Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Poem for Tuesday

Actor of Our Lifetime
By Russell Crowe

I am celebrating my love for you
with a pint of beer and a new tattoo.

Imagine there's no heaven.
I don't know if you're loving somebody.
To be a poet and not know the trade,
to be a lover and repel all women.
Twin ironies by which great saints are made,
the agonising pincer-jaws of heaven.

If you can walk with crowds and keep your virtue,
talk with kings but not lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
if all men count with you, but none too much,
yours is the earth and everything that's in it
and what's more, you'll be a man.

It's only words,
and words are all I have
to take your breath away.


No, I don't need anyone to tell me how incredibly bad that "poem" is...no producers were harmed in its recitation, heh. I haven't done a raging fangirl post in years, and looking at the photos from the Empire Awards last night, I had a flashback. I mean, Viggo Mortensen had his arms around either Sean Bean or Jason Isaacs in every photo I saw of him, and Jason was kissing Helena Bonham-Carter hello and saying he told his wife he was scared he'd have to follow Russell onstage, and Tom Felton was going on about how much fun it was being at the awards with his "dad" and "aunt" -- this is all worth sharing, so here are The Leaky Cauldron's photos of Jason, Tom and Helena, and here is The Guardian's coverage of Russell, and here is Sean hugging Viggo in The Daily Mail (more of their pics here). Okay, I'm finished. *g*

My kids had no school on Monday for end-of-semester reasons, so I took them to Bagel City for lunch, then to Sears because Daniel is going to New York on Thursday for a three-day choir festival and has once again outgrown his black pants. I figured Sears was a good bet to have relatively inexpensive dress pants because they always carry suit coats and blazers for kids at schools where they're required, but they were pretty wiped out for the season (Target last week was out of absolutely everything school-year appropriate) and it took several tries to find a pair that fit, at which point the kids were antsy and we left without finding anything else they need for the summer. Later in the afternoon, I took Adam and his friend to tennis, though no amount of exercise seemed to calm everyone down today!

Baltimore's Mount Vernon Square on Saturday, with George Washington, a wedding, and lots of blossoms:

After dinner, we watched the Maryland women end their season as they lost to Louisville by nearly 20 points, failing to make the Final Four even though they were a number one seed. Marissa Coleman sat and sobbed inconsolably. Given that I no longer care who wins either the men's or women's tournament, March Madness is over for me! We watched Heroes, which held my interest better than the past couple but I'm still not feeling the love -- for one thing, I'm very sick of Jesus allegories and churchgoing on every single science fiction show I watch, and for another, when Sylar talks about how men love being powerful and hanging out with different women of allure so much that it's a cliche, I want to scream at the screen that it's sure as hell a cliche of this series. I get the impression that Zachary Quinto is now phoning it in as much as Adrian Pasdar has been for more than a season, and I can't really blame them, since no one including the writers seem to know who their characters are from week to week.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Poem for Monday

2212 West Flower Street
By Michael Collier

When I think of the man who lived in the house
behind ours and how he killed his wife
and then went into his own back yard,
a few short feet from my bedroom window,
and put the blue-black barrel of his 30.06
inside his mouth and pulled the trigger,
I do not think about how much of the barrel
he had to swallow before his fingers reached the trigger,
nor the bullet that passed out the back of his neck,
nor the wild orbit of blood that followed
his crazy dance before he collapsed in a clatter
over the trash cans, which woke me.

Instead I think of how quickly his neighbors restored
his humanity, remembering his passion
for stars which brought him into his yard
on clear nights, with a telescope and tripod,
or the way he stood in the alley in his rubber boots
and emptied the red slurry from his rock tumblers
before he washed the glassy chunks of agate
and petrified wood. And we remembered, too,
the goose-neck lamp on the kitchen table
that burned after dinner and how he worked
in its bright circle to fashion flies and lures.
The hook held firmly in a jeweler's vise,

