Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Poem for Rosh Hashanah

April Inventory
By W.D. Snodgrass

The green catalpa tree has turned
All white; the cherry blooms once more.
In one whole year I haven't learned
A blessed thing they pay you for.
The blossoms snow down in my hair;
The trees and I will soon be bare.

The trees have more than I to spare.
The sleek, expensive girls I teach,
Younger and pinker every year,
Bloom gradually out of reach.
The pear tree lets its petals drop
Like dandruff on a tabletop.

The girls have grown so young by now
I have to nudge myself to stare.
This year they smile and mind me how
My teeth are falling with my hair.
In thirty years I may not get
Younger, shrewder, or out of debt.

The tenth time, just a year ago,
I made myself a little list
Of all the things I'd ought to know,
Then told my parents, analyst,
And everyone who's trusted me
I'd be substantial, presently.

I haven't read one book about
A book or memorized one plot.
Or found a mind I did not doubt.
I learned one date. And then forgot.
And one by one the solid scholars
Get the degrees, the jobs, the dollars.

And smile above their starchy collars.
I taught my classes Whitehead's notions;
One lovely girl, a song of Mahler's.
Lacking a source-book or promotions,
I showed one child the colors of
A luna moth and how to love.

I taught myself to name my name,
To bark back, loosen love and crying;
To ease my woman so she came,
To ease an old man who was dying.
I have not learned how often I
Can win, can love, but choose to die.

I have not learned there is a lie
Love shall be blonder, slimmer, younger;
That my equivocating eye
Loves only by my body's hunger;
That I have forces true to feel,
Or that the lovely world is real.

While scholars speak authority
And wear their ulcers on their sleeves,
My eyes in spectacles shall see
These trees procure and spend their leaves.
There is a value underneath
The gold and silver in my teeth.

Though trees turn bare and girls turn wives,
We shall afford our costly seasons;
There is a gentleness survives
That will outspeak and has its reasons.
There is a loveliness exists,
Preserves us, not for specialists.


One more from Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World. "There's no agreed-upon Syracuse 'school.' But all [the school's] luminaries -- however different in sensibility and style -- move me without verbal frou frou or puffed up pyrotechnics," writes Mary Karr. Of Pulitzer Prize winner Snodgrass, she adds that he "poked fun at his role in academia: 'I haven't read one book about/A book or memorized one plot./Or found a mind I did not doubt./I learned one date. And then forgot.'" The poem above is from Heart's Needle.

I had a bit of a hectic day. Didn't sleep too well because Paul had an upset stomach and kept getting up, then I woke up early to try to have a bit of time since the kids were getting home from school at lunchtime, but I spent almost all morning organizing photos on my external hard drive -- ridiculous how long it took to put all the gerbil pictures in one place -- and they arrived before I even had my leftover hummus. I took the kids out to Michael's to get various craft supplies for various planned family projects, then stopped at CVS and to get gas, and by the time we got home, it was almost time to go to my parents' for dinner. The food (some kind of chicken with cherry sauce and wild rice, carrot souffle, noodle kugel, German chocolate cake and lots of other stuff) as always was fabulous, and my parents had friends over whom I like, so it was a very nice New Year evening.

Tree of Life by SuSan Esther

We missed the beginning of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and by the end I was still confused about (spoilers) who in heck Allison is and her relationship with Cameron and whether that was "our" Cameron who killed her or a different version of the same model and why she has the memories of the person upon whom she was apparently modeled, not to mention whether Cameron had all her memories back in the end and what caused her to glitch and how come Sarah went from "DON'T TALK TO ME WITHOUT A CODE WORD!" to "oops, I'm going to be in the hospital with a pregnant woman I barely know and not worry about my son in the least" and lots of other things that might not have made sense even if I'd seen the whole episode.

Then we watched Heroes, which I didn't like as much as the premiere, though it was shorter and punchier. Spoilers: I prefer Hiro and Ando as the comic relief to the way they were written last season (super-speed girl calling Hiro "Pikachu" got a laugh out of my entire family, as did Ando saying, "I'm being awesome!"), but they also seem rather frivolous about what Hiro's late father said was the fate of the world -- and really, the more times this show conjures the end of the world, the more difficult it gets to take seriously. And are Tracy/Nikki/Jessica clones, and that's why the split personalities, or are they triplets, or is this the living Jessica retured with amnesia?

And of course we ended the evening with Boston Legal, which had three nicely balanced storylines, none of which was complete crack! Though only BL can get away with playing the near-death of a major character -- in a situation unnervingly like the circumstances under which Heath Ledger apparently died -- for laughs. Spoilers: Shirley's granddaughter comes to visit, leading Shirley immediately to ask what Marlena has done. Turns out she voted in the primary despite being 17, considering it an act of patriotism. When Denny says that she's as hot as Granny and wants to know if she's as nasty, Shirley smacks him...and Denny goes down unconscious, not breathing. Alan gives him CPR, though when Denny wakes, he hopes that it was Shirley's mouth on his. At the hospital, Alan learns that Denny has been taking over 40 prescription medications, and later he agrees to help sue the main pharmaceutical company that convinced him he needed all the drugs without advertising the interactions.

