Thursday, December 31, 2009

Poem for Thursday

The Things
By Donald Hall

When I walk in my house I see pictures,
bought long ago, framed and hanging
—de Kooning, Arp, Laurencin, Henry Moore—
that I've cherished and stared at for years,
yet my eyes keep returning to the masters
of the trivial: a white stone perfectly round,
tiny lead models of baseball players, a cowbell,
a broken great-grandmother's rocker,
a dead dog's toy—valueless, unforgettable
detritus that my children will throw away
as I did my mother's souvenirs of trips
with my dead father, Kodaks of kittens,
and bundles of cards from her mother Kate.


Another from this week's New Yorker. (Hall was married for over 20 years to the poet Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995, and his past several books have been about coming to terms with that loss.)

We thought about going to the zoo on Wednesday to see the pandas -- something we will not be able to do for much longer, since Tai Shan is going to China early next year and his parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, may follow soon after, since their lease is ending -- but it was very cold and I had to get up very early to have a fasting blood test, so we ended up deciding instead to go have my belated birthday lunch. The Indian buffet at Minerva is the best thing ever, and even though I ate lots of things I am sure would get me in trouble with my doctor if she knew -- good thing I had the blood tests before the food -- but it was worth it for the chicken korma and fish curry and tikka masala and til ke aloo and gajar halva (one of the few forms in which I really like carrots). Mmmmm! We also stopped at Home Depot to by snow shovels, which the weather forecasters have been warning us all day that we may need in the next 48 hours, and at Borders, where I used a holiday gift card to get a book on the art of Avatar.

I had long conversations about Avatar with several Facebook friends, including a couple of academics, who really loved the movie, which was nice because I'm still on a movie high. I can tell when a film or TV episode has really impressed me because it distracts me from exercising -- I HATE exercising, whether it's the treadmill or swimming or dance or what have you, there has never been music or TV or anything that can make me forget how much I hate it for more than a couple of minutes unless my form of exercise for the day is something like hiking up Glastonbury Tor, but when my brain is fully engaged thinking about something, that alone can make me forget my loathing of exercise, and for the past two days, I've had Avatar bliss. If it's not your thing, I can certainly respect that -- I hated the very popular Iron Man, it was one of the most offensive films I've ever seen -- but if you're not seeing Avatar only because you think you're not supposed to like it, please do yourself a favor and see the film.

A glimpse inside George Washington's ice house at Mount Vernon, built into the hillside behind the mansion sloping down to the river.

Normally the door is locked to visitors, but since the location played a role in National Treasure: Book of Secrets, it is opened for the behind-the-scenes tours.

Though this door looks similar, it's actually George Washington's original tomb, along with more than 20 other family members...

...until they were all moved into the newer tomb built in the 1830s as specified in Washington's will. He and Martha Washington's remains are in the visible sarcophagi, while the rest of the family is behind the black grate at the rear.

No visit to Mount Vernon is complete without visiting the farm animals, including the Ossabaw Island hogs...

...and the Hog Island sheep, both rare breeds dating to the 17th and 18th century.

This bluejay decided to listen in on our tour when we walked down by the river.

Chocolate-making demonstrations, which we used to see only in the summers at the 18th Century fair, are now year-round -- with free samples, and more for sale in the gift shop!

In the evening we watched the last scheduled episode of Eastwick, since ABC skipped the episode that would have shown us Jamie's fate and how all three women survived what appeared to be certain death a couple of weeks ago -- I can't figure out if they thought they were doing a nice thing and ending the run with an episode that has a sort of resolution, or whether they were doing a nasty thing and trying to make us by the DVD set. "Magic Snow and Creepy Gene" is one of my favorite episodes despite the giant plot holes left by the preemption of the previous episode; I loved the glimpse of Eastwick's maritime museum, I'm finally really liking Joanna, I'm highly amused they had Rebecca Romjin's husband join the show during the episode where she finally got some serious lip-locking time with Paul Gross. And I love love love that her character dumps his for her girlfriends: "You're my muse, but so are they." It's a lovely note as an end to the sadly abbreviated series. As Joanna said, "I'm so happy I have to pee." Oh, and congratulations to Patrick Stewart on his imminent knighthood.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lyrics for Wednesday

