Monday, January 31, 2011

Poem for Monday, Botanic Garden, SAG Awards

At Baia
By H.D.

I should have thought
in a dream you would have brought
some lovely, perilous thing,
orchids piled in a great sheath,
as who would say (in a dream),
"I send you this,
who left the blue veins
of your throat unkissed."

Why was it that your hands
(that never took mine),
your hands that I could see
drift over the orchid-heads
so carefully,
your hands, so fragile, sure to lift
so gently, the fragile flower-stuff--
ah, ah, how was it

You never sent (in a dream)
the very form, the very scent,
not heavy, not sensuous,
but perilous--perilous--
of orchids, piled in a great sheath,
and folded underneath on a bright scroll,
some word:

"Flower sent to flower;
for white hands, the lesser white,
less lovely of flower-leaf,"


"Lover to lover, no kiss,
no touch, but forever and ever this."


Daniel had robotics and Adam went to volunteer at Hebrew school on Sunday morning, so I had a fairly quiet morning with cats climbing all over me. After lunch, Adam voted down a plan to hear the US Marine Band play songs of the sea in favor of going downtown to take photos of flowers -- there are orchids at the Smithsonian's Natural History museum and in the US Botanic Garden -- but in the course of juggling various things to bring in the car, I managed to forget my camera (I was terrified all afternoon that I'd left it sitting in front of the house, though it was inside). So although I had a lovely time looking at the live plants and the photography exhibit of landscape design in Scotland at the gardens, I have only photos taken on my mobile phone, which has many virtues but a great camera isn't among them:

We had parked at the far end of the Mall from the botanic garden, so we had a nice walk there and back on a day that was chilly but very pretty. I convinced the family to postpone watching the last episode of Downton Abbey so I could watch the SAG awards, which were utterly delightful -- not only because The King's Speech won the two major awards I really cared about on top of the DGA award the night before -- it makes me sad that Geoffrey Rush keeps not winning, but it's not like he doesn't have a shelf full of Oscar-Tony-Emmy-etc. trophies and it's not like I begrudge Christian Bale anything -- but because Boardwalk Empire has been cleaning up this awards season and I really think that show is terrific, I don't even like shows with mobsters, but the sets and period atmosphere and particularly the complexity of the women characters and how generally sympathetic the show is to all of them makes me very happy.

Belated The Friday Five: Actors/Actresses
1. Favorite actor/actress growing up?
I had many, ranging from Carrie Fisher in the Star Wars era to Lee Remick in The Competition to Anne Bancroft in absolutely everything. I liked Robert Redford but I was all about awesome women in those days.
2. Favorite tv show/movie they were in and why? The Lion in Winter was my favorite film from the first time I saw it, though I didn't fully appreciate Katharine Hepburn until later, when I'd seen more of her films.
3. Favorite quote by said actor/actress? Since I'm all over the place already, I'm just going to quote something Viggo Mortensen said that I absolutely love: "When you go to the movie theater: you and the movie have a secret. It might even be a god-awful movie and you could still walk out with this little secret -- or a big secret -- inside you: a discovery that might stay with you for a day, for a month or two, even years."
4. Favorite image of said actor/actress? My favorite-ever movie star portrait is Grace Kelly in the promo shoot for The Swan, the last film she made before she married Prince Rainier and disappeared from movies.
5. What would you like said actor/actress to appear in? Since no one has yet made a movie of Marie Jakober's The Black Chalice, I keep recasting in my head who I want to play the leads. I come back quite often to Sean Bean, though.

Belated Fannish5: Name five fannish opinions of yours that have changed since you entered fandom.
I thought strong female characters were the most important thing to me. I've reluctantly been forced to admit that it's relationships that draw me -- they can be romantic or platonic, couples or multiples, and they don't have to focus primarily on women.
2. I didn't think there would ever be a Star Trek I wouldn't find a way to love.
3. I didn't like Russell Crowe all that much.
4. I wasn't at all a fan of superheroes. I'm still not, really, but considering that I joined LiveJournal in search of Smallville fandom and I'm still watching the show ten years later, I can't pretend not to have enjoyed the ride.
  and, in honor of Colin Firth and The King's Speech:
5. I didn't think I would ever be absolutely delighted that Paul Bettany didn't take a role for which he was the director's first choice.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Poem for Sunday and Great Falls Snow

