Monday, May 31, 2010

Poem for Memorial Day and Virginia Renfaire

Dirge for Two Veterans
By Walt Whitman

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish'd Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.

Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent moon.

I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key'd bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they're flooding,
As with voices and with tears.

I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring,
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.

For the son is brought with the father,
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans son and father dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.)

Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o'er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin'd,
('Tis some mother's large transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)

O strong dead-march you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.


We spent a very lovely albeit very, very warm Sunday at the Virginia Renaissance Faire with Dementordelta and her friend Lin and my friend Annmarie and her friend Cindy. I met Annmarie online in Star Trek: Voyager fandom almost 15 years ago and have met her in person several times in various cities when she wasn't deployed overseas, but now she is in a program at an army base near Richmond, so for the first time since I've known her, she and I are living in the same part of the U.S.! It was so hot that I only partially got into garb -- I wanted a shorter skirt and no corduroy anywhere -- but Delta and Annmarie both looked fabulous. The Virginia Renfaire is at Lake Anna Winery and is much smaller than the Maryland and Pennsylvania faires, with no jousting field or permanent buildings, and both times we've been there it's been beastly hot, so we tried to stay in the shade -- musicians on the Tavern Stage, greyhounds in their tent, plus merchants in the woods behind the main field where the food and games are set up. Sadly, the joust had been called off, and Cindy wasn't feeling very well, but we had Mediterranean food and got to hear the Dandy Pirates, whom we saw at the Pennsylvania Renfaire last year, and HoneyMeade, who were performing while we ate lunch, so it was a fun afternoon in addition to getting to see several friends.

The Queen greets a young admirer.

The bishop attempts to absolve my sins. (He gave Delta's friend a "Get Out Of Hell Free" card.)

Annmarie and Cindy in front of the archery range. My kids weren't in the mood for shooting today, but last time we all took turns.

It was a bit warm for Her Majesty's greyhounds, who visit the faire as representatives of a dog rescue group...

...but the Dandy Pirates gamely performed on several stages.

Sadly, the only photo I got of my family is overexposed...

...but here are myself and Dementordelta looking as overheated as we felt.

We ran late getting to the faire because the members of Rolling Thunder, the motorcyclists who ride in honor of the POW/MIAs, were heading into DC and the police had the Beltway closed in places so they could pass safely.

In the evening we watched the National Memorial Day Concert from the Capitol, which had some decent music, some bathos, some really moving tributes, and some raging cliches, just like last year's -- at least the quotient of Broadway performers was higher and of country music stars was lower. Then we watched the Doctor Who "Hungry Earth/Cold Blood" two-parter. Maybe I'm just overtired from the Renfaire, but it failed to move me, and -- SPOILERS -- I really like Rory and was unspoiled about his fate so it surprises me how little I felt beyond "oh it totally figures they'd go and do something like that." Maybe it's too soon after Amy's nervous breakdown/suicide at losing Rory in "Amy's Choice," or maybe it's my overall annoyance at the Giant Crack of Doom -- how are they going to threaten to end the universe next season? -- combined with my absolute certainty that Rory, like far, far too many sci-fi characters before him, will return before this season ends. (For all my irritation with "Children of Earth," I should note my gratitude that at least on Torchwood, the deaths have largely meant something because there's no hope of a reset button unless it's Jack Harkness -- his friends, his lover and his grandson are not coming back.) I am mildly curious how come Amy and Rory can't get near the light without getting wiped from history but the Doctor can stick his whole arm through.

Beyond all that, I intensely dislike the Doctor when he gets sanctimonious with people about what counts as "the best of humanity" -- he isn't human, and from what I've seen he isn't typical of Gallifreyans, so it pisses me off watching him sitting in judgment of desperate individuals and their weaknesses in a way that it never bothered me when Kirk started lecturing aliens on how they should treat each other or Picard started blathering about the stupidity of religion. I tolerated the attitude from Nine because that Doctor was so obviously in pain and talking to himself as much as anyone else, but didn't like it much when Ten did it, and Eleven still seems like such an upstart to me that I just want to tell him to shut up. I guess I am not the best humanity has to offer, but I don't much care because I stopped taking him and his agony seriously around the time Donna Noble left the TARDIS.

