commander came out on DVD.
May: My older son's baseball team won the regional championship.
June: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban arrived onscreen.
July: My younger son got braces.
August: We took our trip to New England.
September: My older son's birthday; we went to two Renaissance Faires.
October: Leaves, apples, pumpkins, autumn parks.
November: It's not my fault -- I campaigned against him and I voted against him.
December: Two trips to Philadelphia, including the one tomorrow. Also, I finished 21, thus ending a year of sailing with Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, which leaves me greatly satisfied yet bereft.

Things I'm looking forward to in 2005...
January: Superbowl party, visiting my sister in NY.
February: Valentine's Day.
March: Going to England!
April: Will still be in England when it starts, and what more does a month need?
May: Kingdom of Heaven. Oh, and I suppose Star Wars III: Revenge of George Lucas.
June: Going to Seattle for my husband's grandmother's 90th birthday.
July: My younger son's birthday; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince arrives in bookstores.
August: We are certain to get to the beach somewhere for at least a day.
September: My older son's birthday; also, my younger son will be old enough to be in the orchestra at school.
October: MD and PA Renaissance Faires.
November: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire arrives onscreen.
December: My birthday and Chanukah -- the only time of year I have enough money to get anything significant that I want for myself.

I have not made a dent in or posts, so you shall probably find no recs here. Glancing through the two holiday exchanges has really brought home to me how much more my fanfic preferences are influenced by fandom and pairing than by "the writing" per se, because everything I've read in (all Lupin/Black) has resonated for me on some level, while a lot of the Yuletide fic -- even recs in fandoms with which I am familiar -- this is going to sound awful, but after only the fourth or fifth story, they started to sound the same, despite source material that varied widely from historical drama to recent TV. There was lots of present-tense angst about recent-past-tense flashback, lots of odd breaks after portentious section-ending lines...maybe I just hit the wrong five stories in a row. But sometimes I really do think it's fanfic, and my own gets on my nerves as much as anyone's, and I can't even read pro genre novels because I start having the same issues with those too. I must be grumpy about life without new Aubrey-Maturin novels.

Two brief political notes: From , and man I hope this is true, "Kerry Preparing To Unconcede?" And from many sources, and you've all probably seen it many times today but in case someone meant to look up the link and didn't yet, The International Red Cross appeal for aid to help the tsunami victims in Asia. They had CNN on in the pizza place while we were eating, and I just have no words for what watching that feels like. I know I promised nautical and transportation exhibit photos from the Smithsonian today, but those will still be relevant in a few days, whereas the light show closes January 1st, so in the spirit of the season:

An almost-full moon over the swans and castle in the lake.

It was very dark, the car was moving, I was shooting through the window...most of my photos came out looking like this one.

There are a number of drive-through light tunnels like this one...

...leaping light animals that go over the road, like this squirrel...

...and the typical winter scenes like these skiiers.

There are also more secular Christmas displays than I'd prefer, like Santa being pulled by Rudolph et al (and no Chanukah or Kwanzaa-specific images), but what can you do? In our case, we go anyway...

Monday, December 27, 2004

Poem for Monday

Fishing in Winter
By Ralph Burns

A man staring at a small lake sees
His father cast light line out over
The willows. He's forgotten his
Father has been dead for two years
And the lake is where a blue fog
Rolls, and the sky could be, if it
Were black or blue or white,
The backdrop of all attention.

He wades out to join the father,
Following where the good strikes
Seem to lead. It's cold. The shape
Breath takes on a cold day is like
Anything else--a rise on a small lake,
The Oklahoma hills, blue scrub--
A shape already inside a shape,
Two songs, two breaths on the water.


We went down to the Smithsonian with the kids to see The Beatles Backstage and Behind the Scenes and Mike McCartney’s Liverpool Life, two photo exhibits at the National Museum of American History which close January 2nd (both highly enjoyable, the Beatles photos in particular -- lots of backstage at Ed Sullivan and lots of publicity routines on the beach (you get a fine view of which way Paul McCartney dresses in his wet swimsuit). We also went through the wonderful fabulous America on the Move exhibit, with its cars, locomotives, subway car and movie about cars in movies, as well as Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers, an exhibit on great athlete-heroes and what they meant to different cultures. We drove home at sunset along the river and it was gorgeous, then got an unexpected invitation to my parents' for leftovers so went over there for dinner and the miserable end of the Redskins game.