Thunder Road
By Bruce Springsteen

The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again
I just can't face myself alone again.
Don't run back inside, darling
You know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking
That maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty, but hey you're all right
Oh and that's all right with me

You can hide 'neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets
Well now I'm no hero
That's understood
All the redemption I can offer
Is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey, what else can we do now

Except roll down the window
And let the wind blow back your hair
Well the night's busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back
Heaven's waiting on down the tracks
Oh, oh come take my hand
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh, oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey, I know it's late, we can make it if we run
Oh Thunder Road, sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road

Well I got this guitar
And I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back
If you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride it ain't free
And I know you're lonely
For words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free
All the promises'll be broken

There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of their burned out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch
They're gone on the wind
So Mary climb in
It's a town full of losers
And I'm pulling out of here to win.


Lyrics because we just ended the evening watching the Kennedy Center Honors show, where I got to hear Melissa Etheridge and Sting sing Springsteen songs, and Jon Stewart explain growing up in New Jersey, and dozens of wonderful actors perform Mel Brooks material, and various other lovely moments, the funniest of which may have been Ben Stiller interrupting his tribute to Robert De Niro first to call Springsteen a god, then to look at Obama next to him and say, "Hey, it's the Nobel guy!" Before that, we had dinner with my parents since they're spending New Year's Eve with my sister's family -- crab cakes and noodle kugel, plus my mother-in-law's holiday cookies for dessert.

And before that, we saw Avatar. I know it is unpopular to declare unabashed adoration for this movie, so I am just going to come out and say this: the last time I had such a strong emotional reaction to a movie from start to finish, I was in elementary school and the movie was Star Wars. I understand why people have problems with some of the racial and ethnic issues in the film, which remind me of similar storylines in many other films, and I can see where someone could be bothered by the choices of a partially paralyzed character, though I think it's very specific to the person rather than any sort of blanket statement devaluing people in wheelchairs. That said, I have nothing but good things to say.

Spoilers: Avatar felt to me like a collaboration between Hayao Miyazaki and Peter Jackson, with art direction by Josephine Wall and cinematography by Donald McAlpine (who did both the 2003 Peter Pan and Paul Mazursky's Tempest), plus input from Darren Aronofsky and Ang Lee. The early scenes on Pandora are some of the most beautiful ever produced on film -- we saw it in 3D, though not IMAX, and there was never a moment when the visuals distracted me or failed to convince me that I was looking at an alien world. The early scenes in the jungle remind me a bit of Jurassic Park only with fictional creatures instead of extinct ones, and once Jake begins to learn the ways of the Na'vi, they remind me a bit of Lothlorien -- another unreal place that I believed in utterly while seeing it on film.

My other frequent point of reference, believe it or not, was Disney's Pocahontas, which next to Mulan is my favorite Disney film by a long stretch. The scene where Jake meets Neytiri's father, the ancestral tree, the problematic attitude by someone from an imperialist culture toward someone whose people have no interest at all in what his people have to offer them (if you have issues with the distorted history and mumbo-jumbo religion rather than tribal specificity in Pocahontas, I understand, but if you're one of those critics who can't get past the fact that the film characterizes her as an adult woman with breasts and desires, you're depriving yourself of possibly the most well-rounded female character we've had from Disney). There's definitely idealization of and condescension toward the natives in both films, but compared to Pocahontas or, say, Oscar winner Dances With Wolves, there's less emphasis in Avatar on the heroic white man among the people of color -- their world and their knowledge are the heroes here.

Lots of the film feels familiar if you know your Greek and Norse mythology and if you've seen Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, movies based on comic books, etc., you'll be able to tick off many familiar tropes. Some people have called these cliches, but in this film they feel more archetypal than hackneyed to me. Visually, the film never stops offering surprises, and I guessed wrong in several cases about who would live and who would die. I understand that Grace couldn't survive the attempt to move her consciousness into the avatar body because there had to be doubt for Jake as well -- then his decision to give up his human life whether or not he could become a Na'vi has a much bigger impact. I thought Trudy would die flying her helicopter into the shuttle, and I really thought the corporate goon would be killed for his spinelessness. (Okay, I did know Tsu'tey was a goner because he was supposed to marry Neytiri, but I was happy the film sidestepped the predictable hatred between the men after the initial conflict.)

