Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Poem for Tuesday and Black Rock Mill

A Lover
By Amy Lowell

If I could catch the green lantern of the firefly
I could see to write you a letter.


Happy end of January! I'm sure I've mentioned that winter keeps getting lost around here, which frankly at this point is fine with me since the light is coming back in the evening and improving my mood immensely. On Monday, although it was in the 40s, it was bright and sunny all day, so although I had cats trying to sleep in my lap which made me sleepy in the early afternoon in turn, it was quite a nice day. I don't have a lot to report, since I had to get a bunch of work and chores done, but I don't have complaints either, other than some long distance shenanigans that, to quote Marvin the Paranoid Martian from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, will all end in tears.

Adam went home with his girlfriend after school and Paul picked him up, then we had leftover eggplant casserole for dinner and watched Sunday's Once Upon a Time which I had made us miss for the SAG Awards. Then we watched the Smash pilot which is free on Amazon Prime (I think it's on iTunes too). It's too soon for me to know whether I will love where the story is going and I don't love all the songs written for the show's Marilyn musical, but there was never any chance that I wasn't going to love a show about Broadway starring Anjelica Huston and Debra Messing accompanied by a scruffy-looking Jack Davenport. I enjoyed it immensely -- almost as much as Stephen Colbert stealing his SuperPAC back from Jon Stewart.

Here are some photos of the ruins of Black Rock Mill in Germantown, a grist mill on Seneca Creek that was eventually flooded out:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Poem for Monday and Swain's Lock

The Swamp Fox
By William Gilmore Simms

We follow where the Swamp Fox guides,
  His friends and merry men are we;
And when the troop of Tarleton rides,
  We burrow in the cypress tree.
The turfy hammock is our bed,
  Our home is in the red deer's den,
Our roof, the tree-top overhead,
  For we are wild and hunted men.

We fly by day and shun its light,
  But, prompt to strike the sudden blow,
We mount and start with early night,
  And through the forest track our foe.
And soon he hears our chargers leap,
  The flashing sabre blinds his eyes,
And ere he drives away his sleep,
  And rushes from his camp, he dies.

Free bridle-bit, good gallant steed,
  That will not ask a kind caress
To swim the Santee at our need,
  When on his heels the foemen press,—
The true heart and the ready hand,
  The spirit stubborn to be free,
The twisted bore, the smiting brand,—
  And we are Marion's men, you see.

Now light the fire and cook the meal,
  The last perhaps that we shall taste;
I hear the Swamp Fox round us steal,
  And that's a sign we move in haste.
He whistles to the scouts, and hark!
  You hear his order calm and low.
Come, wave your torch across the dark,
  And let us see the boys that go.

We may not see their forms again,
  God help'em, should they find the strife!
For they are strong and fearless men,
  And make no coward terms for life;
They'll fight as long as Marion bids,
  And when he speaks the word to shy,
Then, not till then, they turn their steeds,
  Through thickening shade and swamp to fly.

Now stir the fire and lie at ease,—
  The scouts are gone, and on the brush
I see the Colonel bend his knee,
  To take his slumbers too. But hush!
He's praying, comrades;'t is not strange;
  The man that's fighting day by day
May well, when night comes, take a change,
  And down upon his knees to pray.

Break up that hoe-cake, boys, and hand
  The sly and silent jug that's there;
I love not it should idly stand
  When Marion's men have need of cheer.
'Tis seldom that our luck affords
  A stuff like this we just have quaffed,
And dry potatoes on our boards
  May always call for such a draught.

Now pile the brush and roll the log;
  Hard pillow, but a soldier's head
That's half the time in brake and bog
  Must never think of softer bed.
The owl is hooting to the night,
  The cooter crawling o'er the bank,
And in that pond the flashing light
  Tells where the alligator sank.

What! 'tis the signal! start so soon,
  And through the Santee swamp so deep,
Without the aid of friendly moon,
  And we, Heaven help us! half asleep!
But courage, comrades! Marion leads,
  The Swamp Fox takes us out to-night;
So clear your swords and spur your steeds,
  There's goodly chance, I think, of fight.

We follow where the Swamp Fox guides,
  We leave the swamp and cypress-tree,
Our spurs are in our coursers' sides,
  And ready for the strife are we.
The Tory camp is now in sight,
  And there he cowers within his den;
He hears our shouts, he dreads the fight,
  He fears, and flies from Marion's men.


It wasn't as warm on Sunday as it had been on Saturday, but it was bright and sunny, when we retrieved younger son after Hebrew school, we went to Swain's Lock on the C&O Canal. We couldn't remember the last time we'd been there; at the time, there was a boat launch and I think people could even rent bicycles. We walked between the canal and the Potomac River and saw as many animals as people -- a deer, a fox, a raccoon, mallards, a woodpecker -- and when we finally walked back to the parking lot, there was a policeman checking up on a report of two dogs who'd been left locked in a car without the windows open (I am glad they actually follow up on such reports in our county).