I have surprisingly little feeling, too, about the news that Guillermo del Toro won't be directing The Hobbit after all (do we think Jackson was micromanaging or what?). And I am happy for the Lady Terps, who won the national lacrosse title. Happy Memorial Day if you are celebrating, and best wishes to the families of veterans.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Poem for Sunday and Gaithersburg Wildlife

Lupine Ridge
By Peggy Simson Curry

Long after we are gone,
Summer will stroke this ridge in blue;
The hawk still flies above the flowers,
Thinking, perhaps, the sky has fallen
And back and forth forever he may trace
His shadow on its azure face.

Long after we are gone,
Evening wind will languish here
Between the lupine and the sage
To die a little death upon the earth,
As though over the sundown prairies fell
A requiem from a bronze-tongued bell.

Long after we are gone,
This ridge will shape the night,
Lifting the wine-streaked west,
Shouldering the stars. And always here
Lovers will walk under the summer skies
Through flowers the color of your eyes.


Our original plan for Saturday was to go to Mount Vernon for the sheep-shearing festival there, but it was drizzly and we needed to get the bridge on Adam's viola repaired at the shop in Gaithersburg, so we decided to put that off till Monday and instead went shopping for a bunch of things Adam wanted so he can make more movies -- lamps, a green screen -- plus cat litter and other necessities. Since we were in Gaithersburg, we also went to Bohrer Park, where we walked around the pond and saw a heron, songbirds, turtles, ducks, and two goose families with goslings, then we went to Rio and walked around Washingtonian Lake where we saw ducklings (I think the ones I saw the other day, though there are only three now, which makes me sad, and still no sign of a mother -- the one female duck in the area kept chasing them away). Daniel went along with this because we got him blue raspberry ice.

A red-winged blackbird sings in a tree at Bohrer Park.

A good-sized flock of geese lives there...

...including these adorable young goslings...

...and these gawky dinosaur-ish adolescents.

In addition to the red-winged blackbirds in the cattails, there are dragonflies in the wetlands...

...and great blue herons.

Here are a duck and ducklings at Rio, though the ducklings weren't with the duck, just in the same area trying to get breadcrumbs from visitors tossing them in.

They were swimming with the geese, who mostly ignored them.

For our evening entertainment, we watched The Special Relationship on HBO. I know my British friends will probably lose all respect for me for my crush on movie!Tony Blair and especially movie!Cherie Blair, who is my favorite character in the Fictional Recent British History films -- I blame Michael Sheen and Helen McCrory, though I thought Dennis Quaid and especially Hope Davis were very good as the Clintons. It feels a lot like reading RPF to watch movies about people who are alive and aware of the stories being told about them, so I don't mind noting that the screenwriters are deliberately naughty (Cherie to Tony: "Before you develop too much of a crush, remember that your visionary is the President of the United States.") It's fun, but it's also interesting to remember how much we over here adored Blair when our press was presenting him to us as Kosovo's champion and Ireland's peace-broker; we didn't get the coverage of the political showboating that apparently made him unpopular in Britain even before Bush's war finished him.

It's interesting that this film is coming out now, when it can't possibly have an effect on the Labour Party's electoral chances, because Blair (and by extension his party) really looks good -- and I don't just mean in a good-looking sense, though I snickered a lot at Bill's line in the movie that it's not often you see a political couple where the husband is more attractive than the wife and Tony is really handsome. Early on movie!Bill tells movie!Tony to think about what he wants his legacy to be, even though Tony's only weeks into his tenure as Prime Minister, and promptly the footage cuts to Northern Ireland; I'm afraid that will always be the Tony Blair I remember, not the one who followed Bush into the Iraq war or gave all his buddies cushy positions, but the one who accomplished what I'd thought would never happen in my childhood and got the Irish on the same page. Movie!Tony has lovely late-night conversations with movie!Bill about how to accomplish this.

There are lots of moments I enjoyed, some historical, some completely made up: Cherie distressed that Bill goes to his wife before anyone else for advice while Tony has his boys' club, and later asking whether blow jobs count as adultery and staring in horror as the crowd of men around her husband, including her husband, all instantly agree that it does not; Tony quoting the Book of Ruth to Bill, "Whither thou goest, I will go," in a straight riff from the real-life press conference; Tony not wanting to hear discussions among his staff about Bill's penis size ("five and a half inches long and curved...I'd have said eight inches long and thick as a baguette"); Tony and Cherie both being devastated at what's happening in Kosovo, passionate about how what happens anywhere in Europe affects Britain, the major US newspapers comparing Tony to Churchill, but then Tony speaking to Bill about it mostly in terms of Tony's own political legacy where it's not clear if this is because Tony thinks Bill will relate to that or because deep down Tony cares about keeping his position more than about the lives at stake.

