Monday, August 31, 2009

Poem for Monday

Content is King
By Rebecca Wolff

I queen it

over emptiness.

I invent it, a surplus,
a bombast of nervous

encryption so the process
of blanking becomes

isometric -- Pilates.
I think of how clueless

and relentless-
ly depthless

my mother, nonetheless
she birthed and hers

is the aspect
and prospect

the matter
and subject


I find something to say.

The king is content.


"This is the crypto title-poem of my new collection 'The King,' which in large part has to do with becoming a mother or otherwise encountering -- embracing -- objective reality," writes Wolff in Poet's Choice. "In my young womanhood, I experienced an enduring existential paralysis that caused me to have great difficulty in producing spontaneous utterance. This wore off eventually, thank heaven, but even now poetry serves as a fulsome reprieve from any lingering sense of incapacity...language arrives, and means. Here it even rhymes, and puns."

We spent all of Sunday at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, which opened this weekend. We got up early so we could get there in time for the 11 a.m. Fight School, where we met Dementordelta, with whom we then saw the early joust, the first set by the Mediaeval Baebes, Shakespeare's Skum's production of Hamlet, the second set by the Mediaeval Baebes, Shakespeare's Skum's tag-team Romeo and Juliet, Daniel Duke of Danger, Fight School: Reloaded, and the late joust, plus bits of other acts, roaming musicians, lots of jewelry and craft shops. We were quite well-behaved and only bought brass-and-glass rings.

We also ate -- I had a huntsman's sandwich (turkey bbq) for lunch, a turkey leg for dinner, and lots of soda and a root beer float; younger son had a chicken empanada, a loaded baked potato, a turkey leg, and various desserts; older son had a turkey sandwich, a waffle, a turkey leg, and I'm not even sure what else. All of it was very good and we had a quick dinner with my parents since the kids decided they were still hungry at 7:30 when we were near home. Now I am quite exhausted and younger son has his first full day of school for the year on Monday so I shall just post some pics...

King Henry VIII greets some young visitors to Revel Grove, site of the Maryland Renaissance Festival.

Fight School at the Market Stage: "We always speak in unison!"

Sir Henry Clifford at the first joust of the day in the arena.

The Mediaeval Baebes during their first performance of the day at the Blackfriars Theatre.

Shakespeare's Skum's Hamlet contemplates revenge while Gertrude contemplates lustful distraction at the Globe Theatre.

The Mediaeval Baebes, this time in green, during their second set at the Blackfriars Theatre.

Fight School: Reloaded returns to the Market Stage for the traditional Vulcan lirpa battle.

Lances shatter in the late joust.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Poem for Sunday

By Richard Wilbur

Treetops are not so high
Nor I so low
That I don't instinctively know
How it would be to fly

Through gaps that the wind makes, when
The leaves arouse
And there is a lifting of boughs
That settle and lift again.

Whatever my kind may be,
It is not absurd
To confuse myself with a bird
For the space of a reverie:

My species never flew,
But I somehow know
It is something that long ago
I almost adapted to.


Another (very appropriately for my afternoon) from this week's New Yorker.

On Saturday afternoon we went to AirFair 100 at College Park Airport, where the Wright Brothers tested their 1909 Military Flyer and which has operated continuously ever since. Though we've visited the College Park Aviation Museum recently, we haven't been to an air show there since the kids were very young, and we were amazed at how big the event has become -- there were military, rescue, and police planes and helicopters on display, tents with information about local aviation groups, parks, and historical societies, lots of food vendors, and retired space shuttle astronaut Joe Edwards as the main speaker. There were also fire trucks, mounted policemen, and inflatable slides, all of which were very popular with the children there. The airport backs up to the Metro and railroad tracks, so we got to see several trains as well as dozens of small planes and historic aircraft.

The American flag is flown in by a member of the Misty Blues All Woman Skydiving Team.

Another team member drops in with a "Smile" flag.

Greg Koontz of the Alabama Boys Comedy Act performs acrobatics before landing his plane on a moving pickup truck playing (of course) "Sweet Home Alabama."

Dan Buchanan performs hang gliding stunts. (This photo was taken through the windows of the College Park Aviation Museum, so the color's a bit distorted.)

Because this is the 100th anniversary of College Park Airport and the Wright Brothers tested their new designs here, several visitors in Victorian garb make appearances.

Bob Essell and Lisa Nelson demonstrate wing walking on their ultra light sport plane.

Kevin Russo takes a T-6 Texan into a dive.

Here's the start of Much Ado About Nothing at Olney Theatre (see below for details).