Tonight we put on Doctor Zhivago on PBS, mostly out of curiosity because we all love Keira. I must admit that I do not remember the David Lean version very well, as I have not watched it since middle school -- the love story did not impress me and I didn't know enough history for it to hold my interest then, and for some reason I never rewatched it, which I suppose is foolish. But it's probably just as well, because I watched the Masterpiece Theatre version without any preconceptions or expectations and I enjoyed it a lot. For all I know they butchered the story, but I was quite engrossed by the Revolution as it played out in this version of the film and I thought all the lead actors were quite good (I love the way Sam Neill can make me love him in one film and loathe him in the next without my ever holding either one against any of his characters, though he's instantly recognizable -- unlike Hans Matheson whom we had to look up before we realized it was Mists of Avalon from which we were remembering him). I found it fairly predictable, down to the dialogue in places, but the actors made it all quite vivid and emotional.

We're having a pretty quiet holiday week: I think we're going to see A Series of Unfortunate Events tomorrow after the kids play with their friends, then Tuesday we are going to Philadelphia with my parents and the kids to sightsee. I haven't even started looking at the bonanza of new fic out there from various secret santa communities, and I haven't written anything complete besides this one drabble for , just because the bunny was there. Having kids home full-time requires a full-time entertainment committee! Tomorrow I'll post pictures from the maritime and shipping exhibits. Today:

Dorothy's ruby slippers as worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, on display at the Smithsonian.

The original Kermit the Frog, Jim Henson's creation. It's not easy being green.

Brian Boitano's skates from the 1988 Olympics.

One of Bobby Joe Morrow's gold medals.

One of Sandy Koufax's gloves from his career with the Dodgers. Koufax was a favorite of my father, a lifelong Dodgers fan, and one of a small number of Jewish sports legends.

A Miracle on Ice uniform from the 1980 US Olympic hockey team.

This is the wall just inside the second-floor entrance where the Star Spangled Banner used to hang, but that flag has been moved to a special lab (viewable by the public) for extensive cleaning and restoration; it will likely never hang vertically again. This large flag flew from the Pentagon from September 12, 2001 until it was given to the Smithsonian. I suspect the ash damage will never be cleaned.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Poem for Sunday

Monet's 'Waterlilies'
By Robert Hayden

Today the news from Selma and Saigon
poisons the air like fallout,
        I come again to see
the serene great picture that I love.

Here space and time exist in light
the eye like the eye of faith believes.
        The seen, the known
dissolve in iridescence, become
illusive flesh of light
        that was not, was, forever is.

O light beheld as through refracting tears.
Here is the aura of that world
        each of us has lost.
Here is the shadow of its joy.


From Poet's Choice by Edward Hirsch in the Sunday Washington Post Book World. "There is always some transgression in writing about the visual arts, in approaching in words the work of a painter, sculptor or photographer," states Hirsch. "A border is crossed, a boundary breached, as the writer enters into the spatial realm. Works of art initiate and provoke other works of art. They brave the mystery dividing the seen from the unseen, image from text. They teach us to look more closely. They dramatize with great intensity the actual experience of encounter." The poet then writes about growing up in Chicago and visiting the Art Institute, with which I am intimately familiar from living in the city for four years as a grad student. He cites some paintings I love, like "George Seurat's monumental rendering of a bourgeois afternoon on the Seine" and Picasso's "Old Guitarist." Hayden's hiding from the news in Monet's "Water Lilies" feels particularly relevant to Hirsch this Christmas.

Someone has written me an absolutely wonderful fic for the secret santa exchange, "Culmination Of A Vague Idea". If you are reading this, Anonymous, thank you so very much! Those of you who listen to me talking about Harry Potter probably know that I often have issues with post-POA Remus/Sirius, because I often don't see how they can be together and be truly happy, yet I just can't bear any more angst for them; this story has angst and humor and an absolutely beautiful ending and may just be my perfect Remus/Sirius story. I can't decide whether I hope the writer is someone I know, because that would probably mean that person had been paying attention to all the stuff I've said about the pairing, or whether I hope it's someone I hardly know who simply managed to read my mind, because it's so wonderful when that happens in fandom.

I usually sign up for fic exchanges much more for the writing than the reading. Often the exchange is disappointing in that the writer drops out or does a self-confessed half-assed job -- I'm still waiting for my LOTR fic from last year -- but if I write something I'm happy with that fits within the parameters given me by the person I'm writing for, particularly if the reader really likes it, that more than makes up for whatever I get in the exchange. Lest I sound like one of those "it is better to give than to receive" holiday cliches, this is entirely selfish: if I've written something I'm pleased with, the sense of accomplishment in its creation usually outweighs the pleasure of any fic-as-gift I've been given. In this case, however, while I still have some issues with my own fic (will tell you all which one it is on New Year's Day though you are welcome to write me privately and guess, heh), I am utterly thrilled with the story I received and am really proud that someone wrote this for me.