Meanwhile, Carl takes on the case of Shirley's granddaughter, who goes before Judge Brown demanding to know why she can be treated as an adult for the purpose of going to prison yet can't elect leaders. She's sick of voters making choices based on who'd be fun to have a beer with; moreover, she's old enough to become a parent but not to safeguard her abortion rights, which she calls a more important decision. The prosecutor questions her judgment since Marlena made a YouTube video encouraging other children to falsify records and vote. He offers six months probation and community service, which Shirley thinks she should accept, but Carl agrees with Marlena that the girl deserves better for caring about her future and says he'll take the case to court (with Shirley suggesting that Marlena, who believes Grandma was around to fight for women's suffrage, should leave via the window and Carl making surely/Shirley jokes).

Katie and Jerry have the toughest case, a 15-year-old girl raped in a private prison who is suing for damages. Loudmouth lawyer Melvin Palmer is representing the prison and tries to play Deal or No Deal with the girl's father, then is unable to understand why Katie finds him disgusting when he indicates that the tactics are just to prove to the family that they don't want to put the girl through a trial with a lawyer like him. The girl is calm on the stand recounting her rape by a guard who pinned her down by the neck. Melvin asks whether she had flirted with and kissed the guard, then points out that she didn't scream for help, dismissing her testimony that the guard threatened to kill her if she did. Katie is impressed by Jerry's work on the case, particularly when he attacks the prison owner on the stand -- a man whose facility brought in $350 million yet only gave their temporary guards 40 hours of training.

Marlena's prosecutor points out that children aren't allowed to have sex, drink or drive at various ages in the interests of what's best for the country. In turn, Carl scoffs at the idea that children could screw things up more than adults have with the recession, the war, the environmental damage, not to mention the failing educational system and rising costs of social security. Plus teenagers file tax returns, which is taxation without representation, a major cause of the Revolutionary War. With women still alive who were once denied the right to vote and 13% of US black men ineligible due to their criminal records, the country really is ruled by old, white and rich, adds Carl. Impressed with this and with research that coddling teenagers makes them less instead of more responsible, the judge dismisses criminal charges against Marlena, who tells Carl that she can almost see what Grandma finds attractive about him despite his age.

Melvin closes by saying that there was no negligence in the rape -- the guard had no history of assault, the prisoner contributed to her situation by leading him on, and the case shouldn't be a referendum on private prisons and their greed. Katie counters in her closing by pointing out that with millions of Americans in jail, the last thing we need is to turn the incarceration system over to organizations whose profits depend on keeping people behind bars or encouraging repeat offenses, putting money ahead of lives. She draws comparisons with Blackwater. The jury finds for the plaintiff, and Jerry and Katie win over a million dollars for the girl who was raped. Jerry claims that it was Katie's closing that won over the jury, but he's sounding far more confident and is less reliant on props, which he credits to his new therapist...I wonder whether it's going to turn out that he's on a new medicine.

Speaking of...when the pharmaceutical company lawyers threaten to sue Alan for extortion, Alan says, "sit your arrogant ass down," then tells them that last week he took on big tobacco, so he can't be intimidated. In fact, the pharmaceutical company reminds him of a tobacco company -- lobbying Congress, suppressing information, killing customers, advertising to children. In court Alan argues that pharmaceutical companies count on people buying off the internet without seeing a doctor, not knowing potential dangers from interactions because the companies conceal them; they spend more money on advertising than on testing their products, and invents phony chronic conditions so they can sell cures to people like Denny and other senior citizens. The judge agrees that the case should go to trial.

On the balcony, Alan asks Denny if he thinks about dying. Denny is more interested in Alan's assessment of him as a kisser until they turn to talking about what they'd do if they knew this was going to be their last year. Alan wants a go at Shirley, but Denny can't believe that with all the women he's loved, it was Alan whose kiss brought him back to life: "Who ever would believe that Alan Shore would be my Prince Charming?"

Monday, September 29, 2008

Poem for Monday

For Rhoda
By Delmore Schwartz

Calmly we walk through this April's day,
Metropolitan poetry here and there,
In the park sit pauper and rentier,
The screaming children, the motor-car
Fugitive about us, running away,
Between the worker and the millionaire
Number provides all distances,
It is Nineteen Thirty-Seven now,
Many great dears are taken away,
What will become of you and me
(This is the school in which we learn...)
Besides the photo and the memory?
(...that time is the fire in which we burn.)

(This is the school in which we learn...)
What is the self amid this blaze?
What am I now that I was then
Which I shall suffer and act again,
The theodicy I wrote in my high school days
Restored all life from infancy,
The children shouting are bright as they run
(This is the school in which they learn . . .)
Ravished entirely in their passing play!
(...that time is the fire in which they burn.)

