Friday, January 31, 2014

Poem for Friday, Winterthur, Elementary

One Light
By Mahmud Shabistari
Translated by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut

What are "I" and "You"?
Just lattices
In the niches of a lamp
Through which the One Light radiates.

"I" and "You" are the veil
Between heaven and earth;
Lift this veil and you will see
How all sects and religions are one.

Lift this veil and you will ask
When "I" and "You" do not exist --
What is mosque?
What is synagogue?
What is fire temple?


I spent most of the morning and half the afternoon cleaning, by which I mean attacking the piles of paper that have wound up on our dining room table for, oh, ten years. And if you came over today, it would not really look different from yesterday, even though I threw out half a recycling bin's worth of stuff (did you know I had six copies of the entire issue of the Hanover Evening Sun with my photo of my in-laws' late beagle? Neither did I). And I can only attack "my" half of the table; Paul's half has HIS crap. I only got out to walk (it was only a couple of degrees below freezing!) and to pick up Adam from track.

Plus I watched some of the advance Super Bowl ads (yay, puppies, Clydesdales, and Noah) and seethed that we consider a 20-year-old too young to buy alcohol or rent cars but not too young to put to death, and that my representative voted with the Republicans to cut food stamps. Elementary was great tonight -- archaeology, dinosaurs, Martin Luther, Jane Alexander, and lots of relationship stuff, plus I had to watch the last Eddington DS9 episode to review. Here are some photos from Winterthur at Yuletide, mostly not big holiday pieces but the rooms decorated as they would have been in wintertime:

Happy Lunar New Year if you celebrate! I am a Horse, so this is my year!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Poem for Thursday, Red Riding Hood, Homestead Farm

By Melissa Ginsburg

for Erik Lemke (1979-2012)


A hummingbird flies into a window
that looks like the sky. Everything around here

looks like the sky. The sky looks tiger striped.
They call that kind of cloud

something. I know somebody
who knows about clouds. I could find

out the name. Everything around here
has a name.


The hummingbird fell to the deck. My husband picked it up.

--What did it feel like in your hand?
--Nothing. It felt like nothing.
--Where is it now?
--Not dead. It flew away. It disappeared and it disappeared again.


I'll tell you a joke. A hummingbird flew into a window...

I'll tell you another joke. Treachery,
we were friends once.


In dreams the bird
weighs more, so you can feel it

when you pick it up. So when
it dies it seems

like something actually happened.
It's a word

around your hand and a sign

at the stripped road.
A mylar star on a plastic stick

tied to the sign.
Blacktop. Post. A fat star's

taut. It's stuffed.

It's shining.
There's going

to be a party around here somewhere.
The bird weighs nothing waits nowhere.

The sky looks like a window and it flies right through.


My Wednesday was spectacularly unexciting -- it started late, since we got a dusting of snow that caused schools to be delayed two hours (condolences to people in the South who got the worst of the storm) and mostly involved chores and work stuff. I stalled for nearly an hour in the afternoon goofing off on Pinterest while expecting Adam to call to be picked up from school so he wouldn't have to walk home in the bitter cold, but he decided to stay in the weight room longer than usual, and Paul got home before Adam decided he was finished. Then he went to get a haircut.

After dinner we decided to watch Red Riding Hood, figuring hey, it has Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried, so maybe it'll be fun. It's fairly inoffensive -- it didn't aggravate my feminist sensibilities or do anything grosser than the original Brothers Grimm stories -- but it's a bit disjointed and kind of hard to root for any of the men who are the main character's major concern apart from not getting killed by a werewolf. Afterwards we watched Nashville, which is finally getting back to arc stories. Some pics of Homestead Farm's animals from pumpkin season:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Poem for Wednesday, Her, Mount Vernon

By Janet Holmes

The noun one keeps batting away
refuses declension.

He says, I don’t want to be
twenty-four again.
Twenty-four was a handful:

the flawless
meatflesh, best self, miraculous
leap/thump on the hardwood,
the twist and splash.

The exuberance
in the present tense,

the timebound blood pump
two throbbing lungs butt
in their bone cage

surges to bursting.
He does not perdure

in this internal defection:
so rare, and so heroic.


I am rushing because I started folding laundry late and put on the end of a Sherlock rerun on public television because I was so close to falling asleep from the State of the Union (didn't even try the rebuttals or news coverage). Apart from listening to a lot of Pete Seeger and being sad, I only have two events worth mentioning from my Tuesday, apart from getting laundry folded and put away:

1) I saw Her. I was not expecting to love it; I expected to be annoyed at seeing yet another movie about a poor misunderstood man, in this case one who'd rather have a fantasy about computer Scarlett Johansson than attempting to get along with a real woman. It is so much better than that -- not just really great performances and wonderful visuals, but extremely thoughtful and funny in a sad way of which it is always aware.

Small spoilers: Despite the fact that it doesn't quite pass the Bechdel test, it's as much about women's relationships as men's, it doesn't divide people according to gender, if there's a divide it's between the limitations of human consciousness versus the possibility of life free of a body. The film largely ignores stereotypes about how male attraction requires a physical component -- the main character is as turned on by words as any woman I've seen on film. He's unquestionably heterosexual and for the most part comfortably masculine, nowhere more apparently than when a coworker says he'd love to get a love letter from him, saying, "You are part man and part woman, like there's an inner part that's woman."

What objectification of women takes place is pretty unconventional as well (an implied masturbatory scene to images of a pregnant celebrity) and there's no blaming of the woman who broke the main character's heart, his ex-wife, who is both more successful professionally and seemingly more comfortable with where she is in life than he is. Samantha, the computer AI, is by far the most interesting character, and though her emotional and spiritual awakening are largely credited to the male protagonist, she quickly outgrows him. The movie doesn't try to determine at what point her programming stops reflecting what he wants and becomes independent, but she's social as well as intelligent and much better than any of the human characters are deciding she needs to change and doing it. In general the women are more resilient and more willing to break out of their patterns than the men.

2) Adam was admitted to the University of Maryland's Honors College. It isn't his first, second, or third choice -- he would like to be further from home, on a campus that's less familiar -- but the honors program there is excellent and it's nice to know that they really want him. Most of his high school friends including his girlfriend got in as well, many into either the Honors or Scholars programs, so Facebook was a happy place. Here he is at Mount Vernon being kissed by a camel, as well as George Washington's Pinterest board:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Poem for Tuesday and Maryland Masters Award

By Tina Chang   


I was locked into a single seed, my future fathoming.
I was matter underwater and a sheer hoping,
when I latched to earth, a first withered bloom.
A sonic wonder, I sang about the future.
I was master of the oxen pulling me toward dawn,
an existence first in death, a state of stillness
before beginning, a middle earth of rain.
I wore many masks until the right one fit.
Then the storm passed and I was wakened by water.


I had stolen through the back door, eyed
two loaves of bread. In the life before this one,
I had seen the window, a greater reflection,
yeast in the tin rising fast. My wanting grew.
How does desire trump that? Perhaps desire
is what we know best when the heart
is listless but listening. I memorized my history
which was nothing short of gleaming disasters
repeated, just for me.


I fell into a patch of green which was earth's matter
and fell some more. I am a boy and found myself
between war and my own luck, startled myself
in goodness and in haste, made a fire and got to cooking.
Man: the most tender and incessant beast.
A flawed danger but no less beautiful. A prairie
where I walk for the first time, where I am the theory
of origin: my brain barks in the heat, my legs buckle
in the initial step, then a slow certainty, an engine
of progress. My ankles turn clockwise in the soil,
loosening root and worm, shaking free
from the tangle and what held me there.

Mambo Sun

I was never burned by anything that could touch me
and I sat in the imagined throne with spoonsful of red sugar
tasting the years ahead of me, wondering of the origin
of my mother. I think she is flame and quick step, glee
and ignition. I saw her hands once in a flash flood
pulling me awake, several claps and then I came alive
rising through the underbrush and cadence rumble,
then I breathed and found god's bone, cracked in pieces
in my throat and my own voice fused to answer back.


I spent Monday morning along with my parents and Paul's parents at Newport Mill Middle School, where Adam was one of three students in Montgomery County (one each from an elementary, middle, and high school) to receive the Maryland Masters Award from the state comptroller. It was a lovely ceremony: the school's choir sang, the students described their artwork -- which will hang in Annapolis for two months -- and afterward there were snacks and photos with various officials. Both the principal of Adam's high school and his longtime photography teacher, who retired at the end of the last school year, came to the ceremony too.

My mother, me, Mr. Foo, Adam, Paul, Comptroller Franchot, Paul's parents, my father, Dr. Benz, and the state arts coordinator.

The winning students and their teachers and administrators.

Dr. Benz, principal of Winston Churchill High School (also my alma mater) and Adam.

The comptroller and Adam.

Adam and Mr. Franchot unveiling his HDR photo of a train at the B&O Railroad Museum.

Our family celebrating Adam's award...

...and Adam's former teacher and current principal celebrating with him.

