Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Poem for Tuesday, High School, Glass Sanctuaries

Western Conifer Seed Bug
By Cleopatra Mathis

He'd become a house guest, noncommittal
and impassive. She tried to see to it
he wasn't disturbed, nothing to trip him up:
a book, perhaps, laid down
in some rash motion might scare him
off an edge, although he had a talent, it seemed,
for focussing on himself. He'd been so carefully
attended, she thought—her warning
human guests to watch for him on the coverlet,
not overreact to his homely presence.
She kept close guard, as was her nature,
a kind of partner to help him make it
through the cold. She'd done the research
when he showed up; she knew all his business,
she had a duty. With these advantages,
how had he taken it upon himself to die?
But there he was in that trite pose,
feet in the air, as if arranged on the sink top
for her to find him. She brushed her teeth, considering
all the pine trees surrounding the house,
their heavy scent calling the half-sleeping one
at the rightful time. Hardly another month
and he would have been free,
piercing and sucking that sap deep in the cones.


From this week's New Yorker -- how have I never read anything by Mathis before? I must get her 2008 book White Sea.

It was Adam's first day of high school, which I expected might be more traumatic than it was (when Daniel starts college next year, that will be traumatic). Adam walked to school with two friends from the neighborhood and seemed quite happy overall, except that his schedule didn't work out for him to take newspaper along with all his honors classes and instead of a computer programming course they stuck him in a class on how to use Microsoft Office -- he says he'd rather take orchestra, which makes me rather gleeful, though I suspect he may end up taking gym just to get it out of the way, since Daniel is stuck taking it his last year of high school because it's required no matter how many outside tennis or fencing lessons one takes.

Daniel doesn't start classes till Tuesday because of freshman orientation, so he came to lunch with me and Hufflepants, who was visiting my part of the state on Monday. We had Indian food and dragged Daniel into Crate & Barrel to look at area rugs and sofa covers. Then he and I came home and watched Dogma while I folded laundry -- I was in the mood for Damon/Affleck and Rickman, Hayek, Carlin, Rock, Smith, et al, and I knew he would like it because Shin Megami Tensei has made him appreciate fallen angels and contemporary demonology. Adam came home after it started and watched while writing a letter to his guidance counselor requesting a change of schedule.

The evening of the first day of school always means filling out lots of forms -- emergency contacts, lunch surveys, carpool permissions, code of conduct -- and organizing new textbooks. We had grilled cheese and peanut noodles for dinner and double-checked that all the college forms for the guidance counselor, Daniel's and mine, were in order and in the folder that needs to be returned to her on Tuesday. Someone on Facebook noted that I mention doing laundry a lot -- is that worse than posts about exercising? I'm not even sure I've made it from Hobbiton to Rivendell yet this year because I can't stand the idea of blogging daily distances!

Tonight's photos are all of two works at the Corning Museum of Glass by Scottish-born artist Eric Hilton.

The first, Life Sanctuary 2001, is from the Heineman Collection.

This is made of cast, cut, engraved, and sandblasted glass on a granite base

I have an affinity for a lot of the symbols carved into the glass...

...a tree of life, pyramids, a lotus, fallen leaves.

The structure and base on which the carvings rest has dozens of rainbow prisms.

Hilton's Innerland is displayed with contemporary glass by Steuben near displays of Tiffany, Lalique, Orrefors, and others.

Here is a link to the museum's description of this piece, designed by Hilton and produced in association with many glasscutters.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Poem for Monday and Corning Antiquities

3 Men: Portraits Without the Human Figure
By Deena Linnett

Hotel-casino: lights flash, crowds tread
patterned carpets hoping for a turn
in fortune. Despite the ardent wishes
of the women you have left you are not dead.
You're good at lively passing things
that happen here: at restaurants, in bed,
at tables tossing dice and cards. That smudge
at bottom right stands in for me, as you plunge
breathless into chance as into women, risk
like drink obliterating everything.

Studio: smells of linseed oil and turpentine. Brushes,
palette knives, mixing-sticks; bottles, jars, tubes. Paint
in daubs and gobs and smears and dots and slashes.
You left the window open and everything stained.