I had to fold laundry in the afternoon so for the first time in years I watched the entire broadcast of the US Figure Skating Championships pairs and men's long programs. I had absolutely nothing invested in who won and so I was very happy with the results, which in both cases I thought sent the best skaters by far to Worlds. Adam went ice skating with his girlfriend, so we had peanut soup for dinner (not his favorite but it is mine!) and I made Paul watch the SAG Awards, which I enjoyed greatly -- I had little invested in who won any of the TV categories (though I never mind Boardwalk Empire winning things and I was glad Kathy Bates was even nominated) and I felt bad for Glenn Close going home empty-handed, but I really wanted The Help to kick ass in all its categories, and it did. I would love for it to do as well at the Oscars.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Poem for Sunday and Chinese New Year

By Alistair Noon

I seem so short of decent words for water,
my one good guide over the next three days.
It falls and flows, freezes, melts, forms a border,
then evaporates in the Dead Sea’s haze.
No single terms will sing a pool’s green hue,
the jellyfish-pirated Eastern Med,
dead coral off Kota Kinabalu,
scavengers’ darkness at the ocean bed.
When I find a pond or meet the Pacific
it’s not the light, the warmth, the taste or pressure,
but the fluid things that I make specific --
the place that I name and the shape I measure --
fingers doing their best to comprehend
this sentence we never hear to the end.


Noon's last book was Out of the Cave from 2011.

Saturday was yet another ridiculously warm January day. Younger son needed dress shoes to wear to my niece's Bat Mitzvah next month, so we took him to Lakeforest Mall, which was opening their annual Chinese New Year celebration with a ribbon-cutting and lion dance just after we arrived. We watched a bit of the martial arts and dancing, then went to three shoe stores where we eventually found shoes for him (though not for me, though I did threaten to get black patent leather boots with blue-and-green plaid insets and eight-inch heels). Then we went to the extremely crowded food court, where I had half of a fabulous spinach stromboli and we watched music videos on the overhead screens.

After looking at the photo and art displays, we left the mall and went to the ruins of Black Rock Mill in Germantown, which is part of Seneca Creek State Park. The mill is open to the sky and there's a gate where the door once was, but there are large signs inside explaining the history of the mill and of the area, plus a walking trail up the steep hill behind the mill and across Black Rock Road following Seneca Creek. It was muddy and somewhat slippery but it felt absolutely gorgeous out, and we didn't go home till after sunset since we had to stop at the grocery store.

In honor of the Chinese New Year festivities, we had General Tso's tofu and veggie dumplings for dinner. Then we were going to watch some more X-Files but while we were trying to figure out what we had, Paul put on FX, which had 2012 on, and Adam sat down to watch it, so the rest of us watched too. I had thought that Anonymous was probably Emmerich's most ridiculous movie but 2012 surely must rival it, and even though I still can't figure out how they intended to feed people after the Bad Stuff or ten million other major plot points, I knew exactly who was going to live, who was going to die, who was going to kiss, etc. because the movie is entirely formulaic in that regard.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Poem for Saturday, Farms, If Wishes Were Horses

Human Atlas
By Marianne Boruch

Because the body really
is Mars, is Earth or Venus or the saddest downsized
Pluto, can be booked, bound, mapped then.
Or rendered like something off the bone, fat just under
the animal skin, to lard,
cheaper, quicker than butter, like stillness
belies restlessness, like every yes
was or will be not, never, no,
                                                  none of that.
A full section in such a book
keeps the skeleton quiet. (So untroubled to be specific, to say
femur, rib, half-minute of splendor,
to stare like that
stops time...) Or slick pages and pages given over
to slow the blood, remake muscle, to un-secret
that most mysterious lymph, its arsenal
of glands under the arm, at groin, at neck, awful
ghost lightning in it. Inscrutable.
                                                            Complete: because
the whole body ends, remember?
But each ending
goes on and on. Complete: because some
minor genius with a pencil, with ink, with drastic color
makes that arm you've known for years
raw, inside out, near wanton run of red vessel and nerve,
once a sin to look, weirdly now,
what should be hidden. Oh, it's garish
                                                               equals austere.
Compute. Does not compute. Tell me.
Then tell me who that
me is, or the
you understood, the any of us, our precious
everything we ever, layer upon
bright layer.


It has not been the most relaxing week around here, but there were a couple of compensations: Emynn gave me an invitation to Pinterest, which is freakin' addictive, and Sfaith alerted me to the fact that the Colin Firth-Keira Knightley short film Steve was finally on iTunes, so I got to see it. Why do I prefer Colin playing a neurotic loser so much to Colin playing a Beautiful Person? (See yesterday's post.) Anyway, on Friday my compensation was going to the mall looking for a longer chain for the pendant I want to wear with my dress to the Bat Mitzvah and getting to play with beads in Brighton, since they're doing a promotion where if you make a wish list you can win the whole thing. I couldn't do this till I finished and posted my review of Deep Space Nine's "If Wishes Were Horses", which is not one of the greats nor even one of the very goods.

We had dinner with my parents and discussed various extended family matters, including the upcoming Bat Mitzvah, my mother's upcoming birthday, and relatives coming to visit each other. Then we came home for Nikita, watched the Caravaggio episode of Simon Schama's Power of Art because the Mammals episode tonight was about mammals who eat each other, then we caught a few minutes of a show about the Bermuda Triangle that mentioned aliens and I got an overwhelming urge to watch The X-Files' "The Unnatural" which most delightfully is on Amazon Prime. I haven't seen the episode in over a decade and it holds up in every way...the baseball, the aliens, the Mulder/Scully shippiness. Here are some photos from the Frederick Festival of the Farm last fall that I only just am getting around to posting:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Poem for Friday and Dress Shopping

By Ralph Waldo Emerson

The water understands
Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.


I had a very nice Thursday morning and early afternoon, getting a bunch of paperwork done so I could go meet Twistedchick for lunch (to which I was a bit late because my elderly neighbor tripped and fell on the sidewalk just as I was walking out of my house, so I ran back in to get her ice and band-aids and make sure she was all right). Twistedchick brought me a Tarot deck and we had vegetarian Chinese food and a long conversation about family, politics and fandom that continued past lunch and on to coffee and hot chocolate, at which point we decided we should just have lunch again next week.

Then I had to commit the ongoing atrocious act of trying to find a dress for my niece's Bat Mitzvah in two weeks. I'm sure you all know my policy on fashion for myself, which is: unless it's for a play or some other theatrical-type event (Star Trek convention etc.), I refuse to be uncomfortable, let alone in pain. If I ever got invited to the Academy Awards, I'd be going in flats. So I ruled out 3/4 of what I looked at/tried on purely on the basis of comfort, because a Bat Mitzvah not only isn't a theatrical event unless you're the celebrant, but generally involves two hours plus in synagogue followed by several hours at a party that includes dancing. Pretty much everyone at this particular Bat Mitzvah comes from an area where dressing to the nines is the norm for such events, so I'm going to be in the cheapest dress there anyway -- why would I want it to be an uncomfortable cheap dress?

Normally I would just wear something I already own with some jewelry modification or something, but my last many semi-formal events have called for summer clothing so I truly have nothing in my closet, and while I might otherwise wear an out of season dress, since even winter formal dresses can be sleeveless, there will be photos that will be seen by people who literally have only met me the once before in the same dress. Have I mentioned the huge dent in my crush on a certain actor made by his wife's self-aggrandizement as an "eco-warrior" on Twitter? Honey, bragging about your Brazilian waxes and your phone calls to Stella McCartney makes you sound like an insecure woman who wishes she could be a young supermodel, not a fashion provocateur -- and please stop kidding yourself that getting Armani to make you a dress of recycled materials is saving the environment -- getting Armani or anyone to design recycled material dresses for middle- and low-end retail stores would do a hell of a lot more. It isn't like Carey Mulligan's designer dress won't get auctioned and worn again anyway.

Speaking of high fashion, my favorite dress at the Golden Globes by far was Sarah Michelle Gellar's swirly blue confection -- it reminds me of the Whispering Wind Barbie doll dress, hee -- for which nearly every magazine criticized her even though she was by no means the most famous or worst-dressed there, and she said she didn't care because her daughter picked out the dress...this makes me giggle, because of course my favorite dress would be the big flouncy one adored by a little girl, not the supposedly sophisticated fishtail things that made actresses teeter their way up to get awards as if they'd suffered from foot binding.

Urgh, even witnessing the ridiculous behavior of the very rich, fit, and fashionable does not make me feel better about having to be on display even marginally as the aunt of the impending Bat Mitzvah -- normally my body issues are all about healthy weight and skirts that are labeled XXL yet when held up against a size 10 on the same rack have even smaller waists. So there I was, first in Nordstrom then in Macy's, trying on dresses that in some cases said they were 14s but fit like 8s and in other cases said they were 12s but though they fit across my ample butt were designed on top as though women are or should be built like boys. Here are photos of the two most promising candidates, taken in the dressing room with my mobile phone; the one on the left actually has lots of sparkly sequins and isn't as plain as it looks, the one on the right is pretty on the hanger but on me made me feel like a grandmother of the bride or something:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Poem for Thursday, Robbie Burns, Botanic Garden

A Bard's Epitaph
Robert Burns

Is there a whim-inspired fool,
Owre fast for thought, owre hot for rule,
Owre blate to seek, owre proud to snool,
Let him draw near;
And owre this grassy heap sing dool,
And drap a tear.