Cameron's films generally have very strong women and this one is no exception. Sigourney Weaver's Grace is wonderful from her first scenes storming into the command center demanding that her project be taken seriously right up to her reaction to being shot ("This is really going to ruin my day"), and although I was a bit afraid Trudy would end up on Jake's side because of unrequited love since that's such a cliche of action movies, I was delighted that she made the choice purely out of ethical concerns. I also appreciated both her unhappiness that becoming a martyr might be an inevitable result of this choice and her courage in the end, when she realized that martyrdom was inevitable and she could only hope to fight for as long as she could.

The battle at the end went on too long for my taste, but it was far less interminable than the one in The Return of the King, which nearly ruined the movie for me yet didn't hurt it at the Oscars. I was in tears during the scene where the Hometree was destroyed -- again, it reminded me of many other things, from The Fountain to Michael Chabon's Summerland to Shel Silverstein to the White Tree of Gondor -- I thought the voice and movement acting in the avatar bodies was exceptional, in fact I think the scene mourning Neytiri's father is the best performance I've seen from Zoe Saldana. So sorry I keep explaining myself and switching tenses -- this isn't meant to be a formal review -- I just really loved the film and am boggled that more people haven't told me it's the must-see of the past few years.

Since I cannot overstate the beauty of the imagery in Avatar, by way of parallel, here are some photos from Longwood Gardens' conservatory decorated for the holiday season, taken on Sunday:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Poem for Tuesday

Only So Much
By Rachel Hadas

I bend to the open notebook; distracted, turn my head.
Tiny brown ants are climbing up a stalk of goldenrod.

It isn't clear what goal they hope to reach.
I pick up a sharpened pencil, start to sketch.

A passing cloud; the sky goes dull. I shut
the notebook and open it from the back, to write.

There is only so much we can notice all at once.
Now this morning's dream makes an appearance:

packed lecture hall where students overflow
to aisles and floor. What do they want to know?

I have the sense they're gathered here to learn
some kind of surgery. The brain donation

card, wallet-size, arrived in this morning's mail.
I close the notebook. The patient ants still crawl.

A sudden breeze: the grasses toss their tops.
Wild strawberry runners are clambering over this rock,

where, if I sat here long enough, eventually
the tough, lithe tendrils would also crisscross me.

I could climb down from my temporary tower,
go to the house and fill a glass with water,

get out my watercolors, dip my brush,
memorialize this moment with a wash

of color; sketch the runners, trace a border,
as if imitation equalled order.

Or I could take a walk down to the brook
or stretch out in the hammock with a book

or let my thoughts' red runners trace a line
to the null magnet of my husband's brain,

the hospital where he's "undergoing observation,"
the arid wide plateau of the condition—

a battleground to which I will return.
But there is room for only so much attention.


From this week's New Yorker.

I had another lovely vacation day -- Paul has the week off, so since we can't afford to travel anywhere exotic, we're doing a bunch of day trips. This morning I went to the mall briefly because the Brighton Collectibles stores are giving away free bracelets with charm purchases and I've been waiting all weekend to get mine. Then we went to Mount Vernon, where we finally got to take the National Treasure tour we've missed numerous other times -- first because we couldn't make online reservations and they were sold out, then because of weather. We've seen the cellar before from the time the estate opened it right after the film came out, but this time we got a guided tour of the cellar and icehouse (both usually locked to the public), plus a walking tour of both the old and new tombs and the riverfront. I learn something new about Washington every time I visit; this time, since we were near the area where he kept his kennels, I learned that he had dogs named Madam Moose and Sweet Lips, and that the area where the pioneer farm has been developed was a swamp before the engineers built a seawall, so the land was selected for the farm on the theory that there were never any buildings or artifacts in what Washington called "the hellhole."

Mount Vernon in gingerbread, designed by a White House pastry chef.

Christmas camel Aladdin, visiting the estate because one year General Washington paid 18 shillings to have a camel at Mount Vernon to entertain his family.

The rear of the mansion, which overlooks the Potomac River. The cellar (where no photos were allowed) is at left with a low red roof.

My kids holding a replica of the tunnel map from National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets left on the property by one of the prop people. We also got to see photos of filming, including actors in tuxedos huddling under blankets to keep warm between takes. It was bitterly cold in the wind today, too.