Greenhouse. Beneath little panes pocked
by time and dotted with mold and lichen, rot,
a riot of tropical effulgence, small framed portion
of the endlessness. Spiky plants blossom
like ideas; light glances off the glass and gleams
on the permanent hunger, steams. Everything
blooms or is green. You shrug into your coat.


We had a pretty quiet last Sunday before the first day of school, mostly because we had chores that had to be done at home (though Adam did go to the pool with friends and did not manage to clean his room). I spent the morning working on a Shutterfly photo book from our New Orleans trip last year -- I had a coupon for a free book that had to be used by Tuesday -- and the afternoon working on essays for Daniel's guidance counselor, since the school sent home a packet last spring asking for information and anecdotes about our students that's due on his first day of school.

We all watched the Emmy Awards, which were the most entertaining I ever remember even though I'd seen fewer nominated shows this year than ever before. The only award I really cared about was supporting actress in a comedy, and even though I love Julie Bowen, that one HAD to go to Jane Lynch for Glee -- it's just gravy that Stephen Colbert presented the award, and could only think of men playing women in comedy. I love that Lynch won and I love that she thanked her wife. It was nice to get glimpses of Patrick Stewart, Glenn Close, Susan Sarandon, and various other actors I like a lot, and though I didn't see all the performances -- including the one that won -- Best Actor in Movie or Miniseries at the Emmys has bigger names than Best Actor at the Oscars these days.

Eastern Mediterranean mosaic glass bowl, created between the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C., now at the Corning Museum of Glass.

Core-formed Mesopotamian glass objects manufactured in the Mediterranean region between 1460 and 1200 B.C.

Jars made in Mesopotamia and Iran during the 8th and 7th centuries B.C.

A plaque with an actor's mask from Alexandria during the late 1st century Roman Empire, mosaic glass technique. The Macedonian Greeks who ruled Egypt were fans of Greek drama.

Roman Empire flasks shaped like fish, probably from the 3rd century.

Glass flagons and amphorae from the Roman Empire.

This is the Disch Cantharus, dating to the late 3rd or early 4th century, found in Cologne, Germany and named for the collector who was its earliest known owner.

A funnel beaker from the 10th century found in a grave in Birka, Sweden, a major trading center with a large pagan population that buried useful household objects with the deceased.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Poem for Sunday, Blackberries, Olney Shakespeare

Epilogue from A Midsummer Night's Dream
By William Shakespeare

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call:
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.


It's late, so I'll make this quick. While avoiding DC and Glenn Beck, Daniel went for most of the day to work on his summer research project, and the rest of us went berry picking at Butler's Orchard, which is in the last weeks of blackberry and raspberry harvesting before it's time for apples and then pumpkins. There were still plenty of ripe berries and plenty more that weren't quite ripe yet, plus lots of butterflies and bees -- the raspberry patch in particular sounded entirely abuzz, and one had to look for bees as well as thorns on the plants. We picked lots of berries and ate some of them with dinner, while the rest are going to be used for assorted salads and baked goods, yay!

In the evening, we went to Olney Theatre Center for the 21st annual Summer Shakespeare Festival, which is free and held outdoors under the stars and the huge oak trees. This year they did A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which the young lovers are prep school students, the fairies can only be seen in blacklight, and characters talk on cell phones and dance to electronic music. Having seen many productions of this play, I've come to the conclusion that it really needs an excellent Bottom and an excellent Helena to succeed -- they have the hardest roles, with Bottom having to convey a sense of wonder while at the same time being a total idiot in the wedding play and Helena having to be believably emotional without seeming too much like Demetrius's spaniel. This production had both, so it was a lot of fun -- plus it had flying insects making cameos and a real moon rising over the stage, which was awesome.

Lysander pleads for Hermia's hand in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Olney Theatre Center.

The players are a mail clerk, a temp, and other underpaid staff who work in the Duke's offices.

