Saturday, December 31, 2005

Poem for Saturday

Fetus Papyraceous
By Peter Pereira

Sometimes one of the twins dies
in utero, without his mother
ever knowing she'd been twice blessed.
Hungry for life, the living twin
will absorb his double and growing
compress him until all that's left
is a tiny shape made flat, a silhouette
of the life it once contained.
While the one child is born pink
and howling into his parents' arms,
the other remains a faint imprint
barely visible in the translucent web
of amniotic membranes -- a fetal hieroglyph.
Some people believe twins have
only one soul between them.
If that's true, how many
of us are born half --
ignorant of our paper twin, the ghostly
shroud of an other self,
the blank page into which all
our imagined lives are written.


Spent all of Friday in Baltimore. First we went to The American Dime Museum, which is closing indefinitely as of tomorrow due to funding issues, which of course meant that it was utterly mobbed today. The museum is in a rowhouse in a less-than-wonderful neighborhood away from the gentrifying downtown; there used to be a streetcar museum very near it, but that is closed as well. The American Dime Museum is partly a recreation of a 19th century dime museum with oddities -- some real, some faked -- and partly a tribute to the circus sideshow that grew out of such exhibitions, with such charming items as "the world's largest rat" (which appears to be a capibara to which someone attached a rubber tail), an "ancient Egyptian mummy" named In-Ho-Tation, a two-headed cow, an art display on the Inquisition, an alligator with the head of a woman, the state's largest rubberband ball, a model dummy to which people had stuck chewing gum and a live snakehead fish from a Maryland river. It's a very fun museum and I would recommend it for kitsch-lovers were it not closing.

From there we went to the Baltimore Museum of Art, where we had intended to eat a late lunch, as they serve high tea, but the dining room was booked for hours, so we walked through the park to Ruby Tuesday's to eat. Then we went through the wonderful Monet's London exhibition, which is about artists' images of the Thames and environs from the mid-1850s until just before World War I. Some of the Monet paintings of the Houses of Parliament have never been displayed in the US before, and there were works by a number of artists, including Tissot, Hassam, Whistler and Pissarro, focusing particularly on the bridges and the ships that passed by the Chelsea and Battersea districts. There was also a documentary video on the underground rivers of London and the Thames cleanup that resulted in the Embankment projects. It amazed me how little the view seemed to have changed between 100 years ago and last spring when we took the boat down the Thames from Greenwich; of course the Gherkin and the London Eye aren't in the artwork, but the fish market and Tower are popular and some of the illustrations showed the current bridges being built.

The BMA has collections of Matisse and Picasso, numerous modernists, some American landscape painters, decorative arts and crafts, miniature American rooms, a reasonable sampling of European art from the Renaissance to the present and a collection of tile mosaics from Antioch, so we spent quite a lot of time going through the museum (the kids were more receptive to the historical European art than they were the other day to the Wyeths; younger son in particular was quite chatty about the religious art, Anthony van Dyck's "Rinaldo and Armida" and all the Madonnas). Originally we had planned to go to the aquarium, which is open late this weekend, to see if we could get into the new Australia exhibit, but when we drove by the lines were still very long which meant crowds even though we likely could have gotten in as members, and the kids begged off, so we drove out of the city past the sunset over the USS Constellation and the bridges.

From the American Dime Museum, an absolutely real and genuine fossil of a fairy! (I was singing songs from Barnum the entire time I was in the museum. "If I allow that right here in my hand/'s the smallest living human man/the sight of that is surely worth a dime!")

That fearsome creature of the American midwest, the jackalope. These can be seen in the Mitchell Corn Palace in South Dakota, too.

The extremely rare Fur-Bearing Trout, found in very cold waters near Alaska. There was a feather-bearing fish as well, allegedly caught in Ocean City, Maryland.

And the aforementioned World's Largest Rat. Try not to quiver in terror.

Dinner ended up being nearly as late as lunch. For Chanukah it was calendar night, but we also got Pirates of the Barbary Coast cards, and younger son lucked out and got the ultra-rare Jade Rebellion set with the Chinese pirates and junks, so he was thrilled about that. Speaking of ships, The Washington Post this morning had an article on Patrick O'Brian, "Sailing Under False Colors", with reviews of Tolstoy's The Making of the Novelist, 1914-1949 and the newly reprinted The Catalans. I figured there might be interested parties here.

: New Year, New You?
1. How will you be ringing in the New Year?

At home, probably watching the Times Square ball drop on television.
2. How do you wish you were ringing in the New Year?
Given how sick I have been this past month and how easily I get tired, and since I can't drink anyway, this is just fine with me. Would not turn down theater tickets, however.
3. Do you have any traditions that you observe on New Year's Day intended to bring you luck for the upcoming year?
Not really specific. I light candles; since Chanukah will still be going, this one is a cinch this year anyway.
4. Do you make resolutions? Do you keep them?
Little ones, and usually. I never make resolutions about things like dieting.
5. Would you ever have plastic surgery?
I hesitate to say "never" because I don't really know how I would feel if I were in a disfiguring accident or something, but I would never have plastic surgery just because I had normal age wrinkles etc.

: New Year, New Music
1. What was the first album/CD/Cassette you ever bought?
The first album I remember buying was the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack but I really don't think that was the very first; it was expensive, because it was a two-record set. Maybe it was Billy Joel's The Stranger but I really don't think that was first either.
2. What was your first fave song? It might have been the single of Paul Davis' "I Go Crazy," but I get confused about what came out when, so it might also have been Andy Gibb's "Thicker Than Water."
3. Which song gives you that "funny nostalgic feeling" everytime you hear it? Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline." I remember sitting on my canopy bed in my childhood bedroom listening to that.
4. Name the first concert you ever went to. Peter, Paul and Mary with my parents during my extreme youth. I cannot for the life of me recall the first one I went to without my parents though -- I keep thinking of U2 in 1987 but I went to concerts in college before that!
5. What do you consider the worst song of all time? "Dream On" by Aerosmith.
1. Name your fave song at the moment.
Sarah Brightman's "Nella Fantasia," which is not a new song but I only recently discovered her recording of it.
2. What is the most recent album/CD/Cassette you purchased? Sylvia Tosun's Jump In.
3. Which song will you never get sick of hearing? The Grateful Dead's "Uncle John's Band."
4. What is your current fave music video? Hahaha, the same as it was five years ago: Madonna's "Frozen."
5. If you could be a famous music artist, what type of music would you produce? I'd reunite the original October Project lineup.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Poem for Friday

As Democracy
By H.L. Mencken

As democracy
is perfected,
the office
of president
more and more closely,
the inner soul
of the people.

On some great
and glorious day
the plain folks
of the land
will reach
their heart's desire
at last
and the White House
will be adorned
by a downright


Another full day -- had no vehicle so was stuck in the house with the kids, doing laundry, unpacking, trying to catch up on notes, work, etc. At dinnertime and in the evening, we had the annual family Chanukah party at the home of my cousin Stephanie and her family -- all my local relatives attend this, including various second cousins and cousins-by-marriage, though it was obvious from the Christmas party photos being passed around that we missed their larger family gathering to which everyone but us and my parents get invited. I can't decide whether to be flattered that they have a Chanukah party at all when the Jewish traditions obviously don't mean much to any of them -- none of them know the blessings, story, etc. -- or whether to wish we were invited to what is obviously their "real" holiday celebration with a larger crowd. My cousin-by-marriage who was a columnist for The Washington Post for many years left early for a bridge tournament, the hostess' husband hid in his living room most of the evening, I spent most of my time talking to my 18-year-old Wesleyan freshman and 20-year-old Tufts sophomore cousins rather than their parents, my kids were rambunctious.

Despite being small, it was also very nice in that it's the 60th wedding anniversary of my great-uncle and aunt (my grandfather's brother and his wife). We had brought donut holes for Chanukah -- there were also latkes, though I mostly ate excellent broiled salmon for dinner -- but the main dessert was a chocolate cake with a great many candles celebrating this milestone. The teenage cousins went down the basement afterward to play ping-pong and I sat around feeling weird, as I am right in the middle age-wise of everyone; my younger son is the youngest child there, the nearest boy in age is the 18-year-old, the girls are first cousins and very close, and although my cousin Debbie has children who straddle my own, she is 12 years older than I am, as I married at 23 and she at nearly 40. We always have entertaining discussions about pop culture though -- tonight my 16-year-old cousin Alice was extolling the virtues of The O.C., my great-aunt was singing the praises of the new film of Pride and Prejudice (she's an Austen fanatic) and Stephanie and I were discussing Brokeback Mountain, which short story I just sent her. I like all these relatives but they are all closer with one another than they are with my parents or us, and sometimes I feel awkward, like we are included out of a historic sense of obligation rather than any sense of relation.