On Approaching the Staub-Bach, Lauterbrunnen
By William Wordsworth

Uttered by whom, or how inspired--designed
For what strange service, does this concert reach
Our ears, and near the dwellings of mankind!
'Mid fields familiarized to human speech?--
No Mermaid's warble--to allay the wind
Driving some vessel toward a dangerous beach--
More thrilling melodies; Witch answering Witch,
To chant a love-spell, never intertwined
Notes shrill and wild with art more musical:
Alas! that from the lips of abject Want 10
Or Idleness in tatters mendicant
The strain should flow--free Fancy to enthral,
And with regret and useless pity haunt
This bold, this bright, this sky-born, WATERFALL!


For the fourth day in a row, we had snow in the air, though thankfully it didn't last very long and didn't stick since the temperature was above freezing by the time it fell. Paul took Daniel to robotics early, and the rest of us had a quiet morning reading and writing and looking at camera stuff. It was very pretty out with snow still sticking to most of the trees, so after lunch we decided to take a walk at Great Falls, which was nearly deserted except for people with cameras, a couple of couples, and (as we were leaving) some crazy people with kayaks. The water was both surprisingly low and surprisingly green in the river given the amount of snow we got earlier in the week, but there was still lots of snow on the rocks and the trees and the partially-frozen canal. We saw only one heron, flying overhead, but there were ducks and squirrels near the towpath and on the island.

We had pancakes, (fake) sausage, (fake) bacon, and eggs for dinner after Daniel got home, then we watched Frida, which I swear has been on my list for much longer than my recent Geoffrey Rush obsession but it was on cable which made it the obvious choice in between local and national coverage of the situation in Egypt. I didn't love it -- I find that Julie Taymor's style sometimes overshadows the emotional content of her material, which was the case here when she tried to portray how Kahlo found her artistic inspiration, though at least she made some effort as opposed to the recent terribly-scripted for-TV Georgia O'Keeffe movie -- but the performances are all excellent, it's very interesting visually, and Salma Hayek is sublime. Plus it made me really want to go to Mexico, especially right now when everything is so white and gray outside.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Poem for Saturday and Leopards

Irritable Mystic
By Nathaniel Mackey

— "mu" fifth part —

  His they their
we, their he
 his was but if
need be one,
I, neither sham nor
 excuse yet an
alibi, exited,
the only where
 he'd be.

the long since
 body, imagines
each crack, each
    crevice as it sweats
   under cloth,
                   tongues touching
     down on love's endlessly
 warmed-over thigh.
                             The awaited one
    she mistook him for haunts
       him, tells him in
     dreams he told
                            him so.
       Such offense,
   but at what
      won't say,
                       no resolve if not
      not to be caught
                             out. . .

     Abstract advance, its
    advantage unproved,
     what wish would
 give. . .
             Late eighties
momentarily bleached by
         bomblight. Awoke,
     maybe inwardly wanted
       wrestling with dreams
                                      of the
 awaited one again.
back but a moment later
        what moodier start
     to have gotten off
       angered by that but
 begrudged it its impact
     so sits remembering,
         pretending, shrugs it
off. . .

             Arced harp. Dark
     bent-over body. Esoteric
         sun whose boat its
 upheld. . .
vast underbelly of
       limb-letting thrust.
                                  Tread of
     hoofs. Weighted udders of
 dust. . .
               His it their she
once they awake,
       arisen one,
           at her feet,
                                 her feet
       one with their
   ankledeep in damage
                                   though she
           dances. . .
 The slippings off
                         of her
 of their hands define
her hips, whose are
       the suns whose
           his nights taste
     and as at last he
       lies her legs loom,
 loose gown pulled from
           her, sleep
And he with his
           cramps the air,
       lotuslike, lips
                           part kiss,


It snowed some more, I had a doctor's appointment, it took longer than it should have to get there because although the snow wasn't sticking it was falling very hard right when I needed to be driving, and there were traffic lights out at the major intersection between the mall and the medical complex -- fortunately there were police directing traffic in the lousy visibility. I had to wait quite a while for the doctor, as always, and got conflicting information about follow-up stuff, with the doctor saying one thing and the office saying another. With both my internist and my GYN, I have doctors I love in large practices I really dislike -- scheduling people who don't seem to know what they're talking about, billing staff who can't read their own forms, nurses who have to be called several times to get lab results. Is this just how the medical profession is now? I know lots of other people with the same complaints, and I really don't want to change doctors, but when a doctor tells me to come in at a certain time of the month for a certain procedure then the receptionist tells me sorry but that's absolutely impossible given her schedule, I don't know whether I'm getting the runaround from the doctor I think I like.