while he wound the nylon thread around the haft
and feathers. And bending closer to the light,
he concentrated on tying the knots, pulling them tight
against the coiled threads. And bending closer still,
turning his head slightly toward the window,
his eyes lost in the dark yard, he took the thread ends
in his teeth and chewed them free. Perhaps he saw us
standing on the sidewalk watching him, perhaps he didn't.
He was a man so much involved with what he did,
and what he did was so much of his loneliness,
our presence didn’t matter. No one's did.
So careful and precise were all his passions,

he must have felt the hook with its tiny barbs
against his lip, sharp and trigger-shaped.
It must have been a common danger for him—
the wet clear membrane of his mouth threatened
by the flies and lures, the beautiful enticements
he made with his own hands and the small loose
thread ends which clung to the roof of his mouth
and which he tried to spit out like an annoyance
that would choke him.


Sunday morning dawned just as wet and chilly as Saturday. We drove to the Brandywine Valley with DementorDelta, heading first to the Brandywine River Museum (free till noon on Sundays in March), which in addition to the permanent exhibits of paintings by N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth is currently hosting "Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey" -- a hilarious collection of Gorey's illustrated stories, which are full of imaginary animals, grotesque landscapes, and wickedly funny disasters. This museum also has local sculpture and paintings by Howard Pyle and Maxfield Parrish, plus a pretty restaurant overlooking the river where we had lunch.

In the early afternoon, we went to the Delaware Museum of Natural History, which has "Backyard Monsters" -- an exhibit on insects with giant animatronic ants, praying mantis, scorpion, and some robot bugs as well as actual insect specimens -- plus their ongoing exhibits on local and global animal life, including a couple of dinosaur skeletons and many preserved birds. Then we went to the Delaware Art Museum, which is hosting an exhibit of Victorian paintings from the Royal Holloway Collection at the University of London -- wonderful landscapes and seascapes as well as some portraits of the contrast between the rich and the poor, plus "The Princes in the Tower" by Millais. This museum has a large permanent exhibit of Pre-Raphaelite art as well that we have visited many times before.

This sculpture, displayed by a window overlooking the stalls in the yard below at the Brandywine River Museum, is entitled "Pigs!".

Every photo I have ever taken of the river through the windows at this museum has contained reflections of people and balconies. Here are Adam, myself and DementorDelta suspended over the water.

Here is DementorDelta reading an information card in the entranceway of the Gorey exhibit, in which no photos were permitted...

...and here is a clearer photo of myself and DementorDelta outside Delaware Museum of Natural History.

Inside, we went to see the giant animatronic insects, which give a terrific view of how the mandibles work and how the antennae are attached.

Both the Brandywine River and Delaware Art Museums have paintings by Howard Pyle, who was from Delaware and taught many local painters. Here is his "Mermaid," plus a painting of his studio containing the painting.

The Delaware Art Museum is probably best known for having the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art outside of England. This is Rossetti's "Water Willow" -- a painting of the artist's best friend's wife and his own lover, Jane Morris.

The Chihuly glass installation is another lovely permanent exhibit at the Delaware museum.

We drove home in alternating driving rain and brilliant sunshine after the Delaware museum closed, looking at all the trees blooming along I-95, and had dinner at California Tortilla. Then DementorDelta headed home and we watched some Futurama at Daniel's request, including the one where Leela pretends to be a man to join Zap's army and the one where Bender gets his mind erased. We did not see Louisville lose. Right now I don't care who wins the men's tournament so long as it's not UNC, and I'd put up with that in exchange for the Maryland women winning!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Poem for Sunday

An Individual History
By Michael Collier

This was before the time of lithium and Zoloft
before mood stabilizers and anxiolytics
and almost all the psychotropic drugs, but not before thorazine,
which the suicide O'Laughlin called "handcuffs for the mind."
It was before, during, and after the time of atomic fallout,
Auschwitz, the Nakba, DDT, and you could take water cures,
find solace in quarantines, participate in shunnings,
or stand at Lourdes among the canes and crutches.
It was when the March of Time kept taking off its boots.
Fridays when families prayed the Living Rosary
to neutralize communists with prayer.
When electroshock was electrocution
and hammers recognized the purpose of a nail.
And so, if you were as crazy as my maternal grandmother was then
you might make the pilgrimage she did through the wards
of state and private institutions,
and make of your own body a nail for pounding, its head
sunk past quagmires, coups d'etat, and disappearances
and in this way find a place in history
among the detained and unparoled, an individual like her,
though hidden by an epoch of lean notation -- "Marked
Parkinsonian tremor," "Chronic paranoid type" --
a time when the animal slowed by its fate
was excited to catch a glimpse of its tail
or feel through her skin the dulled-over joy
when for a moment her hands were still.