This swamp chestnut oak tree overlooked the Potomac when Washington inherited the property from his brother, whose initials appear on the famous cornerstone from the cellar in the film. The movie used a pyrotechnic display for the president's birthday which did not make the grounds staff at Mount Vernon happy at all.

Washington's ice house, where slaves brought ice from the river and kept it year-round. In the movie, the secret slave tunnels lead here. In reality the only "tunnel" on the property is for the sump pump.

In the movie, Nicolas Cage swims ashore, leaps over the driftwood, yanks open his wetsuit and waltzes onto the grounds of Mount Vernon carrying a bottle of champagne and two glasses. In reality, he'd have had to hike straight up a bramble-covered hill and climb over a wall designed to help pen livestock.

Christmas trees with ornaments celebrating Washington's life and Mount Vernon's development are on display throughout the holiday season in the visitor center.

We watched the Mount Vernon scenes from National Treasure 2 in the evening before putting on My Neighbor Totoro, which we had reserved at the library and waited till the DVD came back into circulation. I didn't like it quite as much as later Miyazaki, though the Cat Bus is one of my favorite creations of all time -- Rosie as transportation -- and Totoro is pretty adorable too. I like that it's a domestic story focused on the lives of girls, but I really love the big epics with their environmental themes and spectacular imagery. We have just watched the Bears beat the Vikings, which I'm ambivalent about -- I like Favre, but it's fine with me if the Saints win the NFC (and the Super Bowl for that matter).

Monday, December 28, 2009

Poem for Monday

By Stanley Plumly

Some--the ones with fish names--grow so north
they last a month, six weeks at most.
Some others, named for the fields they look like,
last longer, smaller.

And these, in particular, whether trout or corn lily,
onion or bellwort, just cut
this morning and standing open in tapwater in the kitchen,
will close with the sun.

It is June, wildflowers on the table.
They are fresh an hour ago, like sliced lemons,
with the whole day ahead of them.
They could be common mayflower lilies of the valley,

day lilies, or the clustering Canada, large, gold,
long-stemmed as pasture roses, belled out over the vase--
or maybe Solomon's seal, the petals
ranged in small toy pairs

or starry, tipped at the head like weeds.
They could be anonymous as weeds.
They are, in fact, the several names of the same thing,
lilies of the field, butter-and-eggs,

toadflax almost, the way the whites and yellows juxtapose,
and have "the look of flowers that are looked at,"
rooted as they are in water, glass, and air.
I remember the summer I picked everything,

flower and wildflower, singled them out in jars
with a name attached. And when they had dried as stubborn
as paper I put them on pages and named them again.
They were all lilies, even the hyacinth,

even the great pale flower in the hand of the dead.
I picked it, kept it in the book for years
before I knew who she was,
her face lily-white, kissed and dry and cold.


I spent a long, lovely Sunday in the Brandywine Valley with my family and Dementordelta at the Delaware Art Museum, which has two temporary Maxfield Parrish exhibits and an Ellen B. T. Pyle exhibit as well as the permanent Pre-Raphaelite collection; the Brandywine River Museum, which has a temporary exhibit on illustrations of Alice In Wonderland and other Lewis Carroll tales as well as the Brandywine Christmas train display, antique dolls, and nature ornament collection; and Longwood Gardens, which has its annual holiday light display, Christmas conservatory arrangements, and ice skating performances. We didn't get home till nearly 10:30 p.m. so here are a few photos, with details to come later!

The entrance to an exhibit on Maxfield Parrish's drawings and sketches included in letters he wrote to relatives and friends while living abroad. The much larger exhibit on Maxfield Parrish's commercial prints and book illustrations did not permit photography even at the entrance.

Me and Dementordelta in the brilliant sunshine of the windows overlooking the scenery in the Brandywine River Museum...

...where we went to see a wonderful exhibit on illustrated editions of Alice In Wonderland and other artwork based on Lewis Carroll's poetry and fiction.

We also ate lunch in the cafe, admired the handmade holiday ornaments on the many trees in the museum...

...and visited the annual holiday doll and train displays, though our favorite thing in the latter was not the trains themselves but this miniature Renfaire.

Longwood Gardens also had a train display... well as gorgeous holiday decorations both in the conservatory and throughout the outdoor gardens.

In addition to indoor and outdoor concerts and exhibitions of the fountains, Longwood has outdoor ice skating performances in the evening.

