Saturday, October 31, 2009

Poem for Saturday

I Went To Heaven
By Emily Dickinson

Part Four: Time and Eternity

I went to heaven,—
T'was a small town,
Lit with a ruby,
Lathed with down.
Stiller than the fields
At the full dew,
Beautiful as pictures
No man drew.
People like the moth,
Of mechlin, frames,
Duties of gossamer,
And eider names.
Almost contented
I could be
'Mong such unique


Poem for Cidercupcakes in honor of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date."

This is going to be an all-fannish entry, so if fannish is not your thing, you may want to move along. I wrote a review of Next Gen's "Cost of Living" -- which I love, though if you can't stand Lwaxana Troi, you'd be forgiven for not feeling the same -- while waiting for the second segment of "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith" to air. When my family got home, we watched both parts, and I love that episode even more, right from the start, when Mr. Smith and K-9 get jealous of each other's abilities and start competing. Spoilers: When I first heard the episode title, I predicted that Sarah Jane's husband was either going to be an alien villain in disguise or that he was going to be an innocent pawn who would nobly sacrifice himself for her sake, and I'm very glad it was the latter; it was more like the Doctor having to let River Song die, made both Sarah Jane and Peter Dalton stronger characters, and was touching if, well, predictable.

I laughed a lot too, and just as much during the first half, while Luke, Rani and Clyde were joking that they didn't want to have to watch grownups kiss in public (I loved Sarah Jane saying "Cheek!" when Luke said he didn't know people her age did those things). Having just watched the aforementioned Buffy episode "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date," I found it amusing as well as sad that Sarah Jane has the same problems with dating that Buffy does; how do you tell your boyfriend about your job, or hide it from him, without making him flee? Of course, none of the kids would have recognized the stuttering TARDIS sounds as such but I expected more alarm from everyone, not just Clyde, when Sarah Jane orders Mr. Smith to shut down completely right after detecting the anomaly. The whole idea that she needs someone reliable, she doesn't even know where to send the Doctor an invitation -- as if he'd come purely to be happy for her, and not to save the world -- that makes me sad. I actually prefer her relationship with Clyde! Though I did snicker at Clyde's line about hoping the Doctor is as good as Sarah Jane says, and the Doctor's reply that journalists are always exaggerating but he is pretty amazing. Also Rani telling the Doctor to call her Sarah Jane rather than Sarah and his reaction...hee!

Not sure about the whole "there's nothing outside" from either a sci-fi or visual standpoint; it was hard to look at the screen at times, particularly when Sarah Jane, silhouetted in painfully bright light, talks to Peter about his "angel" and suspects he was using the red kryptonite ring to manipulate her (I am very glad she accepts the proposal before she puts on the ring, otherwise there would be very icky consent issues since they apparently were together for two weeks afterward). But you'd think the Pantheon of Discord would know that Sarah Jane is not so easily tempted by now, and would never fall for a man who isn't strong enough to do the right thing once he understands what it is, that he's already's very much like Rose's father, living up to his greatest potential for love and duty just as he realizes he has to die. I bristle at Clyde deciding he needs to go fight the Trickster because "it's what Sarah Jane would do, it's what the Doctor taught her" -- all right, but she learned from plenty of other people too, and Peter has learned enough from her to do what he knows she would do.

The Doctor's implication when he finds her, I think, is that ultimately Sarah Jane is more important to protecting Earth than he is himself, talking about the things she's going to do. When she asks if this is the last time she'll see him and he says he hopes not, I assume that means he knows that the until-now Doctor does not see her again in her future...does "don't forget me" mean him, Ten, his current incarnation, or is he actually sort of jealous of his previous self and possible future self? It's a nice conundrum. I mean, Peter doesn't deserve Sarah Jane, but really I don't think the Doctor does either. And I'm really glad Peter loved her and made her realize she could have a happy love life with someone, just not him -- more Martha, less Rose, without the violent erasure that Donna got. Anyway, I was completely satisfied with this episode, and wish Torchwood would take some cues from Sarah Jane.

Painted pumpkins in the store at Jumbo's Pumpkin Patch.

In addition to pumpkins, a variety of gourds are sold there.

Plus there are Halloween decorations for sale, including witches...

...and painted gourds designed to serve as birdhouses.

The pumpkins at Jumbo's were so picked over, though, that we got ours from this small local market.

They sell excellent corn and vegetables all summer, and, at this time of year, many varieties of apple, all locally grown.

A cool spring and lots of rain during the growing season made this a tough year for pumpkins -- there are plenty of big ones, but a lot of them aren't fully orange.

Still, there's plenty that can be done to make a less-than-perfect pumpkin festive!

The Friday Five: Memory and Desire
1. What is your happiest memory?
Being at Stonehenge for the first time with my family.
2. What is the most important life lesson you've learned? Being poor sucks, but wealth is no guarantee of happiness.
3. What is the most difficult decision you've had to make? Whether to drop out of grad school.
4. What is the best thing about your life? My kids.
5. What is the biggest challenging you're facing right now? Finding a job that's enough hours doing something I actually want to do.

Fannish 5: Five favorite fannish Halloween costumes - that you have worn, or seen someone else wear. My tastes are simple and I am easily impressed.
1. Yoda from Star Wars, which I wore in college (it was a cheap storebought one, but I was short enough to pull it off better than most adults, heh).
2. Pikachu from Pokemon, worn by older son.
3. Harry Potter from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, worn by older son (who did not then need glasses, so he had fake costume glasses).
4. Bele from Star Trek, worn by Paul (created with black and white face makeup plus a neutral-color turtleneck and trousers).
5. Jim Morrison, whom my friend Suzy's then-boyfriend agreed to dress as because she had a total fetish (we're talking hundreds of old magazine photos taped inside her closet door). He didn't look much like Jim, but he must really have loved her to agree to try.

My parents are home from California but my father is sick, so we didn't have dinner with them; instead Paul made apple and cheddar strata with chicken in mushroom sauce, both of which were fabulous. Then we watched Smallville, which I didn't think was such a great episode -- it's like they can't figure out what to do with Oliver from week to week, though Tess is awesome and I love her. Spoiler: But I forgive everything, even the stupid Good Morning Metropolis storyline, for the last few seconds when Clark and Lois finally kiss, though this is so much earlier in the season than I was expecting for that that I am now worried how many stupid ways they'll be split up in future episodes a la Clark and Lana. Then we watched Sanctuary, which also had some silliness, but also had awesome women -- I always love Magnus, and go Kate! (I don't think Magnus is fooled by her for a second, which is part of the fun.) Spoiler: Also, any episode in which a geek gives the Live Long and Prosper hand gesture to misunderstood alien creatures before becoming a successful comic book writer gets bonus points from me.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Poem for Friday

The Pope's Penis
By Sharon Olds

It hangs deep in his robes, a delicate
clapper at the center of a bell.
It moves when he moves, a ghostly fish in a
halo of silver seaweed, the hair
swaying in the dark and the heat-and at night,
while his eyes sleep, it stands up
in praise of God.


I spent a delightful afternoon with , who forgave me for not having anything exciting to feed her and brought Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons one and five. First we had to get my irritable DVD player working; it had decided it was a Region 2 player, and rejected all my professional discs with a "Wrong Region" warning, requiring that the machine be restored to factory settings -- something not easy to learn from the minimal manual. But we figured it out, and then we watched "Teacher's Pet" and "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date" (which I had not seen before, never having watched the first season), plus "Checkpoint" (which I had seen, but it's one of the best ever, with the Council of Watchers and Glory and how Buffy lays the smackdown on everyone and how Giles adoring her).

A turkey stealing food from a calf in a barn at South Mountain Creamery.

Since it was Fall Harvest Celebration weekend, there were cheese samples...

...and containers of cream to be shaken by hand to make take-home servings of butter.

A singer was performing in the large barn...

...where there were also ice cream samples, farm toys, and historic farm equipment.

This calf was only a couple of weeks old. You can see some of the adult cows behind her, outside near the dairy delivery trucks.

These two calves were sharing a stall, and a water bucket.

Alpacas don't live at South Mountain Creamery, but these (plus yarn made from their wool) were visiting from a nearby farm.

I am liking FlashForward a lot, though I feel like that could turn on a dime if they killed off the wrong character in the wrong way or just screwed around and dragged things out too long. Right now the pacing is terrific and I like all the characters; I like that the men are as focused on their relationships as the women, and the women as focused on their careers as the men, and it's a reasonably diverse cast without too many obvious stereotypes. I particularly love Janis (the actress who plays her is terrific too), and I really like the Mark/Olivia/Lloyd triangle complicated by Dylan and Charlie's obvious's messy and interesting and Lloyd obviously has all sorts of secrets much worse than the ones Mark is keeping from Olivia, so she's contemplating leaving one man she can't trust for one with with bigger skeletons in his closet.

I can't say that I enjoyed the World Series tonight, but a lot can happen in Philadelphia!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poem for Thursday

The Freshness
By Jalaluddin Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

When it's cold and raining,
you are more beautiful.

And the snow brings me
even closer to your lips.

The inner secret, that which was never born,
you are that freshness, and I am with you now.

I can't explain the goings,
or the comings. You enter suddenly,

and I am nowhere again.
Inside the majesty.


I don't have a great deal to report other than my delight at seeing President Obama sign the inclusive hate crimes bill into law -- the first time a federal measure has protected GLBT rights along with the rights of other citizens. Now if only he would keep his campaign promise to overturn Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I will feel better about him despite his backtracking on health care and Afghanistan -- it isn't as if Americans hadn't been explicitly told that he intended to overturn it when we elected him, he said so several times -- no one can complain he turned out to be a secret liberal! I had a nice afternoon in that there were three white-tail deer walking in the woods at the same time I was, and I wasted far too much time in the late afternoon and evening setting up a Superpoke Pets club, then inviting people and explaining clubs to them since Superpoke didn't bother to do so before having them go live (and promptly crashing a bunch of other things). I think I may have irritated a couple of people by making Adam an officer, but he wanted an officer badge, and what's a mother to do?

Me and my kids enjoying the fall color on High Knob at Gambrill State Park last weekend.

The tea house at the summit of High Knob can be rented out for weddings and other events at Gambrill.

This was the view from the overlook facing Middletown and South Mountain.

The color was even more amazing on South Mountain itself, looking down from the Washington Monument.

The color on this tree was already past peak at that elevation when I took this photo of Paul and our kids.

The approach to the monument follows the Appalachian Trail where it crosses through Washington Monument State Park.

This tree was in the parking lot by the picnic table where we ate lunch.

And the foliage all around was equally spectacular.

We watched the World Series until Eastwick, and it was a happy couple of hours indeed...if the entire series goes this way, I will cease complaining about anything the Redskins do this season (I know I said I wasn't rooting for the Redskins till they changed their name, but I simply cannot root for Dallas or the Giants, and now that Michael Vick is on the Eagles, I would prefer the Cowboys in a crunch...the entire division makes me barf). I adored Eastwick this week -- an entire episode about female bonding in which men and what they want are secondary, particularly so far as Kat is concerned -- I am loving her character lately. Spoilers: I still can't warm to Joanna, she seems fundamentally selfish to me in a way that Roxie and Kat are not; her interest in exposing Darrell is not to protect the town but to become a celebrity news person. And yet she is intelligent enough to get Kat: "Will doesn't really know me...he certainly doesn't love on the other hand walked through fire for me, if that isn't love I don't know what is." That's a lovely, lovely scene, and makes it easy to leave the bad witch/pagan stuff to the side.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Poem for Wednesday

My Great-Grandmother's Bible
By Spencer Reece

Faux-leather bound and thick as an onion, it flakes—
an heirloom from Iowa my dead often read.
I open the black flap to speak the "spake"s
and quickly lose track of who wed, who bred.
She taped our family register as it tore,
her hand stuttering like a sewing machine,
darning the blanks with farmers gone before—
Inez, Alvah, Delbert, Ermadean.
Our undistinguished line she pressed in the heft
between the Testaments, with spaces to spare,
smudged with mistakes or tears; her fingers left
a mounting watchfulness I find hard to bear.
When I saw the AIDS quilt, spread out in acres,
it was stitched with similar scripts by similar makers.


Another from this week's New Yorker.

I have absolutely nothing worth reporting -- it rained all day, I had a bit of a headache though managed to stave off a migraine, I did lots of dumb organization things and started playing around with holiday card ideas that I ended up scrapping because I didn't really love any of them -- does anyone have any brilliant suggestions for a holiday/New Year card with a Southern/New Orleans theme, preferably with some fannish tie-in that works for both the locale and the holidays?

A view of fall foliage through the Civil War Correspondents Arch at Gathland State Park.

Gathland was the home of Civil War journalist George Alfred Townsend, built in Crampton's Gap, where William B. Franklin's Union corps fought Howell Cobb's Confederate force during the Battle of South Mountain.

This is the lodge where GATH (as Townsend signed his work) often had breakfast; the building above is the mansion.

These ruins are all that is left of GATH's library.

His books, however, have survived, and some remain in print. The Limoges candy dish was part of a set with the Gapland logo (as it was then known) in gold.

The museum has family photos as well, plus letters from Townsend to various colleagues and friends.

The War Correspondents Arch is the most famous structure at Gathland now. The Appalachian Trail crosses directly in front of it.

There are several memorials, national and state Civil War Trails signs, and descriptive markers around the barn ruins (at left), the memorial arch (at right), and the mansion (directly behind me as I took the photo).

Since we have no Tuesday night chill-out show -- maybe when V premieres, if it doesn't suck -- we watched the second episode of the second season of Merlin, "The Once and Future Queen." I liked it much better than the season premiere despite an ongoing shortage of Morgana, who better get lots of screen time in upcoming episodes; I love Gwen, though, so I was happy to see her get so much attention, and I love that she'll tell off Arthur without any concern about their relative social positions. I don't think they have any chemistry -- she has lots more with Lancelot, and Merlin, for that matter -- but chemistry isn't exactly what Arthur/Guinevere is known for, anyway, though I am wondering how that will work on this series, since Arthur clearly won't be marrying the daughter of King Leodegrance if he ends up marrying Gwen.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Poem for Tuesday

Letter to Tsvetaeva
By Nina Zivancevic
Translated by Charles Simic

Ah, now our time has come, Marina.
You visit me at night while I sit alone
with a glass of wine in hand
—you who do not need a key—
for you the most secret door of my room
is always open:
abandoned by our mothers,
we both loved children and poetry,
and hated Paris and poverty,
wearing the one and only dirty dress,
we kept clear of landlords and cops.
We both had blue eyes, many lovers,
and the incapacity to live with anyone.
Ah, I almost forgot: our fathers, too,
had similar jobs—they occupied themselves
with museums and art . . .
Still, I got angry yesterday
when someone called me Marina . . .
I'm neither important nor odd enough
to send daily reports to Beria . . .
How furious I was that you hanged yourself!
What courage, what a double cross, what a lie,
what a betrayal of poetry . . .
Marina, I'm a child as you can see,
about you and life I really know nothing.


From this week's New Yorker.

It was a busy yet unexciting day -- many dozen photos cropped, color-corrected and otherwise manipulated, three loads of laundry washed, sorted and folded, two packages wrapped, addressed and taken to the post office, one long walk enjoyed since the weather was gorgeous, things like that. I tried to read the news but between not being able to figure out who's standing where on the public health care option, not seeing what the problem is if there's no McDonalds in Iceland and not being happy with the direction of Change We Can Believe In, I decided to let Adam try to explain Spore to me instead -- which was probably an even bigger mistake! I did refrain from buying my penguin Tarot cards, which I consider an accomplishment -- I did not refrain from buying myself Tarot cards with my $5 plus 30% off coupon at Borders over the weekend.

Piggies enjoying pumkpins at Jumbo's Pumpkin Patch on Sunday.

There was a petting zoo that included these sheep...

...and some small round goats and chickens, who were sharing a pen.

It is rare for me to think that a cow is particularly pretty -- usually I just think they're adorable, if they're clean -- but this one had unusual markings and was really quite beautiful.

Adam got to pet another calf as well as several at South Mountain Creamery earlier in the day.

Smaller children could have pony rides at Jumbo's.

Here are my kids surrounded by a very few of the pumpkins for sale there.

I'm not sure what kind of squash these are -- I don't think I've ever eated one -- but they were my favorites in the "weird pumpkins" patch!

After dinner (tuna pomodoro, mmm) we watched last week's two-part Sarah Jane Adventures episode, "The Mad Woman in the Attic," which despite being a reset-button episode was very enjoyable -- more so than the season premiere, I thought. Spoilers: I love that everyone still thinks about and talks to Maria even if she's not appearing and Rani resents how much attention she gets (are we to understand from the alternate future-forward at the end that Rani marries Luke and they go visit Maria in America?). I love the seaside resort, which reminds me of the one we visited in Plymouth a few years ago; younger son won a free game of miniature golf there, and still has the token to go back and use. I didn't mind Sarah Jane's expected speech about friends being all you need -- it reminded me of Lisa Moscatiello's song "In the Here and Now" (which, really, could be my theme song for Sarah Jane, and I'd make a songvid if I made songvids). I particularly love the flashbacks with previous Doctors, even alongside the prediction of Ten returning when such predictions always turn out to mean bad news in Whoverse.

Then we watched Heroes, which is like three different shows as it follows three different storylines, and as has been happening for the past two seasons for me, it feels so disjointed that I have trouble having any overall positive feeling. Spoilers: I am very, very tired of the Sylar-in-Matt's-head storyline, I don't think Greg Grunberg is a good enough actor to play it really well, of course they wrote Janice preferring Sylar in bed to Matt, it all feels vaguely icky and badly done. Whereas now that they got their gratuitous lesbian kissing out of the way, I actually really like Claire's uncertainty with Gretchen, which makes sense to me for someone who's been through what she has (and I'd sort of forgotten about the fact that she's a virgin). I'm wary of it because I have no confidence that these writers will do anything besides exploit the whole two-college-girls-together thing, but I appreciate how it was handled this week. As for HRG and Tracy, Ali Larter and Jack Coleman are two of my favorite actors in the franchise, but they seem to be floundering for things to do with them, and I only felt badly up to a point for the boy who can't help killing people...he could so easily have grown up to be Sylar.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Poem for Monday

By Thomas Lynch

One of these days she will lie there and be dead.
I'll take her out back in a garbage bag
and bury her among my sons' canaries,
the ill-fated turtles, a pair of angelfish:
the tragic and mannerly household pests
that had the better sense to take their leaves
before their welcomes and my patience had worn thin.
For twelve long years I've suffered this damned cat
while Mike, my darling middle son, himself
twelve years this coming May, has grown into
the tender if quick-tempered manchild
his breeding blessed and cursed him to become.
And only his affection keeps this cat alive
though more than once I've threatened violence -
the brick and burlap in the river recompense
for mounds of furballs littering the house,
choking the vacuum cleaner, or what's worse:
shit in the closets, piss in the planters, mice
that winter indoors safely as she sleeps
curled about a table leg, vigilant
as any knickknack in a partial coma.
But Mike, of course, is blind to all of it -
the gray angora breed of arrogance,
the sluttish roar, the way she disappears for days
sex-desperate once or twice a year,
urgently ripping her way out the screen door
to have her way with anything that moves
while Mike sits up with tuna fish and worry,
crying into the darkness, "Here kitty kitty,"
mindless of her whorish treacheries
or of her crimes against upholsteries -
the sofas, love seats, wingbacks, easy chairs
she's puked and mauled into dilapidation.
I have this reoccurring dream of driving her
deep into the desert east of town
and dumping her out there with a few days' feed
and water. In the dream, she's always found
by kindly tribespeople who eat her kind
on certain holy days as a form of penance.
God knows, I don't know what he sees in her.
Sometimes he holds her like a child in his arms
rubbing her underside until she sounds
like one of those battery powered vibrators
folks claim to use for the ache in their shoulders.
And under Mike's protection she will fix her
indolent green-eyed gaze on me as if
to say: Whaddaya gonna do about it, Slick,
the child loves me and you love the child.
Truth told, I really ought to have her fixed
in the old way with an airtight alibi,
a bag of Redi-mix and no eyewitnesses.
But one of these days she will lie there and be dead.
And choking back loud hallelujahs, I'll pretend
a brief bereavement for my Michael's sake,
letting him think as he has often said
"Deep down inside you really love her don't you Dad?"
I'll even hold some cheerful obsequies
careful to observe God's never-failing care
for even these, the least of His creatures,
making some mention of a cat-heaven where
cat-ashes to ashes, cat-dust to dust
and the Lord gives and the Lord has taken away.
Thus claiming my innocence to the end,
I'll turn Mike homeward from that wicked little grave
and if he asks, we'll get another one because
all boys need practice in the arts of love
and all boys' aging fathers in the arts of rage.


We had a perfect autumn day -- temperatures in the low 60s, sky brilliant blue with a few wispy clouds -- for our annual fall foliage tour of Frederick County parks, Middletown shops, and pumpkin patches. We went first to Gambrill State Park, then stopped at the Snallygaster before heading to Washington Monument State Park, where we had a picnic before climbing to the tower. Then we went to Gathland State Park, where we visited the museum, which isn't always open, before heading to South Mountain Creamery, which was having a festival with visiting animals and food samples since last weekend's Frederick Festival of the Farm was largely rained out.

We saw more animals at the petting zoo at Jumbo's Pumpkin Patch as well as deer grazing in the nearby woods, but the pumpkins themselves looked so picked-over at this point in the season that we ended up stopping for a pumpkin at a farm stand closer to home that always has large, nice-looking fruit. We came home for a late dinner as it was getting dark, so it was a long afternoon, and I will let the photos tell the story:

My kids climbing on the rocks at Gambrill State Park atop High Knob, which offers excellent views of South Mountain.

This is the garter snake that Adam found sunning itself up on the rocks.

The Washington Monument of Washington County, seen here from the field of boulders below...

...was playing host to thousands of stink bugs, as were the buildings in Gathland State Park.

The leaves around the ruins at Crampton's Gap (were Gathland is located) were spectacular.

South Mountain Creamery was having a festival with other local farms, including one that raised these alpacas and others that provided many of the food samples at the tents.

This calf was born the day before yesterday. It tried to nurse on my hand, my arm, my shirt, my hip, and everything else that came within range of its mouth.

At Jumbo's we got to pet calves as well, plus goats and sheep, and Adam got to balance a pumpkin on his head.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Poem for Sunday

Refusing at Fifty-Two to Write Sonnets
By Thomas Lynch

It came to him that he could nearly count
How many Octobers he had left to him
In increments of ten or, say, eleven
Thus: sixty-three, seventy-four, eighty-five.
He couldn't see himself at ninety-six --
Humanity's advances notwithstanding
In health-care, self-help, or new-age regimens --
What with his habits and family history,
The end, he thought, is nearer than you think.

The future, thus confined to its contingencies,
The present moment opens like a gift:
The balding month, the grey week, the blue morning,
The hour's routine, the minute's passing glance --
All seem like godsends now. And what to make of this?
At the end the word that comes to him is Thanks.


"My mother was buried on All Hallows Eve, 20 years gone now...her death at 65, 11 days after my 41st birthday that October, along with the routines of leaf-fall and withering, have always conspired with the liturgical calendar to make All Saints and All Souls a memento mori for me -- a time of year when I contemplate the dull math of time and mortality and their opposites," writes Lynch in Poet's Choice. "So much of poetry depends on such counting and calculation, figuring and refiguring the stressed and unstressed syllabics of language, the iambics of our heartbeats and heartbreaks." Lynch adds that he used to write sonnets on each birthday "to keep track of time, its confines and limitations, its reoccurring themes -- how every end has a beginning in it: this October giving way to that November. The older we get, the less pressing the past and future become...the older we get, likewise, the less we seem to count. Which accounts, I suppose, for the title of this 15-line poem."

Since it was a rainy, gloomy day, we went out after younger son got home from Hebrew school volunteering and lunch to see Amelia. I knew the film had received mixed-to-poor reviews, though I stopped reading after a few because they all seemed to have the same complaint -- that the movie was a pretty straightforward biography, that it was a bit too reverent and didn't seem spontaneous enough, despite a cast including Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, and Christopher Eccleston. I wasn't thrilled to learn that the movie was based largely on Susan Butler's not-the-greatest biography, yet I must confess that those reviews actually encouraged me far more than if the critics were gushing about what an avant-garde retelling of Earhart's life it was or what unexpected titillating details were included.

Spoilers: No, she wasn't conventional, but risk-taking in biopics often means a disservice to the subject, and I really didn't want a Marie Antoinette-style view of Earhart as fashion icon and sexpot, though her biographers always go on about her clothing line and her extramarital relationships. Mira Nair sticks very close to Earhart's own writings -- a lot of the film's dialogue is based on her books and letters, which sometimes gives it a rather formal quality, though Earhart supposedly was fairly reserved once she became famous, aware that people were hanging on her every word even when she was trying to have private conversations. There aren't any big revelations; her life and her disappearance have been meticulously chronicled, so that even people who aren't remotely interested in aviation or feminism know who she was, what she did, and how she vanished. There's a sweet scene between her and the child Gore Vidal, based on Vidal's own recollections of her and a bit of embellishment for storytelling -- even people who knew her personally as he did seem to have idolized her in recollection. It's little wonder that the film tends toward reverence toward its subject.

I think the compulsion to structure the film as a love story between Earhart and her husband George Putnam puts some reins on the storytelling -- the discretion in filming her affairs ends up making them look not as passionate as I hope they were -- but if she'd been having wild sex with Fred Noonan the night before their plane disappeared, that would have irritated me much more. No one can be sure of the details of Earhart's love life -- in Nair's version, she sleeps with Gene Vidal but not Noonan, though the latter quite often becomes her lover in fiction about Earhart, I think because it's preferable to believe that she ran away to find happiness with Fred than that they died shouting at each other about whose fault it was they couldn't reach Howland Island. Earhart almost certainly wasn't a virgin when she met Putnam -- she was engaged to someone else who does not appear in this film -- but there's no evidence that she and Vidal were involved beyond his son's belief (maybe hope) that they were. She did write that she did not intend to hold Putnam to any medieval code of fidelity, nor would she consider herself so bound, but exactly what that meant in terms of how they conducted their private lives was well protected by those close to them.

There have already been biopics about Isak Dinesen, Howard Hughes, and other people whom I don't think are nearly as interesting as Earhart but whose filmed scenes of flying over Africa, surviving a plane crash, etc. are so famous that although Earhart was a pioneer, the film itself doesn't feel like it covers new ground. (That wouldn't necessarily have bothered Earhart, who didn't complain about losing races to other women since any triumph for a woman aviator made it easier for others to fly; she wanted to win in large part because she had to remain famous and successful in order to get the funds to keep flying.) Maybe for someone who isn't an Earhart fan or who didn't like Out of Africa or The Aviator, the familiar soaring-music-and-sweeping-cinematography combination might be more of an annoyance. I'm not particularly a Hilary Swank fan -- I think she's talented but some of her film choices haven't been things I've wanted to see at all -- and Gere has been hit-and-miss for me too, so I'm really pretty unbiased toward the actors when I say they nailed the characters. Eccleston has perhaps the hardest role -- not a lot of dialogue -- and although his accent is slightly less convincing than McGregor's when he does speak, I think his performance is a lot more memorable.

Here in honor of the film are photos I've posted before but feel like posting again of Earhart's Lockheed Vega at the National Air & Space Museum.

Earhart's Lockheed Vega, sold to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in June 1933 and displayed there until it was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in September 1966.

You can see the manufacturer mark on the tail. This plane (well, the same model) appears in Amelia.

Earhart flew this plane on several of her historic flights, including the Hawaii-California flight that she was the first to achieve.

A model of the Electra in which Earhart and Noonan disappeared during their attempt to fly around the world.

Earhart's trophy chest at the Air & Space Museum.

Earhart's flight jacket is at the museum's Udvar-Hazy Center (which was having the annual Halloween Air & Scare tonight, but sadly I think my kids are too old, or rather they do).

These scissors are at Udvar-Hazy as well.

Otherwise, I finished my review of "The First Duty", and we watched two episodes of Due South -- the sublime "The Ladies Man" (I love passionately anti-death-penalty TV shows, and okay, Ray K is awesome) and the ridiculous "Mojo Rising." The weather has finally cleared up, so Sunday we are doing our annual tour of South Mountain fall foliage at the state parks!