As previously reported, we celebrated Jewish Christmas, meaning a movie and Chinese food. The Phantom of the Opera was superb, and I enjoyed every minute of it, though I do have some odd curiosity about whether I would be so pleased with it had the exact same film been made back during my serious passion for the musical in 1988-90. and I saw it on Broadway during its first couple of months while I was still in college, with the original cast from the CD, and wonderful as they were, we saw it again on our honeymoon in Toronto with Colm Wilkinson playing the Phantom and it was even better than with Crawford et al. The staging wasn't quite as elaborate but Wilkinson is just a wonderful actor as well as a very powerful singer; I'd known who he was since the original London album of Evita, and I'd seen him in Les Miserables at the Kennedy Center on its way to New York, and had been a gibbering fangirl of his ever since. During all the years when it was taken for granted that Crawford would get the film role, I was secretly hoping for Wilkinson, and by the time it was apparent that they were both too old to be considered, I had a lot less passion for the topic of who should play the role.

I think it was worth the decade-long delay, just as I ultimately thought Evita was worth the wait, but it's possible that I am just so happy to have a well-done film that I no longer have an ideal movie version of either. Visually Phantom is amazing: the opening, set decades after the ruin of the opera house, is in black and white like The Wizard of Oz, and then as Raoul remembers, the color comes up as the dust, damage and cobwebs are swept away. The Phantom's lair looks a lot like my impression of it from the stage musical, the same burgundy and gold and black everywhere and the music and instruments and gorgeous fabrics and that eerie underground lake that glows general the costumes, makeup, lighting, etc. are brilliant and I love getting the glimpses backstage at the popular opera, even the garish over the top bits, in which regard it reminds me somewhat of Moulin Rouge. The scenes in the cemetery are well-done (somewhat unnecessary lengthy swordfight but they had to give Raoul something manly to do, I suppose) and the filming of the opera scenes themselves made me think of Amadeus (one of my favorite movies, so that is a high compliment).

Butler's range is perhaps not quite as impressive as others I've heard sing the part, but his physical performance is quite good -- we have to be able to read the Phantom's moods even when his mask-covered face is turned toward us, and we have to be able to pity him somewhat even after he's committing atrocities, and he does the tortured soul bit quite well. If I had been directing the movie, I would have told him not to stand so straight, not to emphasize what good shape his body's in; he seems a little too healthy and robust, not like someone who's been twisting himself into the shadows for all these years, but Schumacher must have known what he was getting when he hired an authentic hunk for the role and must have made a conscious decision not to make him look a little more Hunchback of Notre Dame-ish, so that's not really a criticism of Butler per se. Other than the facial scarring, which is "ugly" but not much worse than some pictures of people I've seen who've had smallpox and other diseases that probably weren't unknown in the late 1800s, there doesn't appear to be anything physically wrong with him, so his hatred of his face seems much more a psychological issue from his childhood than a reason he would really have been shunned everywhere -- shunned from high society, sure, but that was true of a lot of people, including the carpenters and most of the chorus girls he would have seen at the opera.

Rossum I knew only from that Jason Isaacs movie, Passionada, in which Sofia Milos rather than Rossum sang, though Rossum was very memorable and held her own as a fifteen-year-old onscreen with those two actors whom I like very much. So I was predisposed to like her, and she really made the movie for me; she's the first actress who's been able to make me believe in Christine as a full-blooded character, and I wasn't nearly as frustrated with the girl's passivity and self-delusion in part because I really bought her as a girl (the other actresses I saw were all obviously grown women, even if they were also good singers and doing their damndest to play ingenues). For the psycho-sexual story to work, she has to be believable as an innocent and yet aware of her own erotic power, first onstage, then off, and Rossum really pulls off that development.

I'd have preferred not to know that she eventually married Raoul and became a countess; what would be really interesting is if, after choosing the Phantom, she realized that for all his money and prettiness, Raoul is not really what she wants. Considering that the film and play both start with him buying her artifacts years later, it would be so easy simply never to tell us how her story ended. It's annoying that the Phantom and Raoul take turns making her decisions for her and all she can do is sing about it, but one gets the distinct impression that she's come into her own in the end...that she knows which choice she'd make before she is actually forced to make it and in some ways it's a relief for her to say aloud, yes, I understand this and I want this. What is it with Lloyd Webber that he can make me root for the Phantom, Eva Peron and Judas? Should I be afraid?

