Thursday, May 31, 2007

Poem for Thursday

Banned Poem
By Yang Lian
Translated by Peter Forbes

to die at thirty-five is already too late
you should have been executed in the womb
like your poem no need
for a sheet of white paper to be your grave

children are not permitted to be born
lock up their hands in crime
fingers rot like snakes coiled in winter sleep
eyes rot escaping the tempest that bites
your face at first touch is a current of water
bones tracing out white scars line by line

it’s a shoal of eels down in the deep waters of the flesh
threading through white seaweed
among still-paler shouts you hear only darkness
coldly wiped clean by another hand
coolly turned into a misprint
placenta wrapping you ever tighter
your last words dying with you

to die today
is to be turned into a stinking news story


I don't have a lot to say that other people aren't already saying. Other than, I'm also angry about the FCC giving away our airwaves and internet to big telecom corporations. I'm angry about Ruth Bader Ginsburg being the only Supreme Court voice arguing for women's rights. On the one hand, I am thrilled to see fandom so mobilized about something with larger political and social implications, and on the other hand, I keep realizing that if fannish escapism was not at risk right at this moment, lots of people would be just as happy to choose that escapism over worrying about things like the internet censorship trends we've seen get worse and worse as big corporations have moved in. (In case anyone has somehow not heard about by now, go join and be counted so Six Apart has some idea just how many unhappy customers they're facing. I bet a higher percentage than average of us are paid accounts, too.)

I rarely use MySpace, but the one thing I did post there was a Common Cause complaint that they refuse to run ads critical of Rupert Murdoch. I have a permanent account on LiveJournal and a great deal of photo storage space here, so I'm certainly not going to delete this account in a huff, and I long ago locked everything that I believe could get me in trouble (though if you happen to notice anything in my interests or public posts that you think is a risk, please alert me). This all does affect me personally -- I'm a member of , I've posted there, and I co-mod fic comms that could easily be targeted under clauses that restrict sexuality and sexual expression (none of which have anything to do with underage or incestuous fan fiction, but teenage Fred/George fic doesn't have anything to do with real life pedophilia, either). I was sympathetic to the LJ terms of service people when I thought this was all a panicked response to a legal threat, before I read this (thanks ) and discovered that all the warnings people sounded when Six Apart bought LiveJournal, suggesting that corporate censorship was likely to follow, have come to awful fruition.

made it home from New York despite the van overheating on the highway on the way home from the airport, so things are quiet on the home front. Here, have some cows, cats and cuteness:

A cow on Culp's Hill at Gettysburg National Battlefield. (Are we allowed to show udders around here?)

Hanover is mostly horse country, but Gettysburg has its share of cattle.

This is one of Hanover Shoe Farms' cats. They seem spectacularly unimpressed by horses and people both. But then, they are cats.

Every trip I try to get a photo of my in-laws' very old beagle, Ginger.

So, not really planning to vacate these premises, though I do need to dig up a mailing address where a permanent account holder can send an angry letter. But in case other people are migrating, I do have several other accounts, and have for quite some time, at GreatestJournal, JournalFen, InsaneJournal, DeadJournal, Twitter, MySpace and Blurty (Vox is also Six Apart, so the heck with that). Feel free to friend me wherever. Looks like GreatestJournal is the hot spot of the moment, but I strongly suspect that if they get too much bigger, they'll start enforcing arbitrary Terms of Service too. JournalFen is fan-owned and fan-friendly but age-restricted and often very slow. I don't think there are ideal solutions.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Poem for Wednesday

By Linda Bierds

When the cow died by the green sapling,
her limp udder splayed on the grass
like something from the sea, we offered
our words in their low calibrations—
which was our fashion—then severed
her horns with a pug-toothed blade
and pounded them out to an amber
transparency, two sheets that became,
in their moth-wing haze, our parlor windows.
They softened our guests with the gauze-light
of the Scriptures, and rendered to us,
on our merriest days, the sensation
of gazing through the feet of a gander.
In time we moved up to the status
of glass—one pane, then two—each
cupping in proof of its purity
a dimple of fault, a form of distortion
enhancing our image. We took the panes
with us from cottage to cottage,
moth-horn and glass, and wedged up
the misfitted gaps with a poultice
of gunny and wax. When woodsmoke
darkened our bricks, we gave
to the windowsills a lacquer
of color—clear blue with a lattice
of yellow: a primary entrance and exit
for light. And often, walking home
from the river and small cheese shop,
we would squint their colors to a sapling
green, and remember the hull
of that early body, the slap of fear
we suffered there, then the little wash
of recovery that is our fashion—how
we stroked to her bones a cadenced droning,
and took back from her absence, our
amber, half-literal method of sight.


Been awake since 4 a.m., so this may not even be coherent. Not a lot to report, anyway: did a bunch of work on one of my web sites that desperately needed it, wrote three articles for TrekToday, two of which involved transcribing tedious interviews (the Alexander Siddig one was interesting but since the questions weren't included in the video, it was hard to tell when he was talking about an actor vs. a character, the Lee Arenberg one was fun when he was talking about theater/film work and not name-dropping). Schlepped kids various places, tried to deal with younger son's best friend who came in with his arm bleeding after a fall from a bike who refused to go see his own mother because she was dealing with her two babies. Eep.

A rabbit and a robin in my in-laws' backyard last weekend.

Another gets up close and personal with my in-laws' garden.

There are several bunnies who live nearby, though these are the two who were most in evidence last weekend.

Maximus the groundhog was also out enjoying the warm evening in Hanover.

This is how close the hogs get to the houses.

And here is Maximus with a friend or significant other! Though no babies yet this season.

Boston Legal finally ran its season finale, which I enjoyed though it says a lot to me about why I watch this show that I found it sadly apolotical even though it was a fantastic Alan/Denny story with a nice side of Jerry/Clarence/Shirley and a few seconds of !bliss! Brad/Denise. For a dreadful moment I thought they were setting us up for an ugly rift to shake things up next season, but they didn't even let that idea stick around long enough to shake things up in the episode...I shall trust David E. Kelley more next time, and that is a reason for sticking with any show.

The main case is one of those ripped-from-the-headlines, brothers-accused-of-killing-father cases with Alan and Denny representing the brothers, and Alan doesn't think they can beat Murder One charges; he wants them to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, since their own psychiatrist is ready to testify that they had threatened their father's life in response to his abuse. Alan fears that if they lose, both teenagers will spend their lives in prison, but Denny is more worried that if they lose, he will no longer be undefeated (Alan thanks him for providing the bigger picture). Matters just get worse when the judge suggests that another firm should represent one of the boys, asking Denny to drop out of the case even though he "used to be Denny Crane," knowing that Alan will defend him or he'll lose his sleepover privileges. While Brad is preening over his daughter, Denny is sulking, until Alan orders him to safeguard his legacy by saving those boys.

When things aren't going well after the coroner and psychiatrist testify, Alan is surprised to receive a used condom wrapped in medical stationery. It turns out to have the DNA of the boys' mother, who insists that Alan and Denny should be able to get her sons off, and her dentist, who is also her alibi since she was having her teeth cleaned at the time her husband was murdered. Alan demands to know whether she shot her husband and she pleads the Fifth, but the prosecution -- which also received an anonymous used condom -- has already questioned the dentist, who said she seduced him just two days ago in an apparent effort to make herself look like a suspect so there's reasonable doubt where her sons are concerned. Alan is angry with the mother and angrier with himself for not having known that he was set up.

