Monday, April 30, 2007

Poem for Monday

I raise this green to my lips
By Osip Mandelstam
Translated by Clarence Brown and W.S. Merwin

I raise this green to my lips,
this muddy promise of leaves,
this forsworn earth,
mother of snowdrops and of every tree.

See how I'm blinded but strengthened,
surrendering to the least of the roots?
Are my eyes not blown out
by the exploding trees?

The little frogs are rolled up in their voices,
drops of mercury, huddled in a ball.
The twigs are turning into branches, and the fallow ground
is a mirage of milk.


Another from Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World, where Robert Pinsky writes that Mendelstam -- who died in a labor camp for his opposition to Stalin's government -- "is not a polemical or essentially political writer. He is above all a great artist who happens to have acquired political meaning as well...though the earth may be 'forsworn' and the feeling of sustenance in springtime may be a 'mirage,' the poet still celebrates, in one of his late poems, written in April of 1937. Written in circumstances of exile and terror, the poem triumphantly makes a home of the Earth."

Younger son was feeling somewhat better this morning, so after he went to Hebrew school we all went down to the National Arboretum, where the azaleas have just begun to peak. They were magnificent -- even more spectacular than Garrett Park's, in shades of peach and violet and fuschia-and-white-striped that we don't see in the neighborhoods around here. The big bumblebees seem to prefer the pink ones, particularly in the sun; those bushes were buzzing! There were many people on the azalea walk and many more around the National Capitol Columns and the koi pond outside the visitor center, but because the arboretum is so big, it never feels crowded.

We had hoped to stop at Shakespeare's birthday celebration at the Folger Library -- our kids are too old for the face painting and stuff, but there are usually high school performances and sword demonstrations and they have birthday cake for everyone -- but younger son was looking droopy, so since he had a violin recital in the evening, we came home for some down time. After dinner we went to St. Jane de Chantal church for a brief rehearsal and then the concert, which was five Vivaldi pieces: Concerto in D, which younger son was playing in a group; then a mandolin concerto adapted for strings and organ; a double violin concerto in A minor; "Winter" from The Four Seasons in its entirety with three different soloists; and the first movement of "Spring" in honor of the current season.

St. Jane de Chantal has beautiful stained glass windows that let colorful light stream in.

Though the church has been in Bethesda for decades, this new church building is only six years old.

Here for instance is how the light looked during the violin recital.

The rose window is small but colorful.

The church has very pretty artwork as well...

...and carved wood Stations of the Cross all around the central seating area.

This is the little glass penguin playing the violin I got son in lieu of flowers.

And because I saw so many gorgeous flowers today, here are the flowers from the entrance of the church (with the baptismal font, if that's what it's called in Catholic churches, visible through the glass).

My new camera worked wonderfully both indoors without flash in the church and outdoors in close-up mode with the flowers! I owe azalea photos...shall post both arboretum and domestic ones during the week. Am slowly catching up on The Tudors while folding's beautifully filmed and well-acted, but I keep seeing Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and not Henry VIII no matter how hard I try. I'm enjoying it, but considering that I thought HBO's Elizabeth I was a bit soap-opera-ish when I watched it, this puts that to shame in that regard! *g*

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Poem for Sunday

The Stalin Epigram
By Osip Mandelstam
Translated by Clarence Brown and W.S. Merwin

Our lives no longer feel ground under them.
At ten paces you can't hear our words.

But whenever there's a snatch of talk
it turns to the Kremlin mountaineer,

the ten thick worms his fingers,
his words like measures of weight,

the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip,
the glitter of his boot-rims.

Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses
he toys with the tributes of half-men.

One whistles, another meouws, a third snivels.
He pokes out his finger and he alone goes boom.

He forges decrees in a line like horseshoes,
One for the groin, one the forehead, temple, eye.

He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries.
He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.


From Poet's Choice in this week's Washington Post Book World, the April poetry issue, which I will probably be quoting all week but of particular interest may be "Poetry for the People" -- reviews of poetry books including a collection of Robert Pinsky's Poet's Choice columns, and reviews of new anthologies including a collection of "antidepressant" poems. This week Pinsky writes, "Sometimes poetry makes things happen. In a large, resonant example, a poem by Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938) about Stalin caused the poet's imprisonment in 1934." The poem above led to Mandelstam's being arrested and sent to a labor camp, where he died four years later. Pinsky adds that PEN American Center reports on poets who are threatened and silenced today, citing Russian journalist Olga Politkovskaya, an opponent of Vladimir Putin who was killed last October. "It is impossible to say how many writers and organizations have been inspired directly or indirectly by Mandelstam's struggle and his work," states Pinsky.