After the movie we went to an Asian fusion restaurant and ate a shocking amount (soup, spicy and saucy shrimp, panang curry, drunken noodles, sate...). It was absolutely mobbed and we only got a table because I'd made a reservation the night before, which enabled the management to tell a group of rude, pushy people just arrived from Meet the Fockers like a total stereotype that sorry but they were holding the table for us first. My kids were a little cranky because they got so little runaround time today but they ate well and then we had long phone conversations when we came home with a multitude of west coast in-laws. I also talked to , who is at home and reasonably well but somewhat drained and anyone who has her e-mail, please drop her a line if you have a chance because the holidays are an incredibly sucky time to be tired and uncomfortable.

One of the highlights of my day was seeing a pair of hawks right in my neighborhood, shrieking and cawing at each other from trees a little distance from one another. Here are a few photos. Hope everyone has had a lovely Christmas or just a lovely Saturday!

A hawk in one of the bare trees close to the sidewalk...

...and another in an evergreen at the edge of the woods.

Here I've put arrows in so you can see the relative positions of the birds, probably ten yards from my house. I've seen turkey vultures in this part of the neighborhood, but never a pair of hawks like these.

My uncle got me to take this quiz. Since I don't watch The O.C., is this good?

You are Adam Brody! You're adorable dorkiness is
absolutely contagious, not to mention you're
super cute! You're a bit more reserved than
most, and find it harded to open up, but you're
always there when it counts. What's behind you
doesn't really matter, because you're all about
the future, and the people there with you.
Which OC Cast Member Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Poem for Saturday

The Darkling Thrush
By Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
     When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
     The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
     Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
     Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
     The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
     The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
     Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
     Seemed fevourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
     The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
     Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
     In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
     Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
     Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
     Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
     His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
     And I was unaware.


Have spent the last two hours watching Truly Madly Deeply and crying my eyes out so forgive me for any incoherence. I'd managed not to get around to renting it and it was on LOVE (one of those high-number cable channels) earlier, so I stuck in a tape while we were out hiking at Great Falls -- because it was in the 40s, and after the rain yesterday we figured the river would be spectacular, and the kids needed to stretch their legs -- then we stopped at the grocery store for last-minute necessities, had dinner with my parents, and when we got home, after eventually herding the kids into the shower and to bed, I put it on because I had no idea. I knew that Rickman played a ghost, but I think I was expecting something comic about the foibles of dealing with the afterlife.

I can't remember the last movie I've seen that hurt so much to watch; even good movies that deal with death via fantasy, like Finding Neverland, suddenly pale in comparison. In a way it was the perfect movie for the season for me; it deals with spiritual themes without resorting to mainstream religion, it's entirely focused on love and forgiveness and letting go and the things that never leave. It's on again on LOVE twice on the 28th and once on the 29th and Alan Rickman sings and plays the cello and is snarky and sexy and somewhat goofy and Juliet Stevenson is just phenomenal, and I cannot recommend it highly enough, though for people who want to stay in a festive holiday mood it might be better to record and watch it later.

Anyway, it was a low-key Christmas Eve around here since we don't celebrate when we're not with my in-laws, and tomorrow we are going with my parents to see Phantom of the Opera and then out for Chinese food. Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday, a wonderful break or at least a wonderful Friday night if you live in a part of the world that manages to be unaffected by Christmas. Oh, and The Theban Band has decided to give all us Aubrey/Maturin fans a present -- thanks to for leading me astray there.

Trees reflected in the half-frozen C&O Canal at Great Falls National Park...

...and ice crystals on the grass and leaves near the river's edge.

The Potomac River was very muddy and fast as a result of all the rain we got yesterday, and the park (which officially closed at two) was nearly deserted by late afternoon.

said the big rock formation at left looks like a big sleeping dog, but I took the photo because of the interesting cloud patterns...

...which later resolved into this amazing sunset (photo taken from Potomac Village gas station, sorry about all the clutter).