And here comes the twist: Denny, who has already expressed frustration about Alan doing all the cross-examinations, gets his client to testify that he saw the brother holding the gun that killed their father. Alan rants at him in the courtroom -- they've already had a bit of a spat this episode, since Denny admitted that he talked to Shirley about his need for attention and Alan doesn't understand why Denny was running around sharing feelings with Shirley instead of Alan himself, to which Denny replies that he thought if he were vulnerable, Shirley would have sex with him, an agenda he doesn't have with Alan. Now Alan shouts that Denny is making a big mistake, though Denny claims it's just duty to his client. But in private, moments later, Alan agrees that the performance went perfectly and now the other brother will accuse the first while Denny feigns something between fury and Mad Cow.

Meanwhile, Jerry and Clarence take a case from a woman who went to Las Vegas and lost $80,000 she didn't have. She wants to sue the casino, saying that she has a gambling addiction and they had no business giving her such a big line of credit. Shirley is angry that they took such a hopeless case, and the casino's lawyer thinks this is all a joke set up by a mobster, particularly since Jerry says things like, "My client lost all her, money!" and makes purring noises. Shirley insists on sitting in on the next meeting, though the casino lawyer says nothing will change just because they brought in Shirley Schmidt; he doesn't even believe that Clarence and Jerry are lawyers until Jerry, using information from a contact of Alan's, pops a cigarette into his mouth, affects an accent and tells the lawyer to ask the casino owner whether they use synthetic pheremones to make gamblers feel more at ease and incur bigger debts. The casino lawyer comes back with a non-negotiable offer of over $200,000 to make the case go away. Shirley first congratulates Jerry and Clarence, then rolls her eyes as they dance around.

The DA prosecuting the brothers says that the jury should not buy into the bogus reasonable doubt created by Alan and Denny, saying that they both killed their father and this tactic of blaming each other could let two murders go free. Alan argues that there were other people with motive and no alibis, but the police were so focused on arresting the boys that they didn't pursue any other leads. Denny insists that there is reasonable doubt about whether either brother or both did it, whether they fantasized about doing it or not; Alan says that under the law, they must both be set free. After some painful moments of waiting during which Alan says he wants to win, partly because he believes the boys are innocent but partly because he wants Denny to triumph, the jury finds both brothers not guilty.

"I'm so good even I don't believe it," announces Denny, whom Alan congratulates on his brilliant strategy of having the brothers accuse each other and promises to come for a sleepover. Denny is still a bit troubled that the judge knows about the sleepovers and wonders whether it's odd for two grown heteros to have sleepovers at all, but Alan says, "Who cares...I wouldn't trade them for anything." Denny is overjoyed not to be "over," as he puts it. He and Alan toast "next season," saying they can't wait to see what they'll do next. And for good measure, they add a "till death do us part" and "may no man tear asunder." And they live happily ever least until the fall time slot shuffling begins!

Had dinner at California Tortilla, and hopefully will be home in time for dinner Wednesday! Now must go collapse as I have to be up before 6 again, bleh.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Poem for Tuesday

Remember, Body...
By Constantine Cavafy
Translated by John Ioannidis

Body, remember not only how much you were loved,
not only the beds on which you lay,
but also those desires which for you
plainly glowed in the eyes,
and trembled in the voice -- and some
chance obstacle made them futile.
Now that all belongs to the past,
it is almost as if you had yielded
to those desires too -- remember,
how they glowed, in the eyes looking at you;
how they trembled in the voice, for you, remember, body.


Quick update as I need to go to bed very early because I have to get up very early for the next two days -- is going to New York on business on an insanely early flight tomorrow, so I have to do all the kids' morning stuff myself. We went Sunday with my parents to Gunston Hall, George Mason's plantation in Virginia, a bit down the river from Mount Vernon though Mason and Washington were hardly sociable by the end of his life (previous photos and report here and here); my parents had never been there, so we did the guided house tour, and had the most garrulous tour guide in the history of house tours...not that I'm knocking knowledge but if I'd wanted to know that much detail about the production of Georgian wallpaper, I'd have looked it up in a book. *g* It was a beautiful day, if rather warm, and we walked through the upper gardens and went to see the animals on the estate farm because no way was younger son leaving without trying to pet the sheep.

A view from the landward side of Gunston Hall, with the river behind it...

...and from the back, standing in the gardens.

The view in the opposite direction from the gardens is of the deer park and Potomac River beyond. Mason had his own ship landing.

He also had his own mark engraved on many of the storage vessels in the kitchens.

Photos were not allowed in the house, but this is a fragment of the reproduction wallpaper in the main parlor.

Went to dinner at Coastal Flats in Tysons Corner Mall after striking out finding the British candy shoppe in Tysons II because it has closed! Where am I going to get Nestle Mint Aero bars! *sobs* I had really excellent grilled salmon, various other family members had crab cakes, fish fingers and lobster bisque, then we went back to my parents' house for birthday cake for my father who is not in the least happy about approaching 70. Have spent the evening watching Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed and snickering at how much credit everyone gives Lucas instead of noting all the filmmakers as well as mythic sources from whom he borrowed, though it's always fun to see something like this because when I cut school to go see The Return of the Jedi on opening day and got a guilt trip from my mother, I wrote my English and history teachers an overnight 10-page paper on archetypes in the Star Wars trilogy, mostly using Northrop Frye as a reference since I hadn't yet read Joseph Campbell.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Poem for Monday

In Flanders Fields
By John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


McCrae was a Canadian physician who served as a soldier in 1914 before transferring to the medical corps. He died of pneumonia on active duty in 1918. This poem was published in 1919.

I'm home from Pennsylvania, where we had a fairly quiet Sunday apart from everyone going to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End ('s parents had not seen the first two, which we mistakenly believed they had, so hopefully it made enough sense...they seemed to enjoy it but that might be because they had grandchildren talking a mile a minute about what was great about it afterward). I think the movie improved for me the second time through, which was also true of the first two Pirates movies...I have trouble turning my brain off sometimes about nitpicky stuff, but these movies have been delightful mania all along and the performances are really outstanding, particularly Depp, Rush and Knightley whom I often think is underappreciated because she's so young and has been asked to carry films with some pretty weak screenplays.

Otherwise, we had brunch (pancakes, sausages and eggs) and dinner (barbecue) and played Yahtzee. Maximus the groundhog put in an early evening appearance, as did a few of the local rabbits and several local birds. We drove home in the early evening under slightly drizzly skies with occasional glimpses of sunset pink peeking out. Will save the wildlife pictures for later in the week; here are some of the horses from Hanover Shoe Farms on Saturday:

A week-old foal nursing in one of the barns.

This foal is being suckled by a nurse mare. Every year a couple of the mares lose their foals and a couple of the mares either have medical complications or just don't nurse well, so the babies are paired with surrogates.

This one-day-old colt is Daisy's Dragon, with his mother She's a Daisy (sire is Dragon Again, hence the colt's name).

This newborn is Caught the Bouquet, sired by Jate Lobell on Tarbeth Hanover.

I love how tall and gangly they look, though it is rather incredible to me that they fit inside the mares with those legs.

Monday is my father's birthday so I am off doing more family stuff. Have a good Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Poem for Sunday

Playa Colorada
By Peg Boyers

It was a beach
like all beaches, only perhaps more beautiful.
And the sand was pink not red.

We would arrive in caravans,
hampers overflowing with food and drink
like Aziz and his party on the way to Malabar.

The colonials and their servants away on an outing.
We would stop under thatch umbrellas,
towels and tablecloths spread out against the sea.

My mother in her skirted swim suit
surrounded by fathers of other children,
her olive skin lit through her straw hat.

They would laugh and drink beer
and leer
while the children did the usual beach things,

boring futile tunnels to China, running
at waves and then away,
daring each other to be swallowed.

I would go out by the forbidden rocks and pick off oysters,
then give them to the men to pry open,
cover with lime juice and suck dry.

Once, I saw my mother sucking
an oyster out of another daddy's hand.
Her dappled face bobbed and smiled and her tongue

searched the shell for pearls.


From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinky in The Washington Post Book World, a column on poetry inspired by Cuban life before Castro. "An engaging, poignant group of poems in Peg Boyers's new book, Honey with Tobacco, includes childhood memories of that time," Pinsky writes. "Boyers declines mere nostalgia, as in this poem that scrutinizes pleasure-seeking, a leisured class, even memory itself, with a cool attention, analytical as well as sympathetic. The reference to a central incident in E.M. Forster's novel A Passage to India operates as allusion should, as a compact, rapid inclusion of themes: in this case, the ambiguity of events, especially erotically charged events, the sinister underside of privilege, the prolonged receding and the long reach of colonial history, the interweaving of private life and social reality. The vivid childhood memory, seen from the perspective of the adult poet who has read Forster, mingles the language of 'another daddy' with 'the colonials and their servants away on an outing.' Boyers's poem, mingling innocence and knowledge, takes its place in the long tradition of idylls, pastorals, depictions of pleasure and elegant surfaces, with their underlying or suppressed realities.

I'm in Pennsylvania at my in-laws' where I am still recovering from a day of sun and a huge Mexican dinner. We spent most of today in Gettysburg, where there are reenactors doing various events for Memorial Day weekend...we missed the cavalry because the newspaper had it listed for the wrong time, but we met some of the people who specialize in costumes and armaments and climbed the lookout towers along with enormous groups of Boy Scouts who were apparently having some sort of gathering in the park. Our kids prefer scrambling on the rocks at Devil's Den to monument-hunting, so we did quite a bit of that, too.

We went to an area I had not much explored before, in the woods below Culp's Hill.

A company of Confederate reenactors from Virginia came over the hill...

..and stopped for a rest by Spangler's Spring, where both Union and Confederate soldiers stopped to drink before and during the Battle of Gettysburg.

The area is ringed with monuments and memorials.

Here is one from my own state.

In the late afternoon we stopped at Hanover Shoe Farms to see the baby horses -- foals are born all through the spring, and there were five or six in one of the open stables today, including one that was born a day and a half ago, plus a mare going into labor who looked quite wild-eyed. Then we went to the aforementioned Mexican restaurant, El Rodeo, where I had chicken tacos and other people had an assortment of burritos, fajitas, enchiladas and mucho nachos. We had a quiet evening...the bunnies were out in the backyard, though the groundhogs did not deign to make an appearance (we're hoping to see them in the morning). Ginger is moving very slowly these days...she's going on 17, quite old for a beagle, and every time we leave I am worried we might not see her again.

I believe we are going to POTC3 on Sunday afternoon since I'm the only one of us who has seen it...whoo! Still not sure yet whether we are going home Sunday night or Monday morning, since we have plans with my parents for my father's birthday on Monday.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Poem for Saturday

By Luljeta Lleshanaku
Translated by Henry Israeli

The moon
nicotine of a kiss...

A sideways glance
like the mast of a pirate ship
beyond a distant island


My major activity for Friday, besides going to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End with , then going to Tara Thai with her afterward, was writing a review of "Datalore", one of several Next Generation episodes that has held up surprisingly well (though next week's episode is "Angel One" and I reserve the right to be utterly scathing). As I said, I adored the movie and can't wait to see it again. Kids are angling for this weekend, so even though we are visiting my in-laws, hopefully that will be soon rather than later!

Had dinner with my parents, who were not in the best of moods; father is not happy about his birthday on Monday, on which he will be a year younger than his mother was when she died (next year, when he turns the big number ending in a zero, I expect he will be unhappy for at least a month). We are trying to figure out something to do on his birthday and he was not thrilled with any of the suggestions, then griped at my mother when she lobbied for one just to have something to do. Am drinking kosher dessert wine to chill out. seems to be on hiatus this week...

1. If you could have a superpower, what would it be? I've said this before and I'll say it again: the ability to see the good in all people.
2. Which is more attractive to you: physical appearance or personality? Oh please, go look at my interests list and if you can't figure it out from that, go check out some hot young things.
3. Who did you last fight with? Is it wrong that I was ready to type "my father" before I could actually remember what we last fought about?
4. What did you eat last night? Kentucky Fried Chicken...yes, I know, but we were on our way out to our son's concert and had to grab something fast.
5. Who are you mad about? Right at this moment? Elizabeth Swann.

1. What is your favorite board game? Scrabble.
2. What is your favorite card game? Gin rummy.
3. Do you like to play games on the computer or on a gaming system? We own three gaming systems and I have never played either. Have on rare occasion played a computer game, but not often.
4. If so, what is your favorite game to play? I play that bubble breaker game on my cell phone when I am waiting for kids at bus stops and stuff. Wish there was a big screen version of that!
5. Do you like to play games with people or to play them alone? With people. Hence my near total disinterest in computer games; I don't get as much interaction as I do chatting and talking fic.

1. Work with dragons or treasure hunt for Gringott's? Treasure hunt. I love animals but I think I'm too big a chicken to work with dragons.
2. Spend a day with the Order of the Phoenix or Dumbledore's Army? The original Order of the Phoenix would be my first choice, followed by the Order at the start of the book of the same name. As it currently stands, however, I'd pick Dumbledore's Army over Remus&Tonks, the older Weasleys, etc.
3. Visit Dumbledore's office or Snape's dungeon? Depends whether I get to see Snape's private rooms and whether I'm supervised. If it's just the Slytherin common room and potions labs vs. the Pensieve and all of Dumbledore's other devices, the latter.
4. Give an old school detention to Filch or Umbridge? Oh, certainly Umbridge, preferably administered by Filch.
5. Have an Invisibility Cloak or a Time Turner? Time Turner. I have one from the Noble Collection, but regrettably it doesn't work.

Koi being fed food from machines at the National Arboretum when we visited a few weeks ago.

There were lots of big fish among the not-yet-blooming water lilies.

And around the pond, fancy tulips were in bloom.

Never quite the same from season to season, the National Capitol Columns (many more images if you follow the National Arboretum tag).

Friday, May 25, 2007

Get Critical Update

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

Things I Utterly, Totally Loved About POTC:AWE

I didn't read LJ at all last night for fear of being spoiled, but I know there are some people who've been griping (as well as a number of newspaper critics), and I just want to say that I loved Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End pretty unreservedly. I mean, PIRATE KING ELIZABETH! When she dressed up as a boy last time out and ran away to sea, I was happy enough (DMC felt to me like it dragged more than this one did -- Jackson's King Kong is my gold standard for "oh fuck, is it still going, shoot me now," which perhaps is why Spider-Man 3 etc. seemed absolutely spry to me, but even at nearly three hours, AWE did not seem too long). Fine, it's very shallow and has inconsistencies both in itself (like, hadn't Will's heart stopped beating before they put it in the chest) and with the first two movies (plus let's not even get started on things like actual history and ship design), because... Walking skeletons! Sea monsters! The Afterlife! Keith Richards!

And the world is flat! Though Beckett's is flatter than Barbossa's, and even though it's impossible to take this movie seriously as a political allegory despite the list at the beginning of suspended rights under President Bush -- excuse me, under the East India Company-controlled crown -- it's very enjoyable that the parts of this movie that are not about a woman who's so much smarter than all the men around her that she ends up their leader are about the evils of capitalist imperialism and colonialism. As fluff, it brushes past me with fewer annoyances than Lord of the Rings and King Kong with their scary dark people or Harry Potter where men are men, purebloods are purebloods even if there's an occasional powerful halfblood, and women are very much supporting cast. Or maybe I'm rationalizing, since sure Singapore is as full of stereotypes and cliches as the cannibals from DMC, but it's all in fun and Elizabeth rocks my world.

Plus several other things were so well done, like Jack Sparrow's fully developed love affair with Jack Sparrow, Davy Jones' moment of human redemption before his fall into the deep, the magnificent ice-scapes and waterscapes and No Exit and Elizabeth finally realizing that it's not that she wants Jack so much as she wants his ship and his freedom. And the perfect resolution to the Will-and-Elizabeth I-want-you-but-I'm-a-pirate dilemma...Will gets to go be the responsible upright citizen he always was as Captain of the Flying Dutchman, and Elizabeth gets to do whatever the hell she wants, sail the seas and see the world and have the husband without being burdened by him. (I feel sorry for the kid with the absentee father, but that's got to be better than a dead parent, anyway, which is what Will grew up believing he had and wasn't terribly uncommon in that era.)

I could watch Johnny Depp acting opposite Johnny Depp all day, though in some ways Geoffrey Rush owns this movie. And while I'm a teeny bit bummed that Norrington's part was so small, he was pretty peripheral to the story, he died well, and I am just going to assume that Will picked him up en route to the afterlife and the two of them are partying it up on the Flying Dutchman.
And, um, if you hated the movie or thought it was a monumental disappointment, I don't actually want to hear why, and if you're one of the "Orlando Bloom sucks and I take every opportunity to say so" people, save it for people who actually agree!

Poem for Friday

The Junior High School Band Concert
By David Wagoner

When our semi-conductor
Raised his baton, we sat there
Gaping at Marche Militaire,
Our mouth-opening number.
It seemed faintly familiar
(We'd rehearsed it all that winter),
But we attacked in such a blur,
No army anywhere
On its stomach or all fours
Could have squeezed through our crossfire.

I played cornet, seventh chair,
Out of seven, my embouchure
A glorified Bronx cheer
Through that three-keyed keyhole stopper
And neighborhood window-slammer
Where mildew fought for air
At every exhausted corner,
My fingering still unsure
After scaling it for a year
Except on the spit-valve lever.

Each straight-faced mother and father
Retested his moral fiber
Against our traps and slurs
And the inadvertent whickers
Paradiddled by our snares,
And when the brass bulled forth
A blare fit to horn over
Jericho two bars sooner
Than Joshua's harsh measures,
They still had the nerve to stare.

By the last lost chord, our director
Looked older and soberer.
No doubt, in his mind's ear
Some band somewhere
In some music of some Sphere
Was striking a note as pure
As the wishes of Franz Schubert,
But meanwhile here we were:
A lesson in everything minor,
Decomposing our first composer.


I posted that poem in 2004 on my elder son's last day of elementary school, so I figured it was appropriate to post again with photos of his last junior high (well, middle school) chorus concert. We went in the evening with my parents and in-laws following a rushed dinner brought in by , since I was stuck in the house all day but had nothing to cook...the guys came to fix the front step unannounced after we had given up on them this week and assumed they would be here next week, which is good because it's mostly done (need the cement between flagstones to dry so they can put the railing back up) but kept me home all day, made it impossible for younger son to get his new bike outside to ride it and required a great deal of noise by equipment to even out concrete slabs. The cats were displeased.

Trek news, at least, was interesting: a former DS9 stuntwoman turned Star Trek: New Voyages stunt coordinator in her hometown and NASA To Search For Spock, or at least JPL to search for a planet in orbit around 40 Eridani A, long assumed to be Vulcan's sun. Have had some coolness regarding The Glastonbury Tarot: I had received a deck that had a few misprinted cards (bottoms cut off, tops containing the bottoms of other cards), and when I contacted the store, they said the deck was out of print. So I went looking for the publisher, which has changed names since the deck was printed, and in the course of digging around I discovered that the artist has a MySpace page and is extremely friendly and knowledgeable about Tarot artists. Plus I tracked down someone at Weiser who offered to send me an entire replacement deck, the last one they have in stock. Joy!

The combined chorus at older son's middle school performs "900 Miles" (did Woody Guthrie write that, or is it much older and he just recorded it?)

The barbershop group, now called the Blue Notes, singing Billy Joel's "The Longest Time."

The chorus sang a medley of songs from West Side Story. Here are some of the girls doing "I Feel Pretty."

And this is just here for the heck of it to see if anyone is actually paying attention. *g* Not one comment yesterday!

Congress: living up to that old joke, "What's the opposite of progress?" News too depressing to watch any further. So, falling into the old trap of distraction: Friday, Pirates! Going early with , don't spoil me unless one of the Big Four dies in which case spoil me please so I'm prepared! And hope anyone going out of town early has a nice Memorial Day weekend. We're going to my in-laws either tomorrow night or Saturday morning depending on our state of organization, then coming back here Monday for my father's birthday.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Poem for Thursday

By Judith Viorst

On the way home with my husband from the dinner party,
I thought I'd very tactfully point out
That he shouldn't interrupt, and that
He shouldn't talk with his hands, and that
He shouldn't, when discussing politics, shout.
And that he shouldn't tell that story while people are eating, and that
He shouldn't tell that joke for the rest of his life, and that
He shouldn't have said what he said about that terrible lady in red because
She happens to be the-person-he-said-it-to's wife.
And that he didn't need that second helping of mousse cake, and that
He didn't need to finish the Chardonnay.
But after thirty years of marriage
I finally understand what not to say
On the way home with my husband from a dinner party.


Not really a day worth recalling except to mention that I managed to avoid a migraine by taking medicine at the right moment. Am so close to female TMI that I could scream, never made it out of the house, wrote one interesting article about attempts to create a device akin to a medical tricorder and two infuriating articles about Brand Star Trek and Paramount/CBS's desperate attempts to keep selling it to new fans or old fans or anyone they can get to drop a buck on sense that any of them understand why the original series was important, it's all about long-term financial investments.

My good friend in London went here, the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show which is honoring Doctor Who by having a full-size TARDIS in the middle of a display called A Garden In Time (and apparently it has working sound effects!) My only British excitement was watching Secrets of the Dead on PBS, which had an episode, "Headless Romans," about the decapitated skeletons found in York and ultimately blamed on the elder son of Septimus Severus, Caracalla, who tried to kill his father and did kill his brother so he could be sole emperor, only to be assassinated while he was taking a leak at the side of the road.

Then we watched The Blair Decade, which was extremely pro-Tony but kind of reflected the feeling I had about him till very recently, when he and Clinton were working together on Northern Ireland and then Blair insisted that Clinton stand up to's probably why he went into Iraq with Bush, which is a real shame, because his foreign policy has always seemed so much more engaged with the world and less cynical and self-serving than ours. Or maybe he just looks that way right now because I'm so nauseated by Bush and so fed up with the Democrats' hemming and hawing and compromising because they're already worrying about getting reelected...

This is the sunset seen over the park from the highway on the way home on Tuesday.

So, clearly I did not watch American Idol, this week or any other she actually a good singer (and is he actually a better entertainer) or is that just the line the press has been handed? I kind of like that one Katharine McPhee song that was on the radio, but I can't stand any of the other winners' music.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Poem for Wednesday

My Heart, Sit Only With Those
By Jalaluddin Rumi
Translated by Maryam Mafi and Azima Melita Kolin

My heart, sit only with those
who know and understand you.
Sit only under a tree
that is full of blossoms.
In the bazaar of herbs and potions
don't wander aimlessly
find the shop with a potion that is sweet
If you don't have a measure
people will rob you in no time.
You will take counterfeit coins
thinking they are real.
Don't fill your bowl with food from
every boiling pot you see.
Not every joke is humorous, so don't search
for meaning where there isn't one.
Not every eye can see,
not every sea is full of pearls.
My heart, sing the song of longing
like a nightingale.
The sound of your voice casts a spell
on every stone, on every thorn.
First, lay down your head
then one by one
let go of all distractions.
Embrace the light and let it guide you
beyond the winds of desire.
There you will find a spring and nourished by its waters
like a tree you will bear fruit forever.


I had chores to do in the morning and running around to do in the afternoon on Tuesday because older son's middle school awards ceremony was in the early evening at his future high school. We had some chaos since he had to stay late at the middle school to rehearse for the choral performance there, which meant that there was no way for him to take the bus home and drive back in time for the ceremony unless he skipped it was an insane amount of riding around for him.

So we picked him up and went to Wheaton for dinner -- one of the most restaurant-rich suburbs of DC, thanks to its fantastic ethnic diversity -- but because son had to be at the high school early to prepare for the concert before the awards ceremony, we didn't have time to enjoy the possibilities and ended up in a better-than-usual food court, where I had passable cajun chicken. The ceremony was very nice -- son got a ribbon for making the honor roll all four marking periods and a certificate because the chorus got a superior rating at the state festival, and he seems really to enjoy singing with the chorus kids though he's not particularly comfortable onstage and has always turned down solos.

A table of ribbons at the middle school awards ceremony.

Before the ceremony started, the eighth grade band played a few pieces...

...and the Barbershop Group, of which my son is a part, and the female equivalent, the Sweet Adelines shown here, took turns singing.

This will be my last middle school awards ceremony in this building, since younger son is going to a different middle school. However, the awards ceremony is held in the high school older son will be attending, so I will certainly be here again many times.

I read that there will soon be an Addams Family musical coming to Broadway...I'm trying to decide whether to be amused or afraid, and whether I can forgive anyone playing Morticia for not being Anjelica Huston. Oh, and I think I successfully contacted everyone here to whom this will matter, but I moved my MySpace page...all over the internet I use the name cruisedirector (JournalFen, Gmail, YouTube), and in a few places where that was already taken (AIM, Yahoo, Hotmail), I went with cruisedirectr instead. But for some stupid reason, I signed up on MySpace as yourcruisedirector, and I never remember to give that out correctly. So since I couldn't change the name, I simply created a new page with the same name I use in other places: cruisedirectr. I never post anything there and it's mostly so I can keep track of musicians, but if you're over there or you're a musician, feel free to drop in.

Hope everyone celebrating is having a happy Shavuot. It's my sister's birthday -- must remember to call her in the morning!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Poem for Tuesday

Tam o' Shanter: A Tale
By Robert Burns

"Of Brownyis and of Bogillis full is this Buke."
Gawin Douglas.

When chapman billies leave the street,
And drouthy neibors, neibors, meet;
As market days are wearing late,
And folk begin to tak the gate,
While we sit bousing at the nappy,
An' getting fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps and stiles,
That lie between us and our hame,
Where sits our sulky, sullen dame,
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

This truth fand honest Tam o' Shanter,
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter:
(Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses,
For honest men and bonie lasses).

O Tam! had'st thou but been sae wise,
As taen thy ain wife Kate's advice!
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;
That frae November till October,
Ae market-day thou was na sober;
That ilka melder wi' the Miller,
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;
That ev'ry naig was ca'd a shoe on
The Smith and thee gat roarin' fou on;
That at the Lord's house, ev'n on Sunday,
Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday,
She prophesied that late or soon,
Thou wad be found, deep drown'd in Doon,
Or catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk,
By Alloway's auld, haunted kirk.

Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet,
To think how mony counsels sweet,
How mony lengthen'd, sage advices,
The husband frae the wife despises!

But to our tale: Ae market night,
Tam had got planted unco right,
Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely,
Wi reaming sAats, that drank divinely;
And at his elbow, Souter Johnie,
His ancient, trusty, drougthy crony:
Tam lo'ed him like a very brither;
They had been fou for weeks thegither.
The night drave on wi' sangs an' clatter;
And aye the ale was growing better:
The Landlady and Tam grew gracious,
Wi' favours secret, sweet, and precious:
The Souter tauld his queerest stories;
The Landlord's laugh was ready chorus:
The storm without might rair and rustle,
Tam did na mind the storm a whistle.

Care, mad to see a man sae happy,
E'en drown'd himsel amang the nappy.
As bees flee hame wi' lades o' treasure,
The minutes wing'd their way wi' pleasure:
Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious,
O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white-then melts for ever;
Or like the Borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the Rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm. -
Nae man can tether Time nor Tide,
The hour approaches Tam maun ride;
That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;
And sic a night he taks the road in,
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.

The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallow'd;
Loud, deep, and lang, the thunder bellow'd:
That night, a child might understand,
The deil had business on his hand.

Weel-mounted on his grey mare, Meg,
A better never lifted leg,
Tam skelpit on thro' dub and mire,
Despising wind, and rain, and fire;
Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet,
Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet,
Whiles glow'rin round wi' prudent cares,
Lest bogles catch him unawares;
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh,
Where ghaists and houlets nightly cry.

By this time he was cross the ford,
Where in the snaw the chapman smoor'd;
And past the birks and meikle stane,
Where drunken Charlie brak's neck-bane;
And thro' the whins, and by the cairn,
Where hunters fand the murder'd bairn;
And near the thorn, aboon the well,
Where Mungo's mither hang'd hersel'.
Before him Doon pours all his floods,
The doubling storm roars thro' the woods,
The lightnings flash from pole to pole,
Near and more near the thunders roll,
When, glimmering thro' the groaning trees,
Kirk-Alloway seem'd in a bleeze,
Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing,
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.

Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!
What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Wi' tippenny, we fear nae evil;
Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil!
The swats sae ream'd in Tammie's noddle,
Fair play, he car'd na deils a boddle,
But Maggie stood, right sair astonish'd,
Till, by the heel and hand admonish'd,
She ventur'd forward on the light;
And, wow! Tam saw an unco sight!

Warlocks and witches in a dance:
Nae cotillon, brent new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A winnock-bunker in the east,
There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast;
A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large,
To gie them music was his charge:
He screw'd the pipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a' did dirl. -
Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That shaw'd the Dead in their last dresses;
And (by some devilish cantraip sleight)
Each in its cauld hand held a light.
By which heroic Tam was able
To note upon the haly table,
A murderer's banes, in gibbet-airns;
Twa span-lang, wee, unchristened bairns;
A thief, new-cutted frae a rape,
Wi' his last gasp his gabudid gape;
Five tomahawks, wi' blude red-rusted:
Five scimitars, wi' murder crusted;
A garter which a babe had strangled:
A knife, a father's throat had mangled.
Whom his ain son of life bereft,
The grey-hairs yet stack to the heft;
Wi' mair of horrible and awfu',
Which even to name wad be unlawfu'.
Three lawyers tongues, turned inside oot,
Wi' lies, seamed like a beggars clout,
Three priests hearts, rotten, black as muck,
Lay stinkin, vile in every neuk.

As Tammie glowr'd, amaz'd, and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;
The Piper loud and louder blew,
The dancers quick and quicker flew,
The reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit,
Till ilka carlin swat and reekit,
And coost her duddies to the wark,
And linkit at it in her sark!

Now Tam, O Tam! had they been queans,
A' plump and strapping in their teens!
Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flainen,
Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linen!-
Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair,
That ance were plush o' guid blue hair,
I wad hae gien them off my hurdies,
For ae blink o' the bonie burdies!
But wither'd beldams, auld and droll,
Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal,
Louping an' flinging on a crummock.
I wonder did na turn thy stomach.

But Tam kent what was what fu' brawlie:
There was ae winsome wench and waulie
That night enlisted in the core,
Lang after ken'd on Carrick shore;
(For mony a beast to dead she shot,
And perish'd mony a bonie boat,
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,
And kept the country-side in fear);
Her cutty sark, o' Paisley harn,
That while a lassie she had worn,
In longitude tho' sorely scanty,
It was her best, and she was vauntie.
Ah! little ken'd thy reverend grannie,
That sark she coft for her wee Nannie,
Wi twa pund Scots ('twas a' her riches),
Wad ever grac'd a dance of witches!

But here my Muse her wing maun cour,
Sic flights are far beyond her power;
To sing how Nannie lap and flang,
(A souple jade she was and strang),
And how Tam stood, like ane bewithc'd,
And thought his very een enrich'd:
Even Satan glowr'd, and fidg'd fu' fain,
And hotch'd and blew wi' might and main:
Till first ae caper, syne anither,
Tam tint his reason a thegither,
And roars out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark!"
And in an instant all was dark:
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied.
When out the hellish legion sallied.

As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke,
When plundering herds assail their byke;
As open pussie's mortal foes,
When, pop! she starts before their nose;
As eager runs the market-crowd,
When "Catch the thief!" resounds aloud;
So Maggie runs, the witches follow,
Wi' mony an eldritch skreich and hollow.

Ah, Tam! Ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin!
In hell, they'll roast thee like a herrin!
In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin!
Kate soon will be a woefu' woman!
Now, do thy speedy-utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stone o' the brig;^1
There, at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross.
But ere the keystane she could make,
The fient a tail she had to shake!
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie's mettle!
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain grey tail:
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

Now, wha this tale o' truth shall read,
Ilk man and mother's son, take heed:
Whene'er to Drink you are inclin'd,
Or Cutty-sarks rin in your mind,
Think ye may buy the joys o'er dear;
Remember Tam o' Shanter's mare.


That's the poem that invented the fictional character for whom the Cutty Sark was named (if you prefer a version with a glossary, visit Burns Country). I'm so upset about the ship! I saw the BBC photos while looking up Patrick Stewart's new Shakespeare productions. We were at the ship in 2003 and took the tour in 2005 before she was closed to visitors for renovations. I hope those renovations are completed anyway, and I really hope it wasn't arson.

From our trip in 2003, when we took a boat up the Thames from London.

I was with when I took this photo.

Another from the Thames, this time from our 2005 trip with my friend Vera.

Rigging at dusk.
Prow of the ship.

I had to write about the aforementioned Stewart plays and can never decide how much of a prevaricator I think he is...he was desperately homesick for England, or for his much-much-much younger co-star from the last play he did over there before he dumped his American wife? Ah well, I'd love to see him in Macbeth anyway...I saw him in Othello and he was terrific. (In other good Trek news, Data has been inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame at Carnegie Mellon University.) And Tim Russ thinks CBS is going to let him charge money for Of Gods and Men, the Star Trek "not a fan film" starring Walter Koenig, Garrett Wang and several others who...well, let's just say that Star Trek was the highlight of their careers and they haven't stopped trying to make money off show their gratitude to the fans.

Younger son and his best friend have been having problems with an older kid in the neighborhood who keeps telling them stories about how he throws stones at cats when he sees them. Today the kid was provoking them, and they called him a loser, and he threw a stone at younger son and the friend, and the friend retaliated with a much larger stone, and a neighbor saw...needless to say things were Not Good. Now both my kids are grounded from video games, which seems to have older son in a better mood. Or maybe it's that I bought him Messenger, the sequel to The Giver, at Borders when I took younger son to the orthodontist in the morning. (Younger son wanted the novelization of Pirates 3; I got it for him on the condition that he not tell me about it.) I was excited to discover that they had Zerner and Farber's True Love Tarot for $3.99 -- I like her artwork very much.

came over (with sushi!) and brought Grey Gardens, the documentary about Jacqueline Kennedy's Bouvier cousins who were living in miserable co-dependent squalor in the family mansion in the Hamptons, the younger of whom ended up becoming a cult figure after this film, which she apparently took as a major compliment. I can't decide whether it's really amusing or really sad. As for the Heroes season finale...some aspects rocked (mostly character interactions between my favorite pairings all seasons, and I don't mean 'ships necessarily -- I mean Claire with her dad and Nikki and her alter ego, for instance). And some aspects were kind of confusing, like whether a character I never assumed had a super-power is actually using mind-control on her nearest and dearest or whether some of them are just wishy-washy pushovers. But as for the one I haven't liked all season, no tacked-on redemption could change my mind about that.

I mean Nathan, of course, who at the very last possible moment got out from under Mommy's thumbs -- perhaps literally, because when she was stroking his back I thought maybe we were supposed to assume that she was manipulating his brain, not just seducing him to the Dark Side -- yet remains a selfish bastard unto death. Yeah, fine, he saved the world...he decided he personally couldn't live without his brother. I don't think that had anything to do with compassion for the people of New York, for Claire or for anyone. Slash the Petrellis away...I remain underwhelmed until the end, if it is the end, since Peter can't die and Nathan could have flown away at the last minute (and, being Nathan, might very well have done just that).

I love the contrast between Nathan and Noah (yay, Bennett has a first name! But wasn't there a Noah Bennett on some nighttime soap?) because while Bennett is perfectly capable of self-serving violence and single-mindedness (he'd shoot a little girl!) it's all in the name of his daughter who isn't even really his daughter, so it's not like there can be any biological imperative at work. Mohinder uses the biological imperative argument for saving Molly -- his blood is in her veins -- but it's Matt in the end who once again becomes her protector. (He's not dead, is he? The sheet wasn't over his head and he had an IV in, which says to me that they can bring him back at any moment.) It's not that I'd want Noah as my congressman any more than I'd want Nathan, his work and plans have been self-serving all along, but fundamentally he operates out of love.

It's a bit weird that his daughter is more important to him than his wife or son, but there's all kind of playing favorites among family members anyway...Mr. Nakamura clearly has more invested in his struggling son than his smart and competent daughter, Nathan hardly seems to remember that he has a wife and children (oh yeah, mom, stick 'em on a helicopter and get 'em out of here please), and Mama Petrelli's playing favorites may have cost her both her sons...since she is playing Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate, this is not altogether surprising (and oh does Cristine Rose play her well...she deserves an Emmy nomination, as does Jack Coleman and probably others). I like that Hiro's dad finally accepts that saving Ando is part of living up to his legacy, and I love the dialogue between Hiro and Ando first when they escape from Sylar, then when Hiro explains that he has to go back alone and Ando tells him he's a Star Trek hero.

So in addition to all the X-Men (Cyclops and his brother this time around) and X-Files ripoffs that pop up regularly, this week I kept saying, "It's so Harry Potter!" I mean, Hiro and Ando were always a little Harry and Ron, and Sylar was always a little Voldemort, and Candice is Tonks only somewhat more evil and far more interesting, and if Harry Potter had a Claire instead of a Ginny I would be looking forward to Book Seven so much more. But the Peter "love is all you need" business from a dead mentor just made me howl. (I still maintain that Nathan saved Peter out of an inherently selfish impulse -- it's pretty sad when he needs a lesson about family values from the daughter he abandoned. And to quote as Claire watched the Petrellis fly up, "Where is the earth shattering kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth shattering kaboom!" Which makes it impossible not to giggle.) Oh and apparently there's an Eye of Sauron, too, since it can see Molly when she looks at it! And she has to talk about him like You Know Who!

So Nikki-Jessica, DL and Micah remain very awesome, though I have lots of questions: how did Linderman know Nikki's inner Jessica in such detail that he could coach someone else to fight as her? Was the genetics project that caused him to try to hook her up with DL supposed to produce someone with Micah's specific abilities or was that just a lucky result of their union, and he really wanted them just for their potential criminal skills, with blackmail material in case whatever small-time thing it was they were doing at the beginning of the series didn't work out?

On the Love Is All You Need count, I think the top winner for the series is Mohinder. How many near-strangers has he stopped to save, with his own blood or his skills at the risk of his life? He's not the bravest nor the cleverest and he often needs someone else for his follow-through, but his heart definitely has the ability to love unconditionally and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make...oops, sorry, when it's not Harry Potter it's the Beatles, and I am even more rambly than usual.

I have trouble being deep about this show. I enjoy it very much, but I can't go any deeper than that...or maybe I could, if I frequented NBC's web extras and watched the episodes repeatedly so I could remember things that haven't been mentioned in the past fourteen episodes, but too many years of the aforementioned X-Files have taught me not to want to watch so closely. Anyway, I'm very glad Hiro is returning, and I hope the fact that he seems to be exploring his legacy means his father will be back too, and I'm glad most of the people I really like are alive and seemingly healthy, and I'll never miss the Petrellicest. So thumbs up on the episode though I wish it wasn't making me realize I have a mental list of things I really do NOT want to happen in Deathly Hallows, far more than any particular thing I do want to happen!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Poem for Monday

Spring Letter
By Carl Dennis

With the warmer days the shops on Elmwood
Stay open later, still busy long after sundown.
It looks like the neighborhood’s coming back.
Gone are the boarded storefronts that you interpreted,
When you lived here, as an emblem of your private recession,
Your ship of state becalmed in the doldrums,
Your guiding stars obscured by fog. Now the cut-rate drugstore
Where you stocked your arsenal against migraine
Is an Asian emporium. Aisles of onyx, silk, and brass,
Of reed baskets so carefully woven and so inexpensive
Every house could have one, one work of art,
Though doubtless you’d refuse, brooding instead
On the weavers, their low wages and long hours,
The fruit of their labor stolen by middlemen.
Tomorrow I too may worry like that, but for now
I’m focusing on a mood of calm, a spirit of acceptance,
Loyal to my plan to keep my moods distinct
And do each justice, one by one.
The people in line for ice cream at the Sweet Tooth
Could be my aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews.
What ritual is more ancient or more peaceable?
Here are the old ones rewarding themselves
For making it to old age. Here are the children
Stunned into silence by the ten-foot list of flavors
From Mud Pie to Milky Way, a cosmic plenty.
And those neither young nor old, should they be loyal
To their favorite flavor or risk a new one?
It’s a balmy night in western New York, in May,
Under the lights of Elmwood, which are too bright
For the stars to be visible as they pour down on my head
Their endless starry virtues. Nothing confines me.
Why you felt our town closing in, why here
You could never become whoever you wished to be,
Isn’t easy to understand, but I’m trying.
Tomorrow I may ask myself again if my staying
Is a sign of greater enlightenment or smaller ambition.
But this evening, pausing by the window of Elmwood Liquors,
I want to applaud the prize-winning upstate Vouvray,
The equal of its kind in Europe, the sign says.
No time for a glass on your search
As you steer under stars too far to be friendly
Toward the island where True Beauty, the Princess,
Languishes as a prisoner. I can see you at the tiller
Squinting through spume, hoping your charts are accurate,
Hoping she can guess you’re on your way.


We had a nice brunch Sunday morning with my parents and uncle, whose wife and son were flying back to L.A. at around the time I arrived...uncle is going to Wilmington on business so is staying in the area for a couple of days. After eating lots of whitefish and lox, we took the kids to go get bike helmets (which younger son is pitching a fit about wearing -- the old one's too small, the new one he simply objects to on principle because his best friend's mother doesn't make him wear a helmet and no number of photos of subdural hematomas seem to be getting through his thick skull). We also looked at loft beds at the bunk bed store that's going out of business, but weren't positive exactly what we wanted even though the prices were fabulous.

Since we were in the shopping center with the Toys R Us, we went in there, looked at all the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Legos and I gave a covetous glance at the Barbie (well, Ken) Wizard of Oz Winkie Guard and flying monkey, which they had for the relatively bargain price of $40 (it's $69-80 online most places), but I can't rationalize spending that kind of money even to complete a set I started a decade ago! No Harry Potter toys yet, though thanks to I have one of the new Harrys...he's just lonely for Snape. *g* Since it was a perfectly gorgeous day, we also went for a walk at Locust Grove:

These trees are the same pair of white oaks in Locust Grove seen here in March at the end of winter.

And here is the creek under a curtain of green.

There were more trees down across the creek...

...some still alive, held up by the dead trunks of others, with leaves growing from them.

This one had its roots fully on parade.