I couldn't get a decent photo of the fairy scenes because they're in blacklight with Oberon and Titania in glowing costumes, wigs, and wonderful face makeup. Here is Puck going to find love-in-idleness.

And here is the cast at the conclusion of the play. Oberon and Titania are played by the same actors as Theseus and Hippolyta, the lovers also play the players, Egeus and Bottom are played by the same actor, and everyone takes turns with the other roles.

Earlier in the day, we went looking for berries at Butler's Orchard.

We shared both the blackberry and raspberry patches with many flying friends.

Outside the farm store, the staff were grilling free samples of yellow squash, zucchini, and potatoes for people to try with Butler's Orchard barbecue sauces. Yum!

And inside the store, we bought many of the things we had to throw out when our refrigerator had to be emptied after the days-long blackout -- syrups, sauces, etc.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Poem for Saturday, 'Dark Page,' Aviary Lorikeets

A Book Said Dream and I Do
By Barbara Ras

There were feathers and the light that passed through feathers.
There were birds that made the feathers and the sun that made the light.
The feathers of the birds made the air soft, softer
than the quiet in a cocoon waiting for wings,
stiller than the stare of a hooded falcon.
But no falcons in this green made by the passage of parents.
No, not parents, parrots flying through slow sleep
casting green rays to light the long dream.
If skin, dew would have drenched it, but dust
hung in space like the stoppage of
time itself, which, after dancing with parrots,
had said, Thank you. I'll rest now.
It's not too late to say the parrot light was thick
enough to part with a hand, and the feathers softening
the path, fallen after so much touching of cheeks,
were red, hibiscus red split by veins of flight
now at the end of flying.
Despite the halt of time, the feathers trusted red
and believed indolence would fill the long dream,
until the book shut and time began again to hurt.


I had a bunch of things that had to be done on the last weekday before school starts -- talking to both kids' guidance counselors (Daniel's about our college application conference, Adam's about whether he can take AP US History as a freshman instead of Honors US History), getting haircuts for both of them as well as myself, getting Starbuck's iced frappuccinos as compensation for agreeing to get haircuts, looking over Daniel's college essays. I also needed to write and post a review of Star Trek: The Next Generation's excellent "Dark Page".

We had dinner with my parents -- Italian food from a new restaurant my mother had heard highly praised, and while the carnivores were not over the moon about the lasagna, the eggplant parmesan was superlative -- then watched most of the Redskins-Jets game, which Washington won 16-11 although Donovan McNabb was out with an injury. The boys had had enough football when that ended, so although we put the Saints-Chargers game on briefly, we then watched some first season Arrested Development, which just never gets old. Then we saw New Orleans win, though everyone around here is in mourning for Stephen Strasburg and that's all the sports news!

We saw lorikeet lovebirds at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.

Initially, they were primarily interested in the food Adam was carrying...

...even when they had to share with their friends...

...but they were just as interested in the beads on my bracelet.

Apparently lorikeets cannot resist the shiny.

Adam took this photo of my wrist with "Friendship" being nibbled.

The birds also enjoyed hanging out on the air vent...

...and studying each other's courtship rituals.

The Friday Five: Spoiling
1. Has anyone ever spoiled a book/movie/etc. for you?
Starting with The Empire Strikes Back, back in the era before internet when word of mouth was all we had.
2. Have you ever spoiled a book/movie/etc. for anyone? Not maliciously, though I did get hate mail for talking about the plot of A Beautiful Mind, years after it was released on DVD, for pointing out in a review that a Star Trek episode had stolen it.
3. Are you (or were you) spoiled as a child? Compared to my peers in school, not really. Compared to most of the world, very.
4. Do you put spoiler cuts when you discuss books/film in your journal? Yes.
5. Is there any food spoiling in your kitchen right now? Doubtful, since we've twice had to clean out the fridge this summer due to power outages.