60th anniversary cake for my father's uncle and aunt.

Shirley gets help blowing out her anniversary candles from her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins.

Because every anniversary celebration should end with a kiss.

Friday we are going to Baltimore to multiple venues, one of which, the Dime Museum, is closing forever at the end of the year, while the Museum of Art has an exhibit on Monet's London which is leaving after the weekend. (Sons have been bribed to cooperate at another art museum because this one serves afternoon tea, which they loved in England.) We will probably also go to the aquarium since it's open late on Friday -- I don't know whether we can get into the new exhibits without advance tickets, but just standing by the ray tank always relaxes me and we are members so I know we can do that.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Poem for Thursday

The Choir
By Olga Broumas

I walk and I rest while the eyes of my dead
look though my own, in audible
hosanas greet
the panorama charged serene
and almost ultraviolet with so much witness.
Holy the sea, the palpitating membrane
divided into dazzling fields and whaledark by the sun.
Holy the dark, pierced by late revelers and dawnbirds,
the garbage truck suspended in shy light,
the oyster shell and crushed clam of the driveway,
the dahlia pressed like lotus on its open palm,.
Holy the handmade and created side by side,
the sapphire of their marriage,
green flies and shit and condoms in the crab shell
rinsed by the buzzing tide.
Holy the light-
the poison ivy livid in its glare,
the gypsy moths festooning the pine barrens,
the mating monarch butterflies between the chic boutiques.
The mermaid’s handprint on the artificial reef. Holy the we,
cast in the mermaid’s image, smooth crotch of mystery and scale,
inscrutable until divulged by god
and sex into its gender, every touch
a secret intercourse with angels as we walk
proffered and taken. Their great wings
batter the air, our retinas bloom silver spots like beacons.
Better than silicone or graphite flesh absorbs
the shock of the divine crash-landing.
I roll my eyes back, skylights brushed by plumage of detail,
the unrehearsed and miniscule, the anecdotal midnight
themes of the carbon sea where we are joined:
zinnia, tomato, garlic wreaths
crowning the compost heap.


Have spent all day in the Brandywine Valley at museums -- the Brandywine River Museum in Pennsylvania, which has its annual train display and holiday critters as well as the art of three generations of Wyeths, then the Delaware Museum of Natural History which has dinosaurs plus an exhibit on the science of football, and finally the Delaware Art Museum which has loaned its Pre-Raphaelite collection out while it is finishing remodeling, but which currently has Pirate Tales and Beyond: The Adventures of Rip Squeak and Friends plus an exhibit on Sloan's New York and a permanent display of Howard Pyle's pirate paintings. Had a lovely afternoon, including lunch in the Brandywine Museum's excellent cafe and grungy dinner including Cinnabon at the Chesapeake House along I-95, but am now totally zotzed so shall simply offer some representative photos and collapse.

Dale Chihuly's Persian Window, seen from outside the rear entrance to the Delaware Art Museum.

A little girl afraid to walk across the "coral reef" display in the floor at the Delaware Museum of Natural History.

Seven Dwarf critters at the Brandywine River Museum (last year's photos are here).

The gorgeous sunset over Delaware.

Tomorrow I will have no transportation and must work! So I shall catch up then! Apologies!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Poem for Wednesday

Something Whispered in the Shakuhachi
By Garrett Hongo

No one knew the secret of my flutes,
and I laugh now
because some said
I was enlightened.
But the truth is
I'm only a gardener
who before the War
was a dirt farmer and learned
how to grow the bamboo
in ditches next to the fields,
how to leave things alone
and let the silt build up
until it was deep enough to stink
bad as night soil, bad
as the long, witch-grey
hair of a ghost.

No secret in that.

My land was no good, rocky,
and so dry I had to sneak
water from the whites,
hacksaw the locks off the chutes at night,
and blame Mexicans, Filipinos,
or else some wicked spirit
of a migrant, murdered in his sleep
by sheriffs and wanting revenge.
Even though they never believed me,
it didn't matter--no witnesses,
and my land was never thick with rice,
only the bamboo
growing lush as old melodies
and whispering like brush strokes
against the fine scroll of wind.

I found some string in the shed
or else took a few stalks
and stripped off their skins,
wove the fibers, the floss,
into cords I could bind
around the feet, ankles, and throats
of only the best bamboos.
I used an ice pick for an awl,
a fish knife to carve finger holes,
and a scythe to shape the mouthpiece.

I had my flutes.


When the War came,
I told myself I lost nothing.

My land, which was barren,
was not actually mine but leased
(we could not own property)
and the shacks didn't matter.

What did were the power lines nearby
and that sabotage was suspected.

What mattered to me
were the flutes I burned
in a small fire
by the bath house.

All through Relocation,
in the desert where they put us,
at night when the stars talked
and the sky came down
and drummed against the mesas,
I could hear my flutes
wail like fists of wind
whistling through the barracks.
I came out of Camp,
a blanket slung over my shoulder,
found land next to this swamp,
planted strawberries and beanplants,
planted the dwarf pines and tended them,
got rich enough to quit
and leave things alone,
let the ditches clog with silt again
and the bamboo grow thick as history.


So, when it's bad now,
when I can't remember what's lost
and all I have for the world to take
means nothing,
I go out back of the greenhouse
at the far end of my land
where the grasses go wild
and the arroyos come up
with cat's-claw and giant dahlias,
where the children of my neighbors
consult with the wise heads
of sunflowers, huge against the sky,
where the rivers of weather
and the charred ghosts of old melodies
converge to flood my land
and sustain the one thicket
of memory that calls for me
to come and sit
among the tall canes
and shape full-throated songs
out of wind, out of bamboo,
out of a voice
that only whispers.


Spent Tuesday morning with my in-laws just hanging out, doing laundry and chatting -- my mother-in-law has loaned me a very good, readable book on exposure in SLR photography. In the afternoon on the way home we stopped at Boyds Bear Country in Gettysburg, which bills itself as the world's most humongous teddy bear store, and if it's not, I can't imagine what might be...four floors of bears and hares of every imaginable size and costume, plus a make-your-own-bear factory, a museum, a restaurant and a massive Christmas tree covered in little bears. We have been here several times but not during the post-holiday season. Most of the decorations were still up (including the massive bear nativity scene, which is for sale for $1500 complete with camel and manger), though little was on sale because the flagship store carries holiday merchandise year-round, including a Halloween room, an Easter collection and the like.

A collection of US Navy sailors at Boyds Bear Country in Gettysburg.

Here are some more casual seafarers.

Being so close to the Gettysburg battlefields, there are, of course, Blue & Gray military bears, too.

A bear nursery for those who prefer to adopt...

...or in the Bear Factory, you can custom-make your own bear.

We had to be near home by 5 so younger son could have his stitches out (of course we waited for the doctor for nearly an hour). Then we had to drop Van #2 off to be serviced, so we went home to get it and drove separately to the dealer, then all went in Van #1 to IHOP because it was nearly 7 p.m. and we were starving. Finally got home, have not unpacked nor gotten sufficient work done but, you know, it's a holiday week and it's not like my editor posted a lot while I was gone. (, thank you for feeding my cats and thank you for the holiday goodies! We need to have lunch soon!) Meanwhile, Wednesday we are heading back to Pennsylvania to a different part of the state to go to several museums, and Friday we are going to Baltimore to see several exhibits at the art museum before they turn over at the end of the year.

So I think I said my husband had given me Celtic Woman, on which is a piece called "Nella Fantasia" which I knew the moment I heard it was based on "Gabriel's Oboe" from The Mission (my all time favorite soundtrack, even defeating The Fellowship of the Ring). I have since been told that Sarah Brightman recorded "Nella Fantasia" -- in fact, that she got Ennio Morricone to let her record it as a song with words, which he flatly refused at first -- but I can't find it on iTunes, though as it turns out we have it on a concert recording of hers; it's just not the clarity of a studio recording. Does anyone know which album of Brightman's the song is on? I am obsessed. (And also fond of the Celtic Woman recording of "Someday" from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.) In other music news, I got Sylvia Tosun's Jump In, many songs on which were written by October Project's Julie Flanders and Emil Adler, so even though her music is a lot more pop-electronic than theirs, it's an utterly lovely CD and she wrote a very nice note that she sent herself with the CD.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Poem for Tuesday

Ma'oz Tzur (Rock of Ages)

Ma'oz tzur yeshu'ati
Lecha na'eh leshabeakh.
Tikon beit tefilati
Vesham todah nezaveakh.
Le'et tachin matbeakh
Mitsar hamnabeakh,
Az 'egmor beshir mizmor
Khanukat hamizbeakh.

Mighty rock of my salvation,
To praise You is a delight.
Restore my House of Prayer and there
We shall offer thanks that night.
When You have prepared us for
The defeat of the blasphemer,
Then I shall long to complete with song
The dedication of Your altar.


A Chanukah song, since I've posted several Christmas carols. The Hebrew lyrics are traditional; the English above is my modified version of several different translations in an attempt to keep something of the rhythm and rhyme of the original. The "Ma'oz Tzur" version that most Americans learn in Hebrew school was written by Marcus Jastrow and Gustav Gottheil with the English title "Rock of Ages":

Rock of Ages, let our song
Praise Thy saving power.
Thou, amidst the raging foes
Wast our sheltering tower.
Furious they assailed us
But Thine arm availed us,
And Thy Word broke their sword
When our own strength failed us.

The tune used by Jastrow and Gottheil (who both died in 1903) was originally a German folk song. There is more information about Chanukah songs and some music samples at Chazzanut Online.

Just a quick update as this is my last night at my in-laws and I needed to be sociable as well as I could with no voice -- how come any time I do anything that takes more than two hours, even if I sleep in the car, I get laryngitis all over again? We spent a lovely day at Harrisburg's Whitaker Center, which has a science museum and an IMAX among other things. Last time we were there, they had a dinosaur exhibit, which has since toured elsewhere and been replaced by the Grossology exhibit that was at the Maryland Science Center during older son's birthday a few years ago -- we had a party there. It is just as gross as ever -- the belching machine, fart designer, interactive runny nose display, urine game and skin lesion climbing wall are topped only by the "name that smell" exhibit which includes sniff-and-identify examples of bacteria from the human armpit, foot, anus, mouth, etc. Needless to say this is enormously popular with boys everywhere. *g* (Incidentally, the Harrisburg cows are gone. Woe!)

From the Grossology: The Impolite Science of the Human Body exhibit at Harrisburg's Whitaker Center, the dripping-faucet nose. It had an inflatable balloon that came bulging disgustingly out at intervals but I decided that was too gross to post!

And here is the belching machine, in which kids pump soda into the guy's mouth and down into his stomach until he lets out a loud burp! Next to this you can see the Urine The Game, where you get to be a kidney and you have to sort the blood cells and sugars from the salts and urea, sending the good stuff back into the bloodstream and the bad stuff to the bladder.

Because I did not have h. pylori, the bacterium that causes many ulcers, my family decided that I needed one. Fortunately he is stuffed and cuddly. *g*

We also went through the more serious human body exhibit upstairs (artificial hearts and limbs, surgical displays, etc.), the motion and physical laws exhibit on the bottom floor and the local ecology exhibit in the middle before heading to the theater, which had 30 people in line more than an hour before the film started so we had to take turns holding spots. Snape looks fantastic five stories high and I loved getting to see all the detail in the backgrounds of the crowd scenes -- you could really see Fred and Angelina kissing, how many suggestive looks Karkaroff shot Snape, Lucius' face while Voldemort and Harry were dueling, etc. Joy! We took the long way home on the back roads to look at the more outrageous holiday light displays around here; you can almost draw a line between Catholic Sharpsburg and Lutheran Hanover by the sudden disappearance of big glowing Virgin Marys, and some neighborhoods seem to have a White Lights Only regulation while others appear to be competitions for who can put up the most inflatable snowmen, Santas, reindeer, etc. You can tell the Mennonite homes by the single stars over the doorways.

This evening we watched the New England/Jets game and the "Vegan Vixens" segment of some L.A. TV station's coverage of vegan food there, where my brother in law's restaurant finished first (just ahead of the restaurant he left to open it, a point of great pride -- I find it very amusing that I have eaten in several of the best-known vegetarian places in greater Los Angeles). Older son had gotten The Simpsons version of Clue as a gift but I begged off playing so I could attempt to make a dent in answering mail and comments and stuff, but I fear a dent is all I made -- apologies, and it won't get better till Thursday at least because Tuesday we are going to Boyd's Bears and stuff on the way home to get younger son's stitches out and Wednesday we are driving to a different part of Pennsylvania, to the Brandywine Valley, to go to the art and natural history museums; has a day off he needs to use during 2005 so it seemed a great time to do it.

And hah, my horoscope for Tuesday: Today you may need to get into contact with a lot of people, but you might find the process frustrating. They might not be home, messages might not be delivered, or your communications equipment might not work properly. Unless it's absolutely urgent, it might be more appropriate to wait until tomorrow to try to reach them. Otherwise you could work yourself into a state of mind too stressed out for words.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Poem for Monday

White Christmas
By Irving Berlin

The sun is shining, the grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway
There's never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it's December the twenty-fourth
And I am longing to be up north.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
"May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white."


From Sunday's Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World, a note on Irving Berlin, "the Jewish immigrant songwriter of 'Easter Parade' and 'White Christmas.' In the verse that precedes the well-known chorus of 'White Christmas,' Berlin contrasts winter and warm sunshine in his own, secular way."

We did not have a white Christmas here in Pennsylvania -- in fact we had above-freezing drizzle on and off most of the day, which created fog in areas that still have a lot of snow on the ground, though here it had mostly melted before we arrived. We took the dog for a walk in the morning, ran out to get my parents a Blockbuster gift card in the afternoon after discovering that my husband had left their Chanukah presents at home, and otherwise spent the day working on food, games and relaxing. Younger son wanted to play penguin with me, which mostly consisted of me lying on the floor while the two stuffed penguins he had brought with him took turns standing on me. This is not one of the more sophisticated games I have ever played but it was definitely not overtaxing. *g*

My parents arrived in the late afternoon, and my father and father-in-law watched football while my mother, mother-in-law and husband worked on the latkes. We had those, Swedish meatballs, baked chicken, herring, several different kinds of bread, cheeses, fruit and nuts, Jello, carrot souffle and I can't even remember what else because I am too full; we also had a chocolate mint yule log, snickerdoodles, cinnamon fingers, snowballs, peppermint bark and See's candy. My mother gave me a box of Pre-Raphaelite cards from the Birmingham Museum of Art; my husband gave me the Celtic Woman CD; my in-laws gave me an enamel pin with three cats on it. My father gave me a complaint that they never go to Blockbuster anymore now that they have a DVR and made comments to my father-in-law about how he had started college funds for my children because he didn't trust me to save enough. That's me, the fuck-up child...we can't all be the one who married the New York millionaire who won't even give them the time of day (but does sometimes give them first row Knicks tickets) after all.

Overall it was quite a nice, day, though, and I am betting every single person on my flist has some similar gripe concerning some relative or other. *G* From very brief skim -- I can't stay online, as they have only dial-up here and a great deal of of the day has been spent on the phone to the many relatives on the West Coast, including the always-too-busy middle brother who has not yet been tracked down -- it sounds like lots more people have issues with their in-laws than their parents, so I wonder how weird I am that I utterly adore my in-laws and find it much easier to spend extended periods of time with them than with my parents. No one cares in the least, for instance, that I am sitting here cropping photos and writing this instead of "being social" by feigning interest in a football game in which I have no interest.

My husband's parents' tabletop Christmas tree.

In the afternoon we are going to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the IMAX in the science center, which also has dinosaurs and other cool things! Yay!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Poem for Sunday

A Christmas Carroll, sung to the King in the Presence at White-Hall
By Robert Herrick

Dark and dull night, flie hence away,
And give the honour to this Day,
That sees December turned to May.

If we may ask the reason, say;
The why, and wherefore all things here
Seem like the Spring-time of the yeere?

Why do's the chilling Winters morne
Smile, like a field beset with corne?
Or smell, like to a Meade new-shorne,
Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
'Tis He is borne, whose quickning Birth
Gives life and luster, publike mirth,
To Heaven and the under-Earth.

We see Him come, and know him ours,
Who, with His Sun-shine and His showers,
Turnes all the patient ground to flowers.

The Darling of the world is come
And fit it is, we find a roome
To welcome Him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart,

Which we will give him; and bequeath
This Hollie, and this Ivie Wreath,
To do Him honour; who's our King,
And Lord of all this Revelling.


From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World this Christmas Sunday. "How can a Christmas poem do something new or unexpected?" wonders Pinsky. "Herrick's poem presents the holy baby born in December as a darling prince of flowers, a springtime rather than a wintry figure. Herrick is best known for his poems about drinking, sex and festivity, such as 'Corinna's Gone A-Maying.' A sensual joy emanates from his Christmas praising 'public mirth' and 'revelling,' Herrick takes sides in the religious controversies -- and the religious wars and executions -- of his time. But he also slides past the argument with the Puritans. He celebrates 'the darling of the world' with pleasure rather than doctrine or commandments."

I'm in Hanover with my husband's family, where there is a little tree and lots of Scandinavian decorations -- they have a straw goat, an orange painted horse and several tomtens on their shelves. We had a very lovely drive up here looking at Gettysburg memorials out the window and listening to the Redskins defeating the Giants -- who would have guessed from how they started their season that they would have a shot at winning their division? My mother-in-law decided when she retired that she was sick of spending all day before Christmas Eve cooking, so instead of having anything traditional, we had Red Lobster, which was excellent (younger son and I split the coconut shrimp and grilled salmon). There are also many kinds of cookies and mints and chocolate.

How we spent the night before Christmas...playing dreidel. (I believe my father-in-law won, though that may be because my younger son ate half his pieces before counting.)

On Sunday my parents are driving up, and we are having a mixture of Ashkenazi Jewish and Swedish holiday foods (latkes, meatballs, korv, sufganiot, etc.) Pickled herring crosses the cultural divide. Too bad it's just about the only fish I don't like! Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday, whatever you're celebrating -- happy slash season (Christmas/Chanukah/Midwinter/Kwanzaa/Yule), or, as my kids have been saying, Happy Christmakwanzukule!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Poem for Saturday

By Han Shan
Translated by David Hinton

The cold in these mountains is ferocious,
has been every year since the beginning.

Crowded peaks locked in perennial snows,
recluse-dark forests breathing out mists,

grasses never sprout before the solstice
and leaves start falling in early August.

This confusion includes a lost guest now,
searching, searching—no sky to be seen.


Strange sense of momentum heading into the end of the year. Went out to lunch with , who was driving up in my direction so I didn't feel so badly about subjecting her to my near-inability to speak (she might have been relieved not to have me talking too much for once, though, hee!) Spent the afternoon reviewing "Who Mourns For Adonais?", an episode about which it's rather hard to think of nice things to say; it doesn't suck as royally as "And the Children Shall Lead" or "That Which Survives," but as a result it's not hilarious in its badness and not as fun to skewer. Had dinner with my parents, who gave us and the kids Chanukah presents a night early; they had offered us some money toward our new TV before we bought it, so I knew we weren't getting surprises, and the kids had both put in requests: older son got the seventh season of The Simpsons on DVD, younger son got a giant stuffed penguin that he desperately wanted and which he has named "Snapey Penguini" (I solemnly swear that this is not my fault, and incidentally, he has occasionally looked over my shoulder when I was IMing and now says he is naming his next penguin "Ida Bastet," which is what he believes 's name to be).

There was an episode of Battlefield Detectives on the History Channel, "The War of 1812: the Chesapeake and the Shannon," that I started watching while doing the dishes and in which I became totally engrossed, so I came home with a craving and put on Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which I have not seen on our new TV. The entire family sat down and watched, even though the kids have seen this film about eight times and they have been known to wander upstairs, downstairs, into the kitchen, etc. even while watching things they ostensibly adore like new SpongeBob or Fairly Odd Parents, and even though had wanted to watch some Christmas special and was downloading stuff and baking Christmas cookies for his parents. One of the great pleasures of letting entire weeks go by where I forget how much I love Master and Commander is that when I finally watch it, it hits me all over again. Am thinking that when I finish the book I'm reading right now, I'm going to say screw it to the pile I have waiting and pick up with HMS Surprise again because I simply have not enjoyed reading anything as much as O'Brian probably since my first swing through Narnia.

Son requested that I feature his penguins, so here they are. He also requested that I make a "penguins" tag, so here it is.

Tomorrow early we are driving to Pennsylvania. I am not entirely sure what we will be doing, other than that we are having dinner at Red Lobster tomorrow and my parents are coming up for dinner Sunday. If the weather is as warm as it was here today, I will try to drag everyone someplace outdoors on Christmas. It feels very strange not to have Chanukah starting before Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Poem for Friday

City Gent
By Craig Raine

On my desk, a set of labels
or a synopsis of leeks,
blanched by the sun
and trailing their roots

like a watering can.
Beyond and below,
diminished by distance,
a taxi shivers at the lights:

a shining moorhen
with an orange nodule
set over the beak,
taking a passenger

under its wing.
I turn away, confront
the cuckold hatstand
at bay in the corner,

and eavesdrop (bless you!)
on a hay-fever of brakes.
My Caran d'Ache are sharp
as the tips of an iris

and the four-tier file
is spotted with rust:
a study of plaice
by a Japanese master,

ochres exquisitely bled.
Instead of office work,
I fish for complements
and sport a pencil

behind each ear,
a bit of a devil,
or trap the telephone
awkwardly under my chin

like Richard Crookback,
crying, A horse! A horse!
My kingdom for a horse!
but only to myself,

ironically: the tube
is semi-stiff with stallion whangs,
the chairman's Mercedes
has windscreen wipers

like a bird's broken tongue,
and I am perfectly happy
to see your head, quick
round the door like a dryad,

as I pretend to be Ovid
in exile, composing Tristia
and sad for the shining,
the missed, the muscular beach.


Thursday was notable for the Sears Home Repair people not coming. This is because, for the past four days in a row, the dryer has worked. *still knocking all available wood* I had cancelled all my plans in the expectation that they would be coming, so I had a quiet day, which is just as well since I still have almost no voice. I wrote news bullets and an article on Star Trek Online (which won't actually be online for a year at least), finished my very last exchange fic to a point where I am satisfied if not thrilled with it, finished my very last beta for someone else's exchange and finished some very entertaining stuff of no redeeming literary value whatsoever with . How do other people have time to read everything in the various holiday communities if they're also writing? I am amazed at how many more hours in the day other people seem to have than me and want to know where I can get some!

This evening we all watched that quite dreadful second season Star Trek episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?", one of the installments in Kirk's ongoing "meet god, kill him" complex (score: Kirk 5, God 0, unless you count bringing Spock back from the dead in which case it's really Kirk 6, God 0). It's entertaining for me to watch Leslie Parrish because, having experienced a religious conversion reading Richard Bach's Illusions in my early adolescence, I read all his later books when he was into freaky out-of-body, out-of-mind celestial plane traveling with her while they were married, so I know all this stuff about her that thankfully I have now mostly forgotten. She's very pretty and her character is pretty pathetic but at least she pulls it together when it counts. And, you know, nothing can kill Illusions for me, not even Bach being mostly nuts. That book laid the foundation for everything I later realized I believed in and I am not sorry.

Anyway, after Star Trek my husband went to make cookies to bring to his parents this weekend and I had to fold laundry, and since I wanted to watch something relatively short while doing so, I put on Russell Crowe's documentary about turning himself into Jim Braddock for Cinderella Man which is on the bonus features disc. It was enormously enjoyable, partly because the film (a Gruntland feature) had music from My Hand, My Heart playing in several places, partly because how hard can it be to watch a short about a bunch of hot men sweating and training, and partly because Russell is just so much fun to listen to even when he's feeling sorry for himself. No matter how much posturing he may have been doing for the cameras, it is obvious that he did a tremendous amount of work for this film, fight training and choreography and getting his body in shape and getting in workouts with the lesser-known actors playing his opponents, and I just want to bop him because even if he gets an Oscar nomination for the film (which he deserves, though I will root for Heath Ledger to win), what people are going to remember about him in 2005 is that he got arrested for throwing a telephone. That's what's making the year-end magazines, not the movie and everything that went into it. It's really frustrating being a fan of his because I can't even get many people to give his movies a chance -- maybe the tabloid stuff shouldn't count against him, but it does for them the same way I can't watch Sean Connery or Mel Gibson after they ran their mouths and said idiotic things. I can forgive the telephone the way I forgave the bar fights but sometimes it's a close thing; one day maybe I'll have that actor-character blur that will make it simply impossible for me to see Russell Crowe as anything other than Russell Crowe, and what a monumental shame that would be, because he is so extraordinarily good at what he does.

I love the way the remains of the flowers on the tulip trees act like little egg cups to catch the snow. (What kind of filter do I need to avoid color-distorting glare in the future? Polarizing? UV? Both?)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Poem for Thursday

By Yuan Mei

Skinny legs, white plumage, the old egret,
flown before me, in among plum-blossomed boughs.
Great river, floating sky, moon's white connections.
The little boat tied to a tree, breeze in silken strands.
Where there are mountains, I gaze from my window;
when there's no rain, I mount and ride my horse.
Country travel ten full days: I've had a taste of freedom.
Petty official, school teacher, no more,
stealing time, to chant these lines.


A good Yule to everyone and a wonderful solstice! My stitches are out! Huzzah! Not only can I shower on my own schedule, but I no longer have bandages irritating the heck out of my skin and making me itch! Now if only I could speak normally and stop coughing, life would be very, very good!

That is really all my excitement for the day. I got a little plastic thingie to stop my lens cap from getting lost, I got a boatload of holiday packages including awesome edibles from , a Popcorn Factory bucket of evil from my husband's aunt and uncle and a book on heroines of the Bible from a friend, I got a phone call from my college roommate after weeks of phone tag and since I have no voice she had to do all the talking for a change, I got the new issue of Outdoor Photographer in the mail and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe companion from a friend who works for the publisher, I wrote an article on what would have happened on Threshold had it not been cancelled (Caffrey/Cavennaugh, I knew it) and another on Desperate Housewives' premiere in China (no tabletop sex).

These little wooden cats were a gift to my in-laws. They look so much like Rosie and Cinnamon, except that Rosie would be plunked in front of the dish while Cinnamon would be pouncing on the mouse.

Tomorrow is Miserably Early Morning and I don't want to go out in the cold to walk younger son to school! Older son had a meltdown tonight because he was convinced younger son had stolen his Chapstick (it was in his room). Younger son had a mini-meltdown over socks. Is it the cold, the dark, the impending holidays or me having been sick since Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Poem for Wednesday

By Ruth Stone

When I am sad
I sing, remembering
the redwing blackbird's clack.
Then I want no thing
except to turn time back
to what I had
before love made me sad.

When I forget to weep,
I hear the peeping tree toads
creeping up the bark.
Love lies asleep
and dreams that everything
is in its golden net;
and I am caught there, too,
when I forget.


All our packages with calendars, CDs, etc. are done and in the mail! We are finished with our holiday stuff! Yay! And in better news, the dryer is (knock wood) still working! But in the best news of all (knock wood again, toss salt over shoulder), no one broke anything, came home sick with anything or threw up anything! So although I am still a bear of very little voice, I can rejoice, because I am getting the stitches out of my back tomorrow and then I will be able to shower whenever I want. Ooh, and thank you, , for my birthday/Chanukah present which I wore all afternoon! *smooch*

Otherwise all I did today was the usual Tuesday carpool, burning the last CDs to be mailed, articles on Ron Moore and an actor who was in the Augments arc, betaing, finishing crackfic, trying to do something with my last holiday exchange which is thankfully short but unpleasantly stubborn, taking photos of my cat on top of the television before ordering her to get down, notes on an article on Peter Pan films for Green Man, a bit of reading Dava Sobel's The Planets, a bit of watching the New Orleans Bowl and the aforementioned laundry. And:

Snicked from all over:

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,

This year I've been busy!

Last Tuesday I broke 's X-Box (-12 points). In March I got in line at the supermarket at the same time as someone else and I didn't yield (-8 points). In July I turned in for littering (3 points). Last Thursday I helped see the light (8 points). In February I ruled Duluth, Minnesota as a kind and benevolent dictator (700 points).

Overall, I've been nice (691 points). For Christmas I deserve a shiny red ball!


Write your letter to Santa! Enter your LJ username:

I've always wanted to be a kind and benevolent dictator. Snicked from :

You are the Beta
You are the Beta/Hunter,2nd in command.You are very
close to the Alpha and will take over if he
dies.You love the trill of the hunt and are
very loyal to your pack members.You love
puppies and are friendly,playful,and get along
with all of your pack members.^_^

What position are u in your wolf pack?
brought to you by Quizilla

And of course I had to do that one, because, you know, wolves. Snicked from :

gURL.comI took the "The Animal Spirit" quiz on
dolphinMy animal spirit is...
The Dolphin

According to shamanistic wisdom, the dolphin is a great and generous communicator. Dolphin people tend to be very friendly and intelligent. They don't hold grudges and seem to spring out of bad moods much more quickly than other people do. Read more...

What is your animal spirit?

Sweet! Can I be a fire sign and a dolphin at the same time?

I've been avoiding talking about politics because I am so, so, so sick of people telling me what it is or is not fair to express in my own damn journal, but I do want to apologize once more to the citizens of the world for not having done enough to stop the criminals and idiots currently in the US government from getting away with all the things they are still, beyond all reason or comprehension, getting away with. Having grown up during Watergate, it is astonishing to me to have a president who makes Nixon's crimes look relatively small-scale, who almost makes me miss Reagan's tiny little foreign invasions. How, from where we were, have we sunk to this? There must be more we can do than signing endless ACLU and PFAW petitions and writing our representatives and ranting in blogs. There must be some way to talk sense to the people who voted to reelect this administration. If not, I don't know what I'm doing in this country.

Dove and cardinal in the trees in our backyard in the snow last week.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Poem for Tuesday

By Norman Dubie

The snow lifts into the beards of sycamores.
Laura says with some nervousness
that the tracks over the snow
are divisible only by their sum and zero.

An owl, leaving its cedar bough, laughs. I laugh.

She breaks a stick, says that a brazen mathematics
of stars in the illustrated night
is signaling its approval to us.

I say, "Oh, really, and which stars are these,

Childlike, with a sigh, she points and whispers,
"That little blue one, in Orion,
just beyond the stomach
of the hunter and his trapezium.
What do you think, how many wars
in our new millennium will reach
their natural conclusions, and blink?"


Okay, I know I have done nothing but bitch and moan all month, pretty much, but it really HAS been that kind of month. This lovely Monday morning I woke up with complete laryngitis -- very painful sore throat and couldn't say a word aloud, which, as I said last night, was probably my own fault for overdoing it and going to both a Yule ritual and movie yesterday, but it was a wonderful day and I have no regrets. An hour after I hauled myself out of bed, older son's school called -- he was in the health room with an upset stomach again, could someone please come pick him up? So I had older son home all day while I wrote four, count 'em, four articles, one more than I was assigned but I was excited to have found out that G4 was acquiring Star Trek syndication rights before it was all over fandom, and it's a damn good thing I did because I suspect I will get very little done tomorrow.

This is because younger son, having come home and done his homework and written a hilarious piece on his field trip last week, went over to a friend's house where he was invited to stay for dinner and at some point in the early evening, the two of them were using the sticks on these little plastic flagpoles as fencing weapons, and son's friend accidentally stabbed son in the make a long story short, he required five stitches, which means he required novocaine, which means there was much trauma and screaming and child who had to be comforted at 10 o'clock at night, which means the laundry did not get folded until a few minutes ago -- the dryer appears to be working so long as we put everything on permanent press rather than high heat, knock wood and thank heavens for small favors -- but all this means I am so dead I can barely hold my head up. Have told that he is not allowed to get sick, as three out of four people incapacitated is quite enough. Besides, he already had my cold before I did.

Since I know I often gripe about how my kids give me tsuris, I shall post younger son's report on his field trip to Seneca Schoolhouse Museum from last Tuesday. It's a perfect delight to read, I think, even if you are not the mother of the writer. *g*

A Day in a One-Room Schoolhouse

Okay. I wondered how much trouble a ten-and-a-half year old boy could get into for putting a fake mouse in the teacher's desk. We were about to read the Bible in the morning at Seneca Schoolhouse, when the teacher opened her desk to get it. I gulped hard. Before I tell you that, though, my name is George. I am a ten-year-old boy. It is May 14, 1884. I am about to be in the most trouble in the world! The teacher screamed. I was wondering what would become of me when she explained her Bible was missing.

She soon slapped herself on the forehead; it was ON her desk, not in it. She closed the desk drawer as the mouse fell out. She asked many people, "Who did it?!" Then she asked me. By the way, my teacher's name is Miss Draptellus. Miss D. asked again and I admitted it. I was lucky she only put me on the dunce chair, yes -- she could have used the rod. After what seemed like a day, she excused me to my desk.

At the end of math, it was lunchtime. Nothing I had would appeal to you, so I won't bother to explain why or what I had. After lunch, I went to recess. It was a bright, sunny day. I noticed Miss D. was writing a note addressed to my father. I walked gloomily out the door. Recess ran a long while, until 3:30, because Andrew was climbing trees and got stuck on the roof right after the branch to get off snapped in two.

For 30 minutes, we had an extremely hard spelling test. When school was over, I had completely forgotten why I was so unhappy before. Then my teacher handed me a note and told me to give it to my father. I wondered what would happen.

A side note: son told me the day of the field trip that the boys beat the girls in the spelling bee and he was the only student who spelled "locomotive" correctly. This is because his mean, evil mother made him miss SpongeBob the week before to drill him on his spelling words, even though he insisted that he knew them all already, which was not precisely accurate at the time he said it. Heh.

, I will get your beta to you tomorrow -- I must lie down before I fall down. And there is some chance that one or both of my children will not be at school all day tomorrow (I have already decided that if one cannot go to Hebrew school, neither is going, as I am not dealing with that carpool if they aren't both going to be in class!) I need to cancel son's orthodontist appointment for Wednesday as opening his mouth widely will interfere with the stitches. Hopefully in the morning I will have at least a little bit of a voice.

A sunken ship surrounded by giant deep-sea creatures! Oh, fine, not really, but sometimes I would like to have an aquarium just for the pirate booty and tall ship ornaments, even if all the fish were goldfish.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Poem for Monday

From "Five Poems Entitled 'Questions"
By Gail Mazur

What is my purpose in life
if not to peer into the glazed bowl
of silence and fill it for myself
with words? How shall I do it?
The way a disobedient child sings
to herself to keep out the punishing
night, not knowing that her brother
and sister, hearing the song,
shift in their cots of demons
and are solaced into sleep?


Another from Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in Sunday's The Washington Post Book World. (There, , more Gail Mazur!) "Audacity and modesty," writes Pinsky. "In Mazur's work, those apparent opposites reveal their secret kinship: Modesty from its place on the sidelines can see through the conventional sham of the rules, and audacity has the confidence to embrace the plain, ordinary truth. In the face of demons or emptiness, Mazur offers a song. In her 'Five Poems Entitled 'Questions,'' all five parts begin with the grand yet homely words 'What is my purpose in life.' Here is the first poem of the sequence [in which] even the phrase 'purpose in life' is ironic, almost parodic -- and not. Part of the pleasure in these poems is their simultaneous large scope and measured, deceptively quiet voice."

Have had utterly lovely and completely exhausting day, beginning early since the kids had Hebrew school. I saw very little of my family today; in the afternoon and I went to the Northern Virginia circle's Yule ritual, which involved mistletoe, wassail and demolishing a gingerbread house; we met there and after eating much wonderful food including hummus, chili, almond cookies and several kinds of cheese, we went to see Brokeback Mountain. I'm afraid I cried just as much as the first time. And lost my voice, though says this is probably less from crying than because I talk too much. *g* I can't help it if there are many lovely fannish people in the pagan circle and if the husband of the woman who was hosting the ritual has many Grateful Dead bootlegs though not as many as my husband and if I always thought it was pronounced "Baldur" rather than "Balthur" and many other things to discuss!

Meanwhile family went out to dinner at Burger King because younger son wanted one of the Furby kids meal toys, and everyone was happy when I got home because the Redskins had beaten the Cowboys by a huge margin (the kids, of course, were not yet asleep). Now I have taken my shower and really must go collapse, since my head is refusing to stay upright. Shall catch up on things tomorrow. Thank you, , for my birthday present! Here are a couple more Congressional Aquarium photos from Saturday...

An electric blue lobster admires itself in the mirror.

And here's a little red lobster showing off its own underside.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Poem for Sunday

From "Zeppo's First Wife"
By Gail Mazur

whose name I find this morning on the web,
Marion Benda -- footnote to a footnote -- she's gone,
of course, as the brothers are, through the zodiacal lights
beyond stardom and failure, beyond his family's
history and ours of raves and flops. Replaced,

forgotten. Not missed. Only the hand that touched
the hand , my mother would say dismissively,
but surely something more, something happier.
Her life not so unlike yours or mine, or Zeppo's,
then: he never got top billing, no one's idea

of the zeitgeist of the Jazz Age -- except that night
his brother's biographer uncovered: he came in
first, he was the rage, he lived in an audience's
delirious laughter, lived, not quite himself,
in the roar of its applause. And then, he left the stage.


From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World. "Imagine the audacity to entitle a new collection of poems Zeppo's First Wife!" he writes. "Gail Mazur's title is too anti-lyrical for any old-fashioned notion of poetry. Yet its comedy is not merely wise-guy or superior in the glib manner sometimes called post-modernist. Here the element of tribute is real and sincere. The three words dance a gavotte of contradictions: Zeppo Marx exemplifies what is in superficial ways a known or even 'well-known' personality -- but in other, important ways is not really known. A figure whom we think we know may be overlooked or underestimated (and, in Zeppo's case, alphabetically last). 'First' is in the opposite direction from 'Zeppo.' But then 'Wife' reverses that opposition: A first wife is a replaced wife, and 'wife' itself is a richly ambiguous, basic social term."

Pinsky labels the poem above "an aria on the importance of what goes unnoticed. Mazur characteristically uses social comedy to illustrate metaphysical pathos. 'Celebrity' does not necessarily make a person glorious or even remembered: Often, it is diminishing or dismissive, reducing this person or that to a teeny dot of fame. We yearn toward the permanent in vain. This is a traditional theme: Shakespeare and Homer write about the intimate channels that run between the ephemeral and the eternal. Mazur brings that subject into our world of Google and Turner Classic Movies. The poem's 11 five-line stanzas assemble a dazzling variety of lore. For instance, one night when Groucho had appendicitis, the apparent cipher Zeppo had to stand in for his brother the star. Zeppo painted on the moustache, put on the black glasses and brought the house down. He was so funny that Groucho was spurred 'to get better quicker.' The first wife, the poem's nominal focus, is literally related to the poet -- some sort of cousin. Figuratively, as an instance of how little or how briefly any person is known, she is related to everyone. The passing glory and mystery of life, the disproportionate claims on the eternal that underlie elegy, are embodied by that specific, actual and not quite anonymous woman...mortality, in the last words, caps a wry, strangely comforting perception: On the stage of attention, each person may be 'not quite himself,' but in death, as in the real, central part of life, each individual is "something more," beyond top billing or applause."

This morning for some absurd reason the dryer that would not turn on at all yesterday and had to be completely taken apart decided, when I pressed the start button on a whim, I did a very small load of laundry just to see whether it was a fluke and it dried everything fine, without either stopping or exploding. I am not sure whether to feel reprieved or nervous now: can a dryer with a somewhat broken timing belt set the house on fire if left unattended? Does this mean I can postpone shopping for a new dryer at least until after the holiday insanity, since I was in terror of going to the mall the Saturday before Christmas?

We were in a terribly crowded parking lot anyway, as we took the kids and ourselves to get haircuts (I still get my hair cut at Cartoon Cuts, where for under $20 from a lovely woman named Elli I get a far better haircut than the last one I got from the hairdresser my mother goes to for more than three times the price). We also did some last minute shopping at Plow and Hearth, got free smoothies at that new Robek's place (the berry one is fantastic, and they were giving out samples of fresh-squeezed orange juice that was also wonderful), made a brief run through Whole Foods and distracted younger son from his unwanted haircut in Congressional Aquarium, hence tonight's photos.

Like an idiot I did not take photos of the labels on the tanks, so I have no idea what kind of fish this is -- it's at least six inches across and just as gloriously colorful as it looks.

The beautiful, poisonous lionfish. My son tells me that the Romans used the venom in their stingers to make poisoned arrows, does anyone know if this is true? I didn't think they could fatally sting humans, just that it hurt a lot to be stung by one!

Nemo, Marlin and Dory...err, you know what I mean. *g*

In the evening I stuck on Meet the Santas, which is not my kind of movie in SO many ways, just long enough to see Armin Shimerman as an anal retentive elf -- a role I discovered he would be reprising only that morning when I had to cover it for TrekToday; to my astonishment, my kids decided they liked the movie and asked us to tape it after they went to bed halfway through! I loathe most Christmas movies, and I really hate Santa movies, and it figures it took a Jewish Star Trek actor to get all of us watching one, heh. (The movie is rerunning on the Hallmark Channel many times this week if anyone is dying to see it; I never saw the prequel.) And in that spirit:

Christmas Elf Name

My Christmas Elf Name is
Get your Christmas Elf Name at

Yay, I might be a cat! And, like Shimerman, I think I should play an elf in a movie, because I am short. Sunday I am going to a Yule celebration with and , and then and I are going to see Brokeback Mountain. Because once is never enough.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Poem for Saturday

By W.S. Merwin

All morning with dry instruments
The field repeats the sound
Of rain
From memory
And in the wall
The dead increase their invisible honey
It is August
The flocks are beginning to form
I will take with me the emptiness of my hands
What you do not have you find everywhere


Despite a two-hour school delay due to the ice storm, my younger son had his winter concert, at which they played assorted holiday music and Americana to prerecorded accompaniment, which was a blessing considering that half the violins were bowing up on "My Country Tis Of Thee" while the other half were bowing down. It was creaky but entertaining. Meanwhile my husband was here being told that replacing the timing belt on our dryer was going to run $250. Does this sound plausible to other people? (Please don't tell me how much more cheaply we could do it ourselves, with something that could start a house fire I do not feel safe doing home repairs, just tell me if that number seems outrageously high or about right for parts and labor, since Sears will charge us $60 just for an estimate at which point if it does cost $250 it may be more cost-effective just to buy a new dryer.)

