Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Poem for Wednesday

By Linda Bierds

Osseous, aqueous, cardiac, hepatic—
back from bone the echoes stroke, back
from the halved heart, the lungs
three years of weightlessness have cinched to gills.
From a leather chaise, the astronaut’s withered legs
dangle, as back they come, sounds
a beaked percussion hammer startles into shape.
The physician cocks his head and taps—exactly
as a splitter halves his slate, the metamorphic rock
chisel-shocked, then shocked again, halved

and halved, until a roof appears, black as space.
I’m gaining ground, he says, the astronaut,
who knows, from space, earth is just a blue-green glow,
a pilot light he circled once, lifted, swiftly flown
above the rafters and atmospheres, half himself
and half again some metamorphic click,
extinct as memory. I’m gaining ground,
he says, and back it comes, his glint
of cloud-crossed world: a pilot light
or swaddled leaf, green in the season’s infancy.


One of the suckiest aspects of migraines is that no matter how many triggers allegedly exist, I can never figure out why I get mine -- haven't had red wine in a month, had tons of chocolate for Valentine's Day with no ill effects, and this morning I felt like my brain was trying to crawl out of my skull for no apparent reason at all. It's infuriating.

Had a mostly silly day -- kids had a half-day of school for some professional something or other, so I drove them around to various play dates, then went to my parents' house for a silly reason. Okay: I had bought a miniature tea set as a gift for a friend, and this reminded me that my grandmother had given me a doll's tea set about 35 years ago, and I asked my mother if there was any chance it was still in her basement and to make a long story short, it was -- along with an original Rubik's Cube, my Sunshine Family dollhouse and dolls, a bunch of plastic animals and numerous other souvenirs of my childhood -- but we had to take apart two closets to find it, and by the time we had put it all back together, younger son was out of Hebrew school and older son was ready to come home from his friend's house and my parents suggested we have dinner there, so we did.

In other silly family news, when I was looking up the lyrics to "El Shaddai" the other day to figure out why the Hebrew made no sense to me (because it's fake Hebrew with meaningless extra syllables, hah), I looked up the lyrics to "Frere Jacques" in Hebrew, because there is a legendary family story from when I was too young to remember that I had come home from nursery school and taught the whole family to sing "Frere Jacques" in Hebrew -- "Aveenu yahoo, aveenu yahoo, althea shot, althea shot" as my mother explained to me many times -- only to have my mother told at a conference that my teacher had never taught us "Frere Jacques" in Hebrew and I must have made the whole thing up. Which I always accepted as truth until to my astonishment, I saw that the Hebrew words are in fact "Achinu Yaacov, achinu Yaacov, al tischaan, al tischaan." It seems pretty obvious that I must have heard the real thing somewhere.

Evening: first we watched Nova's "Treasures of a Sunken City" about archaeologists diving off the coast of Egypt looking for the Lighthouse of Alexandria -- one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Then, because loves me and brought me A Good Year because I needed a fix of my other boyfriend, Russell Crowe, and even though it is predictable and cliched just like the reviews said, Russell is as charming as I always think he is (if you don't think Russell is charming, I doubt this film will change your mind) and the cinematography is lovely even if the golden glow over Provence gets a bit redundant. And then we watched Sunday's Battlestar Galactica, which we had skipped for the Oscars. What is this, "Make Adama and Roslin look as bad as possible after delving into their relationship last week"?

I understand that MooreRon's sense of self-importance with this show requires tackling every single social issue he can think of in 45 minutes or less, so he can say, "Look, I made a nitty gritty science fiction show that was ALSO socially relevant like Star Trek!" But he's reduced the human race to 44,000 people in a universe where all of George W. Bush's worst propaganda has come true. We're supposed to take seriously the idea of labor unions throwing tantrums when the human race is on the verge of extinction (and I hadn't noticed the fighter pilots living glamorous lives -- what's the body count among [non-regular cast] military officers?) Sure it's a shame that boy wanted to be an architect, not a farmer, and certainly not a disabled person -- would he prefer death by starvation or Cylon attack?

And BALTAR as the architect of this unrest? No one cares that he's Hitler now that he's also the author of Das Kapital? (Despite the fact that no one knows he's not an aristocrat but a self-made man?) Roslin rightly sees this as yet another effort on his part to destroy the human race, which is the only thing she does that seems genuine all episode. And Adama announcing that he'll shoot all the mutineers, which actually makes more sense than the strike itself? If MooreRon's goal this season has been to make me root for the Cylons to win the war, then MooreRon has won. However, what I find myself asking most often is, "Why did I bother to start watching this show?" Next time I have something better to do on a Sunday there's no way I'm staying up on a Tuesday to catch up.

A couple more photos from Wheaton Regional Park at Brookside Nature Center's Maple Sugaring Festival. Here's a woodpecker doing what woodpeckers do best.

The wood fire out back near where the sap was being boiled down.

This is the back of the door, "goodbye" in many languages, including Klingon.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Poem for Tuesday

Third Charm from Masque of Queens
By Ben Jonson

The owl is abroad, the bat, and the toad,
     And so is the cat-a-mountain,
The ant and the mole sit both in a hole,
     And the frog peeps out o' the fountain;
The dogs they do bay, and the timbrels play,
     The spindle is now a turning;
The moon it is red, and the stars are fled,
     But all the sky is a-burning:

The ditch is made, and our nails the spade,
With pictures full, of wax and of wool;
Their livers I stick, with needles quick;
There lacks but the blood, to make up the flood.
     Quickly, Dame, then bring your part in,
     Spur, spur upon little Martin,
     Merrily, merrily, make him fail,
     A worm in his mouth, and a thorn in his tail,
     Fire above, and fire below,
     With a whip in your hand, to make him go.


Kids indeed had a two-hour delay for school, and our power was out all morning, so I had a bit of a slow start to the day, though I did get to play Pokemon: Master Trainer with younger son as a wakeup call. By the time he was at school, I had given up on waiting for the electricity to come back on so I could shower and I went out to lunch with with my hair a mess. Eggs Benedict, however, can make up for most woes, and when I got home the power was on and I could write up a stack of reviews of The Black Donnellys.

Now, I had gotten most of my previous reviews from , which unsurprisingly are Kate Mulgrew-centric and were therefore quite positive, so I didn't realize that nearly every other review across the US was along the lines of "stink, stank, stunk." (Not of Kate Mulgrew -- many of the people who despised the show thought she was the only bright spot.) The consensus was so negative among professional critics that I couldn't believe the show was really that bad -- a bunch of reviewers said it made them miss Studio 60 and Sorkin -- so after Heroes, I left it on.

I am sorry to say that the pilot, at least, is just about as painful to watch as they said. Not only does The Black Donnellys strike me as a mediocre combined Sopranos-Brotherhood ripoff without the acting chops, but the Irish stereotypes embarrassed me (and I don't have a drop of Irish blood in me -- if Irishmen don't mind being characterized as angry drunks who aren't as clever as Italian mobsters while their women are perpetual supporting angels, please correct me). And I don't care if you're in the grungiest corner of New York in the dead of corridors have lights on! The best thing about the show was the soundtrack.

Heroes, on the other hand, was phenomenal -- lots of twists I didn't see coming, and one I had seen coming for awhile but was still really happy played out the way it did! Mr. Bennett is pretty much my favorite character on the show, and I sincerely hope he isn't going to be off for weeks now just because he and Claire won't be able to see each other for awhile. He still knows a lot and has both Matt and Ted at his boss's mercy (I kept calling the guy Cancer Man, even though this isn't X-Files, just because).

Heee, Bennett and Claude were partners! With more hair and sexual tension! Though really the most intimate relationship in the episode is Bennett's with Matt, and I expect that to continue, now that Bennett knows he can send Matt mind-messages and Matt is smart enough to listen to him. Ted freaks me out -- if he didn't have the capability of burning down the house, I could easily see him killing Claire's brother and raping her and her mother for sport -- so I'm way past feeling sorry for him and glad to see him locked up. He and Sylar together could destroy the world.

But eeeee George Takei is one of THEM! I completely did not see that coming! And I guess Mr. Nakamura must have the same problem so far as his son is concerned as Bennett has with Claire...but does this mean that Hiro's father also has the mutation/alteration/whatever it is? First he says having children changes a man and tells Bennett to adopt Claire, then they announce, "You're only her surrogate father. She belongs to us. If she manifests, we'll take her."

I can't figure out what makes the Haitian loyal to Bennett, nor why Matt trusts Bennett so quickly, but I was so sure that deep down he loved Claire and was doing a lot of what he did to protect her instead of exploit her. Not sure about the giant underground secret conspiracy with the one scary guy at the helm and his lieutenants around the world -- and no women that we've seen so far involved -- that part IS a little too X-Files. Does Cancer Man not know that the Haitian isn't really mute; is that what it means when Bennett asks the Haitian who else knows?

I'm also not sure why hating Bennett turned into hating the world (and hating Peter) for Claude unless Bennett broke his heart because they were obviously in love, but I assume we'll get some infill on that story later. The "you didn't grow in your mother's belly, you grew in her heart" speech was so cliched and yet that almost made it more touching, that he had to resort to the traditional "what makes us your real family is how much we love you" lines, which Bennett obviously believes. I'm so glad he's not dead!

Sunset in Hanover earlier in the month. The skies there seem wider than the skies here somehow.

At the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, the local art show included "Water Lily" by Gary Guydosh...

...and "W. Rabbit" by Lorann Jacobs.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Poem for Monday

By Cal Kinnear

He was so beautiful, with his pale translucent skin of
shadowy fish moving in clear water, and you could see as
he moved all the way to his fluent, graceful bones. His
smile was a kiss sent floating through the darkened hall
brushing a cheek here, an eyelid there, and his eyes
whispered to them in the undeniable language of their
dreams, It's you I mean, this is for you. And who in town
didn't know it, Spit and image of his mother, they
winked, they smirked. The old turtle has a butterfly, a
hummingbird for a son. Our father would not, No son of
mine! Not if my life depended! would not enter the
theater with its thousand-candled chandelier and its
rococco ornament of gilt plaster and maroon velvet to see
him dance, but our mother slipped away in her fox stole
and peacock plume at every stolen chance to sit in the
back rows where he would know she was sitting and
sighing, and he tipped the pop-up top hat in that certain
way and sailed it into the wings, smoothed out of the kid
leather gloves one finger at a time with the most delicate
flaunt of his hips, and didn't she know it was always her
he meant.


We were snowed in all day -- nearly four fluffy, beautiful inches that clung to tree branches and made heaps in the backyard and was generally lovely to look at but made going anywhere impossible, since we didn't get plowed until after 7 p.m. So we stayed in and did laundries and cleaned. Or, rather, I did laundries and cleaned younger son's room while hubby shoveled, and the kids attempted to create new disaster areas in the house and the snow to compensate.

Stupid musical things I discovered: 1) Once you get Amy Grant's "El Shaddai" stuck in your head, even if it was from a three-second clip on a commercial on BBC America and you are Jewish like me and have no emotional or spiritual investment in the song, you have to listen to it to get it out of your head. 2) There are about 40 versions of "El Shaddai" available on iTunes...most not recorded by Amy Grant. 3) Amy Grant re-recorded "El Shaddai" with Vince Gill, after their divorces and subsequent marriage earned her hostility from a vocal segment of her Christian pop audience. 4) I don't know whether there is any causal relationship or not, but the lines in "El Shaddai" that always bugged me and lots of other Jews -- "Though your Word contained the plan/They just could not understand" -- have been excised from the new recording. 5) Before I discovered that those lines were gone, making "El Shaddai" a guilt-free experience, pointed out to me that I might be able to get the song out of my head listening to Barry Manilow, since "El Shaddai" sounds exactly like a less-orchestrated, less-musically-sophisticated version of "Could It Be Magic," which is in turn is a riff off Chopin's "Prelude in C Minor."

Our evening, of course, was the Oscars, starting with Barbara Walters whom I really do not like but watched anyway so I could see Ellen, Jennifer, Eddie and Helen. (I loved Helen refusing to answer questions about how she and Taylor Hackford started dating!) The highlight of the pre-show in this household, of course, was Mumble swimming from Antarctica to Hollywood and meeting people from most of the Best Picture nominees. Other than Happy Feet references and the occasional Pirates of the Caribbean nods, the kids weren't very interested in the awards until they were told to go to bed...then suddenly they wanted to watch everything.

As Ellen said, it was a great year for Mexican cinema, but my favorite moment was on the red carpet when Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro explained that they are not really amigos -- they don't even like each other, but there's a sexual attraction they can't resist. It would make me so happy if Cuarón came back and directed another HP film, since I was afraid to see Children of Men on the big screen -- way past my violence tolerance. The opening montage with the nominees seemed pretty silly but I did like Ellen ("If there weren't blacks, Jews and gays there would be no Oscars...or anyone named Oscar") and the Will Ferrell-Jack Black "comedians never win Oscars" montage was very funny. (Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda is the last I remember, and of course he has Sophie's Choice to balance out his resume.)

I'm glad Jennifer Hudson won even though I still haven't seen Dreamgirls, arrgh -- wouldn't have been sorry if Cate won, but she has an Oscar -- but I also loved Ellen's line about how Jennifer Hudson was there even though America didn't vote for her on American Idol, and Al Gore was there even though America DID vote for him. I am delighted his movie won, though I actually did start to believe he was going to announce his candidacy from the stage. I am even more delighted that Melissa Etheridge won and that everyone connected with the film spent their speech time demanding environmental change.

Again, the main point of rejoicing in this household was Happy Feet's surprise victory over Cars. Younger son's comment: "Know why Cars won't beat Happy Feet? Because cars pollute the environment and kill penguins." Which may be true, but I also wondered whether there was something of anti-Disney corporate backlash, and in a year when An Inconvenient Truth was picking up awards, maybe the Academy decided to pick the animated film with the environmental message! I am not sure I was quite as delighted as younger son, but I have not even seen Cars, so I was pleased for Happy Feet.

My favorite sequences all evening were the Best Foreign Film montage and the Ennio Morricone tribute before his honorary award...The Mission soundtrack is my favorite film score ever, and the oboe theme ("Nella Fantasia") is probably my favorite piece of music written in the 20th century. Does anyone have an mp3 of the song Celine Dion sang or know where there is likely to be one -- not YouTube but just the music? And, fortunately, James Doohan was included in the Dead People montage, so I will not hear from irate Trek fans this year.

I howled when Ellen announced she had brought in the awards show under time before the top four awards had been given out. There were just too many features, from Pilobolus to the backstage stuff to Ellen chatting in the aisles, like they couldn't pick a theme and stick with it. And couldn't Philip Seymour Hoffman brush his hair? Hurrah that West Bank Story maybe someone will show it where I can see it outside a film festival I can't get to!

I feel badly for Peter O'Toole (even though I have absolutely no desire to see another Angsting Aging Male movie), but when I saw The Last King of Scotland, I thought that Forest Whitaker's performance was one of the most incredible I had ever seen, and I am so glad that he got the trophy. Particularly since Eddie Murphy had already lost to a big-name older actor an award that he was favored to win. Was delighted for Scorsese and his editor, even though I have no desire to see his movie, at least on the big screen -- loved watching the Coppola-Lucas-Spielberg trinity giving him that trophy, and Scorsese being gracious and clearly delighted to be up there. I suppose that since The Departed is out on DVD, I shall have to rent it.

They have plowed our neighborhood and cleared our sidwalks, but we are supposed to get an ice storm at 4 a.m. so I am betting that the kids are home for some part of Monday. and I are weeks behind on a lunch date because of snow!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Poem for Sunday

The Fall of Rome
By W.H. Auden

(for Cyril Connolly)

The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.

Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.

Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.

Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.

Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
On a pink official form.

Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.


Poet's Choice this week is in honor of the 100th birthday of Auden, who "was inventive, but not in what he found to say or in formal matters; his distinctive originality is in his omnivorous imagination," according to Robert Pinsky. "He included in his poetry every sort of thing that attracted his eye, every sort of word or speech he heard or read. He devised a tone, a feeling of wry, informed and doom-ridden attentiveness, as seen here...the adroitness of this writing is strong, not merely showy, because the poem implies that the adroitness, too, is mortal and vulnerable, just as the mind that presents 'cerebrotonic' and 'fisc' knows that the last word will belong to 'muscle-bound' and 'very fast.' The theme and materials of this poem were not new when Auden wrote it, but he knew how to give them permanent bite."

Since I missed the maple sugaring festival my family went to while I was doing interviews at Farpoint, we all went to the annual Brookside Nature Center Maple Syrup Festival (2005 photos here). It was a very pretty above-freezing day, so the sap was flowing, the snow was melting and the park was mobbed -- we were lucky to get a parking place! Fortunately they had not run out of samples and they ran the film continuously all day about how the trees are tapped instead of only at certain times. There were lots of kids running around inside the nature center -- the snakes were actually awake. Since we were up near where she lives, we also went to visit and Georgie, and we stopped in Totally Fish, the Aspen Hill aquarium store, not as large and clean as the one in Congressional but it has 5-6' tiger sharks in a big open tank.

The red maple trees in Wheaton Regional Park around Brookside Nature Center are being tapped for sap.

Local children are recruited to help take the sap...

...carried the old fashioned way back to the log cabin.

Once collected, the sap is boiled down...

...using wood stored in this shed.

Inside the cabin, hotcake batter is mixed...

...and cooked in the fireplace so people can sample the locally-made syrup.

A good thing I worked at Farpoint, too, because finally, J.J. Abrams has committed to direct Star Trek XI...a Starfleet Academy movie, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Last weekend I interviewed Harve Bennett, who wrote an Academy script that was greenlit several years ago -- which, according to Bennett, means that under WGA rules, they have to give him some sort of credit/compensation, or he can use legal means to hold up the movie. I will root for Bennett, since it would be so very like Paramount to screw over the original writer in favor of their Flavor of the Month who's already ten minutes ago. I don't watch Lost, so I don't have any opinion on it this season vs. last season, but given that the critics who cover television find Abrams-Cuse-Lindelof as arrogant as Aaron Sorkin (and boy is that saying something), I have little expectation that I will enjoy much about a Team Abrams Trek movie.

Am very bummed that the American Dime Museum is about to auction its oddities, including what's purported to be Amelia Earhart's finger mummified by cannibals and the world's largest rat (actually a stuffed capibara but who's being picky). But am still thrilled by Ever After, which we stuck on to record and ended up watching in the morning while older son was working at Hebrew school. Anjelica Huston terrorizing Drew Barrymore (who needs no mice to save herself) and Leonardo da Vinci designing Danielle's dress for the ball -- what better version of Cinderella could there be? And in the evening we finally got the conclusion to The State Within, after watching most of the second part over again plus a break for the BBC America rerun of Doctor Who's "Bad Wolf." Conclusion with a cliffhanger ending, augh, though that in no way diminished our enjoyment! Are they planning a sequel or just trying to leave it open-ended, since in the real world nothing would be resolved in fifteen minutes?

Again it struck me just how well the women on this miniseries are written...they all have their flaws and idiocies but they're also all smart and strong in their own ways, the token babe is really nonexistent -- it's annoying they had to get in gratuitous shots of Jane with her shirt off but I didn't find it unrealistic, and I loved her character overall -- I was nervous about the gay guys appearing to be the villains, but Nicholas wasn't any more an idiot to be sleeping with Christopher than Mark was to be sleeping with Jane, so the two dangerous liaisons balanced each other out. I also really like how very unafraid Jane was, both when she was being chased and when she attacked her attackers. I got a bit confused why she had to go to Tampa -- she had the copies of the discs hidden there and had to send them to the hotel, was that it? Because I don't remember seeing her send anything other than the postcard alerting Mark to their existence.

Adair doesn't make a lot of sense to me, since he was in touch with Sinclair through Mark and could presumably have tracked him down much sooner, and I find it hard to believe that Caroline could have been so completely in the dark about what his company was up to if she was thinking about marrying him -- spoiled little rich girl -- but it was pretty obvious all along that it would be someone with strong corporate rather than patriotic interests behind everything, and I really didn't think it would be the formidably awesome Lynne Warner whom I have liked all along much better than I would if this was real life. *g* Oh and hahahaha, am I to presume that one of the writers/producers was an X-Files fan and that was why the sex scene was in room 1013, or did something happen in the year 1013 I am an idiot for not knowing about?

They're still threatening us with snow tomorrow. May stay home, fold laundry and watch the Oscars.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Poem for Saturday

By Caroline Knox

I came in the open door, which was the color of the sky,
and walked in half-darkness to what looked like an open
fire, but it wasn't a fire—it was the sky
in a prolific sunset, an apostrophe of sky.
Then I took off my shades, a distorting form of curtain,
and looked out the window beyond at the sky.
But I might as well have been on the Isle of Skye.
I could hardly see as far as the door
without my contact lenses, which I'd lost. The door
was open, but I couldn't see it: a sky
that wasn't even there, a hypothetical window
in my mind. That's what it was like, a window.

Who is responsible for cleaning this window,
I railed grumpily, "lowing at the sky."
In the twilit dust, it was as if the window
were wearing shades: the Ptolemaic window
of the passé universe, vertiginously open.
Thank God for Copernicus, who was a window
of reason. Ptolemy and his ilk were a window
of received texts. But they were a curtain-
raiser to modern thought, at any rate. The curtain
is up for good now, and the Andersen Window
of high technology has come in the door;
and if you ask me, more power to the door.

It had been raining in through the window and the door.
Luckily for us we had gotten the window-
seat treated with Scotchgard. At length the door-
knob rattled, and my aunt was at the door.
"Oh, eyewash," said that worthy, when consulted on the sky
problem. "You couldn't hit the broad side of a barn door.
Where did you have your lenses last?" From the door,
flashes in the sky worked dully in the open
curtains, and I flung the sashes open.
I hadn't seen the Aurora Borealis since up in good old Door
County, Wisconsin (where Jeremiah Curtin
grew up, in part), back in the Sixties. A theater curtain,

these northerly phenomena were a theater curtain,
as if there were a gel on the spotlight at the door.
But soft lenses, made of fancy plastic, are a shower curtain
between your retina and reality, fortunately. A curtain
of faith and/or grief, a nimbus around the window
of relative objectivity. But when the curtain
is drawn, there you are, shaking, with nothing to curtain
you, if you lose your lenses. When you find them, the sky
comes back to you as through a mirror or a sky-
light. Over these musings, however, let us draw a curtain.
With my eyes wide open and with (I hope) an open
mind, I drizzle saline solution in my open

and somewhat sanguine eyes, propped open.
Then I sit down and actually begin to read Curtain,
a late Agatha Christie, following with The Open Door,
by the amazing Ruth Gordon, and then open-
ly and with intensity, The Picture of Dor-
ian Gray
, by Oscar Wilde, which is open
to page 89: "Dorian Gray listened, open-
eyed and wondering." I open another window.
All this in the spacy time sense of The Rear Window,
which my aunt had long ago taken me to the open-
ing of. Or the dizzy space sense in The Big Sky,
by A. B. Guthrie, who sees everything in terms of the sky.

"Mackerel sky," goes the adage, "mackerel sky:
Never long wet, Never long dry." An eye-open-
er, as well as a cliché, like the Iron Curtain.
Later, of course, I find the damned lenses behind the window-
seat, the one I keep coming back to by the door.


Not a great deal to report, again -- I spent the morning working on a birthday project for my mother (that I will not mention here in case either she or my children should happen to stumble across this), then wrote a review of "The Naked Now" which is not very satisfying, but then neither is the episode (and sorry if you can't read it -- the site seemed to be down as much as it was up today). Did the usual Friday carpooling, with added complication that younger son had violin late this afternoon since he was sick on Wednesday, then had dinner at my parents' house. Was relieved to read about the return of the beavers to New York City after a 200-year absence. (Get your mind out of the gutter and go watch the Bronx River dam-building video on the site!)

We tried to rent Babel so we could see it before the Academy Awards, but the local Blockbuster had none of its 50 copies in stock. They had piles of The Departed, which I took as a not-good sign and instead rented The Illusionist, which I have wanted to see since it was in theaters. I enjoyed it a lot and thought was very well acted and filmed, but it doesn't hold a candle to The Prestige as far as 19th-century magical philosophy and the nature of the fantastic is concerned. In some ways it's more grounded in everyday life and historical politics, but it doesn't have that electrifying (heh) sense of the world on the verge of change and the deals with the devil a la Frankenstein to advance scientific wizardry. I will probably watch it again when it's on cable but I'm glad I didn't buy it when it came out.

: Heaven and Hell
1. Would you rather serve in heaven or rule in hell?
If there is a Heaven, I have no need to rule it. And since I don't really believe in hell, despite saying all the time that I'm probably going there, I have no desire to rule it.
2. If you had evidence that would catch a killer, but also put you in jail, would you use it? Way too vague a would depend on the circumstances. If someone close to me was murdered, and the murderer was freed on a technicality, and someone else close to me killed the murderer, then I very much doubt it.
3. If you could work the worst job you have ever had, for three years and then never have to work again, would you or would you rather work the job you always wanted but not be able to retire until well past the age of retirement? If I was working the job I always wanted, it wouldn't feel like work, which would be ideal.
4. If you could write four newspaper headlines, which would come true, what would they be?
5. A video of children in Florida fighting, while adults cheer on, was posted on the popular web site MySpace, The popularity of "gang videos" has also increased, and there has been renewed interest in recreating the infamous "Faces of Death" video series, do you feel there should be laws limiting extreme videos? No. I feel there should be limitations on where and how such videos are distributed -- MySpace allows young teenagers to create accounts, so there should probably be some sort of ratings system like movies and television have (admittedly very imperfectly, but better than none).

: It's the Least That You Could Not Do
1. What do you try to stay away from?
Wank, dead animals, radiation, family squabbles.
2. Are you clumsy or graceful? *howls* Oh, graceful. *keeps straight face* Very graceful. Really. I could have been a ballerina or something.
3. What is it too late for? Me to be the youngest person to win Wimbledon.
4. What/who was your first love? This is far too long a story for a meme, so I shall wimp out and say my stuffed rabbit, Big Bunny, whom I slept with for longer than anyone except my husband.
5. Friday fill in: I believe that ____ will _____ . I believe that I will have another piece of my Valentine's Day candy.

: Name five characters that you identify with the most.
I'm drawing a total blank here. I don't think I like characters for the most part because I identify with them; there are sometimes aspects of them that remind me of myself or I wish reminded me of myself, like Kai Winn's skepticism and Hermione Granger's nerdiness and Richard Sharpe's stubbornness and Eowyn's refusal to take "No, you're a girl" for an answer, but I can't say I loved Captain Janeway or Boromir or Jack Aubrey because I particularly identified with them.

At the State Museum of Pennsylvania there is a recreation of a Susquehannock Indian village site. Here are some of the scenes.

Once again we are being threatened with snow over the weekend, though it sounds like it won't be here till Sunday, if at all. We're hoping to go to a local maple sugaring festival on Saturday, and then maybe to an aquarium store.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Get Critical Update

TV Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation's "The Naked Now"

Poem for Friday

By Geoffrey Nutter

The tree is at a fixed point.
The chair is fixed.
But the two become a helix with the cardinal there.
And when the sun moves and the shadows lengthen like a dream, they are a helix.
The chair sits in the shadow of the tree.
The cardinal, first cause, moves into a shadow.
The sun, gamma, climbs.
Gamma, climbing, glares.
The glare is fixed into the trilogy.
Then the three subtract themselves: evening.


Younger son was recovered enough to get up very early for his field trip to Mount Vernon (and to eat historical peppermint candy there), so it was a quieter day at home than yesterday. and I had plans to have lunch at an Indian restaurant, but because my stomach is still a bit weird, she came up here and we went to California Pizza Kitchen instead. And she brought me a Green Arrow comic and Sorcery and Cecelia and was generally awesome, and I must get her the Nebula episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys because, you know, Gina Torres.

No new Smallville tonight meant that we picked tonight to start cleaning the kids' rooms. Older son's room is nearly under control; younger son's room is an unmitigated disaster area and considering he won't even let me give away a sweater that is two sizes too small for him and itches, is just going to get worse. We were going to watch Edward Scissorhands but since we were still working, we were going to record it at midnight, except it turned out to be on at 11 instead of 12 and we missed it, sigh.

Watched "The Naked Now" so I can review it and discovered that, yep, first season Next Gen is as awful as we remembered. Ironically, my favorite thing in the entire episode is the much-maligned Wesley Crusher. (Well, and Data describing how fully functional he is, but it's really pretty gratuitous, not even titillating.) Then watched Shark because I had forgotten that Russell Crowe was supposed to be on Oprah Winfrey's Oscar special...waaah! I am sure someone will have caps and comments posted eventually, though. Trying to decide whether to rent Babel or The Departed before the awards...think Brad and Cate are going to win my personal vote, since I like them (yes, even Brad) and the storyline sounds so much more interesting to me! Anyway, Shark had my full usual, acting better than script but Gary Cole is a great guest star and there are a lot of ambiguities I enjoy.

I found it really interesting that, after Stark agreed to cover for his slimy rich friend who was very obviously guilty (though I don't understand why claim the dead girl was related to mob members if that card wasn't going to be played...maybe they're holding it for later), white boy Casey is totally behind him, both Madeleine and especially Raina are angry at him and Isaac, his (other) old friend, is quietly seething and hurt but thinks they should back him up because whatever else Stark may be, he isn't someone who would let a murderer get away with it. Stark seems to believe this about himself as well, and convinces Jessica of it so thoroughly that she lies to the judge to prevent him from being disbarred. Again, he's sleazy and arrogant even as he's ostensibly taking his lumps, and again what makes him tolerable is that he can't get his own house in order. Without Julie, I doubt this show would be holding my interest the way it does.

So in a lot of ways the pivotal scene of the episode is the one where Julie's friend uses money swiped from her mother to get Julie's car out of lockdown, saying that her relationship with her mom is based on denial -- if mom doesn't know what her daughter is doing, she doesn't have to deal with it -- and telling Julie that she should give it a try. That Julie accepts this advice as sound is very sad. She must have some idea that Isaac might tell her father -- is she hoping he tells her father and spares her having to disappoint him? Isaac's in a funny position -- he could tell Julie much more dirt on her father than he could tell Stark about Julie, and one gets the impression that Julie didn't hear on the news how close her father came to getting disbarred, or maybe she was more focused on her godfather going to jail for murder. She sees much too much ugliness up close because it touches her family.

I also like the way the other relationships break down. Raina and Isaac are obviously interested in one another but it's not clear to me whether they think anything can come of it while they're working together; Madeleine and Casey are, as he explains, having sex but not dating, and he implies that she's as into female strippers as he is. If they'll cover for Stark when they know he's flagrantly violating the law for a friend, are any of them any better than the friend Stark berates for what he believes at first is covering up a murder? It's pretty much the same ethical equation...worse, perhaps, because they are his employees and in the job of prosecuting crime, whereas Stark's friend is someone he has known and trusted for years and his job is PR-related. Not sure I wholly believe that Stark believes himself when he proclaims that finally the job is not about him and his ego, though I do believe that when he talks to his daughter about work he's proud of it. "Sometimes people disappoint you" is the theme of the episode and he takes his lumps where Julie is concerned.

A couple more from the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. This was the cabin of John Hughes, first Archbishop of New York, an Irish immigrant hired as a gardener by the founder of Mount St. Mary's. He attended the college, became a scholar and was sent to Europe by President Lincoln to aid the Northern cause. He founded St. John's College in Fordham, later Fordham University, and planned St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.

And this is the graveyard at the shrine. One of Elizabeth Seton's children is buried here.

You scored as Fantasy Goth. You are a Fantasy Goth. You may or may not actually be a goth, but "normal" folks see you as one of those weird kids, and you are probably considered a geek by quite a few. Click on my name to take my other tests if you liked this one.

Fantasy Goth


Anything-Goes Goth


Ethereal Goth


Romantic Goth


Perky Goff


Old-school Goth


Understanding Outsider


Death Rocker




Confused Outsider




What subcategory of Goth best fits you?
created with

How can fandom get itself so worked up over a couple of blurry images from an upcoming movie based on how someone's hair looks in the sun? And I just don't get the Saturn Awards: how come Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are eligible for nominations for trophies specifically given for genre performances for Notes on a Scandal, which is not remotely a genre movie, whereas Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker are either not eligible or overlooked by the self-important folk who do the nominations?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lyrics for Thursday

David Duchovny
By Bree Sharp and Simon Austin

It's Sunday night, I am curled up in my room
The TV light fills my heart like a balloon
I hold it in as best I can
I know I'm just another fan
But I can't help feeling I could love this secret agent man

And I can't wait anymore for him to discover me
I got it bad for David Duchovny
David Duchovny, why won't you love me?
Why won't you love me?

My friends all tell me, "Girl, you know it's just a show"
But deep within his eyes I see me wrapped up like a bow
Watching the sky for a sign
The F.B.I. is on my mind
I'm waiting for the day when my lucky stars align

In the form of David Duchovny floating above me
In the alien light of the spaceship of love
I need David Duchovny hovering above me
American Heathcliff, brooding and comely
David Duchovny, why won't you love me?
Why won't you love me?

So smooth and so smart
He's abducted my heart
And I'm falling apart
From the looks I receive
From those eyes I can't leave
You can say I'm naive
But he told me to believe

My bags are packed, I am ready for my flight
Want to put an end to my daydream days and sleepless nights
Sitting like a mindless clone
Wishing he would tap my phone
Just to hear the breath of the man, the myth, the monotone

And I would say David Duchovny, why won't you love me?
Why won't you love me? Why won't you love me?
David Duchovny, I want you to love me
To kiss and to hug me, debrief and debug me
David Duchovny, I know you could love me
I'm sweet and I'm cuddly - I'm gonna kill Scully
David Duchovny, why won't you love me?
Why won't you love me?

I'll be waiting
In Nevada...


Sorry about that...The X-Files: Fight the Future was on Cinemax, and we haven't seen it in about seven years, since the show started to suck, and we only had it on videotape and wanted to burn it, so of course the entire family watched it...boy did that take me back! I loved those characters so much, and unlike most shows I could 'ship it in several different directions though Mulder/Scully were always overwhelmingly my favorite.

I needed to chill out this evening because I had a mammogram this morning, always such a pleasant experience, plus I had to get up extra-early because I needed to pick up my baseline records from the old lab with which my insurance no longer participates and take them to the new lab with which it does. No sooner had I returned home from that -- well, actually from taking myself to lunch at the mall near the medical center -- than I got a phone call from younger son's school telling me that he was in the health room with the same stomach bug that the rest of us had over the weekend (I did mention that I was up with older son from 5-6 a.m. Sunday morning, didn't I?) and I needed to take him home.

The day wasn't all stress. I got my Valentine's Day package from , which included the Tarot of Jane Austen and the latest Pokemon movie for the kids. And let me have the last of the chocolate covered coconut patties my parents brought him back from Florida (I only got coconut scented body lotion, hmmph). And then there was X-Files, so in honor of Ash Wednesday and Scully's Catholicism:

The reproduction of Michelangelo's Pietà at the The National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, surrounded by snow and covered by ice.

Our Lady of Fatima in the icy pool of water fed by the spring. People bring jugs to collect holy water.

Our Lady of Grace on a snowy hillside.

A statue of the crucifixion at the top of the hill beyond the grotto.

Mother Seton on the back of the chapel named for her at the shrine.

The colorful statue kneeling before the shrine looks quite dramatic against the snowy ground.

Saint Francis, however, fits right in.

Now Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is on Cinemax and since I somehow did not manage to shut the TV, I am watching it. There needs to be crossover fic in which Barty Crouch, Jr. is really a possessed Doctor Who. Must go to bed...younger son has to get to school early for a field trip to Mount Vernon, if he feels well enough to go, and older son is staying late, so it may be an insane day!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Little Review Update

At my father-in-law's request, I sent in a photo I had taken of my in-laws' dog Ginger to the Hanover Evening News. Last Sunday -- his birthday, coincidentally, when we happened to be in Hanover -- they published it on the front page of the local news section.


Poem for Wednesday

The Writer
By Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.


Most of my day involved doing laundry interspersed with long phone calls. and I yakked for about an hour about various family and fannish stuff. Then I got a phone call from someone I've known online for about seven years but have never actually spoken to before, someone I have worked with at TrekToday who has a horrific illness in her family and wanted a recommendation for a job; it was so lovely finally to speak to her and such awful circumstances, when she has so many terrible things going on.

brought me The Prestige on DVD when he picked up younger son from Hebrew school, and though I intended to watch only a bit of it while folding laundry, I ended up watching the entire movie plus most of the extras. It was every bit as good as I remembered and the Tesla feature made me feel justified in having written a massively long philosophical review for Green Man! Younger son is still tearing the house apart looking for his missing Pokemon Leaf Green game, and now that he knows surgeons who play video games are more skilled, he feels entirely justified in this effort.

Conewago Chapel, now known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Maryland Catholics brought their faith to Pennsylvania in about 1730, and this stone chapel -- built to replace an earlier original -- is the oldest stone Catholic Church in the US.

The Virgin Mary under the dome of the basilica... of many beautiful, detailed paintings overhead in the church.

I'm not sure why there is an umbrella on the altar.

But the organ is very nice, though the windows are being cleaned so some of them are covered.

And the Mary chapel is too.

I spent far too much time watching TV, since Tuesday night is Boston Legal night and we had to catch up on the Battlestar Galactica we missed Sunday for The State Within. Watching Shatner have a phobia about going to synagogue somehow amuses me enormously where I would have found it somewhat stereotypical and offensive if it was anyone else, which I don't get...and while I keep swearing off Adama/Roslin, they keep pulling me back in! Augh! Boston Legal was a bit diffuse, with God and friendship as the ostensible common themes but it wasn't my favorite episode by a long stretch. There’s no Shirley and a lot of Alan, who has two cases at once: a friend, Maureen, who has stolen her father's corpse from an art display because her mother donated his body -- based largely on her rage that he drank and cheated on her -- and a psychiatrist fired for claiming to have seen aliens wants his job back -- with the hospital represented by Jerry Espinson.

Meanwhile, Bethany wants Denny to go to shul with her, and Brad wants Denise to marry him and become his housewife. The religious storyline is played as utter crack...Denny says that he's a Lutheran and because he believes in Luther, he's not comfortable in temple, but Bethany makes him go anyway and when kids stop his snoring with spitballs, he fires a paintball dart at the rabbi, who then threatens to sue, leading Denny to announce that "you people" are too defensive and triggering a breakup with Bethany for insisting that Israel doesn't have the right to defend itself the way the US does. The Brad and Denise storyline is not quite played for crack, which is a big mistake...oh, it's funny at first, when Paul keeps overhearing Brad trying to date Denise who prefers a couples counselor, but when they go to Alan's sex therapist friend and Brad babbles about how women really want to stay home, cook dinner and raise children while still calling themselves feminists with shots of Denise looking what I think it supposed to be tempted. This whole "You're Having My Baby" storyline is becoming far more irritating than at all likeable.

Anyway, Jerry is newly confident because he has a fake cigarette to keep him grounded, and when Alan feels threatened -- after greeting Jerry so enthusiastically that the blah blah judge says he won't have happiness or hugging in his courtroom -- he sets out not only to prove that the UFO was real, but that the UFO doctor may be more grounded than Jerry, whom Alan knows is just faking all this confidence. When Jerry ends up cringing, Alan apologizes, saying it's his job to psych out the opposing counsel and reminding Jerry tht Alan once advised him to stop being a lawyer because it makes people do ugly things: "I'm very accomplished in the practice of law, Jerry." Jerry gets his client to agree to a settlement whereby the psychiatrist can continue to practice if he doesn't mention UFOs to patients, but he is shaken, hands back on his thighs, and says he really should thank Alan for the lesson about how opposing counsel will exploit his Aspergers.

Alan obviously feels terrible, even though he is successful in defending Maureen, convincing the jury that she was just trying to help her father find peace. "I want so badly to believe in God," he says, because the alternative is in believing in humans, and the pollution, nukes, neglect of starving Africans and the rest does not make him feel good about humans. Over their cigars, Denny says he isn't surprised that Bethany broke up with him over Middle East politics because he really can't understand what it means to be Jewish...he can't even understand what it means to be Lutheran, but he believes in God because if there isn't one, then no harm, no foul, but if there is one and you don't believe, you're screwed. Since God made man in his image, Denny believes that God looks like Denny Crane, only thinner, and He allows human suffering because He's overextended. Alan says that he mostly believes in friendship -- mostly Denny's and Jerry Espinson's -- and doesn't believe that he was a good friend that day, but Denny says that at the end of the day, they have to be who they are. "You and I, more than anything..." "...lawyers," concludes Alan.

I was bored during a lot of BSG...not one of the better-written episodes, and Cally has always annoyed me, and the Chief seems to be a different character every single week. But it was an Adama episode, and even though I wanted to hit him upside the head for most of it -- did we have ANY inkling about all the stuff Lee said about his mother? -- during the moments when Bill and Laura were alone together, I did not care. And given that this is MooreRon's show, I hated myself for that. For a horrific moment when I saw Adama in bed with a blonde, I thought he was fucking Starbuck and was ready never to watch the series again, which might have been easier!

I shrieked with glee when Caroline's ghost asked Bill whether Laura might have a thing for bad boys and then needled him about his excuses for keeping his distance. Laura deserves better than a man who can't be there for her totally; she needs a handsome clever young guy who doesn't have so much baggage and so many responsibilities that he has to be reminded to stop and enjoy himself. And I am still rooting for Roslin/Adama. Knowing MooreRon, nothing will happen in a few days or if it does, we won't find out about it till two seasons from now, but I still let myself love those scenes and I still think I suck!

Oh...and I have re-scanned and posted the dog article here for anyone on my friends list who wants to be able to read the tidbits!

And happy birthday, Alan. Gifts to follow. *whistles*

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Poem for Tuesday

The Jewish Time Bomb
By Yehuda Amichai
Translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kornfeld

On my desk is a stone with "Amen" carved on it, one survivor fragment
of the thousands upon thousands of bits of broken tombstones
in Jewish graveyards. I know all these broken pieces
now fill the great Jewish time bomb
along with the other fragments and shrapnel, broken Tablets of the Law
broken altars broken crosses rusty crucifixion nails
broken houseware and holyware and broken bones
eyeglasses shoes prostheses false teeth
empty cans of lethal poison. All these broken pieces
fill the Jewish time bomb until the end of days.
And though I know about all this, and about the end of days,
the stone on my desk gives me peace.
It is the touchstone no one touches, more philosophical
than any philosopher's stone, broken stone from a broken tomb
more whole than any wholeness,
a stone of witness to what has always been
and what will always be, a stone of amen and love.
Amen, amen, and may it come to pass.


A companion to yesterday's poem from Robert Pinsky's Poet's Choice column in The Washington Post Book World. The stone mentioned in that poem reappears here in the last poem from Open Closed Open. "Brooding once more on the carved word of assent, Amichai extends it over epochs of suffering to the universal last day," writes Pinsky. "These two poems meditating on the same symbolic object offer variations on a profound theme, but with some playful turns...the simplicity that resolves the second poem, in its way also understated, is not ironic. Wholeheartedly, in the last words of his last book, Amichai joins the voices he hears in a triangle of graveyard stone, voicing the most traditional of words."

Have spent a lovely morning and afternoon in Hanover with my in-laws, first on our annual trip to Hanover Shoe Farms where the mares have begun to foal for the season and the cats are hiding in the barns. Then we went to Conewago Chapel, now known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the oldest stone Catholic church in the US, which I have seen from the outside but never went inside before. The temperature was just slightly above freezing, ice still covering all the farms and fields, and on the way home after lunch we stopped at the Grotto of Lourdes at Mount St. Mary's to see how it looks in the snow.

A mare and her colt at Hanover Shoe Farms.

Several hundred foals are born beginning in January all through the spring.

This filly was a preemie. I hope it's warm can see the mother's breath in the barn.

These pregnant mares were outside in even colder temperatures.

But the little horsies seemed quite content out skipping on the ice.

Driving home was interesting because there was a big fire at a shopping center just north of Frederick...the exit to the street it was on was blocked from Route 15 in both directions, and traffic was pretty horrendous for a bit. We made it, though, and I got to watch Heroes and catch up on Rome...still have to figure out when I can catch this week's Battlestar Galactica, which does not appear to be On Demand, though I have no regrets that I was watching The State Within! This wasn't one of my favorite episodes of Heroes...loved Claire standing up to her father and Mr. Bennett appearing to be genuinely emotional over her misery rather than playing her, but I really don't like how easily Sylar is playing Mohinder and the Hiro-Ando storyline seems to be moving at a crawl. And I really did not like what a jerk Peter was being with Isaac, the "you're a junkie, Simone is better off without you, blah blah blah, which then turned into a gratuitous excuse for a stray bullet. Not just Nathan's power has rubbed off on Peter -- apparently his being an asshole has, too. I was terrified for a moment that they had killed Claude off, but apparently he's just having a tantrum and will be back.

Rome, however, was superb, from Pullo returning to his previous angst about how he's much better as a soldier than any sort of civilian -- with and without Vorenus -- to Brutus dying just the way he deserves, in a mirror of the attack he led on Julius Caesar. My favorite line of the episode was of course Antony's to Octavian, "You are a ferocious little cunt!" Though the look on his face when Atia suggests marriage is pretty priceless. But Antony is busy plotting the deaths of his enemies in Rome, so many that he keeps losing track. It's really difficult to feel sorry for Cicero, who's such a snob that the snobbishness he passed down to the man to whom he entrusted the message that might have saved Brutus' life causes the message to go astray...a bit too cute a coincidence that Vorenus' wife's illegitimate son runs into the road and triggers the incident that cements Vorenus' position, since with Brutus and Cassius dead, no rivals under their protection will challenge his hold on the Aventine. The execution of Cicero reminds me a bit of Stephen Frears' fabulous The Hit, where the executioner, a bit sorry to have to do it but not at all swerving, chats about food and the weather before suggesting the best position for a swift death. The Agrippa-Octavia love story doesn't do much for me -- I find it difficult to believe that she loves him so quickly, even if she lacks her mother's steel or her brother's pragmatism -- but I adored the Jews discussing Herod vs. whichever other dictator could rule Judea and the squabbles among the tribes -- there has never been peace in that region, no matter who was in charge.

It appears that my children will actually have school on Tuesday! That will take some adjusting! Meanwhile, best mention of Daniel Radcliffe naked in any news source I've seen in the past week, from Queerty: "Today is a big day for the gays. Not only are the first photos of Daniel Radcliffe's turn in Equus showing up, but New Jersey officially became the third state in the union to let folks like us get hitched." Whoo!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Poem for Monday

The Amen Stone
By Yehuda Amichai
Translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kornfeld

On my desk there is a stone with the word "Amen" on it,
a triangular fragment of stone from a Jewish graveyard destroyed
many generations ago. The other fragments, hundreds upon hundreds,
were scattered helter-skelter, and a great yearning,
a longing without end, fills them all:
first name in search of family name, date of death seeks
dead man's birthplace, son's name wishes to locate
name of father, date of birth seeks reunion with soul
that wishes to rest in peace. And until they have found
one another, they will not find perfect rest.
Only this stone lies calmly on my desk and says "Amen."
But now the fragments are gathered up in lovingkindness
by a sad good man. He cleanses them of every blemish,
photographs them one by one, arranges them on the floor
in the great hall, makes each gravestone whole again,
one again: fragment to fragment,
like the resurrection of the dead, a mosaic,
a jigsaw puzzle. Child's play.


"To write about history is to write about forgetting," writes Robert Pinsky in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "The historical account of any nation, family or lifetime must acknowledge gaps and omissions, violations and losses. Fragments must be honored as fragments. The great Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000) begins and ends his last collection, Open Closed Open, by considering an actual, physical fragment, 'The Amen Stone'...the ironic, understated phrase 'child's play' ends the first poem by denoting simplicity after invoking an infinity of loss."

Just a quickie, since I am wrung out from watching part two of The State Within, only to learn that part three does not air until next Saturday (the good news: I can watch Heroes tomorrow and record the encore of The State Within on BBC America late in the week, the bad news: I have to wait six freakin' days to find out what happens OMG). Jason Isaacs is still amazing but Sharon Gless freakin' rocks my world -- I can't believe I didn't realize that was her until the credits ran earlier (was so tired last night I didn't look it up). I want whoever cast scripted and cast this miniseries to be responsible for developing female roles for a major US television network ASAP. My kids were still awake for the Death Row sequences and while I thought about shooing them out of the room, their reactions were such that I am not sorry I let them watch. I don't even rant about the death penalty anymore because it feels like such a lost cause, nearly 70% of Americans favor it in some circumstances and I have other electoral issues that are even more important to me, but it's pathetic that most of our best reality checks about it come from entertainment and having kids expressing horror at the idea that executions can be used for political purposes right here and now is not a bad thing.

We spent much of the day at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, across from the state house and near the Whitaker Science Center which we have visited several times before. The museum is free and pretty fantastic -- one enormous level devoted to natural history, geology, flora and fauna of the state, another enormous level devoted to Native American history, industrial history and the Civil War (the latter section is under construction but there are paintings of the battles at Gettysburg and some of the weapons used to defend the cities), and a third level devoted to Pennsylvania crafts, steel and the inevitable First Ladies' gowns. The Maryland Historical Society is not so comprehensive and it isn't free, either.

A cast of the skull of Dracorex Hogwartsia at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, which has a Dino Lab.

Here it is in close-up; I just couldn't resist the sign above. It's so very Slytherin.

And the vital statistics, though the specimen was found in South Dakota and is currently in the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

This is the extinct prehistoric armored fish Dunkleosteus, which lived in Pennsylvania about 350 million years ago.

A fragment of the coral reef that once covered parts of Pennsylvania.

Metamorphic gneiss and intrusive igneous pegmatite from ancient rock layers of Pennsylvania. The gneiss may have originally have been sandstone.

It's always nice to drive to Harrisburg over the Susquehanna River, which looks particularly lovely with ice covering much of it, the presence of smoke from the reactor stacks at Three Mile Island notwithstanding. And a historical museum seemed like a good place to spend part of President's Day weekend...better than the mall, anyway. The rest of my Sunday mostly involved talking to relatives and grinning because people kept calling my in-laws to ask whether they knew that my photo of their dog was in the local newspaper. Ginger seems unconcerned with her fame, however, as we had forgotten to put her bed in the sun coming through the living room window so she could "lie on the beach," which is her favorite thing to do in her dotage.