Fannish5: Name the 5 most interesting fictional journeys.
1. Spock
, Star Trek through The Final Frontier (the REAL Spock).
2. Morgaine, The Mists of Avalon (the book).
3. Kira Nerys, Deep Space Nine.
4. Jack Aubrey, The Aubrey-Maturin Novels.
5. Thursday Next, The Eyre Affair through First Among Sequels.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Poem for Friday and National Aviary

By Terri Ford

The Lord is my Arctic, my tube
nosed bird. He hoppeth over
the surface of waters, my Jesus
bird who doth follow my ship.

He broods over cliff's edge, ponderous
over all of the penguins balancing
their eggs on their feet.

The Lord is my giant frigate bird. I am
his limpet, krill, and his plankton.
He is the blue and the ever
in waking, blue
in the wake.


Adam had a high school orientation in the spring that we thought duplicated the one that took place Thursday morning, but apparently we were wrong because his friend called with a provisional schedule (which may change between now and Monday when school starts properly). So although I had plans to have lunch with Gblvr -- my father took the boys out to lunch at Hamburger Hamlet -- I had to rush over to the high school to get the schedule from the guidance counselor, because he wants to switch from honors to AP US History if he can, which hopefully will also let him switch from software design to journalism which he'd like to do. We still had time for some girly shopping -- Fire & Ice, Brighton -- and to share crepes!

The rest of the afternoon mostly involved chores, taking a walk, taking a shower, and other things not worth detailing. We watched "Dark Page," the Next Gen episode I need to review on Friday, which I'd recalled as being rather overwrought but it's really quite good, both the performances and the emotional content. Then we watched "Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences," this week's marital problems Futurama, which was cute, but afterward Comedy Central reran "Roswell That Ends Well," which is one of the funniest half-hours in TV history. And then Jon Stewart explained Glenn Beck's plans for America and we couldn't decide whether to laugh or spend all night throwing up.

A penguin watches his friend being fed at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.

The penguins at the aviary have a huge new enclosure...

...from which visitors can watch them underwater and on the rocks.

They have lots of room in the outdoor enclosure to swim around.

We got to watch a penguin feeding, where one staffer took notes on how many fish each penguin ate while another fed them...

...and we got to watch penguins diving underwater.

The adult penguins are banded on the arm for identification, but his year's young penguins haven't all been named yet because they need genetic tests to determine their sex.

There is a penguin named Patrick at the aviary who is female -- she was named before her sex had been determined via testing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Poem for Thursday, the Bay and the Baysox

Returning To My Cottage
By Wang Wei
Translated by David Young

A bell in the distance
the sound floats
down the valley

one by one
woodcutters and fishermen
stop work, start home

the mountains move off
into darkness

alone, I turn home
as great clouds beckon
from the horizon

the wind stirs delicate vines
and water chestnut shoots
catkin fluff sails past

in the marsh to the east
new growth
vibrates with color

it's sad
to walk in the house
and shut the door.


Paul took the afternoon off, since it was supposed to be a nice day, he has phone conferences tomorrow, and the kids start school next week, so we could go to eastern Maryland to the beach and a baseball game! We had a quick early lunch and drove to Flag Ponds State Park, where unlike previous years it was neither outrageously hot nor surprisingly crowded -- it was overcast and barely in the 80s, and we had the beach practically to ourselves. It would have been a perfect couple of hours except Adam got stung by a jellyfish not long after we arrived, which ruined his enthusiasm for wading half a mile offshore (the sand stays so level once one is in up to one's waist that one can walk a long, long way out), and Daniel was bothered by the tiny sand flies on the beach when he'd had enough of floating. Still, it was very pretty and quiet, we saw lots of gulls and leaping fish plus a couple of crabs, and the walk to and from the beach through the woods is always lovely.

We drove for about 45 minutes to Prince George's Stadium, home of the Bowie Baysox. PG County's schools opened for the fall this week -- a week earlier than my county's -- which I gather really cuts into baseball revenues because they had $1 tickets for this game against the Akron Aeros. The game did not go well for the Baysox, who gave up several runs in the first inning and ended up losing 8-1, though we didn't stay till the end of the game since it's nearly an hour home from the stadium; still, what's fun about minor league baseball is that the crowd is low-key and there's lots of goofy fun audience participation stuff, so it feels much more like a local gathering place than the big-money, big-mob major league ballparks. I'm a bit sleepy from all the sun and fresh air, but here are some photos from across Maryland:

My kids enjoying the warm Chesapeake Bay water at Flag Ponds State Park with Calvert Cliffs in the background.