My classic Trek review for the week is quite possibly my absolute favorite episode, "Amok Time". I thought about writing a typical thing about Vulcan psychology and physiology and all that, and then I said fuck that and wrote a review that asked the question upon which the history of organized slash fandom is predicated to a large degree: If Kirk and Spock were stranded on a planet and Spock went into pon farr, would Kirk (who is completely accepting of the idea that he could lose his command -- something I suspect he treasures far more than his heterosexuality -- to save Spock's life in "Amok Time") do whatever it takes to save him? Of course he would. No brainer. End of story. Mwahahaha. Have only gotten one piece of hate mail so far but I have not had time to read the bulletin boards for the flames that are undoubtedly there (not that flames mean much there, as there is a heated discussion going on by people who hate it when the original series is called the original series!)

I had no time to read (and I had gay characters on the brain) because we had Brokeback Mountain tickets in the evening. I need to see it again because I was crying so hard for the last 20 minutes or so that I had to have my glasses off and couldn't see very clearly. The two men sitting next to me were crying just as hard. If Heath Ledger does not win an Oscar I will eat my Entertainment Weekly. Also, I am enormously nostalgic for the Canadian Rockies; the last time I was in Alberta was 1986. (I know it's supposed to be Wyoming but I remember those mountains.) It was very true to the story as I remember it -- I haven't read it in a year or so -- I felt like Jack's story got fleshed out more than Ennis' but I think I paid more attention to Ennis because so much more was from his POV. The story, by the way, is here until someone finds it and it moves again. I can't write any sort of real coherent review because I didn't watch at all critically, my reactions were very emotional; I think Michelle Williams was excellent, really everyone in the cast was superb, but Ledger's the one playing the guy who can't even tell himself what he's feeling and that's one heck of a thing to convey.

: Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear
1. What is the oldest object in the room with you?
I'm not sure but it might be a piece of wood from the original deck of the USS Constellation. I think the Roman coin got put away upstairs when we got the new TV.
2. What is the newest? The Annie Haslam CD I got in the mail today.
3. What is your favorite object in the room with you? At the moment, assuming that my husband and my cat don't count, it's probably this computer.
4. What is the most valuable object? Probably the television in terms of street value; in terms of personal value it's probably the CDs where I have all my photos of my kids burned.
5. What is the ugliest object? The scorpion paperweight that one of my kids got at some science store and left down here.

: What 5 characters would you like to go shopping with and what would you be shopping for?
1. Q
from James Bond for gadgets. (Would be perfectly happy just to sit in his laboratory, so long as I got to take the less violent, more useful ones home with me.)
2. Lucius Malfoy from Harry Potter for cool magical objects. (Okay, really I would be happy to go shopping with anyone from Harry Potter for anything, but I figure Lucius has both exquisite taste and the money to buy whatever he wants...and, you know, I'd be with Lucius!)
3. Jack Aubrey from Patrick O'Brian's books for musical scores. (He discovered Johann Sebastian Bach; I don't need to know anything else.)
4. Emma Peel from The Avengers for clothes. (I would not be trying on the clothes -- I would be watching her pick out and model them.)
5. Kira Nerys from Deep Space Nine for jumja sticks and hasperat. (Actually, while both Bajoran delicacies sound good to me -- the former is sweet and the latter is spicy -- I just want an excuse to hang out with Kira, and I don't see her hanging out at Garak's trying on dresses.)

I just heard on the news that John Spencer died at 58 of the same thing that almost killed Leo McGarry, a heart attack. How terribly sad. A lot of his colleagues had nice things to say about him at CNN. I wonder what will happen to the Santos-McGarry campaign.

The intermediate strings consult before the concert.

Still have sore throat and keep getting sinus headaches but am vastly better than a couple of days ago. I think bawling at the movies helped. Tomorrow, unfortunately, we may be shopping for dryers...

Friday, December 16, 2005

Poem for Friday

True Story
By Shel Silverstein

This morning I jumped on my horse,
And went out for a ride,
And some wild outlaws chased me
And they shot me in the side.
So I crawled into a wildcat’s cave
To find a place to hide,
But some pirates found me sleeping there,
And soon they had me tied
To a pole and built a fire
Under me — I almost cried
Till a mermaid came and cut me loose
And begged to be my bride,
So I said I’d come back Wednesday
But I must admit I lied.
Then I ran into a jungle swamp
But I forgot my guide
And I stepped into some quicksand,
And no matter how I tried
I couldn’t get out, until I met
A water snake named Clyde,
Who pulled me to some cannibals
Who planned to have me fried.
But an eagle came and swooped me up
And through the air we flied,
But he dropped me in a boiling lake
A thousand miles wide.
And you’ll never guess what I did then —


That last line reminds me of Moaning Myrtle. Am sort of relating to her right now -- at least, my raging sore throat is. Have spent the past two hours fighting with my FireWire trying to capture and burn video of my son's concert from MiniDV to DVD -- Nero Express has the sync between the video and audio all wrong and Windows Movie Maker has the beginning all fuzzed out and unwatchable. My parents missed the concert due to my mother's having ditzed on the day so I told her I would try to make her a copy, but thus far I have never actually used the FireWire, just sent things to the VCR from the camcorder.

Anyway, I do still have a raging sore throat but at least I don't have the fever that had me shaking with chills half the night. I had a comforter and two afghans on top of me, which, of course, means that as a radiant heat source covered in blankets I had two very happy cats competing to get close to me. I love my cats dearly but it is very hard to sleep when the one between my legs is licking herself and the one between me and my husband is snoring. Aforementioned wonderful husband bought me a space heater for near my computer, which is in the coldest corner of the house away from the vents, so I also had a happy cat curled on the chair next to me while I was at the computer.

Thursday's news was bullets, Grace Lee Whitney appearing in Star Trek: New Voyages now that Walter Koenig's done one, and finding a dryer repair place that can come tomorrow -- that is the good news, the bad news is that they are likely to be here during younger son's violin performance at school so either or I will not be able to go. Again, it is important to get the FireWire working so that whichever of us is not there has a recording of it for posterity. Kids were home from school two and a half hours early due to snowstorm, will probably be delayed tomorrow due to ice storm on top of snowstorm, so we will see what happens.

After seeing my bear slippers, the kids demanded that I track them down the cat slippers from JCPenney. Here they are, with Cinnamon insisting on being in the photo as well because why have fake cats when you can have a real one sitting on your feet to warm them?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Poem for Thursday

Ode to Meaning
By Robert Pinsky

Dire one and desired one,
Savior, sentencer--

In an old allegory you would carry
A chained alphabet of tokens:

Ankh Badge Cross.
Engraved figure guarding a hallowed intaglio,
Jasper kinema of legendary Mind,
Naked omphalos pierced
By quills of rhyme or sense, torah-like: unborn
Vein of will, xenophile
Yearning out of Zero.

Untrusting I court you. Wavering
I seek your face, I read
That Crusoe's knife
Reeked of you, that to defile you
The soldier makes the rabbi spit on the torah.
"I'll drown my book" says Shakespeare.

Drowned walker, revenant.
After my mother fell on her head, she became
More than ever your sworn enemy. She spoke
Sometimes like a poet or critic of forty years later.
Or she spoke of the world as Thersites spoke of the heroes,
"I think they have swallowed one another. I
Would laugh at that miracle."

You also in the laughter, warrior angel:
Your helmet the zodiac, rocket-plumed
Your spear the beggar's finger pointing to the mouth
Your heel planted on the serpent Formulation
Your face a vapor, the wreath of cigarette smoke crowning
Bogart as he winces through it.

You not in the words, not even
Between the words, but a torsion,
A cleavage, a stirring.

You stirring even in the arctic ice,
Even at the dark ocean floor, even
In the cellular flesh of a stone.
Gas. Gossamer. My poker friends
Question your presence
In a poem by me, passing the magazine
One to another.

Not the stone and not the words, you
Like a veil over Arthur's headstone,
The passage from Proverbs he chose
While he was too ill to teach
And still well enough to read, I was
Beside the master craftsman
Delighting him day after day, ever
At play in his presence

A soothing veil of distraction playing over
Dying Arthur playing in the hospital,
Thumbing the Bible, fuzzy from medication,
Ever courting your presence,
And you the prognosis,
You in the cough.

Gesturer, when is your spur, your cloud?
You in the airport rituals of greeting and parting.
Indicter, who is your claimant?
Bell at the gate. Spiderweb iron bridge.
Cloak, video, aroma, rue, what is your
Elected silence, where was your seed?

What is Imagination
But your lost child born to give birth to you?

Dire one. Desired one.
Savior, sentencer--

Or presence ever at play:
Let those scorn you who never
Starved in your dearth. If I
Dare to disparage
Your harp of shadows I taste
Wormwood and motor oil, I pour
Ashes on my head. You are the wound. You
Be the medicine.


I'm so cold that my fingers don't want to type and my throat hurts so much I can't swallow tea to make myself warmer, so I am posting early and going to bed. I am really, really, really sick of being sick. Older son seems somewhat recovered from whatever stomach bug sent him home from school -- he had chicken soup and peanut butter toast for dinner -- but I am pretty sure I have a fever and am feeling generally miserable. And I can't take anything besides Tylenol, which has never worked for me as well as ibuprofen! Yeah, I know, I'm a big whiner. Sorry. *g*

I managed to work while I could see straight earlier, wrote up Chase Masterson interviewing Robert Beltran and Brannon Braga answering questions about what might have been on Threshold (though he refused to say whether Caffrey and Cavennaugh were going to end up in bed together, grr). Spent most of the afternoon making older son tea and trying to get younger son to do his homework when all he wanted to do was check something on AdventureQuest. Hey, does anyone in the DC area know of any places that accept donations of no-longer-working TVs, computers, etc. that they might be able to use for parts to repair other TVs? Our old Sony only needed one little part that we couldn't track down locally, but I am betting someone somewhere who plays with old equipment might.

Gull standing on the ice in the middle of the lake at the complex where I took the gosling photos this summer.

We are supposedly getting some snow overnight and then more tomorrow night, so my kids could be delayed for school both days or cancelled or who knows what. In any event, older son will be staying home tomorrow so he can recuperate and I will be hoping I have enough of a voice to call dryer repair places, since Sears can't get here till the 22nd and I cannot wait that long.

Note: It is HARD to write neatly with a mouse!

Handwriting Analysis

What does your handwriting say about YOU?

It's the 26th anniversary of my Bat Mitzvah. How scary is that?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Poem for Wednesday

Dead Leaves
By E. Nesbit

Not Summer's crown of scent the red rose weaves,
Not hawthorn perfume blown o'er bloom-strewn grass,
Not violets' whispers as the children pass,
Nor new-mown hay, crisp scent of yellow sheaves,
Nor lilac perfume in the soft May eves,
Nor any scent that Springtime can amass,
Or Summer squander, such a magic has
As scent of fresh wet earth and fallen leaves.

For sometimes lovers, in November days,
When earth is grieving for the vanished sun,
Have trod dead leaves in chill and wintry ways,
And kissed and dreamed eternal summer won.
Look back, look back! through memory's deepening haze,
See -- two who dreamed that dream, and you were one!


Younger son went on a field trip Tuesday to Seneca Schoolhouse Museum (photos here) for which he had to dress up like an 19th century boy whose family worked on a C&O Canal boat. He won the school spelling bee, but his character was still chosen to sit in the corner with the dunce's hat on because he allegedly put a snake in the teacher's desk. He had a very good time and came home happy even though they were only allowed to buy one souvenir in the gift shop apiece and he had wanted both the pop gun and the wooden chicken.

I had lunch with , who gave me a beautiful pair of silver earrings for my birthday and almost led me into temptation in J. Jill until I remembered that I can't have a new camera and clothes! Fortunately, sent me a package of hand-me-downs that her goth daughter apparently no longer wears, so I have lots of "new" cool clothes...and she also sent me Snape's wand! (No, , I have not broken it in properly yet. *giggling wickedly*) I love the Noble Collection stuff even if it is all overpriced and I love having something of Snape's! And while I am thanking people, I also must thank who sent me this gorgeous Tarot deck that I have wanted since it was a Major Arcana-only deck. I appreciate it so much! *smooch* My brother and sister in law in Oregon sent me a Pink Martini CD that is highly enjoyable, too!

Am still way, way, way behind on comments, e-mails and the like. Much of my afternoon was taken up with laundry, driving kids to and from school and Hebrew school and exciting things like that. The dermatologist called; the mole on my back was dysplastic, abnormal but fortunately not melanoma; he wants me back in six months and every six months hereafter. The surrounding skin tested clear so at least they don't have to remove any more skin, the way they did with the mole on my neck two summers ago that was even more abnormal.

Fandom made me grumpy today: I would like to state for the record that I am never writing for anyone's birthday community again no matter how much of a BNF I am assured the person is by others; you all know that I am terrible about remembering to look up birthdays and not in the least insulted when almost anyone overlooks mine, but when one person for whom I wrote fic never even leaves me a comment on the story, and another can't be bothered to leave me a two-word "happy birthday" on my own birthday after I wrote for her under duress from several people who insisted that I "owed" it to her even though she and I had never exchanged two words, it makes me rather cranky. And I am so not cut out for RPGs. Or maybe I am just not cut out for RPGs where I don't really know the players. For a long time I swore I'd stay away because there seems to be wank surrounding pretty much every RPG, and now I really see why; lots of personalities, lots of people wanting to do specific things with their characters and wanting other people to help make it so, and it's hard to know what will count as OOC for your own character when other people are writing things that seem OOC to you for theirs.

But tonight, after my new evening shower tradition due to my stitches, I had Boston Legal! Which once again skirted the shark and made me so happy! Most of the episode was taken up by Brad's trial (Denise wants him now and who can blame her -- hell, I want Brad AND Denise, so I'd be perfectly delighted to see them together) and Alan defending his a-little-too-perfectly-bimboesque secretary excuse me administrative assistant, which storyline had me rolling my eyes until Alan launched into one of those trademark David E. Kelley rants, this time against the credit card industry milking consumers with financial difficulties, and he just kicked ass!

Speaking of which, there is a hilarious moment early on where Brad announces to Denny, Shirley, Denise and Paul that he licked the prosecuting assistant district attorney's ass in law school moot court, and they're all thinking very somberly about what this means about the assistant D.A.'s vendetta against Brad when Denny asks in some confusion, "You licked a man's ass?" It was Denny's week to be outrageously OTT for most of the episode -- he announces that he wants to try to case right away because he has an erection, and runs this theme into the ground a bit -- but he has two completely lovely moments with Shirley in which he basically tells her not to underestimate him and proves to be right, and then at the end of the episode, where he's worried because Shirley had said that Denny always makes everything about himself, Denny asks Alan whether this is true and Alan says straightfaced that it's not: "Sometimes when I talk to you, it's like you're not even in the room."
Oh the love! Even on weeks when we don't get to see them sleeping together!

Also, while driving home from taking the kids to Hebrew school, I saw this. Any day with this must be counted as a good day.

Not a great shot, I know -- I only had the little Nikon with me -- but seeing those familiar features even imperfectly always makes me happy.

This is the long shot of the neighborhood; here you can't see the lunar features at all, but you can see how prominent it was above the sunset colors.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Poem for Tuesday

My Father's Geography
By Afaa M. Weaver

I was parading the Côte d'Azur,
hopping the short trains from Nice to Cannes,
following the maze of streets in Monte Carlo
to the hill that overlooks the ville.
A woman fed me pâté in the afternoon,
calling from her stall to offer me more.
At breakfast I talked in French with an old man
about what he loved about America--the Kennedys.

On the beaches I walked and watched
topless women sunbathe and swim,
loving both home and being so far from it.

At a phone looking to Africa over the Mediterranean,
I called my father, and, missing me, he said,
"You almost home boy. Go on cross that sea!"


Things I did today: Talked to one of the associates at Ritz Camera for a long time about Nikkor lenses, the differences between Nikon and Canon digital SLRs and Wolf Camera's free classes. Bought younger son a present off his wish list. Wrote an article on Anthony Montgomery and news bullets. Finished all my holiday cards, which are going in the mail tomorrow -- if you haven't gotten one from me yet and you were expecting one, that doesn't mean I don't love you, it means you are either someone I have met in real life, someone I have known for years in fandom or someone whose address somehow did not migrate from Outlook to Thunderbird so I had to go looking for it for my list, but it is on the way! Chatted with about how incredibly hot Lucius is in GOF. Watched older son have a meltdown over -- get this -- the fact that he does not want new shoes, even though his current shoes are falling apart (there is literally a hole in one of them). Dragged older son to shoe store once hubby was home, only to discover that it is THE only store on the planet that closes EARLY in December instead of staying open late for holiday shoppers. Went out to dinner since we were already at the mall. Came home and helped younger son prepare for a field trip tomorrow to a historic school where he needs to act out the role of a historic nine year old.

Things I did not do today: Finish my Narnia review. Catch up on comments, betas, other people's journals, etc. Catch up on laundry. Catch up on paying enough attention to the cats (though that is every day!). Restrain myself from eating the best thing in the entire world, a.k.a. this peppermint bark. Figure out what to get my mother in lieu of the digital picture frame I can't afford. Call my aunt to wish her a happy birthday...since she did not call me on mine, does that make us even? *g*

The upstairs dining room with hobbit mural at Bilbo Baggins. (Younger son had the smoked duck salad, older son had the cinnamon pork loin, had the yellowfin tuna and I had the swordfish special in mango sauce with coconut mashed potatoes, but the highlight for everyone was The Lord of the Rings.)