In the evening I had to fold laundry, so since we were already in the mood, we put on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which makes me love it more every time I watch it. A lot of reviewers complained about its length but it doesn't feel too long to me -- I need the slow parts to catch my breath between the Hamster Ball of Doom and the Hamster Wheel of Destiny! And poor Orlando Bloom comes in for so much abuse, but what's he supposed to be able to do with lines like, "I'm not going to eat you!" delivered to a parrot? I truly believe Elizabeth keeps directing the compass at Jack not because she wants him, but because she wants to be him. And Will really is not standing in her way, so even though everyone pairs both of them with everyone but in fic most of the time, I really hope they end up together (with occasional visits from Jack, James or both).

The Tudors, however, really lost me this week. I'm fine with quite a bit of historical liberty where it comes to people's personalities, friendships and love affairs -- Elizabeth I doesn't have to be a virgin, Anne Boleyn can fool around with her brother -- but for the past couple of weeks, it has seemed to me that they were merging the stories of Henry VIII's younger sister Mary with his older sister Margaret (the former never appearing on this series, the latter a significant character). In the latest episode, Margaret dies of consumption, which is what happened to Mary, who doesn't exist on this series so far as we know, though she shared with her sister a marriage unapproved by the monarchy and subsequent temporary disgrace.

On The Tudors Margaret appears to die childless, but both of Henry's sisters had offspring who played huge roles in history. Margaret was wife of one King of Scotland and mother to another, grandmother to Mary Queen of Scots and great-grandmother to James I of England; Mary was grandmother to Lady Jane Grey, whose attempt to claim the English throne led to many Protestant beheadings. These are two of the best-known women in English history -- even dilettantes know about them, thanks to Katharine Hepburn and Helena Bonham Carter, who played Mary and Jane respectively in movies -- yet neither will ever be born (at least not of Tudor blood) on this series! What are the writers thinking?
What kind of idiots do they think American viewers are...oh, never mind, skip that question. As I was just saying to , this show is very pretty and very stupid.

On the subject of invented history, has anyone read Ghostwalk, the Sir Isaac Newton alchemical conspiracy murder mystery? From The Washington Post review, it sounds like it could either be a great read like Foucault's Pendulum, The Historian and The Eight or a bad Da Vinci Code sort of thing in which Newton is the villain. I need better information! And I so don't get why glaciers would make people weigh less but maybe I should move to remote Canada!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Poem for Sunday

At the Border
By Carl Dennis

At the border between the past and the future
No sign on a post warns that your passport
Won't let you return to your native land
As a citizen, just as a tourist
Who won't be allowed to fraternize with the locals.

No guard steps out of a booth to explain
You can't bring gifts back, however modest,
Can't even pass a note to a few friends
That suggests what worries of theirs are misguided,
What expectations too ambitious.

Are you sure you're ready to leave,
To cross the bridge that begins
Under a clear sky and ends in fog?
But look, you've started across already
And it's one-lane wide, with no room for U-turns.

No time even to pause as drivers behind you
Lean on their horns, those who've convinced themselves
Their home awaits them on the other side.


From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World, all about the poems of Carl Dennis, noting that this is a rather short poem for him, "building on a single, ramifying figure of speech: the past and the future like two countries, with a frontier -- each present moment -- between them. In its quiet, somewhat playful way, the poem carries that fairly simple idea to surprising depths, ending with a striking image of Dennis's cunning, innocent-looking phrase 'your native land' implies, in many ways people feel most at home, emotionally, in the past. It is where we come from, though in our own nostalgias or histories we are tourists, no longer 'locals.'" Pinsky adds that the poet "makes the future seem impractical, even delusional: those impatient drivers, honking to move on, seem oblivious to the inevitable loss, maybe even the incipient panic of having 'started already' across a bridge that is narrow, with no turning back...Dennis gives a dreamy urgency to his compact allegory, with space representing time, and a political border representing the eternal transition of present time. The feeling is not gloomy, but a gentle and haunted metaphysical teasing. Unornamented and intimate, the poem's even voice describes the humdrum details of tourism -- the passport, the bridge, the guard, the traffic -- as emblems of a perpetual journey from one misty idea of home to another."

It was a bit of a weird Saturday. Father called in the morning with a guilt trip: why didn't we come see father's brother, his second wife (not to be confused with his ex-wife, still known as my aunt) and their son while they were in town for just this one day at the end of their son's field trip? (From L.A. to the East Coast, everywhere from Williamsburg to Mount Vernon to the White House -- I cannot even imagine the affluence at his middle school.) The plan ended up being that mother was going out to dinner with uncle's wife, while uncle, his son and my father were going to the Nationals-Orioles game to which we were strongly encouraged to come. I reluctantly called , with whom we had plans, told her I thought I would have to postpone, and agreed to meet my relatives downtown after younger son's soccer game.

Then it turned out that uncle and cousin were going to the game with the cousin's school group...and going out to dinner at ESPN Zone first, and possibly sitting in the $55 seats, which made it a ridiculously expensive proposition for my family. And what do they need us for when they're going with the school group? So I politely declined. Uncle called to give me an additional guilt trip about how his son wanted to see his cousins sooo badly (in between the fourth and fifth innings, I guess, since he was sitting with his friends otherwise). Father called to mutter about how come uncle couldn't get his son away from the school group for a little while to see his cousins. Mother called to grumble that she was quite annoyed about being railroaded into going to dinner someplace she didn't want to go. We murmured sympathetically and ran away to soccer.

Pretty yellow flowers were blooming all over the place by the side of the soccer field.

This is son's second-to-last game of the season (and probably of his soccer-playing days, because he has no interest in competitive sports in middle school), so possibly my last chance to lie near these lovely blooms and enjoy the gorgeous weather.

The players did not appreciate the breeze so much. There was a lot of dust. Also, only five kids from my son's team showed up...they borrowed players from the other team so they could all play!

Everyone always high-fives everyone on the opposite team after the game, even when half of one "team" consists of players from the other.

The good news was that we got to see and her family after all! We went to Spider-Man 3, which I surprised myself greatly by liking better than the first two, despite the reviews. As she said, how often do you see two men crying so much in a superhero movie? And I loved the opening credits, and even though I could have lived without the under-the-Quidditch stands too-long Green Goblin chase at the beginning and the 438th "Our relationship is going nowhere!" scene with Mary Jane spread over three movies, the Sandman special effects absolutely rock and I love James Franco playing tortured. I am very bummed that Spider-Man lost his boyfriend, so it's just as well this may be the last film in the franchise, at least with this cast and director! I like Mary Jane (and Kirsten Dunst) well enough but she's dreadfully written at times, and the dynamic between Peter and Harry is so much more interesting on a whole host of levels from the Oedipal to the sharing-girlfriend business.

I do have a question: Why does Peter not have a cell phone? As a 21st century crime-fighter whose struggling actress girlfriend manages to have one, I would think that single item would be crucial! Even if it's pay-as-you-go, only call the police when you have to sort of thing. I know there are lots of dweeby inconsistencies, like when is it completely dry in the New York subway, but that kind of thing doesn't bother me nearly as much as the excess of Topher Grace's character becoming not only Truly Evil but Truly Evil With Fangs -- I found him really unnecessary to the movie, I'd have written him out entirely and focused on the Sandman. Still, there was enough Harry and his angst to keep me content and hey, torch songs! Not sure why I liked this one so much more than I was expecting...maybe because I found the first one more blah than I had hoped.

After the movie we all went out for pizza together and took a walk. Our kids are at ages now where they have fun together, which is lovely for us! Sunday we are expected at a family brunch with uncle which we may flee ASAP...