Thursday, February 28, 2013

Poem for Thursday and DC Museums

The Voice
By Thomas Hardy

Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.

Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!

Or is it only the breeze in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?

   Thus I; faltering forward,
   Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
   And the woman calling.


I am going to be boring and domestic the rest of this week, sorry -- inevitable when the deck is being rebuilt and Adam has orthodontic and orthopedic corrections to be made. Most of my afternoon was devoted to the latter: we went to the podiatrist to pick up the orthotic inserts, then went to the specialty sports shoe store to get properly fitted sneakers and running shoes for him to wear them in (luckily they had last year's models on sale, so he got his everyday shoes at a discount and I found a pair of cross-trainers for half price). The people who worked at RnJ seemed very knowledgeable and spent lots of time with us, so that was nice, though we didn't get home till it was getting dark and I had to take a quick walk.

Earlier in the day, I met Linda, my oldest friend (that is, friend of longest duration -- we've known each other since elementary school) for lunch at Benjarong, then briefly stopped at her house to visit her dogs and cat. Evening TV included Arrow, where I am hopelessly lost when it comes to the arc stories but as long as John Barrowman plays a major character I am not sure I care about things like plot, then Nashville, which had great music and lots of Rayna and Deacon and Juliette and Scarlett and Gunnar not too much Avery or Teddy so that's all to the good. Here are some photos from the National Gallery last weekend (plus a couple of the Archives and Natural History):

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Poem for Wednesday and Smithsonian Orchids

Base Camp
By Tom Healy

How much oxygen
to ask a question,
to rattle a crack-lipped
a one-word lie?

Other animals exist
in an endless present—
ice and light,
speed or crawl, waves
of whatever is this and now.

Of course there’s us—
the only breathing bodies
free enough not
to show up to ourselves,
for whom, if we can

summon strength,
being anywhere
is always in doubt.
Why? Why bother?
Because what is there?

With everything
our bodies know,
strong or broken,
we never have the luxury
of making ourselves simple.

Everywhere is always
uneasy, an altitude
of sudden storms, weak
footholds, frostbite, crevasse,
black and blue terrain.


This was yesterday's Poem a Day from, which I just loved. Healy, author of What the Right Hand Knows, wrote the poem while trekking in the Himalayas after hearing about a deadly plane crash.

The rest of our deck was demolished on Tuesday and the wood for the new deck brought to start rebuilding it, so I stayed in, writing, doing laundry, and watching the cats watch the workmen as they yanked boards away from the kitchen and put in extra bolts to bring the new deck up to code. Since the laundry had to be folded, I watched 30 Odd Foot of Grunts - Texas, which was clearly called for in honor of the revival of my romance with Russell Crowe after I broke up with him for several years in favor of Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, et al.

It rained all afternoon, quite hard at times, so the deck guys left mid-afternoon around when Adam got home, both himself and his bike soaking wet. We had black bean burgers for dinner (yeah, not regretting AT ALL being vegetarian this week and leaning toward giving up any dairy product not bought from a local organic farm), then we watched the first two episodes of Parade's End, which was very well made but except for Valentine I really did not like any of the characters (treating men like shit does not make one a progressive woman).

Some pics from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History exhibit on the orchids of Latin America:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Poem for Tuesday, Cardinals, Oklahoma, Crowe

The Night Migrations
By Louise Gl├╝ck

This is the moment when you see again
the red berries of the mountain ash
and in the dark sky
the birds' night migrations.

It grieves me to think
the dead won't see them--
these things we depend on,
they disappear.

What will the soul do for solace then?
I tell myself maybe it won't need
these pleasures anymore;
maybe just not being is simply enough,
hard as that is to imagine.


Another quickie because I got to spend another day with Cheryl after our Oscar night sleepover. We were going to be lazy all morning but younger son forgot his lunch (again), so that had to be dropped off at school. Then we watched the Trevor Nunn production of Oklahoma starring -- wait for it -- Hugh Jackman, which Paul had tracked down on DVD from the public library (he also came home to check in on deck repairs and half-watched the second half with us, plus ate some of the pizza we ordered for lunch.

After Hugh, we decided we needed to see Russell Crowe tied up in Heaven's Burning and just adorable in Cinderella Man. I am fond of the latter despite some issues with how Max Baer is portrayed, but despite the violence I actually think I like the former better -- it sidesteps all the typical American film noir judgments of women with independent sexuality and makes the heroine complex and likeable. Finally, we watched Russell's Inside the Actors Studio, which I have blathered about at length nine years ago.

I have a bunch of feelings about the Oscars, McFarlane, why a film like Argo would beat Zero Dark Thirty, and what gets called sexist versus what does not -- it's so easy to shout about the created-to-be-offensive "We Saw Your Boobs" along with everyone else in the world, much rarer to hear shouting about the rampant sexism from popular hosts like Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, etc. -- but I am too tired to be coherent and I am in squee mode anyway. Here are some cardinals we saw along the C&O Canal the weekend before last:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Poem for Monday, Pre-Raphaelites, Orchids, Oscars

By Robert Frost

Out through the fields and the woods
   And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
   And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
   And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
   Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
   And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
   When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
   No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
   The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
   But the feet question 'Whither?'