Avid its rush, that reeling blaze!
Where is my father and Eleanor?
Not where are they now, dead seven years,
But what they were then?
No more? No more?
From Nineteen-Fourteen to the present day,
Bert Spira and Rhoda consume, consume
Not where they are now (where are they now?)
But what they were then, both beautiful;

Each minute bursts in the burning room,
The great globe reels in the solar fire,
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)
What am I now that I was then?
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.


In Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World, Mary Karr writes about poets from Syracuse University poets, including Schwartz, "the youngest bard to take the Bollingen Prize." Schwartz "mentored young Lou Reed, whose band (the Velvet Underground) subsequently revolutionized rock," she adds. The poem above is one of my favorites since high school, so I welcomed the excuse to repost it.

We'd been thinking of spending Sunday at a reenactment of a Roman legion at George Mason University, which we figured Daniel would enjoy for his birthday weekend, but rain was in the forecast, so instead we went to the National Zoo where we figured we could easily duck into an indoor exhibit if it started to pour -- which it did a couple of times, but never for more than ten minutes. We went through the Asia Trail, the small mammals, the reptiles, the birds and the under-construction elephant house, where because it was neither very hot nor very cold, we saw lots of animals who seemed more active than they often are. Here, have some small mammals for Rosh Hashanah, which will have started before I post again:

A prairie dog in the outdoor exhibit near the zoo's farm.

In the Small Mammal House, a meerkat...

...a rock cavy from South America...

...an African rock hyrax or two...

...and a South American degu.

This is a male pale-headed saki. The females are much lighter color all over.

On the Asia Trail, a red panda...

...and a pair of Asian small-clawed otters.

We stopped at The Melting Pot downtown to have a look around, because we're thinking about having Adam's Bar Mitzvah reception there. We'd been thinking about taking the kids out to an expensive dinner there in honor of Daniel's birthday, but Daniel announced that he wanted to go to Cici's Pizza! Since this saved us $100 or so, we agreed, though I won't even bother to mention the quality of the food at the latter. At least they had the Redskins game on, so we got to watch Washington beat Dallas!

The kids wanted to watch the season premiere of The Simpsons when we got home, then I put on The Talented Mr. Ripley, which I'd never seen -- I missed most R-rated movies between 1996 and 2006 due to having small children and I'm still catching up. What a great film, for which I was thankfully unspoiled, and what great performances! Spoilers: In spite of everything I was rooting for Tom until the very end -- Jude Law made it impossible to like anything about Dickie, and Freddie was even worse, and Gwyneth Paltrow is always perfectly cast as a self-absorbed insincere icy bitch. And since Tom is an underdog protagonist (he's the one who makes everything happen in the movie), it's actually FUN to see him get away with it...until it becomes obvious that either Meredith or Peter is going to die, and then things just get horrible because of course Tom is going to keep on killing people to cover up, it's his modus operandi now. Peter is really the only fully likeable character in the film, too, and I feel completely culpable in his death because I was rooting for Tom!

There are two articles in the Sunday Washington Post to which I want to link: one for political reasons on what will happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned, one for personal reasons because the rabbi in this article on spiritual searching in D.C. officiated at Daniel's Bar Mitzvah (and if I'd known he was so unhappy at the synagogue, I probably would have been friendlier with him). And on that note, as I prepare myself for my least favorite holidays of the Jewish year...Happy New Year!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Poem for Sunday

What Goes On
By Stephen Dunn

After the affair and the moving out,
after the destructive revivifying passion,
we watched her life quiet

into a new one, her lover more and more
on its periphery. She spent many nights
alone, happy for the narcosis

of the television. When she got cancer
she kept it to herself until she couldn't
keep it from anyone. The chemo debilitated
and saved her, and one day

her husband asked her to come back --
his wife, who after all had only fallen
in love as anyone might
who hadn't been in love in a while --

and he held her, so different now,
so thin, her hair just partially
grown back. He held her like a new woman

and what she felt
felt almost as good as love had,
and each of them called it love
because precision didn't matter anymore.

And we who'd been part of it,
often rejoicing with one
and consoling the other,

we who had seen her truly alive
and then merely alive,
what could we do but revise
our phone book, our hearts,

offer a little toast to what goes on.


From Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World, Mary Karr's tribute to her fellow Syracuse University poets, including Pulitzer Prize winner Dunn. "In 'What Goes On,' Dunn describes a marriage coming apart, then, after the wife's illness, repairing itself," she writes. "This story of a wife's betrayal and her husband's fidelity unto death stings me with the awareness that small, unnoticed nobility endures in our midst." The poem is from Dunn's 2000 book Different Hours: Poems.

It was a warm but drippy morning after a night of pouring rain, so we weren't sure it would be worth trekking downtown to Rock Creek Park Day. But by the time Daniel got home from volunteering at Hebrew school, the clouds looked like they were breaking up, so we had eggs and turkey sausage, then took the camera and headed to the park, which had cleverly put up a couple of tents as well as the climbing wall and telescope displays. So we were undercover watching Reptiles Alive when the sky opened up again, and it had broken by the time we'd seen all the snakes. We went inside the nature center briefly to look at the displays and the beehive, then went back under the tent to see the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia's owl and hawks. It remained very humid and sticky, but we only got a bit more rain before we got home.