The rest of my day, at least, was good, though I had to give up on my plan to get The Wrath of Khan reviewed -- the internet cable was working again when I got back from the doctor, but the router had reset itself and renamed the network, so nobody could log on, and I had a pile of e-mails and forms and things that I had to take care of after more than a day without access to my main computer. I got my Variety with the King's Speech behind the scenes DVD and of course I had to watch that, and I had intended to watch Colin, Geoffrey, and Helena on Piers Morgan (I don't know which excerpt I like more) but he postponed them for coverage of what's going on in Egypt, which is fair enough except that CNN already had most of their other people covering Egypt and they DIDN'T bump the Kardashians last night. I had to turn off the news after a while because it's so stressful to keep seeing some of those images -- we watched A Single Man (yes that is twice in a week but Paul hadn't seen it) and it was cheerful by comparison, Cuban Missile Crisis and all.

Here are some photos of the Maryland Zoo's big cats, acting like kitties:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Poem for Friday and Here We Snow Again

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;
  How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly!—yet soon
  Night closes round, and they are lost for ever:

Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings
  Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
  One mood or modulation like the last.

We rest.—A dream has power to poison sleep;
  We rise.—One wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;
  Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away:

It is the same!—For, be it joy or sorrow,
  The path of its departure still is free:
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
  Nought may endure but Mutability.


I spent the entire day at my parents' watching movies with my family -- a necessity since we had no power when we left to come here at 10 a.m. (we slept late, of course, since the kids had no school), and the county had asked people to please stay off the major roads unless we absolutely had to drive on them. It was actually a very nice low-key day -- my mom made us French toast since we couldn't eat breakfast at home (we wanted to leave the refrigerator closed in hope of saving some of the food), then we watched some of the Australian Open with my dad, then we ordered a pizza for lunch, then we watched Red (which is fluffy but a lot of fun -- there is no comedy with Helen Mirren as an assassin and Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman as spy partners that I'm not going to enjoy), then we went home to check on the cats, then we had spaghetti for dinner, then we watched Inception since my parents hadn't seen it. Now, finally, we have power on at home, though no cable (either TV or internet), and the kids have no school again Friday because the roads aren't clear, so I have to figure out what to do with them once more!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Placeholder for Thursday

*waves* No power, no internet, but plenty of snow. Kids had no school today, will have no school tomorrow -- the county announced early, for once. I had a doctor's appointment in the morning that I could not miss, having had to postpone the last one due to snow; they were running behind, but my bloodwork was okay except for the ongoing low iron issues, so I can't complain. Watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in the afternoon with the family since everyone was home, enjoyed it as much as ever, have no idea what I can say in a review that will be remotely original. I intended to get some exercise but the snow started falling hard in the late afternoon and our power kept flickering; we lost internet around 9 and power around 10. Nights like this are why I still pay for AOL dial-up privileges. See you all tomorrow and if the power and cable aren't back on, you'll know who's screaming.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Poem for Wednesday, Blossoms, 'Girl With a Pearl Earring'

The Birth of Australia
By Percy Russell

Not 'mid the thunder of the battle guns,
Not on the red field of an Empire’s wrath,
Rose to a nation Australasia’s sons,
Who tread to greatness Industry’s pure path.
Behold a people, through whose annals runs
No damning stain of falsehood, force, or fraud;
Whose sceptre is the ploughshare—not the sword—
Whose glory lives in harvest-ripening suns!
Where 'mid the records of old Rome or Greece
Glows such as tale? Thou canst not answer, Time.
With shield unsullied by a single crime,
With wealth of gold, and still more golden fleece,
Forth stands Australia, in her birth sublime,
The only nation from the womb of Peace!