In the evening we had reservations to see Much Ado About Nothing, Olney Theatre's free Summer Shakespeare Festival production, set in 1930's New Orleans complete with Carnival masks. A jazz band played for the hour before the play, while people had picnics and staked out spots in the bleachers and on the lawn. It was a very entertaining production, but it started to rain before intermission and we left when the management suspended the production because the actors were slipping on the stage and there was lightning in the distance. We are getting up early to go to the Maryland Renfaire, so we figured we could go see the abbreviated Much Ado there if we can get to it in between Fight School, the Medieval Baebes, Shakespeare's Skum, and the jousts!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Poem for Saturday

The House
By Richard Wilbur

Sometimes, on waking, she would close her eyes
For a last look at that white house she knew
In sleep alone, and held no title to,
And had not entered yet, for all her sighs.
What did she tell me of that house of hers?
White gatepost; terrace; fanlight of the door;
A widow's walk above the bouldered shore;
Salt winds that ruffle the surrounding firs.
Is she now there, wherever there may be?
Only a foolish man would hope to find
That haven fashioned by her dreaming mind.
Night after night, my love, I put to sea.


From this week's New Yorker.

We had an enormous thunderstorm in the late morning, so not a lot of excitement went on here. I couldn't send the kids to the pool, so they played some video games and rode their scooters and finished the last of their summer homework -- younger son has his first official day of school on Monday, older son on Tuesday. While they were distracted, I wrote a review of Next Gen's "Hero Worship" and tried to distract the cats, who were convinced that, since the boys were home, it must be time to eat.

Tents overlook the river in the reconstructed Continental Army encampment at Yorktown Victory Center.

These are the luxury quarters -- the general's tent -- in the center of the camp.

And on the general's desk, this is a map of the region as it looked during the American Revolution.

The soldiers slept six to a tent. They must have been practically on top of each other. Of course, in cold weather that might not have been so bad.

Reenactors talked about camp life, food, travel, uniforms, and other aspects of soldiers' lives.

It was too hot on the afternoon we were there for a full demonstration of the cooking fire.

Congressional rulings and proclamations were posted near where the soldiers slept.

One of the principal causes of the war -- the stamp placed on imported printed goods, books, licenses, even playing cards.

Fannish 5: Name five effective uses of songs in movies or tv shows.
It was incredibly difficult to limit this to five. I mean, I didn't get Boston Legal or Due South in, and they've both had very deserving moments. But if I must limit it to five:
1. "Come And Go With Me To That Land" by Jesse L. Martin, The X-Files, "The Unnatural" -- when Mulder and Scully are hitting baseballs together after learning the truth out there about Josh Exley.
2. "Full of Grace" by Sarah McLachlan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Becoming, Part Two" -- when Buffy leaves Sunnydale after losing everyone and everything.
3. "Promise Me This" by Pancho's Lament, Dawson's Creek, "True Love" -- when Dawson realizes that Joey is miserable without Pacey.
4. "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves" by Lucy Lawless, Xena: Warrior Princess, "Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire" -- when Xena's mother is trying to convince her to find a man.
5. "I Grieve" by Peter Gabriel, Smallville, "Reckoning" -- Jonathan Kent's funeral.

No Friday Five today. We had dinner with my parents (Chinese food, at younger son's request, never my favorite but the lo mein was pretty good), then came home and watched Sixteen Candles in honor of John Hughes -- still funny in a lot of inappropriate ways, and a weird movie to watch with one's children when one was about the same age as the main characters when the movie was new. I forgot how atrociously Caroline was treated, and having my memory refreshed on that reminded me how sexist I found most John Hughes movies which is why I haven't watched any in years and years. Ah well, artifact of my youth.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Poem for Friday

By Melissa Kwasny

Voices from the path through nettles
Come to us on your hands
Alone with your lamp
Only your hand to read
    —Paul Celan

Against me: all of it, the ash in my soup,
the straw-like hem of my sleeves.
The busy satellites, like mice hunting grain,
keep changing direction.

August, and I try to sleep under stars
that starch and thicken
while the day-air shakes out its wings.
I can hardly wait to tell you: I hate! I hate!

The Icelandic poppies don't last in this heat.
Their scarlet fades by afternoon.
And the polar icecaps—those immortal truths—
dribble through Canada but don’t reach here.

Helicopters bleat as they hover over the pond,
scoop up a basket for the forest thirst.
Oh, summer, my body is open-mouthed like a fish.
The hours on the bird clock sound shrill.

Lash my arthritic hands. The fire will take
my mistakes. The stones,
the stones will correct them. I only
dream that my hands are bitten by small dogs.

Nettle is the green beak that nips, and guards
the eerie swing of the low stream.
Nettle is the hard path, the one I should abide by.
Arrogance, that sting. My life is pocked with it.


Our first day back from vacation started bright and early, since Adam had his first day at the holding school where his middle school classes have moved while the building -- which was also my junior high school -- is being torn down and rebuilt. It was the first time he has ever ridden a bus to school, though apparently that was entertaining for him since one of his good friends has moved into the neighborhood so he had a bunch of people to ride with. Daniel slept late, though he was up by the time Adam got home before noon since the orientation was only half a day. I was going to take them to Bagel City but Adam wanted to go play with his friends, so he did that while Daniel went to the pool for a bit, and I folded laundry.

A sandpiper enjoys the morning tidal deposits by the shore of the Outer Banks, which include lots of small crabs.

This blue crab lives in Dough's Creek in Roanoke near where the Elizabeth II is docked.

This fiddler crab lives in Roanoke as well, in the tidal marsh near the settlement site.

Canada geese have apparently stopped migrating and spend summers as well as winters in the Outer Banks. These geese are eating grass at the foot of the Wright Brothers Memorial.

A laughing gull flies over the dunes...

...and pelicans fly over the Atlantic.

In the evening, toads appear near the marshes to eat insects...

...and ghost crabs come out of their holes in the sand on the beach.

In the evening we started watching season three of Due South -- to "I Coulda Been a Defendant" -- Ray K had me at "I got nothing against Canadians except for the time they won the World Series." ("Two times," Fraser has to reply) and really had me by the time he explained what happened during the bank robbery. I miss Ray V and think they should all get a house by the sea together (or, fine, a cabin in the Yukon) but I totally see what people see in Ray K. Those of you who feel it necessary to unfriend me because of this may...oh wait, most of you have already done so for some other fannish sin!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Poem for Thursday

By Melissa Kwasny

Soft as the deaf, as tightly
budded, even my name hides
under the tongue,
burrows into me like an infection.

Mallow. Cob. I am host
with a hundred ears. What is here
feeds, golden and small,
unable to fly away from me.

Still here in the stair-step fall
of light, I am infiltrated
with aphids and ants
that stick to the glue of my veins.

No one accepts what life offers.
Too common to thrive
by the roadside, soft as the roadside
dust that covers me, and thus,

get the poison meant for others—
the noxious, the invasive,
meaning your fear of cancer.
To thrive, you say, is monstrous.

Who can blame me that I prefer
poor soil, that I ask
for rolled oats without milk
in this land in love with plenty?

How long can you stay angry?
I rise out of the green
and obscure, a flamboyant stalk,
muscled, a landmark in the field.

Look around you. You will see
the brown shells of my last resistance.
Immune to what?
I am soft as exhaustion, soft as ash.


We got up early for breakfast so that we could spend time on the beach before we needed to check out of our hotel. It was a beautiful morning -- bright but not too hot, water nearly as warm as the air, with lots of little fish in the ocean, and seagulls, sandpipers, pelicans, and a ruddy turnstone on the sand and flying overhead -- waves moderate-sized, tide about halfway in. We swam a bit and collected some whelks and snail shells before we headed back to the hotel to pack up and drive out of Kill Devil Hills. North Carolina students went back to school on Monday, so tourist season is pretty much over, and we encountered very little traffic driving toward Norfolk.

We stopped for lunch at Yorktown Battlefield, which is actually not in the same area as the Yorktown Victory Center; the latter is part of the Historic Triangle under the administration of the state of Virginia, including Colonial Williamsburg and the Jamestown settlement, while the battlefield is part of the National Park Service. We had sandwiches at the picnic tables in front of the visitor center, walked around the earthworks and cannons nearest the visitor center, then drove the nine mile circuit past the siege lines, earthworks, and onetime encampment sites for Washington, Lafayette, Rochambeau, and their soldiers. We saw deer, a groundhog, turtles, lizards, and vultures in the park.

Paul and the kids by "Le Renard," or "The Fox," a French six-pounder cannon.

Many guns remain on display on Yorktown Battlefield and in the museum.

Here are the kids with one of them.

The park has shored up and recreated many of the earthworks from the battle...

...and the tall trees make the park very beautiful.

Plus the park is on the York River, where sailboats can be seen behind the battlefield.

These turtles live in Wormley Pond in the park.

Cornwallis' soldiers walked along this road to the field on the left to lay down their arms in the formal surrender of the British.

We avoided DC rush hour by getting off I-95 for a quick dinner at a Popeye's near Dale City, then got home before 8 to unpack, do laundry, console neglected cats, etc. At Daniel's request we watched the last episode of the second season of Due South, which made me sad because it's the last episode of the second season -- and blah, a flashback episode, guess they were short on money -- but made up for everything with the dialogue ("Ah, Fraser, I could kiss you." "But I thought we were just friends, Ray.").

I'm glad Teddy Kennedy's life is getting a fraction of the attention paid to Michael Jackson's, though I also feel a bit distanced by every single politician and public official seeking publicity by giving a television interview -- not sure I believe all these tearful tributes -- I just wish the senator was going to be around to fight for health care reform the way he fought for civil rights and equal treatment of women.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Greetings from the Outer Banks 3

After another morning at the beach at high tide -- good waves, kids on boogie boards, lots of shore birds -- we went to Roanoke Island Festival Park, which offers a comprehensive history of the island and the maritime aspects of North Carolina. Our first stop was the Elizabeth II, modeled after the Elizabeth that sailed in the 1585 expedition from England and built in George Washington Creef Memorial Park adjacent to the North Carolina Maritime Museum on Roanoke Island. The ship has a crew of reenactors who talked about life during the crossing (and who revealed that the ship was given a modern head after an unfortunate visit by a Coast Guard inspector). Then we went to the settlement site, where we got to play 17th century games, try our hand at woodworking, and talk to the blacksmith -- a woman who ran away disguised as a man.

We went to see The Legend of Two Path, a film produced for the park by the North Carolina School of the Arts about the effects of the arrival of the English on the local Algonquian tribes, then went to the museum which traces the history of the region from the English exploration through the Age of Sail, Civil War, and more recent history as a center of hunting, fishing, and commerce. The museum offered few comments about what might have happened to Virginia Dare and the rest of the 1587 colonists -- most of the historical artifacts were from Raleigh's first expedition and from later development under Charles I and II. Outside the museum is a fossil pit with local shells and shark's teeth, though we found more ourselves at the beach in the late afternoon at low tide after visiting the North Carolina Maritime Museum and before going to Pigman's Bar-B-Que for dinner.

The Elizabeth II docked at Roanoke Island Festival Park, seen from the boardwalk to Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse.

Here are my kids aboard the ship, where they got to turn the capstan, play with dominoes, and see the rats eating the captain's food.

This is the Silver Chalice, the Elizabeth II's boat.

One of the colonists in the settlement sharpens a blade. There were costumes for visitors to try on as well -- like a Renfaire without the high-end velvets and royal armor.

Daniel tries woodworking while Paul watches.

The blacksmith is the seventh child of a German father and British mother and passed as a boy to find work.

My kids relaxed in front of the museum, which has a partial recreation of a Native American village and several local ship models.

Later, from the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, we witnessed a band of scurvy pirates attacking a salty dawg with water cannons.

We watched this week's Warehouse 13 while the kids got organized for the evening -- nice performances, ridiculous storyline, and how come crazy women are always revealed by their wicked sexpot ways? But I still like the characters, so apparently we are still watching! Then we watched a special on the Great Lakes and the salt deposits beneath them -- seemed appropriate for being on the ocean. Tomorrow we must go home, however, since both kids have things at school on Thursday even though classes don't officially start till the next week. And so summer ends, woe!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Greetings from the Outer Banks 2

We spent most of Monday at the beach, with a break after lunch to go see the Wright Brothers National Memorial on Kill Devil Hill and the exhibits around it. The tide was very high in the morning, with good-sized waves splashing up the beach almost to the dunes. There were dolphins diving on the far side of the big breakers, and pelicans, gulls, plovers and sandpipers flying over the waves and looking for food on the beach. It wasn't outrageously hot, maybe mid-80s, and we took a quick swim in the hotel pool before we came in for lunch.

Here are our kids at the Wright Brothers National Memorial...

...and for contrast, here is a photo of them in the same spot in 2002.

This is the actual spot from which Orville Wright took off in December 1903 (and here is a photo of him visiting this marker with a senator and Amelia Earhart).

The Wright Brothers' final flight that day came down on this spot.

Here are my kids atop the memorial, completed in 1932.

The national park building on the site has a model of the first flight...

...recreated in bronze by sculptor Stephen H. Smith for the 100th anniversary in 2003.

Crowds of geese as well as tourists enjoyed the afternoon at the park.

We went back to the beach in the late afternoon for a couple of hours, at low tide when there were big beds of shells and pebbles exposed and when the water was calm enough for Adam to spend lots of time on a boogie board. Daniel dug a deep hole in the sand and uncovered a ghost crab, which pinched him when he tried to pick it up. We went out for very good seafood at Mako Mike's (blackened tuna, grilled salmon, Crab Norfolk, stuffed flounder, shrimp and a tank with live little sharks). Then we took a walk on the beach with flashlights to see ghost crabs in a better mood -- they still ran away quickly, but there were more of them!