Michael Collier was my teacher in graduate school, so I'm delighted to see him in this week's Poet's Choice. He explains that his grandmother was a patient in the Central State Hospital of Indiana, which documented "delusional pronouncements she was apt to utter." He tried to write a poem based solely on the medical records, "but the literalness of the material and the disquieting paranoid lyricism of my grandmother's statements proved resistant." Later, "when reading an essay about the history of psychotropic drugs, I started a poem that used the names of these drugs as a kind of incantation. This led me to recall what my college roommate, who killed himself, had once said about Thorazine, that it was 'handcuffs for the mind.'"

It was a rainy, chilly, gray day, so after Daniel got back from volunteering at Hebrew school, we went to Baltimore's Mount Vernon Square, which was glorious with flowers despite the weather. The Walters Art Museum has two current exhibits that we wanted to see -- one on The Saint John's Bible and other illuminated manuscripts, another on The Romance of the Rose. The former in particular is stunning, not just the modern Bible, which is absolutely beautiful, but the collection of manuscripts with it -- several medieval Books of Hours, an illuminated Koran, a Kelmscott Chaucer, a hand-copied Old Testament with Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin juxtaposed. The Romance of the Rose exhibit isn't nearly as big and doesn't have an entire room devoted to the hands-on teaching of calligraphic arts (treating parchment, creating dyes, lettering, decorating), but it has many different manuscripts and a collection of commentaries.

As for the rest of the Walters Museum, we visited the Chamber of Wonders with its collections of maps, insects and other natural items from all over the world; walked through the 15th-16th century religious art, 17th century European and Flemish art, and 19th century landscape art and porcelain; did a quick pass through the Medieval World, which we had seen in depth the last time we were at the museum; and paid a visit to the room called the Treasury because we had learned that the museum has a Faberge egg on display there, and after having bought Faberpet eggs on Superpoke Pets, Adam wanted to see a real one. We had also discovered that Armand's Pizza has a dinner buffet, so we took the kids there -- it's never going to make my top 50 restaurants but at the same time, it's so much better than Cici's and has so much more variety that I am not going to say anything bad about it!

Baltimore's Mount Vernon Square, bright with blossoms despite the drizzly weather.

A 14th-century printing of The Romance of the Rose showing the Lover asleep at the start of the dream vision with Danger lurking at the foot of the bed. (No photos were allowed inside the St. John's Bible exhibit.)

The Walters Museum's Faberge egg, containing a gold miniature of the palace at Gatchina (in this case merely with no flash/tripod, sorry). It was given as a gift from Tsar Nicholas II to his mother.

A display of armor from the Knight's Hall, a favorite with the kids since in addition to the weapons, it also has chess sets that can be played with.

Medieval window panels from Leoben, Austria, and a Flemish tomb relief from the sarcophagus of Pierre de Bauttremont, also dating from the 1400s.

An ebony cabinet from the court of Louis XIII, carved on the outside with scenes from Greek and Roman mythology, but decorated on the inside like a miniature theatrical set.

Indonesian Jewel Beetles displayed in a case with other insects in the Chamber of Wonders.

A rubbing of the only surviving monumental brass of a knight of the Order of the Garter in full regalia -- collar, mantle, hood, badge, and garter -- set in the museum's spiral staircase. The falcon above his shoulder and griffin under his feet are his family crest and emblem: this is Thomas Boleyn (or Bullen as he is identified in the inscription), Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond, father of Anne and grandfather of Elizabeth. The original brass is at Hever Castle.

So sleepy I almost forgot to say I'm so glad I was home to watch Kim Yu-Na skate! Women's skating hasn't enthralled me in a long, long time, but that was an exhilarating performance to watch. The silver medalist was okay, proficient, pretty, but I was really unexcited by most of the other skaters (not to mention all the men).

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Poem for Saturday

Cat Island
By Thom Gunn

Cats met us at
the landing-place
reclining in the sun
to check us in
with a momentary glance,
of a grassy island.
(Attila's Throne,
the Devil's Bridge,
and "the best Byzantine
church in the world",
long saints admonitory
on kiln-like inner walls.)
And lunch in a shady court
where cats now
systematically worked
the restaurant, table
by table, gazing into eyes
pleading "I'm hungry
and I'm cute", reaching
front paws up to knees
and always getting
before zeroing in
on the next table, same
routine, same result.

Sensible bourgeois
wild-cats working
with the furred impudence
of those who don't pretend
to be other than whores,
they give you not
the semblance of love
but simply
a look at their beauty
in return for food.
Models, not escorts.
They lack, too,
the prostitute's self-pity,
being beyond shame.
And we lack
what they have.


The always delightful Gblvr and I had lunch at Lebanese Taverna and did our usual circle of shops nearby, which is why I now have very pretty $12 glass-and-Swarovski-crystal earrings from As Kindred Spirits and Adam had leftover hummus for dessert. It was a beautiful day but I had an impending headache all afternoon from the weather front. I was afraid it was going to blossom into a migraine, but several Advil and the arrival of the front staved it off.

In the late afternoon I wrote a review of Next Gen's terrific "The Drumhead", which usually ruins me for everything else, but Sarah Connor was terrific this week...I can handle the Jesus allegory when it applies not to John Connor but to the terminator John Henry! Plus he was playing with Bionicles again, explaining their mythology to Savannah, and he agreed to let her duckies play in their world when she pouted because he said it was against the rules. And this week it was dead men instead of dead women, a much lower body count than typical BSG. Even so, we watched Xena's "The Furies" afterward.

National Arboretum flowers:

The Friday Five: High School
1. Would you return to high school life for a week? Why or why not?
Not for anything. My least favorite moments in life are when people act like the social order in high school still applies.
2. Who were/are you in high school? A nerd. (The book sort, not the math sort -- does that make me a geek by contemporary standards?)
3. What was/is your favorite high school hangout? What did/do you do there? Rockville Library. I looked up things I was interested in on microfilm and in books.
4. What were/are your favorite three songs in high school? I'm too embarrassed to say but John Barrowman has recorded all of them. If he had never done anything else, I would adore him for that alone.
5. What was the craziest thing you did in high school? Heck, I don't know. Lied about my age and flirted with a sleazy dealer to get in free to a Star Trek convention? Vertigo, do you remember that? *g*

Fannish 5: Name the 5 most memorable tv/movie soundtracks. Going with original soundtracks as opposed to compilations of music I love, like Dawson's Creek...
1. The Mission
, Ennio Morricone
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Howard Shore
3. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, John Williams
4. Empire of the Sun, John Williams
5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, John Williams

Friday, March 27, 2009

Poem for Friday

When the Snake Became a Man
By Garret Keizer


When the snake became a man,
he couldn't stop swallowing
one rat after another until
he became so large he couldn't
constrict his prey. He hired
a number of smaller snakes
not men or barely so to strangle
the rats for him and a surgeon
to make an opening in his tail
over which he wore a velvet hat
when not extruding his meals.


When the elk became a man,
he found he wanted longer horns
and took it as a sign from God
that horn-grow cream appeared
around the same time as his wish.
He dipped the tips of his antlers
faithfully into the jars, having
first glued their bottoms to his sink—
it was just too awkward otherwise.
Soon his rack became so high
he could not raise his head
so bought a titanium crane
that followed him on little wheels,
took pictures, and sorted his socks.


When the whale became a man,
it was really no big deal, the whale
already a Sea World celebrity,
people used to seeing him in a tux.
The orca bit would have to go,
of course, the cant about his not being
such a killer. No, he liked to kill
well enough, it was his culture
and he wasn't going to be ashamed
of it any more than werewolves were
of theirs. He thought he'd write a song.


When the man became a man,
his dog became despondent,
having been a man himself
for quite some time. "A fine
thing to do at our stage of life,"
he said. Best friends with the man
for many years, he understood
the strange things likely to happen
when a man became a man.
The TV would go for one thing
and who knew what else after.
He wasn't about to wait around
and watch the transformation.
He packed up his bones
in their matching bone cases,
dusted off his real-estate license,
and headed down the road.


Another from this week's New Yorker.

As is becoming our Thursday morning habit, I got up very early with younger son to see what was new on Superpoke Pets (his best friend has one now, and his best friend's older sister, and I think he has about 400 more friends overall than I do). So we bought our sunny porches and quaint gardens, then he went off to school and I had breakfast and tried to wake up for real. I went to lunch with , which started out a bit of a disappointment when we discovered that the Vietnamese restaurant where we had intended to eat had moved, but we ended up at a Japanese restaurant I'd never tried before which had superb teriyaki and very good, unusual sushi -- I had a Jambalaya Roll, which consisted of shrimp, crab meat, creole spices and some crunchy sort of rice inside sticky rice and seaweed. The portions were enormous and I took almost half a meal home for younger son, who complains because he loves sushi but since we are the only two members of the family who do, he doesn't get it as often as he'd like.

We had dinner with my parents on Thursday because they're visiting my sister and her family on Friday, then came home in time for Smallville, though I am completely lost since apparently I missed major relationship developments for two couples on the show when I missed last week's episode...clearly, since I have not managed to track down the video online, I need to read the summary at Television Without Pity. After that we watched "The Drumhead" which I need to review and which I had remembered as one of Next Gen's better episodes -- it's held up superbly and I only wish I had watched it during the Bush administration. Both kids appreciated it too -- older son drawing comparisons with 1984, which he's been reading in English class, younger son drawing comparisons with the treatment of minorities. I just ordered the fifth season for review since I'm almost at the end of the fourth; lots of great episodes there, too.

Arch Stone, collected in Southeastern Pennsylvania, from the Suiseki exhibit in the Asian Collection at the National Arboretum.

Water Pool Stone, also from the collection of Jim Hayes. Those are tiny models of birds perched on it.

Slope Stone, from South Central Pennsylvania, from the collection of Sean Smith.

Mountain Range Stone, Renzan-seki, from Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Near Mountain Stone, Kinzan-seki, from Eastern Pennsylvania.

Double-Peaked Mountain Stone, one of Jim Hayes' finds from Southeastern Pennsylvania...

...is featured on the exhibition poster.

They are on display adjacent to the bonsai. This is a Dwarf Japanese Juniper -- look at the wonderful curves in the bark.

I'm too tired to wait and see whether Duke and Memphis are actually going to get knocked out of the tournament. Will find out in the morning!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Poem for Thursday

So, So It Begins Means It Begins
By Mary Jo Bang

And so it begins, Mickey, birthday cake (party), special
Night, whoops, and take a box.
So it begins, take a bow, hold your head up,
Scowl now. This is your own guitar.

Stop and see a movie.
Stop and see whether the eagle holds up at the end.
I'm leaving. See how I pull the door to.
The door is the floor and it's rising up,

Below is a dungeon. It's all you can see in the dark.
There is graffiti on the wall.
The bugle has ceded its call to power.
It's the time when we are waiting to be told.

Nothing is getting better. And nothing is getting worse.
A duck and a mouse. A house and a hat.
Having lunch and having a medal of honor.
Let's put our culture on a cartoon's.

Why not? Have the mouse answer the phone.
Have the receiver click. Then the real comes to
Its awful end. That point where, as he said, all came in
"With the shoutmost shoviality. Agog" Agog.


From this week's New Yorker.

I did laundry for most of the morning, wrote cover letters for a couple of jobs I won't get because I know how many other people are applying, and tried to catch up on correspondence, which I did pretty well except for over 50 journal comments. When Adam got home from school, I took him to his Bar Mitzvah tutor, then we went to the violin shop because his orchestra teacher said he thought son was ready for a full-size instrument. We have a rent-to-buy plan, so he tried a couple, picked one, then we had it restrung with better strings, got new rosin and full-size shoulder rest, plus some music (he wanted "Ashokan Farewell," which I love).

A Trident Maple, age unknown, with its roots growing spectacularly over rocks, now trained at the National Arboretum.

Another Trident Maple, about to bud, seemingly suspended over its roots.

Higo, a Japanese Camellia being trained by Nippon Bonsai growers since 1876.

A 70-year-old Japanese Maple, donated to the arboretum by Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

Here is a close-up of the beautiful miniature leaves.

A diminutive Toringo Crabapple tree in training since 1905. I've seen this tree late in summer when it bore fruit.

A Chinese Quince in training since 1875.

A Prostrate Juniper, trained since 1969.

PBS was showing the Trevor Nunn-directed King Lear with Ian McKellen, which was fantastic (though completely wrenching and hard to watch at times). I knew Romola Garai played Cordelia, but I hadn't paid enough attention to the stage production to realize that both Sylvester McCoy and Philip Winchester were in it. I've adored Winchester since the first episode of Crusoe and it was a lot of fun to see him play a conniving villain who has much in common with the adversary from that show. As for McCoy, we were joking at the beginning that the video quality looked like 1970s Doctor Who, so it seemed only fitting to have a Doctor turn up (we've only seen him at the start of the Eighth Doctor movie, so we had a moment of "Who IS that?" before we realized and laughed).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Poem for Wednesday

By Billy Collins

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive-
"Nonsense." "Please!" "HA!"-
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
who wrote "Don't be a ninny"
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls "Metaphor" next to a stanza of Hardy's.
Another notes the presence of "Irony"
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.

Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
hands cupped around their mouths.
"Absolutely," they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
"Yes." "My man!" "Bull's-eye."
Check marks, exclamation points and asterisks
rain down along the sidelines.

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having once written "Man vs. Nature"
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.

Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospel
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird singing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.

And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwrethed with Blake's furious scribbling.

But the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

a few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
"Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love."


Niennacalmacil mentioned hearing Collins read a poem about highlighters. I'm not sure if it's this one, but I remembered he wrote one about note-taking and went looking for it.

It was Paul's birthday, so I picked him up from work and we went out for Indian food together at lunchtime. It was slightly less mobbed than last time, perhaps a victim of the economy, because they had lowered lunch buffet prices by a dollar, which was very nice considering they hadn't taken anything off the buffet that we could tell! (I had tandoori, korma and curry chicken, some kind of spicy cauliflower and potatoes, dal makhani, paneer, some kind of crusty spicy potato, naan, and a bit of kheer -- I was too full for the gulab jamun.) Afterward I dropped him back at work and went to Target to get underwear and socks for the boys who keep growing and getting holes in theirs. And I stopped off to get a little birthday cake with lots of sugary icing, which is what he usually likes.

Paul had brought home Howl's Moving Castle on DVD from the library, and though I know I watched it with someone when it first came out on DVD, I must have been distracted, because I had forgotten most of the details. It's probably my favorite Miyazaki film -- I relate to Sofi much more than Chihiro, I like the anti-war theme, and I appreciate that the Beauty and the Beast parallels in this one have so little to do with saving parents or being an obedient daughter. Also, the scenery is breathtaking, particularly the city scenes and the fantasy fields of flowers. I must remember to buy this one. Meanwhile, we had some excitement in the back window for much of the evening:

This -- and a friend -- appeared at twilight to help itself to the fallen seeds under the bird feeder.

All three cats immediately positioned themselves to study its every move.

The mice, however, did not appear to notice the cats, and only scampered to hide when a squirrel arrived to nose at the seeds.

This just led to even more agitation, as the smaller cats attacked the window itself while the large blob puffed herself up and glared.

Regrettably, I was shooting with flash through glass since that was all I had time for, so I did not capture how adorable the mice were with their great big mouse eyes.