Ah, when to the heart of man
   Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
   To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
   Of a love or a season?


Quickie since I was downtown all day and have been watching pre-Oscar and Oscar shows all evening. Paul, Cheryl and I went to the National Gallery of Art to see Michelangelo's David-Apollo, French Drawings, Watercolors, and Pastels from Delacroix to Signac, Faking It: Manipulated Photography before Photoshop, and especially Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848-1900 and Pre-Raphaelites and the Book which were phenomenal -- lots of paintings on loan from the Tate, lots from around the U.S., more details when I am not listening to Daniel Day-Lewis. Then we went to the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History to see the orchids and bumped into Sharkie and Heather, which was awesome.

The Hope Diamond, National Museum of Natural History

The Dom Pedro Aquamarine, National Museum of Natural History

Orchids of Latin America, National Museum of Natural History

Moran, National Gallery of Art

Me and Delta, National Gallery of Art

We had cassoulet for dinner in honor of Les Miserables and watched the aforementioned Academy Awards. Quick spoiler-filled thoughts: McFarlane's opening was phenomenal, but we are of course totally biased because of THE SHATNER (though we utterly adore Sally Field for being such a good sport with the "Anne's gonna win" bit). We loved the Brave director's kilt, Lucius Malfoy winning for the cinematography in Life of Pi, the Bond retrospective, the performances by Jennifer, Adele, and Barbra, the Jaws music to play people off if they talked too long.

We also really loved the Les Mis cast group sing (anyone with bad things to say about Russell Crowe, say them somewhere else), Anne Hathaway winning (not surprisingly but graciously), Ang Lee winning (if it wasn't going to be Spielberg, Lee was my choice, though I feel that Lincoln was overlooked in general), Jennifer Lawrence winning a tough category -- I liked everyone in the Best Actress category this year -- and Daniel Day-Lewis on his good luck because he was supposed to play Margaret Thatcher and Meryl Streep was supposed to play Lincoln (which was also supposed to be a musical). More tomorrow!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Poem for Sunday and Columbia Mall

A Fairy Tale
By Jennifer L. Knox

When my father was nine years old, his mother said, "Tommy, I'm taking you to the circus for your birthday. Just you and me, and I'll buy you anything you want." The middle child of six, my father thought this was the most incredible, wonderful thing that had ever happened to him—like something out of a fairy tale.

They got in the car, but instead of driving him to the circus, his mother pulled up in front of the hospital and told him to go inside and ask for Dr. So-and-so. After that they'd go to the circus.

He went inside and asked for Dr. So-and-so. A nurse told him to follow her into a room where she closed the door and gave him a shot. My father fell asleep, and some hours later, woke up crying in agony with his tonsils gone. A different nurse got him dressed, and sent him outside where his mother was waiting in the car with the engine running. He couldn't speak on the way home to ask her, "What about the circus?" Days later, when he could, he didn't. They never mentioned it again.

Fifty-eight years later, he tells this story to his wife, his only explanation, when she asks him, "What are you doing home from church so early?"

He'd walked out in the middle of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," never to return.


That poem blew me away the first time I read it. Knox's most recent book is The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway.

Quickie since we got back late after dinner out with Gblvr, Sharkie and various other friends at P.F. Chang's in Columbia -- we stopped in the mall afterward to see if the carousel was still there, since we haven't been inside the mall since our kids were young enough to ride it.

Otherwise Saturday was relatively quiet, mostly involving chores plus a bit of writing. Now we are watching 3:10 To Yuma, since Paul had never seen it and I am in the midst of my promised "Christian Bale Makes Movies With The Cast of Les Miserables Film Festival" (next up, next week: Terminator Salvation).

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Poem for Saturday, Deck Demolition, Hippocratic Oath

Remembered Light
By Clark Ashton Smith

The years are a falling of snow,
Slow, but without cessation,
On hills and mountains and flowers and worlds that were;
But snow and the crawling night in which it fell
May be washed away in one swifter hour of flame.
Thus it was that some slant of sunset
In the chasms of piled cloud--
Transient mountains that made a new horizon,
Uplifting the west to fantastic pinnacles-
Smote warm in a buried realm of the spirit,
Till the snows of forgetfulness were gone.

Clear in the vistas of memory,
The peaks of a world long unremembered,
Soared further than clouds, but fell not,
Based on hills that shook not nor melted
With that burden enormous, hardly to be believed.
Rent with stupendous chasms,
Full of an umber twilight,
I beheld that larger world.

Bright was the twilight, sharp like ethereal wine
Above, but low in the clefts it thickened,
Dull as with duskier tincture.


The major event of our Friday was the demolition of the deck that has been attached to our house since we moved in. We've been talking about replacing it for years, but now we need to do so to refinance our mortgage because it's in such bad shape and so far below current building code. The good news is that since we're planning on replacing it with a near-exact copy, we didn't have to go through the neighborhood committee to get the design approved. We had some snow and sleet while the builders were here -- they're the same ones who replaced our front porch several years back -- so I got some photos of the rotting wood spattered with ice and our cats alternately horrified and fascinated by the proceedings:

My only other accomplishment for the day was posting a review of Deep Space Nine's "Hippocratic Oath", one of the great Bashir-O'Brien love stories. I did get to take a walk during the one hour when we didn't have more precipitation than drizzle, and we had dinner with my parents, mostly food from Lebanese Taverna which I always love. Then we came home for this week's quite good Nikita and watched The Prestige -- it's been years since I saw it, Jackman and Bale are still electric onscreen together (next I need to rewatch 3:10 to Yuma because Crowe and Bale are too), and we are now watching all the extras which I've never put on before -- not that this is news, but Nolan is a genius and the set design is phenomenal.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Poem for Friday, Thursday TV Women, Lake Whetstone Birds

Iscariot Rising Sutra
By Ben Kopel

Someone went away / but once they were here / so I don't die / instead I see a movie / the one about a boy / falling into / the green screen / sky lit up / phosphorescent / spiders and chandeliers / like that one time / near an island / out on the lash / I fell out of you / you laughed / your eyes closed / spread wide / standing open / I asked you / who are you / pretending I am / I did / you said / I'm pretending you / are you / drawing a jacked up heart / across my hand / in every airport / rocking this depression electric / I dry swallow / a video pill / we smoke glitter / until my suit sounds good / I long to be alive / when the world ends / so in love / with someone / I end up / ending everyone


You can see an animation of this poem at

I did not have a very eventful Thursday -- work stuff, chore stuff, distracting myself with Les Miserables vids. (Until very recently I have always been able to ignore Tumblr, none of my fandoms had a particularly big presence there and people linked from LJ if there was anything awesome, but suddenly Tumblr is the epicenter of a fandom for me and I get why people find it hilarious to spend two hours looking at animated GIFs with insane captions.) It was chilly but very pretty out in the neighborhood, where the deer were trying to hide from everyone walking dogs. My state senate made me quite happy taking steps to repeal the death penalty in Maryland, though it's still a long way from a done deal.

We had awesome Moroccan food for dinner because we had lots of Greek yogurt in the house, then we watched Beauty and the Beast, which I am simply adoring -- I'm a little frustrated that guys keep coming between the main women characters, but Catherine's in a position where it's pretty much Vincent or the entire world and the push-pull is surprisingly well done, no swooning, no decisions any stupider than the cops and coroners are making. And Elementary is even better -- Lucy Liu's Watson isn't quite as sarcastic as Martin Freeman's but she's brilliant (not psycho-brilliant like Sherlock but great at unexpected perspective and understanding how people tick, which he often does not) and more importantly she isn't cynical about people despite the things she's seen.

Here are a few photos from Lake Whetstone on the afternoon of the Chinese New Year festivities in Gaithersburg:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Poem for Thursday, Canal, Pre-Oscar TV

After the Election
By Sarah Messer

Moonlight slept quiet beneath the grandstand,

like flower petals, like highway snowstorms, like each thought
not of November or battlefields. My moping climbed

the Pegasus inside my chest which sped me to you
in this last century of petrol, with my socialism wanting.

I dropped an ocean in the penny. It was November. It was
lost. My wish slept beneath the Pegasus, quiet

as a petrol station or the monotony of socialism,
as if each lesson was not separate from the thought,

but from the ballot box. Like a snow globe of wanting.
Like wanting thoughts not to be octaves. Not free

of the ocean, but of the battlefield. Like a grandstand
sleeping in moonlight, its flower petal confetti, its metal

steps like ballot boxes, sleeping empty now
beneath a dropped ceiling of balloons.


Wednesday was entirely a work-and-chore day. Adam had an orthodontist appointment in the morning, at which we decided with the orthodontist that he really should have a lower retainer again since his teeth have moved a bit since his wisdom teeth were removed. Meanwhile Paul was meeting with the people who rebuilt our front steps about rebuilding our deck, since the people with whom we're refinancing our mortgage want us to get that done due to potential liability issues if the current falling-apart deck collapses. In other words, it is going to be an expensive February, and the little mice who live under the deck are not going to be happy (nor will the cats). Paul worked from home the rest of the day after I dropped Adam off at school, so we got to have lunch together. My only other outing was to take a walk late in the afternoon; it was quite cold but quite clear and beautiful outside all day.

I had to fold laundry, so I put on Amazon Prime's Envelope Screening Series interview with the cast of Les Miserables, which was highly entertaining (Jackman on his 36-hour no-water fast: "Even Russell was scared of me that day." Jackman on what part he'd want to play if not his own: Javert, whose song "Stars" he sang at an audition just out of drama school for Disney's Beauty and the Beast, at which he was told to put the music away because he'd never be singing THAT again, and how he refrained from calling the guy when Hooper cast him as Valjean because the guy would have said, "Well, it isn't Javert, is it!"). In the evening we watched Katie Couric's Oscar special, which was too much Katie but she showed the full clip of Louise Fletcher signing her thanks to her parents, so I can forgive her neglect of three generations of Hustons winning Oscars. C&O Canal photos from last weekend: