Saturday, May 31, 2008

Poem for Saturday

One Can Miss Mountains

and pine. One

can dismiss
a whisper's

and go on as

before as if
everything were

perfectly fine.
One does. One

loses wonder
among stores

of things.
One can even miss

the basso boom
of the ocean's

rumpus room
and its rhythm.

A man can leave
this earth

and take nothing
--not even

with him.

                -- Todd Boss


I was going to have lunch with PerkyPaduan, but she wasn't feeling well, and then I tried to get Paul to have lunch with me but he wasn't feeling well either! I was a bit sleepy anyway, having stayed up later than I intended after discovering Facebook chat, which I didn't know existed until my cousin pinged me, and then spotting WindSweptAway with whom I haven't chatted in ages and plotting potential evil with her and Mama Dracula for later in the summer. I did manage to write a semi-coherent review of one of Next Gen's best, "The High Ground", before going to my parents' for dinner and to celebrate my father's birthday (belatedly, since he was in San Francisco on the day). Paul made him a white chocolate pistachio cheesecake, mmm. I am cautiously delighted about the LiveJournal policy revisions -- they don't address every concern I've ever had, but at least they seem to be listening and thinking for a change.

The Friday Five: With the following phrases, post a single image of the strongest thought/idea that pops into your head. Note: clearly this week someone couldn't count to five. There are enough photos in this post, so feel free to image search these.
1. Favorite Food: Chocolate
2. Least Favorite Food: Asparagus
3. Favorite Thing: Purple mountains' majesty
4. Least Favorite Thing: War
5. A phobia: Popping balloons
6. An addiction: Chocolate

Fannish 5: What are five favorite comic book adaptations? Not a big fan of comic books. That said:
1. Smallville
2. The Addams Family
3. Batman Begins
4. X-Men
5. Spider-Man

One of the labyrinths at the Virginia Renaissance Faire.

The pirate game tent ("what happens on board stays on board").

Ladies of the court play on psalteries.

I believe this is Gretchen McMahon, who plays guitar, mandolin and Celtic harp. a llama an alpaca. *g*

And here is some of the yarn and wool produced by the llamas alpacas at the fair.

The Faire has a "no pets" rule that does not seem to apply to vendors, which is fine with me since it means that there are dogs around.

Sneaky Peat's Irish BBQ!

Rewatched The Sarah Jane Adventures' "The Lost Boy" and Doctor Who's "The Poison Sky" -- neither my favorite episode of either show but still quite enjoyable. Then watched Battlestar Galactica, which I enjoyed more than any episode this season; amazing how an episode with very few crazy women can improve the series so vastly! Spoilers: I mean, yeah, Athena is just as crazy now as Starbuck, Three, Six, Roslin, Tory, et al, but Romo Lampkin is just as crazy now as Leoben, Baltar and Tigh, visions and all ("Laura Roslin is a study in repressed ambition like you, Mr. Adama," heh, while talking to his dead cat).

And finally, finally, the admiral joins the ranks of the nutjobs, so beautifully that I forgive almost everything else ("Why are you doing this?" "Because I can't live without her. And Laura's going to get to the rendezvous point, I have to believe that"). He knows he's lost his objectivity, he's at peace with his son, he can't stay mad at Zarek. He can't even stay mad at Tigh over the!!! If Tigh and Six conceived a child, what does that mean about what it means to be a Cylon? Not only can they have babies with humans but with one another too. So they send the old folks off and leave the kids in charge (well, Tigh's not a kid but he's not an old folk either exactly). Ought to be totally screwed up when Three comes back and opens her mouth.

Then watched the season finale of The Tudors On Demand. I despise Henry and I loathe this pretty, virginal Jane Seymour; if Henry divorced Anne of Cleves for being too uneducated, he'd have noticed a Jane who had nothing to recommend her besides a pretty face. Not sure I want to watch this show without Anne, once it's all Cromwell's and the Seymours' ambitions and Henry's hideous self-absorption.

Oh, and I need a favor: someone please spoil me for Sex & the City, because there's no way I'm going to see that movie till it's on cable, and I have a perverse desire to find out what happens, particularly to Samantha.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Poem for Friday

The Blue Grotto
by Henri Cole

Curlyhead was bellowing Puccini
and making the boat rock.
The sun shone like a Majolica clock.
The sea boiled noisily.
I lay down like a child in a box.
It was my birthday.

     Above, on a cliff,
a mule pissed on us.
Then the dragging chain
as we lurched into the chasm.
Archaic cooings: Byzantine blue.
J removed her tortoiseshell glasses,
crossing her pretty legs.
C thoughtfully stroked his goatee.
I sat up, as in a coffin
after three hundred lovers.
Starboard, an oar-blade splashed
emeralds against valedictory black.
Once again, description,
unemotional shorthand
for sublimated wisdom,
fails to conjure what we felt;
the poem years for something more.
Like me: childless.
My love & I: gutted words.
My prick: like an instrument for an altar
or surgeon's table,
shiny & maleficent.
like jaws, bedeviled us.
Sunlight struck the sandy bottom:
Giotto blue, the Tennessean said;
Florida blue, the tobacco queen said;
Cognitive blue, I, the unanalyzed, said.
Nothing from Curlyhead, who rowed vigorously.
Then a serpentine thing,
with five pairs of legs grasping at us,
appeared beside our little boat,
unidentifiably damaged,

     as the young man was,
who boarded our bus going home.
His arms flailed spasmodically.
His face was pinched like a retarded boy's.
I dedicate this poem to him,
whose unneediness shamed me,
demanding I acknowledge the best in myself,
whose arms & legs
racked the blue lapidary air,
as if burdened by ropes, lantern, & pick,
while he bantered brilliantly to himself,
the mind struggling
to overcome the stick that is the body.


Gblvr and I both found ourselves available at lunchtime on Thursday so rather than risk complications later, we ran off together to The Corner Bakery and then went clothes shopping. I had $20 in Kohl's Bucks from last weekend, and ended up buying $200 or so worth of clothes for $8.40. Boy, that's the way to shop. *g* I particularly like the $80 Chaps sweater that I got for $8. That will be very nice next winter. And really, who can go wrong with a $3 beaded turquoise sleeveless cotton shirt?

I've been working on uploading all our England photos so that we can't lose them in case of home or computer catastrophe; they aren't full-size, but they're pretty large here if anyone actually wants to see the whole collection (not yet labeled, but it might be a year before I finish that, as the rest of our vacations and family photos are up next for sorting and uploading!). I may need another Google login before I'm done. Flickr is proving to be too much of a pain -- I hate that photos disappear out of free accounts' photostreams.

The men in my family were recruited to carry pikes to pay tribute to Her Majesty at the Virginia Renaissance Faire.

The militia tried to recruit me, but I enlisted Adam instead so I could take pictures. Adam did not forgive me until we bought him a bullwhip.

There were lessons in thrusting...

...and lowering the pikes in tribute...

...and marching.

Then they headed off in advance of the court... await the Queen.

It was military history weekend -- free admission for active, reserve and retired US military -- but I'm afraid my only contribution was managing to hit the target at the archery range, the first time I've done that since junior high school. Daniel hit the target right near the center every single time.

I am fired from fandom, because my first thought upon learning that J.K. Rowling had written a brief for-charity Harry Potter story involving the Marauders was a sinking feeling that she might actually be working on a book, followed by big sense of relief when she posted on her web site that she is not writing a prequel. And -- big surprise -- Edward James Olmos says BSG will not have a happy ending. Sometimes I wish I had a new fannish obsession, but then I realize how much better I feel not being overly invested in someone else's storytelling-for-fame-and-profit.

RIP Alexander Courage, who wrote the fanfare for the Starship Enterprise, and Harvey Korman, whom I will forever picture as Hedley Lamarr from Blazing Saddles, looking up the legal precedent for land snatching, announcing that he's through being Mr. Goodbar, begging Lili Von Schtupp for one little feel, hunting desperately in his bathtub for his froggy. And in High Anxiety begging Cloris Leachman's Nurse Diesel for more bondage, less discipline. And objecting that he is not the Count de Money in History of the World, Part I...ah, a huge amount of what I love about Mel Brooks is Harvey Korman, who is as irreplaceable as Madeline Kahn and will be just as missed.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Poem for Thursday

Far Away
By Julia Hartwig
Translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter

She ran faster than tears
ran straight ahead
no boundary was in front of her
no one chased her
no one was racing against her
luminous space waited
to take her in its embrace


From In Praise of the Unfinished, translated from the Polish, published by Knopf. Published in "Absence, Opera, Beans, Dreams", a selection of verse from new collections from The Washington Post Book World's poetry issue the week of April 20th.

Adam had his final orchestra concert of the year this evening, so I had to get done on Wednesday the chores I didn't manage on Tuesday because my in-laws were coming for dinner. So I folded laundry while watching the first episodes of The Practice that William Shatner was on -- I never watched that show during its eight-year run, and it's so much fun to watch Alan fall in love with Denny that I don't know if I want to watch Alan before Denny, though I'm tempted just to get Alan's backstory (he shoots at targets and calls them "mother"?!). Paul brought home pizza for dinner, so we had that with his parents and looked at some family photos.

The concert was held at my high school in the refurbished auditorium -- apparently a pitch the keep the middle school's award-winning eighth grade orchestra students together in the school next fall. It was a terrific program; Adam's group, the intermediate orchestra, played a Korean folk tune, "Canyon Sunset," Brubaker's "El Toro", a Celtic fiddle arrangement, and the final movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The advanced orchestra (which has won lots of state and national awards) played Frescobaldi's "Toccata," Hofeldt's "The Gift," Brahms' "Hungarian Dance," "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas, the theme from The Godfather, and, as an encore, "Stand By Me."

The middle school music teacher conducts the intermediate orchestra.

The cellos, violas and second violins play together.

The advanced orchestra stands for bows and to present the music teacher with a scrapbook of their festival visits.

Remember how my kids' elementary school was being torn down? Now it's being rebuilt.

I'd hate to live any closer to the construction site -- we already get a lot of the dust -- but it's neat to see the structure's beams go up.

Here are three residents who couldn't care about the concerts or the school rebuilding.

In general, the violin only interests them if they can chew on the bow, which they are not allowed to do, and outside noises are only worth checking out if they might be a squirrel, chipmunk, mouse, moth or fellow cat.

As if we needed another reason not to mourn Elliot Spitzer, New York Governor David A. Paterson is telling New York agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. I am a tiny bit nervous that the anti-gay-marriage coalitions could get something on the ballot by November and bring out the conservative crowds who otherwise wouldn't bother to turn out to vote for McCain -- someone please tell me that that is not possible in New York or California at this late date!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Poem for Wednesday

Rain Light
By W.S. Merwin

All day the stars watch from long ago
my mother said I am going now
when you are alone you will be all right
whether or not you know you will know
look at the old house in the dawn rain
all the flowers are forms of water
the sun reminds them through a white cloud
touches the patchwork spread on the hill
the washed colors of the afterlife
that lived there long before you were born
see how they wake without a question
even though the whole world is burning


I had lots of things I was supposed to get done today, but either the latest Windows update or the latest McAfee update seriously disagreed with my computer, which took 20 minutes to boot this morning, and then, when I tried booting it in safe mode so I could set a restore point, asked for a Windows XP password that it had never needed before. To make a long story short, I spent most of my day just getting my computer back to its usual too-slow speed instead of the new slower-than-constipation speed. Then I shifted the latest batch of photos and music from the internal to the external hard drive to see if that helped matters any, but Windows Explorer seems to slow down whenever the external drive is turned on, so whatever benefit might have been gained from freeing up space is probably offset by that. Oh well, when things go really wrong, the usual annoyances don't seem nearly as annoying! Here, have some butterfly sex.

There's always lots of whoopie going on at Brookside Gardens during Wings of Fancy.

Just look at these two getting into position so they can rub naughty bits (or whatever it is that butterflies rub).

This was happening all over the conservatory...

...resulting in eggs...

...and then little caterpillars...

...and bigger caterpillars...

...and finally cocoons from which emerged more butterflies!

My friend in London sent me a Sarah Jane Smith action figure with a Star Poet that lights up, so I am fannishly happy about that, at least. (I see that Christopher Tolkien is even greedier than Peter Jackson so The Hobbit may be delayed even further, and wouldn't it be nice if I was looking forward to it enough to care?) We watched Transformers now that it's on cable and the kids know who Shia LaBeouf is, and I enjoyed it more than I expected because it was so very Iron Giant. And many aspects of it were less preposterous than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. My parents, who are in San Francisco for my father's birthday, got a tour of Lucasfilm's Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio today, so maybe I will get to hear some behind the scenes stories about it when they get home!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Poem for Tuesday

Baseball Haiku

August heat
umpire and manager
nose to nose

      -- Michael Fessler

after the error
the player still faces the outfield
towering clouds

      -- Imai Sei

lost in the lights
the high fly ball that
never comes down

      -- Raffael de Gruttola


Three more haiku from Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World. "Michael Fessler, who's published two books on the game along with five of haiku, best captures the game's players. His last line really drags me into the intimacy of those screaming matches," writes Mary Karr. "The Japanese poets managed to make the haiku a spiritual instant -- delicate as tissue paper. Imai Sei even creates psychological complexity...such feeling in such a small space. These haiku prove that in a secular culture, the stadium -- from little league through the majors -- may be the closest many Americans get to a house of worship, which is why I end with Raffael de Gruttola's meditation on eternity." The poems appear in Baseball Haiku, published last year by Norton.

After a morning of laundry and silly chores like reorganizing the linen closet to make room for the new beach towels, we had lunch and went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I enjoyed it in a vague nostalgic way, but in what seems to be an uncommon opinion on my friends list here where people seem mostly to have loved it, I was pretty unimpressed. Mostly because I felt like I'd seen the movie before, even though I hadn't read any spoilers. I'd have forgiven the stuff borrowed or recycled from Raiders, Last Crusade, and particularly Temple of Doom -- which I'm afraid this reminded me of the most, despite the presence of Karen Allen instead of Kate Capshaw -- but there were references to so many other franchises and films that it felt rather more like pastiche than an original creation.

Spoilers: X-Files borrowed from Close Encounters and that was Spielberg, so we'll write off similarities, and National Treasure borrowed from Raiders, so we'll write off those too, even though it's pretty sad that Lucas would have to borrow from Bruckheimer, who has spent his career trying to make Johnny Depp or Nic Cage as convincing as Harrison Ford in the role of the beloved scoundrel. And The Road to El Dorado borrowed from Temple of Doom, so we'll write off the plot even though both the cartoon and National Treasure 2's preposterous cities of gold suddenly seem a lot more plausible than extraterrestrials. My husband had me howling inappropriately when he leaned over and said, "George! I said no aliens! That's 13 aliens! Can't you count?" We're veering less into E.T. territory here than Howard the Duck.

I could have overlooked any number of minor absurdities -- surviving a nuclear blast before the mushroom cloud had diffused, a swordfight while driving through the forest of Endor the Amazon, Roswell aliens with cousins from centuries earlier in South America -- but I was particularly irked by two things. One was the implication that a girl never quite has a life until Doctor Jones comes back into it no matter what she claims (and I really was happy to see Marion again; I just wanted more of a clue that this was her quest, not an obligation to the older male friend she followed into the jungle). The bigger one is that it seems McCarthy was right, there were Communist agents helping the Soviets infiltrate the United States, and maybe the FBI did need to be interrogating people to find them before the Soviets could use their evil mind control techniques learned from studying mystical indigenous cultures.

It's atrociously schlocky historically as well as scientifically, even as Henry Jones Jr. (he's not Indiana anymore) is lecturing on the importance of education. I don't mean that I have a problem with the Ark of the Covenant creating jets of fire flying out someone's head (an effect repurposed here) or the Holy Grail making someone crumble and explode (ditto). I mean the use of native cultures is awfully close to Peter Jackson's King Kong. As far as I'm concerned, Crystal Skull is a more entertaining film than that or than Temple of Doom because it has more humor, less gore and no violence against children, but I don't like its post-colonial or Cold War politics, nor its nuclear family fantasy that's largely requires erasing a woman's life story to make work. And the saddest thing is that I'd probably be here rationalizing all that away if I had simply found it a more fun movie.

The water was so calm and reflective when we got to Brookside Gardens that it almost looked like these turtles were floating in the sky.

There were dozens of turtles in and around the water -- red-eared sliders, Eastern painted turtles, snapping turtles and possibly other kinds I didn't recognize.

I'm not sure whether these are a male and a female or two different species.

The snapping turtles fortunately kept to the water.

The sliders and painted turtles congregated in big groups on the banks and in the grass.

In the marsh, a tiny baby turtle (left) and a nearly submerged older turtle (center right).

Once they're adults I guess the turtles have very few predators within the park. See the piles in the sun beneath the azaleas?

And it's a pretty scenic place to live!

After the movie, we walked around lake at the shopping center (just two baby geese -- the one I saw a couple of weeks ago, which is growing feathers now, and one more little fluffy gosling), then stopped in Kohl's to buy clothes for our upcoming trip. We discovered Saturday while getting dressed for the pool that older son had outgrown all his bathing suits, and I decided I should get a couple of non-ratty bras in case anyone sees my laundry. Then we came home, sat on the kids to make sure they got their homework done, had dinner and watched a Futurama episode and some basketball. I read the alleged Doctor Who spoilers from the Daily Mirror and was not excited, particularly after the BBC's mid-season trailer -- I like Alex Kingston, at least they picked an actress older than I am, but I really don't want to see the Doctor have a passing romance in the least, and frankly I'd be happy at this point if he never dated anyone, Companion or otherwise. I'm hoping that, since she's from Jack's era, she'll leave him for a woman...or reveal that she knew him as a woman.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Poem for Monday

Baseball Haiku
By Cor van den Heuvel

baseball cards
spread out on the bed
April rain

biking to the field
under a cloudless sky
my glove on the handlebars


More from Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World, reproduced by Mary Karr from Baseball Haiku: American and Japanese Haiku and Senryu on Baseball. Of the book's editor and translator Cor van den Heuvel, who wrote the haiku above, Karr writes, "van den Heuvel is a haiku aficionado whose single-image poems capture moments from my own baseball-centered childhood, like these two."

We went Sunday to the Virginia RenFaire with DementorDelta and a friend of hers, the first time we had been there. It's much smaller than the Maryland or Pennsylvania fairs, on the grounds of Lake Anna Winery in Spotsylvania, without a jousting arena or permanent structures -- the vendors and food are in tents, the stages temporary -- the kids were a little disappointed that there were no horses or human chess pieces in evidence, but they agreed reluctantly to be recruited to carry pikes and Daniel particularly enjoyed the archery, where he shot two arrows right into the middle of the target (I was very proud merely of getting into the black ring, heh). We had turkey legs and cinnamon nuts and lots to drink -- it was quite warm, we all got a bit sunburned -- and Adam bought a stuffed penguin and a cheap Indiana Jones style bullwhip. I told him the moment the latter is used inappropriately, it becomes mine!

Members of the court at the Virginia RenFaire watch the guard practice.

My husband and kids were recruited to carry pikes.

There were fiddlers...

...and potters...

...and alpaca...

...and dancers around a maypole.

This is my favorite sign at the Faire, which I want to put up in my own kitchen when I ask my kids what they want for breakfast: "No Um."

And this is DementorDelta with the bat and snakey puppets she found!

In the evening we finally watched the DVD we bought on release day of National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, including the deleted scenes with Jon Turteltaub commentary and the bloopers. There's a really long added sequence explaining how they all ended up at Mount Rushmore that I thought made more sense than the movie's shortened version, but Riley's "Death and despair...mostly death though" line from the trailer has not been restored, sadly! I didn't see my flist at all and the only news that I caught was that the lander had made it safely to Mars, the kid who plays Marcus Belby in the next Harry Potter film was murdered, and a Japanese railroad has a station master who's a cat. Have a good Memorial Day and/or whatever bank holiday it is in the UK tomorrow if you celebrate either!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Poem for Sunday

Baseball Haiku
By George Swede

empty baseball field
a dandelion seed floats through
the strike zone

village ball game
through knotholes in the old fence
evening sunbeams


"Hearing a ball game on the radio recently said spring to me," writes Mary Karr in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "In New York, the chatter about team injuries can take on a tribal intensity -- which is why I cracked Baseball Haiku: American and Japanese Haiku and Senryu on George Swede's work, as is evident in the two here, the natural world interrupts and supercedes play, lending totemic power to things like dandelion seeds and sunbeams."

We had planned to go to Chestertown on Saturday for the tea party festival, but Paul didn't feel like fighting Bay Bridge traffic and parking problems, so instead we slept late and went to Brookside Gardens for Wings of Fancy, the butterfly show we missed on Mother's Day. The greenhouses and butterflies were beautiful, but we had just as much fun outside in the gardens, where we saw dozens of turtles -- red-eared sliders, Eastern painted turtles and huge snapping turtles in the middle of the lake -- plus two snakes and lots of birds, including geese, robins, swallows and a red-winged blackbird that kept flying at and attacking a vastly larger great blue heron that was completely ignoring it (I looked them up when we got home, and apparently red-winged blackbirds attach their nests to marsh grass, and herons that fish in marshes will eat nestling birds, so this blackbird was probably protecting a nest we couldn't see).

We stopped at World Market on the way home for decaf PG Tips, various Indian and Thai spices and sauces, Indian Champa soap and sour candy that Adam likes. Then the kids went to the pool for the first time all season, and there was much rejoicing though the water was so cold that they didn't last long! After dinner (chicken marsala, mmm), we watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom at the kids' insistence. I hadn't seen it in over 20 years and it was as bad as I remembered -- piles of racist and ethnic stereotypes, plenty of sexism, gratuitous gore and not a lot of humor, though the underground cart race is still really well done. We might go see Crystal Skull next week but it won't be Sunday -- we are going to the Virginia RenFaire!