Unfortunately, Adam encountered a much larger one of these...

...and ended up with a very painful arm for the rest of the afternoon.

There were no such menaces at the Bowie Baysox game...

...well, at least not unless the team's mascot counts. His name is Louie. Don't ask me what species he's supposed to be.

In addition to baseball, we got to meet Mrs. Maryland, who threw out one of the ceremonial first pitches -- her real name is Allison Zmuda and she teaches eighth grade English, so I approve.

One of the between-inning events involved kids racing on inflatable horses. (When Adam was about five, he and I were chosen for one of these events at a Frederick Keys game -- we raced on tricycles and won a bike helmet.)

By the time it was dark, the stadium wasn't very crowded, as you can see -- it's a school night there.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Poem for Wednesday and Corning Museum of Glass

Sex Next Door
By Julie Bruck

It's rare, slow as a creaking of oars,
and she is so frail and short of breath
on the street, the stairs – tiny, Lilliputian,
one wonders how they do it.
So, wakened by the shiftings of their bed nudging
our shared wall as a boat rubs its pilings,
I want it to continue, before her awful
hollow coughing fit begins. And when
they have to stop (always) until it passes, let
us praise that resumed rhythm, no more than a twitch
really, of our common floorboards. And how
he's waited for her before pushing off
in their rusted vessel, bailing when they have to,
but moving out anyway, across the black water.


Another from Bruck's The End of Travel.

We had a relatively quiet morning -- Daniel working on summer homework and project stuff, Adam working on art with his Wacom tablet, me still trying to catch up on things from our trip last week. My mother had a morning meeting about Hebrew school and afterward came to take the kids out to lunch, though they took their time both getting off the computers to get ready and deciding what they wanted to eat, so that by the time they had settled on the Original Pancake House, I was hungry and wanted pancakes too! So my mom invited me along, and Adam and I split a jalapeno omelette and praline pancakes while mom had crepes and Daniel had "The Works" -- eggs, bacon, pancakes, hash browns. It was all yummy.

From the Corning Museum of Glass, this is Harvey K. Littleton's Eye, created in 1969.

This piece of Littleton's, Red/Amber Sliced Descending Form, became the first piece in Ben and Natalie Heineman's stunning collection of contemporary glass, which they donated to the museum in 2006.

All the items on this page come from the Heineman collection. This is Spring Landscape Study by David R. Huchthausen.

Michael M. Glancy's Resilient Corrosion in Lavender is made of blown glass, industrial plate glass, and copper.

The museum owns several large pieces by Dale Chihuly, and these vases are his as well -- Cylinder with Indian Blanket Drawing, In Honor of Jackson Pollock and Ruth Kligman, and Navajo Basket Cylinder.

Michael Pavlik's Dual Gate Series is dated 1985, made of cast glass, cut, ground, bonded.

Richard Marquis's Crazy Quilt Teapot #38 is one of my favorite items in the Heineman collection, made of fused and blown murrine, the glass process created in the Middle East and revived in Venice in the 1500s.

And another favorite item, Jane Bruce's Faux Marble Bowl, which is made of blown glass which has been sandblasted, then painted to look like marble with the use of gold leaf.

We caught up on last week's Futurama -- the body-swap episode, which reminded me of Farscape's body-swap episode. Lots of sci-fi shows have done one where people of different genders get swapped, but there aren't as many where humans and aliens swap bodies -- let alone have human-alien same-sex relations while in the wrong bodies -- probably there are people who will be bugged by consent issues but this is Futurama so I can't really take it that seriously. Ironically, this week's Warehouse 13 was a body-swap episode too, though I wish Claudia and Artie had been in on that action instead of in a heterosexist Possessed Men cliche while Pete was swaggering around in Mika's heels at her high school reunion.