An adolescent Harris hawk visits Rock Creek Park on his first outing with this trainer from the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia. When it's an adult, its coloring will be more solid.

This is a broad-shouldered hawk, a smaller bird who was injured in a car accident and cannot be released.

And this is Linda, who introduced the birds to an eager audience.

Jennifer of Reptiles Alive brought a bullfrog named Jeremiah...

...a corn snake, once a common resident in Rock Creek Park, though it hasn't been spotted there recently...

...and this 12-pound snapping turtle whom she held over her head.

Adam was equally enthusiastic about this climbing wall, as were the park rangers.

And there were craft projects such as this drill using an arrowhead like the ones discovered locally.

We came home to the delightful news that Maryland had defeated Clemson, which makes four wins this season over ranked teams. Then we put on the Michigan-Wisconsin game, which was going fantastically as far as I'm concerned -- the Badgers were winning 19-0 at the half and still up at the end of the third quarter -- but things turned hideous and the Wolverines scored four times in 12 minutes. (My sister went to Wisconsin and I love Madison, where Paul's brother also lived for a while, so I always root for Wisconsin in this match-up.) After dinner we watched the rerun of the Heroes opener that we missed on Monday in favor of Boston Legal, which was actually better than I was expecting, given some of the reviews I'd seen.

Spoilers: For one thing, I'd have been happy just with some of the guest appearances by ostensibly dead characters, particularly those played by George Takei and Malcolm McDowell. And I'm also delighted that Bruce Boxleitner is on the series playing a shallow political type, which he was born to play -- I always found him vaguely insincere on B5 -- and that Jack Coleman and Ali Larter's characters aren't dead (though I'm still not clear about Nikki/Jessica, whether this is amnesia or a front or what). I don't care about Nikki so much if Micah isn't around, though, so I hope he returns! And I hope Mohinder keeps reading poetry aloud, especially Yeats. But I don't like Maya's itch for powerful dangerous men, and I don't like Elle's only coming into her own by wiping out her daddy complex...in general I have issues with the way women are often written on this series, though I still love Claire and Angela "No, Sylar, I am your mother!" Petrelli. And as dads go, Kaito Nakamura's "I told you not to open the safe!" is going to be the line of the week in my household!

RIP Paul Newman. I wasn't a huge fan of him as an actor -- liked his big movies, didn't follow his career all that closely -- but he was a terrific public figure (a volunteer with terminally ill children, a vocal supporter of gay marriage) and a great contributor to the organic food movement in the US.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Poem for Saturday

After Three Chinese Poems
By David Shapiro

                            for Mr. Cong

One word tied to another word — that is all
You know. No cherryblossoms. In this world
The hospice workers visit the dead child.
His lack of a voice startles the sleeping words.

This world, fold upon fold.
Is there a better title for it?
Letting Go, Griefwork, Brightness Falls from the Air,
All the Angels Were There
. She said it.

All night I think about my sister.
Galileo plunged into Jupiter.
O clear poetry!
No dust tonight.


I had lunch today with Guy Wassertzug, whom I haven't had lunch with since the high school lunchroom -- we reconnected on Facebook, though it turns out he lives ten minutes from me and has a son about the same age as Adam. We went to Kardo Mediterranean, where I had never been before -- I always seem to end up at Lebanese Taverna when it's Middle Eastern food in Rockville -- and had very good hummus. I was going to stop at Michael's on the way home, but it started to pour, so instead I came straight home to write a review of "Sarek". Had dinner with my parents and celebrated Daniel's birthday -- he got Brisingr, the third season of Futurama, a Stephen Colbert calendar and an mp3 player, all things he wanted, while he and Adam both got the new Kirby game. Paul made him a cookie cake at his request.

Here, have some Homestead Farm goats:

The Friday Five: Books
1. Who is your favorite author?
If I am limited to one, there's really no contest: William Shakespeare.
2. What is your favorite book/series? I've probably reread Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet more than any others, but Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon and its prequels are pretty close. Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series is newer to me yet my favorite-ever long reading experience.
3. Who is a book hero you most wish to be like? Leisha Camden in Nancy Kress's Beggars in Spain novels.
4. Who is a book character that you envy? Dan Brown's Robert Langdon from Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. I'd have stayed in academia if I thought it would be like that.
5. Which book do you wished you lived in? That depends whether it's for a few hours or a few years. If it's for a few hours, anything set on an English estate where I'm one of the aristocrats. If it's for a few years, some Star Trek novel.

Fannish5: List the five best fictional weddings. (I am declaring the classics ineligible because nothing could beat the triple wedding that ends A Midsummer Night's Dream. In fact I am leaving out great books altogether and sticking to franchise film and TV.)
1. Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, Pirates of the Caribbean. "You may kiss...you may kiss...just kiss!" The wedding made up for everything I had doubts about in the relationship and redeemed every bad cliched wedding scene I ever sat through in a film.
2. Will Riker and Deanna Troi, Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was a long time coming, and worth it.
3. Brad Chase and Denise Bauer, Boston Legal. The priest got arrested, the bride went into labor and the wedding took place over her screams as their baby was being born, but it was lovely anyway and really indicative of their roll-with-it relationship.
4. Mitch and Gayle Leery, Dawson's Creek. They were married for nearly two decades, divorced during their mid-life crises, fell back in love and had a really delightful, imperfect, sweet reunion.
5. Benjamin Sisko and Kasidy Yates, Deep Space Nine. Not because it was glamorous or even particularly happy -- Sisko had just received a chilling prophecy that almost led him to call off the ceremony -- but because it seemed very real and they really seemed to love each other.

We gave up on debate an hour in -- McCain reciting policy papers from who knows how many decades ago and Obama repeating himself each time McCain misstated his positions (did Obama's people tell him not to sound too smart to avoid Al Gore snobbishness accusations?). So took a break and watched Stargate: Atlantis, which was worth price of admission to hear Zelenka tell Sheppard that he can't dumb the math down enough to explain it to him, only to have John figure out that they can divert the city's power to shield the gate to stop it from exploding and killing them all. "Like ten nuclear blasts," indeed! And I really got a kick out of Rodney saying he won't let Daniel die because Rodney's planning to chicken out on dying, himself, so he's going to make the thing work and Daniel might as well stick around to see it. Also, Keller is much less of a bimbo when she's with Ronon -- I still don't like her but if I must have her instead of Sam or Elizabeth, keep her and Ronon teamed please! Definitely my favorite episode this season, cliffhanger and all.

We put on the news after SGA, where the pundits seemed to agree that 1) McCain was 20+ years out of date on both the economy and foreign policy and 2) even so, no one really won the debate, which made me doubly glad I didn't stick with it. The fact that polls indicate this election will be close really makes me despair about the supposed intelligence of American voters.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Poem for Friday

We Hope that Love Calls Us, But Sometimes We're Not So Sure
By Charles Wright

No wind-sighs. And rain-splatter heaves up over the mountains,
                                                                           and dies out.
October humidity
Like a heart-red tower light,
                                    now bright, now not so bright.

Autumn night at the end of the world.
In its innermost corridors,
                        all damp and all light are gone, and love, too.
Amber does not remember the pine.


Perkypaduan and I originally had plans today, but she got an early start so she could go home and review while I got a late start because of a seasonal migraine, so we postponed and I spent a lot of the day lying around reading (Peter Watson's Landscape of Lies, not a great thriller and not great on the religious history/philosophy, but has lots of descriptions of less-known Tudor-era sites in Britain, which makes it worth reading). I also read lots of articles about the economic crisis; John McCain deciding that appearing on the news was more important than keeping his commitment to David Letterman, preparing to debate Barack Obama, or sitting down with the Democrats who were actually hammering out a bailout plan; the Ramses II temple discovered in Cairo; the mysterious "dark flow" discovered in space; lots of stuff in the new Astronomy magazine, including a new plutoid named for a Polynesian god; and the man charged with assault for farting near a cop.

Tropical Storm Hanna blew through the DC area with lots of flooding and damaged the C&O Canal towpath below Great Falls, which then caused the draining of the upper locks.

This is the sight that greets visitors at the Maryland side of Great Falls National Park: a nearly empty canal.

The canal packet boat Charles F. Mercer is already up on its winter blocks and will probably stay there all of next summer while the canal walls are repaired.

The mules who usually pull the boat through the locks were having a bit of a vacation.

I did wonder whether they would still be in shape to pull the canal barge after a summer of eating and lounging in the sun!

Usually we see turtles like these in the canal right near the walkway to Olmsted Island, but last weekend they were half a mile further down.

There won't be any turtles near Lock 18 this fall.

And human pedestrians, bikers and riders are warned away by signs like these.

Watched Smallville, which I'm quite enjoying this season, though not for the reasons I've liked the show before -- at the moment it's largely that there are three smart lead female characters while the two perpetual sniveling damsels are gone, and Chloe and Lois are finally, finally getting their due. I'm enjoying Tess enough that I'm not even missing Lionel or Lex all that much -- Lionel had fantastic chemistry with everyone, but they rewrote his backstory and the Veritas stuff so many times that it got ridiculous, while they made Lex so evil that it got impossible to care about him as a character. And it's such a relief not to have Lana or Kara around! Even the villain of the week is a stronger character than Lana...if only she'd had a sense of humor, or the actress had had a sense of comic timing, but we had to sit through six years of treacly badly-written Clark/Lana sop.

This week's meteor freak -- a messed-up teenage girl with an annoying voice -- is a more interesting female character than Lana Lang. As for Tess, I found her damsel-in-distress turned boss-from-hell turn rather amusing. And I love Lois and Clark together, not necessarily romantically; I like the flirtatious banter, the sexual tension, the triangle with Oliver, particularly the fact that he neither expects her to change for him nor really wants her to. And by the way, I don't like Supernatural and I never watch beyond the first five minutes, but I love the classic rock songvids that start every episode. I always leave those on.

Friday is Daniel's 15th birthday. How did that happen?! I am supposed to have lunch with a friend from high school and write a review of the Star Trek episode I watched earlier, but right now I need to go catch a huge camel cricket in the basement that has Daisy very upset.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Poem for Thursday

The Virgin King
By John Ashbery

They know so much more, and so much less,
"innocent details" and other. It was time to
put up or shut up. Claymation is so over,
the king thought. The watercolor virus
sidetracked tens.

Something tells me you'll be reading this on a train
stumbling through rural Georgia, wiping sleep
from your eyes as the conductor passes through
carrying a bun. We're moving today,
today on the couch.


From this week's New Yorker.

It was kind of a weird schleppy day in which things did not quite go as planned, though nothing really bad happened. I was supposed to meet a friend -- someone I've known for years but more as the mother of kids my own kids' ages than someone I've been really close to -- at lunchtime for sushi, but she ran late and I ended up with nearly an hour to kill in a small boutique mall. I bought a couple of tiny Halloween decorations in one of those gift stores that sell lots of Vera Bradley and chunky glass bead jewelry. Ran into an old friend of my parents' and we had a nice conversation about her kids, my kids and stuff. Then my friend arrived and we had very good sushi (spicy tuna and inari, mmm) and said we'd do it again soon.

I had an hour before my kids would be home from school, so I went to a local jewelry boutique in an even more expensive strip of stores to look for a leather cord -- you know, the kind with a silver clasp that you can put big pendants on like my new tree pendant -- and I found one that looked perfect, with a little silver bead on the end, for $20, though there was another pendant hanging from it when I asked her if I could see it. The friendly lady who had helped me offered to get the price tag off and polish it for me, and when she returned, it was already in the bag. I got home, pulled it out...and she'd swapped necklaces on me, given me one without the silver bead and with a silk cord that isn't quite as thick. There is no doubt that she knew exactly what she was doing, as I'd asked if they had another in the store like the one I wanted and she said no, she'd have to get the pendant off it from the locked case. They have a "no return" policy. Last time I ever set foot in Blanca Flor Silver, I can tell you that.

This is where my son takes tennis lessons...

...the Pauline Betz Addie Tennis Center.

It's named for Wimbledon champion Pauline Betz.

There's a timeline of Betz's career on the wall, including several US Open victories.

She married a Washington Post sports writer, moved to the DC area and taught tennis at a school here for many years.

I took a photo from my seat of the dedication plaque, so I'm posting it here for posterity.

Mostly I was watching this.

So, yeah, took Adam and his best friend to tennis, came home for dinner, made the kids do homework, and watched -- yes, you may lose all respect for me right now -- Sex and the City: The Movie. I have no excuse except that I started watching that show on a particularly horrendous night of my life, and then I stuck with it as the TV equivalent of comfort food, even though I despise Carrie Bradshaw and her values and her shoes. I did love Candice Bergen's five minutes in the movie as a fashion editor -- much less stereotypical than Meryl Streep's movie-long caricature in The Devil Wears Prada -- and I've always loved Samantha's filthy mind, though I've always been completely apathetic to pretty vapid Charlotte, and I've never gotten the impression that the writers have a clue who Miranda is (which may explain why she doesn't seem to know, either).

Spoilers: I figured it would have a stupid happy ending without Carrie and Big working out the REAL issues between them, like the fact that he goes to New Year parties where she'd be bored out of her mind but I don't see him having Chinese with the girls either. And as for Miranda and Steve, why do men always seem to think they can get away with saying "It just happened" about cheating? I wish it were a movie cliche but I know enough people in real life who were handed that excuse. If there is one thing not true, it's that cheating "just happens"! The whole idea that Miranda has to forgive him or it means she's an unforgiving bitch really irritates me. If she loved him and her upset stemmed from having been badly hurt, I'd have agreed with Charlotte -- ego shouldn't get in the way of trying to fix the relationship -- but like Carrie screaming, "I am humiliated!" at Big when he freaked out and bailed on the wedding, there mostly seems to be self-love from Miranda. And since I am all in favor of Samantha following her bliss and not staying tied down, I can't root for Miranda to stay with a guy who may well let "it just happened" happen again, and probably forgive him again, losing a bit more of herself each time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Poem for Wednesday

The Broken String
By Grace Schulman

When Itzhak Perlman raised his violin
and felt the string snap, he sank and looked down
at legs unfit to stand and cross the stage
for a replacement. He bowed to the maestro,
played radiant chords, and finished the concerto

with the strings he had. Rage forced low notes
as this surf crashes on rock, turns, and lifts.
Later, he smiled and said it’s what you do:
not just play the score, but make new music
with what you have, then with what you have left.

What you have left: Bill Evans at the keyboard,
Porgy. The sound rose, but one note, unworthy,
stalled in his head above the weightless chords,
above the bass, the trumpet’s holler: Porgy.
A sudden clenched fist rose, pounded the keys,

fell limp: a heroin shot had hit a nerve.
I Loves You, Porgy. Sundays at the Vanguard
he soloed, improvised — his test that starved
nameless fear. Hands pitted against each other,
like the sea’s crosscurrents, played away anger.

My father bowed before the Knabe piano,
scanned notes, touched fingers lightly, and began,
by some black art, I thought, his hearing gone
for years. And always, Mozart, Liszt, Beethoven.
One day I gasped, for there were runs

he never heard, played as a broken kite string
launches a lifelike eagle that might soar
on what the flier holds, what he has left.
Not even winds that howl along these shores
and raise the surf can ever ground that flight.


I'm sure I have something important to report from my Tuesday, but I can't remember what. I was all ready to go out and pick up someone's freecycled books of Celtic cross stitch patterns, but it turned out she wasn't going to be home, so I just went for a walk, futzed around the house and fiddled with photos -- someone wanted to know if he could buy a print of a photo I took of the Utz potato chip factory in Hanover near my in-laws, but I can't find the original file anywhere, just the reduced-size one on my web page! Augh! I am still slowly working on sorting my summer trip pictures so I can decide which ones to print and in what format.

Oh, and I might have spent quite a bit of time on various UK web sites plotting places to visit as soon as I get rich. The new Smithsonian magazine arrived with a cover story on the latest discoveries about Stonehenge, as well as articles about cassowaries and genetic discoveries about Jewish descendants in New Mexico, which don't seem to be online yet. And I was also reading in the Telegraph about how HMS Victory could be sold to private investors, which sounds unnerving. Spent the evening watching Celtic Thunder on PBS, which was okay, though more schmaltzy than Celtic.

An old friend with whom I recently reconnected on Facebook asked to see a close-up of the necklace I was wearing to the Renfaire, so here it is -- the pattern on the Chalice Well in Glastonbury.

And I keep telling people about my awesome Etsy purchases, so I figured I'd share pictures of things I've bought, though these photos were taken by the sellers. The first is a custom project I thought up after I saw sophiesbeads' Harry Potter bracelet and asked whether she could make beads that looked like stacks of Tarot cards. The second is a piece made for me after I wrote to Luv2Have to ask if she could sell me a dichroic tree pendant in jewel-tone colors.

Tarot Card Necklace...
...by sophiesbeads.
Majesty Etched Tree...
...by Luv2Have.

Younger son had some excitement today: a short circuit filled the music classrooms with smoke while he had orchestra. The fire department concluded that there had been no fire and it was safe to return to classes, but only after they were evacuated for more than an hour with trucks and helicopters everywhere to check the building. Son was mostly annoyed that he missed Chinese, which he likes. And my wonderful husband got me Boston Legal's fourth season on DVD. Joy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Poem for Tuesday

Now That No One Looking
By Adam Kirsch

Now that no one looking at the night --
Sky blanked by leakage from electric lamps
And headlights prowling through the parking lot
Could recognize the Babylonian dance
That once held every gazer; now that spoons
And scales, and swordsmen battling with beasts
Have decomposed into a few stars strewn
Illegibly across an empty space,
Maybe the old unfalsifiable
Predictions and extrapolated spheres
No longer need to be an obstacle
To hearing what it is the stars declare:
That there are things created of a size
We can't and weren't meant to understand,
As fish know nothing of the sun that writes
Its bright glyphs on the black waves overhead.


I had a dentist appointment at noon -- semiannual checkup and cleaning -- which would have been fine except that they started with me more than twenty minutes late, and while the hygienist had me in the chair with a sharp object poking into my mouth, she started to go on about how she used to be an Obama supporter but this morning on the radio she heard that the current financial crisis is Bill Clinton's fault for allowing banks to invest in the stock market, so now she thinks Obama and McCain are just the same. Since I couldn't talk, I seriously thought about biting her.

Fortunately I had lunch plans with Gblvr, who was also running late, so I stopped to get California Tortilla and we spent the afternoon watching late first season Torchwood, when the show did several very good episodes in a row. really started to get good. We also compared notes on Etsy shopping and she brought me a pair of autumn Green Man earrings, which seemed perfectly appropriate for the equinox. As did going to the Maryland Renaissance Festival last weekend:

Anne of Cleves served as hostess at the early joust on Sunday.

In this style of jousting, points are scored for striking the breastplate of an opponent like this one. (Sparowe will have to leave a comment with the technical details!)

Here is the best pic of her brother I could get while shooting into the sun on the Nikon point-and-shoot!

Henry the Vee and his men arrive at Calais -- which in this production is pronounced "Sa-lay-is" -- and have to stop to spit, as they do each time they hear the word "France."

Slash of Hack & Slash is practicing balancing on a ladder that's not leaning against anything for minutes at a time. He heard it was like balancing on stilts with your pants around your ankles, so here he is with his on display.