There was a display of artwork from students at the middle school, too.

Adam had to get back to school so he didn't miss calculus, so we dropped him off, then went out to lunch with our parents at Bagel City after making the traumatic discovery that La Madeleine has closed on Rockville Pike (what's left of that shopping center looks like it's about to be torn down). Then we came home to try to catch up on work and chores (laundry will be late this week). Evening TV included catching up on Downton Abbey, which I thought was annoying until I watched this week's Beauty and the Beast, which absolutely stank of shark -- and I used to love that show so much I considered postponing Sleepy Hollow for it. So many female characters completely wasted. Sigh.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Poem for Monday, Great Falls Ice, Grammy Awards

Jazz Fan Looks Back
By Jayne Cortez   

I crisscrossed with Monk
Wailed with Bud
Counted every star with Stitt
Sang "Don't Blame Me" with Sarah
Wore a flower like Billie
Screamed in the range of Dinah
& scatted "How High the Moon" with Ella Fitzgerald
as she blew roof off the Shrine Auditorium
                    Jazz at the Philharmonic
I cut my hair into a permanent tam
Made my feet rebellious metronomes
Embedded record needles in paint on paper
Talked bopology talk
Laughed in high-pitched saxophone phrases
Became keeper of every Bird riff
every Lester lick
as Hawk melodicized my ear of infatuated tongues
& Blakey drummed militant messages in
soul of my applauding teeth
& Ray hit bass notes to the last love seat in my bones
I moved in triple time with Max
Grooved high with Diz
Perdidoed with Pettiford
Flew home with Hamp
Shuffled in Dexter's Deck
Squatty-rooed with Peterson
Dreamed a "52nd Street Theme" with Fats
& scatted "Lady Be Good" with Ella Fitzgerald
as she blew roof off the Shrine Auditorium
                    Jazz at the Philharmonic


I'm watching the Grammys and I have to get up early because Adam is receiving a photography award tomorrow morning (my parents and in-laws are coming), so will keep this brief. It was practically balmy on Sunday, in the high 20s, so when we retrieved Adam after Hebrew school, we went to Great Falls, Virginia to see if we could spot ice discs in the river. There weren't as many as we've seen some other years, but we did see a few where the river gets caught in eddies and swirls, plus we saw lots of icy rocks, a creek frozen enough to skate on, a few birds pecking in what spots of grass they could find, and even some freshly falling snow:

We went to try to see ice circles...

...but mostly we just saw ice floating and attached to the rocks.

There were some very slippery spots on the trail.

And it snowed briefly, these little icy pellets that landed on top of the packed snow from last week.

My evening involved the red carpet pre-show, the red carpet arrivals, and nearly four hours of Grammy Awards, which was mostly worth it -- I couldn't care about the awards (I mean, I think Lorde is somewhat overrated but far better her getting a trophy than "Blurred Lines") and there were many lovely moments -- Sara Bareilles and Carole King performing together; the group performance on "Get Lucky"; Kendrick Lamar making a case for why he should have won best new artist; Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, Madonna and Queen Latifah making me cry; and what's left of the Beatles in a bittersweet Mike Ditka doing Miley Cyrus in the Pepsi ad.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Placeholder for Sunday

Paul and I are watching A Good Day To Die Hard, which sounds from the title like it should be a Klingon version of Die Hard and would probably be much more enjoyable if it were -- I could handle the speeches about family loyalty if there were clever dialogue and skilled combat instead of lots of cars and windows exploding and Bruce Willis looking like he's having the worst time ever. The directing is mediocre but the real problem is the utter joylessness.

This afternoon we took Daniel back to College Park (where he has announced he is happy to be because the internet is much faster on campus) after all going out to lunch at Minerva. The buffet had both tandoori eggs and paneer tikka masala, plus the usual awesome lentils and some kind of very spicy eggplant. Adam went ice skating in Rockville late in the evening with his girlfriend while we put on this movie. A couple of winter Meadowside Nature Center pics:

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Poem for Saturday, Children of Time, Natural History, Ed Wood

Half-Hearted Sonnet
By Kim Addonizio

He'd left his belt. She
followed him and
threw it in the street.
Wine: kisses: snake: end

of their story. Be-
gin again, under-
stand what happened; de-
spite that battered

feeling, it will have been
worth it; better to
have etc…
(—not to have been born

at all— Schopenhauer.)
But, soft! Enter tears.


Friday was nearly as bitterly cold as Thursday. Since Adam had school that finally opened on time in the morning, I woke Daniel up early and dragged him out for a haircut before he goes back to College Park. Then he, Paul, and I had lunch together, and Paul took him to meet with the professor for whom he's this spring while I went to get Adam from track.

I wrote a review of Deep Space Nine's still-problematic "Children of Time", we had dinner with my parents, then we had a Johnny Depp double-header since Ed Wood was on (the kids hadn't seen it) and Sleepy Hollow (not my favorite version of the story, but something like 2/3 of the cast was in Harry Potter later on, and the women's roles aren't bad). From downtown several months ago:

The skeleton of an ancient penguin at the National Museum of Natural History...

...and fossilized creatures from the ancient seas.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Poem for Friday and Frederick Trains

By Robert Louis Stevenson

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.


My Thursday started with an early trip to Adam's orthodontist, who -- along with my dentist and the rest of the professionals in the practice -- moved out of the soon-to-be-demolished White Flint Mall to an office a few minutes away, whose parking lot had not been fully plowed (and I was stuck behind a schoolbus streaming snow off its top driving there, which practically blinded me), But the new office is very nice and everything smells brand new. Adam only missed a few minutes of school since there was a two-hour delay, though since it was the first day of the new semester, he had to go to the guidance office just to get a schedule.

Daniel had his last full day of winter vacation, so he slept late -- on Friday he has a meeting at school, and he goes back for the semester on Saturday -- and after I picked up Adam at the end of his school day, we all went out for frozen yogurt. Adam already has homework (and can't afford to be a slacker until all his college acceptances arrive, as I keep warning him) so we had a quiet evening catching up on The Graham Norton Show (the one with Daniel Radcliffe and Andrew Lloyd Webber, the one with Lady Gaga and Jude Law). From Frederick Museums by Candlelight, the Frederick County Society of Model Engineers 2013 holiday show:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Poem for Thursday, Prisoners, Beans in the Belfry

At a Dinner Party
By Amy Levy

With fruit and flowers the board is decked,
    The wine and laughter flow;
I'll not complain--could one expect
    So dull a world to know?

You look across the fruit and flowers,
    My glance your glances find.--
It is our secret, only ours,
    Since all the world is blind.


On Wednesday we got no additional snow, but we also didn't get rid of any of the snow we already because it was four degrees when we woke up and the high for the afternoon was a whopping 14. So we spent most of the day inside again, even Adam, who was getting ready for school, to which he finally returns on Thursday albeit after a two-hour delay.

We realized that Prisoners was on Vudu, Amazon Prime, and lots of other online streaming services, so we finally watched that, too. The first two hours are utterly harrowing and phenomenally well acted; the last 20 minutes are still well acted, but the script suddenly veers into absurdist territory, so I felt emotionally let down by it.

We had twice-baked potatoes and veggie bratwurst for dinner, and since we knew Nashville was on, which precluded another movie, we caught up on Downton Abbey, which has me somewhere between bored and disgusted in most regards this season. Nashville at least still has good music! Some Beans of the Belfry pics from last month:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Poem for Wednesday, Another Snow Day

The Guest
By Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Eric Gillan

The blizzard beats with snow
On my windows, as before.
I have not become new,
Yet a visitor is at my door.
I asked, "What do you want?"
"To be in hell with you."
I laughed, "Oh, you will spell
For both of us misfortune."
But, lifting his lean hand,
He lightly touched the flowers.
"Tell me, how are you kissed?
How do you kiss the others?"
His dull and watchful eyes
Stayed anchored on my ring.
A bitter glow lit his face,
Unmoving, lucid, still.
Oh, this I know. His joy
Is knowing, with passion,
There's nothing that he needs,
That I'll deny him nothing.


As predicted, we had snow all day. It was coming down very lightly when I got out of bed, but by the time I went to bring the garbage and recycling bins, there were big flakes coming down. So we were all at home most of the day, though Adam spent some time out in the snow with his friend Daniel and then playing Halo at Daniel's house. It would have been a perfect day for laundry and household chores, but we were too lazy for that. So while Adam was out, the rest of us tried to watch Prisoners, though it turned out that there was a glitch in our disc and obviously we couldn't go out and replace it in this weather!

So instead we watched On the Road, which I didn't like (and no, not because of Kristen Stewart -- the women's roles in general were horribly written and the sex scenes were actually boring). I didn't even watch the ending after we were interrupted by a phone call; I put on the Beauty and the Beast we missed during the Sleepy Hollow finale, on which I loved Cat ("This is my idea of being me again, separate from anybody else") but why is Tori being written as a whiny, desperate girl after such an independent beginning? Some snow day pics, including Adam shoveling the steps after dark; tomorrow, more of same!: