Thursday, December 31, 2015

Poem for Thursday, Carol, Crazy December

The Avowal
By Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit's deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.


Paul and I both worked while watching bowl games for much of Wednesday -- in fact we're still watching Wisconsin play USC, though we took a break to see Carol, which is beautifully filmed and acted, fairly well scripted though a bit overly mannered in scenes that don't need to be, and by far my favorite Rooney Mara performance given that I don't usually like her all that much. I have to finish my review of Voyager's "Innocence" early to avoid working on New Year's, so that's mostly done, at least.

Adam went to see The Hateful Eight 70mm road show with friends, which he said was quite the experience. I will definitely wait for that one on cable. Supposedly, Wednesday is going to be the last day of ridiculous weather this year; it's supposed to drop below 50 tonight and not get more than a degree above it until late next week at the soonest. This fact has not stopped forsythia, apricot blossoms, and even a few cherry trees from blooming, plus there are not only crocuses but daffodils poking through the soil. It may be a weird spring!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Poem for Wednesday, Kennedy Center Honors, ZooLights

Self-Portrait as Artemis
By Tarfia Faizullah

It wasn’t long before I rose
into the silk of my night-robes

and swilled the stars
and the beetles

back into sweetness—even my fingernails
carry my likeness, and I smudge

the marrow of myself
into light. I whisper street-

car, ardor, midnight
into the ears of the soldier

so he will forget everything
but the eyes of the night nurse

whose hair shines beneath
the prow of her white cap.

In the end, it is me
he shipwrecks. O arrow.

My arms knot as I pluck
the lone string tauter.

O crossbow. I kneel. He oozes,
and the grasses and red wasp

knock him back from my sight.
The night braids my hair.

I do not dream. I do not glow.


I had lunch on Tuesday with Hildy, a friend since we were six years old. While we were at Noodles & Co. in the mall talking about the various things our kids were studying and hoping to study in college, we concluded that Adam and her daughter Haley (an exceptional math student at UMass) really should meet, so I had my father -- who'd taken Adam out to lunch -- bring him to the mall to meet us and she had her husband bring Haley. While we were all hanging out talking, my mother came along, and eventually both Adam's girlfriend Christine and Hildy's daughter Cindy arrived.

So I got to spend the afternoon with lots of people, which was really nice despite the mall crowds and my lack of desire to shop (well, I did stop in to the Bath & Body Works 75% off sale for body wash to last six months)! Adam left with Christine to go out to dinner and to a party, and Paul (who had to spend the afternoon at the dentist getting a crown put on a tooth) had dinner with me and we watched the Kennedy Center Honors, which had lots of enjoyable moments from several musical excerpts to stormtroopers on stage with Aretha Franklin! From the zoo on Sunday:

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Poem for Tuesday, Ex Machina, Winter Lights

At Bay
By Carl Phillips

Coral-bells purpled the fallen sycamore leaves, dead, the dead
versus those who attempted death, versus those who effectively
fashioned out of such attempts a style akin to electric guitar
shimmer swelling and unswelling like starlings when they first

lift off, or like stars when, from their fixed sway, they come
suddenly loose, any man letting at last go of a career spent
swallowing--trying to--catastrophe's jewel-studded tail, un-
swallowable, because

                                       holy, in the way of fanfare, its gift for
persuasion, how it can make of what's ordinary, and therefore
flawed of course, a thing that's holy, for a time it seemed so,
didn't restlessness seem to be, little god of making, no less

impossible in the end than any of the gods, where's the holiness,
they sleep never, they tire infrequently, to be tired bores them,
distraction refined by damage would be their drug of choice
hands down, if they could choose, even they don't get to.


I had a lot of chores to do Monday but it was still a nice day, both in terms of the weather, which was cool and damp but not too wet for an afternoon walk, and in terms of the entertainment, which was the last two episodes of The Man in the High Castle with Adam in the afternoon while we were taking turns doing laundry, plus some college bowl games (congratulations Navy) and Monday Night Football. Adam's girlfriend visited him in the evening before leaving for the beach.

Around that, we all watched Ex Machina, which was a much better movie than I was expecting -- not really so thoughtful about artificial intelligence, which was why we watched it, as about female bodies under patriarchy (a number of ranting reviews miss the point; if you want to argue about how bodies of color are fetishized, that's fair, though I also think the film is trying to draw real-world parallels in terms of relative privilege). Some more photos from the Gaithersburg light display:

Monday, December 28, 2015

Poem for Monday, Zoo Lights, Seneca Lights

The Times Are Nightfall
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less;
The times are winter, watch, a world undone:
They waste, they wither worse; they as they run
Or bring more or more blazon man’s distress.
And I not help. Nor word now of success:
All is from wreck, here, there, to rescue one—
Work which to see scarce so much as begun
Makes welcome death, does dear forgetfulness.

Or what is else? There is your world within.
There rid the dragons, root out there the sin.
Your will is law in that small commonweal...


Quickie as we got home late after a very nice afternoon and evening -- we went to the National Zoo with Adam and Christine, first to see the animals in the ridiculous 70-degree temperatures we have this late December -- in addition to the puzzled-looking cheetah and lazy, sleepy lions, we saw deer and turtles from Rock Creek Park wandering confused through animal enclosures -- then to see the ZooLights display, which was insanely crowded yet quite pretty.

We drove from the zoo to the Silver Diner in Rockville, where we decided to have dinner since I had a birthday-month coupon for a free entree and dessert (I had eggs benedict, and we all shared my brownie hot fudge sundae). Then we drove to Gaithersburg to the Winter Lights Festival in Seneca Creek State Park, where it was drizzly but we had no proper rain until we were already driving home. Six photos from the zoo and two from the Gaithersburg lights -- more tomorrow!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Poem for Sunday, Winter Great Falls, Master & Commander

Sylvia Plath Is in Paris with a Balloon on a Long String
By Amy Newman

its tricolor streamers floating and trailing.
It takes up the air like a determined child.
Plath was riding her horses of need,
and then breaking them, one by one.
The horse of loneliness, the horse of panic.
The horse of the Sacre Coeur’s calcite-and-rainwater white
piped on Montmartre like a wedding cake.
The horse of the wallpaper powdered with rosebuds.
The horse of weeping in the charming vestibule.
The horse of the park’s green geometry,
of the mushroom’s black underpleats.
The horse of the lily-of-the-valley’s chaste bell.
The horse of the prickly thin storm about to be,
of the cool cottons of the hotel bed
and his beautiful body, golden, lean,
and the horse of having been so close,
and then changing his mind.
The horse of her will like a planet, irrefutable,
distantly tethered to the bestial earth, and Paris
splayed and blazing around them, as if illustrated.


The day after Christmas was not as warm as Christmas itself, but it still doesn't feel like winter except for the bare trees and early sunsets. We watched some of the college bowl games in the morning while doing chores, then had lunch with Adam and went to Great Falls. I thought it might be muddy, but although the water was very brown, there was no flooding and the paths were in good shape. Despite the date being near the end of December, we saw a turtle as well as squirrels, ducks, vultures, and a great blue heron.

Christine came over for tofurkey roast, and because she had never seen it, we watched Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, plus the featurette on the music that first inspired Adam to take violin lessons over a decade ago. It will surprise no one to hear that the movie is still a thing of beauty and unlike that year's Oscar winner, ROTK, never gets boring for a moment. Now we've just watched Washington clinch the NFC East title and a playoff spot, such a stunning turnaround from the start of the season!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Poem for Saturday, Christmas, Doctor Who

In the Bleak Midwinter
By Christina Rossetti

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk,
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air -
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give Him -
Give my heart.


Merry ridiculously warm Christmas! I hope everyone who was celebrating had a nice relaxing day like I did. Since my mother-in-law was in the hospital recently, we had a very low-key celebration. We drove up to Hanover late in the morning, passing through heavy fog in several places. Paul's parents took us to Lu Hibachi Buffet, where we went for dinner a couple of Christmas Eves back, then we went back to their house, Skyped with Daniel, and ate some holiday chocolate.

We made it home in time for the Doctor Who Christmas episode, the first half of which I really enjoyed (River Song is so much more fun when Alex Kingston is acting with someone who's her equal) but then Moffat pretty much destroyed any goodwill I had left after Clara's departure and I'm back to thinking I won't try to watch again till he's gone. Afterward we watched two episodes of The Man in the High Castle, which has turned into a Christmas present!