Sunday, July 31, 2005

Poem for Sunday

To Giovanni da Pistoia When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel (1509)
By Michelangelo Buonarotti
Translated by Gail Mazur

I've already grown a goiter from this torture,
hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy
(or anywhere else where the stagnant water's poison).
My stomach's squashed under my chin, my beard's
pointing at heaven, my brain's crushed in a casket,
my breast twists like a harpy's. My brush,
above me all the time, dribbles paint
so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!

My haunches are grinding into my guts,
my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
every gesture I make is blind and aimless.
My skin hangs loose below me, my spine's
all knotted from folding over itself.
I'm bent taut as a Syrian bow.

Because I'm stuck like this, my thoughts
are crazy, perfidious tripe:
anyone shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe.

My painting is dead.
Defend it for me, Giovanni, protect my honor.
I am not in the right place -- I am not a painter.


From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World, a response to people who complain to him that they find poetry difficult: "Yes. And that is only one of the good things about it. Difficulty, after all, is magnetic, much desired: hence the video game, the crossword puzzle, golf. They are reliable, packaged forms of difficulty. Finding a worthy difficulty appears to be a great human goal, perhaps more central than success. And oddly enough, that worthy difficulty does not necessarily give pleasure. Sometimes we complain about it, as Michelangelo Buonarotti does in this poem...that the most celebrated of painters could write this about his masterwork should comfort (and amuse) anyone who has tried to make a work of art, or master a profession, or start a business."

After rushing through some work in the morning, I spent today in and around Annapolis, which is about an hour from here. Parking along the river, we walked to the US Naval Academy where we went first to the visitor's center, which houses exhibits on life for midshipmen, graduates who became astronauts, Navy athletes and John Paul Jones. We learned there that there was a wedding in the chapel so unfortunately we were unable to go inside, but we could enter the crypt where Jones' remains are in a marble sarcophagus. Nearby is the Naval Academy Museum, which houses a fabulous gallery of ship models, a main hall of naval artifacts and artwork and a nautical and military-themed bookstore. The Maryland State House is a ten minute walk from there, and since we obtained Crab House Nuts & Barnacles to munch on the way, we proceeded very happily through the tourist shopping district (which includes several stores with pirate-themed and seashore souvenirs) to the building which houses the House of Delegates and State Senate and which briefly served as the U.S. capitol from 1783-4.

It would be silly to go to Annapolis without having crabs, so we had an early dinner at Buddy's Crabs & Ribs (well, we had no ribs -- cream of crab soup, crab dip, crab cakes and chicken tenders for our older son who was in an anti-seafood mood). Then after stopping in a couple more stores -- nautical bookstores, museum stores and sailing equipment are widely available, along with local arts and crafts -- we drove to Quiet Waters Park in Anne Arundel County to hear Melanie Mason and her band. Blues guitar is not my favorite thing but I figure after taking everyone to see October Project and Jennifer Cutting, was entitled to a turn, and she has a lovely sultry voice and is a hot redhead and fun to watch with her guitar. *g* Older son read Harry Potter to us on the way home to give my voice a break, as my beloved husband also seems to be sharing his head cold with me, and now I am fried but happy! Shall post photos over several days; tonight, American naval heroes.

Anchor made for the Navy's first armored cruiser, New York, the flagship of Rear Admiral William T. Sampson during the Spanish-American War, now on display outside the Naval Academy chapel.

The sarcophagus of John Paul Jones, the Scottish-born sailor who famously said "I have not yet begun to fight" when the captain of the larger HMS Serapis asked whether he wished to strike his colors during a bloody battle in which the Bonhomme Richard ultimately prevailed, though she sank soon after while Jones watched from the deck of his prize. Ill from having had malaria in his youth after having left Scotland for the sea, he died of kidney failure in Paris in 1792 and his remains were not returned to the US until a hundred years ago when they were placed in the crypt of the chapel. (Here's Geoff Hunt's painting of the Bonhomme Richard.)

Chapeau bras of Commodore Charles Wilkes, who wore it while leading an Antarctic exploration in 1841, now in the Naval Academy museum. Lots of naval officers are glorified for their exploration and scientific roles, not fighting, which I appreciate a lot (not trying to glorify the US military here but admiring the developments in sea power and technology).

I know this is a lousy photo but it's a miniature of the statue of Lord Nelson from in front of our hotel in Portsmouth earlier this year so I squealed in delight to see it among the British wooden ship miniatures in the museum. (Here is Nelson in Portsmouth, along the route he walked his last morning on land before boarding Victory and sailing to immortality.)

"Tecumseh" is what this wooden figurehead is called, affectionately known as the "god of 2.0"; midshipmen throw coins at the outdoor bronze replica of it before exams now that this more fragile wooden original has been moved indoors at the USNA visitor's center. The carving was meant to represent Chief Tamamend of the Delaware Indians and graced the bow of the third USS Delaware, which was burned and sunk by the Union in 1861 to prevent the Confederacy from taking the ship. When raised after the war, the figurehead was intact and has been at the Naval Academy ever since.

Freedom 7, in which Naval Academy graduate Alan Shepard became the first American in space. His flight in the Mercury spacecraft lasted barely 15 minutes, and having seen the size of the section that housed him from the ladder in this photo, also taken in the visitor's center, I believe that was a good thing.

Part of this year's Plebe Summer class marching on the USNA grounds. The program is designed to turn civilians into midshipmen.

And I get one dorky photo: these are the displays of books by Patrick O'Brian and C.S. Forrester in the Naval Academy Museum bookstore. Hee.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Poem for Saturday

Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage
By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Calm Sea

Deep silence rules the water,
Without motion rests the sea,
And troubled the sailor views
A smooth surface all around.
Not a breeze from any side!
A dreadful, deathly stillness!
In the enormous breadth of ocean
Not a wave bestirs itself.

Prosperous Voyage

The mists are rent,
The heavens are clear,
And Aeolus loosens
The anxious bonds.
The winds are sighing,
The sailor is stirring.
Quick! Quickly!
The waves are dividing,
The distance is nearing,
Already I see land!


You can find Edgar Alfred Bowring's translations at but I like the simplicity of these, which are from here -- thanks !

Other than a brief run to the store for necessities and dinner with my parents where we discussed additional necessities to be purchased before we go to the beach next weekend, I spent the day in the house, getting work done and being distracted by the great evil posted in the locked entry before this one. *snogs * We have a long list of things we want to try to do on the Eastern Shore: We want to go to the shipwreck museum in Fenwick Island, we want to take a pirate adventure cruise, we want to visit the Lewes Maritime Museum, we want to see Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, we want to go to Assateague where I have never been despite having grown up in the same area where I live now, we want to eat Nic-o-bolis and crab soup and salt water taffy, and my father -- well, mostly wants to go to the beach. Which we do too, but I prefer the beach between 8-10 a.m. and 5-8 p.m., when it is less crowded and much less hot. I wonder whether we will end up doing different things than my parents some of the days and how annoyed they will be if we opt for less family bonding and more vacationing.

: What are your 5 favorite animated films?
I'm not even going to pretend to be a cool anime fan.
1. Mulan
2. The Road To El Dorado
3. The Iron Giant
4. Prince of Egypt
5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

: Wedding Crashers
1. How many weddings have you attended?
No idea. More than ten, less than a hundred.
2. Wedding registries: buy from the list or freestyle it? Depends on how well I know the couple. If one member of the wedding party is a complete stranger I tend to go with the list; if I know both of them often I will freestyle.
3. Are you more likely to slow dance or participate in the chicken dance? Both, though the hora is my specialty.
4. The garter find/toss experience: cute or tacky? Phenomenally tacky. I didn't even wear one.
5. If you could marry someone famous, who would it be? I'm very happily married and have no desire to marry anyone famous.

: Work, Work, Work
1. What was your first job?
Besides babysitting, it was acting in a puppet show at Glen Echo's Adventure Theatre, and after that, a summer as a filing clerk in a law firm.
2. How much did you make? Babysitting, a dollar an hour plus a small tip; for the six-weekend run of the puppet show plus rehearsals, $150; at the law firm, 50 cents above minimum wage.
3. Describe your least favorite co-worker of all time. The pedophile who was in the puppet show.
4. What is your dream job? Writing and editing screenplays for a director and producer who don't monkey with my words.
5. What do you currently do and do you like it? I freelance and write part-time for TrekToday, and I like it a great deal in terms of interest and flexibility but the money is such that I should go back to being a file clerk!

Saturday morning we are going to Annapolis to the Maryland State House and the Naval Museum, so what follows is, in fact, relevant and appropriate: *g*

On display at the Calvert Marine Museum, a model and painting of HMS Augusta, 64-gun ship of the line, one of five Royal Navy warships of this size or larger present in the Patuxent River during the summer of 1814. The Chesapeake Flotilla kept the British at bay for four months, but the British army marched north through Charles County -- the only time Maryland's shores have been invaded by a foreign army -- and the flotilla was scuttled and sunk to prevent capture so that its men could join the land defense just before the British burned Washington, D.C. in August. British General Robert Ross was so impressed by the actions of American Commodore Joshua Barney that he pardoned all of Barney's "Bluecoats" -- a decision he later had cause to regret when the British fleet was kept out of Baltimore's harbor by men in Fort McHenry while Ross, who led the land attack, was mortally wounded by one of Commodore Barney's pardoned sharpshooters.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Poem for Friday

Come Storm Or Wind
By Joan Roìs de Corella

If the siren raise its song come storm and wind,
So I must sing, racked in such pain
My soul wishes to die. I wish in vain:
A quick death is the mercy I can't find.

But if you will give shelter to my mind
I'll die next to you, my tears all spent;
And soar like a bird nestled in scent
who dies in joy that life, at last, was kind.


Poem stolen from who translated the English and said that this 15th century Catalan poem resurfaced while rereading the start of HMS Surprise. Here's the original:

Si en lo mal temps

Si en lo mal temps la serena bé canta,
io dec cantar, puix dolor me turmenta
en tant extrem, que ma pensa és contenta
de presta mort; de tot l'altre s'espanta.

Mas, si voleu que davall vostra manta
muira prop vós, hauran fi mes dolors:
seré l'ocell que en llit ple de odors
mor, ja content de sa vida ser tanta.


And while you're back here, one more drabble: "Cravings" for the gluttony challenge, again. Since it's only one it didn't seem worth its own entry and my kids are not going to click to read poetry. *g*

Thursday was quieter than Wednesday, at least in that I did not go out but ate leftovers and did stuff that needed to be done at home until I had to pick up the kids from camp. Watched "The Corbomite Maneuver" for reviewing, found that it had dated more than other recently-watched original Star Trek episodes (it was only the third made, Uhura's still wearing gold) but there are still lovely moments in it -- any story with snark between Kirk and McCoy is a keeper, and Spock gets in that adorable moment asking Kirk how come he always asks for Spock's opinion before going ahead and doing what he was going to do anyway. came home from work early after an emergency dentist appointment to have a filling repaired, so we ate an early dinner and went out early in the evening.

We took the kids to hear Beethoven's Ninth Symphony performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in the gorgeous new music center at Strathmore Hall, where we have been for small events but not to see a symphony (older daytime photos here). Younger son can play the melody of "Ode to Joy" on the violin and older son has been singing in his school chorus, so we had promised to take them at some point to what's probably the most famous piece of Western music in the world. We got a treat -- something I had not known to expect -- because they opened with Beethoven's "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage," which I have never heard performed and although I cannot understand the lines by Goethe, it's quite obvious that the "calm sea" is actually stagnant and creepy while the quick rocky pace of the second part represents the prosperous journey. The program notes said that the choral conclusion contains seeds of the Ninth Symphony's finale and I see what they mean, although the dark notes don't creep back in the way the minor key themes recur at points in "Ode to Joy."

Though I have heard the Ninth Symphony performed live several times by some of the best orchestras in the US (the NSO, the CSO and now the BSO), the definitive performance for me will always be one I heard on the radio and simulcast on TV -- Leonard Bernstein conducting in Berlin after the Berlin Wall fell, substituting "Freiheit" ("freedom") for "Freude" ("joy"). I remember sitting in my in-laws' old living room in their house in Connecticut (it was Christmas week) with tears running down my face, same as when the Wall went down the month before; it was like watching something surreal, something I had never expected to see during my childhood where they made movies like The Day After in which World War III began with East Germany invading West.

There is occasionally some Jewish distress about Beethoven and the Ninth Symphony, which was beloved of the Nazis and sometimes played in concentration camps; I have met people from Israel who simply cannot listen to it because of the associations, same as Wagner. But guest conductor Jeffrey Kahane pointed out that any use the Nazis made of the music or any implication that the ode to joy is apolotical is in direct opposition to Schiller's words and the use Beethoven made of them. He underlines "Alle Menschen werden Brüder" repeatedly with musical notes repeated by the various instruments, then the chorus sings it over and over, as if, to quote Kahane, "Beethoven is asking, 'What part of 'all the people' don't you understand?'"

The walkway between the music center and the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station, which has rainbow-colored lights that can't be seen in this daytime photo but are lovely at night, sort of the like the rainbow lights in the United Airlines terminal in O'Hare Airport.

And on a shallow note of squee, the symphony was giving out free CDs to celebrate their move to Strathmore with Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Ravel short pieces that I love, plus Bernstein's Mambo from West Side Story. (My father's former law firm represented the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in DC in my youth, so I was very spoiled music-wise, as they used to get free tickets whenever a performance wasn't sold out; one night, for instance, my parents gave me a pair of tickets to the NSO, thinking I was going to get Rostropovich conducting Elgar, and instead the NSO had Bernstein as guest conductor of his own music, including Candide, Kaddish and the fanfare he wrote for JFK.) And the gift shop at Strathmore had Shakespeare action figures! And Beethoven as well. Hee! I love being able to fangirl Shakespeare. The only thing I bought myself on my honeymoon with our wedding money was a little pewter statue of Shakespeare in Stratford, Ontario. I had intended to carry it for good luck when I defended my dissertation. Funny how things work out. *g*

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Poem for Thursday

The Secret Face of Love
By Willis Barnstone

The secret face of love changes her name.
Was it Lily, God or Francesca? Plato gave her
a good face, spoke a synposium about her.
Chaucer's nun with eyes as gray as glass
wore a coral rosary about her comely arm
and a necklace of green beads dangling
a brooch of gold, saying, Amor vincit omnia.

Some whisper whore at her or say she's dead.
She is an insomniac. I am her inconstant
scribe since my passion changes. I hurt her
and her face suffers. So does mine.
Her face is always with me. She is my father.
I call her woman, first love, old love, new love.
I touch her unknown face. She's in the papers

but no nuclear threat. Do not bomb her. We
are lovers. Day moves to dust, dusk to night.
It is dark. She is the one I've always loved,
here with me now. Sleeping. We are wed,
illegitimate, warm flesh. A lily is a day of
eternity. In oblivion she is tender in my arms
and in my sleep, I gaze at her gazing face.


A poem for , though I dare any Harry Potter fans, especially Lily fans, to use it as a kick-off point for fic or at least an essay.

I had a nice day, other than my father biting my head off at dinner for saying I thought the Senate should at least ask Roberts certain questions before confirming him; I have now been assured that if the Democrats don't have a chance of winning the next three elections it is my personal fault, so now you all know who to blame. :p I did laundry and wrote articles in the morning so I could go have lunch with , whom I have not seen in ages and who I will not see for at least the next two weeks while we are both off doing family stuff. The electricity had been off in the massive shopping complex where we had lunch, and all the stores and restaurants were outrageously warm, but I had very good turkey on panini and concluded that really good pesto can make the heat irrelevant.

Then we went to The Walnut Tree because I wanted to look at silver rings to see if they had a snake to go with my wolf and dog (shut up) and although they did have a snake I ended up getting a ring with a stone on top hiding a pentacle which is actually much more my style, and then after doing some chores in Gaithersburg I realized that I really did not need to keep trying to crush my wedding ring on my finger after wearing it more than 15 years (and the engagement ring nearly 20) and stopped at the mall to see about getting them resized. I feel rather weird wearing a pagan ring rather than a wedding ring for a week but now I will not have to keep hand lotion in my purse to make sure that I can get my rings off when my fingers swell up in the heat like we had today.

In the evening we had terrible thunderstorms, though first I picked up my kids from camp and dropped them off at my parents' so my father could take them to his pool; the original plan had been for them to go with their cousin who is visiting, but my sister's middle daughter has an ear infection and ended up not being able to swim. I am really, really hoping the heat has broken now that we've had the storms, as we have plans to go to Annapolis over the weekend and I don't see how that will be tolerable if it's 95 degrees even though I'm sure the Naval Academy museum is air conditioned. We all ended up having dinner at my parents', hence ending up discussing politics with my father who has no sense of what it is appropriate to say and more significantly how it is appropriate to say it around children; he also wanted to know whether I'd heard if they'd found the dead girl in Aruba and whether I thought the space shuttle was going to blow up and things like that, all at the dinner table. Sometimes I realize why people are so keen to discuss Brad Pitt...

A poison dart frog. There were a whole variety of colors, blue and yellow and orange, plus an enormous spider and a viper in these tanks.

Four-year-old dolphin Spirit gets a rubdown from one of the trainers after showing off for visitors in the dolphin auditorium.

In the rainforest, the great green parrots...

...and some kind of mouse which we were hoping was part of the exhibit and not someone's dinner.

The sea turtle that lives in the ray tank because it's missing its left front fin after an encounter with a fishing net and can no longer survive in the wild.

A caiman in the Amazon exhibit.

And oh, yeah, fish! We liked these because they looked like they were stuffed -- you can see the stitches on their sides. *g*

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Poem for Wednesday

A Green Crab's Shell
By Mark Doty

Not, exactly, green:
closer to bronze
preserved in kind brine,

something retrieved
from a Greco-Roman wreck,
patinated and oddly

muscular. We cannot
know what his fantastic
legs were like--

though evidence
suggests eight
complexly folded

scuttling works
of armament, crowned
by the foreclaws'

gesture of menace
and power. A gull's
gobbled the center,

leaving this chamber
-- size of a demitasse --
open to reveal

a shocking, Giotto blue.
Though it smells
of seaweed and ruin,

this little traveling case
comes with such lavish lining!
Imagine breathing

surrounded by
the brilliant rinse
of summer's firmament.

What color is
the underside of skin?
Not so bad, to die,

if we could be opened
into this --
if the smallest chambers

of ourselves,
revealed some sky.


I posted this poem before, in June 2003, but I wanted to post it again as a serious complement to the silly photo series for the evening:

Like many cities, such as Harrisburg which has cows and DC which has pandas, Baltimore has a public art display in which individual artists and sponsors were invited to decorate crabs as symbols of the city to raise funds for schools. Here are some of them around the harbor in July 2005, starting with this crab-boat crab with the USS Constellation behind it.

This psychidelic crab was designed by Paula Baziz and Edward Shevitz.

A "cow crab" with the aquarium visible between its claws.

The Maryland flag on the crab at the visitor's center.

Famous Baltimore residents crab, side one, with the HMS Bounty behind it.

Famous Baltimore residents crab, side two, with Harborplace behind it.

The crystal blue crab at the National Aquarium by Paula and Elana Baziz.

"Reci-Crab" with Baltimore icons and recipes.

Construction crab near the visitor's center.

Washington Elementary School's "news" crab.

And two crabs being admired in front of the Maryland Science Center.

The Washington area was under a heat advisory Tuesday so I stayed indoors as much as possible, venturing out only to have lunch with Gblvr because who could resist Thai food and fannish gossip with such a lovely date? The kids' last session at camp was entirely indoors as well, so they played chess instead of soccer late in the day yet still came home too tired to want to go to the pool with my parents and their cousin who is visiting for the week -- tomorrow they are going whether it is Code Red or not. I wrote three articles and edited a fourth, organized my photo pages (still not done with last week's family stuff) and helped Cinnamon chase some kind of flying bug that was zooming back and forth in the living room driving her absolutely insane -- Rosie of course could not be bothered to chase the bug but just sat and stared.

Younger son got Garfield and Friends volume one for his birthday so that was what was on TV in the evening before we all read some more Harry Potter. I did some more work on moving all the stuff out of this journal that is going Elsewhere, and some more work on the sequel to the last piece of fic likely ever to be posted here directly...I'm afraid that there is likely to be no more smut in Part Two than Part One, though we did promise the grumpier of the protagonists that we were working to fulfill his fantasies, honestly. Also, today I discovered that Faerie Tale Theatre is finally out on DVD! For far less than the complete video set usually sells for (around $100) which is why I never bought that, though the DVDs are almost $50 even with all the discounts so I still cannot afford it -- woe! But at least I know it will be there for my birthday in December.

Wow this is a shallow entry...Nicholas Kristof wrote a good if depressing editorial on Darfur in The New York Times, "All Ears for Tom Cruise, All Eyes on Brad Pitt," and The Times itself wrote a column saying everyone has a right to know more about Roberts before any consideration of confirming his appointment to the Supreme Court should be considered. Oh, and Frank Rich yesterday had a good column on Rove, Plame, Wilson and lies about Iraq. I've seen all kinds of fun stuff on Rove in the past few days in the alternative press -- stuff about his alleged mistress in Texas and other smear campaigns he's conducted -- but it's what makes it into the mainstream press that's going to have the biggest impact on public opinion, hence what the Times chooses to report is more significant at the moment than what any blogger may have uncovered -- hell, bloggers have been writing about Darfur for months but as Kristof points out, nobody with any real power is listening.

And yay, the shuttle made it up! Now to get it down safely.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Poem for Tuesday

On The Wrong Road
By Bei Dao (Zhao Zhenkai)

days gone-by rail against
the moment's flower
night that does youth proud
tumbles hugging stones
breaking glass in dreams

why linger on here?
mid-life letters circulate
vast sorrows
shoes of certainty pour out
sand, or schemes

completely unprepared
I walk further out
in some statement at a conference
tracing the twist in a preposition
joining ghosts
on the wrong road to greet sunset


Monday was catch-up day after a glorious weekend running around, though of course I have only made a dent in the things that needed to be done (and would have done a better job had Rosie not eaten Cinnamon's food, which she is not supposed to have, and regurgitated it all over my bed, thus necessitating an extra laundry). I've been covering lots of Doohan obituaries for TrekToday, which make me nostalgic, plus Rick Berman making excuses for the franchise in several different forums, which make me less so as I really think the most recent incarnation of Trek needed to end when it did for the franchise to be restored. On the other hand I disagree with a lot of what Ron Moore thinks was wrong with the formula -- the fact that his new formula isn't floating my boat undoubtedly has something to do with this -- and am wondering whether all SF in the foreseeable future will either be B5 ripoffs or Lost ripoffs (am covering Threshold stuff too and wavering between "wow, this could be cool" and "wow, this could be awful").

Kids were at camp, nearly 100 degrees today and supposed to be worse tomorrow; instead of soccer during the last session, they let the kids run through the sprinkler, which is fine with me but younger son came home with his sneakers so soaking wet that he won't be able to play soccer tomorrow if he wants to. Which is fine, I'd rather have him indoors playing basketball on a Code Red weather day. Did I mention my Borders annoyance over the weekend? I had a 30% off coupon that had to be used by Sunday, had reserved a book online, went to pick it up Saturday on the way back from Baltimore only to be told they couldn't find it on the reserve shelves, and I knew I couldn't stop there Sunday during open hours but the manager assured me that if I put in another reserve online, he would honor my coupon Monday. Well, I reserved the book again and got a confirmation that they had it in stock, only to be told later that in fact they'd sold out of it. The good news is that they gave me a $5 coupon with no expiration, which I will use on something else as I gave up and ordered the book online! (Oh, and for people who listened to me whine about my seller a few weeks ago: refunded my money and the seller didn't leave me pissy feedback. I guess some people in the world do own up when they make a mistake.)

On impulse I watched The Dive From Clausen's Pier on Lifetime, partly because it was set at the University of Wisconsin which is my sister's alma mater and partly because I wanted to see how Michelle Trachtenberg was as something other than Dawn Summers (the answer being, a lot like Dawn Summers only with more '70s hair). It had every cliche imaginable and reminded me why I rarely watch self-proclaimed chick flicks, but it also had pretty cinematography and decent acting so was not a waste of two hours, particularly since I was folding laundry and doing other chores while watching. The main character's name was Carrie and when she moved to New York it was like Dawson's Creek crossed with Sex and the City -- I think Trachtenberg is in danger of turning into Katie Holmes, or at least who Katie Holmes appeared to be before she decided she'd rather play Mrs. Tom Cruise.

Okay, this sloth is probably not really debauched, just sleeping. But this is the first time we saw all the mammals in the rainforest -- the sloth, tamarins and mice -- as well as numerous birds and of course the pirhanas, turtles, etc.

Scarlet ibis posing on a brach in the rainforest, which is the uppermost floor of the central building; the lower floors contain a huge ray pool, Atlantic and Chesapeake tanks and the giant walk-through coral reef and shark tanks, while the attached building contains the dolphins, touch pool and snack bar. The new Australia building will open in the fall.

Many birds were cooperative about posing in the rainforest! This is a saffron finch.

A pygmy marmoset in the small Brazil exhibit downstairs. It was behind glass, hence the glare, but this is the most clearly we have ever seen one at the aquarium.

Yellow fish and anemone in the coral reef exhibit.

The South Atlantic seabird exhibit, behind glass that was heavily steamed up and covered with water droplets, hence the blur. ETA: NORTH Atlantic seabird exhibit! Brain fart. Thanks !

But this is what you really wanted to see, isn't it? Dolphins! Another photo badly marred by reflections off a glass tank, but you can see how playful they are with each other.

And here is Spirit showing off for an audience. She was one of the 2001 dolphin births; one of the 2004 dolphin babies was killed by agitated older male dolphins, so they are being very careful with Nani's new calf and have suspended all shows until everyone has settled down. But they let people wander in and out of the dolphin auditorium where they usually perform, and some of them were being hams.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Poem for Monday

A Wreath
By George Herbert

A wreathèd garland of deservèd praise,
Of praise deservèd, unto Thee I give,
I give to Thee, who knowest all my ways,
My crooked winding ways, wherein I live,—
Wherein I die, not live; for life is straight,
Straight as a line, and ever tends to Thee,
To Thee, who art more far above deceit,
Than deceit seems above simplicity.
Give me simplicity, that I may live,
So live and like, that I may know Thy ways,
Know them and practise them: then shall I give
For this poor wreath, give Thee a crown of praise.


We finished our nautical weekend Sunday with a trip to Solomons, where we went to the Calvert Marine Museum and Flag Ponds Nature Center following lunch at The Captain's Table in Solomons, where we had promised my younger son we would return for his birthday after we discovered their phenomenal crab soup the last time we were in Calvert County. I was expecting a small local museum like some of the marine museums we visited in the Outer Banks and on the Delaware shore, and we were all pleasantly delighted to discover that in addition to the lighthouse which we had known was there, the museum was far larger and more ambitious than we expected, with a ray and skate tank, a fossil-digging pit, several exhibits on local archaeology and paleontology, an otter tank, a boardwalk over a salt marsh, an exhibit on the Patuxent River and the War of 1812, a display of locally-manufactured ships and ship parts, a history of shipbuilding in Calvert County and an aquarium with local fish, jellyfish, seahorses, crabs and plants. The lighthouse was lovely -- there were four stories, all open to the public and all restored to 1906 condition when the granddaughter of one of the last lighthouse keepers who endowed the exhibit was born there. We also loved the salt marsh, with its fiddler crabs scuttling in the grass and snails clinging to the grasses.

Calvert Cliffs is home to both thousands of fossils and a nuclear power plant, which I toured when I was in high school but which has since been closed to the public for security reasons. The power plant is surrounded by a wildlife preserve and state park, so the area is exceedingly beautiful. Flag Ponds has a half-mile walk to the beach from the main parking lot through the woods, where little frogs and birds can be seen in abundance, and the beach itself is famous for the ease of finding shark's teeth, bone fragments and shell fossils (much larger fossils have been found in the cliffs themselves including whale and megalodon shark skeletons, though individuals are not allowed to dig there without a permit). The Chesapeake Bay was very warm, about 85 degrees -- by late afternoon the air was actually cooler -- and the salinity was low enough that we did not encounter any jellyfish, so we spent nearly two hours in the water, swimming and wading (the bottom is very level at Flag Ponds; one can walk quite a distance from shore with the water only at waist level) and then sitting in the middle of the banks of seaweed looking for shark's teeth. I found a couple, none perfect specimens but the kids didn't care. We left for home after 6, had random things for dinner at 8 since we were still somewhat full from crab soup and crab cakes at lunchtime, and watched Whale Rider on PBS since it seemed like a good night for it. We had read Harry Potter all the way up and back aloud, with interruptions from the kids with theories on who is the half-blood prince and whether Trevor is an animagus. *g*

A fiddler crab hides in the grass in the salt marsh at the Calvert Marine Museum.

Cownose rays swim over a skate in the "Secrets of the Mermaid's Purse" exhibit tank.

Shells, bone fossils and a shark's tooth in the fossil pit where kids get to find, identify and take home a treasure.

The mouth of an extinct shark, carcharodon megalodon. Those front teeth are larger than my hand.

A sea walnut in the estuarial biology exhibit.

One of the otters (a pair, male and female) in the outdoor exhibit.

The edge of the salt marsh from the second story of the lighthouse. (I posted a photo of the lighthouse itself just a few days ago here.)

Calvert Cliffs. There are different layers of fossils in the different bands of deposits.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Poem for Sunday

The Gates
By Rachel Hadas

No wonder we so love the dead. The living
are brittle, easily wounded,
petty, distracted by shadows,
ungrateful, obsessive, persistent,
needy, greedy, vain,
impulsive, wrapped in day's opacity.

Better at resisting
wishes, the dead are patient,
peaceable, deliberate.
Having skipped the jaws of appetite
as blithely as the pilot
who slipped the bonds of earth,

they glide across the hours.
But that I see the dead
in peaceful places, in unhurried silence
doesn't mean they're never
desperate presences
hammering at the gates.


From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World. "A poem happens in time: sometimes with an explicit, actual story and sometimes as the more implicit story of a feeling as it unfolds," he writes, citing:

Sonnet 129
By William Shakespeare

Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action, and till action lust
Is perjured, murd'rous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,
Past reason hated as a swallowed bait,
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit, and in possession so,
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme,
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe,
Before, a joy proposed, behind, a dream.
  All this the world well knows, yet none knows well
  To shun the heav'n that leads men to this hell.