I had a very nice day thanks to Vertigo, who met me for lunch at California Pizza Kitchen and brought me Colin Firth movies just in case I didn't have enough. *g* This may be the first time in all the decades I've known her that she and I agree on the hotness of a man, so it's a momentous occasion! Since it was cold out, I had spicy kung pao noodles (which younger son finished for me), and after we ate and chatted for a while, I walked around the lake, stopped in a couple of stores, and came home to fold laundry and watch Girl with a Pearl Earring, which was loads more depressing than I was expecting -- I've been told that in the book, it seems like Griet has more agency because the reader gets to hear more of her thoughts, but in the film I felt like the women were all played against one another and had pretty miserable lives.

I took Adam to tennis, took a walk, read with some concern about the snow we may get on Wednesday, had dinner, then we all watched the State of the Union address together. Daniel had found various drinking games to play while watching and even though he's several years too young to drink, kept announcing when he WOULD be drinking if he could be (I think he concluded he'd be dead, since there were something like 50 standing ovations). I thought the speech was well-delivered but in terms of the particulars it wasn't one of my favorites. Of course, my favorite news of the day was much earlier, when the Oscar nominations came out; I think Nolan deserved a nod for Inception, I think it's a really creative film even if the screenplay has its flaws, but I am so happy The King's Speech got so many nominations that I will not complain about anything else at the moment. And a friend in California is sending me yesterday's Variety with all the Oscar promo stuff from that film, so I am doubly happy! Some Brookside flowers:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Poem for Tuesday and Outdoor Brookside

By Madison Cawein

The old house leans upon a tree
  Like some old man upon a staff:
The night wind in its ancient porch
  Sounds like a hollow laugh.

The heaven is wrapped in flying clouds,
  As grandeur cloaks itself in gray:
The starlight flitting in and out,
  Glints like a lanthorn ray.

The dark is full of whispers. Now
  A fox-hound howls: and through the night,
Like some old ghost from out its grave,
  The moon comes, misty white.


My kids had no school on Monday so teachers could grade midterms and finish semester reports. I took older son to robotics in the morning and had younger son come with me so we could stop at Barnes & Noble, though we ended up ordering the photography book he wanted because it was much cheaper online. Then we went to Bagel City, where we got both sweet (walnut raisin, blueberry) and salty (veggie) spreads and a baker's dozen bagels to bring home. House on Haunted Hill was on cable, and since the copy currently on my shelf belongs to Dementordelta, I recorded it so I'd have my own copy and naturally I had to watch it to make sure it came out all right -- I really dislike horror movies, so I was really hoping that this one would at least have a four-way involving Ali Larter, Taye Diggs, Famke Janssen and Geoffrey Rush (I said so on Facebook and several people agreed with me) -- but sadly it was too much horror, too little sex.

Paul had gone in to work early, so he left early to pick up older son from robotics, sparing me the Beltway on a day when it had to be closed in Prince George's County because of a massive water main break (apparently the traffic wasn't any worse in my own county than usual, but I really wasn't looking forward to finding out). He decided that we should have peanut soup for dinner -- one of my favorite things -- and we spent the evening watching Monty Python episodes before Harry's Law, which has courtroom scenes that are even more unrealistic than Boston Legal's and I couldn't care less, since I like Kathy Bates and I want to live in the America that exists only in David E. Kelley's head. Here are some photos from wintery Brookside Gardens on Sunday, where the holiday lights haven't yet been taken down:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Poem for Monday and Brookside Gardens

Journey's End
By Jónas Hallgrímsson
Translated by Dick Ringler

The star of love
over Steeple Rock
is cloaked in clouds of night.
It laughed, once, in heaven
for the lad who grieves
deep in the dark valley.

I know where all hope--
and my whole world--
flames with the fire of God.
I throw off the chains
of thought, I fling
myself into your soul.

I sink myself,
see into your being,
live your very life;
each gracious moment
God allots you
flares in my flaming heart.

Alone together
we gathered flowers
high on the heath at dawn.
I wove you wreaths,
reverently laying
loving gifts in your lap.

You heaped my forehead
with fragrant rings
of bright blue flowers,
one, then another;
you nodded and smiled
and swiftly snatched them away.

We laughed in the highlands
while heaven grew clear,
bright at the mountain brim.
Not a single joy
seemed to exist
apart from living our life.