Younger son woke up feeling somewhat icky and came back from a morning soccer game distinctly worse, so rather than schlepping him all over the University of Maryland or the National Arboretum, we stayed closer to home. Went out to get cat litter at Petco and foodstuffs at Trader Joe's, then took a ride through Garrett Park, the neighborhood down Strathmore Avenue past the arts center, which, according to the town web site, has in its entirety been designated an arboretum. We used to walk there all the time when we lived in Parkside in Bethesda back in the late 1980s and it's always been where I wanted to live if I could afford it (the beautiful old Victorian houses are in the millions and the houses under $500,000 are over fifty years old, in need of repair, smaller than our townhouse and backing up to the train tracks, so we visit instead).

There are probably almost as many azaleas in Garrett Park as there are in the National Arboretum.

The town's web site even links to an azalea gallery.

And there are also gorgeous Victorian houses. Younger son and I agreed that if we can ever afford one with a tower, he gets the upper level and I get the lower level.

It was drizzling a little this Saturday afternoon, but the colors were still incredible.

And we saw a bunny in someone's front yard. What could be better?

I was very, very naughty, at least according to my husband, and bought myself a Nikon Coolpix L12, which I have been coveting ever since older son went off to Boston with my Nikon Coolpix 4100, which is fine as far as it goes but has a tiny monitor, a very long cycle between flashes and no anti-vibration technology, which wasn't available in the little digital cameras when it came out, certainly not for under $200 like the L12. So now I have a much bigger monitor, better low-light capabilities, sharper pictures, more megapixels and a lighter-weight camera to take everywhere, because as much as I adore my D50, it is just not practical to carry all the time. Yeah, it's an expensive Mother's Day present but it will get lots and lots of use and I refuse to feel too guilty, even though I do feel a bit guilty since we have to spend a fortune rebuilding the deck.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Poem for Saturday

Preludes for Prepared Piano 7
By Estill Pollock

Up and Down, Up and Down
(I Will Lead Them Up and Down)

Scene: Athens, and a wood near it—
the fierce vexation.

Between gigs, we squeezed in gruelling studio time,
going through several bottles of water,
countless takes churning out "Poison Ivy."
Several parks knew the trampling of our feet, chasing
Frisbees and each other.
We tanned seductively on the beach.
We took our meals at various local hangouts,
no doubt jolting the clientele with the volume,
the vibration.
Romping through shopping malls before confused sales clerks,
we spent an evening absorbing the phenomenon.

By imitating men's voices
I keeps the lovers apart until they each fall asleep,
then the herb.

Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, Mustardseed, others attending,
up, down, the all around
one revolving point in space, here comes my messenger.

Foolish mortals.


Older son is home from Boston, along with numerous loads of laundry. Apparently he had a great time: got to tour the nanotech lab at M.I.T., study sea life at Woods Hole, go on a dinner cruise past Bunker Hill and the Constitution, buy a baseball cap at Faneuil Hall, work on Plimoth Plantation, visit the Mayflower (I am highly amused that he was in Plymouth on both sides of the Atlantic in the same month), visit the science center and aquarium and have donuts one morning for breakfast provided by his science teacher. He took several hundred photos and I may post some of them, as he did some awesome stuff and I am envious, as I have never been to M.I.T. or Woods Hole!

My day was not as exciting, though I did write a more-positive-than-expected review of Star Trek: The Next Generation's "The Battle" -- the one with the Ferengi who makes Picard hallucinate being on the Stargazer, which I sat through the first time wondering why in heck they hadn't made Riker the captain of the Enterprise. We had California Tortilla for dinner after the kids rejected our initial plan to take them to Red Lobster, because they had several days of catching up on video games to do (older son had not yet even seen his Pokemon Diamond game!) and Cal Tort was faster and closer to home. (Not to mention cheaper, and since they didn't care what they ate anyway, we figured we'd save the Red Lobster gift card -- which we got as a Christmas present from 's aunt and uncle -- until everyone is really in the mood.)

: Get up, stand up!
1. Turn your head to the right -- what do you see?
Rosie lying sprawled on the floor a few feet from where is reading the newspaper.
2. Stand-up -- do you like how tall you are? I've only ever been 4'10" so although I can't reach my own top pantry shelf, I have no idea what it would be like to be taller.
3. Do you believe in heaven or hell? I don't believe in hell at all. I don't know nearly enough about the universe to have any sense of what happens to our energy after we die.
4. What is your favorite piece of jewelry? At the moment it's a $10 Chalice Well pendant. I'm also very fond of a pin made from the faces of my grandmother's watches and my Native American animal bead necklace.
5. What is the last thing you took from someone else? Laundry from my son. Oh, if you mean to keep, the Cadbury Creme Egg he said he didn't want!

: Favorites
1. What is your all time favorite book?
I can never pick one, so out of the many top contenders I'll go for Richard Bach's Illusions.
2. What is your all time favorite movie? I can never pick one, so out of the many top contenders I'll go for Kiss of the Spider Woman.
3. What are you reading right now? Out of Egypt.
4. What is your favorite show on tv? Doctor Who and Boston Legal -- I refuse to choose.
5. What is the last movie you saw in the theater? The Namesake.

: What are the five coolest gadgets, in any fandom?
1. The library computer, communicator, replicator, transporter and holodeck
, Star Trek. (Okay, that's five but it didn't seem fair to give them all to one fandom.)
2. The magic wand, Time-Turner, Pensieve, Skele-gro and flying broom, Harry Potter. (Same problem.)
3. The Infinite Improbability Drive, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
4. The sonic screwdriver, Doctor Who.
5. The internet. Yes, I'm serious: I never dreamed during my childhood that we would have this miraculous communication tool in my lifetime, and I am grateful for it every day.

: Choose a character. It doesn't have to be your favorite or least favorite, just whoever pops into your head. For me, this would always be Snape or Lupin. Since I'm betting more people do Snape, I'll do Lupin.
1. What are your three favorite moments for that character? Embracing Sirius like a (hem, hem) brother, teaching Harry about his Patronus, giving the "people like me" speech after resigning from Hogwarts (this last is a case where I prefer the movie version to the book version).
2. What's your least favorite moment? Being bullied into dating Tonks.
3. What's your favorite quote by that character? "What you fear most of all is fear. Very wise."
4. What is one thing you hope happens with your character in Book 7? He regains his spine personality from books 3-5.
5. What is one thing that absolutely can’t happen to your character in the final book, APART FROM DEATH? FUZZY PINK WEREWOLF BABIES. I would vastly prefer death to the kind of garbage compulsory heterosexuality to which he was subjected in Half-Blood Prince.

The Dudley Zoo is on the grounds of Dudley Castle, built by the Normans around 1071.

Our tour guide was "Brother Dudley," a medieval monk. (We suspect that he moonlights as "Doctor Dudley," who gives animal tours.)

The triple gateways are reputed to be haunted because of all the people who died there.

Through this opening in the ceiling, once covered in wood instead of brick, soldiers above could pour boiling oil down on invaders trapped between the doors that could be dropped on either side of the arches.

Most of the castle was destroyed by fire in the 1750s. It had been beautifully restored by John Dudley in the Renaissance, but he was beheaded by Mary I for trying to put his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, on the throne.

It is believed that someone might have been using the castle ovens to produce counterfeit coins when the fire started. Many of the servants were trapped and died; thus, the castle is reputed to be filled with spirits, such as this storage room where a ghost has reportedly been seen by visitors.

Some areas are remarkably untouched by the destruction...

...while others are in a much greater state of decay.

For Saturday we are debating whether to go to Maryland Day at the University of Maryland, when all the departments have really cool displays and open houses, particularly the science and agriculture divisions, or whether to go to Shakespeare's birthday party at the Folger Library and then to the National Arboretum to see the azaleas. Oh, dilemma! None of us can decide which we want to do more!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Get Critical Update

TV Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation's "The Battle"

Poem for Friday

Psalm Nine
By Mahmoud Darwish
Translated by Ben Bennani

O rose beyond the reach of time and of the senses
O kiss enveloped in the scarves of all the winds
surprise me with one dream
that my madness will recoil from you
Recoiling from you
In order to approach you
I discovered time
Approaching you
in order to recoil form you
I discovered my senses
Between approach and recoil
there is a stone the size of a dream
It does not approach
It does not recoil
You are my country
A stone is not what I am
therefor I do not like to face the sky
not do I die level with the ground
but I am a stranger, always a stranger


came over with oranges and Volver, which I meant to see when it was in the theater but never quite made it. It was utterly fantastic...neither the genre I was expecting nor the twist I was expecting although I suspected the nature of the real crime from the beginning, which made it all the better. Penelope Cruz (whom I have resisted liking in recent years because of her association with that other Cruise -- everyone he touches turns loathsome for me) is both superb and unbelievably gorgeous...she has curves and doesn't try to look ridiculously young and is so much more beautiful than any of the 20somethings shoved on us in other films. I love, love this movie and will be watching it again very soon, though I almost wish there were one male character in the movie who wasn't worthless...this is very much a story about how women support each other because all the men in their lives let them down so badly.

I wrote an entertaining article on William Shatner's numerous upcoming appearances in which I learned not only that Shatner will appear on the reality show Fast Cars & Superstars, but that now links to slash art. With a Gorn, no less! Go Kirk! I also wrote a less entertaining article about all the money-making schemes surrounding sending Scotty's ashes into space, in which I tried to be nice but covering the post-death Doohan circus has not been pleasant. Had dinner with my parents, since we can't tomorrow -- we are going to pick up older son from school after his return from Boston, where apparently he has had a great time (based on the text messages I have received about buying baseball caps, visiting M.I.T., taking photos of the Mayflower, etc.), and my parents are going to New York to my brother-in-law's birthday party to which my sister did not invite me until today.

Snowdonia National Park has paths crossing farms and sheep enclosures, requiring hikers to open and shut livestock gates.

This is the watchdog on the Aberdyfi farm where we stayed, not watching all that carefully, though the Jack Russell terrier who woke everyone up made up for that...