The Bee Folks, who sell honey and honeycomb products from candles to skin care, also have a working hive at the faire.

The Rogues perform on the Fortune Stage, because what's a Renaissance festival without Celtic music?

Where you end up if you don't behave in Revel Grove.

I don't love Heroes nearly enough to devote three hours of a TV premiere week to it, though we'll probably catch it when NBC reruns it over the weekend. Instead we watched The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which I still think is a flawed show but has occasional delights like a hugely pregnant Busy Phillips with her belly uncovered and John Connor announcing that no child should have to grow up watching network television -- way to understand your own ickiness, FOX! But the collateral damage, while predictable, was upsetting, and Shirley Manson is painful to watch. Fortunately, after a break from TV while Adam practiced the violin, we got the Boston Legal season premiere.

Recap spoilers: The episode starts in classic BL style with "Over There" playing as Denny and Alan, in Coast Guard uniforms, approach a boat with about 100 women aboard in bikinis. "I'm the captain!" Denny reminds Alan crossly, but Alan takes charge, asking whether the women have a permit to assemble at sea and saying he'll need to inspect their flotation devices. In the time it takes him to say all this, Denny has already stripped to his underwear and gotten into a hot tub with lots of women and a cigar. "Semper Paratus -- Always Prepared," he reminds Alan, quoting the Coast Guard motto. Bwahahahaha!

Back at Crane, Poole & Schmidt, Bethany visits Alan, asking him to join her case by a family against Curtis Tobacco, whose lawyers dragged on discovery for so long that the doctor testifying for Bethany dropped dead after 13 depositions. Shirley says no one successfully sues a tobacco company and Carl forbids Alan to take the case...then assigns Katie and Jerry to help him, while Alan brings Denny on as well. But Alan is alarmed to find that the opposing counsel is ex-girlfriend Phoebe, who is vicious to the daughter of the man dead of lung cancer and who mocks Alan's inability to control his own emotions.

Denny is miserable because, in his words, nothing is up...his junk doesn't work, having failed him in the hot tub, and Shirley won't dress up as a cheerleader to try to cure him. When his phone rings in court, the ring tone is a woman having an orgasm. Phoebe is unsurprised by this and also unsurprised to find Alan flirting with Katie; when he tells her that she's changed, becoming cynical enough to represent big tobacco, she says he's changed even more, having lost his passion. In court, Jerry follows up emotional testimony by the dead man's daughter about her father's addiction and painful death, citing the death rates for smokers, the advertising targeted at teens and the horror of the profiteering at the expense of lives.

I love seeing Jerry so sharp, but he mostly has the chance to shine because Alan is distracted by Phoebe and by Denny's orgiastic ring tone. The two partners shout over each other, with Denny saying he's just trying to get an erection while Alan snaps that maybe it's the Mad Cow. Denny is horrified: "My penis has Alzheimer's!" And, horrified as well, Alan admits that he once suffered from erectile dysfunction too, with Phoebe, with whom he was in love but he couldn't handle it so he left her. Now Phoebe has become the kind of lawyer she once loathed, and Alan is left daydreaming about her -- hilariously, to Barry Manilow's "Trying To Get the Feeling Again," in a ballroom dance sequence in which Denny courts his Shirley doll while Alan spins across the courtroom with Phoebe a la lead-in series Dancing With the Stars.

In her closing, Phoebe insists that there's no real proof that tobacco killed the plaintiff's father, but Alan dissects the defense's case by talking about the tactics tobacco companies use to avoid culpability even as they increase advertising and additives to make cigarettes more addictive. Even Phoebe is moved; she tries to settle, but Bethany turns her down just as firmly as she turns down Denny's propositions. The plaintiff is awarded $600,000 in damages plus punitive damages of $213 million, which Phoebe says the defense will appeal, though she tells Alan privately that she doesn't do appellate work so someone else will take over the case. They say goodbye, and Alan and Denny -- having won such an enormous sum from the evil tobacco company -- retreat to the rooftop to smoke their cigars.

Alan admits that he misses cigarette breaks, when people from offices used to share their lives, and observes sadly that if he and Denny didn't both like smelly cancer sticks, they might never have gotten to know one another. He thanks Denny for being in his life and says, "I don't know what I'd do without you," but Denny is still fixated on his penis having Alzheimer's until he opens a gift from Shirley: it's the cheerleader outfit! Alan asks to see it, and, upon discovering that it's two pieces, says, "You take top, I'll take bottom!" Denny isn't sure he wants to share, but when Alan calls him selfish and cruel, he turns over the bottom, warning Alan not to ruin it. Alan dances with the skirt as Denny dances with the sweater.

And thus begins the final season of my very favorite crack on television. It looks like Clarence/Clarice and Lorraine are gone, and there's a new judge, which might mean the fantastic supporting cast of recurring judges may not be returning, which would be a bigger loss. But Alan and Denny, plus Shirley, plus Carl, are all present, and I'm really hoping David Kelley sneaks Brad and Denise and Tara and some of the others back in before the series is gone forever. Sigh.