The wise flower elves
wept in the hollows,
they knew we would need to part.
We thought it was drops
of dew and kissed
cold tears from the crossgrass.

I held you on horseback
in the hurtling stream
and felt with fond assurance
I could lift and carry
so light a flower
over all the leagues of life.

Beside the bank
of Boar River
I carefully combed your hair;
eye stars flash,
flower lips smile,
cheeks turn ruby red.

He is far from your fair
friendship, the lad
deep in the dark valley.
The star of love
over Steeple Rock
is burning back of clouds.

The heavens part
the high planets,
blade parts back and edge;
not even eter-
nity can part
souls that are sealed in love.


Paul and I had the house to ourselves Sunday morning while the kids were at robotics and Hebrew school respectively, so I was very lazy before lunch and read the paper and part of my book. After lunch, we picked up Adam and went to Brookside Gardens, where half the greenhouse has just been renovated for the spring and the other half is still closed while the walkways are replaced. It was below 30 degrees outside, so very nice to walk around indoors among orchids before taking a swing through the paths outside, where most of the holiday lights are still hanging -- they just don't turn them on at night.

It was a relatively quiet evening, too; we watched the Packers beat the Bears and Pittsburgh beat the Jets, had boca burgers for dinner, and some of us watched Downton Abbey while others played video games. (I must be a bitch because I do not have it in me to feel sorry for Mary; she's too horrible to other women.) I am sure I don't need to explain how happy I am that The King's Speech won the Producers Guild award -- I may write an essay on why it is the anti-Social Network, despite the fact that superficially they're both about extremely privileged men. My kids have no school tomorrow for the end of the term, but older son has robotics, and I may take younger son out for bagels!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Poem for Sunday and Ellicott City Railroad

Morning Express
By Siegfried Sassoon

Along the wind-swept platform, pinched and white,
The travellers stand in pools of wintry light,
Offering themselves to morn’s long, slanting arrows.
The train’s due; porters trundle laden barrows.
The train steams in, volleying resplendent clouds
Of sun-blown vapour. Hither and about,
Scared people hurry, storming the doors in crowds.
The officials seem to waken with a shout,
Resolved to hoist and plunder; some to the vans
Leap; others rumble the milk in gleaming cans.
Boys, indolent-eyed, from baskets leaning back,
Question each face; a man with a hammer steals
Stooping from coach to coach; with clang and clack
Touches and tests, and listens to the wheels.
Guard sounds a warning whistle, points to the clock
With brandished flag, and on his folded flock
Claps the last door: the monster grunts: ‘Enough!’
Tightening his load of links with pant and puff.
Under the arch, then forth into blue day,
Glide the processional windows on their way,
And glimpse the stately folk who sit at ease
To view the world like kings taking the seas
in prosperous weather: drifting banners tell
Their progress to the counties; with them goes
The clamour of their journeying; while those
Who sped them stand to wave a last farewell.


Daniel went off to robotics, and the rest of us went to meet Paul's parents in Ellicott City, where the branch of the B&O Railroad Museum -- housed in the oldest surviving railroad station in the country, though it's no longer in use for the trains -- still has its holiday model train displays up. I am sure I have mentioned that my father-in-law has been working for years on a model train display that takes up half his garage, so we can always invite them to do train stuff (given the number of train displays he has taken us to this year alone, I am starting to wonder whether model trains in the basement are in my husband's future and therefore my future too, heh). There's always a large model display of the regional railroad housed inside one of the buildings, but for Christmas there are also several model train displays inside the main part of the museum, in the old ticket office.

It was quite cold, but not too cold to walk to the two best stores in Ellicott City --the Forget-Me-Not Factory (which has an amazing collection of fairies, pirates, holiday houses -- Halloween as well as Christmas -- costumes, Renfaire stuff, and Wizard of Oz stuff) and Sweet Cascades (which is a chocolate shop). Then we drove back to pick up older son and came home for dinner. The kids both had things to do in the evening and Maryland had already beaten Clemson, meaning I had control of the TV, so I watched Nine -- which I really don't love in terms of the story, I like Fellini's movies but not his ego or attitudes towards women, but I have loved the music since I first heard the Raul Julia recording a million years ago. Not even Nicole Kidman can ruin "Unusual Way" for me, and the rest of the women are pretty awesome.