"The feeling begins with a frantic need to control sexual passion and ends with something closer to resignation," Pinsky observes. "The opening words are a strained, memorably over-emphatic assertion. After that assertion comes a list of negative attributes, with somewhat comical anticlimaxes within the list...then the poem presents more controlled-sounding, logical summaries of lust's course....finally, the last two lines are a kind of candid sigh; the poem concedes the undeniable power of what it has tried to denounce and renounce." Similarly, he adds, Hadas' poem very nearly reverses itself by its conclusion, and some of her adjectives echo Shakespeare's. "The hinge of Hadas's plot turns on 'But that I see.' That final hammering transforms the initial, clear distinction between the lovable dead and the problematic living."

I had a lovely long day in Baltimore with my family, capped with informal dinner at my parents' house where my kids and my sister's kids played while my sister and I attempted to catch up in between kids coming in to ask, tell, complain, report, whine, giggle and all those other things kids do when there are five children and only four adults to pay attention to them. We went to the HMS Bounty, in Baltimore for the weekend, a Canadian-built replica of Captain Bligh's vessel that's next headed to New York City in a couple of days for anyone interested in seeing it there. This ship was built in 1960 for the Marlon Brando Mutiny on the Bounty and was acquired by Ted Turner when he bought the MGM film library; he has since donated it to a tall ship organization that uses it for sail training and cruises. (It also appeared as the pirate ship in the Spongebob Squarepants movie, which is of far greater interest to my kids!)

From the pier we walked to the National Aquarium, where we had intended to visit only briefly, to get drinks and walk down from the rainforest through the shark tanks. But the dolphin shows were cancelled because Nani had a calf two weeks ago and needed peace and quiet, and because of this the auditorium was open for people to walk in and watch the dolphins just hanging out and playing with the trainers who were swimming with them, playing ball with them and chatting with visitors in a way that rarely happens in the crowded aquarium when shows are going on. We saw Spirit, who was born at the aquarium in 2001, making chatty noises and rolling around at the front of the pool nearest the stairs, and one of the other dolphins was taking spontaneous runs around the tank and splashing the trainers in the well. It was a lot of fun to watch and we hung out there for awhile. Then we decided to walk through the Chesapeake, Atlantic, polar and jungle exhibits on the way to the rainforest, and because it was less crowded than usual we saw a lot of animals we sometimes can't get close enough to spot -- a caiman, a marmoset, a tree sloth, a viper and numerous birds, for instance.

While I'm thinking about it, since we drove over the Patuxent River Saturday and will do so again Sunday to go to Solomons, I wanted to mention that Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum is having a War of 1812 Reenactment, reenacting the attacks the British made on the shore batteries during the Battle of St. Leonard Creek, on September 24th. Has anyone ever gone to this? How is it? I took about 150 photos today, 20 of which are of the crabs which have replaced fish as the artists' displays in Baltimore (we have pandas in DC, there are cows in Harrisburg and I know there are a variety of other animals in other cities), plus about 40 of the Bounty and 40 in the aquarium. I'll start with the ship since there are likely to be more photos from Calvert's Maritime Museum tomorrow:

The replica HMS Bounty, docked on the far side of the USS Constellation's pier at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore. Built in Nova Scotia, she was sent to Tahiti to film Mutiny on the Bounty for a year, then went to numerous ports in the US and across the Atlantic to London to publicize the movie.

Here is the Bounty's masthead with the National Aquarium visible in the background.

And the Bounty's stern, seen from in front of one of the Harborplace pavilions, with one of many tour groups, a paddleboat and the World Trade Center. (Here is her stern in the movie for which she was named.)

The whole of the World Trade Center, looking down on the Bounty and the Constellation. Baltimore was very festive today, still celebrating Palmiero's 3000th hit, with outdoor Andean music and hip-hop at points around the harbor and lots of cruise ships preparing to sail this evening.

The Bounty's tours teach history as well as sailing. Signs like this one explain the function of the mess (and why elbows on the table was considered bad manners on land), arms chest (whose stolen keys led to the mutiny), great cabin (which on the original Bounty was apparently used as a greenhouse to transport breadfruit plants), etc.

Bounty's wheel, an object likely touched by Marlon Brando though likely not touched by Spongebob. *g*

The USS Chesapeake and the Power Plant from the Bounty. Many of the best views of the harbor are from the decks of ships like this one and the Constellation, though really I think the best view is probably from the tall ships Pride of Baltimore and Clipper City as they cruise in and out.