...and this is one of the four cats in a rare moment not sitting on my kids' laps. As you can see, it was acting a lot like a cat.

Ravens and rabbits live high on Glastonbury Tor.

And, though it may not be native to Britain ("bred in captivity"), here is a snakey peeking out at the Dudley Zoo. (Note: this photo is for .)

Watched Smallville, which I enjoyed more than perhaps any episode in the past two years...I don't care how hot Oliver is, I still love Clark and Lex together, and given that what first attracted me to the show was the metaphor of growing up superhero as a parallel for growing up gay, and later how the distraction of power is only a surface consolation when the person you love doesn't love you back, everything about this episode was right up my alley. Even Lana, for once. The poor terrorist woman was thrown away too quickly, I thought -- I'd have had her survive, since she's obviously smart and skilled -- but that was all just backstory to get Clark and Lex stuck in a cave together, which is a fan fiction cliche in every fandom I've ever been in (I've written it in several).

And then the dialogue is like...well, fan fiction cliche, but right up my alley! Lex goes on about how he thought Clark was more than human and even if he's flesh and blood, he's been hiding secrets from Lex since they met. Clark asks why Lex cares anyway and implies that Lex's obsession with exploiting people with different abilities stems stems from their friendship. Lex helps Clark past meteor rocks without quite seeming to realize why Clark is so weak. Clark announces that Lana told him on Lex's wedding day that she wanted to call the whole thing off, but that's a minor concern compared to the question he really wants to ask: "Were we ever really friends, Lex?" To which Lex explains that he wouldn't know, he has no point of comparison, since Clark is the only person he ever really loved...err, the only real friend he ever had, but somewhere along the line Clark turned on him and decided Lex was his nemesis. And then Clark thinks Lex is going to leave him to die after Clark gets trapped by falling rock, and Lex comes back for him and asks, "Did you really think I was going to let you die alone down here, Clark? Guess you never knew me at all." (Note: in better fan fiction than this episode, this is the point at which they would fall into each other's arms and have mind-blowing sex...ahem.)

Meanwhile, Lana has received a temporary backbone graft (I say temporary because she always loses it again) and visits Lionel in the hospital, pointing out that even though he trapped her into marrying Clark, his medical decisions are now her responsibility and she could kill him right then! Then, unfortunately and more in character for the idiot she usually is, she believes him when he says he's protecting Clark, but she comes off a lot better than Chloe who is trying to reach Clark on his cell phone and says she feels like his stalker ex-girlfriend, even though she was never his girlfriend, and oh this is awkward...I know I am supposed to be posting that I hope it isn't Chloe who dies, I'd rather it be Lex, but the simple truth of the matter is that Clark-crush girl Chloe makes me cringe and if I have to choose between this week's Chloe and this week's Lex to survive, Lex wins. Lana, of course, comes in last, but at least this week she's smart enough to discover that Lex has maps of the tunnels...and doesn't tell the cops until she finds out that Clark is trapped as well as Lex and Chloe convinces her that Clark isn't invincible.

Things get a little silly after that...Clark and Lex both walk unscathed away from a massive explosion, Lionel taunts Lana about not being dead before he asks her to trust him with Clark's safety (though when she intimates that she'll tell Martha that Lionel used Clark as a bargaining chip, Lionel says admiringly that Lionel has embraced wholeheartedly what it means to be a Luthor). Then Lana has some fine moments lying to Lex, claiming she wanted out of the wedding because she thought something was wrong with the baby, and Lex says he would love her no matter what, and Lana says she wishes she was that strong because if someone lied to her the way she claims she lied to Lex, he would lose her love forever. She adds that she doesn't know what she did to deserve him.

Meanwhile Clark is telling his mommy that when Lex pulled him to safety, he saw a glimpse of something he hadn't seen in years: his friend Lex. Martha, who says she knows they were in love they went through a lot together, warns Clark that he doesn't know when to let go and his hope is his greatest weakness as his greatest strength. She claims that her thing with Lionel is different because she doesn't trust Lionel, but Clark, who doesn't trust Lex and never did, is still fixated: "What if I gave up on him too soon?" And meanwhile, Lex, of course, is back in his secret lab torturing the husband of the woman who started it all. So, yeah, completely unforgivable in canon, but I still enjoy watching Michael Rosenbaum better than anyone else on the show except sometimes John Glover, and I want Lex to stick around far more than either Lana or Chloe.

Also watched Shark, which was well-played but the plot was stolen right out of a case I'd read about, so I knew where it was going from the beginning. That case with the abducted kid who wouldn't testify against his kidnapper but then they discovered he had abducted and abused an older boy was all over the news awhile back. My favorite parts involved Jessica running for re-election and Stark trying to get the mayor to support her. I wish we saw more Jessica and the women on Stark's team, because I like the characters better than the actual cases...also true of Boston Legal, but there they're smart enough not to make the cases the focus most of the time. And the silly endings make sense on Boston Legal whereas on Shark they just feel unnecessarily pat. Now, someone please reassure me that Ryan is not leaving the show after the season finale next week! Though I'm equally afraid that they've decided they want Stark and Jessica romantically involved, so they had to make her stop being his boss...grr.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Poem for Thursday

Psalm Three
By Mahmoud Darwish
Translated by Ben Bennani

On the day when my words
were earth...
I was a friend to stalks of wheat.

On the day when my words
were wrath
I was a friend to chains.

On the day when my words
were stones
I was a friend to streams.

On the day when my words
were a rebellion
I was a friend to earthquakes.

On the day when my words
were bitter apples
I was a friend to the optimist.

But when my words became
flies covered my lips!


Yeah, officially sick of pollen season...quite literally, though the trees do look lovely. I've had a headache for three days now and I know it has nothing to do with what I'm eating, how much exercise I'm getting, etc. Had another quiet day with laundry, looking up deck and fence regulations for the neighborhood (which included a long walk around the back path looking at numerous decks and fences), covering Trek comics news and taking younger son to violin.

In the evening we went to the elementary school book fair -- probably my last elementary school book fair! -- where I bought a collection of poetry I had previously not heard of, This Same Sky, a collection of poems in translation about the human condition edited by Naomi Shihab Nye, though younger son did not want any books since he just got the latest Erin Hunter book (the book fair was several volumes behind). There was a picture book for very young children of the tortoise that adopted a hippo, even though they no longer share an enclosure (here is the blog about them and how they worried that as Owen grew, he would become a threat to Mzee).

A pair of peafowl show off their plumage at Cardiff Castle...

...and a pair of egrets do the same at the Bristol Zoo.

A cockatiel at Birdland in Bourton-on-the-Water shows off its feathers...

...though soon enough, it becomes shy and retreats into its barrel.

The pigeons in front of the National Gallery are happy to land on people's hands to accept food.

But the canaries in the aviary at the Glenthurston Holiday Apartments in Catford prefer to keep their distance.

A sight common to both sides of the Atlantic: a gull picking at creatures caught in the seaweed.

The first time we went to England, the European magpies we saw driving from Heathrow were my clearest confirmation that we were on a different continent from home. This one enjoys the gardens at Hampton Court Palace.

In other animal news, I read that George Lucas and Mark Hamill are doing a Star Wars parody for Adult Swim, Robot Chicken: Star Wars, this proving that Lucas has learned nothing about poultry since Howard the Duck. And the Smithsonian is going to charge for admission to its butterfly pavilion, the first time it has ever charged for admission to a permanent attraction, which sucks. But Spinal Tap is reuniting to fight global warming, which rocks in several ways, and Mexico City is legalizing abortion right as our own Supreme Court is chipping away at Roe v. Wade. And on my local news, when they were covering the new Earth-like planet discovered 50 light years away, the science reporter said it would take hundreds of thousands of years to reach it, and the anchor responded, "That's only if Kirk and Scotty don't get the impulse engines fixed."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Poem for Wednesday

The Violins (Al Kamanjaat)
By Mahmoud Darwish

The violins weep with the Gypsies heading for Andalusia,
The violins cry for the Arabs departing Andalusia.
The violins cry for a lost epoch that will not return,
The violins cry for a lost homeland that could be regained.
The violins burn the forests of the far darkness
The violins wound the horizon, and smell the blood in my veins.
The violins are horses on a string of phantoms, and water groaning,
The violins are a field of wild lilac that move forward and backward.
The violins are a beast tortured by the nails of a woman who touches and then move away,
The violins are an army that builds a grave of marble and melodies.
The violins are the anarchy of hearts picked up by the wind on a dancer's foot,
The violins are flocks of birds seeking shade under an incomplete banner.
The violins are the complaints of the curled silk on a passionate night,
The violins are the effect of wine denied to an earlier thirst.
The violins follow me, here and there, to avenge me,
The violins are searching to kill me, wherever they find me.
The violins cry for the Arabs departing Andalusia,
The violins weep with the Gypsies heading for Andalusia.


From by way of . I've not read a lot of Darwish, just The Adam of Two Edens, and I don't know who translated the above.

Quiet Tuesday...the pollen is really bothering me, so I tried sleeping late and taking drugs, but I think the only real help is when the flowers start dropping off. I was going to meet my mother for lunch, but then she remembered she was having a pedicure and couldn't get there till I needed to be home to retrieve younger son, who was most anxious for the school day to end because Erin Hunter's newest Warriors book was coming out, plus a manga about one of the cats. So we went to Barnes & Noble before Hebrew school, where I was excited because I thought I had found a new Rachel Pollack book on the Tarot on the bargain table, only to get home and discover that it's a book I already have with a different cover...oh well!

Wrote up an interview with Avery Brooks, who is always interesting -- he's recording an audio production of Roots, which he did not appear in, though he and Kate Mulgrew were both in the dreadful holiday TV movie Roots: The Gift which gives me horribly politically incorrect fantasies about Mirror Universe Janeway/Sisko (and Janeway/LaForge and Janeway/Tuvok...Roots: The Gift really has a dream cast for such a mediocre script). Speaking of politically incorrect Star Trek-related TV fantasies, Boston Legal went for utterly unrealistic social commentary but it was still fun to watch, and Denise and Brad are so adorable!

Alan has an old friend/ex-lover come in wanting to sue a department store for selling "Tartie Dolls" which are in essence Barbie dolls dressed like tramps; she tries to enlist his sympathy by claiming that her daughter is his daughter too, which earns her a look of pure horror from Denny and something akin to hope from Alan before she reveals that she's kidding. Denny then steals the doll -- probably to go with his plastic Shirley, he definitely has issues with objectifying women -- but his problems this week stem from the fact that he interviews new litigation associate Givens and, after suggesting that Jeb Bush would be an ideal next president, tells Givens in the presence of Paul and Shirley that he's very articulate, meaning, "You don't sound black."

Alan doesn't have a lot of time to devote to this crisis, given that Jerry Espenson is representing the department store that sells Tarties and kicks Alan's butt in court by making him out to be a sleazy lawyer who sleeps with all his clients and doesn't help that the judge hearing the case is the blonde he actually did sleep with. Alan cites statistics on eating disorders and depression in girls who are sexualized too early, saying just because a six-year-old wants a slut doll doesn't mean she should get one any more than she should get a beer, but Jerry (rightly) argues that it's just as wrong to censor dolls as it would be to go after department stores that sell "Do Me" t-shirts to teenagers...this is all the symptom of a larger social problem where female CEOs and doctors feel it necessary to get boob jobs, yet teen pregnancy is down and women in Congress are up. Alan doesn't mind losing once he's arguing against a calm, passionate Jerry rather than the slick, glib one using diversion to try his case, and in fact he appears to agree with Jerry's logic. They agree to be friends again.

Shirley, too, uses the bigger cultural problem argument to defend Denny when the firm's partners are ready to dismiss him after Givens goes to the media with his complaint. Though she had argued in private with Denny that there is no such thing as "sounding black" while he cited both Joe Biden and George Bush saying what he said about Givens in their comments about Barack Obama, she takes Denny's argument to the press, telling them that they too look for what will play well in corporate America, which is predominantly white -- look at the criteria by which the networks choose their own news anchors. Yes, she agrees, Denny represents that racism where the corporate world likes its African Americans like its coffee, with cream and sugar, and until that larger problem is confronted, punishing individuals like Denny isn't going to change anything. I find this rather half-assed -- Denny Crane may be no Don Imus, but there's no question that his racism and sexism have hurt countless lawyers at the firm in the years before his diminished capacity meant that Shirley and Paul have been running things, and that isn't addressed at all by Denny or anyone else. But hey, this is a comedy, mostly.

And since comedy requires that the play, or the season, end with a wedding...Shirley reacts with surprise and some horror at the news that Denise and Brad intend to marry (personal fantasy: Shirley is jealous because she wanted Denise for herself), and once Denise sits down and asks herself whether she's doing this for the sake of the baby or practicality, she tells Brad that she realizes she has a tendency to see him through the eyes of other people, meaning he comes across as a goofhead, but when she looks at him through her own eyes, she really loves him. Brad beams and says that this is the best thing anyone has ever said to him in his entire life, including his gunnery sergeant and Little League coaches.

They kiss, while out on the balcony, Denny observes that Jerry took Alan back and jealously adds, "I suppose you'll be going over to his place for a sleepover?" Yet Denny is still thrilled (from having witnessed the press conference in disguise) by how "strong and powerful and dignified" Shirley was, which made him want to flip her on her back and have sex with her. Alan admits that it bothers him more when people use "urban" as a euphemism for "black" than when people just say someone sounds black, citing Obama talking about the black idiom. Denny says he might vote for Obama, because Obama is handsome and Denny has no idea what he stands for, which makes him the perfect president. He won't vote for McCain because "McCain speaks Bush" (and that line alone would redeem this entire episode!) though he still won't even consider Hillary. When Alan asks Denny if he's bothered by how many people in other countries hate America, Denny says that America should blow up those people...though not because they're not white.

Dragons decorating the entrance to Leadenhall Market in London.

There are lovely red dragons all over Wales. Here is one on a University of Wales lamppost.

And another, more free-form, at Cardiff Castle.

This goat-head spout is one of numerous spouts at Cardiff Castle covered in animal faces.

A magical fish guards Plymouth near the Mayflower Steps.

A tile street marker at Three Cocks Lane in Gloucester.

I see that scientists have found kryptonite, though it isn't radioactive. And more importantly, Fairport Convention will play at the 2007 Herndon Festival on May 31st! Now Be Thankful!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Poem for Tuesday

Venus and Adonis (397-408)
By William Shakespeare

Who sees his true-love in her naked bed,
Teaching the sheets a whiter hue than white,
But, when his glutton eye so full hath fed,
His other agents aim at like delight?
  Who is so faint, that dare not be so bold
  To touch the fire, the weather being cold?

Let me excuse thy courser, gentle boy;
And learn of him, I heartily beseech thee,
To take advantage on presented joy;
Though I were dumb, yet his proceedings teach thee.
  O learn to love; the lesson is but plain,
  And once made perfect, never lost again.


I can't believe I missed the Bard's birthday! I didn't even think about it until I was writing an article about Patrick Stewart teaching at Oxford and it hit me that they picked Shakespeare's birthday for his first lecture. The Folger Shakespeare Library's annual celebration isn't until next weekend so I was all thrown off. (The other Trek article for the day was about how The Next Generation episode "The High Ground" has never been shown in the UK or Ireland because of Data's explanation that Ireland would reunify in the future after a terrorist attack, and it's being shown this week at a Belfast festival and is still causing controversy despite the huge shift in Irish politics since the episode was made -- I love it when Star Trek news is about something bigger than Star Trek.)

So we all know now I have psychotic dreams, right? Last night I dreamed that I was trying to clean the basement and pile things in the backyard, and ran out of room, and finally set fire to the pile in the yard because it was the only way to get rid of all the stuff, and the house caught fire and I was thinking this sucks but at least now I don't have to try to clean the basement. I woke up with a headache and in a bad mood but a sense of purpose, and instead of taking a walk in the morning I went outside and took down 90% of our ancient backyard fence, which I have never liked and wanted to get rid of ever since the kids were really little and I couldn't see them in the backyard over it. It really never occurred to me before that I could do this singlehandedly, but at this point the wood is so rotted that it came down really easily except the big posts.

Ironically, while I was doing this, my husband was finally (after only, oh, three years of nudging and getting some quotes myself) talking to people about repairing the deck and cracked front step which you can see in squirrel and chipmunk photos. Yep, going to cost as many thousand dollars as we feared...actually the deck is going to be less than our worst case scenarios and we can probably push it out a foot if we want, which we are debating, and we're trying to decide whether we need flagstones over the concrete in front. We are the opposite of handy around a house and garden and I imagine anyone who has known me a long time, like , is laughing uproariously at the image of me taking a fence down.

Glastonbury, sometimes known as Avalon, at twilight from the top of the Tor.

King Arthur is said to have been buried in the now-ruined Glastonbury Abbey.

In the museum at Caerleon, often guessed to be the location of Camelot, a model of the barracks showing how soldiers lived while the Roman Empire occupied the area.

Local beads excavated from the Roman ruins.

A closeup of the Bearded Lake, so named because of the water lilies that cover it in the summer. This is where, in Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising books, the mountains are singing, and the Lady comes.

Am very happy to have Heroes back and after it we watched Boston Legal from two weeks ago so we'd be caught up for this week's episode, which was supposed to air last week but was pre-empted for one of the specials about Virginia Tech. I still love most of the actors on Heroes (even the people who play characters I really dislike, like Nathan Petrelli, are well-cast) but the mythology is getting convoluted enough to send up my warning feelers and when characters are quoting the tag line from The X-Files movie and borrowing rationales from The X-Men movie, it makes me a little nervous. As for Boston Legal, I see that I complained about Brad not having enough big scenes without full information!

I love that Bennett realizes nearly immediately that "Claire" isn't his daughter, though it's a bit unnerving that he knows his daughter better than his wife...hopefully it's just that he's learned not to trust his senses. And I love how focused he is communicating with Matt during all the chaos, though using Ted to get out seems like bad news to me. What I like is how it's impossible to tell who to root for: by killing off some of the people the agency is using for Linderman's ends, Sylar may actually be helping to stop the end of the world, not to cause it. And is Linderman Nathan and Peter's father or what?

On the other hand it's obvious that Candace the Shapeshifter is going to get overused very quickly, and the whole Linderman-can-bring-back-the-dead seems like much too much of a reveal too every time anyone dies (like Peter for instance) my first thought is going to be, oh, Linderman will bring him/her back. (Man I hope it's true in Isaac's case because I love him, though now that Sylar can paint the future, I suppose he's technically not necessary...waah!) And I don't much like Linderman's hinted-at cabal, of which Mrs. Petrelli is pretty clearly a member, though that role could not have been better cast. Even Claire seems a little phony now, just calmly accepting Nathan's announcement that he needs to ship her off quietly with her grandmother -- this girl has lost everything and everyone in her entire world and she's less capslocky than Harry Potter. I was rolling my eyes when Isaac started his "you can't fight the future" recitation -- does he get his philosophy from comic books like the ones he draws?