Here are Dementordelta and myself with the skaters -- I believe these are Shaun Rogers and Megan Williams-Stewart.

The Ravens could have clinched a playoff spot by winning this week, but they blew it to the Steelers, meaning that they must win in Oakland next weekend to play in the postseason. The Redskins had no chance of making the playoffs, which left me with a dilemma: root for the despised Cowboys, or risk the NFC East going to the Eagles and Michael Vick. I just can't bear the thought of the Eagles winning, so I wasn't all that devastated to see the Redskins lose, though I wish they hadn't played such a horrible game, failing to score a single point. Next week I must actually root for the Cowboys to beat the Eagles, since the Giants blew it this week. Ick!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Poem for Sunday

Off a Side Road Near Staunton
By Stanley Plumly

Some nothing afternoon, no one anywhere,
an early autumn stillness in the air,
the kind of empty day you fill by taking in
the full size of the valley and its layers leading
slowly to the Blue Ridge, the quality of the country,
if you stand here long enough, you could stay
for, step into, the way a landscape, even on a wall,
pulls you in, one field at a time, pasture and fall
meadow, high above the harvest, perfect
to the tree line, then spirit clouds and intermittent
sunlight smoky rain riding the tops of the mountains,
though you could walk until it's dark and not reach those rains --
you could walk the rest of the day into the picture
and not know why, at any given moment, you're there.


"I was coming back from a reading in southern Virginia, mid-October, driving along a major north-south highway. Looking to my right at the start in the change of color in the great hardwoods of the Shenandoah, my eye followed the ridge of the Blue Ridge itself. I had to stop. And at the first turn-off to a side road, I did," writes Plumly (who taught poetry at the University of Maryland while I was in grad school there) in Poet's Choice. "I had long since got out of the car and walked a bit toward what was beginning to resemble a serious landscape in a painting, one of those that can go either way: trite or something discovered...looking at it all, standing there a while, I saw it as a picture that might pull you in and give you permission to disappear, so that someone seeing it -- this landscape -- on a wall might pick you out as a small figure, so small as to be ambiguous, barely visible in a field at evening. When I got home, I more or less wrote the poem as it stands: a 14-liner in couplets."

We spent a nice morning and afternoon with my in-laws: breakfast, visit to the Utz Factory Store where we picked up organic pretzels and chips, lunch which consisted of leftovers from Christmas including meatballs, chicken, cheeses, bread, lingonberries, jello, cake, cookies, etc., visit to Boyds Bear Country in Gettysburg which in addition to the Boyds and Gund stuffed animal collections now has a Thomas Kinkade gallery and a Jim Shore gallery (I love the Heartwood Creek Halloween figures -- we got a big yellow cat in a witch hat who looks a lot like Rosie, on sale for under $10), then drove home through fog that was at times very was unseasonably warm and it was drizzling, which fell on the remaining inches of snow and turned the whole world white. Our cats survived our absence -- barely, according to them, though my mother fed them both days we were gone -- and we are about half-unpacked, meaning they have mostly-empty luggage to sit in.

A giant bear in the "outhouse" at Boyds Bear Country.

This is Boyds Bears' miniature representation of their own factory -- bears making bears.

My kids and Paul's mother rested by the fireplace...

...and later, the four of us and Paul's father sat down together.

The Christmas tree visible in the previous photo is three stories high and covered with stuffed animals instead of ornaments.

Here's a view of the tree from the upper level.

There were plenty of other holiday decorations...

...though I tend to appreciate the Halloween items much more than the Christmas ones.

I said I'd talk about Doctor Who's "The End of Time, Part One," which I am very grateful to BBC America for airing so soon after it aired in the U.K. without any substantive cuts that I noticed. I really feel like it would be more fair to wait until "The End of Time, Part Two" -- although I also remember how utterly brilliant I thought the first three episodes of "Children of Earth" were until I'd seen the fourth and fifth, so maybe I should catalogue what I really appreciate about this part in case it all goes to hell in the next one (which knowing this franchise is all too likely). SPOILERS: I was predisposed to like it from the first seconds for labeling commercial Christmas a pagan rite to banish the cold and dark, and I am glad that it's set right at this very moment politically and economically. And someone must tell me the name of the briefly-glimpsed church with the wall with the long list of what appear to be the names of Great War veterans who died defending Britain. As for the rest...I adore Wilf, I think he'd have made a divine companion for a post-Donna Doctor (wouldn't have let him get away with self-aggrandizing or self-pity), I love the TARDIS-in-stained-glass, I love the legend of the sainted physician who banished a demon even though I totally don't trust that woman who appears to Wilf and only Wilf. In general I appreciated the visual imagery of the episode, even the Time Lords in the Imperial Senate on Coruscant at the close.

But as long as I'm talking about things that reminded me a lot of other franchises -- and I am the first to admit that I have never seen Doctors 1-3 or 5-7 except a very small handful of episodes, so it's possible that George Lucas, J.K. Rowling, the producers of Heroes, et al have all stolen from Doctor Who rather than vice versa -- I felt like I was watching a giant tribute to other franchises rather than anything that felt intrinsically Whovian to me. The Master coming back by way of a Horcrux is an entertaining curiosity, but really not convincing, and though I'm glad Lucy's hatred and resentment went beyond a spur-of-the-moment decision to shoot him, that wasn't very convincing either...what turned her from the bitter nihilist into someone akin to Martha Jones, preparing in case the end of the world should be nigh? I snickered at the Master's Gollum-speech when he was hungry and driven crazy by the drums, and I put up with his Elle Bishop lightning-hands, and I waited for him to snap off that naughty collar, but as much as I enjoy John Simm's performance (I love how he looks with the Billy Idol hair, suddenly quite a bit younger than the Doctor, though he has that moving scene talking about how they grew up together), he's not so much a character as a pastiche.

You know, like Barack Obama -- does he really inspire such confidence among the British working class? I had no idea! I mean, I knew people were very relieved we didn't elect an heir to George Bush, but it seems a bit un-British to me to be counting on the U.S. President to end a recession affecting Europe, Maybe I'm simply unaware of how disaffected people have become with Britain's own politicians. Having Obama around made it very timely but there's something un-sporting about having him get taken over so easily by an evil alien who speaks with a non-US accent. There have been all these mythological British Prime Ministers in the franchise since I've been watching, so how come our actual president gets used as a puppet prop when the fictional nefarious Joshua Naismith is portrayed initially as more interesting (and just what future is he fighting anyway)?

I know people laugh about Good Queen Bess no longer being a virgin once the Doctor got done with her, and they owed us an explanation for why she hated the Doctor after "The Shakespeare Code," but it seemed like a cheap shot of the same sort and very typical of the way the show treats women who haven't been singled out as so completely extraordinary that they deserve better (and give me a break, virgin or not, Elizabeth I is way more crush-worthy than Madame de Pompadour). We get to see Lucy as an accessory for all of two minutes before she's dead, we get to see Abigail Naismith achieve her dreams only because Daddy is looking out for her, we get to see Donna start to burn up...with all the women deferring to powerful men, I keep wondering how Margaret Thatcher ever got elected. I find myself hoping that the adorable cactus woman will save the day, since I am pretty sure they won't let Donna save the universe again and survive the experience -- that would make her completely the Doctor's equal and RTD doesn't seem capable of imagining a woman could be that.

Hmm, I said I was going to catalogue things I liked and I seem to be doing a piss-poor job of that. Okay, I did laugh at "The Master Race" even if it was the cheapest joke imaginable. And Timothy Dalton just ROCKS (I always picture him not as James Bond, but as Philip II of France in The Lion in Winter, telling Henry II to go to hell, which probably makes him ideal casting as an ominous Time Lord). So if the Time Lords come back, does that mean the Daleks come back? Will one of them try to make alien species keep their mending devices safe at home so they can't turn humans into little boys with gas-mask faces or Masters? I just hope the Doctor is crying over Adelaide and not himself, because my sympathy for his plight got used up a couple of seasons ago. And I'm thinking he may want to blow up Gallifrey again by the time this is all over.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Poem for Saturday

By Robert Snow

When to his feet the skater binds his wings,
As of Jove's messenger the poet sings,
He, like the hare, outstrips the Northern wind,
And casts, in doubling, a keen glance behind.
By art that to the frozen lake conveys
A glowing interest in winter days,
Before the gazer now he seems to fly,
Now with a backward stroke deludes the eye;
Precipitating curves on curves anew,
Retuning ever, to his centre true.
With air of noble ease, and swan-like grace,
He balances awhile in narrow space;
Then sweeps far round with power not shown before,
And on his crystal plain does all but soar.
Yet is his pastime brief; the solar heat
Grows strong; again the lapsing waters meet,
And to dull, plodding earth confine his daring feet.


We're still in Hanover, where we spent a quiet day gorging ourselves. *happy sigh* The weather was foggy in the morning, rainy in the afternoon, though the ice storm never quite materialized -- it sounds like things are far worse at home, where my mother called to tell me that our power was out, meaning we have to worry all night about whether the cats are freezing and the sump pump has stopped working, allowing our basement to flood (I doubt much snow will melt overnight because it's freezing, but it rained all day). We woke up and had stollen, pastries, bagels and cheese, then opened our belated Chanukah presents with Comcast's Yule Log channel in the background. Then we sat around reading for a while and had dinner around 3, which is always Swedish smorgasbord -- meatballs and potatoes, chicken swiss cheese stuffing casserole, farmer's cheese, limpa bread, lingonberries, my mother's carrot souffle which she sent up with us since she suspected they wouldn't get here due to the weather, and about ten varieties of Christmas cookies and candy. Mmmmm!

Adam with the Pictureka Flipper he got as a belated Chanukah present.

We were supposed to see Paul's parents and celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday earlier in the month, but an ice storm kept them away...

...whereas today one kept my parents away, so we caught up on Chanukah and birthdays as well as Christmas.

Here is Paul with his Bloom County collection. I got a Celtic necklace, a Baltimore Ravens sweatshirt, a Borders gift card and some other things.

Adam of course got several penguin items.

Clair and Cinda got calendars made by me, of our kids in New Orleans, and Brooke, of her and Jon's kids in Eugene.

Plus we got them Sudoku and Civil War desk calendars.

Here is breakfast -- stollen from Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery in West Virginia, almond pastry, blueberry muffins, bagels, breads, cheeses...yum.

We talked to David and Jon on the phone, got our Superpoke Pets Twelve Drummers Drumming, played some very competitive Uno games, and watched some of the Titans-Chargers game and some of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation in the evening, though my main television event took place on the laptop: Doctor Who's "The End of Time, Part One." I won't talk about it till tomorrow when everyone in the U.S. who wants to see it will have done so, and I want to watch it again anyway since there were lots of distractions, so I will just say -- SPOILERS -- Wilf! (who of course must be of major significance, and whose Silver Cloak is awesome -- naturally everyone wants a piece of the Doctor) and Donna! (though if they kill her off -- at least, before she can save the universe again -- I will never forgive them). I am pretty unimpressed with the Master coming back by way of a Horcrux then playing Gollum, but I will forgive that if the second half of the episode is otherwise terrific.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Poem for Christmas

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind
By William Shakespeare

From As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7

Blow, blow, thou winter wind.
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember'd not.


We're at Paul's parents' house in Hanover, Pennsylvania, where there is plenty of snow on the ground for a white Christmas. We had a pretty quiet morning getting ready to go, then drove up in moderate traffic in the afternoon. We brought in Red Lobster for dinner and had far too many desserts -- we brought half of the Prinsesstarta from St. Lucia's Day, Cinda had baked many kinds of cookie, there were Utz chocolate covered pretzels in the house...mmmmm! In the evening I went to church with Clair and Cinda; Paul and the kids did not go, having no interest, but the music there is wonderful -- they have a famous 80-year-old great organ that is one of the largest in the world -- and listening to several hundred people pray for peace cannot be a bad thing no matter whose name the prayers are in.

A tree with hundreds of holiday lights decorating its branches in Hanover.

This is my in-laws' small tabletop tree...

...decorated with lots of angels, which my mother-in-law collects (I got her the paper Victorian one on the left)...

...and lots of glass, so it's very twinkly.

This is my favorite of their ornaments -- scrimshaw ships from Scandinavia -- though it is not hanging up yet this year; this photo is from 2005.

These ornaments are hanging on the enormous Christmas tree... St. Matthew Lutheran Church, where I attended Christmas Eve services.

My parents were supposed to join us tomorrow, but given the emergency weather alerts we've been receiving all day, I think they are not going to risk driving in an ice storm, so it'll be just us and my in-laws. There's so much food here that I'm going to need a personal trainer by Saturday. Merry Christmas if you celebrate, and if not, have a lovely weekend!