Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Poem for Wednesday

From 'The Prodigal'
By Derek Walcott


The tidal motion of refugees, not the flight of wild geese,
the faces in freight cars, haggard and coal-eyed,
particularly the peaked stare of children,
the huge bundles crossing bridges, axles creaking
as if joints and bones were audible, the dark stain
spreading on maps whose shapes dissolve their frontiers
the way that corpses melt in a lime-pit or
the bright mulch of autumn is trampled into mud,
and the smoke of a cypress signals Sachsenhausen,
those without trains, without mules or horses,
those who have the rocking chair and the sewing machine
heaped on a human cart, a waggon without horses
for horses have long galloped out of their field
back to the mythology of mercy, back to the cone
of the orange steeple piercing clouds over the lindens
and the stone bells of Sunday over the cobbles,
those who rest their hands on the sides of their carts
as if they were the flanks of mules, and the women
with flint faces, with glazed cheekbones, with eyes
the colour of duck-ponds glazed over with ice,
for whom the year has only one season, one sky:
that of rooks flapping like torn umbrellas,
all have been reduced into a common language,
the homeless, the province-less, to the incredible memory
of apples and clean streams, and the sound of milk
filling the summer churns, where are you from,
what was your district, I know that lake, I know the beer,
and its inns, I believed in its mountains,
now there is a monstrous map that is called Nowhere
and that is where we're all headed, behind it
there is a view called the Province of Mercy,
where the only government is that of the apples
and the only army the wide banners of barley
and its farms are simple, and that is the vision
that narrows in the irises and the dying
and the tired whom we leave in ditches
before they stiffen and their brows go cold
as the stones that have broken our shoes,
as the clouds that grow ashen so quickly after danw
over palm and poplar, in the deceitful sunrise
of this, your new century.


I did nothing but chores, so I have nothing exciting to report. Well, I did sleep kind of late because I had all three cats in bed with me, thus forcing me to contort into the kind of positions in which it is possible to sleep only if you have three cats in bed with you, but nothing besides that! I spent some time looking at The Old Bailey Online just because it's so cool that it's there (and after seeing the Sweeney Todd extras, I was really curious to see all the murder and robbery transcripts, not to mention Oscar Wilde's indecency trial. All of which makes me think of that father with the daughter in the basement in Austria -- if The X-Files had done that as a story, I would have said it was unrealistic and vile (I did say that about "Home"). There's no prison terrible enough for that guy. Ugh.

Red foot tortoises from Central America. They have a 50-year life span.

Larger cousins, African spurred tortoises, which eat cacti and sub-Saharan grasses and can live to be 80.

Much smaller Russian tortoises, which live all over Asia and hibernate more than half the year. They can live to be nearly 100!

The local Eastern painted turtle also hibernates but their life spans are only 30-40 years.

This is a black throat monitor lizard, a carnivore from Africa that can inflate its body when intimidated or angry.

A blue-tongue skink from Australia, an omnivore that occasionally bites fingers as they look like something edible.

And a bearded dragon, also from Australia, hoping for a big yummy worm to go with his veggies.

After he finished his homework, older son wanted to watch the Tenth Doctor Who devil episodes ("The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit") because he was in an Ood mood, so that's what we did tonight...Doc and Rose threatening to become domestic and the awesome black hole. I'm so relieved Obama publicly told Wright where to stick it -- I have zero tolerance for anti-Semitic bigotry, I don't care if you're blathering in the name of Jesus or liberation theology or some massive US conspiracy theory. And I have never given a crap about Miley Cyrus or Hannah Montana, having boys with no tolerance for her or her music, but she'd seen the photos before she left the shoot and knew exactly how they made her look, and she is now trying to have it both ways looking sexy in Vanity Fair while claiming she didn't mean to look's her prerogative to make money titillating pedophiles, but the one of her sprawled all over daddy with her belly exposed is more disturbing than the photo with the sheet and every adult handler knew exactly the messages they would send. Again, ugh.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Poem for Tuesday

From 'The Prodigal'
By Derek Walcott


Chasms and fissures of the vertiginous Alps
through the plane window, meadows of snow
on powdery precipices, the cantons of cumuli
grumbling or closing, gasping falls of light
a steady and serene white-knuckled horror
of speckled white serrations, inconceivable
in repetition, spumy avalanches
of forgetting cloud, in the wrong heaven-a
paradise of ice and camouflage
of speeding seraphs' shadows down its slopes
under the metal, featherless wings, the noise
a violation of that pre-primal silence
white and without thought, my fear was white
and my belief obliterated-a black stroke
on a primed canvas, everything was white,
white was the colour of nothing, not the night,
my faith was strapped in. It could go no higher.
I doubted that there would be a blest descent
braking like threshing seraph's wings, to spire
and sun-shot field, wide, innocent.

The worst fear widened, to ask of the infinite:
How many more cathedral-spires? How many more
peaks of these ice-seized mountains, and towns
locked in by avalanches with their yellow lights
inside on their brilliant goods, with the clappers
of bells frozen by silence? How many small crows
like commas punctuating the drifts?
Infinite and repetitive as the ridges
patterned like okapi or jaguar, their white forests
are an opposite absolute world, a different life,
but more like a different death. The wanderer's cry
forms an O of terror but muted by the slanted snow
and a fear that is farther than panic. This,
whatever its lesson, is the tacit chorus
of the screaming mountains, the feathering alp,
the frozen ocean of oceanic roofs
above which hangs the white ogling horn-skeletal
tusk of a mastodon above white inns.


A small room, brown and dark, its linen
white as the white spur of the Matterhorn
above the balcony and the dark inns in snow,
and, incredibly on the scars of the crevasses,
a train crawling up the mountain. Orange lights
and brighter in the muffled streets of Zermatt,
what element more absolute as itself
than the death-hush of the snow, the voiceless blizzard,
between the brilliant windows of the stores?

He stood outside bright windows filled with music,
faint conversation through the mullioned panes
and crab-clenched chandeliers with pointed flames
above the animate and inanimate faces
of apparitions whose features matched their names,
all gentlemen with some big-buttressed dames,
a fiction in a fiction. The door could open,
he would be more than welcome. The lights were squared
on the lawn's edges. A conspiring pen
had brought him thus far. All that he had dared
lay in elegant ambush whose bright noise
was like the starlit surf whose voice had reared
him. But this was a different climate,
a different country. Now both lives had met
in this achievement. He turned his head
away this time, and walked back towards the road.
The scene was just like something he had read.
Something in boyhood, before he went abroad.
But cowardice called to him. He went back inside;
secure and rigid in their printed places
all of the dancers in that frozen ballroom.


As with snow, to feel the air changing,
the heart darken and in the clarity of sunshine-the
clarity of ice, as in the islands,
all spring, all summer, it was the one world
till autumn marshalled its divisions, its flags,
and deer marched with agreeing nodding antlers
into another fiction while we remained
in immortal cobalt, unchanging viridian;
and what was altered was something more profound
than geography, it was the self. It was vocabulary.
Now it was time for the white poem of winter,
when icicles lock the great bronze horse's teeth.
The streets were white. No sidewalks in the streets
and the short snowy distances between the shops
brilliant with winter gear and above the streets
full of skiers with their poles on their shoulders
the chalets, snow-roofed, with peaks like Christmas cards.
From a climate without wolves, what if I dreamt
a white wolf trotted and stood in my path,
there, in the early lights of the busy streets
thickened to silence, coal-eyed, its tongue
a panting flame, snow swarming my eyes.
Then, like a match struck with light! A different glow
than the windows of the hotels, the stores, the inns.
Her hair above the crisp snow of table linen
was like a flare, it led him, stumbling, inane.

He went down early to the lounge. Repeat:
He went down early to the lounge and waited.
The street lights were still on. Then they went out.
Eventually she came and when she came,
she brought the mountain with her into the big room
with her cold cheeks, snow smudged with strawberries,
her body steaming with hues of a banked hearth,
her eyes the blue-green of its dying coals,
and her hair, once it was shaken from its cap
leapt like new fire. Ilse, perhaps, brought in
the muddy tracks between the inns, dark pines,
the unicorn shaft or the priapic horn
of the white mountain, as famous as its stamp,
she brought in echoes of hunted stags folding
from a shot's ricochet through a crevasse
in the warmth of the body which she now unsheathed,
shaking the dust of snow from fur and leather
and hanging her ski-coat on a rack of antlers,
with a glance that pierced him like an icicle,
flashing the blizzard of white teeth, then tousling
the wet hair at the nape of her neck, she stood
for a moment in a blizzard of linen
and the far-lightning flash of cutlery
over the chalets and lodges of Zermatt.


As far as secular angels go there is always one,
in Venice, in Milan, hardening that horn
of ageing desire and its devastations,
while skiers plunge and slide soundlessly
past crevasses, invisible as thoughts,
like the waitress buttoning her uniform
already pronged by an invisible horn
and lids that sometimes closed as if her form
slept in the white peace after an avalanche.
He looked out through the window at white air,
and there, crawling impossibly like an insect
across the drifts, a train, distinct, impossible.
Now with more promise than he could expect.

Her speech was crisp, and as for the flushed face,
was it a patronizing kindness? Who could tell?
Auf Wiedersehen to the pines and the peaked chalets
to the inns looking like toys behind the car
and the waitresses and Ilse, indifferently
going about their business with the lamps
of the Alpine dusk, and the beds freshly made
as the new snow that blurred the villages
and the lights from the stores on the banked street
and the receding shore of our hotel.
Again, how many farewells and greetings
on cheeks that change their name, how many kisses
near tinkling earrings that fade like carriage bells.


I had a quiet morning playing with photos and a fun evening with Dementor Delta, who was passing by my house on her way home from Pittsburgh Comicon and agreed to subject herself to my entire family, including Daniel in full sulk mode because he has just been banned from video games until his chemistry grade comes up. Once he finished reporting us to the child abuse society for this act of cruelty, we went to California Tortilla, where Delta and I tried to discuss fannish matters in between bouts of Adam talking about roller coasters he wants to ride, having gone on one yesterday with the Hebrew school youth group that pleased him greatly. I know I am still boring but I am only having coughing fits once or twice an hour now, so this is progress!

The electric cars were rock stars at Rockville Science Day.

This one powers its batteries with solar panels and can go longer distances.

Whereas this one must be charged at night...

...which requires a trunk full of batteries... well as a hood with more batteries and a converter.

The Discover Genomics mobile lab bus visited the science expo as well.

And Reptile Wonders drove a vehicle with advertising on top.

Watched Doctor Who's "The Sontaran Stratagem," not one of my favorites of modern Who (it might help if I had watched the Tom Baker Sontarans in something resembling order, as opposed to whatever random sequence we get on late night PBS), but I continue to adore Donna and Donna and Martha together are almost as much fun as Rose and Sarah Jane together were. Spoilers: Yay, Martha has a new boyfriend! Not soon enough, sadly, but she deserves so much better than mooning over the Doctor. And I snickered at Donna saying that if you hug the Doctor you'll get a paper cut. Though my favorite bit is Donna telling off the general! Not a fan of the murderous boy genius, it's too much of a sci-fi type, but I am amused that this time it's our GPS systems that will bring about the end of the world. I didn't realize those were as prevalent in the UK, where I couldn't even get mobile service in some of the remoter parts of Wales.

Now I'm trying to pay attention to basketball playoffs but am having trouble staying awake again. Oh well, good thing I don't really care!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Poem for Monday

From 'The Prodigal'
By Derek Walcott


In autumn, on the train to Pennsylvania,
he placed his book face-down on the sunlit seat
and it began to move. Metre established,
carried on calm parallels, he preferred to read
the paragraphs, the gliding blocks of stanzas
framed by the widening windows-Italian
light on the factories, October's
motley in Jersey, wild fans of trees, the blue
metallic Hudson, and in the turning aureate afternoon,
dusk on rose brickwork as if it were Siena.

Nothing. Nobody at the small railroad station.
The willows fan open. Here we hung our harps,
as the river slid past to elegiac banjos
and the barge crawled along an ochre canal
past the white spires of autumnal towns
and racketing freight trains all long whoop and echo.
Stations, bridges and tunnels enter their language
and the scribble of brown twigs on a blank sky.

And now the cars began to fill with pilgrims,
while the book slept. With others in the car,
he felt as if he had become a tunnel
through which they entered the idea of America-familiar
mantling through the tunnel's skin.
It was still unfamiliar, the staidness of trains.
And the thoughtful, the separate, gliding in cars
on arrowing rails serenely, each gripped face intent
on the puzzle of distance, as stations pass
without waving, and sad, approaching cities,
announced by the prologue of ramshackle yards
and toothless tunnels, and the foliage rusting
across an old aqueduct, loomed and then dwindled
into their name. There were no stations
or receding platforms in the maps of childhood
nor blizzards of dogwood, no piercing steeples
from buttressed cathedrals, nor statues whose base
held dolphins, blunt browed, repeating themselves.
Look at that man looking from the stalled window-he
contains many absences. He has ridden
over infinite bridges, some with roofs below,
many where the afternoon glittered like mica
on the empty river. There was no time
to fall in love with Florence, to completely understand
Wilmington or the rusty stanchions
that flashed past with their cables
or how the screaming gulls knew
the names of all the women he had lost.
There was sweet meditation on a train
even of certain griefs, a gliding time
on the levelled surface of elegiac earth
more than the immortal motion of a blue bay
next to the stone sails of graves, his growing loss.

Echoing railway stations drew him to fiction,
their web of schedules, incoherent announcements,
the terror of missing his train, and because trains
(their casual accuracy, the joy in their gliding power)
had (there were no trains on the islands
of his young manhood) a child's delight in motion,
the lines and parallels and smoky arches
of unread famous novels would stay the same
for yet another fall with its bright counties,
he knew, through the gliding window, the trees would lift
in lament for all the leaves of the unread books,
Anna Karenina, for the long wail of smoke
across Alpine meadows, for soldiers leaning
out of war-crowded stations, a separate joy
more rooted in landscapes than the flare of battles.

In the middle of the nineteenth century,
somewhere between Balzac and Lautréamont,
a little farther on than Baudelaire Station
where bead-eyed Verlaine sat, my train broke down,
and has been stuck there since. When I got off
I found that I had missed the Twentieth Century.
I studied those small things which besieged the station,
the comical belligerence of dragonflies
and the perpetual astonishment of owls.
It was another country whose time had passed,
with pastoral willows and a belief in drawing.
I saw where Courbet lived; I saw the big quarry
and the lemon light of Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot.
The noise of roaring parliaments, a noise
that sounded like the ocean, whorled in my ear-shell,
was far, and the one sibilance was of the poplars
who once bowed to Hobbema. My joy was stuck.
The small station was empty in the afternoon,
as it had been on the trip to Philadelphia.
I sipped the long delight of a past time
where ambition was too late. My craft was stuck.
My deep delight lay in being dated
like the archaic engine. Peace was immense.
But Time passed differently than it did on water.


There is a continent outside my window,
in the Hudson's patient narrative. There's some calm.
But traffic hurtles up the West Side Highway,
and in fall, the embankment blazes, but
even in spring sunlight I have rarely sought
the glittering consolation of the river,
its far-fetched history, the tongues of unknown trees
talk to an old man sitting on a bench.
Along the smouldering autumnal sidewalks,
the secretive coffee-shops, bright flower stalls,
wandering the Village in search of another subject
other than yourself, it is yourself you meet.
An old man remembering white-headed mountains.
And subtly the sense insinuates itself
that frequent exile turns into treachery,
missing the seasons at the table of July
on lower Seventh Avenue when young women glide
like Nereids in their lissome summer dresses,
all those Susannas for a single elder!
In spring the leaves sing round a tireless statue
who will not sit although invited to.

From a fresh- to a salt-water muse. Home to the Hudson.
The bells on a bright Sunday from my bed,
the squares of sunlight on the buildings opposite
the river slate, the sky cloudless, enamelled.
Then Sunday brings its summary of the world,
with the serene Hudson and its criss-crossing ferries,
great clouds and a red barge.
Gaze, graze on the numinous greys
of the river, its spectral traffic
and the ghostly bridges, the bouquet of lamps,
along the embankment your name fades into fog.

Clouds, the sag of old towels, sodden in grey windows,
the far shore scumbled by the fog,
ducks bob on the grey river like decoys,
not ducks but the submerged pieces of an old pier,
lights fade from the water, "Such, such were the joys,"
muffled remorse in the December air.


Desire and disease commingling,
commingling, the white hair and the white page
with the fear of white sight, blindness, amputation,
a recurring kidney stone, the plague of AIDS,
shaken in the mirror by that bewildered look,
the truculence, the drooping lip of a spiritual lout.
Look at it any way you like, it's an old man's book
whenever you write it, whenever it comes out,
the age in your armpits in the pleats of your crotch,
the faded perfumes of cherished conversations,
and the toilet gurgling its eclogues, resurrecting names
in its hoarse swivelling into an echo after.
This is the music of memory, water.


On Mondays, Boston classes. Lunch, a Korean corner-my
glasses clouded by a tribal broth,
a soup that tamed shaggy Mongolian horsemen
in steaming tents while their mares stamped the snow.
Asia swirls in a blizzard; winter is rising
on drifts across the pavements, soon every gutter
will be a locked rivulet then it will be time
for rose and orange lights to dot the Prudential,
and sparrows to bulb along the stricken branches.
I missed the fall. It went with a sudden flare
and blew its wick in Gloucester, sank in Salem,
and bleached the salt grass bending off Cape Ann,
flipped seals into the sound, rattled the shades
of a dark house on that headland abandoned
except by Hopper. You know the light I mean.
American light. And the wind is
the sound of an age going out the window,
yellow and red as taxis, the leaves. And then
boring through volumes of cloud, a silverfish-


Another from Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World, in which Mary Karr writes, "Walcott's recent work in The Prodigal captures a familiar saga, in lines I find his most powerful to date: an aging man still trapped between longing and the physical confines of old age." The book was released in 2004 by Farrar Straus Giroux.

Adam went with the Hebrew school youth group to an amusement park for the afternoon and rain was forecast, so although the Folger Library was having their annual celebration in honor of Shakespeare's birthday (which usually involves minstrels, stage fight demonstrations, poetry readings and cake for all), we decided to stay in the suburbs and took Daniel to Rockville Science Day at Montgomery College. I missed this last year to go to a Beltane celebration and was then bummed not to have seen the baby emu. This year there was no baby emu, but there were lots of other birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, a space shuttle model, student-designed robots, tai chi demonstrations, nutrition exhibits, electric cars and more.

An exhibit about pigeons at Rockville Science Day in Montgomery College's gym.

Kids got to dig for worms in a composting exhibit.

Building rockets for a late afternoon launch.

Kids also designed aerodynamic flyers...

...and tested them blowing them out the top of this wind chamber.

And there were many other animals, including this nesting parakeet...

...and this tree frog, part of a display from a local nature center.

After retrieving Adam, we had dinner with my parents; my father had asked us to bring a movie over, so since it's a school night and we didn't have time for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, we opted for the kids' recent favorite Goldmember. Which is still one of the silliest movies ever. And still cracks me up, though I don't think my mother was at all impressed. I was therefore quite amused that The Tudors had a scene focused on the venerable English theatrical tradition of fart jokes. Spoilers: I like that Cromwell rather than Henry is getting the credit for the rise of the theatre, and that Henry's guilt over his adoration for Thomas More is the cause of his disenchantment with Anne, rather than the usual daughter-and-miscarriage rage. Anne isn't very bright to be interrogating him about his mistresses when he's already obviously in a snit -- though I like that she doesn't sit down and shut up even though she has neither the bloodlines nor the political connections to get away with it -- but Henry is such an obnoxious self-centered bratty jerk! It's so unfair that Catherine didn't get to outlive him.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Poem for Sunday

Sea Grapes
By Derek Walcott

That sail which leans on light,
tired of islands,
a schooner beating up the Caribbean

for home, could be Odysseus
home-bound on the Aegean;
that father and husband's

longing, under gnarled sour grapes, is like
the adulterer hearing Nausicaa's name in
every gull's outcry.

This brings nobody peace. The ancient war
between obsession and responsibility will
never finish and has been the same

for the sea-wanderer or the one on shore now
wriggling on his sandals to walk home, since
Troy sighed its last flame,

and the blind giant's boulder heaved the trough from
whose groundswell the great hexameters come to the
conclusions of exhausted surf.

The classics can console. But not enough.


From Poet's Choice by Mary Karr in The Washington Post Book World, in which she describes Walcott as "one of the great mongrels of American poetry, serving as a singular melting pot for a variety of traditions -- from Shakespeare's English to the patois of his grandmothers, who descended from slaves. "'I'm just a red nigger who love the sea,/I had a sound colonial education,/I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me,/and either I'm nobody, or I'm a nation.'" Karr compares Walcott's struggles with exile to Homer's chronicle of Odysseus, noting that "in Walcott's poem about Odyssey, Homer appears as 'the blind giant' who heaves a trough in the ocean that Walcott then sails into."

Saturday was Maryland Day at the University of Maryland and our original plan was to go to the physics and agriculture and manga exhibits, but it's over a hilly mile from the parking lots to the various buildings and between my lungs, the pollen count and the possibility of rain, I bailed out and the rest of the family followed. Instead we returned to our household cleaning projects, which included putting together a new chest of drawers for Adam, whose room is now cleaner than mine, and sorting through Daniel's closet, where we discovered several ancient stuffed animals that have now moved onto Adam's bed -- including the trio of dragons that lived on my dorm room bed in college, and a musical dinosaur given to Daniel as an infant -- as well as four bags of baby clothes we had never given away, where I found two sweaters made by my mother's mother that will be saved for my grandchildren. Even at this late date it's sad to be giving away all those cute little velour baby outfits, and I put the Chicago Bears onesie on a stuffed bear so we could keep it for posterity. I also yanked something for someone who's reading this who may need it in a few months.

Daisy actually fell asleep in this position.

Really, mid-stretch, with her paw sticking out just like that.

She has also been known to fall asleep with her paw over her face...

...or smushed against Rosie, or between Rosie and a person. Usually me.

Here she helps inspect Adam's collection of stuffed animals being sorted on my bed.

All three cats can be highly pesked by a feather pesker, even if no one is waving it around.

In fact, they are more likely to take turns if it is anchored in one place.

Watched Robin Hood: Men in Tights because we were all in silly moods and the kids hadn't seen it -- not even close to Mel Brooks at his best, but it has Cary Elwes, Roger Rees (proving that he's no Alan Rickman) and a very young Dave Chappelle whom I hadn't even realized was there last time I saw it more than a decade ago -- I didn't know Brooks discovered him! Plus Brooks does his usual rabbi schtick and Patrick Stewart gets some hilarious digs in at Sean Connery's expense, which is really sufficient reason to watch the movie. My in-laws called; they have made it home from Britain, where it sounds like they had a lovely time and saw more of Scotland than we have. And I ordered my Shutterfly stuff with a combination of coupons that it less than half price, so all in all a reasonably successful day even if I never left the house.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Poem for Saturday

Cotton Candy
By Edward Hirsch

We walked on the bridge over the Chicago River
for what turned out to be the last time,
and I ate cotton candy, that sugary air,
that sweet blue light spun out of nothingness.
It was just a moment, really, nothing more,
but I remember marveling at the sturdy cables
of the bridge that held us up
and threading my fingers through the long
and slender fingers of my grandfather,
an old man from the Old World
who long ago disappeared into the nether regions.
And I remember that eight-year-old boy
who had tasted the sweetness of air,
which still clings to my mouth
and disappears when I breathe.


Another from The Washington Post Book World's poetry issue last weekend, this one by former Poet's Choice columnist Hirsh, to go with this article. "Poetry is a vocation. It is not a career but a calling," writes Hirsch. "For as long as I can remember, I have associated that calling, my life's work, with walking. I love the leisurely amplitude, the spaciousness, of taking a walk, of heading somewhere, anywhere, on foot. I love the sheer adventure of it, setting out and taking off. You cross a threshold and you're on your way. Time is suspended. Writing poetry is such an intense experience that it helps to start the process in a casual or wayward frame of mind. Poetry is written from the body as well as the mind, and the rhythm and pace of a walk can get you going and keep you grounded. It's a kind of light meditation. Daydreaming is one of the key sources of poetry -- a poem often starts as a daydream that finds its way into language -- and walking seems to bring a different sort of alertness, an associative kind of thinking, a drifting state of mind."

The pollen count today was over 2000. Between that and the not-yet-recovered condition of my lungs, I spent a lot of time coughing, wheezing and gasping. So if you're hoping for new neighborhood photos or something like that, sorry. I did get a review of "The Enemy" written, probably more enthusiastic than I meant to sound because it's an interesting story to think about after though frustrating while watching. (And possibly incoherent due to lack of oxygen but that's how it goes.) Had dinner with my parents, couldn't eat much -- if bronchitis is good for anything, it's weight loss -- and folded laundry, which was much excitement as I could muster.

Friday Fiver: The air's so heavy
1. When did you last get lost?
When was the last time I drove anywhere?
2. Have you ever been flying? As a passenger. Not piloting or skydiving or anything like that.
3. Who do you always listen to? My friend Veronica, who is incredibly knowledgeable about a wide range of things.
4. When does the day feel long? When I'm stuck in traffic.
5. Friday fill-in: Are we _____ ? Are we running out of ideas for questions?

The Friday Five: Randomness
1. Whats harder to live without, chocolate or alchohol?
Chocolate! I can go weeks or months without alcohol and never miss it.
2. Does the colour yellow remind you of anything? Besides the sun? And pollen? And piss?
3. Who most annoyed you last week? Answering this question would be sure to get me unFriended, and after I was so careful to stay out of the controversy.
4. Do you have a cutesy romantic nickname for your partner (or previous partners)? Yes.
5. What is your favourite Stephen King movie? The Running Man.

Fannish 5: What are your five least favorite romances, in canon?
1. Star Trek: Voyager
, Chakotay/Seven of Nine.
2. Harry Potter, Harry/Ginny.
3. Smallville, Clark/Lana.
4. The West Wing, Josh/Donna.
5. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Gul Dukat/Kira Meru.

From the National Aquarium in Baltimore...

...puffins and other North Atlantic shorebirds.

They call these the "penguins of the north" though my son says it doesn't really count.

And from the Caribbean reef exhibit...

...and the Maryland marsh exhibits...

...and the exterior of the great shark tank...

...and above the giant ray tank...

...and diving into it.

Speaking of penguins, Adam tells me that Friday was in fact World Penguin Day, and I should report that I loved the penguin wet suit story. Watched the Sarah Jane Adventures/Doctor Who lineup on Sci-Fi and then left it on for BSG, which my kids watched attentively, to my dismay. Sarah Jane just delights me -- I love that she's not defined by her maternity or lack thereof like so many women that age, yet she's so willing to work with and involved with adolescents and takes their intelligence seriously. And Phyllida Law as a guest star, with the same hairdo she had in The Winter Guest, and she'll be back next week! Squee! Small spoilers: The Slitheen are fun but I like the creepy nuns and Medusa better...more cool women. ("Behave or the Abbess might show you my idea of solving a problem like Maria.")

I'd seen "Partners in Crime" before but I enjoyed it on the big screen...I adore Donna and her attitude, both wanting to believe and see there's more in the universe and at the same time taking no crap from anyone, particularly not the Doctor. BSG...sigh, everything I said last week is still very much in effect with a double helping of the Bimbos of the Death Sun cult. Maybe Saul and Gaius could date; they'd be a dream couple on this series.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Poem for Friday

Here, Bullet
By Brian Turner

If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta's opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable fight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And a dare you to finish
what you've started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel's cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue's explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.


A poem currently being passed around among American soldiers in Iraq, another from last Sunday's Washington Post Book World, the annual poetry issue, here on the cover.

Let's just write off this week as a loss, okay? I still have bronchitis. I still have no energy to contribute anything intelligent to any current debate. The most exciting thing that happened to me today was a raccoon on our deck after dark that made all three cats puff out their tails and thunder around the first floor in a panic. Am absurdly pleased that The Tudors will be back next season, considering that it's as historically absurd as ever -- it has really grown on me, though without Anne Boleyn (oops, is that a spoiler, heh) I am not sure that will continue. I was also pleased to see that UC Santa Cruz will get the archives of the Grateful Dead -- the school's mascot is a banana slug, and since Adam adores banana slugs and Paul adores the Grateful Dead, we can't wait for the tie-die banana slug t-shirts. Have some Brookside orchids:

Smallville...I know it's very wrong of me but I want Lana to stay in a coma until the show is cancelled! Because Chloe-and-Jimmy-centric episodes with a side helping of Lex are so much more fun! Spoilers: Even with Lionel dead, Martha gone, Lois absent and Clark as annoying as ever -- last week he was much too worried about Lionel to think about Lana, now he's on the all Lana all the time channel -- the show can eke out some interest for me if Chloe has something fun to do. I didn't even mind that she had to be rescued because it was Jimmy instead of Superman. And any episode containing the line "This entry didn't just Rita Skeeter itself into Swann's journal" has redeemed its existence right there.

Also watched a Next Gen episode I largely didn't remember to review on Friday and half-watched the end of the Wizards blow-out playoff game; they're still down 2-1 but hey, the Capitals are out of the playoffs entirely so it's a matter of DC pride. If I believed a city's pride rested in pro sports, which I don't. But it's not like DC has much to be proud of in terms of the things for which it's best known, and the Wizards' record is better than certain people's approval ratings!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Poem for Thursday

The City
By C.P. Cavafy
Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

You said: "I'll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried like something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I've spent so many years, wasted them,
destroyed them totally."

You won't find a new country, won't find another shore.
The city will always pursue you.
You'll walk the same streets, grow old
in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses.
You'll always end up in this city. Don't hope for things elsewhere:
there's no ship for you, there's no road.
Now that you've wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you've destroyed it everywhere in the world.


From last Sunday's Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World, in which Mary Karr writes about poets who "brought laser-keen invective to fending off heartbreak." She imagined that he wrote "The City" after being "seduced and abandoned by some traveling Romeo, since the first stanza makes use of quotation marks -- separating the poet from the speaker. In the second stanza comes the poet's smackdown comeback. Ever leave a painful conversation thinking, I wish I'd said...'? Cavafy says it for you. We could interpret this poem as being about the payback inevitable for the pompously self-deceiving...and yet, when a girlfriend of mine watched her husband of 30 years drive off in a fancy sports car to 'find himself,' she took comfort in those words of Cavafy's set down more than a century ago."

I have bronchitis. In many ways it is a relief to have this confirmed by a doctor (who had the misfortune of having his stethescope pressed against my chest when he said "breathe deeply" and getting an earful of amplified coughing), since it means 1) I have antibiotics and 2) I have a logical reason why I can't catch my breath after walking upstairs, rather than thinking I am just a total wimp with a cold. I had a fever when I got to the doctor even after having taken Tylenol, which he didn't think was a good sign, either.

So I missed Earth Day and Shakespeare's birthday and I think I might have missed World Penguin Day, and I cannot work up a proper rant about biased election coverage except to wonder when the entire blogosphere went so insane that they can no longer do math. It is embarrassing to be associated with the Democratic Party at present...between the superdelegate situation, the Florida-and-Michigan situation, the redrawing of the district maps and what have you, it is very easy to feel like the whole process has been subverted by a handful of party bigwigs and a few candidates with inflated egos. There are about 1800 things I wish the Democrats would fix. But that's so many fewer than the things I wish the Republicans would fix that it's simply not a contest for me and I get nauseous when I encounter "I'm not voting if ___ gets the nomination" as someone's solution. How will putting McCain in the White House help anything?

From Richmond's Museum of the Confederacy, a chess set made by Major Robert J. Lawrence at Camp Douglas. He was captured at Fort Donelson.

The pocket watch of Major General Harry Heth, a Virginian, who carried it at the Battle of Gettysburg where he was wounded and forced to yield command of his division.

The Hardee pattern hat of Colonel Francis Bartow, a Confederate congressman turned military officer who died leading at counterattack against Federal forces.

The full-dress beaver-skin chapeau of Captain Andrew J. Grayson, who commanded the "Sharpshooters" from Bland County, Virginia.

The owner of this elaborate Greco-Roman style calvary helmet frpm the Charleston Light Dragoons is unknown.

The tobacco pouch of Brigadier General Henry Clayton, a prominent Alabama politician and lawyer before the war.

Hubbard Roberts of the 150th New York Volunteers brought home this Confederate wooden canteen after trading it for his own with J.A. Brewer of the 36th Alabama Infantry during a truce to bury the dead outside Atlanta.

We watched "Planet of the Ood," which is far too wonderful for me to try to write about in my current oxygen-deprived state -- that's two weeks in a row the Doctor reduced me to tears and I bloody love Donna Noble! Then, for some inexplicable reason since I've sworn it off, we watched Battlestar Galactica: Razor, I think to see whether some of the things I'd heard happened in it would offend me as much as I thought they might (to my surprise, they did not...there's a lot I loathe about Cain but I completely understood her hatred of Gina and all the specific ways in which she wanted her hurt). More tomorrow when hopefully I will not be coughing up a lung. Those of you who know Adam will appreciate the significance of this, though: he found his Pokemon Leaf Green! In the mess that was his room but is now mostly cleaned up! Yay!