As for Boston Legal, it's very nearly the opposite...they took a caricature, a con man who hires Alan and Denny to get him off the hook for helping his brother try to cover up the brother's wife's murder, and turned him into a genuinely sympathetic character...and they even managed to do the same with the brother, which was pretty astonishing. On many shows I would resent the implication that men kill their wives not out of their own sense of impotence and rage but because the wives actively goad them into it, but they were very careful to point out that the brother was guilty not of manslaughter but of murder and was serving a sentence for it...the trial is focused on how people react when loved ones come to them with clear evidence of wrongdoing and beg for help, and Alan makes a wonderful case there (particularly since we've seen how he's rationalized things with Denny and various other people he cares about). Denny meanwhile was being nuttier than usual this week, trying to conjure Raquel Welch as a test to see whether he could conjure world peace, and instead he ended up with Phyllis Diller still hot for his body after all these years.

But the storyline I really loved was the one that got Brad and Denise engaged, in which Brad is told he has to sign a legal document stating that his in-office romantic relationship is consensual and cannot be construed as harrassment and he balks, ultimately announcing in a roomful of partners that it is not only an invasion of his privacy but potentially the death of his romance with Denise, which, given the number of hours a week he works, has been his salvation from loneliness. Poor Paul is flummoxed about what to say to him, but Brad's observation that there's plenty of screwing going on in the office and they don't try to ferret out gay employees who might be having sex ultimately persuades the partners to drop the requirement.

Meanwhile Denise hears about Brad's outburst, asks him exactly what he feels for her, and gapes as he explains that he's been in love with her for three years and wants to marry her. It takes a little while, but she says yes, even though she refuses to give birth to any more Young Republicans. I've loved these two together since Denise came on the show, so this makes me very happy, even though, like Clarence and Claire, they'll probably have problems written all about their relationship next season. Hey, I am still so happy there will be a next season and it's already been announced!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Poem for Monday

Fiddler Jones
By Edgar Lee Masters

The Earth keeps some vibration going
There in your heart, and that is you.
And if the people find you can fiddle,
Why, fiddle you must, for all your life.
What do you see, a harvest of clover?
Or a meadow to walk through to the river?
The wind’s in the corn; you rub your hands
For beeves hereafter ready for market;
Or else you hear the rustle of skirts
Like the girls when dancing at Little Grove.
To Cooney Potter a pillar of dust
Or whirling leaves meant ruinous drouth;
They looked to me like Red-Head Sammy
Stepping it off, to “Toor-a-Loor.”
How could I till my forty acres
Not to speak of getting more,
With a medley of horns, bassoons and piccolos
Stirred in my brain by crows and robins
And the creak of a wind-mill—only these?
And I never started to plow in my life
That some one did not stop in the road
And take me away to a dance or picnic.
I ended up with forty acres;
I ended up with a broken fiddle—
And a broken laugh, and a thousand memories,
And not a single regret.


From Spoon River Anthology, courtesy who said that "The Fiddler of Dooney" made her think of it.

Older son left bright and early for his week-long field trip, so we were all up very early, and while younger son was at Hebrew school I took a long walk in the neighborhood. Then, after Hebrew school, we went to get Pokemon Diamond for older son and Pokemon Pearl for younger son (they've been saving and older son's one disappointment was not to be able to get it in time for the bus ride), and because we were up in Gaithersburg, we went looking for baby geese both at the lake at Rio and the one in Montgomery Village. We saw no actual goslings -- there were a couple of mother geese sitting on nests across the water from us, hissing, and numerous adult geese paired off in what appeared to be mating couples -- but we saw something even more interesting, a colony of great blue herons nesting on an island at Montgomery Village, all these enormous birds at the tops of these trees!

I ended up crashing hard for an hour in the late afternoon after getting all that sun, then woke up around dinnertime because younger son had a rehearsal for next weekend's violin recital in the evening. The entire concert is Vivaldi, with the younger students playing concertos and four of the older students each playing the solo parts of The Four Seasons. They are performing in a local parish, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, which has a gorgeous new church building less than seven years old. There were still Easter flowers around the altar and brilliant evening light streaming in through the stained glass. The acoustics are terrific and the kids really sounded great considering that this is the first time they have performed as a group; my son has practiced a couple of times with the violin teacher's daughter, who plays cello, and with the boy who has lessons right after his, but there were easily 30 kids playing the first concerto who didn't know one another.

I will eventually post local spring photos, but I cannot resist another few days of dwelling in Great Britain, so here is...

Caerphilly Castle, largest in Britain except for Windsor, with its ruined southeast tower and high wall surrounding it.

Much of the interior of this medieval castle is nearly as decayed as the tower.

Outside the East Gate, built in the late 13th century.

The moat, an innovation in its day in water defense -- the castle is built on islands created by damming a nearby lake...

...still separates the castle from the surrounding town, though the ruins are right in the center of it.

We saw a huge bullfrog and many turtles sunning themselves in the lake too, which reminds me that my uncle sent me a link to the Great Turtle Race, where sponsor companies support Pacific leatherback turtles as they migrate from Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands and people can cheer them on. I picked Freedom because I like the name (Yahoo's turtle is called Purple Lightning). I'd have rooted for the one sponsored by Drexel University, but it's apparently still lounging on the beach in Costa Rica!