And here, facing east at twilight, the moon over a church. Not a great photo but it seemed appropriate for Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Poem for Friday

On a High Part of the Coast of Cumberland
Easter Sunday, April 7, the Author's Sixty-Third Birthday
By William Wordsworth

The Sun, that seemed so mildly to retire,
Flung back from distant climes a streaming fire,
Whose blaze is now subdued to tender gleams,
Prelude of night's approach with soothing dreams.
Look round;--of all the clouds not one is moving;
'Tis the still hour of thinking, feeling, loving.
Silent, and stedfast as the vaulted sky,
The boundless plain of waters seems to lie:--
Comes that low sound from breezes rustling o'er
The grass-crowned headland that conceals the shore?
No; 'tis the earth-voice of the mighty sea,
Whispering how meek and gentle he 'can' be!
   Thou Power supreme! who, arming to rebuke
Offenders, dost put off the gracious look,
And clothe thyself with terrors like the flood
Of ocean roused into its fiercest mood,
Whatever discipline thy Will ordain
For the brief course that must for me remain;
Teach me with quick-eared spirit to rejoice
In admonitions of thy softest voice!
Whate'er the path these mortal feet may trace,
Breathe through my soul the blessing of thy grace,
Glad, through a perfect love, a faith sincere
Drawn from the wisdom that begins with fear,
Glad to expand; and, for a season, free
From finite cares, to rest absorbed in Thee!


Okay, wrong holiday, but it seemed to go better with what I was posting about Christmas below than any of the Christmas poems I have.

! Thank you so much for my holiday present! *big hugs* Also thank you to the people who sent cards (I hope mine got to everyone, though I doubt they've all made it to Europe) and particularly to the people who sent homemade things. I wish I had the time and talent -- maybe next year in addition to making photo cards for the relatives I will come up with some sort of bizarre collage for fannish friends.

Had a lovely lunch with , extended because it was raining so hard that we did not dare walk to her car, then so that we could watch the ROTK EE Easter Eggs together because Ben "I'm Not Gay" Stiller and Elijah "Sean Astin Is Not Gay" Wood are funnier shared. Then took one son to a friend's and the other to violin, during whose lesson I went into CompUSA (shockingly un-crowded -- their prices must not be as good as Best Buy's this week) to get a new ethernet card for the old computer which is too slow for 's endless Phish downloads.

I also discovered that my new computer with its lovely IEEE 1394 adapter did not come with a firewire cable, so I spent for-effing-ever on chat tonight with Dell representatives; the first one took an hour to put through an order for the wrong cable, a 4-pin to 4-pin instead of a 6-pin to 4-pin, and the second took just as long to make sure that I really, really wanted a 6-pin plug for the particular IEEE 1394 adapter in my computer. (Showing her pictures and the lines on Dell's own web site stating that it needed a 6-pin cable did not impress her.)

And I would have chatted with friends while I was doing this, but Trillian 2.whatever was refusing to let me sign on to Yahoo, so I downloaded Trillian 3 and promptly discovered that, although they had said when I paid for Trillian Pro that I would be able to upgrade to the professional versions of later releases, I was stuck using the basic mode, and that things that were simple in the old interface have become confusing and oddly placed. So by the time I got the damn thing working, it was (looks at clock) eek. Late. I am sure everyone is insane with holiday stuff anyway, and hope people are having fun rather than going insane!

: Christmas Eve Edition. They asked, so I'll talk about how it feels to me to be a minority in a country where a religious holiday is overwhelmingly celebrated as a secular festival. I'd make a rotten traditional Christian, but then, I make a rotten traditional Jew. As did Jesus.
1. Christmas is celebrated by many people in many different ways. What does Christmas mean to you? A Chinese restaurant and a movie if I'm with my family; homemade Swedish food, a decorated pine tree, candles and music if I'm with my in-laws. I try to ignore the commercialism, the plethora of snowmen and Santas on lawns, the television specials, the "oh we poor majority Christians are oppressed because somewhere in America there is a scrooge trying to keep the Baby Jesus out of our town center" crowd, the "give me a donation before you leave this mall or be forever lumped in with the greedy of the world" crowd, etc., because Christmas isn't and never will be my holiday. I only talk about what Christmas means to me in privacy, or at least when someone asks like here, because I'm so very aware of speaking as an outsider.
2. Have you or do you attend a religious service on Christmas Eve or Christmas? Why? My father-in-law is a Lutheran pastor, now retired and preaching only part-time, but I went to late services every year for about ten in a row when he was senior pastor at a church outside of Hartford. The late service was nearly all music and very little preaching, which is why I went to that one. I have never had any trouble celebrating Christmas with people who believe that it's simply a holiday about one incarnation of love in the world. The Jesus who talks to me inside my head is an absolutely consistent teacher of love, who responds when I bitch to him about the narrow-mindedness and cruelty of some of his followers by asking me how I could believe that he'd support any sort of divinity who would consign people to everlasting hellfire based on the name for the divine in their prayers or on their disinterest in praying altogether, let alone on whom they choose to love and which body parts they use to do it. You know how Bible-thumpers say that if you talk to Jesus with an open heart, he will answer? In my experience, this is true, even though I'm Jewish and do not technically believe in him, and I'm sure those same Bible-thumpers would burn me at the stake for the things he tells me. My internal pantheon is populated with fierce goddesses and Hippie Jesus, and yes, I realize how insane that sounds. What my own personal Jesus always says to me is, "You don't believe in the god of Hebrew scripture any more than you believe in me, anyway -- you believe in unconditional love and forgiveness and a purpose to the universe, from which no one is excluded except people who insist on exercising their free will by practicing hatred and bigotry, and even that's only in the here and now because you believe that people evolve." And that's true.
3. It’s a Wonderful Life, Rudolph, Frosty, Home Alone? What is your favorite holiday film? I loathe "holiday" films (note that these are Christmas films, not films about festivals detached from that event). I prefer Easter films, specifically Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, The Robe and Life of Brian. If I must choose a Christmas film, I guess it's The Poseidon Adventure -- the passengers have to climb up a Christmas tree to escape the sinking ship, the Jewish woman goes ahead of the rest and gives her life for them, Gene Hackman's character dies in classic Christ figure fashion at the end -- it's a religious movie without any of the more obvious, cliched symbols, veiled as an action flick. I find it genuinely moving, unlike various manipulative Christmas films from a great many versions of A Christmas Carol to Elf. (And, well, I'll make an exception for National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation because I think that's the one with Beverly D'Angelo stripping off her towel.)
4. Which is better: the giving, or the getting? The people who shut up about how giving is the only thing that matters and acknowledge that, yeah, we all enjoy getting a little.
5. When you were little, what was something you asked Santa for, but now may make you chuckle? I never for a minute believed in Santa, and even if I were Christian, I would not tell my kids a fib about a man in a red suit. To me this speaks not of the magic of the holidays but of many children's first discovery that their parents had deliberately deceived them. I've met many onetime Christians who've told me that, from the time they discovered that Santa wasn't real, they couldn't make themselves care about the miracle of a god who came to earth. Like I said, it's not my holiday, but this is one place where the "Put the Christ Back In Christmas" people make sense to me. When you're six years old, you don't care about the esoteric miracle of a virgin birth, you care about the concrete miracle of the jolly man who brings presents; when you find out you were deliberately deceived about the details, I think it can be hard to accept that "the spirit of love and giving" should be compensation. But I'm sure this is different for many other people, and I know some people who were instead gleeful when they figured out the truth, so again, this is just my gut reaction as an outsider looking in.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Poem for Thursday

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
By Anne Sexton

No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.
Open to say,
Good Day Mama,
and shut for the thrust
of the unicorn.
She is unsoiled.
She is as white as a bonefish.

Once there was a lovely virgin
called Snow White.
Say she was thirteen.
Her stepmother,
a beauty in her own right,
though eaten, of course, by age,
would hear of no beauty surpassing her own.
Beauty is a simple passion,
but, oh my friends, in the end
you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes.
The stepmother had a mirror to which she referred--
something like the weather forecast--
a mirror that proclaimed
the one beauty of the land.
She would ask,
Looking glass upon the wall,
who is fairest of us all?
And the mirror would reply,
You are the fairest of us all.
Pride pumped in her like poison.

Suddenly one day the mirror replied,
Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true,
but Snow White is fairer than you.
Until that moment Snow White
had been no more important
than a dust mouse under the bed.
But now the queen saw brown spots on her hand
and four whiskers over her lip
so she condemned Snow White
to be hacked to death.
Bring me her heart, she said to the hunter,
and I will salt it and eat it.
The hunter, however, let his prisoner go
and brought a boar's heart back to the castle.
The queen chewed it up like a cube steak.
Now I am fairest, she said,
lapping her slim white fingers.

Snow White walked in the wildwood
for weeks and weeks.
At each turn there were twenty doorways
and at each stood a hungry wolf,
his tongue lolling out like a worm.
The birds called out lewdly,
talking like pink parrots,
and the snakes hung down in loops,
each a noose for her sweet white neck.
On the seventh week
she came to the seventh mountain
and there she found the dwarf house.
It was as droll as a honeymoon cottage
and completely equipped with
seven beds, seven chairs, seven forks
and seven chamber pots.
Snow White ate seven chicken livers
and lay down, at last, to sleep.

The dwarfs, those little hot dogs,
walked three times around Snow White,
the sleeping virgin. They were wise
and wattled like small czars.
Yes. It's a good omen,
they said, and will bring us luck.
They stood on tiptoes to watch
Snow White wake up. She told them
about the mirror and the killer-queen
and they asked her to stay and keep house.
Beware of your stepmother,
they said.
Soon she will know you are here.
While we are away in the mines
during the day, you must not
open the door.

Looking glass upon the wall . . .
The mirror told
and so the queen dressed herself in rags
and went out like a peddler to trap Snow White.
She went across seven mountains.
She came to the dwarf house
and Snow White opened the door
and bought a bit of lacing.
The queen fastened it tightly
around her bodice,
as tight as an Ace bandage,
so tight that Snow White swooned.
She lay on the floor, a plucked daisy.
When the dwarfs came home they undid the lace
and she revived miraculously.
She was as full of life as soda pop.
Beware of your stepmother,
they said.
She will try once more.

Looking glass upon the wall. . .
Once more the mirror told
and once more the queen dressed in rags
and once more Snow White opened the door.
This time she bought a poison comb,
a curved eight-inch scorpion,
and put it in her hair and swooned again.
The dwarfs returned and took out the comb
and she revived miraculously.
She opened her eyes as wide as Orphan Annie.
Beware, beware, they said,
but the mirror told,
the queen came,
Snow White, the dumb bunny,
opened the door
and she bit into a poison apple
and fell down for the final time.
When the dwarfs returned
they undid her bodice,
they looked for a comb,
but it did no good.
Though they washed her with wine
and rubbed her with butter
it was to no avail.
She lay as still as a gold piece.

The seven dwarfs could not bring themselves
to bury her in the black ground
so they made a glass coffin
and set it upon the seventh mountain
so that all who passed by
could peek in upon her beauty.
A prince came one June day
and would not budge.
He stayed so long his hair turned green
and still he would not leave.
The dwarfs took pity upon him
and gave him the glass Snow White--
its doll's eyes shut forever--
to keep in his far-off castle.
As the prince's men carried the coffin
they stumbled and dropped it
and the chunk of apple flew out
of her throat and she woke up miraculously.

And thus Snow White became the prince's bride.
The wicked queen was invited to the wedding feast
and when she arrived there were
red-hot iron shoes,
in the manner of red-hot roller skates,
clamped upon her feet.
First your toes will smoke
and then your heels will turn black
and you will fry upward like a frog,
she was told.
And so she danced until she was dead,
a subterranean figure,
her tongue flicking in and out
like a gas jet.
Meanwhile Snow White held court,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes open and shut
and sometimes referring to her mirror
as women do.


Have spent very nearly the entire day doing things with my new computer, like trying to decide how much of the 2G of LOTR art I burned to CD from the computer which now belongs to I actually need on the new one or can leave on the CDs for reference when I need it. I haven't loaded any vids, but am thinking that now that I can burn DVDs, maybe I can make a vid disc that I can actually watch on the TV...but the quality of most .avi and .wmv files is too low for that to work very well, isn't it? I can convert .avi to .mpg and I believe I can convert most other formats, but that won't make the screen resolution any better, I fear. The only DVD I have burned so far was one with all our family photos -- all the ones that I possess in electronic format, at least -- and that worked very quickly and well, so I am feeling both happy and brave.

I also entertained myself in spectacular fashion while copying, burning, formatting, installing, rebooting, registering and all those other fun new computer activities. First, since my kids had very little homework and I had laundry to fold, we all watched Airplane!, one of my recent Best Buy $4 purchases (when a DVD is cheaper to buy than to rent and I figure I will watch it more than three times, it's definitely worth purchasing, I figure). They had never seen it; I had not seen it in easily a decade. We were all laughing at the top of our lungs, and my mother stopped by to drop something off for my older son and she sat and watched with us and laughed hysterically too. Man that movie is wonderful.

Then tonight I was in the mood for something funny with music and put on Joe vs. the Volcano, another movie I love that I have not seen in over a decade. That is my very favorite film of both Tom Hanks' and Meg Ryan's, and people scoff at me so much when I say that, but having just watched it again I can say that it is absolutely still true in both cases. The music is fabulous, the scene with the moon rising and the prayer can make me unaccountably sniffly and nostalgic despite the utter silliness of the plot (the rainbow lights of New York, the Orange Crush-drinking, Hava Nagila-singing Pacific islanders), and Ryan in particular comes across completely charming and unaffected in all three roles; I can't think of another actress who could have pulled off that triple at the time this film was made. And, you know, the theme about how you take your baggage everywhere but sometimes that's what saves you...

Otherwise I still have a sore throat, though I managed to go out to lunch with my very oldest friend, the one who has the Superbowl party every year. We mostly talked about kids, her new dog and our dissatisfaction with the new, unimproved Bush administration. Although she has known me since first grade and we have never been out of contact for more than a couple of months at a time -- and those mostly while we were in college and graduate/medical school when time was short and she spent a year in Israel -- sometimes I wonder how she can possibly have known me for 32 years and still become surprised that I read obsessively and compulsively collect on certain subjects. After going out for Indian food, we walked around to the nearby used bookstore and she was bemused by my drooling over an enormous National Geographic book, The Romance of the Sea, with wonderful illustrations and chapters on the Constitution, the Victory, Magellan's ships, etc. How she failed to notice my reading theme for 2004 (namely: Patrick O'Brian) is beyond me. What was she looking for? Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events, which her eight-year-old got her interested in!

is home and feeling much better (and very happy to be there although it sounds like it's going to be a long recovery and much porn will need to be provided). I am hoping that whatever is in my throat will be gone by the weekend so I can go see her and bring her cookies.

Rosie entertains herself by reading about her lookalike, Garfield.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Poem for Wednesday

From "Mont Blanc"
By Percy Bysshe Shelley

Some say that gleams of a remoter world
Visit the soul in sleep,--that death is slumber,
And that its shapes the busy thoughts outnumber
Of those who wake and live.--I look on high;
Has some unknown omnipotence unfurled
The veil of life and death? or do I lie
In dream, and does the mightier world of sleep
Spread far around and inaccessibly
Its circles? For the very spirit fails,
Driven like a homeless cloud from steep to steep
That vanishes among the viewless gales!
Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky,
Mont Blanc appears,--still, snowy, and serene--
Its subject mountains their unearthly forms
Pile around it, ice and rock; broad vales between
Of frozen floods, unfathomable deeps,
Blue as the overhanging heaven, that spread
And wind among the accumulated steeps;
A desart peopled by the storms alone,
Save when the eagle brings some hunter's bone,
And the wolf tracts her there--how hideously
Its shapes are heaped around! rude, bare, and high,
Ghastly, and scarred, and riven.--Is this the scene
Where the old Earthquake-daemon taught her young
Ruin? Were these their toys? or did a sea
Of fire, envelope once this silent snow?
None can reply--all seems eternal now.
The wilderness has a mysterious tongue
Which teaches awful doubt, or faith so mild,
So solemn, so serene, that man may be
But for such faith with nature reconciled;
Thou hast a voice, great Mountain, to repeal
Large codes of fraud and woe; not understood
By all, but which the wise, and great, and good
Interpret, or make felt, or deeply feel.


The shortest day of the year is over and the light is coming back! I'm still sick, and I had to stay inside all day anyway because my new computer arrived...which made up for petty annoyances like having a sore throat. It's actually smaller than the old one but it has my DVD-RW! Which I have not yet tested except to transfer files off CD-ROM, I'm afraid. I only have the system about halfway configured the way I want, and am going to be behind on things for at least a week while I transfer files over and get Outlook, Photoshop, MSWord, various media programs and everything else set up the way I like them. I am terrified to Hotsync my Palm -- I'm afraid the new blank software installation will overwrite everything that's already saved on the documents SD card, and there's no "handheld overwrites desktop" option for Documents To Go.

had a much worse Yule -- she is all right now, resting after the angioplasty, but apparently the collagen plug with which they had repaired her femoral artery burst and she started hemorrhaging, which in addition to being undoubtedly terrifying was also apparently painful as hell. I talked to her roommie , not to her directly, but I know there are people here waiting for updates from one or the other of them and I don't think either of them will be online tonight though I haven't checked LJ since yesterday evening so maybe I'm wrong -- I've been too busy tampering with the computer. This is scary enough for me at a distance and I feel very helpless about it; you really need someone to advocate for you at every moment when you're in a hospital, don't you?

All other news around here is of the school-project and cats-in-boxes variety (when two big packages arrive, you can imagine the consternation it causes -- the boxes had to be jumped upon, sniffed and rubbed against before any invasion could be attempted, and then they proved to have dreaded hard styrofoam packaging rather than foam popcorn -- what a disappointment!) My most fun news item for TrekToday was about TrekPassions, a free dating site for Trekkies and other sci-fi fans. Since my husband and I started dating over a dispute about who should get to go to the press junket for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, I think this is a great idea.

Oh yeah, obligatory Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince release date squee: Squee! Now that that's out of the way, I am going to go back to worrying that Rowling will have killed off one of my two favorite characters, leaving me too bummed to write, as very nearly happened to me with the last one...

Winter solstice sunset clouds, shortly before 5 p.m., seen through trees.