And Bill's final swipe at Tony, "I'm not sure you are a center-left politician any more, or that you ever were." That's a lot more interesting than the recreated Lewinsky scandal, which seems to be all the reviews I've read talk about -- how well Quaid and Davis play the private scenes between Bill and Hillary, which come across as more contrived to me than any others in the film (not for one second do I believe that Hillary reacted with shock and surprise when Bill admitted he behaved inappropriately with Monica), but I think Cherie's irritation turning to disgust at Tony's admiration for Bill makes for better family drama. And I like the scene with the four Clintons and Blairs together talking about what makes a good political wife, both mocking expectations and mocking other women at the same time -- not very nice, but it seems fairly real.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Poem for Saturday and Wheaton Aquarium

The Mystery of Meteors
By Eleanor Lerman

I am out before dawn, marching a small dog through a meager park
Boulevards angle away, newspapers fly around like blind white birds
Two days in a row I have not seen the meteors
though the radio news says they are overhead
Leonid's brimstones are barred by clouds; I cannot read
the signs in heaven, I cannot see night rendered into fire

And yet I do believe a net of glitter is above me
You would not think I still knew these things:
I get on the train, I buy the food, I sweep, discuss,
consider gloves or boots, and in the summer,
open windows, find beads to string with pearls
You would not think that I had survived
anything but the life you see me living now

In the darkness, the dog stops and sniffs the air
She has been alone, she has known danger,
and so now she watches for it always
and I agree, with the conviction of my mistakes.
But in the second part of my life, slowly, slowly,
I begin to counsel bravery. Slowly, slowly,
I begin to feel the planets turning, and I am turning
toward the crackling shower of their sparks

These are the mysteries I could not approach when I was younger:
the boulevards, the meteors, the deep desires that split the sky
Walking down the paths of the cold park
I remember myself, the one who can wait out anything
So I caution the dog to go silently, to bear with me
the burden of knowing what spins on and on above our heads

For this is our reward:Come Armageddon, come fire or flood,
come love, not love, millennia of portents--
there is a future in which the dog and I are laughing
Born into it, the mystery, I know we will be saved


It was a quiet Friday around here, during which my only accomplishment was finishing a review of Star Trek: The Next Generation's "The Chase". It was my dad's birthday and we had dinner with my parents -- my mom grilled lamb for my father, I had tofu and bean casserole, and Paul made strawberry layer cake since my dad loves strawberries. Now we're all watching the mediocre 1974 film of The Great Gatsby, which Daniel just read in English class and I haven't seen in a couple of decades -- the directing is clumsy and the screenplay is unimpressive, but the casting is spot-on, which makes up for a lot.

Hungry koi beg for food at Showcase Aquarium, where several Taste of Wheaton visitors got to feed them.

A translucent glass catfish.

An elephant nose fish.

A gar eating a live goldfish.

A baby pufferfish.

A stingray.

A lionfish.

An underwater hermit crab.

The Friday Five: Grillin' Out
1. What side dish do you like the most: potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans, etc.
Sesame noodles.
2. Do you prefer food grilled on a charcoal or gas grill? Charcoal.
3. Do you want just one meat item, or a mixture: such as chicken, steaks, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. I stopped eating red meat and pork more than a decade ago, and I no longer eat chicken or fish, so a mix of tofu/seitan would be fine.
4. Do you want to eat outside or inside? In nice weather where it's shady, outside. If it's overly sunny, hot, muggy, or buggy, inside.
5. Does it bother you to have citronella candles burning if you are eating or cooking outside? Not at all.

This week's Fannish5: List the 5 series (tv, book, or movies) that best kept their quality, from beginning to end.
1. The Aubrey/Maturin Books
2. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
3. The Dark Is Rising Books
4. The Sharpe Films
5. Due South

Last week's Fannish5: Name five characters you'd like to take a road-trip with, and where you'd go.
1. Sarah Jane Smith
from The Sarah Jane Adventures, everywhere in the universe
2. Kira Nerys from Deep Space Nine, all over Bajor
3. Benton Fraser from Due South, all over Canada
4. Elizabeth from Elizabeth: The Golden Age, all over England
5. Jack Aubrey from HMS Surprise, anywhere we could sail

Friday, May 28, 2010

Poem for Friday and Origami

The Tennis Court Oath
By John Ashbery

What had you been thinking about
the face studiously bloodied
heaven blotted region
I go on loving you like water but
there is a terrible breath in the way all of this
You were not elected president, yet won the race
All the way through fog and drizzle
When you read it was sincere the coasts
stammered with unintentional villages the
horse strains fatigued I guess . . . the calls . . .
I worry

the water beetle head
why of course reflecting all
then you redid you were breathing
I thought going down to mail this
of the kettle you jabbered as easily in the yard
you come through but
are incomparable the lovely tent
mystery you don’t want surrounded the real
you dance
in the spring there was clouds

The mulatress approached in the hall—the
lettering easily visible along the edge of the Times
in a moment the bell would ring but there was time
for the carnation laughed here are a couple of “other”

to one in yon house
The doctor and Philip had come over the road
Turning in toward the corner of the wall his hat on
reading it carelessly as if to tell you your fears were justified
the blood shifted you know those walls
wind off the earth had made him shrink
undeniably an oboe now the young
were there there was candy
to decide the sharp edge of the garment
like a particular cry not intervening called the dog "he's coming! he's coming" with an emotion felt it sink into peace
there was no turning back but the end was in sight
he chose this moment to ask her in detail about her family and the others
The person. pleaded—"have more of these
not stripes on the tunic—or the porch chairs
will teach you about men—what it means"
to be one in a million pink stripe
and now could go away the three approached the doghouse
the reef. Your daughter's
dream of my son understand prejudice
darkness in the hole
the patient finished
They could all go home now the hole was dark
lilacs blowing across his face glad he brought you


On Thursday I did some writing, had leftover Thai food for brunch which was still fabulous, then went out to buy Father's Day cards -- how come all the "Grandpa" cards are either hopelessly sappy, full of religious sentiment, out-and-out insulting, or "from small child"? (We usually have my kids make my parents cards, but their illustrations have increasingly become totally esoteric -- a passive-aggressive way of indicating they don't want to have to make cards -- so I figured I'd buy cards this year, especially since my dad's birthday is Friday so there are two celebrations within a couple of weeks.) I also stopped in two stores that carry Vera Bradley bags because the retired patterns are on sale, but even at 25% off, there was nothing I really needed. There wasn't much excitement until I came home and got ready to drive Adam to tennis, only to discover that I couldn't because I couldn't track him down anywhere -- I called three of his friends and finally pounded on two of their doors, concluding that he was probably in someone's basement where they couldn't hear the phone, which was exactly the case.

Our evening television consisted of the finale of FlashForward, then we left ABC on for the American Cinematheque tribute to Matt Damon because the teaser ads were very funny (Jennifer Garner saying that she was there to salute the love between her darling husband and her husband's darling husband). FlashForward was a bit of a letdown mostly because we were betting it would end on a cliffhanger that will never be resolved, which of course it did, just like Eastwick...I am done watching new shows on ABC, they've canceled all the ones I've liked and kept the ones I thought were too mediocre to stick with. I didn't think the FlashForward finale was all that well-written, either; I'll forgive the holes in the time-jumping and even the ludicrous FBI stuff, but Olivia leaving Charlie and Dylan alone in the kitchen to make out with Lloyd when she knows it's minutes from what Charlie saw and panicked about for weeks...come on!

As for the Damon tribute, I agree with Jimmy Kimmel, it's ridiculous to have a retrospective for someone who's still in his 30s, but I forgive them because it was really entertaining. I like Damon a lot, though I didn't always think he was such a great actor, which is particularly amusing because people were always telling me that Paul looks like Matt Damon and now they tell me Daniel looks like Matt Damon. I still don't always love his movies but I've been very happy with him politically and in terms of his humanitarian work -- Bill Clinton paid tribute to that -- and I have always loved that he and Ben Affleck don't care whether people say they're gay, whether it's on Jimmy Kimmel or in The Advocate -- they're the anti-Tom Cruise. There were plenty of good lines about that on the tribute; Garner called them the prototype for the great Hollywood bromance. And there were other funny moments (Don Cheadle: "Heck yes, I'll fete Matt Damon! I'll Boba Fett Matt Damon!" Charlize Theron: "I got [my Academy Award] in a real category and he got his for just typing up Affleck's thoughts!") When Matt finally took the stage, he called Ben "my hetero life mate" and told Jimmy, "I know you tried to do to me tonight exactly what I did to Sarah Silverman."

As I type this, the news is coming in that the House voted 234-194 to get rid of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy -- it's about time! John McCain and his filibuster can go to hell. I keep getting irritated with the Obama administration about many, many things -- don't get me started on the delays in dealing with the Gulf crisis -- but every time McCain or Palin opens his or her mouth, I am grateful anew that the election went down the way it did. I didn't have time to futz with photos so here is an origami project Adam did for math in which they had to create paper shapes. Apparently his English teacher -- whom Adam identifies as a fellow sci-fi nerd -- picked it up and announced that now they had a completed Death Star.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Poem for Thursday and Middle School Concert

A Night Out
By Bob Hicok

I told the waiter there was schmutz
on my machete. He informed me
I wasn't sitting in the Yiddish section.
Being bilingual, I told the waiter
there was gunk on my machete. Oh, he apologized
then and brought me straight away
a new machete, with which I sliced
the brisket as if clearing a path
through a forest to a temple in a life
more glamorous than the four dollars
and thirty-two cents in my pocket
with which I couldn't possibly pay
what I owe Jean-Paul Sartre for writing
"No Exit," since walking out on that play
introduced me as if for the first time
to the moon. Try feeling crushed
by the void of existence while staring
at a waxing moon with or without
a full stomach before or after
cleaning your machete on your sleeve.
Yes, that's a dare, a double-dog dare,
to talk as kids used to talk in a time
of innocence that certainly never existed.


Another from this week's New Yorker. Hicok's 2010 book is Words for Empty and Words for Full.

Most of my day consisted of working on an article and doing laundry. We had dinner early and went with my parents to Adam's final school concert of the year -- and possibly ever, since he has been lobbying to take drama instead of orchestra in high school next year, though it will depend on whether he can take the honors academic classes, Chinese and journalism and still fit it into his schedule. This year the program was entirely strings -- the band will play tomorrow night -- so we heard the intermediate orchestra playing some of the same pieces that son played in previous years with them, then two excellent chamber quartets playing Haydn and Mozart.

The advanced orchestra, in which Adam plays viola, started with a piece from The Nutcracker, then played William Hofeldt's beautiful "Lullaby" and a Celtic piece before performing an arrangement of "Viva La Vida," which was awesome, and ending with the upbeat "Orange Jam." There were also some award acknowledgments (they don't actually give awards at this ceremony since most of the kids had received them either from the county youth orchestra or in class for participation), and the teacher, who has been teaching in the county for more than 20 years, got flowers and a gift. Here are a few photos:

One of the chamber groups plays the Allegro Moderato movement from Haydn's Quartet in G Major.

The orchestra teacher introduces the intermediate orchestra, where the sixth and seventh graders play.

One of these girls is our neighbors' daughter. Adam often walks home from the bus with her.

Here he is waiting for the advanced orchestra to play...

...though this is the best photo I could get of him on the stage, since the violas were smushed between the huge second violin section and the cellos.

Still, the advanced orchestra sounded great.

Here is Adam standing for the group bow...

...and the music teacher receiving a gift from the students.

Adam is debating purchasing Adobe Premiere Elements 8 vs. Cyberlink PowerDirector 8 Ultra when he gets birthday money in July. Anyone here have advice/suggestions (particularly if you know of a good cheap alternative)?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Poem for Wednesday and Masonic Temple

Roanoke Pastorale
By David Huddle

Cardinal, goldfinch, titmouse, turkey buzzard—
dear companions of my afternoons—
above this field, high clouds dream of blizzards

to snow me in till spring ends my solitude.
Sober's my binge now, nature my saloon.
Wren, mourning dove, house finch, turkey buzzard—

for your entertainment, I sing the words
of old fifties songs, use baby talk, croon
as I walk the field beneath great blizzard-

dreaming clouds. You gaudy pretties, sweet birds
of my senior years—my later's my soon.
Catbirds flit through cedars in the graveyard,

turkey buzzards swirl their patterns overhead,
across the mountainside sunlight bows a tune
rising to blue eternity but heard

by the heron fishing the creek, wizard
of stillness, creature designed by the moon.
Bluebird, jay, chipping sparrow, turkey buzzard,
clouds, and field—I dream this life, walk this world.


From this week's New Yorker. Glory River is Huddle's most recent book of poems.

I had a nice afternoon with Gblvr after a morning of work and chores -- we went to Tara Thai, where I had panang tofu which is one of my favorite things, then we went to Target, where the remaining spring Liberty of London dresses were on sale for $7 including the very pretty Martha Grace halter dresses. We were very girly and looked at the new little black dress Barbies, too. Again I didn't see any goslings or ducklings, but we didn't walk much by the water; I did see enormous koi out in the middle of the lake, and by the time I left, the morning drizzle had turned into a beautiful afternoon.

I loved the musical numbers on Glee this week but I really didn't like the rest of the episode all that much. Spoilers: For one thing, a week without a Sue Sylvester zinger is like a week without spicy chili lime cashews. For another, as much as I adore Kurt's father and would move in with him if I was Finn's mother in a heartbeat, I have had it out the wazoo with Finn and Rachel and am dying to see more of just about anyone else. Okay, the Goth Tina vampire stuff was hilarious, especially the opening ("This'll get Robert Pattinson's attention"), but the idea that Goth and Twilight are connected is just embarrassing.

And considering that so much of the episode is about letting people be themselves, I think Finn gets a very unfair deal. There's no excuse for the language he uses, but I completely understand his anger: Kurt has NO respect for who Finn is or his most basic needs, he's the roommate from hell, it's all about Kurt all the time with Kurt (couldn't he have asked Finn whether he'd like some football posters and a furniture arrangement that might give Finn some privacy before whining that Finn criticized his unilateral decisions?) I can't take Kurt's alleged pain for being different seriously when he seems incapable of understanding that anyone else might have his own problems. Especially since Kurt's dad is so utterly awesome while Finn has no one who puts him first like that.

Now, the first Lady Gaga number and both Kiss numbers were fabulous, but the Rachel-and-her-mom storyline is so idiotic that I don't know how Idina Menzel could make herself spit out some of those lines. "I found my daughter but she's grown up, what a letdown, so much for that!" All in the space of how many days? Ending with that wishy-washy acoustic "Poker Face"? When we've never actually seen Rachel's gay dads, who are apparently completely peripheral to her life (what did they want a daughter for, anyway)? I try to make myself like Rachel because she's Jewish the same way I try to make myself like Kurt because he's gay, yet my degree of irritation, given the over-the-top way they're both characterized, makes me think the writers are actively trying to make us give more of a shit about Noah and Finn and it's not just the way the comedy crumbles. Cutesy stereotypes can be just as damaging as nasty stereotypes.

Some more photos from the House of the Temple, headquarters of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in the Southern Jurisdiction, in Washington DC:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Poem for Tuesday, Robin Hood and Chicks

Robin Hood
By John Keats

To a Friend

No! those days are gone away,
And their hours are old and gray,
And their minutes buried all
Under the down-trodden pall
Of the leaves of many years:
Many times have winter’s shears,
Frozen North, and chilling East,
Sounded tempests to the feast
Of the forest’s whispering fleeces,
Since men knew nor rent nor leases.

No, the bugle sounds no more,
And the twanging bow no more;
Silent is the ivory shrill
Past the heath and up the hill;
There is no mid-forest laugh,
Where lone Echo gives the half
To some wight, amaz’d to hear
Jesting, deep in forest drear.

On the fairest time of June
You may go, with sun or moon,
Or the seven stars to light you,
Or the polar ray to right you;
But you never may behold
Little John, or Robin bold;
Never one, of all the clan,
Thrumming on an empty can
Some old hunting ditty, while
He doth his green way beguile
To fair hostess Merriment,
Down beside the pasture Trent;
For he left the merry tale
Messenger for spicy ale.

Gone, the merry morris din;
Gone, the song of Gamelyn;
Gone, the tough-belted outlaw
Idling in the “grenè shawe;”
All are gone away and past!
And if Robin should be cast
Sudden from his turfed grave,
And if Marian should have
Once again her forest days,
She would weep, and he would craze:
He would swear, for all his oaks,
Fall’n beneath the dockyard strokes,
Have rotted on the briny seas;
She would weep that her wild bees
Sang not to her—strange! that honey
Can’t be got without hard money!

So it is: yet let us sing,
Honour to the old bow-string!
Honour to the bugle-horn!
Honour to the woods unshorn!
Honour to the Lincoln green!
Honour to the archer keen!
Honour to tight Little John,
And the horse he rode upon!
Honour to bold Robin Hood,
Sleeping in the underwood!
Honour to Maid Marian,
And to all the Sherwood-clan!
Though their days have hurried by,
Let us two a burden try.


Dementordelta came up on Monday to see Robin Hood with me! We loved it -- the screenplay had some flaws and the pacing was a bit slow at the start, but it picked up quite a bit in the second half in terms of both the action and the humor, and the acting was enjoyable throughout. We loved Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett -- I wish we'd seen the latter kicking arse a bit earlier in the movie but I'd rather her grab a sword at the end after being relatively conservative at the start than come out flying, then get reduced to screaming like Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's Marion in the Kevin Costner film. We really loved the castles and helicopter shots of the English countryside and the beaches near Dover, the Celtic crosses and sculptures, the music -- Alan Doyle does a fine job acting as well as singing, and it's such a kick to see him onscreen after having seen Great Big Sea in concert several times! King John was quite entertaining, though I was very disappointed in Eleanor of Aquitaine, who should never come across as timid or a prude. Danny Huston's Richard the Lionheart was not in the film for long but I appreciated him a lot too. Also, we cracked up at the Beautiful Mind moment when one of the Merry Men said they should not pursue the prettiest girl but go for the less attractive ones for the best chance of success.

The history is crack, but keep in mind that this is coming from someone who watches The Tudors so obviously that doesn't ruin things for me. And it's certainly no sillier than the Costner version, which we decided after we stopped for samosas and crepes that we really needed to watch because the Sheriff of Nottingham in the new film doesn't hold a candle to Alan Rickman, despite having similar hair -- he lacks both The Voice and a good sense of humor ("Call off Christmas!" and "I'm going to cut your heart out with a spoon!" are the two best lines in Prince of Thieves). Watching Costner definitely made us appreciate Crowe; I'm sure someone is going to tell me that Russell doesn't quite nail the Midlands accent, but Costner sounds about the same in Prince of Thieves and J.F.K. (and really, since Slater's Will Scarlet sounds American too and Connery's Richard the Lionheart sounds like he only just left Scotland, I don't see how people can be too nasty about Costner).

Adam made this very funny video for a science project. We had homemade pad thai and yellow curry tofu for dinner, not that I was very hungry after the crepes, and watched MythBusters episodes on the Discovery Channel about alien solar systems and the varieties of moons in our own solar system. I inherited a friend's Superpoke Pet and did a bit of fiddling on that site, so I had little time to play with photos, though Dementordelta and I did walk a bit around the lake near the movie theater looking for ducklings and goslings (we saw geese and ducks, but not babies), so here is a chicken and her chicks from Star Gazing Farm last month:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Poem for Monday and Celebrating Wheaton

A Prelude
By Richard Wilbur

Matthew Arnold, looking over
The Channel from the cliffs of Dover,
Scanned with his telescope almost
The whole French coast
As far as Étretat,
And was upon the point of saying "Ah,"
When he perceived, not far from the great Aiguille,
A lobster led on a leash beside the sea.
It was Nerval, enjoying his vacances!
Alas for gravitas! Hélas for France!
Having of late been panicky
About culture and anarchy,
Arnold now left in a hurry,
Foreseeing a night of worry.


It was a drizzly and uneventful Sunday around here. Both kids had homework -- Daniel on a graphic design final project his teacher gave him an extension to finish, Adam on a group science project for which he and his friends made an infomercial which Windows Media Maker is now giving him trouble editing. Our trip out was for shopping chores -- we went to Pangea Vegan Store for vegetarian marshmallows, to Petco for cat treats, to Michael's for origami paper for Adam's math project, to Trader Joe's for hummus, pita, nuts and crackers, to Giant for cereal, soap and various other boring things. Here are some photos of Taste of Wheaton and Daniel's robotics team presentation from last weekend, since I have only family photos from this weekend:

For some reason we were talking about toads this morning, which led Adam to say he wanted toad in a hole, which we all agreed was an excellent idea so we had that made with veggie sausage for dinner. Then we watched The Tudors, which wasn't one of my favorites -- too much war preparation and siege, not enough Joely Richardson cementing the Reformation at court. Then we put on the last hour of the Lost finale, which made very little sense since we'd only seen a single episode of the first season (it had polar bears, that was all we really remembered); that said, we all knew pretty quickly how it was going to end. And even knowing, it was MUCH less stupid than the BSG finale. We watched the whole first season of 24; should we watch the series finale and see if it's as misogynistic as that season's finale was?