Is there a bard of rustic song,
Who, noteless, steals the crowds among,
That weekly this area throng,
O, pass not by!
But, with a frater-feeling strong,
Here, heave a sigh.

Is there a man, whose judgment clear
Can others teach the course to steer,
Yet runs, himself, life's mad career,
Wild as the wave,
Here pause-and, thro' the starting tear,
Survey this grave.

The poor inhabitant below
Was quick to learn the wise to know,
And keenly felt the friendly glow,
And softer flame;
But thoughtless follies laid him low,
And stain'd his name!

Reader, attend! whether thy soul
Soars fancy's flights beyond the pole,
Or darkling grubs this earthly hole,
In low pursuit:
Know, prudent, cautious, self-control
Is wisdom's root.


I have eaten far too much because of the man who wrote that poem, whose 253rd birthday was Wednesday. Paul decided that we should have Vegetarian Haggis (made mostly of lentils, nuts, and veggies, and so vastly better than I imagine actual haggis is though I've never tried it and I never will). Since he was on a roll, he also made Tatties & Neeps (I am not an enormous turnip fan but they were pretty good with all the spices) and just to finish things correctly he made Tipsy Laird with pound cake, vanilla cream pie filling, lots of raspberries, and more Drambuie than I suspect was strictly necessary. So I am as blobby as my cat at the moment.

Otherwise my day involved a bunch of writing, a bunch of laundry, a bunch of e-mails exchanged with my sister since the Facebook alumni group for our elementary school has suddenly exploded with stuff from people we grew up with, discussing colleges with Adam who is being inundated with e-mail and brochures from schools now that he has PSAT scores to get their attention, and watching the Maryland-Duke game which the Terps basketball team has just tragically blown -- or not tragically, as the university sent out messages to students ordering them not to riot joyfully should Maryland win. Here are some photos from the US Botanic Garden's new Plants in Culture exhibit:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Poem for Wednesday and Capitol Seagulls

By Walter De La Mare

And the robin flew
Into the air, the air,
The white mist through;
And small and rare
The night-frost fell
Into the calm and misty dell.

And the dusk gathered low,
And the silver moon and stars
On the frozen snow
Drew taper bars,
Kindled winking fires
In the hooded briers.

And the sprawling Bear
Growled deep in the sky;
And Orion's hair
Streamed sparkling by:
But the North sighed low,
"Snow, snow, more snow!"


I spent a delightful Tuesday afternoon with Rachel, whom I have known online for many years but never met in person before now, since she has moved to my state! While she was getting herself here, I went out and got us Indian food, which we ate quickly (with help from my cat who wanted to get in our laps) so we could go see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, since she hadn't seen it yet and I agreed to see it again, heee. It was the perfect day for it since my morning started with learning that Gary Oldman had received an Oscar nomination -- a bright spot amidst really boring nominations, mostly for movies I hadn't seen, in which neither Benedict Cumberbatch nor Alan Rickman turned up in the Supporting Actor category. My goal for Oscar night is to watch Colin Firth hand Best Actress to Viola Davis...and if she must lose, let it be to Glenn Close, who is so overdue it isn't funny, even though I haven't seen Albert Nobbs.

Anyway, we spent lots of time at my house after the movie yakking while Rosie attempted to plant herself permanently in Rachel's lap and trying to decide whether we wanted to watch a movie and talking about our past fandoms. We ended up deciding that we should watch some Voyager, so we watched the generally well done two-parter Year of Hell and then, because I'd been going on about producers who abuse shippers, we watched "Resolutions." It has easily been a decade since I saw it and oddly I enjoyed it quite a bit; all my residual Janeway/Chakotay rage seems to have dried up. Paul made us all black bean soup and corn bread and Adam told us about his second semester schedule, which he prefers in all ways except that he has all his academic classes in the morning so he can't finish his homework at lunch.

Adam had to watch the State of the Union for his AP Government class, so this year the whole family watched (Daniel was on Gchat). I shall not bother analyzing the speech though I will say that I was impressed with how hard Obama tried to be bipartisan and was therefore surprised by a Republican rebuttal that simultaneously accused Obama of being rabidly partisan while making many of the same exact arguments that Obama did. Sigh. At least Colbert's interview with Maurice Sendak rocked utterly. Here are some photos of one of my favorite aspects of Congress, namely the seagulls that live in the reflecting pool outside of the Capitol Building where Congress convenes: